Corina Ling-Raleigh, Regent of Regina, is hearing talk that indicates that a faction of the local nobility is interested in seeing a return to the "good old days" under the old Duke Norris - a man who understood power. Besides, they're frustrated by the fact that the nobility have lost most of their power to the Up Port bureaucracy, and that really needs to change. Corina works at sorting out the local nobles, to separate the wheat from the chaff, or at least identify the chaff, so she'll know to not give them any sort of position that would allow them to do damage.
Back on planet, Nicolai's new house is a four story (three under ground), armour-crete over flint steel with ablative armor, and would survive anything other than a direct hit by a nuke. The Pikhans will install a shell around the house so it actually looks like a normal house instead of the bunker it really is.
There is some discussion as to the lowly bureaucrats that are currently running things, especially Mr. Black - who should "be the first one up against the wall". Corina knows better than this, having made her share of deals with Mr. Black. One of the brighter nobles advises Corina to assume that anything that is said to hear will then be whispered directly into Mr. Black's ear (no kidding).
Mr. White invites Mr. Blaelok to lunch, to be seen with him, and to exchange social pleasantries. A very nice lunch at the Savoy, with Blaelok dissecting his vegetables like he's dissecting...some one else. Many people observe the two together, and conclusions are drawn (right or wrong).
Ghaer is busy taking classes, in order to improve his intelligence and education, in his pursuit of wisdom. At least there are some cute females on campus. The Vargrs and some of the other "lower lifeforms" on campus are discussing the Solomani consulate, and the new arrivals (more of the superior snobs have shown up). The students are planning a protest in front of the consulate, and Ghaer is going along mostly to keep the "kids" out of trouble.
Andrew and Mikie are having an unpleasant moment, thanks to Mr. White. Mikie tells Andrew that their father is on Regina proper, and that Mikie was going to tell Andrew, he just hadn't had a good opportunity. Although Andrew does not believe, as Mikie does, that you can really "repent" for doing something as heinous as he did, Andrew does eventually calm down. He does not, however, want to meet their father - as far as he's concerned, the man's dead.
Mr. Black invites Mr. White to the Jasmine Club for dinner, as his guest, via several of his "men". Black has lengthy discussions with the waiter and the sommelier, so just ordering takes forever. Black asks if Mr. White is planning on staying long on Regina - that depends, but White believes he will eventually retire to somewhere more "exciting". Ah, that explains a lot to Mr. Black about Mr. White's recent behavior, and the "missive" he sent Black. The message would smack of blackmail to "some one of a suspicious nature" (blackmail, threats against his sister Christine). Mr. White assures Black that his interests are "not local", but Black doesn't care, and gives a "friendly warning" to Mr. White that he does not like to be manipulated, but Mr. White can "do his worst". White tries to say it was a "misunderstanding", and he would be more than willing to learn the local rules, so to speak. Black is willing to assist in his education...
Mr. White is determined to make it clear that Black is not intimidating him. Black thinks what Black thinks, and is not sharing. He leaves Mr. White to enjoy the club as his guest, as Black has other business to attend to. When he leaves, Tabasco Jack goes over to say hello to White, and comments that Black is considered to be the most dangerous man on planet, and it's not all rumor, so White should take care. And does he have an organ donor card?
Mr. White takes the opportunity in the Club to make the acquaintance of some of the interesting people present, and to inquire how one obtains a membership? By invitation only.
Since the Vargrs are heading the protest, it's a very spontaneous event, and not terribly well planned.
Corina hears that Nicolai (an ex-employee) has been working for Blaelok, the Solomani consul. The Consul has asked for an appointment to present his credentials, so it's suggested that perhaps Nicolai could provide extra information. Corina has, in fact, met Blaelok already. And as if that wasn't enough, Mr. Solati has shown up to see Corina (she owes him a favor for providing the antidote when Nicolai was poisoned, but she owes him something else entirely for messing with the company's water supply - but that's another issue entirely). He's shown in, Terran bourbon is scrounged up from the cellars for him, and they "catch up" on a mega-corp's idea of a social level. Solati mentions potential plans to base a "facility" on Regina as it is so close to civilization, but are waiting for a more beneficial form of government. Naturally, reciprocation would be mutually beneficial. Corina gets down to brass tacks, and expresses displeasure at the water episode, and points out that should any arrangements be made, it would be expected that nothing be done that would bring Imperial attention of a negative nature. Oh no, nothing like that - just business research (i.e., Regen, etc.), supplies kept just below the demand, shipping to places like the Sword Worlds with out going through the Imperial border, etc.
Vague promises of theoretical support are made, and Corina mentions the "debt" she feels she is under to Solati. Corina suggests that a proposal be made up, since she feels that while the specific details should be nailed down, she has no objections to doing business. Solati mentions in passing that the Aledon family is susceptible to a certain virus, which is usually failure - so sad. Corina does not feel the Aledons are much of a threat anymore. Solati makes comments about how useless the nobility is, but Corina feels they have their place and their use. Solati is only interested in people with whom he can do business, and he knows Corina is a true business woman, and he is not interested in Regina other than as a place for business.
The local government and the local labor groups (controlled by the local government's security agency), have been annoying to Solati. He would rather not spend the money to bring in people to get rid of the problem if he can work around them (or if Corina can take care of it for him). Solati would like about 1,000 acres near water, plus an Up Port facility for shipping, etc.; they have a site in mind, near one of the universities - which would be useful, as they will be creating many technical jobs, and Solati could make sure that a lot of lower end jobs were created to help the local economy, and of course, Corina could take all the credit. The sooner the better, as time is money. Solati leaves Corina a nicely wrapped little package, and then takes his leave.
Corina unwraps the package, and it's perfume (well, the box was too small for a human head). Nice perfume though. Corina requests to see Mr. Black, who of course, always has time for the Regent. Corina cuts right to the chase, tells him there is going to be a change in the power structure, and it remains to make sure that the interests of the "quintessential elements that make Regina what it is". They discuss the wants of the nobility and the mega-corps. Black points out that the mega-corps have no interests in Regina beyond that of locusts - they consume the local resources, and then move on. Black has concerns about the smaller interests that cannot compete with the mega-corps. Regina should not become the "captive" of a mega-corp or two or three. Corina points out that she is worried about the current instability on Regina actually contributing to worse problems. She suggests the possibility of creating some kind of free trade zone or something, with way to limit the mega-corps. Black does not believe these limits would be real, and when Corina asks him just what he would consider too much of a presence, he describes exactly the kind of manufacturing project Solati is wanting.
Corina asks just exactly what Mr. Black is planning on doing to "restrain" Mr. Solati? He didn't realize that Mr. Solati needed restraining. Corina asks that Black consider how to set things up to seem to give Solati what he wants, but to give him enough leash to hang himself. He'll consider it. Corina asks that Mr. Black take the perfume that Solati left her, and have it analyzed, just in case. Black will do this, and comments that "Regent" just doesn't seem to suit her - he imagines something "more exalted"...
Mr. White returns to the office after his day in the Jasmine Club to find a "For Lease" sign on the door. His key doesn't work any more, so he has to pick the lock. The place has been stripped completely - down to the bare walls. Ooooh. Mr. White calls the leasing agent and wants to know what's wrong, but all she can tell him is that the property is listed as vacant and available for lease; same answer from Starport Authority. Mr. White checks into a hotel (we told him he needed an apartment), and calls Regina Security. Mr. Black is not available (it is midnight), but they take a message.
Elsewhere, the Regina Rottweilers and the Frenzy Falcons are cutting a swath through all the other grav-ball teams, on their way to the championships. As it stands now, it looks like they will be meeting for the cup.
Ghaer goes to the protest, to try to keep a lid on things. Mikie is out with Theresa, and they see the group en route to the consulate, and see that Ghaer is part of the group. Oh boy. The Regina police are waiting, in full riot gear, and several of the Solomanis are observing. Some one on the inside asks that the guests be attended to, and several big bags of dog food are thrown out. Things are thrown at the consulate, epithets are yelled, but it's not real fun. Ghaer declares victory, and suggests that they all go get some beer. Fortunately, college students are easily distracted, so they do. Mikie and Theresa go along (Theresa's idea). Theresa has too much to drink, and bonds with the Vargr female, who Theresa says "likes" Ghaer, but she's kind of hanging out with an alpha Vargr, Biff.
The next day comes. Mr. White goes to try to see Captain Midnight. He makes contact, and the Captain decides to see him, mainly out of curiosity. White wants to know who ordered the Palladium Group's offices cleared out. That's going to cost $10,000, and White should come back later that night. White tries to get a hold of Black again, but is told he is not in, so he leaves a message. He then calls the Solomani consulate, and makes an appointment to see Blaelok (who has 15 minutes free at 4 o'clock that afternoon). White goes to have breakfast at his hotel, and Black waves him over to his table to join him. White complains about what happened to his office and belongings - Black suggests that surely that is a matter for the police, but Black will look into it "unofficially". White does not join Black for breakfast, but eats by himself, and then calls the police.
Corina gets a report back about the perfume, which is in fact perfume, but containing a small amount of some type of tailored virus. That's all they can tell with their facilities here.
White finds out that his receptionist Michelle's residence is vacant. He then realizes that he doesn't even know what Michelle's last name was! He realizes that Claire hired her, and would know her last name, so he calls her. Mr. White tells Claire that his office has up and "moved without him", and would she please inform the Consul prior to his appointment. Claire is quite distressed, and tells Mr. White that he can come earlier to his appointment as she has cleared up some extra time for him. White discovers, as he suspected, that his card is nonfunctional. He goes to the Cadaver to hang out (whatever...), and several total strangers sit down at his table, and offer to help him. They hand him a card, that states they are with the Palladium Group - they are partners in the organization, and understand that there has been a problem with the office, and they can rectify the situation. In fact, it is being taken care of as they speak, as they want him to maintain the legitimate front they require. Of course. They're glad to see that Mr. White has been properly briefed, but he is not to "provoke the locals"; Mr. Black, "while provincial", is dangerous, and White should consider himself fortunate that the office was the only thing "removed". "The important thing is the cause." (Whatever that happens to be.) One of the men makes a discreet sign (secret handshake?) to White as they leave; White has no clue what this means, but whatever.
The Solomani consul, Blaelok, shows up to see the Regent. Introductions of an official nature are made, pleasantries are exchanged, and bona fides are delivered. And then the awkward silence. Corina inquires after Nicolai, and is told he has "gone independent", to which Corina responds that this is probably safer for everyone. Blaelok remarks that he was under the impression that she was fond of Nicolai, as she went to some expense on his behalf (it seemed like a good idea at the time...). Corina asks why the Solomani government has decided to invest so many resources on Regina, especially since it is so far away, both physically and philosophically. Blaelok replies that his government believes that all Solomani citizens are valuable - quantity, not quality, even though there are not many Solomani in the area. Blaelok asks if he can count on Corina being present at the Consulate's first social gathering, and of course, she would be happy to, as long as she is available. She shakes his hand when he goes to leave, which Blaelok hates; she makes note of this.
White sees Blaelok, and asks him about the other partners of the Palladium Group. Blaelok points out that he no longer has any connections with the Group, and he never really knew the other "silent partners" personally. White is looking for information that would help him make sure he fulfills his "obligations" to the Group. Blaelok apologizes, but he can't be of any help. White leaves, and goes back to find that yes, the Palladium Group offices are back. There's a new receptionist, a blonde named Janice ("from the Agency"), and all new stuff. Nothing that was Blaelok's personal equipment, or White's belongings are there, some one just refurbished the offices, and put in a new security system. He asks Janice to try to replace the equipment he lists for her. And then he goes to the A & B Detective Agency, and has them try to track down the missing equipment.
Corina goes out to buy herself a sports car - she wants something small and dangerous. She'll have a real race car made up later, but she'll get something off the shelf for right now. She also needs a bio-genetisist...hmmm, Mikie had considered telling Andrew to check out Ling Standard, as Corina played it straight when Mikie dealt with her in the past.
White takes Natasha with him to find an apartment, which he does, on level 2. Natasha moves in before he does, so that leaves just Joe Lee in Mikie's old apartment. White makes a stop at the tailor's, then goes to dinner, where he is joined by three rather fit gentlemen, who delivers a message from Mr. Black, who is concerned about Mr. White's health due to his "new friends". They leave, and White goes someplace else to eat.
Theresa asks Mikie to help get Ghaer and the Vargr female together, as Ghaer really needs a girl. Sigh. Mikie knows better than to argue over this, so he invites Ghaer over for dinner. The Vargr female, Krin, is very intelligent, and politically concerned, in spite of being extremely attractive, and she really does like Ghaer. They leave together, so Ghaer can walk her back to the dorm. On the way back, Krin tells Ghaer that she and some of her friends have something more serious planned with regard to the Solomani's. Ghaer tries to discourage anything of a violent nature - it doesn't actually solve anything, and it creates martyrs for the opposition. A serious discussion ensues. As they are walking, some one who has obviously had way too much to drink starts making unpleasant comments to the Vargrs. Two Solomani, of course, who are really asking for it. Ghaer decides to try to just tranq the idiots, but they are wearing armor, so it doesn't work, and the Solomani go for their weapons. Ghaer switches to HEAP, and the excrement hits the rotating blades.
Right after Ghaer and Krin leave, Theresa decides that it would be nice to go for a walk too. They are at the park when they hear a gunshot. Mikie gets Theresa to cover, then goes to check it out. Mr. White is in the area, so he goes to be a spectator. Mikie can't get close enough to engage any of the bad guys, but he yells to distract the shooter, who then takes off, dodging Ghaer's shot. After the fact, White comes out to "help". Krin is injured, but not seriously, so Ghaer medics her, and then checks out the Solomani, after Mikie makes sure the guy's disarmed, and takes his i.d. - "diplomatic immunity" does not equal "bullet proof", or "invisible". Then the police show up, and are quite willing to accept the "drunk idiots with guns" explanation. They notice that it's one of those "Solomanis", and they'll take it from there. Mikie makes sure that Krin and Ghaer get to the hospital, and Theresa gets home, then he calls Blaelok and asks to see him. Mikie gives Blaelok the diplomatic passport, and explains that the owner was left in the hands of the local authorities, and his partner limped away, and that drunks with guns shouldn't be wandering around loose. Blaelok thanks him for returning the passport, and says that the matter will be "taken care of". Good enough.
White takes Natasha with him to find an apartment, which he does, on level 2. Natasha moves in before he does, so that leaves just Joe Lee in Mikie's old apartment. White makes a stop at the tailor's, then goes to dinner, where he is joined by three rather fit gentlemen, who delivers a message from Mr. Black, who is concerned about Mr. White's health due to his "new friends". They leave, and White goes someplace else to eat. White takes Natasha with him to find an apartment, which he does, on level 2. Natasha moves in before he does, so that leaves just Joe Lee in Mikie's old apartment. White makes a stop at the tailor's, then goes to dinner, where he is joined by three rather fit gentlemen, who delivers a message from Mr. Black, who is concerned about Mr. White's health due to his "new friends". They leave, and White goes someplace else to eat. When he returns to his apartment, Natasha is waiting (bouncie, bouncie).
Night passes, day follows.
White gets a lecture from Janice at the office, for not "doing his job", and for getting into a "pissing match" with Black. Evidently Janice is a more important representative of whoever the hell is connected to the Palladium Group than expected. White tells her that he is doing his job, and if "they" want something specific done, they better damn well tell him.
White is approached by a very attractive female, who wants to take to him to see some one. He eventually agrees, and ends up in an apartment on level four, speaking to Black, who has a proposition for him. Black is interested in the "organization" that White is working with or for, and wants to know how deeply White is involved? Deep enough for Black's purposes, is White's response. Black wants information, and White is being careful to not let on how little he knows, to make sure Black does not undervalue him. Black is willing to let bygones be bygones, but he is not in the mood to be trifled with, and Black is the one who is going to decide whether or not White leaves the room. Black offers his assistance and protection, and "reasonable compensation", in return for White being his "man on the inside". White is not looking for protection or assistance, but wants to left alone to "get to the top". Black requires some sort of information on occasion, in the event that something happens to White, so they will not have to start from the beginning. White has his "own agenda". Black agrees to leave White alone (for now, at any rate), and arrangements will be made for a discreet information drop. Black's people will be instructed to leave White alone, except for an occasional bit of harassment to help maintain his cover. White agrees, and then Christine escorts him out and away, and says that "perhaps I'll see you again later", and then leaves him on the slidewalk. White's stuff has been returned to the office.
Corina takes Freddy's son, the heir for whom she's acting as Regent, out for a ride in her new sports car (she had a racing harness installed for the driver's seat). She runs it into a tree, the boy's side first, deliberately. The boy is killed (as Corina intended), and Corina is seriously injured. Solati later wonders why she didn't just use the perfume? Corina wakes several days later, and is of course, devastated by what happened, especially since Freddy had a fatal stroke upon hearing what happened to his son. This leaves a serious matter of succession, which Corina takes firm control of, even from her hospital bed.
White sends twelve encrypted messages out every 48 hours, like clockwork. The messages have absolutely no meaning, but they go to various places in the Imperium, Arkadia, and the Neutral Zone, and are White's way to keep them guessing, and make it look like some one is expecting messages from him, that will be missed.
Ghaer, who was a friend of Freddy and his family, sees the widow. Ghaer is concerned that whoever got rid of Freddy and his son, and tried to get rid of the Regent, will want to wrap up things by taking out the widow and daughter, so he really wants them off planet. And he wants Mikie to help, and bring Theresa. Mikie is not sure about this, especially about bringing Theresa. Ghaer agrees that perhaps taking Theresa would not be a good idea. Ghaer suggests to Freddy's widow that she take the daughter out of succession immediately, as a precaution. He's asked Krin to come along to have another female, as she's not known, possibly Nicolai, and Cena. The idea is to get the remaining family members off planet as quickly and quietly as possible
Corina invites Black, some nobles, and Senator Rutledge to her room to discuss the future of Regina. The gist of it is that Regina needs "a firm hand", some one who is both a noble and competent, some one like - Corina! Naturally, she is not the one to suggest this. Some resistance is displayed, and concerns about individual's personal interests are expressed. They leave, and Black returns later to discuss the matter further. He goes over who's support she needs if she wants to become Duchess of Regina, and what needs to be done to buy or convince those people. Corina would rather take the carrots, and leave Black to wield the stick, which is fine with Black, as he's more comfortable in that role. Black, in return, wants the Up Port left alone. Corina agrees for the most part, but feels that some "reform" might be a good idea, at least the appearance. Black is at her disposal, and for himself, requires some minor funding ($10M), and a minor noble title for some one (Christine). Corina and Black are happy with their business arrangement, and make plans to go to the opera in a couple of weeks. It's Pucini, and they discuss whether or not the Solomani consul will be there - probably. Black mentions that besides opera, orchids, and small furred animals, Blaelok does not apparently have any other interests - he doesn't eat meat, drink alcohol, smoke, or have any interest in females, males, or whatever.
Blaelok speaks to Nicolai, and wants him to keep an eye on Mr. White. White may need killing, if he proves to be too annoying. Nicolai agrees.
White goes to see Blaelok, and tells him about the deal with Black, informing on the Palladium Group. Blaelok agrees to pay White to feed Black the information that Blaelok tells him to. So, now White is a triple agent (and the lifespan of one of these is...?). This is going to be ugly.
There is some discussion in the media and on the street about Corina's car accident. New car, high profile people - was it really an accident? Who was the real target? The boy? Corina? Both?? Who would profit?