"...Struggling in the Storms of Fate" -- Alexander Pope

Leading up to 197, 1122.

Subadai was happily living his current life, away from Regina, when some unpleasant people showed up and tried to kill him. He extricated himself from the first couple, but damned if they didn't have back up. So, while "Who are those guys?" runs through his head, he gets passage on literally the first ship leaving. As it turns out, this was perhaps not the best choice.

As the ship jumps, Subadai feels the ship shudder repeatedly. He goes forward to the bridge, opens the door, sees the cockpit stretching away from him, shuts the hatch, puts on his vac suit, and sits in his room. He checks after a while, and parts of the ship are missing (like the bridge, the common area/kitchen), and there's what looks like a giant burnt cheezie wearing boots (oh dear). Seven weeks later, having survived (alone) on proto-carb and water, Subadai's ship comes out of jump. The only indication he has is the horrible falling sensation, but that seems to mean it's time to get ready to go. He optimistically takes a look out the window, and sure enough, there are stars. The ship was pulled out of jump by the gravity well of a nearby planet.

Looking out, he sees several asteroids, and then one of them suddenly has jet propulsion, and is heading right for his ship. That would be the mine. Subadai tries shutting off the ship's power, but the mine hits any way, in the already slagged drives. Oh, and there's now a big crack in the ship's hull, and the door to his room pressurizes shut. So he will have air for a while, although he's out of 'food'. Oh well, nothing to do but wait, or go out into the ship, in his vac suit, to look for supplies; he decides to do the latter.

In the cargo bay, Subadai finds: a one ton cargo container full of wine (which he reseals); a small container that looks like it was machined out of a single piece of metal (evidently made by Pikhans - he'll save this for last); a container of 275 mm, rocket-assisted artillery pieces (broken down for shipment); a container of pre-loaded, disposable body pistols (he takes several); a ton of assorted fireworks (when he burns up in atmosphere, he'll make quite a show); some medieval armor (apparently); a ton of some sort of canned vegetable, of unknown variety (the picture has a lumpy, vaguely turnip-like thing with a green end, and foreign writing) that tastes like a cross between a beet and a salty cucumber - this is heaven to Subadai; a one ton container of Aslan fishie crackers (hey, it's food!); a really odd vac suit (maybe?); a case labeled "Live animals! Handle with caution." He taps the side, and it does sound like something's alive in there.

He goes back to the Pikhan box labeled "Handle with caution." There's a hidden inspection hatch (damn Pikhans), and he looks inside: something is covered up, some kind of equipment, and it's labeled "Top Secret". He removes the cover to find what is apparently some kind of high tech jet pack. There is also another piece of equipment, that's about 6' tall, self-contained, and has a sort of blobby thing. Upon further investigation, it turns out to be a high tech jump capsule. Subadai is able to pack his computer and bag, some of the tinned veggies, some fishie crackers, the jet pack, and as many body pistols as he can cram in (50). He straps in, and is able to roll the capsule out of the ship.

Heading down to the planet... First the capsule gets hot, then it's buffeted, then it starts to jink back and forth violently. This throws everything around the capsule, which makes some of the body pistols go off. After a few really unpleasant minutes, most of the capsule blows off (taking the body pistols, tinned veggies, and fishie crackers all over the place like really odd chaff). Fortunately, Subadai's laptop and bag are strapped to him, and he's strapped to the upper canopy/parachute.

Back on Vera Cruz, in the radar array command center, the Vargrs have found the door. First they send in some men with a battering ram, and discover that the door is designed to withstand a nuclear blast. They the nerve gas kills them. A second bunch of Vargrs are sent in, and they die. Shots are fired down the corridor, but that doesn't work. Then some Vargrs are sent in in vacc suits to pack the hallway full of explosives, with the intent of breaching the bunker door.

There is a tremendous explosion, but the door withstands the blast. Unfortunately, the armorcrete wall surrounding the door does not. After a while, Joe pulls himself out of the rubble, and goes towards the light. He figures out that he hasn't gone blind, his visor was just sandblasted. He is able to scrounge up some food and medical supplies, and then he departs the large crater. Does the word 'capture' ring a bell? There are apparently no other survivors left inside, and it's light outside (it was dark the last time he was awake). He takes what supplies he can scrounge, a big piece of rebar, and he heads off in the direction Viktor and the others went.

Back on Regina, Jimi Ray receives a registered letter. "Greetings!" The letter is addressed to Captain Jimi Ray Malary, ordering him to "report for temporary support position, until suitable replacement is found." To the 651st Band Unit of the 6th Marine Corps. It gives him the name of the ship to which he was supposed to report. He decides to call first, and is told that he was supposed to report "two days ago". Jimi: "I just got this!" Oh. That's the Regina mail for you (the letter has been opened repeatedly, and was apparently signed for by someone using the name 'Ramalama Lama'). Good thing he shows up, because he was listed as AWOL. And oh, by the way, the ship boosts in 30 minutes, so he'll have to be back in 15. Argh. He runs home, grabs his stuff, calls the landlord to let him know what's up, and dashes off to join the crew of the Ajax.

There are quite a few people on board the Ajax in line to check in at the same time as Jimi Ray. Most of them are making comments like "There's got to be some kind of mistake!" The other people have specialized skills, and it's obvious why they've been recalled. Jimi Ray's not sure why another member of the band is in such demand. Then he's reminded of life on board a Naval vessel for a Marine, who are parasites.

Jimi Ray finally gets to the front of the line, and is told to check in with Major Lynch, up in 'officer's country'. He gets there just as the ship lurches into jump. He reports in to Major Lynch, who checks Jimi Ray's number, and finds that while his name is on the manifest, it's not on the TO&E. Lynch calls some one else over, they check the computers, and find out that some one hacked into the computer system, and dropped Jimi Ray's name in. Funny, he didn't think he'd been on Regina long enough to make that kind of enemy. They'll see to it that Jimi Ray gets class A passage back when they get to the final destination, which is classified. They'll have to figure out what to do with him, since he's not down as having any assigned accommodations in the officer's section of the ship. And some one is looking for a Jimmy Ray Weseli (ah, that explains it; not to be confused with James Fitzpatrick Weseli) , which screws everyone up. Jimi Ray checks out his letter, and when he holds it up to the light, he can see where name on the letter was changed.

The ship is over capacity, and is carrying more than it's normal complement of Marines. They've installed modular units in one of the cargo bays, to pack in more grunts. Since Jimi Ray is a former captain, several levels of NCO's are displaced so that Jimi ends up in a four-person unit with three sergeants, who will be polite and give Jimi some space, since he was a captain. Jimi does get to dine with the Marine officers. He's considered to be sort of temporarily activated, for the duration. He 's subject to recall at any time any way, since he was an officer, and this way he gets paid.

Some weeks later, the announcement is made that they have arrived on Vera Cruz, which is an Imperial client state, in Vargr space. The general lay of the land is given, which involves replacing some troops and supporting the construction of a space port. Since Jimi Ray will be on Vera Cruz for a week, maybe, he can go down on the planet and kick back for a while. There are some Vargr insurgents, but it's not like it's going to be a stressful trip.

Jimi Ray is awaiting the trip down, playing some friendly poker, when all hell breaks loose. Alarms go off, bulkhead doors slam shut, fire everywhere - the buffered planetoid hits the Ajax with volley after volley of missiles. The third volley of missiles has a good mix of squash heads, to produce spallation. The sergeant near Jimi Ray is suddenly not there, except for his boots. He makes his way through the men so burned by radiation that they're already crisped and dead, they just don't know it. Then the 'abandon ship' alarm goes off. Jimi Ray had heard about this alarm previously, but he'd never actually heard one before. However, he understands what it means, and runs towards an escape pod that's filling up.

Jimi Ray ends up on the escape pod with a Navy Rating, and eight or ten other Marines. Jimi Ray is the only one unscathed, and he does what he can to make the injured men as comfortable as possible. The Rating is looking out the port hole, and there's a really, really bright light. The pod is hit by debris, repeatedly.

A couple of minutes later, the Rating quietly informs Jimi Ray that it appears the capsule has been damaged, and the drogue chute may be damaged. As Jim is the ranking officer, the Rating tells him. Jimi: "If you're a religious man, I'd suggest praying." Rating: "It could be just an electronic malfunction, or the drogue might have been hit. If it's the drogue..." There's nothing really they can do at this point. The Rating does cover up the red indicator lights, so the others don't get upset unnecessarily.

The first drogue chute does in fact deploy, and then pop free, as it should. The second one though, doesn't deploy. It keeps trying to, but it's not working. One of the Marines notices through a port hole, that there's a cable disconnected on the outside, and that's preventing the circuit from closing.

The Navy Rating gets strapped in to the seat frame, and goes out to try to fix the problem. He is able to get the cable connected, and at that second, the explosive bolts fire. This takes the Rating, his safety straps, most of the seats, and several Marines right out the open hatch. Bugger. One of the Marines sucked out gets stuck up in the open chute. He's only got one functional arm, so Jimi Ray straps himself to something more stable looking, and goes up to try to help. Just before Jimi Ray reaches him, the Marine loses his grip and falls. Then Jimi Ray notices his own safety line has frayed off, so he stays where he is.

The planet is getting bigger, as Jimi Ray watches. Then he notices some people on the planet. They're really small... Getting a bit bigger...They're brown little people...Brown...And furry...And they're pointing rifles straight up... Shit! Jimi gets back into the escape pod to avoid being shot. The pod does land, but there's a pack of armed Vargrs running for it. The other Marines are too injured to run, so Jimi has to leave them. He takes off at a run, with the Vargrs in hot pursuit (oh, he's running!).

Jimi Ray runs for the rest of the day, with the Vargrs chasing him. He eventually falls over partially in a small creek, and falls asleep from exhaustion. The Vargrs, all city boys evidently, miss him as they wander around with their flashlights. Jimi Ray holes up for a while, once he gets out of the immediate area.


Back at Dickie's house, Viktor is pacing on the balcony, and Max has been sort of sucked into the party. He has found an oversized comfy chair, and has fallen asleep. Geoff and the Swede are safely in bed, and Ezbeki is off asleep or whatever. Then all of a sudden, it sounds like the place has come under fire. Projectiles are breaking windows, and Viktor decides to head downstairs to find out what's going on.

What's actually going on is that the body pistols, tinned veggies, and fishie crackers are plummeting at a high rate of speed into Dickie's house. Before Viktor leaves the balcony, he looks up to see a dark figure attached to a parafoil, heading for the house. Ah, a commando raid. There are probably more that Viktor can't see. Just as the commando is about to drop onto Viktor, he dodges, so Subadai misses Viktor, heads into the window. Subadai braces for impact (although thinking "if I survive this, I bet they have food here"), which doesn't come, because the window's open, so he just takes out the screen.

Viktor leaps onto the "bad" guy, and they roll down into the house, and the main room. Max is woken up by a woman's drink (boy, that was cold) splashing over him as she screams and leaps up. He sees Viktor and some unknown person on the floor. Viktor easily disarms the man, as Subadai is not trying to fight back. Then Subadai is dragged backwards towards the door, and he tries to cut himself free. Viktor calmly leans over and pushes the chute release button.

Subadai opens the visor to say thank you. Viktor quickly closes the visor, as Subadai is extremely ripe smelling. Subadai turns on the speaker, and asks for food. Viktor takes him, at gun point, over to get cleaned up, away from the public. A servant assists, and offers to burn the used clothing. Subadai asks first to remove some of his belongings, so he takes out some veggies, fishie crackers, and several body pistols, and puts them into his bag.

Subadai is first hosed off, then taken to a real, proper, bathroom, with hot and cold running water, depilatory cream, and everything. Viktor puts a set of Subadai's hoarded clean clothing in to the room, so he'll have something to wear. After an hour or so, Subadai emerges, and is able to join the party. Dickie: " Good heavens, is that the same man?" Subadai: "I apologize for not being properly attired." Dickie: "Well, you're not one of those Vargrs the General has been telling us about." Subadai doesn't take them up on the alcohol (choosing to stick with tonic water), but he does eat anything that's not nailed down.

Viktor: "How did you get here?" Subadai: "I fell. A better question might be where am I?" Dickie: "Oh, you're a few miles from Freeport." Subadai: "But what system are we in?" Dickie: "The Vera Cruz system, although the Vargrs have another name for it." The story of the misjump is told, much to Dickie's delight, and Subadai is informed as the current date, so now he knows when and where he is.

Subadai is introduced all around, as he sips his tonic water. So he gets to meet Bertie, and Dickie, and Dorie, et al. The butler tries to take the SMG from Viktor, as he is "alarming the guests". But the guests would have to sober up for about eight hours before anything would alarm them.

Joe finds his way to the shack with Clem, Pa, and Rose are. Rose gets Joe cleaned up, and treats his bruises and scrapes. Rose: "My, you are a big one. I bet you could do with some hot food, and a soft bed." Joe says grace, and compliments the cooking (Rose does a good job with what she has). After dinner, Rose 'retires', to leave the men folk to 'take a touch', and palaver. Joe can sack out in the loft. Joe: "That's not going to put you out will it?" Pa: "Nope. Maybe some day we'll meet up again, and I'll need a bed." Joe does his best to be a good guest.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Joe wakes up. He's not alone. It's definitely not a Vargr. Part of Joe's anatomy woke up before the rest of him - the visitor is Rose, of course. Joe is very gallant, and Rose tells him about Pa's "accident", and her own needs... The expected activities take place.

Joe is woken up by Pa, and after a few seconds, Joe realizes that Rose isn't there, so his heart restarts. Pa has come to get Joe's help, so he can earn his keep. Off they go to tend the animals, in the early darkness of the morning.

Elsewhere, Jimi Ray is making his way through the countryside, when he hears an engine approaching. He hides, and watches as a Vargr stops (but doesn't turn off) his monocycle, then goes to water the bushes. Jimi Ray steals the monocycle, and gets away before the Vargr can get off an accurate shot (made more difficult by the evasive action as Jimi Ray gets used to the feel of the cycle. Jimi Ray makes good time, although he's not really sure where he's going. The cycle eventually runs out of gas, so Jimi stashes it, and sleeps through the night.

Morning comes... Jimi Ray is awoken by the smell of bacon, and coffee. Now that gets his attention! Jimi Ray emerges from the treeline, to where Joe is chopping wood while Pa feeds the animals. Jimi Ray approaches, in his Marine captain's fatigues, and inquires rather pitifully about food, since he's been chased all over the place by angry Vargrs. Jimi gets put to work too, and then the men go inside.

Pa introduces Rose to the new guest, and everyone tucks in to a true farmer's breakfast. Pure heaven. And from Rose's point of view, it's raining men! After some discussion, Joe tells them that he's looking to catch up with some friends. He describes Viktor and Max, and Pa tells him that yes, they were there. Rose gets an interesting look in her eyes, and says something about "Oh yes, Max was here." Joe feels so used.

Before going up to bed, Viktor goes outside to pick up Subadai's chute. He apparently doesn't need to, as it has disintegrated. Okay, he's definitely a spook! Viktor does find the jet pack though, and takes it inside. Viktor will get some sleep that night. By that time, Max has already gone to bed, and to sleep. Alone. Subadai goes to bed eventually too, as do the other guests, as dawn is lightening the sky.

198, 1122.