Sunday, February 29, 2004

PAJANG -- Day 9

Fret, who hadn't come into either the clinic here or in West Lox was elected to go the official route. He used a nice chunk of the funds I set aside from my share of the bounty Jack collected from Treewrich, and he hired a legal counselor. The counselor, along with more money from my dwindling accounts, bribed the magistrate into dropping the charges against Josh and Toby. As captain, Jack's freedom is not so easily bought.

Toby and Josh told us that the navy was trying to discover who Juwanda was and why she had a loyalty chip at all. They found the chip Herlioni disposed of and know it was registered as one of Treewrich's. They have sent him a message about it's discovery, so in about two weeks he could be on Pajang, that is if he is still interested in finding us.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

PAJANG -- Day 8 (afternoon)

Crap! Crap! CRAP!!!!

No wonder the navy wasn't too worried about finding us in West Lox. The clinic that removed Juwanda's chip had in their records the referring doctor. That doctor was the one in Bershot, the port city, where Juwanda was first treated.

When we were there we told him she was a member of the crew of the RIM RUNNER.

When we got back we found the dock swarming with military. Jack, Toby and Josh have all been taken into custody. The RIM RUNNER has been searched and they have discovered that it was a stolen ship.

I don't know what we are going to do.
PAJANG -- Day 8

Thankfully there were not enough troops to really lock down West Lox. We are heading back to the port city and Fret is sure we are not being followed.

I told Juwanda about the psionic underground and that I am hoping to find information on an institute there. If I could find one after all this trouble, one that Juwanda could benefit from, I think it will begin to make up for everything.

Friday, February 27, 2004

PAJANG -- Night 7

Fret finally turned on his comm link and got Herlioni's messages. He'd found more pleasurable company to keep than ours.

The Navy had been searching the shopping complex, systematically checking each floor from the bottom up. We were waiting on the roof for Fret. He picked us up and we blended into the busier traffic patterns and slipped out of West Lox without being stopped.
PAJANG -- Day 7 (evening)

Juwanda is completely recovered from the sedation now. She's a bit sore, but mobile.

We still have not heard from Fret. We've been moving to avoid the navy. By now I am sure the medical staff at the clinic must have told them about removing the chip from Juwanda. They probably have seen the surveillance video and have an idea about all of our appearances.

After wondering a bit we found a shopping complex. It is crowded and several stories tall. The three of us have managed to keep out of sight of the patrols.

Herlioni is going to try and signal Fret again, so we are heading for the roof landing pad.
PAJANG -- Day 7

This morning was hectic. Juwanda's surgery went well. Herlioni assured me that the nurses and doctors in the operating room hadn't noticed the chip's origin code, which would have identified it as military in design. They gave it to Herlioni as he requested, so he could make sure no one examined it later.

We thought we were in the clear. Fret's been hitting the town while Herlioni and I have been staying with Juwanda. So Fret and the air/raft were not available when we could really have used them.

About twenty minutes after Juwanda was moved to the recovery room, mainly to wait for the sedation to wear off, there was the roar of military transports over head, buzzing the small clinic.

"Blasted military technology!" Herlioni cursed. "There must have been a hidden alarm that was set off when the chip was removed. They are responding to the chip, but they don't know who or why."

He snatched a coin from his pocket, tore a bit of tape off the bandage on Juwanda's shoulder, taped the chip to the coin and flung it out the window. I watched it soar with unnatural speed down the street. Naval police soon rushed in the same direction.

I couldn't believe what I'd seen. "How did you get it to go so far?"

Herlioni didn't answer. "They'll be back. We can't expect the staff here to keep quiet when they do. Grab Juwanda."

Juwanda was still groggy, but we were able to coax her to walk. We hurried out of the clinic and found a landing field out of view of the walkways. Herlioni signaled Fret to pick us up.

We're staying under the cover of some trees waiting for Fret. I don't know what could be keeping him. Twice so far we have seen Naval patrols pass nearby. We have to get out of here.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

PAJANG -- Day 6

We arrived late last night and got Juwanda checked in. She saw the doctor this morning. Herlioni jumped in and replied to the doctor’s questions, to me surprise but Juwanda and I let him. He lied about how Juwanda had acquired the loyalty chip. He said that he himself had the chip implanted as a condition to an employment contract, which has been fulfilled. Now he is authorizing the chips removal. The doctor had Herlioni fill out a large packet of legal papers to that effect and scheduled the surgery for this afternoon. Herlioni has insisted that he scrub in on the operation as an observer and to claim the chip as his property immediately. The doctor agreed to this readily, so I guess the request is not so unusual.

The use of the loyalty chip is still fairly rare, but some companies dealing with sensitive matters or security issues will use them. The reason Herlioni wants to be in the room during the operation and to claim the chip immediately was to prevent the doctor from examining it. It has a micro-scan on it that will identify who the chip belongs to, and if the doctor finds out that Baron Treewrich owns it, he will contact him. If worse comes to worse, Herlioni can use his telepathy to convince the doctor that what he is seeing is a commercial chip and not a military issued one.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

PAJANG -- Day 5 (afternoon)

Fret, Herlioni and I are taking Juwanda to West Lox. Fret rented an air/raft and is flying. Juwanda is working on another letter home, so I’m taking this time to up date my log.

I have not seen Jack much since we arrived. He says he is tracking down mercenary work for the RIM RUNNER. I think it is not just that he is trying to find work, but he is picky about who he works for and why. Morality tends to narrow the job market for mercs.
PAJANG -- Day 5

Last night Herlioni drilled me on opening and closing my senses. I can’t achieve nearly what he showed me the other day, but I was starting to pick out where everyone was on board the RIM RUNNER. And the best part was that no one seemed to notice the contact.

I’ve been thinking how much I can learn from Herlioni without having to actually attend an institute. The one thing that keeps me determined to locate one is Juwanda. If I could find an institute for her then maybe, MAYBE, it’ll make up for the trouble she’s gone through because of me.

This morning I felt pressure in my temples, I think as a mild hangover from last night. I practiced the technique again anyway. No pain, no gain… or some such crap.

This afternoon we are picking up Juwanda and taking her to West Lox to have her chip removed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

PAJANG -- Night 4

I've barely had a moment to take a breath today. I visited with Juwanda this morning and she'll be well enough to move tomorrow. We'll be running her to the specialist to get her chip removed.

When I got back to the ship I was intercepted by port authority regarding the ship's registration. (Which is a forged.) I had to hunt down Jack, finally finding him in a dingy dive that seemed to appeal to mercs. We had to deal with the red tape and do some fast talking. Finally it came down to a hefty 'fine' (read 'bribe') for incomplete paper work.

We just got back and now I am supposed to get together with Herlioni for training.

Monday, February 23, 2004

PAJANG -- Day 3 (afternoon)

It is funny walking with Herlioni through the crowded starport. He is Zhodani and has the classic features: tall, fair and very high tone in his manner. As much as the Imperium fear and hate psions, they fear and hate Zhodani. As a race the Zhodani are psionically gifted and in their region of space it is not only acceptable to use one's talents, it is expected and even used by the authorities to ensure 'right thoughts'.

Which, I grant you, can be a double-edged sword.

Anyway, Herlioni strode through the crowds a full head taller than almost everyone else. He doesn't even flinch at the mumbled, and not so mumbled, insults. I had to jog to keep up with him.

He rented an air/raft and we flew to the top of a building on the towering edge of the port city. The building wasn't in use from the unkept appearance. We had the landing pad to ourselves.

Herlioni spent a few minutes smelling the air and meditating, I guess. I just watched him and the constant flow of starship traffic. The wind gusts at this altitude, snapping my hair into my face like tiny whips and tugging at my clothes. The same effect that was so uncomfortable for me made Herlioni appear powerful. His long blonde hair pulled evenly back from his face and with his arms stretched out from his sides the air rippled his silken shirt and trust his jacket out behind him like a cape.

The wind died down and Herlioni smiled at me. "This is the spot."

I glanced around. "What spot?"

"The underground is nearly impossible to find for the 'deaf' masses. You have to be psychic. If you can't sense them, you have no business seeking them out."

I made a face.

"Go on. Give it a try."

"So you aren't just going to take me there are you?"

"If you are meant to find them, you will succeed on your own."

"How very mystic of you. A Zhodani trait, I suppose."

"Just part of my charm."

"Lovely."

So I closed my eyes and 'listened'. As a novice, I tend not to pick up anything unless it is a clear, close target. While I have heard that telepaths are bothered by background 'noise' from all the thoughts, I don't hear them. Never have. At most I get a sense of being crowded. Like the air is thick.

After what seemed like forever I finally said, "I'm not getting anything."

Herlioni sighed, "You haven't learned much have you?"

He place his palm against the back of my head and instantly I felt as if I had opened my eyes and ears for the first time. My whole face felt strange like my sinuses had opened after having suffered a cold so long I forgot what it felt like to breathe through my nose.

I could see and hear the psionic underground beneath me, in the basement levels of the very building where we stood. There must have been two hundred of them.

"Oh," I said, stupidly.

He let go and the new sensations left me. "Come on. You are not ready to be here."

"That's why I am trying to find an institute. So I can learn."

"I'll teach you for now. Jack, too, if he wants."

Herlioni was disappointed in my lack of skill, I could tell. Still, that is not my fault. We returned to the RIM RUNNER. He said we'd start with the basics tomorrow.
PAJANG -- Day 3 (mid-day)

I passed the test with flying colors. I will have to accumulate another 500 hours before I can take the next test, which will involve learning how to repair and build various sensor/comm systems.

After I got my certificate I stopped by the hospital to check on Juwanda. She is looking much better. Her color has returned to normal. We visited for a while before I finally got around to asking her some sensitive questions.

I wanted to know if she was upset with me for getting her into this mess. She wasn't. She was mad at Treewrich for essentially forcing her and then me into slavery, and at their staff for not objecting solely because we are 'psionic scum'.

Which brought me to my second question. Did she still want to attend a psionics institute? The answer was "Yes. If we can ever find one."

"I'm checking into a lead on that. I'll be able to tell you more in a few days, I hope."

Juwanda said, "Don't go getting yourself into any more trouble."

"Who? Me? I wouldn't dream of it."

She laughed, but it made her side hurt too much, so I told her to get some rest and I'd see her tomorrow.

I'm heading back to the RIM RUNNER to find Herlioni so we can start tracking down this elusive psionic underground.
PAJANG -- Day 3

I'm heading out to Starship Services this morning for the test. I'm glad I took last night to study. I remembered mostly everything. Now I am very confident.

Jack's got a lead on a few jobs for RIM RUNNER, which he is going to follow up on today. We can't go anywhere until the engine repairs are done.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

PAJANG -- Day 2 (afternoon)

This morning has been fairly productive for everyone. I dropped off the messages for home and scheduled my Sensor/Comm Op test for tomorrow. I'm going to spend the rest of today reviewing for the test.

Josh took and passed his engineer's test already. He and Toby are renting some special equipment and are going to overhaul the engines over the next several days, partly for routine maintenance and partly as a training exercise.

Fret and Herlioni are checking options to increase the RIM RUNNER's fire power and make her more attractive as a vessel for merc missions.

Jack's been gone all morning meeting with contractors who specialize in hooking up mercs ships and crews with employers.

Things are coming along pretty well for a change.
PAJANG -- Day 2

I just saw Juwanda in the hospital. She's a wake and despite the yellow tint to her skin, which the doctors say will pass, she is looking pretty good under the circumstances. Most of the scars from the attack were in the torso area and won't show. She was glad to be free of Treewrich and has asked the doctor to remove the loyalty chip. This is where there is a problem.

The chip was made in such a way as to make removing it difficult and dangerous. When she has recovered her strength she'll have to travel to another city to see a specialist.

I had been waiting to hear that she was really going to be all right before sending Juwanda's folks a message, but now that she is awake she has recorded a message herself. I'm going to drop it off along with a message of my own for my parents at the x-boat office. It should reach them in a few weeks.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

PAJANG -- Night 1 (later)

The doctor finally came out and talked with us. He said Juwanda was going to be fine. They had to operate on her liver and gall bladder to repair internal injuries that the medics on board the ROYAL FALCON hadn't or couldn't treat. If we hadn't gotten rescued her she wouldn't have lived much longer.

He said Juwanda should be asleep the rest of the night and to go and get some rest ourselves. I think I will sleep much better now.
PAJANG -- Night 1

Jack and I brought Juwanda to the hospital in the port city of Bershot. They admitted her right away. The doctors have been with her for over an hour and I am anxious for news.

Gray, Ranginer and Cobalt have already found a starship heading back for Noricum and left. I feel better just knowing Gray is gone. He's been like an off-key tune on my nerves since I met him. Bad vibes on that one.

So our crew compliment is down to six. Toby, Fret, Josh, Herlioni, Jack and I. We are not planning to post any job openings with Starship Services.

Pajang is an interesting place. I can see the whole of the port city from the waiting room window. The hospital is in one of the city's taller buildings that ring the port, which is relatively 'low' with all the inner buildings only standing a few stories tall to allow the traffic to maneuver above and between them. The planet is at the cross roads with four x-boat routes coming into the port. The far side of the port city looks like a low hill far off in the distance. The traffic coming in and out of the port is like watching bees fly in and out of a hive. Constant motion. It is better than watching a fish tank.
RIM RUNNER -- Day 6 (afternoon)

The mercs are having one last meal together before they go their separate ways. I found out that one of the reasons that Josh and Fret are sticking around is that our engineer, a nice older guy named Toby, has taken young Josh under his wing so to speak. Josh followed his brother Fret into the mercenary trade, but never really embraced the lifestyle himself. He's been helping Toby out in the engine room and has decided to become an engineer. He's going to take the first apprenticeship test on Pajang and work with Toby in the engine room. Fret's sticking around because of Josh.

Herlioni is staying because of Jack and I. I already suspected this. As a Zhodani he is accustom to living and working with telepaths and he misses that. Plus, he thinks I am going to get into trouble if he doesn't watch out for me. I think he has 'adopted' me.

Jack asked me earlier if I was holding back information fro Gray. I can't lie to him so I explained that I wasn't going to help Treewrich get his stinking hands on that Grimola and if Gray planned on finding it first, just to sell it back, then I wasn't going to be a part of it. Besides, I owe Gray for what he did to me, and this just balances the scales a little.
RIM RUNNER -- Day 6

We leave Jump space tonight. Once we dock in Pajang we'll get Juwanda to a hospital. Herlioni has kept her in partial stasis to keep her stable. For short periods of time it shouldn't be harmful, but she was tore up pretty bad by that dragon thing and has internal injuries.

After we have her in good hands I am going to send word to her family that I found her and that she is receiving treatment. Hopefully that will easy their minds until Juwanda can contact them herself.

Grey has been aggravating me about that Grimola. He thinks I know more than I have told him, which I do, but I won't admit it to him. I don't trust him not to try and strike a deal with Treewrich for myself and Juwanda, both of which I bet the Baron would like on a platter.

Grey will be leaving us once we get to Pajang. Ranginer and Cobalt are going with him. Herlioni and the brothers, Josh and Fret, are staying with us. Jack wants to explore opportunities to use the RIM RUNNER for mercenary missions. While they are working on that I am going to take the Sensor/Comm Op test finally and see if I can locate this 'underground' of Herlioni's.

Friday, February 20, 2004

RIM RUNNER -- Day 5

After my shift last night Herlioni and I practiced, and I experienced a tiny bit of what he meant by being ‘shredded.’ I found out I have no defenses at all when it comes to telepathic combat. He’d barely whip a thought at me and I’d snap backward with the force. I have a hangover this morning about half as bad as the ones I get from ‘blinking’.

I found out more about the elimination rounds of the psionic games, at least for telepaths. The first round is a group event with four or five competitors in a ring with the same number of telepaths manning low powered laser guns. The competitors have to ‘read’ the shooters and avoid their shots. If you are hit once, you are out. The last person left goes to the next round. The next round is a one-on-one elimination between two competing psions whipping telepathic strikes against each other. The first one knocked unconscious looses.

As a game, it seems like a good way to test one’s skill and I can see the value of it as a training method. The ‘unregulated’ aspect of the underground games has me nervous. Still, I have learned more from Herlioni in one lesson than I had been able to teach myself on my own in all these years. Attending an actual institute will be worth this effort.

I hope.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

RIM RUNNER -- Day 4

I was talking with Herlioni again this morning to find out what he could tell me about this gauntlet thing. It turns out there are different ones for different types of psions. For telepaths, there are two elimination rounds before the actual gauntlet itself. As I probably would be eliminated before the actual gauntlet, I was thinking about joining in with the hopes that perhaps I could find someone who would hook me up with a recruiter.

I think it is a chance worth taking.

I've asked Herlioni to run me through some training to prepare for it. Jack doesn't like the idea, I can tell, but he isn't objecting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

RIM RUNNER -- Night 3

Of course nothing can be easy.

Herlioni knows a guy on Pajang who is part of the psionics underground. I didn't even know there was a psionics underground. This underground 'community' supposedly has members from a few different psionics institutes. Herlioni said if I could make friends with some of these folks, they might share the location of the institute or put me in contact with a recruiter.

Unfortunately there is a hitch. Before someone can become accepted by the community they have to conquer 'the gauntlet'. This gauntlet is supposed to be a variation on the psionics games of the Zhodani. However it is a much more violent and unregulated.

Herlioni never participated in the gauntlet himself because he thinks it is pointlessly dangerous and violent.

He warns that novices, like me, can get 'shredded'.

Boy, that sounds like fun.
RIM RUNNER -- Day 3

So now that I have put my foot down about going after the Grimola, Jack wanted to talk this morning about what we should do next. I really hadn’t thought about it any further than getting Juwanda home, safe and sound.

One thing I can do is finally take the first Sensor/Comm Op test and get certified. I have far more hours than I require now. Unfortunately, the extra hours won’t carry forward for the next test.

Jack knows that I want to attend a psionics institute, and he said that Herlioni may know a way for me to find one. We are going to get together after my shift and discuss it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

RIM RUNNER -- Night 2

I did what I had set out to do, rescue Juwanda. In the process, Jack and the rest of the crew did collect the bounty on me when they turned me in. You’d think that be enough.

Now Grey is talking about wanting the million credits and ship Treewrich promised if I helped him find the Grimola. Of course, Treewrich forgot to mention that he was also going to electrocute the crap out of me even when I did as he asked just to prove a point to the authorities. Besides, after escaping and freeing Juwanda I can’t imagine Treewrich would keep his agreement with me if I came back.

So Grey wants to go after the Grimola himself. He figures that he can get a bidding war going if he had the book. I told him, “Fine. Go. But do it without me.” That Grimola has brought me nothing but trouble since I first left Ganesh.
RIM RUNNER -- Day 2

I visited with Juwanda this morning. She's still out of it and looking thin and pale. I spoke with Herlioni about removing her 'loyalty chip' and he thinks it is going to be difficult to remove. That'll be another thing to worry about when we get her to a doctor.

The ship seems to be the worse for wear for the all male crew. I made Josh and Fret, the younger guys, help me tidy up. Since neither of them have the skills to double as engineers or bridge crew I have assigned them the cleaning duties and told them I expect the ship to sparkle. They groaned, but agreed.

I ran into Grey on the bridge and slapped him full across the face, "For jumping me in my quarters and sedating me without so much as an explaination." He appologized, but I could tell it was not heartfelt. I'm going to install an alarm on my cabin door just in case.

My Sensor/Comm station has not been calibrated since I left. That'll take a few hours to get into shape.

I sware, you get kidnapped for a few weeks and the place goes to crap.

Monday, February 16, 2004

RIM RUNNER -- Day 1

I have slept most of the trip so far. Jack came by and brought me some food, which is why I am a wake now. I am still feeling wasted from the two teleportations in such a short time frame. I had not told Jack before about my teleportations, but he already picked up on it during our previous telepathic contacts. He didn't think I had control of it and therefore it was not something he had banked on.

I found out the new name for the LIGHTFOOT is now RIM RUNNER. This is the ship's third name in the few weeks we've had her.

Juwanda is still in serious but stable condition. We'll get her to a hospital on Pajang when we arrive.

I'm popping more meds and going to sleep now. Tomorrow I should be in better condition.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

NORICUM -- Day 9 (evening)

In the room where I was waiting I found the coat of a medic and changed into it. When the sign from Herlioni whispered in my mind I walked out into the hall and right into sickbay. I passed Treewrich himself on the way to Juwanda's room and I think the shock of it was enough to make me loose the control over my concentration.

Treewrich pointed to me, "There she is!"

I ran into the room and slammed the door behind me.

A glass window separates Juwanda's room from the main bay and the marines began pounding at it.

I ran to Juwanda and yanked the oxygen mask and monitors off her.

The glass shattered and the marines broke the sharp edges off with their gloved hands.

I hugged Juwanda and willed myself to teleport. Nothing happened.

The marines started into the room through the window.

I tried again. Still nothing.

They rushed me and I felt them roughly grabbing me.

I squeezed Juwanda tighter and yelled.

And Blinked.

We appeared in the landing bay as we had been in the recovery room. With Juwanda in my arms a few feet above the floor, but this time without the bed under her. She dropped and I barely managed to cradle her head before we hit the ground.

An explosion rocked the ship. Listing the floor into a fifteen degree angle before the stabilizers corrected it. Fret, Raginer and Josh, all crew of the LIGHTFOOT, rushed to us and carried us to the transport vessel. The sirens wailed as the hatch prepared to open to the vacuum of space. The few bay personnel present made it to shelters before the hatch cycled open and the transport ship blasted out of the bay.

By then my head was beginning to ring from the teleportation. I must have blacked out for a little while, because the next thing I knew I was being carried out of the transport ship into the LIGHTFOOT. Once we were off, the transport was cut loose and the LIGHTFOOT raced to a safe jump-distance. We made the Jump just as the ROYAL FALCON was catching up and approaching weapons range.

I've left Juwanda to Herlioni's care. I still have not seen Jack, but I have taken some heavy pain meds and will sleep hard until the teleportation hang-over passes.
NORICUM -- Day 9 (afternoon)

I had not had any luck find Jack or the LIGHTFOOT and I decided not to waste any more time on it. The ROYAL FALCON commissioned a resupply contractor who makes daily trips to the large vessel. I snuck aboard one of their transports and hitched a ride to the ROYAL FALCON.

Once aboard I swiped one of the jackets and caps of the resuppliers and a small box of medical supplies and headed for sickbay. I projected the same 'don't mess with me, I'm doing my job' vibes like I had when I stole the air/raft and weaved through the halls heading for the sickbay.

I almost made it unbothered.

Someone grabbed me from behind, covering my mouth and yanked me into a small room. I struggled for a moment, then saw who it was. Herlioni, the Zhodani from the LIGHTFOOT.

He said, "Where have you been? We came here yesterday looking for you."

"It's a long story and we don't have time."

Herlioni used his telepathy with such skill I barely felt the feather of its touch. "You're here for Juwanda. We've been watching her. They have her in a room with psionics monitors. She is sedated and still in serious condition."

"I've come to get her out."

"They have her under guard. I think they are expecting you."

"I have an idea. Do you have a way off this ship?"

"Not waiting," he said.

"Gather everyone to the landing bay near the resupply vessel and get everything set to take off in a second's notice. Give me a shout when you are ready. I am going to try something, but I'll only have one shot at it. Be ready to grab Juwanda and I when we arrive in the bay."

Again I felt his brush of thought. "Are you sure about this?"

"You're right. Maybe you better set up a distraction if one is needed."

"I understand."

He left one way and I moved to an empty room down the hall from the sickbay to await Herlioni's sign.
NORICUM -- Day 9

I have reached the starport and have not seen any sign of pursuit yet. I'm not convinced I'm in the clear.

I went to Starship Services and found out the LIGHTFOOT is not registered in orbit or the docks. Which means either they left or changed the name of the ship again. Either way they would not have gotten the messages I had been sending.

My first concern is for Juwanda. I am going to see if I can contact Jack first and then if I still can't reach him I'll try to formulate a plan to free Juwanda on my own.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

NORICUM -- Night 8

Once I had reached the top of the ridge I knew where I was. I was above and about a quarter mile away from the camp with Treewrich's marines. They were still there, which indicated to me that he hadn't been able to make much progress with locating Jinny if his troops were still combing the area.

Without the stupid arm band I felt confident enough to pull a stunt. I was cold and hungry and I didn't intend to spend another night as a snake's pillow. So I affected a trick I used to pull in high school. I would strongly project that I was important and not to be questioned. I'd project an emotion of fearful respect that was meant to keep people from looking at me or questioning me.

I walked with a forceful stride right into the center of camp. There was an empty air/raft and I got in without anyone so much as glancing at me. I called up a map on the computer, since I didn't think I could expect help in Greono Heights after what I did to the shop owner a few days ago. There were two other towns nearby. One was even listed as a connector route, which meant shuttles regularly flew in and out from there to major cities.

It was when I took off that I noticed some activity. My ploy wasn't enough to disguise the unexpected take off of one of their air/rafts. I figured my best bet was a direct approach, so I fired the lasers on my air/raft at the remaining two and at the communications tent. I didn't wait to see how much damage I had done.

I flew for Greono Heights until I thought I was out of sight and then turned south toward Falhollen. I typed in a quick message for the LIGHTFOOT telling them where I was heading, but there was no reply by the time I reached Falhollen. I abandoned the ship and located the shuttle service and arranged for the first one out of town. I sent another message with my new destination to the LIGHTFOOT, and still received not reply.

We lifted off moments ago of the starport city of Great Arches. I wonder where Jack is.
NORICUM -- Day 8

I was finally feeling better this morning until I saw who my sleeping mate was. There was a snake curled up in the hollow of my lap, and probably had been there since last night. Snakes will do this sometime for the warmth. On Ganesh it is considered a sign of good fortune to be so graced by a snake, but on Ganesh the snakes are not poisonous. I have no idea if this one was or not. So I waited for an hour without moving until the day warmed up and the snake left.

I wondered around for a while until I found a brook and had a long drink of water and washed up. There is a ridge above me. I am going to try and climb up there and see if I can spot any civilization and try to contact Jack telepathically.

Friday, February 13, 2004

NORICUM -- Day 7

I've slept almost the whole time since I appeared in the woods. No animals have bothered me, which is good. I have a massive headache, and if history is a guide it won't begin to subside until tomorrow.

I am worried for Juwanda and if my 'escape' will have negative repercussions for her.

I am hungry and thirsty, but would rather not move until the pain eased back a bit.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

NORICUM -- Night 6

CRAP!

I was beginning to think this gig wasn't going to be so hard, and then the whole thing comes crashing down around me.

No one had come to see me since last night, then this afternoon I heard the thunder of boots in the hallway. Just as my door came crashing in, men in anti-grav gear smashed through my window. Suddenly the room was full of men in the uniform of the Imperium Navy and all of them pointing guns at my head. Two of them tossed me down on the bed and handcuffed me. Then they dragged me down to the street outside.

It is important to understand that the marines with Treewrich are from the Banasdan Subsector military units under the command of the Duke and his family. The Imperium Navy is under the command of the Emperor of the entire Imperium, and out rank subsector forces.

So there I stood, in handcuffs, surrounded by the Imperium Navy, facing Treewrich, Randel and an Imperium Magistrate. Randel accused me of the illegal use of psionics. Treewrich declared that he had no idea I was an 'amoral psion' who used trickery to join his party. He pronounced that he never would have exposed the senator or any Imperium citizen to such a clear violation of person privacy.

The naval officers began to search me and found the lock pick and tracking device Jack had given me.

Treewrich snatched the tracking device and demanded, "What is this?" When I didn't answer, he smashed it.

Then the officer found my armband under my sleeve and tore the fabric in a long slit to show it.

Randel said, " She wears one of your loyalty devices. Are you still going to claim she was not in your complete control?"

"These devices are meant as a deterrent, not as a mind control device. And since she has been disloyal to me and the Imperium..." He grabbed the little black box and as his finger moved to the switch meant to activate the punishment I panicked...

And Blinked.

I rarely teleport on purpose, and this time, like the time I escaped with Jolly from the gun slinging mob in the casino, happened on instinct.

I found myself in a wooded area seemingly no where near any signs of civilization. Teleporting is extremely hard on me and I am usually incapacitated by blazing headaches for a day or two before I can even begin to function. As I still lay where I landed on a soft mound of clover, I have taken a quick assessment of my situation.

I teleported out of the armband, handcuffs and mobility cast. I can only assume they were left in the street where I was standing. My clothes are slight for the cooler nights, but at least I didn't leave them behind as well. The only things I have is my little portable processor and the boot knife of Jacks that the Imperium Navy hadn't found. I think I can manage to walk on my leg even without the cast now, if I go slow and carefully. I have bandaged my arm where the teeth of the armband tore the skin.

I don't have Jack's tracking device and I won't be able to even attempt to contact him telepathically until I recover. I have no idea where I am, except somewhere on Noricum.

I hope there aren't more of those dragon creatures out here.
NORICUM -- Day 6

I spent much of last night contemplating about what I learned from Senator Randel. He had his ambitions certainly, but he also has a sense of morality that demand actions sometimes, instead of politics. He is of a rather large faction who are of the opinion that the nobility currently running the Banasdan subsector are cruel and overbearing, which I have personal witnessed first hand. This faction wants to use the Grimola to reveal secrets about the bloodline of the current rulers that will show that a branch of the family that now runs Harlequin subsector have a legitimate claim on the Banasdan subsector.

Jinny is supposed to be working with a translator to interpret the Grimola, and she is still on Noricum. Or at least was until Randel went to warn her last night.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

NORICUM -- Night 5

The get-up Anna, the medic from the ROYAL FALCON, bought me is completely uncomfortable and so ugly it must be in fashion. It has a great huge flowing skirt to hide the mobility cast I still have to wear, but the rest of it is tight and mostly a lacy almost see through fabric.

We travelled in a huge caravan of air/rafts to the reception hall on the top of the glass Liberty Building. The Senator's people were already there. I waited toward the end of the reception line so people would be distracted by the other guests by the time I reached Senator Randel.

The senator was much as I saw him in the mind of the shop owner, tall with a ready smile and sparkling eyes. He has a lot of the charm that works well for politicians, shallow, but with the illusion of depth that fools most of the people most of the time.

He offered his hand readily and even brought mine to his lips to kiss. I plunged in at the moment of the kiss, so it appeared he was kissing a tad too long for the occasion, but that it was he that was holding me instead of me holding him. Jinny was far from his surface thoughts and I had to rummage around some to find what I wanted. Then I planted a quick thought that his mind had wondered to this memory of his own accord and that he should be embarrassed at his prolonged kiss.

Then he broke the kiss. He stared at me a long moment and excused himself and left the hall.

Treewrich, who had been watching with interest, escorted me outside to the landing pad. He whispered a demand, "Well?"

"I think he knows what I did."

"I don't care. Speak."

"I think he's gone to send warning to Jinny."

Treewrich ordered on of the air/raft drivers to take me back to the hotel and hurried inside. I presume he is going to try and intercept the message.

My short night out is over apparently. I am waiting to see if anyone comes checking on me tonight. I saw much more than I told Treewrich, and I'm not sure of myself now.
NORICUM -- Day 5

Oh, yeah. This is not a good idea.

Treewrich has arranged for a meeting between him and 'his staff' and Randel, who is a senator by the way, and his staff. There is to be a big shindig this evening, and when he comes in and shakes the hands of everyone on 'Treewrich's staff' I will be among them and I am to use the contact to read him.

Boy, is that a bad idea. Even if I am able to prevent him from realizing what I am doing, the contact will be prolonged and his staff is likely to be suspicious if our handshake lasts several minutes.

The medic who put the arm band on me has come down to be part of the staff and has insisted that she take me shopping later today for something more appropriate to wear. Gag me!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

NORICUM -- Day 4 (evening)

I finally managed to slip away from the guard and find a quiet out of the way restaurant. I only had to wait a few minutes before Jack hurried in after me. We embraced for a long moment, then afraid of attracting attention, we sat down in a booth where we could watch the door.

"Let me see the arm band," he said. He poked and prodded it and began fiddling with the buttons.

"Careful. If you activate the wrong thing you could kill me. It's a loyalty device as well as a tracker and psionics monitor."

"There has to be a way around it."

"Listen. Juwanda is up on the ship. She was wounded, but I don't know how bad. If I try to leave before they find the Grimola she could suffer for it."

"I got you into this mess. I have to get you out of it."

"I got myself into it," I said. "Look, if we find the Grimola I'll be freed, with a ship and a million credits, and an assurance Juwanda can leave when she wants."

"And you trust Treewrich?"

"Not really, but I do believe he'll kill Juwanda and I if we don't give it our best effort." That's when I hear a distant beeping sound. "Jack, go!"

He got up and ducked into the kitchen just as four marines entered with their tracking devices beeping faster as they approached.

One asked, "What are you doing in here?"

"Getting dinner."

"Get the service in the hotel. You are not to wonder off on your own."

They escorted me back to the hotel to wait until I could be useful.
NORICUM -- Day 4

We've arrived in the capital city but getting a chance to read Randel isn't going to like grabbing the shop owner in Greono Heights. Randel has people around him for protection and since telepathy is illegal, we can't insist he submit to it. Treewrich, as a noble, is trying to arrange a meeting, but this planetary government likes to yank the chain of the nobles, so there is red tape to be dealt with.

Despite the cast, I have been bumming around the capital, gradually gaining more distance between my 'guard' and I. I have seen Herlioni and Josh, both mercs from the LIGHTFOOT, and have been able to discreetly show them my arm band.

Monday, February 09, 2004

NORICUM -- Day 3 (afternoon)

I was waiting for the marines to return with only one left behind to watch over me when I was nearly overcome with a sudden wave of desire. I heard Jack in my head saying, “We’ve come for you.”

I replied, “Not yet.”

The contact broke and the marine was shaking me, his monitor beeping. He asked, “What was it?”

“Um… Nothing. I was just scanning for Jinny. But I didn’t pick her up.”

“Oh. Well, let me know before you do stuff like that.”

I smiled. “I’ll try. By the way, have you heard anything about my friend who was one of the ones attacked by that dragon thing? Her name is Juwanda.”

I didn’t need to be telepathic to see that my question made him uneasy. “No. I have not heard anything.”

“I would work better if I knew. Could you call up to the ship and ask?”

“No.”

I was going to risk everything and dig for the answer, but then the other marines came. They told us the guy we were looking for was in the capital city. So we all bundled back into the air/raft and we are heading there now.

I have moved Jack’s tracking device from my bag to my inside jacket pocket.

NORICUM -- Day 3 (mid day)

Greono Heights is a smallish town. I'm sure it is a place where everyone knows everyone and strangers stick out. The marines escorted me to a business that sells hunting and outdoor equipment. This is where the booby-trap registration was listed. As expected, the business owner claimed he didn't recall who he sold the device to.

That was when the marines cleared the store of customers and hustled me and the owner into the bcak room.

The marine captain asked me, "Who'd he sell it to?"

I reached to touch the man, who recoiled. The marines grabbed him and forced him to lean over a table to keep him still. I took a deep breath and reached again.

I touched my fingertips to his temple and right away every marine in the room started beeping. Each and every one of them have one of those nasty little boxes that detects when I use telepathy, as well as track my location and 'ensure my loyalty'. I didn't know who was in a worse position, me or the guy being roughed up by the marines.

After the initial distractin, I focused on my job. I easily saw what I was looking for because he was thinking about trying not to think about what he knew, and in effect brought the memories right to the surface for me.

"It was Jinny. She passed through her almost two weeks ago. She bought survival gear and a map to Eastern Calabra. Before she left, she asked to speak with someone named Randel. He's a local politician."

The marines and I left the building. I'm hanging out by the air/raft until they track down this Randel guy.

NORICUM -- Day 3

I'm on an air/raft enroute to Greono Heights. Needless to say, the marines and I are starting to take this mission personally. Still, though I am an outsider among them. They call me a mission specialist. I have asked, but not been told about Juwanda's condition. I have overheard that of the over 60 member team, 23 were killed yesterday.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

NORICUM -- Day 2 (evening)

I'm resting in a tent that has been transformed into a field hospital for the minor injuries. Those with major injuries were transported back to the ROYAL FALCON, Juwanda among them. Her condition is critical, they say. The 'dragon' mauled most of the investigation team. My leg is not broken, just twisted. I have a wrap on it that is supposed to help the swelling. I'm able to get around on using a mobility cast. It is a two-part cast strapped to the upper and lower leg with a connecting hinge and servos that allows me to walk normally, while the cast absorbs all the weight with small anti-grav units. It takes a little getting used to, and I over-balance easily making the anti grav fire incorrectly, and tipping me over sideways, so I have to walk slow or risk falling again.

The marines have contacted the local conservation service about the creature and they sent a few rangers out to our campsite. The 'dragon' as we call it is known locally as a trecko, or 'mountain god'. They are seldom known to attack humans unprovoked. The rangers found what caused the attack. The starship was booby-trapped with a device that activated once someone accessed the on-board computer. This device made high-pitched noises that humans can not hear, but to the trecko sounds like frightened baby calls.

This device, meant to prevent anyone from following any further actually has provided a clue. The devices have a serial number inside that can be used to track where the device was purchased. We are going to the town of Greono Heights in the morning.
NORICUM -- Day 2 (afternoon)

The other patrols have returned. They didn't find the bodies, but they did find lots of blood and discarded weapons and equipment.

Before the marines could decide what to do next a roar rippled across the valley and a huge creature resembling a dragon swooped overhead. The marines fired at it, shredding the tree coverage, but apparently not harming the beast. It went after the unarmed investigators by the starship further up the hill. In its attack, it rolled the starship off the ledge it was on and it tumbled end over end toward the camp. We all scattered.

Screams could be heard from those in the camp who didn't get out of the way and from those up the hillside under attack from the creature. I grabbed one of the weapons and started up the hill. Juwanda was up there and I could feel her panic.

I was not even halfway up the hill when pain and shock from Juwanda overwhelmed me. I lost my footing and skid backward. I tried to stop my fall, but couldn't. When I did come to a stop, I was certain I had twisted or possibly even broken my leg. I must have blacked out for a short time. When I come to myself all was quiet. I'm still laying where I fell. The survivors are helping the wounded. Someone checked on me and said I was going to be fine but they wouldn't come to get me until the more seriously wounded were cared for first.
NORICUM -- Day 2 (mid-day)

I was lounging around the camp watching the marines pass the time while the investigators and Juwanda checked out the starship again. That is when it happened...

I heard on some level the soft buzzing of an alarm, but that was not what my attention was riveted to. It was one of those overwhelming telepathic moments when the psychic forces are so strong and charged with emotions that I can't help but feel it as if it was happening to me.

The patrol on the far hill, the ones checking out my hunch that someone was watching us, had run into trouble. Something was killing them. Tearing them to shreds. For the few moments of the contact, it felt as if it was tearing me apart as well.

"What?" The marine holding a small black box with the psionics monitor for my arm band buzzing in his hand startled me out of my shock.

"The patrol." I pointed toward where I thought they must be. "Something is killing them."

The marine called to them over his handset. There was no answer. He sent another three units to follow them.

"What was it?" He demanded.

"An animal," was all I could say.
NORICUM -- Day 2

I got up early this morning and went for a walk. I circumscribed a large arc around the starship, going far up the hillside. Most of the marines were still down in the camp. That's when I got the first tickle of it... Someone was watching us. I scanned the high ground on the other side of the valley but could not pinpoint the direction. My first thought was that it might be Jack, but he would have contacted me telepathically and would not have such a feeling of malice about him.

"What're you doin'?"

I nearly jumped out of my skin at the voice. I had not noticed the marine who had followed me.

"I was just checking out the area."

"And?"

I nodded across the valley. "Someone is watching us."

"Better get back to camp." He followed me back down the hill to the camp and reported what I told him to the commanding officer. He sent a patrol up the hill to check it out.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

NORICUM -- Night 1 (late)

The initial search has not turned up anything useful. The marines are setting up camp for tonight. Juwanda and I are bunking in a large six-person tent with four female marines. I believe they're also supposed to keep an eye on us, just in case. Although with the loyalty devices, I don't expect they think we'll try anything stupid.

With the nightfall strange wild sounds have been echoing in the valley where we are. Haunting deep moans, a chores of annoying 'jib-jib' calls and an occasional screech have convinced the marines to keep a few guards on perimeter duty all night.

I've looked up at the stars where they show between the trees and watch the moving pinpoints of lights as starships come and go out of orbit. I wonder if one of those points is the LIGHTFOOT.
NORICUM -- Night 1

We just stepped off the transport a few minutes ago and I am waiting until I am called. My telepathy isn't much good without someone to use it on, or at least that is what the marines figure. They've taken Juwanda to check out the starship, which appears to have been abandoned.

Noricum is beautiful. The trees are thin, with soft, green bark, and wave like giant stalks of grass in the gentle breeze. I feel like an ant beneath them. The ground is broken shale and goes sharply uphill from where I am to the site of the starship.

I've activate my tracking device Jack gave me. I don't know if it will do any good. I have no way of knowing when OR IF the LIGHTFOOT will come looking for me.
ROYAL FALCON -- Day 6 (evening)

Juwanda and I were at the sensor station when we established orbit around Noricum. The planet has a low gravity and a dense atmosphere making for a large variety of aeriel life forms, some rather large. The moderately populated planet tends toward city living, leaving large regions void of human influence. It took less than an hour to locate the stolen starship in the middle of one of those unpopulated regions. The landscape there is rugged, with large wispy trees preventing a visual of the site. The marines are going down to secure the location. Juwanda and I are to prepare for a trip down.

I've packed my bag with all the few possessions I have. Including the digital lock pick and the tracking device Jack gave me. Our transport is heading down in a few minutes.
ROYAL FALCON -- Day 6 (mid-day)

There must have been sixty people at the briefing. Treewrich isn't going to let the lack of firepower stand between him and the Grimola. The plan is for a sensor sweep of the planet to locate the stolen starship. If it is found, the marines will go in and secure the area. If they don't turn up anything then Juwanda and I go in to investigate.

I also learned something quite surprising. The person who they believe killed the servant and stole the ship we are tracking was a crew member on the PARABUS. The PARABUS was the starship I served on, as aid to Lady Geriondsin before she was poisoned by Baron Dretrich for the Grimola, which he didn't know was not on board. The person we are chasing now is Jinny. She was the sensor/comm op on the PARABUS, and the reason I became a sensor/comm op and got the gig on the MAGNUS. I had always thought she was very nice. I can't picture her as a murderer.

ROYAL FALCON -- Day 6

We'll be arriving at Noricum this evening. There is a briefing later today that Juwanda and I are to attend.

I was speaking with Juwanda last night about Treewrich. We agree that he probably didn't hire more experienced psions because his paranoia would turn them off working for him. More talented psions would spot him coming from a light year away and navigate clear of him. For all his measures to 'ensure loyalty' he certainly does not inspire it.

Juwanda also told me she had helped Treewrich on this search already by helping him track the Grimola's path from where it was taken on Ganesh by a trusted servant on a secret mission through two starports, and finally to the location of the servant's body and the dock where the stolen starship had been berthed. They had been preparing to follow the trail to Noricum when the word reached them that I had been on Catania and was travelling on the LIGHTFOOT. When the LIGHTFOOT jumped into Banasdan space, the ROYAL FALCON hailed them and proclaimed that they would either board her or blow her away.

I guess that is when Gray and Jack decided to play the bounty hunter angle to save themselves. I guess I can understand their position.

But that is in the past. I have to deal with the present if I want to get out of here without Treewrich zapping me through this stupid band he's shackled to my arm.

Friday, February 06, 2004

ROYAL FALCON -- Night 5

This afternoon Juwanda came and let me out of my cabin. She escorted me to a conference room where a map of the planet Noricum was projected in a hologram above the table. I know a little about this planet, including the fact that it is an amber zone, which means that access to it is supposed to be restricted by the Imperium. The reason is supposed to be for the protection of the ecosystem, but the inhabitants also dislike off-worlders and don't want visitors.

Juwanda told me that the servant entrusted to transport the Grimola had been killed on the last leg of his journey to Banasdan. They believe that the individual who took it also stole a small starship and jumped to Noricum. If he was a native he could hide there and no one will betray him to off-world authorities. This is where we are going to begin. We arrive tomorrow and that's when we'll really get to business.

Afterward, Juwanda and I had a fairly normal dinner together and chatted about old-times. She's actually feeling excited about attending a psionics institute and believes that Treewrich will keep his end of their bargain. I don't have her faith, but I don't have much choice right now.

The security system on my cabin has been deactivated so I can come and go as I choose now. The ship is very large, and I take it that it is one of the Banasdan subsector's battle cruisers. There must be over 200 people on board, many of them Banasdan military. I guess I can understand why Jack didn't put up more of a fight when Gray turned me in. He wouldn't have succeeded against this fire power.
ROYAL FALCON -- Day 5

Early this morning a medical technician and an armed guard wearing a psi blocking helmet came into my cabin. The guard said, "If you use your telepathy an alarm will sound and I'll burn you down." I've never known anyone to be as completely paranoid about psionics as Treewrich must be.

The medical technician worked quickly. She wrapped a thin metal band around my upper left arm. It sealed itself and clamped down hard. A tiny row of sharp teeth embedded into the flesh, causing a red rim of blood to appear before blocking off the flow. The med-tech wiped the blood off with alcohol. She examined the a row of lights on the back side of the band where I couldn't see. She said, "I am going to active and test the tracking device." She had a small box and she turned it on and passed it from side to side. As the device got closer it beeped faster and slower as she moved it away. "Now to test and demonstrate the special features."

"Special features?"

To the guard she said, "I'm testing the psionics monitor. Don't shoot." Then to me she said, "Use your telepathy."

I hesitated.

"Go ahead. Scan me."

I stared deeply into her eyes and pushed. Immediately the device wailed. I pulled back. I'd seen what the other 'special feature' was and I knew trusting the baron had been a mistake.

"The band also acts as a loyalty device. If you betray the baron..." She toggled a switch slightly.

I dropped to the deck at her feet, writhing. My chest felt like it could barely contain my speeding heart. I couldn't breathe. All my chest muscle contracted forcing the air from my lungs and preventing me from inhaling. Then effect faded.

"That was the lowest setting. I take it you understand the warning?"

"I understand," I whispered.

"Good. The baron will be by to speak with you later." With that they left me alone again.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

ROYAL FALCON -- Night 4

I am still alone in my cabin. I have had nothing but time to think about my situation. Despite Treewrich's agreement to my terms, he still has not released me. I don't trust him to keep his word, and I don't think he trusts me to keep mine.

I could have played 'hard ball' with him and refused to aid him at all, but I am certain he was serious about the 'spacing' comment.

I definitely didn't plan on agreeing to slavery for the rest of my life either.

What I am confused about is why he would need Juwanda and I at all. Certainly someone in his position, especially one promising to arrange for admission to a Psionics Institute, would know how to hire more talented psions.

I wonder where Jack is right now.
ROYAL FALCON -- Day 4

Baron Treewrich and Juwanda entered my cabin this morning. "Have you decided?" asked Treewrich.

"I have a counter proposal. I aid you, for a price. When you have your precious Grimola I go free."

"What price?"

"Three things. A ship of my choice from your fleet, a million credits and your word that Juwanda can choose to stay or leave your employment as she wishes."

Treewrich laughed, "You think your services are worth so much?"

"I think you need me or you would not have gone through so much trouble. I think you stand to inherit such a fortune that what I ask will be only a tiny amount by comparison."

He considered this a moment. "I'll agree if you submit to a chip implant."

"What chip implant?"

"It is a tracking device imbedded beneath your skin."

I saw Juwanda's expression change at the mention of it.

"No implants. There are tracking devices one can wear without removing. I'll permit that."

"Very well," Treewrich agreed. "Anything else?"

"What if we can't find the Grimola?"

"You keep looking until you do."

"All right."

Treewrich and Juwanda left then and I was locked in again.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

ROYAL FALCON -- Day 3

This morning I was surprised when the cabin door slid open and Juwanda entered. The door whisked closed immediately behind her. I should have guessed by the strained expression this was not going to be a pleasant reunion.

"Juwanda!" I embraced her. "I'm so sorry about all this trouble. I had no idea anyone would came after me or my friends."

"It's Ok," She said, without much enthusiasm. "They want me to talk with you."

We sat on the cot and she watched her hands fidget. She'd always been thin and short like me, but she appeared even more gaunt than usual. Despite this, her hair and clothes were of a very expensive style. "First," she said, "they have a psionics monitor. If you try to speak with me telepathically they will know, so don't."

"Juwanda..."

"Just listen for now. What the baron said was true. I am cooperating. We have a deal, and he's offering the same to you. If I help him find the Grimola so he can become the Duke of the Banasdan subsector, he will sponsor my admission to a psionics institute, with the understanding that when the training is complete I will work for him for a very generous wage... for the rest of my life."

"No!"

"I have agreed to this. Really, it is not such a bad deal."

"But, to be a slave for the rest of your life?"

"Not a slave. I can come and go. As long as I remain loyal, it should be OK." That was when she made eye contact. "And they have way to ensure that loyalty."

I could tell the ways must be very unpleasant.

"Think about it. If you agree you can get out of here and we can get to work. They will not give you much time to decide. You have until tomorrow."

With that, she rose and left me in my tiny stateroom which now seemed even more treacherous than ever.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

ROYAL FALCON -- Day 2

This morning Baron Treewrich spoke to me over the speaker system. "I've spent a lot of time and money tracking you down. You had better prove worth it."

"Where is Juwanda? I know you have taken her."

"She is safe and she is cooperating. You'd be wise to follow her example. You'll find I can be a very generous employer."

"I don't believe you."

"You will," Treewrich said. "You'll also find I am not one to cross. Do you remember the Grimola?"

"I never saw it. It was not on the PARABUS when I was aboard." I did remember that it had been over that book, which was valuable to the royal family of Banasdan, that had led to the murder of my employer. Treewrich had forced me to use my telepathy to catch the killer. It was then we learned that the Grimola had been sent to Banasdan by a different route for safe keeping. Disturbed by the events that took place and by the threats of the crew of the PARABUS I slipped away as soon as we reached Catania. That had been months ago.

"The individual entrusted to transport the Grimola was murdered. I want you to help me find it."

"Free Juwanda and I'll consider it."

"You'll help me or I'll space you." The speaker cut off with a crackle.

I gather I don't have much choice right now but to play along.

Monday, February 02, 2004

ROYAL FALCON -- Day 1 (afternoon)

No one has come to see me yet. I examined the stateroom and found it stocked with enough rations to last a week, about the length of a jump. I also have a small fresher, cot and closet. In the bag with my clothes and portable processor I have found a few interesting items. One is the tracing device and the other is the digital lock picker, both items Jack must have packed. I have left both buried among my clothes for now. There is no sense in trying to escape while we are still in Jump-space and the tracer doesn't work over long distances, so only when we arrive where ever we are going will those items come in handy.

The only contact I have had with my captors was when I was inspecting the door lock. A voice came over a hidden speaker and told me to, "Cut that out or we'll drug you like your last hosts."

I gather that Gray and Jack told Treewrich that they had brought me in for the bounty, which was the story we planned to tell.

In this shielded room, I can't even tell if Juwanda may also be on board. Since the ROYAL FALCON went straight into another jump, I have to assume that no rescue attempt will be forth coming.
ROYAL FALCON -- Day 1

If I ever get my hands on Gray I will kill him.

We were to be dropping out of Jump-space this morning and heading into orbit around Banasdan while I scanned for Juwanda. That was the plan: for me to 'look' for her first.

I awoke this morning with Gray, Cobalt and Raginer in my room. Before I could think, much less react, they were on me.

Cobalt, wearing gloves, covered my mouth and knelt on my ribs, grinding me into the cot. Raginer laid across my legs, preventing me from kicking. Gray leaned over me and jammed a needle into my neck and injecting me with something that made my skin burn and my head swoon. He said, "Just making sure things go as planned. Can't have you making a fuss."

I was semi-conscious as Cobalt hoisted me over his shoulder. He carried me to the hatch which was now open. A second ship had docked to us. I heard Gray say, "Now, for the bounty."

"I must see her."

Cobalt swung me off his shoulder like I weighed nothing and dumped me onto the deck. I rolled to my side, which was all the effort I could make. Baron Treewrich leaned over me, and with gloved hands turned my face from side to side. "You've kept her drugged during the entire trip?"

"Had to," Gray muttered.

Treewrich nodded to his men, who drug two large sacks to Gray and dumped them for his inspection. Gray said, "It's all here. It's been good doing business with you. Is there is anything else we can do for you?"

Treewrich said, "Take her below."

One of his men lifted me, and as I glanced back I saw Jack. He was standing with the other mercs. Herlioni had a hand on his shoulder keeping him from reacting as I was carried off.

I was locked in a small stateroom and after a while the drug began to wear off. The room was psionically shielded, blocking my drug-weakened attempts to project past it.

A small bag, with what few possessions I owned, had been tossed into the room with me. This portable log was included.

The drug is nearly completely worn off now. I know I am aboard a ship called ROYAL FALCON from the engraved name plates on the small bed and closet. I can feel the engines as we again go into jump-space.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

LIGHTFOOT -- Day 15

Fret and Herlioni have both completely recovered from their wounds. The team has passed all the sims we ran today. Tomorrow we arrive at Banasdan.

I hope we are ready.

Not finding Juwanda on Catania was such a disappointment, I'm afraid to get my hopes up.

Everyone is a bundle of restrained energy. These week-long jumps can be aggravating.

Josh, Cobalt and Raginer have taken over the Galley and transformed it into a light disk arena. They are armed with handheld light 'guns' and they zap tiny light Orbs that race around the room and blast their music. I guess we all could use a little stress release. The simulations have made me tense.