Chapter 16: Return from Volturnus 16.01  16.02  16.03  (Mission Date: 62.383Pf - 62.303Pf, Mission Time: 117 days -  63.297 Pf)

"Thank you for using StarPlay Communications."  The message from a small but growing entertainment and communications company is emitted through Siu-Ling's new chronocom.  The high life of the Frontier awaits her, though she is less enthusiastic than the rest to return.  What does she have to go back to on Pale or in any other settled city in the Frontier?  Overbearing towers in a dense, urban jungle surrounded by untamed wilderness.  At least here she still has a family.  She sees Athru and the others in the distance with their lopers.
  Finding some free time from duties Con procures a bottle of the local alcholic beverage and seeks out a place of solitude.  Looking over a cliff which offers an excellent view of Volturnus, Con reflects over the events of his past life.  Events both good and not so good, of peace and conflict, friends who walked away from this carnage and those who were not so fortunate, wondering if his Suzanah is still alive and if he will ever see her again.  With all of these thoughts raging though his mind he slowly gets ripped.
  Gloo grabs a piece of rotorblade off the battle field from the downed chopper and starts etching with a laser scalpel, after finishing an inscription on the rotorblade he starts another etching on a piece of plate metal.  When he is finished the dralasite QM approaches xZot,   "Well commander, you managed to lead a bunch of beings and help keep a planet free from both pirates and the dreaded sathar.  It was a pleasure to serve under you sir!" Gloo snaps to attention giving his best salute.  "By the way have you come to a decision on what to do with all the mined ore back at the pirate base?"
  xZot ponders Gleep's request briefly but he is only too aware that decisions like this will be make by someone in the Department, probably after they had left.
  "I think we need to determine if we can keep control of the Ore we 'liberated' from the pirates.  If we can keep this from our employers, we will need to have local co-ordination in any trade negotiation and if so, the allegiances that have been formed here will be invaluable."
  As things start to settle and the volunteer army starts to head home GleepGlooup suggests to xZot,
  "Do you think we should leave a representative down here?  They can provide updates on development and keep a watch on deep space for Sathar
activity.  We can make sure they have a long range communication device,  I am sure the Eorna have something I can set up for the right frequencies."
  "xZot," Siu-Ling approaches her senior officer during a quiet moment.  "I've been thinking.  With all that's happened here so far, do you think HQ would let me stay here?  There's so much still left to do!"
  "Those decisions are really out of our hands now."  xZot answers.  "We've already had our contracts extended for the extra time we've been stranded here, but beyond that there's not much more we can do here.  The word from our employers is to return to Truane's Star for debriefing after that we are free agents so maybe Siu-Ling, you can find your way back here?"
  Subsequent discussions with the Eorna regarding possible salvage rights on the Star Devil's assets are quite fruitful.  X'anthe also displayes a heretofore unseen flair for negotiation when it comes to dealing with the beauracracy of the Truane's Star Department of Natural Resources.  Although her legal skills aren't always up to the task, her knowledge of finance and her innate business accumen sees her through.  The Truane's Star government agree to the salvage claims when it becomes clear that the members of the Black Hand Gang have enormous influence with the inhabitants of Volturnus so recently saved by their heroic actions.  The eorna agree to secure the BHG stock at both locations of Brucebane and Mawson's Rest until they can make alternative arrangements.
  Assembling the various samples retrieved on Volturnus and the records extracted from the Eorna catalogues Sni'ktl is impressed.
  "Geez the Department will have a field day with this."  He considers the pouch of mushroom spores in his belt pouch and decides that some discoveries may be best released to the Frontier through less bureacratic channels.  Unable to classify the various Sathar cybernetic implants, Sni'ktl asks one of the tech's to open a new field on his data logger and begins making the first records to stimulate a whole new horizon of research.  Although he can't fathom the technology for melding human and mechanical components, he reflects on his recent small contribution to mechanon first aid,
  "One day I'll have the knack of this."
  Before leaving Gloo hitches a ride back out to the battlefield with his etched metal and upon returning hops on the awaiting transport to return home.  While on the trip home Gloo starts writing to the fallens' family.
  'Dear Mrs Mawson,  I was in your husbands team that was assigned to Volturnous.  I am sure by now you have been informed of the tradgedy that befell your husband.  I find I must tell you he died with dignity and honor, his sacrifice freed many fellow citizens, and inhabitants from slavery at the hands of pirates.  It was an honor to have known and served with your husband.  Respectfully, Gloo-gloobadunm, Truane's Star Government, Department of Natural Resources'
  Gloo looks it over thinks about trashing it then decides against it,
  "There is no perfect way to write these damn things"  Gloo mutters and starts the other letter.
  'Dear Mrs Jag,  I was in your...'
  Found on the battle field after the team had departed etched on a piece of broken rotorblade:
  "Jaguar Dajo fell here on PF 64.215 while defending the planet and its people from the tyrannical sathar invasion.  He gave his life for a friend."
  On a piece of plate metal bolted on the command building of Brucebane is laser etched:
  "Bruce Ridley Mawson of Truanes Star Fell here on PF 64.182 while freeing fellow beings from slavery at the hands of the pirates known as Star Devils.  He gave his life so that others live free."
Frontier Date 62.370Pf +130
  The "Serena Sunset", sister ship to the ill-fated "Serena Dawn", leaves orbit 13 days after the Battle of Volturnus with the survivors of the Black Hand Gang and the corpses of their fallen friends preserved in freeze fields in the ships hold.  Five days later they are back in civilization, descending to the capital of Truane's Star for debriefing and quarrantine.  Enroute from the Zebulon system, xZot's team was informed that their contracts will all be paid out 10 days after touchdown from Volturnus when they will all become free agents once again.
Frontier Date 62.365Pf +135
  Once touching down on the surface of New Pale, the team are quarrantined for 40 hours before being debriefed by scientists and soldiers for the next three days.  The debriefing sessions are in groups and one-on-one sessions.  Everyone is questioned extensively on their experiences and interactions with various creatures and other intelligent beings on Volturnus.  The inquisitors pay particular attention to the sathar, the mechanons and the eorna, both their attitudes and capabilities.  The Ul-Mor mind linking abilities also raise eyebrows. 
  At the end of the debriefings a bean counter from the accounts department takes each team members ID card and swipes it through his portable interface, crediting each employees account at their contracted rate.
  "You are now free agents."  The suited automaton of corporate structure informs the motley crew assembled before him.  The accountant leaves and a maintenance robot with fundamental voice protocols, and substantially more personality than the accountant, escorts the Black Hand Gang to the door.
Frontier Date 62.360Pf+140
    Flush with credits and surrounded by all the distractions of civilisation the members of the Black Hand Gang, a term that has already somehow leaked to the interstellar media, are eager to enjoy the fruits of their labour.  The city has laid on a tickertape parade, followed by a civic reception in three days time that everyone is expected to attend but until then the former public servants can enjoy their freedom and annonymity.
  "Hey Snik, you still got that stash of 'shroom?" someone asks as the newley unemployed adventurers exit the Business Center housing the DNR offices.  Immediately in front of the group is one of the city's luxury appartment towers and to the right is the Convention Center, the building where they had all at one time or another enlisted with their current employer.  A building they will all most likely enter again at some time in the near future in search of future employment.
  "You ever noticed how all these cities look the same after a while?"  James McKilin muses aloud as he heads for the walkway to cross the road and check into the hotel.
  James McKilin enters the palatial foyer of the luxury apartment building and crosses to the check in counter where he inquires about some short term accommodation.  The vrusk behind the counter is identified as Farlih on his name badge and showing typical vrusk efficiency, Farlih summons a uniformed bellboy to carry McKilins' luggage up to his room after charging his account for a week's accommodation (272 credits).
  As Gleep leaves the business center, he heads south to the apartment tower.  He seeks to negotiate a weekly lease for a furnished apartment.  The vrusk behind the counter doesn't seem that pleasant a fellow, but Gleep presses on.
  "I would like to rent an apartment on a week to week basis."
  "That's 75 credits a week for a room and food.  Money up front."
  "I am not sure how long I will be here so I will start with a week."  The vrusk takes Gleep's credits and shows him an tiny apartment furnished with a few sticks of furniture that barely meets Frontier building codes.  Compared to the desert of volturnus, it's luxury with it's hot and cold running water and 24 hour power for lights and appliances.
  Sni'ktl spends 200 credits for four weeks' rent of a room in the apartment tower overlooking the Zoo.
  "How long before they have a quickdeath in there?" he wonders.  His com link flashes intermittently as even more course notes download to his databank.  It's one thing to have learnt some fundamental precepts of phsychometry from the Eorna, learnt various uses for forest herbs from the Kurabanda and to have learnt that the innovative surgery he performed on Raid is really called a "Frownhuaffer bioplas interface" but quite another to get recognition in the Department.  Until he he knows the Frontier name and the Frontier interpretation for the new phenomena he has experienced he can't get up that next rung on the ladder.  He has a punishing schedule for the next 30 days involving two courses at the hospital and one at Environmental Services.  Fortunately the lecturers had been accommodating about lecture clashes as long as he catches up at home.
  Ready to spend some time back in civilization, Con Anderson makes his way to the Stellar Tower Hotel.  The enforcer makes his way up to the counter getting the odd look or having patrons turn away from his gaze as he conducts his business.  The Vrusk at the counter asks if he can help Anderson.
  "Yes, I would like accommodation for 1 week."  Making small talk, the Vrusk asks
  "Is your stay business or pleasure, sir?"
  "Both" the weary enforcer answers.  Swiping Con's credit card through the reader the Vrusk continues
  "Your room number is 1050, I'll summon a bellhop."  With that the Vrusk taps bell and an eager Human bellhop jumps to attention.
  "I'll take your bag sir!"  Con nearly knocks over the young bellman with the wait of his bag as he walks off to the turbo lift.  The bellman inserts the key in the lock and the door swishes open.  The young man points out the standard things as he places Con's bag down.  The strange clanking of the bag draws a strange look from the bellman.  Con takes off his gun belt and tosses it down on the bed.  Seeing the gun belt hit the bed, the bellman asks nervously
  "Did you ever kill anybody with that?"
  "Yeah, too many" responds Con as he hands the young man his tip before ushering him out of the room.  Now able to enjoy the convenience of the modern world, Con helps his self to a shave and a sonic shower.  Once cleaned up and in more civilian attire Con conceals a knife in his boot and his laser pistol in a less conspicuous place then his hip.  Con is now ready to roam the city!
  James decides to organize his professional accreditation ASAP so he can lift his pay rate before applying for his next contract.  After unpacking his few belongings James heads back down to the hotel reception and gets directions from the concierge to the nearest hospital, figuring he should be able to sign up for the appropriate courses there.  Farlih happily gives his human guest simple directions to the General Hospital.
  "The hospital is opposite the north east corner of the central shopping district."  He indicates over his shoulder,  "Just turn left out the front door and then left again at the corner of the hotel.  When you reach the ring road just follow it around and you can't miss it."
  "Thank you."  James replies and turns to walk out the front door waving away Farlih's offer to call a hovercab.  "It's OK, I'll walk thanks."
  After booking their own accommodation in the Convention Center, OMAC, Mr Sp'ock and Borovski meet Gloo for drinks at the Hole In The Wall.
  "Well it just isn't fair."  Gloo complains to his companions.  "We've been doing the real deal for the last three months and now I have to spend more time getting accredited."  OMAC grunts his agreement before Sp'ock interjects.
  "You don't have to get accredited if you don't want to, but I plan on charging more for this type of business next time and you know what the bean counters are like.  If we don't have the right paperwork their damn lawyers will find a way out their contracts.  The Gunney's pay scale will move from 80 to 110 credits per day with his upgraded qualifications, Boro here has gone from 50 to 90 and I've doubled my pay scale from 70 up to 140 credits a day."  The Black Hand Gang's former Executive Officer has a look through his upset dralasite companions documentation.  "From the look of this Gloo, it's worth another 40 credits a day for you to play the beauracratic game."
  Gloo reluctantly concedes the point to his vrusk friend before asking for directions from his friends to the nearest training facility.
  "You should check out the Wilderness Outfitters for Concealment training and you should be able to find someone at the Markets to help out with Power Read and Weapons Repair accreditation." Borovski volunteers
  "And try Rockton Hartsel behind the bar for your weapons training," OMAC adds
  Having worked out his accommodation details, Gleep stows his meagre gear in his room and takes his tech-kit for a walk.  He heads to the comm shop in the business center and tries to negotiate some training for comm devices in trade for helping repair equipment, which will also help raise his skill level in that area.
  Behind the counter of the shop Lappsod Dog approximates a human smile, a habit acquired from spending so much time with them in the diverse culture and population of Truanes' Star.
  "Cash only for accreditation," he rejoins "we can handle tech and comm skills training.  What'll it be?"  WIth his initial ploy exhausted, Gleep pulls out his credit card to pay for his training.  Lappsod takes the money and hands Gleep the seminar timetable.
  "See ya again soon"
  Raid follows Gleep over to the apartment tower and secures an almost identical room for the next two weeks.  Maybe it is just the sudden change in climate after returning from the desert of Volturnus, but Raid realizes that he isn't feeling so well.  He makes his way into the city center looking a little under the weather to anyone that takes notice, and tries to locate a small cafe with cybernet service.  Hailing a nearby hovercab proves to be the quickest means to his end.
  Con's first stop is Wally's Weapons.  Through his polyvox the Dralasite asks
  "Can I help you sir?"
  "Yes, I need to get my weapon qualifications up to date."
  "Sorry sir, I am not qualified to train you, but I have a friend who just might be able to help you out!"
  "Great, who is he and how can I get in touch with him?"
  "His name is Horradd Wullubber, he works at the night club and casino, he's working tonight."
  "Thanks, I was headed that way anyway!"
  When James follows Farlih's directions he finds the hospital without too much trouble.  In fact dealing with the crowds on the foot path and traffic in the street and other transit systems, McKilin finds himself wishing he were far from civilization.  He smiles wryly to himself as he stands in the queue at the hospital reception and after a short wait, books himself into a medical training seminar starting two days after the coming parade and dinner.  Having attended to his most pressing duty, James slips across the grassy lawn to the nearby pharmacy.  A vrusk in a pharmacists white coat helps McKilin restock his medkit with biocort and plastiflesh and the medic buys an extra 10 doses of biocort for a rainy day.
  Con makes his way to the night club and casino.  Walking in Con makes way up to the bar.  Getting the attention of one of the bar girls he asks for a pint and if she might know where Horradd Wullubber might be.  As she puts his pint down in front of him, she yells across to the other side of the bar,
  "Horradd, someone here to see you"
  "Yeah" the big Yazirian responds in a gruff voice.
  "Horradd, I'm Con Anderson and I need to update my combat qualifications.  I hear you are the person who could best help me."
  "It'll cost you, but we will have to do it when the joint is closed."
  "Not a problem, name your price, sir."
  "Meet me behind the joint tomorrow at 11:00."  With that the Yazirian tends to his customers.  After setting an appointment with Horradd, Con hits the tables.  Passes his time playing a baccarat type game (58 credits).
  Raid is soon seated at a terminal in a nice little cafe sipping a large cup of coffee and nibbling on a bagel as he pours through the city's communications directory.  He soon has a list of numbers and people to contact.  Later that evening, Raid collapses in his apartment and sleeps off his illness.  Tomorrow he will be better prepared to explore the city.
  Coming home from one of his many shopping expeditions in Port Lauren, daydreaming about the new slipsuit technology he'd read about, Sni'ktl bumps into, Raid at the Apartments.
  "Geez friend, you don't look so well."  Sni'ktl takes some readings with his medkit conducts a diagnosis and recommends that Raid get himself a universal antibody injection at the pharmacy.
  Leaving the pharmacy, James wanders into the central shopping plaza to browse through the many and varied shop fronts, retail outlets and eateries savouring the tastes, aromas and textures of Frontier civilization pushing Volturnus once more from his mind.
  After playing for a while Con hits the bar.  Then she catches his a eye.  A beautiful blonde.  Con buys her a drink, they talk her name is Adriana, they click.  The pass the evening in the night club.  Soon it's time to go.  The couple walks out of the club.  Con hails a skimmer.
  "Where too, Bub?'" asks the robotic hack.
  "Stellar Tower Hotel" says Con as he tastes Adriana's lips.  Soon the Skimmer arrives in front of the hotel.  Con pays the Hack and the couple exit the skimmer and walk into the hotel.  They step into the turbolift holding each other in their arms making small talk on the way up to the tenth floor.  They enter Con's room, and the door closes behind them.  Adriana removes Con's shirt noticing the weapon Con carries.
Looking at his bare chest she notices his battle scars and then looks down at Con's weapon
  "Your not really an independent contractor are you?  What do you really do for a living?"
  "Some things you really don't want to know Blossom." Con then gently lowers her onto the bed...
  The next morning finds Con dressing and grabbing his gear to meet up with Horradd Wullubber for some training.
  Sni'ktl's nights of study are interrupted by the more interesting modes of catching up.  He has found the live theatre to occupy much of his spare time.  Amongst the actors and activists he compares notes on the art of disguise and bluffing while learning more of the actors trade.  With his new found friends he spends many a night at the casino but the dealers there don't fall so easily to bluffs.  While in the shopping area he re-equips with a few harmless grenades, some solvaway, a gyrojet pistol and some rounds of ammo.  He also takes some training in gyrojet weapons. 
  Raid is grateful for Snik's medical help the night before and is now feeling more like himself again.  He heads down to the transportation complex and arrives just as the proprietor, an intelligent looking human by the name of Terrence Fitzpatrick, is opening the security doors for the start of the day.  Raid is soon looking over the latest ground and hover cycles in the showroom.  Terrence is pleasantly surprised when Raid talks about paying up front for a rugged looking hovercycle that catches his eye and even more pleased when the soon to be famous adventurer hands over his credit card.
  Raid is soon cruising the town on his new hovercycle, tracking down various shops he'd looked up the night before.  He picks up a few items at Off World Clothing, including a couple new skeinsuits.  Raid puts on the civilian skeinsuit and attaches a new albedo screen unit beneath the jacket in a fitting room, then leaves for the festivities, locking his new hoverbike up in a secure underground lot.  Raid makes it a point to avoid monorails.  Just seeing the monorail stirs up old memories of his fiancé and mother, and makes him feel claustrophobic.
Frontier Date 62.337Pf+143
  After three days of relative anonymity, the members of the Black Hand Gang come together once more.  Meeting at the Government Building that is now home to X'anthe and Crisbel, the team are ushered into vehicles supplied by the Truane's Star government for a ticker tape parade around the city centre.  Within hours their images are appearing on holoscreens all across Pale and New Pale as the adventurers are treated to a heroes welcome.  The population turn out in their thousands to cheer the new celebrities, hoping to glimpse them first hand.
  A sumptuous dinner follows at the civic reception laid on by the Department of Natural Resources.  All the members of the team are presented with medals and stories of their exploits are told and retold with enormous exaggerations included with each retelling of the tale.
  After three days in civilization some of the Black Hand Gang members don't even recognize each other when they reassemble for their victory parade.  In new clothes and scrubbed clean of the Volturnus dust and micro organisms they all look and feel like a completely different team.  Siu-Ling and X'anthe are soon comparing shopping venues and prices and the pair are already fending away offers of modelling contracts to sell everything from hiking boots to adventure holidays.  Even the scientists of the group have to brush off blatantly illegal offers for their expertise from corporate representatives sprinkled throughout the crowd and as guests at the formal celebrations.
  When each team member has been subjected to the red carpet entrance following the parade they are seated together at the table of honour with the highest ranking government officials and corporate sponsors.  The wine flows and the speeches drag on but the food is divine and in huge quantities.
  Con is happy to see his mates once again at the State Dinner, he feels much pride in this group.  The enforcer never thought that a mercenary could ever feel at home with any group.  Con knows that the shared experiences of Volturnus has pulled this motley crew into a family and he is suddenly feeling as though he has torn the loyalty between the team and the lovely companion who has dominated his free time.  Con knows he will have to someday go off to the next job and leave her behind for a time but in the meantime enjoys the evening and the attention of the big wigs.  He manages to evade the media types this evening, even to the point of sneaking off with Adriana to avoid talking to a annoying reporter.
  Gloo sits quietly while the others speak at the reception,
  "I wonder if the others are as uncomfortable as I am, ah well let the others revel in the spotlight."  Gloo listens as sections of the submitted reports were read to the crowd, trying to imagine himself someplace else anyplace else but here, well not anywhere the big "V" isn't someplace he's relishing to go back anytime soon.
  Gleep quietly sits at the table during the ceremony.  He is still perplexed that doing his job is worth getting accolades.  He mutters,  "No applause, throw money."
  "Maybe this limelight could be of some use?  I might have to see some of those corporate sponsors about field testing some of their weapons."  This comment brings a huge grin to OMAC's face while Gloo's mind starts to wander off.
  At the convention, Raid remains unsociable, upsetting some of the media by bluntly ignoring questions and refusing to sign autographs.  He wears his dark shaded sungoggles to partially cover his facial features.  In all it's the media who are most disappointed with the event, most of the Gang refuse interviews and the DNR owns much of the data they gathered so the corporate spies and bribes also have little effect.
  After spending so much time together on Volturnus, each member of the team has enjoyed the relative freedom of the city and spent much of their time apart from their former companions, enjoying the change of scenery.  When the party winds up they each make their way back to their respective apartments or move on to other entertainment's, xZot leaving via the kitchen after comparing notes with the head chef.
  Con parts company with his team mates at the end of the evening, there is somewhere else he rather be right now.  After a quiet skimmer ride back to the hotel the young couple find themselves on the balcony in each others arms sharing a moment.
  "So, you're not a real contractor are you?"
  "Nope, sometimes explorer, sometimes soldier sometimes both.  It's one hell of a lifestyle, but then it brings in the pay.  Crappy pay as it is.  What do you do?"
  "Me, I am a live-in nanny for a professor of physics at the university.  I've been working for the professor since his wife passed, going on two years now.  Not enough pay to deal with his two kids, they can be a handful if your not careful" laughs Adriana.
  Shunning the media spectacle that has dogged the Gang since their return, xZot endeavours to keep a low profile while staying at the luxury apartments.  Although difficult, xZot manages several fruitful shopping expeditions around the city between training commitments. In addition to a new set of clothes and flashy new sungoggles, he picks up several item to replenish his kit.  Several visits to the Yazirian Deli have also proved very fruitful, swapping some newly acquired recipes and spices in exchange for some of those harder-to-get essential Yazirian spices.
  Gloo visits an old buddy from the service who now runs, of all things a sporting goods store.
  "Sporting goods is that what we call the weaponry nowadays", Gloo mumbles to himself.  Gloo has been getting training in projectile weapons from Burug after completing his energy weapons training from Rockton Hartsel, owner of the 'Hole in the Wall' bar, after being chided on training by OMAC and Sp'ock,
  "I miss the military already, it was easier to train there instead of looking all over hell and creation to find a competent trainer".  Gloo complains to himself as he walks into the store,
  "Howdy bubs.  How's business?"  Diracman looks up and quickly adds
  "Better if you'd buy something."
  "Well looks like you get your wish, I'm in need of one of those clip fed shotguns and 10 clips for shotgun."  Diracman takes the order.
  "Anything else moneybags?"  The shop keep says as he slams down the shotgun.  Gloo frowns when he notices there are no shells or clips with the weapon.  "Try the market for ammo!"
  "I might later, right now I have to go see somebody about some gyrojet clips."  Burug shakes a pseudopod at Gloo
  "Sure take your business elsewhere."  Gloo points around
  "You don't sell gyrojet weapons here."
  "Yeah, yeah excuses, excuses."
  "Can you hold them for me for now, I'll collect them later."  Gloo then walks out the store grabs one of his cigars and lights up.  "Maybe I should have told them about the mission back to Volturnus, nobody said it was classified and I trust these guys, ah well maybe later."  Gloo walks into Billy Bobs Wilderness Outfitters,
  "Hey Bill what's up?" 
  "Hey Gloo what can I do for you today?"  Gloo walks up to the counter and 'eyes' the gyrojet rifle.
  "I want that thing right there with a bandolier, sling and flash muzzle."  And I need 15 clips of tangler and 15 regular, and 10 pistol tangler rounds as well, no I don't need a pistol there are some waiting for me where I'm going.  Could you put those in bandoliers?"
  "Yeesh Gloo what are you gonna go do, go big game hunting?"
  "Ahh something like that, the tanglers are for securing targets without necessarily killing them.  Can you hold onto them for me until I need to pick them up?"  Gloo leaves the building then stops and a dral smile pops up, "I wonder" and heads off.  After signing his autograph for a group of youngsters Gloo pops into polytech.  The Dral behind the counter asks if he needs help.
  "Well I was wondering how do you guys get new languages.  What would it be worth to you to be the first person to have some new languages?  5 to be exact."
  "Do you have the entire syntax for these 'new' languages?"  The Dral replies  "If you have a complete record of the vocalizations and syntax we'd certainly be interested in discussing some sort of package."
  Gloo nods as he realizes the idea has merit but he will need some assistance with the scientists from the expedition to make this one pay off.  Gloo continues his day shopping, getting a environmental suit, a couple military skien suits and an albedo screen and finishes it off with a nice relaxing steam bath.
  Glad for the respite from the limelight, Gleep tries to get in some climbing practice in the nearby mountains.  First, he purchases some basic equipment and asks if any of the BHG wants to tag along.
  "I need the physical release."  Mr Sp'ock agrees to join Gleep on his outing and Siu-Ling also tags along, keen to escape the concrete towers of modern civilization.
  After coming home from a hard days training Con finds an envelope with his full name on Conan E. Anderson with a hand written note.
  "This came for you when you were out, luv, A."  Con opens the envelope to reveal the invitation.
  In the weeks following their return to Truane's Star the shine of celebrity quickly fades from the members of the BHG.  Upcoming elections are beginning to dominate the media and the activities of the Star Devil as well as government department corruption exposed by the BHG have become hot topics.  Meanwhile the various members of the team have been absorbed in their training regimes and enjoying the distractions of a civilized city.
Frontier Date 62.310Pf+190
  Five weeks after the welcome home parade and celebratory dinner the Gang assembles once more, this time in the bar of the Stellar Hotel.  Over the last week each member of the group has received a confidential invitation to a private reunion sponsored by a mystery organization represented up until now only by electronic correspondence.  As the group relax and reminisce around the bar four of the most loathsome creatures in all of the Frontier enter the bar.  A vrusk, a human, a dralasite and a yazirian sure enough but their briefcases give them away immediately.  Lawyers!  A collective groan echoes around the bar when they approach.
  "You are xZot."  It's a statement from the yazirian lawyer, not a question.  "We are instructed by our employer to deliver this and await your reply."  He says as he hands over a data disc to the young yazirian.
  "A secure private viewing area has been arranged for you all."  The vrusk lawyer adds indicating the door at the back of the bar.  "We will await your reply here,"  The four lawyers take a seat at a table in the bar as the curious frontiersmen and women of the BHG enter the private theatre.  OMAC closes the door behind them and stands guard as xZot inserts the disc into a data projector.  Everyone makes themselves comfortable as the holoprojector plays back the encoded message.
  The unmistakable sand of the volturnus desert spreads out before them and suddenly the room is filled with gasps and starts of surprise.
  "He's dead!"
  "I saw his body with my own two eyes!"
  There on the holovid is none other than Lieutenant Commander Louis V. Jameson alive and well!
  "Hello xZot,  I trust you and yours are well rested."  The experienced officer smiles knowingly across the void.  "You shouldn't be that surprised to see me after all we've experienced on Volturnus."  Anyone who had been to that planet had a way of always pronouncing it with a capital 'V'.  "Our furry friends have some incredible technology."  He smiles by way of explanation,  "I'm sure Sni'ktl is itching to get access to their cloning databases."  Jameson pauses, anticipating the uproar his appearance will have caused among his audience.
  "OK  I'm not gonna beat around the bush, here is the deal.  Our friends need our help.  Us, not the Truane's Star government or some other special interest group from the Frontier.  They need beings who have experienced Volturnus to help them with their Great Mission.  As you have probably guessed by now, have been working with them for quite some time and have decided to stay in a 'permanent' capacity.  I can't handle my end alone, I need help and I'd prefer it be people like you who were prepared to lay down your lives for the people of this planet.  I know not all of you are motivated by the same things, but when push came to shove you all acquitted yourselves with skill and honour."
  Something about the way Jameson said 'permanent' was intriguing.  He definitely didn't mean dead, it was almost like the opposite?
  "I can't give you all the details now.  If you are interested and want to help, you need to return to Volturnus.  Let the suits outside know who's in and who's out.  They will make all the necessary arrangements."  Jameson pauses once more and looks directly into the audience
  "This is a once in a life time opportunity xZot.  This is history in the making."
  Five weeks after the State Dinner Con shows up at the meeting, surprised to find the team waiting.  Picking a good seat to view the holo video, the enforcer is as dismayed as his brothers in arms.
    "Whaddaya mean we got to go back?  Why?"  Gloo turns to face the group  "Did one of you clowns forget to turn something off before we left?"
  "Boss, something isn't right here."  Con says  "You just don't pop up and say 'Not dead anymore, here's the next bloody job'.  I think were
being played here.  Great Mission, that don't sound good, neither does 'permanent' for that matter.  We ended our commitment to this group when we were handed our pay.
  xZot looks at Gloo,
  "You finished?"
  "Yeah, I just had to get that of my chest?"  Gloo listens to the rest of Jameson's comm in silence.  "Well, I'll go, but I will not relinquish my weapons to the crew of this next ship, no way, no how, no-no.  It was convenient how our weapons got blasted on the last one, while the pirates were boarding the ship.  I still say there was a pirate on the inside there."
  Mr Sp'ock nods his head in agreement, the vrusk X-O was not happy with that particular loose end not being tied up by the authorities.
  "Well anybody else?  Aaw c'mon don't tell me I'm the only one who misses xZot's 4 star cooking?  And OMAC's lovely personality, not to mention Ghengis Siu-Ling and her octo buddies?  I mean it's been awhile since everything on the planet has tried to kill and eat me."
  "Anything to get out of this city right now sounds good!"  Gleep says  "And I think we owe it to Volturnus to help in whatever way we can.  After all, not only were we their salvation, we learned much from them and much of ourselves from the circumstances we were in."
  "We can move on if we want, find a nice job somewhere and enjoy the pay when it's over."  Con quips sarcastically,  "If you decide to take
it, then I'll be right there with you guys, but boss, think about it.  Something just doesn't sound right with this.  I'll be upstairs in my
room, let me know when we ship out."  With that Con leaves that room.
  "Well hi, tell me you're providing this outfit with anything besides a pat on the back, good luck and god speed wishes?"  Gloo turns to the
suits, "I mean that world class job you did getting us there last time, how do we get inserted this time?  Orbital parajumping?"
  "Can I make copies of this holotape tape for my own purposes?"  Raid asks the lawyers.  "I want to make sure other people know where I'm
going, just in case we get lost again on Volturnus.  This does sound unusual.  I don't want anyone making a clone of me either."  Raid is
horrified by a sudden vision of his dead fiancé and mother being brought back as clones.  The thought lingers in his mind, but is anything but
  Despite his eagerness to get off Volturnus and return to New Pale xZot cannot help feeling the need to move on.  Instead of embracing the
comforts of civilization xZot yearns for more travel.  After receiving Jameson's message xZot knew he would return, the lust for adventure was
just too great.
  Sni'ktl asks the Vrusk Lawyer
  "How much are we getting paid?  And can I get an advance?"
  The four lawyers await the emergence of the team from the private viewing theatre and patiently listen to all their questions.  When xZot's companions have made their various requests the lawyers explain that they have been contracted by their employer to deliver the message and make the necessary arrangements to transport to Volturnus those who accept this offer.  When pressed over details regarding their employer the lawyers are quite nonplussed.
  "We were engaged by the Eorna people, we thought you knew?"  the vrusk lawyer answers  "Apparently they have studied much of our culture already and have acknowledged the need to establish their legal status as a sovereign system and not a colony of Truane's Star.  To that end the Eorna are already engaging representatives from the Frontier with which to negotiate and communicate."  The lawyers share a nod between them, "We merely assumed that you were to be offered similar status."  Then the human lawyer says,
  "The terms of your contracts have not been outlined to us, the Eorna wish to discuss the terms face to face.  We are instructed to take those of you who are interested in this proposal, to Volturnus at the earliest possible convenience."
  xZot nods and turns to look at his companions before addressing the lawyers once more.
  "Give us a couple of days to make up our minds."  The lawyers agree and give xZot their contact details to meet with those who accept the offer.  The rest of the Gang go their own way to prepare for the return trip or consider the alternatives.
  It's the wee hours of the night and Con is unable to sleep.  It's been almost two hours since he left Adriana in bed to get a drink and some
fresh air on the balcony.  His solitude is broken as Adriana wraps her arms around Con
  "What's wrong, Lover?"
  "Some thing that happened to day.  Say, do you think your boss can recommend some reading materials an intro to physics and military
  "I'll see what I can do.  Why?"
  "Might be shipping out soon, can't say where just yet.  Don't know how long.  Maybe when I come back, I'll be able to pull down some real credits and maybe we won't have to stay in this stinking hotel anymore.  It's going to be tough leaving, these past weeks have been great.  Maybe when I get back."
  "What you have on Volturnus is five indigenous races that just fought off a Sathar offensive with little technology and a barrel full of guts.  Let's not forget that someone in the Truane's Star Government was in league with pirates that were until recently hunting and enslaving these heroic folk and pillaging their natural resources.  It makes me sick that politicians can turn up and hail these people for helping us save the Frontier while they still haven't dealt with the rot of corruption that has put Frontier regional government in the pocket of rampaging pirates.  People died defending Volturnus, lets make it be worth something.  I say clean house of the corrupt officials and put the money from bribes and royalties into ridding the Frontier of pirates and supporting the developing cultures that we will need as allies if the Sathar return."  As Sni'ktl finishes his interview with New Frontiersman he considers the offer from Jameson.  "Aw heck no one at DNR will employ me after that, let's head back to Volturnus" he scritches.
  Con and Adriana decide to go off into the city to run their respective errands.  Con's first stop is to visit Wally's Weapons yet again.
  "Ahhh back so soon Mr. Anderson?  What can I do for you today?"
  "I would like a sonic sword today."  Con checks out the selection of sonic swords.  Handles the different types until he finds one that has that special feel too it.  "Yes, this one will do.  This one will do nicely."  Con takes his purchase to the counter, pays for the sonic sword and is back on his way.  Con's next visit is to the Offworld Equipment shop where he picks up two new military skein suits.  While passing through the Convention Center Con is stopped by a recruiter for the Royal Marines.
  "Say son how 'bout a career in the Corp?" I don't know.  My team may be moving out soon."
  "A team like yours can't give you pay or benefits like the Corps.  If you join us you'll never have to worry about where the next job is coming from.  Steady pay, advancement, a perfect career for a strapping lad like yourself.  Here son, take my card, think about it.  You won't regret it."
  Later that day Con meets up with Adriana at the restaurant.  She did a lot of shopping from the looks of things.  Adriana shows him one dress and the matching this and that part of the outfit blah blah blah pink, blah blah blah shoes, blah blah blah.  Con pretends to pays little attention.  He loves her, but he is a man of action and his is the way of the adventurer.  It's all very nice this, the life of a normal man.  Once you have taken up the way of the gun, there's no way out.  Even if your tired of the killing, your addicted to the action.  Dinner ends after a quick trip back to the hotel, then off to the holo theatre for a flick.  A night cap at the pub before calling it a night.  Back at the hotel.
  "What's wrong baby?  You've been out of sorts all day."  Asks Adriana as she wraps herself in Con's arms.
  "Nothing, really.  I miss the action.  I almost joined the Royal Marine Corps out of boredom..."
  "What?"  Adriana interrupts  "Out of boredom?  What we shared means nothing too you?"  A tear falls from her eye.  "How dare you..."
  "No Adi, that's not..." She slaps him across the face.
  "Don't touch me" She collapses on the bed, sobbing much harder. 
  "Adi, listen to me.  One more job and we can start over some where else, anywhere in the..."  She pulls away from him.
  "No point in finishing this now."  Con tells himself, he grabs a jacket and takes a walk in the night.  Con dials up xZot on the chrono com.
  "Hey boss, when do we shove off for that next job?"
  "Two days."  The commander answers  "OMAC, X'anthe, Boro, Crisbel, Sp'ock and McKilin have all agreed to return to Volturnus and at least hear out the offer.  We will be travelling in style this time, a private yacht rented by the 'Volturnus Coalition' exclusively for us!  We'll see you at the spaceport in two days, I'll send the details to your chronocom."  xZot signs off and Con heads into the CBD looking for somewhere to get a drink.  Feeling little peace since he walked out of his hotel, leaving Adriana a sobbing mess on the bed Con is eager to escape the cold night air.  He spends a few hours drinking in the bar, it's a rough crowd in here tonight.  A figure at the end of the bar keeps an eye on Con all night and then finally approaches him.
  "Say, friend you look familiar, where I have I seen you before?"
  "No, you're mistaken" replies the enforcer as he finishes another pint.
  "Yeah I know who you are, your that Con fellow.  The one who Kerner Slade wants dead.  Slade saw your mug on the news and sent me here looking for you."
  "Oh really."  Con retorts as he orders another pint, not sure what number drink this is.
  "You, your purty little friend from back home misses you, you know, the lass who ran that orphanage.  We almost had her, she won't be so lucky next time."  Con catches a shiny glimmer of steel as it is pulled out into the open.  It is a knife.  The reflexes Con relied on so much in the past come to life again.  Con grabs his opponents knife arm and turns it in a way it was not meant to turn.  As the knife falls to the ground Con reaches for his sonic sword and activates it.  The sword comes to life and Con grabs his would be assailant, pushing him back against the bar and placing the invisible tip of the sonic blade somewhere near the thugs head.
  "Go ahead Anderson, kill me, someone else will just come lookin' for you."  Con restrains himself from killing the miscreant slowly and says
  "Tell Slade it's over, no more killing."  Con, sonic blade still drawn, walk out of the pub.  "I'm tired of the killing."  He finishes as he steps out into the night.  It is now raining heavily.  Con deactivates his sonic sword as he walks along the street not really sure of where he is going or just what is around him.
  "Con"  A soft female voice calls out.  The drunken enforcer looks into the face of Adriana.
  "Adi?  I..."
  "Con I was worried about you.  I need to talk to you."  His girlfriend says plaintively  "I was going to tell you earlier, before the argument.  Con, I'm pregnant."  Not knowing how to react or what to say Con takes her in his arms.  They just hold each other in the rainy night.
  Nearby a figure lurks in the shadows, blaster pistol levelled at his target, waiting for the perfect shot.  Above, the monorail is about to pull into the station.  A small group of people scramble for the monorail passing in front of Con and Adriana.  The gunman lowers his weapon.  The passers-by make witnesses and obstruct his target from him.  The shadowy gunmen turns and walks away and says to himself.
  "Next time you may not be so lucky next time Anderson, it's over when I say it's over."
  The next day OMAC, McKilin and Sni'ktl meet to thrash out their own plans to deal with the teams possible future medical needs.  When Sni'ktl brings up the subject of robotic assistance OMAC grins broadly.
  "Way ahead of you Doc, check this out."  OMAC presses a stud on his newly modified chronocom to signal his latest purchases to arrive.  Two maintenance robots pull up outside the cafe where the three are having lunch.  "Stretcher bearers that can carry extra supplies."  He explains proudly.
  "Hmmm"  Sni'ktl muses "Perhaps something with more sophisticated software may be able to assist with field surgery?"  The CMO wonders aloud.
  "You'd probably need something with an anthropomorphic body if it's to be used in a surgery, so it can handle most tools."
  "Yes, a new kind of service robot."  Sni'ktl continues
  "Well I don't know about you,"  OMAC adds  "but I wouldn't be talking so loud about using robots to replace medical staff.  Doctors and nurses will kick up a big stink about being put out of jobs by robots and I don't think the patients would be real thrilled about the idea either."  Sni'ktl and McKilin do a double take at OMAC's observation, neither of them had ever heard the combat medic talk so much in their entire stay on Volturnus.
  "Wow"  McKilin mouths and Sni'ktl clicks in astonishment
  "Who would have thought civilization could have such an effect?"
  With only a couple of days to wind things up before heading back to Volturnus, X'anthe sets up a trading company to handle the group's assets in the interim.  Each member of the BHG receives an invitation to become an equal partner in the tentatively titled "Volturnus Trading Company".  X'anthe's prospectus details all the assets of the company including the real estate on Volturnus now deeded to the company, the sites of Brucebane and Mawson's Rest, the jetcopter and other equipment, weapons and ammo acquired from the pirates and a bill of sale for the ore totalling 200,000 credits.  Each partner has the option to take an equal share and withdraw from the partnership at any time.
Frontier Date 62.308Pf+192
  Two days later the Gang are assembled once more, this time much more discretely at the spaceport.  Almost every member of the group had insisted on retaining their side arms for the journey but their concerns were not justified.  Aboard the private charter vessel the BHG are the only passengers and they have almost no contact with the ships crew who have signed non-disclosure agreements regarding their passengers.
  "Well the Eorna have certainly mastered our legal system quickly."  X'anthe observes as the team board the yacht for their 5 day flight to the Zebulon system.
  "Commerce too."  Crisbel adds  "One of my cousins tells me his freight company has been engaged to start exporting ore from Volturnus.  Seems these guys learn pretty fast."
  "Maybe it's not them."  Borovski speculates  "We know about Jameson, but what don't we know?"
Frontier Date 62.303f+197
  After five days of speculation, conversation and eventually boredom aboard the luxury yacht.  The Black Hand Gang arrive once more in the Zebulon system.  This time much more peacefully.  Not until their shuttle craft lands safely on the landing pad at Brucebane do the adventurers breath a sigh of relief.  During the descent from the yacht to the surface other ships orbiting Volturnus can be seen through the portholes.
  "We came in convoy,"  the shuttle pilot explains.  "Tomorrow a cargo shuttle from that mining transport will land at Brucebane to transport your ore back to New Pale.  The day after that I'll be back to pick up anyone who is going home."  The shuttle pilot is obviously referring to Truane's Star and could never understand how many of his passengers already call this new world 'home'.
  A welcoming ceremony by the priests from the nearby edestekai village quickly makes everyone feel much more at home under the alien sun of Zebulon than they ever had on New Pale, reinforcing the irony of the shuttle pilots comment.  Representatives from all four of Volturnus' biological races are there to welcome xZot and his team.  After getting reacquainted with their friends the Eorna guide the team to the operations center of Brucebane where Jameson greets them.
  "Sorry I couldn't meet you outside, but after we are finished here you will understand why it is so important that everyone thinks I am still dead."  The former Lieutenant Commander smiles enigmatically as everyone takes a seat around the makeshift conference table.
  "OK ladies, gentlemen and ids this is how we are going to play this out.  I'm going to give you a basic outline of the Eorna Great Mission as it relates to us.  Those of you who want in will be staying here, those of you who want out will be going back to Truane's Star after visiting the Eorna psy-ops corps.  All memory of your conversations regarding the Great Mission will be erased from your mind before you leave, they have excellent hypnotic researchers here apparently."  Jameson smiles  "You will only get this one opportunity to sign up so choose very carefully."
  Jameson then goes on to recap what the BHG already know of the Eorna's plan.  The genetic manipulation of local species to create the races of the Kurabanda, Ul-Mor and Edestekai in order to defend Volturnus from future attacks.  Using their highly developed cryogenic technology the Eorna have also managed to extend the life span of the few survivors of their race in order to develop long term strategies.  The Eorna are long term planners, much better suited to strategy than tactics.  Recent events on Volturnus have highlighted this deficiency in the Eorna Great Mission which they now plan to remedy.
  "Essentially what the Eorna need is ready response team."  Jameson explains  "These people worship you as the heroes who saved their civilization when they were on the brink of destruction.  In return they are offering you immortality."
  "What are you on about?"
  "The scope of the Great Mission is better measured in centuries than, days, months or years."  Jameson replies to the barrage of questions.   "What we are proposing is that you join the Great Mission.  That you all enter cryogenic stasis and the Eorna revive us when they need us.  Depending on the size of the project we may have observation teams on duty for regular intervals but those details will be ironed out later.  Those of you who decide to stay will live on Volturnus until you 'die' or 'have an accident' and then join the program."  Jameson pause only briefly and looks hard around the table.  "This is obviously a life changing decision so think hard before jumping in.  If you have family or friends in the Frontier you will never see them again.  You can never go back to your old lives.  If you join the Great Mission, it's not just for life, it's forever."
"My bridges are burned here."  Raid tells the Eorna.  "I'm willing to join you in your mission."  Around the table there are nods and signs of agreement as one by one, each member of the group cast their lot with the Eorna and their Great Mission.  All of the humans immediately agree to join this new venture, only Con having any real consideration of a life he may have had back in the Frontier.
  Mulling over the Eorna's proposal in his head xZot knows deep inside himself that the only direction from here is forward.  Pausing as he watches the glances flashing around the group,
  "I'm in." xZot nods, his yearning for adventure over-riding any other consideration.
  "Yes!" Crisbel smiles  "I'm in too!"  And so the yazirians come on board.
  GleepGlooup, Gloo-gloobadunm and Borovski gather together in a dral huddle of interlocked limbs.
  "One way time travel!"  One of them exclaims and starts off a round of laughter the like of which is rarely seen by non-dralasite eyes.  Their three bodies rippling in unison to their giggles.  Almost an hour later one of them is able to utter a response in the affirmative for himself and the other dralasite adventurer-comedians.  By this time Sp'ock and Sni'ktl have assesed the pros and cons, considered the options, extrapolated possible outcomes and eventually, also agreed to sign up for the duration.
  "Excellent!"  Jameson's beaming smile engages everyone around the table.  "We will give you all a few days to make whatever preparations you may need, say your goodbyes and so forth.  Then you will all go into cryostasis for 10 years as a test run for longer stints."
  The meeting ends and Jameson leaves with the Eorna delgates as the members of the Black Hand Gang make their final preparations before going into stasis. 
  Raid leaves a cryptic farewell message on his father's answering machine via subspace radio.  It may be the last words his father ever hears from him.
  Later xZot ponders,
  "Snik, are you familiar with these stasis units?   I'm sure the Eorna will be diligent but..." xZot's voice dwindles off, he'd heard about these systems but when faced with being in one one for a long time, his worry about the technology is forefront in his thinking.  "Could we, like, be tampered with?"  He asks with a serious tone.
  "Anything's possible."  McKilin suggests  "After all we've seen on this planet..."  McKilins voice trails off as well, there seems to be a bit of that happening in the team lately.  Almost as if some of them are already thinking more about the unknown future than the familiar past.
  Continuing the vein of data review, Sni'ktl used most of the journey back to Volturnus to update the team's psychological and medical profiles.  He is pleased to note that all memebers are showing distinct change and variation both positive and negative from normative patterns.
  "The mind is like a pool, turbid waters are the stuff of ever evolving life.  Still waters may run deep but they always lead to stagnation."
  Later still xZot wishes he put more thought into his financial investments before he'd left.
  "Who knows how much it'd be worth when they wake us up?  Maybe it'd fund the purchase of a ship?" he mutters.  X'anthe ends up becoming the corporate accountant when everyone starts coming to her with questions about their own money and their shares in the Volturnus Trading Company.
  "I've set up a trust fund that administers the assets of the Company,"  X'anthe reports to the first AGM of the Volturnus Trading Company the day before their frozen adventure begins.  "After administration fees and other legal obligations we will return a minimum of 4% compound interest on our initial investment.  It may be possible to increase this amount but the required oversight makes this impractical on our part."  She smiles to the partners assembled and then explains further for OMAC's benefit, "I'm not coming out of stasis every 12 months to check the annual reports, we'll have to leave the day to day running of the fund to others."  Before X'anthe winds up her report she adds, "Those of you with additional personal funds may deposit them into our corporate trust fund or take your chances with the commercial financial institutions."
  On board the yacht to Volturnus Sni'ktl had hoped to undertake preparatory duties loading OMAC's bearer bots, B1 and B2 with gear and providing personal voxprint labels for each.  The space constraints made the tedious task imposssible then so he attends to the task with OMAC beneath the city of Volkos.
  "You will be sharing the expenses on these new toys won't you doc?"  OMAC stresses the word will as he watches Sni'ktl modify his property.
  "Store skeinsuit."  Sni'ktl commands.  Whhrrrrr clunk thunk as the grabber arm emerges from B1's chest, grabs the profered skeinsuit, bundles it unceremoniously and places it in a secure, fireproof storage section of the bot.  Sni'ktl understands that the storage is like a concertina, with some scope for larger and smaller personal items to be stowed without risk of crushing.  The menial task helps focus his Vrusk mind.
  "Store envirosuit."  This time Sni'ktl has carefull folded the suit that is still fresh from the store the day before leaving.  Sni'ktl tries some other drills.
  "Present gyrojet pistol", B1 responds within seconds presenting the pistol and two spare clips of ammunition Sni'ktl has stored in the same
compartment.  Sni'ktl takes the pistol and replaces the clip of Gyrojet rounds in the pistol with a tangler clip then returns it to B1 with the spare doze clip to complete the set.
  "Make sure you program it for my baby as well."  OMAC tells Sni'ktl, referring to his beloved recoilless rifle.  Sni'ktl goes through his inventory checking he has it clear what each item is stored as.  With the limited vocabulary of B1 and B2 he is careful that they are clear on these words as well as the names of the team members and the basic commands like,
  "Present, Store, Fetch, suspected-back-injury-load-gently and follow."
  While his companions prepare to leave behind them the life they've known, Con remembers back to the days prior to returning to Volturnus.  He was an emotional mess then.  A child on the way and returning to Volturnus to become a pop sickle that is thawed out to protect someone's agenda.
  "Great Mission, my ass."  He mutters to himslef, however Con knows the greater good may some day be at stake, and that is worth risking freezer burn for.  Con had spent his remaining free time with Adriana.  Upon hearing of his new arrival he took Adriana to the local magistrate.  He and Adriana married so the child would not be born out of wedlock.  The he paid a visit to X'anthe.
  "X'anthe, I need your help.
  "What can I do for you Con?"
  "I figured since you set up the holding corp, you might be able to help.  I need you to set things up to put a few thousand credits a month into an account for Adriana Anderson, account number 265646784531.
  "Who's that hon?"
  "My wife X'anthe.  There is a child on the way, that I will never meet.  I would really appreciate it if you took care of this for me.  One more thing, X'anthe, don't tell the rest of the team about Adriana and the baby."
  "Sure thing, Con.  Your secret is safe with me but we don't have the kind of money to do what you're asking unless you want me to give her all of your money?"  X'anthe half questions her friend.  Seeing that he is obviously in distress, X'anthe arranges for a portion of Con's dividend to be sent to his wife.
  "Thanks"  Con says and returns to the his hotel.  When he enters the room it looks like a hurricane came through.  Furniture tossed, pictures broken, undoubtedly a struggle took place.
  "Adi, are you here?"  No answer  "Adi?"  No answer.  Con searches the room but Adriana is not there.  Then the phone rings.
  "Hello?" Con answers it.
  "Well, well well, Anderson my old friend.  So nice to hear your voice again.  There's some one here who wants to say hello."
  "Con?"  It's Adriana  "Con, help..." The voice of Kerner Slade comes back on the line
  "Con, if you ever want to see your sweetie in one piece again, I suggest you meet me at the old warehouse off of the expressway.  Come alone Con, don't let me see any of your friends or I swear I'll kill her."  The line goes dead.
  Con arrived at the the warehouse a short time later.  As he walked, in on the far side of the room he saw his beloved, gagged and bound to a pillar.  Two men stepped out in front of her, Kerner Slade and the man from the pub a few nights ago.  They draw their blasters and start firing on Con.  The enforcer dives behind some old crates and returns fire.  Soon the warehouse becomes alive with a fire fight as laser bolts shoot across the room.  After five minutes of hard fighting all becomes silent.
  All that is heard is footfalls.  Con looks over a crate and sees the thug from the bar coming his way.  Anderson reaches for his sonic sword.  As the thug passes by Con activates it and swings at his enemies stomach catching him off guard, then striking again at his upper body.   He falls to the floor.
  "Drago" Slade calls out "Drago?"
  "I don't think he's going to be able to help you now Slade" says Con throwing the lifeless body of Slade's associate out to the middle of the floor.
  "Come on Con, come rescue your sweet little thing."  Slade responds placing the blaster to Adriana's head.
  "Your fight is with me Slade, let her go."  Con demands of Slade seeing how terrified Adi is.
  "Let's finish this now Anderson."  Slade raises his blaster to finish off Con's wife.
  "Noooo!"  Con cries when he sees Slade's intention.  Before Slade can pull the trigger, the dark figure of a vrusk appears behind the captor and with a quick chopping motion, knocks him to the ground.  Con squints through the darkness at the approaching vrusk, then he notices a pair of familiar human figures going to Adi's aid as well.
  "Sp'ock?"  Con wonders  "What are you doing here?"
  "What kind of Security Chief doesn't know what his own people are up to?"  The vrusk replies matter of factly.  "We will leave your friends here for the local authorities but for now we have to go."
  Sp'ock helps Con back to a hired skimmer being watched by OMAC.  X'anthe and McKilin take Adi to a second skimmer parked near by.
  "Now you too say your goodbyes, we have to go."  Sp'ock says to Con and Adi.
  "Con, where are we going?"  Adi asks
  "You're going off world"  He answers
  "What?  Why aren't you coming?  Con?"
  "Your going someplace safe.  I'll join you when I'm done on Volturnus."  Con says to his wife before addressing his friends.  "I need you to take my wife off world.  Too Clarion in the White Light System."
  "Con, no!" protests Adriana.
  "You have to go, for your safety and my peace of mind, just don't argue."
  "Con, please come with me.  If not for me, for the baby."
  "Adi, I can't just yet.  I'll finish the job on Volturnus, then I'll come to White Light, I promise."  After a long hug and farewell kiss, Con steps away from the skimmer the door closes and Con watches the skimmer leave.
  "She'll be OK."  The comforting remark coming from none other than OMAC, to everyone's surprise.  Somewhat taken aback by the outward sign of compassion Con asks,
  "How do you know?"
  "They're taking her to my cousin's."  Is all the explanaition OMAC offers as he climbs into the skimmer  Con looks questioningly at Sp'ock.
  "From what I've heard,"  Sp'ock says "it would take a small army just to break into their 'family' compound.  If OMAC says it's safe, that's good enough for me."
  Left with little other choice, Con had returned with his companions to his hotel room and eventually to Volturnus.  He kept a low profile on board the yacht.  When seen, Con was usually at the bar drunk.  He talked to no one, especially X'anthe who tried repeatedly to explain that she was spying on him at Sp'ock's orders.
  "We were all worried about you,"  X'anthe pleaded "and if Sp'ock hadn't turned up when he did, Adi would have been dead.  Is that what you wanted?"
  Begrudgingly, Con came to accept what the rest of the team had done for him but it still didn't make the pain of losing Adi go away.  That would take time, something he now had plenty of.
  Finally the day to join the Eorna Great Mission arrives.  xZot and his charges have completed their preparations, stored their weapons and equipment, packaged and preserved against the effects of time.  The Eorna lead xZot and his team to a chamber deep below the city of Volkos and then one by one, each of them is subjected to the Eorna process of cryostasis.  Fortunately the process begins by hypnotising the subject into a deep slumber before the physical aspects of preserving the body are engaged.  Sni'ktl is fascinated by the rocess and insists on being the last to undergo the process so he can examine what the Eorna do with his comrades.
  After informing xZot and Co. that he, Jameson will be revived in five years as the first human test subject for the Eorna cryo-stasis program, the former Lieutenant Commander of the Truane's Star Military, leads the way into stasis.  With some trepidation xZot follows suit and the rest of the Black Hand Gang enter the doorway to a brave new future.

1 Experience Point

2 Experience Points

3 Experience Points

Bonus Points - e-mail

Bonus Points - Special

xZot, Gleep, Sn'iktl, Siu-Ling, Raid





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