It's been a bad year...

Holiday - 1122

...and the next one will probably be worse.

It's the day after the state funeral. The mourning period is over. Now it's time for Holiday celebrations, which on Regina is sort of a combination of Mardi Gras and Carnival in Rio. Only with a bit more gunplay. And even more crime than usual.

Nicolai is leaving the celebration plans to Christi, since she's the native here, and she'll know what to do. So, since Holiday doesn't really start until afternoon, first you sleep in. Then you have breakfast, or lunch. The station goes to the night settings early for Holiday, about 4:00 p.m. (by this time everyone is well lubricated), since somehow it seems appropriate for this type of celebrations to be held in the dark. Christi never plans anything for Holiday, it's just supposed to be fun.

Christi throws on a really short dress that a Vargr would find loud, and expects Nicolai to also put something equally "festive". Since it's an Imperial celebration, Nicolai doesn't know exactly what to do. Fortunately, Christi has bought him an incredibly bright Hawaiian style shirt to wear. Now he just needs his shades, to prevent retinal damage....

Theresa really wants to go out on Holiday, but she's concerned about Mikie, as he still recovering from the beating. Mikie convinces her to go anyhow, as he'll survive. Theresa arranges to meet some friends from work, and Mikie calls Ghaer and Andrew. Andrew accepts, and says he wanted to speak with Michael, as he's having some second thoughts about accepting the academic position, as he's had offers that involve a lot more money. Andrew definitely has more expensive needs than his brother.

Nicolai meets two of Christi's friends from work, both nurses. One of them is a tall Aslan female, who wants to arm wrestle Nicolai later. First comes drinking. And it's only 11:00 a.m. Nicolai is trying to stay reasonably sober, at least until later in the afternoon. However, he does bring the liter sized hip flask of Chartreuse.

Corina takes Victoria, and their bodyguards, out to the official event. There are parades, festivals, and that kind of thing of a more "family" nature, and that way Corina gets to "press the flesh", and be seen by the general populace. The crowd has a good reaction to Corina's presence, all in all. Spontaneous applause and all that.

Since Mikie doesn't drink, everyone expects him to get them home safely. On Holiday? Mikie takes the group to the Cadaver briefly, but it's really packed. One of the Vargrs had been bragging about hanging out at the Cadaver, but once they're there, he's rather nervous for some reason... Posers. Sheesh. Once inside, some of the local toughs, start taunting the "college boy". Oh, this could be bad. Evidently the Vargr has been here before, and has made an impression. Then they start taunting Ghaer ("Hey, Fuzzy!"). See - alcohol really does destroy brain cells!

Christi and Nicolai go to Discarding Sabot, and Sal has the bottle of Polish vodka that Christi ordered as a gift for Nicolai. It's not from Terra, but it's from a little planet that almost never exports. Chilled vodka and caviar on ice! Nicolai is impressed, and although it's only noon, it's obviously time to start celebrating. Then Christi grabs Nicolai and drags him out to the dance floor. And DS is rocking! The full force of the mega-credit sound and light system is on. Nicolai turns down the invitation of a tall, very striking woman. When she leaves, he feels a draft in the back, as she has sliced both his back pockets. That's okay, but as the crowd moves, he sees a woman across the room - blonde, tall, Solomani.... but Pamela's dead!!!!!!! Nicolai decides that it's time to take the party elsewhere, so they take the vodka and caviar on the road. Their party's gotten bigger, and they head to the Purple Oyster.

Corina and Victoria are bonding, and Victoria is having a good time. She even gets to play with other kids her age, which is nice for a change. She's still a bit distant and sad occasionally, but she's getting better.

Meanwhile, at the Cadaver, and Ghaer is being taunted by some of the patrons, but he's also being petted by some others. A female Aslan pets him under the chin, and tells him she's "Very broad minded..." She's quite looped on cracknip, but at least she's happy for now. Shiv shows up to help stop the brawl, which is diffused by Mikie buying him them drinks. Then Shiv leans on Mikie to say hello (she's been into the drinks herself), and Mikie introduces Theresa (his fiancée), who's fuming. After Shiv looks at Theresa's engagement ring, asks Mikie where he nicked it, then asks where Theresa's mother nicked it, she wanders off to lean on another male. Theresa realizes Shiv is being overly friendly with everyone, so she's no longer ticked off. It's decided to go somewhere else, so the college students get to pick. Off to the Purple Oyster.

At the Oyster, Nicolai's at the bar with his group. So the gang's all here when the lights go to night settings. "Oh my God, I've gone blind!" No he hasn't, he's just too drunk. Nicolai passes out caviar and vodka, and Mikie manages to convince Andrew to not tell everyone exactly where caviar comes from. And the large, expensively dressed man who insists that Mikie have a drink with him, does not get bent out of shape when Mikie explains he doesn't drink. Nicolai has a couple of drinks with some of the Solomani, then it's decided to go to the Panda. The group keeps growing, with Nicolai's group being joined by Mikie and Ghaer's party. They manage to squeeze into the Panda, and a Vargr offers Mikie some golden glowing liquid (Tralya?), which he says is nonalcoholic, and "distilled happiness". Since this is the least damaging of what Mikie's been offered so far, Mikie takes a little. It's sweet and kind of honey-like, but other than that, Mikie doesn't notice anything odd. Aside from the mischievous glint in the eyes of the extremely well-groomed Vargr.

Nicolai has spotted Hunter racing shooters in the corner with Angela, so he goes over to bond. Nicolai sets up shots of Chartreuse to race with Hunter, but Hunter takes the first shot and spits it out, since Nicolai is obviously trying to poison him. Ewwwww. Hunter goes back to bourbon. Much drinking, inhaling of multicolored smoke, some eating, more drinking. Then it's decided to go somewhere else, so the group wanders off to the Swingin' Door Tavern, to ride the mechanical nauga. They go by Semper Fi, and hear the shouted instructions on how Marines drink. It's packed in there too, but Mikie is feeling rather light and floating, and not in pain, so that's cool. Pretty much everyone is happy in this group.

Krin is hanging on Ghaer, and whispering in Ghaer's ear, as they enter the bar. Hunter dares Nicolai to ride the nauga, and bets him that he can stay on it longer than Hunter. Hunter will go first. He manages to last 8 seconds, although he does throw up, and his dismount sucks. Nicolai lasts 9 seconds, and then is thrown onto his back. Hunter blames the nauga, and hits it. The bartender cuts him off, and Hunter takes exception, so a friendly brawl breaks out. Hunter is taken out by a chair, and then Angela drags him off home. The rest of the party continues on to Demonslayers Up.

Corina is in bed by about 9:00 p.m., in the Duke Dome. She's staying in the servants' quarters. Victoria joins her in her bed, and they have hot chocolate.

Joe Lee is in the park, hiding in the bushes in his ninja outfit, to prevent anyone from messing up the Japanese garden. He's distracted from his mission by the Vara Sengi playing J'la, so he goes to watch. There are Sengi posted around the group to make sure no one disturbs them, as they are roasting a large beast, and inebriated people keep asking about the BBQ.

Nicolai decides that he's hungry, so the group goes to Club Zambezi for real food. That way they can drink more later. The group starts to splinter off into pairs, and go off together. Andrew has picked up two bubble-headed blondes, and appears to be having a good time. Theresa and Mikie head off to the park. Nicolai and Christi go to her place, turn on the fireplace channel on the Tri-D, and get comfy. Ghaer and Krin head off together.

Mikie decides to get a room, and there's a last minute cancellation, so he is able to get a room at the Ambassadore that overlooks the park so they can watch the fireworks.

Ghaer takes Krin back to his place, for some mutual grooming. Unfortunately, Ghaer does too good a job relaxing Krin, so she just goes to sleep. Wisdom point: Sex first, then backrubs. Krin does join Ghaer in bed during the night, but just to snuggle up with him.

1 - 1122.

Nicolai triggers and flattens the alarm clock in the morning. Christi is face down on the bed with the pillow over her head. Nicolai crawls to the kitchen in pursuit of coffee. Ghaer wakes up to the smell of bacon frying. Krin is all bouncy and perky in the morning....frightening. Corina is fine, and well rested. Mikie is fine in the morning, so he can help Theresa (who's not that bad off) into the fresher and order breakfast. Thank God for room service. Then they do the traditional thing - watch the news to see how many people died, and how. Only eight deaths this year, only one eaten by a Thragr.

And then it's time to go to work, or to school. Mikie doesn't really have to go to work, as D.S. is closed; it's a mess, and Sal doesn't want anyone making noise cleaning. Theresa tries to call in sick, but everyone else has beaten her to it, so she goes in. Mikie goes in to D.S. to help Irving, who has covered Sal's office door with sound dampening. Mikie takes a look at the place and suggests either a high-pressured hose, or a flame-thrower. Fortunately, Irving goes for the water, and gives the hose to Mikie, along with a raincoat.

The Solomani Consulate party is tonight. It's just more confirmation of Blaelok's evilness to schedule the party for the day after Holiday. Ghaer volunteers to sit with Victoria while Corina attends the party. Nicolai is busily taping down the medals on his dress uniform so that they don't make any noise. Ghaer invites Krin to help him babysit, and keep him company (at least partly because this will keep her away from the demonstration at the Consulate), but she won't believe it's at the Duke Dome, so Ghaer tells her he will pick her up.

Corina spends the morning at the Foundation, seeing various people who have volunteered. One of the volunteers is Randi Kyle, an experienced administrator, formerly the head of a large corporation.

The Solomani Consulate's soirée.

Corina is attending with Senator Rutledge. Ghaer shows up early to sit Victoria, and Krin is quite impressed with Ghaer. Nicolai is exactly on time; he can't help himself.

Fortunately for Mikie, Theresa knows exactly how to behave in an upperclass thing like this, including the receiving line. Just a little get together, with racks of real French champagne, and a nice (?) little buffet. The Solomani are very adept socially, and know exactly how to put on one of these things.

The Solomani are sucking up to Corina, and trying to make everyone see how nice they are. Not evil at all. But some of the people there know better...

Black is in attendance, with Christine. Nicolai has a minor anxiety attack when he catches a glimpse of the blonde woman from the other night. He's wondering if it's a new toy for Blaelok.

Blaelok has a lovely conversation with Corina about the upcoming talks between the Imperials and the Zhodani, which Regina will be hosting, the differences between Solomani and local society, and Corina's new "daughter". Blaelok asks Corina about a Solomani citizen who has gone missing on Regina, and would she please pass on the person's particulars to the appropriate authorities? The family is very wealthy, and would like the person found and returned home if at all possible. But this must be done discreetly. He gives Corina a piece of paper with the man's name and particulars, and he can arrange for additional information to be sent to her.

Blaelok then goes to have a chat with Nicolai. He lets Nicolai know that he may have some work for him. He also tries to be charming to Christi, who asks Nicolai "Is it just me, or is that guy creepy?" "He's creepy." "But he dresses well."

Ghaer and Krin end up watching a children's video with Victoria. It's about Barlows... And they eat popcorn, and drink grape Koolaid, and have a good time.

Black wanders over to chat with Corina too, with Christine in tow. Corina's so popular. Pleasantries are exchanged, small digs about the Solomani are bantered about. Black looks at the sparse decor, and wonders when the Solomani are going to move in. He particularly loathes the art, or what passes for it. Especially the "propaganda posters".

At the Duke Dome, Ghaer sends Victoria off to bed, but not before she watched part of the horror movie. She gets up a half hour later, and tell Ghaer there are shadows in her room. Ghaer goes into the room, to "clear" it for Victoria, and ends up tranq'ing a raincoat. Then the robed figure comes out of the closet and Ghaer ends up tranq'd. Ghaer dumped a whole magazine of tranq at the guy, drawing blood, and then staggers toward the sound of Krin's screams. Victoria has been grabbed, but she's screaming and kicking the guy, so it's not as easy as they'd hoped. Ghaer throws himself on the one who has Victoria, and she gets away. Then the security people (finally) show up. But the bad guys get away. The head of the Ling Standard security stops the ducal security idiot from shooting out into the night at nothing; besides, they want the bad guys alive.

Blaelok says hello to Theresa and Mikie, then introduces them to some one to keep Theresa busy while he speaks to Mikie privately. Blaelok is concerned about Andrew, and whether or not he has made a decision about his job offers. Mikie explains that Andrew has not actually made a decision yet, not even about Corina's offer. Blaelok is quite interested in this, and tells Mikie that they would certainly be willing to "sweeten the pot". Mikie will speak to Andrew.

Blaelok also has a job offer for Mikie, and it doesn't involve killing or stealing, or anything Mikie would not do. He knows that Mikie is no longer in the "detective business", but since Mikie knows Regina better than anyone else, Blaelok would like to hire Mikie to help with something. A Solomani citizen on Regina disappeared a while ago, but his family back home is concerned about him, and since they have money, and some governmental pull, well.... The last anyone had heard from the man was two years ago, so he may not be on Regina anymore, but perhaps the trail can be picked up. Evan Sontag is the man's name, and Claire will get additional information to Mikie. They are concerned that other people may find out about Sontag, and this could possibly result in attempts at blackmail or kidnapping, so "discretion is the watchword", and Mikie should not tell anyone about this. Then Mikie loses several seconds - people on the edge of the conversation have shifted positions, but Mikie did not have a vision. This means Blaelok's done something - bastard. Mikie sort of agrees, and tries to collect his wits. Blaelok wanders off again.

During the above exchange, Nicolai has been proving to Christi that he can too read lips. He is not able to see Blaelok's lips, as the angle is wrong, but he can read Mikie's. There's not much said by Mikie, but Nicolai does see him sort of "lock up" for several seconds, when Blaelok says something unintelligible. After Blaelok leaves, Nicolai goes over to Mikie, and basically tells him that he believes Blaelok has Mikie's "command codes". Mikie has pretty much already figured out it's something like that. Damn, damn, damn.

Nicolai sees the blonde again, then loses her in the crowd. Christi is concerned because of the expression on Nicolai's face, and the fact that his glass is shaking. Nicolai tells her his fine, excuses himself, and tries to find a better vantage point. He's very successful, as he's right in front of a door when the blonde comes out. And it's definitely Pamela. She looks at Nicolai, and asks if she knows Nicolai? Nicolai was wondering the same thing. The blonde introduces herself as Pamela (Eep!), and tells Nicolai she has to go, as she's not supposed to be at the party, and perhaps she will see Nicolai again. She leaves, Nicolai rejoins Christi, has several drinks, and then announces they are leaving. Christi agrees, as this is not exactly a fun place to be. On their way out, Nicolai sees Blaelok and Pamela together. He can see that Blaelok is animated, but not what he's saying. He can, however, see what Pamela is saying:

"Do you want to hurt me now?" Blaelok says something. Then: "Yes, I know, I'm sorry. I'll go back to my room." Eeewwwww! Evidently Blaelok has developed his own special needs.

After they leave, Christi and Nicolai have an odd conversation about the woman that has gotten Nicolai so upset, and he tells her that they were once on opposite sides, and she died. Christi points out that she looked damned good for a dead woman. They then go to the Savoy for a proper dinner, and dessert, then back to Christi's place once Nicolai is feeling less "icky".

Corina's driver comes into the party, and gives her a phone. The head of her security contingent is on the phone, and he tells her what has happened. Corina leaves directly afterward, and goes to the Duke Dome. She's briefed on what has happened, and that if Ghaer had not intervened, they probably would have "lost" Victoria. Ghaer is injured (well, tranq'd out of his gourd, at any rate), but will be fine. Victoria is really quite excited, and gives quite an account of Ghaer's actions. And can Ghaer come live with them? He can stay in Victoria's room.

Once Ghaer is himself, he and Corina discuss what has happened. Corina decides that she needs to get Victoria off planet, to Rhylanor, but without anyone knowing. They are going to let word get out that an attempt was made on Victoria's life, and Corina is taking Victoria to the Ducal estate on Down Port. They will surround it in multiple layers of security, so that no one knows that Corina is actually going to pilot a ship, taking Victoria, Ghaer, and at least one other person (Ghaer has suggested Cena Fitzpatrick, who's a doctor, and former REACT). The plan is for Victoria to be placed into Victor Androchev's care.

Rutledge panics, because the Imperials and the Zhodani are going to be arriving soon, and Corina has to be available. Corina gives him all the good reasons for her needing to be with Victoria, but Rutledge is still concerned. However, Ghaer has an idea - Viper is going to be on planet, and she will probably be willing to help get Victoria safely off to Rhylanor. Corina decides this is a really good thought, and she and Victoria will be moving to Corina's own apartment, which has no bloody secret passages. Her security person, who Corina is making a Lt. Colonel in the Regina Guard (so he can stay a Ling employee, and still be the Regent's security), also thinks this is a good idea. Victoria is still asking for Uncle Ghaer to come live with them. That's up to him, but he will be around a lot.

At the Solomani party, Blaelok introduces Mikie to Solati, referring to Mikie as a person of "rare talents". Solati makes an "Ah, the Oracle" comment, tells Mikie that if he ever gets tired of working for Blaelok, SuSag had uses for people with his "abilities", and they could make it worth his while. Oh, and has he thought about having children? What???? Solati says "Well I noticed you were here with your wife..." When Mikie tells him Theresa is his fiancée, Solati says to never mind, "you have plenty of time". Talk about not understanding the conversation you're having...

Mikie and Theresa leave shortly thereafter, and go home. After several hours of tossing and turning, Mikie finally falls asleep around 2:00 a.m., only to be woken up at 3:00 a.m. by Nicolai, who demands that Mikie get dressed and come with him for coffee (not being able to sleep, Nicolai has decided to share). Mikie goes with Nicolai to the Bread and Bean, and they get coffee. After they leave with their coffee and go somewhere out of the way, Nicolai turns to Mikie and says: "She's dead, right?!?" Mikie is understandably confused about this conversation, especially since it's the middle of the night, and Nicolai is not using any nouns. Finally, Nicolai is more specific about the "she" being Pamela. Yes, she's dead - purple, very dead, M & M jar. Really. Then Nicolai announces that she's back. Which is not possible. But she was at the party, and she said she was Pamela, so there must have been enough material left to clone her or something. Mikie is concerned that Blaelok has had a replacement made for Natasha. Nicolai tells Mikie that he's starting to go along with Theresa's description of Blaelok as evil and creepy. Join the club. Mikie tells Nicolai he will try to find out more about Pamela.

2 - 1122.

Yup. It's going to be worse.