Ask not for whom the 'career termination light' flashes...

89- 1122.

Viktor goes home, gets Vasilli up, and watches cartoons with him. Viktor knows better than to wake up his wife at this hour of the morning. He takes the opportunity to write up his plans and orders for later....

William Delgado is being worked on in Regina Trauma. His head is, of course, shaved even though his bullet wound is in the middle of his forehead; it's just what they do. A doctor is lecturing Will while probing his wound. "Dueling. And you a doctor. You're lucky to be alive - if it weren't for your thick skull...", ping as the bullet hits the tray, "Doesn't look too bad, a minor skull fracture. Should we bother to stitch up your liver, or just install a zipper?" Will is going to be on a restricted diet for several days. No sugar, or alcohol, or fat, or meat. Toast and water will about do it. Oh, and he can have plain jell-o. Lovely.

Ghaer goes to the Bread and Bean to have breakfast and coffee. There's a guy in there with a lot of empty coffee cups in front of him, and he keeps muttering "Must stay awake...can't fall asleep..."; he's red-eyed, very hyper.

The morning NewsFax have the story of the duel in the park between Collingwood and the "dashing duelist" (aka Will). Or the "dashing dueling doctor". Alliteration abounds. "The sweating hands gripping the mahogany...", and the "surgical precision" of the shots fired. Seems the writer is a frustrated romance novelist. No one is quite sure what caused the duel, but it apparently was "an affair of honor", possibly related to Will's father Falcon.

Will is kept overnight, and is the subject of much mirth during rounds. He's slightly jaundiced, and feeling like hell. He hears roaring down the hall - it's a familiar voice demanding to be released immediately as he "has a planet to run". It's Collingwood, who has the room down the hall, but the nurses win, and he has to stay put. It doesn't help that he has one of those unfortunate gowns on... And speaking of Falcon Delgado, he of course has shown up at the hospital (a friend is looking after Calvin). Falcon gives him a lecture on how stupid the duel was. Will tells his father that Collingwood had Calvin's parents killed, and then tried to kill the kid (at least that's what Will thinks). Falcon warns him that, even if that's true, proof would be needed, and if Collingwood finds out that Will 'knows'.... Falcon reads to Will, in his wonderful voice, giving Will flashbacks to when he was a little boy being read to in his little bed. Then his mom tells him to "get up! You'll be late for school!" Well, actually, it's the nurse with his sleeping pill.

Ghaer is enjoying a lovely breakfast, with fresh croissants and coffee. Peaceful, no trouble at all. The odd man who doesn't want to sleep makes him a little nervous, but oh well. Ghaer suddenly realizes he's supposed to be somewhere - at his first class!!! He rushes off to the university, and arrives just in time for the passing out of the syllabus. And it's not going to be an easy class.

Somewhere else...

Corina is still in a torpor, but on some level she can hear the voice "My beautiful Corina...", as some one gently strokes her cheek....

On Birabates, Joe Lee is in mid "purification" - stripped, cleansed, into the sweat lodge, etc., etc. He will be spending many hours being stared at intently by several lords, who say nothing. Fortunately, this kind of intensely boring stuff is right up Joe's Zen alley.

Mikie has extra copies of the Rosarian pamphlets made, and decides to head to the university to try to find Ghaer. Mikie doesn't want to involve Ghaer, but he really needs help. En route, he encounters another of the Rosarians, who makes a hand gesture to Mikie. Mikie, not knowing what to do, returns the gesture (an act of desperation). The other Rosarian comes over and hugs Mikie. Oh boy. All Mikie can get off the person psionically is the sense of an extremely disciplined mind.

The real monk speaks briefly with Mikie, who tells him he has just begun his "journey", and it's been "difficult". The monk reaches into his robes, and gives Mikie something. "Take thee then this book, so that it may give thee comfort." It's a very old book, and has obviously been through a lot. Evidently it was a gift to the monk from another "traveler" when he was a novice (no guilt here). Mikie thanks him, they hug again, and Mikie goes to the university. Stopping at the university registrar's office to find out where Ghaer might be, an accented voice says hello, and asks if anyone has told the brother he looks "remarkably like that wanted murderer, Michael Griffin?" Right. The outfit doesn't reveal enough to identify the gender or species of the "brother", let alone the identity. Mikie just bows and hands Blaelok a pamphlet. Blaelok takes it, and sort of dismisses the brother as he obviously is on a pilgrimage to "atone for some no doubt horrible sin". Mikie returns with "we are all sinners". Blaelok leaves, and the security guard looks at Blaelok, then at the brother, several times.

Katarina has woken up, and comes over to see what Viktor is up to. Viktor tells her that he wants her and Vasilli to go to Rhylanor for a while. Why??? She is shown the orders Viktor is working on, and there is a rather pregnant pause. "Are you sure you know what you are doing - it sounds like you're declaring war on Regina?" No, he's not sure, and yes, he is declaring war, so to speak, but Viktor is stuck with a superior officer who has "gone right off his nut", and has ordered Viktor to assassinate some one, after which he will have Viktor assassinated. Not to mention the former head of Regina Security, who is such a brilliant actor that he's convinced a large portion of the population that he has turned over a new leaf, not that Viktor's buying any of it. And Viktor is way out of his league, and doesn't know what else to do. Katarina asks that Viktor wait a bit, so she can try to get some more information for him. After all, he'd be "surprised at what wives and mistresses tell each other." Katarina will invite Bunny to tea at their place. Viktor is sent off to "do man stuff - now shoo!" Viktor takes his Marines to Aguilon Park , to march and chant. A lot. He does eventually take them to Semper Fi for a "limited liberty", involving a keg.

Mikie has asked the secretary about getting some information to a student. She says she can see to it that the student gets the information. Mikie puts a pamphlet into the offered interoffice envelope, and writes Ghaer's name on it. He leaves the office and goes to wait in the quad. Eventually, Ghaer does wander by. Mikie heads his way, handing out pamphlets, and gives Ghaer one, saying "I've been told you are a seeker of wisdom." Ghaer recognizes Mikie's voice, although quiet, and (seeing some campus security guards in the area) perhaps they should "seek it elsewhere".

Back in the hospital, Will has woken up, and he hears a familiar, giggly female voice. It's Bunny, who is supervising the servants delivering flowers for Collingwood. Will puts on his robe, and goes out, rather unsteadily, to speak with Bunny. Bunny has obviously already been imbibing, and she's a bit silly. Will apologizes to Bunny, telling her that he had nothing to do with the photos, and is very sorry that part happened. Then Collingwood, having heard Bunny's voice, comes into the hall in his silk jammies. And then the bellowing starts, and the "get away from my wife, you cad." Collingwood makes a rude comment to Will about him obviously "taking after" his father. "Well at least your wife seemed to appreciate the screwing, but my father didn't." "If it weren't for the condition you're in...", while poking Will in the chest. A large brawl ensues. Several rather effective blows are landed and then Collingwood whacks Will with his IV pole (Will ends up with a cut above his eye and drops over unconscious after that one). Finally, at that point, the orderlies and nurses have shown up to collect the combatants. Both Will and Collingwood are put under Russian sleep, to keep them under control and unconscious while they finish healing. And this way they won't be annoying the staff.

Viktor goes to see Collingwood's XO, General Bob Langtree. Pleasantries are exchanged, and tea is brought in. Viktor asks Langtree if he's acquainted with Charlotte Steiner? He's heard of rik Steiner, same person right?. Viktor tells him that he has come across some disturbing, but as yet unconfirmed information, and he wanted to let Bob in on it. He tells Langtree about the possible food contamination, but Langtree dismisses it as a "vicious, anti-Imperial rumor". Absolutely untrue, of course. Ah. Well. Viktor thanks him for his time, and accepts Langtree's invitation to play golf with Langtree and his wife Sarah on Sunday (92 -1122), at 9:00 a.m. Evidently, Katarina and Sarah are distantly related. Langtree makes dismissive noises about "women", and then goes back to his paperwork. Viktor leaves.

Viktor decides that since he knows absolutely nothing about golf, he'd better find out. He goes to a sports shop, and buys a sleep-learning tape about golf. He'll go out to a driving range of something later. Apparently, Collingwood and therefore all his staff, are golfers. (He's teed off a lot?) Viktor buys some beginning clubs, and goes home. The "tea party" is still going on, and there are a bunch of women, and one man there. A very familiar-sounding voice says "Yes, you're right, he does look just like his father." Viktor bends one of his new clubs, as he sees Black bouncing Vasilli on his knee. Viktor listens for a while to Black discussing architecture and such with the women. Viktor decides to go in after all.

Katarina is pleased to see Viktor, and invites him to join the party. Viktor puts his clubs away, and comes back in. Black, in a very convivial mood, remarks on Viktor's clubs, and quotes a late Archbishop of Canterbury: "Golf is an ineffectual attempt to propel and uncontrollable sphere into an inaccessible hole, using instruments ill adapted to the purpose." Viktor explains that he's agreed to play golf, but he isn't really a golf fan. Black continues with the architecture of Regina discussion for a while, then excuses himself. Viktor escorts him out, and invites him to come back for another visit. Viktor exercises extreme restraint, and doesn't give in to the desire to throttle Black. Katarina later remarks that Viktor never told her "Mr. Black was so charming." Viktor told her earlier that Black was a good actor.

Ghaer has offered to take the 'brother' to Ubi Food for coffee and food (for the poor monk). As they are seated at the table, Rawlings passes by, with a small pack of criminal science students worshipping in his wake. He even stops by and points out the brother, as an example of a perfect disguise for the person in the wanted poster (Michael Griffin). He apologizes to the Brother for disturbing him, then he and his troupe go across the street to a better coffee shop to lounge around and practice surveillance.

Mikie takes a napkin, and writes: "I may be wired. - Blaelok" Ghaer appreciates the "wisdom". Ghaer gestures quizzically towards Mikie's monk's outfit, and asks how he got to where he is now? Mikie writes: "Jail - Blaelok. Disguise - Irving." Then some one with a Solomani accent leans over and informs Mikie that he's "misspelled disguise". Which is true. Snarky comments are made about Puff-Puff's reputation being ruined by associating with the dangerous murderer. Blaelok is rather entertained by Mikie's ability to survive this far, and he's looking forward to what he does next. And he makes it very clear that he is really unhappy about Mikie betraying him, and he won't forget it. Then he goes off towards Rawlings. Mikie heads out the back way, because he does not want to get Ghaer killed. Ghaer calls out to Blaelok to watch out for traffic! Blaelok momentarily loses his shiny happy persona, and glares at Ghaer, but then he recovers and heads over to Rawlings. Ghaer tries to phone Behrel for assistance, but Behrel is off filming on the planet Bob, so Ghaer phones Veronica Liu , and tells her the person she's been looking for is Blaelok, he hasn't actually been scrubbed, and he and his wife Pamela are both SolSec, Section 9, and they are both enhanced. Veronica tells Ghaer "thank you, but I don't really want a subscription right now." She then doesn't quite completely hang up, and Ghaer hears Veronica say "Oh nothing important, Pamela." Eep.

Blaelok points back towards Ubi Food, and Rawlings heads over to Ghaer. When he asks about the monk, Ghaer tells him that "It was really weird, I thought he'd gone towards the men's room, but then I realized that he actually went out over that way." Rawlings radio's some one for a tactical unit, and tells them that "it's been confirmed that he's a psionic." Terrific. Rawlings gets a "bumble bee" (local starport police), to go come over to escort Ghaer to the police station to make a statement, then Rawlings leaves Ghaer. Ghaer does not want to go "downtown", he wants to go to class, but the cop is insistent, Ghaer makes a fuss, and the other students start to demand that Ghaer be let go, and making "police brutality" and "oppression" comments. And a small child starts crying because "Puff-Puff" is being "bothered by the bad policeman." Then the spoiled fruit starts flying, and the crowd gets closer, and the cop starts to panic and draws his stun baton. Some one throws a rock at the cop, but Ghaer interposes himself, and the rock hits him on the ear, drawing blood. And boy, does it get ugly. The cop calls for help, and takes refuge in a police box, barricading the door. The students lift Ghaer up onto the police box, and he tries to get them to calm down from his position on the roof.

The riot cops show up, and cordon off the area. The students all sit down, right in the middle of the main street, linked up and singing. Small children gather around Ghaer (aka Puff-Puff), and the cops are now in no position to do anything to endanger children, so they will just "wait them out". And they set up coffee and sandwiches, etc., to try to make the students hungry. But some other students, and a bunch of Corinistas show up and toss food supplies to the protesters. Speaking of the Corinistas, they have set up a perimeter around the cops' perimeter.

Langtree calls Viktor, asks if he's seen what's going on. Langtree "won't see the streets taken by this sort of scum. If we need to we'll teach them a lesson with bayonets." Sigh. The local government has not yet asked for help, so Viktor doesn't have to do anything. Yet. Langtree is pleased so far, and rings off with a "Good work Marine", and a botched attempt at a Marine cheer; this just serves to irritate Viktor. He arranges for additional Marines to get to Up Port just in case, and he makes contact with Commissioner Globber, so he knows he can call Viktor for assistance if it becomes necessary. Globber is fortunately brighter than Langtree (Is he drinking Collingwood's coffee?), and doesn't want to create a disaster.

The students sit around and don't cause trouble, all the way into night cycle. At around 1:00 a.m., a huge holographic image of Corina is projected above the crowd. It's her speech about doing good and avoiding evil, etc. Very impressive, especially with all the Corinistas And after the hologram goes out, the police spotlights show that a large wall suddenly has "Corina lives!" painted across it. Now when did that happen?? The Corinistas fade off into the night, and then the students sort of wander off too.

Mikie manages to make his escape out through the vents and access panels, and to the Warrens. He flashes the note he wrote to Ghaer, and removes the monk's robe, but keeps it, as it has armor value, and could be a good distraction, as it's probably wired (which would explain Blaelok constantly popping up. Damn, damn, damn.

Viktor goes home to Katarina, and she tells him that she was unable to get anything out of Black, as he's too smooth. She tried to get some info on what was going on Down Port, but he's "just an ordinary citizen". Viktor has decided he needs better staff. Proper staff people who are actually on his side. So he has some orders written up...

90 - 1122.

There is a knock on Ghaer's door, first thing in the morning. It's a 'butterbar' - a Lieutenant - with an official document for Ghaer. Guess who's been reactivated???? Yes, once more Ghaer is back in the Marine Corps. Damn. Oh well, Ghaer's been had, and he knows it. He files the requisite papers with the university to get out of classes, and he reports. He's surrounded by raw, new recruits, and it 's rather entertaining, in a hideous flashback kind of way for a while. Viktor shows up, informs the appropriate people that Ghaer has been reactivated, and is not a newbie. Ghaer gets his hair trimmed a bit more, and he gets run around a lot and yelled at.

Collingwood is checking out of the hospital, and doling out a few words to the press. He is asked if the Imperium will be recognizing the new government, and he tells the press that yes, all that remains is to dot the i's and cross the t's. He's very pleasant, right up until a reporter asks about Ramirez's appointment of a new director for Regina Security - Mercer Black. There is a very lengthy, uncomfortable silence, with Collingwood's color taking a turn for the redder, then he blurts out "No comment", and storms off. Ooh.

Will is buttonholed by a reporter as he's checking out too. He's asked if there is any truth to the rumor about him and Caroline Collingwood? Will doesn't say anything, but he does wink, and the camera catches it. Will leaves to take a couple of days off to rest up before reporting back, and he is in a whole lot of trouble with the Regina Trauma physician who supervises the Residents, so he figures these will be the last days he has off for the next year or two.

It's a really full news day, what with Collingwood, and Ramirez, who is rumored to be coming Up Port himself, and the death of Ambassador Liu. It seems Ms. Liu fell down a transport tube - shplatt! The tube doors opened, but there was no transport in it. Her body was immediately taken by the Solomani, who feared that the locals might perform some sort of "barbaric ritual" on the body. Interesting.

Nicolai hears the news about Liu, and is somewhat concerned. Okay, so he no longer owes her a favor, but it looks like Solomani are killing Solomani again, and he doesn't like that. Then there's a knock on the door - it's Liu, who needs his help, and doesn't appear to be even slightly dead. Turns out Liu found a local of the correct age, appearance, etc., and killed her. But it wasn't a Solomani, just a "lower lifeform", so it doesn't matter. She's exuding pheromones like there's no tomorrow, and Christi is at work. Nicolai has to concentrate on "special needs" to discourage his traitorous body from responding, and he just barely makes it. He wants Liu to "shut it off", especially after she opens up the front of her dress. It's nothing she can turn off, but she does close up her dress, and then she excuses herself and goes to the back bedroom to "take care" of some needs since Nicolai isn't willing to do so. Nicolai turns up the sound dampers, and creatively burns something to cover the smell.

When Liu emerges, in borrowed clothing after a shower, the pheromones have kicked down a lot. Nicolai tells Liu that Blaelok and Pamela are the ones behind the problems at the Consulate, and that Blaelok had been scrubbed but he was "restored". Liu is really surprised by this, as she did not think it was possible. Nicolai explains about the machine (Sontag's?), etc. He is kind enough to not mention Mikie or Ghaer, just Pamela and Blaelok. Liu is unhappy about the machine having been destroyed (Nicolai leaves out the fact that he's the one who surfgunned it), as it would have made whoever controlled it incredibly wealthy. She does admit that there were rumors, but no one really believed them. No, Nicolai does not know if there's another machine out there, or where it might be, but that may be what Blaelok was looking for.

Nicolai agrees to help protect Liu. He will take her somewhere safe, and will see about getting her back to Rhylanor. He takes her (in Christine's clothing and several layers of Christi's normally subtle makeup) down to the planet, to his Pikhan-built home. There are Pikhans there.... Turns out they're there to upgrade the plumbing, and they haven't quite finished. They'll be done in a week, but Nicolai sends them off on vacation for a week, after asking if there's anything in the house that's not working right? Well, "don't use the toilets on the lower two levels". Seems the plumbing isn't done there. But the top two levels are fine. Thank heavens for that.

Nicolai is leaving Liu in his house, for a week. There's plenty of food, and it's really well built. Nicolai will see what he can do about Blaelok and Pamela, and getting Liu back to Rhylanor alive. And he gets out before the "helpless female" look coupled with the pheromones get past his resistance, especially after she leans against him and runs her hand over his arm.

The shuttle ride up is interesting, and the leftover pheromones have some effect on the other passengers. When Nicolai gets back to Christi's, planning on maybe having to burn some more stuff, she's already home. Apparently, there was enough of the pheromones left in the air to effect Christi, because she's waiting in a black bra, black garter belt, stockings, high heels, and pearls. And that's it. Nicolai has been under pressure, so to speak, so he's not about to argue.

Steiner does eventually come down from the effects of Impulse, but it's taken a full day and then some. She is told that she was "amok", and she explains to her Sengi, and to the other riks they brought in (they were getting kind of concerned) that she was drugged. This is a great insult, and they are more than willing to shake the whole starport if necessary to find out who is responsible. Steiner manages to convince them that this is so far a matter of personal honor, and she will undertake to find out who was responsible. No, she is not sure if it's a "barbarian lordling" or something of the kind, but she bloody well intends to find out who is responsible, and then yes, it may turn into a matter of personal combat.

Steiner has a doctor draw her blood before any more time has passed, as she wants to find out exactly what was used on her. Her Sengi and jai are concerned, as it has been two days since Steiner has had her "needs" taken care of. So, food, drink, and several strapping Sengi warriors are in order. And another lingerie discussion....

And elsewhere, Viktor and Katarina make sure the sound dampers are up so that Vasilli isn't disturbed by his parents attempting to make him a baby brother or sister. Maybe there's something in the air tonight?

91 - 1122.

One of the perks of being a rik is that after several hours of unbelievably good sex for all involved, you can get some jai to give you an expert massage, for as long as you want. And if necessary, replacement jai to continue after the first ones get tired. Tracking down the soon to be deceased person who drugged her and Collingwood can wait until Steiner feels like herself again. Later today should do nicely.

Speaking of really good bouncy, Nicolai and Christi eventually do return to their senses. It's about 4:00 a.m., and if Nicolai were to die at this moment, he could do so quite happily. Christi is pretty much in the same frame of mind, and they actually go to sleep, all snuggled up and happy like.

Mikie, on the other hand, has no idea where his wife is, and is neither safe nor happy. Although he could die at any moment, so he has that in common.

Viktor shows up to give Ghaer his assignment, which is as his senior NCO. Viktor has also seen to it that Ghaer be bumped up two grades to First Sergeant (he had left the service as a gunnery sergeant). Ghaer's primary function will be to watch Viktor's back.

On the other hand, the Vargr who was evidently the leader (or at least one of the leaders) of the demonstrators (or revolutionaries, depending on which report you believe) is now in Imperial uniform, and evidently in the service of General Viktor Androchev. Yet another deep play in motion?