Sook Mark 2 wakes up in her apartment on Tinara. It's a mess, and there's some goo on the floor. The place doesn't look like it's been lived in a for a little while. All the Hive knows is that the Hippocrates, and its crew (including Sook) vanished on 2779.279 and haven't been seen since.

Sook does a quick web search and gets a little more of the details on the Hippocrates going missing (apparently Cassandra works for a Citizen now, but everyone else is gone), and sifts the non-spam out of her inbox. The occasional mis-sent Omninet mail she receives has gone over to encryption as of the past month or so, making it unreadable (at least for most people).

She heads out to get Chinese food, so she'll have something to put the goo in ("Primordial alien bioplasm looks a lot like duck sauce."), and starts thinking about decrypting the email.

The encryption is pretty tough - Omninet appears to be changing keys regularly. That's kind of unusual for the somewhat casual atmosphere they used to have.

Heading to the Omninet building, Sook discovers that the front receptionist area has been revamped, and requires actual card-lock access, or having the receptionist buzz a visitor in. And, trying to ssh in, she finds her password is disabled!

Sook claims to have lost her key card, but the receptionist is dubious and asks for her name. Getting Sook's name doesn't clear up the confusion, but the receptionist does call Dr. Gallagher.

(Sook notes that Phaeton is logged in on AIM. Maybe he can sort things out, Phaeton being the source of clarity and understanding that he is. Phaeton is overjoyed by the return from the dead of his faithful sidekick Sook).

Dr. Gallagher starts heading out to the lobby to meet Sook, but makes the mistake of telling the receptionist "Don't let her get away!". Sook finishes her Sparky Cola and edges towards the elevator. The receptionist, hand on some sort of panic button, tries to convince her not to go, but off she goes.

The receptionist does something, and little red lights come on in the corners of the room. The elevator call button still lights up... is the elevator coming? Yes! It is! The cab opens. Sook steps in, and waves at the receptionist: "Did they tell you I'm the type that holds grudges?" and pushes the first-floor button.

The doors shut. The elevator does not move. Sook convinces it to move, as Phaeton complains that she's gotten everyone riled up - he'll meet her in the lobby. The elevator gets from the 9th floor (Omninet) to the 5th, where it stops again as the physical safety interlocks catch. Sook, in an amzing display of brute strength, wrests the doors open, and gets out on floor 3, in front of Flansteen/Flansteen/Wright Investment Consulting.

She pulls the fire alarm. (Phateon: "Ah, there you are."). The elevator announces not to use it in the event of an emergency. There's a cleaning closet, but no disguising coat or hat. Sook herds down the stairs, and ducks out again on the second floor. The people there helpfully try to tell her there's a fire alarm, but don't tackle her or anything.

Sook swipes a coat and hat from the coatrack on the second floor, and mills out to the lobby. Security guards are checking people on the way out - they seem to be focusing on women. Phaeton confers with Sook over zephyr briefly:

"Oh woe! Fearless Sook is going to get caught up by the Man. Perhaps Phaeton will save her!"
"Perhaps he will. Depends on whether he's all talk, no action. It's distraction time, PH4370N. Shine your brightest."
Phaeton grabs a passing woman and gives her a big hug. "SOOK! Phaeton is so pleased to see you again!" The two guards are suitably distracted, and head in his direction.

[to the hapless woman] "Whoa! You're not Sook! What are you trying to pull on poor Phaeton!"
[to the guards] "Oh! It's Mr. Smiley Three, or were you Four? Where did Sook go? I was hoping to see her...."
Sook makes her escape through the front door, and is away from the fearsome Omninet building.
"The MEAT are no match for the 1337. Nicely done."
"once Phaeton is finished with his daring rescue, he will be available for autographs at the JavaPalace."
"Do they have nori chips? My last batch gave their life to the cause"
"Oh the sacrifices we must make. Phaeton is confident they'll have something of interest."
Sook sends a rat off to eat the bioplasm in her apartment, as she's too suspicious to go back to it, and goes to the local fountain drone to sync. That leaves her oddly cranky. A web search reveals a memorial notice for her (hmm), as well as the indication that Omninet seems to loant been tithed to the military by the Haiganese Fleet. Whatever that means.

Sook dresses to be incognito at the JavaPalace:

A tight short skirt and strapless top combo that is made out of a display fabric, the color and design of which Sook can control. At the moment, it's matte black with two shiny silver handprints on the back of the skirt, and blinking text on the front of the shirt that says "Stop staring at my breasts." It's powered by batteries in the soles of the high heeled, knee high, platform boots she's wearing, which are connected to the skirt with wires that criss cross like fishnet stockings. Mirror sunglasses, which are also a display. Finally, she's got a wig made out of wire and cables. Some of the wires are stripped to show the copper or other fibers inside, some of them end in plugs. Every once in a while, a spark starts at her toe, travels up her leg and torso before disappearing in a flash on her glasses.
Phateon meets her there, also "incognito" in a red trenchcoat, red sunglasses, and baggy crochet rainbow cap over his mohawk. However, he spoils whatever disguise he might have by ordering from the barista in third person.

The two hackers chat; Phaeton briefly explains that Omninet was "Sold to the Man." The military wants the secret of getting through closed jumpgates, though they don't seem able to provide it.

Phaeton suggests that the receptionist is animatronic plastic and this is why she behaved so oddly. It's not clear if he's serious. Phaeton asks how Sook isn't dead, and how she lost the Hippocrates. Complicated questions to answer. Perhaps a meeting with Dr. Gallagher could be arranged, on neutral ground; Phaeton doesn't seem to think he's a threat. And, alas, he hasn't heard anything new about the net defenses on Riden, since there hasn't been anything recently that they would defend against.

The pair proceed to Gallagher's house, and ambush him in his study. He's pleased to see Sook, and somewhat embarassed at the initial trouble - he should know better than to say anything not explicitly literal to the receptionist. "Don't let her get away" was meant to be more conversational than she took it as.

Dr. Gallagher explains that Omninet is currently a military asset; the Haiganese fleet had to militarize a portion of its fleet for the war, and Omninet (having the possible potential military application of openining jump gates, or going through jump gates fast, or even faster communications) is part of the military "tithe". Gallagher offers Sook a job, either as staff (may require more rules) or voucher (more flexible, less classified projects). Sook isn't keen on this military annexation at all.

Dr. Gallagher seems to think Red has the moral high ground (they got invaded!), but Sook is having none of that, and tries to explain that the Terrans and the Flames are the real problem, and all the real Hegemons are dead, and her Plan B is the only useful thing left to do to keep everyone from dying.

What is Plan B? Well, it's either putting people in slow-jump ships, or uploading them into computers. Phaeton is more psyched by the second idea than Gallagher is.

In any event, Phaeton is supposed to be in to work at 6 (for his security interview), so... it's time to go out on the town! Gallagher begs off, as he keeps more normal hours, but Sook and Phaeton head out. Phaeton briefs Sook on more gossip, including the fact that Scooter has a "succubus" and Dr. Klein is looking for a Blue spy (what, again? Didn't he already have one?)

Finally, it's morning. Sook gets into the office with Phaeton, and Security notices her with some alarm. Gallagher runs out of his office: "Not again!" Security points out that she doesn't have a badge or an escort - Phaeton's not permitted to escort people. Gallagher has made her a badge, though (it's red, with a blue sticker). A shorter security guard heads over, enthusiastically noting that Sook is back. My god! It's Scooter! Sook divests him of his tie and musses his hair.

Scooter is a little unhappy about this - Estelle thought he'd make a better impression with a suit. (Phaeton makes faces - Estelle is apparently the succubus).

Dr. Klein comes by, sporting an all-blue badge. He's also happy to see Sook, and wonders if in her travels she's come across any "good juice" on the Blues. Sook points out there was that Blue Spy Dr. Klein was dating, and he looks aggrieved and hushes her. He's trying to build up his security clearance, since it's pretty junky due to the aforementioned blue spy. He's found a technical reporter he thinks is very suspicious - the article he wrote on OmniNet was a puff piece, but he was asking technical questions.

The security chief, Andre Deberge, shows up. Gallagher says to interview Sook first, before Phaeton, as that will no doubt be shorter. She's somewhat truculent in the interview, and is given a questionnaire to fill out. She leaves it behind on the desk, and says to email it to her.

Dr. Klein keeps lurking about, trying to look nonchalantly at people's desks to see what interesting things they're working on, since he doesn't have clearance to see most of them. Sook drags him off to talk to Gallagher, to try and convince him that Klein is harmless! Gallagher knows he's harmless. But Security thinks he leaks like a sieve.

Scooter comes in for some interrogation too, about what Phaeton claims are his Secret Masters. Yes, he's the military liason, he admits under pressure, but it's supposed to be not talked about. He needs to head out soon to "work out at the club" which everyone knows means "report to the secret masters."

Sook asks if Scooter is dating Estelle. He thinks so.

"Has anyone clued you in that you are completely whipped?"
Phaeton and Sook are going out that night - Scooter should come with them! Scooter agrees (he must not be that whipped).

Gallagher asks about Sook's AI. She's sad, it's probably trapped on the Well. She was hoping to make it a NetRanger! Ah, Gallagher says, sort of like Phaeton's Net Angels, except now he says they're "net cockroaches." However, trying to crash the Riden net is still illegal, especially when the government is at war, so Phaeton hasn't been able to do more tests.

Sook and Phaeton brainstorm about how to make Klein indispensable, so he can get a better security clearance. Phaeton also explains about his Net Cockroach idea (they're not big, like angels, more like very small and prevalent and infesty). Sook thinks there might be some on Stannis Law too - something wiped out Jim's netmapper.

Sook looks up the reporter (Garian Spofford, for the Tinara Tribune) - yup, he's a reporter. She also hacks into the OmniNet Personnel files. Andre Deberge is ex-special forces with a medical discharge. She also finds out that Scooter is paid more than a lot of other people.

The security clearances come back - Sook has a red badge with a 5 on her blue sticker; Phaeton's sticker has gone from 3 to 2.

The brainstorming with Klein finally comes up with an idea to make him indispensable - a gravitic channel to the slow-jump broadcast, to increase the bandwidth and allow error correction. Scooter helps Klein prepare for a presentation explaining it.

The next morning the presentation is all ready. A woman in a red dress shows up. Scooter is startled to see her. "Estelle?" She addresses him as Marvin and says that it's good to see him. He asks if he can get her anything, and she sends him for a cappucino. Sook and Phaeton start exchanging sarcastic zephyrs, and replace Scooter's machine-startup noise with "I would like a cappucino."

In the end, Klein's project is approved, and he gets a temporary improved security clearance. However, Scooter is assigned to "supervise" him. Klein is not pleased by this, and visibly sulks. Scooter doesn't understand why he's being sulked at after all this work he did to help Klein. Sook explains office politics to Scooter, that being put in charge of Klein is an insult.

"Keep in mind that what's right and what's governmentally correct aren't the same"
A box with a cryptic note arrives from Eva! There's a videotape of a nuclear explosion, and the suggestion that Wilson is on the Well.
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