Rumors are rampant on Regina, even more so than usual. After the death of future Duke, and his father, the rumor about the curse associated with Aledon family and the Duchy of Regina is getting a lot of play. The Duchess has begun the process to officially take herself and her daughter out of succession, but she was probably concerned about a more human threat.
Viktor Androchev has received word about his sister, Katya, and is making plans to travel to Regina, preferably at the same time the (still not officially confirmed) advance team heads over. His wife is extremely concerned about his safety in the wilds of Regina, but Viktor promises to be careful.
Mr. White goes to Jenghe to "fish". He meets up with some former "colleagues" there, and offers to provide them with intel. They are somewhat concerned about White having an axe to grind. "Blake" will be White's contact, and he's to speak with no one else. They will be sending some operatives to Regina as the "advance team" for the treaty talks (Note: see Rumors). Mr. White agrees, and tells them that any personal issues he may have he will take care of on his own. Blake has some concerns that Black may have been an ISA operative, with current connections to the organization, but Blake really wants all the info on Blaelok (when you come right down to it, Black is a small fish). The Solomani have virtually ignored the neutral zone, and now they have a full consul, and they've ramped up to thirty people. Blake tells White to be careful - "Blaelok's a spider". He knows that Blaelok was involved with "Section 9" [oh goodie, yet another group to keep track of], which means that he may have been responsible for killing his own men. Blake inquired as to whether or not White had a self-determination method, and they can arrange something for him, as if White is captured, the Solomani have a lot of experience with the extraction of information, and there's also Blaelok's diplomatic status to consider ("He could gun you down in front of a police officer, and the most they could do would be ask him to leave planet.). Now that Mr. White is working for damn near everyone; he's going to have a really big Christmas card list this year...
The Duchess has not yet decided whether or not she and her daughter will be leaving planet, in spite of Ghaer's (and others') concerns. They certainly will not be leaving before the funeral for her husband and son, which will take place on the last day of the year. Also, there are some people who are not thrilled at the prospect of Corina taking over, so there's that to consider. The Duchess had originally issued a statement about her intention to withdraw from succession, but now she has stated that she has not made a decision, and must consider everything further.
There is a rumor circulating that Corina may not have been just a victim in the fatal crash. After all, she was wearing a five-point harness, and had an airbag on the driver's side, while the boy had only a lap belt, and no airbag. Besides - she's an evil megacorp person, so she's obviously capable of anything.
Mikie arranges to meet his father at his workplace planetside. He looks very tired, and the rest of the staff is concerned about him overworking. Mikie tells his father about Andrew, and finds out that there were seven embryos out there [oh dear]. So, that means there could in theory be six more brothers somewhere [oh please no, have pity]. Mikie asks his father to have lunch with him the next day, and no, he does not intend to trick his brother into meeting them - he's going to introduce Theresa to his father.
Rumor has it that the old Privy Council, who served under Duke Norris and is still alive, knows about all of Norris' little "affairs", and could potentially produce another Aledon bastard (or two) to further muddy the succession issue. This could turn into a real war, as it has in the past, and that would be really, really ugly.
Nicolai purchases a half pound of Jamaican Blue coffee for Mr. Blaelok. The Bread and Bean did not have a full pound, but fortunately for Nicolai, the person who ordered the coffee originally had an unfortunate accident (or on purpose). Nicolai has the coffee boxed up (for a measly $5,000 cr.) and takes it to the Consulate. Gee, being processed through their security is just like being home! Trés high tech, very clean, very paranoia-inducing...
The consulate has been expanded by the purchase of the adjoining businesses on either side, so it's almost the size of a full embassy. The place has been redecorated, looks very nice - if you like that sort of thing. Claire comes down to get Nicolai and bring him upstairs to wait for Blaelok to get out of a meeting. Three men in very good local clothing leave the meeting with Blaelok - two larger, younger men, and an average-looking man that's almost immediately forgettable. Blaelok invites Nicolai into his office, and graciously accepts the coffee. Nicolai has just come for a social call, of which Blaelok approves. He suggests Nicolai visit more often, as it's not a good idea to spend too much time with "those people" (the icky local, inferior types).
Blaelok invites Nicolai to a "little soirée" that he's giving on the second day of the new year. Formal, of course, and Nicolai should bring his "young lady". They will show the locals how it's done. Nicolai accepts, and mentions that Mr. White is off planet. Blaelok knows this, and mentions that he's on Jenghe, and has been meeting with a Captain Blake of the ISA. Blake has a reputation for being a bit "odd", and rather monomaniacal, so he's "just the person to steer White to". Ah. Nicolai does not need to keep watching White, at this time. Blaelok reminds Nicolai that he has a standing offer of employment, should he want it. Blaelok then walks Nicolai to the door, under the watchful eye of the staff.
Theresa is planning to go to her father's place for Christmas, and of course Mikie is invited. Oh, and why doesn't he invite his brother? Andrew is so incredibly uptight, he really needs to relax and be around normal people. Andrew may be a snazzy dresser, and very well-educated, but he is so incredibly anal! Mikie will ask him, and yes, he was planning on going with Theresa.
Nicolai invites Christi to the consulate affair, and she does feel she'll be up to it by that time. But what to wear? Now that's going to necessitate major shopping! But should she shop now, or later??? Now, and with Nicolai. [The blind shopping with the blind.] Four or five hours later, she does finally find a dress. (That's another $5,000 cr., but it's worth it.) Nicolai, on the other hand, is going to wear his dress uniform; which he does have to have tailored a bit, as it has been quite a while since he last wore it. As he has the Solomani Banner of Terra, he'll be quite the sight.
Mikie takes Theresa to a restaurant Down Port to meet his father. And yes, he does warn her ahead of time. Mikie's father is fairly quiet during lunch, but he does make the effort. Afterwards, Theresa says that she really can't imagine him having done the things Mikie told her about, and it's kind of sad, because it's obvious that while he has feelings for Mikie, he's uncomfortable around Mikie (who's a reminder of everything he's done).
Mikie tracks down Andrew, in his new little efficiency apartment, and convinces him to come along. After all, with everyone involved in Holiday and the funeral and everything, no one is going to be that available for Andrew to speak with about employment. And as Andrew puts it, he hasn't had "any better offers". That done, Theresa will make sure Mikie and Andrew have cold-weather clothing. This will do nothing to assuage Mikie's uneasiness about the open sky, the woods, the boat on the lake thing, etc. [hey, he's a starport boy].
Nicolai is approached about becoming some one's "big gun" for the next month or so, but even Nicolai is aware there are "things" going on, so he decides to stay a free agent for now. At least until after Holiday. But these people are prepared to pay him a very, very substantial fee - $500,000 cr. (oooh). Tempting, but no. "Somebody else got to you first, didn't they?" No, he's just not available until after Holiday (because he's concerned about the possible bizarre political ramifications).
Mikie goes to see Theresa's father at his office. Mikie is not exactly looking forward to this, but he thinks he's supposed to get permission from her father before he proposes over Christmas (which is what he's planning on doing). Blake makes the usual joke about when Mikie's going to "make an honest woman" out of his daughter, and Mikie tells him that's why he was there, and Blake is just thrilled. This calls for a drink, which Mikie does take (even though it doesn't sit well with him). He goes off and brings back a small box, and gives Mikie the wedding set that was belonged to Theresa's mother. Then Blake takes Mikie out for dinner, and for some bonding at the Panda. Mikie is going to ask Theresa on Christmas, and no one knows yet.
Andrew and Mikie go off with the Blakes. Mikie is fortunately adopted by the females, so he gets to hang out a lot in the kitchen. Andrew is pounced on by the men folk, as he's too quiet (this makes him a tempting target, which distracts the guys from Mikie to a certain extent). Mikie has wrapped the pendant he had made with the diamond he had, and has it under the tree - this causes quite some speculation. Christmas Eve, Mikie gets Theresa away from the house, and tells her he needs to talk to her about something; he tries to sort of discourage her from being involved with him. She's worried he's going to break up with her until he gets down on one knee. He proposes, she accepts and throws her arms around him, and all the relatives in the house yell and flash the lights (argh). Theresa recognizes the ring as her mother's, and is very happy about it. They go back into the house, and the females descend on Theresa to hug her and look at the ring, and the males descend on Mikie for much backslapping and arm punching [hmm, some kind of ritualistic beating thing evidently]. The men all go to get wood at the shed (which means to go get out the Wild Turkey), and come back eventually with two pieces of wood. Andrew is three sheeps to the wind, and is very emotional; he hugs Mikie, and tells him he loves him. The women are already making wedding plans, so Mikie can just sit down somewhere eventually, and get over the shock.
Adam Shelzie appears on Regina, at least partially for the funeral. Ethan will be attending the funeral as the Theresan representative.