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03.12.2013 , 02:17 PM | #99
Twelve and Cirean did join him on the Galemere boat trip, and were highly amused by the interested following that Lokin gathered as he hunted for his samples. By the third island, the dozen or so children on the boat were gleefully chasing down insectoids for him, and quite a few of the other passengers came along to help or watch as well. This mostly didn't include the parents, who appeared to decide that Lokin was a responsible person and seemed quite glad of the impromptu babysitting.

Observing the interest, one of the crew came to ask Lokin what he was doing, with the result that the Captain made unscheduled stops at two more of the islands so Lokin could collect specimens of the local species, much to the joy of his junior assistants. He was asked so many questions that he pleaded for mercy and promised a lecture in the hotel bar that evening.


"We have a problem", announced Lokin when Twelve and Cirean joined him at breakfast the next morning.

"You have writers' cramp from signing autographs for all your fans?" suggested Cirean, with a grin.

Lokin eyed her.

She only giggled and tried again. “One of your beetles escaped?”

Lokin sighed. "Then I would catch it again. No. Sgorr and Tuath, our delightful Mirialan friends, are SIS agents."

"Are you sure?" asked Twelve, frowning.

"After I was done lecturing last night - and I did notice you leaving part way through, by the way - they came over to congratulate and thank me, and started asking a lot of questions, particularly about where I'd studied, where I was working now, where I'd travelled. Then moved on to what did I think of the war, had I ever worked with Imperials, and had I ever ventured into Imperial space."

Cirean was frowning too by this time. "Definitely suspicious, I'd say, but a bit clumsy and blatant. Almost like they wanted you to notice. Not conclusive though. Anything else?"

"Yes." Lokin got out his datapad. "After all that, I wondered whether I'd given myself away somehow, I might have got a bit carried away when talking about genetics and evolutionary biology." He looked a little embarrassed.

"You were certainly enjoying yourself, playing to the gallery and showing off for your fans", said Cirean. "What are you waving your datapad around for?"

"I hacked into the hotel holocams late last night and got the recording from the bar so I could review what I'd said. I did make a few slips, none of which I thought would be noticed. But I believe one of them was, and then I picked this up."

He fiddled with the recording, fast forwarding to a specific point, then zooming in on Sgorr and Tuath, trying to get a good focus. After succeeding, he laid the pad on the table in front of Twelve and Cirean, set it to low volume and pushed the play button. "Watch their hands."

The couple were sitting quite close to Lokin, and seemed intently interested in his lecture, leaning forward and listening carefully. The recorded Lokin was waxing enthusiastic about early life forms, and talking about tardigrades and their survival abilities. He referred to them once as moss piglets, then hastily corrected himself as the audience laughed at the name. Suddenly, the two Mirialans' hands started making little movements, jerky but controlled, first the woman, then the man.

"You're right, SIS hand signals", said Twelve. "They picked up on something."

Cirean was trying to translate, her lips moving. "Yeah, they did. They're asking each other what they should do, 'cause they're sure you have Imperial connections. Damn."

Lokin nodded gloomily. "I'm fairly sure it was the moss piglets. These things live all over the galaxy, thousands of species, no-one is quite sure whether it's multiple lines of parallel evolution or just that they got spread from place to place. But in most of the Empire, the common name is moss piglet, whereas in most of the Republic they're known as water bears. How Tuath would know that, I have no idea. But that's the moment when she started the hand signals, and "Imperial" was the first thing she said."

"All right, it's happened", said Twelve. "They'll be joining us for breakfast any time now. Let's think about how to handle it today, reconvene this evening, and for now just carry on as we were."

Cirean and Lokin both nodded. This was as expected. Lokin opened the guidebook on his datapad instead, and when Sgorr and Tuath joined them, the three were deep in a discussion about the relative merits of an air trip over the Million Rainbows waterfall versus a visit to a historic local dignitary's palace with formal gardens preserved exactly as when originally set out four thousand years ago.

Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.