"Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes."-- Bertolt Brecht


The entire party troops off into the jungle, off towards the secret military base. Carmen has changed into a green skin tight jumpsuit, rather than the black one. Duane, in the middle of the group and under guard, exchanges glances with the lovely Carmen. Roberto is up towards the front with Luis. Duane is being guarded by several of Roberto's men, including the sniper he knocked out and tied up earlier in the day; the sniper has a hold of one end of Duane's 4' rope and doesn't resist the urge to yank him around a bit when the opportunity arises. Duane tries to not give the guy any additional reason to get creatively nasty.

Six hours into the march, Dragon and Duane notice that Sparrow has acquired a fancy new, green scarf on her hat. Duane points out that one of the party has picked up a hitchhiker. Rodrigo: "What? Who?" Duane: "Sparrow." Rodrigo: "Which one is Sparrow?" Duane: "The little one." All of the locals stop and step back from Sparrow while switching to rapid Spanglish, and saying something about "green death". Sparrow: "What?" Dragon: "Don't make any sudden moves." Tavi steps forward to kill the snake with her blade. She lops it in half, spattering some sort of liquid onto Sparrow and herself. Roberto and Luis come back to see what the fuss is. The dying snake is twitching on the ground. Roberto and Luis see the snake and step well back from it. Roberto: "Were any of you touched by the venom?" Sparrow: "I was hit by something." Roberto: <stepping forward to put his hand on Sparrow's shoulder> "I am sorry my friend. It was good to know you." Sparrow: "That sounds like a death sentence." Roberto: "At first you will feel nothing. Then about four to eight hours later, depending on your weight, horrible pain, then death." Sparrow: "And there's nothing you can do about this?" Seems the only person the locals have heard of surviving contact with the venom was a researcher working in a hospital. He survived, and eventually regained most of the use of his legs. Roberto: "But do not be afraid, we will not let you suffer. I would want you to do the same for me." They'll leave Sparrow and Tavi somewhere with a gun and a round for each. How helpful. Rodrigo looks down at his arm, not telling anyone he was hit. Roberto: "Well, as the saying goes, there is no use crying over spilt milk."

Carmen: "It's a neuro-toxin." Tavi: "I'll take a sample. It might help." Carmen: "I wish there was something I could do." She seems concerned. No one really knows how long it takes to die from the venom, no one has lasted that long without begging to be killed. Duane: "How heavily infested is the jungle with these things?" Luis: "It is a very rare species. It is, what is the word... endangered." Seems the mining company frequently sprays the jungle with something that kills off the snakes, and anything else in the area. Luis: "How do you say - nerve gas." Duane: "Ah." Dwayne: "Does any one else have any medical equipment?" Nope. Dragon: "If it comes down to it, I have UWD. It has atropine in it. Along with a lot of other things, but it's a chance." Tavi: "I like you even more." Luis carefully cuts off the head of the snake and puts it into a jar. Smiling, he puts it in his pack. Duane keeps working on his bonds.

About an hour before they expect to, the party sees a helicopter flying down into the base. Roberto: "We have been walking a long time. We will stop and rest, and have something to eat." Rodrigo is sweating, but whether from symptoms or fear, hard to tell. Duane holds up his bound hands and looks expectantly at Carmen. Luis slashes his ropes so he can eat. Roberto: "It will be dark soon." Duane: "Any one going to do a reconnaissance?" Roberto: "Later. First we eat."

Everyone is physically exhausted. Tavi collapses - she's not used to this sort of physical exhertion. After a few gallons of water, maybe she'll consider food. Maybe the chili will help with the venom. The group isn't spread out too much, but Duane tries to put some distance between him and the others. Luis: "Don't get too far into the jungle, Duane, there may be more of those snakes out there." Duane: "Don't think I haven't considered it." Tavi: "With this awesome camp security and surveillance, why do we think they don't know we're coming?" Luis: "We're in several hundred miles of jungle. There's no reason for them to expect us." Tavi: "Even with a camp and fire this close to their perimeter?" Luis: "We are several miles from their perimeter." Tavi: "We saw their helicopter going in." Luis: "It's over the hill." Food is eaten by the small, smokeless fire.

Roberto comes over to ask Tavi and Sparrow how they're doing. Sparrow is having occasional stabbing pains in her arms and legs. Tavi: "So we attack tonight?" Roberto: "First we need to check out the area." Tavi: "Why have you not done this before now?" Roberto: "Because everyone is tired." Dragon: "What are we looking to find out?" Roberto: "If the prisoner there, how many guards are there, how are they armed." Dragon: "I'll go along." Duane volunteers too. Luis considers it, since Duane did sneak up on Rodrigo. Max thinks Luis is nuts, but no one asks him. Tavi: "If you leave him here, she's here too." She nods towards Carmen. Luis: "You'll be coming with me." Duane: "Can I at least have my machete?" Luis: "We'll see."

When the recon party leaves, an older, bedraggled, semi-toothless man comes over to Sparrow. Jorge: "Hey, señorita. This could be your last chance. I could, you know, I could rock your world." He smiles and puts his arm around her. Sparrow removes his arm. Sparrow: "I'm afraid that if I happened to have a muscle spasm I'd snap you like a twig!" Jorge: "I would show you such ecstasy that you would not even notice. Would you like some tequila?" Sparrow: "No, but if you've got any grappa...?" Jorge: "What is this grappa? This is an old family recipe." Tavi decides to try it, and Sparrow yields to peer pressure and takes a drink as well. It was made by some one who saw an agave plant, then brewed in an old radiator. Whew!

Sparrow declines, politely, the opportunity of a lifetime. Carmen comes over and tells Sparrow that Jorge does have quite the reputation as a ladies man. Sparrow: "Well, you'd know." Carmen: "The other men call him Tripod." Sparrow: "That's nice. The other problem is the only place to have sex out here is in the jungle, and that's right out." Carmen sits down near her. Carmen: "When the time comes, I have some sleeping pills in my pack." Sparrow: "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."

The recon team, including Duane, Dwayne, Dragon, Luis, and Roberto, finds the camp easily. It was built precisely by the book, by local "help". Not that they seem to have any choice; the group watches as one of the natives, being watched by armed men, collapses and is dragged off. According to the manual, a prisoner would be held in the central block house. There are guards outside it, but they seem really bored. They count five or six armed guards, four or five other people walking around, a very nice grav-vehicle, and a number of men in nice suits. They do not look like jungle troops. The group can see one tower in the middle, with low emplacements at the corners. They have wire around the camp, not walls. They can easily get up to within 50 metres thanks to the jungle growth. This they do.

No one is attacked by a snake, but they do find a lot of dead animals. Either gassed or ...? It's rather nasty moving through the thick jungle. The men inside the encampment probably only fly in and out. As twilight begins, the powerful poly-arc lights come on. The visible security is augmented by punji pits (10' wide, 10' deep, with smooth sides), followed by 10 or 15 feet of tangle-foot wire, followed by concertina wire. Both Duane and Dwayne are thinking about felling some trees onto the wire.

A large black helicopter is on the pad. It looks corporate (or at least private-sector), not military. The grav-car is a Daimler. They see some people come walking out of a hut, then lock some people inside as they leave. They see Mendoza there, in tailored jungle fatigues with his spiffing hat. Several other men look familiar too, probably because they've seen them before, in civilian suits. Both of the men in really nice suits are well over 6' tall, good-looking, with perfect smiles. Expensive corporate types from all appearances, or very expensive corp security. They're in the jungle in those shoes?? Between the suits and the uniforms, and the guards watching the locals, there are a total of thirty-one "bad guys" visible in the camp. A number of them are obviously offworlders. Roberto has twelve men, not including himself and Luis, along with Duane and Dwayne, Dragon and Max; not including Tim, Sparrow, or Tavi. Ah, and those rectangular objects in the wires would be claymores, by 55 gallon drums buried at an angle. Duane points them out to Luis. The four corner emplacements have machineguns, too. The discussion starts. There are big trees along the jungle line, a hundred feet tall, maybe more. Duane: "How much explosives do you have?" Luis: "We have grenades, and some mining explosives." The latter is in metal tins, and they have five of them. Might be helpful.

The camp has multiple bunkers, and only a couple of actual buildings. Dragon: "The opposite of a military assault, which will not work, is to sneak in." Duane: "As what?" Dragon: "They have dozens of local people working as slave labor. We can sneak in as one of those." Roberto: "Yes, a frontal assault would do no good. We must infiltrate some one." Dragon: "Some one won't help. We need more than one person." The workers are being brought in, and will be taken to one of the shacks that lock up. Dragon: "I have a boarding gun, and may be able to take out several of the guard towers, but ideally we need a vehicle to drive over the wire." Roberto: "I know where there may be a vehicle, but it doesn't work." Dwayne: "Where?" Roberto: "An old mining camp, nearby." They can't sneak in with the natives now, they've gone inside. Roberto: "We'll wait until tomorrow evening." Dragon: "That won't help our compatriots. They're on a schedule." Dwayne: "So is Max's lady." Good point. Dwayne: "Does any one here know how to fix a vehicle?"

Back at the camp, Sparrow is feeling a few twinges, but nothing too bad. Tavi is having really sharp, stabbing pains. The others arrive back. Tavi: "So, are they all dead yet?" Duane: "No." Tavi: "What kind of vehicle?" Duane: "We don't know." Roberto: "Some sort of mining vehicle." Tavi: "You're going to make me work then, are you?" Tavi could help with a grav-vehicle, but not with this. Sparrow, however, has mechanical and electronics experience. Aha!

They arrive after a half an hour at a large rectangular valley. Not exactly natural. Tavi: "Where is the vehicle, and what did you do to make it inoperable?" The rebels hit this camp earlier, and it was abandoned. There are a bunch of lime green objects, D10's, with shovels. TL10, heavily automated. Dragon goes to check out the office, see if there are any keys, when something she pokes leaps up with huge arms and big teeth. It seems she's disturbed a pair of orangutans and their baby. Dragon back pedals out the door while drawing. Everyone else hears a horrible scream, then see Dragon backing out quickly, followed by a big ugly furry orange guy. Sparrow tries to work her magic on the animal but only makes it angry and interested in her. Tavi fires on the animal with her rifle, hitting it in the leg. The orangutan runs off into the jungle, followed by the other orangutan and it's baby. The party lets them leave.

Sparrow works on fixing the damage to the D10's, which Dragon can hotwire. Dwayne suggests they look for a low building. This gives the non-mechanical people something to do. Juan: "Jefe! Jefe! Is this one?" Yup. Corrugated roof, but only a few feet off the ground. Dwayne: "Sergeant Flett, do you have any expewience with explosives?" Duane: "Only what's been thrown at me." Rodrigo is the powder monkey of the group (being the only one dumb enough to carry the things that blow up), and Duane takes the opportunity to inform Roberto about Rodrigo's exposure to the venom. Roberto doesn't say anything to Rodrigo, but since he might be effected by the venom at a bad moment, he sends Duane to help, he's expendable.

They lift the roof off the building. Wooden slats, and explosives stacked between them. The explosives are being used as nesting and possibly food by a bunch of rats. Maybe they could capture the rats, set them lose near the camp, and when they smell food and go in, shoot the rats! Okay... There's about 50 pounds of explosives, and 100 pounds of rats. The floor is alive. At the moment they're looking into the explosive rat-infested hut, Sparrow gets one of the D10 engines to almost turn over. Everyone near the explosives hut levitates briefly from the sudden noise.

They are able to salvage about 75 pounds of explosives in one pound blocks. Dragon finds a second, smaller hut containing the detonator caps. The little hut is grounded. The explosive is a commercial, low-breasence type. There are far more detonators than explosives, and they could really use more experienced explosives experts. Sparrow is annoyed that none of the former military people have experience blowing things up. They were Marines - that's what the Navy ships are for.

Sparrow gets one of the D10's going, but didn't realize it was in gear. It lurches forward, hitting Dwayne from behind like a ton of bricks. He now has an extra floating rib, courtesy of the side of the blade. All Sparrow knows is Dwayne disappears under the front of the 'dozer. Brief moment of panic, as Sparrow fears she's killed Dwayne (she can't tell from the height she's at). She climbs down and sees that Dwayne is all right. Then she's hit by a major spasm. Dwayne catches her.

Now that the vehicle works, it can definitely get past the wire and pits, but who's going to drive it? Duane volunteers Dwayne. He'll do it, but he doesn't have much experience. Actually, the cab on the D10 looks less like a tractor, and more like the controls of a ship. Max takes a look, and finds the computerized manual. The controls are a lot like a ship's joysticks and console. All right - he'll drive. Duane: "Hey Max!" Max: "What?" Duane: "What's the top speed of this thing?" Max checks the manual. Max: "Twenty miles an hour" .

Dwayne is gasping for air while holding up Sparrow. Dragon, meanwhile, talks strategy with Roberto. His people are much more motivated now that they're rescuing local people too. Roberto: "Won't they know the bulldozer is coming?" Dragon: "Yes, but they can't stop it." They're in the middle of a jungle, the rebels have no tanks -why would Mendoza's people have anti-tank weapons here? Duane thinks the group should assume the bad guys do have anti-tank weapons. He's the only one with this opinion. The plan is to demo down one of the big trees at about the same time the D10 comes through along the workers' path through the tanglefoot wire. A few people will follow the D10 to cover Max, the others will come in on the tree's path. The best exit plan is to steal the grav-car, so it shouldn't be flattened if at all possible. They're not sure how the tree is going to fall. Dragon: "If we put a canteen full of water on the back side of explosive, that will help direct the blast. We need something to attach it, does anyone have any plastic bags?" No. Max: "But we do have rubber sheets." He nods to Dwayne. Dwayne: "That's wight!" Tavi looks quizzically at Max. Max: "Don't ask. Please. I beg you."

Dragon drains all the gas out of the second D10, and fills the tank of the one they're using. Duane: "If we're going to attack this camp, I want my equipment back. You either have me as an effective or not." Roberto: "We're here to rescue Amanda, and the villagers." Duane: "That's what I gathered. I understand that, and I'm willing to help." Roberto: "Why are you here specifically?" Duane: "Why am I here? What does that matter?" Roberto: "If you want your equipment back, you'll answer." Duane: "Vengeance." Roberto: "Against whom?" Duane: "Menorb Mining." Roberto: "Why?" Duane: "Let's just say that yours isn't the only planet that's been strip mined." Roberto: "What does Captain Mendoza or the Anti-terrorist group have to do with Menorb Mining?" Duane: "I don't know. You're the ones who are going after them. If this gets me closer to the corporation, fine. If this lets me earn your confidence, fine." Roberto: "Luis! Get him his gear. <to Duane> You'll have your chance to prove yourself. If you cross me..." He walks off. Carmen helps Luis bring Duane his things. Carmen: "Oh you look so heroic in all your killing things." Tavi: "Where will you be when we're attacking the camp?" Carmen: "I'll be with you, with my brother." Tavi: "Will you be with the vehicle? With the tree group?" Carmen will be with her brother; no one is going to be left behind.

They figure out how long it will take to get the camp from here. Roberto will go with several of his best men to fire on the camp from the tree line. Luis will go with the D10, along with a couple of other men, to provide back up to Max and Sparrow in the cab. Tavi: "Luis, do you have a longarm?" Luis: "Yes, why?" Tavi: "You'll be firing from a height - near the towers." Luis: "Good point."

Weapons ready, hearing protection in, explosives ready, off they go. The bad guys are going to know they're coming once they get close. The idea is to drive about a mile or so away, stop, and people will go ahead with the demo equipment. It's all drive by wire, like flying a ship by instruments, so hopefully it won't upset Sparrow that Max isn't looking out the window. The thing drives like a ship, or a really big remote control toy.

Tavi: <to Duane> "You're likely to be into the camp before me." She gives him something to use to get through locks - a small plasma torch. It works on bright green snakes, too. Max: <to Sparrow> "I'm really sorry about this. Getting you involved." Sparrow: "It's okay. It was my decision."

Once the advance group moves into position they see that the lights are on in the camp, and there's now a grav-van there too. They see a few people wandering around - three men in uniforms, probably on guard duty. Tavi: "I'll cover the vehicles, make sure no one takes off." Roberto: "Good. How are you feeling?" Tavi: "If I can't do my job, you'll be the first to know." Dragaon makes sure her boy Tim is armed. Tim: "I've never fired a weapon before." Dragon: "Well you will now." She gives him her revolver, and a brief instruction period. Tavi sees this and doesn't expect to see him again.

It's been an hour. Time for the vehicle crew to get going. The D10 starts up fine, with the reminder to have the 30,000 hour tune up. Thank you, later. Once they get close, time to go from travelling mode to bulldozing mode. The others hear the D10 finally, the alarms go off in the camp, and it's time to set off the charge. Rodrigo's expert opinion is to use a cigar for a fuse. Dragon fires off the demo, which blows about 10' out of the bottom. The tree is now shorter, and unstable. Rodrigo: "Run!" Dwayne clambers up the tree on the side of the camp, and Dragon tries pushing. The camp suddenly comes up closer as Dwayne falls with it. Fortunately, there are side branches, which means Dwayne isn't crushed flatter than crock brewed beer. His hip isn't happy, but not broken. As soon as the tree hits, Rodrigo yells and charges down the tree, directly towards the main body of the bad guys. Dragon goes after him, firing her boarding gun at one of the towers. Dwayne starts digging himself out of the tree. Duane heads for the prisoner shack (he hopes), and the D10 arrives. The machinegunners fire on it, since it's the dangerous thing. Max lifts the blade up to protect the cab. He can't see, but he's driving by wire any way. The vehicle heads right for the nice little bunker and the machinegun nest. Max drops the blade, and drives over it. What bunker? Blade back up again. Tavi fires on the people coming out of the back of the van. Dragon's shot at least distracts her target. People are running out, pulling on their pants. Rodrigo is bodychecking people out of the way, firing like a crazy man (probably figures he's doomed any way). At the locked shack, Duane grabs the chain, away from the wood, and uses the torch. As soon as the chain is cut, the door explodes outward as the local captives pour out. Duane manages to not be trampled. There are people coming out of the command tower now, adding to the chaos.

The side glass on the D10's cab explodes, rounds flying in. Sparrow is hit in the calf, there's a bit of blood. She sees Max get hit in the abdomen, blood spatters the windshield, and he's bleeding like crazy. Max fights the damaged controls to turn towards the tower, which is a closer target.

Dwayne gets out from under the branches, and comes face to face with the boot of a man firing from behind the cover of the tree. No one in the group has boots like that. Dwayne fires on him with the shotgun, hitting him in the chest. No body armour = no more bad guy.

Tavi is firing on the men coming out of the van. A man comes running out and is hit, falling backward like he was clotheslined. If nothing else, she wants to make them cautious. They are - they're firing in her general direction. Roberto throws Carmen down. The bad guys are using M-16's with beta-6 magazines or something. They're on the opposite side of the tree from Dwayne, and Duane has the shack between him and the van guys, perpendicular to them at about 30 yards. They're firing full auto and charging towards Tavi's position (they can't really tell how far away she and the others are). Duane goes for the cab of the van, shooting the driver with his whippetgun, through the cab door. The driver fires his short shotgun into Duane's left hand. Ooh, what hand? But the driver does drop over onto the steering wheel. Dwayne looks over and sees Dragon go down, looked like a head shot; she's probably dead. Now they have escaped prisoners running around, bad guys, good guys, gunfire, explosions - quite the mess.

The D10 continues towards the tower, but Sparrow is hit in the arm and slumps over in the middle of trying to bandage Max. She's not unconscious, but she's hurting. With all the blood on the front windshield as well as the side window, it looks like an abbatoire inside the cab. Max hits the tower. There's a shudder and the tower goes over. He thinks he's hit a couple of people, but his instruments don't register people. He drops the blade so he can see. Sparrow didn't do too bad a job with her bandaging, at least Max isn't bleeding profusely at the moment.

Over where Tavi is prone and firing, two of Roberto's men go down. Tavi hits one of the bad guys in the arm. Dwayne fires on another one, hitting him in the shin with the shotgun. He goes down but quick.

Duane is trying to put the grav-van into reverse when his brain blocks out everything but the click behind him. Duane is starting to turn when he hears the distinctive crack of a gauss weapon. He's hit in the back, where he does have armour, thankfully. An incredibly sharp pain in the kidney results, like something inside is broken. He completes his turn, and sees a tall gentleman in a nice suit, sitting in the back of the Daimler, all casual. The click Duane heard was the door opening. Duane falls over. A voice from the car says "Finish him off."

In the D10, there's a red light, and the vehicle seizes up. If they were taking their time, they'd notice the smell of burnt oil. They stumble out of the cab. Sparrow: "Let's see. You take half of the UWD, and I take the other half, and maybe we'll survive this?" Max just gives her a look.

Tavi is hit by a sudden spasm. She waits for the spasming to stop (at least mostly) then tries to "accidentally" shoot Carmen. That's the idea, but Tavi really is still spasming a bit, and she hits Roberto in the head from close range. Roberto's head explodes. Carmen's eyes get really big, and Tavi, still faking spasms, hopes to get Carmen too. Carmen: "No!!! No! Stop!! I'll give you the anti-venom!!" That bitch! Apparently Tavi shot the right Escobar after all.

Back in the camp, the unknown man pulls a knife and reaches down to slit Duane's throat. Duane draws one of his own blades and shoves it into his assailant's lower chest. It's almost like hitting a piece of sheet metal, then the point of the tanto (designed to go through armour) gets through and slides into the man's chest. The dead man falls forward onto Duane as he expires. The grav-vehicle's door slams closed, and they hear the grav-car power up.

It's pretty much complete chaos now. Prisoners running around, screaming. There's subgun fire from the pros shooting at Tavi's location, and another of Escobar's men drops. Dwayne fires on one of these guys, and hits him. Then one of his friends rolls over and looks towards Dwayne.

Carmen: "I'll give you the antidote." Tavi: "Give." Carmen: "I'll make you a deal. Get me out of here alive, and -" Tavi: "Deal." Carmen: "Give me the rifle." Tavi: "Give me the antidote." Carmen: "I give you the antidote and we leave. Now." Tavi: "We get Amanda, we have a pilot." Carmen: "All right." She hits Tavi with an autoinjector and the pain subsides immediately. Tavi hadn't realized how much pain she was in. Tavi: <to the last man> "You're in charge. Rally the troops." Man: "Sí! You stay here." He charges off. Carmen carefully arranges Roberto's body, kisses him on the cheek. Tavi sneaks a photo of the dead Escobar, making sure her hand is partially in the picture. If she has the opportunity, Tavi will take a sample of Escobar's brain (there's lots all over the trees). Carmen: "I'm sorry Roberto. I'm sorry."

Max staggers into the command bunker, gun out of the full-flap holster and in his hand, holding his insides in with his off-hand. There are several figures down here in their carefully fitted jungle camo. Can't expect the valuable members of the anti-terrorist team to be outside and risk getting shot. Sparrow fades into the shadows, but Max just walks in. There's a man on a radio yelling: "We need help! We need help right now!!" Two men are right in front of Max, and they've noticed him. One goes for his gun, and Max fires, hitting him in the head. (Lucky shot.) Mendoza is further inside the bunker, leaning over a map with another man. Sparrow takes exception to the man yelling into the radio and uses her staff on him, breaking his leg. He topples over.

Dwayne is exchanging shots with the pros who were firing on Tavi. Dwayne and his target shoot each other. Dwayne hits the man in the elbow, and he drops the weapon, but not before his rounds hit Dwayne in the chest, right in the aorta. Not good at all. On the other hand, Tavi is feeling much better. Carmen is still sitting and crying beside Roberto. Tavi fires on the man who turned his back to her to fire on Dwayne. Tavi hits him in the other arm, in the shoulder. That just leaves one man from that group.

Duane has made his way to the command bunker. The man Max shot has a very puzzled look for a second, then falls over. His friend throws his hands up and surrenders. Mendoza and the other man draw their weapons. Max, no doubt as a result of spending weeks in the wilds of Vera Cruz with Geoff, Ezbeki, and Victor, uses the man in front of him as cover. Mendoza fires his smg on his own man, who looks very surprised. Briefly. Max is hit by spillover, but he's only grazed in the right shoulder. He fires at Mendoza, hitting him in the head. Damn. He wanted to a ask that bastard some questions. No one noticed Duane as he moved quietly into the bunker. A bit late, but not too late to see Max kill Mendoza and the other man. Hmm, for a Navy guy, he seems to be an awfully good shot.

The remaining man in the nice outfit drops his weapon and raises his hands. He'd like to survive, thank you. Sparrow covers him while Max goes to check out the metal cages. There's a young man in one, and a female with a bandaged left hand in the other. They're both naked and dirty, and huddled in the corners of the "kennels". Max: "Amanda? Amanda, it's okay. It's me." Sparrow gets the shirt off the man who surrendered, secures him, and tosses the shirt to Max for Amanda.

Outside, the soldiers are pointed out by the villagers, and the rebels shoot the ones that the villagers aren't chopping up with garden tools. Dwayne sees the grav-vehicle try to sneak off. He and Tavi both fire on the vehicle, but it's still moving. Dwayne will try to get control of the situation and stop the massacre.

Elsewhere, Carmen and Tavi get ready to leave, and Tavi shoots Carmen in the left shoulder. Carmen draws and fires, but misses. Tavi fires again, hitting her in the leg. Carmen fires, misses again, then Tavi finally hitting her in the centre of mass, then finishing her off. Tavi removes the pack with the auto-injectors first. There's only one left intact, and it's not labelled. Can't hurt to try it on Sparrow. Tavi removes that to take with her, then uses a knife to remove the device from Carmen that her employer wanted for identification purposes. There - that job's done.

Duane sees Sparrow reaching for a pen then collapsing in pain. Sparrow is hit by an incredibly painful spasm. Max hears her scream through her clenched teeth. Radio: "Position A-7, we have received your call. Reinforcements on the way." Max unbolts the doors on the cages, but doesn't open the doors yet. He tries to help Sparrow, but she's having a severe seizure and there's not much he can do in his condition. Duane is still hanging back in the shadows, for personal reasons.

Tavi makes it to the camp. Luis: "Where's Roberto?" Tavi: "Dead." Luis: "Ay." Tavi: "So's Carmen. So's everybody else up there. They stood when we took fire. Never a good idea." Luis: "This is terrible. But, such is life." Tavi: "Where's Sparrow?" Luis: "I'm not sure. I think in the bunker." Tavi heads that way, arriving just as Duane decides to make his presence known. Duane: "Max." Max: "I need help." Tavi comes down and uses the auto-injector on Sparrow, who's in bad shape. She immediately relaxes after the injection. Radio: "We are five minutes out."

Tim shows up with a submachinegun and a wild look in his eyes. Dwayne: "Can you drive a grav-vehicle?" Tim: "Yes!" Dwayne: "Good. Then we'll need you to drive the van. Tim: "Wait a minute. We're not going anywhere until we bury Dragon." Dwayne: "Where is she?" Tim: "Over there." They go over, and Dragon is still, in fact, not dead. Hey, bonus!

With Tavi taking care of Sparrow, Max can get back to Amanda. As soon as Max opens the door, Amanda springs out, taking Max down. It's several seconds before she realizes he's hurt. Amanda: "I'm sorry." She looks over at the bad guy Sparrow restrained, and takes the gun out of Max's hand. Max: "No!" Too late. Duane is now quite impressed with the supposed Navy guy, since his girlfriend just shot that last guy in the head as well. Maybe they're really from some sort of elite Navy hit team or something. Max is able to coax the male captive, with Amanda's help, out of the second cage. He's wrapped in borrowed clothing as well, and this part of the group emerges (cautiously) from the bunker to warn the others about approaching reinforcements.

Tim stops by the body of the man Duane knifed earlier. Tim: "Somebody has good taste in shoes, those cost several thousand credits." He takes the gauss pistol from the downed man, and picks up something else (small, shiny) as well, putting the latter in his pocket. The sound of distant aircraft is heard. Apparently the reinforcements are coming in as airborne. Time to go.

Tim opens the driver's side door of the van, pulls out the dead guy, and sits down with in the pool of blood without a blink. They move out, having crammed everyone into the back or front of the van. Duane: "Tavi, are we done here?" Tavi: "Yeah." Duane: "Good." Luis and the others wave at the van as it leaves, from several hundred metres away from the camp. Speaking of the camp, the plane is dropping something onto the camp, but it's not troops. Unassing the area was a very good plan.

The male captive is huddled in a corner of the van. Max: <to Amanda> "Do you know who he is?" Amanda: "His name's Donald. He's from Rhylanor." Tavi: "Oh boy, is he going to need reprogramming!" Max: "I'm from Rhylanor." Tim: "Where do we go from here?" Tavi: "Well, we can go to Jacomo's, one of us can go in and make a deal." Duane: "He might have use for this grav-vehicle." Being the only one with medical training, Dwayne gives himself his last dose of Regen™1, so he can stay useful, but he's covered in blood and looking very unsteady; the Regen™ stopped the bleeding, but didn't replace the lost fluid. Max is still bleeding, but it's down to an ooze now, which may or may not be a good thing considering how pale he is. While Dwayne is treating other members of the party, Duane whispers to Tavi. Duane: "You got proof on the brother?" Tavi: "I've got proof." Duane: "I'd be willing to forgo my half of the government reward for a copy of that." Tavi: "All right."

Sparrow has been watching the others. Sparrow: <to Max> "Well Tavi and Duane seem to be getting along. What do you think they're doing out there?" Max: "Not much, since they're on their way back. Are you okay?" Sparrow: "Much better now, thank you."

It's an uneventful, if uncomfortable trip. They stop the van near Jacomo's, but hidden. Tavi: "Tim, guard the van. I'll go to Jacomo's." Tim: "Maybe you should guard the van and I'll go to Jacomo's." Oh- he's getting uppity. Testosterone and adrenaline overdose! Tavi: "How much experience do you have negotiating deals? <no response> Exactly. I'll go." Tavi hikes up to the establishment and has no trouble finding the owner. Hostess: "Always good to see a repeat customer. Welcome back." Jacomo emerges from the back. Jacomo: "Ah, my friend Tavi, good to see you again. Please you must sit here, it's the best table." Tavi: "The table is irrelevant. My friends and I need a place to stay, and some help." Jacomo: "This is Jacomo's! At Jacomo's one can acquire anything one needs. And at reasonable prices." Tavi: "I don't know how we're fixed for cash, but I happen to have the possession of a grav-van that was not mine to begin with." Jacomo: "Are you suggesting that Jacomo is a used car salesman?" Tavi: "I'm suggesting you might be able to find a use for this commodity." Jacomo: "Is anyone going to come looking for this van?" Tavi: "Doubtful. At least not the people who were using it last." Jacomo: "I believe I could handle the disposal of this asset for you." Tavi: "We will need transportation to the starport in something other than the van." Jacomo: "I'll give you $10,000 piasters for the van. That should enable you to get transportation.." Tavi: "Fine." As far as transport, Jameson is in the bar. Seems his vehicle broke down, but he's willing to take Tavi and her party back. Jameson: "I would suggest that you dispose of your weapons just before we cross over." Jacomo: "I may be able to help you with that as well." Tavi: "Good. The next thing is, is there a doctor in town that has not had his morning drink, and can make a very discreet house call?" Jacomo: "This is San Cristobal. A few piasters and people's memories are feeble. Besides, they have no love for the authorities." He'll make the arrangements while Tavi goes back for the rest of the group.

Tavi gets a ride in a truck, to use the term very loosely. Eventually they get there. Boy: "Hold your foot on the brake." He gets out and puts something under the wheel. The party is moved from the van to the truck. After a few thousand years of bumping along the road, they arrive around back of Jacomo's. Tavi and Tim help people inside, being the ones in best shape.

By the time everyone gets back to Jacomo's, the doctor is there and has set up in one of the back rooms. Sparrow has only minor injuries, now that the antidote has taken care of that neuro-toxin. Dwayne and Duane are both medicked, but have both had Regen™, so were already on the mend; some fluid replacement helps, and they were both lucky to not have anything that needed to be removed. Dragon, aside from a concussion and a scalp wound is fine. Tim and Tavi emerged without much more than a few scratches, although Tavi feels like she's been put through the ringer. Tim still has that adrenaline thing going. Max's injuries take a bit more work, what with all the internal damage. Amanda insists she's all right, and Max agrees to let the doctor do what he has to, as long as Amanda is in the same room.

177 to 179-1123.

Time passes. Max wakes up in a big, soft, clean bed, in a French whorehouse. There are angels on the ceiling, doing things that he wouldn't have normally associated with angels. Amanda, cleaned up, properly clothed, and with a new bandage on her hand is sitting on the bed beside him. Max: "Uh...How long was I out?" Amanda: "Not long. A couple of hours." Max: "How are you? Are you all right?" Amanda: "I'll panic later. When we're off-planet." Max: "We'll head back to Rhylanor. As soon as we can." Amanda: "I don't suppose they get a lot of this on Rhylanor." Max: "We brought the radio guy with us. I wanted to talk to him." He tries to get up. Amanda: "No. You're not going anywhere for a while. The doctor said you were supposed to rest, and you're going to rest." Max starts to protest, but Amanda stops him. Amanda: "If that means I have to come in here and hold you down, I will." Max: "Yes ma'am." Amanda: "Now you have to eat something." She's got a tray with some broth, and she's going to feed Max. He recognizes the tone of voice she's using, and he'll just do what she says.

Dwayne chats with Jacomo. They discuss sports over a fine meal and wine. Jacomo knows many things. Tavi sleeps for ten or twelve hours, showers, dresses, and goes out to see what the rest of the world is doing. The rest of the world is cooking food, and not giving her any. Duane sleeps as well. When he wakes up, he checks out his new knife. The handle once more molds itself into his hand, and when he has the knife up close to look at it, it has a very, very faint hum to it. A vibra-blade? If it is, it's the quietest one he's ever seen. He tries it out on his steak, which it cuts like butter, leaving a scratch on the china plate. Oops. Tim is playing with what looks like a graduation ring. He's cleaned up, and has that thousand yard stare.

Jacomo has heard that the rebels raided an army camp last night. Tavi: "That was brave of them." Jacomo: "Yes. I have also heard that the head of the anti-terrorist group was killed in a tragic car accident. There'll be a state funeral soon. After all, the man was a hero." Tavi: "Uh-huh."

Jameson is there, and Duane asks him if he's ready to go back. Jameson: "Once the part I need for my gets here. They said it would be here in a day. I ordered it two days ago." Sparrow is fine, but a little bit fatigued. Dragon is resting, but she's eaten. Jacomo has looked over everything, and with all things considered, the party ends up owing him $100 piasters, and that includes the medical care.

Max asks Amanda if she can find out what happened to the radio man they brought in, since she won't let him do anything. He's still there, and if he behaves, Max can go speak with him. Tavi wants in on this little conversation as well. The doctor has left instructions for most of the party (those who were injured) to drink lots of fluids, but only one glass of alcohol. Damn. Jacomo has put the radio man, Antonio, to work. Tavi asks him about offworlders - who were they, and what did they have to do with Mendoza. Antonio: "There were two men in suits who came and spoke with Mendoza. Both tall, good-looking. Mendoza was very respectful of the offworlders. They might have been associates, I don't know." Tavi: "Do you know if the kidnapping was Mendoza's deal, or was he acting under orders?" Antonio: "I don't know for sure, but I think it was Mendoza's. He always took a personal interest whenever there were captives in the camp. He liked to take them out and show how much power he had over them." Max: "I killed him way too fast." Antonio: "I didn't stay there when he was with them, particularly the female. I'm just a soldier. Or I was. I took this job because I have fourteen brothers and sisters. My father's just a poor farmer. I didn't want to have anything to do with this." Max: "When the off-worlders were there, did you ever hear any names?" Antonio: "Mr. Lee." Tavi: "Mr. Lee?" Antonio: "Mendoza called the older one Mr. Lee." Max: "Did he seem to be the one in charge of his group?" Antonio: "Yes. He was interested in Escobar, but he seemed more interested in the woman." Tavi: "Is that what they were interested in?" Antonio: "Yes. He treated Mendoza like the kitchen help. Whenever they left that's when Mendoza would be at his worst with the prisoners." Tavi: "Do you have any reason to think Mendoza wasn't the one behind the kidnapping for fun and profit? It doesn't seem like something the offworlders would have been interested in." Antonio: "I have no way of knowing. Please, I would tell you if I knew."

Tavi and Max leave the room. Tavi: "He seems to be telling the truth. Or as much of it as he knows." Max: "If you're able to find out anything else, you can get in touch with me." Tavi: "That's possible, if unlikely. I think we should return to town. And I recommend that you not announce you found Amanda, in case some one in the government was involved. That would be a short trip." Max: "Fine. I don't want Amanda involved in any of this. I want off this rock." They go out into the main dining area, to meet up with the others.

Dwayne: "I suggest we send Max and Amanda back." Tavi: "Jacomo has a way back to the ship." Max: "There is a problem with the ship." Tavi: "There's a problem with the ship?" Oh, that's right, Tavi wasn't there for that. Max explains about the ship, the police, etc. Tavi: "Yes, that would be a problem all right." Then there's the matter of transport. Tavi: "Jameson is willing to give us a ride back, but he's still waiting for a part for his vehicle, and I'm not sure I want to hang around here to wait for it to arrive." Max asks Jacomo if he knows Nathan, the trucker. Jacomo: "Nathan slash Natasha? Of course." Max: "Does he comes through here on a regular basis?" Jacomo: "Yes." Max: "When is he due back?" Jacomo: "Tomorrow night." Max: "Heading out, or in?" Jacomo: "In to port."

In fact, Nathan brings in Jameson's part. Nathan is able to recommend a site they can go through onto the starport, where they just have to pay the fees to some one, and no questions will be asked. Tavi and Duane return with Jameson, like they're supposed to. All the others, including Tim and Donald, get a ride back from Nathan/Natasha. Dwayne gets to sit up beside Nathan again. Nathan: "Are you sure your not gay?" Dwayne: "My deah Natasha, if one of the most gohgeous cweatures I've eveh seen can't tempt me, then who could?" Aah, always the charmer.

They get back onto the starport. Duane, Tavi, and Dragon have to return the transponder to Regina to get their original payment, so that's where they want to go. Duane gets a copy of the proof of Roberto Escobar's death, and when he calls the intermediary's number, he gets his "employer." Sterne: "Duane! Good to hear from you. Why don't you come see me in my office? I have a little something for you." Duane: "I don't think so. We should meet on neutral ground." Sterne: "Do you have some place in mind?" Duane: "There's a coffee shop I know, on the starport." Sterne: "When?" Duane: "Right now." Sterne: "I'll need some time to get the bonds. How about in a half an hour?" Duane: "Fine." He gives Stenre the name of the place, then heads right over to scope it out.

Sterne is prompt, if nothing else. Sterne: "Mr. Flett, so good to see you." Duane: "Shall we conclude our business?" Sterne: "Business? You know I've received news from the planetary government of Roberto Escobar's death. I don't see what business we have left to conclude." Duane: "Payment." Sterne: "For what? He was killed by government troops, as I understand it. I don't feel any obligation to provide you with payment when some one else did the work. <holds up a hand as Duane glares at him> But, I'm a reasonable man, and I understand that you did make the attempt. At least for your time and effort, say, $5,000? <lays an envelope on the table> After all, you did your best. Now I really must get back to work. Oh, and the coffee's on me." He tosses a few bills on the table and walks out. Duane picks up the envelope and follows Sterne outside. Sterne goes to his car, gets into the back seat, and finds Duane right behind him all the way in. Sterne: "What do you think you're doing Mr. Flett? Charles, see -" There's suddenly a very large, very sharp knife up against Sterne's throat. Sterne: "Are you threatening me, Mr. Flett?" Duane: "No, I have my knife to some one else's throat." Sterne: "Don't be a fool, Flett." Duane: "You hired me to do a job. I had to pay my help. I want my money." Sterne: "Do you really think I'm going to pay you $250,000? I suggest you get out of this car before you do something you'll regret for the rest of your life, and I can assure you I do not make idle threats." Duane: "Neither do I." Sterne: "We both know that you're not going to do anything, now get out." Duane carefully pulls his blade across Sterne's throat as he pulls it back, making a very slight cut into the skin. Barely qualifies as an injury, but it does bleed well. Sterne: "Charles quick! Get some soda water!" Duane: <getting out> "Be careful who you stiff, Mr. Sterne." Sterne: "You bastard, I'll get you for this. There's no where you can hide, Mr. Flett, I know who you are!" Duane: "And I know who you are." Duane is going to spread the word about Joshua Sterne not fulfilling his contracts. Joshua Sterne, that is, not any other Sterne. Gerhardt never would have done something this stupid.

On a more positive note, Tavi is able to collect the $1,000 Piaster ($100,000 credit) reward for Roberto Escobar's death without much fuss. Don't want to cause any sort of noise the papers might pick up.

Back in civilization, or what passes for it around here, and back on board the Bonaventure. (The crime scene tape is down now, thanks to Dwayne's judge friend.) Dwayne makes contact with the judge about playing golf, and how horrible it is that while he was on safari, the hotel burned down. All those poor people! And Dwayne's golf clubs. Judge: "I've spoken with my wife, and we've agreed that you must come and stay with us." Dwayne: "Oh, I don't want to impose." Judge: "Not at all! You're staying with us, and not another word. How is everything else going with your party? Any word on Miss Wentworth?" Dwayne: "Twagic, twagic. I'm afwaid they may neveh find the lady." Judge: "Yes. I think we can get her declared dead and settle this right away." Dwayne: "Perhaps missing, presumed dead?" Judge: "Of course, of course. Poor Maximilian. I suppose he's not feeling up to company. Please express my condolenses for his loss. So unfortunate when things like this happen to people with such a good name." Dwayne agrees, and arranges for a charity golf tournament to benefit the soccer player's charity before he rings off. Dwayne: "Max, do you play golf?" Max: "Yes, a bit." Dwayne: "You may have to play the gwieving whateveh, but we may be able to get attention off of you and Amanda."

Elsewhere on the starport. Male: "Excuse me, Sgt Flett, isn't it?" Duane turns. Male: "Excuse me, I've been informed that you are an experienced individual who can be relied upon to perform certain tasks for the right renumeration." Duane: "What do you have in mind?" Male: "I have some people who have caused me some difficulty, and I was hoping you could help me mete out justice." Duane: "What's the target?" Male: "Some people have caused myself and my associates some difficulties. In fact, they killed one of my partners. I don't know their names, but I have information that may lead to their identities." Duane: "Locals or offworlders?" Male: "I'm not certain. But this may help." He leads Duane to a nearby bank of public lockers and opens one. Male: "Do you recognize this face?" There's a head in the locker that looks remarkably like Tim. Only a bit shorter. The locker is shut. Duane: "I've seen that face." Male: "Well, he's one of the people who've been identified to me. I'll find out who the others are. I need your help. I'm told you've worked on planet before, and I'm told you're a man of negotiable talents." He opens his coat and takes out a ring that looks remarkably like the one Tim had been looking at in Jacomo's. Male: "This belonged to my friend." Duane: "Who was your friend?" Male: "A businessman. His is not a name to be bandied about. This may help to identify him. <hands Duane the ring> And here's the number I can be reached at when you have something to report. <hands over a card with a number on it> Shall we say this as a retainer?" He hands Duane $50,000 credits. Not bad for a retainer, especially since he's being hired to hunt himself. Well, maybe not himself, maybe just the others. Duane agrees. Then the man picks Duane up by the throat, one-handed, and lifts him off the ground. Male: "Don't disappoint me, Mr. Flett." He sets Duane back down. Duane hands him back the money, the card, and the ring. Duane: "I've never met you." Male: "Fair enough." He goes back to the locker, takes out Tim's head, tosses it like a basketball into the nearby trash can, and walks off, whistling.

Back to the ship. Max tells Amanda they don't want anyone to know she's there before they leave. Max: "That means no answering the commo or the door, and no leaving the ship." Amanda: "I won't be leaving the ship. Not on this planet. No, no, no. Never get off the fucking ship." Other than that, she's fine. Really. Yeah. Dwayne convinces Max that he has to play golf. Max: "I really don't want to leave Amanda." Dwayne: "We need to get the ship off planet discweetly. And that may mean cozying up to the judge and his wife. They weally ahre lovely people."

Duane calls Tavi on her cell, and arranges to meet somewhere public but discreet. A strip club. (Well, it's mostly dark, and the patrons are mostly distracted.) Duane motions Tavi to a seat when she arrives. Duane: "I suppose I should have waited before telling you to collect the reward. I just got stiffed." Bartender: "Hey, buddy, there's a two drink minimum." They order drinks. Tavi: "Do you want half the money?" Duane: "Nah, that's all right. You ever work for Joshua Sterne?" Tavi: "Not that I know of, why?" Without all the gory details, like how much he was going to be paid, Duane explains about Sterne welching on his deal. Tavi: "Bummer." Duane: "There's something else. Did you ever see this ring?" He describes it, vaguely. Tavi: "Sounds like a school or academy ring." Duane: "Have you seen Dragon or Tim lately?" Tavi: "No, not since we left them in Jacomo's. Why?" Duane: "I think it would be best if we got off planet. Sooner, rather than later." Tavi: "Yesterday, better than tomorrow?" Duane: "Yesterday better than today." Tavi: 'The ship can't leave until after some sort of golf tournament or something." Duane: "As a professional courtesy, you might want to warn Max..." Drinks are brought over, without being ordered. Bartender: "From that gentleman over there." He points at a man who looks exactly like the guy who tried to hire Duane. He smiles and tips his drink. Tavi has no clue who this man sitting with the stripper is. Duane does though, and Tavi notices his reaction to the man. Duane: "You might want to tell Max he should get off this planet." Tavi: "Is this a survival thing?" Duane: "It's a danger thing. Just go with it." Tavi slams her fist on the table, her hand goes towards her gun and Duane, not realizing she's acting, draws his knife. Bartender: "Hey! Take it outside!" Tavi backs out of the bar. She gathers all her belongings, and heads back to the ship.

Tavi: "Maximilian, it's been recommended by our knife-wielding, former military friend, that it would be best for us, in a safety manner, to get off this planet right now." Max phones Dwayne, at the judge's place, reaching the judge's wife. Emily: "Dwayne dear, you have a call." Dwayne: "Thank you, Emily. Hello?" Max: "It's Max. I'm sorry, but I won't be able to stay for the tournament. I have to leave now. Will you be able to make other arrangements to get off planet? I'm not sure it's safe for you to stay either." Dwayne: "I'll be there as soon as I can. <hangs up then approaches Emily> I'm afwaid that Max is not taking it well. He sounds very distwaught.: Emily: "I'm sure. The poor dear. Is there anything we can do?" Dwayne: "I don't feel wight leaving him alone at a time like this, but I didn't want to just leave you with this chawity touwnament coming up." Emily: "Don't be silly. Of course you must help your friend. We'll take care of the tournament." Dwayne: "I couldn't think of anyone who would do a bettew job than you, gwacious lady." That smooth talker.

Back at the ship again, there's a ring at the door. Max answers it. Man: "Mr. Fairfax?" Max: "Yes?" It's a couple of cops, in not expensive suits. ($100 credit suits, rather than $1,000 which means they're probably real cops, and not on the pad. Or they have really bad taste in suits.) Detective: "We'd like you to come down to the station. There's been... an accident, and we need you to identify some one. We believe they may have been one of your passengers or crew." Max: "Of course. If you could just give me a moment, I'll go with you." Max calls Tavi over, and they talk off to one side. Detective: <to his partner> "Whoa, did you see that? I wouldn't kick her out of bed." Much nodding and smiles.

Max: "Look, I've got to go take care of some business. I won't be gone long, but I'm counting on you to look after everything here." Tavi: "You have to come back. You're the navigator." Max: "I'll be back." Tavi: "Oh, since Amanda's not here, I'm the listed pilot." Max: "Good thought." He pops in to the captain's cabin to let Amanda know he has to go out for just a bit, but he'll be right back, and then they're leaving. She's not thrilled, but she'll wait there for him. Whatever he wants.

Max is taken to the morgue, and is taken to a viewing room. He knows something isn't right when he sees the gurney with a sheet covering what is obviously not an entire body. Tim's head is uncovered. Carved on the forehead is something in a foreign language. "Oderint dum metuant" [Let them hate so long as they fear.] Detective: "Do you recognize this man?" Max: "Yes. His name is... was Tim LANU." They cover him up. Detective: "Did he have any enemies? Anyone who would have any reason to harm him?" Max: "Not that I know of. He was travelling with a woman, Dragon - DeeDee Callahan. They were together when I last saw them." Detective: "Do you recognize the words on his forehead?" Max: "No, but I believe it's Latin." The police want to question the others on board the ship. They think it's the work of a deranged serial killer, as several people have disappeared recently, and only parts of them have been recovered. Max: "The woman he was travelling with, DeeDee Callahan, they were together when I last saw them. If something happened to Tim, then she could be in danger." The police don't know where DeeDee is, but they want to speak to anyone on the crew or passengers that Max could direct to them. They've had several other body parts show up, also with Latin phrases carved into them. They found the left arm of a police officer with the phrase "sic semper tyranus" [Thus be it ever with tyrants.]carved on it, and the right leg of a missing soldier with "Dolce e decorum est pro patria more" [It is good and honorable to die for one's country.]. Oh great - a psychotic Latin teacher is running amok on Menorb. Yet another good reason to get the heck out of there.

Max is given a ride back to the ship. Duane and Dwayne have both shown up, the former has to bang on the door at the last minute. Max asks the others about Dragon, and it seems she's asleep in her cabin; he decides to not bother her right now - not like there's anything she can do for Tim. Since they leave suddenly and unexpectedly, no one tries to stop them. Tavi: <to Amanda> "Since I'm the pilot of record, I should probably pilot us out. If you don't mind." Amanda: "You want to pilot, that's fine. Sure. Whatever." She seems fine. Really, really fine.

They make it off Menorb, and into jump. Max has never been happier to see a planet in the rear screen, not even Vera Cruz.

All that remains now is to tell Dragon about Tim, break the bad news to Tim's family on Boughene, pry loose some pertinent information from the taciturn Sgt. Flett, try to figure out who the Latin-obsessed insane man is and how to deal with him, get Donald back to Rhylanor and to his family, get Amanda back to Rhylanor for treatment, spread the word about Joshua Sterne being a welcher, and try to get Menorb either declared a Red Zone or bombed from orbit. Not that anyone's upset or anything.