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!)

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**Feb 7, 155**


Ah, Valentine's Day is coming up in a few days. I wonder what I should do to celebrate it? Give the Captain something nice and innocent, say... Wander around with the suit transparent save for strategically placed hearts... Nah, that last one is just a little too cutsey.

Tomorrow, Kelly comes back from that psi-school that the Captain sent her off to. Today, there's a moderately large, *highly* stealthed ship -- that looks like it could make warp 8 or better! -- heading towards the school. "That looks suspicious," I mutter. "Like those pirates, who got so much money for psis..." I then have to explain the set-up from Jordan's Station to everybody, since I'd forgotton to do so previously...

We call the station, they say they aren't expecting any ship there, and they don't sense any ship there, and they don't want us to talk to Kelly because she's in a class right now but they'll give her a note. Later, when the stealthed ship has landed right outside the school, they say that she's gone for a walk, and they can't find her. We spot a couple of people leaving the ship, and coming back with a gurney -- "to take out the trash," according to the school. However, they go right into the ship, and that cart they were pushing could have carried a person! Nobody but us can see the stealthed ship, though T'kik puts out an anon. broadcast that there's a highly stealthed ship in the area. An aircar buzzes the school at mach speeds -- Sparrial pilot, who sees the people disappearing, but doesn't spot the ship. The ship starts going up, Warren loses them for a few minutes, we find them again, and I spiral around them as they go up. We try hailing them. Nothing. They dive downwards, I trail along above them. (The Albatross, unloaded as it is, is faster than they are in atmosphere.) They try cutting sharply away, and I keep following. They head for a small sea, and start going under. They still won't answer our hailings. Awol nails their engines with a light laser. They go and send off an encrypted burst of hypercomm. We record it, but it's not likely that we'll be able to decipher it. I'll try later anyway.

About now, the school calls back -- says that Kelly's been found, she's back in class, we can talk to her in a couple of minutes. We ask for them to have her call us. Give them about 20 minutes, the person says. "2 minutes, 20 minutes," I gripe. "Can't anybody tell time?"

It *sounds* like Kelly -- but she uses the term "secure comm channel"! And she doesn't give her usual response to my offer to tell her about Flare, and doesn't seem to know about our sensors. Bah.

We hail the stealthed ship again, and fire a couple of missiles at them to shake 'em up a bit. Finally we get a "Leave or she dies," and the comm cuts off again. Okay. We've got Artemis sensors, and their warp drive is busted so that they won't be going anywhere for at least a few hours. I start backing the ship off. "Leave the system or she dies." Okay... We'll do that -- at least to the edge of their sensors... But then we'll head back in and take over the Sparrow for a short while (Parvari's sold it for 800K, and we'll be transferring title tomorrow, but till then.), and try to rescue Kel. But how will we keep them from noticing us? Parvari has T'kik change over the transponder signal... THAT SLY FELLOW! I would never have guessed it! [[The _Opening Lotus_, registered out of Kintara.]]

A couple of air-cars start heading for the downed ship (one armed, one not) as we (Derek, Awol, and I) head down to the planet. The stealthed ship has turned off its 500MW antimatter plant (the problem with shooting at it... don't want to blow *Kelly* up), and its stealth system, and has beached itself. There's some implant-comm type traffic around it, but naught else. That is one expensive ship. Set the Sparrow down into the water as lightly as a floating feather, and slowly head for a cove next to where the kidnap-ship is. There's one person outside the ship, and 3-4 people inside. At least one person armed up near the bridge, probably two people there, and a couple of unarmed-types (at least, no big powercells) in the middle part of the ship. We sneak out, me on Star Fire, of course. [Silver has a distort belt on, full Camo and Reflex mode on, and a sonic screen {off} just in case.] Awol picks off the fellow on the outside with his stun rifle, and we charge the airlock. Cycle the lock (it would take too long to hack it), I dive forwards as the lock opens, and a stun-blast goes over my head. Zapzapzap! with my stunner, and a fellow falls. The door to the bridge area starts closing -- I try to dive for it and go *WHAP* against the closed door.
Awol: "Graceful."
Me: "Shut up."
Derek heads for the closed doors to the other side, opposite the bridge door that I just smacked into. Several cramped rooms with narrow bunks. Kelly, alone, is in one of them. She doesn't wake up. Awol tosses Derek some Purge, and that wakes Kel up. Meanwhile, I hack the door open, have a laser blast by my head, and stun the fellow inside.

I go and get the Sparrow (the fellow on the bridge told the aircars they'd better hurry up, but they'll still take a little while to get there), and we drag all three people on-board. I realize that they might have stored our voices on their computer! Fortunately, just as I'm panicking about that, Awol says, "This computer?" That wonderful Sparrial swiped their computer! (They didn't have a black box.) I tell him that if I were a Sparrial, I'd start giving him stuff. He says he's already married, and shows me pictures of his kids.

The two bridge people have faked IDs -- "Sam Brown" for the captain-type with the stunner, and "John Smith" for the fellow with the laser. The outside fellow is Gregory O'Mally. All three have mind-shields! One for me, one for Derek, who complained that I always seem to loot the bodies for myself, and dunno where the third goes. Maybe Kelly, if she can work through the things.

["Brown" is known as "John Smithers," but is really Mark Simmons, a miner captured by pirates. He comes to himself when we give him some Soothe {they're all allergic to Crediline} and the implant thing in his brain tries to self destruct. Take lots of scans. They were the stealthed ship that Bernie Wolf's pirates were delivering to. (Greg, who took the pic for possible blackmail, gets kissed for this info) That "hurry & make room" that Wolfie talked about was a couple of people from the psi school. The ship that they off-load to is a drab-painted Executive shuttle -- like the one Silver knows so well! And "John Smithers" has been on it! Though the other two haven't. The brain implant would have self-destructed, but Kelly 'ported the explosive {which Silver recognized as an explosive when she was scanning the stuff -- she has Demolitions!} out first. Later, Kelly gets the braintape disk, and Silver takes charge of it. Kelly has been fed an IQ adder {they are not addictive, it turns out --- Silver had had one tested previously}.]

Kel had a vague premonition that morning, but naught useful. She says she was walking down the hall, one of the nurses passed her, she felt something on her neck and the nurse said, "Are you all right?" and there was this nasty bald fellow down the hall just staring at her -- the antipsi. She says that she spent a while being poked over in the med area when she first got to the school, and that they were very excited about her then.

**Feb 8, 155**


[When thinking about planning a commando raid on the school people, it turns out that the next day, when we would have "picked Kelly up," there is a *lot* of confusion going on! Half the staff has vanished to a "staff meeting" and never come back! The administrator, a couple of teachers (one who knows Mindswitch, one Antipsi), the doctor and a nurse, and a couple of other exec.-types. Silver advises the poor fellow on the comm to check them carefully if they come back, since they may be under some kind of illegal control -- a black-market personality implant, she says. The fellow informs her of Mindswitching -- she boggles.] [Silver is going to be telling Her and maybe SH about this, since she's got some notion that NovaTech's *got* to be in on this *somewhere*.]

Well, maybe if they left quickly enough, we can drop in and find out some more information... We take a shuttle down to the surface, get an aircar, go over... (I, Warren, & Derek have the psi-shields that the three kidnappers were wearing. I am in a toned-down ship-suit look, rather than the mirror or even the green&silver -- I am asked if I'm feeling all right.) Have Kelly lead us to the admin office (where the administrator's assistant {another vanished person} had spoken with her and encouraged her to work on Telereceive, rather than any of her other skills) -- there are two people there (three terminals), both of whom look to be very busy and seem to be trying to untangle a lot of admin stuff. I try to help one out, but it's beyond me. Warren is more successful. I have him send info about our flown-birds to the third terminal in the room, where I snarf it off onto disk. Kelly noticed a third person through the open door into the back office. She wandered back there, and I follow along. Rather bland-looking fellow scanning hordes and hordes of numbers... Finally he notices us -- I explain that we're here about a billing error, and we were kinda suspicious when a buncha people flew the coop last evening, etc. We hang around (Warren helping the panicked teacher & cafeteria manager when they whimper). The fellow (who eventually says, "I don't believe we've introduced ourselves..." to which I say, "I'm called Silver.") is Thorvald Jonson, aka "Thor." He does not look it.

[Kelly has gotten an impression of lots & lots of columns of numbers in his head.]

He says that the books aren't matching up well -- a lot of NovaTech's donations to the school aren't accounted for. They went in, and out, but what they went for is unknown. John Simmons was some kind of cab driver perhaps? There are some small payments to him. "Thor" is from the NovaTech main office... He wonders if the coop-fliers knew he was coming. He dredges up a deposit, without a linking to a student (!) that matches to us. There is no record of Kelly in the databases. There are six other similiar unlinked deposits....

From Warren's efforts, we find the main admin fellow came reccommended by a New Garavaran university, allegedly, as being able to handle psis well. He brought his assistant, and hired all the other coop-fliers during the year he was there. He also hired a Sparrial precog and a Kintaran shaman as teachers, who have not flown the coop.

Kelly drags me away for a moment to tell me that the NovaTechie accountant is more interested in us than he's acting... Yeah, I had gotten the feeling that he was looking at us covertly.

Warren goes wandering off and discovers that the med area is rather bare -- the fellow took his fancy equipment away with him "to be serviced" and the Sparrial nurse in the room is looking bewilderedly for his records on the students... There's no reason he should have taken those away...

I and Kelly hang around the NovaTech accountant -- there's a safe in the wall... I comment, "I wonder what's in there? The duplicate books?" The NovaTechie says, "It's empty." Kelly tries to read it. Blank, as if it had just been installed! *Really* strange.

We go to hunt down the teachers -- Kintaran first... She's in a class. Kelly mentions that our NovaTechie has a thing in his head very like the one that was in that poor miner's. But she doesn't think it was possessing him... Not sure. Would have to get closer. Argh.

Find and query the Sparrial ("Oh, it's you! Who are you?"). Hired about six months ago. Kelly spills that she was kidnapped by the nurse & antipsi. Sparrial is puzzled. Considers that an antipsi might have been able to fox even a precog teacher's abilities. He didn't try to take anything from me, because "it wouldn't have worked."

Find and talk to "Goldy," the Kintaran. (*OLD* Kintaran female, bald ears, graying muzzle -- still a bright shade of yellow, though.) She invites us out to lunch; she's hungry. She goes catching a buncha furry things. Comes back -- asks if I want one. It's still alive and squirming. Take it by the neck. "How do you kill one of these things?" I ask. "Like this!" She wrings the neck of one of the other ones she had in her sack. I hand it over to Dirk to do the honors. The stuff's a bit gamy and tough, at least raw, but let's try to be polite...

She asks if we'd gotten the cards for the admin & co -- no, because the safe was blank. Hm. Maybe something the antipsi did... Goldy tries looking for the lot of 'em (what is her *range*??), but can't find 'em. Warren, when asking what she did, apparently got a demonstration of her mental illusion abilities... He hid behind her.

Kelly got looked over -- Goldy seemed mildly impressed that Kel had so *many* talents, but the strength of them was termed something like "pathetic." Kelly grumbled that she'd been having a bad couple of days. Goldy: "You have? Oh, yes, you have, haven't you?" Kelly was not amused. I asked if she had a problem having someone do that sort of thing to *her* for a change.

From Goldy, we learn that the money was going to "Station Five," and something about... K'Kree? I remember that system from when I was looking over Bernie's star database for the area! It's a K-star system, one vaguely habitable planet (1.3 Gs, thin atmosphere, nasty place), otherwise useless. A great place to dump someone for a prison planet, if you ask me... Well, that's where we look first!

We ask if Goldy would like to come along with us and try to catch our coop-fliers. No, she hates to travel... Food's always lousy. She seems... Not too surprised by our story? And how did she get to Sparrion if she hates to travel?? Strange. Will have to ask her later...

About time to go check on our NovaTechie accountant -- while Goldy was out hunting in the field, Warren scanned the NovaTechie and we think that whatever *he's* got, it isn't a braintape thingy -- it is at least as complex! But it is not a duplicate. An implanted computer, perhaps? They do that sort of thing...

We encounter him while he's on his way out... I ask if he found anything interesting. Perhaps, he says. He thinks he might know where the money's gone. He then asks, "You're ship crew?" Yeah... "Is your ship available for charter?" Probably, I say. Warren jumps all over himself to say, "Probably? Of *course* it's available!" NovaTechie: "How fast does it go?" Me: "When it's unloaded -- like it is right now -- I can push it to warp six easy. Maybe faster, if T'kik's on the ball with the engines." This earns me some griping from Warren & Dirk. Me: "All right, all right, I'm not really that bad. But we can hit warp six. You want to hire the ship?" NovaTechie says he'll think about it -- we'll hear from if so.

We leave. Warren gets his credcard stolen on the station. I thwart a lot of attempts, don't seem to lose anything. Four hours later, we hear from "Thor." He wants to hire us. Fine and dandy. I want to bug his room, without the Bug's bugs spotting me... Hm. The Bug was doing elevator music all over everyone's comms -- I'll get some stuff together, and drown out the bug-frenquencies with old westerns, soap operas, and various strange religious music! That way, it won't know that I'm doing more than being an irritation!

Easy enough to find someone who will sell me something -- Kintaran-make, it looks like. Oughta work.

[later]
A couple of hours pass, our Thorvald "Thor" Jonson arrives. He's now wearing a biosuit, and has a largish pack of stuff. (He says something about living on ships all the time -- try to travel light, but...) Warren scans it, of course. Clothes, laser pistol and stunner (*laser*? An accountant? Hm.), and a bunch of computer-type electronics at the bottom. I look over Warren's shoulder... I discover that I think it's some kind of computer-tap stuff! (I realize that I've heard of such things, though never seen 'em.) It's like a radscanner -- taps into computers, "eavesdropping" on them such that one could see files *after* they've been decrypted for use by the owner. Don't need to break any codes that way. Pity I didn't have something like that at Station 2...

On the other hand, he can just whistle in the Void if he wants to link to *this* computer! It's the next generation up from his little toy -- even when it's pretending to be slow on the outermost shell, it's still too fast for him to read! When in Camie mode, according to the notes, it generates "plausible signals." Whatever *those* are! It may be that Her stuff is pretty near the best money can buy, but Her documentation on this little toy is pretty darn esoteric! Of course, *She* doesn't *need* documentation....

Find the Captain -- after he's sat down at the pilot's chair, put my hands on his shoulders... "Captain," I murmur. "This fellow has a computer tap in his luggage -- don't go looking at the logs terribly much, eh?" Parvari boggles somewhat. "Oh, and Parvari," I continue. "I got on the ship at Unar, got it?" "That's not what the logs say..." "So don't look at the logs, mmm?" "Right. Unar." "Thank you, Captain."

I've sent off a couple of notes -- one to Flare, who'd care, and one to Diana, who might be able to do something about whatever. Notes start: "In case I'm never heard from again, here's where I was headed, and why." Ask Flare to have a nice wake for me. Get a message back from him: "Watch your tail." Reply: "Wish *you* were here to watch it for me..." in the appropriate salacious tone of voice.

Three days or so to K'Kree. I wish I knew if we were walking into a trap -- accountants don't usually have enough money to charter a random ship! He's pretty plain, but maybe I can rationalize a chance for some pillow-talk... I would *not* want to go along with all this, save that he's from the home-office, which Simmons didn't want finding out about his little scamming, according to Bernie.

[later]
Hm. Thinking back to my grand escape... Why *was* someone doing inventory on that shuttle in the dead-watch? A plausible explanation is that someone was going to be leaving in the morning. "We'll finish the procedure in the morning," someone said. Just going to dump me off with amnesia? Or take me somewhere? Or Mr. Station Director was called in special to deal with me and would be leaving? Or I had planned to catch a ride out...? I will find that man, and I will have some answers from him, if it takes me the rest of my existance.

**Feb 9, 155**


Warren finds out that our "Accountant" is actually a "Financial Investigtor" for Novatech -- rather than going through Accounting channels, he reports directly to the Vice Pres. for Operations (who also includes Accounting). Amusing.

I got my bug in past the Bug's bugs -- he sings to himself, off-key, and plays solitaire. In fact, that's the first thing he does -- go in and take off his outer-clothes (fully exposing the biosuit), and start playing...

He plays poker -- not an utterly good poker-face, but he wins a lot. No wonder -- math is his life...

**Feb 10, 155**


Kelly & I have a little talk with him... "So, what's a guy like you doing on a ship like this?" I ask. "Counting the days till retirement," he says. (Kelly says he was covering here.) I do some half-subtle flirting for a while, but everything seems to be going over his head. (I find from Kelly later that he was more interested than he acted. He was also curious about the ship -- half curiosity, and half business-related, maybe?) I ask what an accountant was doing with a laser pistol, anyway. He says that he doesn't really know how to use it, but sometimes his job takes him to places that aren't very nice. To my comment that not knowing how to use a weapon is silly, he points out that sometimes people are more scared of someone who doesn't know how to use one (aims fingers and shakes them all over the place, simulating nervous person with gun). I allow that he has a point. (Kelly says he was severly lying when he said he couldn't use the laser.) Eventually, I ask Kelly if I should go get a two-by-four, she says it's probably not really necessary. I mutter about boredom -- it's been a long while between Kintarans. Somewhere in here, our Novatechie excuses himself and goes back to his room.

And he plays solitaire. And... That's all he does. Plays solitaire. Hm. Go bother him later. Again, my "subtle" hints seem to go over his head, and he finally closes the door on me, saying that he has to get back to work.

Except he was playing solitaire, my recordings say. The ... same ... game of solitaire, over and over again, with the same motions each time, and the same repetitive off-key singing.......... Some kind of glitch in his head-computer??? The Bug gets the same thing from its bugs. I gripe at Kelly about it. Then, a bolt from the blue! He's got it looped somehow! But it was *smooth*! He sits down at the computer and it starts, and he stands up -- no glitching of the image! Wow. Find a couple of glitches in yesterday's recordings -- noise-static, early on. Meshing up to the frequency? *Something*. This fellow is *not* what he says he is!

For that matter... I wonder if he's quite as average-looking as he tries to appear... He's certainly trying to appear *smaller* than he really is -- he's about six-foot, six-one, but he acts like he's five-eight. Strange.

**Feb 11, 155**


Corner "Thor" again. "Nice 'work' you have -- the Bug says you're just playing card games."
Him: "You've found me out. These trips can be so long and boring..."
Me: "Yes, I know. Wouldn't you rather have an interesting time?"
Him: "Um, no, being attacked by pirates would probably not be fun."
Me: "How about being attacked by something else...?"
Him: "I'd rather not be attacked at all, I think..."
Me: "Not even to drag you into your room?"
Him: "Why would you want to do that?" But he's losing his straight face. Pity -- I would have resorted to physical if he'd been playing dense much longer...
Me: "Because I'm rooming with Kelly, and she's not interested in second-hand voyeurism, much less a menage a' troi..."
He *finally* says that he doesn't get involved in romantic entanglements with employees. And, since he's paying for the ship to take him somewhere, and I'm flying it, I count as an employee. When we drop him back at Sparrion, then I won't count as one. I promise to remember that.

[later]
We get within scanning range -- for us -- of the K'Kree planet. 1.3 Gs, and other marginal stuff. Loverly. Some kind of ship, shut down, and a building with a small fusion plant. Also, a strange, faint oddity... Like the way the sensors were acting when we were carrying that stuff from Calder! Those crystals of Hers! Stars! Is it good or bad that they're here? Stars, stars, stars... *Why* does Artemis business keep crossing my path!?!

When we get just outside normal scan-range, Thor calls us together and says that he found where the money is going -- someplace, here, called "Research Station 5." I ask what #4 is -- he says that neither 4 nor 5 are supposed to exist. NovaTech only has 1, 2, & 3. I'd be looking for a #4 if I were them... Anyway, he's not sure what's going to be going on, and he was hoping we'd provide backup for him. Sure thing. *I'm* all for that!

We get within normal scan-range, get scanned. The ship on the surface starts powering up and heading out -- we get to the planet about the time that the ship -- a small Jackal class, like the Sparrow was -- clears the atmosphere. We fire at it, it fires all its missiles at us, a couple hit (I did *real* bad on the point-defense... *sigh*), and we get shaken up pretty badly -- the only things left working are the warp-engines! (We lose pressure in some places, but we've all got suits, pretty much...) The sensors and computer are down, too! Well, that's fine, that's what *I'm* here for, to fly this crate blindfolded. I warp us out of the area, and we start repairing things.

By the time everything is back on-line (the sensors are pretty cobbled together, though -- and like my computer, they can only be serviced by Guess Who), the Jackal is off in the direction of NT Station 3. We follow. It will take us about 16 hours to catch up with 'em. *sigh* And here I took a pill for nothing, I guess. *sigh*

**Feb 12, 155**


We catch up with the other ship -- it sends off a message, which may or may not have been aimed at NT Station 3, and may or may not have been received. Argh. After a lot of back&forth, we shoot up its engines & thrusters. Dirk (changed from Derek deliberately by Kelly, so that someone would sound appropriate to demand a surrender) and I board -- Dirk lands pretty heavily, and I drop off his tow-line. I fix the aft-lock open (it's the only one Dirk's exoskeleton-vacc-suit can fit in), and Warren says that the sole passenger & crew is heading back that way. I head for the forward one-man lock, and land *real* bad. By the time I get in, there's an explosion, and the life-sign of the crewman is gone. He exploded his head. With much irritation, I gather up the electronic bits and take pics and scans of the remains. If Dirk wants the biosuit, he can loot it himself. Undoubtedly this was another poor innocent who had an Ungodly device in his head, and we didn't manage to stun him and have Kelly take it out. DAMN!

The ship is pretty radioactive by this time, but we salvage 6 freeze-tubes from it. [[And the computer core, for You Know Who? No. Didn't think of it.]]

I yell at Thor a bit, and demand to know what these things are. Kelly is, of course, right behind him. Thor doesn't want to say what the electronic stuff is, that it's classified.

Kelly says, "Y'know, this looks a lot like the stuff that was in that other guy's head... Except we took the explosive out, of course."

Thor loses his cool. "You've seen one of these before?" he asks, sounding a bit shaken.
Me: "Oh, yeah, sure. Except he didn't blow his head off."

Thor wants to get a look at the equipment, says it might tell us something, but the miner is off towards New Garavar. On the other hand...

Me: "Would the braintape that was in his head provide any clues?"
Thor: "You've got it?"
Me: "Sure. Kelly took it out."

He says Kelly is talented. He says that maybe the base ("station 5") would have equipment to read a braintape.

About now, he says, "Stop it," frowning.
Me: "Stop what?"
Him, rather annoyed sounding: "Reading my mind. I don't know which of you is doing it, but stop it!"
Me: Smirk & shrug.

So we head back to the base. Another 16 hours...

Kelly says that the gizmo is made for the government by NovaTech for secret agent types, except the "ridden" person has given permission, and the bomb isn't standard at *all*. Thor is very worried that people have seen them out and about. The only place that makes them is NT Station 2 -- the place I escaped from! Kelly then asks why I had such a strong reaction to that place. I tell her, basically, that I'm not going to tell her yet. Maybe later.

I am severly tempted to back Thor-baby into a corner and tell him that he owes me a combat bonus -- don't look at it as a romantic entanglement, look at it as *payment*! Major nerves. Want the excuse to claw him up a little, too.

***Feb 13, 155**


[[On the way back, Silver demands some "combat pay" from Thor, and he actually lets her into his room. (She has a surface persona set up and a bug in her pocket.) She wakes up the next morning, snugged up next to him, sore in all the right places, and with the memory of an absolutely *wonderful* time -- this guy has the stamina of a Kintaran! Except... The details are a little fuzzy... They get clearer, though, but -- that's a symptom of a hypnosis-induced memory!!! Uh-huh... So she checks -- they're both disheveled (he's snoring), but he doesn't have the marks she was planning to put on him. Hm. Oh, well. She can't decide if she's amused or POed. Move over and start nibbling on his ear. Him: "Salome?" {very mumbled} Silver: {giggle}. Him: "Jo-ann? Terri?" Silver: "The first one was closer, sound wise." He opens one eye and looks at her. {Flatly:} "Silver. {pause} I hope you're satisfied. I don't think I'll be able to do that again for at least two days." Silver is somewhat pouty. Him: "Shouldn't you be on watch now?" Silver: "I've got a few minutes..." Him: "Sixteen seconds." Silver: "I can be a little..." Him: "You're late." Silver: "{Exasperated sigh} All right..." She starts getting up. Him: "I think I'm going to sleep in..."

Established bug has the solitare game. Bug in pocket -- after a few minutes of foreplay sounds, it just goes dead. Autodoc says she has Morphazine and some other breakdown products in her blood. Not sure what the others are. But trying to distangle her memories produces a crit-fail -- it sure felt real! She can even put a time to everything, pretty much. *sigh*

On the planet: buildings, 2 story. Get the computer files -- he tries to keep the header for the braintape disk (which was encrypted); find the 6 freeze tubes -- 5 humans, 1 Sparrial; the 2 humans, Sparrial, & Kintaran, all brainwiped. Stalks in to Thor and yells at him about this, tells him she holds him personally responsible, and stalks out, leaving him stuttering behind her. Snarf the drugs that were being fed to the people, and the Calder crystal. Leave. One of the humans, female, seems to have a fair amount of biochem knowledge. (She says that she's not sure what the chemicals in Silver's blood were -- Soothe, maybe, and some other stuff she'd need databases for.) We go search the Jackal ship, find tapes, including progress reports about the projects. The non-psi human (the biochem lady) had a different treatment. The drugs, she says, were psychoactive stuff, cause dreams, maybe? All had strange dreams -- psychedelic, save the biochem woman who dreamed she *was* psi. Looks like they were trying to make psis.]]

**Feb 14, 155**


Valentine's Day. Wouldn't you just know it. No chance to do *anything* to celebrate it properly. NovaTech -- or *somebody* -- owes me one holiday. And getting me drugged up does *NOT* count!

**Feb 16, 155**


[[Go back to Sparrion, Warren looks up everybody, finds their names (except the ones in freeze tubes: save those for New Garavar). We patch up the ship a little, and head to New Garavar.]]

**Feb 23, 155**


[[Silver gets in touch with Secret Helper and tells him everything, with the caveat that the information is traceable to her, so be careful. She gets the encrypted header back after 30 mins -- a fellow who works at NovaTech research base 3. The encryption was a standard NovaTech one. Silver speculates on links between base 3 & 2. Secret Helper suggests that it's more likely that someone from base 3 stole the braintape/brainwipe plans from base 2. Mentions the rumors about leakages from Byte data accounts, and that John Dillings left under a cloud during that time, and has been working as the main admin power at that base since... So it's plausible that he could have got hold of that -- perhaps even from Byte, if he stored it somewhere secure before he was kicked out! Silver gripes about wanting to get *both* stations now. Secret Helper suggests that maybe she should talk to the person probably responsible for ousting Dillings -- Selene Holmes, who has been seeing the director for station 2 socially. "She's been *WHAT*?" Ever since the Febuary tradeshow. Going to nightclubs with him. Even reportedly dancing. Aie. Bad news, bad news. Silver asks for a voice-print style recording of "Vlad" {the station director} -- about a day & a half later, she gets it, and is *SURE* {a 4} that he's the "She's not dangerous anymore, Doctor." voice. She can't pin down the other voice.

Silver sends Diana Email: "So, beat up any dockworkers lately?" Diana expresses interest in getting into bar-fights. After all, she says, it doesn't matter what Selene would think -- she's not Diana's mother... Well, not really. Selene prefers "Creatrix." Diana arranges to meet {?!} Silver at Flare's Lucky Star...

Thor wants to take the 6 'tube-people, Silver gives him a hard time. Says something like, "So one's doing braintape research and one's doing psi research and they're splitting the people or something, maybe?" Thor *winces*, and when queried on that, says, "Nothing! Forget it!" [She just rattled off the *real* projects of those bases, rather than Clone Research and NeuroElectronic Med devices, scanners, etc.]

Silver finally bids Thor goodbye (he wouldn't go get a drink with her), and threatens to write him on the Main NovaTech station. (She wants to, too -- if/when she gets a message from the brainwiped people that they're fine now, she'll send Thor the ID cards that she got off the pirates.)

Silver goes and hangs out at Flare's -- he's busy, and doesn't notice. A few moments later, Diana is on the next stool. Silver could have sworn that stool was empty a moment ago.... Diana has a new body -- robotic, and is practicing with it. She doesn't walk right, she says, so she came in stealthed. Finally Flare notices the pair and wanders over. He is boggled that "Diana Falkayne" has no scent. Diana arm-wrestles with one of his fore-paws. She wins. He is *very* boggled -- the sensors at the entrance should have picked up cyborgs.

Eventually the trio winds up in Flare's back room, since Diana wants something -- fake IDs for the body, rather than use her ID card that says "Sapient Diana" on it. She doesn't tell Flare about that...

Diana is most worried about Selene's new boyfriend. (Flare expresses bogglement on that one too. "The Snow Goddess doesn't have relationships!") Selene has forbidden her AIs to monitor the group when she's with Vladimir. He hasn't been on the ship, thank the stars. But Diana's been having to "wait up late." Though Vlad-darling's a bit of a ladies' man, Selene hasn't shown any signs of jealousy about it. Diana would like it very much if Silver could get near enough to the group some time to get some sort of recordings -- perhaps as Serena, at the nightclub that they frequent? Silver considers, and decides that even though the White Lady is distracted, she might recall Serena Hedoni's name. On the other hand, Salome Houri has a bit of dancing skill besides her profession... Trouble is, Silver doesn't have the ID card for that one, nor the props. Could Diana give her a hand with getting her stuff out of the locker here, without setting off that trap? Sure thing...

Somewhere in here, Flare realizes that this is *that* Diana! "Not every day that a starship wanders into my bar!" he gripes. Silver and Diana correct him that Diana is *not* the ship -- it's merely one of her bodies.

Silver and Diana wander off to check out the locker. Diana has a 'bot come and give her something along the way. (Diana was pacing visibly in the room -- she moves very mechanically-efficiently; very unnatural looking.) Longstoryshort -- Diana gets the trap undone and has a 'bot haul the luggage inside to Flare's, where Silver falls upon it with glee. We find: Sherinford's stuff (business-like, somewhat unflattering clothes), Shannon's clothes {but not weapons} (dark stuff -- rather sinister looking), and Salome's stuff (very skimpy), and the ID card necessary in the shielded compartment.

After Flare closed up shop, the trio wind up in his bedroom, where Silver uses him as a demonstration for intimate recreational behaviors: how to keep males on edge for a while, proper mimicry of female reactions, that sort of thing. Diana, with the ability to electrically charge her body to a greater or lesser degree, has some advantages. (Since about all the amusement she can derive from such activities is mental, she's rather a toppish sort.) "Poor" Flare... ]]

**Feb 26, 155**


[[While Flare sets up a job for Salome at the nightclub, Silver and Diana hang around together -- Diana has a bit of hero-worship for Quicksilver the Legend (and sort of likes Silver the reality), and Silver likes Diana -- for one thing, she doesn't have to keep quiet about her full life, and she doesn't feel as if she has to be living up to someone else *all* the time.

Silver wants to go down and check out her stuff -- Diana mentions that Simone owns three buildings: one house, for Simone, and the buildings where Sherinford's office and Scherazade's apartment are. Silver is boggled. Diana scans the house and finds a shielded area in it. Silver invites Diana to come along down to the planet with her and check out all of SH's stuff. Diana agrees, and volunteers use of the _Arrow_ -- _Diana's Bow_ is docked at the station, and Selene is ... busy. She won't be needing any shuttles.

Diana arranges to meet Silver at a particular airlock at 1700 -- the cameras are out there... Often out there, really. Smugglers' type of place, y'know?

Silver goes to 'lock. Supposedly, there's no ships docked there. Putting on the biosuit hood just in case, she slips out. There is a ship there, and a woman she's never seen before. Silver raises an eyebrow. Diana: "Are you going to stand there all day?"

They land at the aircar pad at Simone's -- Silver has dyed her hair and adjusted her biosuit to a bit less svelte, and can pick up some clothes at the house, hopefully. The aircar pad seems to have been built strong enough to stand a shuttle landing on it. There are numerous scans going on at the perimeter wall around the well-kept grounds, and some of the airspace above.

Silver exits the shuttle first, proceeds to the house. When she touches the security panel, the door opens... Nice house, good furniture, abstract sculptures around... "Home sweet home," Silver says, a bit distantly.

Voice: "Good evening, miss. You've been away for a while."
Silver: {mutter} "House computer." {aloud} "Good evening. I -- think I'm just dropping in to check on things."
Computer: "Very good. Would you like to deal with your messages now?"
Silver: "Ah, who are they from?"
Computer: "They are invitations for various events that have passed. I took the liberty of refusing them in your name."
Silver: "Um. Thank you. Anything else I should know about?"
Computer: "There have been some recent security anolomies."

(Silver checks, and yes, those were some associated with the landing of the Arrow just recently, and a few previously associated with scanning the house a day or two ago. She says not to worry about it.)

Over the implant comm, Silver asks Diana if the computer is AI or personality program -- Diana points out that no AIs are on Simone's payroll, or listed as being at that address. Silver points out that that's not necessarily relevant.

The shielded area is near the kitchen, and below it, so Hawke and Falkayne head to the basement/wine cellar. There's a wine cellar, a lot of "art" supplies that Silver thinks would be great for forging ID cards and such, and sculpture supplies -- blocks of stone and wood, half-carved stuff, etc. Looks rather like the stuff upstairs, really. (Diana automatically notices, and mentions later, that the sculptures are 3-D representations of hyperspace...) Silver is somewhat distracted for a while, being confused as to what her predecessor was doing sculpting stuff... (Made a good hobby-cover to excuse the forgery/art equipment, and disguised the fact that:) The basement is a little short -- it doesn't go all the way to the outer walls of the house (which was, BTW, built six years ago, for Simone). Diana doesn't think she scans any openings into the shielded area, though... Try the kitchen next. Examine freezer -- walk-in fridge, then a low-grade force-lock into the freezer. Diana notes that Silver is now inside the shielded area. Silver invites her in, and Diana notes that A: there's a computer audio pickup in the freezer, which is not typical, and B: there's a very fine crack around the bottom of the floor... A little experimentation proves that the computer is waiting for a password... Silver asks Diana not to listen, and Diana offers to shut down for 30 seconds, having no way to block audio-input. She turns visible when this happens. Silver: "Okay. Computer, open up. Password Seraphim."

The room descends, and now the forcelock enters into a medium-sized room with a computer terminal, a lot of various electronic stuff, and a closet with a baroque assortment of clothes and a weapons-box. There are also a few hypos, color and 2-letter coded. [[It's the BatCave!]] Silver tries calling up an inventory, but can't find what the hypos are -- Diana scans 'em, says that the white is Morphazine, the Green is Quickheal, and the black is a military-grade neurotoxin... The purple is a very strange blend of chemicals that's not on any lists... She runs some simulations, and decides that depending on dosage, the stuff will daze someone [most mammalian species] or put them in a nightmarish state. It seems to suppress the conscious and put the subconscious in control. Silver grins, figuring it's probably a powerful hypnotic. Diana says that one of the compounds in it is of Sparrion origin.

Silver also finds an assortment of quasi-legal weapons (lots of knives, a hunting-laser-rifle, etc), a finely-made cross-bow, a force-sword, and a holo-cube of New Garavar, seen from orbit, that is actually a wicked-looking memory-plastic knife. Several gas grenedes are also available.

The electronics are along the lines of her fake "InStelCom" equipment. There's also a neural induction helmet (used for interfacing with a ship and getting a nifty bonus to Piloting) -- but it's got some pieces missing. (Diana comments that it looks as if someone was trying to play with the transfer-rate -- possibly boosting the rate at which data was input into the brain... Silver: "My predecessor liked riding the ragged edge of disaster! Must have been exhilarating...")

The clothes are for every possible persona, and some generic street-clothes types of things. Also some wigs, etc.

The computer has all the files that the personal comp had, plus all of Scherazade's works, plus some extra films of Salome and Serena. Silver looks over her shoulder and asks Diana if she's old enough to be watching some of these. Diana says that there are no laws against showing AIs pornography, though using porn for seeding a personality isn't allowed. The rationale is that AIs shouldn't be used for sex-toys. Silver suggests that the idea just bothered some legislators, and Diana agrees this seems likely.

Silver calls up the news-watch... It's been catching stuff on various specific people, companies; business with strangely high growth curves; evidence of smuggling, piracy, vanishing ships {a lot in the Sparrion area}; crime reports, etc. Silver has it screen for NovaTech and Vlad, and DLs that info to her computer. When she's looking at the economic stuff, Diana remarks: "Someone's been naughty." Silver: "Oh?" Diana: "Only government people are supposed to be seeing some of this stuff..." Silver: "They probably think I'm government. You're not going to bother telling anyone about this, I trust?" Diana: "Probably not worthwhile, no." When looking at the Artemis data (caught by the search for strange growth curves), Silver asks, "You people been being good?" After a bit of explanation of what Silver means, Diana allows as to how Artemis Enterprises hasn't really economically affected anyone save maybe the Surveyors' Union. Silver purges the Artemis stuff.

Silver DLs her personal log into the house-computer, and plans to go through it, clip the details she wants to remember, and erase the rest from her personal computer. She tells the house-computer, "Kato," that she's going to be gone again, follow standard procedures (refuse all invitations, no stated date of return, etc.). Diana, now able to scan the computer, says it's just a personality program, and not very sophisticated. (It just has a lot of memory.)

After that, the pair return (Silver goes and microwaves the memory-plastic knife back into a holocube and replaces it -- [she also snarfs a scanner if one's around and she forgot to bring hers]) to the kitchen, and then Silver goes and picks out an appropriate outfit from Simone's bedroom closet to go touring her buildings in. She is faintly bemused by the transformation.

It should be noted that Simone keeps a laser pistol in her bedroom, under some clothes in a drawer; a force-sword with no batteries displayed in the living room, near a pair of crossed fencing foils, and lots of "college trophies" for force-sword, fencing, and martial arts. (Note further that the blunt tips on the foils can be removed...) The foils and trophies are displayed such that the eye naturally seems to fall on them -- Simone is just a little "too" proud of them, it would seem.

On and out to the next stop -- Scherazade's, since it's likely to be the least interesting.

It is -- lots of stuffed animals, etc. Next stop is Sherinford's. There... The computer is PWed on two sides -- a PW of "Mycroft" to get into the (mostly bogus) "Sherinford" files {Diana thinks this is funny, "You're not related!" she says}, and the usual SH PW for the rest.]]

***Feb 28, 155**

[[Salome has a decently sophisticated set of holo-projection jewelry -- collar, wristlets, and anklets -- and has sensors in them. Mostly, they just do bioscans to see if someone is interested or not interested or *dangerous*, but they also do radscans. They report either via the implant comm, or by specific patterns and/or colors in the design.]]

Two days of dance sets at the Crimson Lotus {Gah}. Nice place -- 200 credits just to get in, and they take 20% of whatever I make off a client. I should raise my rates a little...

Third day was jackpot. *Her*, and Vlad-darling -- Her in a white cocktail dress and no sensor goggles in sight... Him...wearing a *high* power area-effect psi-shield, and probably some kind of neural implant -- another headcomputer, maybe? He's got Her eating *lobster*? And enjoying it? This, from the person who gave Her own parents a ship with the food synthesizer set to protein bars and junkfood? This... Diana mentioned that She didn't care for critters, like I don't care for scalies, and She's *eating* one?

Vlad-darling, from what I can see while I'm on stage, seems like a nice sort. If I did not know better, I would think that She had Herself quite a catch. As it is... He is not likely to be a 'path, really, and so he must just be very, very charming. *shudder*

After Vlad's two bodyguards came in and set up shop at a next-door table, someone -- medium height, a little heavy-set -- showed up, and took a table about a third of the way around the stage... He seems -- familiar? Not sure. He's dividing his time between watching them and me...

After my set, I go mingle with the customers -- head for the body-guards, leave past the table when they're not interested. Vlad-darling and She are having some sort of argument about something to do with braintaping techniques. Argh -- well, I suppose that's one interest they definitely have in common. Just so long as *my* initials don't come up. I record this, of course.

I try and drift near whatshisface, but he moves out to the Men's Room when I start... After he comes out -- pretty quick I get the idea he's avoiding me. Not worth cornering him. Let him avoid. Next dance-set. Vlad-darling and Her leave -- so, of course, do the bodyguards, and I can't find Mr. Familiar...

After I get off work, I trot back to my rented room and call up Diana to tell her what little I found. Diana says that yes, She usually eats protein bars and such, but She's recently bought a commercial gourmet restaraunt package and installed it. GAH! I'm just getting to the part about Mr. Familiar, who seemed to have an interest in one or both of our little problem children, when the door chimes. I close up the connection and answer the door... It -- is Thor. He looked Salome up after 2-3 years? I think somebody ought to be flattered. He stays the night (though he's not got, ah, as much "staying power" as that dream he gave me -- but he's still fun), and, throughout the evening, is pumping me for information about Vlad-darling and Her! He seems puzzled about the relationship. He admits that he and Vlad work for the same company, and he'd said previously that he's an "accountant" [[her predecessor was dubious -- "more than he seems" comment in the records]]... I finally ask, "Is he putting these club-nights on his expense account?" and get a "Something like that." And nothing else. Well, I feed him all the information he wants -- can't hurt to be cornering Vlad-darling as much as possible from all sides. Besides, maybe he'll catch *Thor* if he thinks he's being watched, rather than me.

Of course, Thor prys gently, neither of the pair are clients of mine.

Thor glances speculatively at my jewelry at one point. I adjust the holoprojections to something a bit more exotic. He's a bit too tired to do anything about it just then, though.

Thor's nice. I like him. I have to work to keep the big "I *did* get you!" Quicksilver-style smirk off my face. After he falls asleep, I call up Diana and ask her to guess who it was who rang the doorbell. I remind her of "That NovaTech accountant-spy who hired the ship." I say that he's currently in my bed. Diana leers. She's fun too. She plays detective with the security cameras that one of the crew left a hole into... Nope, between the "non-viable DNA" that I scanned on Mr. Familiar, and the fact that he doesn't seem to exist -- we think it might be a good bet that Thor's the fellow. Makes sense -- Salome knew him, and he wouldn't want his cover blown. {snicker} I tell Diana that I'm almost tempted to propose to her someday.

Poor Diana -- she's been "waiting up." Finally She walks in the 'lock -- "tipsy," Di says. Singing and dancing with Herself. And She's not on-key, nor does She dance well. No telling whether Vlad-darling's bodyguards escorted Her back (with or without him), or whether She's been wandering the station alone. If it's the latter, I am quite sure that he doesn't care beans for Her. She needs bodyguards about as much as he does, if not more! At the *least*, She or a clone would fetch a decent price in a Thrallish brothel.

I swear, if he's tainted or scarred that innocent White Lady, I'll... I'll want him dead. And eventually... There are so few of Her caliber who really aren't Ungodly. And She spared my rather bewildered and scared existance. I *owe* Her.

[On to March - April]