Con smiles a roguish grin as his eyes lock on the approaching reporter.
"Komitz! What's the matter? Finally realized that it's safer to come out after everything settles down? I guess that 'nearly meeting your end at the hands of the hydra' smartened you up?" He begins to walk away, then assuming correctly that she follows. "Put that thing away before I use it for target practice. Of course we would be here! Notorious! You know damn well that the BHG is one or two steps above reporter!"
"The press corp just arrived with the Star Law ships." Charletta replies, waving vaguely in the direction of the other reporters disembarking from other vehicles nearby. She deliberately ignores Con's comment about the hydra, instead pressing on with her questions.
"So tell us about your part in the revolution?" She asks after she presses the record button on her holorecorder.
"Yeah boss, tell 'em about your part in the revolution!" Mack O'Malley says as he clamps a smelly armpit around the reporter, Borovski Getmeov crowding her from the other side.
"Boss?" Charletta questions as she shrugs free from O'Malley and his dral partner in crime. "Have you been promoted?"
Amused by the antics of Mack and Boro, Con considers leaving her to their mischief before he decides to answer the attractive reporter. "Oh ...Sweetie, I told you put this away or you won't get an exclusive." says Con as he pushes the off button.
"Don't smother her Boss, the network might get mad!" Borovski taunts his commander.
"Boss is a nick name, sort of like 'Rookie', 'OMAC" or 'Annoying Reporter Chick'." Con continues, making sure the camera is still off, "Yeah. That's what I thought, hanging out with Captain Fancy Pants. You just like him better cause he has a star ship! What was our part in the Revolution? Hmmm...Let me think..." Continues Con as he gently and politely takes the camera out of her hands. "Well, we think the Mechs wanted something but instead of coming to the peace table they attacked innocent people. Unfortunately none were reporters. We tried to talk but they didn't want too. Now both Mechanon and biological life forms lie dead all over the city. It's hardly a revolution, it's bloody stupidity if you ask me." Con talks as he walks, stopping every so often to make sure she keeps up. Con is secretly looking for the ejection button that will release the tape or the battery pack for the camera, or even better both. "Hey...isn't that Lara Loganrentiz over there? Do you know her? She's hot! I think it's that accent she has. You should take lessons from her, she knows enough to not get in front of a hydra! If you want the exclusive from the Mech side, ask the for the Mech with the funny beret and cheeky stubble on his face. Maybe you can get this exclusive in Port Loren, if you behave. Next question." Con concludes.
While his companions toy with the reporter, several vehicles arrive to transport the BHG survivors back to Volkos and Raid makes sure arrangements are made for all the vehicles belonging to the group to be stowed properly and looked after.
"All right let's saddle up!" Jameson's voice booms across the Volturnus landscape. Members of the BHG are drawn to him like a magnet and newly arrived security personnel prevent the reporters from continuing their questioning as the BHG are escorted back to Volkos.
Once back in Volkos the BHG mingle with their fellow defenders of Volkos, sharing their stories and learning more of the desperate fighting in the final hours of the rebellion. As the BHG penetrated the Mechanon complex the combined forces of Star Law, the UPF, security personnel and various native contingents fought a furious battle with mechanon forces as they attempted to overwhelm the last defences of the Administration Quarter. Losses on both sides were heavy, especially when the mechanons managed to penetrate the defences at several points.
After spending several hours in a debriefing with the various commanders, Jameson ushers the BHG out of the conference room and then the city of Volkos. Returning to Mawson's Rest, the team spends the next two days recuperating, relaxing and undergoing some basic physc examinations by the ever vigilant Chief Medical Officer Sn'iktl. Late on the second day the teams' vehicles arrive, courtesy of a squad of UPF troopers and the next morning the BHG relocate yet again, this time to Brucebane.
Once back at Brucebane the team spend several more days of relative solitude as the events of the previous days and weeks begin to fade. During this period the team begin making their mental shopping lists of equipment and skills they want to acquire. Kane, X'anthe and xZot also begin initial planning for future VTC activities. Kane is assigned to oversee the setting up of the VTC's passenger and freight service while X'anthe begins planning her own pet project, establishing a Zoo and Nature Reserve for not only the native species of Volturnus but other Frontier systems as well.
When Mack O'Malley hears about X'anthe's project he makes a flippant comment about collecting Sathar attack monsters for study as well. At this point Jameson enters the project, applauding O'Malley's suggestion and declaring such a project vital to the security and well being of not only Volturnus but the entire Frontier. As a result O'Malley becomes the butt of many of Borovski's snide comments and private jokes.
Frontier Date 54.321
Several days after the ceasefire with the mechanons, life is slowly returning to normal in Volkos and across the planet of Volturnus. Mechanons are noticeable by their absence as the other natives of Volturnus and the pioneers from the Frontier try to pick up their lives where they left off, only weeks ago.
Most of the members of the Black Hand Gang take advantage of the re-opened star port and book flights back to Port Loren via Truane's Star and Dixon's Star. Fifteen days of space flight and another 10 days of layovers sees the group back on Prenglar, seeking out their usual haunts for training, shopping and entertainment. As a result of the VTC meetings it has been decided the team will spend some time in Port Loren acquiring skills and material for their new projects and setting up the first permanent, offworld office of the VTC.
xZot decides to stay on Volturnus and work on setting up automated defence systems for Brucebane and Mawson's Rest.
"I will send through a shopping list over the subspace radio for you to pick up at Port Loren." The eternally young yazirian informs his comrades before they depart for the Frontier's largest city. His fellow yazirian team member, Crisbel and Gloo also decide to stay on Volturnus and assist xZot with planning defence systems for the VTC's installations.
Frontier Date 54.346
Doog was in a funk. The overwhelming sadness at all the death he had seen had gotten to him. He had become so numb that he had stumbled around like a zombie and barely remembered the mopping up actions. Death was now a truly ugly thing to him; so much so he had considered asking for the memory wipe and discharge for the team. Oh Swazi's death had shocked him and he had participated in the killing on Alcazzar but he hadn't really delivered any killing blows there (that he knew of). Volturnus was different and the one face that represented all of the dead was Sgt. Toome, his friend. He knew that she had seen him as a plucky kid but she had respected him for the position he'd been given and he loved her for that. Her respect and belief in him had helped him rise above himself to be better than he believed he could be. He had wanted to say some tribute to his fallen friend, something fitting for all the fallen but was at a loss. The poem he had recited back in Port Loren was bitter ashes to him now, "...theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to rage and..." He could barely bring himself to say the word, 'death'. Doggedly he helped with stowing all the equipment and vehicles and done every duty asked of him; he was beginning to think that the team leaders were finding him busy work till they reached Port Loren. Just as well, busy work kept him from thinking too much.
The next few weeks are traumatic for the various members of the team as they attend the memorial services and funerals of their fallen comrades. Passage is booked on a luxury liner returning to the Hub of the Frontier and the BHG soon find themselves back in Port Loren for an extended R & R.
Finally back in Port Loren, Con makes it a priority to get his beam weapon credentials up to date. Con takes a trip to the Night Club/Casino to visit his old friend Horraad. Horraad looks a bit older but he hasn't changed all that much. "Con you old mercenary! What brings you back to this place?"
"I need to get my creds up to date. When's good for you?"
"We'll begin tomorrow morning. The club will be closed and the only people around will be the cleaning crew."
"See you then." Says Con and he walks out of the door. As he walks down the street Con thinks of new and unique ways to get under the skin of his 'favourite' holovid reporter, Charletta Konitz.
Alyson Drake heads straight to the Hole-In-The-Wall where she begins a two week training course to improve her rating with gyrojet weaponry. The female security specialist came away from the last mission with mixed feelings. Her leadership skills were put to the test and she still wasn't sure if she was cut out for that or not. She was also burdened with feelings of loss. Yeah they did what they had to do, made it out alive but the cost? So many good people gone. All of this was going though her head while she was learning more about her gyrojet weapons skill.
Once back on Port Loren, Kane reserves a room at the Stellar Towers and drops off his baggage, before getting down to business. Exiting the hotel, Kane decides to stop off by the market next door, to get his power backpacks and belt recharged, in addition to inquiring about the possibility of getting some military skills training.
"I'll also need some gyrojet weaponry training." says Kane to the human behind the counter, as he hands over the power packs.
"I can help you with that as well Mr. Kane." Responds the cashier after examining his credit card for payment. "Come back here in a few days and we can get started.
"Good, that gives me the time to take care of a few more errands." says Kane, nodding to the man as he returns Kane's card.
Raid takes all possible measures to avoid the media both on Volturnus and again once the team arrive in Port Loren.
"We really are back in Port Loren?" Raid wonders aloud when his feet touchdown on the asphalt surface of the Port Loren Starport. He immediately looks for a good hotel room and catches up on local news and also asks the UPF for a follow up report on the Mechanons. Ultimately he receives the best information through the BHG network and their Eorna connections back on Volturnus. Several days after making his enquiries a secure data package arrives at his hotel room via messenger from the Eorna embassy in Port Loren. The trouble with the Mechanons appears to have dissipated as quickly as it arose. In fact the Mechanons have assumed a very low profile around all the populated areas of Volturnus and a number of reports indicate they are returning to their original habitats in the Volturnus underworld. Negotiations are now underway to establish return of the planetary defence systems back to the control of the Eorna who until this point have not seen any need to pres the issue. The Mechanon Revolt has brought this issue into sharp focus now not only for the inhabitants of Volturnus but also the UPF administration.
Maybe Port Loren would be what Doog needed to distract himself from his depression. With several Void jumps to reach the Prenglar system there was a lot of time for Doog's depression to stew. He did his best to shake it off and even gave some of his,
"Give id 5!" stunts in the face of obvious concern from his compatriots. For the most part he just slept and stayed busy working at busy work. By the time the ship was decelerating toward Gran Quivera he was mostly back to his old self. He thought he might like to look up Harvey the yazirian barber and go musket shooting with him or even that sexy little dral, Gallid, at the concierge desk at the hotel. Maybe he should have spoken to X'anthe about getting the drugs that would force him out of neuter phase and into male phase; though he suspected that sex for the sake of distraction would seem pretty empty. None the less he was invigorated at the thought of walking the streets of Port Loren. It was the one spot where he felt proud of what he'd done with the team. Where they had stopped that slug and prevent the loss of sentient life. That had been a good day and he needed another good day.
The other skill Alyson decided to acquire was weapons repair. If she was going to be used as part of boarding team she might as well be able to keep her team weapons in tip top shape. She wanted to help the techs out as much as she could, if she could keep weapons repair away from them all they would have to worry about was the ship. Alyson decided to pay Con a visit, as the most experienced weapons specialist in the team she figured he might be able to give her some pointers.
On their first night in Port Loren, Siu-Ling joins Mack O'Malley and Borovski in the first of several carousing sessions through the clubs and bars of the city and during the course of the evening the three combat veterans begin to develop their Body Speak skills. According to Borovski and Siu-Ling it began when O'Malley was trying to order drinks in a very loud night club. The imposing warrior using hand signals to communicate across the noisy club while Borovski and Siu-Ling frustrated his efforts with their lack of knowledge of what O'Malley considered to be a fundamental combat skill.
For the rest of the evening and using this story to justify several more marathon drinking sessions, O'Malley instructed his two new protégées in the fine art of Body Speak, or as Borovski prefers to call it, "How-to-get-loaded-without-saying-a-word Speak"
Every time Con turns on the holovid, he sees Charletta's report. Tired of all the attention, part of him feels that he did not work hard enough to get her to leave the team alone, but part of him regrets giving her a hard time. Con justifies it to himself by knowing he is protecting the team and the mission. If it were all to get out, it would ruin someone's grand agenda and he felt bound to protect it. To relieve the stress Con heads out to the weapons range. He manages a lot of practice till one day the trigger fails to work. With practice prematurely over, Con returns to his hotel. Again...the report. She's pretty but has the tenacity of a hell hound. Disgusted he switches off the holovid. Con grabs the laser pistol and takes the weapon apart. With parts of his laser pistol spread all over the bed, Con gets to work on the firing mechanism. He just about has it fixed when there is a knock at the door. Con opens the door to find Alyson in the hallway, she in turn spies Con's weapon in pieces, scattered across his bed.
"It looks like we were both thinking the same thing?" She says, stepping into the room.
Over the next few weeks the pair get together for regular sessions stripping, cleaning and re-assembling the teams various weapons and learning what they can do to try and repair weapons in the field, mostly by cannibalising other weapons or temporary adjustments and modifications to their arsenal. When Kane and O'Malley learn of their weapons familiarisation sessions they too join Con and Alyson as the combat team teach themselves the basic operations of virtually all Frontier weapons. O'Malley's knowledge of almost every weapon available to the team is invaluable in these sessions as he demonstrates his prowess with each weapon in the BHG arsenal. Borovski makes an appearance at several of the weapons repair group training sessions but is quickly bored with the smell of gun oil and cleaning agents and promptly disappears to the local Sensorium to clear the smell of cleaning chemicals from his pores.
Departing the market, Kane notices the General Store and decides to make a quick stop by and pick up a little something that he wished he had had on their previous adventure. His detour took no time at all and Kane soon reaches his next stop, the Library.
Requesting a course catalogue from a librarian, Kane enrols in a Physics course with a time and start date exactly to his liking. After completing the transaction for his academic training, Kane then exits the building, making his way over to the Offworld Clothing store.
Bouncing around Port Loren Doog picked up a new skien and albedo suit as well as IR goggles and some standard SEU clips. To himself he grumbled at the cost of the ammo,
"I should really see about requisitioning all my ammo through the BHG!"
Once inside the clothing shop, Kane approaches the yazirian behind the counter, and requests 3 military skeinsuits in black. Remembering Kane from his previous visit, the proprietor informs him that she already has his information on file. Nodding in approval, Kane withdraws his credit card to complete the transaction, adding in a few more credits to have the suits delivered to his room at the Stellar Towers. Taking his leave, he then makes his way over to the Spacer's Rest.
Nodding to the yazirian bartender as he enters the establishment, Kane takes a seat at the bar and orders a drink. Recalling the proprietors name, Kane quickly arranges to receive a couple levels of projectile weapons training over the next few weeks. Satisfied that he has now completed all the errands he has set for himself, Kane prepares to depart. However, just as Kane nears the exit, he overhears a group conversation that catches his attention.
"I tell you, the Frontier ain't what it use to be for the honest businessman try to make his way, is it lads?" Says an obscenely overweight human in the centre of a group of his fellow spacers. A chorus of Nay's and No's fill the room.
"Doesn't matter if your Corporate or Independent, things are getting rough for us in the transportation business." Says another.
"Just when I thought I had things were finally starting to fall into place for me and my freighter hauling business, the waste hits the air recycler. Now I'm back to square one." Another over-weight human says, this one wearing the ill-fitting corporate uniform of a starship captain.
"Damn the Federation for turning a blind eye to the way these mega-corps are doing business." Adds a yazirian female wearing engineering coveralls. "We barely broken even after this last freight run. Corporate operational expenses and administrative fees my arse. This one drink is about all I can afford to buy right now!" That remark was also met with a chorus of ayes and affirmatives from the assemblage.
Always one to recognize an opportunity, Kane makes his entrance and introductions.
"Pardon me good fellows, I couldn't help but overhear your lamentations over a recent bit of bad luck." Says Kane as he approaches the edge of the groups circle. "Do you all mind sharing some food and a drink or two with a former spacehand who is looking to get back into the freight business?" Without waiting for their consent, Kane pulls up a chair and takes a seat. "Bartender, another round of drinks for my all companions here. And some food too." Kane removes his credit card from his jacket's inner pocket. "My treat of course."
At the mention of free food and drinks, the group quickly extends their camaraderie to include Kane. And over the next several hours of eating, drinking, and commiserating, Kane learns more about the hazards and pitfalls of running a transport operation across the Frontier, than if he were to spend the next several years researching every successful business operations of every mega-corp in the Federation. So when Kane finally takes his leave of the Spacers, he has amassed more than enough useful information to more than make up for the credits he spent to wine and dine the group.
After all the good-byes have been said and the hands/paws/pseudopods have been shook, Kane exits the building. Taking a moment to collect himself, he switches off the small holo-recorder he was concealing.
"Good thing I had the foresight to pick this up while I was over by the market earlier." says Kane to himself as he starts heading back to the Stellar Towers. "There was just too much useful information said for me to have simply remembered. I think I'll write this evening up in a report and submit it to Jameson and xZot. Maybe even present it to the gang as a future a business venture for the VTC to take up." Stepping up his pace, Kane soon reaches the hotel, but decides to first get some rest and freshen up before doing anything else.
Raid spends his spare time in Port Loren split between the library and the computer tower doing quite a bit of personal research. Initially Raid concentrates on gaining a Level Three Technical ticket.
"You need a good solid trade to fall back on." His father used to tell him when he was a youngster, but his natural aptitude for things technical sometimes left him wanting and so like his father, he began to push the learning envelope.
He delved deeply into physics, the profession of his father, yearning to understand the true nature of the physical world and reality itself. He spent many hours on physics computer simulations and theory, even studying what is known of void space and temporal mechanics. When Doog learned of Raid's new search for knowledge in the arena of theoretical physics, he happily took the budding (every pun intended, Doog gets hours of self-gratification from that private joke) physicist under his pseudowing.
These studies get Raid thinking about why he exists and where the universe came from. He accidentally bumps into a dralasite philosopher who was reaching for the same book at the library one day. The two of them begin a discussion that goes long into the night and the dralasite invites Raid to attend a meeting of his local philosophers guild. Raid is soon attending their meetings three times a week and staying up late to study in their private library, a museum of philosophic and theological texts from around the Frontier. He immerses his mind in a world of contemplative thought and deep questions that have been asked by generations of dralasites, vrusk, yazirians and humans like himself that have gone before. Before he knows it, he has learned quite a bit of history on these subjects and become an unofficial expert on Frontier theological matters. The philosophy guild has contacts with many similar groups throughout the Frontier. Raid learns more than enough about many of them and gets a general knowledge of the rest.
As Doog begins to tutor Raid in the basics of a Physics Certification he realises the value of learning whilst teaching and begins to expand his own knowledge base, visiting the library often with his new pupil and then beginning to search out new avenues to further his own learning. As Doog prepares his student for the Entry Level Physics Certificate he decides to upgrade his own Certificate and immerses himself in the quest for knowledge.
While the rest of the team spend their time shopping, training or on more leisurely activities, X'anthe spends almost her entire time on Prenglar with her eyes glued to a computer monitor or out on scientific field trips as she begins her studies to gain a Certification in Zoology and simultaneously upgrading her Environmentalist qualifications. Sn'iktl on the other hand indulges in his hobbies, playing with the latest medical equipment at the Port Loren Hospital where he worked as a volunteer consultant or treading the boards at the local amateur theatre. Surprisingly Sn'iktl managed to actually acquire some notoriety among the local theatrical community and even managed to drag several members of the BHG to a Variety Night held to raise funds for the children's section of the hospital.
While sitting in his hotel room between training sessions in Port Loren, Con flipped through the channels on the holovid. All the days of his weapon training left him with no time to play. Bored with that he could find in the rooms' computer, he did a quick search of the White Light system. It was home to him for a while when he was a kid and brings back memories of when he had a family, all the happy memories of tagging along with his father as he faced the King's enemies and made space safer for the proud people of the system. In his research he learned about the current monarch, who is the Duke of this and the Duchess of that and how they are related to the King. He researches the courtiers and other prominent people including members of the wealthy, the celebutantes and the lives of the average citizen. He sees White Light as a place far enough away if he ever wanted to walk away from this life and all the high adventures that comes with it. In a seemingly short time Con become quite an expert on White Light Society.
Since she had read up on Frontier weapon laws, Alyson had developed more than a passing interest in other aspects of the law. She figured she would read up on other laws now that she had some free time in Port Loren so Ally got herself a bunch of Law books and datapads from the library. While she had some down time from her training she sat in her room reading everything from local customs to what is legal and illegal, salvage rights,and mining rights. Ally want to make sure she had a handle on things. X'anthe began to tutor the aspiring lawyer when she discovered Alyson's legal bent, preparing her to take online tests to test her skill about the law. Ally want to make sure she could be useful if needed and X'anthe was only too happy to help. Alyson was looking forward to help the VTC in the ways of law, she couldn't wait to use these new skills when the VTC were preparing contracts for the purchase of their new ships.
While the rest of the BHG were undergoing formal training programs, Gleep spent much of his time in the markets of Port Loren haggling. So much so that he began to develop quite a knack for bargaining merchants down. Whether he was simply grocery shopping or helping the VTC engage professional services for their new space freight venture or even hiring crew, Gleep's skills were becoming more pronounced and on the big ticket items, more valuable. The wily dral was even beginning to earn a reputation as a tough negotiator in the market places of Port Loren, so much so that some merchants were groaning aloud at the sight of the VTC contract negotiator when he appeared in their stalls.
With the completion of his training regimen, Kane decides to enjoy the remainder of his downtown in Port Loren. Activating the wall mounted holovid set of his hotel room, Kane decides to catch up on the latest happenings from around the Federation. After a few minutes of net surfing, Kane soon comes to the realization that "nothing" has really changed despite the amount of time that has passed due to cyrostasis.
"The only thing that seems to ever change in the Federation these days are the faces." He says to himself as he watches an interview with a local politician. A few minutes into the interview, he realizes that this candidate is just spewing rhetoric in hopes to curry favour with his electorate.
"What a load of bovine solid waste!" Exclaims Kane as he shuts off the holovid monitor in disgust. "Don't these people know that it's so obvious to the people that their just playing games?" It is then that he is struck with a thought. "There could be a few opportunities for the VTC in these 'games' that politicians play. So I need to know more than just what games they are playing. I also need to keep up on who the latest players are." He says to himself as he prepares himself for a little outdoor excursion.
Along the way of his trek down the streets of Port Loren, Kane notices the holo-sign of a store having a clearance sale. Taking a few minutes to inspect the inventory offered, Kane sees the occasional bargain mostly in the form of the obsolete and outdated. Seeing a nearby store keep, Kane makes a couple of inquiries.
"Why the bargain on this gyro jet pistol?" he asks.
"Its an Imperial Astartes Mk II model." Replied the store keep. "Meaning it's old, so parts are hard to come by these days. As are finding those able to service them." Nodding at the shop keep's words, Kane sets the weapon down and continues on his way, promising himself that he will become certified in weapons repair as well once his crash courses in Federation politics is over.
Frontier Date 54.396
Five weeks later, Con completes his training. "Con, my boy, I have taught you all I know. There is nothing left for me to teach you. If you take care of your weapon, she'll take care of you! Good luck to you, Con Anderson."
"Thank you Horraad! I'll remember that always!"
Frontier Date 55.006
A week after Con finishes his training he is celebrating with fellow members of the BHG, several of whom have been drinking solidly since the New Years Eve party 6 days earlier. In the bar of the Port Loren Space Port, the current watering hole for the party animals. The bar's loud music stops as vid screens flash into life around the bar. Appearing on their screens is a view of a stately hall with a podium at one end.
"Today the distinguished scientist and philanthropist Dr. Jack Legrange was awarded the Fulbourn-McCoy Prize for his contribution to bio- engineering."
After a few moments, during which the bar tender asks for silence the vision changes. Dr. Legrange, a middle aged human, approaches the podium and accepts the prize from one of the officials. As is customary, he turns to face the crowd to make a speech.
"Thank you for the honour you have bestowed upon me, I am most grateful and pleased that my work has been recognised. I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the planet of Kraatar, my home world where the Humans are being ruthlessly exploited by the Vrusk. The creatures have been undermining Human rights on Kraatar. They must be stopped, this cannot be allowed to go on, for the galaxy..."
The picture is suddenly blacked out as an official sounding Vrusk voice makes an announcement,
"Due to technical failure, we are unable to continue this broadcast, we will meanwhile play you some music..."
The Yazirian bartender switches the tri-vid off, muttering about the terrible decline in the quality of service recently.
A day after this incident it is not a hangover that causes Con to groan but rather the approach of his old nemesis, Charletta Komitz. The reporter turns up her nose at the reek of alcohol emanating from Con and his companions but that does not deter her from her course.
"I am trying to get an interview with Jack Legrange. Following his outburst at the awards ceremony, Legrange has refused to speak further but a press statement has been issued by him." Charletta hands over a copy of the press release.
Statement from the office of Jack Legrange, Director of Trojan Enterprises.
Today I had the honour of receiving the Fulbourn-McCoy Prize for bio-electronic engineering. During my speech I spoke about the continued threat posed by the Vrusk to the people of Kraatar. Unfortunately the broadcast was interrupted by the Vrusk responsible for running the local tri-vid network. Therefore I wish to inform you of the rest of my speech.
The Vrusk in the Frontier are a menace to us all. Their presence leads to an undermining of all that we hold sacred. Where the Vrusk have appeared, basic Human, Yazirian and Dralasite freedoms have been curtailed. They have come to hold all the key executive and administrative positions on my home world of Kraatar, and are attempting to subjugate the spirit of my people, as well as steal my planet's wealth. The Vrusk regime on Kraatar is oppressive and must be changed. I am returning to Kraatar to speak out against their presence and organise a protest against the Vrusk stranglehold of my home world.
"Legrange, not unlike Con here, is notorious for his dislike of journalists and since he travels everywhere with his bodyguards, I want to hire you as back up, in case of trouble." Charletta looks round the table at her audience. "Legrange is scheduled to leave for Kraatar in two days, on board the space liner The Golden Dawn. I would also like you to help me investigate Legrange's activities on Kraatar. I am authorised to pay you travel expenses and offer you 5,000 credits each.
"Oh it's you again! I thought I left you back on Volturnus!" Con announces "What's the matter? Got bored with Captain Fancy Pants and his starship?" After letting Charletta roll her eyes at him and listening to her proposal, Con grabs her by the arm and drags, letting her collide slightly into O'Malley, messing up his sign language signals causing Doog and Ally more confusion. Con walks up to Raid with the shaken and not stirred reporter in tow. Silently to Raid the enforcer says as he pulls Charletta in front of him and placing his arms around her waist and resting his head on her shoulder.
"Look, I told you she found me irresistible! The lady and I are going to take a walk. Give us about a half hour and then meet us in my hotel room. It's about a job, if it sounds legit, she will tell us what she knows in detail, if she is setting us up...well, I am sure we can find a way for her to become an embarrassment to her network!" Squeezing her gently. "You wouldn't do that to us, right Sweetie?"
"Take your hands off me you ape!" Charletta declares as she shrugs off Con's grip. Her exclamation loud enough to draw attention from the barmen and several patrons. Con quickly relaxes his stance before turning to Raid.
"Maybe have one of the others find out some intel on Legrange and on the local government on Kraatar?" Con asks his Co-Commander.
"I guess you have your hands full with the news lady?" Raid asks as he nods toward the barman, allaying any concerns from their audience. "She seems trustworthy and the message from Legrange is just disturbing enough to get me interested. But yeah, I'll have to do some research on Kraatar."
"What are you afraid of Komitz?" Con demands. "What makes you think you need someone watching your pretty little bum? Any gun for hire can do that." Con asks as the rest of the bar forgets their argument as quickly as it started. "Charletta, what makes you think that there is anything to these allegations? How do you know he is not some eccentric racist with the usual fear of Vrusks? I am assuming you have done some research into this?"
Charletta Komitz sighs and orders a drink from the barman before ignoring Con and turning to Raid. "I can go as high as 8,000 credits per head and hire up to 6 of your team to accompany me to Kraatar. That's my best offer."
"Please understand, Charletta, we are not your average mercenaries." Con replies, barely suppressing the anger that the reporter has turned her back on him. "We work against some heavy duty, nasty bad guys. We don't take any job lightly, but we don't baby-sit! What do you have on Legrange that you think you need our help?" But the reporter does little more than glance at Con and the other members of the BHG present before she finishes her drink, hands Raid her business card and struts out of the Spaceport Bar.
Ally asks as she watches Con fuming and the reporter walk out.
"Raid what do you think? Civil wars can be a pain to fight. Tactics alone will be hard. You don't want to hurt the people to get at the people who have the power. Military targets, control of power plants, comms. stations would be a target you want to people to see what is going on. Looks like we have to think this one out before we even get there."
"I think we'll have to do some investigating before getting deeply involved, but then we could still get into trouble for asking to many questions. There are those who don't like investigations." Raid replies and Ally says,
"Also we have to think about how we would get on planet. If they are using a heavy hand, I bet weapon restrictions will be in place. We might have to think of way to get on the surface commando style."
The party breaks up as the team members go their respective ways, agreeing to meet again the next day at the hotel bar. Raid does a quick survey of local news from Kraatar, and he checks some Kraatar tour guides for any tips or historical titbits he can glean from them before rejoining Con at the hotel the next day.
Ally also was feeling the pain from having too much to drink. After spending her time with the law books, getting a bit better with her gyrojet weapon and learning what she could on keeping them on the up and up. She knew it was time to let go and forget what she saw from the last mission. She woke up with one hell of a hangover but it did do her some good. She smiled as she shuffled off to the shower and says,
"I needed that. Learn from it and get stronger." She already was planning what skills she wanted to pick up next time they were in port. ZeroG and small unit tactics if she was going to board ships and protect them might as well learn the skills to do it. With her new insight and the pain away from her she knew she was ready.
After getting out of the shower, Ally gets dressed and then walks out of her room. She is going shopping for more things she needed. Rope, IR goggles, solvent, water and food.
"Oooh, my brain hurts!" said Doog to no one in particular.
"Heh, boyo, you're hungover." responded Harvey. Doog had gone drinking with Harvey and his fellow Yazirian Civil War re-enactors on his last night in Port Loren. It appeared he had gotten so drunk that he had flopped at Harvey's place.
"I got to catch a shuttle. Sorry Harv, gotta get moving."
"Re-hydrate, it will help." Harvey had a squeeze bulb full of his 'patented hangover cure' and sent Doog off with it. He skulked through checkout and clearing his room at the hotel before taking a cab to the star port. By the time he reached the star port he was feeling better and suddenly noticed a smudged chronocom number written on his underarm with the tag line 'call me'. It turned out that there was two other numbers written in makeup on his body as well. "Got to get this stuff off before I run into any of the other team members!"
Gleep is glad to have something to think about other than counting tiles on the ceiling. He recieves a data package overnight from xZot back on Volturnus with some good news for Kane, Doog and Alyson.
Frontier Date 55.007
At the meeting in the hotel bar the next day Gleep informs the team of the datapackage he recieved from Volturnus.
"Funds have been transferred to the credit accounts for Kane, Alyson and Doog, pay for their active service while in the employ of the VTC since Kane joined the group on the Starship Omicron and for Doog and Alyson for their active service since joining the team on Alcazzar.
"What does all this equate too?" Kane asks upon checking his account balance.
"From what I can work out," Gleep answers "You have all been paid your standard rate for each day of active servie. Which is every day you've been awake for. 236 days for Kane and 110 days each for Alyson and Doog. xZot and the others are still calculating the cost of defensive measures that are currently being undertaken at the Volturnus facilities." Gleep explains further to the team assembled in the hotel bar.
"It seems all weapons other than pistols and melee weapons are illegal on Kraatar." Alyson reports after checking up on local laws. "Anyone found in possesion of other weapons will be arrested, have their weapons confiscated and be fined 500 credits each."
"According to the Frontier databases," Raid adds further "Jack Legrange is the head of Trojan Enterprises, a Frontier wide corporation. Born on Kraatar, where he studied for his doctorate. After leaving Kraatar, he formed Trojan Enterprises and has spent the last 20 years researching and developing bio-engineering techniques. Legrange has been known to speak out against the Vrusk, particularly their way of organising their lives and industry. He has often been quoted as saying "only insects could possibly live like Vrusk." Raid flicks to another datasheet in his briefing material.
"Trojan Enterprises based at Lossend in the Timeon system. Trojan Enterprises is a Frontier wide company involved in bio-engineering and limb regeneration. It has offices on most Frontier worlds and is reknowned for its philanthropic work with underpriviledged Humans, Dralasites and Yazirians." Flipping to a third datasheet Raid continues. "Our lovable reporter has provided cover identities for us as recently hired employees of Sik'Triksta, the Vrusk trade house specialising in transport on Kraatar. I also have this map file from the Kraatar Tourist Board, http://www.technomage.com.au/U.P.F/Frontier/Tristkar/Kraatar/kraatar.html And this file from the UPF System Survey database, http://www.technomage.com.au/U.P.F/Frontier/Tristkar/tristkar.html
"The Golden Dawn leaves for Kraatar tomorrow, so we have 20 hours to finalise our lineup and organise our equipment. So far it looks like me, Con, Alyson, Gleep and Doog." Raid informs the assembled BHG members. "If anyone else wants to sign up we will try and get a back-up team on board the Golden Dawn as tourists."
Frontier Date 55.007
After going over the files Ally asks, "Raid I do have couple of questions. One is what do we have on RIK they have been hiring of late but what type of personnel have they been picking up? Also Sik'Triksta, what do have on them since it is our cover? Plus are we able to bring in screens? I did check out the laws for weaponry, only pistols and melee weapons are allowed, I found nothing about screens and power packs. I wouldn't want to land and find out we are in jail for carrying too much power and screens."
Doog sends a message to the team commanders,
"Are we going in legit, as per the laws on weapons or are we going to smuggle in heavy artillery?"
Con offers to the group that maybe we should not look like a bunch of hired thugs.
"For now dress in civvies when you move around the ship. I think we should have one guy on Charletta at all times. Vrusks and an alleged vrusk hater, may not be a good thing. When you cover Charletta, keep a distance. If she is in one of those reporter scrums, keep your eyes peeled and stay close. When she settles down for the night, I want someone outside her cabin. We will work like this until she says otherwise. We also need to keep in mind the rules and the planetary laws. I would like our ship to show up a day or to after we arrive so we have heavy weapons handy if we need them. Also, we are only to use martial arts, so maybe in your down time get some practice to keep your skills sharp! Raid, anything to add?"
Ally smiles when she hears the part about keeping her martial arts skills up. She asks,
"Heck I would love to spar with anyone when I can. Heck someone could teach me a thing or two in the process." Then drops the smile and says, "Con should we try and use any contacts in port that could give us any more about what is going on? We do know there is a Vrusk store here maybe someone was talking about what is going on?"
"Sure Ally," Con replies, "If you can pick up any kind of intel that may get our hands on will be of use. I'm not expecting any trouble on the way out there, but having Vrusks and an alleged Vrusk hater on board the same ship, one can never tell."
"Sirs, can I have a word?" Doog approaches the captains privately. "The first part is; in light of the under cover nature of this mission, it occurred to me that I could get copies of the entry level optics course and bone up on them on the trip. I should have just enough time and then I could pass myself off as a camera tech. This reporter will expect us to put a man on her at all times but since she's never interacted with me directly she's not likely to realize I'm part of the team. The trick will be to intercept her camera tech on his way to the star port and have me turn up at the last minute with forged papers and an explanation of her regular tech being in the hospital with Ballousian flu. Honestly, I bet she's the type that treats a camera tech like a piece of furniture. All I'd have to do is keep my mouth shut and she'd never know I wasn't really in the news biz. I could stay in touch with the team via chronocom and avoid talking to you in front of her. Maybe I'm whistling in the dark but I don't feel like she's someone I'd totally trust and I would expect her to try to give us the slip if it suited her but she'd never go anywhere without her camera tech. We could even allow her to think she's slipped her watch dogs even though you'd be close by because I'd keep you informed."
Doog, that's brilliant! Go with it. She might have a camera tech already. If she does, we can get him out of the way and have you do that. Go with it."
"Aye, Aye, Captain...Just one more thing though, I checked the personnel records of the team for someone with forgery skills to keep this in house and I couldn't find any. Has the team used forged papers in the past and do we have a 'guy' we go to?"
"I don't recall ever using forged papers on a job before. They could have been useful for this one. Nope, we don't have a person that does that kind of work on the payroll."
"Oow, need to get a decent press pass on short time. I wonder what would be the best bar to start asking careful questions in about forged papers? Or should we just come clean with this reporter about our plan to guard her round the clock? After all she'd have easy access to the required press credentials. At least the wide field holo-vid recorder is pretty easy to buy. I would love to have had the time to tinker with one so that it had an IR scanning capability added. Camera ids can point cameras everywhere and with an IR scanner built into the camera you could be assessing hidden threats while playing camera id."
"Let's not try to get too clever people." Raid suggests. "Charletta might be a reporter but she isn't stupid. She may have already identified Doog as a member of our team so we will just advise her that he will be her camera operator for the mission."
After reading the data for everyone, Gleep heads back to his lodging and packs what he needs to take. His gyrojet pistol and a machete will make their way into what he carries. He also takes a civilian skeinsuit (if he doesn't have one, he will buy one) and a couple belt packs as well as an albedo screen.
Frontier Date 55.008
The next morning Ally prepares for the team's next mission. After getting out of the shower she gets dressed and then walks out of her room. She is going shopping for things she needed. "Rope, IR goggles, solvent, water and food." She runs through her check list as she exits the hotel and heads down to the CBD of Port Loren.
Later, when the team assemble at the space port with Charletta, Con approaches the reporter.
"Charletta, someone will be near you at all times and outside your cabin door during the night. If anything, I mean if anything, doesn't feel right or if you feel you are in danger, or if you hear something is about to go down, go to whatever BHG member is with you at the time and let them know."
The reporter arches her eyebrow, considers a retort and then decides to accept what would appear to pass for an olive branch from Con.
"Sure thing." She replies
When Con isn't on his shift keeping an eye on Charletta he checks out what is going on and looking for any intelligence that might be of use. The rest of the team join Con and Raid at the starport and board the Golden Dawn with the rest of the passengers. Mack O'Malley, Borovski and Sn'iktl also board the liner in a separate group posing as tourists and avoiding contact with Charletta and the rest of the BHG to fit their cover identities.
At the starport, Legrange boards the Golden Dawn with his body guards. Several vrusk executives, Charletta and her new 'associates' comprise the full compliment of the ship's passengers. When the passengers board the ship their baggage is searched by the Dralasite steward. All weapons, screens and armour are stored in the ship's hold. The steward then shows the passengers to their cabins.
An hour after the passengers have boarded the ship, it lifts off from the starport and begins acceleration towards Kraatar. Charletta encourages her new 'friends' to make the initial approaches to Legrange and assess his mood, but for all the first day he stays in his cabin. His bodyguards watch the door at all times, working in shifts and allowing no-one to enter.
Frontier Date 55.009
From the second day of the voyage, Legrange is often in the lounge , playing games or reading. In the evenings he can be found in the bar. he is accompanied at all times by his two bodyguards who keep a wary eye on the vrusk executives and Sn'iktl whenever they are present.
Despite Charletta's encouragement, the various members of the BHG seem reluctant to engage Legrange directly in any kind of discourse and by day three the reporter takes it upon herself to approach Legrange for an interview. Much to her surprise, Jack Legrange readily agrees to an interview and the rest of the passengers (except the vrusks) are all invited to attend the recording.
Charletta's style is free flowing and covers wide range of subjects, she apparently relies on a good editing team to produce her finished reports. During the interview Legrange becomes quite passionate about his homeworld.
"Vrusks are enslaving humans; the humans have no choice but to work for the vrusk in their factories or indirectly on the farms. Humans are treated as second class citizens; no human holds a managerial post, all have low jobs in the hierarchy." Legrange declares at one point in the interview. When questioned about the vrusk trade houses he is again quite passionate, describing Vist'Lat as,
"By far the most rapacious trade house on Kraatar. They have even carried out vigilante raids against humans." He expounds. As the interview approaches it's end, Charletta presses home her investigation, asking about his connections with the Fulbourn-McCoy board of trustees.
Legrange is very offended by the question and terminates the interview immediately. This behaviour merely serves to arouse Charletta's suspicions even further. After the interview, Charletta gives the video recording to Con for safe keeping.
The Golden Dawn continues it's journey to Timeon, White Light, Theseus and finally on to Tristkar.
Frontier Date 55.041
As the Golden Dawn nears Kraatar, passengers are invited onto the bridge to watch the approach manoeuvres. Legrange and his bodyguards are also present on the bridge when the BHG arrive for the show. The Golden Dawn passes close to Tivalla, the nearest of Kraatar's two moons.
The bridge is humming with activity as the crew make the final approach manoeuvres. Through the view screen can be seen a large black void set against the backdrop of stars. Light begins to appear at one edge as the ship alters it's course. Soon more of the light side of the moon comes into view. Suddenly the whole of space is illuminated by a flash of light from the dark side. The crew frantically flick switches as the captain shouts out orders.
"Get me the starport on Kraatar!" The Captain shouts to his comms officer. When he is patched through to the starport the Captain tells the radio operator at the starport that there has been an explosion on the dark side of the moon. "It looks like the Shomtz Mining Colony." He explains, before continuing his approach procedure.
As final approach is made, the bridge is cleared of all passengers. They are told by the steward that they will be landing at Gozzorf starport shortly and to meet by the airlock in 2 hours time, ready to disembark. When the team arrive at the airlock, they find their baggage from the hold already there. As the ship docks the passengers may access their luggage.
The starship touches down an all goes quiet as it's motors cut out. The airlock begins to hum as it slowly opens to reveal a bright pink sky and orange-yellow sun. Before you lies the starport with it's administrative tower and landing bays. A ground transport is moving towards the ship and parked by the landing ramp are a ground car and a cycle. At the bottom, stand three uniformed vrusk, one of whom holds a hand computer.
The approaching ground transport contains two vrusk maintenance personnel. They park the transport near the landing ramp and begin to inspect the ship's landing gear. The three vrusk waiting at the bottom of the ramp are customs officials. As Charletta and her team leave the ship the customs officials politely ask for names and ID cards, enter the data into their hand computer and await a reply from the main computer. This is merely a formality which delay's the passengers a few minutes. Charletta expresses a desire to have a final word with Legrange and so she waits at the base of the landing ramp. The customs officials meanwhile direct the rest of the team to the Administrative block where their baggage is to be checked before they are allowed to leave the starport.
As Legrange moves onto the landing ramp, a flash of laser light comes from the direction of the Administration block , striking Legrange. At the same moment, the two Vrusk executives appear in the airlock and both throw grenades at Legrange and his bodyguards. Legrange, the bodyguards and Charletta are all caught in the blast radius of the grenades...
Sitting in her new quarters at Mawson's rest, X'anthe, the Environmental specialist of the Volturnus Trading Company, taps away at a computer terminal completing the copy for the add she is about to begin posting in employment agencies across the Frontier.
"An exciting new project is now being launched in the Zebulon system by the Volturnus Trading Company. Experts in the field of environmental sciences, including zoological, botanical and animal handling fields are highly sought. Specialist security and medical personnel are also required. If the excitement of a big game hunt for scientific purposes appeals to you then contact X'anthe Trebourux of the VTC now for an interview. All applicants must be available to relocate to Volturnus for a minimum 200 day GST contract."
X'anthe smiles and nods to herself then hits 'send' to begin the recruitment phase of her new project.
"Better check up on the boys' progress." She says to herself as she gets up to leave her quarters. Strolling through the refurbished complex, X'anthe exits the building through the garage so survey the landscape work that Crisbel and Gloo have been working on. With transplanted mining equipment from Brucebane, the two had levelled several hundred meters of land and then cleverly disguised several security features, into what is to become a garden, surrounding the old pirate outpost. Several security robots and service robots specialising in gardening were also patrolling the enlarged grounds, converting the local terrain into a living collection of botanical specimens from all across Volturnus. There was even a large water feature that almost surrounded the complex, serving as both a moat and a water supply for the gardens.
X'anthe waves her friends over to let them know her plans.
"I am heading over to Brucebane tomorrow to begin hiring staff for my new zoo. I'll see you there when you are finished laying things out here."
"No problem." Gloo replies. "We should have this wrapped up in a day or two, then we can get started on the refurb for Brucebane."
"Yeah." Nods Crisbel. "We will see you in Brucebane in a couple of days."
Surprised by the totally unexpected attack, the members of the BHG are caught flatfooted when the pair of vrusk executives hurl two more grenades at their victims. Both of Legrange's wounded bodyguards manage to avoid the worst effects of the second pair of grenades but their civilian skiensuits are shredded by the blast and both men are severely injured. Sadly their charge, Legrange, is not so fortunate as his lifeless body is flung to the ground like a rag doll. Charletta Komitz is also caught in the second barrage of explosions, her body collapsing beside the subject of her recently aborted interview.
Doog was fidgeting with the camera, still wondering if he looked like a real camera id when the blast knocked him flat. He was still holding the camera while his third pseudoarm was searching for a weapon but his gaze was on Charletta,
"Better stay in character," he thought, "after all the rest of the team are far better shots than I am!" Doog pans across the site of the explosion with the camera then on a whim rolls and twists his body to pan the camera 360 degrees without standing up. "Maybe the camera will catch something we can analyse after," he said to himself. He zooms in on the site of the explosion and pans for another 360 hoping to catch something in the holocamera when the second pair of explosions rip through the scene, adding to the carnage.
"Sniper!" The dralasite tech cries out as he points across the starport in the direction of Legrange's assassin.
Raid reacts immediately, pulling out his laser pistol while running over to the cycle parked nearby. He takes cover behind the cycle and looks for a clear target, firing two laser blasts in the direction of the assassin Doog has alerted everyone to. At long range his firing is mostly wishful thinking but it does alert the rest of the team as to the location of their foe.
Gleep draws his gyrojet pistol and opens fire at the pair of vrusk grenadiers, his third shell striking an unprotected executive (8 points).
His usual cool, calm and collected self, Mack O'Malley springs into action. Drawing his automatic pistol, O'Malley hoses the pair of vrusks with a burst of lead (12 points).
Con's first reaction is to rush to Charletta, knock her to the floor and cover her but the second grenade does part of the job for him. Once the shrapnel stops flying, Con stands over the fallen reporter and opens fire at the vrusk executives. His first shot (33 points) drops the vrusk already wounded by Gleep, his second shot (28 points) drops the remaining vrusk executive before the bodyguards can even return fire themselves.
Ally sees the explosions take out the reporter and Legrange. She knows there isn't anything anyone can do for Charletta so she pulls out her two pistols, a gyrojet and a laser pistol. Taking aim at the assassin, Ally fires her laser pistol set to 5 SEU's per shot but also misses her target.
Still playing his role as a regular passenger, Borovski dives among the luggage and peers around the bags and suitcases, looking for anymore threats. The scene around the landing pad is chaos as wounded and dying passengers exchange fire in the shadow of the Golden Dawn. Across the landing zone, 70 meters away, the vrusk assassin races to a waiting ground car.
With the Vrusk executives down, Allyson races toward the parked vehicles, climbing into the drivers seat of the ground car. Seeing the immediate danger has passed, Borovski bounces over to the downed vrusks and relieves them of their remaining weapons, a laser pistol each.
After spotting the assassin, Doog zooms the camera in on the vehicle's registration plate then tries to get a good image of the assassin's face. All the while he's calling out,
"Assassin with laser rifle leaving in ground car!" Doog jumps up and runs a few steps toward the car and draws his weapon with his third hand. With his eye spot glued the camera he doesn't try to shoot but focuses on getting good enough video to identify the assassin with. Raid reacts in the same nanosecond, starts the ignition and jams his foot on the accelerator of the ground cycle while O'Malley turns to see if he can render assistance to the fallen.
Twisting around, Gleep sees the team climbing into vehicles as the sniper's ground car begins to drive away from the landing pad. The Dral technician turns and heads for the remaining vehicle, the covered ground truck.
Con checks on Charletta and calls the BHG medic over for immediate medical attention.
"I've got her." O'Malley nods at Con. "Go! Get the bastards!" Con nods silently, struggling with his emotions at the loss of yet another woman in his life. Yes Charletta was not his lover, she was not exactly a friend either, but she was his asset to protect and he didn't accept failure nonchalantly. Con turns and races for the nearest vehicle as the assassins ground car begins to accelerate east out of the landing zone.
Raid races his ground cycle across the landing pads as the assassins groundcar approaches the security barrier to the east. As the groundcar approaches the security barrier the barrier is raised. Before Raid can even articulate a silent question he gets his answer. A delivery truck approaching from the opposite direction has caused the barrier to be raised. The assassin's car swerves around the opening barrier and the oncoming truck as Raid throws his cycle into a sharp turn but he almost looses control of the cycle when he tries to turn to fast.
Behind Raid, Alyson too has her pedal to the metal as she urges the appropriated groundcar toward the security barrier with Con and Gleep bringing up the rear in the covered truck...
As his team mates give chase to the assassins, Gleep calls to Raid on his chronocom
"Keep an eye on the perp. No sense in getting yourself shot up until we get there, then it is no holds barred." He then tries tapping into local news to see what goes out there. "Best to know who says what and how it is said," he says to Con. "You never know what you can read into how someone says something."
Seeing the main threat is over, Doog quickly stashes his weapon back in his satchel and resumes his camera person persona. He replaces the memory clip from the camera with a fresh one and starts a running monologue describing the scene and carnage. He walks over trying to sound like a real reporter and get plenty of video. At Charlotta's body he briefly shuts the camera off and tells OMAC under his breath,
"I've stashed the video footage of the assassin who got away, just in case the local authorities try to confiscate it; they'll only get the last bit of video. What do you need?"
"Nothing." O'Malley shakes his head, looking down at Charletta's still form. "There's nothing we can do for her now."
Exiting from the Administration Building opposite the landing pad, a security robot belonging to the RIK security company, advances across the spaceport, a laser rifle in it's arms. As the convoy of vehicles driven by the BHG approaches, the security robot opens fire at the truck. The second blast from the rifle cuts through the engine bay and suddenly Gleep looses control of the vehicle as the truck skids and spins out of control.
Raid continues to follow the assassin's ground car as long as he is able to, but takes Gleep's advice and avoids a gun battle on his own. "They must have a stunt driver behind the wheel," Raid thinks as he ducks below the raised boom gate and hurtles between the buildings. The sound of sirens alerts him to the next obstacle as an ambulance suddenly appears from a side street, heading back toward the landing pad.
Behind Raid, Ally weaves around the boom gate and enters the alley between the buildings only to be confronted by the oncoming ambulance. She swerves sharply and manages to avoid the ambulance but not the Administration building as she skids into the side of the building, slamming the ground car to a violent halt and battering the driver in the process (13 points).
Bellowing with incoherent rage at having been taken out of the pursuit so rapidly, Con levels his laser pistol at the security robot and empties the clip, cursing when he sees the robot's albedo screen flare (8 SEU's).
"Damn it! Let's get this thing moving!...We just started this job and its shot to hell! I let the client get killed! I swear I am going to find them and kill them myself"
Below the Golden Dawn Borovski sees Con's new opponent and reaches for another clip to reload his weapon as he waves for Sn'iktl to care for the fallen.
Battered, bruised and stunned from her collision, Ally struggles to free herself from the disabled ground car and the action plays out around her.
"Does the network have a local office that I can use with my press credentials?" Doog wonders aloud. "I'd like to do a data search and make an extra copy of the stashed video coverage and possibly see if I can get some info or ID on the assassin.?"
Sn'iktl ignores the musings of the dral as he examines the bodies of Legrange and Charletta for any sign of life overlooked by his companions.
Seeing the fire fight across the spaceport between the security robot and Con, O'Malley takes a position between the noncombatants and the enemy and begins to put in supporting fire with his auto pistol, squeezing off three rapid shots at long range.
Instead of looking to put distance between himself and the security robot, Con closes with his enemy, drawing and activating his sonic sword as he does so. His first thrust with the weapon has immediate results (34 points), the robot, unable to fire it's rifle at point blank range, clubs Con with the weapon instead (12 points, half to skiensuit).
Following Con's example, Gleep also closes in on the security robot, but rather than engage the robot in hand to hand combat, he opens fire at short range once more with his gyrojet pistol, striking with his second shell (7 points).
Misjudging the next turn, Raid is forced to brake and slow his cycle to negotiate the next sharp turn as he continues to pursue the fleeing assassins.
Borovski finishes reloading and joins O'Malley covering the noncombatants. Poking O'Malley in the ribs with a pseudo-elbow, Borovski swivels a pair of eye spots towards the melee.
"Shall we go and give the boss a hand?" He asks as he starts to shuffle toward the action.
Switching to new combat protocols, the security robot drops a dose grenade at Con's feet, neutralizing the immediate threat as the human warrior succumbs to the dose gas and collapses on the spot.
Clambering out of the wreckage of her ground car, Allison starts limping down the alleyway, in search of Raid and the escaping assassin's
With Borovski in tow, O'Malley continues to fire his auto pistol as he closes with the security robot. Two of his rounds strike home, adding to the robot's woe's (13 points). Borovski fires a blast from his laser pistol, lighting up the robot's albedo screen (13 SEU's) as the BHG close in for the kill.
Further and further away from the landing pads, Raid is forced to slow down again to negotiate another twist in the assassin's escape route as he desperately tries to stay in touch with their getaway car. He groans with despair when he hears Doog's voice over the chronocom.
"Allison crashed and the truck has been stopped as well." Doog reports. "Looks like you are on your own for now Raid!" In the background Raid can hear the rattle and sizzle of gunfire as the BHG struggle to neutralize the security robot. Another barrage of shells from Gleep's gyrojet pistol rain down and the robot is struck twice more (36 points)
Mack O'Malley strides up directly in front of the robot, raises his pistol and fires his last round into the center mass of his target (8 points)
When Gleep fires off his last round it is the last shot fired in anger by the BFG. The security robot collapses to the ground as O'Malley steps over to Con and quickly revives him with a shot of stimdose.
"Bloody robot buggers..." Con mumbles as he tries to shake off the after effects of the doze grenade
Raid continues to pursue the assassin's until he reaches a gun battle at the exit from the star port between the assassin's and star port security personnel. Raid dismounts the cycle and heeding Doog's earlier advice, takes cover as he watches the combatants trade fire. After a brief exchange of fire there are two sudden popping sounds of explosives and then no more fire is returned from the assassin's. The security guards close in and confirm that both assassin's are dead just as Allison arrives to join Raid.
Minutes later, several vehicles loaded with more RIK security personnel arrive to shepherd the survivors of the ambush into the Administration Building. Once they have been escorted to the Security Wing of the Administration building, the group are relieved of their weapons and their papers are taken for routine checking. They are then taken to a comfortable room where there awaits a uniformed vrusk and a computer terminal.
"I am Ral'Ik'Ka Zzik'Ti, I am in charge of RIK Starport Security." The vrusk introduces himself. "Please accept my sincerest apologies for this tragic incident. We have never experienced anything like this at Gozzorf! We are sorry for the loss of your colleague, Miss Charletta Komitz. We will contact Pan Gal Holo-news and make all arrangements for the return of her body to her homeworld.
We have already discovered the technician who was operating the security robot that attacked your group, however before we could question her she committed suicide by blowing her own head off! Apparently the assassins' died the same way at the Starport gate."
RIK Zzik'Ti is genuinely upset and shocked at the murder of Legrange. Legrange was certainly an outspoken man, but it is not the vrusk way to deal with opposition in such a bloody manner. However, the evidence clearly shows that vrusk were responsible for Legrange's death, and RIK personnel at that.
A chronocom call interrupts RIK Zzik'Ti before he can volunteer any further information and he is called out of the room for a few minutes. When he returns his attitude is quite different, he is abrupt and begins questioning the group closely on what they are doing on Kraatar.
"According to your papers you are supposed to be off world employees of the transport trade house Sik'Triksta, but they have not advertised for offworld workers and apparently they have never heard of any of you. Who are you? And what are you doing on Kraatar?"
Frontier Date 55.041 fy 18:30 hours
VTC Corporate Shuttle on final approach
Planet Volturnus, Zebulon Star System
Once his shuttle craft touched down nearby the Mawson's Rest outpost, Kane grabbed his gear and disembarked the ship, making his way directly to the outpost's science laboratory to see his company's resident bio-social expert. It's been a long while since he has had any real contact with Dr. X'anthe Treborux, not since their heated exchange of words back on Alcazzar sometime ago.
Oh well, now that I am missing out on all the action and adventure along with the rest of the gang this time around, this becomes as good a time as any for us to try and bury the hatchet.
Stopping before the security doors of the company's science lab, Kane takes a minute to prepare himself for a potential resumption of their unfinished verbal battle, and to make sure that his peace offering was within reach. Despite his apprehension, Kane was determined to lay to rest any remaining discord between them. When he felt ready, Kane stepped before the lab's electronic security scanner. Once his identity had been confirmed, the doors opened to allow him entry.
The Chief Science Officer was in her office, an enclosed area within the laboratory situated off to one side, and separated from the lab's main work area by partitioning, transparent walls. Like any executive's office, it was a space for the CSO to work in privacy or conduct meetings with medical patients, members of the technical staff, and others. It's location allowed her to be present in the lab almost instantly and the good doctor had personalized the space, using several exotic plant specimens and some pieces of Frontier artwork, no doubt recovered on past BHG missions, for decorations. Behind her, a large framed holo-picture hung suspended from the wall; it was of one of Alcazzar's mammalian herbivores, a large bison-like creature native to the Rhianna System. After a few seconds, Kane realized that this was the very same holo-pic that he took while on sentry duty there. The very one he had later presented to the CSO before the conclusion of that mission.
Maybe this is a good omen of things to come.
Depressing the door chime, Kane waited for Dr. Treborux's call before entering. The greeting he receives however is considerably less friendly than what he was hoping for.
"Mr. Kane. What can I do for you?" asks the CSO rather coldly, not even bothering to look up from the paperwork on her desk.
Don't be surprised by this Kane, after all she was very emotional during that VTC mining operation debate. Just keep the tone neutral and let her become dazzled with your logistical brilliance.
"Actually dear lady, the better question is what I can do for you." says Kane as he steps forward and presents to her the data pad he is carrying.
"What is this?" asks Dr. Treborux.
"A piece offering." he responds charmingly.
"A piece offering?" she repeats somewhat confused as she accepts the data pad. The next several minutes are exceedingly tense as Kane stands and silently waits for the CSO to scan over the information displayed on the pad. But the small smile that appears on her face is more than sufficient to assure Kane that his gamble had succeeded. "Kane, this is incred.... interesting. Very interesting work." says Dr. Treborux, attempting unsuccessfully to come off as detached and uninterested. "May I inquire as to your reasoning for presenting this to me?"
"Like I said before, it's a peace offering." said Kane to the CSO as he continued to stand across from her desk. "While working on my proposal for a new corporate division devoted to the transportation of passengers and freight, I came across some information that could be of use in the planning and development of your zoological park endeavor. During my long transit to Volturnus, on a freighter in desperate in need of an overhaul I might add, I decided to work it into a viable business proposal for you to purview."
"Are these financial estimates accurate?" asks Dr. Treborux, now visibly impressed.
"As accurate as can be given the circumstances under which it was drafted." answers Kane truthfully. "Although for the sake of accuracy, this should probably be taken as merely a preliminary draft of some business ideas along with some financial estimates on how to make that zoo dream of yours a reality."
"I see." says Dr. Treborux, her voice quietly trailing off in wonderment. "You ideas mirror many of my own in some cases and expands upon the rest in others. There are even a few here that I hadn't thought to implement.
Good. That hatchet may not be completely buried between us, but she definitely put it in the ground and raked some dirt over it. I've done my part. Now its time for me to take my leave and let her make some decisions.
"Dr. Treborux, may I suggest that you take some time to really look over what I have proposed here and to recheck my figures. I realize that you have already entered the recruitment phase of the zoo project and intend to start the hiring of staff tomorrow. As such when time permits, we could meet and discuss it in detail. Perhaps some of my ideas can be implemented without causing any undue disruptions to your project's timetable."
"I agree." replied the CSO now thoroughly engrossed with her in depth reading of Kane's proposal.
"I will await your call then." says Kane as he turns to depart the woman's office. "I bid you good night Dr. Treborux." However, before he can exit through the opening door, her voice gives him momentary pause.
"Nathaniel." she calls softly after him. "Thank you..." Kane nods his head, but says nothing as he departs the laboratory. Making his way over to the barracks, Kane finds an unoccupied room and settles in to retire for the night. He has not been asleep long when he receives a chronocom call from the CSO.
"Kane, Gloo and Crisbel are currently at Mawson's Rest overseeing the conversion of the outpost into our new zoo complex. I expect them to have completed the work sometime within the next 40 hours. However, I would appreciate it if you could also remain on site to examine their handiwork and to determine the feasibility of incorporating your ideas into this project.
"Of course." replies Kane a little wearily. "I will need to get authorization for my continued presence here as well as for my involvement with the project, but I would be happy to help. I will make my assessment and then report to you on my findings. Can I get back to you in a few days?"
"Yes. That would be fine." responds the CMO cheerfully despite the lateness of the hour. "First thing in the morning, I will be taking a jetcopter to Fort Brucebane to begin employee interviews. I expect these will take up the better part of the week to complete. In the meantime, I will list you as having officially joined this project as a special consultant with command authority, effective immediately. I am sure this will not be an issue. When the work there is complete, you can join me here to help with the next phase of the project."
"Alright, then I will report to you at Fort Brucebane in a few days." Replies Kane. "Good night Dr. Treborux."
"X'anthe." she replies. "Call me X'anthe."
"Good night X'anthe." says Kane as he terminates the connection, intent on returning to sleep. Tomorrow and the day after will now become very busy for him, and Kane plans to get all the rest he can before they get here.
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