Welcome to Our World.

85 - 1122.

Collingwood asks Ghaer to come see him. Ghaer shows up, but he's not really sure about Collingwood, given his behavior at the hearings. Collingwood explains that the tape was faked by Black, and Collingwood does admit he lost his temper. Collingwood tells Ghaer that he needs his help as "an outsider". Collingwood has learned that one of his people is on Black's payroll. He shows Ghaer several documents with Viktor Androchev's electronic signature on them. The documents discuss Collingwood, the transfer of money, etc. Ghaer makes the comment that "This makes it easier, as I believe Viktor still trusts me." He's shown some pictures of Viktor meeting discreetly with Black; Ghaer attempts to associate "Viktor" and "discreet" in his mind and fails.

Collingwood "abhors having to stoop to this level", and personally he's very fond of Viktor, but the current situation is forcing his actions (boy, it's a good thing he likes Viktor). He gives Ghaer the number of an account, with $500,00 credits in it, for expenses. And he shows Ghaer a document signed by Astridi, giving authority to deal with "the traitorous officer".

Late one night, Calvin (aka "the Swarm", on the net) is in his room on the computer, in spite of directions from his mother to "go to bed!" He's hacking into some really challenging sites, and ends up in some kind of military site (as near as he can tell), and he manages to intercept and read several secure documents that mention preparing "incriminating documents", "Ghaer Raller", "Viktor Androchev", "...once Androchev has liquidated the target, Raller will be instructed to eliminate him, and then you are to eliminate Raller", and "you are authorized to proceed with the project", etc. As he's reading and downloading, his computer locks up, strange characters scroll across the screen, and the phone rings. Calvin unplugs everything really quickly, and tries to reset. He hears pounding on the front door, his parents' voices, the door opening, and then full auto gunfire, and lots of it. Shouting, strange voices, "this way!", and approaching feet. Calvin tosses some mini-grenades (home made) on the floor, and takes off through his bolt hole, dragging his laptop with him. A regular grenade is thrown into the room, and it detonates all the devices with a big ka-boom! Then the strangers are into his room, firing after him.

Calvin is in the air circulation vents, tapping into the station's systems. He is able to turn on the halon gas in his apartment, and at least temporarily lock them in. Then he hears an approaching cleaning 'bot. He gets into that area of the system, and is going to redirect it away, but it is apparently on "auto", and he can't override the controls, no matter how hard he tries. He decides to roll one of his "exploding marbles" at it, and it detonates when it hits it, which also detonates the satchel charge the 'bot was dragging along in its olive drab satchel. BOOM!! Calvin is shot out of the vent, taking the grate with him, just like a champagne cork, only more sooty like, and smack into one of the big armor-crete cored trees in Aguilon Park. Ow.

A struggle ensues with the homeless man who picks up Calvin's laptop, and continues until suppressed weapons are fired, evidently the bad guys, but they're in stealthsuits, so they are not really visible. Calvin runs, intending to get back to his apartment, but he can't get into another vent, and ends up climbing a tree to try to get away. Or at least he climbs half a tree, and then falls off, injuring his ankle.

Walking in the park, William Delgado hears what sounds like a child crying out in pain, so he runs that way. En route, he runs right into one of the bad guys. They both freeze briefly, then the bad guy stabs Will, who shoots him. Calvin sees several men briefly illuminated by the bright flash, and starts to limp away, as quickly as possible. He still can't get into the original vent he came out of, as it is still burning oil, and who knows what else. And the fight continues between Will and the bad guy, who are basically thrashing the crap out of each other using their respective weapons, although Will has less armor. Finally, the bad guy goes down, just before the area gets strafed. Will books, and tries to grab Calvin up as he runs.

Calvin hears something crashing through the woods behind him, and then it lunges for him, scooping him up, and making off with him. Calvin, convinced it's the child-eating park bear, screams bloody murder, making it easy for the bad guys to figure out where they are. Will tells Calvin to "shut up kid", and Calvin decides that if the bear wants him to shut up, he probably should; no one had told him the bear could talk...

Dodging bullets, Will runs out of the park, into the starport mall, towards Regina Trauma. The bad guys do not follow out of the park, at least not right away. Will, being a doctor, is well aware that he needs help before he bleeds to death. On the other hand, the bad guys will probably be looking for them at the hospital, so as soon as they get inside, he grabs a sheet, wraps them up, and ducks into the locker room.

Will calls one of the nurses he knows, and gets help. He tells the nurse that some one has tried to kill the boy, and they may still be looking for him. Everyone assumes that Calvin is Will's kid, and Will doesn't correct them. Will is taken into surgery, and Calvin is placed into a room and given an analgesic. The nurse turns the tri-D on for him, and then leaves. Calvin turns off the tri-D after he sees the story about how he set fire to his parents' apartment with one of his 'experiments', killing both of them. Grisly photos of the crisped bodies are shown, and the neighbors are prompted to remember that the kid was a loner, never played with other kids, and was one of those 'sociopaths'. When the nurse next comes in, Calvin throws his arms around her and cries. A lot.

86 - 1122.

Meanwhile, back in the jail cell, Bob the IBI guy tells Mikie that "It might be kinder...", and leaves his belt in the cell with Mikie. Mikie is not going to hang himself, but he does get the hint. Then Special Agent in Charge Rawlings shows up, asking if "Mr. Griffin" is all comfortable. He sees the belt, and makes a comment about Mikie being careful. But, Mikie's not important, so Rawlings is sure Mikie will be "cut loose" soon, unless they find something else to charge him with. That is, unless Mikie decides to be cooperative? Right. And of course, the prison planet Torment is mentioned, as usual. Strange feeling of déja vu here. Didn't work last time either.

Then Mikie's new cellmates are brought in, in full irons, by four guards in armor. Large new cellmates. Very large. One of the big guys is given a carton of cigarettes before the guards and Rawlings leave. Mikie stays out of their way as much as possible, even after they flip a lit cigarette at him, then they decide to get all friendly-like. Clem and Roy then decide that Mikie is "kind of cute", and they haven't "gotten any for a while". This is going to be very, very, ugly, and you don't have to be clairvoyant to see that.

Viktor meets with a SAG officer named Mr. Smith (how original), referred to him by the JAG lieutenant as some one to help him plan the "hit" on Black as bait to draw out the man who is trying to get Viktor to obey an illegal order. At first, Mr. Smith thinks it will be a piece of cake to take out the "paper-pushing bureaucrat", but Viktor carefully and slowly explains just who and what Black is, as much as he can in a short period of time. Okay, this is going to be harder than Mr. Smith thought. It is a bit easier when Viktor explains that "collateral damage" is permissible. Ah, so an Ingavar bomb perhaps? Smith goes off to formulate his clever plan, and Viktor goes for a walk; he really hates being in the position he's in. He happens to wander through the part of the park where some firemen are working on a smoldering air vent, and he stops to look at an odd impression in one of the trees. Looks kind of like a small person hit it at high speed. How interesting. The local police are also in the area, but they have apparently not yet noticed the spent brass that Viktor sees all over the grass. He picks up some, just in case this is important later.

Speaking of being in very, very, bad positions, bad in the cell with Clem and Roy. Mikie is roughed up pretty badly, as he's still sick from the effects of the psi-suppress and can't really defend himself. Right after his jumpsuit is ripped open, there is an unpleasant sound down the hall of something breaking - something like a person's spine, perhaps. Then an oddly accented voice asks if Clem and Roy are "having fun"? The snazzily dressed, average-looking, pale man, in response to Clem's "why don't you come on in", calmly bends out the bars. After several very quiet moments, Clem charges Blaelok. There's a 'snick', and Clem's head falls off. Roy hits Blaelok in the chest, but then Blaelok returns the favor, only this involves several blades extending out of Roy's back as Blaelok lifts him up into the air, drops him, then steps on his throat. As Roy is expiring, Blaelok looks into his eyes, and asks "Do you see a bright light? Friends or loved ones?" (we hate it when he does this).

After Roy kicks off completely, Blaelok recommends Mikie leave before he has to explain all the dead bodies. When he realizes that Mikie is not in any condition to escape, Blaelok uses an auto-injector of Combat on him, and then points him in the right direction out, past several deceased police officers. Mikie heads out the back, and gets into Old Port before something grey and black rushes up and hits him. It's the pavement, actually, and the last thing Mikie sees for a while.

Calvin wakes up, and tries to boot up his laptop, but as soon as it starts to boot, he gets a message about "reformatting hard drive", so he shuts it off. His ankle is treated, and he's given Regen, so he's healed, and very hungry. The nurse comes in and is told his 'father' is awake, and does he want to see him? Calvin says yes, and is taken into Will's room. Calvin says "Daddy!", and runs to him. Will is momentarily confused, and is thinking "Isn't he a bit old????" (Calvin is 10 years old, which would mean Will was a father at 14.) Calvin whispers "Play along with me!" , which Will does. Calvin, as the door is closing, sees a cop showing a picture to a doctor, and as he's about to show it to the nurse, Calvin pushes the call button for her. The nurse comes in, and asks what's wrong. Calvin tells her that the "machine was beeping", and that Will's "eyelids were fluttering, and I got scared!" She assures Calvin that everything is okay, but she checks the machine, and everything is okay. She helps Will get his stuff and get out, after getting some kind of clothing for Calvin.

On the way out, there are cops in the front, but they are not looking the correct direction. Calvin does manage to nick one of the cop's little palmtop computers on the way by. He turns it off, as it does have his picture up on it. When they get to Will's apartment, he borrows Will's computer, and uses it to get the information off the hard drive onto disk. The data is pretty messed up, so it will take a while to recover what he can. The data is badly garbled, especially the transmissions he intercepted, which has "GRaller", and "Androchev", and individual words. Calvin needs to clear his name, but he's not sure how. He gets in touch with his best friend, and tells him what's going on. He wants to get the streetsuit and grav-board he lent his friend too. Calvin has spoofed the connection, but while he's on line, he gets an alert that some one is trying to back track him, so he sets the system to smurf the main starport computer system, and ping everything, which screws up the whole system something fierce for a few minutes, losing millions of credits that were being transferred at this time, and screwing up the tridee so that you get the video from the soft porn station with the sound from an infomercial, and the auto-cabs go a bit weird. Then the system is rebooted, and things go back to normal.

Calvin tells Will everything, including the fact that "they killed" his parents. Will checks out the news, which claims that Calvin set the fires. But Will knows that Calvin has burns on his back, not on his front and hands, as some one would if they had actually set a fire. Calvin is also sorry that Will got hurt, and he starts crying again. Will comforts him as much as he can, amid tears and declarations of "I have to clear my name!" Will has a feeling his dad (Falcon) would really like Calvin, so he is going to take him to his dad's place. Calvin darts downstairs, and then comes running in to show off his grav board and suit. Ta dah! Will wants to know just where he got that?!? Calvin tells him his best friend delivered it. "Here?" "Yeah, downstairs." Oh bugger. Will snatches the board, flings it out the window, and shields Calvin - and the board blows up. Qu'elle surprise!

Will manages to get Calvin to Falcon Delgado's home. Falcon has no computer (that's for work, this is home), and no tridee. There is some confusion when Calvin tries to start the book by telling it to turn on, and then declares that "it's broken". Falcon is going to introduce Calvin to proper books, and "The Wind in the Willows".

Ghaer has gone to visit Viktor, who has not had much sleep, and what there was involved the recliner in the living room. He's cranky. Ghaer tells him that Collingwood has sort of annexed him as a local guide, and has asked that Ghaer offer his assistance to Viktor, for whatever is necessary. Vague references are made, without either party coming out and saying any names or specifics, as they both know that everything is bugged on Regina. They take a walk in the park.

The discussion Viktor is concerned that what is going on may result in taking sides between Astridi and Grey, but Ghaer doesn't think it will come to that level. Ghaer has not yet told Viktor exactly what he's into, but when Viktor asks Ghaer how deep into this he wants to get, Ghaer replies that "Collingwood already thinks I'm in pretty deep". Will, in pursuit of information, has tracked down Ghaer Raller's address, and the nosy neighbor lady pointed him in the direction of the park. As Ghaer and Viktor are speaking, a large man is walking their way. Naturally they are suspicious, as Will is walking rather stiffly. Just then a pack of small children come running up yelling "Puff Puff! Puff Puff!!" Ghaer sighs, and sings the song, and then the kids' teacher takes them away. It's a bit awkward, but Will introduces himself to Viktor, and explains that he needs their help with a problem - it seems a friend of his has intercepted some messages that almost got him killed, and got Will stabbed in the park. Ghaer and Viktor agree to go have a conversation with Will, and they go to Discarding Sabot.

It's morning at D.S., not many people, and Ghaer gets Irving to play something instrumental - this becomes Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor", until Sal staggers out screaming quietly. Ghaer says "Well, you wanted him back." (Referring to Ghaer having gotten Irving involved in his charitable construction projects to the point where Irving wasn't coming into work.) Sal tells Ghaer "take him, take him!", so they go to one of the construction sites, where there is lots of banging and sawing, etc.

Under cover of construction, Will explains about Calvin, etc. He also tells them what Calvin said was originally in the messages about Viktor and Ghaer, the falsified documents, etc. Ah, this would explain the documents about Viktor and Black, which Ghaer tells Viktor about. There's a question as to who's "running Collingwood". Will tells Viktor and Ghaer that he's not sure what the heck's going on, but "if it involves our new Governor, count me in - I've got a score to settle." (Referring to Will's father Falcon being dragged in front of the senate hearings.) Viktor explains what Collingwood wanted him to do, and Ghaer tells them that he was supposed to kill Viktor afterwards, and had a week to do it.

Viktor is convinced that Collingwood is "Astridi's man", and that's why Viktor thinks a choice will have to be made as to whether or not to support Astridi. Ghaer tells Viktor that Collingwood is not "Astridi's man", but he's in Astridi's camp. Ghaer wants to warn Steiner, but Viktor doesn't want to contact her at all, and would rather she and the Sengi not be here at all.

Viktor explains what has been set up with the JAG officer, about setting up Collingwood. Will is concerned that the JAG officer may have been compromised, and Viktor is kind of concerned about the SAG officer recommended to him (Mr. Smith). On the other hand, a SAG officer would really be an appropriate choice, hard to tell. Viktor has an appointment to see Mr. Smith at 11:00 a.m., and Ghaer will go along (as part of his cunning plan to gain Viktor's trust).

Some one at the work site has a small portable tridee, and Ghaer glances over in time to see Mikie's picture (mugshot, actually), and lots of bodies. Ghaer has the volume turned up, and Mikie is now a "powerful telekinetic, who has been taking psi-boost", and has "obviously gone psychotic", and "brutally killed two police officers and two prisoners". Ghaer believes that the bent bars means one of the Solomani robots, and he tells Viktor about the 'bots. On the other hand, Mikie will probably be shot on sight now. Kinder, really.

Also, Ghaer tells Viktor that he will be joining Collingwood at the Grenadier's Club for dinner later that evening, and Viktor could just show up. Will calls in sick, and then decides to accompany Ghaer. If anyone says something to Ghaer about Will, he'll just say that he knows that, and that's why he's keeping him close so that Will can be dealt with at the same time. How efficient!

Viktor has picked up several shell casings from the "incident" in the park last night, and he shows them to Ghaer. The casings are completely sterile - no markings, nothing that would identify them or their origins. How interesting.

Ghaer and Viktor will go meet with Mr. Smith, and Will is going to get his bandages changed, as he is "seeping". Ghaer gives Will his cell phone number. Ghaer recommends that Will go to a "discreet clinic" - like the one Anders runs. They drop Will off near there.

Viktor takes Ghaer to meet with Mr. Smith, who is rather concerned, as the fewer people who know about what they are doing, the better. And it's getting a bit tricky, as Black is Down Port - he's been spending a lot of time with the Red Shirts. They've been fractionalized since Corina's death, and Black is apparently trying to organize them. And Black is more in the open, and since the "collateral damage is not an issue", Mr. Smith is considering having some one dressed as a Red Shirt to kill Black, and try to pass it off as infighting. Could work. A bomb would be the logical choice, especially since Mr. Black is remarkably careful - Smith apologizes for his earlier remarks, as he now understands what kind of person Black really is. And his hand-picked successor, Mr. Soames, is about to take over Regina Security, and he's just as invisible as Black was. Smith ponders "just where do these people come from? When they are born, does some one say 'I know, he'll be a spook - let's burn his birth certificate and everything, and raise him in complete isolation'??"

Smith has additional information. Apparently, one of Regina's senators has shot himself, and several others have left planet rather precipitously. All of them were on the Senate committee. The one who killed himself left a note, but it's been seized by the IBI.

Mikie comes to, eventually. He's in the really old part of Old Port, where some of the gutted buildings are being rebuilt, gradually. And his headache is not being helped by the hammering, and the little squeaky voice through the bullhorn. Irving's voice is distorted, but recognizable. Mikie manages to get Irving over to where he's hiding - he doesn't want to involve Irving, but he's badly hurt, and doesn't have much in the way of options right now.

Irving, thank God, has medical skill. Mikie tries desperately to warn Irving about the police, being shot, etc., but Irving is determined to help. Irving, with the assistance of some of the "marginal" people helping him. Mikie is medicked, fed, clothed, and actually gets some real sleep. He wakes up that evening, still in a great deal of trouble, but at least feeling better. Irving has come up with several disguise options that aren't too bad. One of the disguises is a sort of monk's outfit, with a hood, etc. - almost a combination of a monk's robes and a chador. Perfect. Once Irving is convinced to remove the flame-thrower, and not install the hood-mounted rocket launcher; at least while Mikie's on Up Port. Fortunately, the robe has kevlar lining, and many titanium knives hidden inside.

Irving also gives Mikie a handful of Dakars, and proudly announces that he made them himself. ????? Turns out Irving has actually been making super-platinum Dakar copies. But no one is supposed to know how to do that! The only thing Irving hasn't been able to do is reproduce the "electronic signature" on the Dakars. No one knows about that... Turns out that the real bitch was finding enough platinum, and getting enough electricity. Irving has solved those problems by discovering a bunch of platinum in the basement of the Solomani consulate, and he wonders "what those Solomani were doing with all that platinum?", but as it was in dusty boxes, evidently they weren't using it (Irving just 'happened' upon the platinum after tunneling through flint steel to get into the basement of the consulate...), and by tapping into the main power grid during night cycle, but he's only been able to make about 10,000 Dakars. [Eep. ] Mikie convinces Irving to not use the Dakars to fund the reconstruction stuff that Ghaer has gotten him involved with until he speaks with Ghaer. Then Mikie leaves.

Steiner sends a message to Collingwood, requesting a private conversation at the time and place of Collingwood's choosing. Collingwood suggests she joins the party at the Grenadier's Club, and they can chat privately after the party. Steiner agrees to that.

Ghaer has been researching Collingwood, and has been finding out interesting stuff about Collingwood and his father, Collingwood's "tomcatting" with Astridi, etc. Ghaer now knows to take the opposite position of Collingwood's father, in order to get in good with Tiger.

Mikie gets his hands on as much info as he can on the religious order he's "joined" - the Rosarians. Fortunately, they have at least a partial Catholic base, and have printed a lot of pamphlets that are readily available especially in Old Port. The Rosarians have sort of religious "walkabouts" where they go off to spread the faith by good works, in a relaxed, casual kind of attitude. And luckily, they have lay brothers, so Mikie doesn't have to learn an entire new religion.

Ghaer and Viktor pick up Will, who's feeling better. Ghaer checks in on Anders, who is doing quite well with the clinic, but her husband Reid looks at Ghaer kind of funny. Of course, Reid looks at everybody that way.

Viktor checks in with his wife, who is rather displeased that he has not checked in with her, for hours. Viktor apologizes, and admits she's right, and he's sorry. He asks Katerina to contact Bunny, and invite her and her husband to dinner. Since Collingwood is going to be with his officers, doing "manly bonding" (hmm, does that include Steiner?), Bunny will join the Androchev's for dinner. Will and Ghaer will be going to the Grenadier Club together, with Will as Ghaer's guest. Ghaer will probably leave Will at the bar during dinner, so he's in sight, but not actually part of the Collingwood group. On second thought, Viktor will have Will join them for dinner chez Androchev, to "fill out" the party with Bunny. And it should be good protection for Will, as no one will do anything with the future duke's wife there.

Viktor contacts Collingwood before he leaves for the Club, to inform him that "progress is being made". Collingwood is pleased, and he's happy that Bunny will be dining with Viktor and his wife since he has "another engagement".

Mikie, in a desperate search for enlightenment, goes to St. Andrew's. This does fit in with the practices of the Rosarians, as they believe that all places can be God's house. Any church in a storm, and the weather on Regina is very stormy.

Ghaer shows up at the Grenadier Club, but without his SEH pin, as Collingwood doesn't have one. Steiner shows up in black, as usual, so she's not wearing her SEH pin. Collingwood's officers are all very competent, driven people, who are obviously very attached to their commander.

Before dinner, Viktor makes several "in the event of my death" videos for his wife, for Vasilli (when he comes of age), and for the public. The public one has information of a very interesting nature in it. They are put into a safe for now, and Viktor does not tell anyone.

Then it's dinner time, and Katerina has pulled together a wonderful spread. Will is going to eat extremely well for a change - not hospital food. Bunny is very charming, and drinks. A lot. But she really is a very nice woman. Viktor tries to indirectly bring up family things, so as to attempt to get Bunny to discuss her family, especially her father (Viktor knows that since her father's death Bunny became almost invisible on a social level, sort of fading into the background), and the people he knew (senators, nobles, etc.). And Bunny is pretty much the center of attention for the most part, and everyone has a good time around her.

Bunny is a bit too intoxicated, and falls asleep. Viktor is going to put her in the guestroom, but Bunny wants Will to take her to the bedroom. And to bed. Which he does. Eventually, a really good time is had by Bunny and by Will. Katerina, who's not deaf, is incredibly embarrassed, but what the heck are they going to do at that point? Viktor decides Katerina needs some distraction, but Katerina nixes that! They turn up the sound dampers, and Viktor gets up early, and tries to make up by taking the early shift with Vasilli.

87 - 1122.

It's about 3:00 a.m., at the Grenadiers Club, and the party is starting to show signs of coming to a close. Steiner still wants to have a private conversation with Collingwood, so he arranges for them to have use of one of the private rooms in the club. Collingwood is very friendly, and Steiner is too, but she keeps the conversation mostly away from getting too friendly (nudge-nudge). Steiner's first concern was to make certain that there were no bad feelings after the tape that came out. Collingwood apologizes, and makes a comment about his mouth getting him into trouble. He's feeling kind of put upon, and frustrated. And he does make some comments about his relationship with his wife not being very good. When he hears the party breaking up outside, Collingwood has to go say goodnight to everyone. But he does offer to see Steiner home, and she accepts.

Since uniforms have been loosened, and buttons undone somewhat, a bit of the red silk underthings that Steiner is wearing shows. Collingwood notices, and comments on it as they are walking back to Steiner's, asking if it's "regulation"? "No, although it is the Clan color. It was a gift." "Oh, from anyone I know?" "As a matter of fact, yes. He can't stand all the black all the time." (Steiner is referring to Astridi, as was Collingwood.) When they get back to Steiner's hotel room, she invites him in for a nightcap, which he accepts. Collingwood relaxes considerably, and while he is obviously interested in Steiner, and there are a fair number of double-entendres, Collingwood is being cautious and is not pushing too much. They have a drink, and a very interesting conversation. Collingwood seems to like talking to Steiner, and complains that he sometimes feels that the universe is out to block his every move. Well, Steiner can certainly understand that feeling. Collingwood speaks about his father, and their rather rocky relationship, and Bunny's "problem", for which Collingwood takes at least partial blame. Bunny just "doesn't understand" some things, but then again, she's not military. Maybe that's part of the attraction to Steiner. Steiner doesn't encourage Collingwood past a certain point, but she also does not completely discourage him either. As he's leaving, Collingwood says "If I weren't a married man..."

At St. Andrew's, Mikie is in one of the pews when he sees Ghaer come in. Oh bugger. Ghaer is hoping to find Mikie, and stays for a while, but aside from a few late night "parishioners", including a monk, there isn't any one else there - no Mikie. Ghaer lights a candle. Mikie would like to speak with Ghaer, but he won't endanger Ghaer. Then some one sits down beside Mikie, crosses himself, then looks over at Mikie and says "That's correct isn't it?" Mikie glances at Blaelok and says "Yeah, and since you didn't burst into flames that's another tradition shot to hell". Blaelok glances up at the crucifix at the front, and says "I know just how he feels. So, how is your j'la game lately?" [Note: He is referring to an 'encounter' with a Var-Sengi lord that resulted in Blaelok and Ghaer being tied to large crosses out in the sun by a large j'la board, with Mikie having to play to gain their release.] Mikie doesn't have much time lately, what with being in jail or being pursued, since you have to be able to stay in one place for more than five minutes to play j'la. Blaelok finds this whole thing rather entertaining, and can't wait to see how Mikie gets himself "out of this one". Evidently he finds Mikie much more diverting than the tri-D, and without him Blaelok would be so bored on Regina. Besides, Mikie won't "grow" unless he's pushed. Well, gosh, that's so encouraging. Blaelok does admit to being rather amused by his current relationship with Veronica Liu, as she's now having Blaelok "scrub her back, among other things". (ewwwww) Anyone crazy or stupid enough to turn their back on Blaelok pretty much deserves whatever they get. Blaelok makes comments about his concerns for Theresa, who "must be just frantic; or perhaps she's fond some one to comfort her." Mikie indicates Blaelok should back off that topic, and right quick. Blaelok offers to help Mikie, who is concerned about "the cost" of Blaelok's help. Blaelok leaves, after making a request for a prayer from the Brother. On the way out, he dips a finger into the holy water, and tastes it. Charming.

In the morning, Will gets up and quietly dressed. He leaves a note for Bunny, on top of her clothing: "Bunny - It was wonderful. Will" And giving her his phone number. At breakfast, she pulls Will aside, and asks "Nothing...happened....Did it?" Will's response is "Well, I wouldn't say that." But Will can be discreet. Bunny is obviously uncomfortable, and Will doesn't stay long after that. Bunny wants to leave fairly soon after that, and Viktor takes her home in his car. Bunny is already inside, and Viktor is on his way out when Collingwood shows up. Their cars stop beside each other so Viktor and Collingwood can exchange greetings. Collingwood almost immediately volunteers the information that he's "just returning from the office - finishing up some business".

Steiner receives a dozen roses, and a note: "Thanks for being such a good listener. And hopefully a good friend." From Collingwood, of course.

The big news is from planetside - there's been a coup. It seems that there is a new planetary government, and the population of the capital city woke up to find tanks in the street, and Red Shirts everywhere. It's been a bloodless coup, and the head of the newly ruling junta, General Ramirez, has already declared the government's support of the Imperium. Collingwood isn't too concerned about the change of government, as it is "a planetary matter", and besides, since the new government is at least temporarily under the control of a military junta, that means they may be "easier to deal with", being fellow military types. The only interesting thing is that several important people have been arrested for "crimes against the people", including several senators. Other senators, including Rutledge, are wanted by the new government, which has requested they be turned over for "trial". At the big rally, Black is one of the speakers, and is quite emotional when discussing Corina and her vision for her people. (Method actor?)

Viktor is going to be sent down to the planet to meet with Ramirez, and sort of scope him out for Collingwood. Obviously, the plans with regard to Black will be put on hold for the time being, until things settle down; for one thing, there is currently a curfew in place to keep things calm for the short term. Viktor arranges to bring Will along, as his personal physician, as Viktor feels better with a doctor nearby. Katerina gives Viktor the skinny on Ramirez - his family, what his likes are, etc., so that Viktor will know how to deal with him. Before Viktor leaves, he puts the skeleton pocket watch (a gift from Cassandra Wolfe) into the safe for Vasilli; just in case. Not that he's being fatalistic. Well, all right, so he's being fatalistic; he can't help it, he's Russian.

Steiner is invited to a "working dinner" with Collingwood that evening. He wants to discuss the coup, and it's potential ramifications with Steiner, since she does represent the Imperium's Sengi allies. It turns out to be a rather small "work" group, since it consists of just Collingwood and Steiner, and it takes place at the Savoy. Evidently Collingwood is still very interested in Steiner, and not as a military ally.; it helps that she's apparently a challenge. Also, she's some one outside of the chain of command, but with a similar (military) background, so she understands Collingwood. Steiner is trying to get to know Collingwood, as his behavior has been inconsistent to the point of not being able to figure the man out. Yet. Just how far this new "relationship" goes remains to be seen.

Mikie gets one of the Dakars exchanged into credits, gets some food, and rents a drawer. He needs the sleep, and he's still healing. While he is out, he sees a report on tri-D about the new head of Regina Security, who is going to be sworn in shortly - Mr. Soames. Mikie recognizes Soames as Blaelok's plant, which means he's the one whose control code Mikie gave to Black. Interesting. But since he was unconscious for most of the last couple of days, Mikie is extremely behind in the news - he hasn't seen Black's testimony, doesn't know why there is a new head of Regina Security, etc. He's going to have to check the library for news tapes.

Ghaer is very worried about Mikie, especially since Theresa and her father have just disappeared. Mikie and Theresa's apartment is stilled sealed up by the police, but JB's apartment is completely empty - no furniture, nothing. But Ghaer does find a cigarette butt in the fireplace - a Sobrainé (and that means Black).

Ghaer has sent a message through Blaelok, asking to meet with Lu, making a reference that Ghaer was sure Blaelok didn't remember him now, but they had worked together in the past. (A subtle attempt to reassure Blaelok that Ghaer does not intend to blow his cover.) Lu meets with Ghaer who is trying to make sure the robots don't show up and rip off any of his bits. Lu feels that as long as she has a self interest in keeping Ghaer alive, nothing of the sort will happen. In other words, as long as Ghaer is useful, he's relatively safe. Ghaer gets the impression that Ambassador Lu is in need of more people on her side. She's evidently failed to find the SolSec 'mole' within the consulate, and Regina hasn't turned out to be the simple, rustic place Veronica expected. She's obviously somewhat uncomfortable being around a Vargr, and keeps her distance from him, but she does appear to be pleased that Ghaer is willing to help. It's amazing what you're willing to work with when you're desperate...

When Viktor and his little entourage arrive on Down Port, they are met by none other than Mercer Black. Viktor has only had a few dealings with Black in the past, nothing unpleasant, so it's a very cordial meeting. Black is merely "a private citizen" now, but he has been asked to escort General Androchev to meet with General Ramirez.

And so the plot continues...