Carpe Fustis.
(Seize the Stick)


Mr. Black is asked by Corina to get the perfume that they had analyzed (the one that came originally from Solati) to the Duchess, letting her know that it had contains a tailored virus. Black suggests putting the perfume into a child's perfume bottle, which Corina agrees to. Also, she wants him to investigate the investigations that have apparently started about the crash, and the corresponding rumors; Black will do so.

Mr. White is one of the people who have been checking up on the "accident", and he has acquired the black box "tapes" from the car. As he cannot interpret these, he sends a couple of copies off planet, and keeps a printed copy for himself. He tries to get in to see the Duchess, but as he does not know the "right" people, he is unable to do so. When he arrives on Up Port, he is greeted by four gentlemen who offer him a ride in a black vehicle with no hubcaps. White refuses, since they won't identify themselves to him. They ask if he would rather ride in the trunk. He informs them that he has an office, and if anyone wants to see him they can make an appointment. When one of the men moves towards him, White shoots him in the groin with his EggsTerminator. White then runs away. He is shot in the calf, and then bumps into Ghaer on the slidewalk. Ghaer smells and sees blood, and the damned Lassie gene pops up, and he helps bandage White. While he's doing this, White slips the black box tape hard copy into Ghaer's bookbag, since White does not want to get caught with it (of course he doesn't care if Ghaer gets caught with it, or killed over it). White then tries to hire Ghaer, who is not really interested, as he has other things to do, like trying to prevent the Duchess from going the way of her late husband. White of course, tells him that he could be of assistance to Ghaer, as he has "come into the possession of material that could help solidify the Duchess's position". Ghaer is listening to White, but is noncommittal, as he sews up White's leg. White tells Ghaer that he has information that needs to be analyzed by some one that knows what they are doing, but not the local authorities. Ghaer is willing to get information to the Duchess, but not White himself, as he does not trust White. White will, of course, compensate Ghaer for this. Ghaer agrees to take the information to the Duchess, or at least to some one she trusts to analyze it.

Corina invites Mr. Solati to lunch. Solati accepts, and tells Corina that he heard that some one had made a clumsy attempt to poison the Ducal family, but that Regina Security intercepted it. Corina tells Solati that she has discussed Solati's requests, and she can arrange him to get what he needs for his Down Port manufacturing facilities, but he will have to move all his shipments through the Up Port facilities - their own Down Port shipping facilities is impossible. Well, impossible for him, today. In exchange, Solati agrees to fund a project for Corina - a chair of bio-genetics at the University of Regina, and a scholarship program for same. He even suggests that he might know some one for the chair, as there is a young bio-geneticist on Regina, who is supposedly quite brilliant, although for some reason he's apparently working as a bartender at the Discarding Sabot. [Some confusion here, obviously.] He gives a check for $1M credits to Corina, and Corina will check into the person he mentioned.

Ghaer and White part ways, and Mr. White returns to his office. No one is waiting for White that he can see from outside, but when he enters, there are two men waiting for him. They ask if he's Damian White, which he is. They identify themselves as Regina Security, and he leaves with them for the drive to the big grey building with no windows. He is taken to the "special" section, swept for weapons and tags. And he's strip searched as well, even though they don't really have to do it that way. He's then taken into a small, cold, damp, concrete room, where he's left. White waits. For a while. He decides to get some sleep, although it's not terribly comfortable.

After a certain amount of time has passed, several people sit down across the table from White, but he can't see them due to the bright lights. He is asked to identify his whereabouts on the night he was Down Port "acquiring" the black box from the police impound yard. He tells them at that time he was Down Port, taking a walk in the park. They tell him that they have video of him breaking into the impound yard and removing the black box. And possibly also removing the evidence of his tampering with the car's breaks. Oddly enough, tools that match marks on the car's break lines were found in White's office, as was an owner's manual for the Spyder. White tells them that if he had taken anything, it would be well out of their reach by now, and if anything were to happen to him, this information would be made public. They are not impressed. They ask him about the device implanted in his cranium, which surprises White. They offer him a chance to cooperate and leave reasonably intact, but he refuses. They leave him in the cell alone for several hours, then another man comes in, gives him his clothing, walks him to the door, and turns him loose. ["So, Mr. White, why did Regina Security just let you go? What did you tell them?"] White goes home, flashes his clothing, puts on a new suit, and goes to the office.

Ghaer takes a look at the stuff White slipped him while his at the University. Ghaer is leaving one of his classes when two good-looking Solomani (wearing gloves) approach him. They politely (?) pass on a request by the Solomani Consul for a few moments of his time. Ghaer is perfectly willing to meet with the Consul, in a place that is not Solomani soil. One of them gets a faraway look briefly, and says that this is acceptable. They escort Ghaer to the Bread and Bean, where Blaelok is waiting. Blaelok mentions that he heard Ghaer recently bumped into Mr. White. Ghaer says yes, literally. The rumors that White was recently seen Down Port near the police impound yard, and the black box is missing, and Mr. White is currently visiting the offices of Regina Security. Fancy that. Blaelok would appreciate any information that Ghaer should happen upon, and naturally he would very appreciative. Oh, and he apologizes for the actions of his "associates" of the other night [see previous notes]; they've been "taken care of". Blaelok decides to officially retain Ghaer as an investigator, and gives him an envelope. Ghaer leaves, goes to the place he ran into White, and pretends to look around for something, before going back to campus.

White, meanwhile, goes to the office. Janice is not at the front desk, oddly enough, but when White goes to the fresher in the back of his office, he sees a dark red liquid seeping under the door. Why, there's Janice! And there, and there, and... Some one has evidently taken a scythe to Janice. [Ewwww.] White calls the police, who will send over a car.

Corina goes to D.S....., asks after Andrew Trygaer, and Irving tells her he's not here, but she can talk to his brother, and points out Mikie. Corina asks about Andrew, and after Mikie asks "what he's done now", responds that he "graduated from college, several times", and she's interested in offering him a job. Oh, that's okay then. Mikie calls Andrew, who will come over to the bar. Corina is waiting, when Senator Rutledge comes in, with a very young lady on his arm. The girl is sent off to get herself a drink, and Rutledge and Corina sit down at a table together. Rutledge mentions the uproar at the Ducal estate, Corina says that Solati already mentioned it to her (oh really?). Corina tells Rutledge that she will be sending over a packet of legislative bills (labor related, and one that establishes a higher minimum wage), and she would appreciate his attention. They chat, and find that they agree on many things. Rutledge asks if she would allow him to squire her to the Solomani "shindig"; she agrees. Rutledge goes on his way.

The police arrive at the Palladium Group, take a look at the body, then sweep the offices. In the room that used to house Mikie's plants, there are now seven very dead, very sliced up people (the ones that Mr. White saw coming and going to speak with Janice - Group people). Mr. White loses his dinner. Or lunch. He is taken downtown for questioning, but he has the perfect alibi, as he was with Regina Security at the time.

Mikie introduces Corina to Andrew, and she tells him that he was recommended for the chair she is establishing. Andrew is more than interested, he'd "crawl over broken glass" for the job. Corina asks for a proposal about the number of staff he would need, etc., and they discuss research and manufacturing. Andrew tells her he will have the proposal for her first thing in the morning, and then he wanders off home, already deep in thought. Then Corina's secretary shows up to tell her that the Duchess is waiting in Corina's office, so she leaves for there.

Mr. White goes home, fights his way through the reporters, gets changed, then manages to sneak out down the fire escape (or whatever), and goes to lunch. Somewhere real expensive.

Irving asks Mikie about all the power struggles and the plots, etc. that are going on in Regina, like Corina and the Duchess, and the fact that some people think that Corina actually caused her accident. He read all this in Conspiracy Monthly. Mikie tries to explain to Irving that there are always power struggles going on here, and that he shouldn't believe everything he reads. Irving is having a hard time with this, but does seem to understand when Mikie tells him that people don't always make sense.

Corina goes to her office, where the Duchess slaps her, and says "How dare you threaten my child!" Corina tells her that she's the one who made sure that the perfume was delivered to the Duchess, that she made sure it was delivered in such a way as to not pose a danger, and she didn't make the perfume. She and the Duchess come to the point that the Duchess at least has some doubts. Corina tells her, as the Duchess is leaving, that she's "sorry your son died" [hah!], and that "it was my fault" [true...]. The Duchess leaves, and five minutes later Corina's secretary runs in all frantic like because there's been "a horrible accident". The Duchess has been hit by a Ling Standard company car, squished against a wall, blood everywhere. Oh bugger. But, this time Corina really doesn't know a thing about it. The driver has been detained, Corina calls Black, tells him what happened, and asks him to be present at the questioning of the driver, who doesn't remember anything after talking to "some guy" earlier. The Duchess, with her dying breath, literally, tells Corina that she believes her, and asks that she please take care of her daughter and keep her safe. Corina says that she will.

The news of the "massacre" at the Palladium Group is on at D.S. when Blaelok is there. Blaelok asks Mikie if he's had any news from White (the prime suspect) recently. No, but Mikie doesn't see why White would talk to him. Blaelok inquires after Mikie, his brother, and Theresa, who has been seen showing off a ring at her workplace, and are congratulations in order? Yes, they are engaged. Blaelok invites Mikie to the Solomani soirée, and to bring Theresa. It will be a good chance for Mikie to "rub shoulders with the upper echelon", and perhaps open up some more opportunities for Mikie. Blaelok feels Mikie has too much potential to be just tending bar. Mikie likes tending bar, but he does accept the invitation, as Theresa will probably enjoy going to the party. Then the news about the Duchess comes on, and that does upset Mikie. Blaelok comments that Regina is "so raw, so unsubtle, but somehow exhilarating to see power wielded in such a way". Corina's name is mentioned, and the fact that Andrew will be working for her, and that Solati has contributed money, which doesn't surprise Mikie. Blaelok is quite chatty about everything, but he does eventually ooze out.

Ghaer hears about the Duchess, and heads over to the Ducal estate, to see Victoria (the last remaining member of the family). Victoria is very happy to see Ghaer, as she's "bored, and the adults are all acting weird". The bad news is given to Victoria while Ghaer is there, with the expected results. Ghaer stays with her, which is good, because she's clinging to him. [Wisdom really sucks.]

Rutledge has arranged for Corina to give the eulogy at the (now larger) funeral. For the moment, Corina issues a statement, but will not speak directly to the reporters.

Ghaer, at the estate, is being looked to by some of the remaining staff for advice on what to do. Ms. Townsend, the governess' primary concern is the child, and her emotional and physical safety. Ghaer isn't sure whether or not sneaking Victoria off planet is a good idea. Then Blaelok shows up...? Blaelok decides to not "mince words" - he's there to offer "sanctuary" to the remaining member of the Aledon family, and extend the protection of the Solomani government. Well, it's one option, at any rate, albeit not a terribly appealing one. And there's a car waiting right now.... At that point, Mikie phones Ghaer on his cell, to ask if he can do anything. Ghaer asks him to come over.

Meanwhile, Mr. White has had dinner with Mr. Black, come to an "understanding", and agreed to give Black the real black box (another one has shown up in the hands of the police - the "real" one, as far as they're concerned), which he then does (down planet, back up, to the big Grey building with no windows). White has implied that he may be leaving planet, at least for a while. At any rate, the Palladium Group will be moving their offices, due to the unpleasantness. White does recommend that Black "pick up" Natasha, as she may have some information, and oh by the way, she's an AP.

Mikie gets to the Ducal estate, which is pretty much surrounded by Solomani. Not good. Mikie makes an excuse, checks out the Duke's room, and looks for any ways that the old Duke Norris would have used to sneak in his "bits on the side". Sure enough, the place is honeycombed with secret passages. Mikie can get to Victoria's room, and he can get to where he can spy on the room everyone is in. He tries to get Victoria to want her favorite doll, because it's the only thing he can come up with as an option. He takes the opportunity to call Black's contact number, and let them know what's going on. Victoria asks for her favorite doll, but one of the Solomani goes to round up her toys. Damn. So, Mikie goes back to the music room, to pray for a miracle.

Mr. White goes to the hospital to get his leg treated, and to have them check for the cause of his "headaches". He really just wants to find out what's in his head. Well, there is something, but it's really, really, deep, in the middle of really important stuff, sort of right on top of his medulla oblongata. Hmmmm...

Blaelok says it's time to go, so everyone makes their way to the main entrance. Just before they get there, Mikie decides to hell with it, and yanks Ghaer and Victoria into a side room, and out into the secret passageways. Run, run, run...through the park, dropping food for the bear, oh-oh there's a whole bunch of Regina Security cars ahead. Quickly, into the Japanese Gardens, under the bridge, into the tunnel, hide, and hope for the best. Then the access tunnel doors start closing, so it's up and out. Still in the park, and on the other side of the hedge, Black and Blaelok run into each other, and exchange pleasantries. [Sure, they're both just taking walks in the park.] Ghaer and Mikie are hiding with Victoria in the shrubberies, and desperately trying to figure out what to do. Divine inspiration would be really welcome right now. Please. Well, no burning bush, but a guy pushing a Mr. Wiener cart comes by on his way home. He's convinced to go buy some more stuff to work a party at D.S. When he leaves, they hide Victoria inside the cart, and Mikie puts on the Mr. Wiener apron and hat, and starts pushing the cart. Several of Black's men stop Mikie to get food, and make cracks about Mikie "moving down in the world". Then their boss shows up, and makes sarcastic comments about them "keeping up their strength", which is good since they will be in the park all night. Then they leave. Nicolai runs into Mikie, who hires him as back up. They go to where the carts are returned, and Nicolai waits outside. Then Blaelok shows up and talks to Nicolai about looking for Mikie, to try to find him before Regina Security does. Ghaer decides that Blaelok, at least short term, is the best choice, so he comes out to give Blaelok the black box print out, and tell him what he's decided. Then Mikie speaks with Blaelok, and tells him that they didn't want Victoria to get caught in the crossfire between Blaelok and Black's men. Of course, this leaves Mikie and Ghaer in deep trouble with Black now... Claire gets out of the limo that pulls up, and Victoria goes with her. Blaelok has first Mikie then Ghaer tranq'd, to provide them with at least some alibi with Black. Then Nicolai lightly beats Mikie, just because, while he's unconscious. The remaining Solomani kick Ghaer around a bit while he's out, breaking ribs, and the tip of his tail. Nicolai does eventually take both of them out of the way of harm, and to Regina Trauma. Blaelok and Black have words, briefly, and Black gets to take out his frustrations on one of his men. Mikie goes home to Theresa, who is still up, and immediately goes to get him a steak for his black eye (at least she doesn't have to cook it, so it should be safe).

Mr. White arranges for lunch with Mr. Blaelok, for a nice social visit. White tells Blaelok that the Palladium Group will be closed for several weeks, and will be moving, but it will reopen. Blaelok is pleased to hear this, but he does warn White to be careful, as he's playing a dangerous game. Blaelok did give White a file with some interesting, misc. info to pass on to Black about the Solomani, to keep him happy. As White is leaving, some one comes up to Blaelok, starts to say something to him, and White catches a word: "Sontag". Then Blaelok glares at the man and shushes him up. White just continues on, as if he heard nothing. But, when he puts the data that Blaelok gave him for Black, he labels the information as "low level food", then writes "overheard: Sontag" on the folder; all of which go into a flash pouch. Oh boy.

End: 360 - 1121.