Pebbles and Ripples.

10 - 1122.

Jack Armstrong arrives at Corina's apartment to perform a rather awkward duty - he has to get Corina's company i.d., credit card, keys, etc., etc. Corina asks that her personal effects from her office to her apartment, and the boxes can be put in the room Jack used to use. A bit of a problem there, as Ling Standard has been paying the rent. The apartment is, however, in Corina's name, so she will just make arrangements to pay the rent herself. She tells Jack that he can always come to work with her, and he will consider it. Corina gives Jack a hug before he leaves.

Viper and Grey, et al, have arrived in system, but they will not be "officially" arriving until day 11, so Viper gets to skip the boring meetings and get a lift on a fighter to the Up Port. Viktor will be going in a separate fighter, and Grey takes him aside before they leave to make a point of "should anything happen to my wife..." Viktor's response is "Don't worry sir, I'll save the last bullet for myself". Good man. On the other hand, Grey is more concerned for Regina than his wife, as she's been meeting relatives and doing too much foofy stuff since the wedding.

Corina's day is taken up with reporters, and the Martel accountants who are there to make sure all the Foundation's accounts are correct, which they are - it's been losing money, as a charity should. Her personal accounts are not in that great shape though, and all access to the Ling accounts have been frozen. Corina gives the reporters a stack of papers on the actual projects the Foundation has taken on, so that they can ask the people effected by the projects, to see if they feel is was just for "publicity".

Viper gets the ride of her life en route to the Up Port. After all, what pilot could resist! Not to mention circling the station five or six times, dodging booms, etc. What the heck. And Viktor's pilot must, of course, keep up with the other pilot. She tells Viktor not to "worry honey, I'll treat you nice and gentle." Yee-ha! They eventually pull screaming into the old Imperial Navy docking area, which is now commercial. They tear in under power, which they are absolutely not supposed to do, so Viper gets to hear the controller screaming at the pilots, and yelling for the crash gates to go up. No problem with the landing though. Viper and Viktor make it safely to Regina Up. So far so good.

Viper calls Mr. Black to let him know she's on station, as she always gives him a courtesy call. And she let's her family know that she will see them as soon as the official stuff is over. So she starts to call friends. Viper gets Behrel first, and makes an appointment to meet him for lunch at the Bread and Bean, she also invites Mikie to the same lunch - both agree to meet her.

Until lunch, Viktor and Viper get to wander around Up Port to get the lay of the land. Neither of them have been on Regina recently, not for at least a year, so they want to get a look at things. Good idea.

Behrel is a popular guy today, as Corina calls and invites him to dinner at the Club Zambezi. Behrel accepts, and after speaking with him, Corina gives the Tattler a call, and makes sure that a photographer is at the club, then she makes "special arrangements" with the Zambezi's chef for dinner. Hmmm...

Nicolai spends some time at the Bread and Bean in the morning, and nothing happens. He's able to peacefully drink his tea, and read his obtuse poetry. How strange. Then he tries to make contact with Ghaer - not too hard. Nicolai wants to find some one, although he might already be "out of their reach". He's referring to Alan, the Solomani. He explains to Ghaer that he had gone to where Alan was "laying low", and was sort of "chased off". Ghaer is just thrilled - friends of Pam's? Nicolai gives Ghaer a description of Alan, and some information on him, as well as what transpired with Alan and Blaelok (giving Blaelok the impression that he had killed Alan, but he's not Blaelok's assassin, so he didn't want to do it). Ghaer asks if he had spoken with a Weasel, and yes, he had. Nicolai tries to take Ghaer to where he didn't quite find Alan, but he can't find it (it was too twisty a route). So he gives up and just describes where the building was, according to what was near it, and Ghaer is able to get within a couple of blocks. Nicolai tells Ghaer that Blaelok undoubtedly has Nicolai on his "kill" list. Ghaer has Nicolai sort of circle the area to draw fire - uh, to act as a potential distraction, and looks around. He is able to find a door with a broken knob that appears to have been twisted off, and has fingerprints in it (not pleasant - Ghaer saw what Pam was able to do, so he's a bit worried about the goons. There are some squatters in the rooms, and a small female has a slightly soiled, but incredibly good quality blazer on. There is some blood on the collar, but not a lot. Ghaer gives her five creds to show him where she found it - near, but not in a dumpster.

While Ghaer is looking around the dumpster area, an odd man is looking around the area too, wearing chinos, and hunting gear - including a small caliber rifle. It's some one from the Club Zambezi, and he has a sack with something wriggling in it. One of the local youngsters asks Ghaer if he's looking for the "guy they came and took?". He saw a couple of really big guys, about two meters tall, put the guy into the trunk of a car; he was either dead or unconscious. The car had a "weird license plate", and he's able to draw the little symbol on the plate - it's the Solomani logo. Ghaer gives the kid a couple of fivers, for saving him a lot of work, and the kid tries to get hired on as whatever. Ghaer will not hire him, but he gives him a phone number, and some clues about the kind of info he would like - he'll make it worth his while. Ghaer points out Nicolai to the kid, and the kid recognizes him. Buck (the kid) tells Ghaer that Nicolai was here the other day, at about the same time as the guy was taken. Buck also asks Ghaer why he's so "funny-looking"? Ghaer tells him that if he ever gets the chance to sit in a big chair on a really big alien ship - don't do it! Buck asks if Ghaer would have a permanent job for him or his sister, but the only thing Ghaer is willing to commit to right now is the promise to Buck of more payment if he finds out anything more about Alan or the men seen there later. Buck takes the card with Ghaer's name and phone number, and leaves.

Kitty is very pregnant, and is having cravings, so she asks Behrel for pralines and cream ice cream. And some chai tea, and some dried apricots. And some sushi. Oh wait, she's not supposed to eat sushi. Kitty is picturing four little Stratocasters with whammy bars for the backup team she's having. Behrel writes the list down on his hand, so he doesn't miss anything. Just give the nice pregnant lady what she wants, and maybe no one will get hurt.

Ghaer tells Nicolai what the kid saw, and asks about why Alan was supposed to be killed. Nicolai tells Ghaer what Alan had seen Blaelok doing with the new Pamela (this guy has got to learn to let go!), and everything. Nicolai tells Ghaer that he will not stand for Blaelok ordering the death of fellow Solomani. If Alan is a problem, he should be "fixed", not killed. That's not done. Nicolai shows Ghaer the note he woke up to. Lovely. Ghaer asks Nicolai if Blaelok could conceivably have or get any kind of control on Nicolai, and yes, it's possible.

Behrel gathers all the stuff for his honey, drops it off at home, and leaves her a note. Then he leaves for the Bread and Bean to meet Viper. Mikie also shows up. Nicolai and Ghaer have already gone to the Bread and Bean, and have taken a table when Viper et al arrive, and then Blaelok's voice is heard at the coffee bar. He orders and picks up two cups of tea, and takes it back to the table he's sharing with Alan!!! And they're all chummy like. Alan goes over to Nicolai, says hello, and then makes the comment that "well, now we know who our friends are". "Yes we do", Nicolai responds.

Alan goes back to his table, then a really attractive female comes in and joins them. Pamela, naturally. Nicolai twitches. Ghaer stops by to say hello to Viper and Behrel, and Viktor. Mikie tensed up when Blaelok showed up, something that the others noticed. Behrel looks at Mikie, and tells him "I've got a grenade, just make sure they're outside". Unfortunately, this immediately brings up an image of killing Blaelok, so Mikie gets pale and sweaty, and Ghaer is asked to check on him - no one believes Mikie when he says he's fine. Mikie's pulse is racing, and he appears somewhat shocky. Behrel looks around the coffee shop, sees several Zhodani, one of whom looks right at Behrel when he's thinking about beheading some one with a turban. Then the Zho looks away, and a waiter carrying a full tray of hot coffees trips and spills the whole tray of hot drinks onto Behrel. No major damage done, as Behrel is wearing leathers; he does go get cleaned up. Blaelok gives his regards to the Duchess, and exchanges pleasantries. Viktor does not like Blaelok, but who does. The Solomani leave, but the Zho's stay. Mikie refocuses on Viper's aura, which calms him down, and lowers his pulse and blood pressure. Ghaer and Behrel try to see if they can figure out what exactly triggered Mikie's problem, but they can't, as he's calmed down, and besides he's starting to get conditioned to not think about hurting Blaelok.

The group breaks up, with Behrel returning home at Kitty's call, and then to get ready to have dinner with Corina. Ghaer goes off towards the Oaks with Viper and Viktor, to discuss some things with them. Ghaer, taking advantage of potential "dead zones" in security, to give Viper and Viktor keys to a couple of hidden caches of clothing, weapons, and equipment, just in case they or they and Victoria need to quickly bolt. In theory, Ghaer's plan would be to get Victoria to them, either himself, or via some one else.

As Mikie is not working, Viper invites him to go to the Oaks with them for dinner, and to bring Theresa. He does, and Theresa is sort of checking out Viper, who decides to help diffuse the situation by showing her left hand, with her rings. Theresa shows her engagement ring, and they both look really old, and like they were made by the same jeweler. The rather intricate engraved design on the rings are mirror images of each other, and in fact have the exact same proofmark on the inside. Theresa's ring belonged originally to her great grandmother, and Viper asks where Theresa's family was from - Regina, but the great grandmother was from off planet. She would never talk about where she was from though, and she's been dead for several years now. Interesting...

Viktor, while Theresa and Viper are discussing Mikie (oh how cute) and the rings, asks about Katya. Oh. That's right. Well, this could get kind of embarrassing. Mikie explains that he no longer works for the Palladium Group, but Viktor asks what he knows about Katya. Mikie kind of skirts the piratical aspects of Katya's life, and tells him she was working on a ship whose crew sort of broke up, and he's not sure what she's been up to on Regina. Viktor asks Mikie for information on what she looks like, and what she's like. Mikie decides to take a bit of a peek at Viktor's surface thoughts, and he's apprehensive, and trying to not show emotion, but he's throttling his stress ball. Mikie agrees to show Viktor where the Palladium Group is, after dinner.

At the Club Zambezi, Corina meets with Behrel, whose wearing his kirat and his Sengi blacks. Very stylish. After salad and etc., the main course is served: Rat au Francois flambé! Behrel can appreciate the sense of humor, and commends her on it. They eat the rat, which is stuffed with rat paté, lightly glazed, and have little cherry tomatoes in their mouths. They decide that a Zinfandel is the best wine for rat. During the meal, some one calls Behrel's name, and then snaps his picture (that would be the Tattler photographer). Dessert does not contain rat.

On the other hand, the group at the Oaks is eating grain-fed beef, and having a lovely meal. Viktor is paged right in the middle of dinner, to go to the Imperial Consulate for some briefings; he gets to take the remainder of his meal with him, so he can eat in front of the guys eating sandwiches at the meetings (rank has its privileges). The rest of the group continue with their meal. Mikie does have to explain at one point during the discussion of the rings just who Viper is, and to whom she's married; Mikie just hadn't thought of it. Theresa gets over the awe eventually, so dinner continues on rather happily, for now at any rate.

Behrel and Corina discuss things like how she became Regent, what is going on with Victoria, children, etc. Not too antagonistic, but that can always change tomorrow. Nicolai walks over to the Club Zambezi with Christi, and sees the Tattler photographer leaving the Club; he snaps a picture of Nicolai and Christi as he's leaving. Nicolai is not close enough to mangle the guy before he gets in his cab, so they just go into the Club. Nicolai sees Corina and Behrel there, notices what Behrel's wearing (kind of odd), and then starts discussing things like Dirk Savage, and the animal trophies with Christi. Several upper-ranking Sengi show up at the Club, nod at Behrel, who nods back. No Var with them, so it's not too big a deal. On the other hand, they are really, really big people. Several of them come over and chat with Behrel, patting him on the back. They are speaking Sengi, so he only understands a few words, but they gesture quizzically at Corina; Behrel tells them in Galanglic that Corina is a business partner, and his wife is home pregnant with four babies. Behrel can stop by Regina Trauma to have that shoulder put back into place after dinner. One of them speaks enough English to get by, and says that he understands, she is not his mate, she be "commerce bundling" for. ??? Ah, prostitute! No, no. Behrel manages to resolve this somewhat, and then Corina invites the "barbarians" over to join them, since they're Behrel's friends. Trying to out do each other, everybody starts ordering higher proof, larger bottles of booze - ending at pepper vodka. One of the Sengi wants to know if Corina is available for bundling? It is the best offer she's had, but she sort of puts him off for later. Then they want chocolate. (Okay, they're adapting.) One of the Sengi calls over the waiter and starts gesturing about chocolate, and the waiter remembers what they have had before, so he brings over a huge chocolate cake covered with molten chocolate, etc. Corina gets massively snockered, pictures are taken, and the photographer runs off gleefully. Corina goes off on her soapbox for part of the evening, which is quite a show. Corina eventually starts to feel less than wonderful, so she calls for her car. The chauffeur comes in and carries Corina out to her car. Nicolai has seen the spectacle, as has everyone.

When Corina is put into the back of the car, provided by Regina Security, Black is already there. Corina greets him rather effusively - "Mercer!!!!" She's just tickled to see him, and invites him back to her place. He accepts, as he wanted to speak with her. Corina starts going on about the Sengi, how intense they are, and about the swords and the heads rolling, and blood spurting, etc. Black has to help her up the stairs and into her apartment with his security card, as the stairs don't move like the car... She goes to the fresher to throw up, pee, and take Kill-alc. Black's chauffeur has delivered something to Black, and he offers a drink of it to Corina. She tries it, and it's like drinking warm sunshine. (Tralya.) That should help take some of the edge off her drunk. Black's such a civilized man.

Christi wants to know if that sort of thing happens at the Club all the time? No, not really. She really liked the hippo steak she had, even though it tasted completely unlike anything she's ever had before. She has a bottle of wine at home that would be a perfect end to the evening. Nicolai's up for that. No special needs, just wine, saxophone music, the fireplace channel...

Black tries to give Corina the opportunity to be left alone, but she would rather he stay and discuss things. Black pours himself a drink of créme de Violette, and tells Corina he thought they were going to "consult" before doing anything major? Black will back Corina, as they are "halfway across the stream" so they might as well stay the course at this point. If she's successful, they will have the "hearts and minds of Regina", but he does have his own priorities. She understands. Black takes his leave, but looks at her rather oddly before he leaves.

Once Black's gone, the phone rings. It's Jack, who has been following Corina (on his own time!), is "in the company of a photographer from the Tattler". He asks Corina if she wants to tell the photographer anything? She wants him told to "print the rat, and lose the rest of the film; the rat was a good enough day's work". Jack says "yes ma'am" and rings off. Corina staggers off to bed.

Behrel leaves the club with the Sengi, who try to take him back to his woman. He convinces them that he has "important things to meditate on". He wanders off in the direction of the Japanese garden, but does not go to where the J'la game is being played. The Sengi go off to the Nasty Panda. Behrel goes off to the garden in the park to practice his katas, and during this he whirls with his sword and lops a small tree in half. Joe Lee's gardener spider-sense goes off, see Behrel, goes over, and uses his staff to whack the side of Behrel's sword to get his attention. Behrel stops, sheaths his blade, and looks at Joe Lee. Behrel bows to him, Joe returns the bow, and tells Behrel to move somewhere else, to continue his katas where it will "not disturb the symmetry of the garden", like in the clear area. Behrel looks that way, but says it's not very private. Then the bear lopes by. And Joe suggests he also not annoy the furred one. Joe remarks that Behrel is dressed like the Sengi, but is not one. That's right, Behrel is "ronin" (or whatever the Sengi word is for the few humans who are "not gai-jin". Ah. Joe asks if he plays J'la. Nope, not even. Joe Lee is a student of J'la, among other things. Behrel chats Joe up about whether or not he has a dojo? Not exactly, but he has been known to be a teacher of some things. Joe patches up the tree, and braces it. Behrel finds a more tree-friendly area to practice in.

At the Oaks, the word gets out that Viper is there, so she and her friends are invited into the back room. Why not? Viper gets to say hello to everybody, including the Ravang boys. Bingo of course is his usual charming self and offers Viper some bourbon, which she accepts. Fido is of course, still bumming cigarettes off people. Viper catches up with everyone there. The regulars have a fine time baiting Viper with the Tattler's tales of her life of luxury. Too much fun.

Viktor speaks with one of the officers at the Imperial Consulate, to ask for a few extra men (two or three) who don't have specific assignments. This isn't too much of a problem. Two large guys, sergeants (Kowalski and Smith) are assigned to Viktor; the kind of men who are competent, and know how to keep their mouths shut. Viktor briefs them about the contingency plan for an "extraction" of Victoria. They want to know if he doesn't want SAG for this? No, he prefers Marines. He gives them as much info as he can, and they will only move on his orders, otherwise they are just along for the ride. They do ask for written orders, which Viktor gives them, as their protection.

After a while, the slingers stop teasing Viper, and the stories start. They go over all the people who have died since Viper was there last. Many toasts are toasted.

White meets with one of the groups of spooks he works for. The spook asks him if the doctor is going to be cooperative? White doesn't think he'll be too uncooperative. And what else has he been able to find out about the Solomani? Well, he tells the guy he knows "what they're after". Really? White gives the spook a copy of the disk he got from Captain Midnight, that deals with Sontag. Who the heck is Sontag? The disk is still mostly encrypted, but the spook has access to computers that can handle that.

11 - 1122.

Mikie leaves a bit before Viper does, and walks Theresa home. She's had quite the night, what with meeting the Duchess, and all the gunslingers. How the heck does some one go from a gunfighter to a duchess? The world is very weird. Theresa has a headache from all the smoke, so they go through the park. As they near where the Sengi are playing, Mikie gets a vision. He's seeing it as if through some one's eyes, looking down at blood everywhere, in a tiled bathroom. The person looks down at himself and he's been slashed open. He staggers up, works his way along the tile wall, pulls himself up to the sink, looks in the mirror - it's Mikie. Maybe. He looks mussed, maybe older (or at least, in not great shape), and beat up. Of course it could be Andrew. (Or Jim Bob, or Father Pat, or Lee Quan.... in other words, one of the "others".) Mikie comes out of the vision, Theresa is asking if he's all right. Mikie starts looking for a phone, then remembers that he has one. He calls Andrew's number, but it's busy. He's going to head over there, but as soon as he shuts the phone, it rings. It's Andrew, who wants to know if Mikie okay? Andrew just had the weirdest feeling that something was wrong with Mikie. He's never felt anything that strong before. Mikie asks Andrew to describe his bathroom ("Don't ask, just tell me"), the colors, etc. It's not at all like the one in the vision, which seems now to have been a public restroom (Up or Down Port maybe, or at the shuttle?). Great. Since Mikie's visions have almost always (as far as he's been able to tell) been of things occurring at exactly the same time as he sees them (although where varies widely), it's probably not a vision of something that is going to happen to Mikie or Andrew; at least that's what Mikie's hoping.

Some time later, a young man in shades comes tearing into the back room at the Oaks. Everyone's hands start to go for their guns as he takes off his shades, looks at Viper and says "Your Grace - thank God, I've been looking everywhere for you!" Oops, it's her zoomie. It's 1:00 a.m., and Grey is planning on an 8:00 a.m. arrival tomorrow - ah, today. Oh my. Viper quickly says goodbye, runs out, they tear to the bay, Viper stuffs herself into her jumpsuit, and the zoomie boosts her into the ship. It's a quick take off and a direct flight to the ship. Viktor has already returned to the ship, at midnight, as he was told Viper's pilot went to get her three hours ago (well, he was looking for her). He's not going to go knock on Grey's door, as it's in the middle of the night. The shift has changed, so no one knows off hand. Viktor is asking about specific flight numbers, etc., so the Officer of the Watch has to be called to get clearance for that information; he's in a hard suit, so it will take a while. Viktor is waiting, but has to clear the bay area, as they have fighters coming in. Viktor can see the crew coming in, but only in the area where they are still in vac suits, and then when they go into the briefing room. Viper does come in, but doesn't go to the briefing room, so Viktor doesn't see her. The pilot tries to quietly sneak her into the area where the Grand Admiral's quarters are. Viper is concerned that the pilot will get into trouble, and it was all her fault they're late, so she's willing to speak to his commander... The pilot is hoping no one noticed. Viper remarks on his optimism, and he points out that he's a fighter pilot, and does she know what the life-expectancy for a fighter pilot is? She figures probably about the same as a young gunfighter. The pilot "drops her off" by her quarters, and the guards at the door do not say a word - they just glance at each other. Viper quietly sneaks in, strips in the dark, uses the fresher, and as she's about to climb into bed, the light comes on and Grey is sitting up on the side of the bed, fully dressed. Busted!!!! Grey does not actually ground her for being out after curfew, but he obviously has a sense of humor. He understands when she explains, and says he'll "speak with the pilot later". Grey's just glad she had a good time, but she looks like she needs a back rub, which he provides. Oh, and by the way, the "alarm is set for 5:00 a.m." And Grey falls immediately to sleep.

Grey wakes up just before 5, and tickles Viper awake (which she doesn't find too entertaining after three hours sleep and a lot of bourbon). Duty calls.

Mikie takes Theresa home. He believes that the bathroom he saw was one of the Up Port ones, but which? Andrew is waiting at the apartment, and is kind of shaken up. Theresa goes to bed, and Mikie is going to have a conversation with Andrew when a coroner's car goes by, sirens on. Andrew doesn't know why, but he feels they should check it out; Mikie is way ahead of him. Sure enough when they get to the scene, a body and a separate head are being carried out. One of the cops comes over to mention to Mikie that "hey, you're dead". Mikie pokes the cop a couple of times in the shoulder, and says "Gee, I don't feel dead". Cop humor. Sure enough, it's the person Mikie saw die. Mikie is questioned by Detective Weseli, but Mikie really doesn't know much. He tells the cop that he knew he might have some siblings, but not who or where they were. He doesn't know who this person was, or where they came from, so no, he doesn't know why anyone killed this guy. No wallet, no id, absolutely nothing. No dumped but empty wallet in the area, and it wasn't dumped into the flash disposal. Detective Weseli gets the same answers from Andrew, so he takes down their phone numbers. There's a maintenance person sitting in the back of an ambulance holding his head, and telling the police that he doesn't know anything more - there was blood everywhere, and a blur, and then something hit him and he blacked out, and can he go home now? Mikie is not able to get anything from the guy's surface thoughts but stuff about his wife, and what a shrew she is, etc.

Mikie and Andrew hang out while the crime scene people go through the place, then seal it up. Right after that, the Regina Security people start setting up the area for the arrival of the Imperials and the Zhodani - the barricades and ropes, etc. Black is supervising, and when he sees the crime scene tape and locks, he has that taken down and a cleaning crew sent for. When Black leaves, Mikie goes to take a look. There is blood everywhere, and as the crew is cleaning up, Mikie sees something written on the mirror: SONT____ ; the rest has been cleaned off. Oh shit.

Mikie goes with Andrew to the Bread and Bean, to have a talk. When they get there, Blaelok is already there, having his coffee and doing stuff on his PDA, which does flash a couple of times (whether or not that actually means something. Mikie gets coffee for them (amazingly enough, he likes his coffee just like Andrew does), and they get a table off to one side. As Mikie is getting coffee, Andrew goes over to say hello to Blaelok, and they chat animatedly. Blaelok goes to leave, as he has, unfortunately things to attend to, but he stops to say hello to Mikie, and makes a comment about wanting to speak with Mikie about moving on to the "next phase" of their relationship. As he says this, he reaches forward and touches Mikie lightly... and for that moment Mikie feels a rush of pleasure, that slowly fades as Blaelok leaves. [Note: the GM has reached new depths of evil here.] It takes several long seconds before Mikie is able to get past the initial desire to throw up or slit his own throat.

After that, Mikie sits down and starts to explain to Andrew about the visions he has. Andrew is very interested, and goes all scientific-like on him. He asks all sorts of questions about exactly what the visions are like, and are they just auditory, or visual, or include all the senses? All of the above, but Mikie can't control any of it. They are in the midst of this discussion when several Sengi come in to fetch the Oracle so their lord can get his vision. They are momentarily confused seeing Andrew there (the Oracle's twin), but then decide that he should come too. On the way to Lord Kalarin's ship, Mikie tries to impress upon Andrew that the Sengi should not be messed with, especially the Var (Lords) - and for God's sake don't even think about touching one of them.

Corina and her staff go through all the pomp and circumstance of the official greetings of the Imperial contingent, then the Zhodani. Victoria was concerned that Ghaer didn't look quite right in his tux, so she found him a red sash with some decorations on it. Several members of both the Imperial and the Zhodani groups looked strangely at Ghaer, then started almost to laugh among themselves, until Grey and then the Zhodani emissary glared at them. Turns out that Ghaer is wearing a leftover sash from a Frenzy visit: "Miss Congeniality 1097". Viper finds out from their group, and thinks it's quite funny.

The Imperial party goes to Clairidges (when the Zhodani got the tip that there was a problem with the plumbing in Clairidges, they insisted on getting the Ambassadore for their quarters - of course they don't know that it was part of the Imperial advance party that leaked the info to begin with...), and the Zhodani to the Ambassadore. After Grey tells his group to change into class As, and that they should remember they represent the Imperium, so they should behave accordingly, he and Viper have some time, so he puts the "Do not disturb" sign up and.... [None of our business.]

At the official greetings, Victoria connects with Viper, who she thinks is very pretty, and nice, and with General Karel Zuluk (the Zhodani emissary) who has a daughter of his own, as well as two sons. He's obviously used to dealing with children, because he gets down to her level, and gives her a drawing his daughter made for her. He's a very pleasant man, in spite of his obvious battle scars, and is quite comfortable chatting with Corina.

Sometime later, as Viper does not have much in the official line to do besides a drive with her hubby, she calls Corina to ask if she could take Victoria to Regina proper to go horseback riding with her. Corina thinks this would be fine, as long as it's later in the afternoon, on whatever day they decide on. Plans are made for 14 - 1122, the day after the funeral for the late Privy Council.

After all the political stuff, the man the people really want to see shows up: Dirk Savage! Corina is still out and about when she sees him out with Globber, soaking up ambiance. Globber introduces them, and they seem to hit it off quite well, so they end up having lunch together at the park. Dirk is quite impressed with Globber, and has obviously researched him really well because he starts to tell Corina that he believes that Globber has been underappreciated, especially since he found out Globber was a member of the Daedalus club. Corina seems rather surprised at this, and Globber appears a bit taken aback by Dirk's knowledge. Dirk feels that Globber especially has not received credit for his "reform ideas", at which point Corina chimes in and agrees, and Globber mentions the reforms that he and Corina have been working on "together". So, it seems that Corina has her answer from Globber, and he's on the "reform bandwagon" with her.

Regina is certainly busy. Zhodani, Imperials, and movie crews everywhere. Globber has been convinced to do a cameo in the new Major Case Squad movie, and Barry Boone will have a cameo as a reporter. Corina gives permission for them to shoot some of the movie at the Ducal estate.

Viper is cut loose on Regina, with a couple of discreet bodyguards (plainclothes types). She needs to get in touch with Ghaer at some point to tell him about the sash.

Corina is having lunch in the park when she sees Jack speaking with Ghaer (who is trying to get a suggestion for a private security company). Jack has been appearing very frequently lately, just by accident-like. Ghaer is arranging to restart Victoria at the private school, as she really liked being with other children, and lots of high-profile people send their kids there, including Mr. Scalese, who Corina calls to ask about the school. He also wants Corina to come down to the docks and speak with his people about the training programs she's instituted, and she agrees to come speak at a rally. Corina speaks with Jack, and she's concerned about why he's "hanging around" - she hopes it's because of her, but if it's because her family asked him to, he can tell them to "bugger off". Jack says nothing. Corina tells him that she can't replace him, and would really like him to come work for her. Has he considered taking a leave of absence? Jack says he'll consider it "ma'am". Then he leaves.

Nicolai runs into Alan at the Bread and Bean. Alan comes over to chat him up all friendly like, until Nicolai invites him to "observe from a distance". Alan is hurt, and that sounds remarkably like a threat. He can't for the life of figure out what "that little nurse sees in you" . He doesn't intend to stop coming here, as he likes the place. There is way, way too much Solomani testosterone in this restaurant. It's obviously become something of a personal issue between Nicolai and Alan.

Mikie and Andrew are shown in to the Sengi ship, and into the presence of Lord Kalarin, who "requests" his vision, through one of the Jai. And damned if he doesn't get one: a very old chest, being lifted out of something, like a deck plate has been moved out of the way, some kind of high tech complex key thing is used to open the chest, which gives a sort of pressure hiss, then manicured hands reaching in to take out notes and papers in what looks sort of like old Galanglic, with formulas and notes. A voice Mikie doesn't recognize (but with a Solomani accent) says "Success." A second voice (also Solomani) says "Excellent. Yes, they'll be pleased, I'll let them know immediately", and the first voice, from whose point of view Mikie is seeing everything shoots the second voice. Different papers are put into the chest, which is sealed up again. Then the person from whose point of view Mikie is seeing everything seems to sort of get surprised and "turn around" to look at Mikie. Then everything shuts off, and Mikie sits down. He's been through this before, so he just tells the lord what he saw. The weird thing is, Andrew starts adding to the description. Oh lovely. Another strange thing is that the vision was in black and white, which is not normal for Mikie's visions (they've always been in color up to now - like the earlier one about the "brother" killed in the bathroom). Lord Kalarin is pleased (or at least satisfied - hard to tell, but no one's beheaded) and Mikie and Andrew are dismissed, but told to "attend upon our Lord", in case he wants another vision.

Nicolai has decided to not make a mess of the Bread and Bean, so he tries to behave in a mature fashion and he leaves, heading off towards the park. As soon as he gets part way into the park, who should pop out of the shrubbery (literally) but Alan. "Hello Nicolai, I told you we'd run into each other again." Nicolai triggers, Alan says "Oh, that's cute", and Nicolai darts off. Alan keeps right up with him. They stop briefly, Alan cheerfully inquires "Where are we going? Come on, old timer, you want a piece of me don't you?" Nicolai draws his knife, Alan briefly shows his "claws", then withdraws them. He lets Nicolai go first, yielding initiative. Nicolai hits him in the the elbow, and skin and meat peel off down to "bone"? Okay, not really bone... "That hurt." Now Alan is annoyed about his suit being ruined, and now they appear to be "even". Alan pokes Nicolai in the chest with his finger, then the memory metal claw pokes all the way through Nicolai, and out the other end. Nicolai then hits Alan in the thigh - good hit, but not exactly fatal. Then the hit each other at the same time, Nicolai damaging Alan's neck, and Alan spitting purple (or something else of a corrosive nature) onto Nicolai.

Meanwhile, Behrel and Kitty have been invited to go visit the Sengi, and they've sent a palanquin for Kitty, since she's preggers. They are going through the park, and run into Viper, and see Ghaer nearby. Then they hear the sounds of the fight on the other side of the hedge, and Solomani accented comments. Just as Behrel is heading around the hedge, Alan picks up Nicolai and throws him through the hedge into a support beam, and then leaps after him. Nicolai lops off Alan's arm, but Alan then shoots something onto him from an orifice that opens up in the other hand's palm. It's not purple, but there are wriggling things on him. Then Behrel, Viper, and Ghaer join in the fray. Behrel lops Alan's foot off, as well as most of one arm, Viper wounds him in a leg as well, Nicolai is adding to the damage too, but it doesn't seem to be enough, even after he falls to the ground. This Alan thing takes a hell of a lot of killing! And he manages to shoot the wriggling things onto Viper, in spite of Ghaer throwing himself in front of Viper (just a bit late). Behrel chops off the rest of Alan's arm, and all sorts of little icky things crawl out and burrow into the ground right by Ghaer, who levitates up and away from them. Viper shoots him again, and Viktor ignores the things that are burrowing under his skin and surf guns him. That does it, but then there is a glowing little crystal thing visible inside him, and a high pitched whine starts up. RUN!!! Nicolai grabs Viper on his way, Behrel yells at the Sengi to unass the area, and the security and Regina Security people haven't quite gotten there yet when the bright flash goes off (yes, it's one of those high tech flash things that destroys all the organic material in its range - including people). One of Viper's security people is a brief shadow in the air that dissipates into thin air except for his really clean naval academy ring, and the other one has had one inch of the front of his body seared off. Viper's back is damaged, but the "things" are the big problem as both Viper and Nicolai go into pain-wracked seizures. Regina Security is trying to get a handle on things, Ghaer medics people as best he can with the help of Behrel's med-bot. He puts Viper on medical slow, and Nicolai goes into survival mode.

Kitty is fine, and the Sengi want to go see the lord, but Behrel points out that he must make certain the "local lord's wife", Viper, is okay before they go. They understand, it's one of those lord things. Sigh. Behrel sees Viktor (who has arrived with the other Imperials), brings him up to speed as much as he can, and then leaves just before the area is locked down, to go to the Sengi ship.

Security people appear in a hurry, and a limo with the Imperial flaggy things goes speeding through the park, almost running over Mikie, but Andrew pulls him out of the way. They go to sit down in the Bread and Bean.

Naturally, the limo contains Grey, who bounds out and runs over to Viper. Ghaer tries to stop Grey, but he threatens to kill him if he doesn't get out of his way. Ghaer tells him it could have involved something contagious, but Grey doesn't care. He does sort of let Ghaer get on with helping Viper, he just gets down on the ground and holds her hand. There are marines and security everywhere, and the whole section containing the park is buttoned down. Andrew and Mikie can see all the commotion through the window, so Mikie goes over to take a look, sees the really, really "sterile" area, and figures out what did it. He sees Nicolai and Viper taken away, Grey with them. Mikie gets away from Andrew, calls Blaelok. Blaelok asks what's going on at the park, Mikie tells Blaelok about the big sterilized area, and asks if they're "missing some one?" Blaelok checks and says that Alan's transponder is not working, then Mikie tells him that Alan is now a clean spot in the park, but Viper, among others, has been hurt and Blaelok better fucking find some way to fix whatever they've done to her, and now, then he hangs up. Andrew wants to know what the matter is, and when Mikie tells him, sort of, he asks if perhaps he should try to help, especially since Mikie seems upset. Yes, if he thinks he might be able to, that would be good.

Ghaer is picked up by Black's people, and taken to the big grey building with no windows. Ghaer is the only one they can think of who might be able to tell him what the hell happened. Ghaer tells him what he knows, about the incident at the park, and that the Solomani were involved, and that they've been inquiring about Evan Sontag. Black tells him to forget he's ever heard that name. Black has obviously heard the name before.

Mikie and Andrew get to the Trauma Center, Andrew spots a doctor he actually knows, chats him up, and asks if they had "anything interesting". Bill (the doctor) tells him that yeah, they have something he has got to see, and shows him the information on the cases, Andrew looks at it, gets pale, drops the clipboard. Mikie reads him: "Oh my God, this is mine...!" Andrew runs off to the bathroom, with Mikie right behind him. Andrew throws up, and then Mikie pulls him up by the collar, and shoves him up against the wall. An extremely unpleasant argument ensues with Andrew admitting he designed the biological, Mikie wanting to know where the antidote or "fix" for this thing is then, but there isn't one because Solati wanted it right away and took all the notes and everything. The argument gets really nasty, with Mikie accusing Andrew of being just like their father, Andrew admitting it - he's just been lying to himself. Ghaer has shown up to find out what's going on, hears the raised voices in the bathroom and goes in. Mikie and Andrew are really in each other's faces, Mikie is really angry, and Andrew then decides he's going to "fix things" right away, and he has to leave. Mikie wants to go with him, but Andrew doesn't want him to. Mikie asks if going with him would mean not coming back, and then Andrew pulls out a small snub gun, with which he hopes to convince Mikie to let him go alone. Mikie and Andrew struggle over the gun, which goes off - Andrew had no clue of the kind of damage a snub gun does, and is horrified to see the rather nasty hole he's opened up in Mikie, who stands there briefly, dripping blood, then drops like a rock. Oh well, if you're going to get shot, do it in the hospital. Ghaer draws his gun to tranq Andrew, but then some one rushes into the restroom and smacks Ghaer with the door sending Ghaer and his tranq gun flying. Andrew bolts, Ghaer tries to go after him, but the marine coming through the door because of the gunshot slams the door into Ghaer's muzzle, yells for a medic, and then treats Ghaer like the shooter, so he can't go after Andrew.

The Solomani doctors show up, and do their magic stuff on Viper and Nicolai. Grey has the local doctors removed from the room, since they couldn't do a damned thing and didn't know what they were dealing with. Viper eventually wakes up to find Grey asleep, leaning against her bed. She's a bit pink in areas, but otherwise fine. Same with Nicolai, for which Christi is grateful.

Ghaer makes sure Victoria is safe at home, and then goes to get Theresa. He tells her that Mikie is going to be fine, but he has been injured, and is in the hospital. They head there.

Blaelok finds out that Mikie is in the hospital, and has the Solomani doctors take care of him. While still mostly unconscious, Mikie hears Blaelok telling him not to worry, that everything will be fine now. Pamela is with him, and she bends over and kisses Mikie on the cheek just before he drifts off. Blaelok is there when Mikie wakes up, and tells him that he is very sorry, and wants Mikie to know that he didn't have anything to do with what happened at the park. To prove this, he removes his psi-shield. Mikie does take a look at his surface thoughts, Blaelok is actually annoyed because he didn't plan what happened and it actually has messed up his plans. And for whatever reason, he has some kind of fond feelings for Viper (sort of like the ones he has for Gilbert...?). By the time Theresa and Ghaer arrive, Mikie is sitting up in the hospital bed. Blaelok leaves them alone. Ghaer goes off looking for Andrew, and ends up at SuSAG, where they have a scene going on. There's a body in front of the offices, bloody and covered by a sheet. Evidently Andrew tried to kill Solati, came after him with a gun, and the "valiant security men" were the only thing that prevented Solati from being killed by the "disgruntled former employee". Ghaer gets a look at the body, and sees that he was shot in the back.

Mikie is mostly okay physically, although a bit pink and sore, but he's slightly loopy due to the drugs, as he's a real lightweight. Behrel has stopped by the hospital to check on Viper, after he and Kitty taught the Sengi about roasting marshmallows, and comes in to check on Mikie, having found out from Ghaer as he was leaving that Mikie was there. Mikie asks if Viper is okay, and Behrel figures out that Mikie was at the park at some point, but he didn't see him. At this point Behrel decides to see if Mikie can provide some useful information. He does know something about the big flashy thing, but he's not completely coherent, so it's a very entertaining conversation, to say the least. Behrel eventually leaves, with some additional info about the device, although not much. Ghaer gets back to the hospital, takes Theresa out of the room, and tells her about Andrew's death. Meanwhile, a nurse has come in to check on Mikie, and turns on the TV for him. The news comes on and the drugs wear off really quick, once Mikie sees what happened to Andrew. Ghaer comes in as soon as he hears the TV, but it's a bit late. Mikie has shielded, and has sort of sealed up emotionally (similar to what happened when Bruno was killed). Ghaer tells him he's sorry about Andrew, but Mikie doesn't really respond.

Before Mikie is discharged, Blaelok comes in to see him. He tells Mikie that if he wants to do anything about Solati, Blaelok will back him up, and help him in any way he can. Or if he prefers, Blaelok will just take care of him for Mikie. Mikie does actually feel better when Blaelok is nearby (evil GM!), which is really icky. After Blaelok leaves, Ghaer comes in to speak with Mikie. He tells him about Andrew being shot in the back, and that apparently Solati's people just kacked him. That certainly makes Blaelok's offer more attractive, but Mikie does not tell Ghaer about that.

Ghaer and Behrel have a fascinating conversation about Behrel's desire to get rid of the Solomani, as they are bringing in really nasty AP-like things, and that's making Regina an unsafe place for Behrel to raise his children. So Lassie and the Rolling Stone try to come up with a cunning plan.


Time for the fancy ball thing!