New Earth HPG station, march 3016:

The booth in the HPG was crowded. Designed for at most two persons sitting behind the teletype, it was not the prime choice for a conference of four. Precentor Vandel wore an unmarked Comstar robe, as did his two assistents - neither of which had been introduced to Deborah.

"I can not risc another background check on miss van Buren", the Precentor said, "she checked out the first time, and a deeper probe might be picked up by others. Any information she would have collected would already been forwarded before she made this move. No doubt you did not confirm her beliefs."

"That would have been rash", Deborah always had been a good poker player, "What about the available contracts? We cannot stay put where we are now without arousing suspicion, but the only contracts the Free World League is offering is some very meagre pirate hunting missions. Our MRB rating is not good enough to get any other house to pay for our transport to their holdings. A pirate mission could mean being out of touch for more that a year - and it would take us six months or more to get anywhere important."

Vandel frowned, she sounded less like an acolyte and more like a merc. Perhaps some closer survilance would be in order. She did have a point, though; in the Periphery her unit would be less usefull and out of his control.

"Buy some better equipment, and I will see what I can arrange. The Lyrian Commonwealth generals make a mess of things so often, that I can not believe nobody needs support."

Pollux 'weapons market', march 3016:

Lieutenant Goldbau and sergeant Arbi walked trough the Pollux 'Weapon market', looking for anybody selling vehicles better than their Scorpions and Vedettes. The sergeant had thought that it would be a matter of finding equipment they could afford, not that he still would be looking for equipment he wanted to buy. That's why they had come to Pollux, it was a main hub of commerce between the Free World League and the Lyrian Commonwealth.

"And how are my little birdies?", Joshua crooned to the birdcage he carried. Ariben frowned, the lieutenant should have been busy getting contract information, but instead he tagged along with Ariben. He even had bought several finches, green, reddish, and even one bright blue. How does a sergeant reprimand a lieutenant? He had to talk to the captain about it.

The 'market' was not one building, but a district in the city where all traders focussing on military equipment where based. Ariben left the main road for the back passages. 'Second hand' shops sold the fifth or tenth hand equipment the inner sphere now used, while there were a few small traders selling new equipment: usually so bad or in so little numbers that any big unit would pass them strait by. He glanced at a note the captain had given him, he should only be using that address if nothing else was available - well, nothing was.

They passed an alleyway and the finches fell suddenly silent. Joshua stopped and looked. "There is something burning over there." He suddenly became roused and darted in the alley. 'Blake give me strength', Ariben grumbled as he ran after him. They reached a small square where several rough looking men where piling wooden crates and other burnable against a phonebooth already covered with burning material. Several other stood nearby cheering them on, while clutching wounded arms. The phonebooth shook, as somebody tried to get out, and Joshua went berzerk. He dropped the birdcage, grabbed a crowbar from one of them, hit him in stomach and face in a double move and jumped strait in the flames, pulling material from the booth. The amazement of the others did not take long as the grabbed more wood and advanced to push Joshua in the fire. Then Ariben shot before their feet with his laser pistol.

"Play's over. This is a pulse laser, in case you wonder, I can shoot all of you in say - 5 seconds. Go away."

The group stood there in doubt for a few moment while Joshua pulled away the bar blocking the booth. With that they turned and ran. Joshua sprang away from the fire, quickly followed by a female in odd monkish robes. For a second Ariben thought of a Comstar acolyte, but then he saw it was a different cut altogether.

Joshua walked back with a terrifying look in his eyes, as 4 other monks came running in. They looked at eachother for a moment when one of the new monks spoke: "Thank y-". He fell silent as Joshua picked up his birdcage. Ariben didn't holster his gun, the silence of the monks was eerie. "Your unit?", asked the lead monk again.

"The Warriors", Joshua replied, already sinking back in his distant universe. The lead monk bowed his head slightly and the group left, leaving them behind. Arbiben urged Joshua along towards the trader; he was sure pretty soon police would show up, and it was never a good idea to stick around.