I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

6 - 1122.

Really, really bloody early in the morning, some one comes ringing at Mikie's door. Naturally, Theresa mumbles something about it being for Mikie, and then goes back to sleep. Mikie puts on clothing (resignedly) and goes to the door. It's Blaelok, who felt that Mikie might "want some company". Had company. She's in bed. Asleep. Sigh.

Blaelok was at "loose ends" and thought he'd go visit his "good friend Michael Griffin." Eek. And "some tea would be nice". Okay..... Tea is made, Blaelok wanders around the apartment, making conversation, admiring the painting that Black gave Theresa for her last birthday.

He asks Mikie how things are going with regard to Sontag, and Mikie reminds him that he told him to back off the Sontag search, and concentrate on making Kahn his "new best friend". Ah, that's right. And how is that coming along? Mikie tells him that he offered his old apartment to Kahn, who accepted, so now he's living in Mikie's old place on level 5. Blaelok is pleased, as that will make it easier to keep track of him.

Blaelok says that information has come to him that indicates "dear Evan" is no longer with us, except in spirit. Evan used to be with SolSec, and helped develop some of their conditioning techniques. Blaelok had not remembered that until he took the time he spent on his trip back to the Rim to remove his own controls that Pamela had used to control him. It wasn't until then that he remembered he knew Sontag. Evidently Sontag had gotten into a spot of trouble with the powers that be back home, and made himself "disappear".

Blaelok goes on about Sontag's experiments with controls and blocks, and also the sort of "copying" people's personalities onto a special kind of disk-like thing, and then imprinting that onto the brain of a cloned body. They did some testing on non-cloned bodies, with some success, but it really worked best on a cloned brain (it took the "pattern" better). Of course, this sort of thing would be reserved for the kind of people whose skills and knowledge should not be lost. People like Blaelok and the other members of Section 9, like Pamela. [pause for dramatic effect] And hey, Mikie has all these really useful skills, so Blaelok is considering making a "backup" of him, just in case the worst should occur.

But the most interesting thing about Sontag's work was that he had found a way to make the necessary changes at the molecular level to ensure that people's behavior falls within specific "parameters". In other words, make people behave in a "socially acceptable" fashion from birth. Blaelok is quite thrilled about this prospect. Mikie is not thrilled - it sounds hideous. Blaelok goes on about having been raised by the State, the State was his mother and father, and like any child he cares for his parents and wants to do the right thing by them. (As we suspected, Blaelok did not in fact have real parents.) Blaelok waxes rather poetical about his plans for this glorious future - first the Rim, then expanding to the Imperium, and eventually (perhaps by way of some sort of tailored virus?) to the Aslans and Vargrs. And Blaelok will have done this. Him and Mikie. Oh great.

Blaelok is happy to have some one to discuss all of these things with some one. It's been so hard to make friends, what with how busy he is, and the fact that most of the personnel in the Consulate are SolSec agents. [Not to mention all the torturing, murder, tormenting, and other icky things he's been doing.] Blaelok wants to share something "special" with Mikie, and wants him to join him at the Consulate, around 3:00 p.m., for tea. Oh and bring Theresa. Not on your life, oh evil one! Mikie agrees to be there, but Theresa will have to be at work. Really. Terribly sorry. Blaelok doesn't have a problem with this. Blaelok thanks him for the tea, and oozes out. Mikie eventually recovers enough from wanting to strangle Blaelok (damn him!), but there's no way he's going to be able to go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, Nicolai has decided that leaving Alan out on his own was perhaps not the best plan. He goes to Sarge's to get some less conspicuous clothing for Alan, flirts with Sarge ("Hey Nicolai, when are you going to make an honest woman out of me?"), and then goes to Old Port to look for Alan. A kindly Weseli offers to help, for a price, find the guy with the funny accent. Nicolai agrees to pay him a thousand creds now, and four more when they get to Alan. The Weseli leads Nicolai throw many twists and turns, and then to a room that's set up like some one is crashing there. The Weseli looks surprised that Alan is not there. There are signs of something being dragged into the other room, so Nicolai goes there, SURF gun in hand. In the other room are two large men, Solomani bio-sculpted goons. One of them looks at Nicolai, smiles, and says that "Mr. Blaelok will be very disappointed in you Nicolai." Nicolai starts to bring up the SURF gun, but it is snatched from his hand and flung across the room through a door and into the next room, at the same time that the other goon punches Nicolai in the ribs hard enough to knock him across the room. And they are fast! Faster than Nicolai, even triggered, faster than Nicolai has ever seen (APs?). Nicolai does trigger, and then tries to disengage, and they stay right with him. He is able to get outside and into the crowd, and they decide to just wave good-bye and leave, after he takes out a grenade. Nicolai can't keep up with the goons, so he goes back inside to see if he can find Alan. Nope. No sign of Alan. The late Alan? Nicolai then heads to Regina Trauma, to at least get taped up. Well, there goes the 4,000 credits he was going to pay the Weseli....

Mikie cleans up all signs of Blaelok in the apartment, leaves a note for Theresa, and goes to the club to beat on something. While not thinking about beating Blaelok.

Nicolai leaves the Trauma Center, and then goes to find some place to lay low for a few hours. He decides to get a drawer, and get some real rest. In survival mode. Some hours later, he wakes up to find a note laying on his chest that says "Mr. Blaelok wants to see you."

Mikie goes to have "tea" with Blaelok. Claire tells Mikie when he arrives, that Blaelok is waiting in the Conservatory, where he is admiring his "latest acquisition". Mikie goes in to see Blaelok by a piano - a real, proper, wood baby grand. Blaelok is pleased that Mikie knows it's a piano, and tells him that he has realized he's been doing nothing but working. And Blaelok really can play the piano. Then Pamela walks in. Okay, since Pamela's dead, and Blaelok had mentioned Pamela's backup copy, so... Blaelok makes a comment about them not wanting to be disturbed, so he uses a remote to seal the doors and turn up the sound dampers. He goes on about having the new Pamela made, and how she is completely aware of who she used to be, but now she cannot harm Blaelok, or anyone else for that matter. Mikie tries to express the rational point of view that Pamela is dead. Really, really dead. Yes, Blaelok knows that, and it was a very fine job that Mikie did. That's when Blaelok realized that Mikie had real potential. He tries to make Mikie admit that he "enjoyed" killing Pamela; enjoyed having the power to completely destroy an individual.

Blaelok eventually asks Mikie about the Regent, and what he thinks about the current going's on, politically speaking. Mikie tells him he doesn't have a clue what Corina is up to, or what she's after, but things are going to get really messy. Not that this is really unusual on Regina. Blaelok wants Mikie, as he has sort of an "in" with "that group", to assure the Regent that the Solomani government has absolutely no interest in the local politics. Mikie is perfectly willing to do whatever, to get away from here.

Mr. White has gone to see Mikie's father, as he's a neurosurgeon. The only reason he was able to get in to see him, is that he mentioned Mikie's name, and implied there was some sort of problem. He had sent ahead the scans, etc. of himself. Dr. Taylor tells Mr. White that he has checked the scans, and it appears to be a "harmless occlusion". The location of the bone fragment, or whatever, is such that he would not recommend it's removal; it would be extremely dangerous, and it does not seem to be a problem. There is some small scarring, but it could have been from an injury, and is too small to have been where the fragment went in. White tries to tell Taylor more, but his little "problem" starts up. Then Taylor excuses himself, because his pager has evidently gone off (or at least he acts like it has). He goes into the hall, uses a cell phone, and although White cannot hear him, he can see Taylor, who looks back at White repeatedly, and seems very agitated. When Taylor returns to his office, where White asks him "so, how long do we have?", meaning how long before the people you called show up. Taylor protests the call was about a patient, but when Taylor tries to say more, he starts to clutch his chest, then goes into a seizure. When the other staff show up, they accuse White of having done something to the doctor, and send for the cops. White takes his scans and leaves, ignoring the shouts of the nurse. Outside, a cop stops him, but Dr. Taylor has recovered enough to back up White's story, so he's allowed to leave.

9 - 1122.

Behrel gives a press conference the day of Corina's speech, in the morning. He expresses his agreement with some of the Regent's reform efforts, and his concerns about the her intentions and her background.

Corina gives her balcony speech, and after she burns her card, a shot rings out. The bullet whizzes by her head, killing the privy council, Edgar Tyrrel, and spattering blood onto Corina. Jack takes her down immediately thereafter, and the crowd becomes a mob. Some poor bugger is declared the shooter, and he is set upon by the mob. Mikie, who accompanied Theresa, against his better judgment, gets her out of the area. As they leave, Mikie sees Blaelok and his cronies watching the mess.

As Jack gets Corina off the balcony, she yells out: "I will be back, and I will be millions!!" When she's taken back to get cleaned up and changed, she is given a security envelope from Ling Standard (her uncle - uh-oh) stating that the board has serious concerns about her behavior. Her replacement is en route, and she is to return to the main office on Deneb immediately. She shows it to Jack, but he explains that he is assigned to protect her, and as long as she is a Ling employee, he will continue to do his job.

Corina speaks with representatives of the press, and she tells them that she has never advocated violence, and does not want violent retribution. She is asked if she believes this could have been perpetrated by the Zhodani or Imperials, but she believes not. When asked if she arranged it, to give herself more cache, she says that she did no such thing, but she does admit that it's not impossible that some one might have arranged it for that reason, without her knowledge. She also denies having made a "devil's pact" with Solati to "divide up Regina". She then announces that she has just resigned as General Director of Ling Standard for this territory. Jack gets a very strange look when she says this, but he doesn't react other than that.

After the reporters are herded out, Corina gets a message that Gerhart Stern is on planet, heard what happened, and wants to check on her. She's planning on either going to see him, or having him come to see her later, when Stern is heard bellowing in the hall as he drags several security people down the hall with him. Stern is very glad she's all right, because if anyone's going to kill her it'll be him. Besides, they have a grav ball tournament still to settle, and her tattoo is "unbalanced". Corina tells him that it's not really fair now, as she's just resigned, so if he loses, what is he going to have tattooed on him? "Corina"? Well, since she resigned, Stern offers her a job. Corina asks if he's not been reading the papers, but Stern doesn't give a damn! That's just local politics, and there are planets in the Neutral Zone that are "ripe for the picking"; there's real money to be made here! So they settle in for some drinks, for now.