"The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote." -- Ambassador Kosh

235 - 1122.

Late in the evening, after curfew, in the secret apartments of Ahmed's cousin Azul. Ahmed has just arrived with Lily, Mikie, and the Prince. Food and wine is brought to the new 'guests. This means that only Treal is missing from the merry band.

Speaking of Treal, while the others were having their little adventure with the Ardenians, he was in the back of the limo with a couple of Esterhazy's men and a guard and driver from the Arden group. Treal tries to explain that he's "not with these guys", but the guard just tells him to "Shut up", and smacks him. Treal continues to protest, which acts as a distraction, allowing Esterhazy's man to cold cock the driver, who slumps forward. Then Treal gets into it with the guard, slamming him up the side of the head and stunning him (the gun does not go off). One of Esterhazy's men says: "Oh, shit!" and dives onto the floor, followed by Treal.

There's a big crash, and the limo is suddenly a convertible. The guard and the other Lyrian are now headless, but Treal and the other Lyrian are only lightly banged up (Treal's arm has a bit of a gash, and the Lyrian has a couple of cracked ribs). They grab weapons from the dead guards and leap out. The limo rammed into a semi, parked at a truck stop. Treal is running for the state run store, while the Lyrian fires at the controls for the gas pumps, as a distraction for the approaching police. Treal is trying to get his hands on a lighter inside, but gets into an argument with the shotgun armed owner. The owner wants money, or Treal's watch, but Treal has no money, and the watch was a gift from his father, so Treal tells him to just give him what he wants or "my partner will blow up your gas station." Owner: "Yeah right, like I'm going to take my eyes off you". From outside: BOOM! The owner goes down, Treal grabs the sawed-off shotgun, and fires at the police cars through what were the windows prior to that explosion, while the Lyrian outside is using a gas hose that's firing flaming gas at the cop cars. The driver of a large truck leaps out and starts running. The sign on the truck reads: "Apex Mining Supply". Oh-oh.

Treal dodges an oncoming, out of control police car, then decides to steal the Apex truck before it's blown up. Treal figures that if the truck goes up in the fire, there's no way he can be far enough away in time. The Lyrian manages to catch up and drag himself into the cab too. As they speed away around the corners, boxes fall out of the back of the truck. Looks like they're carrying big tubes of red Jell-O. Lyrian: "What's 'gelignite'?" Treal: "A type of dynamite, buddy." Lyrian: "Really? I thought dynamite came in paper tubes?" Treal: "Well, not this form." They continue on, until they reach a police road block. Treal is just going to downshift, but they pull up a large tracked vehicle with a big 'dozer blade on the front across the road behind the police cars too. Treal tries to cut around the corner of a building, and ends up with the trailer of the truck against the north side of a building, and the cab around the corner on the east side. Treal is fortunate to not be badly injured when he's thrown through the front windshield. Esterhazy's man, Karl, picks Treal up and they run off, dodging gunfire. Some of the boxes have spilled out of the back of the open truck and are laying on the street.

Karl pulls Treal into a brick building, with a bunch of typists in it. His plan is to cut through the building and out the other side. Treal realizes that all the typists are wearing the same uniform. The same blue, police-like uniforms. Yes, they are in the police station. Treal fires out of the doorway, trying to hit one of the spilled boxes of gelignite while Karl covers the typists. After a few missed shots, there is a series of small explosions, immediately followed by a really big explosion. It goes dark for a few minutes. That would be the brick building collapsing on them.

Across the Down Port, during their own fight, Shaw, Ghaer, et al feel the ground shake. Karl digs Treal out, hands him the shotgun, and they take off staggering. Bitchin' distraction, guys. And they blend in with all the other staggering people. Karl puts Treal into a car, and they drive off at high speed, with sirens blaring. After a few minutes, Karl turns of the police car's siren. Karl: "Well, where to now?" Treal: "I don't know! I'm not part of the revolution." The car engine suddenly shuts down, red lights flash on the dash, and all the doors lock. Karl: "Damn!" Treal blows a door open with the shotgun, and they take off on foot again.

It's not what you'd call a "nice" neighborhood, but no one hangs around to see what happens when the cops arrive at the squad car. Treal and Karl wrap up their weapons in newspaper, and go into the first drinking establishment they get to. Treal orders a pitcher of beer. Bartender: "We don't want no trouble here." Treal: "I don't want any trouble anywhere." Treal pays for the beer with a $50 credit note, which disappears quickly. Bartender: "You must be those foreign terrorists the police are looking for." Treal: "You know, you can't believe everything you hear." A few seconds later, several of the leather-coated secret policemen come in and give everyone the once over. Cop <to Treal>: "You. I haven't seen you here before. What is your name?" Bartender: "Ah, this is my cousin Petrov. He's from Telsin." Cop: "Let me see your papers." Bartender: "You don't need to see his papers." The bartender pours the cops a couple of drinks at a table, and they leave shortly thereafter, with a bottle as a souvenir. Bartender: "Bloodsuckers." Treal inquires as to where they might be able to get local clothing, and they are given the directions for a local black market. They use the bathroom in the bar to clean some of the dust and blood off themselves before departing.

They make their way through the drab neighborhood, over near the docks. Karl: "It's times like this that I wish I had visited the old country." In other words, Karl is just as lost as Treal. Treal: "I thought you hired on for this?" Karl: "I volunteered for this. We are to free our brethren from these oppressors. Although I'm not certain just what it is we'll be winning back." Karl isn't the naive kids the Prince has left all wide-eyed and romantic. But he's not too far behind.

They get to the market, with their 'fishing poles' in hand. They pick up some local clothing, and Treal discovers just how far Imperial credits will go at an exchange rate of 100 zloties to 1 credit. They buy some fairly nice clothing (people who look like they have money are less likely to be hassled), including two long leather, secret policeman coats, one of the grey military uniforms, a bag for the guns, and a hacksaw to shorten the shotguns' length. Karl gets a couple of addresses for places that one might find lodging and company; he is given several addresses, which he throws down the drain when they are out of sight. Just in case.

They walk on for a while and locate a cab. The driver is very friendly, and is willing to help the tourists find whatever they are in need of - women, etc. The driver notices that Treal and Karl don't appear to be from 'around here'. He asks if they have heard about the incident in the Port? Driver: "They say it was off-worlders who had been taken captive by the secret police, and who escaped in a blaze of gun fire. It is rumored that they lost a very important prisoner." Treal asks about a discreet place to stay, etc. The driver has a cousin "he is very discreet, and his rates are not too unreasonable." The driver looks at Treal, asks "you have need of a doctor, perhaps? You have injured yourselves?" Treal: "I'm sorry, am I bleeding on your seat?" They are taken to an apartment building, a bookshelf is opened, and Treal and Karl are led to one of the rooms. So everyone is all in the same place, they just don't know it yet.

Azul knocks softly at the room where Ghaer and the others are staying, to let them know there are some other guests. "Not to worry - everyone who stays here is discreet." Shaw has been contemplating what to do about Ghaer's rather distinct appearance, and asks Azul if he can get some black hair dye. A lot of it. Azul may be able to do this, but he's a bit confused. Mikie tells Azul that they are still missing one of their party members, and describes Treal. Azul: "I'll see what I can do. There will be bribes to be paid of course..." Mikie: "Do you need seed money?" Azul: "About $100 credits should do." Shaw: "I'll split it with you, Mikie." Azul gets $50 credits from each of them, and leaves, promising to do "what he can."

Shaw takes Watson into the bathroom. (The others have had time to get cleaned up already.) Shaw makes his features more 'local' looking, with what little disguise equipment he has inside Watson's little compartment. He also tries to fix up the little cosmetic damage that Watson has sustained. Neither one of them will pass really close inspection, but it's something. Shaw brushes Watson a bit, so he looks less mangy, once he comes out of the bathroom.

Abdullah pays a house call, and medics Treal and Karl. Treal gives Abdullah $1000 credits in gold, for him and for his brother's lodging. Abdullah: "But it is illegal for an individual to own gold. Thank you." The gold vanishes.

Treal sees Azul come down the stairs with a bag containing a bunch of hair color boxes. A bunch of locals come down the stairs, and Treal can hear them whispering about "Is he here?" "Is it true?" "It's the prophecy fulfilled." "We must see him, we must make plans." Treal goes over and knocks on the door next to him. Azul tries to stop him, but the Prince announces "Ah, our friend Treal is here" and opens the door. Then the Prince has to deal with people trying to kneel and kiss his ring. The Prince really tries to discourage this. Really.

No no, you may not come in here!" Then Azul is seen backing up, hands raised, followed by a Pikhan with a big gun, followed by two more Pikhans carrying the power pack. They're here to make sure Shaw was updated on the status of the ship. It will now have to be moved down to a dry dock facility, for major repairs. Seems the Pikhans started 'repairing' the engines, actually improving them, and them stopped halfway. The ship will need six to eight months of engine rebuilding before it's ready. Oh, and the Pikhans have also heard that the secret police have had to send for reinforcements, as they only have a small local contingent, and they are currently outnumbered by the Prince's men. Hmmm. Shaw <to Ghaer>: "I told you I didn't want to get involved with this revolution." Henry: ""You guys weren't hard to find at all." Shaw: "How did you find us?" Henry: "Easy. We just followed the trackers on you and Watson." Argh. Shaw wants the trackers removed. Watson's is easy, but if Shaw wants to get rid of his, he'll have to swallow something to dissolve the adhesive that's attached to the wall of his stomach, and then an emetic to get rid of the bug itself. Lovely. The Pikhans can do a bit of repair work on Watson though. Bill offers to add a couple of extra legs and such, but is discouraged from doing so. Henry: "We brought lots of Regen™ with us." Shaw: "Pikhan Regen™?" Henry: "Well, yeah."

Yes, you say my organization has been penetrated, and I believe it's so, but I cannot distrust everyone." There is a bit of an argument over what should be done, and where. The Prince doesn't want to make his move on Tremous Dex, as it's a 'thrall world', and that would leave the bulk of the Arden military forces intact. The Prince is going to go off and consult with some people for a couple of hours while the rest of the party rests.

Before the Prince leaves, Mikie asks to speak with him, so they go off to one side. Mikie: "You said that you would have all the funding necessary for your revolution. Do you have it here?" Prince: "Not here, but nearby. The people's only hope now is the Lyrian treasury. Suffice it to say, when my grandfather fled, he took with him enough resources to allow us to come back some day." Mikie: "You said that the Confederacy was getting help from the Zhodani. Are they likely to have people here?" Prince: "I would expect so, wouldn't you? Now I must go - we will speak again. Try to get some rest my friend." More of the simple native food is brought in. There isn't a lot of meat in it, but it's hearty. The Prince leaves.

Treal wants to take the opportunity to find a smuggler and "blow this popsicle stand". Shaw is all for that, Mikie signed on to go with Treal, and Ghaer will go along to try to keep Mikie and Treal out of trouble (fat chance of that). As for Lily, she wants to go with Col. Shaw, and while the Prince seems to mean well, "I think his well-meaningness is going to get him killed." She's probably right. Mikie: "The Prince thinks that there may be some Zhodani agents on planet." Ghaer: "Oh, great." Mikie <to Shaw>: "If we do run into Zhodanis, that toy of yours is going to get you targeted right quick." Shaw: "I know. I'm used to it."

236 - 1122.

Azul is summoned. It's the middle of the night, but he is convinced about waking up his nephew Ibed, who has a semi. Ibed is convinced to provide transport, but it will cost $1 credit per person, per mile. Ibed pulls up shortly thereafter, with his reefer truck. Fortunately, it's cooling from his earlier meat delivery, so it will be nice and pleasant inside. A bleary-eyed, unhappy looking man pulls up. He asks for $100 credit minimum per person, and Treal tells him he can "go back to bed." Ibed says "Okay", and starts to drive off, but Mikie tells Ibed that he'll cover the minimum. Treal rides in the sleeper part of the cab.

The truck is stopped at the entrance to the port, but a bit of fast talking and $100 credits from Treal takes care of that. The truck is parked amid several dozen other nearly identical trucks. Ibed gets out and goes to the diner, taking the truck keys with him.

Treal: "Okay, now we need to find a smuggler." Or rather, some one with more streetwise than Treal will have to find a smuggler. "Hey guys!!" It's the Pikhans, again. They've almost got the repairs finished on the liner. This is too big a ship for Shaw to crew by himself, so Treal tells them that they "need to find a smaller ship". The Pikhans respond with "Okay, we need a couple more days to finish fixing the ship, and then we'll help you find a smaller ship." Treal: "That's fine." The Pikhans, blissfully unaware, leave.

There follows a little incident involving two dock workers who mistake Lily for a different sort of entertainer. Treal gets a bit bruised before Ghaer makes a comment about "Abdul will kill all of us!" That changes things quite quickly, and the group gets away when Abdul's limo shows up. Then it's into a bar to find a discreet ride.

The usual song and dance with an unsavory gentleman who has a 150 ton extended hull Delta Research Scout Courier. He's willing to take the group one jump (Treal didn't tell him that they only need to go to the asteroid belt). After many comments about avoiding "customs", and how the secret police are looking for a group of off-worlders remarkably like this one, a sum of $100,000 credits is given. No one has that much cash, of course, so Treal considers getting the Pikhans to unload some of the guns from the liner. The pilot is fueled and ready to go right away. The pilot suddenly moves to the bar, to avoid the group being seen together by the two secret police in leather coats who just came in.

There's a really nervous man who's at a table, sweating and clutching his briefcase. The cops head for him, he shoots them with the two SMGs hidden in the case. The cops are gunned down, the man yells "Long live the revolution!", and dashes outside. Directly after that, the police car explodes. Treal hurriedly arranges an agreement to trade guns for passage, and then everyone leaves the bar, including the bartender, before the secret police show up.

Treal is going to try to bluff his way past the security and surveillance around the liner, and when they go inside the ship, it's very crowded, and a couple of the guys yell "Hey, Treal!" It's some of Esterhazy's men. They tell Treal he doesn't want to be there, since the place is crawling with secret police, and the ship's drives aren't working. Treal tells them that the ship will be fixed in about a day and a half, and then goes on about how the plans have changed, Esterhazy is in the hospital, and will need picking up. He isn't terribly successful in convincing them to let him take one of the cargo containers off, without permission from the Prince or Colonel Esterhazy.

Mikie doesn't want to leave the pilot, Malcolm, alone, since he's already met the group, and Ghaer suggests Lily might prove an appropriate distraction. Lily: "Okay, but he better not try anything, or I'll rip his balls off. He doesn't need them to fly." Mikie will stay with the pilot and Lily, to make sure no one dies. Unnecessarily. Ghaer will stay with them too, since he's kind of distinctive looking.

Shaw and Treal go speak with the Pikhans, who are merrily fixing things. But they have taken the time to make a blue blazer with an artificial white carnation for Shaw. The jacket is heavily armored, the buttons are mini-grenades, and the carnation fires tranq. Naturally, it can't just be a jacket. The Pikhans are convinced to go along with the 'secret plan', and get a cargo container of guns out of the ship by moving around a bunch of the pods in the interest of "redistributing the load" so the ship doesn't list to port. The Lyrians fall for it.

The cargo pod is taken into the engineering section, then moved down to the tarmac. A pallet jack can be acquired down there. The next part of the secret plan is for the Pikhans to glue the secret police inside their vehicles or something, to prevent them from interfering. Shaw puts on the blue blazer long enough for the Pikhans to "get the message", then he will go with Henry to deliver the cargo pod to the smuggler's ship berth. Shaw doesn't want to know what the Pikhans are doing with the surveillance vans and the hose, and he also doesn't watch while Henry drives the powered pallet jack like a bat out of hell.

In the restaurant, Lily is being wined and dined, and Mikie and Ghaer are nearby. Then the Prince walks in, goes over to Malcolm, and has a few words with him. The Prince then walks over to Mikie. Prince: "Mr. Griffin. I see our plans may have overlapped." Mikie: "I don't make the plans, so I'm not the person to ask." Prince: "I hope you haven't picked up your Pikhans' proclivity for changing sides?" Mikie: "And which side is it I'm supposed to have changed from?" Prince: "Point taken. I may need your assistance. Not for what you think. Considering what has happened, the element of surprise is certainly lost. I will not send my people into a bloodbath. I have told them that the time is not now, they must be patient. At the request of my officers, I have agreed to leave Arden space. I know you have no interest in the cause, but perhaps we might share transportation." Mikie: "That depends on where and when you want to leave." Prince: "The sooner the better. In four hours time, there will be a distraction. We know that a call has gone out for the reinforcements for the secret police to attack the starport in force. My men will break out and head for the forests." Ghaer: "What about the liner?" The Prince still thinks it won't be ready for months, but Mikie explains that the Pikhans say now it will be ready tomorrow. Prince: "Can this be true? Is it possible?" Mikie: "If they say they can do it, they can. It's what they do." Ghaer helps to explain what the Pikhans are like in this regard. Ghaer wants to know what plans the Prince has made to cover up his departure, since even the Arden secret police should be able to figure out he's on board a ship if they can't find him. What has been leaked to the person they know is a traitor, is that the Prince will be leaving by ground car and heading out into the hinterland to meet up with some hard core old family supporters. These people really do exist, so it would not be out of the ordinary.

When Shaw and Henry get the pod to the berth, Henry points out the "guys who've been watching you." There's a small group of well-dressed secret police men, and two Zhodani adepts. Everyone except Henry gets away from Shaw, and the Zho's approach. One of the adepts inquires as to whether or not Shaw is "from Regina? You remind me of some one I have encountered several times." Shaw: "I haven't been to Regina for some time." Henry: "How come you guys wear those turbans? Do you have some kind of apparatus under there?" Adept: "It's just that you remind me of an acquaintance of mine, a Mr. White. Are you perhaps a relative?" Shaw: "Not that I'm aware of." Adept: "That's an interesting earring you have there." Shaw: "You think so?" Adept: "Where did you get it?" Shaw: "On Regina, some time ago. From one of those street vendors." Adept: "Is that so? I'd be willing to purchase it." Shaw: "Yeah? For how much?" Adept: " Oh, shall we say, ten thousand?" Shaw: "Really? I only paid ten credits for it." Adept: "The offer still stands." Shaw: "Can you wait for me to get off shift? It'll just be an hour." Adept: "You my friend, are either very stupid or very brave. And you are no dock worker. Not with those hands. Not with those nails. I think my friends will want to have a conversation with you. They are looking for some off-planet terrorists, and if you are not the right person, then I'm sure it can be straightened out eventually." Shaw: "Are you going to arrest me?" Adept: "They are going to arrest you. I am going to remove that earring, and then I'm going to suck you dry." Shaw raises his hands as if to surrender, planning on using his Eggsterminator® to take out both Zhodani. If he's really, really, lucky.

He's not that lucky. One of the adepts drops after being shot by shaw with the Eggsterminator®. Treal shotguns one of the secret policemen (surprising them), and the other adept hits Shaw in the throat, knocking him to the ground. Treal fires again at the cops, hitting a second one, as they are scrambling to get their guns out of their holsters. The adept rolls Shaw over, going for his earring. Shaw swings on him, but only grazes the adept with his hand. The adept grabs Shaw's psi-shield earring, and the ear, and rips all of the former, and part of the latter off of Shaw. Treal takes out the third cop, who definitely wasn't very quick on the draw and the fourth cop panics and turns to run. Henry, at this point, whacks the adept on the top of the head with a rifle from the cargo pod. The adept does not go down, but he sure felt that. The fourth cop takes off running before Treal can get a shot at him, so Treal switches targets to the second adept, shooting him in the calf, and just missing Shaw. As the adept falls to the ground, Henry leaps down and really whacks the Zho with the rifle, knocking him out cold. Shaw staggers to his feet, and retrieves his ear and his earring. He calls Watson over, gets the dose of mem-wipe out of Watson, and uses it on the Zhodani. Shaw finds a small case containing several capsules on the Zho, so he takes them, believing that they are psi-drugs. What he's going to do with them, is another issue.

All this action has convinced the Prince's men that now is the time for them to break out, so the shooting starts up in earnest as they disembark from the liner. Gunfire all over the place. Treal doesn't care what's going on, he's taking the pallet of guns into the smuggler's ship, while behind him several hundred men in green with shoulder-mounted rockets and machine-guns are firing on a few dozen secret police.

The windows in the restaurant blow in, and people dive for floor. Mikie: "I think now would be a good time to head for your ship." Malcolm: "What the hell is going on!??" Mikie <a bit more clearly>: "I think now would be a good time to head for your ship." Malcolm: "No kidding." Mikie <to the Prince>: "Come on, let's go." They head out the back door, trying to avoid the battle that's broken out, the Lyrians taking local cops (non-secret) captive, and all that sort of stuff. The Prince has decided that since his men have taken the starport, that he will stay and go out with his men back to the Imperium. The Prince definitely needs to learn that "no plan ever survives contact with the enemy".

It will take five days to get to the coordinates in the asteroid belt. A couple of days into the trip, several ships will be observed jumping out of system (probably the Prince's people). When the group arrives at the coordinates, the pilot reports that a bunch of ships have jumped into system - probably the Arden military reinforcements, but they probably won't spot this small a ship where it is.

The ship has two weeks of air and consumables, once it arrives into the asteroid belt. Malcolm asks what they're looking for out here, and despite all the hemming and hawing, he eventually picks up on the fact that it's the Lyrian treasure. He finds this incredibly funny. Treal points out that Malcolm shouldn't care why the people who are paying him are there. Malcolm: "Good point. The customer is always right."

And now for the needle in the haystack part...