Detachment 2551 : A Star Frontiers Adventure

Early March Story

Charon Tavis Station - Deck 3, Landing Bay - onboard the Vercingetorix stardate 1110938 - 0800 hours

Mrylinax sits with his feet propped up in the ship's lounge, smiling at the mysterious figure across the table with the cup in his hand. Freya is still trying to figure out what exactly he'd been talked into drinking when the Humma laughs. "Har har har...say, stranger, you looked like you could use a drink. How's a 'Slarn Hammer' agree with yer gut?"

After pausing a moment to consider Mrylinax's statement, Freya changes the subject by making a matter-of-fact request. "Please provide a level one access card for my use. OTTO can confirm Cymon's approval of this action."

Mrylinax' smile disappears. Normally a Hammer would throw anyone short of a barfly into a coughing fit. Freya never so much as flinched as he sat the glass down. Now the outsider was asking for access to a ship they'd already had invaded time and again by saboteurs.

"You BET I'm gonna ask OTTO about his - no offense." Mrylinax rises and lopes over to OTTO's main terminal. "OTTO: identify Mrylinax, Dounlos Okiou Patrou. Verify orders Cymon Ak-Barruda for security clearance Freya Grraf'Tzak."

"Welcome, Mr. Patrou, identity confirmed. Security clearance for Grraf'Tzak approved - level one access granted." Mrylinax turns his head and observes the reaction from the Yazirian behind him. There is no sign of aloofness from his bandaged visage. Mrylinax retrieves a level one card-lock card from his security drawer on the bridge and walks up to Freya with the card extended. As Freya reaches for it Mrylinax suddenly pulls back his hand to ask him a question, but he notices the card is already missing and in the Yazirian's hand. Stunned, he eyes the figure suspiciously.

"Say, yer pretty quick with the wrist there, Freya", the Humma exclaims, giving him a long stare. "Don't take this the wrong way, but in the last few weeks we've had some bad luck with new faces. Mind telling me what yer all about?" Freya says nothing but returns to his seat at the lounge. Mrylinax follows and sits across from him, eyeing him suspiciously. As the large, robed figure begins the tale, his form shudders slightly, then visibly steels itself against the images passing before it's inner eye. Quietly, he speaks...

"I am an orphan, one of many left on the worlds engulfed by the corporate wars. My father and mother served as enforcers for Lavoisies Technology, a small human firm that was breaking new ground in starship design. Unfortunately, several L-Tech patents were hindering PGC research and PGC flatly refused to acquire rights through legal means". Drawing a ragged breath, he continues, "The raid that killed my parents left little but death in it's wake. I remember little, except the torture and blinding pain that finally swallowed consciousness, leaving the image of a large Vrusk mecenary forever burned in my mind".

Mrylinax senses tension building in the Yazirian's voice. "I was found by an L-Tech rescue team two days after the attack, starving and badly injured. You of the PCG raiders held my arms, while another shredded my wings with a vibroknife...finally tossing me aside, leaving me for dead among the ruins of the research facility". Glancing down, Mrylinax sees Freya's gloved hand clamped like a vice to the seat, straining against the pure rage that seeps from every cell as the memories pour through him.

"My surrogate mother, a human female named Wilsea Sheer, was among those who found me under a collapsed shed. I grew quickly, as did the deep hatred I nurture...hatred against the large megacorps. In Yazirian tradition, I have chosen the marauding PGC mercenary team as my life enemies, vowing that all would pay the ultimate price for their deeds. But along with this vow, I must keep another...a promise made by my father many years before."

"Our family has served as enforcers for many generations. That was to end with my generation. We were to begin a new phase of life, serving as makers rather than protectors. I was to become an engineer and lead our family away from the 'enforcer' life we had lived for several generations. Across the years, these vows have led this broken body to many worlds, bringing the gift of fulfillment three times". Reaching slowly the figure draws a small, flat display from the inner folds of his robe. Gazing at the glowing screen for several seconds, he finally allows the Humma to view the image filling the MemPad. Fifteen portraits are arranged neatly, three are masked with red, the rest remain clear...for now. "Now I pursue my other vow, sharpening my skills while I search for the mercenaries who owe me their lives."

The tension melts from the room as the dark figure stands and moves away slowly toward the computer room where he can be alone with his memories. Long minutes pass by as he finds strange solace in the company of the computer. Presently a series of results begins to print out on the main screen, results of OTTO's recent labors. Freya punches up a hard copy and moves into the bridge to relay the findings. He finds Mrylinax already in contact with Cymon over the main view screen.

"Cymon", he interrupts, "Query complete. Summary follows: Subject one: the knife - Fingerprints on object match suspected owner Kanditzex, no other information available. Subject two - The person you are seeking, Grogan, was last reported entering the deck officer's office, no other information available. I am refining the search, more information will follow."

"Curioser and curioser", Cymon mumbles. "Honored Freya, please inspect the vessel. Mr. Umpah should be aquiring a new encoded identity for us and the ship. Your skills will help ensure that it is situated properly in the ships systems, and cross-referenced to the markings. Our hullbot is capable of making any cosmetic adjustments."

"Acknowledged", mutters, then without another word he turns and leaves the bridge. Cymon's image on the main comm screen betrays a confused expression. Mrylinax seems to catch it and chuckles.

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking, Cy...he's an odd one for sure."

"Our plight has created stange alliances. Mr. Patrou, you may need to remain there. Your skills will ensure that the ship remains secure. Mr. Cole and this one will begin looking for our lost sheep."

"Ya got it. But we don't wanna lose you either, I'm going to sit my tail down at OTTO's display and follow your butts with the spy eye. Same time I'm going to keep my favorite song playing for you boys ta hear. . .If our comm. gets cut, I want you to get back here."

Cymon smiles. "Agreed. Cymon out."

"Hey OTTO, bring up on these screens visuals from as many cams as you have access to, not only a 360 on the ship, but from the station's also. Also add the input from the spy eye. I wanna see what's going around me at all times." With that Mrylinax calls up some favorite tracks of particularly rhythmic Humma music and feeds it into an open channel linking him with Cymon and Marcus. He smiles thinking about how much this will annoy the Human. He then leans back and begins scanning the monitors for anything unusual, feet propped up and humming casually to himself.

Darkened Cell - Location Unknown - Time Unknown

Ty sits in his cell alone. His eyes play over the same patterns in the ceiling grates for the hundredth time. His team mates had been tinkering with something on the other side of the wall for almost an hour now, but he could offer no help from here. The waiting was getting to him.

With a sigh he rises and proceeds to search the cell for any sign of objects that can be fashioned into weapons. The ventilation grate on the wall eventually comes off. The metal tray that carried the grey slime intended to be his supper was sturdy enough. And the idea of the tiles shared by his neighbors was a good one, even if he could only pry two of them off without the benefit of plastic and metal tools like they'd fashioned.

He stands and practices striking with the objects, feeling their weight and balance, testing their striking distance. It is an act born of boredom. Give him a ship and he can fight. Here he felt useless. He silently hoped the amazing ingenuity of his partners was enough to get them free. Free from wherever they were.

Groo waits for a few moments, long enough for Jean Gascon to leave the cell area, before he examines the small door through which the food was delivered. His brow furrows as wonders if there is any way that they can use the small door to help them get out of this mess. Eventually Groo grows frustrated with tinkering with the small door and bangs his head against it a few times. The noise is enough to warrant a gaze from V'Sndyk, who pauses in his feast of Itso bug entrails.

"What is the matter, friend Kar-Chudka?"

Growing ever more impatient with V'Sndyk tinkering with the exposed wires and circuitry, Groo decides to do something about it. "All right V'Sndyk, out of my way, it's time to make something happen and I don't care what happens. What's the worse we can do? We might cause our captures to come on down here to check things out or we might knock power out to the whole place. And just maybe, we might learn something that will allow us to get out of here." Groo sits down in front of the wires and starts experimenting.

Ignoring the grinding noises coming from his comrade's mandibles as he lunches, Groo takes the tiny strands of wire from the Vrusk's PGC uniform and begins to play with the wires exposed in the wall. V'Sndyk volunteers his ideas: "You'll notice that the three wires feeding into that computerized electrical junction box are binary serial lines. The three processors in-line with the wires are redundancies in the system set up to take over in case of a power failure. If you can construct a state-table based on the wires' data stream and program the processors to emulate them, you could effectively trip the sys-"

"Grachak!!!", the Yazirian exclaims in an excited tone as the room's lights flicker for a moment and a loud hum can be heard. "Thanks anyways, V'Sndyk...I think I've got it now!"

V'Sndyk steps back and folds his chiton-plated arms. Seeing Groo's apparent success, he looks away and stares at the wall. "Sure, now that I loosened it up for you." Groo doesn't seem to notice the good- natured jibe.

"All right bug, lets see what we can do about blowing this joint. Do you have any ideas before I start playing with the grid?"

V'Sndyk peers at the circuitry and gives off a low vibrating sound deep in his throat like he's humming. "Given our limited knowledge of the device's functionality, my advice in the matter would prove academic. Ultimately, we need a way to free ourselves and Mr. Grogan, but it will take an ample dose of experimentation with the circuitry to make this happen. In my mind, our priority should be finding a way to deactivate our door locks. Our options are limited while we remain in this chamber."

"OK, before I try and open the cell door lets collect what we can that might be useful and be ready to split post haste. We'll need to try and free Ty as quickly as possible and try and find our weapons, screens, suits and equipment ASAP. Let me know when your ready to move out."

"Weapons and a new uniform would be nice." The naked Vrusk shivers. "Does it feel a little chilly to you?"

"No I'm not cold - I suppose you can't handle a little cold."

"My race is more accustomed to humid, tropical climes. The air here is dry and frigid."

"Well hopefully you won't have to worry about that much longer. We should be out of this joint soon and then you're going to be too busy and active to notice." Groo collects a number of the diamond tiles and the grill he pried off the duct. The tiles he tucks in his belt for later use and the grill he holds on to. After he finishes his preparations and V'Sndyk is done, Groo continues: "V'Sndyk you stand under the Grill hanging above the door and be ready to catch it. After all we don't want to make any unnecessary noise once the doors open."

"Acknowledged." V'Sndyk suddenly feels the need to do something himself. He looks over to the fiber-optic camera lead found earlier and gives it a good yank, tearing it from the ceiling altogether. "That should keep prying eyes from detecting our ploy."

"Now, cutting power to this section altogether should be our last resort. Let us enumerate the elements of the chamber, as well as the state of each: door lock, temperature, lighting, retractable cushion, ambient noise, etc. The composite of these states shall be noted as our control sample. I shall observe the states of all chamber elements to determine any changes from the control state. Do you have any suggestions of additional elements to monitor, Mr. Karchudka?"

Groo doesn't respond, but V'Sndyk's discussion seems to prompt him to move his hands from the main relay to the switches on the processors themselves for finer manipulation of the power system. "Yeah, let's test the systems one by one. Good thinking, bug. Keep this up and we'll sign you onto our permanent crew."

In the cell next door, Ty grows impatient with his situation. Struggling to his feet and moving nearer to the cell door, Ty hears the efforts of the others. Baffled as for ideas on what do do next, he calls quietly out to the others for help:

"Hey guys - hows it goin over there - what can I do to help?" he asks, "I'm putting together some for our captors should we get out of here."

Groo murmurs to the bug, "Tell him we're calling for help over a nifty lil subspace radio we whipped together and for an antenna we're using the rod he has up his butt HA HA HA."

V'Sndyk pauses. "A radio? We don't have the necessary tools to convert those circuits to..."

"(sigh) Nevermind...

Ty doesn't seem to hear the joke. "See Groo, and you thought all that time I spent in the White Light Detention Facility was a waste of time heh heh"

Groo smiles at his partner's irrepressible sense of humor. Ol' Ty could always see a scheme in the worst of situations.

"Ty, we're tripping the power grid for this cell - standby to test the door if we affect your room, too." Groo bends down to the exposed wires and circuits and nods to V'Sndyk, "Here we go!". Turning back to the exposed wires he uses one of the wires to send a signal into the circuit to change the current state. While he experiments with the signals, V'Sndyk keeps a sharp eye on the changes he sees going on around him.

(Groo LOG check: 65; 21) (V'Sndyk LOG check: 70; 24)

After only a few seconds of playing with the system, a low 'zap' can be heard in the floor beneath them. The lights dim again momentarily but nothing else happens. V'Sndyk marches over to the door and begins prying at its edges with his fingers.

(V'Sndyk STR check: 40; 31)

V'Sndyk manages to force his fingers into the space between the door and jamb. He plants his eight feet firmly and heaves his upper torso back using the full weight of his lower torso to help. Groo looks up in amazement as the Vrusk lets out a low grunt and the door slides back grudgingly.

"V'Sndyk, you did it!!!" Groo immediately jumps into action. After being caged like an animal he was ready to have it out with their captor. Groo heads to the door and gets down on the ground while V'Sndyk covers him and peers out with his head low to the ground. As Groo goes prone and leans his head out the doorway, he sees a tiny, dark hallway extending to the right and around a corner, to the left ending in a wall. Near the end of the hallway, next to the wall, is a c.a.s. panel with a red blinking light. Across the hall from the door is another door much like their own.

(Groo INT check: 65; 11)

Groo is about to get up from his prone position when he notices the hairs of his mane begin standing on end as if he'd just had a nasty perm. "Grachak!", he mutters, "floor's electrified!" Just as he says this he can hear the sound of labored breathing down the hallway and around a corner.

(Ty LOG check: 60; 16) (Ty STR check: 70; 61)

"Hey, fellas", Ty whispers loudly through the wall, "my door's open!"

"Do not proceed out!", warns V'Sndyk, "The floor is charged!"

Charon Tavis Station - Deck 3, Landing Bay - Vercingetorix computer center stardate 1110938 - 0800 hours

The main computer berth of the Vercingetorix is dark except for the green glow emanating from OTTO's main viewscreens. Sitting in front of the wall of monitors and controls sits a tall, robed figure eagerly punching away at the sophisticated AI system, working with it as if by extension. Freya was new to this team, this ship, this computer...but anyone observing him now couldn't guess. Even OTTO has come to anticipate the stranger's work patterns.

"Computer, reactivate the hullbot. Run a diagnostic on the transponder and related systems. I want a check of each system to verify system integrity and ferret out any unnecessary/hidden devices or code."

The oval-shaped speaker set in the center of OTTO's control center replies calmly, "Mr. Grogan has already initiated such a diagnostic and it is underway - estimated time to completion 25 minutes. You may feel free to address me as 'OTTO'. I am programmed to respond as an AI unit, fully integrated with speech protocols in dealing with biologicals."

Observing the computer designated as "OTTO" make it's report, Freya characterizes it's operation. The report was concise, focused, and complete. If only all the beings he interacted with could be so accommodating. "Excellent. Notify me when you have the results and give me a hard copy to my c.a.s. unit. Also, prepare the hullbot to initiate cosmetic changes to the hull to comply with new UPF registration markings."

"Please enter parameters for markings, along with new numbers."

"I believe that information is forthcoming, Computer. Mr. Umpah should have that data soon. In the meantime, I have another task for you. Open dynaset containing audio/visual logs from all security cameras, ships, robots, workpods and other available sources. Add dynamic filter with following parameters: time between 0330 and present; visual/audio match for Mr. Grogan, Mr. Kanditzex, or Mr. Groogash. Define resultant dynaset as static snapshot A1."

"Open second dynaset containing station security/service logs from all monitored station equipment. Add dynamic filter with following parameter: time between 0330 and present, records of doors opening/closing, elevator positions/calls, motion-sensitive lights turning on/off, atmosphere monitoring units, etc. and save the dataset as A2."

"Process to determine last known location of Mr. Grogan, Mr. Kanditzex, and Mr. Groogash respectively. Cross-reference with A2 and extrapolate possible crew movements based on statistical mean movement rates." Freya mutters to himself, "Perhaps we can track each person after loss of A/V feed by following their electronic 'footprints'. Computer, end input and execute."

OTTO chirps happily at the new task. "Acknowledged and processing."

Freya leans back in the seat, then adds one more thing. "Computer, monitor the propulsion and weapon systems of every ship in the hangar bays and alert him immediately if any are activated. In addition, track all vehicles and personnel who approach the Assault Scout and sound an alert if any (other than the crew) are carrying weapons or moving at a rate of speed that could damage the ship. In addition, link in with the station's security systems and scan the immediate surroundings for explosives."

"Acknowledged. At this time the frigate Lolita's Revenge, the assault scout Banuul, and assault scout Crodizhar have activated sublight systems and are checked off for departure. No ETD has been filed with the deck officer, but they have been cleared for take-off for the last six hours."

Freya nods to himself. "Chamra's secret convoy to Amradar is ready to launch at a moment's notice. Good."

"No explosives detected on decks 1 through 5 except at the armory. Station security computer has no data at this time for decks 6 or 7. Cause unknown." Freya frowns at this, but OTTO continues before he can reply.

"Operations complete on search request of a/v logs. From dataset A1 the last visual contact of Tiberius Grogan was at 0400 hours entering the deck officer's office on deck three. He has not appeared on a station camera or accessed any c.a.s. panel with his access card since this time. From dataset A1 the last visual contact of V'Sndyk Kanditzex and Groogash Kar-Chudka was at 0100 hours when they entered the freight elevator near the armory on deck five. The elevator register shows it descended to deck 6 where the group reported it was searching for equipment. The cameras on decks 6 and 7 are not functioning at this time, the exact moment of their failure is uncertain."

"As for dataset A2, there were over 200 separate actions taking place concerning doors, elevators, and panels within 30 minute periods following each last contact. Most of these actions loosely follow a normal traffic routine for the station. However, three events in dataset A2 correlate with the events in A1 to a degree suggesting a relationship. At 0317 hours the access door to the water treatment plant on deck 7 was accessed without a user id number. This happened again at 0431 hours. Third, at 0502 hours a power junction box was accessed on deck 7 by Crimson Pirate technician Slov Ch'Holo. All of these events represent highly infrequent actions based on station traffic patterns and all three happened within the last few hours since sighting the missing members."

Freya sits and thinks for a minute. OTTO's banks click away in the background. "Computer, how long until the Vercingetorix is ready to leave?"

"Station astrogational control has already downloaded the jump coordinates for Scree Fron. Repairs complete on damaged landing strut. Antenna repaired. Portside access port repaired. Life support area repaired. Ventilation system decontaminated. Main and auxiliary power restored to portside machinery room. Awaiting details for requested paint job and transponder re-assignement."

Freya leans over and gently touches the bubble covering OTTO's visual receptor. "Good work, known as OTTO."

Charon Tavis Station - Deck 3, Deck Officer's Office - 0800 hours

The nervous Yazirian technician Cymon and Marcus have under interrogation is shaking like a tree when Marcus draws his sword. If the gesture was meant to intimidate, it was working. Without a word Cymon pushes the subject into a chair. Marcus shuts the door and joins them. The Yazirian is hysterical.

"Y-y-you guys gotta believe me, I don't know nuthin'! I...I...just work on ships and bots, ya know? Cymon stares at the subject with penetrating eyes, his expression grim. He reaches without hesitation into his satchel and retrieves a spray hypo. Before the tech can resist, Cymon plunges a dose of Telol into his arm.

"Hey!!! What the hell was THAT for?!?"

"QUIET!" Cymon barks, forcing the tech to sit quietly rubbing his arm. It isn't long before his eyes begin to glaze over and he visibly relaxes in the chair. "Now", Cymon resumes, "we must ask these questions carefully as he can only manage simple answers in his state. Who are you loyal to on Charon Tavis?"

"My Crimson brothers and sisters."

"What was Max's full identity?"

"Max...Max was all he said."

"Where did he take the pilot?"

"I don't know."

"Why did he take the pilot?"

"I don't know."

"Name the others that he talked to?"

"Slone. Duragarr. Cannastee."

"Do you know where Berdax ship is located?"


"How are the Doghan getting on Charon Tavis?"

"(confused silence) I don't know." The final words come out with effort. The technician's eyes roll back and his form goes limp. Cymon eases the Yazirian's head forward onto the desk. A soft snore is the only reply. Cymon turns to Marcus.

"From is last response, I can only conclude he is not aligned with either side. He seems to be ignorant of the Doghan element."

Marcus troubles himself with only a brief glance at the technician, then drops to the floor to inspect the scene more closely. His fingers pick at the tangler residue sticking to the desk. "Looks like they got hit by a tangler grenade. Maybe Ty got his head slammed into that wall over there. Cymon, scan this and make sure it's his." Ty points to the blood stain on the wall. He looks at the evidence with more disgust this time. Cymon unpacks his medscanner and kneels next to the wall. The unit purrs for a few seconds as it reads the genetic fingerprint of the stain then bleeps loudly.

Cymon frowns. "It is indeed Mr. Grogan's blood."

"DAMN!" Marcus begins pacing. "OTTO said they left over two hours ago. Anything could have happened in that time. Cymon, OTTO was able to track us on Exib. Contact him and see if he can use his tracking hardware to find Ty and the others." That said, Marcus proceeds to search the room. There were no bodies there, which meant that they had to have been transported elsewhere. But whoever did this would have had to avoid attracting undue attention, so it made sense to assume that they would use some sort of secret escape route from the room. Marcus looks everywhere for a secret door, a hidden switch or lever, or perhaps any other way out of the room that would enable one to conceal his movements.

As Marcus begins tearing the place apart, Cymon moves across the room and keys the chronocom for OTTO. "OTTO, do you have a reading on us? If so, can you possibly track down the chronocom units for team members V'Sndyk, Tiberius, or Groogash?"

The computer's voice is calm as always. "I am reading the chronocom positioning signals for all team members except for those three. The signals for Mr. Kanditzex and Mr. Kar-Chudka terminated at approximately 0300 hours. The signal for Mr. Grogan terminated at approximately 0400 hours."

"OTTO, scan the Charon Tavis security camera recordings for any humans in orange coveralls at this location in the last 4 hours. Replay those on the Chronocom Ex_port Screen."

"Acknowledged, Mr. Ak-Barruda. The results are being relayed." Cymon's chronocom viewscreen lights up with the playback of the docking bay's security camera. A human can be seen crossing the bay at time index 0335, approaching a group of technicians then moving off-camera with them. Later, at time index 0355, the human reappears to talk to Ty after the cargobot slams into the Vercingetorix. At 0400 the two move off into the corridor leading to the deck officer's office. At 0422 the human reappears leaving the office with two of the technicians. They are pushing a cargo sled carrying a large transportation container.

OTTO interjects. "No record of this human or any human named 'Max' ever boarding the station."

(Cymon: Computers: Access & Operate 1st level: 97%; 69)

Cymon moves to the desk computer, downloads the image to the terminal, blows it up and prints a hard copy. The human is a caucasoid male with brown hair and brown eyes, no distinguishing marks.

(Marcus: Tracking Skill 1st level: 41%; 04)

Marcus has just about exhausted the possibilities of places where a hidden switch or panel could exist when he notices the skid marks of what might be Ty's boots leading to the front door. He stands and opens the door. The hallway is empty except for a few large storage containers stacked on either side and nearly to the ceiling. "Storage containers near an office?", he wonders aloud. "Cymon, I think we have the way out of here that couldn't be picked up on camera."

"The foul play may be related to the disappearance of V'Sndyk and Groogash. After all, Groogash Kardchudka and Tiberius Grogan have a history of entanglements all their own." Cymon retrieves the knife he found in the elevator. "Our companion, Mr. Kanditzex, is a careful one. Such carelessness is not a comforting sign. He would not lose this unless he did so in dire circumstances and could not help it... or if he was leaving some small sign of his passage for us to find. Either way, our companions are in trouble."

Cymon's eyes go to Marcus' clothes. For the first time he notices the blood stains carefully hidden beneath the Human's cloak. "You are injured, Mr. Cole. What happened down on deck 6?"

Marcus looks hesitant to answer. Too late to sound convincing, he replies, "Ran into some of the Pirates who still hold a grudge about those two mates of theirs we cooked during the boarding action."

"Well, you should have told me sooner. You cannot be expected to function while wounded. Here..." Cymon moves behind the desk and irreverently tosses the sleeping technician's body into the corner. Marcus winces at the sound it makes hitting the floor. Cymon's concern for the team was making him impatient. He motions for Marcus to sit and begins unpacking his medkit.

(Cymon: Medical: Wounds I: 97%; 05 (what a waste of a good roll)) 12 points returned to Marcus

(Cymon: Medical: Wounds II: 49%; 08 (damn!) - 20 points returned to Marcus

Cymon works quickly and efficiently. Marcus can feel the pain in his torso receding as the Biocort takes effect. As he sits and waits, he notices Cymon's work on the computer. A paragraph of strange heiroglyphs that look like ancient Yazirian language run across the top of the screen.

"What's this?", he asks. Cymon pauses to see what he's referring to.

"Ah. Passages in the Den Qritsa that I've been deciphering. They refer to the end of the world according to its prophecies."

"Are you serious? What does it say?"

Cymon grows solemn. His voice is filled with dread. "It says,



"New confirmation of suspected ills." he whispers to himself as he bandages Marcus' wounds but so that this companion can hear the Haiokah's rumbling rasp. "But first we must find our pilot, or all is lost."

Charon Tavis Station - Deck 5, The Ka-Chada Omam Saloon - 0800 hours

Music, smoke, laughter. None are in short supply in the Ka-Chada Omam saloon even at this early hour. Popular watering hole and steady source of leads for adventurers passing through, the saloon stays busy almost all the time. No one even notices the sick-looking Dralasite stumble in through the main door, or hears id grumbling to idself.

"Damn voices. What the hell was in that concoction? Got a headache to beat the band. And every time I start walking normal-like, they go blaring something at me so intense I run into people. Boy, that one Yazirian was so touchy...", Ruby rubs ids eye-stalk where it is still sore.

At the bar the denizens of the Yazirian sector of the Frontier are well represented. Some wear hooded cloaks to hide their identities. One human carries a GTF pad, obviously a freelance rectruiter looking to place people in short-term, no-questions-asked jobs. Another nervous human hunches over a portable computer in the back of the bar, eyeing the place nervously. His uniform plainly lables him a recent escaped convict of a UPF prison.

A tall Yazirian dressed in a dark grey cloak that bulges with what has to be weapons sits up front near an empty seat at the bar. The bar-top in front of him is crowded with neatly stacked coins. On the other side is a broken-down old Human with several year's growth and a smelly pipe. When the grey-cloak sees Ruby he snickers and throws back a shot of Anaphylaxis, the potent version of the milder Vrusk drink Nectarr and the version few non-Vrusk can tolerate. Ruby gulps and climbs atop the seat. Another Yazirian behind the bar with a silvery mane finishes cleaning a glass and approaches.

"Whaddya have, fren'?"

"Um...Do you know how to make a Lossend Over-and-Out?", Ruby asks after thinking for a second.

"One Over-and-Out, coming right up..."

"Can you make it 'salty', please?" Ruby slides a few credits across the bar, along with a tiny memory progit carrying the request from Chamra via Cymon for the new transponder code and ship markings. Ruby hoped id got the password right, but ids mind was so fuzzy when id last talked with Cymon. The Yazirian, presumably Orobosh "Salty" Ch'Holo himself, hesitates. The aged, yellow eyes study Ruby for a second, then seem to make a decision as Orobosh resumes his normal barkeep chatter with the other guests and is gone.

"Shalt? Who puts shalt in a Loshend drink?" The voice is slurred by drink and carries the accent of a Moonworld native. The spotty old man sitting next to Ruby levels his one good eye at id, the other stares like a dead man's at nothing in particular over Ruby's shoulder. Ruby is at a loss.

"I just like mine that way, I guess."

"Mm.", he grunts. "Well, I've herda worsh, I guessh. Remindsh me o' th' time I wash manning the aft torpedo launcher 'board the Timeon cruiser 'Nimrod'. Been locked in the firing bay for shixteen shtraight hoursh while on alert - shixteen hoursh in the shame shmelly shpaceshuit. Damn, all I could think of wash a cool mug o' brew." The old spacer raises a finger at another barkeep. Orobosh is nowhere to be seen. The new barkeep slides a large glass of beer to the waiting Human, who scoops it up and takes a long sip before setting it down in front of Ruby.

"Ahhh! That hit the shpot! Shorry, had to have a tashte. Here, thish ish from my home planet - try it! You look like you could ushe a drink."

Ruby reluctantly takes the drink, not wanting to upset id's new acquaintence. Id didn't say so, but Ruby indeed needed a drink right now to calm ids nerves and soothe ids aching head. Waiting on the Over-and-Out seemed like an eternity.

"Mm. Say, that IS good. Good body, nice after-taste."

"Heh heh. Yeah, they don't brew 'em like they do where I come from. Sho, what'sh your shtory?"

Ruby pauses. "You don't wanna know my story. I seem to attract trouble no matter where I go. You mentioned you were on the Nimrod. Was that back in SW1?"

"Shure wash. Part of the regular militia, I wash, 'til they ordered ush to...shay, you okay?"

Ruby's head begins to get even fuzzier. Id's muscles were slowly getting heavy. The voices, at the moment a dim background noise, fades from ids hearing altogether. A blurry shape approaches and slides id a drink. Ids right pseudopod feels for the glass, finding a small chip sticking out from under the coaster.

"Here ya go, fren'." Salty it is."

These are the last words Ruby can make out as the steady murmur of the room's crowd slowly grows into a mild roar in ids head. Like a ship capsizing in a storm, the world suddenly turns on its side then plunges into oblivion.

"Excuse my friend", the old man says to the grey cloak, who is beginning to take offense at the Dralasite leaning on his shoulder, "he isn't a very strong drinker, heh heh." The Yazirian doesn't seem to notice the old man's sudden improvement in pronunciation. Nor does he notice the feeble man hoisting the heavy Dralasite onto his shoulders as he leaves. He does notice, however, the large tip left on the counter. His fingers help themselves to the overage, then add it very carefully to the stacks in front of him.

"Damn tourists", he snarls, then throws back another shot. As the glass comes down he catches the eye of another Yazirian dressed like him in a grey poncho across the room. The Yazirian nods. The seated grey cloak reciprocates and pushes the glass aside. His fingers still wet from the glass, he wipes them across his hip, opening the cloak to reveal a holster emblazoned with the bone-white design of a Hakosoar Equine mounted by a Yazirian silhouette. He rises, makes for the door, and meets two more figures in ponchos before exiting.

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