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An Ungstiri Tale: Part 2 - A Hazy Shade of Winter Airdate: 24 July 2004 Cast: Keshka, Rishka, Lebeau, Kittianna, Melody, Mika, Jeff Ryan, Katriel, Taeren, Tressilian, Bauran, Jerimiah, Cerdict Trainor, Brokichev, Insunin, Innokentevna, Morgan, Pierce, Mahkka, with guest appearances by Marlan, Pavlo and Newt.
Summary: To seek a Princess lost somewhere between reality and myth.
... seasons change with the scenery,
weaving time in a tapestry.<br> won't you stop and remember me?

Look around,
leaves are brown,
and the sky,

it's a hazy shade of winter ...

Music and lyrics by Paul Simon, as performed by The Bangles

Landing Cavern U-999: Ungstir A tall and narrow cavern of gray carven rock, each rough carven wall is stacked several stories tall with latticed gantries and a complex weaving of color coded conduits, this bay providing the berths and maintenance facilties to the outsystem prospector fleets and their support tenders. Soft light washes gently across the intricate maze of machinery, accented by the rotating flash of amber safety lights and the occassional strident clash of crimson warning beacons. Heavy black and yellow industrial striping slashes across the walls, indicating hazard zones and traffic paths while bright red markings highlight the facility's emergency equipment.

The berths themselves are racked steel structure rising up along the bay walls, many small, for the local rockhopper fleet. Some though, are large enough to cradle a Calliope class freighter. Gangways, catwalks and open grate metal bridges zig zag and criss cross the space, umbilical conections scramble up the bay walls, to provide access, power, fuel and other services. ........................................................................... The lights are set at their dimmest level, being deep into Third Shift.

"Have good reason to think we won't have many friends after the next few days da." Marlan notes, "Need your expertise...you know what we have on board, tell me what we still need, da. I want that ship as secure as the rock."

"Morerer Zangali smart stuff," Urfkgar tells Marlan. "No morerer Zangali smart stuff. Morerer big fake fight stuff. Morerer fake fake fight stuff stupid softskin floaty thingy."

Kit walks out of the bazaar and turns directly toward where the Gray Horse rests, looking far more discomfitted and wary of her surroundings after last night's excitement.

Marlan nods, taking a step towarsd the bazaar, "You know what we need, da. I'll trust your judgment."

From the Gray Horse Innokentevna drops, landing on the deck with a bounce. Her knees bend deep and a hand pushes her off and upright again. She stands and takes a step back. "Marly!' And blinks. "An'Urfkgar ... hoop vhat breengs you out to z'eese Lort forsaken rock?" She then takes a sidestep, looking to Kittianna. "Kitt ... you toink fine? Miss't you at breakfast? Or deet I just ofersleep again.

Kit shrugs as she stops near the courier, her attention straying toward Marlan and Urfkgar as Innokentevna singles them out. "I went out to survey the area."

A bit off to the side, in the shadow of a service umbilical crane, the dark haired Keshka glowrs, arms crossed and a big leather book held in crossed arms. She leans against the trusswork tower, eyeing the folks on the docks with a touch of suspision.

In the tall one's shadow the smaller Rishka lurks. She pounds on the side of her pistol with the ball of her palm, knocking a jammed sliver of metal out before reholstering it.

"Stupid stuff no bash stupid softskin girly doc boss. Urf do stuff. Stupid softskin stuff no bash Urf stuff," Urfkgar explains to Innokentevna. "Morerer big fake fight stuff. Morerer fake fake fight stuff stupid softskin floaty thingy."

LeBeau works his way out of the bazaar thru the seemlingly constant mob of people. He takes a moment to glance at the ships in dock before heading towards the Horse and the people around it.

And at the docks edge a tall and worn old man stands. He looks to the exit portal, glancing from an array of photographs in his hands to the stars and back again. His expression is tired and earnest, as he slowly draws himself up. He turns, looking back over his shoulder to those gathered beneath a small scout ship ... and also the two by the gantry crane.

Innokentevna looks between Kittianna and Urfkgar. "Ve really neet a real time translator ..." She then nods back to the Zangali. "Vell eef I unterstant rite .. you can fint vhat you neet here, but I vouln't vant to be caught passink through Sifat customs vith anytheenk from z'eese place. Zey tent to be picky." She then lets out a deeper breath. "You sure Kitt? You seem't ... spook't last nite."

Jeremiah enters from the township. Isunin enters from the township.

Kit snorts as she is reminded of last night's events once again and takes a narrowed-eyed look around the bay. "And who would not be, with all manner of things flying through the air, from energy bolts to flechettes to bodies? And the old man...Lake..." She nods to the fellow in question when she finally spies him to one side. "He seems quite misplaced."

Shaking his head, Tay rubs gingerly at the tears in his leather jacket along the right side, and walks towards the Outcast.

LeBeau is working his way across the small cavern that doubles as a landing pad when he notices the two women from last night tucked away from the main traffic. He then changes his directing from the Gray Horse over to the two women with a polite smile on his face.

Isunin walks in from the bazaar. She glances at Torr as he follows her but continues to keep her swift pace.

"Urf no go stupid softskin place," grumbles Urfkgar, scratching at his shoulder. "Urf stuckeded morerer time."

Jeremiah finds a crate sitting a bit to one side and sits down on it, setting one foot on a smaller box infront of the crate and looking around.

Torr moves along with Isunin, a little behind. He seems to be taking his time, strolling in her wake with ease as he takes in his surroundings. A lit cigarette hangs between two of his fingers, on which he takes a long drag from now and then.

At the mention of the old man, Lake does turn. He carefully puts his few photographs and notes into the pocket of his shirt. With a tip tap tip of his stout stainless steel cane he slowly approaches those beneath the Gray Horse's wing. And while he nods to both Kittianna and Innokentevna, "My fair ladies ..." But once the polite greeting is offered, it is the Zangali that attracts his attention. That and Urfkgar's conversation with the scoutship captiain. Lake slowly circles Urfkgar, his eyes going wide for a moment. An then he nods his head, a polite and formal bow. "I take it, Sir Dragon, that by thine company thou keeps ... thou stands with the honorable ladies here?"

Taeren looks uneasily at Rishka and Keshka, zipping up his jacket with a wince and tucking his hands in his pockets as he walks towards Gray Horse.

Keshka simply curls a hand into a fist nd drops it on the top of her companion's head.

"OW!" Rishka ducks and rubs her hair with one hand. "What the hoop did I do?"

The giantess gives her friend a dour look. "Nothing." there is a definite pause, before she completes her deadpan sentence. "Yet."

Jeremiah stands and crosses the short distance towards the ship where everyone is gathering and stands close, with his jacket unzipped and his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans.

Brokichev walks into the landing cavern, heading in the direction of the gathering point.

Bowing slightly at the waist as he hold the end of his coat away like it was a cape Lebeau wink at teh two women. "Ladies, wha ar yu doing hidding oud en da shadows. I tink does spooks o yers would tink bedder befo tryign to snatch yu up again." He then motions with a wave of his hand towards the small group around the Gray Horse. "Doh perhaps yu would feel a bid mo ad ease en da company o some o my friens?"

Keshka rubs her nose and just blinks at LeBeau, her brow furrowing.

"What stupid softskin?" asks Urfkgar as he scratches his shoulder and eyes Lake. Then, he busts out with a coherent sentence, "A Zangali is at all times honorable."

"He means he thinks we'd be safer in the gang, you burke." Rishka then covers her head with both arms. "And you already bopped me!" She then steps forward to follow LeBeau's lead. "Da ... worst that can happen is that we get accused of hobnobbing with the wealthy an' influenshal." She frowns. "Bah ... we don't even have a reputation to ruin."

Taeren blinks. Once at Lake, then twice at Urfkgar. Shaking his head quietly, he keeps his mouth shut until he makes it as far as Katya. His eyes on Rishka and Keshka, he offers an uneasy "Lady smile" before passing a look around all those assembled.

Kit eyes Lake dubiously as the man approaches, rolling her shoulders as if trying to settle an itch between them at his flowery language. But her reaction to him is mild compared to the wide-eyed stare of disbelief she casts Urfkgar at his last pronouncement.

Brokichev catches Urf's sentence as he passes, and blinks, looking around as if trying to spot where it came from.

Jeremiah chuckles softly.

LeBeau holds his hand out to Rishka "Actully I tink da worse would be dat I flird wit eider o yu an perhaps ged a dade oud o id. Bu yer righ, I only ment to offer yu two a bid mo protection den hidding oud here under dis crane. AN perhaps one o my friens can help yu dechiper some mo o dat book o yers."

"Then well met and it is a pleasure to greet such a Knight as you, Sir Zangali." The elderly gentleman bows his head. "My name is Lake, and I met thine court and courtiers on the last evening, where this good Sir," he turns to LeBeau, "vanquished one of your kin, who mut have fallen from grace, and this gentleman," Lake then turns his attention to Brokichev, "... led another away from us, like one might a wolf from the herd."

Brokichev blinks at Lake. "Vanquished? A Zangali? Me? I think you're mistaken..."

LeBeau holds his hand out to Rishka "Actully I tink da worse would be dat I flird wit eider o yu an perhaps ged a dade oud o id. Bu yer righ, I only ment to offer yu two a bid mo protection den hidding oud here under dis crane. AN perhaps one o my friens can help yu dechiper some mo o dat book o yers." (repose for Russ)

"Urf Urf," says the Zangali, shrugging. His good eye tracks down LeBeau and Brokichev, and he shrugs again, "Stupid new Zangali. No Zangabro. Stupid softskins want bash Urf. Urf kill stupid softskins. Stupid softskins bash Zangali no Urf. Stupid softskins no basheded. Urf bash Zangali no basheded stupid softskins. Stupid new Zangali."

Torr slows his pace as he nears the Eos, stopping finally once he reaches the ship. He leans against one of the drive thrusters, tucking a hand into the pocket of his jacket, the other hand still holding the cigarette. He nods toward the group. "Same crowd as last night, huh?" <re>

Isunin is taken aback by Torr's words, ~Hopefully not, I don't want to see another gunfight~

Its a trained reaction, for Rishka to take the offered hand. She then blinks and snares her hand back. "Oh hoop, you'll have me thinking I'm a lady or something." She then looks between Keshka, Lebeau and the book. "Well that would be good ... we tried to get a pilot to help us ... but she .. well just got us a bunch of numbers."

Torr smirks. "True. I think they're just a good number of the bystanders. Like us." He shrugs a little. "No thugs in that group, just a bunch of do-gooders."

Taeren stands under the Gray Horse's wing, hands in pockets, eyes tracking sideways to Rishka and Keshka now and again. Before they approach, he addresses Katya. "Lin's grin," he offers her easily. "How's business? Still dealing with the flare-up from last night?"

Isunin grins broadly. She shoots a look at Torr, ~You a do-gooder? That'd be a sight!~. She returns her attentions back to the group, again attempting to understand the communication.

LeBeau chuckles and slowly pulls his hand away from Rishka and again motions towards the group before leading the two ladies to towards the Gray Horse.

Torr smirks. "Right," he replies. "And not one likely to come true," he snorts, shaking his head slightly. "Well, people watching isn't my thing. I'm going to go grab some shut eye while I have the chance. Things seem pretty calm around here."

Occasionally looking around the cavern, Jeremiah can't help but keep a wary eye out for anything amiss after the violent evening before..

Kit remains silent as she simply listens in on the various conversations, watching the various groups begin to shift and merge.

Innokentevna looks back to Taeren and then the small crowd gathered in the shadow of her small scout ship. "Looks like eet ... ve hafe all ov us ... and no sight of all of them. So I guess z'ats a goot theenk, da?"

Isunin grimaces. ~Don't sleep in the Eos. It's horrible and there's nowhere comfortable. Go find yourself another place to rest~

Brokichev looks up at Urfkgar, at least making an attempt to understand what he's saying. "Um... yes. I'd agree."

Torr laughs. "I can sleep for free in the copilot's chair. Its not that bad," he glances sidelong at her, grinning. "I could always go sleep in my box."

Jeremiah says, "Say... how's that ol boy that got caught out in the middle of things last night? He doin' all right?"

Following LeBeau in, the small fire haired Ungstiri nods across to Taeren, and casts a glance all the way across the bay to Torr. "Oh .. you don't have to be worried about them. Think I saw them an' theirs boarding a hopper insystem. unning home with their tails between their legs. Hoopin' rockrats." She then blinks, and looks between LeBeau and Lake. "Oh ... excuse my hoopin' language, I guess.'

Torr smirks, shaking his head slightly. He might hear the red haired Ungstiri, or might not, either way he seems not to care. After a moment, he turns toward the Eos, and boards it.

As Rishka speaks, Lake's attention falls to her, his head tilting just a bit. "The Witch and her liegemen ... left?"

Taeren smirks thinly. "So, let me get this straight. You have a book that somehow traces back to some kind of royal family that you found down in Boromov's castle. A splinter of Boromov's old organization wants it back ... why?" He folds his arms, winces again as if plainly regretting it, and slides his hands into his pockets again.

Brokichev quirks an eyebrow. "Witch? That's not the word I'd use..."

After a whirl and hiss of decompressing air Melody hobbles down from the Gray Horse, her steps hitting the ladder soundly. When she hits the deck it's with a surveying roam of her hazel eyes, seeking out familiar faces.

Drawing the book closer to her, the tallest Ungstiri here just levels an almost stern look in Taeren's direction. "Mine."

Drawing up next to Lebeau, Rishka nods in harmony with her short spoken partner. "We don't know nuthin' about that. And I doubt they are associated with anybodies but themselves .. but they seem to be promising ... lots of riches and things. All the stuff the old guy said must be ..."

Urfkgar looks at Brokichev again, shrugs, and digs in a pocket. He pulls out a plastic bag filled with carrots.

Kit twitches at the use of the word 'witch', glancing narrowly toward Lake before she turns to regard the two women associated with the ledger with a touch more interest.

Brokichev glances at the book, then furrows his brow. His attention is drawn away from it, however, at the mention of money. "Riches and things? What kind of riches and things?"

Jeremiah quirks an eyebrow at the proposed question and leans forward a bit and listens closer to the conversation.

Taeren scratches under his jaw. "Sure, the book is yours, but." He grins. "This sounds more and more like a treasure hunt ... implications towards Ungstiri history aside," He says, with a nod to Lake. "I guess the question is, what are you gonna do now? If you could figure the book out on your own, you'dve done it by now ..."

Isunin suddenly seems quite interested in the group, and begins slipping closer so she can hear them better.

Lake says, "... in the Black Ledger ..." The knight leans heavily upon his steel rod walking stick, completing Rishka's sentence. "She ... she is the Witch. I recognized her ..." There is a heaviness in his words. "The Last Castle ... is what they must be seeking too. But they would be seeking its reward. but just for its worth in gold coin ... or so I suspect." he shakes his head, slowly looking back up. "The treasure of the Old Names ... the Island Garde ... the Memory of Home ... all that was Lost may there be Found." At that he closes his eyes. "haven't you lost anything mi'lord? And if it were possible ... what would you do to have it no longer missing from your life? That ... that is what the Last Castle, the lonely isle holds.""

LeBeau leads Rishka and Keshka up to the group and begins to make what introductions he can "Ladies, dees to ravagingly beaudiful women ar Katya an her pardner Melody." Motioning to those two. "Dis es Ms. Kittianna." He twists a bit to point out Urfkgar "An da tall lizard es Urfkgar, pard o da Athena crew. Da res o dees people I really don know." He then looks to them both and smiles "As fo myself, my naem es Remy LeBeau."

Innokentevna looks to the side as Melody exits, a small wave of her hand offering the Specialist a place with her. As she does she hugs herself, looking to the old gentleman, offering just a quiet whisper of her own. "Just as long as he toesn't ask eef ve beleef een ghosts ... or engeeneers vho vrite zere last vorts upon abanton't starsheep valls."

Brokichev stares blankly at Lake. "Island what of what what? You lost me there."

Rishka looks to LeBeau for a moment, for a heartbeat. "We aren't in trouble again, are we? I mean, she's on the You-Cee-cee, and we ... we finished our last shift in the ductwork ... forty eight hours ago! And wedidn't run away." She then, however, nods back. "Rishka, thats me .. and the big un, that's keshka. She doesn't talk . .."

Keshka drops her fist on Rishka's head, once again.

Wincing, Rishka continues. "She hits people but doesn't talk much."

"Greetings... it's nice to meet you." Melody offers to the duo that Remy leads, stopped alongside the courier with a polite, small smile flashed. The compliment that the cajun says does indeed cause her cheeks to rim a darker shade... soon wiped away by the latter half of Katya's comment - about engineers. "Rishka, Keshka."

Urfkgar pops some carrots into his mouth and looks between Rishka, Keshka, and LeBeau. He grunts vaguely around the mouthful of orange chunks.

Brokichev gives an awkward wave. "Oh, uh, Ivan Brokichev."

Innokentevna reaches over to squeeze Melody's hand, offering warmth and a quiet apology. "Prashu proscheniya ... sorry." She nods then to the two other ungstiri. "Eets a much nicer vay to meet z'en last nite, da?"

Kit nods in turn as her name is mentioned, shifting her weight and slipping her hands in her pockets.

"Taeren M'nammrann," Tay says absently, "Call me Tay. My partner's not here, but she was last night. The Mystic, about yay high?" He holds his hand up to a little below his chest. "She's Katriel, our ship's the Outcast." Introduction complete he glances to Lake. "The Last Castle, the Island Garde, the memory of Home ... what do you mean, sir? I didn't catch your name ..."

LeBeau shrugs and chuckles as he waves his hand in Katya's direction "O don min her, she jus acts tough fo her liddle sweedheard Melody dare." He wink at both Katya and Melody before turning back to Keshka and Rishka "SO yu say yu foun dis book o yers en da casdle back en resillence. An id led yu to some pictures? where di yu fin da Pictures ad?"

The old man manages a small smile. "The Last Castle. The Lonely Isle. It has had many names ... in many tales ..." Lake rests again upon his staff. "And three things are needed to reach its carven shores. One must it location dibvine. I beleve the Black ledger's cypher holds that secret. The Hawk Key must be found ... and it requires one of Her kin to use it." The gentleman looks about those gathered. "Last night .. They tried for the ledger ... and now you say they are gone."

Kit turns to eye the two women speculatively once more as the cypher is mentioned, and she asks, "Did you allow Tresillian to look at the code last night?"

"You're talking about old legends, sir ... but none of the names you mention ring a bell." He looks from Lake to Katya. "What is he talking about? Some kind of hidden rock from back when Ungstir was Youngster?" Tay speculates.

Jeremiah looks at the old man and says, "But if they need all three things to get where they want to go, and this ledger is one of those three things, then that means they're gonna be comming back. And my bets are that they'll come back loaded for bear and won't be takin no for an answer.

Melody looks sidelong to her Gray Horse captain, hazel-green gaze searching her steely gray mirrors. A moment is lost, tender and drifting, before the brunette girl acknowledges what it is that Katya actually said. It's LeBeau's jest that sparks a soft chuckle from the researcher, breaking the sentimental sharing. "Yeah, it is a lot quieter..." She returns to the present moment of listening and absorbing what she can about this ledger.

Rishka looks back to Kittianna with a shake of her head. "Nyet, we weren't able to talk to any kind of Tresillian." She stretches a bit, rubbing herforearm. "It was kind of late into the shift and all." She then returns her attention to Lebeau, "Oh, we got three sets of numbers translated .. the pilot said they were coordinates, but I had already guessed that. We found a whole pile of books in a little capsule and all. Figure there must be more out there. Maybe this castle the old man's been talking about, you think?"

Innokentevna manages a smile then, and looks between Melody and Kittianna. "I theenk betveen zee tvo ov you, z'ere's no cypher z'ats can nyi efentually fall. Can nyi be as tough as zee Kameer language, da?" Innokentevna then looks to Jerimiah. "Nyet ... I ... eef z'ey vere goink to come after us, z'ey voult hafe stay't here, da? Here's vhere zere's nyi efen a ban on projectile veapons ... da? Zey must be after sometheenk else."

"I see." A soft snort at Innokentevna's initial words, and then Kittianna continues, "Would you allow me to borrow the book?" she asks, with enough sobriety that it would almost seem she is oblivious to just what action on the two women's parts had started the fire-fight last night. A moment's pause, and she turns to regard Innoketevna with a puzzled frown. "Where were they headed?"

"Zey just took a hopper cab, da?" Rishka ansers. "So they couldn't geing far or anything ... I think just back to the Rock."

Jeremiah turns and heads back toward the main area

"Have you gone to those coordinates yet?" Tay asks, tilting his head. To Katya: "Sure, probably looking after one of the two other things you need to get to this place they were talking about." He scratches his chin, thinking.

At Taeren's words Lake suddenly straightens. "The Princess may be in danger?"

Brokichev furrows his brow. "Princess?" Aside to Urfkgar, he mutters, "Old man not taking too much sense, da?"

At Kittianna's offer the large Ungstiri just glowers, well until she is nudged in the ribs by her smaller companion. hard. They glare at each other for a few moments, each set in their ways. Until finally Rishka turns. "Only if Keshka comes with."

Taeren looks sidelong at Lake. "Well, if I knew what in Maza's empty universe you were talking about, I'd tell you. But if you were going after a treasure, wouldn't you find someone who knew where it was and talk to them?" He turns to Rishka and Keshka, frowning a little. "Hey. Ladies. Did you go to the coordinates yet?" He asks, for the second time, seemingly irritated at not being answered the first tiem around.

"Stupid softskins all say stupid stuff," says the Zangali. "No say stupid stuff all times. No do stupid stuff all times. No stupid softskins."

When Taeren yells, Rishka just sets her hands upon her hips, and barks back at the timonae. "Three hoopin' times. Thats where we found tha books an tha photographs, you hoopin' deaf tourist!"

"Of course." As she turns, Kit gives Melody a single look and nod, an implicit invitation to join them in the Gray Horse if the Specialist wishes, before leading the way up the Gray Horse's boarding ladder.

Taeren looks defensively at Rishka. "You coulda *said*," he mutters, looking down around Rishka's boots. He falls silent for the time being, listening actively to the others.

"But mi'ladys ... mi'lords ... don't you understand?" The old man begins to step away, glancing to the trasport back insystem. "While we bicker amoungst each other, a little girl might be in danger, no?"

LeBeau can't help but let a small laugh escape from his lips as Rishka gets jsut a little testy with Taeran. He take a moment to compose himself and shakes his head "How aboud we all do someting den jus standing aroun here yelling ad each oder." He lets his eyes pass from face to face "We hav a book to dechiper an a treasure trove o casdle wit a princess o a key o someting to fin. None o which es gonna happen jus sidding here en da open waiding fo dose Boromov thugs to return."

Isunin watches on from her vantage point, her face still crisscrossed with puzzlement.

Melody nods in acompliance at the mention of decoding the cypher. "Sure, yeah, Kit and I can help... She's really good at this kind of stuff." There's a glance spared to the dark-haired woman she speaks of, taking in her profile before she blinks once and nods. "Katya, I'm going to go..." She hugs the short sable-maned courier, a tight squeeze, and then slips off to the Horse.

Mid Bay <UKT Gray Horse> ........................................................................... Cool white light drifts down from panels set in the ceiling of this spacious bay, which serves as work area and general quarters for the ship's small crew. Eight meters by eight meters square, with a ceiling no more than two meters high, two back to back acceleration couches fill the center of the space. Long and narror portals grant views outside the vessel, looking up through the ship's dorsal surface. Four bunk niches are set into the wall, two portside and two starboard. Beneath each are a set of cabinets and lockers for storage of personal gear, Against the forward wall a set of stainless door panels conceal a built-in efficiency galley, including small refrigerator and microcooker. Aft, a sliding panel hides the entrance to the compact hygiene unit.

Two sturdy hatches lead out of the midbay. Forward to the central airlock and aft to the ship's engineering compartment. ........................................................................... The lights are set at their dimmest level, simulating night and signifying the last watch of the day.

"The book?" Kit asks Keshka as she retrieves her data tablet from beside her bunk.

Melody shrugs out of her leather jacket and tosses it into the bed niche, following through with a pivot of her body as she plunks down onto the edge of her bunk. She scrounges around in her jacket to produce her own 'padd.

Keshka actually has to duck her head, as she enters the ship's back bay. She frowns and looks uncomfortable. as if there was something, someone, missing. "They hurt her ..." She speaks a miracle more than a single word. "I'm going to tear them apart, you understand?" She then ahnds over the tome. "You'll have to read it. I can't."

Kit accepts the ledger in her free hand, lifting a brow at the proverbial giantess before she turns to the table, laying down both items and opening the book to its first page before she sits. "I beg your pardon; I'm afraid I was not paying full attention to all the conversations at the time. To whom, specifically, are you referring to? Melody, if you'll set up a link, I will feed you whatever I find."

"My partner ... Rishka." The tall one answers simply.

Melody is visibly uncomfortable at the casual admittance of violence, just right out there in the open. She appears to form a reply by the way her mouth gapes open... but then it's closed again. A murmured "Thanks." Relief seems to flood her face as Kit delegates a task for her to do. "Oh. Sure, it'll just take a second..." She leans forward to where the other data padd lies, punching in a few keys to synchronize this particular one to her own. There isn't too much fanfare this time around, having linked up many times before with Kit. Bleep. It's complete.

LeBeau pulls himself into the belly of the ship "well ladies id looks like ids jus us fo awhile. E'eryone else headed back to resillence to see wha day can dig up. Yu having any luck here?"

Kit sits at the table near the galley, the ledger open beside her favorite data tablet. At the moment, she is busy running scans of the first few pages before she begins to set up the same programs she had used initially to translate the Kamir writings, allowing them to begin building their association tables while she inputs the rest of the pages. "I see. I should warn you that this may take some time. Do you require any refreshment?" she asks in aside to Keshka without bothering to look away from her work.

Keshka looks down at the pages blankly, slowly crossing her arms. She lets out a deep breath, and then shakes her head. At the mention of time she frowns even deeper ... which becomes a glare as LeBeau steps into the room. "You. Were. Supposed. To. make. Sure. Rishka. Doesn't. Get. Beat. Up." She pauses. "She's stupid that way."

LeBeau winks at Keshka and motions for her to sit and calm down "Don worry aboud Rishka she'll be fine. She'll hav da milita as well as Katya an da athena crew watching o'er her. Da tree o yu on da oder han could us a gun o two aroun encse yer frien come back dis way."

Melody is perched on the edge of the bunk niche, leaning, with her removed jacket resting beside her and PDA in both hands with its screen flashing. When the gentleman enters, she looks up from her key-tapping to smile at him. "Greetings, LeBeau. You can sit here..." A warm olive-toned hand pats the empty side of the bunk where she sits before turning focus back upon the data tablet. "We're just going over some data." Her eyes flick from side to side as she reads the menus and windows that pop up and subsequently disappear on the padd's viewscreen.

"Mr. LeBeau," Kit greets with a flick of her eyes toward the man before she switches her gaze to the tablet, running through some of the prompts that flash for her attention on the screen before she continues, "Did you wish for some refreshment?"

LeBeau shakes his head at bot hthe seat offered by Melody and the refresment offered by Kit "NO tank yu, 'm fine as I am." He states as he leans against the bulkhead and crosses his arms over his chest. 'Ids times like dis dat I wish da Wolf was no drydocked. Ad lease I could pass da time flying thru da asteroid field scanning fo dis casle o whae'er"

The cypher is ingenious, a series of rolling codes and keywords that each cyckle adifferent cryptographic iteration. it was cutting edge ... butit was cutting ege ten years ago. After a handful of pages Kittianna is feeding Melody a huge stream of numbers, fugures, tallies ... accounts and names.

A slight chuckles escapes LeBeau's lips "Es dat a comparasion question like do I enjoy flying as oposed to flirding wit attractive women such as does aroun me now? O di yu mean jus as an e'eryday sord o hobby?"

Kit snorts at LeBeau's banter, concentrating on monitoring the programs now that she has gotten the hospitality stuff out of the way. After a moment watching the output's progress, she asks, "Are you getting all of this, Melody?"

Tawny brown eyebrows lift in appeased triumph at the influx of data streaming through the synchronized padd to dadd link. "Yeah, I am. That's great..." Melody tells her dark-haired companion, intended as a light compliment as she rapidly skims through the information. "Hehe... I meant do you just like flying as a hobby, LeBeau." A smattering of embarrassment hovers across the bridge of the girl's nose, but she isn't distracted from her work. Like lightning speed and clockwork. Her fingers slow as she pulls another menu down inside her crowded screen, tapping into the prompt a search of some kind. Incoherent digits and numbers roll by until stopping still. "It's a listing... of... wow... the entire Boromov Crime Syndicate's resources. Stuff like where money and treasures were placed, where... bodies... were taken. One second..." The prompt cleans up to reveal coordinates. "Hey, I got some coordinates for the last position of an Ungstiri planetoid that isn't on any charts I've seen. U-001."

LeBeau stops leaning on the wall as Meldoy starts spouting off what she has gathered from the ledger "AM I en dare anywhere, jus wonder how much an empression I made on da guy." He ask as he steps over to the table "As fo yer question Melody my flying es mo a profession. I was once a fighder pilod en da vanguard. AN I still dare anyone to fin a bedder pilod den myself dis side oda multiverse."

Satisfied that everything is working as it should, Kit looks up to regard those in the bay with a thin smile. "Interesting. I can see why some would be intent upon retrieving this book."

Keshka just blinks, and looks at the rows of symbols and letters. "You men .. it really is valuable?"

Melody mms softly to herself as she continued to plod through the data trails, accounts, and various people they belong to. "Really? In the Vanguard? I was in the Vangard... The Minerva crew. I was a civilian researcher." She taps through a sprawled table with a highlighted name. LeBeau's. "Yeah, here you are, LeBeau. Your payment accounts." The researcher tilts her PDA for the others in the bay to examine, both the coordinates in the corner and Remy's payments as they decreased each month in kickback to a Boromov cousin. Her hazel-green eyes look off to Keshka, "It looks like it... when Katya knows about this, I'm sure we'll soon be finding out for ourselves..."

Kit rounds the table to view the PDA's screen with the others. "Which of the information, if any, are relevant to what Lake was rambling about?"

LeBeau leans in and ignores his account file, instead focusing on the coordinates "If dees coordinades ar correc den ids no wonder ids no on any star chard. Dis looks like id would be on da very edge o Ungstir space. To far oud fo an mining ships o hoppers. An any larger ship would o jumped oud o da sysdem wit oud picking id up."

Keshka leans over too, her dark brows furrowed. "That means, someplace." She nods. "Rishka does this stuff, not me." She leans back and crosses her arms. "So we go." She lets out breath, her eyes narrowing just a bit. "cept no such things as Princesses."

LeBeau looks between Kit and Melody "Do yu guys hav a ship o crew comm channel dat Katya would be monerding?"

Melody appears to be at a bit of a loss at what Kittianna poses. "I don't know... I don't know much of what he's been saying. Princesses, treasures, ages past. It all sounds like a fairy tale to me." The analytical side of the girl surfacing, the logic-bound one that wouldn't allow her to get too 'heady.'

Melody hastens to add, "Oh, yeah. We can try contacting her on channel Katya. That's what we use to keep in personal contact."

LeBeau nods and reachs to his belt to fiddle with his commlink, which has a barely noticable wire running upto his left ear.

LeBeau reaches up to cover the small mouth piece of the commlink jetting from his ear and then looks to Kit and Melody "Can eider o yu fly dis ship back to dock o should I do id?"

Melody shakes her head and mirrors the cajun's actions by covering the tiny mouthpiece with her fingers. "No, Katya usually does the flying..." Her eyes return to the screen where the coordinates are displayed beside U-001.

"You should," Kit states unhesitantly. "My knowledge is limited to the sensor banks."

Grasping the bulkhead, kshka just looks at the others supisciously. "We are oing after Rishka, right?" She thn nods to the book. "And you'll tell, us, whats in there?'

Kit shrugs as she returns to the table to clear her tablet and close the book, holding the item back out to Keshka. "That still remains to be seen. We know just about as much right now as we did before, even if we have much more raw data."

LeBeau moves back into the bunk room "Alrigh I jus sed her down. Seems da when off to some orphanage o someting. Any o yu comming along?"

Melody nods in agreement - to both Remy and Kit - as she pushes herself up from the niche and ducks her head from hitting the ceiling. "We'll know more when we're there... It's okay. We're not going to hide anything from you." She assures Keshka while fidgeting with her PDA.

LeBeau growls deep in his throat as Katya message comes thru. He looks to Melody and Kit "Yu ged e'eryting yu can oud o da ledger?"

Melody glances sidelong to Kit to see if she dumped all the relevant data she could into her PDA for searching and organizing. "Yeah, I think so..."

"A hostage?" Kit sighs, rolling her eyes. "I have the entire ledger's contents copied into memory. Perhaps we should give them what they want for now, and be sure to follow close behind. It sounds like there are still several things they must need to retrieve before they have anything worthwhile."

LeBeau nods look to each women in turn "den I say we giv dem wha da wan." He then reaches over to swipe the ledger up before Keska can get it.

"But its OURS" Keshka protests, frowning. She looks back and her arms cross. "Keep the book. Just give them the numbers."

LeBeau begins to head for the rear hatch "We hav e'erying backed up so dis book es worth less. Leds hope day don know dat." He then moves to leave the ship.

Landing Cavern U-999: Ungstir A tall and narrow cavern of gray carven rock, each rough carven wall is stacked several stories tall with latticed gantries and a complex weaving of color coded conduits, this bay providing the berths and maintenance facilties to the outsystem prospector fleets and their support tenders. Soft light washes gently across the intricate maze of machinery, accented by the rotating flash of amber safety lights and the occassional strident clash of crimson warning beacons. Heavy black and yellow industrial striping slashes across the walls, indicating hazard zones and traffic paths while bright red markings highlight the facility's emergency equipment.

The berths themselves are racked steel structure rising up along the bay walls, many small, for the local rockhopper fleet. Some though, are large enough to cradle a Calliope class freighter. Gangways, catwalks and open grate metal bridges zig zag and criss cross the space, umbilical conections scramble up the bay walls, to provide access, power, fuel and other services. ........................................................................... The lights are set at their dimmest level, being deep into Third Shift.

Taeren turns to Lake. "Oh - you *know* this girl?" Tay asks, blinking. "Forget that insystem hopper ... I'll fly you out on the 'Cast, she's faster." He looks soberly at Lake and nods. "It's the paintjob. Yellow's a fast color." Darting eyes to Katya, he admits - grudgingly - "although the Horse is faster ..."

Innokentevna starts, looking back to Melody with a nod. She only reluctantly lets her hand go, at her arm's full extension. "I'll be back for you, lofe ..." A parting and a promise. "An LeBeau ees rite ... notheenk's goink tobe solfe't here like z'eese."

As the two women enter the Gray Horse, Keshka pales, just a bit. She looks to her partner .. who just looks back, once, and then nods and pushes. "Go ... go ... keep our book safe ... and find us that castle and enugh money that we'll never have to steal no more and you won't have to buy clothes two sizes too small no more." She then pushes Keshka towards the hatch. "Wuss."

With a shake of her head Keshka follows Melody and Kittianna into the scout ship.

Keshka boards the UKT Gray Horse.

Rishka watches as the tall woman vanishes into the ship. She wraps her arms about her waist for a moment, suddenly looking very small. "This had better be hoopin' worth it. They hurt Keshka, and i'll fill them with so many holes they'll be mistaken for that cheese ... with a lot of holes in it.

As the three leave, Lake shakes his head. " ... I don't know." There is a swallow in his words. "I ... I know if I see Her, I shall recognize her. I have ... what is it they are called. Icons ... images ...of who she was ... of who she is."

LeBeau watches as a couple of the ladies disappear up into the Horse. With that his eyes move back to scan the entrance to the bazaar. After a moment of scanning he looks back to the group, unholstering his sidearm he checks it power gauge and put its back in the holster that rest on his thigh. "Perhaps we should all head back to Resillence. Maybe we can ged access to da one o compuder nedworks an see if dat helps wit anyting."

Taeren tilts his head at Rishka. "I know how you feel. Me and Kat are like that, but. I don't think she'll have anything to fear from those two, yeah?" He offers a faint smile and glances back from Katya to Lake. "We going? And, sir, do you know where to look for her?" He takes a step back towards the Outcast. "Kat and I, we're done with this rock here for now anyhow."

"Tcha ... let us heat out z'en, da? Ve hafe alreaty spent too much time here." Innokentevna then tilts her head, looking to the Zangali. "Urf ... vhat to you theenk ov lookink for a leetle girl, vho some fery bat folks are tryink to fint, an she mite be een lotsa trouble eef z'ey geet to her first."

"Urf heareded stupid softskins say morerer stuff," says the Zangali. "Urf go."

Isunin sighs soundlessly and shrugs her shoulders. She turns from her position and moves back to the Eos.

Brokichev glances around. "Alright. I shall stand here and be awkward, da. Is what I'm good at."

"Then we shall stand together, Dragon-Lord." Lake pushes himself forward. "I do miss steeds, however ... its been such along time and so many things have changed." He then follows the others towards the bright yellow ship.

<later ...>

Ungstir Landing Pad <Resilience: Ungstir> ........................................................................... Rough hewn walls of iron and basalt, grooved by machinery used to carve this spaceport facility out of the glinting black and gray rock, rise on all sides and arches above of the broad pad that provides ample room for starships to rest during their stay on Ungstir.

Bright sulfurous lights seem to cast the chamber in permanent daylight despite the gloomy darkness and stars that loom beyond the huge portals, protected by the hazy shimmer of the prot's atmospheric containment fields. Through the force screens, silhouetted by the glow of the distant star Perseverance, one can make out the rolling, drifting shapes of rocks and planetoids - remnants of the world to which this chunk once belonged.

Squat, dark-haired technicians with pale skin and gruff demeanors move from ship to ship, checking fuel levels and mechanical fitness of the vessels. An archway leads out of the landing facility and into the city of Resilience, via the customs station.

Several large bays are set aside for ship maintenance and repair, serving as a general purpose drydock facility. ........................................................................... The lights are set at their dimmest level, being deep into Third Shift.

Taeren steps off the Outcast's ramp, leaving the bright yellow starship ticking and hissing behind him as it adjusts to the change in pressure. His jacket open, he tugs at his shirt collar as he looks around. "Where would we go to find this princess?" he asks of Lake.

Looking across the docks, the gentleman taps ahead upon his cane. "I ... I would have thought a castle or manor house ... but then, if she was there, she would nay be lost, mi'lord, would she?" Lake steps slowly and carefully off the Outcast's loading ramp. "Where do lost children live?"

Urfkgar walks away from the ship, taking another bag of carrots out of a pocket. He looks around, grumbling.

Brokichev glances at Lake. "Uh, I'm still a little lost. Who's this girl we're looking for?"

Innokentevna steps out upon the dock, dusting off her jacket. "Hoop ... z'eese ees a beeg Rock, after all. Like serachink for a neetle een a slagpile."

"I don't know, an orphanage?" Tay counters, looking back up at Lake, then turning to Katya. "Hey, wasn't there some kind of tussle between Ungstir and Sivad a while back about a girl winding up here abandoned on the landing pad ...?" He walks towards the Customs Station, brows drawn speculatively together.

A shuttle drops off the lonesome lunite, disembarking down the boarding ramp. He's looking rougher than the last time, eyes red with lack of sleep. He seems to be inadvertandtly walking in the direction of the little group.

Innokentevna walks towards the customs station, her pace a clipped step, with almost a military cadence. "Da ... but she ent't up vith zee Akimovs, da? An Dina from Tomeen Kora vith me. An hoop z'ere's no such theenk as an ungstiri..." She then pauses, "Actually, z'eres only one orphanage een perseferance." The courier draws up short. "You see, orphans on Ungstir are rare ... more rare than golt or gems."

Lake looks to Brokichev, shaking his head. "Somewhere ... she must be. Her daughter's daughter daughter. Who holds the key to the isle lost in a sea of black."

Taeren nods slowly. "Right ... because if their parents died, they'd hang out with their grandparents, or cousins ... Ungstiri families are tight," Tay prompts Katya, stopping next to her and looking out at her from under raised silver eyebrows.

"Stupid softskin girly know place. Stupid softskin girly go place," grounds out the Zangali around a mouthful of carrot fragments.

Brokichev folds his arms. "Well, to the orphanage, then?"

"Vell ..." Innokentevna pauses, leaning on the door to the customs. "Eets een zee poorer part ov zee reseedenshal kvarter, da? Z'ere vas z'eese tevachka zere, vith a robot for a guartian, I theenk." She pushes through customs. "Neet togeet z'ere, fast like ..."

<and a little while more ...>

Residential District <Resilience: Ungstir> ........................................................................... A model of efficiency in both design and use of materials, the residential district of the Ungstiri community of Resilience consists of a series of caverns that once served the planetoid's mining operations - which were moved deeper into the world remnant after the Ungstiri were forced to make their home on this last surviving chunk of the shattered colony planet.

The twisting passages lead to various caverns that have been converted into "hole-in-the-wall" habitats, home to extended, multigenerational families. The Ungstiri are a tight-knit, stick-together people, and often connect to each other's homes and share in the responsibilities for raising and caring for the offspring.

Some communal caverns are used for teaching centers, while a few toward the surface of the planetoid provide windows onto the cosmos where Ungstiri may go to pay tribute to the spirits that guide them. ........................................................................... The lights are set at their brightest level, announcing the arrival of First Shift.

Innokentevna leads the small group deep into the residential tunnels, past the wealthy sectors, past even those where the poorer folks live. the area is quiet, abandoned, where the mines once were, opened up with ranks of pillars lined up in an array spreading right and left, for and back. And nestled in this stone forest there are the double doors of a small collection of living caves.

... from around the corner of a pier a big gray furred rockrat looks up to Ivan Brokichev and chitters a warning, "Oh Grand Sir of Our Kind, King Rat, Knight of the Twilight, Your enemies, they are using you!"

Brokichev blinks, looking towards one of the pillars. "Who the hoop are you talking about?" he addresses no one in particular.

... the rockrat bows its furry head, "I am but your faithful servant, My liege."

Urfkgar continues to munch on carrots, not bothering to stop to wait on Brokichev's talk with the architecture.

Innokentevna pauses as she approaches the orphanage, slowly rubbing the back of her head. She then shrugs and starts to move forward, her balance a bit more tense, a touch more freal.

Taeren's eyes dart to the side, then back to Katya. One of the hands in his pockets slides out a little bit as he walks. "So it's in here?" he asks quietly. The Timonae meets Katya's eyes and nods slightly, lips drawn into a thin line.

Brokichev scurries off in the direction of the pillar, stooping down. "Your help is appreciated, loyal subject, but *who* are you talking about? Enemies? Where?" He glances around warily, then back to whatever he's talking about.

Innokentevna looks back to Taeren, her head tilting. "You got z'at bat feelink too?"

"Stupid softskins," says Urfkgar as he pockets the empty bag. He produces yet another bag from his pockets, though. This one is full of mixed vegetables.

"I'm Timonae," Tay responds with a thin smile. "If anyone's gonna get a hunch, it's me." His mouth moves back to a line again and his eyes dart off over his left shoulder without moving his neck, brows raising. This odd look given, he nods slightly. "So where's this place, anyhow?"

At the end of the small group lake quietly walks. he does peer a bit, as he hears Brokichev speak. "I knew he must be a lord, for his brave actions against the darkened dragon."

Innokentevna nods down to the largest of the doors in the field of pillars. "Da, there, I was here before."

Ryan has by accident more than design ended up near the group, coming into the residential area by similiar paths, hearing the same voice that interupted his fight with Tresillian yesterday, Ryan looks in Lake's direction, "Dragon?"

Slowly taptaping to catch up, Lake nods to Urfkgar. "Sir Urf, Knight of the Zangali, a Dragon of heart pure and high honor."

"All right," Tay says, sparing another uneasy glance into the shadows. "Let's go see what we can see, huh?" He takes a step towards the doors Katya indicates.

Jeff Ryan rubs his brow and asks Lake, "And you are on a quest?" His voice holds no trace of sarcasm.

Urfkgar wanders on a few meters past the orphanage before he finally comes to a halt. He uses a hand to push his snout up and left, popping his neck loudly. He pulls his neck righ, cracking it again.

Jeff Ryan gives a sad smile and a look of understanding, "Failing I understand... Would you mind if I offered you my sw..." He sighs, "I'm afraid I'm weaponless, but..." Jeff pulls himself to his full height, still tired, but looking more himself, "If I can help you I will. I will try to not fail you at least." The offer is sudden, yet there's a determination to the lunite, a knight's quest seems to appeal to the lunite.

Brokichev takes a sudden step back. "Hoop!" He almost loses his balance, but steadies himself against a pillar. "I saw something in there.."

And from behind Urfkgar there comes a tap on his tail. From around a pier a small ungstiri child peeks, having bravely reached out to touch the Zangali. "Tag! you are it!"

Urfkgar grunts once his leg is tagged and is rotating around by the time he's been told to be 'it.' He gives the general area a glower that's mildly less indifferent than it was earlier, demanding, "What stupid softskins?"

"It is not me who need the aid, Sir Knight ... " Lake replies. "Her daughter is the one we fear for. I am but a Knight-errant ... my duty is to serve. And she is all that is left of my allegience."

"Tag?" Tay repeats, turning around as well to see the source of this youthful exclamation.

The little child, a young lad, looks up to the big Zangali and immediately turns around and runs away, laughter trailing in his wake. As he vanishes around a corner a second, a young girl, peeks from around a corner, looking up to Urfkgar to chide. "You are supposed to chase us, cause he got you, fair and square, gospahza!" And then she pause, her eyes squinting. "Or gospahza!"

Brokichev walks back toward the group. "I have reason to believe we are in danger. A loyal subject has informed me of it," he explains casually.

Innokentevna, momentrily distracted, draws a hand to her mouth to suppress a giggle. "Da .. ve hafe fount zee orphanage."

Over the commnet >>> LeBeau says, "Katya dis es Remy, yu recieving on dis channel?"

Giving a sad nod the lunite says, "A Lady is in trouble?" His capitalisation of the lady is noticeable, but it doesn't seem to be in mimicry of the senior knight. He looks pained, "Tell me what we have to do."

Urfkgar scratches at his shoulder while he considers this. He shifts his attention to the kid who hasn't run off, and he tells her, "Stupid no big softskin. Urf no care. Urf no want. Stupid softskins want stupid no big softskin. Stupid softskins want. Stupid softskins move. Urf no move. Stupid no big softskin say stuff stupid softskins. Urf no morerer time do stupid softskin stuff. Urf do Urf stuff. Morerer big fake fight stuff. Morerer fake fake fight stuff stupid softskin floaty thingy."

From further out a tall and frazzled woman tries to herd her wards. She may have been pretty, once, but now all she looks is haggard. She wears a gray frumpy sweater atop a gray frumpy skirt."Children, children, leave these folks alone!" She then looks back over her shoulder, "I told you, Bobby is not to play tag, you confuse him far far too easily!" She then looks to Taeren and Innokentevna. "May I help you?"

Innokentevna takes a step away as her commlink chimes. She looks between the others and takes a step away. "Excuse me ..." She taps the unit's call button. "Da ... Katya here."

Taeren nods. "I think," Tay says slowly. He coughs into his hand with an embarrassed looks and begins, "Yeah ..." Tay looks across at Katya, but as she starts talking, he looks back to the woman. "We're, uhm. Well, has anyone come by looking for a particular girl at your orphanage recently?" he begins, a bit awkward.

Slowly Lake also approaches, and as he does he takes a set of photographs and notes from his pocket. He looks between the photographs and the children, one by one. "We need to find Her ..."

Urfkgar has partially disconnected.

Over the commnet >>> LeBeau says, "Looks like Melody an Kit hav decoded mos o da ledger. As usual jus a bunch o business transaction an money trails. Bu day also fon a couple space coordinades. Melody says she has ne'er seen an asteroid chunk on any chard dare bu da records hav one listed...on da fringes o Ungstiri space."

"And this is the place to start?" asks Jeff, the question rhetorical. He has a look from the photographs to the children. "May I ask why this young Lady is important, why is she in danger?"

"Zee place hafe a name?" Innokentevna lets out a breath. "An just vhere ees et?"

Over the commnet >>> LeBeau says, "Da ledger refers to id as U-001. We hav da coordinades here. Yu having any luck back en Resillence?"

Brokichev looks at the orphans, then at Lake. "What, exactly, does she look like?"

Speaking into her commlink, Innokentevna pauses. "Da ... at zee orphanage ... ve only got one. Sometheenk spook't us on zee vay een, espeshally Brokichev ... but he's ... h's Brokichev. But Reemy ... U-001 ... z'ats Ungstir PRIME ... ve ton't use z'at number, eets like ... usink a grafe marker or sometheenk ..."

"Because The Witch wishes to enter the Last Castle ..." Lake repeats his mythology for Ryan. "The Ledger is one totem needed ... the Hawk's Key is the next ... and only the Princess can use the Key. If they didn't get the ledger ... they left to get the ... Princess."

Over the commnet >>> LeBeau says, "I don know wha to tell yu Katya. Hell fo all we know id could jus be where Boromov stashed hes ole dirdy laundry. BU being dat ids en no oder star chards. AN ids location has id ad da far reachs o da sysdem...I tink yu would agree dat id ad lease es worth looking ento"

Taeren looks from Lake to the woman, presumably the orphanage's schoolmarm, and says, "So you see, we think this girl might be in trouble thanks to these ex-mobsters who think she's a key to some kind of treasure ... we want to make sure she's safe," he explanes, gesturing to Lake.

The lunite is tired, yet seems to hang on the strange old warrior's words, "What's the prize for those who enter the last castle? If I am to guess there is an object of power, no?"

Over the commnet >>> Melody says, "Yeah... I think Katya would want to take a look anyway."

"Have you ever something lost, Sir?" The old man nods quietly. "Power, riches ... all those are in the last castle ..." He then looks over the children, his attention turning, to a little girl who stands with one hand next to a small robot like device. It is as tall as she is, perhaps five feet wide, with a pair oftracks and a perfectly smotth hemispherical top. Who is the spitting image of the girl in one of the photographs, in hat and coat, standing before the rock wall.

Jeff Ryan nods to the gentleman, "I've lost Diana, my only true love, no longer in this world." He follows the man's sight, eyebrow raise, "Well I'll be..."

"Coming back?" Tay repeats, looking vaguely worried. His eyes follow hers to the girl and the robot. "They were already here? When?" His hand slides towards his back as he winces and mutters something in Timonese.

Taeren says, "Elei meJai da'aeu janeiU Airenei."

Continuing her commlink conversation, Innokentevna frowns. "Vhat are zee coortinates?" There's a pause, a breath. "LeBeau ... Boromov may hafe been many theenks .. but he vas Ungstiri, an hees familee built resilience ... Ungstir-002. He voultn'y mark anythink 001 enless eet vas hoopin' eemportant." her attention is then snared, and she looks wide eyed. "You mean its her?"

Urfkgar dumps some vegetables into his mouth, idly glaring at the children and adults. He chews a bit before he asks, "Stupid softskin see stuff?"

Brokichev looks up at the Zangali. "Who, me?"

"Urf no care," says the Zangali. "See stupid no big softskin. Go."

As the two talk, a small girl walks up and tugsat her instructors sweater. "Miss Halliwell, Boris won't ally-ally-all-in-free-oh!"

Over the commnet >>> LeBeau says, "Katya, 'm gonna fly da Horse back to dock an we'll meed up wit yu. Yu can den look o'er da enfo yerself."

Finding herself at the focus of convesation, the little girl next to the mall robot slowly starts to slink away, to hide behind its mass.

Taeren smiles at the girl, giving her a dimpled grin and a small wave before turning back to Miss Halliwell. "Then, yes ... we think they might be coming back," he says quietly, "and *soon*. It might be better if she stayed somewhere else for awhile." He looks from Katya to Halliwell. "I think she could tell you more than I can. Him too." Tay indicates Lake.

From the darkness, beyond the other piers, a small red ball slowly rolls, its path stopping near Taeren and Katya.

Innokentevna blibks, starts, and just looks up. "Oh hoop ..."

As the ball rolls out from the darkness, Jeff's eyes widen, with a dive he tries to haul the old man down with him as he yells, "Down!"

Urfkgar ignores the antics of Jeff Ryan and continues to eat and grumble vaguely, shifting into Zantra.

Brokichev backs away from the red ball, eyeing it suspiciously.

Over the commnet >>> Melody says, "Hm...? Katya? Is something wrong?"

Lake is easily dragged down, landing in an awkward sprawl next to Ryan. his steel cane goes skittering off into the darkness.

/ KATYA / LeBeau says, "Katya? E'eryting alrigh?"

The little girl, the sweater tugger, her eyes go wide. "That's Boris' ball. Its his best friend ..."

Isunin watches the chaos within the group from a fair distance. She flicks her eyes from the ball to the prone men a few times.

When nothing happens Jeff gets back to his feet looking a little sheepish, he offers Lake his hand, "Sorry, too much time in the rebellion."

Taeren looks uneasily from Katya to the ball, then to the shadows from whence it came. "What ...?" Glancing at the reactions of the others, Tay's brows rise in mild confusion. "So then where's Boris?" He asks, his hand moving to the small of his back again.

And from the darkness comes a gruff voice. A man's voice. "Thats right. And if you want Boris back for supper, you'll give us the coordinates. We know you got them. We heard.

Brokichev looks in the direction of the voice. "Told you we were in danger," he mutters. "Rockrats don't lie."

Innokentevna 's hand rises to her commlink. "Z'ey got a keet." Her voice is quiet and even, level, and far to perfectly paced. "An z'ey vant zee coordinates." A pause, a beat. "Z'ey got a *keet*"

Over the commnet >>> Melody says, "A hostage? That's not fair... Are you okay? Do you need help?"

There's a rustle as Taeren pulls his hands from his pockets. "So you found a kid's ball. Why don't you show yourself and that the kid hasn't been harmed so we know we can trust you to deliver on your side of the bargain," he says slowly, peering into the gloom.

Miss Halliwell just pales, and she looks desperately to taeren and the others. "Coorodinates ... numbers? That's Boris ... he's .. he's only five! Give them what they want, please!"

Urfkgar shifts to regard the darkness with the one eye left to him, and his tongue flickers out a few times. He also scratches at his shoulder.

Brokichev looks at Katya. "Any ideas?"

Slowly pushing himself up, Lake rises to his knees. "To threaten a child ... that is most foul."

"Urf see stupid softskin. Urf see stupid no big softskin," comments the Zangali to no one in particular. He grunts and seems to address the hostage taker next, "Stupid softskin no scram. Stupid softskin no no big stupid softskin. All stupid softskins bash stupid softskin do stupid stuff."

Innokentevna looks to Brokichev, "Last time I gotzee girl kill't ..." innokentevna swallows. She tags her commlink. "You got z'ose numbers?"

Over the commnet >>> Melody says, "Katya? The coordinates are 0406081-5003550-9451121."

Over the commnet >>> LeBeau says, "On da way Katya."

Over the commnet >>> Melody says, "Yeah... we're coming..."

Jeff Ryan nods in agreement with Lake. He growls at the voice, "If you've hurt the boy..."

Tresillian jogs along the corridors looking around.

Taeren peers into the darkness. "Let me see the boy," Tay repeats again.

From the dark the voice responds. "You heard the Zangali."

"But I didn't understand a damned thing he said," Tay notes levelly. "Boris, are you there?"

From the pillar forest coms a gruff "Tell him you are fine." And a moment later, there is a kids voice, "I fine .." it sounds scared, however. The male voice then adds. "For now."

"Stupid softskins no heareded Urf morerer times," explains Urfkgar. "Urf say stuff. Stupid softskin hear Urf. Stupid softskin do stupid stuff. Stupid softskin know stuff. Morerer stupid softskins kill stupid softskin. Stupid softskin no kill all stupid softskins bash stupid softskin. Stupid no big softskin no fixerer. Stupid softskin doeded morerer stupid stuff. Urf say stupid softskin scram. Urf no kill stupid softskin. Move mosterer fasterer stupid softskin."

Brokichev watches the darkness, then glances at the Zangali as he speaks. "What he said."

"I think he said," Tay translates in a slow, deliberate voice, "that if you hurt the child at all, he's going to hunt you down and hurt you even more. I think he also said that your chances of survival will be worse if you don't just give up the boy now and run away very very fast, because he might hunt you down and hurt you anyway."

Tresillian stops jogging after a while and props himself against a wall.

"And you'll have a broken kid first." Is the answer from the darkness. "Three numbers. Now.

"Tell him the numbers, whats taking you so long!" Miss halliwell asks, her voice on the verge of panic.

[/i]Kit arrives from City Commons <Resilience: Ungstir[/i].

"I don't know," Tay says tersely, glancing to Katya, "Ask her!"

There is the whrrr of treads, as she small robot slowly moves a bit closer to the darkness ... but his owner is no longer to be seen. The little machine seems frozen, as of caught in midprocess.

Innokentevna turns back and looks to Taeren, "Vell z'ey just tolt z'em to me!" Her eyes narrow. "Ozervize I't hafe mate zeechoice by nov!"

"Well," Tay hisses, indicating the darkness with an exaggerated inclination of his head, "Tell them to hurry up."

"Urf no care," says the Zangali who doesn't seem to be all that irritated. "Urf no need kill stupid softskin. Urf say stupid softskin mosterer stupid stupid softskin Urf seededed morerer time. Stupid softskin no no killededed. Urf say do Zangali smart stuff. Stupid softskin no killeded."

From the far end of the forest of pillars, near the entrance to the main concourses and residential blocks, there is a the sound of light footseps in the dark. They seem to be attempting to move quietly .. there pace is slow and careful ... but obviously unskilled. Thus when the clattering occurs just in front of Lebeau, the ricochette of a rock aimed in his, Kit's and melody's general direction, LeBeau knows he has been spotted. From a very different location comes a deeper male voice. "Was told to count how many you were!"

"I have no idea where they're headed." Marlan says to Pavlo as she enters the residential quarter, trying to follow the rapidly moving Melody, Kit and Lebeau

"Me neiver." Pav says trotting to keep up.

Though he may have been spotted LeBeau ducks back behind a pillar and calls out. "I suppose 've come to da righ place. I hav some space coordinades to trade fo a certain child?"

Kit doesn't waste time in finding cover of her own as LeBeau slips to the side, less for protection without a firefight in progress than to remove herself from immediate sight as she tries to familiarize herself with the situation.

Jeff Ryan waits standing next to Lake, his fists are bunched.

The man's voice echoes from with the forest piers. "Da ... lets hear them .. and you get the kid back."

Melody lets off a soft gasp as the rock bounces in the middle of their path, glancing from side to side and around in hasty look for where the voice comes from. But that doesn't waylay her shelter-seeking either... only she's much more slower in reflexes than LeBeau and Kittianna. It's with Kit, however, that the researcher ends up sharing protection with.

Brokichev looks from LeBeau's spot to the darkness where the other voice comes from, his face somewhere between angry and anxious.

A chuckle comes from around the pillar LeBeau is using as cover. "Yu tink 'm dat stupid? Dat kids life es worth mo to me an mos likely anyone here den da coordinades. SO yu led da boy go. AN when I see da boy es safe 'll giv yu da coordinades...yu hav my word"

Near the doors to the orphanage, Innokentevna stands. She looks between those on her side of the standoff,and then she looks to the right. And blinks twice, her eyes then frantically searching into the darkness.

Brokichev looks around. "Gospadin..." he takes a few steps towards Taeren, muttering in a hushed tone. "The girl and the robot. Where'd they go?"

Isunin is taken aback, scanning her gaze across the area. She begins walking towards something, but she still keeps a fair distance between her and whatever she percieved.

"So we hav a deal. Led da boy go an when he es safe 'll giv yu wan yu wan" LeBeau calls out again.

From the darkness the male voice speaks. "You are out of time. Give us the coordinates now."

A frown barely makes it onto Kit's face as Melody joins her before it is replaced by simple resignation. Turning her attention back to the scene, she examines the layout while tilting her head with a narrowing of her eyes, trying to pinpoint what she hears. With a firm touch of her fingers against Melody's elbow, she admonishes the specialist to 'stay' without words, and then tries to slip across the short distance to the next pillar for a better vantage point.

Tresillian looks around then closes his eyes and concentrates on what he can hear.

Melody shoots the cajun a questionable look as he makes his statement of bravado to the 'voice.' Not caring for the kid's life? A quick acknowledgment is given to Kit as the girl breaks from her thoughts and mental cross-examination of the situation. Stay. Again. But it isn't like she can argue... "Don't hurt him..." Her comm crackles in her ear.

"Do what he says?" Tay advises LeBeau imploringly, glancing at the woman. "No treasure can be worth getting a kid killed."

"Stupid softskins want Urf fix?" asks the Zangali before sticking some vegetables in his mouth.

"Fine fine I see yer a hard person to negotiade wit. Den 'll jus up da ante." LeBeau says out loud, then half a black book sticks out from the pillar he is behind "I know yu wan dis ledger. So led da kid go an yu can hav id. Coordinades an e'eryting else dats en id"

Tresillian finally pulls his right sleeve up and taps a control on a metal and plastic device that wraps around his forearm. A touch-screen folds out and he taps at controls. perhaps trying to track or tune in a commchannel a little better.

Taeren opens his mouth slightly, snaps it shut, clenches his fists a little. He looks around almost frantically with a look of frustrated impotence across his features.

From the darkness there comes a single gutteral noise. "Hoop!" And the sond of cloth rustling, feet padding away. "You keep the kid. But you ain't going nowhere without the key. So tell us where it is and we'll meet you there!"

Isunin's eyes widen as she observes something distant. Her face is a mix of puzzlement and anger.

"Kid yu alrigh?" LeBeau calls out "I won say a ting until I know da kid es safe." He then leans out just enough to toss the ledger out into the middle of the cavern. Followed by a power pack humming to life "An 'll shood anyone who tries to ged to da ledger until I know da kid es safe"

"hhiaaaaiiiiiiii ... I want damaholli ..." A young boy's voice echoes from the pier foret, as fast footsteps back away.

Tresillian presses a finger to his ear then moves as quickly as he can towards the nearest person he can find. "They're moving. They said if we want the key we have to meet them there."

"Boris ... boris .." The grey clad matron starts running towards the boy's voice.

"I heard," Tay says. "Boris! Miss Halliwell is this way," he calls, turning to the orphanage attendant. "Call him," he says. "Whoever you are over there with the bad accent, get that book back ..."

Kit freezes for a moment, eyes narrowing and jaw stiffening in realization before she suddenly moves to the next pillar - and the next, and the next - less cautious now as she tries to keep woman and child in sight even as she says quickly into the private comm channel to LeBeau and Katya and the others, "It's a distraction; a girl's out in the open with no one near now, and a woman made off with something she called the 'passkey'."

Isunin breaks into a run as she follows Kit, keeping an eye on a stationary figure.

"A distraction?" Melody echoes into her commlink, edging around the piller she once shared with Kittianna to peer around in a poor attempt to ascertain what is going on. Into her comm she admonishes a quiet, "Be careful."

Dama Hammiwell runs forward, intothe darkness, hell bent for the crying young lad. She skids to a stop, wrapping her arms about the boy and drawing him close. "Its all well Boris... you are safe now!"

... Isunin and Kitt turn around a pier, and you see in the distance a strage scene. A woman dressd in black, holding what looks like to be a single big dog tag hanging from a chain. A little girl lying sprawled on the floor.and between them a short and stubby treaded robot. It has a hemispgerical top, smooth and black. The woman is slowly backing into the shadows. "Gospadi ... it ... it can't hurt ME now!" She then turns and runs. "Tell them if they want the passkey, they gotta meet us there!"

... into the maze of corriors Kittianna runs, chasing the woman in black. her path winds throughpillars and short corrodors ... until the tall woman finally realizes she is chasing the echos of her own footpads ...[i]

Jeff Ryan looks from the matron to Lake, "Time to go Good Knight. Or it's all in vain."

Once Halliwell runs towards Boris, Tay turns and bolts for the commons, uttering a rushed, "Hey - purple-hair, come with me!" to Tres. His hand disappears behind his back and reappears with a pistol in hand. "Find out where those coordinates are ... we'll meet them there, all right ..."

Kit slows to a stop after a while, looking around with a helpless scowl as she tries to catch her breath. "I lost her," she reports frustratedly.

Tresillian stops tapping at command keys and runs after Tay, reaching towards a holster at the small of his back as well. "Right."

[i] ... and as Isunin moves forward to the fallen girl, she sees the small robot roll forward towards her, then back to the girl, then after the woman, repeating the action several times until it becomes obvious that Isunin will actually get close. then it stops, dead still .. one beta, then two ... and then its hemispherical top splits down the middle, its smoolth surface tranfiguring into a slotted dome ... with a deadly lookinging lense hiddn within. With a scream the little girl throws herself over the front of the robot. "Bobby! Don't hurt her!"

"You know the coordinates?" Tay manages to Tres. "Or can get them for us?"

The elderly man looks forward, leaning on his steel shaft. "If the children aresafe ..." He then looks back to rRyan. "That is all that matters. The rest we shall just have to rise above.

Isunin stares at the robot, hesitating slightly. She takes a few steps backwards in attempt to escape from the dangerous machine. After the girl has immobilised the contraption, she once again moves forward. She sends to the girl, ~Are you alright?~

Innokentevna finally relaxes, her back resting on the stone wall, as she slides down to sit on the carven floor. "Hoop ... hoop hoop hoop." She cradles her head in her hands, shaking her head slowly. "Nov vhat?"

Tresillian jabs a thumb back over his shoulder towards LeBeau and Melody. "They might be in that book the cajun tossed down." he manages.

Kit begins to retrace her steps back to the main atrium in which the majority of beings are gathered, her eyes reflexively picking out Melody and Innokentevna's positions first before she tries to assess what has happened since the chase.

The lunite nods, "The Lady still needs us to complete her Quest, or she'll lose her inheritance to thieves and murderers."

Taeren curses as he dodges between pillars, moving towards the city commons.

Over the commnet >>> Taeren says, "Katya, it's *pant pant* Tay *pant* ... I think they already ... have the key ... sounded like ... they're going after the Island already. Trying to ... catch them ... at the landing bay."

The little girl kjust looks up to Isunin, her eyes wide. As sh does the robots hull transforms again, its shell returning to its perfect smoothness, the blaster lense once again hidden, at bay. "She .. she took my momma's necklace!"

Isunin kneels down beside the girl, cupping her cheek in her hand, ~Come with me. We'll go get it back. I'm sorry it was taken, those people are...nasty~

The little girl just sniffles., the tears starting to flow. "But .. butits like Bobby. I got only three things to give when I have a little girl like me. The necklace, Bobby and my name."

Over the commnet >>> Taeren says, "Tell the others ... Outcast isn't armed ... and I need to know where I'm flying."

... Isunin examines the girls face and takes a quick look behind her, [color=magemta]~From what I've heard, you may get much more. There are some who call you a Lady. Please, just follow me. We'll get that necklace back~[color]

Innokentevna looks up with a snort, and a wave to kittianna. She holds her commlink button down, holding off on a message. "Outcast vants to knov zeecoorteenates. An ve hafeto tecite ... to ve tell z'em zee coortinates ... an eef so ... hov?"

Kit looks aside pensively for a moment as she walks over to the courier before shrugging. "How far are we away? Can we get to the coordinates before they do? If so, tell them. Unless you were able to find clues, I was unable to follow the woman's trail."

"We gotta .." The little girl swallows. "We just got to." as she follows Isunin, so does the little robot,

Innokentevna looks to Kittianna, her brows furrowing. "Gray Horse can geet anyvhere faster." A simple statement of fact.

Isunin flashes a girl a weak smile as she leads her back to the main group, ~Don't worry, we will. I promise~

"An promises are made to be kept. My Mother taught me that." the little girl follows, rubbing the dampness form her cheeks.

Tresillian keeps running along with Tay.

The lunite smiles at the young girl as Isunin leads her over, he's still looking tired, yet he smiles, "My Lady," he points to Lake, "This brave Knight and the rest of us are at your command. We shall return with your mother's gift." He gives a small, yet pronounced bow. It's followed by a wink.

/ BX0J0Q9HIO2OFZ0MHTHD083X7FS8MQZH / Taeren says, "Well? I ... don't ... know ... what in Maza's fucked Universe ... I'm ... doing ..."

Melody slips from her hiding spot - one that did not give away underneath her feet this time, and steps toward the courier and their mutual friend. "Yeah, the Gray Horse can get anywhere faster." This is echoed rather proudly by the researcher as she leans against her captain.

Taeren skids to a halt as he rounds a bend with an unexpected stretch of wall, pausing for a hearbeat or two to catch his breath. Hands on his knees he turns to face Tres as the human catches up. "You're ... sure they're ... going to the place ... already?"

Innokentevna reaches up and wrps her arm around Melody's leg, since she's still sitting down. She leans back, gnawing on her lowerlip. "So to ve tell z'em vhere to go?"

Tresillian stops as well and taps a control on the device on his forearm, a staticy voice says. "Gospadi ... it ... it can't hurt ME now! Tell them if they want the passkey, they gotta meet us there!"

Taeren looks back at Tres, catching his breath. "You should be more specific next time," he says. "I get all excitable at times like these."

Over the commnet >>> Taeren says, "... heh ... no rush ... but they will only give us the key if we go there with them ... I thought they were ... already going to the place ..."

Tresillian looks to Tay. "If I could pick them up... chances are... they could have heard anyone... that gave the co-ords to anyone else over... comm."

Kit offers a hand down to Innokentevna to pull the courier onto her feet. "Yes. But not before we get the Gray Horse off the landing pads first."

Melody steps to the side in preparation of her captain getting to her feet. There's a sheepish and shy expression burrowing in the brunette's expression. "Um... I told Katya the coordinates over the comm when she asked for them..."

As the little girl returns, Lake just looks at her. He manages a small smile, as he falls to his knees. "Thou art the imageof thine great great great grad mother mi'lady." he then places his steelrod at her feet, bowing his hed. "My arm is thine to command, my heart is thine as it was your mother's mother's mother ... I offer you my fealty, mi'lady Princess, from now until my lifefinally fails."

Over the commnet >>> Taeren says, "Tres says that he picked up the other guys ... if you got the coordinates over commlink after all ... they might know them already ..."

Innokentevna blinks, quiet. "oh hoop ... eef z'ey got a heatstart, z'en ve may be een trouble." She swallows, looking up. "Ve got zee Gray horse, Outcast an vulfsbane ... just us an ..." She look to the others. "Ve neet ourselfs ... an ..." her attention falls upon the five year old little girl.

Kit follows Innokentevna's gaze toward the girl, and she frowns as she catches the last few words of Lake's oath. "Then may I suggest we 'get a move on', as they say?" she mumbles in aside to the courier before she calls out with genuine curiosity lacing her words, "How many 'greats' have you served by now, Lake? How old are you?"

Taeren nods to Tres, swallowing. "All right then," he says. "I told the others- let's go!" He gathers himself up again and starts running once more.

The little girl just blinks, once, twice looking down at Lake, her head tilting. her eyes are wide, as one hand comes to her cheek. Butthen she just reaches out, to touch his shoulders. "Spasiba ... thank you ... uhm ... Sir Knight ... of ... " And then she just blinks again. "oh my ... I'm supposd to ..." She reaches down and from her pocket drags a colorful bandana. "mother always said to give a Knight something nice. Bobby has one too."

Tresillian nods to Tay and also starts running again having taken a moment to tap the control that folds the touch screen back into the device on his arm.

Jeff Ryan places a hand on the old man's shoulder next to Larisa's hand. After the girl speaks he says, "Come friend, the Quest is not over. We need to make haste."

"Da ... " She looks to the old man, the young girl, and the broken stone walls about them. She slowly turns, following kittianna, her head tilting, very quiet. "Just vhoare z'eese tvo?"

Rising, Lake takes the favor, and ver graciously tiesit to his staff. "My princess ... " he whsipers, quiet. And then looks to Kittianna. "I ... age ... well."

Kit stares at Lake for a long, long moment before giving a snort as her sole response. Shaking her head, she motions vaguely in the direction of the landing pads. "Shall we?"

Isunin looks at the old man suspiciously. She turns and leaves, following the others.

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