2246 - Kavuron, der Spieler
Kavuron the Gambler
Leo Lukas

We begin with a gaming scenario filled with caricatures of the famous and well known of the current times,where players hook into the Hayok network with SERT style equipment, so that they actually become their characters within the virtual space. But players have recently been vanishing, with no sign of where they have gone. All that is known is that one by one, they have been playing against a new opponent.

Meanwhile, the LFT ships that had left for Hayok arrive. It is July 13, 1332 NGE. Reginald Bull, Julian Tifflor and Gucky receive the convoy's head, Admiral Gerger Akwuegbu. She still does not know why she brought the convoy there, and is told that she will have to wait a while longer to find out what Operation Crystal Storm is actually about.

Bull orders Mjölnir to be carried out. Mjölnir was the hammer of the Norse god Thor, and this is the exact shape that PRAETORIA reconfigures into and the newly arrived ships dock with. Down on Hayok, the Celistas and Stentral (nicknamed Sten) and Oltran (nicknamed Ollie)!, last seen in issue 2232, where the Laurel and Hardy of the Celistas helped break Shallowain the Hound out of the LFT prison, are now working for Kavuron da Untrach, who rebuilt and controls the Arkonide computer nets on Hayok.

They are sent by Kavuron into Fragment Country, a segment of the city where the shady side of Positronic selling is pursued, and where youthful hackers live. It turns out that they are his cleanup squad, sanitizing the scene after Kavuron kills the net players that play against him in his virtual world.

On July 23, 1332 NGE, Bull hands control of the Hayok sector forces to Tifflor, so he can deal with Operation Crystal Storm. Tifflor soon receives a visit from Ascari da Vivo and must call Bully back. It turns out that Imperator Bostich has been taken in by the rumors of Crystal Storm and has told da Vivo to present the LFT with an ultimatum. Either stop the construction involved with the plan to take over the hypercrystal beds of the Eastside, or he will have the Mascants restart the war and attack.

Meanwhile, Kavuron plays Garrabo, an Arkonide analog of chess with Hipet Eress, the surgeon who had repaired Ascari da Vivo's features after Kantarin's attack. During the session, Kavuron reveals that he is 260 years old, and doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon. He is insulted by the up and coming Positronic experts and hackers. He was the one who had rebuilt the Postronic net and feels himself a god. "And God does not die". The man is clearly a deadly egomaniac. Up in orbit, Bell and Tifflor need to know if Ascari was bluffing about the ultimatum or not, but cannot figure out how to do so. They cannot hack into her data memories to check the message and the mutants can't sneak inside the Tato Palace either.

Gucky, on the other hand, has a card up his sleeve. He contacts Specter, the reincarnated personality of Maykie Molina, the TLS Specialist who had managed to transfer her personality into the KHASURN computer network before death. He convinces Specter to penetrate the Arkonide networks and retrieve Bostich's message. Specter agrees with the condition that Gucky keeps a line open between the two systems, because without its "soul anchor", Specter would soon die for real.

When Specter enters the Arkonide network, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins between Kavuron and Specter. It turns out that Molina's abusive ex-husband had later worked for Kavuron. Eventually, Kavuron appropriated all of his ideas and probably killed him. Eventually, Kavuron realizes who Specter is and traps the personality in the net after it manages to get Bostich's message and send it outside. Kavuron intends to dissect Specter in order to learn the secret of eternal life.

Gucky realizes that Specter is trapped, after Bostich's message shows up in the Hayok traffic light system and the interface between the two systems is cut. He has the part of PRAETORIA'S computer system containing the "soul anchor", the remainders of Specter's brain matter, transferred to the RICHARD BURTON, where Ascari is waiting for Bulls answer to the ultimatum.

It turns out that Bostich was serious about the ultimatum, so Bull and Tifflor are forced to lay out the whole truth about Operation Crystal Storm. It is an expedition to the Greater Magellanic Cloud to confront Gor-Orbohn. Ascari believes them and agrees to hold off any attack … for now. At that moment Gucky appears and tricks Ascari into opening a dedicated radio line between the Arkonide net and the RICHARD BURTON, using the pretense of getting data on Gor-Orbhon to Mascan Khrashyn, before he started the war early, as the means.

Then Gucky transports down to Hayok and locates a moving PEIPER (anti-mutant radiation) source. He cannot think of a reason someone might want protection from a mutant at the moment. It is the only possible lead he might have to get a lead on Specter. He commandeers a hover board from a playground because he knows the PEIPER will stop him from using his powers if he gets too close, and uses it to then do exactly that. He feigns an accident and lets the PEIPER owners catch him. As luck would have it, the owner is Stentral!

He and Oltran take the captured Gucky to Kavuron, figuring on getting a big reward for catching Terra's greatest mutant. When they arrive, Gucky takes control and threatening to release Plofre, his dark side, gets the information to free Specter, so it can use the now open radio line to return to the RICHARD BURTON.

Afterwards, Gucky ties up the villains and drops them off with the friends of the murdered players. They promise to not just kill the three, but send them into the net and give them a chance to survive against the players. Later, Gucky goes to bed wondering if he had done the right thing, or if he had lowered himself to his enemies level and is now no better than them.

Jerry Schneiderman 2004-12-05

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