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She cruised through the blackness around her, space as some took to calling it. She was cold, colder than the matter surrounding her at this very moment. She needed to be, if she were to fulfill her intended purpose. If she were to master her destiny. Soon, her holds would be crawling with the lowest of humanity, rubbing shoulder to shoulder with her proud knights of purple. Soon, she would carry this mismatched collection of warriors and thugs into the valley of the shadow of death, and back again. Soon, her mighty guns would roar, bringing terrible vengeance and hellfire on the forces of darkness. Soon, evil would know her name and shudder.
Soon but not yet. For now she was empty, save those members of her beloved Alliance who'd chosen to risk their futures within the confines of her warm embrace. She loved each of them dearly, like they were her own children. Yet they would never know. After all, who but the philosopher wonders what tools dream of? To them she was only the ship, only a vessel.
She was the Vindicator and her time had come.
Ladies and gentlemen, cutthroats and pirates, mercenaries and soldiers, priests and victims, welcome to the Vindicator.
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Captain Hannibal Masters stood on the bridge, his bridge, hands clasped casually behind his back while breathing silently through his artificial nose. For the first time in a long while he was unsure of himself.
He'd known what he was getting into, Admiral Hatchet made it very clear as to exactly who he'd be working with, what sort of individuals would walk on his ship. He wasn't exactly going to be surrounded by men of character. A pack of rouges would be his crew, and he was the one to watch them.
Yet he was not alone in this task. He had Rachel and he had Belle. Two women he trusted beyond any doubt, as well as his best friend of all. Patting the custom carved in-graven handle on his beloved handgun, Master knew it would never fail him.
Currently, they were en-route to Krane, a literal embodiment of hell if there ever was one. To recruit some preselected criminals and enlist them for a suicide mission. Well missions, truth be told. He didn't know how things would turn out and it made him nervous. He hadn't felt like that since.... Well since the war. He wasn't sure if that feeling excited him or terrified him.
Maybe it was a bit of both.
OOC: If you're Alliance feel free to post anywhere on the Vindicator, also, feel free to GM a few support staff, like private Timmy, a ship of our size is going to have a few “Red-shirts.” If you are in “Hell,” please post here Andersonville Thread
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The target's head exploded in a shower of plastic and paper, scattering debris all across the firing range. Rachel pumped the shotgun's handle furiously, ejecting the spent casing in a flash of steam and smoke. The empty shell hit the ground with a ping, skating across the floor, echoing unnaturally loud in the quiet weapons range.
Rachel Vance was going back.
Not back to the literal place where she'd first experienced her trauma, but one similar enough. She was going to prison. It would be different this time, it had to be. All they were doing was picking up some prisoners and leaving. No complications, no problems. She would be fine. She should be on the bridge or relaxing in her quarters. Yet here she was, shotgun in hand, blowing the heads off practice dummies at the firing range. She was nervous.
First things first, change into my uniform, get a layer of armor between me and them. Always carry old Thor here and get those shock collars on ASAP. Then everything will be okay.
That didn't stop her from taking aim at the second target in the line. With the notched butt of the weapon pressed against her shoulder, the soldier breathed out slowly and squeezed the trigger. This was a torso shot, blowing the dummy's chest wide open.
Smoke streamed from the barrel, drifting across the training room casually. Her bare arms and ratty T-shirt were stained with gun-smoke and grime. She was tense, taunt, like the loaded weapon in her hands.
While she trusted Hannibal with her life she really regretted his decision. And her equally stupid decision to follow him along on this venture. At least Belle was here. She was smart, capable, unafraid and, to top it off, confident; everything that Rachel wished she were.
Setting up the next target, Rachel waited for the Vindicator to arrive and get this nightmare over with.
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First lieutenant Faust entered the bridge at a brisk pace. There was no real sense of urgency, just her usual military efficiency. Her service uniform was freshly pressed and in pristine condition, a result of her recent promotion, while her dark hair was pulled back and tied into braids that were pinned up and away from the top of her collar. A sparse amount of makeup matched her skin tone, and a multi-purpose wrist computer was strapped to her forearm.
“Sir,” she said with a quick salute. Belle stood ramrod straight with her heels together. “I’ve gone over the final briefings with the collars. They track up to fifteen miles on an encrypted frequency. Outside of that range we can send a signal to revert to broader frequencies and trace them over virtually any distance, but this will be susceptible to interference and possible enemy interception.” ‘Enemy’ was an interesting choice of word - Belle surprised herself with how little she worried about what they would be up against, because to her the most dangerous enemy would be residing in the ship itself.
“An electric shock can be administered in several ways. Through my wrist device I can single out an individual collar, but the rest of the staff will also be provided with a remote that will activate whichever collar it is pointed at. In the event of a staff member being compromised and unable to single out a target, it will activate the closest collar in range. The remote will have adjustable settings for the severity of shock, as well as a failsafe that can activate all collars at the same time. Tampering with the collar in any way without deactivating the safeguard will also trigger it. A large enough EMP could potentially knock them offline but it would take a particularly powerful device or explosion to do so.” A nuclear explosion, to be specific. Considering The Vindicator’s mission, Belle hadn’t exactly ruled those out yet.
“Different subjects have shown to have varying resistances, but the collar is close to the brain stem and the target is usually immediately paralyzed by the shock. A sustained shock longer than five seconds will carry a likely chance of cardiac arrest.” In the early stages of putting this mission together, she had pushed vehemently for implants, but it proved too dangerous to have an internal device as it tended to create an immediate circuit through the heart and cause what the tech had described as exploding heart syndrome. Belle had only relented on the implant after testing out one of the collars on herself.
“This is all in my report if you wish to review it, sir. Would you like me to brief you on the armory?”
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His eyes were closed, hands still clasped behind a back turned to the bridge's newest guest, yet he knew exactly who it was that approached him, even before they spoke. Belle. Only his new First Lieutenant's footsteps were that, light yet filled with purpose. She was a good woman Belle, elegant when she wanted to be, yet calm under fire and more than capable of carrying out his every order. When he admitted to himself, in some ways she was more the soldier than him. While he was sometimes swayed by politics, philosophy or debate, she was focused, determined and he knew she was the right person for the job.
Hannibal still didn't turn to face her, listening as his First Lieutenant gave him a rundown on the shock collars. Yes, the damnable collars. In a perfect 'Verse Hannibal would have no use for such things, they were crude and horrific, tools of terror and obedience rather than trust.
Mind you, in a perfect 'Verse I'd be out of a job.
He cracked a smile at that. “Would you like me to brief you on the armory?” Belle's words interrupted his meditations, reminding him that he had a job to do.
Opening his eyes and turning around, Hammel looked Belle Faust right in the eyes. She was standing ramrod straight, uniform the very definition of spit and polish. She'd tied her, admittedly magnificent, hair back a few braids. In short, she was just the officer he needed.
“At ease First Lieutenant,” Hannibal told her, his expression unwavering. However he couldn't maintain his grim neutrality in the face of a woman he considered arguably his closest friend. “As your commanding officer I'm glad to have you with me. As your friend, even more so.” He smiled, “That uniform looks far better on you than it ever did on me.” Perhaps his eyes lingered on a few curves for a moment to long, but Hammel didn't chide himself, he'd never let anything get in the way of duty. Not even Belle. Particularly now, what with the high stakes coming into focus even as they spoke.
“A brief on the armory would be excellent. Considering that we're marching boots first into “Hell,” it's good to know if we've got enough guns to make the devil wet himself.”
Yes it's a dangerous life I live, but I wouldn't trade it for any other.
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She sails ever onward towards the penal moon, not afraid but also not unafraid. It is a duel state that she dwells in; both concerned for the safety of her children and proud of what they will no doubt accomplish. She plows forward, faster than before, her skilled pilots and technicians keeping the journey smooth and without incident.
In the armory far below, her eldest children take stock of weapons, knowing full well that they will be needed. Each is counted and cleaned, checked and double-checked. They check her engines, weapons and ran diagnostics on all her systems. They prepped her for the confrontation they knew was fast approaching.
The most timid of her children sits alone in her bunk, nervously slipping into battered but still vividly purple standard issue armor. Her thoughts are troubled, erratic, and more than a little frighten. The Vindicator longs to wrap her daughter in a tight embrace, whisper sweet nothings in her ear and chase away the demons that haunt her. But alas, she has no arms to hold and no mouth to whisper with. All she can do is fill Rachel Vance with her quiet strength and let her daughter know that, when the moment is right, she will make a difference.
The Vindicator touches down on the surface of Krane several hours later. Already she detests this place, loathes the messages it sends, the sickening evil that haunts it. She cannot wait to be free of this place. However she stands firm; she is a ship of the Alliance and she knows her duty.
“Belle, take Rachel down to the lobby, Jules will be waiting there. When I’m finished conversing with Devore I’ll have our prisoners transferred. After that, we can leave this god-forsaken rock.” Hannibal’s words are firm and proud; befitting the one who captain’s her. As she watches them go she knows that her path has been forever altered. For better or for worse the show has begun.
OOC: Cons feel free to continue your own conversations. Jeth? Belle and Rachel have been moved to the lobby to link up with Hanner and await the prisoners. Remember to put your location at the top of your post. The action of this episode continues in the Andersonville thread!
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All crew has returned from Krane, feel free to interact with each other or NPC's as you wish. The Vindicator also has some support staff that have yet to be "met" GM them as you wish, name them what you will if you so choose.
Any questions? PM me as you desire.
For now, let's see if you traded one hell for another.
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Vindicator Chief Engineer's Office 1435 Hours
The Vindicators engines hummed a low sound, below all the other day to day noises that accompanied a ship and her workings. It was soothing and powerful, and impossible to ignore once you noticed it.
Elliott ground his teeth in frustration as he tinkered with his new knee brace and it's spring action joint. It was a requirement, handed down from Nikki and reinforced by Masters. He had to wear it to let his leg heal. Nevermind that it made him limp a little bit and chaffed both above and below his knee.
He grunted and scowled as one of the small screws he had in a pile rolled off the edge of his desk. He snorted at that too, along with the idea of him having an office. He was a mechanic, and a damn good one, but the Vindicator was like an artist's interpretation of a mad engineer's science experiment. Elliott had spent the first six hours on the ship (once he'd woken back up) buried in technical manuals and schematics in the infirmary. Nikki had stitched him up good, and had administered some pain killers (much less than he'd prefer, mind you), and had sent him on his way to get acquainted with the ship. His new assistant (derisive snort) Vanya had been helpful, and seemed to know her way around an engine's workings, but he didn't trust her yet.
He didn't trust any of the crew, and the worst part about it, was that the one member of the crew that he actually had a handle on, the one he sort of knew, was the one he hated and would be the most likely to kill given the chance. He was also the one Elliott owed his life to.
The gorram Perfesser had drug his ass back to the ship, and Elliott didn't have even an inkling of how he was going to square that debt with the 'Verse. He grunted as he crawled slowly under his desk to search for the missing screw.
This post has been edited by Elliott Lawson on Oct 19 2012, 06:22 AM
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He couldn’t stop moving. Prowling, Nora would have called it. Before, he’d done it whenever he was stressed or trying to solve a particularly troubling problem. He’d stalk the house, and she’d make him stop, calm him down in a way only she could. She’d always managed to restore balance no matter what the issue.
Now, though, the love of his life was not there to settle his mind, and so Felix prowled. The Vindicator was big, he was determined to see as much of it as he was allowed as often as he was able. The cells might not be much bigger on the ship, but at least he wasn’t surrounded by murderous idiots all the time…just ninety-five percent of it now. Whoever had designed the interior of the vessel had clearly put much thought into giving the prisoners much to do when they weren’t out being good little killers. He appreciated that, even if he didn’t plan to do much socializing. Andersonville wasn’t a good place to make friends, and the group aboard the ship seemed little better.
As he wandered up to the middle deck of the ship, Felix picked at the collar clasped around his neck. The point of the thing had been clearly explained, and so he wasn’t going to bother being foolish enough to attempt to rip the restraint off, but it still offended him. He wasn’t a pet, and did not enjoy being treated like one. Not to mention that the thing was just unsightly; he winced at the sight of it whenever he was unfortunate enough to find himself facing a reflective surface. Felix was not a vain man, but he had standards, which the collar absolutely did not meet. But there wasn’t much he could do about it if he didn't want to get shocked—he didn't—so he would just have to live with it.
The convict strolled over to the practice area, eyeing the training dummies with mild interest. There were—somewhat dulled—blades on a nearby table should he feel the urge to let off some steam, but Felix wasn’t really in that sort of mood. Inanimate targets became boring very quickly, and it didn’t take a whole lot of practice to discover which spots would produce the most blood when pierced with a knife. He’d had a lot of time and opportunity to learn that in the Egg. Maybe later he’d find someone willing to spar with him, but for now he’d keep exploring, see what secrets the Vindicator could offer up. Maybe he’d get lucky and find the off switch for the gorram collars. Who knew? Anything was possible.
OOC: Anyone feel free to come across Felix and interrupt his prowling.
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Vanya passed slowly through the halls of the ship, frowning down at her hands. She'd had a plan fully laid out in her head before she set foot on The Vindicator, and that plan had certain priorities. First, before visiting the engine room, before eating food, real food, before even claiming her room, Vanya planned to reaquaint herself with what she'd missed while on quote unquote leave from society. First and foremost, she tried accessing the cortex, and was stymied at every turn. Oh, she could access it, at any number of places, but anything remotely useful had been scrubbed and blocked within an inch of its life, and she didn't have the skills, the time, or the patience to waste on the things she wanted most to find. Instead, she set three years of her soaps to downloading, figuring the small satisfaction she got at annoying whoever tried to access the console next would be worth it.
She flirted with the idea of flirting with that worthless scut in the engine room, Elliot, dropping her eyes and her hints, finding out what possible worth he had or didn't have, but that would have to come later. For now, she tugged at her collar absentmindedly, surprised for at the feeling of it than anything else. It was too smooth. Too clean. She would have to get used to cleanliness again. It had a, a sort of texture to it, a tactile aftertaste, that was startling in its suddenness. She simply hadn't expected it. After so long living in and with the worst filth the verse saw fit to let breathe, it was startling. There was no grit to catch and pull at her skin, no pitting or corrosion of pointed bits to catch and tear, just this. The slippery smooth slide of steel. It felt almost like oil, at first, and she'd even pulled her hand back to look, only to find that there was none. Just pinkened skin where it'd rubbed too hard and there, in that same spot on the wall, a smear of grease marred the disgustingly clean surface. Dirt and oils and engine oil. A fingerprint. The oil had been hers. She looked down at her hand for a time, nine parts fascination to every one part disgusted, and reached up to run her hand down the wall again. Her breath caught in her throat and held, trembling in the soft parts at the spread and drag of her fingers, her heart beating against the cage of her ribs with every pass.
Ridiculous, to feel so excited over such a little thing, but Vanya didn't see fingerprint smudges on a wall. She saw beginnings. Skylines, shineless beneath an overcast sky, buildings upon buildings. Vast numbers of featureless upturned faces, dulled with ignorance and blood from crimes committed half a universe away, turned to a shaft of light that burned through the clouds. That thought kept her going, as it always had. Sometimes it felt like burning, but she had come to expect it. Thrive on it. It would see her through. There was no doubt in her mind that she would find some way of escaping from this place, her and Tsurin. The Vindicator was no less a prison than Andersonville, just more mobile. And they were expected to be happy about it, pleased at being leashed like a rutting dog, told when to sit, where to bite, who to fetch. It was maddening, infuriating, worst of all because she'd gone along every step of the way. Because she wanted to. Needed to. Because it'd been her best shot at getting out of Andersonville while she still had full use of all her limbs, and the only shot she had at finishing what she'd started. And one day, she would. But for now, it was enough to know that the Vindicator was a prison. All prisons had weaknesses. She'd gotten out of Andersonville, hadn't she? She'd get out of here, too, provided she could find a way to get this cursed collar off. Everything else would be a simple matter of arithmatic, and Vanya had always excelled at mathematics.
And so she was smiling as she slipped into Tsurin's room. Smiling as she slipped a shiv into Tsurin's mattress and started to cut, while a few hundred feet and a thousand years away Tsusin stood hunched, slumped over the galley's counter, head alternating between looking at her hands as if trying to compose herself and staring straight ahead as if there was something to see out there in front of her, something she'd been expecting, and now, at this moment, that thing had driven her to stand in this empty room and stare it down in her grey pants, grey jacket, and grey collar, bent over someone else's stove, air conditioning blowing cold and stars flying past, unseen, while she stared ahead into the black. Her reflection stared back, all wide amber eyes, and Tsurin swallowed. Now that she had Vanya here, she wasn't entirely sure what to do with the lancing panic that threatened to shake apart her spine. “I wanted to-" Tsurin stopped, then frowned again. Wanted to what? She didn't know. She wasn't soft, and she didn't know how to handle these moments of weakness. She didn't know how to handle her new circumstances. She didn't know how to handle the quiet, the echo of long, empty halls that could have fit fifty times more women than she saw here. The way her nerves still shrieked at the slightest noise or moveme-
-ment, a threat at her back, from beyond the galley. Approaching footsteps.
Reacting then, pulling out a chef's knife from the rack and dropping into a fighter's crouch, came easy as breathing. Easier. Breathing could always be halted, be stopped, but she couldn't help this, even as her heart threatened to beat itself dull from how hard it thuds. This, this tightness in her skin and her ribs, was more of a constant than breathing had ever been, and the only reliable way to tell whether a body was truly alive, after a while.
Fighting down the impulse to throw the knife at the back of Felix Lann's head, knowing it to be Andersonville talking, Tsurin rose from her crouch, shifting to keep him in her sights, following his --she knew it was a him, then, he was too tall, thinner than the feds or Lawson, had to be Lann-- progress as he moved to her left, towards the... she didn't know what to call it. In Andersonville she would have called it the arena, the freeforall, the morgue, any of a hundred things that all meant the same thing.
And that was it. He just. Walked on by.
It took somewhat longer than the full seconds of Felix's passing for her heart to drop back to a steady pace. At her work, being caught distracted like that had meant discovery. In Andersonville, it meant death. Here, it meant... nothing? No.
Tsurin remained hidden for the space of a breath before she moved again. The knife she kept, pocketed within easy reach at her belt. She didn't want to, wanted the cold comfort of it, but she remembered what life before Andersonville had been like too well to make that mistake. Holding a knife on a man, especially a man just recently escaped from Andersonville himself, would have been another mistake. A big one. So she put it away, for now, straightened up with her chin held high and followed him. She didn't want him walking around where she couldn't see him, keeping a careful distance between them. She made no real effort to hide the sound of her bare feet on the floor. A warning, as much as he'd get, as she came to a stop behind him.
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It was the shower. The one thing that seemed to bring everything into focus. It was the shower that cemented the fact that she was no longer on Anderson and free from the Egg. She hadn't been there long, but she thought she must have taken at least five so far. She knew she was clean, but it would probably take longer for her to truly know that part.
For now though she was in the practice area. She had just spent a lot of time wailing on a practice dummy. It didn't hit back, of course, but it made her feel like she was keeping up. She didn't want to get soft. Which was a ridiculous thought. It's not like it had been much time since they left. But the fact that she had space and the threat of the pit fights removed just made her feel like there was other danger now to worry about.
Unknown danger. Perhaps from the men. It had been a while since she had dealt with men. Each one she saw, she sized up, looking for weaknesses or even strengths. The more you knew, the better it was. She knew if she figured them all out she would know how to best them if it came to that.
For the moment, she sat tucked away behind a practice dummy, taking a break and drinking some water. Clean water. Cold water. It felt good after a good workout. Heavenly actually.
Then there was movement out of the corner of her eye. She shifted immediately and watched from her hidden little area she had found. It was the one they called Lann. She watched as he looked things over; the dull blades on the table nearby and the training dummies. He almost looked like he might want to work out as well, but his interest waned and he headed elsewhere on the ship.
It suited her well. She'd rather finish up her workout in peace and then take a shower.
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It had been a very busy day.
Thinking about exactly just what had transpired in less than twenty four hours was nothing short of astonishing. Hannibal Masters now had a crew, a ship and an incredibly dangerous task; it felt overwhelming.
The master of the Vindicator sat back in his chair in the security chamber, gun resting casually on the desk before him. From his hidden chamber he could see every camera, observe the actions of every crew member. Surprisingly, no one had attempted to murder another. Still, the night was young.
Shockingly, how punny, none of the prisoners had objected to the shock collars, each had simply given in and allowed them to be locked into place. With those collars now firmly around the necks of his crew, Masters felt much more in control. Sipping from a tall glass of water he'd brought with him, the Captain mused on the possibilities set before him. He had all the firepower and luxuries the Alliance could get him, a few staunchly loyal soldiers and a band of cutthroats who'd just as soon flee than fight. It was an interesting paradox.
The clock ticked by and yet Hannibal did not abandon his post. Instead he casually drank his water and observed his crew. He watched their mannerisms, observed their tics and habits, memorized their patterns. He had many more nights of observation before him; a boring yet critical task. If he was to survive with this time-bomb crew, he needed to be aware. He needed to know them inside and out, forwards and backwards, isolate the ringleaders, the trouble makers and the sheep.
One by one, just as he'd anticipated, each of the prisoners returned to their chambers, tired from the day's ordeal and filled with questions and thoughts. Yet he remained awake, as one by one his new charges drifted off to sleep. Finally, when the last of them was firmly locked in sleep's cool embrace, he gave the order. “Gas the chambers.”
Each prisoner's room was filled instantly with a potent knockout gas, ensuring that they most certainly wouldn't awaken; at least, not until after his surgeons had done their task. Hannibal counted to ten in his head, then gave the order.
“Go.” It was a single word, but the command was clear enough; the surgery team filed silently into the chamber of prisoner number 1. Moving in complete and utter silence they began their task. Each prisoner, one after the other, was injected with a miniature tracking device, each difficult to scan and impossible to casually observe. In the morning, each prisoner would wake with a nasty bruise, and no knowledge of how they acquired it. Eventually the novelty of the mysterious injury would fade and they’d forget about it. The wound would heal, but the tracker wouldn’t stop transmitting.
The collars were obvious, they were intimidating and for immediate protection, but the trackers were unknown to all but him, Belle and the surgery team, the second line of defense. With the trackers in play, even if his charges slipped the collars, they could run, but they couldn’t hide.
With a smile on his face, Hannibal Masters, lord of the Vindicator, went to sleep without a single ounce of doubt.
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Jeffery Darkham wouldn’t show up for roll call in the morning, or call his mom that evening, or grab his usual midnight snack, or do anything really. That was because Jeffery Darkham was currently stuffed into one of the East Egg’s garbage dumps, along with several other unfortunate and deceased. The man currently wearing his uniform, grinning from ear to ear, was most certainly not him.
Bold as brass, a tune on his lips, Kraken strode through the lobby to the prison hanger. His intel had been good and his passcard had worked, he could hardly believe it really. He’d scoffed at escaping the prison as easily as he’d entered, especially with the added security in the recent days, but like his employer had said, easy in, easy out.
Waiting for him in the hanger, as promised, was his ticket out of hell and back into the galaxy at large. The small transport didn’t look like much, and smelled foul, but to him it was worth more than an emperor’s harem.
As the now free man strode up the entry ramp, the pilot turned to face him. “Welcome aboard sir,” he stated respectfully to the other criminal. “Where to?”
A wolfish grin spread across the bigger man’s features. “Back to base,” he ordered, yanking the dead guard’s name tag off his vest and dropping it on the floor, “Our employer will want to hear of this.”
The ship left the hanger without a single warning bell, a single stop from security. It wasn’t until much later that the escapee’s discovery was noted, and by then it was far too late. Kraken was free.
Thus Concludes Episode 1 of the Vindicator. Thank you so much for your participation and patience as I worked through my new job and life changes. Catch your breath ladies and gentlemen, because we are just getting started!