"We who are about to die, are going to take one hell of a lot of the bastards with us."
-- Joel Rosenberg, "The Silver Crown"

206 - 1122.

Back on the bloody battlefield, unaware of the plans afoot, the victorious Vargrs are sweeping up. They're a bit concerned about the Imperial troops who escaped the bombardment. A Vargr officer is exhorting his men to "be careful. A large number of Imperial forces escaped the rain of fire, and may return." Geoff hears this, as the Vargrs are checking the survivors, in hopes of finding officers. The other wounded (or not wounded) Imperials are being dispatched, but as Geoff is a captain, he and 'Colonel' Ezbeki are among those medicked (enough to keep them alive), and loaded on a transport ship. Geoff recognizes McGonnigal, who has his hands and arms bandaged due to severe burns.

The prisoners are chained down to the floor of the transport ship by at least one of their ankles. Geoff is checking to see how much slack he has - not much. But he's looking for something he can use to his advantage. Nothing presents itself. The assault boat lifts, and eventually Geoff feels the grav compensators kick in. After a long flight, the ship docks, and the prisoners are eventually taken out of the ship into an absolutely huge hangar. It may be the inside of the planetoid, but Geoff can't tell.

There are hundreds of regular Vargrs, and three of the silver Vargrs. The prisoners are divided up by rank and locked into cells. Geoff is in a cell with a bunch of captains and a major or two. Geoff feels very sorry for the colonels locked up with Ezbeki and McGonnigal. And Ezbeki had a potential weapon in his head. The men with Geoff are not in good shape. Some were evidently injured in the latest battle, but others have injuries that were obviously the result of beatings. A couple of guards toss in some 'scraps', which are pounced upon.

Geoff can tell from the somewhat 'unfinished' walls of the cell that they are in fact inside the planetoid. There's some moisture on the far wall - could be just condensation, or the cell could be near the fuel tanks. The Vargrs are keeping the room at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are no blankets. So, it's time to huddle together for warmth; since most of the men in the cell are Marines, this is not an issue. The new Army prisoners turn down the meat and rolls (or what passes for it), so their rations are passed along. They'll be changing their minds after a day or two. Major Burns introduces himself and the other prisoners to the new arrivals. Burns is in charge of the escape committee, and he'll brief Geoff and the others on the current plan.

207 - 1122.

On board the ship in the forest...

During the night, Peabody and Skeeter set up the nukes on the dropship. Viktor goes with them to brief them on the plan. Peabody <surprised>: "We have a plan?" Viktor tells him about the conversation between Max and the Vargr. Peabody: "Well, I figured we'd be able to make the first part of the trip; it's the second half that worries me." Viktor goes over the plan so far: Peabody and Viktor will have a public falling out over the disposition of the prisoner, and Peabody will leave, taking Skeeter and Plexo with him. In reality, they will hide inside the dropship, with breathing apparatus, just in case. The nukes are set up to go, with the timers set for 30 minutes. Peabody gives Viktor one of the arming keys, and they go over the procedure.

On the way back to the ship, they decide to start working on their little 'falling out' gambit. Peabody isn't too comfortable with it, but Skeeter goes way overboard and runs with his part. Skeeter: "...And I'm sick of that gash wife of yours ragging on us..." Okay, that's it. The fight is on now, and Skeeter is warming to the subject a bit too much. Viktor: "Look, you just keep your men under control. If I want to space the prisoner, I'll space the damn prisoner, and there's not a damned thing you can do about it." The room goes quiet as Katarina enters to catch part of the "...syphillated whore" comment. Katarina: "I'm sorry, am I interrupting?" Max tries to steer her out of the room. Viktor: "That's it Peabody. You get your men off this ship before I have the lot of them brought up on charges. And if I see his <indicating Skeeter> miserable face again, I won't be responsible for my actions."

Peabody snaps under the pressure and hits Skeeter, then realizes what he's done. Peabody: "Uh-oh." He drops to the floor as the sound barrier is broken by Skeeter's right cross. Skeeter misses Peabody, but Viktor isn't quite fast enough. Skeeter pulls his punch at the last minute, so Viktor isn't damaged all that much, but boy does he feel it.

Max loses possession of the Countess as she leaps onto Skeeter and attempts to claw his eyes out. Viktor pulls her off as things are yelled back and forth. Including Peabody yelling "And don't think I don't know about that Vargr you murdered and buried out in the woods!" Viktor: "What?" The Army guys storm out, taking Plexo the sniper, and Fido.

Viktor: "Max, are you about ready to take off in the dropship?" Max: "Yes sir." Viktor: "Good. Get a few hours rest, then we'll move everything over." Viktor goes off with Katarina, and explains about the street theatre. Ah. She does wish Viktor had told her before she attacked Skeeter.

Max pays a visit to the silver Vargr, to discuss the plan. The Vargr will provide the passwords and frequency when the time comes. Vargr: "I don't want to have an unfortunate airlock accident just after takeoff. It wouldn't be to my advantage, now would it?" Max: "It won't be to your advantage for the ship you're on to be blown up either." Vargr: "Of course not. When the time comes, you'll have the information. Now if I could get some food and drink?" Max brings him something. Vargr: "Thank you. I'm sure you'll enjoy spending the ten megacredits you've so rightly earned. Now I think I'll take a little nap." He sprawls out comfortably, secure in his arrangement, since what kind of idiot would turn down 10 megacredits; besides, the Vargr has promised to see to it that enough misinformation leaks out to make it seem that Max is a hero, so he'll get a boost to his career, money, and a pretty woman on his arm. Who could resist? (Nothing like using a person's prejudices against them.)

Several hours later, the people and belongings are moved from the Far Trader to the dropship. The thing flies like a truck, but what do you expect from a Marine vehicle? The ship is pinged almost immediately upon leaving atmosphere. Udokso: "They want our flight information and passcode." Max goes to the prisoner to get the code. Vargr: "Tell them you're 'special transport blue', and the passcode is" an unpronounceable Vargr word. That's what Udokso is for. Vargr: "They'll be a second code once you dock." Max carefully places one of the emergency respirators behind the Vargr.

Everything goes pretty much according to plan (not hard when you don't have much of a plan to begin with), and the dropship reaches the planetoid. Udokso: "They've issued us instructions to dock there, where the lights are flashing, and they want the second authentication code. Also, they say since we are a 'special transport', they want to speak with our 'passenger'." Max: "Bring him up." The Vargr speaks at length with the silver Vargr on the com, losing Udokso as they switch to a dialect unlike his own. In the mean time, Viktor has put Katarina and Vasilli into one of the two ship's lockers, to keep them as safe as possible.

The ship docks without incident. Instead of tranqing the passengers on the ship, the Vargrs turn the gravs up, to about five times normal, then several Vargrs in battledress show up (it's the only way they can overcome the gravity). Once the prisoners are secured, the gravity is turned back to normal. Viktor struggles briefly, more for show, against his combat armored captor, but is restrained. Vargr <to guards>: "I believe you will find the General's lovely wife and child in that ship's locker over there. And just in case, search the other one." Katarina <from the back>: "How dare you manhandle me!" She kicks one of the unarmored Vargrs, who yelps and keeps his distance. Vargr: "I suspect that the General Field Marshall will want to see to the General himself." Guard: "Nothing in the other ship's locker, sir, just the woman and child." Vargr <to Viktor>: "Well, as much as I'd like to handle this myself, I suppose I'll have to turn you over to someone more competent. I'm sorry I won't be there. I'll see to it that your lieutenant is taken care of."

One of the minor Vargrs comes up and lights the silver Vargr's cigar. Vargr: "Well, I'd like to stay and chat, but duty calls and all that. Oh, Max, please." He gestures. Vargr: "Yes, I just wanted you to know that your friend here betrayed you." Viktor lunges for Max, but is stopped and restrained at the last minute. Vargr: "Yes, it hurts, doesn't it General? Knowing that some one you trusted has sold you out? I understand how that feels." The Vargr then takes one of the guard's handguns and aims it at Max. Vargr: "And if there's one thing I can't abide, it's traitors." Max, knowing full well that the pistol in the full flap holster he's wearing is currently decorative, does nothing. Viktor: "If you're going to shoot him, let me do it. Let me kill him." A few tense moments later, the Vargr lowers his weapon. Vargr: "Not to worry Max, I can't abide traitors, but a deal's a deal. Besides, I'm sure there are others of your ilk hiding among your fellow officers, so you may still be of some use to us." The Vargr gestures over a guard with a pallet of ammo cans that appear to be very heavy. Vargr: "The agreed upon amount, in Dakars." Max: "I appreciate that you're a Vargr of your word, but I'm supposed to carry this back how?" Vargr: "We've arranged for transport. A small package trader, who's been selling to both sides. You're to be returned to an appropriate location in Imperial space. Oh, just for your information, we have tapes of your activities. Your fellow Imperials will view you as a traitor should they see them, and then there's the payment itself - very damaging. We wish to continue our relationship with you." Max: "A mutually beneficial relationship." Vargr: "Of course. I'm sure that some one with your liaison skills will soon find themselves in another position with a staff officer. You can be of great use to us in your new position. And once we have taken our rightful place as the superior species in the sector, we will need human administrators to interact with your kind. I think you'll find a position as one of our intermediaries not without benefits. And as promised, we have arranged for the Countess to be placed on board the ship before you leave. What about the larva? Shall I take care of it for you?" Max: "I think it should go with her, for now." Vargr: "We'll leave that to you then."

Max is escorted over to a group of other humans, evidently the other cooperative humans. He is greeted by them as a 'comrade', and Max does recognize one person: the commander of the Fletcher (Amanda's ship), Captain Riddle. Riddle: "Have a seat son, you look like hell." It may be good news that Riddle is here, in that the Fletcher may be in one piece still. Or, it might mean that he sold out his ship, and that would not bode well for the crew.

In the cells... Burns has been off with the Vargrs and he's not in good shape when he's returned. He has burn marks on his temples, but he apparently didn't tell them anything. Late at night, a couple of guards shine lights into the cell, looking very nervous. All Geoff can decipher is that they're worried about some one named "Ezbeki". Burns: "Looks like one of our boys got out." Ezbeki. It figures.

Viktor is taken to a special cell, and stripped of all his gear. A human comes in and tells Viktor that "the Over General wishes to see you. You must make yourself presentable." The valet person leads Viktor to the fresher, and has a freshly ironed Marine uniform waiting for him when he's cleaned up. It's one of Viktor's own uniforms, in fact, no doubt part of the loot from the former governor's mansion that the Androchevs were using.

Once spruced up, Viktor is taken through the winding tunnels to a very nice part of the planetoid. He ends up in the personal quarters of the oh so charming Over General. He speaks flawless Galanglic, and is surprised to find that "the infamous Bulldog" is not "as rabid" as the press would leave people to believe. Viktor isn't going for the "we're just fellow generals here", so the Over General gets to the point, asking Viktor to help him stop all the "senseless violence" due to the Imperial personnel not surrendering. Viktor is about to respond to the "foofy" General (from Viktor's point of view, at any rate) when another one of the silver Vargrs bursts in, trailing a regular Vargr aid, who is protesting that "the Over General does not wish to be disturbed!". A bit late for that.

The new player is a really huge silver Vargr, who resembles a dire or werewolf. Nothing even vaguely friendly looking about this one. Over General Gorven sighs and 'introduces' Ground Forces Commander, General Field Marshall Luknargh. Viktor: "So this would be the general who sacrifice his infantrymen." Luknargh strides across the room, looking very much like a big, rabid werewolf and grabs Viktor by the throat. Luknargh: "Remember where you are, monkey boy. I could snap your neck like a twig." Gorven: "Direct, yet somewhat unsophisticated." Luknargh <to Gorven>: "I don't know why the Council even sent you here, you posturing catamite. You can't deal with these humans, they must be crushed!" He goes on like this, ranting about "cities in flames, women crying, children rounded up and taken to camps." Fortunately for Viktor, Luknargh has released his throat by this point. Luknargh: "You want to give this monkey boy entertainment? I'll show him entertainment. Come with me." He drags Viktor by the shirt out into the hall. Luknargh: "I'll show you how we will deal with you Imperial monkey boys. Open that one up!" He indicates a cell - Geoff's. The prisoners are ordered out into the hallway, where Geoff sees Viktor, a number of Vargrs armed with truncheons, and two silver Vargrs - one in a silk dressing gown, with brandy in one hand, and a volume of Proust in the other (Gorven, the civilized one); the second Vargr is in a blood red dress uniform, is huge, and has evidently never had his distemper shots.

Guard: "All twenty-one prisoners accounted for, sir." Geoff, figuring something bad is about to happen, goes for the nearest guard, grabs him from behind, and heads for one of the Vargrs who are armed with a gun, using the first Vargr as a shield. There is a loud bang, and Geoff is shot in the left knee by Gorven. Viktor's thoughts: "Okay, so he's a crack shot foofy general." Gorven: "Have that prisoner attended to, then put him in solitary." So much for the prison break. Geoff is hauled off, disappointed in his fellow Marines. Viktor does recognize one or two of the other prisoners. Luknargh: "That one at least had some spine. Sergeant." The other prisoners are gunned down and killed.

Meanwhile, Max wants to speak with Riddle. Riddle: "You look like a smart kid. We've been looking around, and I'll bring you up to speed." Riddle' spin on the situation is that he's just been pretending to cooperate with the Vargrs. The captain apparently excels at rationalization. Max lets him talk, hoping to find out more information about the Fletcher's crew. (Okay, about Amanda.)

Luknargh <to Viktor>: "I see you approve. You like your war raw and uncensored. This is a game for adults. There is no room for honor or niceties. It's we destroy you, or you destroy us. Unfortunately, I am not able to give the same opportunity to die with glory as your men had." Viktor: "Why don't we settle this, just you and me." Luknargh: "Your General Marx said the same thing. I must say she went down swinging." Shit. (Or, cool, an opportunity for promotion?) Luknargh orders Viktor taken to a cell.

Back with the collaborators. Max: "Captain, what about the Fletcher?" Riddle gets a haunted look in his eyes. Riddle: "Badly damaged, boarded, seized. What could I do? They were throwing my people out the airlock. I couldn't let them do that, they were my kids..." Max: "Do you know what happened to the rest of your crew?" Riddle: "No, they've separated the junior and senior officers, the enlisted... I haven't heard anything for days. I've been sucking up to these bastards, hoping to find something out, but I haven't gotten anywhere."

Outside the med bay, Geoff hears the voice of the guard and some one else. Voice: 'Here to escort the prisoner back to his cell." Guard: 'Who are you? I haven't seen you be-" Unpleasant gurgling noises, followed by a thud. A really ugly, weird looking Vargr sticks his head in. "Come on, let's go." It's Ezbeki. In a Vargr suit. [Ewww!] Geoff grabs what medical stuff he can, as Ezbeki urges him to hurry. They duck into the Seaview sized air vents, and Ezbeki takes off the Vargr suit, which Ezbeki claims wasn't actually made from a Vargr at all, but from scrounged fur and other material. (Try not to think about it.) In the dark, if you're really drunk, viewed at just the right angle, it would almost look sort of like a Vargr.

Ezbeki is at least able to give Geoff some local intel. Ezbeki: "There's about 50, 100 prisoners, and about 20 to 40,000 Vargrs. And there's some kind of werewolf thing cruising around eating people. Oh, and we have no pilot." Geoff: "I'm a pilot." Ezbeki: "Hey, that's right! No we can blow this place." Geoff: "Once we see how many other prisoners we can free or at least not leave to the enemy." Ezbeki: "No, God damn it Captain. We don't leave any Marines behind. I always knew this day would come someday, and if it's my time, let it come." Geoff: "I'm surprised you're still breathing now. I see they took the spike out of your head." Ezbeki: "Yeah. They wiggled it around for a while first, to see what would happen. That was really unpleasant, let me tell you." Geoff: "How'd you get away?" Ezbeki: "They left the rod nearby after they removed it. Let's just say the Vargrs are down a couple of doctors. Oh, I found out some spy or traitor or something sold us out. Any way, they're paying him off with beaucoup bucks, and they're giving him the General's lady as a reward. Geoff: "Well then, we need to find them. I don't know how good I'll be sneaking around up here though." Ezbeki: "You're getting good at this sir, believe me. You wouldn't believe how much hair you can get out of the drains..." Geoff: "Stop. Please." Ezbeki: "You stay here, kick back and relax. There're some roast beef sandwiches, some fruit, bread, pop, and cold beer."

Viktor is back in fatigues, in a cell. He can hear screaming from some one nearby, a human voice crying out for mercy. Gorven <just visiting outside>: "Are you sure you wouldn't care for that Vegan cigar now? No? Oh well, one can't say I didn't try." Viktor: "I don't smoke." Gorven: "Luknargh would approve." Viktor: 'I wouldn't turn my back on him if I were you." Gorven: "Ah, this is the sow distrust between the Vargrs moment?" Viktor: "I don't have to sow anything. I heard him." Gorven: "Well, the General Field Marshall doesn't understand that once we take command of these worlds, they will have to be ruled by some one, and that means having some one left to rule over. He doesn't see the big picture." Viktor: "Your problem is you see the big picture and forget that the army is made up of individual soldiers, who have homes and husbands, and wives, and children." Gorven: "We are merely setting the balance straight. You can't say we don't deserve our day after all the Imperium has done to keep the Vargr oppressed." Viktor: "You've done it to yourselves. I won't say that we didn't take advantage of the situation though." Gorven: 'You must read more of your history. The Imperium has a long history of interference." Viktor: "And I suppose that you're the superior Vargr?" Gorven: "Of course. I'm not saying that my troops are the epitome of intelligence and civilization, but they will learn and develop over time." Viktor: "You're no difference than the other Vargrs I've met, you and Luknargh." Gorven: "Of course, we all look alike to you racist imperials." Viktor: "I have a superior officer who's a Vargr. Race isn't the issue here." You seem to be willing to take things…how shall we say, beyond the pale? I understand that you yourself have had a prisoner murdered and the grave concealed..." Viktor: "You have me at a disadvantage." Gorven: "We found the mass graves of murdered Vargrs." Viktor: "What murdered Vargrs?" Gorven: "Oh, come on now, you're not going to tell me that you consider yourself blameless for the atrocities committed by your people?" Viktor: "Does this include the murder of 20 unarmed prisoners?" Gorven: "Unfortunately, yes. You can delegate authority, not responsibility." The philosophy discussion eventually peters out, and Gorven leaves.

The more Max talks to Captain Riddle, the more it's obvious that Riddle is barely hanging on. It's one thing to be firing on some Zhodani ship, and quite another to watch while your officers are being spaced one at a time. Riddle: "They won't say anything. Their commander, Galron or Garven or something. Don't trust him, he's slippery. He acts like he's your friend, but he's not. Oh, and the other one? He's a psycho. His own men call him the werewolf. When you see him, you'll know why." Max: "Sir, do you know which other ships went down with the Ajax?" Riddle: "The Sarak is gone, just completely gone. She was off our port side, then nothing. And I don't know about the Ferocious, she was on the other side."

Geoff is awoken by Ezbeki, who has a warm steak for him. As Geoff eats, he's regaled with the stories of Ezbeki's foraging raid, and how he hooked the steak off the grill right in front of the cook, and how he has found a disguise for Geoff. Ezbeki: "Pretty good, huh? One of the guys had a bear skin rug, and I used it as a starting point." Geoff dons the bearskin. Now he looks like a human in a bear suit. Or, in the right light, a bear.

A red lensed Surefire flashlight is shone into the air vent. After a nearly pyrrhic meeting, it's discovered that the man behind the flashlight is Peabody, who's a bit annoyed at finding the Marines hiding in the vent. Peabody: "Well that's just fucking great, what am I supposed to do with these??" He's lugging around the nukes. Peabody: "We've got to get these things where they can do some good." Geoff: "This is near the exterior wall." Skeeter: "So it blows a hole in the wall, big deal. We need to actually do some damage." Geoff: "This is part of their air circulation system - pumping radiation throughout this place will do damage." Peabody and Skeeter agree with that, and they set the timers for an hour. Peabody: "Come on you piece of crap… Something is not right." Geoff: "Why??" Peabody: "Well, look at the counter. It's moving too fast." Geoff: "Has some one altered the timer?" Peabody: "No, I've read about this. If the exterior is damaged, it can cause the timer to go squirrelly like this." Geoff: "How long do we really have?" Peabody takes a moment to figure it out. Peabody: "Thirty-seven minutes. I'll have my PDA send me a warning." Peabody sets the first nuke in, and reaches for the second. Skeeter: "I've got it boss." Skeeter shoves his in hard, and they listen as it bangs it's way down the airshaft, to God knows where. Actually, Viktor hears it too, as it ends up lodged just behind his air vent. At least he'll go up with the first blast, and by an Imperial nuke. He calls for General Gorven, so he'll have company for the explosion.

Geoff and his party run into two Vargrs, who have the drop on them, but then one of the Vargr's head explodes. Hmmm, is Plexo nearby? The other Vargr drops his gun and runs for it. Geoff fires on the fleeing Vargr, using the gun Ezbeki gave him earlier, and it fires some kind of huge explosive round down range. Holy shit!! The shot misses, but the Vargr runs a lot faster. A guard fires into Viktor's cell, but Geoff has it down now, and takes him out. Then he fires on the cell door lock, and blows that open.

Now they need to get to the docking bay. Ezbeki knows where there's a ship that should have Viktor's wife and child on it. Ezbeki: "Sir, there's something you should know - some one in our party is a traitor, he sold us out to the Vargrs. I don't know who yet." Viktor <not wanting to waste time>: "We'll worry about it later. Let's go." They open as many cells as they can along the way, with Skeeter and Peabody taking tailgunner positions. All of a sudden, the alarms start going off, and Vargrs are running around and putting on vac suits. Peabody promises Skeeter there will be other Vargrs further along, as they head for McGonnigal's cell. As they reach it, the hair (fur?) on the back of Ezbeki's neck starts standing up. Geoff: "Ship's radar?" The wall starts to glow red. Viktor: "That would be the Navy."

In the lounge, there's a bit of a tremor, and the faintest scent of ozone. Riddle yells "Meson gun!" as all the Navy personnel dive for the floor and cover. (Finely honed instincts of shipboard self-preservation.)

Geoff and the others have taken cover around a corner, so they aren't hit by the meson gun. Ezbeki's fur is smoking a bit, but that's all. He reluctantly leaves the disguise behind. They head for the docking facility, the planetoid turning faster than the gravs can compensate, as it brings it's own guns around. The escapees don't encounter much resistance, it's just people running one direction or another.

Max rolls the hot table off. There are still several people still sitting in chairs, all charcoal like. Riddle gets up and starts trying to get one of the very dead people to get up and come along. Max redirects him, physically, as Riddle has evidently lost it completely.

The outer hull glows red, and then ruptures. Vargrs start drifting out into space. Something lean and predator like comes blasting in the hole, right up the length of the bay, firing at the parked assault ships, then darting back out. Zoomie. So much for that avenue of escape. Viktor leads the way towards the next bay. Some female in blue yells "Imperials! This way!!" A bunch of limping, shot up Navy personnel go by. Peabody: "Skeeter, get your ass over here!" Skeeter: "I can't pick up the gun sir, it's too hot!" Geoff uses the bearskin to pick up the gun. As they're moving, the Army guys stop. Peabody: "Do you see what I see?" Skeeter: "Yes sir!!" In a staging area, they find, among other things, a light tank. The Cav people leap in, and provide covering fire. Peabody <using the instruments>: "On the starboard side, there's a small ship, and some big fancy thing about 500 tons. And there's some - the big Vargr's trying to get away!" As the Cav guys start off on their swathe of destruction, Viktor decides to not tell them they're blowing up the ship they're in. So far the escapees consist of 12 or 13 Navy people, and about 20 or 30 Marines.

Max is taking Riddle towards the ship when he sees a really familiar female in a Navy uniform go by the other direction, with a group similarly outfitted people. Max can't help it, he heads for Amanda, with Riddle in tow. The Navy group heads for the 500 ton ship.

Peabody <over the speaker>: "Right, we're heading for the bridge. Good luck you bastards, see you in hell." Viktor continues on with his people. There's a bearded man in civilian clothing with a gun trying to close the door on the Scout Courier. Viktor shoots at him with the assault rifle he picked up earlier, off a dead Vargr. It hasn't been sighted in yet, but he hits the man in the leg. Geoff shoots the guy in the neck, taking him down for good. They rush into the ship, and Geoff heads for the bridge. Viktor searches the ship, but the only thing on board is a bunch of ammo cans (which may or may not contain Dakars). Damn. Geoff stops his launch plan once he knows the Androchevs are not on board.

Skeeter and Peabody have gone off for the bridge, Plexo is who knows where. Jenny is missing too, but Geoff doesn't yet know she was on board. The tank breaks through a bulkhead wall, so Peabody and Skeeter have made it to the rendezvous as well."

Viktor <ship to ship>: "Are my wife and child on board your ship?" Amanda: "We have no civilians on board this vessel sir." Viktor: "Right, go ahead and get out of here before it blows." Amanda leaves the bridge and heads back into the common area of the vessel, and it's there that she and Max see each other. Amanda: "Max??" The obligatory desperate embrace ensues. Amanda: "Oh God, I thought I'd lost you!" Max: "I know, I thought the same thing." Amanda: "Did you get my letter?" Max: "Only a couple of days ago, but yes." Brief, restrained mushiness follows.

Looking up at an observation gallery, Viktor sees General Gorven, and Katarina. Ezbeki is left holding the ship. Ezbeki: "What am I supposed to do if you get killed? I can't fly this ship!" Geoff: "Get to the other ship." Peabody and Skeeter are more than eager to go with Viktor. They head that way, at speed.

Gorven is waiting in the hall off the observation deck, with several dozen armed Vargrs. Gorven: "Come around slowly with your hands in the air. There's no cause for senseless violence." Geoff: "That's what you said just before you killed the prisoners." He pops around the corner, and fires into a flaming metric buttload of Vargrs, hitting one of the soldiers. Then the corner of the wall, and Geoff, explode. But then again, Geoff has exploded before. (Nice boys don't explode.) Geoff's bearskin is ruined, but it helped to save his life. There's movement at the corner - the Vargrs may be getting ready to leave. Viktor: "Gorven, we can both live to see another day." Gorven: "I believe I would like to make a deal." Viktor: "We need to discuss the terms of exchange." Gorven: "I want to speak with some one reasonable. Where is Max? I wish to speak with Max." Viktor: "He's on board the ship." Gorven: "Then get I suggest you get him, quickly."

Geoff dashes off to the 500 tonner, and tells Max he's needed, now (and please hurry, as the nukes will be going off soon). Max <to Amanda> "I have to go." Amanda <to another officer>: "You've got the ship, get going. <to Max> I'm not losing you again." Max and Amanda go with Geoff.

Viktor: "Okay Gorven, Max is here." Gorven: "Send him forward under a flag of truce." Max goes forward to formally accept Gorven's surrender. Gorven: "I asked for you because I didn't relish the thought of having my head blown off. My reports indicate that the order of the universe has shifted, and I have no intention of going down with the ship, it would be a terrible waste. I'm willing to come along, as a prisoner, under the rules of war." Amanda: "Max, look out!" A shot rings out as Amanda reaches Max. There's a moment when no one is sure what's happened, but all Max is concerned about is whether or not Amanda has been injured. She doesn't appear to be, but as she steps back, she sees that she has blood on her hand. She looks down at Max and she pales. Max feels suddenly light headed and not quite right; he sinks to the floor as his legs give way. Luknargh has picked this moment to appear and thwart Gorven's plan. Unfortunately, Luknargh decided to shoot Max, and not Gorven.

Luknargh and Gorven square off, as Geoff (he heard Amanda's cry of "Look out") rushes up to grab Max. This is followed by the mad dash to the ship, leaving the two Vargrs to hash out this alpha male thing. The 500 ton ship has lifted, but it's waiting, because the doors won't open. Viktor's party boards the Scout Courier, to Ezbeki's delight, and Geoff heads for the cockpit after dropping off Max. Amanda heads for the cockpit as well, being a seasoned pilot.

It doesn't really matter how good a pilot anyone has though, since no one knows how to get the doors to open. People are starting to get frantic when Viktor looks outside to see Gorven sauntering over, with his hands up. Viktor goes to the door. Gorven: "Where is Max?" Viktor: "Inside the ship." Gorven: "You will no doubt want the exit codes? If you will show me to your computer..." The codes are entered, and the doors start to slowly open. Gorven: "I am your prisoner. Actually, I'm Max's prisoner." If Geoff knew Gorven was back there, he'd kill him. Viktor: "Have a seat." Gorven: "Thank you. I don't suppose you have anything to drink?" Viktor: "I'll check." Gorven: "I observed where you dispatched the pilot on my way in, and I thought this might be useful." He hands Viktor some keys and a keycard. Ezbeki had already found the hip flask and the cash, but he stopped there. Viktor is able to open the captain's cabin with the keys, and he brings back water for Gorven, not wanting to waste good liquor on the Vargr.

As the ship moves out, Amanda gets on the intercom. Amanda: "I have a major radiation source aft of us, and it's building. I'll translate for the Marines: hold on to your asses!" The doors open, and the ship manages to get out ahead of most of the blast. The second it clears the planetoid, it's challenged. Amanda gives Geoff her Naval ID codes to pass on, as she's busy flying and not crashing into debris.

The buffered planetoid disappears. A jump, maybe, but in what shape? Did both nukes detonate, or just one? No way to know at the moment. There are two Imperial cruisers, one light one heavy. They have both been damaged, but are structurally intact. The Scout Courier is boarded by Imperial Marines, then the ship is taken on board the heavy cruiser. People are triaged and scheduled for medical treatment, but there'll be a wait since there are a lot of injured people to deal with. Jenny has been rescued, by Plexo. Geoff finds out where she is and goes to see her, only to find Plexo by her bed, holding her hand as Jenny smiles up at him. Damn. Geoff retreats for now, but he's going to have to speak with Jenny about the dangers of mixed marriages, what with Plexo being Army and all.

The Fer de Lance is the heavy cruiser, under Captain Cochrane. He comes back to check on people, in his perfectly creased uniform. Cochrane: "Doubtless you're the infamous <ahem> famous General Androchev about whom we've heard so much. Welcome on board the Fer de Lance." Viktor: "Thank you Captain." Cochrane: "My people will see to it that you are taken care of. In the meantime, I have a pursuit to conduct. I will see to it that you're returned to your command as soon as possible."

Viktor makes the rounds, to check on his people. He tells Skeeter he doesn't hold a grudge for Skeeter hitting him. Skeeter: "Sir, I have never struck a superior officer. That would be a court martial offense. In time of war, that would carry the death penalty. I believe the General must have me confused with some other person." Viktor: "Yes, I'm sure you must be correct. Any how, I came to thank you, since you Army guys have a tendency to disappear. Especially Plexo. I can never find him when I want to thank him." Peabody: "Well, he's shy. But it's our job to pull the Marines' fat out of the fire. That's what the Cavalry's for, sir." Viktor leaves them the bottle he got from the Courier, in order to attend to other business, like his wife and son.