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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[Back to October - December]

**Leap 4, 155**

T'kik convinces us to haul food to the Hive-world (Hive Beetle homeworld), for all these umpteen different religious sects who think that the Messiah is Returning. Seems that they've decided that scrapping together fifteen million different bits 'n pieces of their religious texts yields one Master Text, which says something about journeying to where the Many are One (hive-beetle hivemind, obviously), and something about the Ship of the Dead -- and the hive-beetles are escorting in an alien solar-sail ship, which is pretty dead...

[[The plural of "Jesus" is "Jesi" -- as in, "trinkets like little plastic Jesi."]]

We decide that mere food is probably not too useful, and we'll set up the cargo hold with some tables and chairs, and a portable kitchen, and be a quasi-restraunt. Also bring along drinks, since the crew of the ships will probably want something strong after dealing with religious nutcases. Derek suggests that we should run a brothel. I glare at him.

**Leap 8, 155**

Cyrus (our Alardinite) does cooking, as does Awol, so they feed people when we get there. I play bartender. Everyone is asking about "The sign of the sailor's sin," which is what they're going to know the Messiah by. I encourage confusion. Cyrus is the one who twigs first -- an old-earth poem, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. This idiot shoots down a good-luck bird, so his crewmates hang it around his neck. The good-luck bird in question is...an _albatross_. Parvari switches the transponder to the _Opening Lotus_, which is not necessarily wise, since the hive-beetle stationers have a cow and quasi-arrest us until we can show proof that we're not pirates.

I sigh heavily, get Awol to watch the bar, and go ask T'kik if I can have some quality time with the minifac. It says that in a few hours, it will probably have enough pull to get the ship freed (it's got some amazing joke in the works, obviously; they get status from those...). I still get my privacy, Just In Case, and fix up something [a NGIA card, bearing the name "Storm Hawke"], in case I have to flash it at the hive-beetles. *sigh* I *hope* I don't have to use this!

One of the customers wants to see Parvari -- the rumor is going around that the Captain of the _Albatross_ is The Messiah. That's hysterical.

Turns out that T'kik and some friends of its, fifteen years ago, found this solar-sailing ship, with all its dead crew (strapped to the outside, strangely), and painted their names on its sails. Then they started amalgamating the religious texts. A year ago, they had a random choice, and T'kik won -- so they started feeding data into the Nets that implicated the Albatross...

After T'kik gets things straightened out, and we get a clear flight plan out, I head us *out* of there at full warp. At least we didn't lose money on the trip.

We also got rid of T'kik -- it has more status than it knows what to do with, right now, and it wanted to go home, so it did. And we hired on an ex-Navy, ex-Customs engineer fellow, at 1/4 pay, since he apparently was believing that Parvari was The Messiah. Some people are *really* daft.

We are heading for Sparrion now, most definitely. I don't know what we'll trade there, since we're running empty, but we'll figure something out, and it's better than going back to New Garavar, where all those nutty religious types might be hanging out...

[It should be noted that as the "dead" aliens got nearer the sun, they started coming out of hybernation... They've vacuum-dwellers...]

**Leap 15, 156**

We get to Sparrion, and Parvari goes out to find some cargo for us to haul. I want to go down to the psi-school and find out if things are going okay for them these days. I'll take my "liberated" psi-shield and set up a surface persona, just in case.

[later] While I was waiting for the down-shuttle from the station to planet, I noticed this sparrial kid snagging something of mine. I think he'd been swiping off my trinket-belt [] for the last fifteen minutes. He's a smuggler-fan, and knew who I was. [14 Reaction Roll, +3 for Silver's scent; gotta be a fan...] Some Irari'd paid him to covertly get a *gene-sample* from me! Descrip -- medical sort. No telling who. Only Irari doc *I* know who'd given me a rough time about gene-samples is Etalon. I'd shadow back and find out, but Etalon's keen-eyed, and might spot me. I buy the sparrial kid a mudskipper thing, use the gene-sampler on the amphibian, and refill my trinket-belt.

[[Etalon, in the pursuit of his Project, wants to get some samples of Silver's genes (it's something about how warp-fields affect genetics). He tries to find a Sparrial who will covertly get the sample for him, and fails his default Streetwise roll by 3. Add to this that Irari have a -1 reaction from Sparrials, based on "they smell funny." The Sparrial got 45 credits from him and split before Etalon could find out that there was mudskipper DNA in the sampler, and not human DNA.]]

At the psi-school, I look up Goldy. Things seem to be going fine down there, and I find out *why* she's there when she hates travel. She's one of the few people who sorta-have my Pilot's Sense, but who get FTL-sick. She seems happy enough, and I leave while she munches on some merfahs that she just got in. *Icky* things. She knew they bothered me, too. Telepaths. Yeesh.

[[Actually, Goldy snarfed a lot of the K'Kree stuff (Silver'd left that "above" the persona), and managed to get into last-day memories! She found the brainwipe (one's supposed to be able to determine the root cause of neroses, and there's this *blank* there...), the persona-thing (recognizing it as similar to what Thor did to Silver (already noted as part of the K'Kree stuff), and therefore warrenting additional investigation), found that Silver'd done it, and got a hint of Why: "otherself, betterself" sort of emotions, and much of the love-hate/duty/sexual tension associated with Simone (though no names). About there, Goldy decided this was one mentally disturbed human -- not that a mind-healer Telepath like herself was *too* fazed by that sort of thing -- but this wasn't her business, and she didn't feel like expending more effort to find out anything else.]]

Well, they're doing fine, but I didn't get any leads to figure out where that NTech-3 station director, Dillings, might have gotten himsellf off to. Oh, well.

**Leap 18, 156**

Parvari comes back one night, whistling. I complain about him being off-key, make some comment about B-flat, and he asks if that was some kind of obscure proposition! I say *NO*, of course, and *he* says, "Good!" He's in a really good mood...

Turns out he won a treasure map at poker. (He'd lost 200 credits already, then won the map and 50 credits. That's Parvari's Luck for us...) This Thral guy found an abandoned Organization base with its entrance all covered over by a rockslide, and went to Thral to get some earth-moving equipment, and about 6 months ago fell victim to run-dry powercells in his aircar. Splatsville. Parvari's friend has probably been selling this map for the last 5 months... Anyway, Parvari says, the base belonged to some drug-lord who got toasted in an Organization-vendetta about 10 years ago. Ought to be decent looting there.

"About 10 years ago"? I wonder... 8 years ago, Flare set off a diversion...

Warren'd been getting some cargos for Tamile (everything else that's a better run's been taken this week -- maybe in a few more, etc.), so we can at least come close to breaking even whether or not there's really anything here.

We'll pick up some extra med-stuff -- if the base was drug-manufacture, then there's no telling what might be there. Lots of Purge might be useful.

The planet itself is a thin-atmosphered oxy-nitro (lots of oxy, at least), with about .7-.8 G. Mostly mountains and rainforest. Charming place, I'm sure.

**Leap 19, 156**

Warren does some talking to people about this base-thing. Turns out that it was owned by a Thral drug-lord -- that branch of the Organization got kinda wiped out when the Boss was found "disminded" and most of his lieutenants were killed or vanished in the ensuing power-struggle. The name of the Boss in question is, indeed, the same. Very interesting.

Just in case this base was one that manufactured Zombie Drug, I go shopping [a couple small crates of Plastex-B]. Derek wants to scan my crates, but I manage to talk him out of it. The crates are small enough to stow in my room, at least. With luck, Parvari won't want to know what I'm bringing on the ship (he usually doesn't), and will tell Derek not to go poking around in my room. Without luck (and maybe I shoulda used this story in the first place), I can say that it's to clear away rubble from the entrance.

**Leap 20, 156**

I drop a note to Mom, giving coordinates and situation. No reply -- she's probably busy somewhere.

I also send a note to my Lady, with the coords and a little of the situation. Not the background though -- She didn't find that out, and Mom'd probably rather that She not know. *She* gets concerned about me going to an O-base, even a decade-abandoned one. I reassure Her that it's fine, I'm perfectly safe, it's probably not really there anyway, I won't get shot again, I can take care of myself really, etc. Stars know I wouldn't *mind* having Her in orbit, of course, but for more salacious reasons...

[[Selene diverts a probe to the system named -- it will probably take at least 10 days to get there. She also has the Bow head for Irar at full speed (dump off the _Arrow_ shuttle to lighten the load) -- ostensibly to get some materials & data she needs to reinvent the cybersuit; she doesn't like Silver getting shot at! She's going to be sure that the Bow's left before the Albatross gets into sensor range, though.... At least, the *Albatross'* sensor range. Selene's packing one of the TL13 probes.]]

**Leap 24, 156**

Tamile. No return cargo from here to anywhere, as predicted. We're off for Parvari's Treasure Island, and we'll be out of comm-contact soon -- even the 5-parsec comms that Artemis sells, that Parvari got one of for the rescue of Dr. Jones.

**Leap 28, 156**

We get to the planet, and find an old dying fission plant signature under a mountain -- took the Artemis sensors to spot it, though, since there's a lot of radiation in the area normally. The main entrance to the place is covered over by a rock slide that started about half-way up the mountain. We scan around and spot what looks like a concealed cooling-system pipe for the reactor. Maybe we can get in that way. These sensors are seriously useful.

We also spot a ship with Irari-built warpdrives heading this way. Might have come from Fasan-homeworld. They aren't headed *quite* this way; closest pass will be .5 parsecs, in about 8 hours. They aren't using high-tech sensors to scan anything, so they haven't seen us.

We go and clear out a landing spot, then divert the river a little so that we can maybe get in near the cooling-system pipes. I land the ship just *perfectly*, even with the mud and stuff. [[a 3. GM says that he's glad we did it now and not later. Weird.]]

The Irari ship has altered course -- it's heading for a M-class star, in the system next door. Maybe they didn't come from the Fasan-homeworld, really -- they could also have come from a K-class starsystem in that direction. Maybe some scouts or something? Who knows. Better keep an eye on them, though. There *is* a NTech base down here, and despite Dilling's vanishment, I don't trust random ships wandering about. Could be someone who's not as good an astrogator as I am, looking for this base, could be pirates searching for a good place to hide, could be Irari researchers... Who knows. Keep an eye on them, that's the ticket.

We (Cyrus, Derek, Warren, Etalon, Awol, and me) trek out and get to the opening -- a 2-foot diameter pipe for the outflow and a 6-foot diameter tunnel for maintaining the pipe. Derek puts on Awol's distort belt (my Lady gave me one of those for Christmas, which I have on under my suit, but have not mentioned to anybody else) tries to disable the sensors that are around the opening (sensors to tell whether the grille is open or not, and bioscanners), but messes up. Ah, well. After some discussion, I go in first. Must make note to pick up some Night-Vis/IR bioplas contacts again. I have a half-pound of Plastex in my belt-pouches. Etalon stays behind, scanning the local fauna and flora. Derek follows me, Warren's next, then Cyrus, then Awol in the rear.

Up a ways, about 100 meters, there's a laser rifle mounted in the ceiling. Derek passes me up Awol's distort belt, and I take my brand new heavy laser pistol and shoot out the weapon. Then we go on. Then, another 50 meters, and there's *another* of the wretched things, and a blaster down the hall. Both seem to be active. The laser gets shot out, then I tell everyone else to stay back and move up a little closer to take out the blaster. [[Modifiers: -5 for dark, -8 for range, -3 for size of target; +8 for Acc, +3 for aiming; Skill 15.]] Didn't toast it! It shoots back! Doesn't hit me, though, and my next volley turns it off. [[Silver does not realize, until Selene points out, that the blaster, had it hit Silver, could have set off the Plastex... It would have hit her, too, had the distort belt not been on her. Silver promises not to shoot out automated defenses with high explosives on her person again.]] However, there's rather a lot of hot water swirling around now. Oh, well. Guess me and the blaster kinda shot up the pipe.

Next, we've got another grille, into the reactor room itself. Wouldn't want to hang around here too long, since the thing's been leaking. There's also some more sensors here, which I disarm -- easier, since these are *inside* the pipe! Like nobody's supposed to get *into* the pipe from either end... They probably had slaves. Then I take the monoblade knife that Penny got me, and slice the grille open. That felt good.

Inside, I give Derek Awol's distort belt back again -- the pipe itself was too narrow to change marching order in, really. Derek takes out the sensors on the only door out of this room -- again, the sensors are on *this* side, not the other side. Within, there's another laser rifle mounted on the ceiling. Swivel-mounted, too, just like the defenses in the tunnel. Derek hands me the belt and opens the door. This laser's in the middle of a bunch of power conduites. Be a moulten mess if I hit one of those and blow it out. I'll just have to not miss. [[Skill: 15. Mods: -6 for distance, -4 for size, +8 for Acc.]] Four shots, right on it! That's the last of the defenses -- after a short trek up this hallway (pause to shoot out a laser that doesn't have working targeting-bioscanners; I'd have disabled it, but it was booby-trapped against disarming), we get to several doors. The dust is thick here -- nobody's been here for about 8 years, probably...

There are some doors which are colored -- purple, blue, red, orange, and green. Stripes on the floor lead from all the doors in the hall (some un-colored, numbered ones, as well) to those colored doors. Typical, probably, if you have Zombie-drugged slaves. The orange door is a large mess-hall, with a few food-synthasizers still working, even. The blue and red rooms are barracks -- thin matresses, narrow cots. Purple looks like a storage-room, where there's a lot of "ship kit" things -- cheap jumpsuits, toothbrushes, soap, blankets, etc. Those were all unlocked. The green room *is* locked -- a very simple lock, really. This seems to be a first-aid station/primitive sickbay. There are lots of expired drugs on the shelves -- Quickheal, Soothe, Credaline, and something that isn't a typical formula. Warren starts up the computer in here, and checks out the records. A *lot* of records -- hundreds. Treatments for industrial-like accidents, mostly. No names, just alphanumeric designations. They all start with "Dosed [date]". I go and gather the "unknown" drug containers from the locked shelves and put them in a pile in a corner and shoot them with my laser. I don't bother to explain why, even when Cyrus and Derek come in because they heard the laser.

All the records ends with "Put into storage," and a date that's about 8 years old -- all the slaves were probably stored within a week.

The first locked door is the chem-processing plant. The computer in here is still working, but wants a password. (We debated turning it on. Warren said, "What could possibly happen?" Since there weren't any people with brainwipe equipment around, I agreed with him.) We turn it off again. Next door (also double-doors into the chem-plant) is the feedstock-storage room. Door after that (again, with double-doors into feedstock-storage) is final-product-storage. I scan for the "unknown" compound that was in the medbay. I mark the crates that contain it with a skull and crossbones, and start shoving them off to one side to blow up later or something. Cyrus asks why I'm marking those crates. I say, "Because they're dangerous." He scans them.

[[Cyrus sends the scans to Etalon -- Etalon finds them in the list of "most prohibited drugs" -- Zombie drug. Seriously illegal. The formula is known, but the recipe is not released. An expert biochemist could probably recreate it, though. The local flora (which Etalon has noted seems to have been cultivated for certain species in this area; some of the vines are *far* more represented than they should be) contains chemicals which look like they might be raw materials for several of the illegal drugs that are there -- including Zombie drug. Drug-bases are usually set up near a natural source. The other drugs we found are some addictive hypnotics, random "recreational" pharmacuticals, and some pheramone spray-type inhalents. Cyrus tells the others -- *not* Silver -- about this via private implant-comm channels.]]

The last door, also connected to the storage-place, leads to a hallway with a short cargo-train in it. A laser rotates towards the door, tries to fire, and blows itself up. The other automated defenses in this place are totally dead. At the entryway, there's about 100 freeze tubes -- most still working. Some are broken, where rocks fell on them near the entryway (bay doors are closed), and those have skeletons. There's also a shot-up little courier-ship -- one-person ship, from an Irari line. The warp engines are gone, and it looks like some *clueless* person was trying to turn a hypercomm into a hyperdrive. There's still a fusion plant on board, shut down, and thusters. There's some processing equipment near the door, but the breathers that the slaves would have used to go outside were probably buried in the rockslide.

I find a hatchway that leads up -- the little maintanence tunnel seems to be partly caved in, though, and the rocks that did it look like they'd been hit with ship-weapons! Hm. The fission reactor had some power-conduites leading *up*, and they were pretty heavy-duty. Obviously there were some other automated defenses around? And somebody took them out and *caused* the rock-slide? And then wanted some *other* ship to come in and do the work?!? Gee, I wonder if they intend to ambush us on the ground or wait until we've taken off. At least we can see them eight hours out, or so. Assuming that the Irari-drive ship we saw doesn't have some kind of miracle-drive on it, of course. If we're careful, we ought to have plenty of time to salvage and scram, but we'll have to keep an eye on the sensors.

I poke around and try to figure out which freeze tubes hold the boss-people. I find five that seem likely -- Irari, overweight human, some Thrals -- and mark them. If we revive them, I might have a chance to ask them some questions and maybe get the password. The formula for Zombie drug should get itself toasted, mayhap.

Etalon is brought in, and the freeze tubes are moved back down the tunnel -- I'm going to take one of the high-explosive warheads from a missile and use one of my detonators to try and blow the rockslide away so we can unload everything. Derek gets the warhead out. I take off and get just *exactly* in position [roll 5] and fire. [roll 18] It vaporizes just the *wrong* rock, and it slides around again! ARGH! I don't want to talk about this. [[Inside, rocks come rumbling down near the entry-way, smashing up the captured ship some more, so it's no longer at all air-tight. Didn't break anything else *too* badly, though.]]

Figure out where the bomb'll have to go *now*. Laser *that*. Works fine this time. Set up a detonator and go trek off (Derek carrying the warhead in his exoskeleton vacc-suit, since it's *heavy*), set up the thing, trek back, push the button. The detonator goes ({little boom}), but doesn't set off the explosive. Wonderful. I set up a smaller explosive with some of my Plastex, and another detonator. Derek looks it over (it's just a fragging hobby for me!), and says that it won't work -- detonator's not wired up correctly. That gets fixed. We go place *this* one. We get back to the ship, set it off. *BOOM*! And the entryway is cleared enough that we can probably move the stuff around. Awol gets back and lasers the base's doors open. Now we have to move rocks and pack up those freeze tubes. And keep an eye out for the pirates, of course. I'm gonna haul the Zombie drug out and fry it with the ship lasers, along with a lot of the local flora, and maybe blow the reactor room so that nobody else will want to come back here. Another rockslide over the door when we leave, maybe.

Somebody told Derek what the Z-drug was. Beats me who. Jerks.

I wonder where the boss-people's quarters are? And the base's control room? I'll have to take a look around, I guess. Ah-ha! Slightly concealed door, eh? Palm-lock, mild boobytrap zap feature (not smoking boots -- more to keep the slaves from trying to get in, probably); easy disassemble job. Five rooms -- base-control, three individual bedrooms, one bunk room that doesn't look like anybody lives there normally.

Warren takes the base-control room and one bedroom, I check out the other two. First one of mine is smallish, has a table with secret compartment in it. Can't find the latch, drat it all. Scrawl "MINE" on it with my pen. Second bedroom is the Base-Boss's room. Has a wall-safe, but it's booby-trapped pretty good to destroy the contents. Drat. Scrawl a square around it.

Warren found the base-control room, which has a couple of terminals, and one of the other rooms, with Thral-style clothing in it.

Well, how are we going to get what's behind that wall-safe? It's a toughy, and I'd rather not risk vaporizing it. Hm. Ah-ha! Let's wake up the Base-Boss, and while he's woozy, pretend to be his rescue! Oh, *Et*-a-lon! Finding the Base-Boss isn't that easy -- have to match genescans with really decayed samples from his room. Etalon finds him, though, and I convince him that I'm Quicksilver Hawke, hired by Boss [Common Thral Name] to pile everything from this base into a ship and skedaddle, and he needs to get the stuff out of the safe. I tell him it's been a few years, like, nearly 10, things were confused during the O-war, etc. He insists on a 45% cut. Then, while I'm helping him to his room, he asks me how much I'm getting -- how *rude*! I smile, "None of your business." [The correct reply in such a case.]

He goes and checks in the computer [[checking the dates to see if they jibe with what Silver told him -- it was a good explanation for why she wouldn't know any code words, etc.]], making me wait outside the room (but I don't let the door shut [and she's got her holdout needler palmed in her off-hand]), then he goes and gets stuff out -- first, a blaster pistol [[thinks about shooting Silver, decides against it]], then a personal comp and some datadisks. I escort him back to the med-room, dose him from behind with Soothe [[from her holdout needler]] (he's allergic to Crediline, we found while we were defrosting him), and I try to get the password out of him. (Along with his name -- Morgath.) Oh, well. He mumbles too much. At least we find that the chemist person knows the password to get into the processing plant...

I want that Z-drug *out* of anybody's hands! Okay, he gave us a name, "Francis," and said Francis was human. Fine. Let's go scan the rooms...

Etalon comes up with two humans which might work, who aren't Z-drug fried in the head. One of them is male, and has a better match. The other is female, and has an iffy match. Wake up the guy.

The guy, it turns out, is Harold Anderson, a journalist. He's pretty clear-headed for someone who's been being microdosed with Z-drug [[causes Slave Mentality, basically, but overdosing to full chemical-brainburn is easy]] and then frozen for all these years. He even has some dream-memories, of being with this dark-haired woman, and in her room, which is the room with the androgynous-to-male closet...

Hm. Well, let Warren babysit this guy (who is, by the way, absolutely gorgeous) and let's check the females. One's blond, the other dark-haired, both show signs of micro-doses. Well, let's defrost dark-hair first.

"Are you Francis?" I ask as she wakes up. "I -- I don't remember!" she says. She's acting really dumb. Eventually, we get out of her that she was a stewardess on a passenger-transport from New Garavar to Thral, and they'd docked, and she doesn't remember anything beyond leaving her room and heading for a bar with the rest of the crew-types, and nightmares of being grabbed at. Her name is Sally something-she-doesn't-remember. One flaw in all this -- she's pretty plain (average looking) and slow to be a stewardess... Over implant comm, I ask Etalon if she's Cred-allergic. She's not. I tell Etalon to go get some Crediline. He's going to try and give it to her, but she's being really balky about it. So I roll my eyes and zap *her* from behind with Soothe, then dose her with the Cred. Her name is Francis Weston [[or something like that]], and she's the chemist, and she goes and downloads the drug-compound data into my comp, then wipes the Z-drug data as I ask. Then I say, "Okay, time to get you back to your freeze tube -- don't want anybody knowing that you're not one of the prisoners here, right?" She agrees dreamily, smiling at how clever she was...

Definitely clever, yes. She's gonna be *soooooo* annoyed when she wakes up in custody... Mark her name on her freeze tube. Put a package each of Z-drug in the "personal items" drawer of her and Morgath's freeze tubes. Hm. Could look for the Thral security fellow... Get into the security logs... Hey! Where'd Harold wander off to?

Harold'd wanted to borrow somebody's comp -- mine's probably got the best security, so I partitioned off a little space and let him wander around and take notes on his great story. I ping my comp with my implant comm and dicover Harold in the security-station/base-operations room. He's gotten hold of one of the tool kits lying around and physically hacked past the security systems on the security station. He's busy taking notes for his story. I guess we don't have to find and unfreeze the security-Thral after all.

So we load everything up and then we decide that we want to disassemble the little ship that we found in here. It doesn't have any integrity left, or FTL drives, but it's got a fusion plant, contragrav, and thrusters, which are all valuable. Awol takes the Albatross up (I'd landed it in the quasi-clearing in front of the base's main door, and did so quite well, might I add), and after I pack my Plastex in around the fission reactor and set its timer, I get the little craft out the door. I scrape it up some getting out of the base, but after that, it's *no* problem -- just have to compensate for the bad left thrusters by setting it in a slow spin. Once it's in orbit, we can start disassembling it.

However, once we're starting that, we get annoying news -- our "friends" over in the next system over are headed this way. We don't want to chance that they're pirates, so we'll just unload the fusion plant (the most valuable part of this ship) and leave it in orbit -- if they've only got TL11 sensors, we'll be out of their range in just a couple of hours or less.

One of the freeze-tube occupants is having problems, Etalon notices, and he's going to have to defrost the rather shot-up Sparrial inside and patch him up some. He makes a big deal out of this, so I volunteer to hang around and protect him from being robbed blind. Derek and Awol are helping our new engineer chop the shot-up ship into pieces big enough to just stow in the cargo hold.

Etalon's letting the Spari wake up, and he's going sniff, sniff, and then he looks at *me* and says, "Spi'fire?" So I go, "Huh?" And he mumbles, "Spi'fire? No, y're na' Cori..." I am somewhat disturbed... *Cori*? I ask Etalon, "Are you sure he's okay? Maybe you should give him some Purge." Then this battered Sparrial looks at me and says, pleased, "Li'le Spitfire!" So I roll my eyes and say, in Sparrial, "I don't know what you're talking about." And he says, "Stefanie?" And I say, "**WHAT**?" And he says, "Stef'nie?" So I try to tell him, in Sparrial, "I... don't know what you're talking about," with a tone of voice that's *supposed* to get him to agree with me till I can stuff Etalon out the door.

Meanwhile, Etalon has been looking at his little charts and things and *he* says that I'm bothering the Sparrial, and every time he looks at me, he's getting grief or fear surges of some kind. Etalon wants to put the Sparrial under with Morphazine. I ask him, in Sparrial, "The doctor wants to give you some Morphazine -- do you want that?" And he says, "No!"

Etalon is finally talked into being a good little Irari and going away and not pestering the Sparrial with questions about the base. We... talk. Looe's supposed to be dead! It says so quite clearly in the news reports! I have to explain about my little memory problem... and that there's someone else who *does* remember him, and I give him her comm-code. I tell him that she'd have torn the sector apart to find him, if she'd only known he was alive.

Of course I've crafted a report for Mom that includes all of this little adventure.

We go and hide near the edge of the system. The other ship arrives and scans the planet, then lands near to where *we* had landed. A couple hours later, they take off at warp *7*-ish, on a straight-line for Irar (closest comm-nets). They're lighter, too. We go scan and find that they dropped off a 100-mw fusion plant, a couple of spare E-cells, and a couple of Parvan work-bots, modified to take standard E-cells. The 'bots are working on cleaning up the area. Very interesting. (Our journalist is poking around up here too, getting on the way on the bridge and looking over everybody's shoulders. No harm in it -- I'm half-wondering if he's some brand of spook, from the way he took apart that security station.)

Deciding that we don't have enough time to waste (if the ship only wants to get in comm-range, it won't take them long to come back, and we shouldn't be trying to salvage their stuff when they get here -- besides the chance that they're legit), we head for Sparrion, trying to decide what to do with all the people in freeze...

[On to January - March, 156]