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 Outside - The Danger of Speed

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PostSubject: Outside - The Danger of Speed   December 21st 2009, 8:38 am

Outside - Story Two
The Danger of Speed

Part 1

Fighting scavengers while drunk is not the way to end a night. I however refuse to take the blame for what happened, as there is no shame in being nice, and that is all I was doing.

My name is Thor Hawkins. I own an exploratory vessel called The Menlo Park. Everyone, definitely including myself, wants to go out into space in an attempt to make their fortune. I got lucky both in managing to find things worth paying my bills, and in meeting Rachel Livingstone who had recently founded a scientific facility, but did not want to go back out into space alone. With her financing, I was able to not go bankrupt after my second mission, and hire the people to secure my success.

The youngest member of my crew is a wonderful lad called Clover. It was my wife that realized the amount of work he put into his job and had me hire him. I was expecting him to be an eccentric aristocratic young man, but he is a hard working friendly person who quietly allows his successes to be credited to luck. Those who actually work with Clover learn how driven the man is, and accept the fact that rewards come to him in payment for his effort.

No one would have suspected that one bonus of his work would be a wife. I mark as one of my successes my meeting of Rachel, so actually considered it good that Clover's society was providing him with a lady. I might have sounded against it at first, but I truthfully did not believe the young lady would be bad for the lad.

Naomi was a lot more capable than I expected. Seeing her pretty heart shaped face, long hair, and lacey dress whose skirt covered her ankles, my initial impression was that she was attractive. The people that settled Clover's planet were Amish attempting to get away from the modernization of Earth. Naomi thus had the background of a girl from a group of people who desired to not take advantage of our wonderful modern technology. Against my personal conviction, she revealed herself as desiring to advance herself, having qualities that were worth something, and willing to adjust to our ways. I ended the evening feeling that Clover was indeed getting a younger version of my own wife.

I was drunk, and the young lady was drunk. Rachel and Clover were both personalities that did not enjoy dulling their senses, so would signal the waiters to cut the potency of their drinks while most others were no longer mixing their alcohol. I was not going to admit that I was drunk however, and Naomi did not have the experience to understand that she was drunk. While my crew was feeling the need to get some rest, I found Clover's young lady agreeing with me that the celebration did not need to end.

It was the young man that mentioned walking around the space station. Rachel was quick to agree, stating that tours of the place were free while the restaurant that was supplying us with refreshments was eating into any profits our coming mission might gain. Naomi was ready for seeing more of her new world, and so we set off.

We should not have headed off to the YOU, say U.I.W. – United Inhabited Worlds – as a word and you get YOU, offices. Naomi's world was about to be integrated into YOU, so Clover thought he would show her some of the inner workings of the civilized part of the galaxy. The problem with such an idea is that none of us that work Outside have any respect for those that work Inside.

Naomi tried to smile as she listened to what she hoped were jokes, even though our remarks were as caustic as we could make them. At least my comments were slurred, but Rachel and Clover could speak their slander clearly. Places Inside have the luxury of an infrastructure that those of us who go Outside can only dream about, so their construction designs can be a lot more fanciful than we would rationally discuss. I can say that Naomi cannot blame us if she finds her life aboard my ship boring, because she was warned.

The hallway leading to what was supposed to be Inside Control was not a featureless stretch of metal. The floor was carpeted in a nice green shag covering that did a horrible job of simulating grass. The star pattern around the recessed light panels in the ceiling I felt was simply an overt waste of my tax money. The walls were covered with a textured soft blue laminate that gave the illusion of fading back causing those in the portraits to appear as assertive as I claimed they actually were. Both Rachel and Clover, having discovered livable planets, had personal contact with a number of the dignitaries, so could put evidence behind their verbal abuse of certain faces. Considering that the two also had to pay taxes, and would point out the writers of certain financial bills, I was actually enjoying the slow passage down the corridor.

I was drunk, so I could not help but fall on the floor laughing when Naomi asked Clover, "Is there a hallway that honors the true space heroes?"

Attempting to give me time to compose myself, Rachel answered, "Clover and I have our portraits in the terrarium on the top floor."

The young man had more recent news, "My claim is becoming a part of YOU, so my portrait is being moved to an office for the embassy of Neosalem. I probably should have another portrait hung in the office or in the terrarium, but I have not bothered going through the motions"

I had to get up from the floor, as my wife and Clover could trade one-liners with each other until everyone would believe they were actually mad at each other. They were both driven individuals, so would not be angry, but only mentally stressed as they feverishly worked to come up with the next verbal jab at the other. I had the group move on down to the set of double doors that sealed the end of the hallway. To break the conversation, I made a comment of my own.

"Clover, you do know that there is really nothing in there?"

"If there is not, then I guess we will be in charge of Inside Control for a time."

"That is an honor I do not want. Show your lady the sight, then let us get back to the ship. I want to get away from the stupidity."

The door was not locked. It was not supposed to be, as all citizens of YOU were to be considered as equals with access to all parts of government. We were in space however, so all portals were supposed to be capable as acting as seals against the vacuum. This place was built by people who only talked about going into space, and did not understand that wood was porous so that the doors actually declared how one segment of our society was able to do things that would get everyone else reprimanded in court.

The room beyond the door was not a well organized place of efficiency. It was originally designed to give such an appearance, but those that spent our tax dollars were not sane individuals. Instead of efficiency, the room declared a complete lack of concern about how our tax dollars were used. The walls were paneled with actual wood. The carpet on the floor was made of a soft plant fiber. The desks were formed to be very ergonomic in design then laminated with a warm dark blue color. The computer terminals were capable of brilliantly displaying the minute details of any image, although usually only displayed text. I laugh when I see such production values in a media presentation, although I felt a different emotion seeing it actually before me.

Time had not taken its toll upon the room, but indifference had. Almost the only people that came down the portrait hung hall were those that worked here, and without someone to admonish them they allowed their work to pile up around them with their drinks and snacks carefully placed on top. One of those working in the room that had to rise to gain some refreshment noticed the visitors and stated a welcome.

"Clover, Thor, Rachel, come on in! Who do you have with you?"

The young man introduced his companion. "This is Naomi Williams from Neosalem. She was sent to learn some things about me. Since she was brought to this station, and since Neosalem is about to be recognized as a member of the U.I.W., I thought I would show her this place."

"Are you going to force us to open up the store rooms?"

Clover did not mention that he knew that there were no store rooms. The doors beyond did open into spaces where things were stored, but they were supposed to be offices. Everything done in this room was supposed to either be sent to important people or destroyed. Bureaucratic maneuvers however kept the real work of managing space down on Earth, so those here became simply routers of information and the elegant offices became convenient places to set manuals and reference data.

I suggested, "You guys can put on a show, can't you?"

"We are a tad rusty on our presentation. What do you want us to show the lady?" I once knew the names of most in the room, and I did recognize the speaker's face, but I was drunk then and still cannot tell you his name now.

"Aw, fill up your big screen with all the movements of all the vessels you guys are tracking."

One of the ladies in the room stood on a chair to wipe a section of wall as it suddenly displayed a picture of the solar system that was then hidden by numerous icons along with identification codes. I mumbled to Naomi that she was supposed to be impressed with the number of spaceships. While I intended my tone of voice to indicate that I was not, her eyes indicated that she was awed. I guess coming from a community that had no spaceships, and only hosted a few trading vessels each month, seeing evidence of so many of the vehicles did seem grand.

The man that had spoken earlier started into his prepared routine of what was being displayed and the benefit of YOU Control, but was interrupted as Clover asked, "Hey, what are you guys chasing about ninety degree counter orbit of Mars?"

The poor guy was having a tough time remembering his speech, so it was one of the ladies that replied, "One of our agents is chasing a scavenger. Instead of taking what was there to be had, he took off in the cruiser of another scavenger."

"Give me a tactical on those boats."

"We don't have tactical. We just compile the data. Tactical is the province of our military ships."

A look of complete disbelief crossed Clover’s face before he asked, "Your people down below cannot give you tactical?"

"No, they only handle voice transmissions and bureaucratic problems."

Clover glanced in an effort to look at other areas on the screen, but asked his question as he kept his focus on what he considered to be the problem. "Where is the nearest military ship?"

"They are all patrolling the mines. The only one in our solar system is the Reagan somewhere around Uranus."

"Damn," Clover muttered as he moved to a terminal. "Outside Control, this is Clover. Nachez, aren't you on duty right now?"

Those of us that work Outside don't take the time to play politics. The distributing of power might seem like a nice way to prevent tyranny, but it makes it hard to get work done. When you are on the edge of nowhere with your life on the line, taking time for bureaucracy could be a death sentence. Inside could afford to operate as they desired, but I appreciated Clover for not wasting my time and smiled when I heard a voice from Outside Control.

"I am here, Clover. What do you need?"

"I need a tactical on two craft about ninety degrees behind your orbit."

"Cannot do, Clover. Our sensors don't point Inside."

"Damn. Listen, Nachez, I believe Inside has a newbie territory agent attempting to get himself killed."

"I am reading this call as coming from Inside Station. Those guys can give you some basic tactical, Clover. Tell them, veeek-tooors."

I again almost fell down laughing as groans sounded from those that worked in the room. A couple however did sit down and punched some commands into their terminals. When Clover asked to rotate the perspective of the altered view upon the big screen, someone moved to punch a couple of commands into the terminal that he was at, then told the young man to use his mouse.

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PostSubject: Part 2   December 26th 2009, 7:54 am

Outside - Story Two
The Danger of Speed

Part 2

As Clover magnified and rotated the image, I clearly saw the problem. Most in the room however had confused looks on their faces and mumbled questions about the screen to each other. Clover did not bother with explaining himself to those around him, but typed some commands into the terminal before speaking.

" JV804I, dash, 8J, this is Clover at Earth Control. You need to adjust your flight. I mean now! Adjust your flight."

"Clover, I cannot do. I am in chase of a felony theft by a rogue scavenger."

" JV804I, dash, 8J, your speed is presently point seven nine four of tachy. That puts you traveling at less than two point four megameters per second. You are presently less than eight kilometers from your quarry. If he alters his heading, you have no time to respond."

"I am not giving up the chase."

"Agent, you are DIRECTLY behind your quarry. All I am requesting is an adjustment to move you from danger." Clover stood up to ask the room, "Doesn't this guy have some tactical on HIS boat? I am required to have it on mine."

One of the ladies felt a need to quote rules. "Yours is to be used away from any oversight control station. Our agents are supposed to have supervision."

"Well, where in Hell is HIS supervision?"

The young man definitely had a reason to try and get the people in the room busy. I however did not believe that they were intelligent enough to figure things out for themselves. While Clover was doing a fine job of mentally setting the mood for action, I decided to give some ladies some directions on exactly what to do. Luckily, they did not argue with me, and soon another voice was heard in the room.

"Second, Earth Control. Okay, I have a screen of local traffic. I now see what you are seeing. Patching you through to someone who might help."

All of those in the room had turned to watch Clover as he was getting frustrated dealing with the agent, but their eyes moved back to watch the large screen as I spoke to someone else. "Admiral Orleans, this is Thor Hawkins of the Menlo Park presently operating in Inside Station. It has come to our attention that there could be a situation in your territory. Could you verify a vector heading of JV804I, dash, 8J and BE295, dash, 5M?"

"What are you foreigners doing handling matters in our neck of the woods?"

"We were seeing how our tax dollars were being spent."

"Well, you boys need to get back out into space where you belong." Other sounds were heard, then the admiral verified what was clearly being said around him. "Yes, we have a problem." Groans sounded around the admiral, and those watching the large screen also made soft exclamatory statements. "Okay, the problem has been dealt with. Thanks for alert, but we have some cleaning up to do."

Clover spoke before a connection could be closed, "Admiral, no mayday is being made?"

"At the speeds we travel out here?"

"The one he was chasing would have been hit in the rear, Admiral. I suspect when your people show up, that the front boat probably won't be found."

"I don’t expect much to be found."

Clover continued to watch the screen as he explained himself. "I just helped Castle refurbish one of his old boats, Admiral. I also want to mention that I have built my own boat. The identification beacon is well protected on its own power supply in the front of the boat. The pilot compartment has to be secure against vacuum and normal threats, so to take out the beacon the damage would have to decimate the pilot compartment as well."

"What are you saying, Clover?"

"I am saying that we should still have the front beacon on the screen."

Suddenly voices around the admiral sounded as those in the room began to speak as well. A new icon with a different number suddenly appeared on the screen. With all of the traffic going on Inside, if no one had been paying particular attention, it might have gone unnoticed. A murmur of voices however indicated clearly that the possible deception was indeed recognized.

The voice of the admiral sounded, "Yes, Clover, we have a situation here. Whoever this is, he just became more than a normal scavenger."

Clover turned from the screen to make certain the young lady beside him understood what had just occurred. "Naomi, you should know that we fly along with the stars. Everything in space is moving, and conveniently almost everything in space is moving away from us at decently fast velocities. The Kert Field that we generate around our crafts allows us to equate our reality to that of another star. When a spaceship operates, its base speed and direction is set by the star that it is referencing. Luckily, space is filled with stars, so it is normally easy to find something going in the direction and speed, called velocity, that you want. Our only problem is finding stars traveling at faster than light speeds, and, truthfully, we are not certain what our Kert Fields lock on to enable tachyon rates.

"The problem that we just had was one of speed. We can now travel extremely fast. Most would like to say that we travel too fast, but the distances between things in space make travel times unworkable at reasonable speeds. What you just saw was a problem that those new to spaceflight normally have. In order for a certain newbie agent to feel that he was able to do his job, he felt a need to keep visual on the craft he was chasing. We have all these instruments, but it takes training to trust them. At the speeds we travel in space however, you need them. That ship in the rear was directly behind the other ship, and when the front ship changed its direction the components of its velocity altered, although the speed stayed the same. The change in forward movement was enough, even slight changes produces large results at the speeds they were traveling, that the rear boat plowed into the one before it.

"However, what I know, and what most Insiders tend to forget, is that the Kert Field is basically plasma. Out in space it is not hard to generate a plasma field, especially at our level of technology. Those of us that travel Outside have to be careful in our spaceship designs, because getting good fuel is not easy. If you are working Inside however, you can afford to get almost any design to move. Thus, even though the front boat was probably hurt by the collision, nothing says that it was put out of commission.

"Now, what makes this situation an even more serious matter is that the identification beacon changed. At least, it appears to have changed. Inside has its laws, but even Outside there are certain rules of conduct. Space is too much of an unknown, and the working conditions are too deadly, for any allowance of deception. First, we have the theft of a boat, which is a very deplorable crime. Second, we have the flight from an officer of the law. This is a minor crime." Glares came from some workers around Clover, but he kept his focus on Naomi. "The problem however is that foolishness in space often leads to death. The death of the agent, however stupid he was, is still something that must be accounted for. Changing identification codes is however something that must be punished. If you let that infraction go, space moves from being mysterious to being untrustworthy."

The voice of Admiral Orleans now spoke over the speakers, "That was a good explanation, Clover. Now, I need some more work from you. My people are moving to the crash site, and I have a couple moving to the culprit. Thor, I could use some assistance. Somebody that understands situational tactics, like Clover."

It was Rachel that answered, "Clover is an independent signed on with the Menlo Park. I would prefer having someone more in need of special pay."

My wife was a very intelligent lady, and often would notice things that I would not, but she was not as devious as I. "Clover is going to use up his time to us soon enough, Rachel. At least in this situation I can charge Inside." I changed my tone and volume to make it apparent that I was now speaking to another. "Admiral, I am putting three vessels in service. My boat has good tactical and multi-unit logistic capabilities. Clover can take his new lady and show her some real space work. I will need to take Clover to his boat, but you should soon see another of my crew, probably Diamond." I looked to Rachel in case she had any disagreement with my decision, but when she nodded I considered another ego that I probably needed to soothe. "If that is all right with you, Admiral."

"Let us get this guy caught."

As I headed with my group back to my boat, I contacted my ship to have everyone prepare for possible duty. Considering that everyone had recently been to a party at my expense, I did not feel bad getting some work out of them. My body was letting me know of the abuse I did to my internal system as I forced my muscles to propel me through the space station. All my people on board the Menlo Park had to do was move to their duty areas. They had it easy.

Clover was my youngest crewman, and Hardy Vaughn, called Diamond, was my oldest. I know for a fact that a number felt that he should retire. I also know that he did not consider himself old, and truthfully liked his life. As his employer, I also knew that he really did a horrible job of saving money, so could not afford retirement.

Diamond was never one to move his body fast. His slow and steady method of getting a job done had as many faults as benefits, but it had kept him alive. That is one of the reasons that I chose him. One Insider had already lost their life because they did not consider the risks of their actions, and I did not want that to happen again.

I knew Diamond would not move to his boat until he was certain that it would be ready to fly. Kert field drives took their time to properly prepare the gas before building the plasma field. Each pilot had their own method of using the time wisely with Diamond simply glad that he did not need to rush.

I was allowing Rachel to pilot our boat while I communicated with Harley when Diamond entered her office. The lady has to sleep and do other things just like the rest of us, and she drank her fill at the party, but I spoke to let her know that I needed her to perform at her best. Communications can be maintained by a number of computers throughout the ship. Harley can thus move about or have others take over her duties. When I put the ship on alert however, I want her where she had access to special instruments and everything was set to her liking. Mistakes can cost lives in deep space, and excuses do not bring people back from the dead. Harley stopped her comments that she was at her desk and would be doing her job when I heard the lady laugh then speak to another.

"Diamond, you can stop feeling your head. You shaved your skull yesterday."

"Yeah, well I won't shave it again until we again come Inside. Can't have my hair getting in the way, however, so I will just put this band for the moment around my wrist."

The tone of Harley’s voice became serious as she said, "I just uploaded the explanation of the situation into your ship. It was done by Clover as he spoke to his new lady, and I found it sweet."

"I didn't get to meet her. I held down the ship."

"She doesn't act Amish. After I give her some lessons about fashion and make-up, she won't look it either. Anyway, she should be with Clover on this mission. Besides me, you will be active with Thor, Clover, and the military ship, Reagan."

Diamond sounded as if he was moving from Harley’s desk as he replied, "So, if I don't recognize the voice, it is either Naomi or military."

"My money says that you will recognize Naomi. Get into your boat. You can listen to Clover on your way out."

"I don't plan on taking any time, Harley."

I heard the portal open to a berth passage as Harley strongly said, "It’s a chase, Diamond. You are to stay on the culprit's tail. Thor will be coming to handle arena tactics, and Clover will be your second. Thor gets to charge Inside for this mission, so he put his most expensive flyers on it."

"So I can have fun."

"Inside already lost one agent. As long as you catch the guy, you can have as much fun as you want."

"Well, I wonder if this target knows how we have fun Outside?"

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PostSubject: Part 3   December 31st 2009, 8:22 am

Outside - Story Two
The Danger of Speed

Part 3

As the instruments on my boat indicated that Diamond was disengaging from his berth on the Menlo Park, he asked me to have Naomi speak to him. She was with Clover waiting for me to dock at the Menlo Park so they could transfer to his boat. The lady did respond to the intercom, and said some words to the elder pilot. He commented to Harley that she was correct about him being able to identify her, but he then asked to speak to the military as he signaled his ship to move into tachyon space.

Diamond made no apology to the soldiers when they chastised him for rushing through the solar system. Those Inside did not like speed demons, and Diamond had his boat move at over thirty times the speed of light. He might have received more than a reprimand, but he returned to normal space within a few kilometers of the target vessel. I heard the man chuckle when a military officer complimented him on matching the velocity of the other boat, and I chuckled as well knowing that he had just broken the law in front of a cop and gotten away with it.

I guess that Diamond heard me chuckle, because he asked, "Thor, where are you and how do you want our victim packaged?"

"I am just now dropping off Clover and Naomi. First step is to verify target. We initiated this situation, but get military approval before getting serious."

"Yeah, I heard the part about a change of beacon codes. That really is not hard to do however. The simple method is to set your beacon inside your cabin."

A military voice entered the discussion, "That is why we passed a law making such illegal."

Diamond chuckled again before saying, "You people just cannot get it through your skulls that those determined to break the law do not limit themselves to just one law. I bet we find the beacon in the pilot cabin."

"Let us resolve this issue so we can find out all of the facts."

"I want all bets on the table at that time. I just put two hundred down on this guy having the beacon in his cabin."

"Gambling is not exactly legal, Diamond."

"Yeah, and neither was my popping tachy to get into position. I just noted that Thor did the same, and I bet Clover does as well. You gonna hold that against us?"

A new voice entered the discussion, "This is Officer Emily Bonds, Diamond. I am not military, but government, and gambling is not illegal for the common citizen when done through an authorized agent. That ship was stolen. Scavengers have a license to pick up stray equipment, but theft is still a serious crime. I cannot imagine someone stealing an illegal vessel and knowing how to use any special features. Acting as my own authorized agent, which I am, I thus will take your bet."

"Yeah, that does make things seem suspicious." Diamond paused, I guess to study his instruments, then asked, "Thor, are you in position?"

"What do you need, Diamond?"

"Watch me. I am about to get a visual."

The return clear, crisp voice was that of someone on the military vessel, but Diamond accepted the confirmation of his maneuver. He activated a switch that had his Kert field send him again into a faster-than-light speed. The vector did not place him near the path of the suspect vessel, but when he stopped his boat went dark. The special plasma field did tend to excite enough electrons that some energy was lost in photon emission making spacecraft easily seen against the blackness of space. The photon activity also tended to corrupt incoming visuals, so Diamond turned off his Kert field in order to get detailed pictures of his distant quarry.

"Oh fart," he grumbled before speaking a little louder. "Clover, what are you carrying?"

"I just came back on duty, Diamond. I am having my co-pilot pull the covering off of certain switches, but I had to drop my mines before coming Inside."

"Okay, I am point, but I will need some firepower from you."

The voice of authority from the military vessel broke into the conversation, "What is the meaning of those remarks?"

"That should be obvious, because my pictures are being transmitted. That ship is not a normal scavenger vessel. That thing is bristling with weaponry." Diamond felt a need to clarify his situation, "Uh, Inside military craft, please transfer me to someone with authority to discuss the oops factor of this mission."

"This is Admiral Orleans of the YOU ship, Reagan. I need you to identify what you mean by oops factor."

"Admiral, please look at the pictures that I am transmitting. I do not want a fire fight with this guy, but an attempt to take him out might result in some hair trigger activating. When I shake him up, he might also rattle and roll."

The sounds from the military ship clearly indicated that the admiral was consulting with his officers, but he did raise his voice to assure that Diamond heard his conclusion, "This target is still in good condition. The one we are tracking was part of a collision. I am not questioning the need for this spaceman to properly identify and explain himself, but is this our objective?"

"I would say it is. There is a missile bay empty. I believe your agent did not die by collision, but from a different type of impact."

I saw a concerned expression on Rachel’s face as we listened to the admiral suddenly demanding information from someone about a report from the earlier supposedly crash site, and his voice lost volume as it moved from the microphone while complaining about the need for certain soldiers to get busy at their tasks. I know I was also making noise as I discussed certain facts with Rachel. Diamond however knew who flew with an excellent instrument system, so made certain that another joined in the verbal traffic.

"Clover, you running them new computers?"

"No, Diamond, they are in my room aboard the Menlo Park." Clover showed some of his youth as he blurted out, "Come on, Diamond, we are still Inside."

"Harley, can you give me an estimate of where our quarry is headed? Also, is he aware of our conversations?"

The lady was quick to reply, "No, and no. I assume the second 'no' is good news. I am reading a transmission signal from the boat, but I am only hearing Roy Rogers. It was originally playing some opera, but he got mad and started punching buttons until he found some western tracks."

"So, that is not his vessel."

"I believe finding answers is what this mission is all about."

The military leader broke into the discussion, "Diamond, I want tactical on this oops plan of yours."

The elder pilot surely heard the admiral, but did not speak to him. "Clover, you can give me at least one hundred eighty degrees of laser fire?"

"I don't need new computers to do that, and my thrusters are full. Range will be four hundred thirty-eight meters."

Diamond went silent, but his boat was not quiet. It traded transmissions with Clover's, then it talked to my boat. I was doing well enough manning my station with a cloudy head. Rachel handled organizing the choreography necessary to work Diamond's plan. Finally, he admitted everything was set.
"Admiral, tactical coming to you."

Neither me nor any of my crew could see the efficient chain of military command that the computer diagram passed through, but all of us heard the admiral bark, "'Oops plan is approved."

Naomi was the only new person on my crew. The rest of us had already spent slightly over four years together on one mission. Whatever rough edges had been present between our personalities and styles of behavior had been long dulled. With precision smoothness our three boats locked computer signals and synchronized their clocks. Once Diamond saw certain lights on his board go green, he initiated the action of all three boats.

My boat, called the Next Experiment, was present merely to help coordinate the actions of my crew. It originally belonged to my wife, and was a large boat built for comfort. Diamond must have considered the craft's size and style to make it easily visible, because he had it appear from tachyon space in an obvious position in front of the target vessel. Giving the suspect pilot barely a second to respond to the presence before it, Clover's ship, called Shamrock III, switched from faster-than-light speeds to the same relative velocity of the target vessel with his regular thrusters firing. Since we fly with the stars, the velocity of a ship flying less than the speed of light can be easily duplicated because we know the stars in the visible universe. The laser fire that started strafing over the target vessel was not allowed to intensify on any single point, but it should have been powerful enough to cause alarms to go off. Diamond's ship, called Whimsical Eleanor, again only allowed about a second before it came out of tachyon speeds to drop something off.

None of us doubted that the suspect would be working to make his own tactical move. Diamond's strategy was simply not to give him or his computers time to react. While we had taken the time to coordinate our attacks, the suspect would need to quickly respond. He was not given enough time to react however, but each of us sped back into tachyon space almost to the nanosecond that a certain explosive did what it was made to do.

The bomb was a practical tool for space exploration. The explosive was used for various reasons around large masses of rock. It was actually a safe and compact substance with numerous realistic uses.

Stupid people in a hurry and careful scientists seeking wisdom had shown the dangers of using explosives around spacecraft. Some media presentations had an explosion cause the Kert field to react, but that was merely fiction. The plasma would actually give some protection to the vessel as the shock wave would rip away the enveloping cover. Most of the time the only harm to a craft was being sent back into surrounding space knowing that it was helpless until the plasma layer could be rebuilt.

We or the military were not desiring to harm the boat, but containing the culprit was the goal. Considering that it had already changed beacon signals, I felt certain that the Reagan had their sensors locked on the craft to keep it identified. None of us could read the pilot's mind, but we all definitely wanted to be in command of the situation. Proving that we were able and willing to use our weapons was supposed to convince the boat pilot to surrender.

He should have given up. The Kert field had been disrupted, so the boat was again in real space. Knowing that the odds were one against three, if not more, would cause most to seek better terms. Understanding the coordination that had gone into the attack should have negated any idea of flight. No signal of surrender was being made. Those of us watching knew that the boat’s engine was hot that made rebuilding the plasma layer easily and quickly done. Every second that passed caused us to believe that giving up was not exactly on the pilot's mind.

Harley flipped a switch so those of us active in the arena could hear what was being broadcast. "This is a Mayday from ship YL264, dash, 7L. I have just been attacked by pirates. Please verify my coordinates and respond."

"This is Admiral Orleans of the YOU ship Reagan. I would love to respond, but let us first agree on your proper credentials. Should not your beacon read BE295, dash, 5M?"

The Kert field around the problem craft suddenly blazed, then its regular engines fired moving the craft physically through space. All watching understood the action. Momentum gained within the plasma would carry over into whatever reality was created by the field. The pilot was attempting to flee, and was enacting his own plan.

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PostSubject: Part 4   January 5th 2010, 8:12 am

Outside - Story Two
The Danger of Speed

Part 4

Mumbled comments could be made out on speakers of the military personnel expecting their civilian associates to give chase. We held our positions however. Finally, Clover's youth had him blurt out what Diamond, Rachel, and I were also wondering.

"Where is that guy heading?"

Harley answered, "There are still asteroids in the belt. Cosmic Mining has grouped a number to establish an expanded claim, and I believe he is heading there."

"Firing thrusters? You cannot exactly hide easily if you have momentum pushing you."

One scientific problem with going from any speed to that of faster-than-light was the sudden change of force. By the time men had started to seriously move from Earth, they understood the limits of the human body to survive certain stresses. No one doubted that a sudden jump to tachyon speeds would crush any human form.

The Kert field avoided the problem of changes in momentum by not changing momentum. While the actual speed and direction in reference to most would alter dramatically, one's velocity in reference to a specific point would not. Those who now consider the marvel simply mark it as another miracle of science, although the recorded first statement by a man watching Arnold Kert's experiment work was, 'Yee-haw!"

After receiving a message from Harley that the ship had again changed its beacon identification code, I decided to report to the military. "We could pull our stunt again, Admiral. I however believe that we should desire to find out where this guy is heading."

"I agree with your assessment, Captain Thor. We are about to move in your direction. We have a platform boat heating up with a team prepared to fly drones. I don't mind the Menlo Park finishing what they started, but I want you back out in space making more money to pay my salary. If it gets nasty, I want those of the Menlo Park to watch their tax dollars at work."

Diamond broke into the conversation with his own thoughts. "Thor, we cannot let that guy reach his destination. Admiral, those drones might be necessary. A number of Outside claims have been easily supplying raw material for Inside building projects. Cosmic has thus not worked this asset, allowing this local pile of ore to sit as easy money should other sources suddenly dry up. Cosmic does not show getting funds from scavengers supposedly using the asteroids as a base of operations, but that does not mean that it is not being used. Private property is private property. If the residents are associated with this guy, we might need to get a warrant."

The admiral returned, "I have to agree with you, Diamond. It is my duty to protect the private property of citizens and their businesses. I really do not want a fight inside those rocks."

Clover cut in, "We cannot run that mine drop again, Diamond. He is under thrust, so matching his velocity will not be easy."

The elder independent pilot returned, "You got the best computer system, Clover, even if a better one is back in your room. I thus want you to drop the mine. I will handle your job."

"I don't have a mine, Diamond."

I hushed the lad by saying, "Don't worry about it, Clover. Just do what you are told. Diamond, transmit your plans."

The elder independent pilot spoke as he finished his work on the computer, "No need to wait for the admiral's permission. There is no oops factor here, because Clover will not really drop a mine. If something happens, it will not be our mistake. I am hoping to cause our quarry to make one, however, or at least come to his senses."

My boat again went into action to appear from tachyon space in an easily noticed position in front of the target vessel. This time I was more directly aligned in front of the fleeing spacecraft. Giving the suspect pilot barely a second to respond to the presence before it, Diamond's ship switched from faster-than-light speeds to a close relative velocity of the target vessel also with a position slightly in front of the craft. The laser fire was directed at the front of the target vehicle intending to disrupt any forward vision. Clover's ship again only allowed about a second before it came out of tachyon speeds, but it quickly returned to faster-than-light velocities.

The suspect should have seen what he thought was the same maneuver, so Diamond had prepared for a normal response. Considering that I did not do anything, the return attack should not have been on me. The logical commands to a boat’s computer would be to shoot on the one firing lasers, because the one dropping the mine would not be present long enough to target. Diamond thus directed his attack to put the missile bays of the suspect ship where his automatic weapons could easily defend.

He however should have known not to believe that an Insider would think like an Outsider. As soon as the Next Experiment appeared, a course correction was implemented as plasma fire was sent towards my boat. He was not expecting an explosion. The shock wave did not originate close enough to rip away his plasma field, so he kept his relative speed even as his forward sensors were disrupted. He moved from the blast feeling that he was control, and as he checked certain side monitors he gained a feeling of being in command.

Things were definitely not going well for me. I had sent out the mine merely to assure that the sensors of the suspect boat would register such an item being present, although hoping that the assumption would be that Clover dropped it. The explosive had not traveled far from my craft before being set off. The Next Experiment thus had its field disrupted. While my panel showed no damage, and Rachel stated no problems in restoring the Kert field, other sensors blared what they considered a real troubling situation.

Harley had earlier enabled all the pilots to hear the commentary from the target vessel, so none missed him saying, "Hah, this time there is nothing in the way of my shot."

It was going to take a few seconds to restore my Kert field, seconds that I might not have, so I brought up a control panel on my computer and fired thrusters to give my boat some movement. It was a smart move on my part, but not smart enough. The engine was hot, but no sooner did I attempt to restore my plasma field than did alarms sound warning of an incoming missile. Luckily, Rachel was in better mental condition than I, and quickly threw the switch allowing the boat to defend itself. She altered the display on her panel to enable control of the weapons as she told me to get us moving.

Clover was not wasting time. He had money, so was always able to afford the best of equipment. While he did spend a few years with his Amish settlers, he had already been in space and understood some realities of his desired occupation. His time on Neosalem was not just helping to start crops and keep the animals healthy, but he studied spacecraft design and computer logic. He thus was now not only able to buy the best equipment, but tweak the best responses from it. His computer signaled the problem with my vessel almost as soon as I knew about it. The young man had quickly worked to plot a course for aiding his captain when Diamond's slower equipment finally analyzed the situation.

"Clover, hold your position."

The Shamrock III was already moving as the young man replied, "I am going after Thor."

"Widen your scan area, Clover. Cavalry is on the way for both sides."

"Thor needs help now!"

"Clover, you do not have anything to help with."

"These lasers are made to cut rock, and I might get lucky with a plasma burst. I can give that guy enough hurt to buy Thor time to get out of there."

The young man was mature enough to know that one method of ending an argument was simply to act. While he respected Diamond enough to respond to him, Clover did not cancel the dance of stars that put his boat again moving towards the opposing craft. His computer did recognize the appearance of other vessels, but he still focused on his strategy.

Admiral Orleans did have a wide view of the combat arena, but he did not stop the young man. There was danger in his rash act, but it had less of an oops factor than the trouble I was in. The military officer, and those around him, respected someone who had allegiance to his superior. Admiral Orleans thus only worked to help assure that Clover's rash act would not be a final one.

My youngest crewman knew that his ship should be able to take a limited amount of aggression. While a plasma field could be easily disrupted when forming, once established it existed as another stable form of matter. The presence of the field thus not only allowed those inside to establish their own universal rules, but protect incursions into that separate reality. Clover thus came out of tachyon space not only to deliver fire upon the attacking vessel, but to take the hurt that was to be inflicted upon the Next Experiment.

The presence of new vessels appearing from tachyon space probably did give Clover some concern. Taking fire from various directions could disrupt his Kert field, although it could also be shrugged off depending upon the strength and locations of attacks. I heard the lad cheer when I managed to return to tachyon space, then I noted that his boat was able to do so as well. Clover did not doubt that the success of his tactic would again be attributed to luck even as he saw on his computer screens that there was a more practical reason for the lack of return fire.

One boat that appeared from tachyon space was not identified with a normal code of letters and numbers. The tag that appeared on the screen was clearly that of military designation. By the time those watching the monitors could respond, a number of additional military units were shown moving.

"This is Major John Willett. I am presently in command of eight drones that were bought at great expense by the people of YOU, but whose loss will not be missed as much as that of any life. It is thus asked that all craft in the area power down until proper credentials can be verified."

There really was only a minimal fear of drones. The Kert fields altered reality within their volume that resulted in a noticeable distortion of space. Living creatures had the ability to ignore chaotic data while rationalizing what was the best approximation to set a course. Numerous programs had been and were being written to teach computers what humans did, but no software had yet been written that could assure a proper result. Those in charge of the unknown boats could have some confidence that they would lose the drones, although such had the definite possibility of being proven wrong as the craft were being guided at range by human pilots and were within space that was well mapped.

Diamond did not hear Clover say anything, but my panel clearly indicated that a set of flight plans came across from his ship. The elder pilot made no sound indicating that he recognized their existence, much less their quality, but I sent a signal to him stating my approval just to get the guy to hurry up and decide upon some new course of action. The response from Diamond clearly stated that he had taken a moment to look over the plans.

"Thor, you are trusting in Clover actually being lucky?"

"Come on, Diamond. Seconds are passing. Do you have a plan?"

The voice of Harley was soft as she announced a change of broadcast signals, "Admiral Orleans requested this private link. He wants to know what is being planned this time."

Clover's voice was not loud as it answered, "I have a young lady riding co-pilot with me who recently did some work at a Cosmic Mining station. Figured it could give us an opening to visit the locals."

I spoke my conclusion, "I agree that the military can handle things here. I don't have the manpower to chase all those scavenger vessels. We however are not competitors to Cosmic, even though we have stock and have done business with their competitors, so should be able to do a friendly fly-by. I don't think they have a station though."

"They have to have something to oversee the claim, Thor."

A masculine voice from the military vessel supplied some data. "There is an observatory set on an assembly of asteroids. It holds the claim while gaining some practical rent money."

I asked, "Who is on record as manning the station?"

Admiral Orleans answered, "A Forest and Anita Brubaker. Nothing is showing as suspicious about them."

"Then we should not run into trouble. However, keep your eyes sharp, Clover. Your lady can claim the welcome, so you are front."

Space was not a place for wasting time. Already there was some surprise that the other craft had not worked some alternate plan during the passing seconds. Admiral Orleans had heard enough, and green-lighted our plan. He felt that he could have active hostilities at any moment, so allowed the independents to do what they could while he kept his attention on what he considered the more dangerous situation.

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PostSubject: Part 5   January 10th 2010, 8:32 am

Outside - Story Two
The Danger of Speed

Part 5

As soon as our three independent boats shot off, a number of the hostile craft decided to make their exit as well. My boat was designed as a command vessel, so had monitors dedicated to tracking the movement of all local craft. Clover's and Diamond's boats were required by law to have tactical capabilities. The younger man had the money and interest to support quality equipment. Diamond however had the system that he felt was good enough for his job, although he trusted his own computing power to actually get a job done. Something about the movement of the unknown boats bothered the elder pilot, and he activated a completely private link before speaking.

"Clover, you do have suits?"

Private link or not, the young man's reply indicated that he felt certain the military was listening, "I am required by law to have suits."

"Does your girl have a suit?"

"They are form fitting, Diamond."

Some modern developments did get overlooked by the elder pilot, but he ignored mentioning that. "Wear them when you go to the observatory. Don't trust the air lock."

Harley interrupted the discussion to mention that she was giving us something to listen to. The military were engaged with a number of fleeing vessels. The pilots of the drones were doing well to keep all targets from being able to drop from tactical, although all were presently not transmitting beacon signals. The military were chatting about their difficulties tracking the craft, especially when they shut off their Kert fields and only moved by thrusters, but between the business were comments about discovering a hive of something nasty with questions about what the real trouble could be.

Diamond re-engaged a private communications link, then said, "Those guys are attempting to pull the military away from the observatory. Clover, are you in position? We need to act fast if we are going to catch the real criminal activity."

"The answer to your question is 'almost.' I just dropped my field and moving by thruster."

I wanted both my men to know that I was with them, so said, "Clover, I believe Diamond was asking if you could see anything suspicious."

"What are you expecting me to see? Stacks of gold? Mounds of diamonds? We are in space. I sure could use a fruit bar. Do you think they might have an asteroid of them nearby?"

"How about the observatory? Do you see it?"

"Yeah, it is where it’s supposed to be. It isn't signaling though. Harley, are you picking up anything?"

The clear voice of the lady responded, "Nothing from the observatory or Cosmic Central. You have access to the main military chatter, and another frequency gives us access to Admiral Orleans. The scavengers are silent with an attitude of every man for themselves."

Clover told everyone to go silent as he had Harley open up a general wavelength. The next voice to speak was Naomi. I had not heard her and Clover discuss what was to be said, but the lady spoke with clear confidence about who she was and her supposed purpose for going to the observatory. I had to agree with Diamond who stated his approval over the private link.

"Could not be sweeter than that. Feed the response to us, Harley."

The communications offer returned, "There is no response, Diamond."

"You heard me to wear suits, Clover?"

"Yes, and Naomi just learned where I hid my illicit weapon that Inside knows I have due to my sister making money by providing to the media a detail of my ship that I sent her. It was nice of them not to look when I returned from Outside."

I broke in to say, "It is not illegal to have, Clover. Just illegal to store it assembled and loaded with ammo."

"Right, nice of Inside for not looking."

"Your girl is not complaining about that thing?"

"She was raised as an Amish. They may be non-modernistic, but they are not non-intelligent. She can clearly understand that a little extra protection might be required."

Diamond broke back into the conversation, "Clover, I am coming upon the asteroids. I will give you whatever backup you need."

"Okay, I approached slow to give time for them to transmit a greeting and for us to get into our suits. Helmets will go on before I open the hatch."

I wanted the young couple to know that I was with them as well, so waited until an indicator flashed then said, "Okay, Clover, you are docked. Put the helmets on."

My monitor added another screen as it accepted a camera signal. I saw two suited figures checking each other before leaving through an open hatchway. I played with the frequency that the video feed was on and discovered that Clover had opened up access to all of his boat's cameras. The instruments were cheap, and had a variety of uses, so we had a lot of them around our crafts. I made certain that my computer was recording the images, unconcerned about whether or not Clover's boat was doing the same, then I told the young couple that they were cleared to leave their boat.

I watched as Clover moved first from his boat into a cylindrical section barely more in diameter than he was tall. Before him was a sturdy metal door. He should have felt familiar with the airlock design, but something about the walls disturbed him. He made sure that his weapon was available at his side before turning back to Naomi.

The young man smiled as he held out a hand for his lady, I guess in response to a smile from her. The positive countenance stayed on his face as he shifted in order to help Naomi keep her footing. She was not used to the disturbing influence of going from one simulated gravity field to another. Pulling her to his side, Clover started them both walking the short distance to the intercom to speak to those inside the observatory.

Naomi turned around at the feel of air rushing past her. She gasped in fear as she saw the escaping air of the Shamrock III add to the forces that were sending the small craft from the asteroid. Her head turned back to Clover expecting him to be worried. His stance clearly indicated that he was as he pointed his weapon at the airlock door.

I was able to hear Naomi exclaim fearful sounds as Clover started firing his weapon. The device directed beams of concentrated plasma that were clearly visible even though the cameras I was using to watch the two were moving away. He held his attacks to certain sections of the airlock wall, then when they glowed red he banged on them with a spiked metal tool set on the belt of his spacesuit. Naomi did not know what he was doing, but was glad when he reached for her and pulled her back near the opening to the asteroid.

Clover exchanged fuel cells for his weapon as he asked, "Thor, you have my ship?"

I was busy, so it was Harley that answered, "Malcolm has your ship stopped, Clover. We are getting a message from the observatory stating that they have you in their sights."

"I melted any opening that looked like a weapon hole. I read about them enough, and Thor once showed me a couple of Avondale mining operations where they actually had them installed."

Diamond returned, "Don't take chances, Clover."

"Take chances? I have options; what options do these people have?"

Naomi was frightened, but her soft wavering voice activated her communications system, "There are people, lots of them."

We suddenly realized that we had other listeners as the voice of Admiral Orleans barked, "That last voice, identify yourself."

Clover returned, "That is Naomi Williams, Admiral. It is not the first time she has spoken, and you should have heard me refer to my co-pilot."

"Sorry, but I have a lot on my mind. I want a scan of those rocks."

I was quick to indicate that I had not sent my people in alone, "Of course I can scan those rocks. In fact, our scanners are probably better than yours, Admiral, as we need to make money with them. I however do not know what equipment they have inside that might distort my readings."

"I believe that I now understand this situation. My people are worried about the opposition. Your scan results can give us the perspective on this battle to gain us warrants and allow us to make all sorts of direct impersonal responses. The better the data, the faster and more vague our warrants can be."

Diamond's voice now came across, "I am in position, Clover. I can cover you."

Clover did turn his head to look outside the tube he was in. He saw his ship not too far away, easily gained with a handheld propellant attached to his spacesuit. There was another item on his equipment belt however that immediately interested him. Clover did not know what problems Admiral Orleans thought he was dealing with, but there was truthfully no military presently in position to visually know the situation. He continued to move his head until he could see the Whimsical Eleanor.

"Diamond, what type of view inside the observatory do you have?"

"None, Clover. I guess that they felt they had enough of a view of the outside with their optical telescopes and cameras."

"Well, there is a portal on the door in front of me. Blast the roof of this building to shake everyone up inside, and I will rush up and take a picture to go along with our scan."

The voice of the helmsman of the Menlo Park broke into the dialogue to add a little propaganda to any audience, "Mighty lucky of you to have a camera with you, Clover."

"Don't thank me, Malcolm. Inside forces certain regulations about spacesuits."

Admiral Orleans interjected his own comment, "And I am going to make certain that regulation stays on the book. Yes, Clover, get me that picture."

Diamond stayed quiet as he worked to reduce the oops factor of his present attack. He did not want to even crack the surface of the observatory, although he did want to shake it up. A study of the terrain gave him his best option however, and that was not to attack the observatory at all. He sent an explosive charge into the ground. The material of the asteroid would transmit both tremors and sound.

I saw Clover act as soon as he heard Diamond give a signal. Truthfully, his action should have been safe enough, as he felt certain that he had sealed any tube capable of doing him harm. He had heard enough lectures about things not being as expected however, so acted more confidently as he felt the building shake certainly disturbing anyone with a finger at a trigger. I however believed that his major concern was that his pictures through the portal would only show a face. Feeling that the tremors would not allow anyone at the portal to stay there, he moved trusting that at least one of his pictures would give the admiral the data he needed.

As I watched Naomi hold onto a projection near the opening of the building, I heard her suggest to Clover that he stayed at the door far too long. I was proud of the lad’s calm reply that he was not going to trust one picture to answer all questions. He was clearly not looking through the eyepiece, but kept his head down and only looked to assure that the front lens of the camera was before the thick clear panel of the door. There was no telling how many pictures he took, but I almost cheered with Naomi when he finally moved back.

Clover had to use a hand to steady himself as he leaned over the edge of the airlock tube. The building had artificial gravity, but the asteroid it was built on had very little true pulling force. It was rather discomforting to have only a portion of one's body subjected to a certain effect. He however did not allow the odd sensation disturb him from his work.

"Diamond, I have a package coming at you to pass along."

The elder pilot did not say anything as he worked some commands, but it was Harley that said, "Okay, Clover, transmit."

Admiral Orleans spoke next, "Damn pictures look like they were taken by somebody scared for his life through the cloudy view plate of some workplace in space. Good job, Clover. Give us a minute."

While the Menlo Park was open to one channel from the military ship, Harley was not privileged to access them all. She probably could have gone looking for other broadcasts, but the admiral kept his link active so she did not feel left out of events. If he had killed his signal and not allowed her to listen in on part of the various details that were coming to him, I would have commanded her to start playing with her instruments. My order to her would not have mattered though, because Admiral Orleans switched to a frequency that enabled everyone to hear it.

"Crew of the Reagan, let it be known that we have good evidence that we have a slavery operation being protected. All vessels that are presently resisting us are considered to be agents for the slavers. You have the authority to fire to kill. Crew of the Menlo Park, let it be known that your evidence has gained us the necessary warrants to move in and control this situation. Cosmic Mining has been notified, and they have given us permission to act as we feel best. Such was an act of kindness on their part however, as we have gained the necessary warrants to act as we felt best anyway. Crew of the Menlo Park, please hold your positions until authorized personnel release you."

Harley was given the authority to activate other channels so the crew of the Menlo Park could better track the activity of the military. Suddenly, our tactical computers were stressed as they had to work with the true might of the Reagan. Boats started pouring from the military ship. The opposing craft were no longer being tracked by drones, but chased by fully armed and armored military vessels. Transports quickly moved to place armed personnel upon or around every rock in the surrounding volume of space. While those of us that work Outside have little respect for the organizations that rule Inside, there are times that we have to give credit to the benefits of civilization.

I could tell Clover and Naomi felt the observatory shake when the military announced that they had landed on the main asteroid. The two held to projections that had supported the docking berth as they maintained their position. The cameras from both Clover's and Diamond's boats soon showed the arrival of a crowd of weapon toting armored spacesuited figures. It was the leader of those troops that told the young couple that they could now return to their boat.

Once again in the Shamrock III, but before the internal atmosphere could be restored, Naomi asked, "Slavery?"

Clover replied, "That is something that my father inadvertently made possible when he patented the method of easily creating artificial gravity. Kert fields can work in atmospheres, but they lose a lot of fuel. Once we could play with gravity, going into space became relatively cheap. Companies stopped being stingy about weight being brought aboard, so people started realizing that it was possible to sometimes stow away. Some captains however spotted the unregistered people before docking, and what resulted was not exactly proper.

I added my own data, "There have always been stories of unwanted babies in space. The media has not had to make up some of the tales that they present. You will learn as you travel with us what facts the media distorts and which ones they actually get right."

Naomi did not know how to signal for a private channel, so we all heard her say, "I want babies, Clover."

Clover did nothing to prevent us from hearing his reply, "Rachel does too, Naomi. Let us first see if we are agreeable to a marriage when we get near Hiesenberg's Point. Until we are secure with our futures, no babies."

Harley had to interrupt the personal drama, "All right, everyone back to the Menlo Park. The military has given us permission to dock at its base to refuel. They want to keep our bill down to a minimum."

Clover reactivated certain circuits, then said, "I know Thor enough to be certain that won't happen, but still I want to thank the military for their hospitality. Coming back."

_________________
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