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Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - [Interlude] There's no place I can be ... [FIN]

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WHEN: 3 days after Jungle Den

She didn't have an office, she only had a the one old op-book and her data band. There was no corporate HQ ... or was there? She had the sign up list for the public library. She's signed up as a high school science club - and dressed the part. Starseed 1, 2, and 5 were working up a storm as 'Jim', 'Marry', and 'Asa' thanks to some subtle body shifting and more of those clothes lifted from those campers. She really would have to make it up to those people ... eventually Zephyr could track down the licence number of their van.

They'd reserved a little work room with old fashioned white boards and four old op-net terminals. The young fellow, Jeremy Mandabu, in charge of room reservations liked high-school girls apparently. All it took to get the room was a few of the right looks, and a well placed compliment. He wasn't the type that the kind of girl she was pretending to be usually went after ... or really went after at all. Easy. Once they had the room she closed the door and promptly pulled three of the four op-net connectors. They'd be using one connected terminal with great care, and the three stand-alones to do all the actual work.

"Jim - you're on the master budget, proforma, and reviewing the manifests for every shipment." said Marry - a.k.a. Starseed 1 - turning to Asa, "Asa - you're on marketing now. Good work on the op-net page templates, but we need to prepare materials for the press packet and the corporate distributables".

Asa - a.k.a. Starseed 5 - replied "almost done the first model. Have to work with some older spreasheets and op-apps so this is all a bit kludgy but the facts and figures are solid. Really could use those finite element calcs to generate some risk assessment ratios ... and soon, the stress profiles on hull and components are the last things I need".

... and so it went, with rapid progress being made. The idea was simple: sell spots on a two week trip to the stars for 1.1 million Euros. It was well under what people payed for far less in the way of space tourism already.. Plus even one ticket sale was double what she needed to finish the Far Star. Another additional proviso is that everyone have their own counter pressure suit - best to let people get those specifically fitted as it makes a huge leap in comfort. Rich people loved to play at things, and being a Star Traveller was going to be irresistible.

Part of the problem was that Starseed didn't even have a proper legal identity, so she was going to have to get everything going with contracts. In most of the Eurozone, any person is recognized under the law as able to enter into a contract ... so that is why she was operating in this jurisdiction for now. It didn't matter what she called herself here, she could still sign on the dotted line. Then she would have cash to spend - not the investments and portfolios that people with bank accounts have. This would sidestep alot of thorny issues.

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Starseed 4 ...

Had to assume things were going well in the library, and knew that the last few months had been very productive in space. In the process of crafting the Far Star plenty of raw materials had been refined, and plenty of geophysical survey had been done in the belt. Yet she hadn't managed to turn it into what she really needed planetside. She really didn't want to steal either, even if it was just small stuff - the principle mattered. But she had no papers, no ID, and so no bank accounts.

That made shopping hard to do ... very hard. But "Rose' was going to go on a shopping trip today.

Coming up to the building, Durrant Hall, she noted the astrophysics building had seen better times. This university hadn't seen much of the Utopian revolution in education grants - and the UK economy was slim in comparison to some of the other developed nations - just a fact of life that hadn't changed since before the Nova age. Durrant Hall should, by all rights, have closed decades ago - but for the efforts of one man: Professor Marcus Andrews.

Professor Andrews was old money, and was a man who felt some sort of noblesse oblige. He expressed this by keeping his little corner of this small campus alive with money out of pocket. A man who never had children, but seemed to be viewed as a father figure in his department. He was also, notably, a collector. He had one of the best collections of extraterrestrial minerals in the north of England, perhaps one the best private collections in the UK.

She walked in, pulling the glass door open but almost getting her big backpack caught as it closed - that door pneumatic needed some maintenance. The secretary at the desk looked up and said "Oh, my dear. Are you alright? That looks heavy. Let me help".

Star waved her off and said "No, thank you. Door just closed a little faster than ... took me by surprise. It is a little unwieldy. Bag full of space rocks and all."

the secretary perked up "Oh. I know who you're her for. You're the lass who Professor Andrews is expecting. Good timing too, as he likes to have tea at exactly three."

Star nodded, "Thats me, Rose Tyler..."

"Aye, come with me. You're in luck today my dear. We've got some wonderful Darjeeling with fresh cream. Wonderful cinnamon and quince jam for the crumpets too." said the pleasant older lady as 'Rose' followed along ...

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The professor's office was the classical image of a European academic study. There were old book, sitting on older wooden bookshelves, and even a few ornate globes and orreries. Ancient and modern telescopes dominated while the computer was tastefully stowed in a cabinet somewhere - one of the incredible antique desks no doubt. Specimine cases full of meteorites and minerals, but very few of the beautiful crystals and geodes were represented. This was, no doubt, part of a very serious collection - though vanity was evident it fell a distant second to the feeling of science that permeated this place.

Professor Andrews was a frail looking man of sixty-seven years - who in fact looked quite a bit older. Smartly dressed, and it seemed everything an English professor of old should be ... right down to the tweed. He looked up from the careful preparation of his tea, and he beckoned 'Rose' to sit down at the place that had been set for her. She sat, taking off the big backpack.

"Hello young lady. Rose was it?"

Rose: "Yes Professor, pleasure to meet you. I'm here for the ..."

Prof: "Oh tea first, tea first. Have a crumpet and some jam too. Its all fresh."

Rose."Thank you very much. I will ..." she said, and served herself

Prof: "So where do you go to school my dear. I take it you are interested in astronomy or perhaps meteorites?"

Rose: "I'm not exactly a student, Professor. You could say that I'm a collector myself."

Prof: "Always a pleasure to meet another who shares the passion ... unfortunately I don't trade or sell specimines ..."

Rose: "Oh, I know ... you're on the opnet. I have some things I thought you'd be interested in."

The old man had clearly been expecting something else ...

Prof: "Oh? Well, you know I only collect in very specific categories."

'Rose' started to being the sample containers out of the backpack and place them one by one on the desk between them. The thick nickel steel containers clunked on the old wood desk and the professor looked intrigued.

Rose: "Professor, what I am going to tell you - I do in confidence. I am a Nova, and I go to space."

A raised eyebrow from the old man, who picked up the first container and pulled off the fitted cap.

Rose: "These are samples from the belt. From stony, all types through to nickel iron - core, crustal, a range of samples. Mostly S and M types ... but I included a few nice formations here from C types. Mainly interesting inclusions ... and all documented with photos."

the old man was dumbstruck, opening containers with great care ... after a few he got up to fetch a piece of glass and some forceps. He then examined the pieces with the glass over the mouth of each container ... seeking to avoid contamination.

Prof: "I don't know ... amazing. How did you?"

His hands were shaking, and he was smiling like a school boy. Rose let him enjoy the moment.

Rose: "I collected these personally, Professor. I know that you would enjoy them very much ... study them for the advancement of science. But I have a request, I'm in a bit of trouble at the moment ..."

The Professor put down the sample, and focused on her ...

Prof: "Are you all right my dear? I admit this all takes me by surprise, but if you are in trouble you should be talking with the ..."

Rose interrupted him "No, no. Nothing legal, but I have no money. I have no ID, and there are people who are looking for me ... people who want to hunt young Novas like me. So I have been in space ... but I need some equipment, some money. So ..."

Prof: "So you want to sell me this collection." he paused, considering "But I don't know if I can afford these, they are of considerable value."

Rose: "I'm not greedy, and I want to give you a very good price. Keeping things quiet for now is worth alot to me ... and there are more where these came from. Anywhere in the solar system. You can see from my notes that I have the field skills to document properly, and to look for specimines you might want. I'm even willing to barter, because I need equipment and practical things mostly."

She continued, driving the point home "I need your help, Professor. I have no place of my own ... my family was ... I need your help."

A plea for help
Willpower spent plus CHA roll:

varroxx@yahoo.com *rolls* 10d10: 8+6+9+7+7+5+4+3+7+2: 58

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'Rose Tyler' and the Professor sat for almost an hour. He told her about his adopted Son, and his grandchildren. He said he could scarcely imagine what it would be like without his family - even though they weren't technically of his blood they were kin. He told her about his passion for science, and about how he found his calling by helping students take a wider view of the universe around them.

She didn't reveal too much, but did tell him how tough it was. Given they were strangers, they had a surprisingly heartfelt talk. She gave him the list of equipment she needed - in many cases it was something he could get second hand from the department. Apparently, he had discretion since most of this was paid for by him. They talked about telescopes, which lightened the mood - both of them knew the perils of grinding mirrors all too well.

Eventually, the crumpets were gone and three pots of tea had seen their last cup. The Professor had sent some grad students to fetch the optics Starseed needed, and two sturdy laptops they used for field work - older but ruggedized models. A few other instruments, peripherals and a range of older but very serviceable cameras rounded out the kit ... but the biggest score was copies of some professional software. Now she'd be able to put together a proper observatory, which really didn't require much when you had the location and collection of mirrors she already had. The Professor even took her through some of the tricky spots in the software, as reading spectral lines had to be done with corrections for these optics.

The other thing he gave her was a small billfold, stacked with Euro notes. He didn't keep very much cash on hand - but there was about just very four hundred there. Enough to get her some new clothes.

"I promise I'll come back Professor." said 'Rose'.

"For you, the door is open my dear. You go and get doing what needs doing ... next time we'll talk wonders of the solar system over a proper lunch." said the kindly old man.

She departed, giving him a show with the warp gate - back pack and equipment bags in the many hands of the servitor she's created to focus the gate. Next stop, drop off her new gear ... and then shopping!

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As was the plan, 'Rose Tyler' was waiting in the secluded corner of the English tea garden. Starseed 2 had given Kami the exact coordinates for the rendezvous - and Star had thanked sincerely Kami for the ride again. Kami realized all the cloak and dagger stuff with multiple clones must be a real Q drain, and was happy to help out.

Rose, disguised as she was - waved to the two and came over heavy bags on her shoulders and money in her hand. Just to be double safe the two Stars synced their data bands and 'Rose' was off to the shuttle in standard azure gate style. The equipment was on it's way.

Money in hand, Star turned to Kami. "So, we're not too far from our pick of a dozen shopping spots in the grand old City of London. Ummm, do you like chocolate?"

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"Chocolate tends to get me hyper... but... it's tasty none the less. Were you wanting some?"

Kamiko scratches her head. "I'm more than willing to make a run anywhere for that, to be honest. And have you tried pocky? It's chocolate frosted bisquit sticks pretty much... good stuff if you ask me."

She looks about. The choice of Picadilly Circus was interesting. "After the candy run what are you thinking? I don't know London that well. Cardiff I know backwards and forewards."

She giggles, knowing she just completely revealed how geek she was. "Although I'd love to see the Millennium Eye ferris wheel at some point. It makes a beautiful meeting place."

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"I do like pocky. Strawberry cream pocky too. You know what, we should go to a bakery! Then we can have a picnic in the park."

Star counts her money, then realizes "hmmm .. you know, I actually don't know what clothes and food cost. I have never really bought clothes at all ... and food so rarely ..." a puzzled but curious look on her face "...and there is no free opnet wi-fi zone here in this park. Must be really old tech nearby - darn, signal is too weak. Of course I have seen girls go shopping on video and read about it ... we get to try stuff on, but as Novas can we get free deals and stuff?"

... she pauses "I am sure I have read about that. Nova's getting things free, for bringing business to a place. What do you think Kami?"

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"We... have to be known first. I've been staying off radar for a reason. Have you been using an alias while interacting woth others?"

Kamiko adjusts her glasses. "Or for that matter be able to call on someone who can at least clean up the data-trail behind her."

"As for buying things, the Pound isn't that major of a currency anymore, but it's healthy. So things here are rather reasonible. Even when converted to Euros our coinage goes farther. We'd... probably have not much to show for if we went shopping in let's say... New York, Los Angeles, or Tokyo. The Dollar and the Yen may be monitored by crack Nova economicists but those currencies still have legacy inflation issues from the last century. And don't get me started on the basket case of the Chinese Yuan. How it keeps level is beyond me. My slightly paranoid dad thinks it's the Chinese manipulating the markets to their favor and after I've seen some of their business practices I sort of believe him."

"It's best if we go for clothing we know what we want first, and make sure it fits by trying it on before purchasing. I'd wager you'd look good in more rugged, utilitarian clothing. Cargo pants, shirts with lots of pockets... You have a reliable air about you. Should reflect that in your clothing." Kamiko muses, looking more cute than business-like in the dark navy-blue business ensemble she's wearing. A hand me down from her mother's early days, it even has a sailor-collar like lapel on the blazer. "To be honest though... let's get what we feel we like and feels comfortable... and is durable for what we like doing. I reccommend a Army-Navy surplus for that sort of thing. I love those places."

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"I have been using aliases and disguises, and haven't bought anything yet ... except for candy with some cash I earned for trading in recyclable metals for a few days, and literally my piggy bank ... the items I have were those I rescued from the house during the attack, and a bit of barter, and everything else I manufacture in space with my servitors and solar energy."

"I have Euros, from barter ... four hundred and six. Unfortunately, I don't have anyone erasing any data trails for me. I just don't attach my name to anything, don't do anything at all risky without a disguise, only use anonymous and free op-net accounts and terminals ... like at public libraries. I've already been sighted going to the Den meeting and being at thee palace, hence no disguise with you today."

"And for now, what goes on in deep space ... stays in deep space. I ran some significant calculations on how far I need to stay away from earth, current detection technology ... humanity has a tough time tracking things larger and brighter than anything I do past about six lunar orbits which is a vast, vast improvement over even ten years ago ... so staying in deep space is pretty secure, especially in and around the belt or the larger gas giants ... so I haven't been living on Earth in a proper way. Just popping in for clandestine visits."

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"Parking in the lagrange point on the opposite side of the sun from Earth is a smart move as well. I forget what it's number is, but it's a place to park and sit without worrying too much about keeping orbital velocity."

She adjusts her blazer, almost reminiscent of Captain Picard. "Now... I do have a useable alias I like using outside of the Asian sphere. Since we're using hard currency or debit cards we can stay anonymous in transactions. you intend to use one today?" She says, in a close, and quiet whisper.

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"One whaa ... a debit card? Sorry, I don't have a bank account. I was just gonna go and buy some cakes."

"Oh, do you mean an alias? Well I wasn't going to write my name down or anything like that ... but we've already been seen if we're being watched. For this trip, its too late for a disguise ... unless we want to gate out, disguise, and gate back in somewhere else. Even then, that may be more conspicuous than just going shopping like a couple of young Novas would."

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"Fair enough."

She sighs. It was always fun being one of her aliases, but today it's just the two of them.

"A Debit Card... well the prepaid one given to me, has a set amount of currency on it. Works wherever a credit or bank debit card works."

"Cakes? Now you're making me hungry. And there better be chocolate involved. I'm needing some energy."

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"Its a nice day out, and I was thinking cakes and lemonade in the park? Or maybe we can try a bunch of small cakes and treats by going to a nice cafe ... I haven't had coffee in about seven months."

As they move closer to public wireless and the signal gets strong enough for her little data band she begins to search for baked good in London two mile radius. She knew the data-band was clean, and that it wouldn't download any spyware ... because she wasn't going to sync it on return and of course ... this particular device had been woven along with this version of herself.

Star and Kami, walking and talking, eventually sort out a destination. It was Kami who settled on the final location ...

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Kamiko sees an option on her OpPad. "Ah! William and Tegan's Bakery, three blocks south of here... looks like they got just what we want and..."

Kamiko blushes. "And... ohhh...."

"What?" Star asks, walking over.

"She's.... she's gonna be here signing!"

"Signing what, Kamiko?"

Kamiko rummages in her large laptop bag, pulling out a science-fiction novel. "Rachel Durant. She wrote this novel series... She's signing her new novel "Starside" today! The series is about a space colony founded at the far Lagrange point on the other side of the sun on our orbit and their trials of survival that far away from Humanity. Their only Nova dies of a bad warp after teleportng the colony into position. As a trade for saving it... the story really begins there."

She adjusts her glasses. "It's a brilliant thriller actually. You'll never know if the colonists will survive the latest disaster. Although... I worry if she's using the ploy too much."

Star looks to her bookworm friend.

"If... you'd indulge me this we can eat all the chocolate and whatever we want before hand. The signings really won't begin for a hour."

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"All right, well, its a bakery ... so we can grab and go. Then we won't be late, and you can get a good place in line at the book store. Its not far from the Bakery either. I'll browse while you get the autograph. Plus I have never been to a book signing before."


Star and Kami gab all the way to the bakery, and grab two large cake boxes full of assorted treats. Good thing Novas don't get fat. Really, it was a bit pricey - but quality costs. Star didn't bother to get anything to drink, she was fine with the various dainties. "Kami, is there anything else we've forgotten before we head to the signing?"

Star looked up to see Kami wrestling with her improperly folded cake box. Of all the people to get one with wrong folds done, at least Kami could fix it. Looked like she was fixing it just fine with the pastries still inside. If anyone could pull of that mobious loop style origami, it was her.

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"Well... that's what happens when I'm not concentrating..."

Kamiko focusses on the box and shifts it's form along the pre-scored folds more properly, re-enforcing the fold itself to keep it strong. "Okay... that's one disaster averted."

Kamiko checks her bag and sure enough, she hasn't forgotten anything. "Nope... I've got everything."

She hands over the debit card to Star, and smiles. "You got 15 minutes. Here's the cake, and have fun. I'm going to buy the new book as well before I get in line... I just hope I can get up to see her."

Kamiko pats Star on her shoulder and smiles. "Make it 5... that looks awkward."

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Star was half tempted to weave a servitor to carry everything, instead she just asked the clerk at the counter in her nicest, sweetest way "Could you keep these here for me while I browse?" The young man, about her age and a bit pimply faced with thick glasses, couldn't even respond. Though Star wasn't as pretty as most of the Nova's out there, she was pretty exotic. Apparently 'Jim' ... from his name tag ... liked exotic. Finally, he managed a stumbling "Oh, OK ... sure!" and then looked so embarrassed he might die from it. "I'm also gonna eat one here. I know, no food ... but I promise not to be messy". The clerk was still quite stunned, and just nodded.

Star spent her time reading magazines, browsing their media collection, and looking at an odd display of holographic flowers. They looked pretty real too, and it was just a tube or globe of holo-plast film with nothing inside. Still, there was just something off about them. Not good enough for the ship, not these cheap ones anyway. Plus they just didn't match silk flowers for charm - at least then you flowers are fake but classy too. Oh well, these chain bookstores had made their money selling crud like this for decades, before she was born. Commercialism and consumer culture alive and well in the Nova age.

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Kamiko drums her hardcover of the book she was waiting for. She'd been waiting three years since the last writing and she was in the middle of the line.

"Wow... I can't wait to meet her first hand."

"This is all publicity. She's feeding the fans no more no less."


"Could this line be any longer?"

Kamiko's hearing of the crowd was sharp. She could discern every accent and emotion on the air. She tried to make sure her eyes weren't seen by letting her blonde hair drape a bit, shadowing her eyes without covering them, but even that was... hard.

"Check out the oddball over there..." They say pointing to her.

Kamiko points to herself in a sarcastic "Me? No you must mean the freak next to me." As the stares become more numerous. The discomfort to her is... painful and growing.

She looks around for an exit first, before seeing Star reading something in the periodicals. She then leaves the line and goes over to her.

"Star... I... We can go when you want. We can have that cake."

Kamiko may be of a mind-breakingly high IQ and insight, but she is still a 15 year old girl looking for acceptance.
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Starseed picks up on something, out of the corner of her Eye she spots Kami rushing over. She's in a huff ... excited? No, the book dust jacket hasn't been creased at all ... unlikely to have been signed. No, something is wrong "Kami, Kamiko ... are you all right?"

Kami talking about cake and not about meeting the author, and is clearly flustered. OK, time for a walk, a walk in the park.

Just smiling, Star swings by to pick up the cake boxes, mouthing 'Thank you Jim" to the awkward your man at the counter. Kami has already made her way mostly out of the building and Star is not long behind her.

Asking after her a second time "Kami, are you OK? What's wrong?"

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"What's wrong?"

Kamiko's face is now in a uncharacteristic scowl as she points in disdain, almost in a prosecutory fashion... "Them!"

Star puzzles for a moment, before Kamiko continues. "There is a reason why I don't like being out in public. These damn eyes. They're not that normal you know."

Indeed, the cross-shaped pupils seemed quite strange to the untrained, baseline eye. "Everywhere I go these peepers get noticed no matter how hard I try to hide them. It sets people at a stance of unease... don't they realize I'm from Human stock? I bleed... Outside the power I'm just as human as they."

She storms towards the park. "Every time I want to go out in public I have to weight the fact that I have a unique identity against my human need for interaction. Is it so wrong to just be able to walk freely wherever I go, Star? I'm sick of being in the shadows. I've lived there for 15 damn years. And I've lost plenty... plenty in the process."

Her voice trembles as a duet of anger and grief mixing. "Seven damn years... all because of ignorance, Star."

She holds herself as if becoming cold. "I'm not a freak..."

The 15 year old girl once again comes to the fore instead of the woman she portrayed.

"I'm Kamiko Hideyoshi... It's all I want to be... I don't know if people expect me to be something I'm not... but I feel the expectations are beyond the person carrying them."

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Star led Kami away, to a little public garden. Along the way, she practically forced Kami to choose her favorite cake ... giving her something to do that might take her mind off what just happened ... even a little distraction would help.

"You know, the reason why? Its because they envy you Kamiko. They know that they will never be like you, and they really want to be. In a way even the ones that seem mean - well are mean - are really paying you a compliment. They are just frustrated by the facts of the age we all live in. They are upset by not having the gifts we do. Thats only some people though ..."

Star began setting up the little pick-nick for them both, adding "Most people are happy to know you. Most people are comfortable enough with themselves to realize they don't need to be Novas. Sure, they still want to be - but they don't need to be anything but themselves. Those are the people, the ones with that important bit of wisdom, that you have to surround yourself with. Its going to be harder outside of Japan, because here people don't hold back as much - and they just do what they want in public. You have to get used to being in a culture that isn't polite. That goes double for some places like the Congo, where the culture is - or so I read - just to speak your mind."

"Once you calm down a bit, lets practice some basic Japanese for me, OK? It'll be fun ... teach me how to say things I shouldn't say!"

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Kamiko smiles. nibbling on her cake.

"Why is it that people always want to hear the curse words first?" She giggles. "Although your last comment... seemed slightly arrogant... I mean... not all Humans are like that, at least not outside the insulated world I've lived in."

She nibbles some more. "And trust me, Japan may be polite but it's the coldest place you could ever think of for social interaction. Everything is regimented... iron. I found there's fewer communities more wonderful than Minnesota though... Minnesota Nice indeed."

"So... you want Japanese lessons? Best way to do that is full immersion. Unlike learning to swim, jumping in the deep end is sometimes a good thing. Observing and using real terms in real settings. Sort of like how that Rosettastone software teaches. Just real."

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"Arrogant how? It puts me in no superior place ...and don't put words in my mouth. I never said all people, never said or implied "all" at any time."

"If you don't think that those kinds of people exist you'll setting yourself up to learn a hard lesson in the future. Those kinds of people are the people that can become mother hunters. Envy and jealousy become hate too easily. Look at fiction. Before the Nova age, how many people dreamed of becoming a super-hero? Dreaming of something is a powerful force. What can happen when a dreamer becomes convinced they can never achieve? What ugly thoughts happen when that dreamer sees you living their dream? Now make that mostly subconscious, so the person doesn't even realize most of it."

Star pauses ... looking serious - concerned for her friend.

"As to cultures. There are lots of different cultures out there, a great variety of people. Not all of them restrain themselves ... and politeness is sometimes even considered dishonest. I'm not trying to say any one culture or view is better than the other ... but you are going to run into people who don't treat you with kid gloves and consider it normal."

"I'm trying to be clear here, because its not something you can directly control - it will happen. You are going to run into situations that have much more to do with the built up emotions and culture of the people who you interact with. Think about the situation back there ... did you do anything wrong? I doubt you provoked action ... but they acted how their culture and emotions dictated. Just ..."

"Just don't take it so personally OK? You are a great person, be confident in that."


"OK, Japanese. Let's go learning!"

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"Sorry... I..." She chokes on a bite and drinks a can of soda. "You're right. I did twist your words a bit... Maybe I have been living in an ivory tower... Nievete, I believe is the word I'm looking for."

She sighs. "Maybe that's what it'll take. Learning. something I can get behind."

She brushes some crumbs off her blazer. "First things first though, if you're to start learning the language, it might help to start immersing yourself into the culture. I reccomend, when you have time, to put away about a month. You and I can live at my folk's place and I can start helping you acclimate to Japan. It's not like stepping out into the vacuum. I wish there was some power that just let you adapt in social graces and language as easily as I can step into the vacuum of space."

She giggles. "Also... my Dad can be a bit demanding so he might want to have you pull some of the weight at the house... probably chores I've not done. Heck, he might try to convince you to learn some self-defense skills. Not that we life in a high-crime area, it's just how he lives."

"Always carry your spear so you are not left wanting of one." I believe the proverb is?

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"Thats a good idea. I could send one of my selves to live in Japan for the next month. At least most of the time, but maybe I might need your familie's help arranging a visa and all that stuff. I mean, I have no documents, and I certainly can't live officially under my real name. I need some sort to legal alter ego in Japan. A secret identity, and preferably one as a Japanese citizen. I want to be a cultural insider, not gaijin."

Starseed continued ... "Yep. That would be very good for the business too. It's under three weeks until formal launch, and to be Japan's first registered star ship in media terms what I need is a legal Japanese Nova identity, to start a legal Japanese corporation, to file official papers to register the ship. Those three things will be enough to make the media release true. Of course, I will need your help."

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"Well... My mother can arrange that... Might exhaust a few favors She and I are owed, but I think it would be worth it for the good of our country."

She adjusts her blazer, almost like Captain Picard himself. "But... I'm sure my Mother will have some odd request she'll ask of you in return. She can be real creative in getting compensation, I tell ya."

She sits on the ground under a tree. "Today though... I'm thinking I don't wanna have to worry about that. I got my new friend here... beautiful British skies... some good choclate... got my book... can't beat that."

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Over a picnic, the two friends started to dream together ... Kami had calmed down, and was enjoying herself. They laughed, giggled and then the topic came to Star ...

"I tell ya though, just imagine. Imagine what its going to be like when we do the first interstellar jump. We've decided on a system with lots of rocky exoplanets, some outer gas giants to act as shields for the inner worlds. There are a dozen promising systems within fifty light years alone."

Star gets up and starts pantomiming the jump approach process ... excited to share ....

"So we've got the data, maybe some private data in addition to the scads of really good observations you can get from public observatory projects. We've used the deployed scopes onboard to verify the entry points, and we've sent shuttles in to scout local conditions. The atmopshere on the bridge is tense, but jubilant ... this will be the first public interstellar voyage."

Star looked at Kamiko "You're on the bridge with me. Two of me your Ex-O and tactical officer, the original me working to keep quantum reserves of the fleet tip top, I'd be in the core command chamber. You are the Captain though, and the crew is the best, brightest and elite of Japan. They've been training for a week, but noting taxing ... the ship is as comfortable as space gets, but they have the definite feeling that we've run them through the paces. Psychologically, they are 'prepared' and 'ready'."

Starseed looked to Kami ... "So what are you going to say. What will the prepared order be? What is going to be your Neil Armstrong sound bite?

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Kamiko gets up, looking at the pond in the center of the park, her hands clasped behind her.

"Very well then... we've come this far... too far to turn back..."

She sighs. "How far have we come... and how far we will go. Ms. Midori... set a course to the Gliese 581 system. Star... prepare the gate. All hands... Prepare for jump."

She smiles... "How's that for a beginning?"

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Star ponders for a moment "Its a beginning. Speaking honestly, its missing something. It sounds sort of ... normal. Of course, its easy for me to criticisze, much easier than it is to come up with something poetic."

"But Rome wasn't built in a day ... and you have about three weeks to think on something. Remember to make it marketing friendly ... not too long. Ten words max, maybe seven of eight is better - sound byte size. I will leave it up to you whether you do it in Japanese or English, but in terms of marketing English is much better. Number one, the Japanese national pride will be on show for the rest of the world ... so English should be used because this is a showcase moment. Number two, English is pretty common in Japan, especially for catch phrases and slogans ... its still considered 'cool' and we need to attract young people as well as older more patriotic types."

"We don't mention the trash bit though, except to say that recycled components are used where possible ... to be old school green. Also, we won't mention specific brands until we are paid. Thats why we are taking lots of high-res video on the flight. Lots and lots to sell to the corps."

"I don't have the data here, but initial demographics bears those general principles out. There won't be time to get a specific sponsor, but branding the effort Japanese and associating it with technology - like having 'the best of Japanese aerospace technology' as a tag line somewhere ... and of course I have used quite a few Japanese components. Mainly because the Japanese recycle so much very new stuff. To get free tech over the last few month, I've picked gomi in high tech areas of Tokyo and Osaka. Its amazing the wealth of good components one can extract from consumer good on their way to recycling centers."

... Star pauses "Sorry, just trying to give you some insight into the planning process. I have the full plan stored back in the ship ... but you'll need about four or five hours to really review it."

"I just get so excited, getting into the details ... its fun really."

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Kamiko blushes.

"I'm sorry... I'm... not that good with the roleplaying thing. I know... I'm a supernerd and I've not picked up a single d20 in my life. Might be to my detriment now that I think of it. I've heard it's quite fun actually."

She adjusts her suit. "Wait... 3 weeks?!" She suddenly snaps to attention. "You mean in 3 weeks you're making me a... a captain?"

Kamiko starts tearing up. "You must be joking, Star!"

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"No joke. Utterly Serious. Is there some reason you can't do it?" Star asks, smiling ... knowing that Kami is perfectly qualified.

"You figure very well with the 'Japan is international, a world leader in tech' angle that they have been really pushing for the last decade."

Sta takes another big bite of pastry, swallows, and continues ...

"The ship is almost ready, actually more than ready for a a couple of weeks in space with a full crew, she just needs to be provisioned and some of the little details attended to. Work is continuing, at a rapid pace. The business plan is coming along. Its pretty brilliant in its simplicity."

"There are ten crew spots. Four are awarded via a contest which we will run on the opnet - to be announced just two weeks before launch two contest spots are for Japan, two are international. Four spots are sold to celebrities and rich people, two Japanese and two internationally. The remaining two seats are for government representatives. The UN will be offered one seat, and the Japanese Government will be offered the other - their choice of who to send."

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Kamiko turns back to the pond once more...

"This... our journey..." she holds out her hand. "...is the next noble endeavor."

"Star... I have no reason to refuse. if you'll have me, I'm ready."

She adjusts her blazer. "If we're going to get ready... we're gonna have to get the suit prototype up to release standard, then come up with a uniform design. I've been scribbling ideas in my little drawing pad in my bag. I should show you at some point. Also in negotiation, I think I might talk to Mom and see if the thing she wants is to have me name her."

She adjusts her glasses. "I'm thinking... the Hikari Maru."

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"Hiraki Maru ... I like it. Special significance?"


"Oh, if you can't get enough suits don't worry about it. I've pretty much got emergencies like that covered with having the crew wear normal flight suits - which are really inexpensive, and will do just fine for depressurization. If EVA is required it will be by energy servitor - probably by shuttle, like the shuttle you've seen. Those are easy to generate and easily could seat fifteen if I weave it a little longer."

"Announcing the launch, two weeks before - we are going to offer places on a press team to tour the ship. That way, the reporters can interview us and see the ship ... maybe we'll take them to see the rings of Saturn and serve them some nice high tea. The ship could easily take press from 5 major outlets - one reporter and one staffer from each. Maybe one of the Japanese outlets could be made 'press leader' and get two reporters and two staffers."

"The the contest runs for a week, then a week of training - in space and in a resort that we'll rent. The celebs pay up front, $500,000 each, with another half mil each in escrow. All of the initial money covers costs plus about half a mil left over - its used used to pay the bills on the spot. Final retained earnings after taxes in about 1.2 mil. The ship will be decked out, and we will have lots of new equipment, spare parts and supply inventory for expansion. Some money could come from the press ops - make them auction maybe?"

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"Well... the Hikari Maru is my folk's yacht." She says, smiling.

"Well... if I can't get the prototyping done on my end the old Space Shuttle flightsuit models can do or the less bulkier models out that JAXA recently phased out. They look like space suits and should provide a comfort zone of percieved safety. The tension suits being designed are sort of a new concept, and some might not think them rugged or safe enough for space flight... of course us two can really show off the suits... and my Mom had a little inspiration for the asthetics. Remember the plugsuits from Neon Genesis Evangelion?"

"If all the tension suits get produced in time, I got uniform jackets that can be worn over them. And dress uniforms for terrestrial public relations events. Perhaps we can auction a few of those as well to potential fans."

She smiles. "In any case you definately have an excellent plan. The photo op auctions in particular."

She turns to Star and smiles, hugging her. "Thanks. You are indeed a Star."

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Star nodded in agreement at the talk of flight and space suits, and hugged Kami

"It was really great luck meeting you Kami".

"Its also great luck that I have you with me in this plan. Its important, because I think we're going to need a real setup in space very soon. I mean way more than the three Shell / Core habitats I have under construction right now. The S/C hab Hiraki Maru that is practically ready now is an important step though. Even with all my testing and planning it needs a shakedown and some formal design review. The only way to make that happen is with cash. Not even very much cash, since it takes a few million to open a decent night club or restaurant these days ... but the things I can't do on my own in the near term will need to be bought."

"I don't even think I'm going to take a salary - just let the company grow with retained earnings invested into capital assets. It saves me from having to protect a personal financial identity. Paid lawyers on retainer will protect the company, especially in Japan with its long running pro-corporate legislative trends. Of course, you can have a salary if you want."


"Oh, almost forgot. I found this interesting organization called Exalt!. Going to check it out, its run by a young Nova who is with the Teragen but the group is based around baseline equality. I'll let you know what happens with the first visit ... but from what I have read about it, the group could be interesting."

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Kamiko sneers at the mention of the Teragen of all people, holding back blind rage. "It would... work to mention you should keep the Teragen, even if he's a second generation, at arm's legnth. A Terat was responsible for the killings of my parents. All because of what my Mother and Father believed."

She puts her hand on Star's shoulder. "I trust you will be careful. Just do not let any one faction own this achievement. This is for the benefit of all sentient beings living on earth. That's how I feel about this."

"I'm not a leader. I'm not a good peacemaker. But I can trust my friends. If you need me... call."

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"No, in fact its a bit of a challenge, but I'd like to avoid excluding anyone because of politics, genetics, quantum potential - you name it. I am hoping that maybe this Exalt! group is the real deal in terms of practising what they preach - so to speak. They want everyone to pursue personal evolution, so a modified form of the philosophy open to and welcoming everyone."

"I've had some problems with the Teragen too, but I can't believe that every one of them is bad. I just can't believe that the whole group of them are beyond reason, beyond the possibility to peaceful coexistence. Another reason why I want to frame this achievement in nationalistic terms first ... doing so makes it less controversial. Makes it feel 'conventional' or 'normal' if you will. It certainly makes it less of a hot button issue than going with a Nova related faction of any kind. Utopia will be cool with it, because they work with nation states all the time. If I don't make some sort of effort to reach out to the Teragen though, it could anger them. They might feel excluded."

"I will let you know how it goes with the Exalt! thing. I haven't even got the nerve up to visit yet, and even if its terrible I am going to stick with it to find out if the leader is genuine in his beliefs or not. I mean, its just getting started so it could be really poorly executed. On the other hand, it could be really really useful - even beyond sending the Terats a little message saying they too can play in the sandbox so long as they play nice."

"Plus, this principle is really important because I want to leave the possibility of working with Aliens open. I mean, we are going to the stars ... and we can go anywhere in the Galaxy we like! We have to be open to working with all sentient creatures that can work cooperatively with us. If we exclude the Teragen it looks like we are excluding something because its a little alien ... if that makes sense?"


"Maybe I will go tomorrow. If not, then the next day for sure. Of course, given your feelings you probably shouldn't come along. I need you getting all the legal and business stuff set up anyway - that stuff is way more important. I have, by the way, filled out all the forms and documents in English and generate some automatic translations in Japanese. You will probably need to edit the auto-trans becuase that stuf is never more than 95%. All the paperwork you need to file is done, all the correspondence you need to send is written. Looking through it in the next two days will give you a good in depth view of the business plan."

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"Star... I am a universal translator... remember? I could probably even type these up in Japanese for you in the matter of time you spend with Exalt!. Sound good?" Kamiko says, a smile crossing her face.

"Now... enough damn business, I think we left off on... oh... nomming on these delicious choclate cakes. Yah!"

She sits back down under her tree and unboxes a choice cake. "Now... on to other business at hand. If you're going to have a clone living with me off and on, what should I expect, really? I've only had contact with your clones in passing."

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"Well, I know a fair bit about Japanese culture, so I have good manners. I don't really eat or drink at all, except for pleasure or experimentation. My body chemistry isn't really chemical anyway ... I mean, it is but most of my form is energy. So my metabolic functions aren't really like any terrestrial life form. Medicines and such tend to have a reduced and altered effect on me."


"I don't have many things, or need them. I also don't sleep mostly. Not only do my other selves not really need rest due to the fact that they last eight to twelve hours ... depending on circumstances ... but they usually recombine with me. Then I get their collected experience, their thoughts, what they have learned, the entire range of the memory record. Also though, my brain isn't human an longer. My node is a netwwork of several smaller nodes distributed through my brain and into my CNS. That was a natural result of the brain architecture that breaks up the classical lobe functions into a network. That network usually rests in shifts ... so I sleep in a way that a dolphin sleeps. Like I did on most of the river trip. That was relaxing."

"Frankly, I have a little trouble not doing productive things. Even when I rest, which is rarely, I engage in meditation or nodal exercises. I do like chocolate though, and eating new things ... experiencing new things. I am a little freaked out by boys though ... I mean, you know - dating and stuff. I've never gone on a date. I like them, but with social stuff like that, I just don't know what to do. Well, I've read about it, so I know what to do ... but doing it is really different. I'm also not Nova pretty, not really - so I don't tend to do 'pretty' things. Stuff that only pretty girls tend to do. Even when I re-weave my body to be Nova pretty, it feels fake. It doesn't feel like I should look like that. Hard to explain."

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Kamiko smiles. "Is it possible for one of your clones to take on a different appearance when you create one?"

"I'd also hate to complicate things... but is it possible for a clone after "absorbtion" to be reborn again with the memories it had? I'd hate to say it but it sounds like... at least from my perspective... that the longer a clone stays in existence the greater the chance it could start developing it's own identity the longer she is out. That... and I... sorta develop attachments to people after I get to know them. If I know the clone for too long... I might be inconsolable for a few days."

She giggles as she sips her soda again. "Sorry, but I do mean that. Wait... am I talking to one of your clones right now?"

She puzzles and scratches her head as she's apt to do when confused. As she does the clouds begin to increase in regularity and thickness. "Oh no... forgot the weather forecast... we might have to move it indoors soon or at least I make a emergency shell and we can hide under that until the rain passes. Might be a while though."

She rummages through her bag and breathes a sigh of relief when she sees while she forgot her favorite cloak her emergency rain poncho is folded up nicely. "I think we got about twenty minutes before we gotta make a choice though."

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