Star Bright

Shotgun Wedding (9th July 2158)
9th July 2158

As the miners came forward they holstered their weapons, and hoped that Doc. Orlov could resolve the situation diplomatically.

Hearing that she was female, and Russian, they at least didn’t open up with their shotguns straight away. Jake at least was in no condition to continue the fight, and shooting up a bunch of miners would basically get them jail or a very quick death.

“This is all Albert’s fault” was the universal thought.

Doc Orlov walked back.

“I explain as best I can. They not going to shoot us anyway” she said.

“Well that’s good” replied Marcus.

“And Mr. Hoffmann, may I be first to congratulate you?” she continued.

“Eh… sure… Uhhh. What?” said Jonas. “Congratulate for what?”

“Why,” said Doc. Orlov, with perhaps just a hint of amused malice, “On your forthcoming marriage of course.”

WHAT!!!?” he spluttered. There was a sound of a dozen shotguns being cocked in the background, and then a moment’s silence.

“Uh, hey” said Spyder. “Will there be ….. cake?”

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A Heap of Trouble (9th July 2158)
9th July 2158

It was Jonas who heard the noise first. They had been trudging though sand dunes for almost four hours, and Ms. Beaker, Albert and Olga were flagging. At the rear of the column Doc. Orlov’s harsh admonitions were egging them on. At one point Olga had insisted that she couldn’t go on any more, at which point Doc. Orlov had commented “Stay here and die then. Goodbye.” Olga caught up.

In the centre of the canyon the area was pretty much dunes and more dunes, with much less terrain of a rocky nature. A rock feature of some sort had appeared almost directly ahead however, and this made navigation easier for the moment. It would start to get dark in a couple of hours. This was the make or break time.

A rusty metal structure was now visible in the rocky area ahead – a girdered tower of some sort. There were also a few small derelict looking structures: if one was insulated and could provide shelter it might give them a bit of leeway overnight. It seemed unlikely.

The sound was definately engines. They did have a set of binoculars with them and as he looked Jonas saw two dust buggies racing towards them. Trailing behind these was their own WTV. There were three men in each dust buggy, and they seemed to be pointing and waving guns.

“This doesn’t look good” he decided. He pointed towards the rocks ahead. “Run!”

By the time they reached the rocks the sound of vehicle engines was quite close. The two buggies swerved side on about thirty metres away, and the crews piled out using the vehicles for cover. A few moments later the WTV also stopped, and while one man appeared out of the top hatch, half a dozen other be – weaponed figures jumped out.

With a flash of recognition Jake recognised the blue Mars Suit of one of the ruffians they had encountered in the Wibbley Duck.

“This is all Albert’s fault” he decided, as the thugs started firing at them. The cover for both attackers and defenders was good. Albert, Ms. Beaker and Olga were cowering prone, and Mei Mei seemed to have vanished completely. By burning rapidly through AFL 16 mags on full auto, Jake was managing to knock out one of the thugs with each burst. He was rapidly going through his limited supply of ammo however.

“Things can’t get any worse” thought Spyder, taking a slug in the shoulder, when he noticed that another WTV, this time painted all black had pulled up to the south. Three figures armed with machine pistols with Black Mars Suits, Black Dusters, Black Turbans and Black Goggles jumped out, while another crouched in the vehicular airlock providing covering fire.

“There’s a big dust cloud approaching from the north” yelled Marcus. “A whole bunch of vehicles I reckon.”

“Boy I got that wrong” thought Spyder.

The thugs were aiming now and making their shots tell. Moreover a couple of them had longarms, and one of them an smg. A group of three or four rushed their cover from the north west, faced only by Jonas and Doc. Orlov.

Jake and Marcus were taking the worst of the fire however. Recognising Jake as the main threat, the Men in Black were targeting him with their Scimitars. He took several hits,saved from total disaster by his body armor. But with three of them firing at him, it was only a matter of time.

Spyder meanwhile had been taking unsuccessful potshots at the fourth MIB, who had circled round to the other side of his vehicle. He blinked for a moment and then realised that something had changed regarding his target.

And then he noticed: his head was missing. The body toppled forward. He looked at his Redbird, and then looked at the corpse again. With no target available any longer he shifted position to his left so that he could see the other side of the MIB WTV. Two of the men were crouched in rocks, but the third was still hunched in the airlock doorway, pinning Jake. As he turned back to aim at the man he noticed that he too no longer possessed a head, and his torso toppled forward out of the vehicle, and into the dust.

The rumbling from the vehicles to the north was very close now, and their original attackers had had enough: a shot from Marcus had brought down their smg man, presumably their leader, and the remainder jumped into the dust buggies, and started to hightail it off.

A full blast from Jake knocked one of the MIB’s sprawling as he reloaded, and almost at the same time the assumed now empty MIB WTV stared to drive off.

“It’s Mei Mei” thought Spyder. “She’s somehow beheaded those two guys with a hairpin or something, and she did it to save me.” He jumped up and started sprinting after the vehicle.

“Mei Mei. It’s Spyder. We can be happy together!” he yelled, “I love you!” He fell further and further behind, as the vehicle raced into the distance.

With his transport down and his buddies downed the fourth MIB vanished into the rocks.

Now they only had the dozen or so newly arrived vehicles full of angry miners to worry about.

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A Dire Situation (9th July 2158)
9th July 2158

“I never trusted that smelly Russian bastard” complained Marcus.

“Oh Really Mr. Navigator?” retorted Jonas. “Shame you couldn’t keep an eye on the nav. console then.”

They were well and truly up the proverbial creek without a paddle. As they approached the camp Ivan had indicated that something was wrong – the camp seemed deserted. Sneaking up on foot they found a crumbling base that had been well and truly abandoned for at least ten years – and completely stripped and open to the elements.

It was then that they heard the Rover driving off, plus Ivan. Olga, Doc. Tatlock and Ms. Beaker were found dumped outside in their Mars suits. Ivan had duped them and led them to some undetermined location, and then stolen their Rover.

“Well isn’t this just perfect?” carped Jake.

“Quiet please!” said Doc. Orlov. “Is serious situation. We have six hours till darkness, and without survival tents or shelter we all freeze to death. Stop argument please!”

They all shut up, and looked at Doc. Orlov and Marcus – the only two native Martians, or people with any sort of expertise in this situation. Their lives would depend on what they knew.

They only had their Mars Suits, and the weapons they were carrying to investigate the so called camp. They had travelled about fifty kliks from the previous camp, and had expected to reach their next destination within about another twenty. It was therefore clear to Marcus, that although they were not in their precise destination, they were likely still within this sort of distance of it.

Fortunately they had one other advantage: Marcus was actually a real navigator, not an airhead ‘cyber navigator’. If a perpetually drunk viking savage could navigate his way out of a similar situation a thousand years ago, then hopefully he might be able to do the same.

Mars, like every other planet, spun on an axis, causing its sky to appear to turn around two poles. On Earth, the northern celestial pole practically coincided with the viewed position of Polaris, or the North Star; Mars didn’t exactly have a Pole Star, but the north celestial pole occured at a point exactly halfway between Deneb and Alpha Cephai. In the southern sky as seen from Mars, Kappa Velorum – a fairly bright star in the constellation Vela – was near the martian south celestial pole at about three degrees away. Having been on Mars for some years, Marcus had done his homework, and the Mariner Valley being roughly on the equator, had already worked out at which times of year the north and south celestial poles were visible. Of course, this would not be till dusk, assuming decent visibility.

There were also visible landmarks which he was able to pinpoint, and after fifteen minutes he decided that he had pinpointed their position with a fair degree of accuracy. In the circumstances this would probably be sufficient -within about 5 kliks or so at worst, they should be able to establish radio contact.

“I’m cold” muttered Miss. Beaker. They all were, except for Marcus and Doc. Orlov, who wisely owned heated Mars Suits, rather than the cheaper versions.

“We need to move” said Doc. Orlov. "Marcus in front, I at rear. You must keep up. You fall out. You freeze. You die. " She paused and nodded at Marcus, who had improvised a walking probe out of a piece of metal debris.

“Ok. Move out.” he called.

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Women are Fickle (9th July 2158)
9th July 2158

“Your turn” said Jonas, as they briefly stopped the vehicle. Jake took his place in the driving seat, and Jonas headed back towards the bunk area.

He had made good time, and with any luck they might be at their destination – another mining camp – within a few hours.

He opened the curtain to his bunk and then yelped. Arrayed across his bunk was the same teenage russian girl they had encountered earlier. This time however she was not wearing a boiler suit, but was tastefully arrayed in fishnet stockings, suspender belt, and a variety (not too much) of pink and black underwear. She smiled at Jonas, pouted, and rubbed her crotch.

“Doc Orlov!” screeched Jonas. “Here! Now!” Katrina made her way back, and then stared, mollified. Then she slapped Jonas.

“What was that for!” he exclaimed.

“You hide little slut in your bunk! This mean big trouble!”

“Hey it was nothing to do with me” said Jonas, rubbing his cheek. All eyes turned towards Doc. Tatlock.

“Ah… hey Sports. Naw, naw not my doing.” said Albert unconvincingly. “The whole thing was a misunderstanding. The young lady had something in her eye, and as I attempted to clear it she kind of rubbed up against me. Obviously this was misconstrued by a jealous father: the whole thing was just one of those silly misunderstandings.”

“To tell the truth” Albert continued. “Young, impressionable girl. I think she may have taken a bit of a shine to me: as an acaedemic I have to deal with a lot of these silly infatuations.”

“I bet you do” muttered Marcus.

“She is little tart” said Doc. Orlov.

“Hey no man, let’s be reasonable” said Spyder. “Clearly there is some simple explanation Doc. Why not ask her?”

Doc. Orlov exchanged a few sentences with the girl.

“She say she stow away to have hot sex with Mr. Hoffman. She thinks he manly man and she want his… ah…. member inside her, to make her very happy.”

They all looked at the girl, who pouted at Jonas, and started licking one of her fingers after she had removed it from her panties. A whiff of stale urine behind them indicated that Ivan too had taken an interest in the proceedings, and he had to be restrained from lurching at the girl, whose name was Olga.

“Right” said Jonas. “I’m going to the bathroom.”

“Wait!” No!" he said hesitating. “I’m NOT going to the bathroom. I’m sitting right here and reading a magazine”. He sat down in the dining area and started reading Spyder’s copy of ‘Muscles ’N Pecs’.

“Fair enough mate” said Albert. “Don’t mind if I use the Dunny do you?”

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The New Lolita (9th July 2158)
9th July 2158

Olga.jpg

The next day they were due to leave around lunchtime: Doc. Tatlock had a few more interviews to conduct.

The Mining Camp Sheriff had been surprisingly lenient regarding Mei Mei and the incidents of the previous evening. Clearly he felt slightly sorry for her, and was more than happy that the group had decided to protect her from assailants unknown: the two men in black had no forms of identification on them. He seemed glad that they were taking her with them out of the camp. She seemed to be cut a lot of slack around the camp.

Doc Orlov walked in and looked at Jonas, just after breakfast.

“Doctor Tatlock he is in trouble again. You must come quickly.” she said simply.

Jonas followed Doc. Orlov through to the canteen, where Doc. Tatlock was being pinned up against the wall by a huge bearded bear of a man, and surrounded by several other miners. A pouting, but somewhat blousey, teenaged russian girl was standing nearby, being coddled by a middle aged baboushka.

“Hmm, let me guess” thought Jonas. Smiling diplomatically he walked up to the group, and the huge bearded man looked at him suspiciously and then started jabbering at him in Russian.

As Doc. Orlov started to translate Jonas punched Doc. Tatlock hard in the stomach, and he folded over gasping. Several of the miners sniggered.

“Tell him that Doc. Tatlock is an asshole, and that we’re sorry, and that we’re dragging his sorry ass out of town straight away. We apologise on the filthy pervert’s behalf.”

He grabbed Doc. Tatlock by the lapels and started to drag him away. Doc. Orlov blinked once, and then started to translate.

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Albert's Big Night Out (8th July 2158)
8th July 2158

The chinese dancer was called Mei Mei, and she was indeed, as reported, extremely hot. The more or less all male clientele were, in fact, spellbound: few even looked at the other dancer – by no means unattractive -dancing at the other end of the stage. Mei Mei was just – special.

“What is such a beautiful, naive and gorgeous woman doing dancing in a place like this?” thought Spyder. “There must be some sad story involved. Maybe I can help her. Protect her.”

He moved forward for a closer look, noting that Doc. Tatlock had sat down nearby next to what looked like a scruffy biker, and with a close up view of Mei Mei. He barely registered the fact that Albert’s hands vanished beneath the table. Mei Mei was just enchanting.

Marcus sipped his Malicherry Sour next to what looked like a member of the Sisterhood. On the far side of the bar the others were ordering another round of drinks.

Spyder became vaguely aware of a commotion behind him. Reluctantly tearing his eyes away from Mei Mei he saw that the biker type next to Albert had stood up and was looking at him with some disgust.

“You dirty bastard! You got that all over my coat!” he screamed. Spyder wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but Albert seemed to be fidgeting with something below the table. The biker hoiked Albert up by the lapels.

As Spyder moved forward to calm things down he was vaguely aware that other figures within the bar were shuffling forwards towards the altercation.

“Yeah he sure is a dirty bastard” agreed Spyder. “Just let me lead him outside and I’ll beat the crap out of him.”

For a moment it looked like everything would be ok. Then the biker hit Albert, missed, and punched Spyder in the nose as he hovered nearby.

“Arggghbbbbb!” screeched Spyder.

“Scrag the dirty C***!” yelled the biker. It wasn’t pretty.

Jake jumped onto a table and attempted to kick another biker in the head. Spyder vaulted another table, which collapsed trapping his fingers below.

“Arggghbbbbb!” screeched Spyder, again.

Doc Orlov. watched sat at her barstool, watching the proceedings while studiously trying to avoid the winks and pouts of the Sisterhood Driver who was trying to catch her eye. Marcus ordered another Malicherry Sour.

Mei Mei and the other dancer gyrated on: they were professionals. Albert hid under a table.

From his position of relative calm Marcus observed two men walk into the bar. Black Mars Suits, Black Dusters, Black Gloves and Black Shades. The pair walked into centre of the bar, until they spotted Mei Mei. At this point they both pulled Scimitar Machine pistols, and jumped up onto the stage.

The brawlers largely ignored them, until one fired a burst up into the ceiling. The other fired at Mei Mei, who jumped down off the stage near Jonas and wrapped her arms round him.

“Please!” You must protect me from bad men!" she implored. So young. So innocent. So beautiful.

Something stirred within Spyder, stood nearby, and it wasn’t just inside his trousers.

“I’ll protect you Ma’am” winced Spyder gallantly, and still prone on the collapsed table, drew his Redbird and shot at one of the Men in Black, missing him entirely. The other brawlers and bar patrons started to scatter. Up on the dancing stage, one of the MIB’s sprayed at Jonas and Mei Mei, entangled together, Fortunately his armour protected him, while Mei Mei was lucky to get off with a graze. Guns were drawn, and one of the bikers went down from a Scimitar burst.

Albert tried to crawl away, a process in which he was assisted by Marcus, who downing his cocktail in one, grabbed his collar and started dragging him out the door. Quick as a rattlesnake, Mei Mei was under the tables and making herself hard to see. Fortunately for the MIB’s, they now had plenty of other targets.

Spyder hit one of them several times, but their duster coats were clearly armoured, and the two carried on firing. Jonas managed to hide behind part of the platform, and eventually manage a double tap into one of them, taking him down. A good head shot from Doc. Orlov felled the other, who fortunately for her had been taking chunks out of Jake.

“You protect me brave warrior!” sighed Mei Mei, and nipping into a back room to don Mars Suit and overcoat she quickly emerged and smiled at Spyder.

“We gotta take her with us” he whined.

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Mei Mei A Go Go (8th July 2158)
8th July 2158

Jake was trying to ignore the faint smell of urine from Ivan, sat next to him. Ivan was the new ‘local guide’ Doc. Tatlock had procured for them at Petrograd. Ivan pulled another bottle of vodka from his verminous overcoat, and started to swig.

They were about fifty clicks out from Petrograd, in a mining camp which housed maybe 120 workers: there was even a Co Operative Store and a Bar ‘The Wibbley Duck’.

“Doesn’t sound very Russian” said Jake.

“I heard of that place man, remember all them fat Ohio guys at Wet T Shirt night?” asked Spyder.

“How could we forget?” said Marcus.

“Well I was spinnin’ one of them some crap about being a Judge after he started to get aggressive ‘bout me hootin’ his ‘sweet ’lil gurl’, and all of a sudden he got friendly like and started buying me drinks. Anyway when I told him we were headed for Petrograd, he said if we was that way we should visit the Wibbly Duck – run by some British Guy – because it had, and I quote “a really, really hot ’lil sweet slant eyed chinee chickee. Really hot.” Then he said he had to go to the mens room real quick so I dumped him."

“Sounds like a great evening for some cultural entertainment to me” said Doc. Tatlock. "Might be worth me interviewing the young lady to get some additional cultural perspective from immigrant workers from outside ethnic communities. "

“Yeah, Right.” said Jake.

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Bored on the Fourth of July (4th July 2158)
4th July 2158

“I’ve sold the Beer! I’ve sold the Beer!” exclaimed Spyder gleefully.

“How much?” said Marcus.

“24k per tone! That’s 8k profit per ton for those who bought any.” said Spyder, and then sadly. “Dammit I couldn’t afford any myself.”

“Filthy capitalist lucre” said Jake, “Money not fairly earned, taken from the hands of poor miners who will have to stump up more of their meager earnings to buy overly expensive beer.”

“Is good job”, said Doc. Orlov taking her 8k, and handing 1K back to Spyder. “Is Dealer’s cut.” Spyder nodded his thanks.

Doc. Tatlock and Ms. Beaker had been busy since they arrived in Petrograd. They had been seeing various mining and working groups, conducting interviews and arranging meetings the following week with outlying mines and communities. His escorts had very little to do, though Doc. Orlov had been catching up with members of her family.

“Next week will likely be a different story” said Jake. “More driving for us”

“And more wobble boards” said Marcus glumly.

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Travellers Tales (27th June 2158)
27th June 2158

“Can you tell what it is yet?” asked Doc. Tatlock.

Jake was driving at the moment. For the last few days they had made good progress along the Golden Road to Black Rock, but were now heading north cross country into the depths of Melas Chasma, and beyond to Candor and Petrograd. Occasionally they had passed one of the long haul ore carriers, ferrying heavy loads back towards the heart of the Mariner Valley.

For most of them the so far five day journey had seemed like ten. Doc. Tatlock had his wobble board out again (“Thank God it’s not the Didgereedoo” thought Jake), and was making ‘whup whup’ noises with it interspersed with nasal grunts and noises like a cross of something between a chimpanzee and a rotary fan, accompanied at times by the lyrics of a song: he was putting his own particular spin on a series of musical classics, not often immediately recognisable.

Except to Jonas that is, who unfortunately seemed to love it: to make matters worse Doc. Tatlock had started giving him lessons on the wobble board.

“Stairway to Heaven!” exclaimed Jonas gleefully. Somewhere deep inside the Rover, Doc. Orlov sighed.

“Can you do ‘Blue Suede Shoes’?” asked Jonas.

It was going to be a long trip.

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Wet T Shirt Night (21st June 2158)
21 st June 2158

The Hall was crowded and the audience mostly men; mind you there were a few members of the Sisterhood present too, hooting along with the best of them as teenage girl after teenage girl strutted their stuff.

“Wave them titties Darleen!” yelled a huge fat man in shorts and a hat with cow horns sticking out (there were a lot of guys like this present).

“Thaas’ my little girl Darleen” he slobbered to the man next to him, “My youngest and titties like peaches, all pert and pretty like.” He held his hands out as if weighing them.

“I think I’m going to be sick” muttered Spyder.

“There he is” pointed Jake.

Alone at a table in the corner sat Doctor Tatlock, with a slightly strained look on his face.

“What’s he doin’?” asked Spyder.

“I dunno,” replied Jake, “I can’t see his hands.”.

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