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Part Six: Have a Chocolate Orange...

Future Nemo Facility M-Division Labs Sector 2, Cone 4, Module 1

"Welcome to the party, oh shiny new Sector 2, Cone 4, Module 1..." Flyingfish gave the "newcomer" a formal greeting as the umbilical lock cycled with a hiss and and the bulkhead slammed open, on the grounds that it never hurt to get any genus loci on your side. Thankfully the hellish pressures used to pump out the water had already vented, but of course Fish wouldn't be here if they hadn't. Still, even standing a little too close than he would have recommended in his days as a medic, impatiently waiting for the pressure to equalise, had done nasty things to his hearing.

There was very little shiny about the still-dripping interior, little more than a metal shell. The bulkhead plates that clanked underfoot wouldn't even be the flooring, and FF's trained eye picked out the zillions of slots, markings, and etchings in the walls where cables and equipment would be bolted into place. This module was mostly M-D's stuff, so actually mostly open hall with corridors and equipment bays surrounding it — mages do wacky things sometimes, so eventually a full fic-class reality generator would be dismounted from Merida and brought down here...but that was a long way off.

Sitting in the guts of the base like this brought back fond memories of commissioning the Funky Horror, back during those heady reconstructionist months. And yes, Nemo would be a beautiful place someday, he told himself...even if her afterbirth looked a little messy. He flipped his POST open, muttered something about why the heck someone hadn't given the Green people POSTs so he didn't have to mess about with radios, and gave the all-clear. First up would be power and lights (he'd been running on his Atlantean deep-sea vision so far, and even then had needed a torch), and then having a mage running the base right now would assure this sector got priority for construction after the main module got it's act together.

Which, thought Fish, wasn't necessarily a good thing. With this blasted "state visit" by their employer coming up half the contractors were working in a panic anyway...AOANLA had dubbed it "Death Star Syndrome", and it was endlessly frustrating to the Boardies to have to double-check everything. Didn't those nutsos realise one crack down here and one, maybe two entire modules would be kindling along with everything in it? And with the usual non-disclosure orders about RESPAWN...

* * *

BSS Drala'Fi (Black Star) Somewhere over the Panama Isthmus

From an undersea base to a ship that looks like an angelfish...the Minbari-made bridge of the war cruiser was an alien jumble of crystalline control systems and Dagda's Clansmen, all busy with the myriad calculations required to hold a course within the tight tunnel of reality control from the Funky Horror, a practical measure to ensure flying saucer myths were the least of the Earth's worries given Board ship traffic.

It's not often an oldbie broods, and himi wouldn't have classed what he was doing as brooding, but he was wearing a buff on the courtesy console Dadga had arranged for him, mostly monitoring stuff he didn't need to be told anyway. His usually friendly face wore a concentrating frown, and this wasn't lost on Dagda.

"Not happy aboot' te idea?"

"What does she think she's letting herself in for, Dag?" himi's voice sounded...distant, as if the thoughts behind it were so wide the words had a long distance to cross.

"Vast amount's'e'powa. Simple. Worried aboot 'te ghosts and 'te ghoulies?"

"I'm worried about her, Dag. There's stuff out there that can make your flesh fall off and crawl away just by looking at it...not nice stuff. Stuff that's pissed with us because we keep whacking it, and we have enough trouble keeping our newbies safe sometimes as it is...and with Waldo and Steve's New Model Army out there..."

"Aaah, she's tough. Somethin' messed wid' her, she'd stuffsit in te' Maximum Fun Chamber. And te' SKID wannabes are eh pathetic rabble and anaffront te t'Goddess we shal put doon with resolute force!"

himi twitched, both at the mention of a little Green toy the Board fully intended to shut down and Dagda's complete failure to Get It. "Dag, I don't want to have to tell Mike that he's inheriting the estate early because his mother is either insane, soulless, or just plain dead! She thinks she's manoeuvring herself into untold power, and fine...give her a POST and watch the fireworks, but what happens one day when someone starts talking like this?"

Dagda's head jerked. "Kindly take tha' voice elsewhere, friend."

"No, because I'm going to finish. And put the sword away before I reveal to the world that yes, it IS chocolate under foil wrapping. She's not a Boardie. Her viable skills consist of a world-class nasty mind, and we keep our world-class minds in high orbit behind big defences." At least part of himi's ire probably stemmed from the thought that Shen might have sent him in expectation that he would be a world-class defence, which only underscored the oldbie's worries that the Board expected people like him to pick demons out of their teeth before breakfast. Which he hadn't eaten yet.

"She's got her oon priva'mry, himi. Dinnae panic."

"Yes, the black-clad ninja death commandoes..." himi's tone described them as what they were in his eyes. Toy dolls. "What we're supposed to do with them, I haven't a clue. We've probably shot enough of them in the past for them to hate our guts."

"'tis simply te' foundations of her organisation."

"Half the D&Bers have standing revenge requests against them! DC's publicly stated she'll find the ones who roughed up Dave and flay them alive!"

"himi, I've got it ae undea control."

"Yeah, that's what we said about Cthulu, too."

* * *

Green "Summer House", Hong Kong 6:44am, March 12th

As dawn broke the house was abuzz with end-of-season packing, even though it wasn't the end of the season yet...but their mistress had little further use for the Chinese government just now, and saw no reason to have her ELINT teams stand idle. The helicopter fleet was warming up outside, filling the air with rotors as the paraphenalia of the Dragon's day-to-day plotting was crated and shipped to cargo terminals, marked as packages of rare manuscripts...which they were, in a way.

"I have no idea when I'll return, Thaddeus, so don't wait up." The butler's demeanour was slightly drooped, although his employer's enthusiasm was practically infectious."You know my standing orders, check on Louie every few hours...and his minders. Tell our brokers to expect all kinds of news...since Specualtion has to be the mother of all spy networks and I WANT it......tell our bankers to sit tight and not touch anything. Anything unexpected, I'm keeping my satellite phone so defer to me if it's urgent. And don't contact me about our trojan horses under any circumstances." Hazel smirked to herself at the sight of a stack of her underlings merrily burning papers. Perhaps she would institute a paperless regime...and if the reports on crazyfurries' genetics labs were true...well, what a shame that would be for her bloated wages and sweeteners bill?

The radio crackled in the pocket of one of the technical staff amidst the chaos, and he shuffled his way through the hustle and bustle of the evacuation to reach his mistress

"Madame, radar has a massive contact from the southeast...Chinese aircraft aren't reacting."

"That'll be my ride..." The Dragon swept up her laptop and a small valise containing her equivalent of an overnight bag. "Don't bother with the SAMs, we're all one big, happy fleet..."

The merc had seen Wrath of Khan but kept his opinions to himself. Mrs Green smiled for the last time as a human, twirled with the energy of newfound omnipotence, and glided out.

* * *

Somewhere in the United States...

A smoke-filled basement in another run-down building, the smoke clearly a stage removed from cigarettes. A twitching robed figure led the meeting, a black-clad figure crouched beside him...the better to maintain security among people not known for their loyalty — but very well known for their bricks-and bottles attitude.

A little whacked... thought the member of the crowd whose hood hid a gas mask and whose hand rested on a taser. ...but cool as hell when he's ninjing at someone."

We've seen this situation before....

"Soon now, my brothers..."

Geeze, could he get any cheesier? Must be the ciggies...

"...soon the Harlot shall feel our wrath again."

There was a chorus of stoned nods and lethargic affirmatives. Society always has a steady supply of malcontents, and the Dragon had files aplenty and enough "reprogramming" capability to ensure the ringleaders for dozens of rent-a-mob types were firmly in her pocket. Some of them were so far gone all they did was nod and smile at what the last speaker said.

The leader screamed a slogan with froth-corrupted lungs, and the rabble started chanting it. Louie nodded to himself and made a swift exit, stifling a decidedly evil chortle...

* * *

For the second time in three days, a Board cruiser disgorged a shuttlecraft onto a Green's front lawn...the huge vessel hanging at high altitude but still big enough to dwarf the helicopter fleet. Dagda was chuckling rougishly at the way the tiny helos gave him a very wide berth. The Dragon had a fusion beam locked onto her from the second she stepped out into the morning sunlight.

This being strictly speaking a visit to hostile territory, the first two people out were a pair of heckler's Fleet shock troopers, rifles at port-arms. Maybe there was something to all those Fleet honour guards after all — it certainly gave you a power kick...and person number three grinned at the reactions from the "groundskeepers", all of whom carried the kind of automatic weaponry bribes can modern and exquisite it would have been a shame not to turn their ammunition into various forms of confectionary.

The arch-spider herself (himi had once heard a bunch of speculators refer to her as the Spider Mastermind, but that had worn thin after the Other Side started deploying the damn things) was on the lawn, in full gilt regalia. The urge to add a certain brown coca-related substance to that, too, was almost overpowering. Still, she seemed to have the Boardie attitude down pat...and that smile... "Welcome...himi?" The Dragon extended a hand, oozing well-oiled diplomacy. "Welcome to my Hong Kong operations. mi casa est su casa, if you'll pardon my butchered Spanish."

"Heh. No, madame, let me welcome the madhouse. Have a chocolate orange, and welcome to the firing line..."

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