SUNSWEPT CH14B


To those stationed to watch the traffic coming and going from the daily changing wormhole into various highsec systems this cycle was anything but boring. By standardized time measurement it was officially 0317 in the morning however standardized time meant little to those who spent the vast majority of their hours cloaked up in ships, virtually living in orbit of one wormhole or the next. Days were measured not by the passage of time against some archaic standard but rather by the eruption and collapse of the system's lifeline to the rest of New Eden known to them as Juno. Today, or rather during this life of Juno, the scouts were expecting nothing short of a veritable flood of horrors.

It was common for pirates or ambitious capsuleers to make their way through the wormhole looking for opportunity or even the chance to cut their teeth against the infamously dangerous defenders of any wormhole system. And when those intrepid or foolhardy visitors did come calling, the scouts would simply alert Alexylva Paradox forces who would then respond accordingly. But those were unannounced visitors. When Bob had been kind enough to alert you an impending invasion, then Bob meant for you to prove your right to exist within his domain.

The first activation of the wormhole since Khonla in over five hours resonated through the very substructure of every scout and cloaked combatant in the system. Whether it was the fleet they expected or just another forward scout, they would prove their worth to Bob this day.


Iknasus Vek sought neither combat nor opportunity beyond a safe path home as he slipped carefully out of the wormholes. Only the audible noise of his interface accompanied his arrival as it would to anyone else watching the wormhole. He let his ship settle from the transition back into space and time, content in the short period of invisibility that it offered him. Khonla was supposedly three wormholes ahead watching the last of the chain's wormholes which was threatening to destabilize soon. It was a little further ahead than he would like but she wasn't exactly under his command and he couldn't fault her for wanting to be sure of the route; he sure as shit wanted to be sure of it too.

Vek was surprised that the fleet actually managed to get everyone into the Vaankalen system in time as it was. The various 'newbros' that made up his fleet were a whole batch of newer recruits to the alliance and this would be their initial voyage through wormholes to eventually reach the Horde's sovereign territory. It wasn't the safest path available, but it was the shortest and with the cheap hulls they were flying, and minimal crews as well, there was little risk should something go wrong. It would be a great chance to figure out who of the new meat could actually follow directions and who would need a more... guiding hand. In the end he'd had to settle on a fleet makeup that boasted nothing special. It was a hodgepodge of frigates and destroyers which were, in actuality, more aligned to what those newbro's had on hand than to any fleet composition strategy. But, they had decent numbers and at least a few good guns to match, so any small-time wormholer system defense that was quick enough to respond to their presence would pay the price. That was unless they already had sufficient numbers already undocked and waiting in which case the fleet was quick enough that they could just jump to the next system faster than anyone could provide chase. That was the theory anyway.

Vek checked his logs and he realigned his ship, shifting from the cloak of the wormhole's distortions into one generated by his own ship, then warped to the moon at which Khonla had left her canister. Finding it turned out to be rather easy, so easy in fact that Vek wondered if the locals must really be dormant to have left so obvious of a can just sit out here. Well, he wasn't going to begrudge a stroke of luck finally after how long it took to assemble the damn fleet, a quiet first system in the chain was all the better for his needs. Iknasus input the coordinates he found in the canister into his own nav system and realigned his ship to them before warping right on top of it.

::Kurvin, go ahead and come in, just you for now. Stay cloaked on this side of the next hole though.:: Iknasus Vek

::Sure thing.::Kurvin Mors

Khonla had been right on and just as proximity to the wormhole's distortions began decloaking his ship, he jumped through.

The next system in the chain was a Class 4 wormhole. These were like the great spaceways of Anoikis and Vek's paranoia kicked in just that much more for being in one. Class 4 systems weren't as likely to be heavily populated as a Class 2, but they were very often used as the hunting grounds for other wormholer corporations and Vek had little desire to keep the fleet in one longer than he would have to. He followed his normal routine of scanning, re-cloaking, and checking any databases this system might be in. Everything looked pretty clean.

::Ok Kurvin, bring em into that C2 you're in and have everyone warp to you and wait on the hole.:: Iknasus Vek

A thought suddenly occurred to him that he hadn't checked the databases on the previous Class 2 yet. Well, he'd just have to do that while in warp to the next marked wormhole in the chain. He again checked his communication logs to be sure, then jumped to the moon where Khonla was supposed to have left the canister in this system. While he was in warp he checked his passive scanners once again, just to appease his nagging paranoia, and he froze. A single ship signature returned as that of a Devoter class cruiser. That was a Heavy Interdictor class ship. There was no amount of luck in the universe that would place it anywhere other than right on the wormhole he had just come through and with no other stations evident in the system, that meant it had likely been waiting cloaked just for him. His fear was suddenly compounded when his ship's close-overview sensors could find absolutely no trace of the canister containing his next nav coordinates where it was supposed to be. He couldn't' figure out which issue to respond to first and he didn't have to; Mors decided for him.

:Onyx decloaking right on the hole! Shit, where did that come from!?:: Kurvin Mors

::DO NOT JUMP! There is an active Devoter on this side! Try to run before that one gets a bubble up!:: Iknasus Vek

::Bubble up! Scrambling the fleet.:: Kurvin Mors

::Skip that, try to fight, you might be able to take him.:: Iknasus Vek

::What!? Too late.:: Kurvin Mors

::Shit, what do I do?:: Diff Crack

::I'm in warp , I made it! Wait, what now?:: Sella Frick

Iknasus could hear Mors trying desperately to bring the blossoming shitflower of a fleet into some form of coordination and clearly failing. He had his own issues now as he tried to open a direct com line to Khonla.

::Ok, lading back on... fuck-fedoshit! There's an anchored warp disruptor bubble up on the exit!:: Kurvin Mors

Vek's request to Khonla went unanswered and a fraction of a second later he watched in horror as her com signature suddenly dropped from the fleet. She'd betrayed them utterly. But his vengeance would have to wait now.

::Send anyone left through that hole and have them try to burn out of the Devoter's range on this side. I'll start scanning down the next hole. Mors, get them to a safe.:: Iknasus Vek

::Um, I'm already podded out mate... wait, scan it down? Shit where's that Khonla chick?:: Kurvin Mors

::Don't ask...:: Iknasus Vek

Mors's ship had been destroyed and his pod along with it. He was talking now from his new clone, automatically re-linked into the fleet comms even upon its suddenly brand new life. Iknasus decloaked from the safe he'd just made for himself and dropped scanning probes before re-cloaking. He was his fleet's only hope now, at least what might be left of the fleet, and he started scanning as though every last one of them depended on him alone to save them. At worse he could try to get himself out. But behind the cold precision with which he worked his probes feverishly was a gnawing rot of rage. If he ever found that fedoshit traitor Khonla again... the ultimatum went unfinished as Vek located a wormhole and completed its signature scan. He didn't even care if it was supposed to be the right one, he'd take any at this point. He called out on coms for fleet status but all he got in response was confusion. The trip was a total wipe. The best he could hope for now was to deny their hunters the glory of one more kill.

He made it safely through that wormhole but it wasn't until about five systems later that he finally found an exit into Matari space. Vek had survived, at least. But now he had a very long trip back to Jita in which to plot just exactly what he might do to... his database query returned empty. That bitch... Now he'd never have the pleasure of ending her himself and that rage kept him burning for days.

There was only one way to escape the capsuleer registry and Khonla had just done it. She'd biomassed her own clone rather than face the wrath of those she'd betrayed.

********


All of the drones around Curren's suddenly altered direction. Those that had been hauling pieces of hull hurried to deposit them and those with no current load headed suddenly back towards the drone garages. Curren's drone, however, did no such thing. Instead he grinned and altered his course to veer onto a starkly different trajectory that would take him directly to the nearest part of The Cradle's outer corridor structure. There was little hope of sneaking into the no-fly zone so he didn't bother. By the time he threw open his reverse thrusters to bring him stationary relative to The Cradle he'd also extended the drone's cutters which quickly sliced into the thin hull of the outer corridor. There was no release of pressure which indicated that someone wasn't taking chances and that they had vented the atmosphere from within the lab structure. It didn't bother him too much, he had already spent the last several days in a pressure suit, but the modified air scrubbers within the redesigned drone wouldn't help him inside, especially because the drone was too large to fit through The Cradle's passages.

Curren detached the external waste reclamation bags from his suit then located and attached the two air bladders which he'd stashed away just in case of emergency. He'd have to move fast given the limited air supply but what he had in mind from this point on wouldn't take long. He released the emergency hatch which he'd had designed into the drone and burst forth out into the hole that he'd just cut into the lab's outer structure.

The Cradle was called such because of its role in Origin's early cloning advancements. It had been in this very lab structure, silently in orbit of the original colony on Renaissance, in which the founders of Origin had first put his cloning technology to work. And while those experiments had ultimately matured under hands other than his own, the fundamental research had been his by right. Sure, he hadn't been the one to discover exactly how to transition an entire human mind seamlessly into digital form, but he had postulated it and even managed the first 'successful' experiments which had transitioned the minds of lesser creatures into digital forms. When he'd attempted it on his first volunteer human subject things hadn't gone quite as well. But he knew he was on the right track when suddenly his entire world had come crashing down and his work had been stolen from under him.

Transferring a mind from inert tissue into digital form and then back into the exact same configuration of living tissue was a miracle which the Jove had perfected some time ago, long before they bestowed that gift upon the rest of humanity and created the capsuleers. But Curren had been the first to try to entirely reinvent the ability without the help of the Jovian 'black box' technology which CONCORD now guarded so fiercely as part of their agreement with the Jove. What he'd postulated wasn't exactly similar to creating a capsuleer but rather only a small piece of it. But maybe that piece wasn't so small after all. There was even a time when Curren wondered if the fall of Caldari prime hadn't been orchestrated by elements within CONCORD just for the purpose of ending his forbidden research. Hell, the planet had fallen into chaos twice and both times just as he had been about to succeed with a human subject too. Coincidence?

Apparently so. Even the mighty CONCORD wasn't likely to have so precisely orchestrated the timing of Tibius Heth's revolt which brought about the cycle of events that took Curren's life work out from under him. And He knew CONCORD had no part of Adarn's treachery. So, but sheer stupid luck the fruit of his mind had survived. And now it lay so carelessly tossed aside, rotting away as a forgotten antique within an equally forgotten lab while the station which once protected it was ripped piece by piece within view. It was that view he now turned from as he used the tiny jets in his suit to maneuver to the corridor's railing and out of site of the hole he'd just carved. The alarms were well triggered by now and he didn't have much time.

As he swiftly glided through the corridors he saw evidence of a blast which had taken out at least one external hatch, an internal bulkhead, and a maintenance drone all at once. A curiosity for sure, but not one he had time for. He looking into the break in the internal bulkhead which the blast had created and smiled. A lucky shortcut. He bounced and glided from the corridor into a small lab and then down a narrow hallway which eventually brought him through into a large, cylindrical room deep within the Cradle's structure. Looking both up and down the chamber he was reminded of the second half of where the structure's name had come from. The room clearly still held power as a myriad of small stasis pods glowed in an eerie blue-green back at him. From his trajectory, drifting across the small bridge which cut perpendicularly through the large chamber, he could see very young faces staring back at him as he passed by. He knew where he was, and he knew who these children were. But knowing hadn't prepared him for the soul cleaving feeling of actually being here.

When word first spread of the miracles of re-lifing, the potential hadn't appealed only to the old or infirm. In fact the greatest cry for deliverance had come instead from parents whose children were near death. And so those parents had come seeking hope for their loved ones despite the new technology having been only recently in testing phases. What were the scientists to do, refuse them that hope? In preparation for the day when their miracle might save even a dying child, the scientists began cloning children. Only the most dire cases were taken at first but what constituted 'dire' had escalated quickly. The scientists even started testing the re-lifing process on some of the most insistent cases too. But it wasn't to be. Their miracle had an age limit after all and those intrepid children paid the price for their parent's hubris. The first few suffered the worst; Jovian Wetgrave Syndrome, where the minds of the poor children ended up trapped within and disconnected entirely from the new bodies they tried to inhabit. Only the Jove truly knew what happened to a person so trapped, but Curren couldn't even fathom the horror. And for it to happen to a child?

The next few attempts had gone better; the children survived and even responded well. It was the miracle everyone had hoped for! But that miracle soon turned sour. Being the empirical masters they were, the scientists insisted on rigorous developmental testing both before and after the process. Within only a few months it became painfully clear that every child who had survived the re-lifing process had stopped in their mental development entirely. New concepts and ideologies couldn't be learned and even the constant state of change which every adolescent body goes through seemed to befuddle their minds. Their new bodies continued to grow but their minds had entirely crystallized, stuck forever as a child and forever bound by the fanciful yet limited world that children inhabit. All further attempts at bringing the miracle of re-lifing to children were ended abruptly..

The testing had been done mostly in secret and under the strictest non-disclosure agreements. The scientists, having actually contained at least some moral fibers, had only allowed those children for which life was literally about to leave them to participate in it. And so, at the first sign that there was in fact no hope of re-lifing anyone under the approximate age of 14 without such horrid side effects, they, along with their directors, immediately released a statement proclaiming the process entirely off limits for children. They stated further research on juvenile test subjects which they implied were of a species other than human. And with one resounding cry the scientific community of the new Origin colony put to rest any hope or further attempts at re-lifing children.

But they still had all of those cloned, lifeless bodies. Given such need for suspended biomass, nobody in Origin so much as batted an eye when the scientists proclaimed that any and all of the children's clones had been sent for processing. They had to say that really. Had even one of those parents known that their child still had a clone available somewhere it would have led to an entire spectrum of potential moral and ethical explosions. Would the parents try to resume the experiments on their own? Some of them had the access or intelligence to do so. Would any of those same parents try to bring legal action forcing the scientists to perform the process despite the effects on their child? And the can of wormholes only got worse from there.

Curren had only discovered the existence of the clones upon gaining access to the secured coordinator networks and even then only after viewing the schematics for this lab. It had been a shock to be sure, but his target lay elsewhere inside The Cradle and so he let further thoughts of the sea of faces pass from his mind as he continued to the other end of the bridge and shuddered. Knowing about this chamber hadn't exactly prepared him for being in it and even as he opened the hatch into the next lab compartment he couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. Had he paid more attention while he was in there, he might have noticed that the mechanical retrieval arm within the facility wasn't in its long-term storage position and had he taken the time to look closely and think about it, Curren might have seen the three conspicuously absent blue-green lights in the pattern that twisted above him. But "The Businessman' had little more care to spend on the childlike ghosts of the past and as he made his way from corridor to corridor the creepy feelings gave way to a growing anticipation that soon he would finally achieve his victory.

At last he found his way into the central control room of the facility. Curren was surprised to find several jack-lines already protruding from the central console but who was he to question fate. It would save him the time of having to locate such equipment anyway. He hurried to those wires now and carefully began plugging them into the hidden external interfaces for his own implants set just behind his right ear. It took only a few more moments and he was interfacing with the system.

His first task would be to re-create some sort of wireless interface between the new stranded facility's processor core and the data subnet networks which crisscrossed all of Origin. Once he accomplished that he'd begin to download himself into digital form where he could merge with the historical research files within The Cradle's core, extract what he came for, and then use those new external pathways to transfer his entire digital consciousness into whatever pathetic computer core he needed to and finally escape this evil system. He might even do some damage on the way out too. He'd spent his entire life leading to this moment. This was the moment when he'd become immortal, and not the stupid live, die, live again of a capsuleer, but really immortal. He'd be pure data, able to copy, backup, or even partition himself into and out of everything including death. It was the destiny he'd been always denied but now it was finally his. Why not have a little fun with his new godhood on the way out? He activated the uplink.

That was strange. Curren tried to puzzle out why the core would already have an existing interface into the data sub-net or even why it would be so large. It was actually good news as it meant that he wouldn't have to find a way to do it himself and the breadth of the connection would make transferring his consciousness and the extra research data that much faster. But something about it aligned in his mind with the easy access jack-lines and suddenly seemed all way too easy. Even as part of his mind tried to react to his realization another part had already accessed and initiated the first subroutines common to any digital backup process. These were the stolen children of his mind and they were the catalyst to mapping out every nanoscopic detail of his consciousness in preparation for transfer into digital form. Yet another part of his mind registered the irony that he would use the product of those that stole his research from him to finally realize his dream. Oh the things he would do to those people once he was fr-

Something was wrong, very wrong. All parts of his mind suddenly crashed together as they caught up to the part which had been worried but they got there too late. It came like a hurricane and brought with it no pity, kindness, or remorse. Curren's mind simply exploded into chaos.

Unfortunately for 'The Businessman', while hacking into the coordinator networks all those days ago, he had created a direct uplink between the Coordinator Relay and his own communications implant. It wasn't the only uplink he had made, but he had figured that he might at some point need access when he had no terminal or datapad around. In just the time of a nanosecond the Sentient Equilibrium struck at him thought that uplink and directly into the overrides of Curren's military grade implants. It wasn't the sort of thing that anyone could normally do, but without sufficient safeguards, and protected by only the limited firewalls of military grade implants, Curren's implant software experienced the full force of the Sentient Equilibrium's trillions of hacks within the span of only a nanosecond. The highest quality capsuleer implants could possibly have saved him, but such was not the life he'd chosen. Immortal godhood evaporated from his mind along with everything else.


::Process complete.:: Sentient Equilibrium

Xeph sighed and gently pushed off from the observation blister which sat as part of the pattern of slowly twisting cylindrical blue-green lights. Learning of the existence of this place and particularly of this cylindrical chamber had been one of the most soul catalyzing moments of his life. He'd gained access to all of the accounts of the early cloning and re-lifing experiments upon becoming a Sub-coordinator, and the logic behind why the scientists did what they did, and why the Coordinators backed those decisions made sense from a macro view. But floating here, looking out among all the lives that were never to be, cauterized his very soul. Maybe that was why the idea of children like Bee3 gave him so much hope. Perhaps, when the time was right again and those old prejudices had been quelled further, Origin could once again offer digital sapients a chance at truly reproduced life once again. And when that day came, maybe, just maybe the lives that were not to be, held in eerie stasis around him, could finally be.

He gave the chamber one last glance over his shoulder before he drifted out of the viewing area and into the short corridor which would bring him to the very heart of The Cradle. He knew what he was going to find there but he steeled himself for it anyway before activating the hatch. Floating amongst tangles of wires and serene stillness was Roger Dean Curren, 'The Businessman'. His face held a sort of poleaxed look of combined shock and fear where it had been perpetually frozen. The mind behind that face held somewhat less form though. It had been utterly reduced to incomprehensible gibberish by the very nanites which had once been part of Curren's implant suite. That anyone, anything, could so completely mutiny one's own implants against them was beyond frightening to Xeph but he took solace in the knowledge that should it ever happen to him and even if the failsafes of his capsuleer grade implants failed to instantly terminate his consciousness and initiate reboot in a new clone, at least he had a digital backup safely stored away. The important question now was whether Curren had managed the same.

::Did he get a backup created in time?:: Xepharious Wryn

::Roger Dean Curren's transition to digital form was unsuccessful.:: Sentient Equilibrium

::Well, I guess that's it then.:: Xepharious Wryn

::We have obtained a copy of Roger Dean Curren's mindstate prior termination and we will review for any further security threat.:: Sentient Equilibrium

Xepharious started for just a moment.

::You made a copy?:: Xepharious Wryn

::Exactly Sub-Coordinator Wryn. We must be sure that Origin is no longer at risk from Roger Dean Curren's Machinations and to achieve that his mindstate must be studied.:: Sentient Equilibrium

::Wait, you're going to torture him?:: Xepharious Wryn

::Nothing quite so physical Sub-Coordinator Wryn. Roger Dean Curren's mindstate will be analyzed and then discarded. We have no need for coercion.:: Sentient Equilibrium

Somehow that made him feel even more uneasy. But that facet of Curren was beyond his worry or control now. It was left to him to handle the physicality of the body that "The Businessman' had left behind. He took hold of the corpse and began disconnecting wires as he spun it about in zero-g. It didn't take long but he occupied his mind by connecting into the fleet communications from the fight outside. It was turning into a bloodbath too. Whoever had lead the apparent cluster-fleet of frigates and destroyers into Origin hadn't a clue as to what they were doing or where they were going it seemed and Alexylva Paradox was swatting them out of space like gnats. It was almost comical.

But the hysterics outside were only the pawn in this game he reminded himself. And while he was carefully tethering the inanimate corpse of his opponent's king to his utility belt and reversing course for the exit that would bring him back to where his capsule waited, Xeph knew that the enemy queen was still in play and as with the venerated game which occupied his mind and predated all of New Eden history, she might turn out to be far, far more dangerous in the end.

*******


Kip let out a sigh of relief as he came to the shuttle's docking hatch and found the pressurized doors still open. The hatch inside the pressurization vestibule was closed and more than likely locked but he could deal with that. He could also deal with the risk of being seen by the station's surveillance system. That was controlled by the station and any security response would be too late to stop him. If they actually did see him and send a response team to investigate it might even help when it came time to get back off the shuttle. His nanites weren't sophisticated enough for anything beyond disengaging locks and hacking in to re-pressurize the compartment would not go unnoticed by the shuttle's crew. Kip swiftly extracted his nanostraw and in moments he had the hatch's security sensors fooled and the hatch opened. He was already racing against time but he couldn't focus on that now, his friends were either trapped inside this ship or soon to be and he was going to save them.

He sealed the door behind him but left the nanites in case he needed to reactivate them quickly to leave. Once inside he looked around him and located an access hatch to one of the mechanical crawlspaces. He could already hear voices from the crew just around the corner so Kip quickly unfastened the hatch before slipping in. He had no way of re-fastening it so he'd just have to trust the ship's internal gravity to hold it down. He assessed that the cargo hold to the ship was likely to be to his right and began to do what he did best. He made his way unseen through the shuttle.


Bee's uplink to the security net told xer that they were only a few corridors behind Kip but xe couldn't help but admit that they would have been a lot closer and likely even caught him had xe either noticed him missing sooner or had they not tried to take the same tram that he had and missed it leaving the stop.

"I know, I know, you were right, we should have just gone for the tram one level down." H'Aki would have been shaking her head as well had she not been puffing through their increased pace.

Given access to those same security cameras Bee had been able to find them clear stretches in which they could flat out run in an attempt to make up the distance Kip had gained. He had no implants and Bee wasn't prepared to try hacking into the projected audio system to try to communicate with him either. That left physically catching up as the only option. It was an option that was swiftly closing as Kip had just reached the last corridor before the umbilical passage out to the docked shuttle.

"Uh oh, he just pulled out his nanites... Yeah, he's in." The defeat was evident in Bee's voice but somehow it didn't slow xer pace and right beside xer H'Aki's pace actually increased.

A few moments later both of them rounded the corner and came face to face with the docking hatch. While Bee paused to consider the next best option H'Aki actually jumped forward and her hand shot out for the same latch which Kip had already hacked.

"H'Aki, wait!"

H'Aki paused only as long as it took to turn and reply. "I can't just let him go in alone, I can't. Besides..." Her hand found the latch and triggered it, the docking hatch hissed open, "he left it unlocked for us. Come on!" H'Aki stepped through the door but Bee refused to follow.

"We've got to tell someone." In xer mind Bee was already following up on the next best option xe could see, which was to somehow pass the task onto someone more fit or with more authority to intervene. Xe'd already located and tried the Sub-Coordinator's personal com unit but it was actually blocked to all incoming communications for some strange reason. A separate part of xer mind registered the presence of security officials responding to a disturbance which was described as 'two suspect kids running through the corridors' within the area Bee and H'Aki had just left. "And Security is already on its way now."

H'Aki simply shook her head. "They might be too late, and we have been trained for this. You stay and fill them in if you want, I'm getting our friends." And with that H'Aki spun about as the docking hatch door closed just behind her leaving Bee entirely alone in the umbilical docking chamber.

Bee wasn't quite sure exactly what to do next as xe looked out through the bluish hue of the forcefield which made up the majority of the umbilical passage. Now what? Sure, informing the security officials wasn't a bad idea, but H'Aki was right, if the transport carrying Drake and Sophia really was just going to dock directly with the shuttle, an event that by xer timekeeping should have already started, no station security would do any good. Xe thought briefly of contacting Solu but dismissed that thought quickly. Xe didn't really know Solu and xe had no idea how the capsuleer and lab director would respond or whether she would even believe Bee without an explanation which would take up additional time that no one had. Bee finally settled on the one person xe thought could actually help. That person trusted Bee enough to not ask too many questions and they were also in Solu's confidence which might just lead to faster action. Bee activated a communication link directly to Meyan.

The conversation was brief as xe had hoped but Meyan hadn't the acquired skill to multi-task two conversations at once and so Bee soon found xerself on hold while Meyan in turn contacted Solu. Bee could see the security teams only about two corridors away so xe turned to face back down the docking chamber towards where they would come out. It might help smooth things over if they saw that xe wasn't trying to hide. As xe waited for both the security officers and Meyan, Xepharious's com unit flashed back to an active status. Bee excitedly reached out with xer mind to initiate a com request just as xer shoulder and neck exploded into a flash of pain. Then everything went dark. Xer last thought was to suddenly register the whooshing noise xe'd missed in xer excitement to contact the Sub-coordinator. Xe didn't feel the impact of hitting the floor of the force field tube which fluoresced at xer impact before resettling about the man now standing over Bee's inert form.


Tactical Lieutenant Iplin thought it one of those silly routines to check the docking collar before detaching, who would be there anyway? Ghera was already loading all of their cargo directly from the transport into the small cargo bays. Bypassing customs like that wasn't legal, strictly speaking, but then he shared his Captain's low opinion of this system's government and with some of what they called legal out here, who were they to complain. It was all way above his paygrade anyway.

However, now that he'd found this strange runaway loitering, and given the instructions he'd received to be about his work quickly and quietly, he wasn't taking any chances. He brought her onboard. Better for Ghera or the captain to decide what to do with her than to have a security sweep find her knocked out at the doorstep of the shuttle which used to be docked here. Because that would certainly have aroused suspicion. Lieutenant Iplin gently laid the child down on the deck to the side of the access way before turning and fully securing the hatch. He picked the young girl up once more after performing the last of the checklist and headed for the bridge. Ghera must have finished her loading below as well because he could already hear the up-spin of the thrusters that should be maneuvering them apart from the docking umbilical even now. Lieutenant Iplin always liked the feeling of undocking; it always gave him the sense of going on yet another new adventure. As the shuttle drifted quickly away from the station he wondered what this adventure would bring.