91 - 1122.
Viktor has decided to spend the day with the golf pro, in preparation for tomorrow's game with the Langtrees. This way he can at least learn how to hold the club, etc. Katerina doesn't play golf herself, but evidently it's a "man thing", while tennis is for ladies. By the end of the day, Viktor will be able to handle the golf course without embarrassing himself. And when Viktor gets home, a strange man in white with a towel will do wonderfully painful things with Viktor's body.
Will Delgado has gone home to sleep. After taking a real shower, and putting on pajamas that do not tie up in the back, and not having some one wake him up in the middle of the night to give him a sleeping pill.
As soon as Will drifts off to sleep, there's a knock on his door. He asks who it is, and is told it's Captain Darby (of the Imperial Army). The captain has been sent to inquire on behalf of his commander ( Collingwood), when Will would be available to bring their "business" to a close. An appointment is make for tomorrow (92 - 1122) at 1:30 p.m. Darby will make the arrangements with Will's second, Viktor. Darby leaves.
Five minutes later, a man who identifies himself as Bill Blakenship, and pushes his press card at Will, who pushes Bill out the door as he's going on about "I know you're fighting Collingwood tomorrow, and I can write the article with or without you..." Will unplugs the phone, and goes to bed again. But people keep showing up! A representative of a cutlery company, Apex Cutlery, wants to show Will some fine dueling blades, and he can have one free of charge, if he would be willing to wear the company's logo during the duel..... Will sends the Apex guy off to see his second, Viktor.
When Viktor breaks for lunch, the Apex guy chats him up, and starts showing him the dueling swords. Viktor is kind of confused, as he does not need any dueling swords. The salesman tells Viktor that Mr. Delgado referred him to Viktor, since he is his second. Viktor informs the man that Mr. Delgado has assumed Viktor will be his second, again, but he is mistaken. But Viktor does accept a lovely brochure. Now Viktor is annoyed.
Speaking of annoyed, Will ignores the banging and knocking and bell ringing, until he hears the door being opened, and voices. He comes out of his bedroom, gun in hand, to find a bumblebee, and the annoying Apex man. Evidently, the cop has been told that the man feared for Will's safety, and that's why the cop opened the door. Will explains that no, he was not expecting the salesman, no, his life was not in danger, and isn't filing a false report with the police a crime? Why yes, it is. The Apex salesman will be going downtown now....
Viktor attempts to call Collingwood, and gets General Langtree instead. He asks Langtree about the duel, explaining that he is not Will's second. Ah. Langtree apologizes, and says that he will inform Captain Darby. And then the aforementioned Captain Darby comes banging on Will's door, again. He explains to Will about needing a new second to contact. Will tells Darby that he doesn't have another second, and it wasn't his idea to have a second duel anyway. He'll be at the duel, on time, just let him get some sleep. Darby leaves, Will calls Ghaer, and asks if he'll act as his second. Ghaer isn't thrilled, and thinks that dueling is stupid, but he agrees to do it anyway. He'll get in touch with Captain Darby.
Will finally gets to sleep. Then, through his slumber, he hears his refrigerator door open and close, and then some drilling. Drilling?? Will goes into the living room, to find a Pikhan in protective eyewear, drilling a hole in the middle of the floor, after having peeled back the carpet. It appears that it's starport maintenance work, and notices were sent, to the previous occupant of the apartment. But since Will is not Margaret Jackson, he didn't read her mail. Will eventually badgers the Pikhan into leaving, but if the starport stabilizers go out, it's on Will's head. Fine. Whatever.
Ghaer decides to find out the finer points of the dueling code, to see if there is some way to prevent this mess. He wrangles an appointment to see Dr. Auschlander, the chief of residents at Regina Trauma. Ghaer would like the good doctor to pull Will in for his rotation early. Like now. Ghaer would like at least 48 hours to try to find out if the parties involved are being somehow manipulated. Since Mr. Delgado "shows some promise of becoming a halfway decent doctor", Dr. Auschlander agrees.
Will gets a call from Dr. Auschlander's secretary, informing him that he is wanted this evening, not tomorrow evening. Oh. Okay. Will calls the Bread and Bean, but they don't deliver. Then he calls Ghaer to let him know what's up. Ghaer understands, and he will make the appropriate calls to deal with it. And gee, Will sounds "kind of rough; do you want some coffee?" As a matter of fact, yes he would. Ghaer is going to pick Will up, and they'll go together to the Bread and Bean.
When Will, properly caffeinated, arrives at work, he is told that Dr. Drury has been wanting some assistance with some lab work. Dr. Sandi Drury is a petite little thing, who looks like she has had her sense of humor surgically removed. Ghaer asks to tag along, and since he's a medic, and is on General Androchev's staff, the doctor will allow it. They are analyzing some blood and tissue samples at the request of Regina Security - it's a female who fell to their death in a transit tube, and the body was not made available for autopsy, but was cremated. She checks the file, and it's the few bits of remains from Veronica Lu, in theory. Well, no wonder Regina Security was interested. They do have a few small skull and brain samples, and after a couple of hours, Dr. Drury concludes that it is not, in fact, Veronica Lu. First off, the hair is naturally blonde, and dyed black. Second, if this person was the Solomani ambassador, she's done a fine job of concealing her Darian and Zhodani heritage. Will listens to this, and agrees with Dr. Drury. The report is signed, and Will is thanked. He was just there for basically knowledgeable grunt work, but he was quiet, and followed instructions. Will can go back to his other duties now.
Very interesting. Ghaer calls Captain Darby, and informs him that due to his medical duties, Mr. Delgado will not be available for the 2:00 o'clock duel tomorrow. Darby understands that if "Mr. Delgado's 'duty' is more important than his honor", that's his decision. Ghaer informs him that "duty takes precedent", but evidently Captain Darby does not appear to have the same concept of "honor" as Ghaer does. How disappointing. Ghaer will make contact with Darby if a later time comes available.
Nicolai calls Veronica Lu at his place down on the planet. He wants to know if there's some way to get orders to her robots. Well, sort of. They aren't programmed to accept commands from Nicolai. They are in the Solomani consulate, and when Nicolai asks, he's told that yes, LaBland should be there.
Nicolai then goes to find a Weasel. It takes a while, but he does find one eventually, and asks about getting a bulletproof vest. But he can get that at a store. He wants one like the police use. He can get that at a store. Oh. Which store? Ling Standard, MilTech.... Okay, if the Weseli doesn't want to make any money.... "Hey wait! I didn't say that!" For $150 credits the Weseli will go buy a vest for Nicolai. A few minutes later, the Weseli returns with "something even better" - it's a real police vest, with "Police" in large friendly letters, and the Regina Starport Police shield on the front. (And a little "J. Weseli" name tag.)
Nicolai takes the vest back to Christi's apartment; he's going to be doing some "work" on it. Very carefully. [The type of 'work' that could go boom if it's not done carefully.] There's a note from Christi telling him how "wonderful" he was, and that she loves him. And she's left his an envelope to open in case he gets "lonely later". ??? Nicolai is curious, but he leaves it for now.
He does try to get a hold of LaBland. When he calls the consulate and gives his name, he's asked to hold for a moment. (They're perhaps seeing if the cordless phone will reach where he's hiding.) Unfortunately, Mr. LaBland is not available, but Nicolai does leave his number.
Mikie takes the monk's robes, minus the knives and the little book of worship (both of which Mikie keeps), to where a person could obtain a quick, discreet ticket off port. He leaves the robes there, as a distraction, and then takes a different route back into the Warrens. He's not being followed, but he does see Pamela at one point (it's hard to miss her, what with the sound of necks swiveling her direction). When he gets back to the warrens, he runs into a pack of locals he knows from the old days. They're the "tough" boys, and are impressed with Mikie's current rep as a cop killer. Great. They're eventually distracted by a rich, harmless, stupid "tourist", who wanders in to the warrens. Right. It's Blaelok. So, that means he's not harmless, and he's not stupid, so Mikie's going to leave for a "meet" he has to go to. He tries to warn the idiots to not mess with strangers, but oh well.
Mikie goes to find some one who can maybe check for a wire. He heads into Old Port, and goes to see Eddie the Nick (no one knows, no one's asking). After getting let in through the incredible series of bolts, locks, and doors, Mikie is with a 70 year old who looks like a very old, weathered watchmaker. Eddie has literally known Mikie since he was a small kid stealing candy. Mikie is concerned that he might not be able to find a bug if it's really high tech, and Eddie remarks "Well, it's not like we're dealing with SolSec or anything." Well actually....
Eddie does a very thorough check, for low end and high end bugs. [Wonder where he got that old MRI machine?] Nothing. Well, Mikie evidently has the beginnings of a bone spur on his left ankle, and that could result in arthritis later in life, but considering the chances of him living that long, Mikie is not too concerned. They could try more, but it would mean sneaking in to Regina Trauma to 'borrow' some machinery during night rotation, and Mikie's a bit too hot right now to risk that. At Eddie's insistence, Mikie does stay for a cup of tea and a sandwich, after warning Eddie that he doesn't want to bring any trouble down on him. "Like they'd be able to get in?" Okay, maybe not.
Steiner gets the lab report back on her blood sample. The physician who does the consulting work for the Sengi tells her about Impulse, and the fact that SuSAG never marketed it (side effects, etc.), and he's not sure how some one got their hands on it. Steiner asks if there's any way to counteract it, but with a psychomimetric, the only thing would be to use a drug with the opposite effect, and then you start having to worry about synergistic effects, etc., etc. Not good. She makes an extra copy of the report, and calls Collingwood to ask if he could meet with her to go over some intelligence information. He's a bit busy, but he can meet her for dinner at 5:00 p.m., at the Club Zambezi. It's a date. Well, kind of.
It's a discreet booth at the Zambezi, away from prying eyes. Sigh. The wine is opened at the table, and Steiner makes sure they order meat off the large beast that other guests are sharing, just in case. Then she shows him the lab report. Interesting. "Who was the target?" Steiner explains that the test was run on her, and tells him about the drug, etc. "But who would want to do this to you?" "Not me, you." Collingwood isn't too keen on it, but he will humor Steiner ("Anything for you", while stroking her arm.) and get tested.
They go back to Steiner's ship, blood is drawn, and taken to be tested. Then Steiner has to entertain Collingwood for four hours or so, while they await the lab tests. And Collingwood has rather specific ideas on how he wants to spend that time. Um. Steiner has some reservations about that, as Collingwood is married, and she wasn't exactly herself when they ended up boinking the other night.... She delays for a while, and stops drinking long before he does, but my lord the man can hold his liquor, and can he kiss. What the hell - they are both adults, and Steiner's been around the Sengi for so long she's almost beginning to believe the stuff about "bad humors" building up. Maybe that's what's wrong with Collingwood? [Boinking does take place. Repeatedly. Involving people with quite a bit of experience.]
Nicolai calls the Solomani consulate again, and this time LaBland does speak to him; it just sounds like he's speaking inside a big metal drum. Turns out LaBland is hiding out in the communications room, and he's not keen on leaving it to meet Nicolai. Nicolai needs to see LaBland, but he's not setting foot inside the consulate, and he does eventually manage to persuade LaBland it will be to his advantage to meet. They will rendezvous at the Tea House, as soon as possible.
Nicolai arrives early, returning Pamela's friendly wave when he sees her outside, and although he doesn't have a reservation, Mr. LaBland did make one, and Nicolai is seated in the little booth (Japanese-style) to wait. LaBland comes in, looking really nervous and jittery. He doesn't want to put on the big, bulky vest Nicolai has brought him, as it would make his suit hang improperly. Nicolai insists, saying that the vest has hard inserts, making it more efficient than LaBland's concealment armor, and Nicolai doesn't want LaBland to be killed while they're together. "Why? Are they here???!!" (Referring to the Blaeloks.) Not that Nicolai knows, but... Okay, now LaBland is paranoid enough to put on the vest (the explosive-stuffed vest).
Then LaBland gets a phone call. He asks to take it at the table, and a phone is brought. LaBland listens for a couple of minutes, then hangs up. He tells Nicolai it was "a wrong number", and then leans forward, saying he's not feeling well. Uh-huh. He goes for a gun, Nicolai hits him and sends the gun flying, and asks "What the hell are you doing?" LaBland goes berserk, and launches himself at Nicolai like he's going to bite him. Nicolai hears a very familiar voice yell "Nicolai - drop!" It's Frederick Markham, another CRI, with whom Nicolai has worked. Nicolai drops, swearing, Frederick shoots LaBland, in the vest, with explosive rounds from splintergun. Nicolai dives out through the paper walls, just before LaBland blows up. Big mess. LaBland, a customer, and one of the waitresses are killed. Frederick and Nicolai are only slightly damaged. Nicolai does not enlighten Frederick as to why LaBland blew up, but he does answer Frederick's question as to just who LaBland was. "Solomani consul, huh? That could be awkward. Good thing I wasn't here." Frederick leaves to get cleaned up and patched up.
Outside, Pamela comes over to speak with Nicolai. "Christopher will be very upset when he finds out you've destroyed his favorite watering hole." "Yeah, well, the two of you were supposed to be off planet." "Other things came up. So, you've joined the other side?" "No." "Really? Don't you have Ms. Lu stashed away in your little love nest dirtside?" "Want to find out?" She's already pretty sure, within a few points (modern statistics?). Viktor takes a swing at her, and she just stops his arm. It's like hitting a steel post, and she keeps control of his arm. "I'm better than I was before Nicolai." Nicolai, because of his training, can ignore the pain, but he can tell that bones will be breaking soon if he keeps fighting her. He stops, then tells Pamela that they won't find Sontag here. Pamela asks if he knows "where he is?" "I know that he's not here." She tells Nicolai that she will pass Nicolai's comments on to Chris.
As Nicolai starts to leave the area, after Pammie has pulled another vanishing act, a car pulls up and some one passes on a request to "speak with the Director". Nicolai gets into the car, and gets taken to the big grey building with no windows. Mr. Black is not too happy about people blowing up the local businesses. An odd little discussion about LaBland being really poor bait, and the lovely Blaeloks. Nicolai makes it clear that he wants something done about the Blaeloks, and he tells Black that they're looking for Sontag. Oh really? How interesting. Nicolai offers to assist Black with getting rid of the Blaeloks, in a preferably permanent way. And in return, Nicolai wants Blacks help in getting some one off planet and back to Up Port, in a discreet way. Black knows he's referring to Lu, and in "a gesture of good faith", Black will make the arrangements.
Nicolai goes down and meets Lu, who is really happy to see him - first she was bored, then the Pikhans showed back up to finish the work, and her pheromones have had an odd effect on them and they just want to be near her and be petted. And she's frustrated. Lucky for Nicolai the Pikhans have made Veronica really nervous, or she might have insisted on his assistance in calming down. The clever plan is to meet Black's shuttle, go Up Port, and get a hold of Lu's robots. Nicolai makes sure Lu knows about Blaelok and Pamela's 'enhancements'. Lu has heard of that kind of thing, but she wasn't aware about their specifics.
Ghaer is trying to get information on Mikie's situation, in order to help out, but he's not sure what to do. He's also worried about Steiner, but he can't get in touch with her. He doesn't realize that the commo unit keeps blinking, and the jai keep turning off the machine to make the light stop blinking. Oops.
Ghaer goes to the ship, and is let in. He's put in a room, told the rik is with some one, and she may be done in minutes, or hours, or weeks. But he's welcome to wait. He's brought food and beer, and tries to read "Remembrance of Things Past", but he dozes off. He awakens several hours later. Steiner and Tiger are pretty much done at this time, but then Collingwood looks at Steiner and says "One more?" And they're at it again.
Eventually, the rik and the field marshall wind down, and Steiner remembers they're expecting a report back from Dr. Butler. The doctor has been waiting patiently outside, having been told that Steiner was involved in some sort of "exercise routine". Well, kind of. Butler has an even more thorough report this time. Yes, Collingwood has Impulse in his system, and in a considerably higher concentration than in Steiner's blood (that's to be expected, as she only had the one dose, unlike Collingwood). Dr. Butler (who is under retainer from Lord Kalarin, to make sure Steiner stays healthy) has done some digging, and he has found the molecular tags that tell exactly which batch number, etc. Collingwood and Steiner listen as the doctor describes "a psychomimetric that stimulates the beta 12 receptor on the pineal gland, making the subject more likely to act on impulse, and reduces their self-control; like most of the 'recreational' psychomimetrics, you can't overdose on it - if you take a lot of it, you just end up with it in your system for a longer period of time. ". When Steiner asks if there is any way to "purge" a person's system of Impulse, Dr. Butler tells them that "theoretically, you could build a monoclonal antibody that would act as a floculatant that would attach itself to the molecule of the drug, and then you could use a dialysis machine; of course, this would highly experimental". Right. Okay, so most of the words make sense.... The doctor was also able to find the molecular serial number identifying the test or beta batch of the drug used on Steiner and Collingwood, so they may be able to track down exactly where the drug came from (besides just SuSAG).
Turns out Dr. Butler is quite happy to have something interesting to do, because his other patients are more of the "Muffy has tennis elbow -what should we do, Doctor?", and other really boring stuff. He views the "Dick Salamander" kind of research he's doing for Steiner as intriguing. As he's about to leave, the doctor tells Steiner that "Oh, by the way, you have a snoring Vargr in your foyer." Steiner is rather surprised - "Really? I don't remember asking for one..." Steiner and Collingwood walk the doctor out, and see Ghaer asleep in a chair with a book reader in his lap.
Steiner leans close to Ghaer and whispers "Puff-Puff, Puff-Puff." Ghaer starts mumbling the Puff-Puff song until Steiner says "Puff-Puff, wake up, the ship is on fire!" Ghaer wakes up, only mildly confused, stands up, and reflexively salutes Collingwood, who Ghaer is surprised to see there. Collingwood returns the salute, commenting to Ghaer that he and rik Steiner have been meeting to discuss the current situation on Regina. The highly sensitive Vargr nose tells Ghaer that Collingwood and Steiner have evidently been "discussing" things in a rather physical manner, but Ghaer doesn't say anything. Until he notices that Collingwood has zipped his shirttail in his zipper, and tells him "You might want to check your gigline sir", as he averts his eyes. Collingwood remedies the problem, saying something about having to be more careful after he's used the head. Uh-huh.
Ghaer tells Collingwood that he needed to speak to him as well as Steiner any way. He'd tried calling Steiner, but her commo doesn't appear to be working - every time he tried to leave a message, it would cut off. That's odd, there are no messages on the machine - the little light isn't blinking. Steiner will have to get it checked out. And perhaps at some point she'll find out about the jai's aversion to little blinking lights.
Ghaer tells Collingwood that he and General Androchev are concerned about the possibility of some one having "put something" in the Field Marshal's food or environment, that has effected his behavior. Collingwood looks calmly at Ghaer and says "You mean something perhaps like the Impulse, a psychomimetric that stimulates the beta 12 receptor on the pineal gland, making the subject more likely to act on impulse, and reduces their self-control?" Ghaer is rather taken aback by the knowledge, and then says something about finding some way to get it out of a person's system, and Collingwood replies that "theoretically, you could build a monoclonal antibody that would act as a floculatant that would attach itself to the molecule of the drug, and then you could use a dialysis machine", and Steiner adds "Of course, this would highly experimental" Ghaer is somewhat taken aback at Collingwood and Steiner's level of knowledge - does everyone but Ghaer know about this stuff??? Steiner and Collingwood are rather enjoying this.
Once the teasing stops, a more serious discussion on what has been going on with Collingwood. Evidently, Collingwood has done some things under the influence of Impulse without really being aware of it. He was under the impression he only "thought" about having some one kill Black - that's the kind of thing he would never actually, do, but those kind of thoughts run through a person's mind occasionally. The problem is with Impulse, you don't think about it, you do it. Oh dear. Collingwood finds out about his orders to Viktor, and to Ghaer about Black. Ghaer is also not sure if it's connected in any way, but he's concerned too about the "rogue SolSec agents" on port (the Blaeloks), especially since they have been "modified". Hmmm. They may not have been the ones who drugged Collingwood, but since no one knows why it was done (Something personal against Collingwood? An indirect way to get to Astridi? An attack on the office and not the man?), it's hard to rule anyone out.
Steiner manages to convince Tiger that it would not have been to Black's advantage to drug Collingwood, as with the side effects of paranoia and dementia, there would have been no way to really predict or control Collingwood's behavior, and Black would not have wanted the kind of attention and publicity he received. Tiger sees the logic in this, and he would like Steiner to make contact with Black on Collingwood's behalf, to "mend some fences", and to see if Black can't be "brought on board" - perhaps he can help deal with the SolSec people? Tiger understands that the "local authorities may have ways of extracting information that we would not". Just because he doesn't get involved in the distasteful aspect of things doesn't mean he's not aware of the usefulness of people who do. Steiner will make contact with Black later.
Then there's the matter of how to keep Collingwood undrugged. The problem with being under the influence of something like Impulse is that when you are, you can't really tell that your behavior isn't normal; it's only after it's worn off that you become aware of that (as Steiner can confirm). Now that Collingwood is starting to feel normal again, that trick is to keep him that way. Ghaer suggests maybe an illness, but Collingwood needs to meet with Ramirez tomorrow, and he can't afford to appear "weak", and if he just drops out of sight for "treatment", God knows what people will think, and that could make matters worse. It's Collingwood himself who comes up with the best idea: a rumor about an attempted poisoning of the Governor. Naturally, official sources will deny the rumor vigorously, and repeatedly. Even before being asked about it. This will of course give more credibility to the rumor, especially when Sergeant Raller arranges the "routine" but very thorough inspections of all the military food service locations, supplies, etc. And Ramirez and his people should understand the special precautions being taken in light of the "rumor", since something like this should appeal to a group who have just staged a coup, and are probably somewhat paranoid themselves. Brilliant - it just might work.
Ghaer goes off to get the ball rolling at his end, and Collingwood stays to "go over a few details" with Steiner. Actually, Tiger is a bit concerned that going off Impulse will mean losing his newfound "staying power", as he hasn't felt like this for twenty years. Steiner suggests maybe he's just more relaxed, and to not worry about it. On the other hand, she does not turn down his suggestion of "one for the road". At some point, Steiner does notice some of her jai in her quarters, observing in an approving sort of way (don't want their rik's "bad humors" building up again). She sends them scurrying off with the appropriate hand signal, and gets back to paying attention to Tiger.
Mikie gets to hear Eddie's stories, including how he came to be known as "Eddie the Nick". Turns out when Eddie was a teenager, he was one of the "peach fuzz" group, and had great difficulty growing any facial hair. But all his friends were shaving, so he wanted to also. Having nothing in the way of a beard, and very soft skin, Eddie was constantly cutting himself, and walking around with little bits of paper stuck to his face to stop the bleeding from the nicks. Hence "the Nick".
Eddie is an okay guy, and knows that at some point down the line, everyone needs friends and a favor. He is kind enough to let Mikie spend the night, and get some food, a shower and clean clothes, and some much needed rest. And if Mikie is still alive in the future, which is currently rather doubtful, he will be more than willing to help Eddie out.
And so ends the incredibly long day of 91 - 1122.