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Part 13: "Of all this..."


"Operatons. Starlock here, go."

"FH, this is Captor One. Requesting flight path from Nemo to orbit."

Not a formality. Without support from the station's reality control array, any ship attempting to take off on what are essentially intrasystem drives would do horrible things to the atmosphere and leave a crater behind it.

"On it's way, C-One." Starlock smiled to himself, reached out into the huge reservoirs of power in the RCA, and laid out the tunnel by "hand". All the codes and clearances suggested something like the Death Star, but then again this was the Board here. "Tell Silver to stop being so lazy."

"He sends his regards to you too, FH. C-One out."

Starlock's smile cracked into a grin as he watched green indicators light up on the operations consoles. So, she was on her way. This should be a laugh a minute...

* * *

"Deck Zero" Location: UNKNOWN

Before it was deck zero aboard the Funky Horror, it was the top of the famous Update Tower in the Himalayas. Before then it was a rough-hewn "temple" in the same mountains, the one giving rise to tales of a lost valley. Before then...well, we're moving beyond mortal ken there. As the deck currently stands, it's an enclosed dome, obviously at the pinnacle of the Funky Horror. The stars are the same, and even the architecture for the dome structure itself uses the same materials and paintschemes...although there are no serial numbers on the bulkheads.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no choirs of angels. What would be the point? Haven't we just come from the abode of CRFH's equivalents, anyway? Mari's only concession to supposedly "classical" architecture is the fountain...and even then, that ain't water. Whatever it is, it's about the same colour and consistency of Dave's lasers, and from the simple little bowl it flows down and over half the flat surfaces up here like some kind of warped alpha blend.

Well, thought Ahayweh, so far so normal. Down the stairs, don't look at the open dome because Mari didn't bother with glass, and hang out by the huge fixed telescope on the smallish plaza inlaid with signs of the zodiac until She finishes doing whatever She's doing.

I don't think this is going to be an invitation to play poker with the foxxess...

* * *

Funky Horror Engineering Section Inspection Hatch, Reactor 5

Talix double-checked the fluid gauges on the pipeline he was about to "crack", rolled his eyes for the third time in ten minutes, and sent activation commands to the Boardieborg drone at the monitoring console. A warning klaxon sounded, yellow lights flashed, and a heavy lifting arm swung a good two-meter-square section of shielded conduit up and out, into the metal-grilled ceiling that hummed and buzzed with channelled energy.

This...compartment, there wasn't really a less industrial term for it...was one of hundreds like it in the station's interior — a polite reminder that it was still a working space station, regardless of glamour. It was really only a handy gap in the bulkheads surrounding one of the secondary reactors, and normally the warning klaxons would have been almost lost in the background rumble.

Normally. Today the reactor was offline for maintenance, and Talix was trying to remove the last little problem before he could start it up again....

"Tangent...get out of there."

A quiet, echoey voice from the innards of the pipeline, a smooth steel tunnel big enough for several people to walk abreast, said "No."

"Tange, I don't care how much she scares you, I need to restart that reactor. And you're in the way."


"Look, Tang, it's simple. You can either get out of the pipe and find a better place to hide, or you can stay part of the coolant loop for reactor #5. I mean, sure, reactor coolant isn't the best conversationalist and for all I know you can breathe through it, but that way you'll have less to distract you from either the freezing or the hard radiation, depending which part of the system you get pumped to."

There was silence.

"All right, you've made your point."

"Thank you. Someone get me a ladder."

* * *

The Funky Horror Speculation Epsilon

Flax reread the speculation report the computer had just spat out for the third time, the second time for the hardcopy, and made the frustrated exhaling sound of someone who didn't want to have to deal with this right now.

"I really don't want to have to deal with this right now..."

He looked up at the activity around him and wondered when he'd somehow gotten himself declared de facto master of this spec thread. Damn SKID and their damn black market contacts and their blasted gunrunning and however they'd arranged some kind of camp or commune in the midwest that had High Command really nervous, except of course there was a short list of People who could arrange it real quick, and now THIS... "Jappus, where the hell is Tangent?"

"He's supposed...isn't he in Alpha?"

"No, he was too busy finding excuses to hide from....I haven't got time for his paranoia!" the half-demon stabbed a button on his POST. "Flax to Command..."


"One of the satellites's reported an explosion over the north Atlantic and the United States FAA's declared an aircraft lost..." Behind the tired Flax Jappus began feeding the thread's findings to the Archives, marked for widespread attention during the next update. "It was one of hers, CG. That satellite uplink Talix had shipped." Flax tactfully didn't mention shipping it had been Reatheran's idea.

"Oh...just...wonderful. You're about to tell me it wasn't an accident, aren't you?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it past her to carry explosives...aaaah, we'd need her up here."

"Want me to find a tactful way to give her the bad news?"

"We'll do it, don't worry. But you might wanna have someone peek at the FAA's accident reports. Spec Out." Flax thumped his keyboard in anger as the display winked off. "Where the hell is Tangent?"

* * *

Low Earth Orbit Manoeuvring to High Earth Orbit.

One can approach the Funky Horror in a number of ways, but for simplicity we'll focus on the conventional ones. Or to be precise, the conventional one, since one of the big advantages to a space station is that there's only one route in or out, and that involves finding a way through several miles of vacuum. You could call it an entrance exam. Presumably the Dragon has passed.

Captor One burns it's way through the ether on a huge trail of white-hot exhaust plumes as she powers out of the atmosphere and can switch out of the bizarre reality bubbles. There's little point in sneaking or being quiet anyway, and for a start if the Speculation network can tell you what Blue had for breakfast, then it sure as heck can pick up an orbital flight. So yes, it can see you coming.

Line of sight aside, at 5000 kilometres you are officially in the station's sphere of influence. You've been in weapons range ever since you took off, of course, but since we're all friends up here we'll skip that. The range may seem appallingly long from the ground, but this is space up here. It may seem tiny from space, but on the other hand it is an orbital station, not a mobile vessel.

After that, little happens aside from routine traffic control and challenge-reply codes until around the 10 kilometre mark, someone from Operations will start passing final approach vectors. You may notice the shields at about the 3000 meter mark, but only if you're looking for them. Most people prefer to just drink in the huge looming mass in front of them, covered with navigation lights and window pinpricks, or eye the huge manoeuvring engines or tips of Speculation threads.

And then for the final thousand meters the station's tractors latch on and sweep you through those gigantic doors...

* * *

"And now he is safely in our master's house..."

himi's quiet voice brought him some very odd looks from his fellow Boardies, all eagerly watching the monitors. Ordinarily they'd be clamouring for a reception or an honour guard, but himi had been amused to note Fleet had pre-empted that by picking one of the cramped docking sleeves rather than a full-blown hangar. A calculated snub or just expediency?

The stares continued to stare. The oldbie met their curious gazes head-on.

"Screwtape Letters."

That got him even odder looks.

"You people need to drink more coffee."

The irony behind all the praise [from the board] for Deck Zero is that the only bits I thought up were the fountain and the bulkheads. The rest came from Mari herself.

And all right, all right, a quote explanation...that line is uttered in the Screwtape Letters (famously a "compilation" of letters from a senior to a junior devil on how to deal with humanity) by the senior devil concerning one of his success stories. Quoting it on the Funky Horror, where a good portion of the audience have been to said house, would indeed get you some odd looks.

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