50 to 71 - 1122.

Khan decides to go for a new look - he gets his hair cut, short and fashionable, and he gets glasses. Then he goes to the library, looks up his classmates who have first names that start with "K". Almost all of them left planet directly after graduation, but when he checks with the reunion committee, it turns out that they all seem to be coming back.

Khan needs to find the machine to restore 'Father', but he doesn't know where to start. He doesn't know it was used to make a new Pamela, or that Blaelok used it last on Mikie.

Corina is riding a major wave of popularity, due the majority of the general public falling for the post hoc error and assuming that Corina becoming Regent led to the return of the Imperium. Oh, joy. Balcony speeches and appearances are de rigeur. On the other hand, a group of people wearing "Corina" armbands and red shirts have been shadowing her. They have all taken vows to die to protect her. Well, she wanted fanatics, now she has them. She will attempt to keep them busy.

Corina speaks with Scalese and Black, separately, to see what they think about the Imperial Naval base project, and whether or not Regina should try to get the contract. Scalese thinks it would be a good idea, but Black is concerned about the impact all the local environment - all the off-duty personnel, etc. Senator Rutledge thinks it would be good for the economy, so Corina puts in a bid.

Nicolai has been healing, and spending time with Christi, who cried at the wedding, and has mentioned several times the fact that he caught the bouquet. Nicolai is studiously ignoring this. Really. Not that he wouldn't produce superior offspring, mind you.

71 - 1122.

Although he has no clue where to look, Khan is convinced that he is predestined to find the machine that will restore Father. After all, Father did design him, so he must be successful. He is able to find out that SuSAG has been pitching a fit about all the equipment that had been removed after the "accident", and it's being protected by one of the traditional old security guards who has a set route. Khan decides to try to tag along with the guy, unobtrusively, mind you.

Nicolai is in the Bread and Bean, where he is approached by the lovely Pamela Blaelok. He asks if "it's time", and she tells him that Khan may be on to something, and Nicolai is to go and "watch his back". Nicolai heads off to do this.

Mikie and Theresa have arrived back on Regina, after the honeymoon on Rhylanor. Theresa comments on the "smell", but it's just because she's been off port for a while. She'll get used to it again. Mikie just wants to get back to the apartment to see if he can find Blaelok's "tape".

Khan observes the security guard for a while, and by God you really could set your watch to this guy. Like clockwork, every single time. No variations as he walks around the outside of the secured area, in between sitting in the guard shack, watching the tridee.

Nicolai shows up to where Khan should be, but doesn't see him right off. Khan's spider sense goes off, so he feels some one is behind him. Nicolai is busily looking up, towards where the cargo cranes are. Since it's night time, the cranes are not in use, so Nicolai heads up to one of them. Khan feels dust coming down from above, and can see (using his special contacts) the paint flecks. He looks up, and does see an armored figure moving up.

Khan goes to the far side of the fence, and tries to rip apart the links in the chain link fence, in order to get in. Khan is trying to "trigger" to accomplish this, although he's not really good at it yet, and once he does he's shaking from the adrenaline. The chains rips apart, leaving him with a big hole in the fence. Then he tries to calm down, and it's not too bad, but he feels really tired, has a couple of pulled muscles, and he's drenched in sweat. He also heats up, head and eyes, so Nicolai sees him. He's using recon binocs, and while Khan is looking around at the crates, many of which appear to have been carefully looked into, but it's not immediately obvious what is in what box, so this is going to take some searching, especially since Khan doesn't know exactly what the damn machine looks like.

While observing Khan, Nicolai sees some one drop from above, very quickly (unnaturally so). Nicolai moves along the upper area, carefully looking for a better vantage point, as he keeps losing track of Khan and whoever the other person is. Khan gets that uncomfortable feeling again, and spins around, only to find himself face to face with some one in a black ninja outfit, swinging a sword at him. All Khan has in hand, so to speak, is his brass knuckles (with built-in memory wire blade, mind you), as he engages the other guy, punching him in his hand. Unfortunately, at the same time the ninja guy slices open the side of his face, just before he drops his blade, immediately drawing another blade and impaling Khan's chest in one lovely flowing movement. Khan has taken this time to trigger, and now he's ticked off.

Nicolai finds himself directly above them, as the sounds of the fight reach him. Looking down, all he can see is very fast green blurs, so he decides to wait until he can identify Khan. Much very quick fighting, blood everywhere, and Nicolai shoots out the phone line when the guard tries to call for help. Then the guard heads off towards the phone booth, but not at great speed. Khan has managed to kill his opponent, but he's in terrible shape, and when he starts to bend over to search the guy, two more ninjas drop from the rafters. Nicolai figures that the ninja guys aren't Khan, even if the other one isn't, so he targets one of the rappellers with his smart rifle. One ninja lands nimbly, and the other one, half his head missing, just sort of hits the ground like a dead turkey. Nicolai then targets the second ninja, hitting him in the head too, spattering Khan with unpleasant bits as the body topples over.

Khan decides to ignore all the dead bodies, and start seriously searching for what he came here for. Nicolai, mean time, drops handily down to the floor. Khan draws his gun, looks at the man in CES, and whispers: "Who are you?" Nicolai responds with "the guy who saved your ass". Oh. Khan looks in the satchel of the first ninja, and sees an aluminum case, so he slings it, and untriggers. And falls to the ground unconscious. Great, now Nicolai has to drag Khan to safety. But on the other hand, the guard is not having much luck finding an operational phone booth. Nicolai takes the mini med kits off the ninjas to see if he can keep Khan's innards mostly inside for the trip, and he takes the case from Khan.

Then a voice from the shadows thanks Nicolai for "leading them to it." He and his partner identify themselves as being "with the government". Two guys in suits. Lovely. Nicolai can assume the case has what he came for, and Khan is expendable, or he can trigger and book.

Meanwhile, Mikie discovers that their luggage has been accidentally taken down by a deranged luggage bot to level six, where the secured cargo is (gee, where Khan and Nicolai are, fancy that). Theresa goes home, and Mikie goes down to help hunt for the misplaced luggage cart. He gets a flashlight, which only kind of works, and he and the worker split up to look for the cart. Then he hears the fight, and the guys in suits speaking to Nicolai. Well, that was quick - he's back less than a half hour, and he's in trouble.

Nicolai starts to run, triggering in mid run, with Khan slung over his back. This startles the suits, who shoot, but don't hit him. Unfortunately, Nicolai runs smack into a robotic forklift. OW! Khan flies off into the darkness as Nicolai rolls and recovers. He decides to leave Khan, and book with the case, out through the hole in the fence.

Mikie recognizes the two suits as contractors, so they could be working for Regina Security, or not. As they suddenly spin to run to their car, one of them runs right into Mikie, and his gun goes sliding under the fence. He yells for help, Mikie uses him for cover, and his friend shoots him, deader than hell. Mikie then dives for cover, as the other guy tries to ram him with the car. Well, screw this. Mikie assaults the driver psionically, and then dives out of the way of the car. He then takes the guy's gauss pistol and throws it up onto the top of some crates, then takes a business card with a phone number on it, and ties the unconscious man to the steering wheel.

Khan has regained consciousness, and is letting the fork lift drag him along when he sees Nicolai and waves. And falls off the forklift. He's trying to convince Nicolai to open up the case here and now, when Mikie walks up and asks what the heck they're doing? Khan desperately tries to draw a weapon, but he's too weak to get the safety strap off; Mikie offers to help... Nicolai asks about the other guys, and Mikie tells him they're not a problem, but shouldn't they be leaving, and have they seen any luggage? As a matter of fact, the luggage cart is being moved up to the top of a stack of crates, even as they speak.... Sigh. Mikie writes down the grid coordinates, and they start to move, but Khan is bleeding, a lot. Mikie looks around, finds something wrapped in plastic, and cuts a swath off it. Nicolai wraps Khan up, and they start to leave. Then the worker who came down with Mikie finds them, and says "Oh, it looks like you found your luggage", referring to the plastic "package" Nicolai is carrying. Mikie explains that this is all he was able to grab before the forklift put it up top. They go back, get the luggage, and as the amount of luggage indicates Mikie was traveling with a woman, the worker lets him take the cart. They stash the luggage up a couple of levels in a locker, and head to Old Port to get Khan medicked.

En route, Mikie calls Theresa to let her know he's got the luggage. Theresa is very happy as she literally has almost nothing to wear, and had to throw on some little flimsy thing, and she's all cold.... Um. "I'll be back as soon as I can, but I promised some one else I'd help them with their luggage." Theresa understands, but "don't take too long - that security guard in the hall is starting to look good. Just kidding!" Mikie promises to be back as soon as possible, then they go off to get Khan to a doctor who won't ask questions, which they do. Nicolai forks over the money, and privately tells the doctor to keep Khan sedated for at least a couple of days, and slips the doctor another grand. No problem. Before they leave, Mikie removes all of Khan's personal effects, including his Oyster, bags them, and gives them to Nicolai for safekeeping (no use leaving something identifiable with Khan while he'll be unconscious).

Nicolai and Mikie leave, then find a small area to check out the box, when Mikie sees Blaelok wandering around Old Port, smiling, and with his hands in his pockets. <Expletive!> Mikie goes out, speaks with the ever polite Mr. Blaelok, tells him he really shouldn't be in this area, and it's dangerous, so he gets him off in the right direction, then returns to Nicolai. The box has not been demo'd, and it's not locked. Unfortunately, it has the expensive foam insert, with metal bricks weighting it down, and that's it. Then some one with a gun shows up. The word is evidently "out on the street", and this guy is after whatever's in the box. Mikie and Nicolai stall him, and when he's ticked off at the contents of the box, Pamela shows up. What she's wearing really distracts him, and Nicolai smashes the guy's head in. Mikie asks Pamela about the phone number on the card - it's not hers, but she thinks it one of Regina Security's numbers; Mikie takes out his lighter, and sets the card on fire - it flashes instantly. They head out after Khan, but when he's not at the doctor's, she leaves, telling Mikie she'll see him in the Bread and Bean in two hours.

Nicolai and Mikie try to track Khan, but when Mikie decides this is not his business, he gives Nicolai a direction, and heads to the locker, then home. Theresa is not wearing much more than pearls when Mikie gets out of the bathroom (getting rid of the bloody shirt). Mikie is very distracted for a while. So is Theresa.

Pamela and Kelly find Khan in the lost luggage section, says hello, then says "crimson chariot" to Khan. He instantly remembers where a hidden baggage claim ticket was (and forgets the code he just heard). Pamela just knew Khan would come through. Pamela pops open several lockers, with just her fist, gives Khan a nice jacket she finds, and Khan goes to retrieve his "luggage". Finally, it's the right piece of equipment. They go to the Ambassadore, where Khan is medicked, and fed (a lot). Kelly has a problem with the dead guy in the bathroom, as he's "looking at her", and she needs to use the restroom. Sigh. Pamela goes into the bathroom, and flips the guy over.

Khan asks Pamela if she knows the whereabouts of "Father's" backup tape? Father? Sontag. Oh. No, she doesn't but he was really paranoid about that, so he must have some somewhere. The subject of Sontag does not go well, as Pamela tells Khan "He was a fucking maniac." "Regardless, he was Father." "Well, three cheers for a little patricide!" Awkward silence there. Khan asks Pamela if he's an AP, and she tells him that yes, and no. For whatever reason, Khan thinks Father "made" Pamela; she just raises an eyebrow. She's getting frustrated, and punches out the wall, before going to the Bread and Bean to "meet some one". Off they go.

Theresa has gone off to visit with some friends, so Mikie gets dressed. He checks out the M and M dispenser, but it's empty, so he checks the box the medal is in, and sure enough, a tape labeled CB is under the medal. He pockets it and heads for the Bread and Bean.

Nicolai had no luck finding Khan back where he originally found him, and the headless corpse of the security guard has been added to the pile of bodies there, so he leaves that section, puts the case into a locker, noticing that some one seems to have "punched" in several lockers. Hmm. Then he went to the Bread and Bean, just because he always does. Mikie shows up, sees Nicolai, then goes over to order coffee. Then Pamela comes in. Mikie goes to a table, and Pamela joins him while Kelly and Khan get drinks. Mikie passes the tape under the table to Pamela. Then she tells him she needs him to get Chris out of the Solomani consulate. Yeah, right. Then Blaelok walks in (when Mikie sent him on his way out of Old Port, he suggested the Bread and Bean for coffee). Mikie sees him over Pamela's shoulder, smiles, says "tah-dah!", nods in the direction of Blaelok, and says "Damn I'm good, " with a smile. Unfortunately, LaBland is there, and gets pissed off at Blaelok for showing up there. Bugger. They've got to distract LaBland, so Mikie first asks Pamela if LaBland is likely to be "enhanced" (no - he's "Party", not SolSec), then gets up and accidentally stumbles against LaBland, spilling coffee on him. LaBland is annoyed, but wearing a suit covered in TL 15 ScotchGuard, so he just looks all pissed off like, and snaps off the coffee. Mikie apologizes, and offers to buy him a cup of coffee, but LaBland gets rude, and tells the little "troglodyte", to just get away. Mikie leaves, and Nicolai has taken the opportunity to get Blaelok to his table.

LaBland won't take no for an answer, and gets in Nicolai's face - "I've read your file. You've gone native haven't you? Rutting around in the teepee with the local squaws and all. Christi I believe her name is?" He starts to order Blaelok out of the restaurant, and Pamela is getting really nervous, and going for her gun. Mikie doesn't want a gunfight, so he goes over to LaBland, shoves him, and acts like some one who has just figured out that "troglodyte" was an insult. LaBland gets on his cell phone and calls for some Solomani marines, to come and take care of an annoying individual for him. Then he tells Mikie that he has no idea who he's dealing with, and they will soon see about this. He gets right in Mikie's face, and Mikie grabs his collar, kisses him on the cheek(okay, so it was a chance), and whispers "Veronica sends her love." He lets LaBland go, leans back, and just looks at him. LaBland is somewhat surprised, but evidently not unhappy.... Oh-oh.

Nicolai takes the opportunity to get Blaelok out, and gets him to agree to go to the Nicolo's with him. Pamela, Kelly, and Khan leave, and get into her car, with Khan driving. Khan asks Kelly if she still has his guns, as he feels naked without them. Pamela gives her permission, so Kelly gives Khan back his two guns. They phone Nicolai, and meet them at the restaurant. Pamela is obviously shaken up when she "meets" Blaelok, and he doesn't remember her. They convince Blaelok that Mr. LaBland needs Blaelok at a meeting, so they leave, after Khan has a small conversation with the man who is talking to his sleeve. He was with Regina Security, and was quite cocky until Khan whispered "I'm a dead man", because that is not what you want to hear from the man leaning up against you with a gun in your ear.

They end up ditching the car, and heading out by slidewalk. The Solomani are incredibly good at moving through crowds, and Khan has a high level of streetwise, so they are able to lose the Regina Security man when Nicolai pops open a panel and the group ducks in. The security guy gets really frustrated, and kicks the panel that Nicolai is holding shut, but it doesn't give. Nicolai tapes up the panel, and the group goes back in through the access tunnels to a spot Pamela has prepared. It's got the machine in it, and Pamela has the tape, but for some reason she tells Nicolai that now all they need is Mr. Griffin. What? Evidently Mikie is supposed to be able to work the machine. That would be news to him.

Back at the Bread and Bean, LaBland's marines have shown up, but he tells them it's okay, and he doesn't need them any more. LaBland then sits down with Mikie, and tells him he didn't need all the playacting, they just need to be "discreet". Mikie is trying to not panic, but his blood pressure is dangerously high, and he's trying to not read LaBland's emotions. LaBland leans forward and puts his hand on Mikie's thigh, Mikie freezes, and Theresa comes in the door. She stops, looks incredibly confused and upset, and says "Michael? I didn't know... you're...??" Oh shit. Evidently she had seen Mikie kiss LaBland, through the front window. LaBland looks at her, smiles, and makes some crude comment about "men's needs". Mikie stands up sort of shakily, and goes over to Theresa. He takes her outside, and tries to figure out what to say besides "I'm not". Mikie is very shaken up, and he doesn't know what to say. He tries to tell her that, but she reminds him about what they've been through, and if he can't talk to his own wife about something.... His phone starts to ring (it's Nicolai), but he doesn't answer it. LaBland comes out of the Bread and Bean, leans all GQ-like against the wall, and just waits smugly. Mikie asks Theresa to please go home, and yes, he will come home soon. After Theresa leaves, LaBland comes over and sort of brushes his hand through Mikie's hair. Mikie is tense to the point of vibrating, when Nicolai and Khan, having been dispatched to fetch Mikie, show up. Khan is set on LaBland, but misses when he tries to push him over. Then he starts just babbling to LaBland, like some kind of deranged, over-caffeinated, perky lunatic. Mikie starts to leave, and Nicolai goes after him. LaBland eventually accepts Khan's offer to go in and get coffee for them, and then runs off. Khan and Nicolai catch up with Mikie, who doesn't want to deal with anyone right now, especially after Nicolai makes a comment about having seen Theresa, and "What did you do to upset Theresa?" If looks could kill... Fortunately Mikie does not attempt to beat on Nicolai's brain.

Mikie just wants to go home, but Nicolai wants him to go with them. Mikie doesn't want to, he's done what he promised Pamela he'd do, and he's done with it. Nicolai begs to differ, and gets physical about it, along with Khan's help. Mikie is incredibly pissed off right now, and it comes very close to becoming a real fight. Mikie finally agrees to go with them, Nicolai eases off but doesn't let go until Mikie tells him to "Let go of my fucking arm. I said I'd go with you." An uneasy truce, but off to Pamela.

A kind of unhappy group shows up to where the Blaeloks and Kelly are waiting. Nicolai makes sure Pamela knows that Mikie did not want to come, and Mikie looks at him and says "God forbid you don't complete your mission." Nicolai responds with "That's about all I've got right now."

Mikie thinks she's nuts when Pamela says that he should know how to work the machine, but for some weird reason, while he's protesting that he doesn't know how to work this thing, he has an odd sort of déja vu feeling, and just starts doing it. The "restore backup" procedure is rather unpleasant looking, and takes about 15 minutes. Then Blaelok sits up, looks around, and wants to know who everyone is, and where is he? Oh-oh. He's behaving like a still "scrubbed" Blaelok, and everyone is getting kind of concerned, so Mikie decides to "take a look" psionically. Blaelok looks at him and says "Michael, you are just no fun." Argh! Everyone starts breathing again, and Pamela throws her arms around her Chris and starts to cry. Blaelok gets a bit uncomfortable with the public display of emotions after a few minutes, but it's definitely the old Blaelok again. And boy, is Pamela grateful; she tells Nicolai she is in his debt. Khan is jealous, because he'd really like Pamela to be in his debt, as she's so wonderful, and obviously a more superior one of Father's creations (Khan would love to step between her and danger, given the chance). Blaelok tells Nicolai that since he has done his such a great service, there's something he should know: the electronic control device that Blaelok told Nicolai had been removed from him was actually something Blaelok had "picked up at Spy Inc. for 10 credits." But there are ways to undo the programming, and Blaelok writes down the information for Nicolai, and tells him that he can use this to get help from people he trusts, to rid himself of the programming. Nicolai doesn't know exactly what all that would remove, so he's not going to do it right now, but at least he has the directions should he need to in the future. Nicolai will make sure he keeps the directions and any equipment needed together, just in case. Pamela feels she's in Nicolai and Mikie's debt, and she would do just about anything to show her gratitude right now. (Mikie's married, and Nicolai's still twitchy about Pammie, so no, it's not going to come to that.)

Blaelok evidently made his own backup right after he did Mikie's, the night of the big mess at SuSAG, as Blaelok asks Mikie about Solati. "They're both dead." "Both?" "It's a long story, but Anton Solati is dead." Blaelok is obviously a bit behind, and he realizes this when Mikie wants to leave, and Nicolai asks if he wants help explaining things to Theresa, Blaelok makes a comment about Theresa being "a lovely girl, and you should really make an honest woman out of her", and Mikie shows Blaelok his wedding ring. "Oh. I can see I'm rather out of date. Congratulations."

Some briefing takes place about Mr. LaBland, and Veronica Lu. Nicolai suggests the since LaBland thinks Blaelok is stilled "scrubbed".... Hmmm. That's an interesting option. Mikie tells Blaelok that LaBland has told Veronica Lu that he already had what he was looking for, even though he doesn't, and he's going to get more panicky as time goes by; and LaBland's "an easy read". Ah, that makes sense to Blaelok, who tells the group "of course. This wasn't a sanctioned 'scrub'! If it were, a full medical exam would have been done first, and I know that wasn't the case, because they wouldn't have missed this" and he extends his 'blades'; Nicolai, who was not aware of this, is very surprised, and looks it. Blaelok tells him that "after the original Pamela showed up, I decided it would be best not to be at a disadvantage, should another one show up - no offense my dear". Blaelok believes Ms. Lu will probably be showing up on Regina very soon to speak with Mr. LaBland, and she's obviously Blaelok's biggest concern right now. Whether LaBland had Blaelok scrubbed with or without Lu's permission, no one knows.

Nicolai has drawn his surf gun, and is waiting for a clear shot at the machine. Blaelok sees this, and gives him the go ahead. No more backup machine! Not like it's the only one in existence any way. Khan is shocked at Nicolai's actions, as he has the deranged plan to find a backup copy of Father and restore it onto himself! Khan is aware that this would probably delete his own personality, but it would bring back Father, and that's all that matters. Oh boy. Of course Khan is not aware of what Mikie has had explained to him - that unless you're restoring the backup onto the same person, or a clone, it doesn't exactly work. If Khan is ever successful, God knows what the result will be.

Blaelok then states that "well, all that's left now is to collect Gilbert and Sullivan." The room gets really quiet, and Pamela, Nicolai, and Mikie (Ghaer had told him what LaBland did) exchange looks. Mikie asks if Pamela's going to tell him, "or should I?" Nicolai volunteers, and Mikie says that "yeah, but you didn't even like them." Blaelok looks at them and says "Past tense??" Um. Nicolai tells Blaelok that the animals have been put down. Mikie tells him that LaBland had it done, and Blaelok just says "I see", in a rather chilling way. Mikie tells Blaelok that if he needs any help "dealing with LaBland" to let him know and he'll help. This surprises Blaelok, who wants to know if Mr. LaBland has done anything to "injure or upset" Mikie, who doesn't want to be specific about it, but yes. Blaelok tells Mikie that LaBland will be dealt with, but as Mikie is "basically a good person", Blaelok is concerned, lest Mikie end up like him. "Not that I have any intention of changing mind you." Mikie doesn't understand himself why LaBland has shaken him up this badly, which doesn't help.

Blaelok has evidently been expecting LaBland to be a problem (which explains how quickly LaBland showed up on Regina after the expulsion), and has some leverage stashed in the little hideout here. Mr. LaBland's "preference" is not that major an issue for Solomani's under normal circumstances, but not with the inferior locals. Apparently, LaBland had been "rutting with the natives" while on Rhylanor (at least the young male natives), and Blaelok had arranged to get some interesting pictures. Blaelok first is going to send the pictures to the Times, but Nicolai suggests they might be put to better use to set up some one as having something over LaBland's head. Blaelok agrees, and is going to give the photos to Mikie, but reconsiders (good thing) and give them to Nicolai, with the caveat that he should remember how dangerous a desperate man can get, especially one with power.

Blaelok then turns his attention to Kelly and Khan (who by the way has decided that Blaelok, while not physically perfect like Pamela, is so brilliant [which he is, but so are many sociopaths] that he too must be one of Father's creations, which would explain why Pamela is so attached to him - the perfect physical being and the perfect intellect). They are both memwiped, and Blaelok gets Khan's Oyster from Nicolai and reprograms it with his laptop. Then Pamela uses their command codes (whispered, so no, the rest of the party doesn't hear them) to do a little tweaking. The end result is Khan and Kelly waking up sometime later at Kelly's place, in bed, with hideous hangovers. Empty bottles and clothing all over the place, and vague memories of a lost weekend (they've both had 48 hours erased). They decide to see if they really were as good as they think... Well at least Khan has a girlfriend now. And he still remembers being asked by Pamela to find the machine, so he still has his missions in life.

Mikie leaves the group to go home finally. Halfway there he's rousted by the police, who want him to come in and answer some questions. Argh!!! Fine. They had received a tip that Mikie had been involved with several recent burglaries, so they question him about them. Mikie does not attempt to tell these jerks that he's gone straight, but all the of the incidents they are interested in happened while he was away on his honeymoon, off planet. And he still has the tickets, etc. in his pocket. Well, those could be faked, so he's stuck there for several hours while they confirm that he was, in fact off Regina, and has an ironclad alibi. Damn. Okay, he can go, but he's warned they'll be watching him. Mikie invites them to go to D.S. if they're so interested in watching him, since that's where he's working, but they'll have to buy their own drinks. And he leaves.

Mikie arrives at the apartment, much, much later than he'd planned, with no real idea on how he's going to explain the Bread and Bean incident with LaBland to Theresa, and still without knowing why he's so rattled. When he gets to their door, it's ajar, and the apartment is mostly dark. Presuming something is wrong (that has been how the day's gone so far), Mikie carefully opens the door after dropping a knife into his hand, and scanning for anyone other than Theresa in the apartment (apparently not). Theresa hears the door, and asks if it's Mikie. He says yes, and asks if she's all right. She's fine, and he comes in to see several candles lit, and Theresa waiting with a very nice meal. Mikie re-sheathes the knife and shuts the door, but he's still a bit confused, since the food looks and smells really good, which means Theresa did not cook it. Theresa runs over to hug Mikie. It seems that Pamela came over and "explained" what was going on at the Bread and Bean and Theresa is very proud of him. Okay, apparently Pamela told her that Mikie was helping them somehow, but Mikie does not ask her to be specific - he doesn't want to know. Theresa says Pamela was not at all what she expected, but was very friendly and made the dinner for them (Theresa helped). Ah, that probably means that the tip the police received was meant to delay Mikie. So things have been smoothed over at home for now, with good food and everything. As a side note, Theresa has had Mikie's SolSec medal put into a little shadowbox frame for display. Oh well, most people wouldn't recognize it any way, and those who do will probably decide not to say anything. Mikie is just grateful he doesn't have to try to explain things to Theresa. This time.

Nicolai feels badly for having strong-armed Mikie into rejoining the group, he decides to make amends. He takes one of the sheets of collapsed crystal he got from the Pikhans, and takes it to the best knifemaker on Regina. He commissions a pair of scaled-down (Mikie-sized) copies of his CRI knife, as he knows Mikie is into edged weapons as opposed to guns. The knifemaker is told who they are for, and Nicolai mails Mikie the claim ticket along with a note that he will be called when the order is ready.

72 - 1122.

Nicolai heads over to the Bread and Bean, to lay in wait for LaBland, who does eventually appear, with marine/bodyguard in tow. Evidently Mr. LaBland has been made nervous by the deranged overly friendly natives. Nicolai invites LaBland to join him for tea, and he accepts, since Nicolai "wouldn't be stupid enough to try something in public like this"; the marine waits nearby. Nicolai passes a large envelope over to LaBland (containing some of the more choice photos, but no negatives), who asks if it's "a gratuity?" Nicolai just smiles - "Could be!" LaBland neatly opens the envelope, and partially pulls out the photos, and gets very, very pale. He looks at Nicolai, who tells him:

"There are rules here on Regina. [Nicolai has been waiting a long time to use this line on some one.] I've been here longer than you have."

"How much do you want?"

"I don't want money; money's easy to come by here. I'll let you know. Those are the rules."

"We can make an arrangement, I can get you what you want, I know people..."

"There's a file on you too, LaBland."

"You're SolSec, aren't you? Damn you!"

"LaBland, I am so far removed from SolSec, you have no idea.... " (Of course, that's exactly what a SolSec agent would say.)

Before LaBland leaves, Nicolai tells him to "be careful who you mess with." Always good advice, especially on Regina.

What will Blaelok do now? Will he pretend to be the happy little readjusted Solomani assistant? Or will he just have LaBland stuffed into the humane society's incinerator while alive and conscious? Blaelok and his new puppy could watch through the window and wave bye-bye to the nasty little man. Will Blaelok and Pamela remain on Regina, at least for now? If so, they will need to come to some sort of agreement or truce with Corina, and even worse, with Black. What will happen to LaBland? Will Lu arrive on Regina? Will the locals like her if she does? (Okay, probably not.) What will Mr. Black do when Mikie delivers a Vermeer painting he's been trying to acquire for several years, as a "peace offering" from Blaelok? What is Mikie going to do with Theresa's backup tape? Will Khan ever get over his delusions? Was he dropped on his head repeatedly sometime in the past? What will happen at the high school reunion?

Stay tuned for the next installment of "As Regina Rotates". And remember our motto: All the scandals, ten times the violence!