IF YOU'RE PLAYING IN THIS GAME, DON'T READ THIS!

(This goes for Judd, John Moore, Vince, Mike, and anybody else who has played or might play... Go read the Albatross logs!)

[Back to Gaming War Stories]
[Back to Leap, 154]

**Jan 1, 155**


My watch (ain't it always?), and a distress beacon comes in. I love New Year's Day presents. The signal says it's from the _Starchaser_, registered out of Kintara, crew of four. Uh-huh. Get Warren to scan things to blazes -- he doesn't see any other ships. Head for the beacon, that's the right thing to do, according to NG law; with luck, if it *is* pirates again, Kelly will get bad vibes again.

Second planet of an old K star -- 1.15 Gs, 30% oxy, etc, terra-normal otherwise, though low on everything but organics. Mostly plains & forests. You can see why Kintarans would land here.

We get some pictures of three of them -- one seems to be chasing his tail, one is lying on his back sprawled out, and one is hunting down an antelope thingy and eating it.

I try, eventually, landing about 10 feet from the _Starchaser_ (which does not answer the comm, even though there's a Kintaran in it playing with the buttons (as near as I can figure from the way the ship's acting)); unfortunately, I am not on Star Fire at the moment, and it would seem that one of the _Starchaser_'s cameras got in the way of the landing. Parvari has commentary about finding the only other ship on the planet to hit, and so I gritch back about the lousy steering on this crate. Embarrassing.

We send T'kik out to get a sample of the dirt for our Irari, who demanded some when we explained the situation (something about soil areation being strange when he scanned). Student then griped about the lack of proper equipment.

T'kik got into the _Starchaser_, found a Kintaran female playing "piano" on the control panels, and so the Bug cut the power. Bug comes back, we give it a comm (I ain't going outside, there's big lizards out in the grass, and Derek is having fits about the plains!), and send it back to talk to the Kintaran (we don't want to go out till we're sure there's nothing strange airborne). Warren knows Trade Kintaran. Warren tries yowling at the Kintaran for a little bit, finally reports back that she's babbling about eating birds. We tell T'kik to move out of range...

Student finally discovers something, and after much prodding, we find that there are strange substances in the plants and animals, which read as harmful for humans to eat. We send Warren out with a double-dose of Purge. He zots the Kintaran, who complain that he stung her, and then wanders over on all sixes to try and open the door and go get some more food. However, by the time she figures out the door-opening combination, she's coherent. (T'kik has taken her weapon away. Warren does not have even a stunner. Warren is clueless. If there hadn't been scalies out there, I would have *instantly* gone over to take care of things myself...) T'kik is trying to decide whether to shoot the Kintaran or Warren with the Kintaran's gun.

She wonders why the power is off, goes & fixes it -- we explain that she'd been playing with all the buttons... She winces at the thought of accidently taking off at about 3 Gs.

[[GM says he missed a bet -- she should have been *flying* the ship when we found her!!]]

We explain that the food's got strange stuff in it ("Humans... Can't eat anything."), which was making her strange. She complains that they smell and taste *so good*... She's tired of their synthesizer food. I offer her some of our food -- which is "very unique." She askes for "poached merfah on a stick"... I'll see what I can do... It looks like a scorched lizard. Ugh. Let Kelly take the blame here; I'll hide on the bridge.

The Kintaran ain't so thrilled with it -- worse than their stuff, she thinks. Ah, well.

I ask what her name is -- Swiftflyer.

"Glad to meet you, Swiftflyer. I'm Quicksilver," I say from down the hall a bit.

"*Quicksilver*? You're *really* Quicksilver??" she says.

"As far as I know," quoth me.

"Did you really fly through downtown Thralia at Mach 6?" she asks.

"Well, I don't remember how fast it was -- I wasn't looking at the air speed readout at the time. It was fast enough, though," I smile.

She explains about "First day, first month" at Kintara Station -- everyone leaves dock at once and flies in criss-cross patterns... *She* did it at warp .5 once! I ask her to drop me a letter sometime when it's going to happen, and I'll try to be in the area -- sounds fun!

She and Warren and Kelly go in the ATV to where the others are, about half a mile off. (Swiftflyer mentions that she'd hit the distress beacon when Swatpaw {"she's a mean drunk"} started acting strange, chasing the others and yelling something about . . . twins. Not fraternal, either.) We only have enough Purge doses for the lot of them, once, and a couple of doses left over for us. The Kintarans have none, since More Beer, their planetologist, was partying last station...

Warren wants to dose Whitebelly, their captain, have Kelly put "Tailchaser"/More Beer to sleep, and have Swiftflyer take care of Swatpaw (who was the one chasing the local fauna -- Whitebelly is the one on his back). Swiftflyer won't get near Swatpaw; she's their security, she's mean, and she's probably still got her blaster.

They return for a stun rifle. Derek and I go, I under much protest. I accuse Parvari of being the one whose fault it all is and stalk off to the ATV.

We dose their captain -- who is *quite* cute. "Cute captain you've got there," I comment. "Yes, that *I'VE* got!" Swiftflyer says. Ah. "Don't worry," I tell her, "I don't poach. I don't need to." "I've heard about you..." "Oh? Who from?" "Flare." "Ah. Don't worry, really, poaching is beneath my dignity."

We leave Swiftflyer to look after Whitebelly and head for Swatpaw -- we get to within a certain distance of her and she fast-draws a blaster and fires! Warren swerves and we only get grazed, fortunately! We pull up about 300 yards away and I (I'm better at sonics than Derek -- he's better at lasers) aim and fire. "BANG!" says the gun. *T'kik*!!!! Argh! I miss the other two shots, and she's chasing us... Kelly grabs her blaster away and I lean out a hatch and finally manage to drop her. We dose her (I shove Warren out to do it) and leave her to recover. On to More Beer. *He* gets this friggin' grin on his face when we get near, then takes off running away from us. I am *not* in a mood to deal with chasing down a Kintaran with Warren driving. I lean out and drop *him* with the stun rifle. We haul him into the back of the ATV, and head back to see what's up with Whitebelly. Whitebelly and Swiftflyer are otherwise occupied. We head for Swatpaw, to keep her from eating anything else.

She and Warren growl back and forth a little [She doesn't understand NG. She's complaining about a "twinning stunner hangover".] I get Warren to tell her *exactly* that eating the animal will make her have more hallucinations about twins. She's in a mood -- she takes out a laser pistol. Kelly takes it away from her as we flee. Swatpaw jumps on the roof. Kelly tells her *Quit that!* or words to that effect and Swatpaw stops clawing at the roof and bounds away to look at us with big eyes from a little ways away.

About now, More Beer wakes up. "Did you get the number of that bar?" he moans. He talks to Swatpaw [in family tongue, not trade] for a while, and relays that she wants to know if our "shaman" is still mad at her. Kelly replies that she won't be mad if Swatpaw behaves civilly. Swatpaw wants her weapons back -- we oblige her. We lead them back to where Whitebelly and Swiftflyer are straggling back to the ship.

Warren has been a pest, and I'm not so happy with T'kik either -- Kelly grabs a drone and I try to feed it some grass. T'kik tries to send another couple of drones to *gather* **lots** of grass and bring it on the ship! I try and lock the airlock -- it overrides. I aim the stun-rifle at the pair. "DROP IT!" Nothing. *FIRE*! Apparently stunning a Hive Beetle drone is not too good for the drones. One nearly gets fried; I take it to the autodoc. T'kik is irritated, no doubt. I'm going to have to *live* in this biosuit for a while! [Captain: "Thanks, T'kik!"] I tell the captain to try and keep a leash on the Bug lest he be without a pilot out in the middle of a fringie run. Time to beef up the defenses... Maybe I can figure out what the Bug is trying and fall for it so it won't keep a grudge...

Take off from the planet, knocking the camera off the Kintaran ship's wing again... Tell them that the trader joggled my elbow.

**Jan 2, 155**


A day to think things over, and I realize why I had such a fit about the grass -- the stuff is a mind-altering drug (at least to Kintarans). Sandra's left her mark on me, deeper than I realized. And after having to try *not* to pound sense into Warren's head, I wasn't able to think clearly enough to find a better way to deal with a threat like that grass.

Send T'kik Email: "I apologize for stunning your drones -- I've even moderately sorry I did it, and I am sorry that the one got so sick. I was having a bad day, having to deal with Warren and getting chased by psychotic Kintarans with blasters and having to deal with Warren, and all, and frankly, T'kik, just *threatening* to bring that stuff on board would have been enough of a joke... I might have over-reacted just a tad. I'd been wishing I could stun Warren, but I figured I'd get in even more trouble for that from the captain. Want to team up and get Warren, instead?"

T'kik replies that I will not be the target of "special attentions," but I should beware its ordinary whims; never fear *that*!

**Jan 3, 155**


Warren wakes up one morning with a hot-pink biosuit. Derek asks how much Warren will pay to have it fixed. Finally Warren gets T'kik to repair the thing, in exchange for leaving an audio-only bug unmolested in his room. I've already got one of the things, in exchange for being able to talk to Jim privately.

**Jan 4, 155**


We get to the Irari base, and find nothing but a scorched area where the research base should be. Eventually we contact the two Irari survivors -- the base was attacked by a smallish ship, 6-8 Thrals and humans wielding heavy weaponry came and shot the other two Irari, and took a human researcher and a human prospector (Quoth one of the Irari, "Captain Art, he is female, yes."). They went and shot down the aircar that the survivors were in, but didn't bother to hunt down the Irari themselves. We take in the survivors and haul them along to Jordan's Station.

Strange that the pirates just shot the Irari -- if they'd wanted Kaa-food, I would have thought drumsticks would be just fine. But they only wanted the humans. Zombie Drug? That might not work on Irari, and might be plausible... I wish that I was a free agent and could go do some digging on this.

[[Jordan's Station is a large ex-ore freighter, sorta like the Hell, only spherical. It has puny warp engines, and Jordan moves it from system to system as one belt gets mined out and another is discovered. There's been a lanthanum strike in the system that it's currently inhabiting.]]

The Irari want to go back to Irar, but can't pay the captain enough to abandon his route.

**Jan 6, 155, ship's evening**


We get in to Jordan's Station. There's the Station, and a couple of prospectors are nose-up to it, but shut down. One of them... The transponder is wrong, but it matches the configuration of Captain Art's _Rustbucket_, which the raiders took with them. We are suspicious. We scan the place. We find five human life-signs in one area, with no powercells, and four life-signs in another area, where only three of them have powercells. They have *large* powercells, consistent with weapons. We are paranoid.

I snarf my daily Star Fire about 10 minutes before we dock. We come in normally, get directions normally, and are asked to unload our cargo ourselves, since the station is short-handed. Derek in his exoskeleton plays cargo-handler. I go along with a laser and stunner to play guard. Warren is there to handle the paperwork, and Kelly is down just to be obnoxious.

A fellow meets us there, and introduces himself as Jordan. I am standing out of his line of sight, holding my laser and being paranoid. He tells Warren that they can do the paperwork in his office, and then go down to the bar -- the rest of the crew is invited to hit the bar as well. (The directions match where the three people with powercells were.) Kelly has wandered up to listen during this, and now she says to Warren that the Captain wants to speak with Warren. They excuse themelves and head back up to the bridge. I stay down and Derek keeps unloading cargo. T'kik is hiding in one of the boxes that we've unloaded.

[[ Kelly sensed that "Jordan" was lying about his name, and was worried. Erk. So, ditch the cargo and undock? The Station has weaponry... It could shoot at us. Finally it is decided that Derek, armed, Warren and Kelly, unarmed, will go and do the paperwork -- we may be able to pretend that we don't know anything's wrong. Derek is in on the conversation via implant comm.]]

Warren and Kelly come back, collect Derek (out of his exoskeleton, but still toting a heavy blaster and a laser), and go with "Jordan" to his office. A couple of T'kik's drones attach themelves to Warren and Derek. Kelly gripes about those "pets."

[[ In the office, "Jordan" says that he can't find his credit transactor and he probably left it in the bar again. So everyone troops to the bar, where there is a bartender and two men at the table -- one of the men seems very drunk, and about the time that our trio+bugs get there, the sober one is saying, "Come on, Doc, let's get you to bed." They leave.]]

Captain says that the group is heading to the bar, and can I provide backup? Sure thing... I head out and set myself on full paranoia mode. [[ Biosuit goes camo, reflex armor]] I get to another end of the hallway that Jordan's Bar is on, spot people coming, and wait.

[[ T'kik goes out and finds a control panel -- it will try and make a fire alarm somewhere, when Parvari gives the signal.]]

I hear someone saying, "Come on, Doc, let's get you to bed." Odds that "Doc" is the unarmed person? Sure... Hide against the wall till pirate and Doc come round the corner -- they turn and head away from me, so I sneak up behind 'em. Shoot pirate [[with Morphazine dart]]. He falls. Doc is going "Uh?" so I [[drop camo mode and]] go "Shh!"

[[ Doc looks familiar, but Silver can't place the face... This is strange! People don't look familiar to her anymore!
Doc: "Silver? What are you doing here??"
Silver: "Taking the station!"
Doc: "Got any Purge on you?"
Silver: "No -- there's some on the ship, though."
Doc: "It's quicker to go back to my cabin..."
Silver: "Okay -- here, take my stunner."
Doc: "Right..." And he weaves back towards his cabin.]]

Drag the pirate into a room and relieve him of his heavy blaster. [[ Go back to camo mode on the biosuit.]] Head back to Jordan's Bar, poke my head around the corner -- drat! The bartender fellow may have seen me! "Jordan" is messing around under the bar for something.

[[ "Jordan" insists that everyone gets a drink on the house. The glasses have been pre-drugged (which is why Doc was there), so there's no "slipping something into the drinks." Kelly gets a vision of drinking the stuff and waking up together in a room with a headache. She Telesends to the others "Don't drink it! Bad! Go to sleep!" T'kik's drones start drinking Warren & Derek's stuff. Kelly acts highly disgusted. The bartender seems boggled. Both he and "Jordan" seem to believe that the drones are pets -- must not know about Hive Beetles. New drinks are served to Warren and Derek. Warren tries to help "Jordan" find his credit transactor, but "Jordan" stands up and says, "No, I don't need any help," while holding a heavy blaster. Bartender draws a heavy blaster. Derek hits the floor, drawing his blaster. Silver decides to step around the corner and take a second to aim her laser at Bartender's shoulder. T'kik sets off the alarm -- decompression alert in section 16. Derek shoots *through the bar* (Crit success! A 4!) and takes off the bartender's leg at the same time that Silver nails the bartender through the right shoulder (2d damage -- I rolled a 12). There is an explosion as the bottles of alcohol are ignited by Derek's blaster. "Jordan" is briefly distracted, and Warren gets a (crit!) head-shot with a punch, deafening "Jordan." A moment of stunning, Warren throws another punch at "Jordan" and hits him in the torso -- and hurts his hand, since there's a biosuit there. "Jordan" starts to swing his blaster back on Warren and Silver tries a snapshot at Jordan. Two crit-failures (17s) in a row. The laser pistol sparks madly and she tosses it away, cursing. Kelly grabs the blaster out of "Jordan's" hand, and Derek stands up and holds his blaster on the man, just before Warren would have been decked. Silver, still in camo mode, dodges out of the room and resets her biosuit to silver, then starts heading for the prisoners. Kelly tries to make "Jordan" drink her drugged drink (telepathically telling him to drink it, since he can't hear anything), but he throws it in her face. She keeps her temper. The bartender is dragged out from where he's lying on the flames, and the fire is put out. ]]

I managed to shoot the bartender in the shoulder, but Derek blew the guy away *through the bar*! I try to nail the fake-Jordan, but the laser pistol sparks and I have to toss it away. Derek is up with his blaster, and Kelly just stole fake-Jordan's, so I dodge back out the door, [[fix the biosuit to silver]] and head for the prisoners. I'm going to have to have a little talk with T'kik about modifications to the weapons -- it *did* say "Bang!" before it blew...

About now, Parvari notices that there's a 500cy ship coming in, and there's a little notation next to it that says, "Stealthed"! It figures, considering where we *got* those sensors from. He calls us all up to tell us this and wants everybody to come back so that we can run away. Me: "I want to free the prisoners first, it will only take a minute..."

[[(She's got a comm with her.) Derek, Warren, and Kelly haul fake-Jordan back to the ship and tie him up. They also bring T'kik's sleeping drones. The captain decides that the pirate ship is faster than we are, and maybe we should hang tight to the station and try to think of something, like hiding in the belt.]]

I meet up with Doc again, him looking much better, and he suggests that the Station *does* have weapons. I head for the bridge while Doc frees the prisoners. Real Jordan gets to the bridge and demands to know who I am (I'm sitting in the Captain's chair). "Quicksilver!" quoth me.

[[Jordan actually hasn't heard of her. Aw. Kelly gets bored with smiling smugly at fake-Jordan and wanders away. T'kik gets a blaster and aims it at the man's head.]]

Kelly shows up on the bridge, and complains about the people I know. I introduce her to Doc. He says his name is "Doc Doyle." He then says. "Hello, Kelly." Obviously I'm going to have to explain about keeping one's powers secret to Kel.

Notice that the _Rustbucket_ is powering up. Captain Art wants to get *out* of the area! She doesn't want to stick around, though I tell her that we need the station to look the same as when the pirates left it, to make sure that they don't get suspicious. She don't wanna listen. Jordan tells her about her bar-tab, and she stops threatening to shoot holes in the docking clamps and such. The Rustbucket powers down.

[[Kelly, Silver, Doc, & Warren go off to question the pirates -- Kelly hangs back and asks who this person is, because he's lying about his name. Well, he's not the right physical type to be Jim, so Silver has no idea!]]

Doc takes one looks at the bartender-pirate and asks if he should finish the guy off now. Doc takes some Crediline and we head for the pirate I shot. I suggest that a little Purge might be handy here. [[Warren fails an IQ roll to realize that a purge doesn't work against stunners, and that the pirate, when he wakes up, doesn't have a stunner hangover.]] First, I do a quick search on the pirate, starting with stripping him. (I'm sure that I'm shocking Warren, who is with me & Doc & Kelly.) I find a nice little vibroknife in a sheath built into the man's boot. I know how to use knives!!! There's a sheath that fits this small knife in my biosuit, along the lower leg! I also find a neurolash.

[[About here, Kelly wants to know Doc's real name. Silver shoves Warren out the door. There is a bit of gritching -- Doc doesn't want to say his real name, since "I got blown up by the Organization once! I don't want it to happen again!"
Silver, as the light dawns: "Blown up?"
Doc (aka Seth Henderson!): "Yeah, didn't you hear about it?"
Silver: "A-heh... There's something I need to tell you, then -- I managed to hit my head..."
Kelly, muttering: "Lies."
Silver: "Kel-ly! And, anyway, I don't remember you."
Doc scans Silver's head. "Hit your head?"
Silver: "Yes. Don't say a word."
Doc: "Right."
Silver gritches mightily at Doc for getting blown up three friggin' days before she got there.
Unfortunately, Doc's backups aren't with him -- the bigger cache is on Unar. He asks if Silver will get it for him. She grumbles about being "legit" with the _Albatross_. The much smaller cache of backup tapes is on Sparrion, which won't be a problem.]]

We let Warren back in. Doc administers the Purge. I stand above the (nude, with shipsuit discreetly draped) pirate, one foot on his chest, neurolash in one hand. "Good morning," I chirp. "This is your wake-up call!" The pirate goggles up and says, "I've died and gone to heaven!" "Cute," I say. "Not bad. Maybe I'll talk to you later, after the unpleasantness is over." Doc administers the Crediline.

We find out how many people are on that little pirate ship, and what the recognition code is. They were hired to capture humans for sale -- bonus for psis! The pirate captain had a gizmo that was supposed to detect psi. They thought the Doctor was psi, maybe. He denies this ("Who, me? No way.").

[[ Kelly senses that he's quibbling. Silver WANTS that psi-detector to test her theory about the Novatech station manager being a "Witch." She also wants to know who the people were being sold to -- Kelly had an image of Kaa, but they aren't in the area, as far as anyone knows, and they'd probably love to snack on Irari as well.]]

Next stop, the fake-Jordan.

Bolduc (aka fake-Jordan) is quite helpful -- he tells me what the recognition codes are (type of music playing from the radio), and gives me his hold-out laser. Tell real-Jordan to start playing the "coast is clear" selection.

Yell at T'kik about my laser nearly blowing up in my hand and demand that it fix it.

Out of curiosity, I wander over to the Rustbucket -- no Art. Turns out she's in the bar, where she managed to polish off several bottles before the bartender (real) caught up with her. She's mid-aged, red-head, fairly attractive despite the blaster scar on her cheek. About my height. She's also rather drunk. She's got an antique blaster which she waves about and vaporizes the center of the dart-board. Dirk buys her a drink. I buy myself a drink since I'm starting to finally come down from the Star Fire. Captain Art may or may not be a help when we take the pirate ship, which will show up in about nine hours, we figure.

[[It should be noted that "Captain Art" is Captain Artemis Hunter. She's a bit ticked at her cousin (x-times removed) using her name for Her company, but she never liked the name anyway. This A.Hunter never disappeared.]]

Take a nap before the pirates show up. Take another pill. Wait in a room off the corridor that T'kik has prepared. Warren is with Dirk at a cross-corridor. We have the place sealed off, and are in our suits, because there is nothing but nitrogen in this hall. I have insisted to Dirk that he use his stunner only, since I want to talk to their captain. For this, I have bribed him with the biosuit I got off of Bolduc.

Five pirates leave the ship. They go into the corridor. T'kik has a robot jam its "foot" in the airlock door, so it won't shut. The pirates get a ways into the corridor and one says, "Something's wrong -- suit up!" Only two of them manage, though. T'kik kills the lights, mostly (save for disco-style croft) and the grav. [[Silver has her IR contacts on.]] I hear a couple of >thumps< in the corridor where the grav switches back on, and figure that Dirk can handle those two. I'll try for the ship. I really mess up at first, going into zero-G. At least no-one can see me. I hear a couple of stunner sequences, and the lights and grav come back on. I hastily switch to ninja-outfit. [[From camo.]] I open the airlock into the ship while Warren stuns the pirates that fainted in the hallway. [[Normally, it's not possible to open an airlock on both sides at once, and T'kik's 'bot is holding the inner door open. But Silver jiggers the thing anyway.]] I ask Parvari where the last pirate is -- "Aft," he says, so I go that way into the pirate ship. Hear cursing up ahead, and see a pair of feet sticking out of a maintenance panel. Stick stunner in and fire. Feet go limp, and I haul out one stunned pirate. End of mess.

I take a hypo of Crediline, the rest of my well-gotten gains, and "Wolf" (the pirate captain) into a room and ask him some questions. (I also get another biosuit and a vibrodagger from him.)

[[ Not to mention the holdout screamer. Wolf & friends hijacked the Jackal at a station a while back, started their careers. Word was going around that some place would pay 1000 for humans, Kintarans, Hurricanians, and Sparrials, and 5000 for psis. They got a psi-detector thingamabob from these people. They've done two meetings -- 4 people the first time (mainly Sparrials -- this is Sparrial space), and 6 the second. A fast (at least warp 6) courier ship has met the pirates and they dumped the captives, unconscious and unclothed, in the airlock. There's not enough cabin space on the courier for more than freeze-tubes for the prisoners. Wolf thinks they're Corp. -- part of the reason that he hasn't tried to take *their* heavily armed ship. Heard something about "not wanting the home office to know" what was going on. Heard something a few weeks back along the lines that the courier ship would have to hurry to make room for a shipment (of people, maybe?) from Sparrion. Get names/descriptions of all the humans that Wolf has dealt with. Get the meeting-place coordinates. Get the comm-code for arranging to meet the courier ship, his blind Sparrion account code (only a few hundred credits, but hey) Get his other Organization contacts, too. Find out that this Corp. has offered 500 credits for sighting certain ships, too -- primarily _Diana's Bow_, but also the _Bat_ and the _Hell_. Of course, anyone who knows about Her sensors would worry about seeing *those* ships around. Still... Wolf was told not to attack those ships -- they were too dangerous. This will at least be worth brownie points, probably.

Get the 6 ID cards that hadn't been hocked yet -- the ones they took from the captives. Might come in useful. Hypnotize him to forget that he had this little conversation.]]

I find out that the guy's name really is "Wolf" -- Bernard Wolf. "Bernie," for obnoxious.

Warren managed to claim the ship as salvage from Jordan. I want to call it the "Bullet." "I've heard about your ship, Silver," says Parvari. Ship? Huh? Oh, great, one of my instinctual reactions again. He insists on calling it the "Sparrow." I comment that smart remarks about SparrowHawkes will get someone whapped. At least he didn't want to call the ship "Chicken." I will, of course, be flying this thing. Warren is a pain about how to sell the ship (he seems to think it can't be done), and I'm coming down off my pill, so I stun him. Dirk has a minor cow.

The ship is Sparrion design, has no real transponder (but a nifty do-it-yourself transponder imitation!), and got its particle beam shot up. T'kik transplants its missile launcher to the Albatross. Now all the "Sparrow" (Formerly "Jackal") has is a couple of medium lasers. Ah, well -- it's still decently fast and stealthed.

I offer to buy the ship from Parvari -- with barter. He wants to know if the Bug gets its ten percent. I tell him he can make the change and handle that -- or does he want to watch? He says no deal. Oh, well. It was worth a try.

To make sure that I don't fly away with this ship, Parvari has the Bug rig the engines to stop working if they get too far away from the Albatross. Spoilsport. The Bug wanted to just kill all "extra" stuff in the navigational database. {snicker} I point out that now I've got a challenge. (One I can't manage, it seems. Drat. Pity I don't understand this mess better.)

I set the "transponder" to that of the Albatross. Parvari doesn't think that's funny. He doesn't want to race, either.

[[Before the Albatross leaves, Silver hunts down Doc and gritches at him -- eventually she says she'll get his backups from Unar for him, as well as the Sparrion cache. But if her tapes aren't in there, then he owes her! He asks how long it's been since she was 'wiped -- about four months. Oh, well, then that wouldn't work, he says. No, Silver replies, the braintapes can only be meshed when they're both very similar. Doc is surprised that she knows this, but "doesn't want to know" how she found this out. Especially when he finds that her source isn't a competitor in the gray or black market, but is most definitely in the "White market." A term that Silver finds amusing. Silver asks how long the "unmistakable neural traces" are going to stick around, and is told that they'll last for a couple of years or so. This is so thrilling -- anyone with the right skills and tech can scan her and find this out. Ugh. At one point Doc says that he didn't think Silver really had any friends -- just useful people. That she was a survivor, like him. This bothers her slightly, for inexplicable reasons.]]

[[Her tape would be marked "H.G. Wells." Hg for Mercury for Quicksilver, and Wells ("What's the Wells? Besides a deep subject.") "just sounded good." It may or may not be with the rest of the Sparrion cache -- he lost about 3 months from being bombed.]]

[[She scans everyone with the psi-detector -- she's 50% possibility, possible Teleport; Warren is 0;, Dirk is 30%; Parvari at 17%; Kelly at 98%, possible everything. T'Kik is no reading. Irari are 0%. Doc is another 17%, possible Telepath. He says he read 40% earlier -- obviously the braintapes have settled in properly now. ((He really is a psi -- a one-skill-only Mind Shield 'path.)) ]]

[[Much later, checking the biosuit for more knife sheaths -- there's one sheath per long boned limb! A dagger could go along each forearm, a large knife at the thigh, and small knife at each "boot." Somebody likes knives. Odds on Shannon, anyone?]]

[[Note that Seth is a bit of an organ-legger as well. Between that and the fact that Captain Art was probably holding a personal grudge, it is dubious whether any of the pirates survived for long... Frontier justice, and all that.]]

**Jan 13, 155**


At the planet Karalooar, we onload a bunch of sealed "cages" with live critters in 'em -- mudhoppers and something that looks, through the cameras, like a bald ostrich. Parvari is also tired of me flying this ship, and leaving him and Derek to split watches. He gets a Sparrial fellow to play pilot as well. Gooooody. A Hive Beetle to break things, and a Sparrial to steal them. Now all we need is a Hurricanian to eat stuff.

Actually, I kinda like Sparrials -- even if this one does seem to be a rather scrawny fellow. Pity that they go in for life-mating only. Thank goodness I brought my stuff over to the Bulle--ah, Sparrow.

His name is Awolloomarra -- Awol for short. *That* bodes ill.

Send off a nice little encrypted message for Her. [About pirates being paid to watch for Her ships.]

[[Mud-hoppers look like furry frogs. >GRONK<]]

**Jan 16, 155**


Alardin. Thrilling, patriarchal Alardin, where female pilots aren't allowed to land or take off, and women are property. They've only got one over-firepowered system patrol boat... Let's see, about Mach 2 over the spaceport ought to be good for some amusement... Yipe! They *saw* me! At least they can only hit warp .1, and I can zoom out of range at warp 5!

According to some of my notes, a favored scheme of the Organization is the "Underground railroad," which gets vaguely spunky females off-planet. And then points out that they don't have any skills, but since they're almost always lovely, there's this guy who's looking for a girl just like 'em... And this after they've handed over all the jewelry they could swipe. I've done some of this, but I give the explanation of what lack of tech skills means out in the rest of the sector *before* they go off-planet. And every now and then, there's the "land and stun everyone to rescue someone who's been convicted of adultery or something" trick.

Alardin would probably *love* have my hide for a rug, whether they knew about my memory problem or not.

I think I'll stay out of range for a while.

[[While Silver is staying out of range, an Alardin girl dashes onto the starport in the confusion that followed Silver's sonic boom. She's dressed in boy's clothes, and is carrying a stun rifle. She dashes up to the Albatross, where Dirk & Warren are overseeing the unloading and loading of cargo. The girl begs for sanctuary, and finally Dirk tells her to go inside. She looks at the rifle in her hand in confusion, and hands it to Dirk before she runs in. Warren notices her. T'kik leads her off to one side.

A couple of cops run up and ask Dirk where the girl is -- he says she went out the other gate. "But you've got a police rifle!" points out one of the cops. "She dropped it. Here," quoth Dirk. They take the rifle and head for the other gate.

Unfortunately, one of the dockworkers, less blase' about escaping girls than the rest, went to inform the admin fellow on the base about the incident. He wants to bring a couple of guards on board and search the ship. Awol takes the girl, Erica, to Kelly's room, and tells her to get on the top bunk and put this belt on (distort belt) and pull this blanket over her head (camo cloak) and don't move! This, along with some brilliant fast-talk, convinces the starport guards that she really did leave the ship after Warren saw her get on.

Kelly rolls a 4 for an Empathy roll upon meeting Erica.

The girl says she can pay, but nobody has asked her what, yet. She needs passage off-planet, and she needs somebody to rescue her sister, Joanna Cassidy, who was convicted of adultery and will be buried alive in her husband's north field in two Earth-days. (Days are very long here, so it will be daylight for several earth-days.) Discussion rages about what to do -- smuggle Joanna some air and dig her up? Go in and get her now? The latter seems to find favor with Awol (the other way has no class) and T'kik (this is great! A practical joke, *and* stealing a person!) No, Joanna's alleged lover (that muscle-bound twit, according to Erica) won't be needed.

We go outsystem, manufacture a warp problem for a little while to make plans. Meet up with Silver's ship. Dirk and Awol, carrying a note from Erica, so Jo will go with them, will do the rescue while Silver keeps the engines warm. (Dirk asks if 'Silver' is really her real name for some reason. She says, "Of course!" and Awol snorts slightly. Silver looks over. "Slight respiratory problem you've got there," she states. Awol coughs some more and comments on the stench of the ship.)

After a couple of false starts [the dratted dice kept coming up 7s and 8s for the scanning-rolls for the patrol boat!], the Sparrow is landed in good old Mr. Cassidy's north field (currently fallow -- people are in the southeast and east fields). Dirk and Awol creep to the grain-storage building (up against the house). At one point, they get sort of spotted -- Awol hides up a tree, Dirk pretends to be grass (he's got his "new" biosuit set to pseudo-camo), and after a couple of hours, most everybody in the house who woke up to check things out is back asleep. Awol creeps into the grain-house and uses his force-sword to cut through the wall under the bed that Joanna is sleeping on. He then shoots *THROUGH THE DOOR* with a stun-rifle, taking out the policeman on guard out there. Next, he fast-draws his pistol and snap-shots the priest who was in the room. Joanna wakes up, Awol -- from under the bed -- hands her Erica's note, and fast-talks her into leaving without getting her jewelry. He tosses a nitrous-oxide grenade (made by T'kik) into the room as they leave. They reach the ship without further incident, and Silver takes off. Joanna wants to know who's flying the ship, and is rather loud about her disbelief at a female pilot. Silver is not amused. Joanna, when she sees what Silver's wearing, is somewhat scandalized (or maybe jealous), and the pair are rather cool to each other. Once again the patrol boat spots the Sparrow. Silver takes off to the two-parsec range from the Albatross, since she's *tired* of being chased around.

Payment: several rings, a very ornate necklace, and a bracelet that Joanna claims is hers, and berates her sister for having. Not really quite enough to get them to Sparrion, technically, but hey...

Joanna, it should be noted, is Very Beautiful, has Voice, and Sex Appeal 20. This means that her SA skill is 28 when used on males. (Oh, yeah, don't forget HT 17.) Her sister is merely Beautiful, with Voice, and SA 15 (not counting the bonus for appearance). It should also be noted that our Jo is Lecherous and Unlucky, among other amusing disads. She attaches herself to Warren and he plays his keyboard (or whatever it is) for her, and they sing. Quite well. Disgusting.

Somewhere in here, Silver will randomly psi-scan the new pair -- a 25%, possible Telepath, for Joanna, and a 60%, possible Telepath, for Erica.]]

**Jan 24, 155**


[[Sparrion. Sparrial stations are... Think a slightly toned down version of the Bazaar on Deva.]]

Ah, Sparrion. Time to go down to the planet and try to get Doc's cache for him.

Leerawoola is not home -- wife & kids are. Woolly is out on a job, playing "native guide" for some xenobiologist type, and will be for the next 2-3 weeks. *sigh* Call him up, give him the code that Doc gave me... Yeah, okay, he might be able to get away for the day necessary to dig up the stuff (and we mean "dig up" -- he *buries* things to keep them safe on Sparrion!), though his current employer will probably fuss. I'll fly out in an aircar. The quickest route will still take me about 10 hours. Rent an aircar (20-30 creds -- Doc owes me), fly out. Read the news while I'm going (I love autopilots) -- lessee, Novatechies not doing much, announcing new advances in psi-tronics, and a quicker, faster way of doing braintapes... I'll bet. Is that why you're collecting them??? What about Her company... Got a contract to sell "probes" to the Kylarans. Uh-huh. Announcing new "Nobel" class ship -- slow, but hey, it's a research ship. Mucho news speculation on whether She's going to go into the shipbuilding business. Note about the Novatechie shuttle that an AE ship found. Heh. Something about stopping a rogue computer that had taken over an Adam Two corp. station. Nothing else much in the news headlines. Politics nonsense, that sort of thing. Take nap.

Finally arrive -- yeah, there's a clearing at these coordinates, but I was supposed to land "next to the ship"... No ship here! Call up Woolly, and ask him where he is... He's right there, the ship is camouflaged, if I land in the clearing, I won't hit it. Okay, fine. Land. Poke my head out. "Hello? Do I have to come in, or can I give you a lift now?"

"Hello," comes from behind me -- Sparrial standing at the top of a ramp, in an open doorway, in midair. "Nice camo job," quoth I.

"Some people have fancy toys."

"No kidding. So can you get the package for me?"

"My employer doesn't want me to leave," he says.

*sigh* "So I get to talk him into letting you go. He human or Irari?"

"Human." Sparrial looks me up and down. "You shouldn't have any trouble."

Wander into the ship, notice that it's got a crescent-and-arrow on the control panel... Argh. Note that it's a Nobel class! Funny -- those had *just* been licensed! Nobody should have been building them yet!

"*Very* nice toy," I comment.

"Thank you!" says a voice from out of nowhere... 'Tis the ship's AI, "Sweetie."

"So who's your owner?" I ask it, and it replies, "You're about to meet him."

Ooookay. Step in to next room -- tall, thinnish blond fellow. Looks fairly "outdoorsy." Minorly attractive.

Me: "Hello -- I need to borrow your Sparrial for about a day."
Him: "Yes, he said something about that. I really do need him to be helping out here."
Me: "Whatcha need him to do?"
Him: "Set out monitors, that sort of thing."
Me, half-power leer: "Well, I could probably set out monitors -- or whatever..."
Him: "Ummm. That might be a bit hard to explain to my wife, when she joins me in a week..."
Me, losing the leer and pose: "Okay. But can Woolly go off if I give you a hand instead?"
He agrees (provided I shift my 'suit to something that won't scare off the wildlife -- or attract the wrong kind; no problem, camo-purple it is), and the Sparrial takes off in my rented aircar, snapping a few branches... (I have to ask for my comm and flashlight back before he leaves...)
Me: "Hotshot Sparrial pilots..."
Him: "There do seem to be a large number of them..."
Me: "Yeah -- I actually get along with them fairly well."
Him: "Oh, my name's Brad."
Me: "Call me Silver." {shake hands}
Brad: "Of course."

So we go back into the ship -- there's a room with a major holo-display (seems to be catagorizing animals from a grouping of scenes, rather than being used to scare a poor spacer into thinking that she's walked into vacuum). Brad has Sweetie display a maplet and shows where he wants the monitors placed. Up in trees, facing the game-trails, is preferable, since if they're on the ground, they tend to get covered up with leaves and things. No problem -- Sparrion trees aren't awful to climb. I've got a comm, so Sweetie can guide me if necessary. Me, figuring out where I'm supposed to be setting these things up: "Okay. I probably won't get lost." Find out that *he* never gets lost. Me: "You a pilot?" He does a little of that. So off we go, me at half-saunter.

Note that the monitors are self-tapping (you put the spike on wood or rock, and it drills in -- I said I hoped it didn't like biosuits as well... He said he didn't think so, looking at his own), and coated with the same stuff as the holowalls. He had them specially made. He also mentions, when I comment that he has nice toys, that he got the monitors and ship at a discount....

(When I asked what was in the woods, he said a whole bunch of complicated names that I'm sure I don't understand... But there's nothing terribly big and dangerous that doesn't run away from humans, so okay. I was really just worried about scalies.)

I wander about -- get chittered at by a tree-critter. "Chitter-chitter to you, too!" >bonk< A nut gets bounced off my biosuit hood. Throw it back. >bonk!bonk!bonk!bonk!bonk!bonk!< "Agh!" Run away with hands over head!

Gripe about the ship, the monitors, how Her stuff keeps crossing my path, etc., etc., how the heck does one get a discount from Her?

"Be a member of the family," comes Sweetie's voice from my comm.

"Huh!?" My comm wasn't on! "How did you hear me?!"

"You *are* carrying monitors. Wasn't I supposed to hear that?"

"Uhhh.... Nevermind... *What* did you say? About how to get a discount??"

"You have to be a member of the family."

"A member of the family... I don't want to know..."

This goes off into a discussion of human curiosity, and why don't I want to know? I explain that it's probably safer for me if I don't know. The very idea that She has family...

It doesn't matter. Eventually, when I get back (and find that the ship is named "Holmes' Sweet Home"), I find out that Doctor Bradford Holmes is the father of Sweetie's creatrix. (I tell Sweetie to say hi to its mom for me. It claims it only has a creator, not a mother. Whatever.) I rub my head, claiming that my brain hurts... It asks if I have some problems with internal connections. I tell it that yes, I suppose I do. It asks if it should take some scans and show them to Dr. Jones when she gets in next week. No, no, don't bother... Dr. Jones, it seems, is a genetic engineer. Much is explained about Her, perhaps, by that statement.

While I was out wandering, I spotted something that kept running away that I couldn't quite see... Held up a monitor and asked Sweetie what it was... Long funny kind of name. "Uh, how about giving me a name that I could understand?" "I don't know what level of understanding of xenobiology you have." "Good point. Neither do I. Try going simpler and simpler till I figure it out?" So Sweetie goes simpler... Finally we get to "Sort of a ferret." Me: "Well, that shows how much xenobiology *I* know... What's a ferret?" "It's an earth mammal. Do you have a vidcomm?" Nope. Sweetie will have to show me a picture when I get back. Ferrets eat things about the size of mice (which I do know what are), so they can't be terribly big, despite the fact that they have lots of sharp teeth.

Since I am now back, Sweetie can show me a picture of a ferret -- about 20 times enlarged! After I understand ferrets, I ask if I can look at Sweetie's specs, or if the ship is confidential or something... Sweetie lets me look at most stuff, but says that it's a prototype, and therefore isn't quite the same as the specs. It can't tell me all the modifications, except that it's a bigger computer.

After a while, Brad comes back. He's got something ferrety and a couple of birds, which he proceeds to cook outside, over an open fire. I get invited to dinner, and am appreciative. (I learned that he had to reprogram the food synthesizer after he got the ship, since it was only producing pure synethetic paste... I point out that it's better than having a Hive Beetle engineer... He offers condolences.) The critter tastes like chicken, and the birds have a sort of nutty flavor. I offer congratulations to the chef, but he says that it's not his doing. Still, *I* would have managed to burn 'em. I can't cook even *with* a synthesizer.

I ask random stuff about what he's doing, find out random stuff about local fauna... About everytime that Her name gets mentioned, I can't help flinching. Finally he asks if I have a problem, and if it's related to his daughter. I admit that I once had occasion to say hello to Her... He notes that She can be rather irritating at times. (She could have been worse, but I don't say that.) I mention that She's got a *nice* ship (ah, lust...) -- he agrees that it's impressive, but notes that it's a little sterile, but if that's the way She wants to live...Obviously She spent too much time with the computers on Byte. Doesn't surprise me... He says kids are all crazy -- is this kids in general, or his, I want to know... Just Her, really -- Minerva turned out okay -- she's a scout, with her own ship... If she still has it; it's not easy being a freelance scout. Especially, I comment, considering those probes wandering about, or so the Pilot's Guild people have mentioned to me. He says She doesn't think things through sometimes, or just doesn't care. I ask if he's got any other kids -- none that he knows of. At my startlement on such a comment, he explains that it's hard to know for sure what one's genetics have been used for when one's wife is a genetic engineer -- and she might have forgotten to mention it; she's like Her in that way... Spouse is... Sir-sey? Jones. Both of 'em are doctors.

I get to bunk down in the ATV. No prob.

Realize that I missed a perfect opportunity to connive a look at some baby pictures. Ah, well... Some things are probably better not known.

**Jan 25, 155**


Next day, Woolly comes back with my aircar (slightly sap-streaked) and a box (it's thumb-print locked). Wave bye to Brad, say bye to Sweetie -- Sweetie says, "Goodbye, Ms. Hawke." Pause, double-take. "Where did you get that half of my name?" I ask it. Standard security precautions when allowing someone onto the ship, it explains -- it looked me up. "Well, I hope you found I was mostly harmless," I grin. "Not likely to be dangerous, no," it agrees. "Where'd you get the data, anyway?" I ask. Artemis Central Information, it turns out... And the full bit of data was "Able to be dangerous, but not likely to be dangerous in this situation." I am hurt. "'Not likely'? More like darned *un*likely!" I protest. "I'm not *totally* unwise!" Leave, after making sure that Woolly hadn't absconded with anything else of mine.

I wonder if I can get into this finger-print-locked box without breaking it... I wanna see if my 'tapes are in it!

No, they're not (the lock is not busted, tho'). Captain Kirk, Al Capone, Artemis Gordon {eek}, Herbert Hoover, yes. Mine, no. I can find all but that Artemis one in the library -- Doc's a fan of 20th century Old Earth, obviously!

Pack everything back up and put a note on the outside: "You owe me."

Dear sweet stars... The *other* cache is in a starport area of Unar. Major city. How am I *ever* going to get down *there*? The place is FULL OF SCALIES! I suppose I could suppress it, but... Gah! The idea! Maybe I could get Kel and/or Derek to help me out here?

**Jan 27, 155**


Get new implant comm, to my specifications. Also get 112 pills -- with luck, four months will get me back to Unar, where I can hopefully renew my prescription, and maybe get the cache. Sparrials seem to like me -- I got the pills as cheap here as on Unar!

[On to February]