"Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage."--- Woody Allen
Duane: "I have an idea." Max: "What?" Duane: "Now that we're food for these cannibal guys, at some point in time, they're going to want to eat us. I say if they eat us, we make them pay for it." Max: "I don't think I'm quite ready for this conversation yet." Duane: "Okay. We could just spread the word that we've found something that's toxic to them and not to us. It would make them think twice before they have us for lunch."
Amanda is to be transferred to a proper psychiatric facility. Max doesn't want to upset her further, but he does go to the hospital when she's transferred. She's been very heavily sedated. A judge has ordered that Amanda be held in the facility, Turtle River (on a domed planet?), Until such time as she can be tried for cannibalism. It's for her own safety, as well as that of the public. Max isn't thrilled, but there's not much he can do, and Amanda does need proper care. He returns to the ship.
Dwayne is allowed to leave the hospital, after being wheeled to the door. He's got no clue what's been going on. After a brisk walk, he arrives at the Bonaventure, knocking as he enters. Dwayne: "Good mowning. What's for bweakfast?" He's greeted by a bunch of people who look like they haven't had enough sleep, and aren't at all hungry.
Still in hospital, Sparrow is feeling better, but still a long way from being fully healed. And after all that Regen she's really, really hungry. Due to her injuries the hospital staff don't want her eating anything really solid so Sparrow gets Jell-O, and a sort of high protein glop. She joins the clean plate club, and is looking longingly at the empty tray when a kindly orderly offers her Mr. Johnson's tray, as "he won't be needing it". While Sparrow is sorry about Mr. Johnson, she takes the food. The beefy stew is very good, and it's not her fault if all the staff isn't aware of her dietary restrictions.
A white lab-coated person comes in and shuts the door. Man: "Ah good, you're eating. Glad to see you've got an appetite." It's a familiar man. Ted, in fact. And you know, Sparrow is feeling much better. Great in fact. She grabs the IV pole and leaps at him. Ted's apparently expecting this (as he bloody well should be) and hits her really hard in the lower torso. Ow. Sparrow then whacks Ted in the shin with the pole while yelling for help as well screaming obscenities at Teddy. Ted: "That hurt. Yell. Yell your lungs out. No one can hear you outside of this room." Darn those high tech sound-dampers. Ted picks Sparrow up and flings her across the room and against the wall, which results in the IV being ripped out rather painfully. Sparrow limps over and goes for Ted again. Ted: "I like you. You've got spunk." Yeah, he said that before, that's one of the reasons she hates him so much. She hits him again, a bit higher, but she's very weak. Ted then grabs her by the throat and squeezes. Everything goes black, and she goes limp.
Sparrow regains consciousness some time later, feeling like she'd been beaten up. Which she was. She's in a chair, and not in the hospital. Ted: "Ah, Miss Sparrow awakes." Sparrow: "I'm waiting patiently for whatever witticisms will fall out of your mouth." Ted: "I'm sorry, nothing seems to be forthcoming. You do look a bit, ill-used. Let me take care of those bruises." He tidies her up a bit. Ted: "Now if I untie one of your arms will you give me your word that you'll behave, or will I have to feed you? Through a tube, if necessary." Sparrow: "No, a tube will not be necessary." Ted has provided hot steaming bread, water, and another savory stew. She's very hungry, and eats. A while later, Sparrow feels back to normal. Ted: "My own family recipe." Sparrow: "Yes, I'm sure it was made from delicious members of your family." Ted: "Now, there's no reason to be snarky." Sparrow: "No reason to - I've been kidnapped, repeatedly, drugged, repeatedly, skewered, beat up, interrogated, and generally screwed around with pretty much non-stop, and you don't think there's a reason for me to be snarky?!? You're the one behind all of this! Not to mention the fact that you and your people are trying to turn us into cannibals!!" Ted: "I think that's a bit overstated. I have no desire to see your friends turned into cannibals. I'm very particular when it comes to recruiting members of our, shall we say, fraternity." Sparrow: "An elite fraternity of man-eating whackos. That's really attractive." Ted: "Don't think of them as men, we don't worry about what cattle think, do we?" Sparrow: "I'm from Regina! What cattle?" Ted: "You're now more than human. You should be grateful." Sparrow: "Why does a line from an old earth movie come to mind?" Ted: "I didn't have to bring you into the fold you know, but I have high hopes for you." Sparrow: "Soylent Green is people." Ted: "And, it's so hard to find a date when you're a cannibal. Besides, I like you. You have a certain, je ne c'est pas. You'll get over it. We all do." Sparrow: "My I inquire what set you on this path?" Ted: "A bit of serendipity. We were investigating...well, new drugs. Researching herbs and plant life in a remote area. Our research had seemingly hit a dead end - we weren't getting the results we expected. Then a sudden winter storm left us cut off from our supply route with no radio, no food, trapped in cave. I forget which party member fell first, but we had to survive, and did what was necessary. It turns out that the drug we were trying to research did come from the plants, but it had to first be absorbed and processed in the human body. Our wounds were healed, we became faster, stronger. And that's not all. How old do you think I am?" Sparrow: "Forty, maybe." Ted: "Try sixty-five. This is my old ID." Shows her a picture of a very wizened old man who looked like he lived a very hard sixty-five years." Ted: "Do you have any old scars?" Sparrow: "No." Ted: "If you had, they'd be gone now. Take a look at your wound." Sparrow lifts her shirt, and where there should be a serious incision from the injury and subsequent surgery is only pink, new skin. Ted: "We heal very quickly, one of the reasons the process reverses aging. Based on the studies we've done, we have no idea how long our life span will be. " Sparrow: "But you have to eat people!" Ted: "A small price to pay for lack of illness, youth, longevity, strength, power." Sparrow: "I don't know that I consider eating people a small price." Ted: "You'll get used to it. It's not like you have a choice. Have you ever heard of a Winderoo?" Sparrow: "A what?" Ted: "A Winderoo. A creature that prayed on the flesh of it's victims. The legends say the cravings became very intense. The need for human flesh - the right human flesh - becomes irresistible. But I understand that one of your party has..." Sparrow: "Gone completely off her rocker and has been trying to eat everybody? Yes!" Ted: "Well, I understand that she was a bit unstable to begin with. You see, it was research into the Winderoo myths on Regina that eventually took us to the wilds of Menorb. But I think you're failing to appreciate the benefits." Sparrow: "Sure, I get the idea about being a megalomaniac and getting to live forever, but it's just not my gig." Ted: "Well, I can't force you. Keeping you tied up, while an attractive thought in some ways, isn't really practical. You can have some time to consider everything I've told you. But don't take too long. We'll be leaving for Regina soon, it's an excellent source of both the plant we need and a large transient populace. I'll have Charles give you a ride to wherever you'd like to be dropped off." Ooooh, Ted must not like Chuck any more! Both Ted and Charles seem to have a sort of spicy smell that is not unpleasant. Sparrow: "Okay, before Chuck here drops me off, could you explain the maniac with the sword? The guy who skewered me." Ted: "Ah yes. Unfortunate. Some of our original party members have had adjustment issues." Sparrow: "Adjustment issues as in they'd like to eat each other?" Ted: "Adjustment problems. Not everyone adapted well, psychologically speaking." Sparrow: "I see. So how many more like sword-boy are there out there for me to worry about?" Ted: "Oh, you won't need to worry about them any more. You'll be able to hold your own now." Sparrow: "One more thing. If I go back to my friends, they aren't going to smell all yummy, are they?" Ted: <smiling> "I don't know that yummy is the term, but there will be an attractive quality to them, yes." Sparrow: "Great. Just wonderful. You bastard." Ted: "I suppose after time you'll get over your attachment to the lessers, but I don't see that I should be held responsible for your current emotional hangups. You just need some time to adjust, of course. Here's a number where you can contact me when you've had a change of heart; don't bother trying to trace it."
Sparrow is given a ride away from the warehouse, conscious this time. Chuck: "Where can I drop you?" Sparrow: "Any where near the port is fine." Chuck: "Oh, the boss packed something for you. It might be embarrassing if you get the munchies around your friends." She'll take it, if nothing more than to have remains to identity.
Back to the awkward moment on the Bonaventure. Tavi: "Whatever you make." Dwayne: "I was afwaid of that." He's watched people cook, how hard can it be? Dwayne goes to the galley to attempt to cook; he's seen it done before. Tavi goes to her room to extract something from her Fortnum and Mason's box and goes to the bridge.
Duane: "Max, sir, what do you want to tell them? And how much do you want to tell them?" Max: "We tell them what we know." Duane: "Okay, what do we know? You want to tell them about Amanda?" Max: "We're all in the middle of this now. I don't think it would be a good idea if we withheld information." Duane: "Whatever. I was just checking to make sure."
A while later, Dwayne comes out with a platter of scrambled eggs, toast, and something that smells like bacon. He is lightly dusted with flour, for some reason, and the kitchen is a mess. Tavi: <to Max> "You might want to change the security code on the hatch, since what's his name walked right in." Duane takes some food off the platter and examines it very closely before eating it rather suspiciously. Max goes to reset the security codes. Tavi's replacement helmet arrives, and she'll take a half hour to replace it. Duane: "We should check on Sparrow. I'm not sure when they were going to let her go." Tavi: "I'll call." Tavi places the call, and after a major run-around, gets a live body to ask about a release time for her crewmate. Nurse: "Well, let's see. According to her chart, she's still under observation. That would be up to the doctor." Tavi: "Will that be tomorrow? The day after?" Nurse: "You'd have to speak with the doctor, and he never talks on the phone." Tavi: "Fine. Thank you." She returns to the common area. Tavi: "I found out absolutely nothing, and they would tell me nothing. And it took a long time to do it." Max: "Some one should go over and keep an eye on her." Tavi: "Who would you suggest?" Dwayne: "Is Miss Spawwow in twouble?" Max: "She's in the hospital." Duane gears up with everything he has. Dwayne: "Expecting twouble?" Tavi: "Considering how many of us have been killed, maimed, abducted, lost... I'd say so." Dwayne: "Killed? Someone has been muwdewed?" Duane: "Donald was killed and eaten." Max: "Shouldn't you be leaving?" Duane: "Yes sir." He heads for the airlock. Dwayne's still processing that last bit of the conversation.
As Duane exits, in body armor, Sparrow arrives. Sparrow: "Hi Duane." Duane: "Oh good. You're here. Things have gotten interesting." Sparrow: "Oh, you have no idea." Duane: "You okay? They didn't let you go too soon?" Sparrow: "No, I'm just fine." Duane: "Hey, what's in the cooler?" Sparrow: "I'd really rather tell this story once, so could we please go inside so I can tell the story once and then you can lock me in my room." Duane: "Okay..." They walk to the Bonaventure. Sparrow's code doesn't work. Duane: "Just press the intercom button." Tavi: "Hello?" Sparrow: "Tavi it's Sparrow. And a very heavily armed Duane." They enter the airlock, but one at a time. Sparrow: "Can you ask everyone to gather in the common area so I only have to tell it once. Please?" Tavi: "Max? Sparrow's entering alone, with a cooler. Duane will enter on the next cycle." Sparrow: "Whoever's listening on board the ship - Tavi, and maybe Max - please assemble in the crew's common area. I only want to tell people this once." Nothing good every starts this way.
Tavi will listen in over the intercom, from the bridge. Sparrow walks in with a cooler (the same type of cooler Max found under Amanda's bed, but that could be a coincidence), followed directly by Duane. Max: "Sparrow, what's in the cooler?" Sparrow: "I don't know. I have a sneaking suspicion, but I'm not sure. Okay, I have something to tell you, and it's not going to be easy, so I'm just going to get through it. Everybody should sit down." They sit, waiting for Sparrow to continue. Dwayne is still mulling the "killed and eaten" comment. Sparrow: "Okay, so after you and Duane left to come back to the ship, Ted showed up. You know, Ted of the drug me, cut my feet episodes, and I tried to beat him up , but it didn't work, and I woke up back in his hideout again. He tended to my wounds, and fed me. Ted proceeded to tell me how he and his friends are cannibals, and how he'd made me like them, and the rest of you were food now, because of the plants on Menorb that we were exposed to, and he really wanted to keep me as not food, because he thinks I'm kind of spunky or something icky, and he turned me loose with food, and I came back here." It's very quiet. Duane is standing with his back to the door and his gun out, with the cornered animal look. Sparrow: "I really don't want to believe them, but they fed me something and it cured me." Duane: "She probably had some of that Donald guy." Sparrow: "Noo...I don't want to know that!" Max: "Duane!" Duane: "Well, you said not to hold anything back, sir." Argh. Sparrow: "And they did the same thing to Amanda, and I think it's the cravings Ted talked about that are making her crazy, and she probably ran off like she did because we were all starting to smell really tasty, which is what happens to people who've been exposed to the plant thing but haven't started eating people." Tavi loads up her guns. Sparrow: "So at this point, I'd like to continue this conversation with you guys, but I want to do it from my room. And I'd like someone to go into my room and make sure anything that I could use as a weapon." Duane goes to clear her room. Sparrow: "So the thing is, creepy Ted said I'd come crawling back to him before they leave for Regina, and I don't know if I'm going to get incredible munchies or whatever." Dwayne: "We should contact the authowities." Sparrow: "That might be an idea, but I think that they may have people in the authorities." She relates the conversation she overheard in the hospital but couldn't tell anyone about because she was so drugged. Max: "They're going to Regina?" Sparrow: "Yes, because it will be a source of cheap, easy food, and because there's a lot of the special ingredient there." Duane strips out everything except for bedding in Sparrow's room. Dwayne: "If it's a pwogwessive disease, pewhaps it can be awwested by something." Max: "We need to stop them from getting off planet and spreading this further." Tavi: "So, Sparrow, how did you get back here?" Sparrow: "Ted had one of his goons drop me off nearby." Tavi: "Can you find the place Ted was holding you?" Sparrow: "Maybe. He gave me a phone number, and said to not bother trying to trace it." She shows Tavi the card with Ted's contact number on it. Sparrow: " He gave me a phone number because the jerk was so confident I was going to come crawling back after eating all of you and can you think of anything more disgusting?!!!!?"
Sparrow tries to calm down. Tavi: "I don't think Sparrow's in any danger currently, if Ted's taken a fancy to her." Duane: "No, but we're in danger from her." Dwayne: "We must hunt down the blackguards and bwing them to justice!" Duane: "Well, I have a question. <to Sparrow> How hungry are you?" Sparrow: "I'm okay for now. I think it gets worse after physical exertion" Dwayne: "Are these people stwong?" Sparrow: "Yes. Very." Duane: "Think, on war drugs." Dwayne loads his 12mm. Sparrow: "I was thinking more like a howitzer." Duane: "Why don't we take her back to her room, and when we figure out what we're going to do, then we get her out. I'll take her back."
Tavi will run a check on every ship currently registered on port. She goes through and starts eliminating possibilities (i.e., ships that just arrived, or arrived way earlier, ore ships, etc.) She can narrow it down to about ten possibles. Duane shows her the sketch of Rosemont's ring, but she's never seen those letters before either.
Duane and Max escort Sparrow back to her new cabin. Duane: "I'll save a bullet for you, if you want." Door shut, locked. Duane: "Hey, Max. Now we've got one of the cannibals, we can try that experiment I was talking about." Max: "Now is not a good time, Duane." Okay, wound a bit tight there. Duane let's it drop for now.
Tavi: "Okay, so the plan is, and correct me if I'm wrong, get a vehicle, drive there, kick some ass, don't get caught, and come back. We don't know who's there, or how they're armed, or anything." Duane: "I'd like to point out that one of these guys, one, took out Sparrow, me, and almost took out Treal. Tavi: "When you weren't expecting it." Duane: "Oh, we were expecting a fight, but not what we got." Dwayne calls to arrange for a rental vehicle to be delivered to the ship. He charges it on his secondary card. Tavi: "Are you going to escort me, lieutenant?" Dwayne: "Of course." Tavi: "Don't forget that I'm your only pilot." Dwayne: "All the mowe weason to ensuwe youw safety. But I'll need to get something out of my cabin." Tavi: "Go ahead. I'll be out of the bridge in a few minutes."
Duane gets on the computer, still determined to find something to make him go down badly if eaten. The closest thing he finds is a shop that specializes in scents and oils and things of that nature. Duane: "Max?" Max: "Yes?" Duane: "I have an idea. You don't like the ingesting toxins stuff, but I'm going to see if we can't find a way to make ourselves less appetizing." He's going to the House of the Sevens Moons. He'll be careful.
The sedan is delivered, Dwayne and Tavi go to the nearest van rental. Tavi: "Hello. Are you the only van rental on port?" Bouncy female clerk: "No, but we're the best. And we have the best selection." Tavi: "So, did you rent a white panel van to Dr. Ted Ives or his friends?" Clerk: "Oh, sure! He was very nice." Tavi: "That would be Ted all right. Which model did he rent?" Girl: <checks> "Just a white panel Naasirka model. We have plenty of those." Tavi: "What address did you rent that to?" Girl: "Not to an address, to docking bay 16C." Tavi: "And he still has that van? He told me he was going to bring it back." Girl: "No, he still has it. But we have plenty of those." Tavi: "Great. I'll probably be calling later to rent ten or twelve of them." No, she doesn't want to put down a deposit, but she'll be calling back. Honest. Tavi leaves to join Dwayne.
The other Duane arrives at the House of the Seven Moons - aromatherapy, massage, perfumes and potions. New Age female clerk: "May I help you?" Duane: "Yeah. Do you have any of those scented oils?" Clerk: "Oh yes. We have every scent you can imagine. Let me show you." She takes him over to a wall with many little cubbies. Many, many little cubbies. Clerk: "I don't sense that these scents are for you." Duane: "No, they're not for me. They're for my lieutenant. He's a noble, and he's got a thing for these foofy scent things." Clerk: "When is his birthday?" Duane, not knowing or caring, makes something up. Clerk: "That would put him on the cusp of Saggitarius." Duane: "Right." Clerk: "A quiet man of bound energies." Duane: "Ah! You know him! Any way, he's my CO, and I was sent over to get some scented oils and stuff for a party later." Duane picks up a vial. Clerk: "Oh - be careful! You don't want to tip that over, that's Putrecine." Duane: "Oh, really?" Clerk: "Yes, the tiniest drop could fill an entire room. It seems Hivers find it soothing, for some reason." They have a number of amines and murcaptins, for their non-human clientele. Duane decides to get a selection of the small vials. He makes sure to get Putrecine, some amines, a couple of murcaptins, some of the other odd Aslan and Vargr ones, and the more exotic human ones. Duane drops a couple of thousand credits on one ounce vials. The really gnarly ones are in double vials for safety reasons.
Clerk: "Okay, that'll come to $1750, and this is for you." She hands him a small vial. Duane: "What is it?" Clerk: "It's for you. Try it." Duane: "What is it?" Clerk: "It's one I picked out for you. It's something special. Don't use a lot of it." Duane: "Do you have a thank you card or something?" Clerk: "We have some blank cards." Duane has her write out "From Lt. Fairhaven, for K'raethe", he gives her an Aslan name from someone he used to know in the service. She doesn't ask how to spell the Aslan name, just Fairhaven. Clerk: "That's an unusual name. And if I see K'raethe, shall I tell him?" Duane: "No, no. The LT wants it to be a surprise." Duane returns to the ship, smelling like a new age whorehouse. Dwayne and Tavi had arrived earlier.
Duane separates out the really vile things, and moves them to another container. He gives the remaining ones to Sparrow, to find out if any of them smell like something that would put her off her food. No, but the wet Aslan one she asks Duane to put on, and he still smells nice. Note: The other cannibals have a very similar smell, but it's accentuated, and they have a sort of presence.
Sparrow is starting to get a bit peckish, but nothing major yet. Tavi does some checking, and Bay 16C has a private vessel. It's in the section where people with money stay, and expect to have their privacy protected. Sparrow asks for some food, and Max brings back something for her. Sparrow: "Is it possible to find out the ship designation, go back to Regina, tell the Navy that it's a plague ship, and they should destroy it?" Max: "It usually doesn't work that way. They'd check it out themselves first." Dwayne wants to "stwike while the iwon's hot!" Duane: "Don't take this the wrong way, but I kind of agree with the lieutenant." Tavi: "We don't know where they are to strike. We don't need a plan, but we do need an objective. We need an ass to kick." It's time to do something, so they decide to check out Bay 16, before trying to locate Ted's warehouse. Sparrow can stay on board the ship if she likes. Sparrow: "I'd rather go along with you guys, if that's okay." Duane isn't too thrilled, but it's really the only way to do this.
Tavi: "Before we get in the car, is everyone armed and armored? Do we have a med kit?" Yes, yes, and yes. Duane takes the putriscine, mercaptin, and phenylmine vials with him. He doesn't tell anyone else in the group about this. Tavi: "Now, just as a combat plan, I would strongly suggest that you, Sparrow, and you, Max, hang back." Sparrow: "Why?" Tavi: "You, because they may be able to sense you're there. <to Max> You, no offence, but you're Navy, correct?" Max: "Yes." Sparrow: "He's a dead shot." Max is confused. Tavi: "I'd rather you not get into unarmed combat." Max: "Neither would I." Tavi: "You can hang back and cover us." Duane is wearing his CES as well as body armor.
Duane is driving, with Sparrow in the front, Dwayne, Max, and Tavi in the back. They drive by bay 16, which is very secure. There's a door for regular people, and a door for crew. Several crew members in livery enter and leave the area as the group drives by. Dwayne notices the livery of one crewman in particular - it's a peacock on a green background, that belongs to the Baron of Tewkesbury. He's undoubtedly staying at whatever five star hotel they have in town. The Admiral. Dwayne used to date the Baron's sister, Viola, during late high school, early college. Casually, mind you, nothing unusual. Convenience dates among the upper classes. Viola is about 6' tall, slender, and with a rich, rather deep voice. Her younger brother's name is Roger, and he used to be an annoying little brother. Dwayne requests a stop at a call box, makes a call and finds that both Viola and Roger are in town. Roger passes the phone to Viola. Viola: " Oh, Dwayne, is it really you? I haven't seen you forever. Are you busy? I'd love to have you for dinner." Uh, yeah, great choice of words there. Viola: "Where are you staying?" Dwayne: "Oh on a ship, with some heawty people." Viola: "Well, bring them along! It will be fun. Say about seven?" Dwayne: "That would be lovely. Are you still messing around with ships?" Viola: "Now and then." Dwayne: "Where will we be going for dinner? I'm afwaid I don't know Boughene vewy well." Viola: "Let me take care of that. How many people will be accompanying you?" Dwayne leans out of the call box, counts heads (which confuses his companions). Dwayne: "Four."
When Dwayne returns to the vehicle, they drive off, deciding to try to locate where Sparrow was with Ted. They head for some promising looking warehouses. A tall, thin person in a suit steps out in front of the car, with his hand up. He doesn't smell like food, or like Ted. Duane stops. The man flips open a credentials case and shows a badge. Cop: "Can you tell me what your business here is?" Duane: "Talk to the lieutenant. I'm just driving." Cop: <to Dwayne> "Have you seen any of these people?" He shows a photo of Ted and Chuck. Sparrow: "I saw that man at the hospital." Cop: "I see. And when was this?" Sparrow: "This morning." Max: "What is this about?" Cop: "Police business." Sparrow: "It's hard to be helpful when you don't ask any questions." Cop: "Have you seen these people recently? In this area?" Sparrow: "No. Should we avoid them? Are they dangerous?" Cop: "That's possible. I'd be careful in this area, and don't pick up any hitchhikers. If you see anything suspicious, contact us at this number." He passes in a card. Sparrow: "Should we avoid these people? Are they armed?" Cop: "They should be avoided. Have a nice day." He knocks on the top of the car, to send it off.
The cop makes a call on his cell phone as they leave. Sparrow calls the number on the card, and gets the police department. Sparrow: "I'm sorry, I misdialed." They continue, and Duane and Dwayne spot a number of men in the shadows, wearing long coats. They must really want Ted and his friends. Sparrow smells a more interesting scent, like Ted's. Somewhere nearby, but not the men in the coats. Sparrow plays bird dog, and Duane drives towards the scent. They take a turn and go down an alley that turns out to be a dead end. Max: "Duane, get out of here. Now." Headlights behind them. Sparrow calls the cops, telling them she's seen the men the police asked about, and gives their location. Cop: "Thank you ma'am." Duane is backing up quickly as the other, larger vehicle slams into the back of them, and shoves their vehicle into the far wall. No one is badly damaged, but it's not pretty. The bad guys' truck pulls back to ram them again. Duane tries to cut through the roof with his vibrablade, as Tavi is firing out the rear window. Dwayne tries to get out the side window, which is about Sparrow-sized. Sparrow is trying to decide if it's safer to stay in the car or get out, but since they're being rammed by the equivalent of a high-tech garbage truck, the safety cage probably won't hold. She climbs out, shoving the roof of the car out of the way like it was a blanket. Dwayne: <to Sparrow> "Some help here please?" Sparrow yanks him out of the hole, almost dislocating his shoulders, and holding him off the ground briefly. It's amazing what adrenaline can do. Yeah, that's it.
Tavi has switched to a snub pistol with HEAP rounds, and fires on the vehicle. At this range she's not likely to miss something that big. Just about the same time Tavi's pointing the gun out and Max is considering whether or not he's going to be able to fit out the hole Sparrow made, the car is rammed again. Dwayne takes a leap off the car, and ends up hitting the windshield of the truck. It's grill is now on fire (slightly), and he sees no driver.
As he starts to push open the hole in the roof, Duane sees Sparrow leap up to the top of the wall. Maybe she was thrown up by the impact. Or maybe it was adrenaline. Or maybe it was something else. Duane figures it was something else. Dwayne is trying to kick in the windshield of the truck while his family jewels are being lightly toasted. The truck pulls back to make another ramming run. Dwayne climbs up as much as he can, then holds on with one hand and fires into the electronic box on the dashboard, causing it to explode into sparks. The truck speeds up. Oh great.
Everyone gets out of the car just before the truck hits. More minor (thanks mostly to luck) injuries result, and now they're stuck in an alley with a burning truck, and a burning car. Tavi tosses up a spool of spidersilk. She has an ascender, which helps. She'll take Max up. Sparrow pulls up Duane by the parachute cord he tossed up. Literally pulls him up. She does the same with Dwayne. She is getting tired, and hungry. The fire alarm goes off and the sprinklers turn on. They crawl through the duct work. They see armed men, laying in wait, who did not rush to their aid. Sparrow doesn't know how they smell due to the burnt plastic. They decide to unass the area.
Through the roof stuff, flanking the armed men. Duane checks for other people up in the roof, and spots several. He points them out to Tavi, who uses her scope to look. She sees several men hunched over a sort of apparatus. Then there's a blur as one of the men is yanked upwards into the upper roof. Something drops. The second man stands up, weapon in hand. A couple of seconds later, he's yanked into the air.
Over commo - Duane: "Tavi, you're a sharpshooter, are you not?" Tavi: "I'm an adequate shot." Duane: "Are you an expert?" Tavi: "At this distance, I could hit a target with one eye closed and one arm tied behind my back. If you want me to hit a moving target, I'll need both arms." Duane: "LT. We've got a number of armed people in the area -" As he's talking, two men drop from above and in a blur of motion, take down the six men. Duane: "Look, two guys just dropped out of the roof and took out those six guys over there." Duane sees one of the men who dropped turn and look up straight at him. Tavi fires at him with her gauss rifle, aiming at centre of mass. She pulls the trigger and there's a nasty clunk. Something is jammed but good. The man who looked up runs at the street, and up the side of the wall. As soon as he pops up, about 20' away, and Sparrow runs over at him. It's just like in Crouching Hidden Iron Tiger-Monkey! He ran up the side of the building, knocking chunks of brick out of the wall. While the large, four-letter expletive swirls above Tavi's head, Duane says "Max! You and the LT, with Tavi." Max: <pointing at Sparrow> "Back her up!" Duane: "I will." Tavi, Max, and Dwayne head for a quieter area.
Duane takes out one of the nasty vials. Sparrow is hit, spins backwards, comes up and attacks. She knocks the other guy back, snapping his knee. She looks down to see blood, where several of her ribs were caved in. The blood stops in a matter of seconds. The man pops his knee back into place. Tavi turns and shoots him with her 9mm. This should at least distract him. It does. He heads towards the other group, fast. Dwayne brings up his shotgun for a snap shot. The bad guy bounds towards Tavi but is taken out sideways by Sparrow's tackle. Dwayne fires, hitting the man, and Sparrow (but only a couple of pellets). After more shots are fired, and Sparrow lands a few hits, the man falls off the roof to the ground and is still.
Duane is looking around for the second man when he's grabbed from above. Duane shoves the vial of putricene up, crushes it in his gloved hand and is dropped like a hot potato. Sparrow and Max were in the air current path from hell, and are suddenly puking their guts out. Duane gets a couple of shots off at the fleeing figure, but he's not sure if he hit him. Tavi has gone down to check on the downed man who is starting to sit up as she gets there. Tavi shoots him repeatedly in the head. Let's see him come back from that!
Dwayne wasn't in the area affected by the putricene, and at first thinks Duane used nerve gas. Then he gets a bit of a whiff and backs off quickly. Eventually, a human's nose shuts down. Thank God. By the time they're done throwing up, Sparrow is wearing bloody clothing but looks uninjured. Duane tells Tavi to check and see if the man she shot has a ring. He does. Duane: "Take it." Okay. Duane hyperventilates, removes his CES and tosses it into the burning alley, then helps Sparrow, Dwayne, and Max off the building. Max: <to Dwayne, who has his shotgun in his hand> "Shoot the hand, the one the ring was on." Dwayne does. If the bad guys don't know they took a ring, it could be to their advantage. As they're running away, passed the six dead guys, they discover that one of them is not quite dead. He sits part way up and fires, hitting Tavi in the forearm. Her armor starts to dissolve and hiss. Sparrow helps her strip off that section of armor, which dissolves like spun sugar in the rain. Okay, so who were the guys with the molecular acid rounds? A moment later there's a bright actinic flash where the dead bodies were. What?
Fleeing the area, and stinking like hell, they find one of the coin-operated car wash things. Everyone can spray off. They start with Tavi's armor. She's on over-pressure to keep the smell out, so she'll be able to act as a final detector as to when it's safe to stop washing. Everyone strips down and scrubs. It's paper suit time! Eventually they only stink to Tavi, which means it's time to get back to the ship.
They call an auto-cab to go back to the ship. On the way, they pass Treal, who's out for a walk. It smells like a rotted skunk, and he recognizes the passengers. He says nothing to call attention to himself. No sir.
They arrive back at the ship. Sparrow goes to her cabin and uses the fresher. Repeatedly. Tavi goes to the galley and makes something. She opens up the Igloo cooler, takes out some of the food from the tupperware and heats it well in the microwave. She checks to make sure Sparrow is in the fresher, which she is, then Tavi slips in the food and leaves. Sparrow comes out and smells hot, good food. It looks like Boeuf Bourgonion. When the others emerge, Tavi tells them she heated up some food for Sparrow, and she's hitting the shower now. Sparrow comes on the commo, and informs the others she's going to get some sleep.
Dwayne asks Duane just where the heck he got that awful stuff. Duane: "A new age kind of place called the House of the Seven Moons." Dwayne: "Why in heavens name did they have Putwecene?" Duane: "They said it was Hiver aphrodisiac." Not true, but Dwayne doesn't know that. Dwayne calls the place. Clerk: "House of the Seven Moons, this is Rain." Dwayne: "Hi Wain." Rain: "Rain." Dwayne: "Wight, Wain. My colleague puwchased some items for a Hivew associate of mine." Rain: "Oh, you must be Dwayne! Hello Dwayne." Dwayne: "Hello. Any way, we've had a little accident, and I was wondewing if there was anything you know of that could neutwalize the smell?" Rain: "Which one did you spill?" Dwayne: "The wowst one, of couwse." Rain: "Oh. Well, have you tried tomato juice?"
The scent will wear off in a while, but they have a date tonight. Max gets on the computer and locates a commercial decontamination company that yes, can make a housecall and decontaminate the ship and it's occupants. When this rather unpleasant process is done, everyone except for Max has almost no body hair and is blond. (For whatever reason, Max didn't bleach out.) Well, Dwayne was blond to begin with, and Duane's hair was too short to be a problem. Dwayne calls the Admiral, rents a four room suite, and arranges for spa treatments, tailors, and a dressmaker for Baron Fairhaven's party. Not a problem.
To the Admiral, where they are greeted by a raised eyebrow. Dwayne: "Nevew go to a Hivew party." To the spa! This works. Clothing and body armor are ordered. The hotel has thought of everything, and sends up a makeup artist and hair stylist. Both are very good at what they do. This takes right up until 6:45 p.m. Good thing they only have to take the elevator downstairs.
Dwayne recognizes Roger, who looks about the same, only bigger. Viola is still tall, but she's filled out rather nicely. Dwayne's research into Burke's Peerage told him what Roger is into - riding, travelling, yachting, etc. All the standard foofy noble pursuits, as Duane would expect. Dwayne makes introductions all around. Viola: "Rhys-Fairfax? You aren't by any chance related to the Marquis of Elsdon?" Max: "Well, in a manner of speaking, yes." That would be Max in fact. The Tewkesbury's have arranged for a private dinner party. They've rented an entire restaurant so that no unwashed public will wander in.
Duane is obviously a bodyguard, but Tavi isn't of that low a class. Plus she's wearing her lapel medals. Viola: "You must be frightfully brave." Tavi: "Or in the wrong place at the wrong time." She could impress the lady, if she cared to, but she doesn't. Roger, Viola, and Dwayne are all highly educated, but not big intellects. They're catching up on all the old school chums, and what they did. Duane and Tavi try to not let their eyes glaze over. Sparrow assesses Viola's $150,000 credits worth of jewelry, and very expensive dress. Roger would love to show Sparrow some of his etchings. Really. He has some interesting art, Sparrow might want to take a look at them.
Viola is glad to have run into Dwayne and his party. They'll be leaving Boughene soon, but there's been a bit of a delay. The captain is taking care of it." More small talk about people, and places, and even starships. Dwayne finds out that no, Viola is not "involved" with anyone currently. She's been married and divorced a couple of times though. Viola: "And you? Anyone special?" Dwayne: "Well, not weally." Roger: <to Max> "Would you like to see my ship?" Tavi: "You have a ship?" Ooh, the female is interested! Tavi asks lots of questions about the ship that Roger can't answer. Dwayne: <to Max> "Why don't you and Spawwow and Tavi and Wogew take a look at the ship?" Tavi: "That's an excellent idea!" Duane will go along to do the bodyguard thing for real. Dwayne and Viola are left to chat, dance, and flirt.
The others go to docking bay 16A, looking at all the other nice ships in the bay. There is an average looking 500 ton ship in 16C, registered as the Cadiz Explorer; some kind of corporate ship. They keep to themselves, according to Roger, who's more interested in showing off his own vessel. Roger gives them the tour. Roger: "Oh Captain! Could you show my friend the bridge?" Captain: "Of course, sir." Tavi gets a look at the ultra-modern, very nice cockpit, and can talk pilot talk. She checks out the ship from a professional viewpoint.
After a while, Roger gets bored and asks if Tavi wants to see "those etchings I was telling you about." She goes to his room, which has a revolving round bed in it. Roger reclines on it, leaning up on his elbow in what he no doubt thinks is in an alluring fashion. It isn't. Tavi: "I think I'll go see what Max and Sparrow are up to." She walks out. Roger isn't getting any tonight, at least not from her.
Viola: "May I tell you something?" Dwayne: "Of couwse." Turns out Viola is absolutely starved for bouncy. It's been ages, and she's really, really eager. Viola: "In case you'd ever wondered what it would be like..." Dwayne: "I've laid awake nights wondewing." They're both adults, decadent nobles, and .... They go to her room.
Back at Roger's ship, he tries his luck with Sparrow, and is also turned down. The ship does reek of valuable art though. There are two lovely gold lion statues in the library, and when Sparrow goes over and picks one up, it's definitely not just gold-plated. After a while, Max makes his excuses to Roger, and they go back to their hotel and to sleep. It's been a very, very long day.
After much giggling and champagne, at 4:00 a.m. Dwayne and Viola decide it's time for some actual sleep.