Avocet Boulevard

A broad bi-leveled thoroughfare, consisting of a pedestrian mall on the lowest level with a hovercar circuit above, accessible by electromagnetic lifts that carry passengers to the cab platforms.

The pedestrian mall runs east and west from here, with the General Charles Avocet Spaceport to the south and a series of commercial enterprises to the north. Up the middle of the mall is a median of transplanted Earth elms and oaks, broken here and there by small cut-throughs.

At the very center of the pedestrian mall rises a fountain, with sparkling blue water gushing from the mouth of a giant green sea turtle moving through a simulated forest of red kelp. To the west stands a colossal statue of a human in full archaic battle dress, complete with helmet, sword and shield.

Fairfax makes his way down from the hovercab platform. His weight rests on a black cane.

Lambrick is beneath one of the oak trees that dots the median, catching a little respite from the sun and the crowds, neither of which afford much leeway to a man, even in uniform. There is nothing on him to indicate that he is on any sort of duty and, in fact, he is currently enjoying a bit of time off.

Frost arrives from Hesperia Hovercab Platform .Frost has arrived.

Avocet arrives from Avocet Boulevard West .Avocet has arrived.

Frost steps off the escalation ramp, glancing about for a moment before starting towards the fountain.

Avocet wanders down the street. He seems rather awestruck by the city as he strides along. Hardly seems to notice the growing crowd gathering near the ramp, hoisting signs and muttering angrily.

Fairfax lurches unevenly as a man with a leg in a cast will in the general direction of Lambrick and his tree. He considers the mob of protesters a bit warily as he nears his destination. “Nice night for a walk.”

Carter-DeVille, a bit stiff and limping from her previous escapade in Sivad, pauses on the corner of the Boulevard. All these people with signs? Angry mutters? That’s not normal. And so she watches for several moments, eyeing the area at large and frowning.

A skinny man with a head like a squash framed by a frizzly goatee gets up onto a round planter next to the escalation ramp and begins to shout: “Friends, I am Pietr Bogdanovich, and it is time to unite in protest against the malaise and economic stagnation of Mars in the wake of our so-called revolution for independence!”

Frost casts a glance at the crowd, keeping his distance as he pauses to listen, frowning slightly

The protesters wave their signs – “SHOW US THE CREBAR!” “FRUITS FOR OUR SACRIFICE!” “ARE WE REALLY BETTER OFF NOW!?”

Avocet arches an eyebrow, and stops, suddenly taking an interest in the display.

Lambrick frowns faintly as the man gets up on his proverbial soap box. “Sir,” he greets Fairfax with a nod, then nods towards the Bogdanovich fellow. “It appears not everybody thinks so. I wasn’t aware we had such social malcontents here.” He steps away from the tree, appearing unconcerned about being a uniform visible to the protesters.

Pietr Bogdanovich continues over the growing shouts of support: “We have followed Christoff Vandervere and his military cronies from prosperity with the Solar Consortium to a dying isolationistic with this Martian Republic. What happened to all the promises made by the Consul, assuring us would come to pass if we but followed him down this blood-soaked path?”

The protesters cheer rigorously for their speaker.

Fairfax mutters to Lambrick. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some were imported. Still, we are a republic. Let them get it out of their systems. Martian mercantile interests…we’re a planet with modest resources and a weak industrial base. I’d like to see how they’d do without tariffs and having to compete with Earth again.”

Carter-DeVille’s brows knit together sharply and she does quicken her pace now, limping with some haste towards the crowd. It takes a moment but she does catch sight of her battalion-mate and the two Optios – upon which she heads over. “Mah lawd…this ain’t good,” she growls, keeping a jaundiced eye on the squash-head with a goatee. “An’ mah /lawdy/. Thet man needs a shave. He looks wrinkled lik’ a prune uh-uh-uh!”

Frost looks amused at Carter-Deville’s comment, walking closer to the other officers. “Quite a crowd.” He states blandly, nodding at Lambrick and Fairfax in greeting.

The protest speaker shakes a fist toward the sky: “While we stagnate on Mars, the Solar Consortium makes in-roads with Independent Worlds, opening channels for economic opportunity and effectively painting Mars into a lonely and profitless corner! How is it that we broke away from the Solar Consortium, rebelling against their isolationistic madness, only to become that which we rebelled against, while THEY have become what the Consul vowed to make us?”

“Imported? Huh. I had not thought of that,” Lambrick admits, crossing his arms over his chest. He shakes his head and shrugs. “I do hope their speaking out like this will ease some of the tension. At the least it is not a very large crowd.” Yet. With Carter-DeVille’s arrival he smiles, clearly meant for her. “Hello, Trent. How is your leg?”

A rather slinky alleycat, shrill, protesting and yowling, scurries away as a tincan is kicked off the sidewalk by a pair of young, boisterous lads. One of the women holding up a placard, a sturdy matron with apparent lungs of steel, yells enthusiastically, “OFF WITH ‘IS HEAD! OFF I SAY!”

Fairfax inclines his head to Frost. “I wonder how The Praetor’s going to like this. No. Actually I don’t. I wonder how long it’s going to take him to get on the comms and ask us to break it up.”

Pietr Bogdanovich continues, twisting his mouth into a mealy grimace: “We must send a message to the Senate and to the First Consul – we have given you our support in this rebellion, risked all we had, all we might ever be, and we put our faith in you to make good on your promises! Do not disappoint us, or Mars may know a new revolution!”

Whatever answer Carter-DeVille is about to give gets abruptly cut off as the protestors cheer and that abominable woman makes her views quite vociferously known. “Ah’s doin’ fin’ but mah /lawd/’n butter, thet man hes a voice lik’ a tincan rattle!” she snorts disapprovingly. She is, however, under all that deceptive banter, tense as she keeps a lynx-eyed watch on the growing crowd.

Frost arches an eyebrow as he continues to listen, glancing at Fairfax, he says, “We’ll be needing a lot of reinforcement to break this crowd up.”

Fairfax says, “We’d be in the right place for it. Militia HQ is here.”

The crowd cheers wildly at hearing the call for revolution. Pietr Bogdanovich waves to them, urging them toward a lower cacophony, and then says, “We must give our leaders a chance to make good on their promises, but we cannot wait forever. The Solar Consortium is continuing to gain sympathy, and we’re lagging behind with each passing day. Don’t let us down!”

Lambrick hrms to himself. “The loudest usually do the best,” he points out to no one in particular. Looking first to Trent, then the two optios, he is given to wonder, “Does anyone know who he is? A union leader, perhaps, or merely a man on the street who sees an opportunity for self-aggrandizement?”

A bearded, tubby middle-aged man with a balding pate and a horrendously loud plaid jacket in vivid hues of green and purple shakes his fist, enthusiastically nodding to every word Pietr says. Beside him, a rake-skinny girl with a bikini-top and faded blue jeans cheers and claps her hands, catcalling at those who aren’t in the protesting ranks as she glances about disdainfully.

Neidermeyer arrives from Avocet Boulevard West .

Neidermeyer has arrived.

Neidermeyer strides down the street, his eyes narrowing as he stares toward the gathered crowd and the odd little beanpole of a man perched atop a planter. The praetor’s face is still peeling from recent exposure to the sun, it appears.

Fairfax stands with the other Legionaires somewhat away from the crowd in the tree peppered median.

Avocet glances toward Neidermeyer, and his eyes widen slightly in recognition. He steps back, trying to mingle into the scenery next to a signpost.

And a plug to the arse, but that’s no matter. Carter-DeVille’s frown deepens as she notes scathingly, “Ah hev no ahdea who th’nincompoop is, O-wayne but ah think we should shoot a popgun at his sorry de-ree-air. Ah hev no patience wit’ windbags.” To prove her point she angles a hip, folds her arms and looks excessively annoyed.

Over the rise of the market plaza comes a sudden odd phenomena, although it’s subtle enough.The air above one of the brokerages – the prestigious law firm of Varney, Kalenichenko and Hong – begins to shimmer gently, rather like the distortion one might find on a hot day above the hood of a car. It increases to a soft blur before it abruptly subsides. Unless one had been particularly paying attention to that part of the sky, it’s doubtful that it would have been noticed.

Pietr Bogdanovich declares, finally: “Let us hope they hear this message, and act on it! Prosperity for Mars! Prosperity for Mars!” The protesters lift up the little twig of a man and begin to carry him away to the east, shouting his cry.

Frost clasps his hands behind his back as he watches the protestors move off, knitting his brow slightly

Fairfax grunts. “Loom, we can’t go around shooting our own people. That’s precisely what the Consortium wants. We have to figure out how to deal with this another way.”

Lambrick pats Trent’s arm lightly, again shaking his head. “Let him speak. He is doing less harm that way than he might otherwise. These people have simply not studied their history, nothing more, and that has yet to be declared a crime.” He pulls his hand back to cross his arms over his chest again.

Neidermeyer snarls as he approaches the group of soldiers. “Let them bitch. It’s what they do. And I can’t say I entirely disagree with them. We’re letting opportunities slip by.” He lifts his chin. “Of course, if they do try to revolt: We’ll take steps.”

Fairfax scratches absently as his cast-bound leg.

Fairfax turns to salute Neidermeyer as soon as he recognises the man’s voice.

Lambrick snaps to attention when Neidermeyer makes himself known. “Sir!” His nose twitches several times after the bark, followed by a sneeze. “Sorry, sir,” he says quickly thereafter, rubbing his thumb against the side of his nose. “Dust from the prosters, I’m sure.”

It’s getting noticeably windier out; the breeze, which had to this point been fairly innocuous, is beginning to pick up by a bit. A dog barks down one of the small alleyways that lead into the market place proper.

Tenille arrives from Avocet Spaceport .Tenille has arrived.

Neidermeyer returns the salutes. “As you were.”

Mathwanan arrives from Avocet Spaceport .Mathwanan has arrived.

Frost salutes Neidermeyer when he notices him. “Sir!” Nodding, he drops his arm

Neidermeyer grimaces suddenly, putting a hand to his face, the wind whipping at tattered bits of dead skin from his sunburn. “What the hell?”

Carter-DeVille gives a soft growl as she lifts her hand to the abrasions on her face. “Thet wind’s startin’ t’hurt m’face!” she grumbles. In the aftermath of the protestors’ departure, things seem reasonably more quiet and thus, Tenille’s jingle-jangle carries quite clearly over the air to her ears. She turns her head, brows arching. “Mussy me!” she exclaims.

He rather likes the wind, but this one is a little odd, to Lambrick. Putting a hand up to his eyes to guard them against any particles carried on the wind, he looks up at the sky, “I don’t recall hearing any predictions for a storm, what?”

Mathwanan follows behind the skipping and costumed Tenille. He walks the walk of a haunted man, separate yet imprisoned in his wounded flesh. As small children pass, he traps their gazes with empty eyes and proclaims, “The wind heralds the wrath of the Lord!”

Janne arrives from Hesperia Hovercab Platform .Janne has arrived.

Avocet glances toward Mathwanan and frowns. Then he sniffs the air. He shrugs. “I don’t know if it’s the wrath of anyone’s Lord, but it’s something weird.”

Fairfax squints into the wind himself. He takes a deep breath and tastes the gusts as one might a wine.

There is a brief lull in wind, the yowling of an alleycat and the clatter of some old tincans being rolled about on the sidewalk sounding unusually loud. People that still longer on the street are beginning to glance uneasily at the sky; many of them are already hurrying towards shelter. The air is slightly cloying, rather like the calm before a storm breaks.

Frost stands with the other Legionaires, frowning slightly. “Perhaps we should find shelter soon.” He tilts his head to look at the sky.

Janne begins walking towards the Legionarres, gait unrushed but quick.

Mathwanan chuckles hoarsely and winks to Avocet. He attempts to catch Tenille’s attention, “Make thee merry! Be the fool for the Lord! Appease his wrath and invoke his mercy!”

Avocet shakes his head. “I don’t smell any lightning in our future.” Then he shuts up. Quickly.

“Oh, tis naught but a sweet spring breeze,” giggles Tenille, twirling about. “Welcome, oh..spr – ” She falters, holding a hand to her chest.

“I do believe it is time to get going,” Lambrick agrees with Frost, nodding once. “I’d rather not be caught out in any storm. It would be my first one on Mars and I would prefer to experience it from the in of doors.” His attention is distracted by Tenille and Mathwanan, in particular the latter. “Should we do anything about that fellow? It looks as if he might use some help.”

Neidermeyer grunts. “Storm. It’s just a gust of wind. It’ll pass.”

Fairfax’s fingers come to rub his ruby earring as though it were a talisman. They drop quickly and self consciously away. “This is no normal storm.”

Mathwanan blinks slowly, swaying only slightly. “Lord have mercy. He does come over one, doesn’t he?”

“How so?” Frost turns to look at Fairfax, arching an eyebrow questioningly.

Carter-DeVille straightens her uniform, her eyes tracking Tenille and Mathwanan’s progress. They do stand out after all from the usual crowd in their costumes. “Ah sway-re. Ah ain’t seen such costumes since ah was a honey-chile!” she exclaims with a chuckle.

Tenille tugs on the front of her costume, as if trying to loosen it. She staggers for a step, trying to breathe deeply.

Fairfax glances sidelong to Frost. “The trace elements…from that hemisphere. They’re missing entirely. And the clouds. Watch them…they’re not moving or shaping correctly for the season.”

Towards the east, a faintly odd glimmer seems to rent the clouds for a moment. Almost like lightning. But there is no lightning. Just the sensation that a light was turned on behind the clouds just briefly.

Neidermeyer looks toward Fairfax. “Might be an alien attack. Damned Castori, I wager.” He looks to Frost. “You people keep a handle on things here. I’ll talk to command.”

“Are there any ships orbiting that could be causing this?” Janne asks of no one in particular. Then Neidermeyer speaks and she falls quiet again.

A little girl running down the street pauses to stare at Mathwanan for a moment, then shrieks and bolts in fright, her pigtails streaming behind her as she skitters away.

Frost nods slowly at Fairfax. Turning to Neidermeyer, he says, “Yes Sir.”

Lambrick taps Trent’s arm, pointing out Mathwanan and shaking his head. “That’s no costume. You don’t get your ribs to show like that unless you’ve got nothing to spare for flesh.” He frowns, distracted from his thoughts to salute

Neidermeyer as he leaves. “Yes, sir,” he echoes Frost.

Tenille stands up straight finally. Her hand drops and she looks up to the skies, sobered for a moment.

Close attention to detail might reveal that the shadows under Mathwanan’s ribs are caused by expertly applied makeup. But it is much less than obvious.

Fairfax shakes his head slowly and hobbles backwards. “He’s awakening.” The young officer’s eyes are wide and fixated on the skies as if in a trance. “I didn’t believe it all, really. Old men talking, they always talk.” He backs nearer Janne’s position without really seeing her.

Janne looks to Fairfax. “Sir?” She takes a few steps over to him.

Softly, softly, as gentle as a kiss of a spring breeze wafting through the first dawning, voices can be heard. Many voices, chanting in low cadence with focused intensity. At first it sounds like the rush of waves against the shore, the murmurs indistinct and blended together in a communal hum. As the minutes tick by however, words, faint but still distinct, can be made out.

‘Here it extends into the fire, here it extends into the fire, holaghai

Into Earth fire it extends,

Into long life fire it extends, into happiness fire it extends, Here increased blessing extends, here increased blessing extends, here it extends into the fire…’

Mathwanan extends a grimy hand out to Tenille, “Something came over you as well, exquisite one?” Then his attention is drawn to the voices.

Frost jumps slightly, placing a hand on his rear. “That’s strange.” He frowns and mumbles to himself.

Neidermeyer keeps walking west. He stops momentarily, feeling the dizziness, but then that just spurs him on faster.

Neidermeyer starts shouting into his commlink: “Command, get on sensors – now!”

Neidermeyer heads into Avocet Boulevard West .Neidermeyer has left.

Carter-DeVille by now has drawn close to Lambrick, laying a hand on his arm. As the voices begin, she blinks, gasps, drops to a crouch painfully and glares around her with infinite tension wracking her frame. “What’s happ’nin’?” she growls, a bandaged fist clenching regardless of the pain. “O-wayne…what’s happenin’ chile?”

Tenille conntinues to stare up into the sky. “Yes, yes it did, gracious sir,” she responds to Mathwanan. “…here it extends into the fire,” she mumbles.

Avocet quirks his head slightly as the words take form. He makes a slight, unconscious whimpering yelp noise, and then frowns and looks around in embarrassment, hoping no one noticed.

Fairfax recovers some poise as Janne speaks. “Nothing. It’s…what is it?” He stares around as if looking for a target, something to fix a name on, a blame on. Tenille and Mathwanan serve. He stares intently.

Frost shakes his head as if to clear it. Looking at the others, he asks, “Anyone else heard that?”

Lambrick slowly steps out into the street, away from the trees. There may be a storm, or there may not, but in either case it is safer to be away from something large that could either fall over or draw the likes of lightning. “I’ve no idea,” he mutters, raising a hand to his head, shaking it. A frown follows quickly. “Could it be some kind of psychological warfare?” He looks up and down the street, hoping, perhaps, to see some physical evidence.

Mathwanan says to Tenille, “Aye, that’s all I can make out as well. Some sort of ritual they didn’t tell us about, do you think? I must say, that would be quite offensive.”

Janne shakes her head, “Must be broadcasting from somewhere near by. But why?”

The chanting fades to an indistinct murmur once more, fading away as a particularly strong gust of wind sweeps over the gathering – the tang of salt is strong in the air; after all, it’s not so far to the beach from here.

Avocet gets a look on his face like he might tuck his tail between his legs if he had a tail. He then scampers across the plaza, into the median, and ducks behind the low wall of the fountain, watching.

Tenille titters, her gaze still on the heavens. “And to believe that I made a cruel jest upon a woman with such an idea.”

By now what people there are left on the street are few and far between. Several young women scuttle down the sidewalk, passing by Fairfax and Janne with hunted, fearful looks. Quite a few others are wildly gesticulating and making guesses as to what all this oddness might be.

Fairfax winces in pain. He doesn’t respond to the Legionaire’s question but rather limps clumsily over towards the odd pair with his weight on a black cane.

Janne stays glued to Fairfax’s side, eyes scanning.

Avocet blinks, glances around nervously, then bunches up his shoulders, scrambles up onto the fountain and begins howling at the rocks that pass for moons in the Martian sky.

Mathwanan glances up, then smiles and looks toward Fairfax as the man approaches. He transforms his expression back to that of a harrowed flagellate.

Carter-DeVille tightens her grip on Lambrick’s arm. “Ah don’t lik’ this O-wayne,” she mutters softly, uneasily. “Th’air feels…heavy. Lik’ it’s gonna rain an’…mah lawd. What date is it chile?” She shifts her weight and hisses with pain as she accidentally stumbles in her attempts.

Janne looks sharply to Avocet, curiosity and questions for the strange behavior seething beneath the professional stance.

And all at once the voices swirl to a crescendo again out of nowhere, as quickly as they had faded the first time. This time they are stronger, the power and passion in the words as tangible as salt on skin, a caress, an embrace.

Ho-wo-o-ho, ho-wo-o-ho, at a holy home place

I indeed arrived, holaghai.

At his home of Earth I indeed arrived,

At his home of vegetation I indeed arrived,

At his home of all kinds of fabrics I indeed arrived,

Now at his home of long life, now happiness I indeed arrived, holaghai.

An odd sensation – almost as if an electric shock had thrilled through the ground, shaking bone and sinew and marrow – but no lightning strikes, and none has flashed across the clear, semi-cloudless sky.

Avocet quits howling, and yelps as the sensation strikes.

“Date? Uh… Martian or Earth standard? I’ve yet to quite get used to adjusting between the two,” Lambrick replies to Trent, somewhat sheepish despite the events. Avocet quickly solves that problem, his blue eyes fixed on the man with the lavender socks. “What on Earth…?” His accent is becoming noticably more Scottish with his increased agitation. “What’s come over these people?”

“Oh. Tis probably nothing but a special effect advertisment,” Tenille murmurs to her costumed companion. She lowers her gaze to the approaching man, listening to the voices with an odd look in her eyes. She then shudders at the shock, her gaze shooting back up to the sky.

Janne half crouches, going to pull a blaster she isn’t wearing. Her eyes widen.

Fairfax does indeed draw his blaster – pausing only as the voices incant once more. He squints at the clouds before returning his attention to the would-be party goers. “What is this? I heard you talking. You know something.” Tension, almost a superstitious tension, fills the soldier with the wide eyes.

“Churnin’ butter inna dusty tin can an’ call me Aunt Aggie!” Carter-DeVille jerks herself upright and glares around wildly, dark eyes huge as her hand drops to the blaster holstered at her side. “Mah /lawdy/! What on eart’ was thet chile!” Her shoulders bunch up, tense as can be as she scans the horizon, then the streets for an ineffectual glance at whatever it is that’s going on or causing this oddness.

Mathwanan looks toward Fairfax, “I have only just arrived on this plane, sirrah, just as has the jester that haunts my side. What would you with us?”

Wind. A lot of atmospheric movement. “Static electricity, somehow,” Lambrick guesses. “Something must be generatic a lot of static, but that usually happens in dry atmospheres, I thought.” That’s the extent of his trivia knowledge on atmospheric phenomena. It isn’t and wasn’t his particular field of study. “But… Damn,” he curses quietly. It just doesn’t make any sense. “Are you all right, TC?”

The wind fluctuates now – from a sudden stillness to a wild gust, then back to that eerie before-storm calm once more. The weather, it seems, has decided to play caprice, tugging at hair, clothing, whipping at faces and skin before it drops as abruptly as it comes. And then starts, all without warning.

Tenille nods with much jingling of bells. “We know naught. Remember, I’m the Fool.” She plasters a goofy grin on her face, even as the wind whips her ponytailed hair about. “Perhaps the howling man knows?”

Avocet growls, arching his back and snarling. He leaps down from the fountain and lopes across the plaza, ducking under the escalation platform. He wants no further part of this madness.

Frost looks about as if expecting to find something, knitting his brow at all the strange events happening. “Hard to handle things if we don’t know what’s going on at all.” He murmurs.

Mathwanan turns his head to observe Avocet, “Clearly he is in the spirit of the festival!”

Ferocity and doubt struggle to shape Fairfax’s features before the latter wins out and he turns to glance at the madman, Avocet. Still, two in the hand seems to win the day. The man turns back to his prey. “I’ll send you back to the plane of your origin if you don’t speak straight to me. This tumult. It doesn’t seem to worry you…indeed. That man is acting far more appropriately given what he’s seen.”

Mathwanan begins to scratch his head ferociously, “This makeup. . . I must be allergic to it. It’s quite dreadful, and quite sudden as well.”

Tenille looks at Mathwanan. “Are you certain of your research, gracious sir? It seems that these people don’t celebrate the old Earth holidays. What was it called again, Samoween?”

Carter-DeVille nods curtly, her bandaged fingers gripping tight about the butt of her pistol. She then shivers and gives a protesting sneeze. “Ah do not know what’s comin’ over th’world!” she sniffles, then sneezes again at least twice more in a row. “O-wayne…” Suddenly she totters on her balance and blinks, reeling back a pace and reaching out to grab at Lambrick’s shoulder.

Janne’s eyes narrow at Mathwanan. “Sir, Ma’am. This isn’t a festival. This is a situation. Perhaps you should get under some cover? Now?”

Mathwanan continues to scratch his head, “By the gods, don’t pester me. Is there a basin about here?” He remembers the fountain that Avocet was using and stalks in that direction. “By the gods,” he curses again, quite out of character.

Lambrick skitters after Carter-DeVille as best he can when he notices her topple, breathing out another curse, and then another for good measure as the wind catches him full in the face, forcing him to blink rapidly. Tears come to his eyes which he does his best to blink away, too. “Trent?” he asks, bringing a hand up to brush the rest of the water from his eyes. “Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?” While waiting for an answer the young man looks about, still half-expecting someone or something to come rushing at them. Given Avocet’s behavior, the threat may be a good deal closer than dark alleyways.

Eyes widening, Avocet whimpers and starts scratching. First on his shoulders. Then, under his chin. Then, he’s tousling his hair feverishly. The symphony of misery continues with an acrobatic display of remarkable contortions that eventually results in the sight of a grown man rolling around under the escalation platform with arms and legs flailing.

Mathwanan dunks his head into the fountain, desperately trying to wash the makeup from his scalp. Now and again he lifts his head and shakes it, dowsing anyone within splashing range.”

The wind, if anything, is picking up more by the minute. Where there was at least a few minutes of lull, there is less than five minutes in between each of the gusts, and there is nothing gentle about it either.

Tenille pouts. “A situation?” She utters a bah, then frowns, tugging on her cap to loosen it. “Fie and fiddlesticks. I came here for a festival!” She takes her cap off and scratches her scalp.

Fairfax tracks Mathwanan uncertainly with his blaster. He appears to favor his good leg more and more with each passing minute. “Who the hell are you people?”

Janne purses her lips. “Sir! We should get out of this! We can’t do anything against an atmospheric attack. We shouldn’t just stand here.” She says this to Fairfax, but is addressing it to Frost as well.

Carter-DeVille just shivers now. “O-wayne it’s lik’ mah mama used t’say…All Hallow’s Night an’ th’hants’re out…” She still has one hand tight about her pistol grip, the wind whipping at her face and making her blink, involuntarily causing her to step backwards into Lambrick. “Mah lawdy…Chile, what’s goin’ on?” She turns her head as best she can, buffeted by yet another caprice of wind.

It’s indescribable. A slight prickle at the hairs at the back of the neck, an almost disembodied feeling for all of five seconds perhaps, and if you’re looking around at the time, the entire area seems vaguely blurry as if caught in the frission of a heat wave. Again, it only lasts for a very short while – a few seconds, not even verging on a minute – before normality returns and all is as it was before.

Frost shields his eyes with his hand. “Time to seek shelter I believe.” He walks over to Fairfax. “Get these two to come along?” He asks as he glances over at Mathwanan, then at Tenille. Blinking as everything returns to normal. “Ok, maybe not.”

Janne swallows, hard.

All may be as it was before – mostly. But Avocet is now sprawled, exhausted, under an escalation platform, his shirt untucked, one shoe off, his hair a fright.

Tenille scratches, shivers, then boggles, stumbling, as she walks over to the fountain and Mathwanan.

“Halloween? Already?” How one does look track of time. “Don’t by silly, Trent. Since when does Halloween have anything to do with Mars?” Lambrick stops when the heatwave effects passes, his eyes narrowing. “Let’s get you indoors, what? Before anything serious does happen and you get more hurt,” he tells Trent as much as suggesting it.

Mathwanan stops messing about in the fountain. Makeup is smeared along his face. He looks at Tenille, “One would normally be embarassed by now, wouldn’t one?”

Fairfax appears to be well beyond anything resembling military discipline. Indeed, he’s off the reservation entirely. The man is spooked in ways that anyone knowing him will find shocking. “There’s nowhere to hide from this.” Still, as wild as his eyes might be his body remains steady and taut. “Doesn’t anyone understand what’s happening? This isn’t natural.”

Right over Fairfax’s head, about a foot up, a very faint shimmering begins to distort the air. It is not an immediately noticeable occurrence – but it becomes more obvious as it intensifies until it becomes a positive vibration, if such a word is applicable.

Janne catches the shimmering. She immediately reaches out for Fairfax to jerk him out from under the thing, whatever it is. “Sir… Come on. Inside.”

Lambrick shakes his head, eyes closed, eyebrows raising, then eyes rolling when he opens them again. Very much the expression of a man trying to get over something, such as a bad taste, or even a personal illusion of some sort. “It’s only…” he begins, nearly dropping down to his knees as his legs wobble. “Oi. What the…?” The young lifts his hand, hiding a yawn behind it. “Only Fear… Fear and, oi…” He runs a hand over his face, yawning again. “And Terror.”

Carter-DeVille growls around a bit. “Ah don’t want t’go in yet O-wayne…” she murmurs, eyes transfixed by some fascination at the sight of Tenille, Mathwanan and Avocet at the fountain. She still stands against Lambrick, not having had presence of mind to pull away yet but some of that rigid Marine discipline is coming back and she straightens her spine. As her battalion-mate totters however she immediately makes a grab for him. “O-wayne! Are yo’ a’raht chile!” Her voice is urgent.

Tenille loosens her ponytail, letting her hair fall free over her shoulders. “One would be embarrassed, if one were not so incredibly entertained.” She scrubs her scalp again. “I wonder if Chandler is behind this. He so loves special effects. Though I wonder how they are doing the…oh, amazing…” She points to the distortion over Fairfax’s head.

Mathwanan follows Tenille’s gesture, “Ah. Brilliant, isn’t it?”

And now behind Mathwanan materializes yet another shimmer, this one a bit brighter than the one that’s currently taking place above Fairfax’s head. Larger around the edges, less tall. More solid.

Fairfax falls back as Janne tugs at him. This could well be what saves Mathwanan or Tenille from the ripping bolt burning out of the blaster into the skies. Or, of course, the cause of it.

Frost looks up at the distortion, taking a step back. “Ok. Now what is that.” He asks, not expecting anyone to answer.

Tenille jumps slightly at blaster fire, then titters. “Oh, using Legionaires adds such verisimilitude, don’t you think?”

“Yeah… Yes, I’m okay,” Lambrick replies slowly, leaning against the tall black woman. “Just… feel, off. Like I hadn’t slept for…” He breaks off to yawn again, trying to shake himself but lacking the energy for it. “For days. Oof.” The lad yawns again, slowly sinking down to the street. “Feels like I’ve got lead… in my head.”

Mathwanan takes a step back, “Most realistic.” He then notes the shimmering that was previously behind him. He points, “There’s another one.” He leans in close to examine it.

Avocet blinks wearily, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He gets slowly into a crouch, staring out owlishly from under the escalation ramp.

Janne pushes Fairfax back farther, so that she can stay with him and keep a decent look at the anomoly that was forming. She glances over his form for a weapon she could appropriate, since she is without her own at the moment. “Optio Frost! What is going on? Has the Praetor found out anything?”

Tenille turns with a jingle to glance at the newest shimmering. She coos with admiration. “Chandler could never hope to achieve something as brilliant as this.”

Carter-DeVille continues to hang onto Lambrick for dear life, supporting him as best as she can on her own rather precarious balance. “C’mon O-wayne…stan’ up honey!” she coaxes, her voice trembling a little. And it’s about then, as she glances around tensely, that she notices not one but /two/ shimmering blobs, the one in the air and the one behind Mathwanan. “Mah LAWD!” she gasps and frees one hand to make the sign of the cross rather wildly and sketchily.

A shape begins to coalesce in that disturbance of shimmer over Fairfax’s head. A rather tall shape at that, with each second that it fades into view. It seems to be solidifying rather rapidly, taking form and – is that merely atmospheric illusion? – a face.

“Don’t know.” Frost replies, keeping his eyes on the distortion. “Maybe it’s time to call him.” His eyes widens at the sight of the face materializing.

The shimmer that Mathwanan and Tenille are looking at is solidifying in the manner of its counterpart above Fairfax’s head. It grows darker, takes an actual form, elongates until it’s almost as tall as Tenille.

Fairfax’s training is hardwired from childhood. Despite the fear that seems to permeate his very soul the soldier in him doesn’t need a soul to work. Eyes flick from target to target until they end up on the spirit materializing nearby himself and Janne. The blaster tracks up…

“You think so, Sir?” Janne snaps to Frost. Sarcasm?

Then Lambrick does shake his head, looking up, eyes bright, if darting all about the area warily. When he catches sight of the others looking at the shimmerings he does likewise, slowly getting to his feet. “That was a little too strange,” he mutters to himself, tearing his attention away from the anomalies to look at Carter-DeVille. “Phobos and Deimos. A little too perfect, what?” He steps closer to his friend, slipping an arm about her waist, both for security and safety in the face of the unknown. “This is not natural, TC. Not even supernatural. Somebody has to be behind this,” he states, trying to assert some normalcy, at the very least in his own mind. His Scottish accent returns to be more of the British blend he’s known for.

The face above Fairfax elongates itself until it’s actually a body’s height from the ground. And in the solidification features can be made out – the chiselled, bronzed and handsome features of a very tall, well-built man, stripped to the waist and in combat fatigues, a small pouch of what appears to be doe-skin hung about his neck. Long hair, tied back in a ponytail, wafts gently behind him irrespective of the wildly churning wind about the street.

Avocet stares nervously at the apparition and ducks deeper into the shadows of the ramp.

“Fascinating,” breathes Tenille, as she scrutinizes the almost tall as her shadow.

Mathwanan smiles as he peruses the two shimmering figures. He glances about, “They placed the holo-projectors very well. No sign. Discretion is ever so admirable.”

And as far as the shape behind Mathwanan and Tenille goes – yes, there are features to be made out too on this form. A older man, the hair at his temples streaked with gray, stony-faced and military in bearing, standing at a disciplined, martinet of an at-ease, his boots polished to a mirror shine.

Avocet blinks as he sees that apparition. His mouth drops open. “Uh…uh…Uncle Charlie?”

“By Mars, by Eros and Harmonia the forgotten children, by the salt of our sea and the salts of the earth, by my father and my father’s father before him…” Fairfax chants out a litany as he covers the apparition with his weapon. “By…”

Carter-DeVille clutches at Lambrick, her jaw hanging open as she stares with unholy fascination at the appearing apparitions. “Oh…mah…lawd…an’ Aunt Sally’s knickers inna tree…” she gulps and points a shaking finger towards first one form, then another. “…Th…th…/O-wayne/!” The fact that Avocet appears to know the shape takes about two minutes for her to register.

There’s only one word to describe the coppery-skinned man? Apparition? Ghost? standing behind Fairfax now. A loom. A definite, full-of-presence loom. Impassively he stares down the barrel of the Optio’s pistol, one brow quirked in what can only be described as amusement. Or maybe it’s just an optical illusion.

Janne moves slightly in front of Fairfax, protecting a higher rank while remaining out of the way of the Optio’s weapon.

The military martinet standing behind Mathwanan and Tenille cocks his head and glances down at the figure of Avocet sheltered beneath that platform. “Neil?”

Frost draws his pistol from its holster, stepping closer to Fairfax as he waits for his weapon to charge up, keeping his eyes on the stranger.

Avocet ducks his head down a bit, eyes still fixed on the soldier behind Mathwanan and Tenille. He smiles weakly, then waves, a sheepish look on his face. “Yeah.”

Tenille is greatly amused. “Oh, such an excellent illusion. And look at how superstious these Martians are. It is fine theater. Especially the howling man over there.”

Mathwanan smiles, “Particularly since the ghost seems to know him!”

Lambrick reaches over to pat TC on the shoulder blindly, his attention still on the apparitions. “They’re just projections, Trent,” he assures her, coming to the same conclusion as Mathwanan. “Nothing more than skillfully applied light.” He recognizes neither of the two, and if a strange stranger happens to recognize one of them, why, there is no conclusion for him to draw of it. “See?” the lad points out when the one image speaks. “They’ve got to be nearby.” After all, sound suffers much more than light with all this wind and goings on.

Fairfax’s recitation dies off as he glances around searching for the next lines, “…by…by the damned Martian Legions. Identify yourself or be sent back to hell…”

Frost blinks and tenses, looking about as if trying to see someone or something. “That sure didn’t feel like an illusion.”

Abruptly, Frost’s form distorts vaguely about the edges as if someone had just passed a veil over him.

Carter-DeVille rubs her eyes with one hand, snapping her jaw shut as if remembering that a member of the armed forces should not gawp like a headless chicken – or was that a yawping teapot? Anyways, mashed metaphor. She swallows, shivers again and continues to watch this unfolding of events, biting her lower lip hard, drawing involuntarily closer to her battalion-mate in the process.

Janne’s gaze is unwavering. Perhaps she has not the imagination to be horrified? Or maybe it genetic programing has its benefits. She maintains a guarding stance in front of Optio Fairfax, staring at the apparition.

The soldier-ghost that Mathwanan and Tenille – and in particular Avocet – are looking at gives a rather grim smile, more of a quirk of the corners of the lips than anything. “Good to see you boy,” comes the voice – a rather gruff, rather insubstantial sound given how solid he appears to be.

Mathwanan wipes away some of the ruined makeup from his cheek with one hand. “You see, my dear Miss Crenshaw. They do celebrate — they’re simply more subtle about it.”

Avocet whimpers, nods, and then his eyes roll back in his head and falls over backward on the concrete with a muffled thump.

Abruptly, in *front* of Frost, a shadow darkens, forms, and spills into an abrupt dark merge of tall woman, her skin as coppery-dusky as that of the bare-torso’d man looming over Fairfax, Janne and Frost. If one were particularly familiar with races from other worlds, these two look suspiciously Qua-like, but it’s hard to tell in the gathering darkness around. “The neh’yah attack!” she barks. Another commanding presence she is, her hair cropped short and her battle gear buckskin and leather.

Tenille looks at the fainted Avocet. “That was not subtle. And…” She looks over at the new shadow. “…neither is that.”

Frost steps back quickly, narrowing his eyes as he points his pistol at the woman. “Who are you people?” He asks in a neutral tone.

Mathwanan chuckles, “I find great subtlety in verissimilitude.”

Fairfax’s face bleeds sweat and is wrinkled tight with so much agony as to mask his emotions. But there’s more clarity about him as if this swelling torture had helped to bring him to his senses. The blaster barrel wavers in the Optio’s rebellious hand. “I will shoot, demon. Name yourself!”

Just when it seems as if the copper-skinned man is about to answer Fairfax, a curl of amusement to his lips — A drift of a breath. A sudden gust of wind, an electric shiver felt through bodies, muscle and sinew, and the now familiar chants swirl anew.

‘Exactly on Corn Woman’s surface it passes by,

On its surface pollen passes by,

Chief long life, chief happiness,

old age one says continues to pass by on its surface,

the same will continue, ni yo o.’

The voices rise in a sonorous, intense crescendo that threatens to burst the eardrums, all three apparitions seem to loom larger and grow in size and–

And then abruptly there’s no wind. No voices. No nothing except a dead silence broken only by the noises of the night insects. The figures are gone. No flash, nor explosion, nor even a ripple to mark their disappearance. They just are not there any longer.

Janne’s gaze scans the area, tension not ebbing. Not just yet.

Frost lowers his pistol, frowning as he eyes the spot where the two figures were standing.

A brief *something* passes over each and every one of you – like a sigh that leaves a body, a last breath of sorts. A weight that seems lifted.

Avocet is only as tense as a scarified, unconscious, faintly quasi-canine grown man can be while passed out on concrete beneath an escalation ramp. He has all the tension, it would seem, of the solitary shoe that has flopped off his foot to land on its side on the ground.

Tenille blinks, shudders, then…applauds. Profusely. “Bravo! Bravissimo!”

“Oh-kay,” Lambrick breathes quietly, turning his head slowly, eyes travelling over the entirety of the street in every direction. “That was a little too odd.” At last he looks up at the sky, not searching for clouds or the unusual, but rather the usual: the two moons. Two rocks in the sky named for the children of Ares and Aphrodite.

“Oh…mah…lawd…” Carter-DeVille’s voice is barely audible, her grip on Lambrick’s waist tightened to painful insistence all through the entire unfolding of this odd, odd occurence. “O-wayne…what was thet?” She seems to have momentarily lost any vestiges of self-confidence, whatever assurance she might have had shaken to the core as she follows his gaze uncomprehending, her lower lip bitten to a bleeding shred.

Mathwanan joins Tenille in the applause, “Magnificent! I’ve never seen such a wonderful example of micro-theatre!”

There they are, the twin moons in the sky. Shining perhaps a little brighter than usual, but they remain, poised like pearl-drop luster, where they have always been.

“Indeed!” Tenille beams. “The effects! The acting! We really must come back to Mars for this next year.”

“Odd,” the young man repeats, patting Trent’s hand where she grips him, hoping to reassure her enough for her to ease it a little. “I honestly don’t know beyond that. But no harm done, what? Well, other than to that poor fellow,” Lambrick points out, nodding towards Avocet. “Some manner of trick lightshow, I should guess. Some alien’s idea of a prank, I would wager. Might have been those people in the midget warship?”

Fairfax leans forward heavily onto his cane with his weapon covering the spot so recently vacated by the shade. Upon hearing the applause he swivels the weapon’s arc and rips a bolt off near the feet of the two revellers. “Is this a game? A charade? Shall we see what is real and what isn’t?” The emotionally ravaged face of the crippled officer scans the pair. “This is…” The gun clatters to the ground as he turns away and hobbles off. “…idiots.”

Mathwanan says, “Absolutely!” Then the weaponfire. “Superb encore!”

“Sir…” Janne says quietly. She swoops to pick up his weapon and then gives the two withering looks. “You truly can’t be that dumb. Nature would have gotten rid of you, if you truly were…” She follows after Fairfax, at a bit of a distance.

Carter-DeVille’s grip finally relaxes itself – Lambrick can breathe now, what a relief. “…Ah hain’t never seen nothin’ lik’ it afore,” she murmurs, running a trembling free hand over her forehead to slick away the cold sweat that now dots her brow. “Ah think…oh ah don’t know what t’think chile!” She takes a few deep, heavy breaths to calm herself and straightens her shoulders from their tense cramped rounding.

Tenille nods. “Oh, that man is an artistic genius.” She inclines her head towards Fairfax. “I wonder if he is in any other local works.”

Frost glares over at Mathwanan, holstering his pistol as begins to walk off towards the military headquarters.

Far, far away in the distance, so very faintly, a drift of what might be laughter wafts over the little gathering. A star’s laughter perhaps? But it’s so swift, so brief, it might be altogether missed in the flurry of shattered nerves and activity that goes on below.

Lambrick flinches when the weapon goes off, brows drawing together over closed eyes in a frown. His fingers come up to press against his forehead as he mutters, “I think I feel a headache coming on. Go on back, Trent, and have someone look at your lip, what? I think I shall…” He gestures about the area. “Look around.” He opens his eyes again, smiling faintly at the tall woman. “Someone has to make sure that sanity hasn’t completely left the building, eh?”

Fairfax heads into Ares Plaza .Fairfax has left.

Mathwanan says, “If so, we must find our way into it. From what I’ve read, however, these micro-theatre productions are best staged at random. We’d have to be quite lucky to fall into one again.”

Janne heads into Ares Plaza .Janne has left.

Frost heads into Avocet Blvd. East .Frost has left.

Avocet snores under the ramp, oblivious.

Tenille sighs, flicking hair out of her face. “Perhaps we need to sponsor a group. Or make out own?”

Carter-DeVille shakes her head. “Ah ain’t leavin’ yo’ hey-re after thet,” she notes, somewhat recovering her usual poise. “Someone’s got t’mek shor yo’ don’t leave th’buildin’ chile.” A bit of a shaky laugh and she glances around again, gaze slowly settling on the costumed Tenille, Mathwanan, and then the snoring, dishevelled Avocet in turn. “…Thet po’ chile, he plumb done passed out. Ah s’ppose we best go help ‘im or somethin’?”

Mathwanan smiles, “I fear my talents have never lended themselves to the dramatic. Helas.”

Tenille waves a hand in dismissal. “Pish tosh, gracious sir. You did quite well tonight. Frightened quite a few of the youngsters.”

Lambrick sighs, nodding at Trent rather than trying to argue with her. “Why don’t you see after those two?” He indicates the costumed pair. “I’ll see what I can do with that gentleman.” He pats her arm lightly before he makes off, quite happy to have something normal and mundane to do after that particular show.

Mathwanan tuts, “Children suspend their disbelief in favour of fantasy much more readily than the crystallised mindset of the average adult. But then, who would want to perform for the average adult. I say, you may be right!”

Avocet whimpers under his breath, and his legs twitch. His eyes move rapidly back and forth under his eyelids.

Carter-DeVille inclines her head curtly, getting a good grip on herself and stalk-limping towards the indicated pair of Mathwanan and Tenille. Her face once more sets into that dispassionate Marine-cast again. “Ah say, m’aam, sah, kin ah help yo’?” she calls.

Ducking under the ramp to join Avocet, Lambrick squats down beside the comatose man easily. Following a moment of observation he prods him lightly in the shoulder. “Sir? Are you all right, sir?” he asks of him, primarily to have something to say to help wake him rather than to get an answer.

Avocet just barks, loudly, and springs awake, his jaw dropping open and coming down in a toothy arc toward Lambrick’s prodding hand.

Mathwanan glances toward Carter-Deville as the tall woman approaches him and Tenille. He gives the woman a smile and turns to Tenille, deciding to let her speak instead.

Tenille smiles contentedly. “I’d just like to thank you for a most wonderful theatre experience,” she gushes to Carter-DeVille. “It has been quite an evening.” She whispers to Mathwanan, “And she stays in character, with that atrocious accent. What a trooper!”

Lambrick snaps his hand back, scrambling back a half step while he’s at it, watching Avocet warily. “What the devil? What’s the matter with you?” the young man now demands to know, then supplying what seems a possible and even reasonable answer. “Are you mad?”

Mathwanan nods in agreement, then gestures toward Avocet. He says softly, “Perhaps that was only an intermission.” He says to Carter-DeVille, “I must say that we’re enjoying ourselves much more than expected.” He smiles. “If you have a nice hot spiced tea, that would be excellent.”

Avocet blinks, shaking his head and licking his forearm. Then he grumbles, seeming to become more attuned to his surroundings. He seems to actually notice Lambrick for the first time. He smiles faintly. “Oh, hi.” He looks at his unshod foot. “I seem to have lost a loafer.”

Carter-DeVille whips around at the sudden bark out of nowhere, just in time to see Avocet leaping like a mad dog – urm, no pun intended – towards Lambrick. She blinks, taken aback for several moments before she has the wits to snap, “Mah lan’sakes what /is/ wit’th’night? Firs’ yo’ git some crazy hants an’ now yo’s actin’ lik’ a dawggie!” The last is of course directed towards the abruptly canine Avocet as she completely misses Mathwanan’s enquiry in the startlement of the moment.

Avocet quirks his head, staring up at the looming Carter-DeVille. “I…I can honestly say I didn’t understand a single word you said…”

“And your wits with them,” Lambrick mutters to himself, under his breath. Still keeping a wary eye on Avocet, the legionaire rises to gather up the lost loafer, tossing it over to the man rather than risk his hand being made a snack of. “Now, sir, are you all right? You seem to still be somewhat oddly affected by the night’s events.” Out of courtesy he won’t even get into the fashion sense. Lavender with blue? Really.

Tenille smiles. “Yes, tea would be lovely.” She looks over at the canine Avocet. “Dear me, he is an excellent character actor.”

Avocet catches the loafer. In his mouth. He then thrashes it around for a bit until self-consciousness kicks in. He removes the loafer from his mouth, spits onto the concrete and grimaces. “Well, now don’t I look loony?”

Mathwanan chuckles heartily.

Carter-DeVille has turned part of her attention to Tenille and Mathwanan again, noting only, “Ah woul’ try th’beach front m’aam, sah ah…” And then out of her peripheral vision comes the stunning sight of Avocet making a catch. She stops abruptly, turns, /peers/ at the man and just arches her brows high enough to almost disappear into her severely crew-cut hairline.

Tenille whispers to Mathwanan, “I do believe the show is still taking place.”

Lambrick blinks at Avocet several times. “Look loony?” the lad echoes, deadpan. “Whatever you say, sir. If you’re quite well enough, I recommend you adjourn to your private quarters.” He rises, stepping back to give the other fellow all the room he could want, clearly still observing him. One can never be too sure after such a strange turn of events.

Avocet begins to slip on the estranged and now somewhat-moistened loafer. “I actually came to Mars hoping to catch a lift out to Jupiter at some point. Investigating some cosmic anomalies.” He glances toward the median and the fountain. “I suppose I found some, but still…”

Cosmic anomalies. That catches Carter-DeVille’s attention as surely as if Avocet had bitten her on the leg. “Cosmic ‘nom’lies?” she asks sharply, taking a pace in that direction. She does, however, keep her distance – rabies come

Mathwanan whispers to Tenille, “Oh, and they’re so current. Those anomalies near Jupiter have only been reported in the last few days.”

Avocet finishes reintroducing the shoe to his foot. The marriage seems solid enough, if a little worse for wear. He then springs to his feet with rather acrobatic ease, and begins to shake and shudder, like a golden retriever fresh out of the bath. When he settles down, he smiles warmly and says, “Yes, something the Castori Ubercast was talking about. Dimensional rifts.”

“I see. Well, I’m quite certain your flight isn’t leaving tonight? Did you need any help finding your way, sir?” Lambrick inquires, playing the role of the courteous but efficient policeman. He does steel a look towards Trent, lifting one shoulder slightly in a moderately discrete shrug. The lad blinks. “Dimensional rifts? What?”

Avocet nods, waving a hand dismissively. “I’m sure it’s not going to lead to a *major* cataclysm. Probably just one of the minor kinds.” He begins to stride fluidly away.

Tenille ooohs. “Dimentional rifts. How absolutely fascinating.”

Carter-DeVille’s brows knit together. “D’mensh’nal rifts. Lik’, a break or a hole sorta rift?” she enquires slowly. Then they shoot up again. “MINOR cat’cism? Ex-cuse me, sah, what’cho’ say?” She blinks a few times, growls in a rather good imitation of a canine herself and would have gone after the departing oddball with lavender socks if her one leg hadn’t wobbled and made her temporarily lose balance.

Lambrick frowns faintly, followed by a shake of his head. “Are you certain?” He exhales a short sigh, choosing not to keep the man from going his way. Instead he turns back to Trent, joining her by the festive pair. “And here I thought that was merely some excuse the Castori had drummed up to explain away the bombing.” He holds up a hand to the tall woman, as if he might keep her from falling by sheer force of will. “Be careful now, Trent.”

Avocet keeps on walking, muttering to himself: “Must charter a ship, go to Jupiter, watch for corruption of the space-time continuum.” He continues ticking things off on his fingers. “Get detailed readings, check the tumult on the gas giant’s surface for anomalous degredation or aggressive strengthening…”

Mathwanan watches as Avocet departs. He turns to Tenille, “It is winding down in a most unusual way. It teases one with its staggering denouement.”

Tenille taps her chin thoughtfully. “Perhaps it is an avant garde existentialist piece? The ghosts appear. The military, representing authority, quail with superstious fear. But only the man who has embraced his inner beast, represented by the dog man, can truly find the answers to the questions sought.”

Carter-DeVille eyes the departing Avocet, thinks the better of following and limps herself back to Lambrick and the costumed pair after righting her balance by a miracle of not falling. “O-wayne, this hes been th’craziest night chile, uh-uh-UH,” she sighs as she reaches her friend and touches his shoulder briefly. “Yo’ a’raht?”

Mathwanan suggests, “Not even answers. He is the only one who knows the questions. The military resumes its activity with scarcely a question, whereas the bestial sentience pursues scientific questions related to real phenomenon. It’s as if to say that in order to connect with the higher physics, one must become -more- attuned with the universe rather than more abstracted from it.”

Lambrick stares at Tenille and Mathwanan for a moment before inquiring of Trent, “What are those two going on about?” Then, with a quick smile, “Yes, I’m quite all right.” He pats her hand, turning his attention back on the unusual pair. “Excuse me, sir. Madam. The two of you do look unharmed. Did you need any help in reaching your destination?”

Tenille nods to Mathwanan. “Brilliant, gracious sir.” She murmurs, “I think the play is done now,” then smiles politely to the two “actors”. “We will be quite fine, thank you.”

Mathwanan furrows his brow, looks down at the water-smeared and spoiled blood on his arms and chest and looks back at Lambrick. “Oh, I believe we’ve already arrived. But thank you for a very enjoyable evening.”

Carter-DeVille gives Lambrick a wry glance and a roll of her eyes. “O-wayne – ah hev no more ahdea then a stately belle in th’sack wit’ a Cassanova an’ a flea in her knickers,” she states with bewildering metaphor. “But ah’m glad yo’…enjoyed yo’self, sah, m’aam.” A polite nod of her head towards Tenille and then Mathwanan. “If yo’ want th’tea shop ah don’t know iff’n it’s open or not but ah think th’beach should hev a place or two.”

Fairfax arrives from Ares Plaza .Fairfax has arrived.

“Right,” Lambrick states, almost deadpan, eyes narrowed for a moment. “Very well, then. The two of you see to it that you don’t cause any trouble. A good night to you.” Not that he expects that they would cause trouble, but people this strange often believe the typical rules don’t apply to them. He nods to each of them, turning in preperation to make his way off. “Come on, Trent. Let’s get you looked at, shall we?”

Mathwanan smiles brilliantly behind the smeared and moist grime. He turns to Tenille.

Tenille nods. “Perfectly charming. Shall we to the beach?”

Mathwanan smiles, “Yes, let’s. One could do with a spiced tea.”

Fairfax hobbles back onto the scene clearly more composed than before. Janne flanks him to one side. He appears to be heading for his fellow Legionaires.

Carter-DeVille exhales sharply, then drops her hand from Lambrick’s shoulder. “Ah’s game whenever yo’ are, O-wayne,” she demures with a bit of a half-smile. “An’ yo’ hev a good night, sah, m’aam,” she adds to Tenille and Mathwanan, as an afterthought. She hasn’t noticed Janne and Fairfax yet.

Tenille pauses. “Which…way is the beach?”

Mathwanan looks from east to west as if puzzling over the same question.

Janne arrives from Ares Plaza .Janne has arrived.

Janne follows Fairfax, strides somewhat shortened.

A short ways down the street Lambrick does catch sight of Fairfax and Janne, nodding to the pair, in particular the former. “Sir,” he announces. For his part, he is supporting Trent by one arm, helping her along as best he can.

Fairfax makes his way nearer Lambrick and Carter-DeVille. His limp is clearly exaggerated from what one might have seen of it before. “What happened to Loom? Are you alright, soldier?”

Carter-DeVille, gamely limping along beside Lambrick, would come to salute if she could but the usual precision is spoiled somewhat by her wobbly balance. “Ah jus’ overtaxed mah knee sah!” she returns crisply.

Mathwanan looks to Tenille, “At the very least, we know where the beach is on Sivad. Shall we adjourn?”

Tenille pops her hat back on her head. “Yes. The stories we shall have to tell the others at the next gathering! They will not believe us.”

“Yes, sir. I’m alright,” Lambrick replies, nodding again. “A little overwhelmed by the events, but physically sound.” He barely avoids the temptation to look towards Tenille and Mathwanan again, keeping it to a mere twitch of his head. “It seems everything has returned to normal, sir. Mostly.”

Janne avoids looking at the peanut gallery.

Mathwanan loosens his whip from around his waist. “They never do.”

Fairfax glances brusquely towards Mathwanan and Tenille. “Sividians. That would explain it. Have I ever told you what I like about Sivad?” This last directed towards Janne.

Carter-DeVille inclines her head tersely. “As far as ah kin tell sah. There ain’t no more odd h’ants floatin’ bout.” She draws her back up stiffly,

“No, Sir.” Janne says deadpan.

Fairfax nods sincerely, “There’s a reason for that.” He glances back to CD and Lambrick. “Do either of you know of any technology that could simulate the atmospherics and physical properties of this encounter?”

Other than that it gets bombed when they’re there? Lambrick shakes his head, psychological fatigue making up for what he lacks of it physically. “If that is all, sir, I should accompany Carter-DeVille to the infirmary,” he notes.

“No, sir,” Lambrick adds to answer Fairfax’s question. “No idea at all.”

Carter-DeVille’s answer is prompt, to the point. “Sah, ah’s an explosives an’ demolitions specialist in trainin’ sah. Ah don’t know off hand. An’ ah shor know t’ain’t no load of chemical warfare weapons either, since we ain’t all dead an’ droppin’ lik’ flies inna saucer of whisky.”

“Can’t chemicals be used for other reactions?” Janne offers. Looking from face to face.

Fairfax chuckles at Carter-DeVille’s reply but grows serious when he responds. “They can. Hallucinogens. But what each of us saw, I assume, was similiar. I don’t think a psychotropic attack would work like that.”

Lambrick shakes his head. “Sir. No, sir. A mass hallucination of this sort would be most unusual and it is highly unlikely that any chemical could induce such a controlled reaction. That is not to say there was no chemical intervention in this event. Sir?” He pauses briefly to nod at Trent. “If I may. Carter-DeVille should be taken to the infirmary before she strains her knee further, sir.”

Fairfax murmurs. “One last question before I can dismiss either of you. Where’s the madman who recognised one of the spirits? Which way did he go?”

Carter-DeVille wrinkles her nose briefly. “Anythin’ on thet scale ain’t gonna affect ever’one th’same thang, nuh-uh-uh,” she emphasizes with a little sideways movement of her head. “Least, ah ain’t never heard of somethin’ thet kin do thet, but ah ain’t th’best ‘thority on thangs lik’ thet. Jus’ thangs thet go boom.” She looks a bit surprised. “Th’dawggie honey-chile? Ah think he went through th’portal an’ out. Said somethin’ bout invest’gatin’ d’mensh’nal ‘nomalies near Jup’ter or somethin’ odd.”

Janne again watches Carter’s mouth as she speaks.

Fairfax glances back at the portals. “Very good…” He sounds quite distracted. “Take good care of Carter-Deville, soldier. Dismissed, the both of you. It’s been quite a night.”

“Sir!” Without further ado Lambrick continues walking with Trent towards the barracks, a destinaton he’d be quite happy to reach for his own ends. For one, and among the forefront of his thoughts, his bunk is there. Quite a way to end a day, indeed.

Carter-DeVille manages to fire off a salute to Fairfax with a crisp, “Yes sah!” and limps alongside Lambrick at a slightly slower pace then he, naturally. “O-wayne, if ah were a drinkin’ woman…” she notes sagely. “Ah’d bet’cho honey onna corncob ah’d finish th’bottle afore y’did this tim’ aroun’…” Her voice drifts back, grows fainter as the distance between the Optio and Janne and themselves increase.