A very wealthy, upper class couple from Rhylanor come to the Palladium Group to find some one of the right sort of people to retrieve their errant daughter, Lila. Lila, a protest and folk song performer of some repute, has gone to a planet founded by liberal, PC, university types, to find herself. The Palladium Group has the perfect look for what they want, and Mikie looks nice and respectable (it's the suit), so he's hired. Lila might not want to come, but her parents are worried about the influenza outbreak, etc., so...
Mikie changes to street clothes, and goes in search of discreet muscle (since Nicolais all deceased-like). Looking for a non-Merc (wouldn't fit in with the vegan set), he goes to a spacer bar, where Ethan is looking for a small package trader, and entertainment. Regina is a lovely place for adrenaline-junkies. After an almost run-in with Krag, who has seen God and is now off slaying the sinful, Mikie decides to try Ethan, as he appears to be competent and bright. After a Vegan is assassinated, and Madame de Lyon invites Ethan to a soirée, Mikie follows Ethan into a third spacer bar, to speak with him about work, and maybe even to warn him about Madame de Lyon, who is infamous in some circles for unimaginably decadent parties; Mikie knows about her because of the working girls he knows.
Ethan and Mikie speak, Ethan agrees to work with Mikie, and he tells Ethan about the Madame's rep. Ethan goes anyway, and (sorry, edited for overly adult content, but it does involve a straight razor, and a female human named Eugenie).
Some one sends Mikie an extremely old copy of The Island of Doctor Moreau. The book was printed on Ding'r, and is a real antique, but there's no note, and the address was made up of letters cut from magazines or something, it came in a plain brown wrapper, with no return address, and had some kind of oily residue. No clue where it came from, or from whom, or why. Weird. Just in case the package is booby-trapped, Theresa is left at a restaurant, so Mikie goes to get Ethan to check it for demo, and learns to never go to that kind of a party without shielding first!!!! (Large amounts of wild sex around an empath and telepath... well, use your imagination).
Off to the planet Cambridge. With Natasha (it's for work, okay!?!), Ethan, and Mikie. The plan is for Ethan to suck up to Lila with the excuse that Mikie is some kind of racist loony who is after Ethan. Natasha spends most of the trip looking for transparent walkways and floors, while wearing no underwear; the crew is quite entertained although somewhat jealous. The night before coming out of jump, Mikie evidently has some kind of nightmare, and Natasha goes into his room to make sure he's okay. She gives Mikie something to help him sleep, lays down with him, and comfort is given at some point during the night. Pity Mikie doesn't actually remember it, but he does have some telltale souvenirs" that indicate she's telling the truth. It might be useful to know just exactly what the nightmare was about, but according to Natasha, Mikie didn't say anything that made any sense, "but then, you never do". And just exactly what does that mean?
The ship jumps into system, and is slightly damaged by one of the ships fleeing the system defense boats, that are trying to prevent the other ships from breaking the quarantine. Extolay is a mess, the ship is too damaged to continue, so it lands in a wilderness area of Cambridge. No news has been heard from Cambridge for some time, so the authorities are assuming everyone on the planet is toast, since they are all so primitive and all. Or everyone on Cambridge is actually just fine. Aside from the suggestion to sing a few songs, everyone is pretty calm. The ship has about a week of rations and air, so they will try to keep the ship sealed up until help arrives.
Oh sure, it's a simple job, pays well, should be no trouble at all. Bugger.
(to be continued...)