Be careful what you wish for.

12 - 1122.

Viper is released, and returns to the hotel with Grey, where they discuss the future - children? Then they spent some quality time behind closed doors. Elsewhere (obviously!) at this time, Behrel colludes with Ghaer, or at least attempts to. No decisions or concrete plans are made.

Corina has been out of the loop, but she goes to see Black, who tells her about the incident with Andrew and Solati . He plays the security tape that shows Andrew pointing a gun at Solati, then lowering it and slumping his shoulders; only then do the security guys pop up, shoot Andrew in the back, and keep shooting while he's down. Then there's a tiny little "skip", and Solati nods. Black calls in his techie, who is able to mostly restore the images, which show some one bending down over Andrew's body, placing some kind of apparatus against the back of his neck, and then the restored part ends and Solati nods.

Corina and Black decide that "something" must be done about Mr. Solati, as they don't know what he's involved in but they don't like it. They don't want any come backs, and Black tells her that "Mr. Griffin has been through a great deal of tragedy, and it would only take a small push..." Corina is not keen on "setting up" Mikie, but does want to involve him. She intends to invite all sorts of interesting people to the ball, to have a chance to speak with them.

Nicolai is released from the hospital into the tender care of Regina Security. They take him to the big grey building with no windows, to question him about what happened at the park. They want to know if there is some kind of "infighting" going among the Solomani. Nicolai tells them that any infighting that may be going on is at a higher level than he's involved in, and that the incident with Alan was personal. They know better than to try to really interrogate him, so they will release him, but he should remember that "Mr. Black likes Regina quiet, and we wouldn't want there to be one Solomani too many." [Nicolai might not mind, as long as he gets to decide which Solomani.] Nicolai goes home to find a fancy invite to the ball. He calls Christi, tells her about the ball, and while she was planning on sleeping tonight, she'll skip that to go to the party where Dirk Savage will be.

Grey has ordered a new dress for Viper - simple, black, spider-silk (which has armor value). And the guy with the eagle on his shoulder (SAG) shows her long gloves, smacks them on his palm, and they go rigid - cool, rigiplast! She's pleased. At last - a man who understands the kind of fashion women really want!

Mikie also gets an invitation, but he's trying to make funeral arrangements. His father shows up to be there for him, and makes the comment that "a parent should never outlive their children". Mikie receives (it just shows up) a copy of the security tape (minus the restored part), which he does watch, without company. Mikie ignores the invitation, Theresa opens it, and there is a note from Corina sending her condolences, but asking that Mikie attend as she needs to speak with him. Theresa doesn't really want to go, but if Mikie decides to she will go with him. But he doesn't have to be at their "beck and call". Mikie doesn't really care at this point; might just as well find out what the [bleep] "this one wants". Okay, so he's not really himself.

Behrel will be a vision in black. Different fabrics, different "shades", but all black except for a little bit of white piping. And his kirat, natch. Kitty has agreed to go too, but will not be wearing black.

As they are getting ready, Viper tells Grey about Theresa's ring. That's very interesting, as the ring has been in Grey's family for generations. She tells him that it was Theresa's great-grandmother's ring, she never discussed where she came from, and were the Greys "missing any relatives"??? Grey thinks that's a question for the aunts. Speaking of jewelry, Viper will be wearing the Supreme and Ultimate Medal of Thanks, just in case she needs a distraction.

Nicolai has his newly re-tailored uniform. Ghaer has the sash redone so it reads: "That's Mr. Congeniality, to you." He also invites Krin, who of course will go - Dirk Savage will be there. Corina picks out a little something smashing to wear, and looks stunning in scarlet. [Note: what with all these fancy parties, Regina is probably littered with the bodies of smoking, exhausted seamstresses

Dirk is quite smitten when Corina greets him in the receiving line. The receiving line backs up behind him, and she makes arrangements to speak with him later, and winks at him as he moves down the line. Well, well...

Kitty is, of course wearing something a bit more daring than anyone else, but really conservative for her. She attracts many male admirers, who spend the party prepared to leap to her assistance, should she um, "fall out" of her dress. She never does, but one must have hope.

After the receiving line, mingling takes place. Blaelok is there, looking trés spiff. Unfortunately, Solati is there too, something Mikie had not considered; not good. Solati is quite impressed with Corina, and tells her how nice she looks, while staring at her neck (ewww!).

Nicolai spends the evening bird-dogging Blaelok, but avoiding his date - Pamela. [twitch] He's intending to try to keep track of to whom he speaks - pretty much everyone. Behrel goes over to say hello to Blaelok, so he could meet the blonde, actually. That's our Behrel - married, but not dead!

Solati sees Mikie, and goes over to say hello (?). Ghaer intercepts Solati, with Victoria in tow. Solati pats her on the head, and finds Ghaer's sash amusing; Ghaer resists the urge to eat him. Then Ghaer takes Victoria over to see Mikie, who is just looking at Solati across the room. It's not a good look. Solati goes over to Blaelok, and a rather strained few words are exchanged, at a minimum safe distance. Nicolai watches and reads their lips, but it's a brief, formal greeting, one of those where it's clear neither person is really happy to see the other.

Viper is introduced to Zuluk, who is quite charming, and gets Viper a glass of champagne. Turns out the Solomani have provided a "treat" - Terran champagne. Behrel is pleased about that. Blaelok goes over to Viper to give his regards, and be actually quite friendly, especially for Blaelok. Okay, so he can be quite charming. when it's in his best interest, in a "Prince of Darkness" kind of way.

There's a great deal of circling, watching, chatting, etc. No one has been killed, but the party isn't over. As the music strikes up, Dirk asks Corina to dance - now there's a lovely couple. There are official photographers there, for pictures to be released later. No other reporters except for Barry Boone, who isn't actually working.

Blaelok and Pamela are being watched, as they are excellent dancers. Grey dances very precisely, so Viper is not going to drag him out on the floor too frequently. Dirk admits to being "greedy", and asks Corina if she has plans for the next dance, and he signals the orchestra, which starts up a tango. That ups the temperature a bit.

Krin wants Ghaer to teach her to tango, and asks if he's tried the "bubbly stuff". It's really good, and she's had four glasses - it's kind of like lemonade. Oh really?

Behrel asks Corina to dance later, and Nicolai dances with Viper. Corina and Behrel are having a "current events" conversation, and Nicolai and Viper discuss the AP - "What was that?" Nicolai tells her it was a cyborg, and he thinks they come from the Rim, and when she asks if the Consul knew the man was a cyborg, Nicolai says he's certain the Consul knew. Well, that's interesting, and makes it look like Blaelok helped her just to garnish brownie points, and changes the meaning of the letter of apology Blaelok sent her. Blaelok and Pamela dance by, Blaelok says hello, Nicolai twitches and dances off and away. Nicolai tells Viper that if he can ever be of assistance, she should just ask.

At the appointed time, Corina extricates herself, and Ghaer rounds up the usual suspects, who vanish from the party one at a time, through the secret passages (at least part of the way). The meeting will be in the large, walk-in freezer, to attempt to circumvent eavesdropping or whatever. Parkas are being pre-chilled in the freezer. Jack and two of his friends are in the kitchen, Jack is guarding the freezer door.

Corina tells the group that she believes Andrew was somehow involved in what happened, as was Solati. She goes over what was on the tape, including the bit where a "sample" was taken from him. Much discussion about who was responsible, and for what bits. Mikie tells them that what was used on Viper and Nicolai was designed by Andrew, for Solati. Nicolai tells everyone that it was obviously the Solomani who were responsible for everything. Black has sent a file to Corina, which Jack delivers, and it contains information on the dead person in the bathroom, who evidently had a "sample" taken like Andrew, and the information she provides tells Mikie that this was done right where Mikie's father implanted the little Therian piece; Mikie does not say anything. Viper, upon learning that Solati was responsible for what happened, starts thinking "he's in the next room, and I have a gun...." Corina likes the thought of that, but Nicolai and Viktor don't. Especially Viktor. Corina and Viper try to figure out a politically correct way of excusing Viper gunning down the head of SuSAG, but none is immediately forthcoming. Pity.

Ghaer tells the group about Khan, and Sontag (and his APs, etc.). Mikie does tell the group that Khan's in his old apartment, so he's easily watched, that's for sure. Viper tells the group what she knows about Khan and Sontag, including that she knows his full command code (uh-oh, Mikie doesn't need to know that). Nicolai goes over what he knows about the Solomani conditioning stuff. Corina just wants to find a reason to kill ALL of them. This mob thing is not going to be a good idea, and no real decisions are made beyond the "something has to be done about those people". The group has to rejoin the party, and Corina goes over to chat with Zuluk. She tells him that she believes SuSAG was responsible for the deaths of the Zhodani on Regina last year. But wasn't that the barbarian allies of the Imperium? Ah, but they were not the ones that were calling the shots. Interesting - he may need to have a visit with Anton....

Grey is concerned about what Viper is "up to"? Viper swears she's not "meddling", and it just has to do with stuff that concerns her personally (gee, interesting spin there, Viper). Grey tells her that they will be attending dinner at the Solomani Consulate tomorrow, and they couldn't really refuse since it was their doctors who helped Viper. An interesting conversation ensues between the Greys involving politics, influence, what people really want, and who might try to make use of her. They don't need another frontier war, but this "Neutral Zone thing is like a wound that won't heal". Evidently they want to set proper borders, with nothing so vague as the current situation.

Corina asks Blaelok to dance. And he dances really well, as well as she does. Corina brings up Sontag, and Blaelok says that they have found out that Sontag is deceased. She says yes, but he had "children", one of them is on planet, and he was last seen going into SuSAG.

Viktor is waiting for a lull to speak with the Admiral. He gets one. Viktor hands over at small tape recorder to Grey (evidently Viktor had been recording the conversation in the freezer). Grey is not happy, and wants to know what's going on, now. Grey signals to several of his people, and they split off to have a conversation. Grey plays the recording, and it's just hissing (Ghaer had used one of Captain Midnight's little devices). Damn. Viktor hadn't noticed that. Viktor tells him about the conversation, Grey thanks Viktor for doing his duty, and orders him to report to the ship for memwipe. Yes sir.

Corina then plays the same little trick with Sontag as with Blaelok, in an attempt to set them against each other. Solati finds the information interesting, and goes to speak with Blaelok. Nicolai can only read Solati, and it's an interesting conversation. Solati is obviously not a happy camper. He doesn't know why Blaelok is interested in "him", Solati gets ticked off that Blaelok evidently thinks he can tell Solati to do anything, who does he think he is? He may be the Consul, but Solati is the head of a megacorp, and he has friends in the Rim, etc. Blaelok can't tell him who not to "mess with", and he's left "your pet alone, but his brothers are a different matter, and as a matter of fact, I've decided I want him too, so you're going to deliver him to me. Tonight. Gift-wrapped." Unfortunately, some one walks between Nicolai and Solati, so Nicolai can't see to find out the where and when. Solati leaves, and Blaelok says to himself "You'll have your package - and I hope you choke on it". He then goes over to one of the Solomani, asks if he's superstitious or believes in ghosts, points out Solati, and says "You're looking at a dead man".

Nicolai tells Ghaer that Mikie needs to "disappear, right now", for his own protection. Ghaer is headed for Mikie when Mikie is heading for Blaelok. He needs to talk to Blaelok, but not "here". They go for a walk outside in the garden.

Grey tells Viper they "are leaving". When they get into the limo, the wall is put up between them and the driver, and Grey tells her he is "very disappointed" in her involvement in the "games". And Viktor told him about the "cabal" she's gotten involved in. Viper tries to explain her concerns about the Solomani, SuSAG, etc. Grey basically is concerned only for her, and they decide to "work together". If anything should happen to Viper, Grey can request transfer to the Rim. Ah.

Corina accepts Dirk's invitation to a little post-ball party at his place, and oddly enough, none of the other guests have shown up, so Corina will just have to console him. She asks if he's ever had ambitions beyond being a star? Well no, isn't that enough?

Blaelok turns on his little high tech pen thing to make sure there is no one listening. Mikie asks if Blaelok knows why Solati killed Andrew and "the other one"? Blaelok says not exactly, do you?" "I think so." Then Blaelok asks if it has anything to do with the work his father did for SuSAG twenty years ago?" Expletive. Mikie didn't know that. Evidently SuSAG provided funding to Dr. Trygaer. Mikie agrees to meet Blaelok at the Consulate, so they can have complete privacy. Mikie asks for Blaelok's word on something first though. Blaelok looks at him and asks if he knows what "my word is worth?" Mikie says "Fuck all. But I want it." He wants Theresa kept safe, and Blaelok promises to do anything in his power to do so. Mikie leaves with Theresa, to take her home. She asks if anything is wrong, and he says yes. She asks if he's still thinking about Andrew, and he says yes. He takes her home, gets changed, and tells her he has to go out and take care of some things. Theresa asks him to come home to her. He will (if he can).

When Mikie gets to the Consulate, he's taken downstairs to a doctor he's seen there before, and he's given some kind of drug. He's not completely unconscious, and is completely aware of what's going on as he's stripped and placed on a table. He's "modified" - given blades in his hand, a pouch for a snub gun, and one of the flashy things internally. Blaelok tells Mikie he's sorry, he doesn't have much of a choice. He explains that there is a small bump on Mikie's ribcage to trigger the device, if all else fails, and they put a drug sleeve on him with something that could give him "an extra edge if the need arises". Some one asks Blaelok if he thinks he'll be able to do it, and Blaelok says that it's all they have time for, and Michael has abilities that should help him. Pamela leans over, kisses him on the cheek, and wishes him good luck. Then it's into a big, dark, box.

13 - 1122.

Corina has had some time with Dirk, then back to her place. Jack's there, and she leaves him with Dirk while she changes into one of her armored business suits. And Ghaer's there, after he put Krin to bed to sleep off the champagne in his room. Corina comes out, asks Jack to stay to look after Victoria, and Corina will speak with him in the morning.

Corina has decided that Mr. Solati is going to be another one of the unfortunate victims of the slasher killer. She rounds up Ghaer, calls Behrel (who's geared up and waiting for something to happen), Nicolai (who's in CRI combat armor and in the park anyway), Mikie (who doesn't answer his cell phone), and Viper. Grey answers the phone, but passes it to Viper and goes back to sleep. Viper at first is not going to go, but eventually decides she has to go. She's gotten tricked out, and has taken pen to paper to leave her hubby a note, when a voice right behind her asks: "Weren't you going to say good-bye?" Eep. The end result is Grey getting dressed to go with her, as he not going to let her go alone. He's wearing a flight suit, armor, and has his gun with him. The Denzetti, driven by Dirk Savage, pulls up to Clairidges, and the passengers are rather surprised to see the Grand Admiral is joining them.

A Denzetti sports car, driven by Dick Salamander, containing the Regent, a CRI, a rock star, a big fuzzy, the Duchess of Rhylanor in 'slinger clothes, and the Grand Admiral of the Spinward Marches speed off toward SuSAG. No one is going to believe this. Dirk is driving, one of his many skills. He gets to the end of the section that leads directly to SuSAG and stops the car. He gets out, opens the trunk, removes and assembles a small-caliber, suppressed rifle, and starts shooting out street lights (Dirk's a keeper). He puts the rifle back, nods to some one up on one of the lampposts, and then all the lights in the section go out (except for SuSAG, which has power back up). Apparently, Dirk has set this up like it's part of a "shoot"; if any footage comes out of this, it should be spectacular). Dirk gets back into the driver's seat, and proceeds down the darkened roadway without headlights [sort of reminiscent of that scene near the beginning of "Spider Island"], toward the bastion of nastiness up ahead.

Meanwhile, down in the laboratory levels of SuSAG, Mr. Solati has had his "package" unpacked. Mikie is aware, but not able to move as he is placed face down on an examining table in the middle of the room. Solati is quite excited, and can't wait to find out if "this one has part of the code too". Evidently, Sontag (either personally, or through Mikie's father) had put some kind of code and or "map" in each of Trygaer's "sons", and Solati has been busily collecting the whole set in order to get this information. Solati is with two doctors in the round room, and Mikie can feel something in his system start to undo the paralytic, so he waits. Solati is rather impatient, and when the doctor tells him it will take a few minutes of prep time, tells them to just do it, as it's not like they're "concerned about infection" or any damage to the subject. Gee thanks.

Up on level 2, Corina's merry band have arrived near SuSAG. They get out of the vehicle, except for the combat armored Nicolai (a bit too obvious there) who is still hiding in the back. Dirk makes contact with some one hidden nearby, and assembles some sort of apparatus from the bag he's given. Corina's plan is to just ring the buzzer at the gate, and ask to see Mr. Solati, and once inside she will let the rest in. Dirk, on the other hand, is in Dick Salamander mode, and once he has assembled the device he goes to Corina, grabs her, says "Hang on", and activates what is apparently a jet-assisted pogo stick. The rest of the party is somewhat dumbstruck as Dirk and Corina suddenly shoot up in the air and over the wall into the compound. Once they land and Corina catches her breath, she tells Dirk what she was going to do, and what the heck was this? Oh. Dirk goes up to the stunned guard, asks for a light, then tries the traditional karate chop to the neck move that the movies love so much. Naturally, this does nothing except make the guard go "Ow!" Then Corina decks him. She opens the exterior gate, and brings everyone but Nicolai in, then goes to the main door to the building and rings. The guard answers, somewhat surprised, and Corina asks him to tell Mr. Solati that the Regent is there to see him, and it's important. The guard calls Solati, who is displeased at being interrupted by the annoying woman, but he will see her. However, she will have to wait, as Solati is in the middle of something. The party is let into the building, and are told that Solati will let them know as soon as he is free, and in the meantime they can stay in the waiting area (all comfy-like). Corina asks Dirk if he has the car keys with him, which he does. She gets the keys from him, takes them out to the car, and leaves them in the ignition (in case of the need for a quick getaway, and no Dirk). She makes sure the security door is left open for several minutes, as she takes her time, and gets Nicolai into the compound. Nicolai enters the main building when Corina goes with the guard to get the group some coffee. The guard ends up with her gun in his ear, and his bits in her grip, and is told she doesn't actually want to kill him, but he better do as she says. He tells the other security guard that checks in that everything is fine, and it's just some people waiting for Solati, and then sends for a tray of coffee, etc. When that person arrives, he's also taken by the group, and left duct-taped up out of the way. Dirk, who's in evening wear still, takes the tray, puts his carnation into the bud vase, and heads up the group as cover, while they make their way down to the lower levels - which is where the guard says Solati is at.

They get as far down as possible with the guard's key card, then leave him duct taped up (rather thoroughly) in the stairwell and switch to the waiter's key card (after all - everyone needs coffee, and important people can't be expected to get their own). They are able to get down several levels before running into the real security guys, and then the fireworks really starts. The first one is alone, and they are able to take care of him, but not before he presses a button on his belt that activates the "intruder alert" several seconds later. Damn!

The alarm sounds in the lab, interrupting the process, Solati speaks with people on the phone, and checks the security cameras - he gets a look at Corina's party. Right after the alarm sounds, a five man security team shows up in the lab, just at the point where Mikie can finally move. An attempt to psionically convince Solati that he doesn't need to evacuate, and the guards aren't needed is only temporarily successful, as Solati evidently is extremely paranoid, and although he seems convinced that Mikie is immobilized, he gets himself a shot of psi-shield. They are going to evacuate the lab, to keep Solati safe, so he wants the doctors to just "bring the head" along, since that' s all they need. This is not the most attractive image, so Mikie uses a broadcast psionic attack as a distraction as he gets off the table and heads for Solati.

After much gunplay (Dirk does discover he's got a prop gun on him, but that's easily remedied), and a spectacular escape out through the floor of the elevator and down the shaft (Dirk uses sort of a cross between a bungee cord and an Australian rappelling harness - gosh he's cool!), the party gets to the corridor outside the lab. Now they just have to get in.

On the inside, Mikie has managed to at least momentarily disable everyone except for Solati and the guy above operating the laser gun - bugger ! Mikie is hit rather badly, and uses the drug sleeve in an attempt to stay conscious (although bleeding) Just as the group breaks in, Solati opens and dives down a chute, with Mikie right behind him. The drug sleeve evidently contained a psi-drug - "special", so it's not really clear exactly what it's doing, but it does allow him to stay conscious and functional. The chute evidently leads to a sort of escape vessel (bigger than a pod, it's more of a very small ship or shuttle), and Mikie and Solati are in it together.

Corina sees the little chute door snap shut, but is too late to keep it open or go after them. The guards inside the room are taken down with little trouble, but that bastard operating the laser is still hard at work. Behrel is hit in the eye, but he is wearing protection, so he merely loses the eye, instead of having the his brain cooked as well. But the bad guy didn't count on the quick reflexes of Dirk Savage (man of action), who quickly interposes his mirrored shades between Viper and the laser beam, protecting her. This plays havoc with the beam, resulting in several injuries (though minor due to the diffused beam), including Dirk, who gets melted plastic on his hand. The other result is the fracturing and exploding of the laser's lens, which takes out its operator. Corina is trying to get the damned chute door open, but at this point the escape ship has disconnected from the lab, so she's pulling against vacuum.

Mikie and Solati are drifting in their little ship, and the fight is on. Mikie is using the blades, which are obscenely sharp, but Solati does have major armor on (and below the skin.... ewww). The group can see them in the ship through the main windows in the lab and the ship, so they get a look at what's going on. Corina finds another escape chute, and they work on trying to open it (not obvious, and not easy).

Ghaer and Nicolai take one of the doctors with them, and go to check out another area (Ghaer is hoping to maybe find signs of Mikie's "brothers"). They are thus separated from the group when Grey hot-wires the chute door to open, and people start diving down. Corina has pilot, so she takes the com, and Grey acts as nav/tactical, and they head after Solati.

Ghaer and Nicolai end up in another lab area, and after their hostage tries to bolt, and Ghaer fires his weapon into the wrong things (oops), the end result is a release of God only knows what. Nicolai is buttoned up anyway, but Ghaer is not in combat armor, so he leaps into one of the hazmat suits, and attaches a bottle of oxygen to replace the hose. They tie down, and since the inner airlock door is now sealed, Nicolai demos them a new outer door.

Mikie has done some actual damage to Solati, but he's been blinded by steam in the process. Fortunately, he can still sense where exactly Solati is, so the fight goes on. It's nasty, bloody, and vicious, and neither one of the participants is looking much like a survivor.

With Grey's directions, Corina pilots the escape ship towards the drifting ship containing Solati and Mikie. These little vessels unfortunately do not have any way to dock with each other, so the only way anyone can think of to get on board Solati's ship is to go with Grey's idea of ramming into the front windshield, and having Behrel (who's in combat armor) and Viper (who has the Therian bracelet that makes a vac suit unnecessary) go through the front access panel as quickly as possible, grab Mikie, and get back on board while everyone else exhales and waits (hard vacuum is not to be trifled with - don't try this at home).

Mikie finally gets through Solati's armor, ripping open his chest and abdomen, and then extending the blades just under his chin, up into his throat and head. Just as this is going on, the ship's collide, and the air is evacuated through the large hole (really disgusting visuals here, as intestines are floating and distended from vacuum...). Mikie is concentrating only on Solati, making sure he can feel it when the bastard actually finally dies. At this point Behrel and Viper get in, Viper making sure Solati is dead (he is, but shooting him in the head with a gauss pistol does do a fine job of making sure), and Behrel grabbing Mikie for the rush back to the other ship.

As soon as the boarding party gets back on board, Grey gives Corina directions that cause the remains of the other ship to be flung off, crashing into the side of the starport wall of SuSAG - right in front of where Nicolai and Ghaer are moving along the outer wall. Okay, so not right in front of them, but boy was it close. Viper uses medical slow on Mikie, who has no vital signs at all at this point, and Grey contacts his ship to let them know they are coming in with casualties, so meet them part way, and also to pick up Ghaer and Nicolai.

Corina was unable to use her cell phone from inside the SuSAG facility, so once she's on Grey's ship, she contacts Black, who is asleep at home. [Side note: a female voice asks who is was as he's hanging up - his sister Christine...] Black would really prefer at this point to not be told what Corina is up to.

All the local authorities end up being mobilized to handle the "industrial accident" at SuSAG. It's going to be completely "cleaned up", as there is no way to know just exactly what kind of materials they were messing with in there. Corina is sent back to the Up Port ASAP, via a fighter, so the Regent can be on station.

Ghaer turns out to be not contaminated after all. In fact, quite the opposite. Hmmmm. More tests!!!

Once they are checked out thoroughly (no major injuries or damage), Grey tells Viper that they were very lucky. It could have been a complete disaster, but the casualty rate was, fortunately, low. "Casualty rate?" But that means.... Grey informs Viper that Mr. Griffin unfortunately did not survive. Viper is extremely distressed that nothing could be done, even with the level of medical technology they had. Evidently it was not enough. Grey will make arrangements to have the body returned to Up Port; Viper will go with the body, and her husband, to break the news to Theresa. Ghaer is informed of Mikie's death while he is still on the ship.

Simultaneous action.... Darkness, then bright lights. Choking, coughing up fluid. Cold. So cold. Some one wrapping a blanket around him, still cold. Blaelok's voice telling him it's all right, but they have to move. Now. They need to get out while they still can. Stumbling, then into a vehicle.

Back on Up Port, Corina is met by Black, and they go to the Solomani Consulate, where Corina demands to see the Consul. The vice consul is there, no one knows where Blaelok is, but he left instructions that the vice consul should assist her in any way possible. Corina drags him into the car, and demands that he tell them where Blaelok is, but he honestly doesn't know. Corina is insistent, to the point of suggesting taking the man to the big grey building with no windows, but Black does not want to do that, as there is no way to extract information from some one who doesn't have it, and he may not actually know where to find Blaelok. Corina wants them to start checking Blaelok's "haunts".

Theresa is home at their apartment when Blaelok brings Mikie in. He's really unsteady, and really confused, but Blaelok assures her he will be fine. Blaelok puts Mikie to bed, tells him that he will explain everything later, to just sleep now. The only thing Mikie asks is "Solati?" Blaelok tells Mikie he was successful, even though he doesn't remember, and Solati is dead. He also returns Mikie's religious medal (which is why it wasn't found in the empty coffin).

Black tries to track Blaelok via the security cameras, and finds that the ones in an around Mikie and Theresa's apartment are down. Aha. Corina wants Blaelok "picked up". Black points out all the problems with this, and eventually only agrees when Corina puts it in writing. There is some confusion as to whether or not Blaelok should be forcibly brought to Corina if he doesn't want to come along, or just given a cell phone to speak with Corina, but adrenaline is still pumping, and everyone is a bit on edge. Miscommunications happen.

Things get even weirder when Corina discovers that Mikie is dead (she's not happy with the lack of medical results). And it gets much worse when the coffin is found to be empty, after Corina has made arrangements for a core job with some organ leggers, and everyone meets at the dock. The coffin has been in the presence of either Viper (who was there when the body was placed into it), or a marine honor guard, so Corina goes right off. Viper believes it may have been one of the flashing things, but Corina wants some kind of proof damn it, like some one seeing the flash. But there is no proof. Unpleasant words are exchanged. Black is picked up in the hallway outside the apartment, and agrees to go along to the dock.

Viper and Grey, along with Nicolai, go to see Theresa, as Grey feels it's his responsibility to give Theresa the bad news. Nicolai guards the door for them, and they go inside. Corina finds out where they have gone, and goes after them to prevent them from doing anything until she can find the body and maybe do something about it. Inside the apartment, Grey tells Theresa he has something to tell her, and there is no easy way to do it. Just as he's about to break the bad news, Mikie emerges from the bedroom, looking worse for wear, but rather definitely not dead. Um. Quick recovery time here, and Grey tells Theresa that there was a mix up and she and Michael were not invited to a dinner on board the ship. Okay....

Corina arrives part way into this mess, is barred from entering by Nicolai. Eventually, the apartment is filled with confused people. Nicolai goes in, sees Mikie, and asks Mikie if he could make him a sandwich. Right. Non-sequitor Man has arrived. Mikie goes to the kitchen, a bit unsteadily, to make a sandwich for the strange man, and Nicolai basically wants to make sure it's actually Mikie. He asks questions about something only Mikie should know - when he reset Nicolai's command codes. Mikie remembers this, tells Nicolai what he wants to know, including writing down what the code was changed to (there are a lot of other people in here). Nicolai is satisfied it's really Mikie, even though he can't remember much after coming home with Theresa after the ball (Mikie is really pretty muddled currently). Nicolai later calls Ghaer on board the ship, and let's him know Mikie is actually alive.

Corina is pissed off about the handling of the body. Viper is pissed off about Corina not believing her with regard to what happened to the body. Grey is insulted by Corina's behavior towards him when she went off about Mikie, etc. Grey is not some one to tolerate being treated that disrespectfully, especially in front of his wife.

Corina really hits the roof when she finds out Blaelok is holding an impromptu press conference about the "misunderstanding" with the Solomani vice-consul she sort of made off with earlier. Blaelok goes out of his way to state that he doesn't not believe this was anything but a misunderstanding, a simple mistake that he's sure the Regent had no part in, and he expects her to clear things up shortly. He has no idea what mood she is in, boy is he in for a surprise.

When Ghaer is finally released from Grey's medics (they don't want to, but Grey wants him off his ship. Now.), he is picked up by Black's people. Black just knows Ghaer is somehow at least partially responsible for all this mess, and why is it that Ghaer has "absolutely no pathogens whatsoever in his body"? That's news to Ghaer, but it does explain all the tests. Ghaer gives Black a rundown on what happened at SuSAG, and Black gives Ghaer what really happened, officially. Industrial accident. Terrible tragedy. Much simpler. Yes sir.

14 - 1122.

In the ensuing disasters, confrontations, and mass confusion that follows, Mikie is able to speak with Blaelok, who explains that while the other of Mikie's "brothers" in SuSAG's lab were already too damaged to save, one of them was viable, but brain dead, so Blaelok took the backup tape he made of Mikie while he was being modified before shipment to Solati, and "restored" Mikie to his clone. Mikie is now an inch taller (ooh, all the way up to 5'4"!), and it will take a bit of time to adjust to his new body. His doesn't feel as "strong" psionically, but apparently it's going to take a while for his mind to settle in. And he needs to get back into his normal physical condition, as this body was in "storage" for a while.

Corina expels Blaelok and the rest of the diplomatic corps at the consulate, demanding their replacement by new personnel, and stating that any of the current Solomani staff with diplomatic passports will be arrested should they leave the Consulate except when leaving the station. This results in the Imperials and Zhodani filing formal complaints, and stating that they will move the talks off Regina to Jenghe. Corina manages to convince Grey that she in no way meant any disrespect towards him during the previous day's confusion, that her only concern was for one of "her people". Grey is eventually willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, and chalk it up to stress and everyone being on edge after what happened. He agrees to recommend that the talks remain on Regina.

Blaelok arranges a big "well, we don't want to pack all this stuff" party, and invites everyone, even Corina. If nothing else, it will be a good chance to drink some one else's Terran champagne.

Mikie decides to make a clean slate of things, and tells both Viper and Corina (separately) that Blaelok was not actually involved with what happened to Viper and Nicolai in the park. There are more than enough things to blame on Blaelok that he really did - this one was on Alan's head.

The state funeral for the late privy council, Edgar Tyrell takes place. Regina has seen way too many funerals of late. And there will be more in the future...

15 - 1122.

The "farewell" party at the Consulate is quite something, and everyone goes. Mikie is makes a certain kind of peace with Blaelok, as he did not have to do what he did for Mikie, he could have just given him a way to take out Solati and himself, and not worried about it, but he didn't. Blaelok also did not restore the "programming" that had Mikie under his control. Blaelok tries to pass it off as being because Mikie did a service to the Solomani government, but Mikie thinks his humanity is showing. And even if Blaelok doesn't, Mikie believes in at least the possibility of redemption.

Blaelok takes Mikie over to where one of Black's people is standing, and says a couple of words to him. The man locks up, and Blaelok tells him to not remember this, and no further orders; he "wakes up" shortly thereafter. Blaelok thought Mikie might appreciate this little bit of information. It certainly is interesting, and could be potentially useful at a later point. Blaelok is later approached by Mr. Black, who's in a really good mood since he's going to finally be rid of Blaelok. Or he was in a good mood until Blaelok tells him that "by the way, I have a man in your organization", sort of smiles (for Blaelok), and walks off, leaving Black fuming. It's not like he can just get rid of everyone in his organization, that would make it impossible to get anyone else to work for him, so this is really going to piss Black off. Once again, it is unsafe to be around the Director of Regina Security.

When Mikie speaks with Pamela, who is sporting an engagement ring (!), she tells him she knows what Blaelok did for him, and he did the same thing for her (removed the programming). Maybe this time things will be different for them. Mikie wishes her luck (hey, it worked for him). Theresa makes the comment that "in some weird, twisted kind of way, I'm sort of going to miss" Blaelok. That about sums it up all right.

Jack Armstrong is at the party, and Corina sees him there. He's drinking heavily, but not in a festive manner. Jack is three sheeps to the wind when Corina offers to take him home. It turns out this is the anniversary of his wife's death, which explains the condition he's in. He tells Corina that he has turned in his resignation to Ling Standard, that he doesn't want to go on sacrificing his personal life for his professional one - Jack wasn't with his wife when she died. Corina tells Jack that she has the opposite problem - her professional life suffers because of her personal issues. She tells him that she needs him, and wants him to head up her personal security - there's no one she trusts like she does him. They end up back at his apartment, and fall asleep there together. [There's been a great deal of sleeping, and not much anything else lately; except for the Greys - nudge nudge, wink wink.]

Mikie is summoned to the Sengi ship again, but Lord Kalarin looks at him, tells him he's not the Oracle, and sends him away. Gosh, and Mikie will so miss having large people show up demanding visions, or some other idiocy. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent end to this Oracle gig, or if they will change their minds once Mikie's has gotten back to what passes for normal.

16 - 1122

Mikie goes to the docking bay when the Solomani are leaving, and says good-bye to Blaelok, who actually shakes his hand. He also gives Mikie something in a small box. When Mikie looks in the box later, it's a small SolSec medal of valor. He's sure he never wants to understand how Blaelok's mind works.

Corina is attempting to push through a referendum to determine what the citizens of Regina actually want for the future - to rejoin the Imperium, to keep the Neutral Zone as it is, or to become completely independent of everyone? This seems to operate under the assumption that these decisions will not be made by people with very real navies, but that remains to be seen. And Corina is having her own problems, what with the concerns in the Senate that there are incriminating documents, signed by the Regent, giving orders to take the Solomani Consul into custody, and perhaps other acts as well. The Regent is going to have her work cut out for her, as she is being viewed as a liability by some people, as "dangerously unstable" by some, and as "expendable" perhaps, by others.