TURN 12: Hidden Gauntlet

Morning came at last to the group, and soon everyone was making their way out of bed.

Adelaide was apparently the first one out and about in the morning and went around knocking on people's doors for a meeting in Ti's room.

For his part, Ti wasn't feeling so good, but he just needed some rest. A good day off his feet and he'd be feeling like his old self again. And that was something that could be done in the van as well as any hotel room.

For Slave, the evening was both confusing and interesting. She had never in her memory though there could be such variety in people, and that they would do such strange things. Things here were certainly more interesting than scuttling around giant pieces of orbiting debris.

Ed arrived immediately after Adelaide had finished waking people and summoning them to Ti's room. He appeared cleaned up, refreshed, and as ready for the day as the day Chalk hired him. Well, perhaps a little more so.

Diana and Nadya arrived in Ti's room. Nadya had one arm in a sling and was obviously uncomfortable with it. Upon entry, Nadya flashed a suspicious eye at Adelaide, who had taken a seat in a cushioned chair and put her feet up on a night stand, obviously quite at ease. Addy studiously examined her fingernails, ignoring Nadya. Nadya glanced at Ed, too, waiting to catch his eyes and then giving him a stern look. Whatever that was about, it soon passed as no one seemed to be challenging Nadya's looks, and Nadya appeared to let whatever bothered her drop.

Finally, Frederick and Gisele arrived, both looking quite at ease as they would any day.

Addy spoke up, "Well, it's time to settle on a course of action. Since you guys had Stuttman, I can only assume you have the coordinates of the TriTech 'black' station. We need to figure out how to get there. Passage on a shuttle is possible, if somewhat consipicuous. Satellites and colony stations also receive regular resupply cargo vessels which we could also turn to our advantage. It may also be possible to charter our own shuttle if we can fake a corporate mission. That might be a bit of a long shot, though. It also occurs to me that we could try to hijack a military shuttle or fighting ship. Nadya here is a fully qualified pilot, so that helps keep our options open. We really have no idea how this TriTech station might be outfitted or defended, so some kind of scouting information would also be useful.

"And this leaves us with the more immediate question. What launch site should we head for?"

Ti awoke stiff and sore from the night's misadventures and rose from bed with a groan and foul mood. He stood for a moment in his boxers and flexed the injured arm experimentally, assuring himself once more that the technological additions there hadn't been damaged. Tight muscles knotted and relaxed smoothly beneath his pale, olive skin and everything seemed to be in working order.

Shrugging his shoulders and cracking the joints in his neck he moved over to the minifridge and dug around in the honor bar until he found a beer. The artful label of the European brew brought a frown to his face but he
cracked the bottle open and drank anyway. Dropping heavily into a large easy chair, he dangled one leg to the side and listened to Addy make her presentation.

Occasionaly he moved to scratch at the bandages on his chest or at his bare leg just below the boxers, but basically he just listened to everything that was said.

"Do we have the launch schedules?" He asked. "Try to find a ship that fits our needs and take it over? I'd rather not hit a military ship if we can avoid it. Tougher security and better defenses."

"What about faking a mission from an established coporation? If Frederick here can break into a company and schedule a launch for them we could avoid fighting."

He paused to take a pull on the beer, only to notice it was already gone. Damn, weak imports. He stood up to locate something stronger as he continued to speak.

"I know some people who have smuggled things onto shuttles before." He said into the fridge. "They might have established pipelines to get us onto a civvie flight that'd be easy to take over, but violence in total
vaccum? I don't like the sound of that."

"Aha!" He interrupted his own voice and held up a Cervasos to the light.

Ed walked behind Ti and looked him up and down. Seeing that the galoot got his backside handed to him, Ed lightly places a hand on Ti's shoulders and concentrates. For a few seconds they both seem to shimmer as an unseen force covers them. When the whole process is complete Ed steps back and finds a seat. His face is a little pale but he appears in good health.

"Man, love that spanish beer." Ti muttered after Ed's healing affect. Apparantly the thick skulled man didn't realize it was the psi behind him who'd done the healing rather than the long pull on the Cervasos. After
finishing the bottle he quickly begun to dig for another but was dissapointed when the best option available turned out to be a Poland Springs Mineral Water.

He COULD have choosen the Budwiser instead, but even he had his standards.

Addy's eyes grew wide as she stared at Ed's demonstration of raw power. Looking back at Nadya, Addy then remarked, "Damn, Ed! How did you do -- never mind, you explained that." She grinned. "Hey, E, can you do that again?" She pointed out Nadya's injured but healing shoulder.

"Ti, I agree with you. If we could somehow hijack a corporate mission, or fake one, that might be the ideal way of getting a shuttle away under our own guidance. Fewer complications, no hostages to deal with... What do you say, Frederick? Can you hack it?" It sort of sounded like it, but it was no pun. Frederick really would have to hack that to make it work.

Frederick looked at Addy as if she had just asked the dumbest question ever. Corporations could be hacked easily enough. The smaller the company the easier it would be to hack without trace. The only obsticle might be finding a corporation small enough to have limited security, yet big enough to warrent a trip into space. But since he already knew of one, (Krupp Aerospace) this wasn't a problem. "A more appropriate question would be, 'Who will fly the shuttle?'"

Ed gracefully crossed the room to Nadya. He blushed slightly as his hand touched her hand. His eyes closed and the shimmer affect covered them both. Ed's eyes re-opened and gained focus. This time it took Ed a little bit more time to recover his use of power. He was slow to rise and find another seat, but still appeared to be aware of his surroundings.

"Didn't they say Nadya was a pilot?" Ti asked, rubbing his arm. From the reaction of the others, he was getting the impression that Ed was responsible for his sudden 'good feeling' rather than the strong beer. That gave him an idea...

"Da. Class 3," interjected Nadya verbosely.

"Say, Ed. I don't suppose you'd be willing to run an errand with me real quick?"

Ed looks at Ti "It d-d-d-depends. I n-n-n-need a f-f-f-few m-m-m-moments r-r-r-right n-n-n-now."

"Sure. Take your time, kid. No hurry."

Ti looked at the pale man and wondered if he'd be up to what he had in mind. Right now he had the cash for some quick system upgrades he'd always wanted, but was hesitating because of recovery time. With Ed the Healing Machine with him, though, he'd be up and out of the Streetdoc's parlor before before anyone even missed his smiling face.

Frederick pulled his cyberdeck out of his backpack. Before setting it down, he removed a package attached to the back of the deck. It was a gun and holster, which may have been surprising to some people, but not as surprising as the gun license in the clear plastic pouch on the outside of the holster. It seemed Datenwulf was licensed to carry a concealed weapon. A rare thing indeed.

The Datenwulf set up the cyberdeck, hooking it into the room's 'Net connection. He then pulled out a cybervisor, the kind used to program cybersystems and access SkullComps. After pluging it into a second port on the cyberdeck, he put the visor on.

He quckly activated a Code Screen, and Scanner on the deck, then prepared Locator on his SkullComp. Double checking that he had Sniffer, Override, and Remote on standby, he dove into the 'Net and began hunting for Krupp Aerospace. Finding them should be a problem, most venture businesses wanted to be found by new customer. He just wasn't a customer.

While Fred was doing that, Ti plopped back down into the easy chair andstarted to flip through the hotel's service catalogue looking for some clothes to replace his blood stained shirt and pants. He selected something loose fitting and comfortable, yet durable, and had it delieverd to the room along with breakfast. The food was continental in style and included some fruits, grains and various breads and juices and maybe some European meat type dishes (never did understand how they can eat raw bacon for breakfast...).

Hopefully, by the time he's ready to go, so will Ed. With the remaining time, he tried to calculate the street costs of the upgrades he was after. A vehicle link, weapon link and endorphin max were pretty simple items, so with luck it won't be more than he's allowed to take from petty cash.

Ed, seeing food brought up, helped himself to a few items. It made him feel better almost immediatly. His color returned to his face and he appeared ready to do things.

Ed also noticed that Frederick was busy doing things. He tapped Ti on the shoulder, "Y-y-y-you w-w-w-wanted t-t-t-to d-d-d-do s-s-s-something?"

"Yeah." Ti said quietly. "There's a couple of features I've always wanted to have added to my systems. Right now I have SD armor, skeletal hardening and a LOT of muscle enhancement, but I've always wanted a vehicle rig.

"Don't ask me why, but it just sounds SO cool!" The big lug grinned.

"And I think it's help me out to have an endorphin max and weapon link put in me. Just to give an assist in combat, know what I mean?

"Now, I have the cash but I worry about recovery time. I don't want to drop out of action for too long else you guys might move on without me. With your healing touch, though, I don't think I'd be layed up for too long. You could get me back on my feet in no time.

"Now, I can't use any of my old contacts for this since they'll probably just turn me over to the Michealovic family as soon as I'm under, but I think I can find another street doc I can trust and don't know me. But it'd still be nice to have someone watching my back just to make sure the doc don't drop his watch in during the operation, you know?

"And, like I said, if you heal me after wards I'll be right back in the game."

"I'll g-g-g-go w-w-w-with y-y-y-you, b-b-b-but th-th-th-the healing p-p-p-part is n-n-n-new t-t-t-to m-m-m-me. I w-w-w-will help how I c-c-c-can, b-b-b-but I m-m-m-make n-n-n-no p-p-p-promises." Ed smiled at this last part.

Steeling himself for the inevitable groveling, Ti approached Frederick.

"I need to pull some funds for a while." He informed the hacker. "It's for upgrades to myself that will make me more affective in combat, and maybe keep things like what went down with Mr. Bones from happening again. Two thousand should cover everything."

Frederick, entrenched in his deck said simply, "Ask the others." The tone used implied he meant 'get permission from the others.'

Shrugging, Ti asked where the cash was, and if anyone had a problem with him pulling funds for the upgrades.

"Where would be the closest launch point form our current location? I think would be a place to begin." Diana said.

"Which is closest is irrelevant," answered Frederick. "We must use the one the mission is launching from. We must also replace the regular crew of the ship with ourselves prior to flight. Shouldn't be too difficult."


Ti cleared his petty cash request with the others and gained access to the group funds when he and Ed were ready to go shopping. Wearing new clothes ordered from the hotel catalogue the two left in search of a reputable street doc who could perform the relatively simple upgrades and not mess around with anything he wasn't supposed to inside of the big man's head.

The Warsaw midmorning air buzzed with commuter traffic as the two made thier way to the city's underside in search of the proper people. That sort of character usually didn't start crawling around until the sun went down, but he might get lucky and find a twenty-four hour clinic that could do for him what he wanted. He knew the signs and could recognize a shingle when one was set out, so he had faith in his own skills to find what he wanted.

Surprisingly, Ti didn't have as much trouble as one would expect looking for a street doc with 'ware for sale. Journeying down around the fringes of the business district, Ti crossed paths with a skinny little man as he was locking up a nondescript office and turning its security on. Be bespectacled little man had apparently not only forgot he was still in his white surgeon's outfit, but hadn't noticed he left his stethiscope hanging around his neck. As he turned to wander down the street, he nearly bumped into Ti.

"Oh! Excuse me there, sir. I didn't see you coming." He dipped his bald head in polite deference.

Ti couldn't help but to ask the obvious question, and very shortly Ed, Ti and Doc Schlatzendorf (as he called himself -- didn't sound Polish, but whatever) were engaged in a Q&A about cyberware. Yes, he did sell and install cyberware. He had the weapon and vehicle link on hand but had to order up an Endorphin Max kit, which he would do. Normally, he'd prefer to give the patient a physical and test for possible cyber rejection, but of course the patient could waive these things if he preferred to take the risk.

Doc Schlatzendorf offered no warrantees on his work, since he couldn't be sure that the equipment would stay running if a client mistreats it. Therefore, he'd install it, make sure it worked for the client, and from that point the sale would be final. No take-backs. In most cases, the patient wouldn't survive too well with the cyberware ripped back out, since the replaced organs and flesh gets tossed out. There is no market for second-hand body parts since the advent of cloning.

The Doc set an appointment for the afternoon for the surgery (that's the earliest he could get a hold of an Endorphin Max kit), and asked the big man to be sure he had the money ready for him by then.

"Sounds fair to me." Ti said, his gut telling him the little man was on the level. "See you then.... Say, I don't suppose you have any 'specials' going on, do you? Maybe something that's new to the street? Something not readily available? Just thought I'd ask, you know?"

"Why, yes, I do have some specials. However, it isn't strictly cyberware, you understand. Nor is is a genetic enhancement. Actually, it's a procedure that works best with people with a decent amount of body fat. You may or may not have enough. Most women naturally have enough for the procedures, but of course the more body fat you have, the more I have to work with."

The little doc leaned close to Ti and put his ear to the big man's chest. "Hmm.." He wrapped on quickly. "Ah. Armoring there... But we could do some nice claws or something."

Ti heard the words Body Fat and immediately grimaced. Any contact with the stuff was against his basic personality, but he heard the doc's words out regardless. He had considered getting some cyber blades put in at some point, but wondered what was going on with this 'new deal'.

"Tell me about them." He said uncomfortably while being examined.

The doc answered as well as he could, guessing at Ti's comprehension level. "Well, the claws are naturally grown from your own tissues. You see fat cells -- and everyone has them whether you see them or not -- can be stimulated to become nearly any kind of body part. They seem to be all the rage lately. Claws especially. Since it's grown from your own body, there is no chance of rejection. I have them in three varieties. Short and unretractable, long unretractable, and short retractable. The last is like a cats claws and can assist in climbing. If you manage to get a claw pulled out, it won't regenerate, however. You'll need a checkup, then."

Ti thought seriously about the offer but decided they just weren't his syle. He was used to pounding and hammering... if the doc could give him some sort of natural brass-knuckles, that would be different, but claws?
If he used them, how would he get rid of them after a job? Assault and manslaughter charges were much more difficult to make stick if the person being charged didn't have the weapon used on his person.

And no doubt he was far too heavy to make good use of the climbing claws. The items asked for would have to suffice for now.

"Okay, if I'm going to have a weapon link, then I'll probably need a weapon to link to," he told Ed as they walked away from the shop. "Next stop, a gun shop. Preferably one that won't look too closely for a permit."

"I'm thinking a reworked Jackhammer and maybe a nice, big shotgun is in order. Something that'll cover a large spread and keep me from having to aim too much."

Ti's afternoon, for a change, went mostly as expected. Although unable to find a Smartlinked shotgun available Smartlinked Jackhammers were very popular with police and mercs that hunt down rogue cyborgs. Jackhammers are known to easily crack even the hardest cyborg armored casings and a Smartlink means that a hunter can do so at a safe distance

The doctor was in when Ti returned and was ready to make the planned upgrades.

The operation later that afternoon was quick and mostly painless. What discomfort there was was somewhat alleviated by Ed's efforts. Still, it would take a good day's rest at least before he'd be up to full potential. Fortunately, the nearest spaceport was at least a day's drive away from Warsaw. Moscow could be made in one day, for instance, if it was a long one.

Soon Ed and Ti were back in the hotel where the others had been waiting. Everyone except Ti had been taking it easy and recuperating as needed, so they were ready to move when Ti came back.

Adelaide greeting the duo. "All fixed up, Ti?" She then presented him with a nice brandy-new wristwatch thinga-ma-jigger. Awful nice of her. It had this cute little flashy red light that blinked. She acted like she expected the light to die, but when after 5 minutes or so it just kept flashing, she turned to Nadya and Diana and announced, "No bugs that I can tell. Go ahead and keep the watch if you like, Ti. It might be useful later."

Pulling his sleeve down over the flashy little red light was enough to douse it so it wouldn't normally be seen.

Nadya announced her impatience. "Time to go, da? We have schedule to meet now. When is launch date Herr Klemmer?"

Frederick looked up from the materials he was reading to respond. "6 am. Moscow launch site. Don't forget, we need to be early so that we can replace the regular crew. We might want to leave tonight if we're driving."

"S-s-s-sounds l-l-l-like a g-g-g-good idea." Ed seemed a little eager to get out of town. He was just about pacing already.

"I feel like a tractor just plowed through my head." Ti muttered in Russian while cracking open his next beer. The lounge chair he was in swallowed his bulk and the man rested, eyes closed, for the moment.

"Still, better than the time." He switched to his less fluent German. Picking up the new Jackhammer, he waved it around the room and watched the feed in his mind's eye. The tiny zoom lens buzzed every now and then, particularly when passing over one of the female teamates.

Too tired to make a fuss over the watch, he let it stay on his hand. It looked like the one that was on the dead hand Fred had given him earlier. He had to know why everyone was so hot over an off brand.

"I assume it's some sort of bug detector?" He surmised from Addy's statement. "But it dosen't look like any I've ever seen. And why would you think I'd been bugged?"

Addy smiled and explained patiently. "Because you just had 'ware put in today by a guy you met on the street this morning, am I right? Even if you went to someone you'd known since you were five could be corrupted by the right kind of leverage from the SS. And that's exactly what we're worried about right now. This kind of thing had been done once, to us already."

She showed him her own watch. It didn't blink.

"Sometimes these bugs can't be removed without an expert team and/or a labotomy. I'm in the mood for neither, since we can jam them. I just wanted to be sure they hadn't tried the same trick on you."

Then, almost off-hand, Addy commented, "Looks like you got some sun, Ed. You look better." In fact, the sun had been shining all day and both men had probably gotten more than enough. Ti had a much less pale complection, so it didn't show much on him, but Ed was looking a bit pink and not just because he was in the presence of several attractive ladies again.

Her comment caused Ti to look at the watch again, as if he'd now have a better understanding of what the cryptic lights would mean and wanted to double check the diagnosis. Satisfied but still a little nervous, he went back to his beer.

The group quickly moved out and piled into a van (which they purchased second hand off a private owner) to hurry on toward Moscow and their eventual destination.

Afternoon stretched into night, and night brought paranoia with it as the members each reminisced upon their recent close encounters with the SS -- or worse, as the case may be.

The burning question in most people's minds was, why hasn't the SS shown up yet? Where are they and what are they doing? If this technology was so important to them, why would they risk allowing a mercenary group of people each with their own motivations get close to it?



A single red light flashed on a computer mainframe in a darkened room and a lone monitor suddenly flickered to life.

//SUBJECT: Activity located. Intrusion measures released. Tracking...//

//Located. Subject now exiting Warsaw. Switching to satellite view 478A3. //

//Expert Systems now booting... Loaded.//

//Decision: Neutralize threat.//

//Accessing Military Railgun A7 in Geo Orbit... Access denied.//

//Accessing Military Railgun A7 in Geo Orbit... Access denied.//

//Accessing Military Railgun A7 in Geo Orbit... Access denied.//

A cursor flashed as the machine paused, analyzing available resources. Then, it seemed to find a new solution. The monitor flickered as a 3D image of a face was built, adding scores of polygonal coordinates. Soon a voice, too, was being synthesized. At first it was rough and inhuman, but it resolved into a male voice complete with proper human inflection. The face, too, resolved into a very believable rendition of a particular person. It was blonde, blue-eyed and male.

//Patching in to BattleFrame Division II... Patched.//

The blonde animation spoke, lips, teeth and tongue matching the words perfectly. "Generalmajor [Wehrmacht SS Major General] Armis to Platoon Alpha. Prepare for deployment to sector M-7, Moscovy. The team is to report in and move out in one hour. Deployment at the target at 0600 hours. Objective: the sector is to be shut down and brought under Wehrmacht control. No civilian traffic in or out until further notice. You will coordinate with local Gestapo to enforce the lockdown. Check suits and report to the transport hangar."

The image of Armis slid over to the side of the screen as the monitor materialized the image of Schmidt. He was wearing new insignia. Oberleutnant [Wehrmacht, SS Army first lieutenan] Schmidt replied. "Understood. We are moving out now. Schmidt out."

The monitor blanked out again, flashing only a plain cursor for a few moments more.

//Running simulation...//


'Snzzzrrrrkk...." Ti gently slept through the gathering of stormclouds, annoying those closest to him in the van with his snoring.

Ed, finding a quiet spot in the back of the van, quiets his minds and relaxes. He knows what the mission up ahead will contain. He was bread for this type of stuff.

Privately he thought, 'What was th.....' In the back of his mind something trickled across to the forefront. 'Who are you?' Several moments came and went with no answer. 'Who are you?' Still no answer. Ed tried a few more times but the feeling went away.

As the van went down the road, Frederick sat and focused on the information he had about his last run. The brief contact troubled him. The fact that they were already in the system and logged out when he signed in, means it could have been another hacker. But what would they have been doing in Krupp's system. His training told him to ignore it, his instincts told him to investigate. He went back over his log files.

On the way, the team learned two pieces of information. The least important was that apparently, Adelaide favors a kind of industrial-metal style music, and she likes it LOUD. Fortunately, her several attempts to douse everyone with her taste in music was quenched by immediate loud requests to turn it down.

Having been awakened by the loud, chainsaw grinding indy-goth music banging from the speakers, Ti added his voice to the musical protests and backed up the threat with a strong desire to test out his new gun. Satisfied that the station was more amenable to sleep, he closed his eyes again.

The second piece of information came about by listening to a compromised radio station. It's the station one inevitably turns to when no one else can agree on what music to listen to: Nation Public Radio. And on one particular station there are several very excited sounding newscasters speaking about some kind of incident in Minsk. Since that was right near the autobahn they were using to get to Moscow, it was of interest.

Interviewer: ...so you are saying something killed all your cows and chickens?

Local: Da! Just tore them up, not eating them.

Interviewer: I see. Do you think it could have been a rabid animal or perhaps a bear?

Local: Njet. There haven't been bears in these parts for many years. And bears don't stalk people like a killer!

Interviewer: Are you saying that you and your family was in immediate danger?

Local: Da, Da!! I cannot locate my daughter, and my wife insists she saw... "things" moving in the grove. I have notified the police, of course and they are searching now.

Interviewer: And of course our hopes that your daughter is found safe is with you. Going back to early this evening, did you see anything unusual before the incident with the livestock?

Local: Da. A strange light in the sky... I thought maybe it was satellite, or maybe another American spy plane. But it seemed to have *landed* over in the---

Static interrupted the broadcast, which was soon overlayed with a standard "We are suffering technical difficulties, please stand by."

Halfway between sleep and wakefulness when the news story came on, Ti fell into a fitful dream. "No... Dante... Get away! I told you they were aliens! DANTE!" he shouted suddenly.

On the endless ride to Moscow, Slave breaks her silence, broadcasting: "//Designate this unit/04143 as 'Aleph'//"

Frederick, realizing the significance of the situation, made an anouncement. "That's an interesting choice. OK, everyone, our metalic companion has chosen a name. Everyone, meet Aleph. Is everyone ok with that? Good." He hadn't really given anyone time to answer, basically saying 'If you do, too bad.' in a polite way.

"Aleph? As in the first letter of the Yiddish alphebet? Why that?" asked Ti.

"I think Aleph is just fine," stated Addy. " Could cause some problems in front of authorities, though. Can I call you Ally instead when we're around strangers?" she looked to the cyborg for permission.

Aleph nodded.

They proceeded in the van through the night with the drivers trading off and everyone else getting what sleep they could. A continuing nagging feeling that something was wrong, that this was perhaps too easy pervaded the air in the van an things soon reduced to a glum silence and stayed that way through the rest of the trip.

Several times during the drive Diana had felt sure they were being followed by someone in this or that vehicle. Unfortunately, it was impossible to tell just by headlights and when the dawn came, it was no better. This was a major highway and there were lots of people heading the same direction for extended periods of time.

There was one scary moment when Diana and Adelaide spotted a heavy troop transport hovercraft sail by at high speed, heading toward Moscow. Fortunately, they were apparently not after the team.

At last the team arrived at the outskirts of Moscow. Ti knew that the Moscow Space Vehicle Launch Port lay some 25 miles south of Moscow itself. It was near noon now and their designated launch date put it at tomorrow morning, first thing.

Nadya had parked the van at a convenience store to refuel, just on the outskirts of Moscow which allowed everyone to get out a stretch a little.

As Ti stepped from the vehicle the moment he'd been dreading was upon him. Here he was, back in Moscow where his troubles had started, and when he'd tried to make himself far, far away from here fate seemed determined to bring him back. He'd have to be careful not to be recognized on the streets otherwise the mob might come after the entire party just to get him.

His eyes shifted constantly as he tried to watch for familiar faces.

And worse than the mob were those... things he'd seen. Seen? Hell, those things that had killed his best friend. Somewhere in a warehouse in a lonely part of town a veritable hive of evil awaited his return.

He knew at once he'd made a mistake and turned to get back into the van. Seeing his new partners emerging, though, changed his mind. They tried to kill him once already and he didn't think they'd take kindly to him bailing now. Like it or not, he was stuck. Just another bad decision in a long line of them making for a short life. Now he knew why his grandmother had gotten away from his grandfather and why she insisted his old man stay far away from crime and the underworld.

"Anyone else hungry?" He asked, attempting to forget his problems. He didn't really feel like eating, but getting drunk had a definate appeal. Maybe this time he'd take in something stronger than the beer he'd practically been living on lately.

"We really shouldn't stick around for very long, though. Moscow can be a bad, bad place if you're not careful."

Adelaide didn't miss his trepidation. "Ti, is there something wrong? You're looking around like a hunted rabbit. Is there something we should know about Moscow? We've all been in rough sections of cities before and you know we can take care of ourselves. So why the extra concern?"

The woman seemed as sharp as she was good looking, and she stood waiting patiently for Ti to figure out what to tell them.

"The others know this, but I guess you two weren't there to hear it. Something... bad happened between me and the mob and I probably have a chunky price on my head in this city. I was on my way to warmer places when this mess fell in my lap."

"Being hunted by the SS is bad enough, but I don't want to get spotted by the Mafia as well."

Something sparked in Ti's mind and he turned to Fred. "Hey, can you get into the Moscow shadownet and see what the going rate for my balls is? Might as well find out how much I'm worth."

"Th-th-th-that is k-k-k-kind of m-m-m-m-morbid d-d-d-don't you th-th-th-think", Ed asks the big man.

"You mean you wouldn't know what your street value is? If it's high enough I might just turn myself in." He joked.

Frederick replied, without hesitating. Making it clear he already had the information. "10,000 marks, dead. They don't want you alive. You're worth more than that to us, though. And while we're on the subject, Did you skip out on a court date or something? The Moscow Gestapo wants you, but there's no

Nadya's eyes narrowed speculatively.


"Hey, it's not my fault. I was drunk when they arrested me, I can't be expected to remember everything." 10k, though. Not bad, if one's success could be measured by the quality of his enemies, Ti was donig alright. Only 19 years old and already with a high price on his head. Still, he'd rather have done without the pressure.

"I say, we get something to eat first," Diana suggested. "Then, we can go from there. Our first order of business should be a thorough recon of everything. The space port, everything. Fredrick, can you call up skematics for the whole place? Guard schedules, everything that you can," she said to the hacker.
"Also, we might want to consider getting a cheap flea bag hotel for the night, if for no other reason then to get some sleep. I'm sure riding in the back of the van wasn't exactly the greatest."

She eyed Nadya at the mentioning the hotel, but it wasn't more then a glance lasting for barely second.

"Agreed." Ed spoke up after being rather silent.

"Da." Nadya backed up Diana's sentiments. "We need rest. Then we get up at 3 am and move out. We should eat and finish being prepared."

It seemed at first that maybe Nadya was distracted. A second look showed that she was quite well-focussed on her favorite part of Diana's anatomy. But she broke her stare when she noticed Adelaide's arched eyebrow. Nadya turned away, her face reddening.

With a hint of a smile playing at the edge of her mouth, Adelaide added, "Remember everyone. When we get into space and if there is action, NOBODY shoot ANYTHING, got it? One bullet through a window or hull will kill us all. Expect hand to hand action only. And believe a person who knows: firing a slugthrower, especially highpowered or automatic ones, in zero gee will spin you like a top and you can't stop unless you're next to something."

Ti interject, "Yeah, like when Mr. Goldfinger shot the window out in the lear jet trying to kill Bond. Sucked him right out of the window even though he was about four times it's size. I know that was just high altitude, but space would be even..." Realizing he was rambling and that everyone was staring at him, Ti quickly closed his mouth.

Adelaide continued, "Okay. Now, who here has been in space before? Show of hands." Nobody raised their hands. "Riiight... Okay. Well, just do what Nadya tells you once we get on board the shuttle and buckle when the sign tells you. You'll be fine."

Having seen about a thousand space movies, Ti considered raising his but stopped mid-lift and changed his mind. Obviously fiction didn't count.

"Also, Diana's right. If you can get plans for the space port, Frederick, that would help a lot. If you think you might need help with the security, call Asagiri. You have his address, it's the same one you used to get a hold of me. And I'm serious about you asking help from Asagiri, if you need to. There is no room for egos this late in the game."

"Leggo my ego." Ti joked to himself. Obviously being in Moscow really didn't set well with him and he was trying to compensate for the near panic running through his mind. All he could think of was that he should be on the other side of the planet by now.

Addy concluded, "Now. Anyone else have questions before we find some chow?"

Instead of answering, he simply shook his head and started going over a mental list of the places he shouldn't go. There were several resteraunts he had in mind that he considered 'safe' and he suggested them.

When they got out to stretch they're legs, Frederick pulled Gisele to the side. "I don't want anyone trying to collect on a non-existant bounty, so pass the word to the others on the Q.T. There isn't actually a bounty on Ti's head. I figured he'd work better thinking he was worth something. The Gestapo does want him, but nobody is willing to pay for him."

Gisele had been mostly quiet all day. She seemed unusually pensive and/or pissy. If there was anything men knew to steer clear of, it was an upset woman. Even moreso an upset woman who could break you in half.

She actually had several real concerns, but didn't voice them. If things went sour, they were mostly likely left up there without a ride home. And it was an awfully long walk. What were the defenses, if any, on this satellite? Gisele didn't speak up because, in all likelihood, she didn't want to know the answers anyway. They weren't likely to be very encouraging.

Instead, she glanced sidelong at Ti. The look, like Gisele's face, was typically unreadable.