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Episode 6: Congregation of the Dead
Topic Started: Sep 2 2011, 03:30 AM (1,482 Views)
Lucky Seven
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2/28/09

Helena, Dema, Chloe, Mag, Ian and Hitomi came from here.

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead. - Proverbs 21:16
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Hitomi Asakura
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The shuttle flew low over the glittering sea, below the clouds that formed signaling the coming of summer storms on Ezra. Slight turbulence buffeted the little craft, but its inertial dampeners compensated giving the passengers a remarkably smooth ride.

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"Sooner than you think if you continue to talk about things you know nothing of. I wouldn't expect you to understand, because of you, there are plenty. Too many in fact. Conniving, scheming, brutal creatures that think only of themselves and what they can gain." Dema's tone stayed pleasant and he even spoke with a smile, but his eyes glittered and the sleeve concealing the stiletto twitched. "Rikka has never asked anything of any of us. You on the other hand, are the reason she is where she is. Now in a moment, I'm going to make a call that will set things in motion to get her back and you will either help or your throat will be slit and your dying body will be pushed out the door, dong ma?" He picked up the bottle of Port as he finished the question and held it out to Hitomi with one hand. "Drink before we get started?"


"That Port cost me more than Cain probably made on his last bounty," said Hitomi, as she raised her glass to Dema. "Hit me up, pretty boy. And you've got me all wrong, Dema, really. It's not that I'm cold-hearted, it's just that I've been from one end of this gorram 'Verse to the other and I know there are only two sides to any arrangement, the side that gets you paid and the side that gets you killed. I prefer to be on the former side as much as possible. Heroics and nobility? That's what the Independents thought of and see how far it got them. I'm simply a girl who appreciates and honest days' wage and the finer things in life. Can you really hold it against me?"

"Besides," she said, lighting a cigarette. "You're touching display of loyalty to you and yours has caused me to put my principles on the shelf for this one time and help you with no promise of recompense aside from your continued assurance not to kill me. I can tell you where the detention ships depart from. It's not far outside of Skara Brae. I can punch the coordinates into the nav computer, if you like."

"You see, Vesto had an arrangement with the Alliance to ship his political enemies off to some research facility on the moon of Reykjavik, a dead world with little in the way of resources or atmosphere to speak of. No reason for them to setup a research station there, but it is out of the way. Well, once his political enemies had been taken care of, he didn't stop there. He continued to ship the dregs of his jails. Prostitutes, the homeless, the mentally ill, people who wouldn't be missed. Those ships are contracted by Dysson, a big Alliance military contractor, a subsidiary of Blue Sun. They normally have a skeleton crew, mostly security and tech staff, as those ships are mostly automated. They leave twice a week, like clockwork. If a dedicated team could take one of those ships without the crew alerting home base, it's theoretically possible to slip get inside whatever it is they're hiding on Reykjavik, I suppose."

"Cain," she mused, with a chuckle. "Now what was it his personal file came up with...ah yes, there was a ring on Regina that was counterfieting those little plastic kewpie dolls they sell in convenience stores and Cain took a bounty to bring the ringleader to justice." She laughed grimly and put down the port in one gulp. "Real mastermind you have leading you 'round the 'Verse there, boys and girls."

Suddenly, Dema's personal Cortex reader buzzed with an incoming message. It was from his aunt Serine.
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Sarine
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"Dema my dear," she said, her voice dripping with venom. "Surely by now you realize that there's no place in the universe you can go where I won't find you. Did you really think your friends had more loyalty to you than they do to me? I was forging alliances with the most powerful people in the galaxy while you were still in your mother's womb, so don't think for a second that you can match wits with me darling, because I promise you that you *will* lose."

"Now, you are either in custody or soon will be. Regardless, your nefarious days as a criminal mastermind are over. I've spoken to the right people who've in turn spoken to the right people who will make your life very, very difficult. Don't think you're the first person I've destroyed in my time, my dearest darling nephew. Oh no, you haven't even *begun* to see what I'm capable of. Now, I suggest you put down your pretentions of grandure and come back to me while I'm still in the mood to entertain forgiveness, my little wayward prince. There is still the ball on Persephone that you can be at, the young heiress at your side. All can be forgiven and forgotten."

"And Dema," she added, before switching off the transmission. "I do hope you do what's smart...for your sake."
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Mag
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2/28/09

Mag had turned Hitomi's words over and over in his mind, but in the end everything he thought of sounded trite. Jacob Cain may indeed be a ne'er-do-well, but Mag doubted the man would leave him behind. His nature - his true, deep down nature - had come through when the Alliance had captured Cain and Rikka.

Get out of here! Get them out of here!

Cain's final words hadn't been one of begging, or quick talking to try and change his fate; he'd accepted it, and tried to save his crew by telling them to run. And he'd trusted Mag to do so. That part gave him a twinge of guilt. He'd been given an order, and his first job as temporary Captain of the ship was to break it.

He hadn't risen to Hitomi's baiting, and cringed a bit when Dema shut her arguments down by threatening to add a second mouth six inches below the first and kick her out the airlock. It had sounded harsh, but he knew they were both just blowing off steam. Hitomi had just lost everything, and Dema had been closer to Cain than anyone else here, excluding Helena. Mag looked around the room as Dema and Hitomi debated the finer points of his plan. He wished Rikka were here. Her calm had a radiating effect, and he could desperately use some calm right about now. Then again, as long as he was wishing for foolish things, why not wish Cain were here too, to tell him the best way to go about this?

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"I can tell you where the detention ships depart from. It's not far outside of Skara Brae. I can punch the coordinates into the nav computer, if you like."


"Huh? Oh, right. Yes, please do that, Hitomi." His original thought had been to request help in the black, but this might be even easier. Once they landed the shuttle, Ian and Mag could hide to let the repair crew aboard. They would probably be accompanied by an armed escort, to make certain there were no surprises on board. Once they had repaired the shuttle and disembarked with their escort, Mag, Helena, Chloe and Hitomi could slip out the escape hatch and find cover, work their way toward the Cerberus and get aboard. They might be able to find uniforms, which would make things a bit smoother. Once they had control of the ship, all they had to do was depressurize the rear cabins for a little while. The soldiers back there would pass out, and the ship would be their's.

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"If a dedicated team could take one of those ships without the crew alerting home base, it's theoretically possible to slip get inside whatever it is they're hiding on Reykjavik, I suppose."


"Why the hell would anyone care about what's on that moon? I only want Cain and Rikka back."

Then Mag noticed Helena, standing in her new dress. She had washed her face and looked absolutely wonderfull. How in the hell could he be thinking of taking her on an assault mission? But he knew that answer already. Helena was a walking platoon, and he would need her if this plan was to work. "You look great, Helena."
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Chloe Winters
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Chloe was quiet as the others laid out plans, busying herself with the takeoff procedure on the unfamiliar shuttle. She maintained her quiet once they were off, though that was mostly so she could listen to the discussions behind herself. Flying a shuttle in the blackness of space wasn't much of a challenge as the odds of hitting anything were, quite literally, astronomically low. The issue was navigation, which was mostly done through computer but, without any place to go, Chloe just left the shuttle adrift to save power and waited for a destination to surface.

"I think this plan is better", she said. "Hijacking a detention ship doesn't just give you an in into the ship, it gets you uniforms and lands you right where they're most likely to be holding your crewmates. It's about the best you can hope for, I think."

She left it at that, hoping that her careful avoidance of the word 'we' would get her message across. Given Dema's apparent state of mind and his threat to Hitomi, she didn't want to state the obvious any further -- that she really had no reason to participate.

The Companion's outburst worried her. He'd made it clear that he was deeply attached to Rikka and was willing to do anything to get her back, but threatening Hitomi seemed counterproductive. Oh, she might go along, but right now, no doubt she was also pondering the danger of sticking around a well-trained knife artist with a grudge and a cause. It wouldn't motivate Hitomi to do her best... At least the possibility of her thinking she'd be better off handing them to the Alliance seemed remote.

The threat certainly made Chloe nervous. She didn't really have a horse in this race and while she was certainly not averse at thumping her nose at the Alliance, she also didn't really have a compelling reason to risk her life on it. Compounding the problem with a man who might be too emotionally invested to handle a con job without the calm that the deception would require. She hoped his Companion training was good enough to allow him to do that. Then there was the problem that Dema might be so invested to try to force Chloe to participate with a threat not unlike the one he'd just levelled at Hitomi. That didn't seem likely because she was little more than a bystander, but it did worry her.

Or it could all be an act to elicit compliance from Hitomi, something she fully believed the trained Companion to be capable of. But then it seemed a little miscalculated, given the doubts it had engendered in Chloe's own mind, doubts that were no doubt reflected in Hitomi's. Perhaps the peril the engineer was in was affecting Dema, but less than he was letting on.

Chloe was worried, wondering what she was going to do and why she was being naturally included in all these plots on which she only had the most tenuous investment in, and left to wonder if Dema might not enforce his will at knife-point. Not the best situation to be in. Plus this revolved around this Sybil "person" and the group clearly hadn't been forthcoming with her about her, given the conversations they'd had with her -- perhaps with good reason, given that she seemed worthy of military response. Well, at least, she thought ruefully, she was the one driving.

She spotted Helena in her dress and had a genuine smile. "Looking good! A bit of makeup adjustment and you'll look superb."

She turned back to the shuttle. "Now, please, could someone tell me about Sybil and why it is you are in this situation to begin with? Because I don't feel I really have been told the whole story, here..."
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Helena Cain
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"You look great, Helena."


Helena smiled at Mag and looked down at her self, "Oh, you think? thanks." But the smile faded realizing what she was getting dressed up for. It was no longer time for fun and games. Helena put on her 'game face' and grabbed her guns strapping a holster to her thigh and placing what weapons she could in it. "It ain't much but thankfully dresses conceal easily.

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She spotted Helena in her dress and had a genuine smile. "Looking good! A bit of makeup adjustment and you'll look superb."

She turned back to the shuttle. "Now, please, could someone tell me about Sybil and why it is you are in this situation to begin with? Because I don't feel I really have been told the whole story, here..."


Helena looked up at Chole, she really hadn't been introduced to the woman. Nor did she care. "Don't have time for makeup, and as for Sybil well," Helena laughed a bit, "She's a part of our ship, good at annoying the hell out of you and giving you stats on how likely you are to die in your current situation. She's a good amount of help though, even with all the rest. As for the whole story, you don't need to know it right now. Right now, you need to focus on watching our backs and helping us get back our crew. Sound Dandy?"
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Dema Sabian
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"Hit me up, pretty boy. And you've got me all wrong, Dema, really. It's not that I'm cold-hearted, it's just that I've been from one end of this gorram 'Verse to the other and I know there are only two sides to any arrangement, the side that gets you paid and the side that gets you killed. I prefer to be on the former side as much as possible. Heroics and nobility? That's what the Independents thought of and see how far it got them. I'm simply a girl who appreciates and honest days' wage and the finer things in life. Can you really hold it against me?"


Dema humphed. That's my definition of 'cold-hearted' you fool, he thought, but he didn't interrupt her as she went on.

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"Besides," she said, lighting a cigarette. "You're touching display of loyalty to you and yours has caused me to put my principles on the shelf for this one time and help you with no promise of recompense aside from your continued assurance not to kill me. I can tell you where the detention ships depart from. It's not far outside of Skara Brae. I can punch the coordinates into the nav computer, if you like."


He humphed again. And as he did, he glanced at the cockpit and Chloe. Her posture. Everything about her. It spoke of nerves and... something else.

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"I think this plan is better", she said. "Hijacking a detention ship doesn't just give you an in into the ship, it gets you uniforms and lands you right where they're most likely to be holding your crewmates. It's about the best you can hope for, I think."


And she didn't sound committed. And why should she be, he realised. She wasn't one of the crew, she wasn't going to be storming the cruiser with the rest of them. Dema frowned. This would have an effect on his plans. Mag's team needed some subtle mixed in with the demolition crew that was Helena and Mag.

Speak of the devil. As Hitomi and Mag continued to hash out plans, Helena walked in, looking lovely in her new dress. A woman who had just been shot in the stomach and here she was, blood free, wearing a new dress she'd no doubt bought for happier times, ready to go and get shot all over again. It was a sobering thought and Dema finally backed down from the edge he'd been on.

A new clarity took over. His rage wasn't gone, it had simply found a better focus. Cain and Rikka were still the priority, but he had others to be aware of as well. He'd realised that if Mag or Helena were to be taken in what came next, he would be just as inclined to try and rescue them as well. So best they not get captured. The plan had to be better, more rounded. And they had to use whatever resources they had. Including incidentals like Hitomi and Chloe.

He echoed Mag's sentiments. "Helena, you look lovely. It's a pity you're not wearing that dress somewhere you can truly enjoy it."

Then he sighed, breathed deep and looked at Hitomi. "I'm glad your morals are being waved on our account." He did his best to act as though he were contrite over his previous outburst. "You can understand if I don't like to hear anyone speak like that about Cain and Rikka can't you?"

As for Chloe though, he had no idea how to get her involved. He simply didn't know the woman well enough to have any sort of leverage on her. Mentally, he shrugged. He would have to consider it a bonus that they enough pilots in their small group to even consider a two pronged offensive.

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"Now, please, could someone tell me about Sybil and why it is you are in this situation to begin with? Because I don't feel I really have been told the whole story, here..."


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"Don't have time for makeup, and as for Sybil well," Helena laughed a bit, "She's a part of our ship, good at annoying the hell out of you and giving you stats on how likely you are to die in your current situation. She's a good amount of help though, even with all the rest. As for the whole story, you don't need to know it right now. Right now, you need to focus on watching our backs and helping us get back our crew. Sound Dandy?"


Dema decided this was his opportunity to make friends. Or at least try and placate the woman. He moved to the cockpit and sat in the second chair. "Sybil is... not something that can be explained very easily or quickly. Suffice it to say, we came across her by accident, she made herself at home and the alliance will very happily kill anyone who's ever spoken to her." He stopped there and let that one sink in. Best make sure she knew running to the Alliance was not an option. Not that he felt she was that skittish about things, but nothing wrong with being cautious.

"Chloe, I know we're not being very forthcoming, nor is this how you expected to be spending your-" what day was it? "-Thursday-" not as much impact as he'd been hoping for... "-but if you could fly one of the ships-" his cortex link buzzed from his pocket and he scowled at it "-that would be... something."

Dema gave her one more slight smile; part charming, part apologetic, all companion training act, and moved back into the main room to look at his message.

His Aunt.

Pleasant as usual.

Dema's lip curled and he squeezed the small device in his hands until it beeped in protest. He quickly slipped is back into his pocket and moved to stand next to Mag.

"My Aunt has sent me another message. More 'come back or else'. But this one is a little more disturbing. It's not normally in her nature to work with the Alliance. She's usually the sneak around behind the scenes and manipulate them type. But in here, she actually says if I'm not already under arrest I soon will be. Mag, this woman made me. She uses me and people like me to change the face of the political and economic landscape to suit her purposes time and time again. Hell, the last time I was somewhere she didn't like, she gave Cain enough information on a top secret Dysson research... facility..." he trailed off.

She gave Cain details on the hidden parts of that building like the information was nothing, perhaps she could... Dema shook his head. What was he thinking? Nothing was worth that. If he asked a 'favour'? Gods, she'd have him for life without even the chance of a minor rebellion now and then. She'd set him to undoing everything he'd gone to such length to set up during the war. And the women... His lip curled.

Rikka a small voice inside him said and he sank to the chair next to him. And for a moment he considered it. He could skip the blueprints and ask for the whole kit and caboodle. His Aunt had said she had friends ready to make his life hell. Those friends were most likely the people who could make everything all better as well. If he was going to give up his free will for all time, he could ask for Rikka and Cain's release outright. He might have to call in a few favours he'd set up to gain some measure of his own leverage, but it was possible.

He sat, and thought over it, and it all came back to one point. Could he essentially give up his life for someone else? Several someone elses even. Not just Rikka and Cain, but it would stop Mag and Helena having to get shot again as well. It was truly agonising. And somewhere at the back of his mind, he realised this would not be such a hard decision if he had any sort of morality at all.

He looked up to Mag, about to let the man know what he was thinking, when another thought occurred to him. This wasn't even about Cain and Rikka. Not for the Alliance anyway, so they weren't going to be giving anyone up until they had Sybil, no matter who asked. And once they had her, well, as he'd just finished pointing out to Chloe, they'd wipe out anyone who'd ever known her.

No, his Aunt might have contacts, but they weren't good enough to do anything here. Except perhaps guarantee Dema would be captured rather than killed. Something his own status already assured him of. So in the end, it didn't change anything.

What a lot of angst over nothing. Morals led to moral delemmas and they were greatly overrated. But... he'd leave the reply to his Aunt for later. Just in case he did end up needing a favour. Wait to burn all the bridges until the flood had subsided.

And no doubt Mag would like an explanation for his odd behaviour. "Sorry," he finally said, looking up at Mag from where he still sat. "I had half an idea going, but it turned out not to be viable. So, we're still going with two ships? And the companion and pretty ladies in distress routine, but on the ground not in the air?"

He turned to the coms. "Sybil, how are you doing? And is there any chance you could bring up schematics on the cruiser? Details on where Cain and Rikka are being held?"
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Hitomi Asakura
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"Huh? Oh, right. Yes, please do that, Hitomi."


"You got it chief," said Hitomi with a cigarette firmly in her mouth. With a groan she lifted herself up from her seat and went to the nav computer. "There we go. Hang on, I've got a tap into the Alliance MilNet." Her brow furrowed as she looked at the display. "Well, I can confirm the Phoenix is definitely headed for Reykjavik. They're making no attempt to conceal their destination which means they either consider us no threat or they want us to come to them. If there's any silver lining to this whole mess, the Phoenix isn't flying with her usual military escort. There's apparently a big operation on the other side of the system and someone's issued a decree diverting Phoenix's escort frigates to a special fleet under direct Parliamentary control. Details are sketchy, but apparently we're not the only folk in the 'Verse causing the Alliance problems. The poor bastards have a full battle group after them, so it's quite possible that someone out there's in even worse trouble than your captain."

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"Why the hell would anyone care about what's on that moon? I only want Cain and Rikka back."


"Because that's where they're going, simpleton," she retorted, slightly annoyed. "A ship the size of that Alliance carrier, there's nowhere else for it to go in this sector."

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"You look great, Helena."

"Looking good! A bit of makeup adjustment and you'll look superb."

"Helena, you look lovely. It's a pity you're not wearing that dress somewhere you can truly enjoy it."


Hitomi laughed grimly, "Yep, guns, a hot girl with a gunshot and an arsenal strapped to her side. You're definitely a contender for runner-up Serenity Valley Homecoming Queen, Helena."

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"You can understand if I don't like to hear anyone speak like that about Cain and Rikka can't you?"


"Fine, I withdraw the statements. Your captain's a fine, upstanding young man...pillar of society. Purer that the farmer's daughter's crotch. Now, if you want to gut someone like a Christmas goose, there are plenty of folks on that Alliance ship who'll do just fine."

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"Sorry," he finally said, looking up at Mag from where he still sat. "I had half an idea going, but it turned out not to be viable. So, we're still going with two ships? And the companion and pretty ladies in distress routine, but on the ground not in the air?"


"Sounds good to me," said Hitomi. "Who's going to be the brains of this operation, not that there's an answer to that question that doesn't leave us completely humped, mind you."

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"Sybil, how are you doing? And is there any chance you could bring up schematics on the cruiser? Details on where Cain and Rikka are being held?"


There was no reply, though a minute later in incoming message came onto Dema's Cortex mail. A moment's decryption revealed a ship schematic.

"Wuo Duh Tian Ah," said Hitomi with a gasp. "These...these specs can't be right. No ship in the 'Verse can generate that much power, not even the big Alliance cruisers. That thing has the firepower of an entire battle group from the war."
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Lucky Seven
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Name: Phoenix-class heavy carrier

Description: The Phoenix-class is the largest CV class in the Union of Allied Planets fleet. The latest technology has been incorporated into her design, including the the first ever dark matter reactor that feeds power to the ship. Numerous ideas were borrowed from the Hakaga-class carrier, which was state of the art at the time of the War of Unification. Numerous weapons systems and a fighter compliment of 400 wing make her a formidable opponent. Running from stern to prow is the experimental Nova Cannon, a series of linked, superconducting energy amplification conduits, focusing an output of five hundred million gigawatts into one lancing point. Use of the cannon will destroy all known ships and can cause complete destruction of a terraformed world's biosphere, but it does leave the ship drained of power for a period of four minutes.

Class: Heavy Carrier
Length: 1600 meters
Mass: 250,000 tonnes
Crew: 7,000
Max Velocity: 150 k/s
Cruise Velocity: 100 k/s
Max Y/P/R: 6/6/6 deg/s
Weapons: Dual-Mount Anti-Matter Gun (14), Mass-Driver Turret (16), Dual-Mount Laser Turret (24), Torpedo Tube (2), Nova Cannon (1)
Shields: Phase
Front/Rear/Right/Left Armor 4,000 cm
Core Strength 6,000 cm
Fighter Complement 400
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Helena Cain
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Hitomi laughed grimly, "Yep, guns, a hot girl with a gunshot and an arsenal strapped to her side. You're definitely a contender for runner-up Serenity Valley Homecoming Queen, Helena."


"Tch" Helena was still...cross about the recent encounter they had just survived with Hitomi. "Best be keeping your smartass comments to your self Hitomi. I still haven't forgiven you. Remeber, I carry an arsenal and am not afraid to use it. Ask Vesto." She smirked and looked back to her things.

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"Wuo Duh Tian Ah," said Hitomi with a gasp. "These...these specs can't be right. No ship in the 'Verse can generate that much power, not even the big Alliance cruisers. That thing has the firepower of an entire battle group from the war."


She looked over Hitomi's shoulder. Her eyes widened, the ship was powerful indeed. Helena wasn't much on specs but she could even see that this wasn't going to be easy. "Looks like we're getting dirty boys and girls."
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Chloe Winters
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Dema wrote:
________________________________________
"Don't have time for makeup, and as for Sybil well," Helena laughed a bit, "She's a part of our ship, good at annoying the hell out of you and giving you stats on how likely you are to die in your current situation. She's a good amount of help though, even with all the rest. As for the whole story, you don't need to know it right now. Right now, you need to focus on watching our backs and helping us get back our crew. Sound Dandy?"


Dema decided this was his opportunity to make friends. Or at least try and placate the woman. He moved to the cockpit and sat in the second chair. "Sybil is... not something that can be explained very easily or quickly. Suffice it to say, we came across her by accident, she made herself at home and the alliance will very happily kill anyone who's ever spoken to her." He stopped there and let that one sink in. Best make sure she knew running to the Alliance was not an option. Not that he felt she was that skittish about things, but nothing wrong with being cautious.

"Chloe, I know we're not being very forthcoming, nor is this how you expected to be spending your-" what day was it? "-Thursday-" not as much impact as he'd been hoping for... "-but if you could fly one of the ships-" his cortex link buzzed from his pocket and he scowled at it "-that would be... something."


"It would be something", Chloe replied. She frowned. This was a tightly-knit crew, it reminded her of the crew of the Arrrowhead, probably closer, even. But even if she remembered those days fondly, before all the problems, even if she wouldn't mind at all going through that again -- though she'd pick the crew more carefully, this time! -- there it was, laid out clearly. Helena had been blunt, Dema less so, but the point was, she wasn't a member of the crew. And neither she nor they had any reason to want to change that.

"Look, see it from my side. I've been yanked out of my rare relaxing Thursday because of you people, gotten shot at for the sake of a crew I know nothing about, and asked to assault just about the biggest ship in the entire Alliance Navy. And it's all because you guys have some secret-or-other 'crewmate' that you won't tell me about because it's all secret and dangerous. But you know what, I'd bet a lifetime supply of Tariska vodka that the Alliance would already kill me for the next-to-nothing I already know, so not knowing isn't buying me much of anything, is it? And to top it all off Hitomi owes me some scratch from that job and fat chance I'm seeing a coin of it now. So here I am, I'm owed money, I'm left in the dark, the Alliance already wants to kill me, and I'm still being asked to risk my life on what's a dead ringer for a suicide mission and I don't see me getting anything out of it except multiple bullet holes and maybe the chance to get out of it, and yay to that. So no, it does not sound dandy, in fact it does not sound dandy at all."
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Mag
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"I think this plan is better", she said. "Hijacking a detention ship doesn't just give you an in into the ship, it gets you uniforms and lands you right where they're most likely to be holding your crewmates. It's about the best you can hope for, I think."


Mag nodded along with Chloe's reasoning. It did make more sense to hit things on the ground, especially since it meant the shuttle didn't need to be pulled aboard a cruiser or docked with another vessel, joined at the cargo bay or at one of the emergency hatches. With only one point of entry that way they'd have had to try and sneak aboard using the same opening the other ship's crew would be guarding if they had any sense at all. Mag would post guards if it was his ship lending aid to a drunk, male Companion and a few choice looking women at a military installation. It would still be difficult to take a ship from the ground, but at least they would be able to flank the situation instead of heading straight up the middle.

The uniforms, though, that was another matter. Uniforms were currency, and what they bought was a little bit of invisibility. People tend to look twice and shoot when folks wandered around in plain clothes, but if you had on the right uniform and walked like you had somewhere to be, you did so without as much attention.

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"My Aunt has sent me another message. More 'come back or else'. But this one is a little more disturbing. It's not normally in her nature to work with the Alliance. She's usually the sneak around behind the scenes and manipulate them type. But in here, she actually says if I'm not already under arrest I soon will be. Mag, this woman made me. She uses me and people like me to change the face of the political and economic landscape to suit her purposes time and time again. Hell, the last time I was somewhere she didn't like, she gave Cain enough information on a top secret Dysson research... facility..."


Mag waited for Dema to continue. He could tell the other man was thinking, debating perhaps the wisdom of giving himself up in exchange for his Aunt's aid in getting Cain and Rikka back. Mag frowned and started to speak, but Dema beat him to the same conclusion-

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"I had half an idea going, but it turned out not to be viable. So, we're still going with two ships? And the companion and pretty ladies in distress routine, but on the ground not in the air?"


"Yeah. We'll have to make the landing look a little rough, put some distance between the shuttle and them. They'll come to us, and while they check the ship we'll sneak off." He was glad Dema hadn't chosen to take his Aunt up on her demands. Even if she had the influence to get Cain and Rikka out of the clutches of Gwen Andrews and her thugs, it would be at the cost of of his own freedom. He'd just remarked that his Aunt used him to change things in the 'Verse, and somehow Mag thought this comment had more to do with Sabian's skills with a blade and less to do with being a Companion.
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"Wuo Duh Tian Ah," said Hitomi with a gasp. "These...these specs can't be right. No ship in the 'Verse can generate that much power, not even the big Alliance cruisers. That thing has the firepower of an entire battle group from the war."


"I told you they blasted Three Hills with that thing," Mag said over her shoulder. He could barely read the schematics. Ships were never a passion, and he had always relied upon Pike for diagrams of their missions. He grunted and scrubbed a hand over stubble. "This is interestin' and all, but does anyone see a weakness we can use?"

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"Look, see it from my side. I've been yanked out of my rare relaxing Thursday because of you people, gotten shot at for the sake of a crew I know nothing about, and asked to assault just about the biggest ship in the entire Alliance Navy. And it's all because you guys have some secret-or-other 'crewmate' that you won't tell me about because it's all secret and dangerous. But you know what, I'd bet a lifetime supply of Tariska vodka that the Alliance would already kill me for the next-to-nothing I already know, so not knowing isn't buying me much of anything, is it? And to top it all off Hitomi owes me some scratch from that job and fat chance I'm seeing a coin of it now. So here I am, I'm owed money, I'm left in the dark, the Alliance already wants to kill me, and I'm still being asked to risk my life on what's a dead ringer for a suicide mission and I don't see me getting anything out of it except multiple bullet holes and maybe the chance to get out of it, and yay to that. So no, it does not sound dandy, in fact it does not sound dandy at all."


Mag sighed. Chloe had a point, but they were pressed for time as it was. "Alright, the fast version then. We inherited a virtual intelligence. Not an "artificial intelligence", she's touchy on that point, but I don't understand the difference. She was developed by Dysson, and somehow my former Lt. during the war stole her. When the Alliance found out we had her, they nuked Three Hills with that ship of theirs. We got away, but we had losses, and the ship took a pounding." He found an open bottle and took a swig. Mag hated wine, but if it was a choice between dry throat and wine, well, there wasn't really a choice. "It don't sound like much all compressed up like that, but now you're up with us." He glanced at Chloe, wondering how all that information sounded to ears that weren't accustomed to the story.

"So, can you fly one of these transport ships, Chloe?"
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Hitomi Asakura
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3/3/09

Hitomi listend to Mag and said, "Mag, you're assuming she gives one rat's ass about your little troubles. And I'd say Chloe cares a little less than I do, which is not much to begin with. Chloe and I speak a common language, and it's called money. Dong ma?"

She poured herself another glass of port and lit a cigarette. "There's only one thing...the matter of those credits I owe you? The Alliance has most likely frozen my accounts and Jacob Cain owes me a full eighty-thousand that he has yet to pay, plus damages that I haven't begun to calculate yet. That bastard's going to be in debt to me the rest of his life when I'm through with him, I promise you that."

"Sorry to be the bearer of even worse news, Chloe, but you're humped as far as the money's concerned until we bust that huen dahn Jacob Cain and I get the rest of the money from him. If I have to sell that ruttin' ship for scrap, he's going to pay me what he owes me."

"Let me explain this as plainly as I can. Jacob Cain owes me a large sum of money, which means he owes you a large sum of money. Want to get paid and have a trip back home in style? You'll help bust Cain out. It's that simple."
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Helena Cain
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"Mag, you're assuming she gives one rat's ass about your little troubles. And I'd say Chloe cares a little less than I do, which is not much to begin with. Chloe and I speak a common language, and it's called money. Dong ma?"


Helena rolled her eyes at Hitomi's comment, the woman was getting under skin more and more. She moved over to Mag and took the wine bottle, taking a swig of her own. Though it probably wasn't the greatest idea to operate firearms under the influence. She didn't care, it had been a long day.

"There's only one thing...the matter of those credits I owe you? The Alliance has most likely frozen my accounts and Jacob Cain owes me a full eighty-thousand that he has yet to pay, plus damages that I haven't begun to calculate yet. That bastard's going to be in debt to me the rest of his life when I'm through with him, I promise you that."

She sighed heavily, the woman's voice digging into her like nails across a chalk board. Her fingers twitched, itching for the gun. All it would take was a bullet. Helena took another swig of wine, best calm her nerves.

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"Sorry to be the bearer of even worse news, Chloe, but you're humped as far as the money's concerned until we bust that huen dahn Jacob Cain and I get the rest of the money from him. If I have to sell that ruttin' ship for scrap, he's going to pay me what he owes me."

"Let me explain this as plainly as I can. Jacob Cain owes me a large sum of money, which means he owes you a large sum of money. Want to get paid and have a trip back home in style? You'll help bust Cain out. It's that simple."


The anger bubbled up on the inside. Hitomi was heartless, cruel, disturbing. And getting on Helena's last nerve. She pulled out the gun in Hitmoi's face, "Hitomi, if he owes all this money to you, the only simple solution i can see to help me is to shoot you. Take out the middle man. That way, he won't owe you anything. That sound good to you?" Her finger applying only slight pressure against the trigger. There was no way Cain was giving up his ship, there was no way Hitomi was going to follow him for the rest of their lives. It was her fault they were in their current situaiton. It was her fault Cain and Rikka had been captured. If she had just grown a pair and killed Vesto then things would've been fine. But The Seven had to be involved. All of it was her fault.
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Chloe Winters
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"Problem is", Chloe said coldly, "I'm the one who gets that money, not her. And since you're trying to get me to help, shooting the middleman isn't going to be very helpful. Besides, you want to be nice to me. 'Cause I'm the one driving the shuttle. See?" With her free hand, she pulled on the yoke, and the little atmospheric ship lurched violently to one side. "So you might want to rethink what you're threatening to do, get me? Before something unhappy happens." She stabilized the shuttle. "These fly-by-wire controls are very sensitive, you know. Great for manuevrability."

She glared at Helena for a brief time. "So stop being an ass. Hitomi has done nothing but try to get you out of that bind since she got here. If she could've kept you out of it, she would have." Then she conversationally addressed Hitomi. "So you try to help them, you want to convince me to help them, and so they threaten to shoot you. Twice. Remind me why we're helping these people again?"
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