Recent Statuses

3 days ago
Current Character sheets are a needlessly limiting exercise that only serves to constrain you. Break free of your shackles!
1 like
4 days ago
This is and increasingly King in Yellow kind of day...
18 days ago
I'm in a professional development class about emotional intelligence. Fortunately my fellow humans appear to mistake my quiet disinterest for introspection
28 days ago
Lets take a moment to remember all the fallen soldiers. Also remember that most of them died for no reason other than to serve the goals of capitalist/imperialist interests dressed up as patriotism
2 mos ago
I am sad Dead Like Me got canceled, that show was awesome.
1 like


Early 30's. I know just enough about everything to be dangerous.

Most Recent Posts

The western sky had begun to lighten as the surviving conscripts made their way towards their objective. The ecological disaster around them grew starker with the extra sunlight, the landscape must once have been a forest but the changes that wide scale mining had wrought had killed all but the hardiest trees, leaving only dead fungus encrusted tree boles reaching towards the sky. Some trees, those hardiest and best adapted to the new conditions still sprouted leaves, but they were twisted and unwholesome looking, as though they had passed too close to a flame and begun to curl up in the face of the heat. The landscape itself had suffered as atrophied roots could no longer combat the vicious downpours that came each rainy season. Long gulleys were cut back to the bedrock where rain swept debris and detritus into pockets in the rock substrate, piling up impressive conglomerations of dead wood and small rocks.

Going was slow as the platoon slid down the sides of the erosion cut trenches and climbed up the other side. The loose soil was often to pliant to provide much in the way of hand holds and they frequently had to divert along the dry watercourses to find a place where the ascent was easier. Kyra was glad that they hadn’t landed during the rainy season as she was sure progress would have been completely impossible. Even with the suppressor chip in her neck she could feel the ambient mixture of fear and excitement. Each time a distant explosion shook dust from the trees she could feel a momentary spike of fear and then a trough of relief. The gunfire seemed more sporadic and less intense than it had during the landing, perhaps because the heavy guns that had been firing at the drop ships were now silent. What rifle fire they did hear was distant, and uncertain in its direction given the broken nature of the landscape.

They moved in a loose skirmish line that buched and expanded as the terrain demaded. Kyra stayed close to Edwin on the right end of the line while Reyes commanded they left. She didn’t know if the formation offered any advantage other than to keep them from bunching together where an artillery shell or machine gun burst could cut them all down, but truthfully she didn’t much care. After an hour or so her only focus became the defile ahead of her and she focused only on crossing each of the jagged cuts in the earth.

When Edwin’s hand fell on her shoulder she started and looked up for the first time in hours. They had reached a small ridgeline covered with shorty scrubby bushes with pale blue leaves. The landscape on the other side of the ridge was markedly different, though no less depressing. Instead of the knife cuts and tree stumps there was a flat rocky plain Kyra was momentarily surprised to see such a difference in terrain but then realised what had happened. Heavy earth movers had scraped the ground bare, bulldozing the top soil into the valleys. Now she knew what to look for she could see the lines of discolored, vaguely purplish earth, where the spoil had been sprayed with chemical plasticizer to turn it into a kind of poor man's concrete, presumably to prevent it from being swept away by the rains. Perhaps two hundred meters from the ridge lay a large compound. It was the size of a small town and surrounded by a thick burm of plasticized earth several meters high. Vast derricks reached into the sky from the center of the drilling station like the armatures of artificial mountains. The great rusted towers thrummed with power, the drills and pumps working ceaselessly to plumb the depths of the poisoned world. Periodically jets of flame or steam burst from outlet valves with a rush audible even from the distant ridge. A pipeline of rusted metal stretched off over the horizon, carrying whatever they were mining to its distant collection point.

Kyra tried to think back to the briefing but other than the word ‘drilling station’ didn’t remember very much. More for something to do than any real notion of what she was doing, she lifted her binoculars to her eyes and dialed up the magnification to X64. The burm was a real barrier, studded with watch towers ever thirty meters or so, spindly looking cheap constructions, with sand bagged platforms atop them. There were two large gates on the walls perpendicular to the ridge, each of which was protected by a block house. At the southern entrance an armored vehicle of some kind was parked, its turret pointed off to the south though clearly not aiming at anything in particular.

“We are supposed to capture this place?” Kyra whispered to Edwin, her quiet an instinct rendered completely unnecessary by the rumble of the heavy machinery at work at the base.

Uncle Percy had always said that the very first thing to do when people started shooting was to hit the ground. Well, he had phrased it a little more colorfully than that, but she had none the less found it to be solid advice. She dropped to the ground, her thompson clattering to the floor as she pulled both pistols from her belts, defaulting to the familiar weapons in a moment of stress. Cognizant that She, James and the fallen security guard were clumped together she rolled sideways, squeezing off shots in the general direction of the unseen enemy. Glass and wood splinters rained down on her as bullets cracked above her, shattering cases and ricocheting of stone pilasters in sprays of spark. She hit a wall and squeezed herself flat behind a squat stone statue of a god whose name she thought she ought to remember but certainly wasn’t ‘Deflector of Bullets’.

When she had come here tonight she had expected to encounter maybe a single lone murderer, but instead she watched as a half dozen men poured from the corridor that gave access to Rogers office. They were all dressed in heavy coats and all were armed with modern automatic pistols, though the fact they were still alive suggested they were more enthusiastic than expert. Still, with targets relatively close, it was only a matter of moments before one of them, probably the security guard, caught a stray round.

“Cover me!” she snapped.

“I mean, its not like I’m busy,” James quipped, but he stepped halfway out from behind his cover and sprayed a long burst across the gallery. Casings clattered against the hard floor and the gunmen flinched back as bullets whined around them.

“What’s your…” But Opportunity was already moving she jumped to her feet thrust both pistols back into her belt. With a running leap she vaulted onto the railing that sectioned off the central shaft and, without giving herself a moment to think it over, jumped into the void. The gunfire slacked in shock as she sailed through the air and struck the face of the massive obelisk, with a gymnasts poise she kicked off as hard as she could, flying back the way she had come, gravity pulling her downwards to the level below. She tucked her body and rolled absorbing the impact of the fall with a roll as she crashed to the floor below James. One of the gunmen ran forward, trying to follow her progress but he flopped to the floor as another blast from James’ thompson cut him down, his body hit the railing on its residual momentum and tumbled bonlessly over the precipece, twirling like a dropped rag doll before hitting the marble floor three stories below with a wet crunch.

Coming up on her hands and knees, she paused to steady herself, pulled her guns, and then sprinted around the gallery till she stood underneath the section where the thugs stood, still blazing away at James. Pointing both her pistols at the roof she opened fire, the heavy slugs punching through the thin flooring up between the legs of their attackers.
Rene opened his mouth to object, but an arched eyebrow from Solae was enough to quell the impulse. Obediently he touched a series of holographic key and brought up the piloting display. Like all Marines Rene had been around enough landing craft to know the basics, but his instructors had been careful to keep him away from any specialty training that might have offered him a chance to distinguish himself. The Marines might technically have been a new life, but that didn’t make them immune to the political pressures that wanted Rene to remain as inconsequential as possible. Fortunately, while the Bonaventure was an ill maintained ship, even the clunkiest tramp freighter had a sophisticated software suite, that included a training mode. The training suite allowed Rene to control the ship as an auxiliary, the computer accepting his inputs only when they didn’t clash with Solae’s.

“Ok, I have a space yard within about fifty kilometers of the main administrative complex that is cheap and nasty enough for a boat like this,” Rene said, transmitting the coordinates to Solae’s terminal. Almost at once the Bonaventure thrummed as Solae fed power to the thrusters and eased them down into the atmosphere. It was far smoother than their previous decent, Zatis not only lacked an active hurricane, it also possessed only the thinest of atmospheres. The early stages of terraforming had been begun only decades ago, and even under the best circumstances the process could take nearly a century to complete. They were descending towards the darkside of the planet and so Rene could see the soft phosphorescence of the shallow seas that teemed with genetically engineered microbial life that slowly broke down the carbon dioxide into water and oxygen and strung the spare carbon together into precursor organics and fixed harmful elements like sulfur into thin layers of rock. It was unusual that a world was settled before terraforming, as the process, particularly at the early stages, could be very energetic, but Zatis was an unusual world in many regards. Even now, its atmosphere was breathable, but so thin that no one could stand it for long without a respirator to concentrate oxygen. Rather than deal with the atmosphere, the denizens of that world had constructed vast domes of modular hexagonal crystal, that kept processed air under pressure. Without the central direction of the Empire to give it form, the process had been haphazard and the domes bulged and twisted like cancerous growths, wherever this entrepreneur or that had tried to add a little extra space. The panels were originally clear but grit blown in the air had tarnished the majority of the panels, particularly those in the poorer areas and they were frequently all but opaque for lack of maintenance.

Air traffic buzzed through all levels of the stratosphere as they descended towards the largest of the domed cities. Fortunately the landing fee Rene had agreed to pay at the space yard covered access to local navigational aids which mapped the progress of all the aircraft. Without roads, or other surface transport, all intercourse between the cities had to be conducted via aircraft, of which there were a dizzying array. Rene didn't doubt that the small air cars and jets had much more to worry about from the freighter and its blazing plasma thrusters then they did from the few tons of an aircraft colliding with them, but he would just as soon not put that belief to the test, particularly not when they were trying to be inconspicuous.

Solae guided them down towards the Lysin Yard, the name of the landing area they had rented a space from. In order to avoid opening the domes, the space yards clustered around the edge of the irregular domes, like the white of an egg with a particularly massive yoke, or perhaps the red inflammation ringing a boil that was about to burst. Solae, whose prior experience had been under much more adverse circumstances, bought them in with hardly a wobble. Rene mirrored her action on his own console, though his corrections were too quick and too large for the mass of the ship and the program frequently canceled his maneuvers. As they got closer to the ground he fought down his frustration and tried to think of it more like shooting, calming his breathing and deliberately waiting an extra few heartbeats before making corrections. This seemed to improve his performance, but the ship still took Solae’s commands the vast majority of the time. He was so engrossed in the exercise that when the landing skids settled onto the concrete it came as something of a surprise.

Lysin Yard was perhaps ten acres of open concrete, dotted with outbuildings and maintenance shops. The concrete itself was burned and scarred from thousands of starship landings,those areas that were not charred black, shone with an opalescence of spilled hydrocarbons. Unhealthy vapors rose from the shimmering spills in a way that wouldn’t have happened in a true atmosphere. Two other ships shared the landing space with them. Both were larger the the Bonaventure but were equally dilapidated. One of the behemoths had a large section of hull plating removed, exposing her innards, though no repairmen currently seemed to be attending the ship. The other was being unloaded by a team of men in respirators to allow them to breath. They had formed a daisy chain and were unloading sacks of what might have been rice or flour, passing them man to man before depositing them on a big aircusion truck for eventual transhipment. Both ships were attached to a large corrugated iron building that abutted the side of the dome by long umbilicals of rubberized white fabric on steel rings. The material might once have been white, but was so stained and so frequently patched that it resembled disruptive camouflage. The umbilicals tethered to the airlocks of the ships, allowing passengers and crew to go back and forth to dome without having to don respirators.

“Well, on the plus side, it seems vanishingly unlikely anyone is here to arrest us,” Rene joked as he surveyed the situation. While it was possible that men could be waiting inside, it seemed unlikely that even professional actors could continue to unload the freighter with the bored nonchalance the ground crew was managing if that kind of excitement were in the offing. A man in a protective suit emerged from the terminal building and shouted something at one of the men unloading sacks. The laborer looked up, nodded and then grabbed a second man who seemed to be taking a break. Together they began to extend a third umbilical, manhandling it towards the Bonaventure’s forward airlock.

“Well, time to meet the locals…”
Opportunity arched an eyebrow at the impressive collection of equipment, though the weapons drew the eye she had spent enough time around archaeologists to recognise most of the rest. That fact alone went a long way to alaying her suspicions about James. No one impersonating a friend of Roger’s would go to this level of deception. Her instincts told her she could trust the handsome stranger, but such instincts had been wrong before.

“So you have a plan to shoot up the Smithsonian?” she asked delicately as she reached in and drew out the second thompson. It had a military style straight magazine rather than the drum she was used to, but it was familiar enough that she was able to load it without difficulty.

“If I have to,” James responded in a tone that left no doubt that he meant it. Opportunity paused for a moment. Over the last few weeks Roger had been obsessed with some recently discovered tablets. He had been reluctant to explain how he had come by them, which lead her to believe they had been purchased from less than savory sources, but he had spent hours pouring over them. When she had shown him the maps she had bought he had become even more exciting. Although she was no epigrapher she understood enough to know that the maps provided some clue that had been alluding him, some key that allowed him to translate the tablets.

“You think whoever killed him will be in there?” she asked, racking the slide back and allowing the spring to carry it forward with a satisfying chunk.

“Do you?” he retorted, fixing her with a frak stare.

“I think… I think the only reason anyone could have to kill Roger is because they were interested in his research,” she admitted, taking the plunge. She explained briefly about the tablets to which James merely nodded.

“Yeah thats about what I figured,” he replied. In the distance a dog barked several times and then, abruptly, choked off. James and Opportunity exchanged a look. Without further words she moved to an old rusted out door and pulled it open, inside was another metal door and a cracked section of brickwork. She slid through the bricks and into a tunnel that opened up from a square hole in the floor. The walls of the tunnel were of grimy red brick pitted with ancient moss.

“Back when they first built this place they heated it with steam,” she explained. The steam tunnels ran all through the area, connecting a variety of building together. The system had been in disuse for decades, but the tunnels themselves still existed. Opportunity lead the way down around several curves till they reached a spot where a small grate in the ceiling let down a spill of golden light. Reaching up she pushed the grate aside and pulled herself up into a maintenance closet that smelled of turpentine and cleaning products. Though an electric light bulb hung from the ceiling, the place was deserted as it had been all the other times Opportunity had taken this path. She turned to help James, but found him already pulling himself up through the narrow appeture without apparent difficulty.

“His office is just this way,” she explained, “I know he kept his notes there.” Pushing the door open she steeped out onto a three story gallery, a massive obilkis rose almost to the top of the roof, with three balcony galleries ringing it at each level. Railings kept members of the public from falling from the balconies to the floor as they peered at the obelisk and read the translations of the intricate cuneiform inscriptions which covered the vast spear of limestone. Photographs and other smaller artefacts, all of Babolyinan or earlier mesoptamian history filled numerous glass covered display cases.

Opportunity cast her eyes around for any of the security guards, the night shift didn’t usually botherer to walk these galleries, but they had to cross them to reach Roger’s office. A pair of shoes protruded from behind a large stone pedestal taken from a temple of Ishtar.

“Shit,” she said in a very unladylike fashion and then crept out to where the body lay. It was one of the smithsonian security guards, an elderly pensioner with a vast white moustache. His breath came in shallow rises, but a large purpling lump on his bald head showed where he had been struck with a blackjack.

“Looks like we aren’t the only ones with late night curiosity about the Near East,” she muttered to James.
Junebug stepped into the hold and opened her mouth an instant before Indra all but leaped into her arms. Instinctively she caught the woman around the waist with one arm, keeping the other free for a weapon for the half second it took her mind to analyze the situation and report that there were no threats. Saxon stood coiled in his odd posture, looking sleek and powerful without his almost ever present Awkwardly she bought her other hand up and supported the other woman, one arm around her shoulders the other looped under her knees while Indra turned and buried her face in Sayeeda’s shoulder. She wasn’t particularly heavy and her body was soft against Sayeeda’s body, which, like Saxon was unusually bereft of armor, instead covered with a tank top with the winged knife of the Terran Marines, and a pair of khaki shorts.

Although she was clean, Junebug still looked an almost shocking contrast to Indra. Patches of skin at her shoulders and over her hips were rubbed raw from grit and the weight of her ceramic armor during the grueling march through the desert. Her hands were scratched from scrambling over rocks and her right hand bore a patch of synthetic spray seal where careless contact against a hot weapon had burned her. Numerous small scratches ran over her hands and up her arms where she had been cut on rocks, or injured in the firefight at the mesa. Where Indra was soft and sensual, Sayeeda was hard, wiry muscles coiled over her frame, allowing her to support the noblewoman without difficulty.

“No need to panic,” Sayeeda said awkwardly, “Nothing is going to hurt you while you are on this ship.” That might or might not be true. If Sven discovered she was here and stormed the ship, there might be little they could do to prevent it, but there seemed little point in sharing that with the panicked woman Indra clung to her looking unconvinced. Sayeeda gave her what she hoped was a reassuring smile and then gently disentangled herself, setting the woman back on the deck. Indra gave her a look, her lips curving up into a smile of appraisal that Junebug had seen before, though not in this exact situation.

“I had an idea,” she explained to Neil, moving back to the business that had originally bought her to the hold. Moving past the noblewoman she took her helmet from the rack she had stowed it in and set it on the floor, then opened a refrigerated crate that hissed cold white vapor into the air. She drew forth three bottles of Terran beer, leftovers from the supplies the commandos had bought aboard, and tossed one to Neil then passed a second to Indra who looked mildly perplexed. Taking a seat on an ammunition crate she struck the cap off by driving it down against the metal edge of the crate with a crisp pop, the motion had the casual ease of long practice.

“Aid, squad briefing, project a map of the star port,” she commanded before draining half of the beer in a single long swallow. It was ice cold, and pure ambrosia after the heat and thirst of the previous days. A hologram sprung into existence above the helmet, showing a picture of the dusty plate of sandstone on which they and several other ships currently rested. The footage was a composite, compiled by Lony from a variety of systems, mostly security camera feeds, that Taya had gained access to since their arrival. Computer finishing gave it the crisp accuracy of a high resolution satellite photo, right down to the various booths and stalls selling junk along the canyon walls.

“According to Taya these are the freighters Middle Finger and Lambruka,” she said. Two of the freighters, both larger than the highlander, brightened on the display and the names appeared beside them. The Middle Finger was nearly twice the size of their own vessel, though considerably older.

“Both of these ships pretty much make the run between Hahn and Cyloneika, bringing manufactured goods in exchange for loot that pirates sell here,” she explained. Indra brightened immediately at that news.

“So we can just take one of them home?” she asked eagerly. Neil frowned but Junebug was already shaking her head.

“Unfortunately both these ships are already being watched Sven’s men,” she explained. It was an obvious move and one Sven would not have failed to anticipate. He had probably checked in or surveilled most ships, in all likelihood it was only the fact that he knew first hand that the Highlander was in no condition to leave, that had kept Indra safe this long.

“I was thinking that maybe we could build some kind of device that would be able to attach itself to one of the ships, probably in orbit, that can either carry our message to Cylonekia, or maybe disable the ship long enough that we could fly the Highlander up and dock with it…”

Neil sucked in a shocked breath at the suggestion though Indra merely looked confused.

“You want to try to use of those ships to carry the Highlander through the RIP?” he asked, appearing genuinely horrified.

“Junebug you know… I mean… the RIP engines aren't calibrated to add another ships worth of mass to the jump profile. Sayeeda finished her beer and drew another from the ice chest, spreading her arms in an equivocal gesture.

“I’m just spitballing,” she told him honestly, “you’re the engineer afterall.”
Opportunity blinked in surprise but she didn’t speak until they had driven around the block and back to the apartment building. As James, or whatever his real name was, had suggested both of the detectives were nowhere to be seen. For a moment she sat silently considering her options. On the one hand it was usually good advice to go with the police. Given enough time, she would be able to clear her name. Especially in America, justice was a matter of time and money, while the latter was not a problem, the former was more doubtful. Whoever had killed Roger might well have tried to frame her and at the very least take advantage of the situation to make good their escape. There was also the question of who this man was. Even had he not admitted the entire charade was a scam, he certainly didn’t have the look of anyone who would be admitted to the ranks of the incredibly straight laced FBI.

“Wait here,” she said simply and hopped out of the car, parting her wrists and pulling free of the handcuffs without difficulty. She had learned the trick as a child in Ceylon and it had come in useful many times over the years. She dropped the shackles onto the front seat of the car and sauntered back into the apartment building. Reaching the first floor she found the building supervisor, a hatchet faced old woman glaring at her from behind her thick spectacles.

“What are you doing out dressed like that young woman,” the irritable old battleax snapped. Doubtless the pounding on the door had wakened her, fortunately she seemed to have risen too slowly to have seen the police.

“I sleepwalk,” Opportunity told her simply and slipped up the stairs to her room without answering any of the further half snarled questions. Once inside she quickly began to gather her possessions. Fortunately a life unmarked by long periods of domesticity meant that the process was quick. She gathered up her maps and notes, retrieved her valise from under the bed and changed quickly, pulling on khaki trousers, a white cotton shirt and her leather flying jacket before stepping into her boots and hurtling back down the stairs. Before she reached the ground floor landing she had tucked her 45 into her waist band, lamenting the fact that the other was still in the possession of the Police.

A minute later she stepped back into the passenger seat of James’ waiting car and they roared off down the street. The chill wind prickled at Opportunity’s neck and ears, but the sensation reminded her too much of flying to be altogether unpleasant. The electric street lights burned with a soft haze of moisture as they left the apartment building behind, heading in no particular direction other than away from the scene of what was now officially a crime. As they rounded a corner and turned onto a tree lined boulevard Opportunity reached into her coat and drew her pistol.

“Well now that is behind us, perhaps we should become formally introduced,” she suggested, her voice a pleasant contrast to the metallic click of the hammer being drawn back. James claimed to be a friend of Roger’s but he had known of his murder awfully fast and tracked her down with equal aplomb, arriving only minutes after the police whose resources and information were likely far superior to his.

“My name is Opportunity Knox and no I didn’t pick the name. Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
Act 1 - Washington D.C May 27 1930something

The door shook like a drum beneath the pounding fist. In the well appointed room beyond a young fit looking woman stirred, unconsciously covering her head with one of the many plush pillows. When the pounding continued she let out a defeated growl and came to her feet. Opportunity Knox was a tall woman, nearly 5’9 and built like an athlete. Black hair, currently mussed hung, down to her shoulders framing her narrow slender face. Though she was certainly Caucasian, long association with the blazing sun of tropical climes hand burned her skin a soft gold that clung to her even in a dreary American spring.

The pounding continued apace. There were few enough people in Washington who knew Opportunity beyond a stolen glance in the street, and no one she knew that would show up to her rented apartment in the middle of the night and batter the door with such insistence. With an economy of motion she pulled a silk dressing gown over her naked body and retrieved the colt 45 that she routinely kept on her bedside table. Crossing to the door she yanked it open and leaped backwards keeping the big hand gun trained on the door.

It was an awkward scene. A pair of policemen, dressed in the dark blue coats of their office stood in the door way. One of the men, the smaller of the pair had his hand raised in mid knock, the second, larger and heavily bearded held a truncheon at the ready. Though both of the men had the tense poised look of people expecting trouble, it was clear that neither of them had expected to be staring down the barrel of a loaded 45.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” she asked archly, oblivious to the impropriety both of her sheer dressing gown and the fact she was holding a loaded gun on a pair of policemen. The door knocker lowered his hand.

“Miss Knox, I presume,” he said and began to reach for his belt, the motion freezing as Opportunity drew back the hammer on her pistol with an ominous click.

“Let’s keep our hands where I can see them please,” she cautioned. Her accent was a curious mixture of influences, the admixture of which flattened to a strangely unplaceable whole. The policemen shared a look and raised their hands.

“Miss Knox, we have a few questions for you,” the smaller man said carefully.

“I’m going to reach for my badge now,” he told her. Opportunity backed another step, making it clear that any attempt to close the distance would be suicidal. The shorter man reached down to his belt and produced the copper badge that hung in a canvas pouch.

“I’m Detective Stalings and this is Detective Benning, we have a few questions for you, regarding the death of Professor Roger Hargraves,” the policeman declared in a hard professional voice. Opportunity blinked in shock and lowered the gun so that the barrel pointed at the floor rather than at the chest of the two police. Both Stalings and Benning relaxed slightly.

“Roger is dead?” Opportunity asked her face registering shock and disbelief. The pair of detectives forced their way into the room, regaining their usual confidence now they were no longer facing a pointed gun. Instinctively, Opportunity backed to make room for them, pivoting out of their way. Stalings turned to her and fixed her with a hard glare.

“Afraid so, shot through the heart on the footsteps of the Smithsonian,” Stahlings continued with a significant glance at the pistol in Opportunity’s hand. She eased the hammer back and set the weapon down on a side table.

“So you admit you know the deceased?” Stahlings demanded, more confident now that he was on more familiar ground. Opportunity nodded, a little reluctantly her relationship with Roger wasn’t something she particularly wanted to discuss, certainly not with police in the middle of the night.
“He was a lecturer in the Archaeology of the Near East, and Near Eastern Mythology,” she admitted, incompletely.

“I’ve spent some time in that area of the world and we had some mutual interests.” Stahlings arched an eyebrow at her as his partner pulled open a draw and withdraw a handful of maps and navigational charts, all heavily marked with notations and scribbles.

“What language are these in?” the heavier set detective growled, peering at the strange script suspiciously.

“It’s Hindi,” Opportunity replied, growing irritable at her personal effect being rifled.

“Can you read it?” he asked, rather stupidly in Opportunity's opinion.

“Yes,” she responded truculently, refusing to elaborate. Stahlings grunted but refused to take the bait, instead he returned to the topic at hand.

“When we asked his wife she mentioned that you and Mr Hargraves....”

“Doctor Hargraves,” Opportunity broke in, growing increasingly irritated with the proceedings. Stahlings smiled but the irritation at being interrupted flashed across his face.

“...that you and Doctor Hargraves shared your interest alot, that you shared it late into the night in fact,” as he spoke his eyes roved up and down Opportunities body, barely concealed beneath her night gown. If his goal was to embarrass her, it failed, having spent much of her life in the Far East, where slender girls performed heart pounding dances nearly naked and the heat made heavy clothing a luxury she had internalized notions of modesty very different to a straight laced American policeman. Instead she merely shrugged her shoulders, that Roger had a wife neither surprised nor concerned her. No one had died and made her the arbiter of anyone's marital vows. She had come to Washington nearly a month ago to meet with Roger Hargraves after cabling him from London, seeking his help to translate some ancient maps that had come to her possession via a friend in Chandanagore. Though the maps were of Indian origin they seemed to pertain to the Near East, enough of a curiosity to pique her interest. Though over fifteen years her senior she had found Roger to be handsome, urbane and delightfully quick witted. Their relationship had flourished quickly.

“Now Miss Knox, let's not beat around the bush, it's very common when a relationship doesn't go the way you want to lose your temper… if you and Roger had an argument about something for example?”

“I didn’t kill Roger, if that is what you aren’t beating around,” Opportunity replied, “and I have no idea who did or why. That should save you some trouble.” Stahlings straightened his face flushing as the anger he had been repressing finally broke his false bonhomie.

“We have a witness who says they saw a black haired woman fleeing from the scene of the crime carrying a pistol,” he began hotly. Opportunity rolled her eyes.

“Is this the part where you tell me it's going to go easier for me if I cooperate?” she asked acidly.

“That's enough!” Sthalings snapped, drawing himself up to his full height, “Opportunity Octavia Knox, you are under arrest for the murder of Roger Hargraves!”

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Dramatis Personae

Opportunity Octavia Knox - Aviatrix

Professor Roger Wallace Hargraves - Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Mythology (Deceased)

Detective Jacob Ruben Sthalings - Washington DC Police
Rene quietly cursed himself as the Bonaventure began the gentle breaking thrust that would bring them into Zatis orbit. It was one thing to make a mistake in the chaotic confusion of a firefight or in the heat of the moment but he didn’t have any excuse for this current screw up. They had been so intent on reaching Zatis that they hadn’t really planned for their arrival. Three holographic screens hung in the air in front of him, all the details of the Bonaventure’s previous visits displayed. It wasn’t much to go on, little more than logs of trajectories and automated communication hand shakes. With Mia’s aid though it was possible to translate the information into something useful. Trajectories became landing platforms and repair facilities, communication codes could be back tracked to a list of known associates. If Rene had the time he supposed that someone with Solae’s skill could peel back the information further to uncover the shadowy world of slave trafficking that the Bonaventure’s late and unlamented captain had travelled. All that could wait however. The current problem was that Rene needed to find somewhere to land them, that was close to their goal, and yet not out of character for a ship like theirs. He had to avoid places the ship and her crew might be spotted by people who knew the previous owner and he had to find some way to pay for landing privileges. The small store of credits they had captured with the ship would cover the landing fees that the various starports charged, but only just, and Rene doubted they could afford much in the way of bribes. Accessing money was going to be difficult as any spies the Duke had would certainly have flagged any accounts linked to Solae. Rene’s own accounts the few thousand credits of an Imperial Marine’s salary, might be accessible, but by now the Duke might have identified him as well. There was a remote possibility that he could access his family accounts if he could find a banking house of sufficiently interstellar scope, he wasn’t sure if his father had sealed his access, but even if he could, the sudden appearance of an Imperial noble wasn’t likely to go unnoticed by any watchers.

Zatis swelled in the viewscreen as they reached orbit, the slightly grey blue world pocked by occasional electrical storms of its on going terraforming. Down there, somewhere, was the PEA array that would let them contact the Stellar Empire and spread the word about Duke Tan’s treason. But Zatis wasn’t like New Concordia or even Panopontus. On those worlds they had found allies, Oanh Park and his wife, and Damaris and her family, without whom they would likely not have survived, but he was less confidant of such aid here. Zatis was a wild place, a haven for criminals and mercenaries, all of whom would be amply motivated to turn Solae over to the Duke for his generous reward. Even if the PEA were still working and they could get to it, what then? An Imperial squadron would take weeks to reach the Eastern Cross, weeks in which they would have to face the vengeful wrath of the Duke and his forces.

Rene sighed and tried to clear his mind of worries and doubts. The door opened and Solae entered the bridge, looking radiant as always. Some of the tension ebbed out of Rene at once, Solae’s mere presence made him feel like anything was possible and that good things could happen even in the darkest situation. He had been putting off waking her for as long as possible, but he had to admit to a feeling of relief that she was going to be at the controls for the landing. Mia’s blunt critique of his piloting skills hadn’t improved his confidence, and though he was sure there was a simulator somewhere in the freighters ancient and disorganised database he had not had the time or inclination to find it.

Standing Rene crossed the bride to Solae and wrapped her in his arms kissing her passionately even as the console began to beep as they reached the end of the autopilot. Ever since he had met her they had been operating on someone elses time table and Rene dearly wished they had time just to be together. Unfortunately the universe did not seem inclined to comply.

“I love you,” Rene whispered before, reluctantly, releasing Solae so she could take her place at the pilots station.

“What is the plan?” he asked eagerly.
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