Condition Green!

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Part Seven: Crush Depth

The Black Star was at cruising altitude...and the chocolate orange had toothmarks on it. The Dragon had given it some consideration, and decided to be diplomatic. At home, she might have accidentally thrown it into an incinerator or chemistry lab, or discretely arranged for someone else to eat one first...but when aboard the Board, ha ha ha...

But seriously...poison was unlikely, given the Board's love of sweeping blows if they had to remove an Inconvenience, and little tricks like beta blockers or other devious mental or chemical games were unlikely. The Board had honour of a sort, and their famous Ethics. Frankly she didn't see much difference between their ethics and her own, but she had a very firm idea of where most of the globe's premier mental..ah...experts were, viz:on her payroll. Rumour had it (and it takes a very refined form of rumour-monger to monger rumours about the Board) that there was a chemical refinery somewhere to make even the most overfunded venture-capital sinkholes in some pharmaceuticals sit up and drool...but on the other hand, that was rumour.

The Dragon inwardly grinned, her exterior a mask of professionalism. Her few competitors wasted time following wiretaps and trying to insert double agents...none of them had had the genius to simply arrange matters so they could ask...

"Tell me something, himi..."

"Humans have a larger penis than any other hominoid."

"That was a prelude to my asking a question..." Reminds me of Michael when he was thirteen. "...Now I'm here, what's the itinerary for the day?"

"Well, we're at the whims of the Black Star's timetable..." because there's no way in Hell I'm portalling or manifesting YOU, Madame Guillotine! " on to Nemo..."

"My tax dollars at work?"

"Something like that. After that..." For an evil second himi was tempted to pack her off to CPOK's boot camp in Woomera...but no. "...we see where we need our newest vunderkind, I imagine. High Command will doubtlessly want to chat, you can probably expect lots of newbies to cluster...then someone will presumably quietly take you aside and explain all the dark, dirty little secrets."

"Ah yes, our great and glorious High Command..." himi had to admire Hazel's sheer sparkling charisma. It was practically an aura. Alone on a potentially hostile vessel that made her best creations look like a bathtub float, and she was as smooth as she'd be at one of her own soirees. "...should I have packed evening wear?"

"I doubt they'll insist. The current Director is nice that way." What with the fur and all.

"So...a few hours poking around the innards of my dowry as a Boardie, a few more hours chatting to the elite over canapés...and then what?"

"And're an active, posting Boardie." I'll be amused to see what that laptop's innards look like, since apparently uBB's classing it as a POST... "With all the rights and responsibilities thereof. You'll find us a friendly lot, if insular and thoroughly off-the-wall."

The Dragon's voice shifted from it's usual contralto to a wry half-chuckle. "And when do I get some of these wonderful toys?"

"Give it time."

The Dragon's inner grin threatened to break the surface as she pondered the accelerations she had planned. "Oh, I will...patience is, after all, supposedly a virtue."

himi's retort to THAT was little more than a snort.

"I was waiting for that, himi." Her tone seemed to have shifted down a gear. "And I'll answer with a quote from the Evil Empress guide."

"The one about what your body can't get you, an automatic pistol will?"

"No. Unless immortality comes with absolute power, you'd better be grooming your evil offspring to take the reigns someday."

himi raised an eyebrow, the sign of some inner pondering. "Doing it for the children?"

"Certainly not!"

* * *

High Earth Orbit, The Funky Horror

"You okay, Wing?" asked Ahayweh as the exhausted pilot flopped into a seat on the station's F Deck commissary — not one of the serious restaurants, but good enough for the kind of food that provides solid amounts of energy without being more than that. "How'd your meeting go?"

She waved over the nearest person eating, who turned out to be one of the Omegas, sensing that Wingnut's exhaustion might not be just physical.

"Tiring, Ahay. Very, very tiring." He rubbed his eyes, a reflex action which indicated a tired mind as much as several hours spent hunched over plotting tables, and wondered — not for the first time — just what the Powers that Be wanted out of him here. It wasn't that he minded being attached to the prestigious CRFH Board — who would, for crying out loud? They faced down the worst creation had to offer, and held the proverbial front line! He could expect more activity in a month than most of his fellow Host saw in a decade!

And that, in a sentence, was the problem. The High Brass types had wanted strategic recommendations, deployment plans, information on what "reinforcements" he could call in...all for fighting the Other Side. Because over here there was another side, and it didn't stop at the kind of relatively low-level stuff he'd spent most of his posthumous career thwarting. A good deed or six paled into insignificance at the single-minded protectionist outlook. He'd heard the tales but never expected to meet the people who would stand and die for their dependants if called...and had.

"Wing?" Omega hovered semi-apologetically behind his seat. "You want me to show you how to do a fatigue purge with a POST? A bit disorienting, but you'll feel better..."

"Yeah, Wing, before you pass out into your plate."

Still, it was nice to see they still had time not to skimp on the occasional good deed. Because in the morning...he'd have to take his squadron out on a first live run. And from the briefing...this pair of cultist types could well start shooting.

* * *

Future Nemo Facility, South Pacific Upper Rig

The Black Star's light passenger flyer was nowhere near big enough to warrant Nemo's massive deployable landing platform, even as a test run, so the graceful craft settled to a wobbly halt on the steel decking of the rig's "natural" runway - a long, flat area of the upper superstructure. There were no guards this time...and no oldbie, either. himi had quietly taken his leave and faded out, in classic Cheshire Cat fashion. Just a passenger transfer before the huge cruiser powered it's way back into the clouds and onto it's next stop — the comic, where himi had a ninja to interview.

Professional courtesy being what it was, as many Boardies as could be spared were waiting at the platform - not as an escort, but merely to either meet or watch. A surprising amount of work on the almost-complete rig suddenly turned out to involve hanging around the runway, and the rig had suddenly acquired a CAP as Nemo's perimeter patrol buzzed the control tower, paint still drying on the radio masts as they did so. It was still windy, although the incomplete shell of a strange domed section bearing the obvious signs of recent addition to it's lower sections indicated someone had talked Tcher into providing the promised weather control.

But little of this mattered to the Dragon as she disembarked and nodded to the slightly-dishevelled but still dignified figure waiting for her, hair blown askew by the Flyer's downdraft.

"Silver. We meet again."

"Indeed we do, Madame Green." The mage's eyes dripped bluewhite flame for a second as he spoke. "...welcome to the Nemo facility."

Silver's voice carried the undertones of, say, a general meeting the Hated Enemy for peace with honour. He wanted the reports to be true...but wasn't going to trust their originator an inch. "This is Laundreu..."

"We've met."

"Indeed we have."

"Down below are FlyingFish and most of our respective engineers." The vampire's voice was decidedly clipped, mostly because the woman in front of him brought back unwanted memories of who he'd met in her Gazebo one night, and where that dark path had ended. "You'll excuse us if we have our hands dirty, some of us are building a base."

"Such wonderful names." Let's rattle a cage, shall we? "Shall we get this 'inspection' started immediately or merely sit around swapping codephrases?"

Laundreu's wooden expression broke into a sneer, memories of his past with the Greens bubbling under the surface. "I can start calling you a few names any time you want...."

"Enough, you two." Silver himself at an angle to both arguers, poised to intersperse them. "We're here for a site check, not a duel. And Laun...don't call the woman out, or I will call in Mari over it."

The vampire gave...his colleague, wise to begin to think of her like that now, a very cool look, but half-nodded and moved aside.

"Good. Come on. It's windy out here. Let's start with the upper pyramid, since it's complete and in the fitting-out phase."

"Lead the way..." The Dragon's icy veneer melted once more underneath her blowtorch of a mind, and within a second she was the height of politeness once more, eager to get this formality over with so she could really get started on the Board.

And she started with a question to the still-irritable mage. Her next sentence was pitched decidedly lower, the better to be lost in the wind. "On the way, you can tell me who Mari is."

* * *

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

In the silence of the deep, the sound of industrious drilling can be heard...and then heard no longer as the lights fuse.

Grazer looked up from the minutiae of fitting cable mounting brackets and made a disgusted noise at the overhead light that had died...again. That was it. That temporary lamp was far too temporary, and dammit he was fixing it! He'd already tried the bulb, so...POST out, cable trace...down on paws to follow the cable as it strung from rickety hook to hook, ignoring the scents any transitory area built up.

Ah, the cable had gotten snagged on something down one end. No, not snagged...looked like the insulation had, it HAD snagged, probably caught by a passing piece of equipment, and sliced itself on the razor-sharp edges of the incomplete floor plating, several square feet of which was stacked in the umbilical prior to installation. The cable was soaking wet, and touching it would probably be a one-way trip to Zappo Land with first-class seats at the flailing-and-spraying-sparks courses.

Still, if he unhooked it carefully with a loose piece of scaffolding, and moved the floorplate like so...what made that creak?

No, nothing. Just the background hubbub of construction. Move the plates like that, shuffle sideways a bit and heave on this chunk and wha...?

Water. Dripping...upwards? No, spraying under the hellish pressure at this depth, the poorly-fitted seal weakened by decay...and without the weight of stacked heavy metal sheets it was spraying and fountaining and ripping the wall open...!

"Command, Construction One! Condition Blue! HULL BRE..."

Seawater under 700,000 psi of pressure slammed straight through the cracked umbilical weld and went through Grazer like a laser through tissue paper, the flickering tendrils of RESPAWN hissing and crackling through the wild white water.

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