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 Post Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:38 am 
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By and large, the flight to Rigel is smooth. The spaceship takes off in a roaring cloud of smoke and flame, which pushes everybody back into their comfortably padded seats (and flings Spot back into the nearest division in the overhead luggage compartments). Compared to the ships Spot's been in before, though, this feels like the pilot is trying to transport delicate glass vases without cracking any. The ship rises into orbit about Centauris, and... warps. There's a brief instant of... discontinuity... as the Beeder-Two Hyperdrive shifts the ship, and its entire contents, an unimaginable distance in the blink of an eye - an effect that makes advanced particle physicists cry when they try to explain how exactly it works, but an effect that's very useful to the casual traveller.

There's really no reason for the ship to hang about in space for more then twenty seconds. It hangs about for a full two minutes nonetheless, apparently in order to give the passengers a chance to marvel at the excellent view outside the windows. (Spot, in the overhead compartment, misses this).

Then it's atmospheric reentry. Again, the pilot is gentle and the ride is both smooth and amazingly swift. It took the team longer to cross one city on Centauris by taxi than to cross mind-boggling distances to reach Rigel.

The team clears Customs easily (Customs isn't sure what Spot is, but he's clearly not on the banned substances list, so they reluctantly let him through) and reach a terminal that's a bit dustier and a bit shabbier than the one on Centauris.

There's several people waiting for travellers. Many of these carry A4 sheets with names on them ("Mr. van der Merwe", "Mohammed Chang", "Cecil Sea"). One group in particular stands out - four people in a tight group around what looks like a small cleaning droid. They don't have a sheet with a name on it, but they are each holding a phone (except for the cleaning droid) and studying the faces of everyone who walks out of Customs (the cleaning droid as well).

The thing that stands out most about them is their similarity to the team. There's one fellow with glasses and a beard - Prof. Barnes recognises him as Professor Maximillion Clarke, very well-known in academia for his impressive work on AI research (and he will no doubt recognise Prof. Barnes as well - though they've only met twice, at AI research conferences) - one tall, muscular fellow who looks like he would stand a chance arm-wresting King Wilshire (not necessarily win, mind you), one heavily scarred fellow with an eyepatch, and one who would look completely innocuous if he were on his own. And, of course, the cleaning droid - unlike Spot, this one seems to be a perfectly ordinary running-on-electricity type of robot.

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 Post Posted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:22 pm 
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Spot examines the group, mostly wondering if they're some kind of a joke (albeit perhaps a heavily armed one); but does not stroll up and say hello.

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 Post Posted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:30 pm 
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Professor Barnes slips his hat on as he exits the plane, and heads to the nearest dinner counter. He's a bit peckish.

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 Post Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:46 am 
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Professor Clarke recognises Barnes, and hurries to intercept him before he can reach the dinner counter. "Barnes!" he calls out, holding out his phone so that Professor Barnes can see the picture on the phone - it's a photograph of Radcliffe. Specifically, it's the photograph of Radcliffe that Thomas had previously sent to The Man for identification.

"Did you by any chance see this fellow on your flight?"

The cleaning robot beeps, points in the direction of Thomas, and beeps again. The scarred man looks down at it, presumably reading some sort of screen.

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 Post Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:32 pm 
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"What? Oh, Clarke, hello." Barnes doffs his hat for a moment in greeting. "No, Radcliffe was not on our flight. He seems to have gotten away. Join me for a spot of tea?"

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 Post Posted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:45 am 
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"I'd love to," says Clarke, "but we really need to wait for -"

He stops suddenly. "Wait, you wouldn't by any chance be the group who was following him, would you?"

The scarred man strolls across to Thomas. "Pardon me," he says, "are you aware that camera technology around you seems to be failing?"

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 Post Posted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 2:50 am 
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"I suppose we probably were," Barnes admits. He shrugs. "Very embarrassing, that."

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 Post Posted: Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:15 am 
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CCC wrote:
The scarred man strolls across to Thomas. "Pardon me," he says, "are you aware that camera technology around you seems to be failing?"


Thomas looks at the man, carefully, "Let's just say I'm not very photogenic, and leave it at that."

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 Post Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 4:15 am 
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Warbeard wrote:
CCC wrote:
The scarred man strolls across to Thomas. "Pardon me," he says, "are you aware that camera technology around you seems to be failing?"


Thomas looks at the man, carefully, "Let's just say I'm not very photogenic, and leave it at that."


"I see... I don't suppose you could turn it off, could you? It's just that we're looking for someone, and we'd rather he didn't slip through the net, as it were." replies the scarred man.

He's interrupted by a shout from Professor Clarke. "Pack it in, boys!" he calls. "Radcliffe's slipped the net." Clarke turns to Barnes again. "I'd love to join you for a spot of tea. You don't mind if my friends join in as well, do you? We could do with a touch of help with this little situation we've got brewing here, if you've nothing else to do."

The other people who were with Clarke (including the scarred man) put away their phones. The cleaning robot beeps. The scarred man mutters under his breath and then adds to Thomas "Never mind, it seems our target's slipped the net already."

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 Post Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:51 pm 
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Spot either goes along for the ride, or walks, as circumstances demand. For the moment, it's just taking in the scene; a whole new biosystem can be smelled in the air and in the local dust, after all...

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:36 am 
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Spot can smell a couple of new smells... the majority of the scents about are human ones, or the scents one gets in human cities (the scent of burnt hydrocarbons always seems to turn up, after a certain level of technology has been reached). There's actually a good deal less of that smell here than there was back on Centauris... which leads to the conclusion that this planet probably either has a higher annual rainfall, or is in the middle of the rainy season, or has a good deal less cars.

A suitable diner is quickly reached, and drinks are ordered. For obvious reasons, mainly to do with the Singularity Key, the cleaning robot remains behind (the scarred man promises to tell it what happened later). Sooner or later, the conversation naturally turns to the 'little situation' that Clarke had mentioned.

"It's like this," Clarke explains. "There's this company - CyberSolutions - that's done really well here on Rigel. In fact, it owns - directly - something like three quarters of the continent, and practically runs the government. Employs its own security force. We're talking big business here; there's no regulatory authority to reign them in, because they've arranged for all such authorities to be disbanded or defanged long ago. They control the media, electronic systems, everything. And according to The Man, they're just about ready to create their own Johnston-1.1 AI."

He takes a sip of his coffee. "We've discovered who the programmers are, and where they're located. The trouble is, CyberSolutions has an offsite backup facility - if we stop them, they'll just restore from backup and continue. On the other hand, if we take out their backup facility, they'll just create a new backup from their researcher's machines; and either way, they'll tighten up security. We need to hit the production facility and the off-site backup simultaneously to properly deal with this threat; and for our team alone, that splits us up a bit too much for comfort. I was thinking, if we could get your help, we'd take on one site while your team takes on the other. We'll let you choose which site to take, and provide you with all the information we've uncovered thus far. Would you help us out?"

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:33 pm 
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Spot has a drink (of his own hooch if ordering isn't automated), considers the local devices for any that look a bit on the unmaintained side, and otherwise listens quietly.

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 Post Posted: Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:54 pm 
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Professor Barnes ponders the question, as the group's unofficial spokesman. He shrugs. "I don't see why not. It's the least we can do, to pay you chaps back for being here to screen for Radcliffe."

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 Post Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 3:15 am 
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There is an automatic ordering system - however, it does not appear to have been switched on. A waitress takes the orders.

Most of the equipment that Spot can see looks shiny and well-maintained. It's also, on average, about half a decade to a decade behind Centauris, technologically. He can't see, from the outside, why the ordering system is not switched on.

"Thank you." says Professor Clarke. "Before we get into the meat of the business, I have to ask - whatever you've got that messes with Sally's cameras, does it work on microphones as well? If not, we'll have to move to someplace a bit less public first."

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 Post Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:46 am 
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Professor Barnes looks to Thomas to field the question.

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