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Desperately Seeking Snakes

    The Indigo emerges from the Terra II Gate, into the area of space where the many Gates hang silently in starry space. As before, the twinkling of stars in normal space is a welcome break from the dark emptiness of Gatespace.

Douglas lets out a breath, not realizing he'd been holding it. "Gate drive shutdown," he says, working at his console. "Shifting power to gravity drive and sensors."

Vash stands and stretches. Finally... it's like being inside of God's rectum. If we do find those Texans... they're gonna owe us all a huge one. Kerry skrees, "Okay... let's get the telescope looking for planets. If Earth II was any indication, this system should look a lot like home."

Sakura nods at Kerry and starts the sensors and telescope looking for planets, "Certainly, Kerry-san."

Kerry accelerates gently away from the Gate, returning to zero-gee at 1 km/sec relative speed. "Once we know where we're going, we can head in-system. At least this one is quiet, no radio noise so far."

Vash says, "I'm curious, though. What we saw back there was... horrifying to say the least. But... was it enough to break someone? I'm still thinking about the reports of the uplift that made it back."

Kerry shakes his head. "Couldn't have been. No diamonds, remember? I doubt that the first ship was even there."

Douglas bites his lip. "We would have seen signs of disturbance, wouldn't we? Unless they didn't get to Io..."

Vash says, "We weren't on the surface, though. Regardless, you're probably right. Let's hope we have more luck and less carnage this time."

Sakura says, "Kerry-san, I was able to locate a planet in the approximate area for earth. Shall I bring it onscreen?"

Kerry skrees, "Sure thing, Sakura. Let's see it."

Sakura pulls the image up onscreen. A very pretty blue-ish ball. Douglas turns, looking at the screen with the others. "We'll need to get closer, won't we?"

Kerry skrees, "Ayah. Looks the right color, and there's no radio noise. Shall we proceed?"

Sakura nods, "I don't think I can get the image any more detailed than this from this range, Douglas-san." Douglas nods.

Vash says, "Seems quiet enough. Let's proceed."

Kerry skrees, "On our way, then." He reorients the ship and then slowly pushes the thrust up to a full gee. "ETA... a little under 20 days."

The trip in-system is uneventful. The ship performs smoothly, and turnover is without incident. Sensors pick up familiar planets about where they ought to be, and telescopic images bring in pictures very reminiscent of home. This solar system's Saturn-equivalent has no rings, and one significant moon instead. Other than that, things are familiar on the approach to the third planet. Douglas frowns slightly at the scan of Saturn. "Pilot, what could happen to cause Nexus-Saturn to... well, not have rings?"

Kerry has been making his own careful measurements of Nexus-Saturn. "We may have time-traveled this time. That," indicating the larger of the extra moons, "-is the Ur-ring body, still outside the Roche limit. It hasn't broken up to form the rings yet."

Vash hmms. "How far back?"

Douglas says, "That... or it never did break up..."

Kerry skrees, "Hard to say. If the theories are correct, between three and five million years. Or it may just be another alternate dimension. Earth II certainly was."

Vash says, "Can we please train the telescope on Nexus-Terra? What do the continents look like?"

As the Indigo approaches the planet, Sakura finds something familiar on the sensors, and then is able to get pictures on the long-range telescope; sitting in a geosynchronous orbit over the planet is the Texan ship. It's systems scan to have power and it appears intact, from this distance, but there is no response to hails on the comm. She focuses on the instruments, trying to get as good a picture of Nexus-Terra as she can... she puts her progress up on one of her screens and continues tweaking the settings as the ship progresses.

Douglas sits up. "Well, we found them..."

Sakura gasps, "Kami-sama... is that them?"

Kerry skrees, "Oh-ho... nobody's home. They might be planetside, though."

Douglas says, "It hasn't been all that long that they launched. Their life support would still be functional and they'd still have supplies, if they were outfitted similarly to us..."

Vash hmms. "Perhaps we should settle in here, and await their return. Doctora, can you put the Texan craft onscreen and magnify it for us please? I would like to see if their ship is any better armed than our trusty little vessel. If they are we can orbit opposite to them and watch them via relay." Sakura brings the Texan ship up onscreen and magnifies it to a reasonable level.

On the viewer, as clear as can be, a wave of rainbow-hued feathers sweep upwards from the planet, someplace on the Amazon basin. They get closer to the ship and apparently pass through it. Vash blinks a few times, and then looks around. "The hell...? Did... anyone else just see that?"

Sakura nods, "I saw it, Sir."

Kerry skrees, "I... think so. Something weird, feathers? But moving that fast.... if it was real, they were at a significant fraction of light-speed."

Douglas blinks, for a moment unable to speak. "What the...?" He unconsciously tries to lower the hackles that suddenly make him seem almost hunchbacked, but as he turns to his console and reaches to run a diagnostic, there is a sharp *pop!* "Dammit!"

Vash rubs his eyes. "Maybe we've been in Gatespace too long." He sits down, and there's a soft snapping sound. "Ay!" He jerks his hand away from the command console, rubbing the small white scar on the back of his hand.

Sakura says, "Shall I try to determine the origin of that with the sensors, Sir?"

Vash rubs his hand, muttering and looking quite perturbed. "Yes, Doctora. Please do."

Kerry skreeks indignantly as the pilot console shocks him as well. "Now -- that is not a coincidence, I will bet dollars to mosquitoes."

Sakura touches the console and pulls her hands back with a yip. "Itai!" She rubs her paws together and goes back to work, putting her paws down just a little more carefully this time.

Vash sighs irritably. "I may go insane myself if this continues."

Douglas winces at Kerry's... sound. "Oww... The consoles are supposed to be grounded, there shouldn't be any static... er... except for our fur."

Vash refrains from pointing out that most of him is carapace... he chalks the impulse up to irritation and just sighs again. Kerry skrees, "They are. Whatever that was... some weird kind of scan? It had some weird side effects. Diamonds and hearts. That looked Aztec, y'know. And the origin was right. Wonder what the library has on ancient religions..."

Sakura frowns, "Sir, I'm unable to find a source. There's nothing out of the ordinary on the meters and I can't make out many landmarks below us. Lots of forests planet-wide though..."

Vash says, "I do not feel up to fighting Quetzalcoatl today."

Douglas blinks. "Aztec?" He looks again at the screen, frowning. "Any cities, Doctor?" He gingerly touches his console again. Oh good, he seems to be well and truly grounded now. "The ship's humidity is right... and last I checked we were all using the anti-static hygenia. That... shouldn't have happened."

Kerry skrees, "Neither should that... that feather-swoop. I think the rules are a bit different here."

Douglas says, "Let's hope not too different."

Vash says, "We'll wait a day. If no one returns to the ship we'll start considering other options."

Kerry skrees, "Well, we're still breathing and the electronics work. But... if not magic, then psionics? Either way, I don't like it."

Sakura pauses for a moment, looking over scan-outs, "Hai, Douglas-san. Several cities, scattered across the globe. They seem to be near water for the most part... but they're not large."

Douglas blinks, looking over worriedly to Sakura. "Let me guess... they're not what we would call 'modern' cities?"

Sakura shakes her head, "Iie, Douglas-san. They certainly don't appear to be."

Nearly forgotten on another screen is the Texan ship. It hangs peacefully in space; a sleek, streamlined vessel, with huge engines -- both familiar looking ones, and the square Gate-drive emitters. There are no terribly apparent weapons, but there are several unexplained vents or openings near the front. The docking bay stands open, empty. Kerry skrees, "Well, while we're waiting, let's take a close look at our southern friends, shall we?" Douglas glances to Kerry, and nods, looking up at the Texan ship... and then frowning slightly.

Vash says, "Agreed. What do you make of those vents at the nose? Weapons? Thrust ports?"

Kerry nudges the Indigo into a slow and close pass just by the Texan ship. "I'm rather curious about that myself. I'd guess missile ports. Didn't think they'd come out here unarmed, no matter what the rules were in the Home system."

Douglas nods to Sakura, frowning. "So maybe we did time travel..." He looks up at the Texan ship again and sighs, "I haven't the faintest clue, I'm afraid."

Vash says, "I'm inclined to agree."

Kerry skrees, "I don't think that Home's Aztecs had anything like that Quetzal-probe. If they had, the Spanish would have gotten their tails kicked out of Latin America three centuries early."

Vash says, "Let's hope they don't turn history around on us and pass off some sort of bug on us in their feather spray."

The Texan ship is obviously a custom-built exploration ship; it looks fast just orbiting there, and whoever designed it had more than a little eye on the style of the vessel, almost completely unlike the utilitarian form factor of the converted and retrofitted hauler the Indigo is. It appears undamaged and intact, but remains impervious to communications. Kerry skrees, "Hmm. Shall we try boarding, then?"

Douglas says, "We're going to have to at some point..."

Vash says, "Let's give them some time, yet."

Kerry skrees, "Not too long. I don't know how much they carried in the way of supplies and I have the horrid feeling that if the humans are dead... I don't know. What would happen to a collared person without orders?"

Vash says, "They'd just... stand there." Douglas winces quietly. He's never met a collared person, but the stories... Vash looks distant for a long moment, then shakes it off. "Regardless, you're right. I'm going... Kerry?"

Kerry skrees, "If Zil is over there... I request permission to investigate, Captain."

Vash nods, "Granted. Douglas?"

Douglas hesitates for just a moment. "Truth be told, if anyone is alive over there they probably need medical attention. You probably don't need an engineer, but if you think you can use one, and you don't mind leaving the ship unattended... I'd like to go. If for no other reason, to have a look at their gate drive."

Vash folds his arms. "Alright then. Doctora?"

Sakura says, "I will go if you wish me to, Sir."

Vash says, "I think you should. As Douglas said, medical attention may be required."

Sakura says, "Hai, Sir."

Kerry skrees, "I think we can leave the ship briefly."

Vash looks to each member of the crew. "Assemble whatever you think you'll need, and meet at the Alshain in ten."

A very few minutes later, the crew assembles aboard Alshain. Kerry has decided not to carry any weapons. "If it's a different lamia, I can still outfly her, no matter what."

Vash has brought a sidearm. "We don't all have that option, Kerry." Douglas is suited up, is carrying his toolkit, and also has no weapons with him. Sakura also is suited up and is carrying her medical kit. Kerry will wait to put his suit on until he's sure he needs it. He hates wearing the thing.

The shuttle takes off, Kerry flying it deftly out of the hangar and toward the Texan ship. As it approaches, it becomes clear that docking will be impossible; Alshain's wingspan is wider than the Texan docking bay. Kerry skrees, "##ee*# cowboys. What kind of shuttlecraft did they use?"

Vash says, "Albondigas!"

Douglas deadpans, "So much for everything being bigger in Texas..." Sakura covers her mouth with her paw and laughs softly.

There is a maintenance/personnel lock, which can accept a pressurized umbilical, which Alshain doesn't have. It will provide access from an EVA however. Kerry chirrips as he brings the shuttle to a stop a few dozen meters from the Texan ship's airlock. "I guess I'll have to suit up after all. Idiot cowboys."

After Kerry has suited up, the crew carefully maneuvers across to the Texan ship. The maintenance lock opens easily from its controls which are only minutely different than the American ones, and is large enough for all four of the crew, as it was originally designed for loading of parts and supplies. Douglas says, "At least we don't have to go one at a time."

Kerry skrees, "And it's not two centuries old, so it should work."

Vash says, "No guarantees that anything more pleasant is waiting on the other side, though. Stay sharp."

The lock works normally, cycling through and opening into a hallway. Doors go off to either side, with a lift at the far end, and the lock at this end. The lights are responding normally, coming on at movement. Atmosphere is normal and temperature is normal. Kerry skrees, "I've got a less sensitive nose than most of you... let me test the air first. Just in case..." He cautiously cracks his helmet and sniffs. "Hmm. Nothing dead at least."

Vash says, "Thus far."

Kerry skrees, "Well, let's see if we can find an intercom."

Vash says, "So. Door Number One... or Door Number Two?"

Douglas says, "Might as well head towards the cockpit... wait... do you think the Texans may have left something to... er, deter boarders?"

Kerry skrees, "I would have. Let's take this slow and cautiously, folks."

Vash says, "We're going room by room. And slow. Stay very frosty... they may not have left their collared Lamia without orders." He says something under his breath that doesn't come out distinctly over the radio. Those of you with a more vulgar disposition might think it sounds suspiciously like "...the dirty motherfuckers..." Sakura sticks pretty close to the men as they move through the ship; she looks a little nervous. Brave, Sakura. Be brave. Stay calm, relaxed.. Vash says, "Left."

Kerry moves cautiously down the hall, clumsy in zero-gee without his wings. "Ah-hah. There is an intercom. If we can figure out how to use it."

Vash says, "Go on. I'm going to try this door."

Douglas looks between Vash and Kerry, then sighs, "I guess that means I'll take the intercom..." He pulls his multimeter from his kit, moving to Kerry and the intercom.

Vash opens the door, which slides silently open from the center. A control room overlooking the open docking bays is revealed, apparently empty and quiet. The lights flicker on as the door opens. Vash looks around quickly and nods, satisfied that all is quiet. He moves to the door opposite.

Kerry nods. "Fair enough." The intercom -- if it is one -- is a complex panel. "Come to think of it... it might be a collar control station. We never have figured the things out."

Douglas grimaces as he examines. "Be nice if we could tell for sure. The controls seem to be dynamic, depending on what menu you're in. Looks like they locked out some of the functionality, at least."

Kerry skrees, "Oh. I think I should warn you... Lamia are quite maneuverable in zero-gee."

Vash says without looking up, "I know."

Kerry skrees, "Don't take anything for granted... for their size, they can fit into remarkably small spaces."

Vash keys the door across the hallway, and it too slides open. The ship's engineering level is revealed. The hum of contented machinery fills the room. Douglas examines the controls, shaking his head in disgust. "Anyone want to play some music? That's about all I can do with this... wait... we can call a lift, at least."

Vash looks around, and draws his weapon. He proceeds very slowly into the doorway. "Douglas... this may interest you more..."

Sakura takes a couple of steps back from the door, whispering, "What is it?"

Douglas determines he's found out about as much as he can from the console and notes such apologetically to Kerry. "What have you found?" he asks Vash, looking in. "The engine deck...?"

Vash grins a little, "Engineering, Doctora." He speaks so that she can almost hear the grin, trying to be as reassuring as he can for his medical officer. Sakura lets out a little sigh of relief, and relaxes visibly.

Douglas blinks, taking in a breath as he looks around the room. "Oh, my," he says. "This is... incredible... it looks like they hit breakeven..."

Kerry skrees, "Breakeven? You mean... a permanent fuel source?"

Vash says, "Don't get too comfortable, gentlemen. We're just getting started. Douglas... there's a system monitor there. Check it."

Douglas says, "No, not quite, just... effective fusion. It looks like they at least got fusion in here..." He takes only a couple of steps into the engineering space, looking around critically. "Look at that... this place wouldn't be able to handle a rough ride, though. It's all custom, high-maintenance..." He nods to Vash, moving over to the monitor console.

Kerry skrees, "Hmm. Looks like they need maintenance. There is something to be said for tried-and-true. Custom jobs are not good for long runs out of touch with base."

Douglas checks over the status lights on the console. "Everything looks good. One pump is out of whack but its backup is online. Ah... according to this, one of the filters needs changing, and has needed changing..." he looks up at the reactor, "-for about a month..."

Kerry skrees, "Can you do it?"

Vash says, "Held up rather well for being left alone so long. Let's examine the rest of the deck, Kerry. I don't want to leave behind any surprises." Kerry nods and helps explore the engineering rooms. Engineering is as quiet as it can be, full of running machines, most of which are on a quiet idle, keeping life support running, with no engine load.

Douglas says, "Probably. It's part of the sewer system, which looks pretty standard. But this means the ship's been in orbit, probably unattended, for at least a month."

Kerry skrees, "Hmm. If the sewage filter's backed up, then someone's been using it."

Vash says, "Probably cycling."

Douglas says, "Not necessarily. It could just be due for replacement, regularly scheduled replacement, especially if it uses biological filtering."

Sakura walks a few feet closer to a set of pipes, but stops short well before she could actually touch them, "V.. Vash-san, Sir?"

Vash says, "Doctora?"

Sakura points at a spot between the pipes, "There's... something there."

Vash turns and raises his gun, walking slowly closer to Sakura's position, eyes fixed on the dark slash beyond her finger. "Sakura... back up, slowly." Sakura is more than happy to back away from whatever it is... she does so, as slowly as she can with her heart pounding.

Kerry turns to where Sakura is pointing and skreeks a sonar pulse at it (that's the other reason he took his helmet off). Douglas blinks, glancing over to Sakura with a frown. "'Something'...?" He looks over, standing slowly from the systems console.

Vash's eyes widen. "Kerry, come here..." Douglas is aware of the sudden tension in the compartment, and he steps forward quietly, not getting in the way of the two officers.

Kerry floats over toward the pipes and comments quietly to Vash, "Organic, whatever it is. Doesn't look like the right pattern for a lamia." He raises his voice. "Hello?"

The continued hum of the ship is the only reply.

Vash doesn't say anything. He keeps his gun leveled, and carefully interposes himself between the bat and the pipes; he intends to take the hit if something comes out of there. Then he blinks, and squints a bit. He takes another step forward. "It's... some kind of nest."

Kerry skrees, "Hmm... and just shirts. Betcha it is a lamia, then. They're not built for pants."

Vash nods in agreement. "She's not here. We should move to the next level."

Sakura swallows heavily. "You don't suppose they took the lamia with them?" she asks hopefully.

Douglas blinks, then looks around. "Could this be where they... erm, bunked her? In lieu of quarters?

Vash says, "It's possible. On the other hand, they tend to treat collared uplifts as property. They may have just... stowed her someplace."

Kerry skrees, "I've dealt with those clowns. They'd expect her to be at their beck and call, not allowing for sleep... and fuss at her for laziness when she collapsed. They are not bright people that way." Sakura doesn't look very comforted by that thought. Sugoi! ...she'll be hungry and angry...

Vash says, "It's not likely she's alive, if they took her to the surface and didn't make it. In a combat situation her function is living flak shield. If she's alive, she'll be here."

Kerry skrees, "I'm beginning to think that they left her here without orders. Let's search some more. Unless you can figure out the intercom... we might be able to get her to come down here if you can sound like a human."

Douglas says, "Well... I'll try... the intercom, I mean, I'm not good at imitating a human voice..."

Kerry skrees, "You're better at it than I am."

Vash says, "While you're doing that, I'm going to examine the lift."

Douglas frowns slightly at the intercom he works on. "Okay... I can get this working, but... there are no intercoms active right now."

Vash hmms at the lift controls. "There's a lot of ground to cover here. Bridge, four quarters, rec one, rec two, storage one and two, the docking bay and... something called machinery access."

Kerry skrees, "Lovely. Just the place to hide a lady snake."

Vash says, "Just what I was thinking."

Douglas keeps trying to get the intercom to do more. "Oh?" he asks idly. "How many crew did they have here, anyway? And what's the ship called, anyway?"

Vash frowns. "Yellow Rose. Seems too delicate for a Texan."

Douglas blinks, his hand hovering over the intercom. "Hey... uhm..." He leans his head out into the doorway. "I just found the light controls. According to them, all of the lights are set to motion sensors. The ones on the flight deck... just shut off."

Kerry skrees, "Hmmm..."

Vash says, "Interesting."

Sakura tenses up just a little bit. "What's the delay on those, Douglas-san?"

Kerry skrees, "A point. That may have been our flight deck visit."

Sakura whispers, "Are there lights on anywhere that we haven't been?"

Douglas looks over the intercom again, and lets out a breath. "Well... ten minutes, it looks like. The lights just idled off after the doors shut on their own ten minutes ago. All other lights are idle and off. Nothing's moving, at least nothing moving in a place where the motion-sensor-triggered lights are."

Vash says, "I want to check out Machinery Access next. Can you tell me anything about that area?"

Kerry skrees, "And... are there such lights in the machinery access?"

Douglas says, "No, they all seem to be off..."

Vash pushes the button for the lift. It chirps, and a green light on a black square stamped, "CardKey International" becomes a blinking yellow, near the controls. A moment later, that light flashes red, and it buzzes, before flicking back to green. Sakura blinks... "What was that?"

Kerry skrees, "Hmph. Now that must be a total pain in the keister for the crew."

Vash frowns. "Locked."

Sakura says, "Is there another way down?"

Kerry skrees, "One would hope that there are emergency access shafts." He flits about, looking for the emergency access shafts. A few minutes later he disgustedly reports, "Oh, great. They're powerlocked... they'll stay closed unless the power fails. Whoever designed this crap is a world-class paranoid."

Vash says, "Douglas... can you engineer an interruption for us?"

Douglas looks at the console, then nods slowly. "I can, yes. This shouldn't take long. You might want to get ready to jam something into it..." His fingers move over the console... the emergency access-ways unlock obligingly. A red light comes on them, labeled "EMERGENCY ACCESS -- POWER FAILED." The rest of the ship doesn't seem to care. They open easily now.

Kerry skrees, "And the second question... can they be easily opened from inside?" A quick check of the accessway, which is empty, and lights up when Vash sticks his head in, and of the other side of the access hatches reveals that they do open correctly from the other side.

Vash nods, "They'll open from this side. Doctora, Douglas, please stay in the hallway, just in case."

Douglas says, "Well, there's that at least..."

Kerry skrees, "Excellent. We can move around, then. Let's take lots of sticks to jam them open with."

Sakura nods, "Hai, Sir."

The machinery access level is an entire level filled with most of the hardware that makes life support and part of the reactor and some of the drives run. It's filled with machines; otherwise a large, empty space. The explorers can hear things echo oddly around its interior. As a bank of equipment is approached the motion sensor turns the lights on around it. When Vash first enters it is completely dark, the light nearest the hatchway coming on as he climbs out. Kerry uses his echolocation as they move around the machinery level, ultrasonic shrieks 'illuminating' the unlit areas. Vash moves slowly through the cramped spaces, keeping his weapon at the ready. "It seems quiet."

Vash and Kerry wander around in the cramped and dim spaces for the better part of half an hour. At the end of their examination, it's determined that... there's a lot of machines down here. Kerry sighs after the two spend at least a half hour exploring the cramped space. "Weird. Nothing but the machinery. Where the heck is Zil?"

Vash says, "Storage, maybe. She'd be property to them. And you know... heaven forbid she occupy the same quarters as a human."

Kerry skrees, "Which is why there aren't five sets of quarters. Useless bloody cowboys." He sighs. "Well, let's keep searching."

Vash nods. "You won't get any argument from me. Let's try the storage levels."

Douglas is messing with the computer, carefully. It's not letting him do anything much. At one point he finds a list of personnel, and asks for their status. The computer lists them as "Offsite" and doesn't mention the lamia at all. The ship logs indicate a flight on the shuttle -- they'd filed a flight plan listing a short trip downside to "explore for a few days" and noting they took the "snake" with them, so it didn't have to look after itself that long. The log is dated five months ago. Douglas hrms quietly to himself. "Obstinate little computer..." He isn't surprised that the lamia isn't mentioned at all; the Texans would probably more likely list her under the cargo manifest. Hmm... there. Five months ago, and they brought the lamia with them. He keys his radio. "Captain, Pilot, do you read me?"

Vash says, "We got you, Douglas. What's up?"

Douglas says, "The lamia isn't aboard. They brought that one down with them, five months ago. They were only supposed to be planetside for a few days, but... well, obviously they were away for longer." He looks to Sakura, and says quietly, not over the radio, "Don't worry, Doctor, the lamia's not on board."

Sakura relaxes almost completely back to her normal working state, "Arigatou, Douglas-san."

Vash says, "Damn it."

Kerry skrees, "Ah-hah. Might be good, might be bad. Did you find a flight plan?"

Douglas says over the radio, "Yes, I did, Pilot. It's a short one, only for a brief visit. Chances are they came to the same conclusion we did about this being a relatively virginal Terra-facsimile, and they might have decided that the diamonds came from here."

Kerry skreeks in disgust. "If they had a visit from that Quetzal-probe, they'd have been dumber than average to think that. I still say we should memorize everything the computer has on the Aztecs before we go down there."

Vash says, "Kerry... you realize she may not be alive. On the other hand... if they think she's some kind of messenger of the Smoking Mirror, she may be hard for us to get to."

Douglas says, "The first thing that pops into my mind, Pilot, is that the Aztecs had a fondness for two things: burning and bleeding. Neither of which are in our mission plan." Sakura's eyes widen at Douglas.

Vash says, "Bleeding from the most interesting places, as I recall."

Kerry skrees, "Ah, but they had a number of gods that were totemic. We might easily pass as messengers of the gods... especially me. Let's get that download and see what we can see."

Vash sighs. "I don't look good in a loincloth, you know."

Douglas catches Sakura's glance. Oh, heck. "Ahh... so, when we go down there let's be careful, all right? Wait... messengers of the gods? You've got to be kidding. I'm sure there's something in our contract about not posing as divinity." Sakura nods at Douglas and plasters a forced smile on her face. You're nuts if you think I'm going down there, careful or no.

Kerry chuckles. "Against our contract? Could be. I'd have to check. But... I can't see leaving without trying. Remember, the coyote made it back the last time, so whatever is down there doesn't react as badly to uplifts as to humans."

Vash says, "Forget the contract. I don't want to leave anyone behind... they can sue me when we get home."

Sakura just keeps smiling. Oh, excellent. It's going to make us crazy rather than killing us outright. How kind of it. Douglas's jaw works slightly and he nods unconsciously. "You have a point, Pilot. We'd have to look the part, and that might not be easy. They went in for a lot of gold." He glances over at the rather painfully smiling doctor. "Er..." he manages lamely, "-ah... at least gold is definitely your color, Doctor...?"

Kerry skrees, "Someone should stay with Alshain anyway. Doctor Sakura could do that if she isn't interested in traipsing around in a skirt and gold jewelry."

Vash says, "Yes, I think that's a good idea. Let's not leave our shiny bird alone with the curious natives."

Sakura says, "Hai, Kerry-san! I'd be happy to stay with Alshain. It will give me the opportunity to... to... to set up a field medical facility."

Vash begins to climb up out of the access hatch. "Settled, then... let's get back to the ship and study up. And try to think of a way to dress our medical officer up in a loincloth that won't expose us all to liability."

Kerry chirrips. "I'm sure we can think of something. Probably with feathers."

Vash says, "Capital idea."

Douglas grimaces as he shuts off his microphone. "Doctor, I would recommend prescribing him pepperspray..."

Sakura's eyes widen again, "L-loincloth, sir?"

Vash grins up at the doctor as he emerges from the hatch. "Just kidding, Doctora." Sakura stares at Vash-san, jaw and eyes wide. Vash starts to laugh quietly, and looks away, unable to keep a straight face looking at those eyes. "I'm *heh* sorry, Doctora."

Sakura shakes her head, laughing softly, "Vash no Ecchi."

Vash says, "Hey now. Hentaku arimasen." Sakura grins at Vash.

Douglas clears his throat in a deep rumble. "We should get back to the Indigo..."

Vash grins, "All right, all right... we're obviously making our engineer uncomfortable. Let's get back to the ship... we have homework to do."

Kerry refastens his helmet as they prepare to cross back to the Indigo. "First things first. Research on the Aztecs; figure out nice, concealable weapons; and decide on a landing site."

Last modified: 2000-Nov-21 15:31:30

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