"It's a bug hunt."-- Corporal Hicks, Aliens.

318, 1122.

Fully recovered from his encounter with "Blaelok", Will calls to make an appointment with Osbourne Banks. He has fifteen minutes. Will takes it. And he needs a proper secretary - the pneumatic, bleached blonde can only answer the phone and take care of the coroner's "needs". Will: "Uh-uh - right out." Will fires the girl, which sends her into tears, but her ego is boosted by the other men in the building fighting over who gets to hire her. Fortunately for Will, some one is looking for just the type of position he's offering. She's a 40-ish, very handsome woman, with impeccable skills and references. Why, she's worked for an investigation firm, and for a diplomat. Claire is hired.

A reward will be posted for the reputed giant spider on Up Port. A $50,000 credit reward - if alive and undamaged; $20,000 credits if dead and relatively undamaged, posted in several scientific magazines. Irving will read about this, as will the Tattler's Xeno-crypto-biologist.

Will actually gets to meet the Great Oz in person. In the flesh. Will: "You called and told me that Robert Shelzie wasn't involved in the Count Barada issue." Banks: "Did I? Nancy, did I call?" Nancy: "Yes sir." Oz: "Well, no way that he could have been involved. I mean, the man lives on Jenghe. I read this article of his on centipede venom." Will: "Actually, I believe you're thinking of Adam Shelzie. This was Robert Shelzie." Oz: "Oh, really? <pause> I have something you need to take a look at!" He gets a large box from behind his desk. and motions Will over.

Oz: "Are you familiar with the cadaver beetle of Rigel 7? <to the beetles?> Oh, be quiet! <to Will> You won't find the beetle interesting, but you might be interested in this." The box is opened, and the beetles are herded into a corner. The box contains a husked body. The body appears to have metallic bands on various parts of the body, around the bones, apparently implanted beneath the skin and muscle, as tissue grew around them. The body is tall, and humanoid. Will: "Do you know where the body came from?" Oz: "I'm not really sure." Will: "Could I have the body when you're done with it?" Oz: "Nancy!" Nancy comes in, after tucking her pants into her boots, turning up her collar, and spraying something on all the seams of her clothing. Nancy: "Yes sir?" Os: "Mr. Delgado will be taking this body with him. Find him a big box, will you?" Will suggests just moving the beetles to another container, so that Will can take the body in it's original box. Sounds good.

Oz: "They have a particular predilection of nervous tissue." Will: "Well, they do go for dead people." Oz: "Actually, I understand that they won't pass up live people if given the opportunity." Will: "I won't stand still for that long. Do you know where the body was found?" Oz: "Some sort of archaeological dig on Forbolden. You haven't, by any chance run into any bodies that show signs of exsanguination, or large fang marks have you?" Will: "Well, not complete exsanguination. But I did see Ghaer Raller, who had been bitten by something like that." Oz: "Ghaer Raller? I hadn't heard he'd been exsanguinated. May I have the body?" Will: "I don't think so - he's not dead. He was just injured. Apparently a giant spider bit him, cocooned him up, and hung him under the support beam below level 2." Oz <eagerly>: "Yes, yes, I had a report on there being a giant arachnid on the station." Now they're getting into something near and dear to the Great Oz's heart. There follows a discussion of the reward, etc. And yes, government officials are eligible. Will is going to spread the word, as he doesn't necessarily want the money, but if he helps find the spider, this might put him in good stead with his superior, Sir Osbourne.

After seeing to the shipment of the body to the morgue, for further investigation, Will goes looking for a place to get the word out, and ends up at Discarding Sabot, where Irving already knows about the spider, and has acquired the cocoon, for silk samples. Irving: "It was really easy, too. I gave the guy $100,000 credits and he gave me the cocoon." Will: "Irving, that's a lot of money." Irving: "Really? I made it myself." Will: "You shouldn't say that out loud." Irving: "Why not?" Sigh. Another Pikhan, Stewart Pondoro Granger, has overheard the comments about the spider. Stewart: "That would explain the desiccated bodies I've found!" Will: "Desiccated bodies? Where?" Granger: "On the lower levels." Aha!

D.S. becomes Spider Hunt Central. There's a lot of interest in the so-called giant arachnid, and much speculation about its size, should it actually exist. From the cocoon, and the injuries, they figure it's somewhere in size between a large car and a small truck. Oh.

Robert, finally healed up, goes Up Port to start looking for a ship. He also wants to speak with Will, so he goes to the Coroner's Office, and is referred to D.S. Will is there eating lunch. Robert: "Dr. Delgado? I'd like to have a private conversation." Will: "All right, have a seat." Robert: "I'm sorry I wasn't as forthcoming as I might have been." Will: "Look, let me give you some advice, buddy. You were very nearly off to death row thanks to all the lies you told. Not bright." Robert: "I started the rumor of Count Barada's death to protect Ariana. Count Barada was on the ship, Count Barada got off the ship before it blew up. I can't really tell you more right now unless you have some specific questions." Will is fed up with all the lies and half truths, and isn't sure he really cares about the late or not Count Barada anymore. Robert: "The Count did go to the Banque de Geneve earlier this week, and made a substantial withdrawal. If you need proof he's still alive, you can talk to them." Will doesn't want to know.

The tri-dee in the bar is turned up at this point, for a breaking news story related to the giant spider thing. Reporter: "This is Rex Reed, live on Action Five News! We are near the site where only moments ago another victim was snatched off the streets of Regina by the giant spider!" The reporter is in the ships' docking area, and an eyewitness recounts how "This big old hairy thing came up and grabbed the woman, and disappeared with her, right quick." Reporter: "Regina authorities have been aware that a giant, carnivorous spider has been roaming the crawlspaces of Up Port. Police has began circulating this artist's rendition of the victim." An excellent sketch of Ariana is shown. Reporter: "Stores have reported large sales of firearms and bug spray." Will calls the lab, and requests they make a supply of anti-venom. He's not the first one. Robert: "I have to go, Doctor." He heads off to where Ariana was grabbed. Will faxes the reward posting from Banks to Action Five News. That should get the word out.

Commissioner Globber then appears on the tri-dee, requesting calm, and the cooperation of the citizens. Globber: "Anyone found improperly in the crawlspaces and accessways will be arrested. We have professionals on the way, and we don't want the general public down in the spider's own hunting grounds, where it can hunt them. If anyone is caught disobeying this order they will be jailed, and they will be fined." Will: "So, anyone want to join my party? I'm official!"

Viper decides she's going to go on the bug hunt, since she's in the mood to kill something. She stops by MilTech to pick up couple of the heavy-duty riot control sticky net guns.

Robert goes to the site of Ariana's disappearance, but is prevented from checking out the exact spot by the police. So, he tries the cooperative approach. Robert: "Do you have information on the victim's identity?" Cop: "No sir, not at this moment. Do you know the victim?" Robert: "Yes." Cop: "And your name sir?" Robert: "Robert Shelzie." Cop: "And her name?" Robert: "Ariana." He doesn't have an actual last name for her, so that's a bit awkward. "I don't know her last name." Cop: "I see, and you know her, how?" Robert: "We've spent some time together." Oh, wait - Ariana used 'Smith' as her last name when they were arrested, and he tells the cop that her last name was "Smith". On Regina, that means she comes from a large family. The area Robert wants to go to has been listed as off limits, so he goes back to D.S.

Ghaer, already at D.S., since "it tried to eat me - damn straight I want to kill it!", and is about to call Viper when she shows up at the bar. Ghaer: "Oh! I was just going to call you." Viper: "Well, I want to go on the bug hunt. I picked up a couple of these net guns on the way." Good idea.

Corina is informed of the panic over the 'crawlspace creature'. But it will probably be old news by the end of the day. Regina Security will contact Corina to tell her they're handling it. Black: "We're feeding giant spider stories to the Tattler to discredit it, while we get together some people to take care of it." Corina reminds Black that Sir Banks wants it alive. Black: "Oh. That's right." Okay, new plan.

Sal (the Theresan co-owner of D.S.) has taken advantage of the option to generate business and money. Special signs go up: "Two drink minimum" "$15 a Beer" (for reporters). Robert has returned at this point, and asks if anyone is going looking for the thing, since he now has a personal stake in it. Viper: "Yes, we're going after this big spider thing. I'm bored. You can join us if you like." Rick Walker is going along as well - he loves a good bug hunt, and besides, everyone really needs to get rid of some pent up agression after the last week or so. They sneak out as the crowds arrive.

A supply trip to MilTech on the way is in order - it'll be dark in the accessways, among other problems. Robert: "Isn't there something you can get to protect your night vision?" Ghaer: "You can get red lenses." Robert: "Oh, right!" He gets red lenses for the headlights on his helmet. Ghaer calls Cena, since another doctor might come in handy. Ghaer: "Hi! We're going on a really harebrained mission, and I was wondering if you wanted to come along and help repair people?" Cena: "Who is this?" Ghaer: "It's Ghaer." Cena: "Oh. <sigh> Right. Give me ten minutes."

The party meets up, introductions are made ( Robert: "Robert Shelzie." Cena: "Shelzie. Are you related to any other Shelzies in the area?" Robert: "Yes, Adam Shelzie is my uncle." Cena: "And Randall Shelzie?" Robert: "Who?" Cena: "Ah."), and Cena finds out she's going on a giant spider hunt. Oh boy - that'll teach her to agree to anything when the phone wakes her up. Med chips are passed. Stewart Pondoro Granger is not happy about the noisy people, but it's only Will's badge that's getting the party past the police barricades.

There's some argument over whether roping the party together would be a benefit or a detriment, especially if some one is grabbed. It's decided to not risk it. When possible, the group will maintain visual contact, but that's going to be a tad difficult given the twists and turns, and all the pipes in the accessways. Stewart: "How will we know if the person ahead of us has been grabbed when we can't see them?" Robert: "I'd certainly scream." Will: "Yes, but Ghaer said it grabbed him so fast he didn't know what happened." Rick: "I don't remember the first six hours I was on station, so that's nothing. Wait a minute! I just thought of something. We're in the tunnels hunting for giant spiders, and we don't have a mage!" Argh. Cena <to Robert>: "You might want to unfasten the flap on that holster. Just in case." Good thought.

Granger: "Here's my suggestion. When we find sign, we split up into two groups. One group flanks the spider, then moves back towards the first, group, making noise and driving the spider into the trap." Cena: "How do you know it's not attracted to noise?" <pause> Stewart: "Well, there is that. What do you suggest?" Cena: "That we stay together for now, and take it one step at a time."

There's a big clump of purple moss on the ceiling. Just the one clump. Stewart tugs on it, and sees that it's a husked, dead, Verbil. Stewart: "We're on the right track." Time to be careful around corners. They know they're in the area under the DukeDome when they hit the heavy duty gates, with the warning signs. No spider could get between them, at least not one that size. Robert leans on the gate, and a large, almost truck sized section of the gate pivots up and out of the way just as Rick says "Don't touch that!" Hmm, looks like they've found the spider door. And they find some really big...guard hairs? But that would make the spider the size of a polar bear, or bigger!

They go into the area under the DukeDome, since hey, they have a Duchess. Speaking of which, there's a blur, and Viper is snatched! She's grabbed and pulled down into the trap door. Cena gets off a shot, hitting the spider, just before Robert, dives after Viper. Down below, Viper feels a stabbing pain in her calf, as she's being dragged very quickly away.

Ghaer: "I am not going down that tunnel." Will dives in after Robert. Rick: "Damn!" Viper is being held by her legs, and dragged backwards down the tunnel. She's keeping her net gun aimed at the spider, waiting for a bigger area than the tunnel before net gunning it. The tunnel opens up into a huge open area, as the spider runs across a cable that spans a large drop. Viper will just wait a few more minutes. Then the spider starts to drop, rappelling down quickly. Viper will wait, since she can't see the bottom.

Naturally, Robert can't move as quickly as the spider, but he's going as quickly as he can, but manages to stop before crawling off the edge. He can hear faint swearing, getting fainter. He eventually sees the cable that crosses the cable, and decides to go for it. He removes his belt, threads it through the front two belt loops then over the cable. One loop breaks off, but he's still got one!

Further up, Ghaer is hacking around the ground and looks for another spider hole. They find several, in addition to the one the people went down. They find one with some infrared signatures, then Rick uses his grav belt to transport Ghaer and Stewart down, fairly quickly. He hits some cable things, which stops them. rick: "Expletive." Sticky cables. That would be the web. Will gets to the chasm, secures his spider silk line and carefully rappels down. Cena gets to the edge, secures her rappelling gear, and jumps off.

Viper is being moved horizontally, into an area with some blobby white things. Ew. The spider lifts her up by her feet, then starts kicking at her. Now she net guns it! The spider is a bit too close, so the net doesn't expand, it just whacks the spider in the head with a big glop of sticky white stuff. The spider leaps back and starts to run. viper does a NY reload with the other net gun, and fires after the spider. The net disappears into the darkness, after the spider.

Will has been going down, and gets to this level just in time to be hit by a big furry van. Ouch! He's sent spinning, and fires after the spider, while spinning. Then the net hits him. But just in the legs. He uses his solvent on it, and gets a bit of a buzz. Note: Use adequate ventilation.

Ghaer, Rick, and Stewart get down to an area with a bunch of cocoons. A few of them are warm - a dog, a wino, and a few Verbils. Ghaer makes sure the wino can breathe, and releases the Verbils, as a distraction. They stagger off. They also find the remains of a merc, at least his boots...

Cena stops just above Will. Cena: "Are you okay?" Will: "Yes. It just ran into me." Cena: "Did it have Viper with it?" Will: "No." Cena then Will head into the horizontal tunnel in search of Viper, followed by Robert. Cena switches to her shotgun.

Ghaer has just netted a big, olive drab painted piece of equipment. They look up. Stewart is snatched up, firing, being pulled quickly up the elevator shaft. Rick follows on his grav belt, with Ghaer hanging on. They catch up to the spider, Ghaer shoots it and it drops Stewart. Rick grabs a handful of Stewart as he falls. Stewart hangs on, yelling "Kill it!" Ghaer fires, but the spider dodges off to one side, and screaming is heard. Oh-oh.

Will, Cena, and Robert go after Viper, and find her dangling from the ceiling and swearing. Her pant leg is ripped and her calf is very swollen. Will uses the solvent to dissolve the webbing, while Cena lowers Viper down. They need other than red light to work on her, but Robert doesn't want to take off his red filters. That's okay, Cena has a flashlight. Cena <to Robert>: "Keep an eye out." Robert twitches slightly. Cena: "What?! Watch for spiders!" Robert: "Right."

Rick, Ghaer, and Stewart follow the spider out of the ripped up elevator door, as it dodges cars and tries to get away. Well, now there's no denying there's something loose on Up Port. Stewart is dropped off, rick and Ghaer chase spider, down slidewalks, into food court, cornered in UbiFood. Ghaer stabbed with it's foot, unconscious. rick in pursuit, back the same way, others shooting now, spider missed, rick shot in grav belt. Oops. Now running after spider, firing, even though he has a burning sensation down one leg and hip. rick hits the release button as he runs after the spider, and sees that the belt is fine, but the battery pack was hit and is leaking acid. the spider dives back down the elevator shaft, wounded .

Back down below, Viper has two doctors working on her. Will doesn't want to lance her leg down in the shaft. Cena: "You did bring anti-venom with you, right?" Will: "No. The hospital was making more when we left." Cena: "Great." She gives Viper panamyacin and an antihistamine while Will applies pressure and an ice pack, and then decides to lance the leg any way. He uses a syringe, and extracts about a pint of venom from the muscle in her leg. And it's amazing what painkill will do! Viper is able to move.

Robert has gone down the tunnel, and sees bits of people, and a badly misshapen human, partially eaten, with three eyes and a hump. Pieces of equipment, clothing parts, a wrench, bits of a toolbox, burned out flashlight, shriveled up remains. These things have been here a while. The others catch up with Robert. The maintenance lights, what there was of them, go out.

Ghaer wakes up to Rick running out of OmniMart with a bag full of spider silk dispensers. They catch up with Stewart, and go back down after the spider. They stop to check out the merc remains. There's an empty grenade launcher, slightly eroded dogtags (which Ghaer takes), and a kind of remote control that evidently goes with the humped vehicle. The vehicle has a laser carbine, an autocannon (20mm chaingun), and several ATGM tubes (TAC missiles, self-contained, laser-guided). Ghaer takes one.

Robert calls out Ariana's name, and there are multiple echoes, followed by clicking noises, coming from all directions. Cena: "Well, that answers the question as to whether or not they're attracted to noise."

Ghaer can hear the spider under the slidewalk. He sets up with his net gun, at the perfect range, and gets it! It flails about, wrapping itself in tighter. Ghaer calls and gives a message to the Great Oz. The spider then reaches over and taps on a nearby pipe. the tapping is answered, from multiple directions.

Robert's group hear tapping and clicking responses around them, then the sound moves away. He's here to find some body, so they continue. They end up in a really hot room, with many cocoons. There are the remains of a body that looks burst open from the inside out. Yech. Small, white spiders, going for Ariana, who's hanging upside down, screaming in a muffled fashion.

Stewart: "Let's kick some spider butt!" Rick: "you might not have wanted to say that." They take cover behind the machine, and Ghaer uses the remote control to turn it on. It powers up and stands up. It's an ISU 2625, Model BAHR. That's a MilTech Bahr, an infantry support weapon, and more armor than the people have. The spiders are closing in, but they're all dog to big dog size. Ghaer tosses a rock out, and several spiders pounce on it. The Ghaer and Rick both toss rocks with the pins out, in two directions. Pounce! Bang-bang! The Bahr immediately targets the area the grenades went off, then settles back down. Evidently the Bahr doesn't view the spiders as foes, so Ghaer shuts it down. The spiders get closer, so Ghaer turns it back on, and the spiders back off a bit. They seem to dislike the noises the Bahr makes, and really don't like the targeting radar. The Bahr is set to target enemy soldiers, bipedal, between a certain height. Ghaer decides to try to reset it.

Robert yells "Spray!", and Will sprays solvent. The spiders don't like it at all, it's nasty stuff. And some of the spiders fall over and twitch. The baby spiders are dropping from the ceiling as Will and Robert get Ariana out. Cena and Viper are stomping spiders. Then there is a bad, large spider noise coming from the next room, and Robert grabs the solvent can from Will, yells "Get her out of here!", and charges off. The spider is about the size of an M1 Abrams tank. It has a big metallic helmet-like thing on it's head. Cena: "Oh, don't you just know SuSAG is behind this!" Viper tosses off a white phosphorus grenade at the spider, and runs. Ariana is long gone, running full tilt down the tunnel, because those spiders were trying to eat her! There's quite the explosion as the flammable solvent, the white phosphorus, Robert, and the giant spider interact in a deep, subtextual kind of way. Bits of spider, well done, everywhere. Robert is somewhat singed, and Cena is hit by flying spider parts. Ew.

Ghaer is successful in reprogramming the Bahr, which starts shooting, and just keeps shooting. After a few minutes, there are no decent spider specimens left in the area. the Bahr is reset to autonomous (do not shoot anything that has fewer than eight legs), and they go off in the direction of the big WOOF sound and the tang of phosphorus. Stewart comes along, unhappy about not having anything to kill. As they crawl into the tube, hundreds of spiders suddenly make the walls crawl, as they flee. the bahr is set to work again, which sets the silk tunnel on fire, destroying it. Now they use the pipes and ladders to go after the group.

Ghaer tosses a cylum stick down the shaft, and sees a spider. It must be a short shaft, as the spider looks really big. Ghaer checks the targeting laser, and it's not that deep a shaft. it's just an enormous spider. Holy cow! Ghaer targets the spider, carefully, with the ATGM.

Viper's group is fleeing when Ghaer's cylum stick lights up the really big spider right in front of them! They screech to a halt, and Viper tosses a grenade. The spider taps it's foot and a couple of dozen dog-sized spiders leap off the back of the big spider. Viper's grenade is flipped to one side, then after a couple of seconds there is a really big explosion. Cena is hit by a chunk of exploding spider, again. One of the smaller spiders drops onto Viper's neck. Cena is out of ammo, so she uses the shotgun like a club, as Viper shoots at it. Cena does knock the spider off Viper, and when it lands on it's back, she thumps on it again just before Viper stomps it to death. Will and Cena medic Viper, who's throat is swelling, and Ghaer intubates her. Stewart manages to grab one of the dog-sized spiders and stuffs it into a sack. Other than that, once Ghaer and the Bahr finish things up, there is not a spider left intact.

Ariana, in her full tilt linear blind flight in a state of panic leads Robert down a different corridor and up. They get to the higher entrance area before the rest of the group, who didn't discover the shortcut, and are bringing up Viper - using the Bahr as a litter. They run into a group of Pikhans coming into the area, and boy are they happy little guys - barbecued spider bits everywhere! Num!

Then there's a big light, reporters, police, etc. Will <to Cena>: "Auschlander says that my job's the press. You want to argue with Dr. Auschlander?" Cena: "No." Will: "Smart woman. Wise beyond your years." Cena has been giving Will a bit of a bad time, what with him being an arrogant, self-centered, "ooh I've studied medicine on Rhylanor", baby neurosurgeon; all in good fun, of course.

Barbecued spiders will be the rage for a few weeks, as they are found to be incredibly tasty - better than lobster. None of the injuries, including Viper's are serious, and everyone will get medicked and cleaned up fairly quickly.

Will takes Stewart's spider to the Great Oz. Oz: "This is not a giant spider, this is only a large spider. And it's not even a spider, it's some kind of land-crustacean! Oh well, I suppose you did your best." A check is written for $50,000 credits is given to Will, who takes the money, goes to a large bore gunmaker, and tells Stewart to order his dream gun. Do not just give money to Pikhans; it's pointless.

Ghaer invites Cena to an art gallery opening, since he feels badly for inviting her only to weird, dangerous things. Cena: "What? An actual art gallery? No giant art gallery eating monsters? No abstract art disguised aliens? No feral artists?" Ghaer: "Well, I can't guarantee the alien bit..."

Ghaer turns the Bahr in to the police, and after 30 days, if unclaimed (odds are), it's his. He may trade it in on a Baby Bahr, since that would be smaller, and easier to travel with. And has big guns, too.

Robert invites Rick along to help look for a ship for Ariana. She's not going to be looking in the area she was snatched from. they find a 400 ton Subsidized Merchant. 20 years old, but in good shape. Rick: "Ach, just slightly faster than a slug." Well, yeah, but if they modify it to take less cargo and more engine... It's a bargain at 200 megacredits. Not cheap, but it's not what Ariana is looking for, and Rick is after something a bit more gnarly.

Will decides he does want the Coroner gig permanently. He can take some pathology classes, and Mason can help him out. And there is a really big budget for training, that the old coroners only used to take junkets (mostly to Cogri - imagine that).

Ariana needs ID, papers, etc. She was able to get 78 megacredits out of her former life, but that's all she could get without raising eyebrows. She's not sure exactly what she wants to do now. Maybe she'll buy a ship, maybe not. Maybe they'll buy TAS memberships. Robert suggests that they go to Jenghe. Ariana doesn't really want to go there, as it's "a pit". No, it's just the Caribbean to Regina's New York (or Marseilles). Robert really wants to pay a visit to his uncle Adam, so he convinces her to wait and take a nice trip on a luxury liner to Jenghe for a visit, and get some normal experiences before she makes any long term decisions. But first, she needs ID. Good ID. Robert doesn't know where to get that, but he figures Ghaer might. Oh sure, it's "you shanghaied me" on most days, then it's "Ghaer, bud, can you help me with this?" when he needs something. Ghaer: "Not a problem. Does she mind the name Smith? Since that's what she used for the police." She doesn't care. With money to put in the bank, and the vouchsafe of the Duchess of Rhylanor, Ariana can get new Imperial ID. If Viper goes along with it. They do know the Coroner, but Will is not going out on that shaky limb - they've lied too much, too often for him to go along with that. Ghaer will help as much as he can.