Spider Symposium Briefing

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It had been a while since KJ had seen the rest of Ptichka's crew, though he knew Mal wouldn't be around. Neither was Calc. Still, he got to fill in the rest on glossed-over accounts of working with Senshi in an un-mentioned role, and in turn KJ found out about the details of some of the unsupported close scrapes that Mal had mentioned on the discussion group. Which was unpleasant to hear about, to say the least, though obviously they all survived it. Dee spent most of the time doing her own thing too; probably trading posts with some newsgroups. She'd been doing a lot more investigation on making a body lately.

Boarding actions remained undiscussed. KJ knew that all of the Soviet Air Force were in the war, they'd been in danger too but... it wasn't something someone could talk about to people who weren't doing it, and those who were had even less reason to. He half-wondered if his friends were seeing him as being more distant. It was probably the case. He didn't mention what he was back for either and they didn't ask. Even if they would find out about it later, there was no sense letting the cat out of the bag.

He left the ship fairly covertly when they hit Kandor, not wanting to be seen to be associated with the rest of the crew. Paranoia maybe, but he'd lost one staging base due to being observed by human intelligence assets going to it, and he wasn't about to endanger his friends. So it was in full ninja garb that he made my way to a discreet bar in one of the older parts of the city.

Mal had a table in a back corner, and coolly appraised KJ for a few seconds as he approached before blinking in recognition. Mal gestured to the other booth and slid over a pint of Guinness.

"You look ridiculous, man," he commented in greeting. KJ grinned while pulling down the turtleneck mask dealie, and took a pull from the beer.

"Yeah, 'twas the idea really. Been keeping busy?" Mal nodded slightly; KJ supposed it was a silly question. "Me too, though I suppose you know about some of that."

"The bits that aren't too hard to dig out... actually, speaking of which, who's Kali actually?"

KJ nodded, taking another sip from the glass, having expected that. "There's the short answer and there's the long answer. Short answer is girltype me."

"I figured that much, yeah. And the long answer?"

"The longer answer is that she shares headspace with me, shares memories and skillsets, but she thinks and acts differently enough that she's more not-me than me." KJ paused at Mal's look and sighed. "I know how that sounds, yes. We're kinda beyond conventional psych though, y'know? And it works."

"Fair enough, I guess I'll meet her later. So without going too far into detail, the operation you're proposing... you're sure you have the forces to pull it off?"

"No bullshitting?" KJ paused. "No, I'm not sure. I don't know exactly what we're going to be running into; I'm sure there's more intel than what we have but a lot of this is going to be going in blind. It depends on us getting good enough information to blend in after we take the ship, and if things go south the ship may not be up to getting us out in a hurry."

"Is this a good idea, then?"

"Yes, it is. It's risky, but we're about the best trained and equipped for indoors work on this side of the fence. If there's a final destination, we can infiltrate and get intel that I doubt anyone else can, and fight our way out if we get made. Or take an objective, or whatever. It's going to be improvisation and that's our bread and butter."

"All right. In more detail then, let's see what snags we can hash out ahead of time. I've got a meeting with some others set up on the 22nd."

Franky, that wasn't surprising... it was really what KJ had been hoping Mal could set up. KJ had the basis of a plan, in enough detail to improvise, probably, but someone else to pick through it helped find all sorts of little niggly details that bore thinking about. After a good hour or so and a few more beers they'd gotten to a point where they were mostly satisfied.

"So why Senshi?" Mal asked a while later when we were to something more akin to shooting the shit.

"Aside from that, as a group, they're one of the toughest things you can insert into a spaceship corridor?"

"Yeah, obviously. As a group they also tend towards cheery idealism, long-winded speeches, and the like. Not really special forces material."

KJ grinned slightly at that. "That's a common conception."

"I notice you didn't say misconception."

KJ nodded. "Well, the thing is, there's two major operating factions... what they call themselves is unimportant, but basically it's sorted into whether they want to make the world a bright shining utopia," the sarcasm at that was practically etching holes in the table, "by creating things or wrecking things, usually to the accompanying over-winded slogans. All well and good." He took a pull from my beer and chuckled slightly. "Thing is, and what they don't like to talk about, is there's some who don't really fit in, per se."

"You're recruiting from the Darks?"

"I see you know all this already. Yeah, pretty much exclusively. They're not so much a faction, and a lot of them find the others even more irritating than I do. This kind of thing seems to appeal to a lot, honestly. Place to belong and all that, plus applied violence to a good cause. Yeah, I know, nihilist reputation, but it's largely crap; at least all the ones I recruited. Just because they don't want to help in the same way the L and Js do..."

"Okay, but the speeches?" I had to grimace, remembering how long it had taken.


There had always been something about Kandor that rubbed Katz Schrödinger the wrong way, not that he could even put a finger on just what it was, so he ended up only actually going there if it couldn't be avoided and putting the whole thing down to some weird strain of paranoia.

He thought it a nice change of pace to use the Uncertainty again, petulance aside. Drydock doesn't seem to agree with her, or so it appeared, though things calmed down when the Cube and Trigon reintegrated themselves into shipboard systems.

Annoyed starships that think they're cats aside, it was refreshing to spend some time behind the conn. The last few months spent finalizing and later ... testing ... the Maru had worn on him a bit more than he'd expected them to.

In the end, leaving the Maru with Hawking and heading roughly Luna-wards on their own, then dropping off a copy of the operations log with Sora on Stellvia - Noah was busy doing ... something (Katz strongly suspected sleeping, considering the sort of work-loads Noah tended to obsess over on a regular basis and the presence of Yoriko uncharacteristically glaring at anyone even passing beside his cabin while cleaning her sidearm) - Katz ended up at Kandor a day or two early.

Finding the Saloon wasn't too hard either, and he spent most of the time in the interim between then and Mal Fnord's timestamp taking a long walk.

Some say that people in Kandor have their hearts out on their sleeves for all to see. Katz wasn't sure how accurate that particular tidbit of Fen-lore is, but five minutes there made him wish that was the only thing they have out for all to see. What the hell is it with most supers and wearing their underwear on the outside? Though the prevalence of skintight body stockings among the female population was a nice counterpoint.

He did end up getting some novelty reading out of the deal, though at first glance The Comprehensive Guide To Capes - From Dramatic Flaring To Sulking In Shadow hadn't seemed as entertaining as it turned out being.

The tail end of the whole thing found him picking a corner booth at the Saloon a few hours before Mal was supposed to show, and finding out that, yes, they did indeed do a pretty mean taco.

Noah Scott was at wit's end by Wednesday morning.

First, he had missed seeing Katz when he dropped by. But Yoriko, Yayoi, and Leda all insisted that he needed to sleep, and he wasn't about to disappoint three of the important people in his life (this got him wondering when he started thinking of Leda as one of the important people in his life), and he really did need the sleep.

But Katz was one of the people Noah relied on to keep him in the loop on what was really happening, along with Yoriko, Jon Helscher and Joe Corcoran - missing any chance for an update didn't sit well with him.

Second, he was travelling alone and incognito. Sure, it was only to Kandor City - practically next door - but he didn't feel comfortable without his pistol or 'waved-kevlar jacket. And he missed Yayoi. It was only the third time since she'd first woke up that she wasn't close enough for him to talk with on a moment's notice. When he realized he missed Yayoi more than having access to the armory aboard the Epsilon Blade, he wondered whether he was finally growing up, or becoming dependent on one of his closest friends.

Third, Noah had done his own driving to get from Stellvia to Luna, and he'd learned the hard way that he was badly out of practice. At least another dent in the bumper of the Little Deuce Coupe (a 'waved 1993 Jetta with what looked like wood side panels) didn't look out of place.

Fourth, he felt ridiculous in the outfit he was wearing. Not that most of it was very different from what he usually wore, but the motorcycle leathers were damned hot, and the helmet interfered with his peripheral vision. The computer and sensors that Sora had built into the helmet helped offset that, but not completely.

So he decided to show up early, and try to get his composure back.

Katz, Comrade Fnord, and Noah were scheduled to meet at the Paragon City Saloon at 13:00. Noah walked into the Saloon at 11:59 and looked around, only to discover he wasn't the first paranoid to show up. That actually calmed him down. Ne smiled at the cute waitress at the door, told her he was meeting a friend who was already here, asked her to bring over a couple of Crystal Sapporo Darks and a plate of stuffed potato skins, and handed her the credit card he was using for this trip.

Then he walked over to the table that Katz was already at and sat down. "I don't remember asking you to sit down," the latter muttered.

Noah raised the helmet's visor. "But I promised to buy the first round, Katz."

"Noah? What's with the outfit?"

"I told you I'd be showing up in costume, remember? Besides, it's got built-in sensors and armor." Those sensors pinged, alerting him to the waitress showing up with the food and beers he'd ordered.

She put everything on the table and handed Noah the credit slip to sign. He did so after retrieving and pocketing the credit card - but not before Katz noticed the name typed on it. Once the waitress left, he asked, "'D. Quincy Sangnoir?'"

"It's a long story. Too long for the time we have before anybody else shows up, and not for public consumption anyway. But it matches the outfit. So, any idea what Mal really wants to talk about?"

Making the universal hand-gesture for so-so, Katz placed a bookmark and set his reading aside. "Something about the new fishing rod I've been trying out," he said. "Well, that and he's bringing us a variable-gender swordsperson to talk whatever it is over."

"That's all you got from him?" Noah asked. It wasn't exactly in character for Katz to go on that little info.

"Well, the trip went a bit towards the boonies and I might have dropped my cell along the way, so he went and sent the missive to me via express shipping."

"You're enjoying this cloak and dagger parody entirely too much. Any more and you'd be sticking fake scars to your face and parading around in Matsumoto-ite wear."

"Quite." Katz grinned. "Anyway, Maetel bumped his wanting to get in touch with me towards the 'Maru, and tagged it with a 'please', and here I am. She's usually right about this sort of thing."

Oddly enough, or maybe not so much when you consider the fact that both Katz and the Express were 'under way' eleven months out of every twelve, Noah hadn't ever met Maetel other than in passing, and that had been back at the end of that whole Sauce-Con mess. Come to think of it, I don't think either of us had any sort of free time in the usual understanding of the phrase since that particular cinch. Hell, Katz had spent his birthday that year blowing shit up, and while it was sort of therapeutic, it hadn't been terribly relaxing.

"You don't look terribly enthusiastic about it," Noah commented.

"No, that was on a pretty much unrelated tangent. Anyway, did Sora bother you with what I dropped off before I blew out of Stellvia?"

The businessman shook his head. "By the time I was awake and coherent it was high time to get on the way to make it here on time."

"Ah. No worries, then. It wasn't anything immediately critical, just something to forward on to an analyst to see how it fits into the long-term view. My friendly neighborhood megalomaniac extrapolated the short term one and we were busy mopping that up over the first few weeks," said Katz while pulling out a PDA - ironically, one of the ones Stellvia had been giving out as complementaries to renting clients a while back - and sliding it over.

Noah picked it up, and started going through it, before going bug-eyed. "Katz, what the hell? You're telling me this isn't critical information? If the Boskonians are working on this ..." He was trying to keep his voice level.

Katz shuffled his chair back a little, half-stood, and leaned over to look at the screen. "Oh. Right, sorry, wrong file. That's next year's girl."

"Like I said, what the hell?!"

"Well, actually, it started off as something to do when I was fighting with the blueprints of the 'Maru," Katz shrugged, sitting back down. "Just sort of happened when I let my mind wander. Then Mal's report about the maroons trying to reenact their very own Horus Heresy showed up, and ..."

"I'm just trying to come to grips with how an Imperium of Man Battlebarge can just sort of happen ..." Noah trailed off. "And are these ... crewing requirements? Build time and cost projections? Weapons loadout ..."

"Yeah, Kohran caught me around then. Things snowballed."

"... I'll just pretend I didn't see this," ended Noah with a long-suffering sigh. The PDA changed hands for a moment while I called up the relevant documents. "And this reads like some kind of cheap Cold War thriller. Mercenaries and a retired NKWD Colonel? In space?"

"I was thinking more like something out of an Ian Flemming book."

"No, that'd have the head of it be either a mad scientist or a wealthy industrialist of some kind. And seeing as I'm nominally one of the latter, I'd rather it not end up that way, thanks."

"Point, right up to the sexy henchwomen. Anyway, as far as Trigon and Viola could cross reference and follow, there was only a fringe connection to Boskone, and even that just through occasional gun deals. So, I'm sending the memo around for people to check on."

"People, as in ...?"

"People. Some of them of a Mordenesque disposition, others with a decidedly Fnord-ese temperament, if you excuse my Pratchett."

The Saloon's owner opened the back room, then motioned to the two waiting pairs of people that they were welcome to head inside. Katz and Noah walked in first, followed by the Soviets.

The pause of recognition as Kali walked in preceded the comment only by a few seconds. "You're wearing that?" Katz asked. "Isn't it, you know, kinda chilly?" She raised her eyebrows and shrugged.

"You didn't comment about what I'm wearing," commented Noah.

"You're in Kandor and wearing something that looks like a supers outfit," Katz replied.

"And she's not?" Noah pointed a thumb at Kali as he raised an eyebrow.


"You kinda get used to it, strangely enough," Kali answered as she took a seat and set her Guinness on the table.

"That's Kali?" Noah asked.

"The one and only," Mal replied. "Also known as my engineer, the indomitable KJ. Shall we get to business?"

"Sure thing." She untied the bandanna over her face and took a pull from her beer. "Needless to say, none of this goes any farther than here unless we set this in motion. Now, I asked Mal to arrange things because something came up in recent discussions that I felt that I may have a solution to. To wit, finding whatever's in the center of this web and doing something about it instead of picking at all the little symptoms.

"So, one of the key targets is the forced biomod setup being performed on captives, which I have reason to believe is associated with a lot of their other centers of operations. So I propose to infiltrate and take it until reinforcements can arrive."

Noah smiled. "I'm glad somebody agrees with me about the need to get the data about that biomod. Are you planning to get in and clean out their computers?"

"No, I plan to get in, take over, kill the reavers, and liberate everything and everyone else inside the base." Kali paused and chuckled. "Well yes, and clean out the computers."

"We're nothing if not ambitious," Mal said dryly.


She nodded to Katz. "You came up with an interesting creation, the Kobayashi Maru. I know from experience that navigational charts and entrance codes to the main facility are rotated often, and stored in volatile memory as a security precaution; it's easy to dump them and then you're screwed. In addition, even the location is time-sensitive, so things need to move pretty quickly after boarding. And obviously, something that doesn't look like the correct ship is boned too. To say nothing of comm warnings."

"How do you know about the Maru?"

"Ever wonder who's in the hardsuit? Anyway. The Maru has, in Trigon, a lot heavier slicing ability than we normally have access to, to overwhelm the computer system on the target vessel before it can do anything about it. So a squad takes the ship, and another pair board afterwards for a full platoon. We've got, by now, a pretty good handle on ship sizes vs. internal complement so a reasonable sized ship is taken." She took a sip from her beer, considering how to put the rest. "Two of the squads are taken aboard the target location as cargo, where we should all be directed to holding and processing cells."

"Excuse me... as cargo?"

Kali nodded. "If the captured ship doesn't have them, we'll onload them, but there's a fairly standardized shipping crate where captives are kept sedated. We even found a transport based on an airport baggage hauler. Obviously the two squads won't be sedated and, in fact, will have their weaponry with them along with additional arms in a few spares." She shrugged and took another pull from her beer. "From there we take and hold the relevant areas until reinforcements come."

"There's a couple things. For one... you're speaking as if you have an armed force ready."

"I do, actually. You're not the only one who's been militarizing senshi." There was a groan and an expression of interest; Mal of course knew this already. "The difference from the Dirty Dozen is, and no disrespect towards them, training. They're more towards straight Marines, whereas I've got something on the scale of Raiders."

"'Marines'? 'Raiders'? I'm staff, not line like you folks; you've lost me here. What are you two talking about?" Noah asked.

Kali chuckled. "Well, taking advantage of their toughness and yadda, Katz and I independently arrived at the idea of using senshi in military roles. Both his and mine are trained heavily in boarding actions and fighting in enclosed spaces because, well, there's a lot of that out here in the vacuum. Only... I've been doing a lot of cross-training too. Okkane-chan?" Mal and Noah jerked with a start as the diminutive girl in a camoflage fuku dropped from the rafters and nimbly landed behind me, though Katz didn't seem surprised. Kali broke into a faint grin. "Suffice to say, we have the skillsets to do this and survive it... at least for a reasonable time. Thanks Oke, you made my point." The girl smiled and exited through the door.

Noah whistled softly - in appreciation, not a wolf-whistle. "Not bad. If she needs a job after the war, have her come see me. We're going to need people with those skills in the space patrol that Mal and I have been talking about setting up."

Kali nodded. "Oke is good, but so are the rest of them, in various specialties. After... well, they're free to leave of course or do whatever they want, but I'd prefer to keep the girls in something closer to the current organizational setup than spread piecemeal. We've trained as a unit and staying as one would work better, by no small margin. But that's quibbling; of course we're available for the patrol."

Katz blinked. "Space patrol?"

"The other issue on today's agenda," answered Mal. "We'll get there in a minute."

"What I need is the use of the Maru to get us there and assurance that reinforcements will come. If we have to fight our way out, the catgirl equipment likely gets lost, we can't rescue prisoners, and the fact that we can find the place gets out and we're back to square one. And I'm less than enthusiastic about dicking around and losing girls while people sit on their asses."

"How long are you planning on being able to hold?"

"Neglecting battlefield pickup, maybe a week. Unless they've got something far tougher than we've seen that still fits in corridors, we're limited by ammunition more than anything... and we can bring a lot of ammunition. If needed, we can likely raid other locations too to prepare for the reinforcements."

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that we've a slim-to-none chance of a quiet exfiltration?" Katz asked. I nodded slightly.

"Aside from prisoner rescue, one of the main objectives is recovery of the equipment used in the forced catgirl biomod. Failing that, destruction of it. If it's sufficiently extensive, recovery may mean taking part or all of the facility." I shrugged. "Now, eliminate the idea of recovering it and a quiet exfiltration might be doable but..."

"But it's not what we should be doing," interrupted Noah. "Get in quietly, definitely. Do the rescue and looting quietly, no problem. Get out quietly, absolutely not. We want the reavers and Operation Great Justice to know that a major reaver base has been destroyed, if only for the propaganda value."

Kali nodded; some of the details were different, but that was the gist of it.

"Are you that annoyed with the SOS-dan, Noah?" Mal asked.

"No, Mal, I don't give a damn about Suzumiya and her circle any more, not after that 'insolent peons' crack she made. I'm thinking the front-line fighters would get a morale boost when they find out we gave the Boskonians this big of a bloody nose."

"Alright. So ... ideally, the equipment would need to be mobile, or easily made mobile. Cutting tools or precision demo work. Or the section of whatever they're based out of could be blown free from the whole for pickup, though that could be tricky. Ideally ..." He chuckled. "... heh, well, pipe dreams. We know how likely 'ideally' is, don't we?"

Kali nodded, having been worried about what could go wrong since she thought of this. "The other factor is, we don't know how it's grouped. It's possible that some or all of their leadership would be in an attached facility, in which case pulling back out would give a lot of time to find a new rock."

"Recon through force, or playing possum for long enough to find ..." Mal cut himself off. "Wait. Skip it. Not the time, so not the place. I think I can give this an 'aye', and we'll hash the relevant details out when we've got the facts of just what we can organize for this. And when we're someplace that's more secure than a bar. Saloon. Whatnot."

"Right, recon through force is most of the size of it."

"... hmm, out of curiosity, just how accurate were those Ultrasmurfs?"

She had to laugh that the report had gotten out already. "Armor design's pretty true the the originals in design; Mk VII Eagle Armor pattern. But on the other hand, it seems that it's largely 'waved prop-quality stuff... and it's pretty true to the originals in design. That is to say, joints composed of soft armor at best instead of good articulation."

Katz broke into a grin. "You know, there's this concept I've been kicking around ... and it just wouldn't be the same without a certain something. How long does it take to put together the articulation and drive train for a hardsuit?"

Kali winced. "The problem with the hardsuit, is that in order for it to work right most of it starts as hardtech... and at the performance levels going through the human-scale joints, all sorts of stuff wears out constantly. On the other hand, I do have some prelim CAD files for a version of tactical dreadnought armor, in case I came to the point when the hardsuit was obsolete..."

Katz grinned and raised his beer glass in salute. "She shoots. She scores. And the crowd goes wild. Because that's exactly what I had in mind."

Kali smiled and nodded. "Now, I haven't done much experimenting with weapons of that scale... only thing we're using that's not really off-the-shelf is some special 50cal rounds. But I've got ideas."

"We have a few ideas there, too," offered Noah. "Kohran wants to build a hardsuit with a shoulder-mounted missile launcher - I keep telling her 'no' because it would be too bulky, and it'd probably obsolete everyone else's hardsuits overnight. But she's had the plans for the baby missile rack ready to go for three years now, and she's sure it'll work. Interested?"

"Goddammit, Noah!" thundered Mal. "Don't tempt my engineer with offers of shiny explody toys! It's bad enough that I've got KJ running around doing wetwork as it is, if you pull this I'll never get any more work out of the bugger!"

Kali actually shook her head. "From experience, I think I agre with you, Noah, more from the bulk factor; hand-carried weapons allows more versatility too. At least as long as we're doing pretty much purely boarding actions..." She shrugged. "Might change later on, though, and it's always good to have more options." I took a sip from my beer. "As for limited production on the Termie suits, factory setup would take some doing. Where're we at on the autofac, Mal?"

Mal sighed. "We finally got the pilot plant running last month. Production's at around... oh, call it 30% of peak so far, same with overall efficiency. Of course, we don't really need peak levels at the moment. Most of our output has been going to Azu Squadron-"

"Azu Squadron?" asked Noah.

"Expansion program, and a story for another day. I'll invite you to the christening."


"Anyway, we've been putting together airframes, hull components and stuff like that. Haven't even consumed one percent of our resource base, either. So we're in a position to maybe start working on power armor once we've got the airframes finished. Gonna require some retooling, though..."

Noah cleared his throat. "Okay, folks, I think we've made quite a lot of headway on this. I also think we're down to nitty-gritty matters that we aren't going to resolve until we get back to our respective homes and figure out exactly what we can contribute in order to make it happen."

"Then we're done here?" Kali got up to leave.

Noah shook his head. "There is another matter on our agenda - the space patrol that Mal and I have been discussing. Gentlebeings, I propose we assemble and empower the Ultraterrestrial Naturalized Citizens for Law Enforcement as a cross-faction police organization."

There was a brief awkward pause. "And, ah, how long did it take you to come up with that name, Noah?" asked Mal.

"About three and a half hours."

"Should've tried for longer."

"It's a silly name," objected Kali. "It excludes the fenkinder, we don't have anyone named Waverley to run the outfit and what's wrong with calling it the Space Patrol?"

Noah shook his head. "Too militaristic," he said. "We want people to like these folks."

"Just calling it the Patrol automatically gets us the Lensmen and the Gerry Anderson fen," Mal noted. "Space Patrol, Star Patrol, System Patrol, whatever. Besides, the word patrol has positive connotations; think of your friendly neighborhood policeman, like Andy Griffith."

"Do we want a cross-faction police force, though?" asked Katz. "The fighting's too fierce for cops, and the factions police themselves pretty well. Besides, the Erisians already do a good job of settling cross-factional disputes."

Noah took a deep breath. "The Erisians only handle cases that both sides want handled - they're arbitrators, not law enforcement. And considering that two-fifths of the people up here aren't part of any faction, that means there's a huge group that are, at best, self-policing. You might trust them to behave, but I don't.

"As for the fighting, yes, right now it's too fierce, but that's only because we gave the Boskonians half a decade to get ready for us. Police would be better equipped to handle matters once our new task force cleans up the problem we have right now."

"I don't know," Katz said.

"Look at it this way," Mal said. "When OGJ finally wins, what's going to happen? Most of the people involved are going to break off and go back to their lives. Makes sense, right? After all, the war's over, time to go home. The major factions might start putting a few more guns on their ships, but after a year of two things will go back to the status quo ante bellum. So in another five years - or ten - a new gang of idiots shows up and starts the cycle all over again. If we break Boskone and leave a functional interfactional law enforcement group in place, we're in better shape to handle the next outbreak of sociopathic idiocy."

The group thought for a moment.

"It'll work," offered Kali. "Maybe. Still think UNCLE is a silly name."

"All right, all right, we'll work on it," said Noah. "Any suggestions?"

"More important," added Katz, "who's paying for this?"

"Well, I've got the bar tab," Mal noted.

"The Patrol. UNCLE. Whatever we're calling it."

"I can provide seed money," Noah replied.

"After that, there's a few revenue streams we can try," added Mal. "Asteroid mining, petrochemical refining in the outer system. Hell, make a big enough splash when we take down Boskone and we could probably fund ourselves off merchandising."

"Once we're established," Noah continued, "we can ask for donations from the factions, like the UN gets from its member nations."

"Like it's supposed to get from its member nations, you mean," Katz interjected.

"That's a recent phenomenon. We can justify it under the articles enacted at SOS-Con; they're set up so Operation Great Justice can get funding from the factions, and there's some wiggle room."

"I suppose you'll want Yoriko in charge of the patrol?" asked Mal.

"Hell, no! She's too valuable where she is on Stellvia. We'll have to find somebody else. Not a Blue Blazer, though; they're troubleshooters, not cops. Anybody have any ideas?"

Katz took a long sip from his glass, before setting it down with an uncharacteristically solemn expression on his face. "I'll do it."

Reactions varied, but were mostly centered around the same theme. There was at least one literal spit-take between the group before Katz snorted and broke down into a fit of demented giggling.

"Sorry, sorry ...just fucking with you," he managed after collecting himself.

"Oh thank Guu," Noah muttered. The idea of Schrödinger being actually willing to run a police force was scary enough by itself, without even contemplating what sort of police force that'd be.