The music blasted through the headphones into Sparrow Adams' ears. Sun
down on the town of CAPOW, illuminating the streets with a warm glow. A
gentle breeze flowed past him, it's gentle caress bringing a smile to
"It's awesome... if you let it/ And don't you forget it!" he sang out
he pushed open the door to the Lurker's Retreat.
"Hey, Maddie! What's up?" he called out as he entered. A few patrons
towards him in surprise. Mads looked up from her computer and glowered.
She said something, but Sparrow couldn't hear her over the music. He
down and pressed the stop button, then pulled the headphones off his
"What was that?" he asked.
"Turn that thing down before you hurt yourself," she said tersly.
Sparrow looked at her quizically. "This," He gestured to the CD player,
"It'll make you go deaf, fer crissakes!"
(In the back of the room, a certain RL CAPOWer objected to his sake
"You've got a message, Sparrow."
"From Strauss." Mads nodded. "They want to hire you."
"Strauss?" Sparrow hadn't heard of him.
There was a pause. "And that would be...?"
A sweatdrop appeared on Madoka's head. "Jerry. Duke of Strauss. Some guy
in and told me to pass the message on to you."
"What's it about?" Sparrow slid onto a barstool. Mads reached down and
up a bottle of Echrine, a drink that Sparrow had convinced her to
him, to help him remember home.
"Dunno. The guy didn't say." She paused and looked up, a thoughtful look
crossing her face. "Said 'Jerry's got a job for Sparrow Adams."
Sparrow sipped the drink. "So who's Strauss?"
Mads facefaulted. She pulled herself off the floor to meet Sparrow's
"Where... is Strauss?" he corrected.
Mads pointed up. "In space."
"Oh, that would be good, then," Sparrow said sarcastically. "I guess
just fly on up there." He took another sip. Echrine (pronounce Eh-kreen)
something like a srewdriver, except it had (since Mads was making it)
and grapefruit juice... And tabasco. "He drops off a message, and then
Mads nodded. "That's about it. But you can call Strauss if you want. Use
phone, I'll add it to your bill."
"And I'll get there just how?"
"Hop a ride. We've only got a spaceport out the back door, you know."
memory of CAPOW geography supports this, so BIIIIIDA!!!! if you don't
The door to the Retreat burst open. "Yo, Maddie-two! Long time!"
Madoka smiled. "Hi, Kevin. Hey, everyone!" She waved at the people
An older woman jumped onto the stool next to Sparrow and slapped him
the back. "Hey, there!" Surprised, Sparrow spit out a bit of his drink.
glowered at him, but didn't add anything to his bill.
"'Doka! Gimme a glass of what this guy's having!" The woman pointed to
half empty tumbler of Echrine in front of Sparrow.
"One Sparrow Screwdriver with a Tabasco Twist coming up." Maddie pulled
German beer mug (20 oz. as opposed to 16) and filled it up with the
"Hey!" Sparrow protested. "That's mine!"
"Only if you pay for it, Adams. Go make your phone call."
Sparrow got up and went around to the side of the bar with the phone.
were a number of buttons with various names. One of them, thankfully,
"Strauss." He picked up the reciever and pressed the button. After a
there were a couple of rings.
"Kircheis," a monotonous, yet female, voice said when it picked up. "How
I help you?"
"Um... This is..." Sparrow frowned at the din growing in the bar. He put
finger in his other hear to block it out.
"This is Sparrow Adams. I was told that Jerry wanted to hire me."
There was a gasp, and then "Please hold." Elevator Music.
A few moments later. "Sparrow Adams?" This voice was male... and a
"The Duke of Strauss wishes to hire you."
"I know. I want to find out why."
"He wishes for you to travel throughout the Old Empire, and try and gain
support for Strauss there."
A surprised grunt. "Mr. Adams, we are fighting a war here. Your help
"War? What war?"
"A with the Empire."
Sparrow thought about that. "What Empire."
"Wha... Uh. Um..." The man stammered on for a bit before, "_The_ Empire,
Adams. Will you accept."
"Diplomatic work, right?"
"That is all. You must get your own tranportation, however."
"But I don't know where to go."
"That is up to you, as well. Your mission will be, for now, autonomous."
"I see." Sparrow wondered if he should. He didn't really have much else
do. After they'd beaten (at least temporarily) Thickett, his skills were
Also, CAPOW was too closely related to the events of the Ascension Wars,
Sparrow wanted to forget. He still didn't know what had happened to Nik.
He started to choke up at the memories. "I'll do it." He said quickly."
"Very good. Do well, Mr. Adams." And a click.
Sparrow stood there with the phone for a moment.
"So? What'd they want?" Mads asked.
"I've got to go to the old empire and try and find support for Strauss."
"Strauss?" The older woman asked loudly. "A complete shit-hole, right
Damn, but is that family feuding."
"I hope that Jerry comes out on top. Who knows what those people will
live through if Jay gets on the throne." That was from the Kevin person.
seemed to be in charge of the ragtag bunch.
Sparrow sat down on his stool again. "What's happening there?"
A man sitting on the other side of Sparrow shrugged. "Dunno. Haven't
there in a while. You couldn't pay me to fight in that fucking war."
"Michael, you're religious. We couldn't pay you to fight in any war,"
else called out.
"Maybe, Anson. But I'm thinking of changing."
Anson laughed. "Sheee-yeah, right."
"Supposed to get support from the Old Empire?" Kevin asked. "That's one
job. They may hate Durg [sp?] but Strauss isn't too well liked either.
isn't all that popular."
"But isn't Jerry in charge?" Sparrow asked.
"Well, yeah..." the older woman answered. "_Now._"
Kevin said, "Jay used to be the Duke of Strauss. Rumor was that he died
while back while fighting with Jerry, but he showed up again a few
back at the side of Durg."
"Didn't die, then," Sparrow surmised.
"Guess not," Michael said, "It might just be a very good double."
"No double would be as bad as the original... And this one's worse,"
woman chimed in.
"So, how you going?" Kevin asked.
"Going?" Sparrow wondered.
"To the Old Empire?"
"Oh." Sparrow shrugged. "I dunno."
"When're you heading out, Kevin?" Mads asked.
"Not long. Just here for a bit of R."
"Ar? What's that?" asked Sparrow.
"R for 'rest'," Michael answered.
"They don't believe in refit or repair." Mads said.
"Now, now, Maddie-two. You know the Razors are too good to need repair,"
"Sure," Mads muttered, "The ones who live." It was so quiet, and there
reaction, that Sparrow thought no one else heard her.
"Can you take an extra passenger?" Sparrow asked.
Kevin crossed his arms. "I dunno. What's in it for us... Old Empire's a
little out of the way.
"BS, Kevin. If you're dodging the fighting in Strauss, I KNOW you'll be
searching out some other small rebellion in the Empire."
Kevin grinned sheepishly. "Fine, fine. In deference to my good friend
"Madoka," Mads corrected.
"In deference to her, I will help you. But it's gonna cost you."
"Make the Empire pay," Sparrow said.
"You've been hired by Strauss, right... Not the Empire." Michael
"Making the Empire pay would be a little difficult... Unless you can
that out, smart boy."
"Hire an accountant," Sparrow countered, "I'm a diplomat."
"I think it's safe to assume that the Razors will be paid at some
younger woman said, "Right Kevin?"
"We hope so, Kerri." Kevin looked at Sparrow. "We're leaving in 2 hours.
on the blacktop by then or you find another way."
Sparrow nodded. Mads motioned for his attention, and he excused himself
"Sparrow, can you take someone with you?" She asked as she led him down
hallway to the rear of the building.
"Who?" Sparrow asked.
Madoka pushed open the back door and led him to the shed on the edge of
spaceport. "John." She unlocked and opened the shed door. A musty smell
dust flew out of the open door in eddies.
Sparrow sneezed. "Who's John?" he asked as he peered into the shed.
a dark shape off in the corner.
"That." Mads pointed at the dark shape. Sparrow walked into the shed,
stopped almost immediately. It was menacing and painted all black.
weapons ports dotted its exterior, and the machine-ness of it frightened
"Wh... what is it?" he stammered.