Chakats © Bernard Doove/Chakat Goldfur used with permission




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НазваниеChakats © Bernard Doove/Chakat Goldfur used with permission
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Many things happen under the cover of darkness.


For instance, we have this meeting of several individuals, down by the shoreline. Wave noise masked quiet conversation at a distance, and the wind, blowing from shore out to sea, carried any scent from their business away from those who would care.


The young Vragr that was hosting the AP known as Shaughnessy looked on as two others unloaded a fairly heavy box from a small vehicle. After they keyed in the code for the lock, the seals on the box released, opening the container. Within were 4 flat black slugs, 15cm in diameter, 3 times that in length. They were not marked, giving no indication of what they might be, beyond some kind of projectile. The box, however, was clearly labeled. For those who cared, it read “QLU-14 Mk. 4 QUANTUM EFFECT MUNITION, EXPERIMENTAL, QTY 4, P/N Q764-78654-519a, Property of PDF”.


Not saying a word, Shaughnessy nodded, and his two cohorts loaded the box back onto their vehicle. Soon, he was on his way back to where he had parked his small scooter, and was heading back towards his small apartment.


Those four REAPER rounds would cause a lot of damage when they were used, enough to stir up a real hornet's nest of trouble. His assortment of nasty toys would be merely a distraction, but their placement would do some indiscriminate damage. Of course, he hadn't placed a single one of them. He left the dirty work to those he convinced to help him in his cause.


What he hadn't counted on was that Pandoran MIIO section 4 (Ministry of Information, Intelligence and Operations, counter-terrorism section) might already be on his trail, unraveling his scheme as it was put into action. When he walked back into his apartment, the stun charge from the operative within caught him completely by surprise. Before he could active the self destruct in the NI Plug he was coded on, he was yanked from his host, which effectively put him into stasis.


“Control, Field 4 here. Target Apprehended. One Civvie needs medical attention.” The operative appeared out of thin air, turning off the adaptive camouflage suit he was wearing.


“Roger, Field 4. Local Emergency Services en route. They're your evac.”


The fox tod could hear the arrival of the local police and rescue people. After a brief explanation, and a check of his credentials, he left the scene in an unmarked van. Sitting in the back with him was his boss. “Good job, Murphy,” the elderly vixen stated, nodding.


“Thanks, Ma'am. I've got photos of what few papers he had in the apartment. He went out for about an hour after dark. I've got a record of the phone call he received. Permission to have Souta run it, see who called him?”


The elderly vixen nodded. “I'll want his crew to run the AP Plug through the SQUID, see what data they can reconstruct as well.”


Murphy nodded, then with a few key presses, he forwarded the data. “Now, if you'll excuse me, Tamamo-sama, I need to be elsewhere. You know how to get a hold of me if you need to.” And with that, he twisted around, and dove into his own tail, disappearing with a 'Pop!' sound, leaving Tamamo-no-Mae to regard the AP in her hand.


What were you up to, she thought, looking at the thing from different angles. Given your reputation, Shaughnessy, it can't be good. And with that, she repeated what Murphy did, leaving the van empty, disappearing back to her den, where she would take care of matters.




There are days when it doesn't pay to get out of bed, noted Kryslin; surveying the damage she had done to her staircase. The morning had started like many others, and she started to make her down the stairs, and then had one of her feet slide out from underneath her on the slick, polished wood. Her first reflex was to dig her claws in, which would have work if she was going down the stairs backwards. All her claws did was to carve some deep furrows in the wood. Then, she wrapped her tail around a baluster, and hoped with wood would hold. She winced at the sharp tug at the base of her tail, but her grip held, which allowed her to come to a stop before going the rest of the way down the staircase in an uncontrolled fashion.


When she finally recovered, she took note of the damage – four stairs were a loss, as well as the railing, which had been pulled out of place when she had secured herself with her tail. Bull in a china shop, indeed, she thought, then shook her head.


“Better call a carpenter, Jeeves,” Kryslin called out to the house. “Don't worry about bidding the job, find someone who can come out and get the job done today, as soon as possible. Pass on details if they want them.”


“Of course, Ma'am,” came back the housecomp's distinguished voice. “Ambrose Remodeling can be out within the hour. Shall I make the appointment?”


“Please, do so. I'll be taking care of breakfast in the meantime.”


The lynx had just finished breakfast when the contractors showed up. She had barely the time to pull on a top, an old t-shirt boldly emblazoned “All Powerful Cat Girl” in Terran Japanese characters, a gift from Steve. It looked silly, but she loved it anyway.


“Someone call for some remodeling?” A voice called out from the foyer.


“Actually, I needed a bit of carpentry done,” said Kryslin, as she rounded the corner.


“Well, you're in luck,” said the wolf morph standing there. “I'm an aerospace materials engineer, so this'll be cheaper. Penny Ambrose.” With that she extended a paw for a handshake, which was warmly returned by Kryslin.


“I did a number on the staircase this morning. Got anything that looks like wood, feels like wood, but is a whole lot more durable? I'd like to avoid a repeat.”


Penny grinned. “Hey, Gyre, fire up the extruder, we've got some siliplex to make!”


“On it, boss!” replied a voice from the back of the van parked outside. “I'll bring the scanner up so we can duplicate the pieces.”


Gyre turned out to be a heavy duty robot, sidling along on four insect-like legs, along with a set of arms with manipulators capable of doing precision work. He took a look at the damage. “Whoa, must've been some termites to tear through Xanthan Ironwood.”


“Don't mind him,” commented Penny. “Do you want the stairs repaired, or replaced?”


“Replaced, but save what wood you can.” Said Kryslin. “I'll be around for a while, but I'll be headed out later. Jeeves can answer any questions after I'm gone, and will lock up after you leave.”


“Right we're on it!” With that Penny and Gyre fired up the scanner, and began their work. After answering a few questions, she left the pair to their work, and set about the routine of one of her work at home days, retiring to her office on the lower floor. There was the various and sundry e-mail items, including the occasional bit of spam, messages from children studying abroad, notices from 2 of her ships saying they had arrived in the system and were expected to make planet fall within the week, and a rather cryptic message in plain text : “Lass, home is where the most accidents happen. Have a smashing time, love.”


Kryslin looked at the message, an eyebrow slightly raised in annoyance. There was no information as to who sent it. Routing information said that it had come from her downlink from her ship, the T'Lhea, and Tally, the shipboard AI, had no record of the message being sent.


It sounded like a threat, against her or her family. And the “Smashing” part started her thinking. Her thought began wandering back through past actions and contracts. There had been a number of unexplained bombings during the Saraswati Peacekeeping operation, which no one had taken any credit for. They had used gravitic munitions that literally flattened their target, smashing them to the ground....


Smashing. Grav Bombs. “Jeeves,” she called out, “Level two security protocols are now in effect until further orders. I need immediate scans of the building and grounds, along with vehicles parked on the street outside. Contact Vespa over at my daughters, and tell her I suspect that someone is going to try something.”


“Level two security protocols are now in effect. I'll let you know if I find something out of the ordinary that isn't already accounted for. Vespa has been called; she'll start scanning immediately as well.”


“Get Eyrie on the line as well,” she ordered.


“Hailing now,” said the voice of the housecomp.


Eyrie here, what can we do for you, Ma'am?”


“Haven?” asked Kryslin, “I need you to park that rig of yours in geosync over Okina. I'm looking for gravitic munitions, improvised or military.”


“Tall order, I'll get my crew on it. I take it you've got a reason?” Came the reply.


“I think an old ghost is coming back from Saraswati.”


“Those unexplained grav bombings? I'll get Eyrie moving, you deal with the authorities. Haven out.”


Kryslin counted the seconds until her comm started beeping. “Enderchai here,” she answered. “What can I do for you, Crossroads Tracon?”



“You can explain why you've got one of your ships moving into a dangerously low orbit over civilian areas,” replied the minor functionary at the other end, “and explain why I shouldn't call the PDF to get her back into her parking orbit.”


“Get me your supervisor,” demanded Kryslin, letting some steel creep into her voice. “If you won't get your supervisor, I will place a call to the Station Director herself...”


“No need, Kryslin,” replied an older, female voice. “I'm here. What's wrong? It's not like you to break rules and regulations unless something’s going on. Please tell me you're not going to have Haven fly that ship of hers through Seaside...”



Kryslin grimaced at the painful memory. “Never crossed my mind, Clio,” she replied. “I have what I consider a credible threat against my family, and possibly my community. I'm invoking Article 19 of my current PDF contract, and investigating. If I find nothing in the next 30 hours, Haven will move her ship back into its parking orbit. If MIIO wants information, they can call me.”


“And if you find something, Kryslin? What happens then?” Came the concern over the airwaves.


“Pray that nothing happens.”

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