Webs and Spiders.

92 - 1122.

Very, very early in the morning. Ghaer has gone off to ensure that "surprise inspections" occur at the food service facilities, kitchens, cooks, etc. While denying there has been any attempt at poisoning. None whatsoever. Thereby neatly creating a rumor by denying it beforehand. Very clever.

Viktor arises early, as usual, around 5:00 a.m., in time to get to Vasilli before he wakes up mom. That's why Katerina loves Viktor; it's not the only reason, but it's way up there. There's a message from Ghaer, asking that Viktor make contact, ASAP. Oh-oh. Viktor calls Ghaer, who is currently caffeine-powered only, and tells Ghaer to come speak with Viktor at home, while he feeds his son.

Ghaer arrives, and hands over a clipboard with a copy of the lab reports on Steiner and Collingwood. Ah. Viktor asks if Collingwood is aware of this, and the answer is yes. Ghaer brings Viktor up to speed on the conversations between Ghaer, Collingwood, and Steiner of the night before. Ghaer tells Viktor that the order to kill Black was not intentional, and Viktor should feel free to ignore the order. Viktor is happy about that, but he really wants Collingwood to actually rescind the order himself, to make sure it's really been called off.

Ghaer also tells Viktor that he informed Collingwood about the SolSec agents - the Blaeloks (Pam and Chris), who are "playing games in our backyard". The Blaeloks are also enhanced, and Ghaer is pretty sure Blaelok is "back" (i.e., not the shiny happy person he pretends to be). Not good, but not necessarily directly Viktor's concern - yet. He does want to know what the "enhancements" are. Ghaer's not sure exactly, but it probably involves at the very least bladed weapons (memory metal), not to mention the tendency to self-destruct in a rather unpleasant fashion (i.e., the case of the new koi pond in Aguilon Park). Hmmmm.

Somewhere else.....

Corina is in bed, conscious, but unable to move. Some one enters the room, and sits beside her. "Shall we do some reading?" The voice is familiar to Corina, but she can't quite place it. She is still a bit "loopy" due to the drugs, and she can only seem to blink her eyes and breathe, but that's about it. The unknown man begins to read her "Wuthering Heights". When he moves his hand at one point, Corina does see the flash of a ring on his left pinkie. A gold ring, possibly with a blue stone. A signet ring? Imperial Naval Academy? Something else??

Mikie has managed to get some rest at Eddie's place, which is something. He leaves the next morning, to try to minimize the risk to Eddie. He gets out of Old Port, and heads into the Warrens. Deep into the Warrens, to places even he hasn't gone before.

Corina is checked up on repeatedly, by the happy, humming man. She can feel him touching her arm, and it feels like he's adjusting a needle. He's speaking to himself, and sort of to her. Telling her how special she is, and how she caught his imagination when she was speaking to the people, and how she has a "special inner light". He gives her a sip of his port, and then sits nearby and has several glasses himself. She gets a glimpse of his sleeve, and it's a suit, not a uniform, and not a very expensive suit. And then there's the smell of cigars. When he goes to leave, having business to attend to, he stumbles slightly, and his rather plump hand bumps the needle in Corina's arm.

When the man has left, Corina starts to regain feeling and control of her body. Evidently, the man did dislodge the IV needle from her arm. After feeling like her entire body has been asleep, she rolls off of the comfortable divan. Ouch. Note: try not to lead with your face. She discovers she's very nicely dressed, in lovely silk pumps, etc. Now it's time to look for weapons! First a letter opener. That's a start.

There are lots of bound, real books that might be good for bludgeoning, but they're not terribly portable. There's a locked drawer, and Corina gets under the desk to try to get into the desk from behind. There's definitely something under there, some sort of shield-shaped badge, in a leather case, that she can't get out.

While she's under there, the door opens, and she can see feet under the desk - the man has come into the room, and is on the opposite side of the desk, so he can't see her. Corina doesn't move, and the man says "Damn!", then shuts the door, and she can hear other doors being opened and closed.

After a couple of hours, Corina gets really thirsty, so she comes out. She finds a carafe of branch water in the bar. There is a bottle of port, marked "Produit en Terre", with a personalized label: "To my new friend... (part of the label is missing) As a token of esteem and friendship. J. Collingwood. " Corina looks for more information, and the day 90 Regina Times crossword puzzle is there. She also finds the Times page 17 has been removed very carefully, and seemingly random letters have been circled. Looks like some kind of code, especially since some of the letters in the crossword puzzle have been sort of ticked off. Hmmm. Corina doesn't have cryptography, and the lights aren't on in here any way, so it's hard to see.

Corina decides it's time to leave, so she opens the door. She quickly closes the door again, after being confronted by a snarling Thragr. She goes looking for a bowl or something to pour booze into; her plan is to see if she can get the Thragr snockered and asleep. But what if it's a mean drunk?? After stumbling around, she finds a silver bowl, engraved as an award for police sharpshooting, and dated 1102. "Given to patrolman Seymore Globber" Oh my.

There are also other trophies, and many photos of Globber with the Duke of Regina, another Duke of Regina, a different Duke of Regina.... [Well, you get the picture.] There is also a picture, taken many years ago, of Globber with a young woman who somewhat resembles Corina - it's the prostitute Geddy LaMieux, with whom Globber was involved many years ago. Corina decides the hell with trying to be quiet or subtle about getting the desk drawer open. First she breaks the letter opener (damn), but she does find a little key for the drawer, hanging from a hook under the desk. She manages to dislodge the piece of letter opener from the lock, and the drawer opens. She finds a five shot 9mm, a shoulder holster (mostly unused), and some loose ammunition. And a fat envelope containing incriminating photos. She's not really interested, until she sees one of them is of Senator Rutledge and Christine Black. And Christine is definitely in the driver's seat, so to speak. Oh, that one she'll keep!

She finds some fairly cheap alcohol, pours it into the silver bowl/loving cup, opens the door, sets down the bowl, and shuts it really quickly. The Thragr attacks the bowl, spilling it's contents, and then laying down with a thump in front of the door again. Damn. Corina finds a big, Globber-sized robe, and wraps herself in it. She then takes some matches from the pipe rack, and a bottle of Varlick's Blood (from the back - it's dusty). She makes a Molotov cocktail, throws open the door, leaps over the Thragr, and starts to run. The Thragr takes a second to register what has happened, several seconds to scrabble to his feet and get moving. Corina is running down the hall, lighting the fuse on the bottle, when she realizes the floor is really, really well-polished wood, covered in liquid, and she's wearing slick-soled silk pumps, and she's heading for the top of a flight of stairs. She tosses the bottle, now lit, behind her, and sort of throws herself sideways onto the bannister; she doesn't hear the bottle hit the ground.

At the bottom of the staircase, the bannister ends in a very decorative, large wooden eagle, with it's wings folded back, and pointing up the bannister. So as to not impale herself on the eagle, Corina rolls off the bannister, only getting nicked slightly. She gets up, and sees the Thragr happily bounding after her, with the flaming bottle held in his mouth. He likes this game!! Yikes. Corina goes through a door and closes it, but it's a decorative door, and the Thragr just crashes through it. Corina continues to run, going into a bedroom. It's evidently Globber's room, as it has many pictures of the woman who Corina resembles. And there's only one door. Corina is intending to take the bottle from the Thragr and throw it down the hall, but when she opens the door and the Thragr leaps up and puts it's paws on her shoulders, she can see the alcohol sort of boiling inside the bottle, so she slams the door just before the bottle explodes. Whimpering on the other side of the door.

There is no other door out, and Corina does not want to be on fire again, so she wraps herself in a sheet, and douses it with water from beside the bed. Then she opens the door and makes a run for it. She finds the heavy oak front door, gets the bolt open, drops the sheet, and runs out into the street. She finds herself in Old Port, wearing a white silk dress, white silk pumps, and a non-matching shoulder holster. The ammo is in an envelope stuffed down into her underwear (she's not wearing a bra, at least partially because of the very plunging neckline). Corina goes off out of Old Port, intending to go to the Ling Standard offices.

And what about Jack?

Viktor acquits himself rather nicely for a beginning golfer. He's not concerned with hitting the ball the farthest, just to get it in the right direction. Langtree, Captain Darby, and the female Captain Bernadette make up the foursome. And Captain Bernadette smokes the opposition. Of course Langtree and Darby enjoy watching the Captain play, especially when viewed from behind....

Viktor bonds, and listens carefully to the conversations about Ramirez, and other locals (who can be "handled", how, etc.). When asked his opinion of Black, Viktor states that "Mr. Black is a survivor; he'll deal with whomever he needs to". Ah. Good. Viktor doesn't stay for too much fun at the 19th hole, as he has duties to attend to.

Ghaer goes to see Viktor's wife, Katerina. He's looking for information on who might have a serious enough grudge against Collingwood to want to screw him over this badly. Well, there's Tiger's father, Spencer Collingwood, who is the Exchequer of the Domain of Deneb. Astridi obviously has to juggle father and son carefully, mostly trying to make sure they're as far away from each other as possible. And Collingwood doesn't suffer incompetents gladly, and he has been responsible for ending some careers, but Katerina doesn't have much in the way of specifics.

Ghaer decides to go visit Collingwood's topkick. Now this man has info. The worst "scene" evidently happened in 1117, and involved a Count Shalikov's son (from Capitol). Evidently daddy wanted a soldier, and didn't take it too well when Collingwood told him his son was "yellow". Everyone was surprised that the count didn't call Collingwood out. Interesting.

Mikie has decided to go get some supplies before disappearing into the Warrens, so he's heading for the QuickiMart. He sees a vaguely familiar-looking female in a lovely white silk dress, being followed by some of the local tough guys, making the traditional obnoxious adolescent male comments. Corina recognizes Mikie, and goes over to him. She says "Mikie?", and he does respond, but he's looking at her kind of confused-like. Corina identifies herself, and Mikie checks her out psionically, and sure enough, it's her. Or at least Corina's brain (but shouldn't that be in a jar somewhere?).

Corina tells Mikie about being snatched, drugged, etc., etc., and by whom (!!!), and that she doesn't know where Jack is, and is probably being pursued by the local police. Hey, Mikie can top that, since he's wanted for murder. Mikie does tell her that he's innocent however. Corina decides she's in good company. Then Mikie notices that not only are the toughs still following them around, but there's a very bad man in a very nice suit across the street. F@#*, it's Blaelok.

Nicolai and Veronica Liu meet the shuttle, which arrives as Black promised, on Regina, and are taken Up Port. Veronica knows there's some kind of servant's entrance to the Solomani consulate, but she's not sure exactly where it is. But it's the only option that doesn't include the front door. Nicolai and Liu are traveling together, but far enough apart so they don't appear to be together. A Weseli waves to Nicolai, and comes over to say hello, and make comments about the "word on the street" being that Nicolai has "shacked up" with the Solomani ambassador, who isn't as dead as it appeared, and gee, wouldn't it be too bad if the word got passed around? Ah, this is going to cost money! Nicolai agrees to pay the Weasel his $5,000 credits to "take a vacation" on Down Port, and sets up a meeting at the Bread and Bean.

Nicolai catches up with Liu, behind the consulate. She remembers the code for the back door, and opens it. Nicolai goes in to the kitchen first, and sees an attractive blonde sitting at the table drinking tea and looking spectacularly perfect. Liu complains that Nicolai is blocking her way (she can't see past him). Nicolai says "hello, Pamela", and he hears the sound of some one behind him running away. Pamela asks why Nicolai didn't invite his little friend in? Then Nicolai and Pammie get into it (verbally). Nicolai is pissed off that the Pamela and Chris didn't leave Regina like they said they would. And he wants them to leave. Now. "No 'or else'?" Nicolai didn't think that would be necessary. And he doesn't think that she or Chris are "faster than a surf gun". Pamela promises only that she'll pass the message on to Chris. Nicolai suggests that Pamela be "very convincing". He leaves to catch up with Liu. When he rounds the corner, he sees Liu is being escorted to a car by two rather competent-looking men. Regina Security? Nicolai tries to get taken along with her, but one of the guys has a needler with Purple, because he's not going to take any chances with Nicolai. Liu tells Nicolai that if he gets killed, he can't help her, so Nicolai threatens the guy with the needler if anything happens to Liu. The Security guy promises he'll "obey orders", that's it. They leave. Damn. Nicolai goes off to get his sniper rifle (in addition to his surfgun), and decides he's going to go find Blaelok.

Corina asks Mikie if he'll meet her at the same time and place tomorrow, and he agrees. They split up, after rounding a corner. Mikie goes off to find somewhere else to get supplies. Damn Blaelok and his quest for "entertainment" at Mikie's expense.

Corina gets to the Ling Standard compound, and after checking her gun at the gate (standard), she heads to one of the Ling bars. She finds two of the guys who were part of Jack's crew, Bob and Ted, and they are mostly recovered from their Christine-induced injuries. She chats them up, and then tells them she's Jack's wife, and he's in trouble. She's wearing the wedding band that Jack used to wear around his neck on a chain, and she knows it was his late wife's ring, so evidently she's either who she says she is, or she killed Jack and took the ring off his dead body. And the latter isn't too likely.

They head for Bob's apartment, to speak in private. Corina is about to tell them who she is when there is a knock on the door. Bob goes to check, and finds a package on his front step. It's checked out, and either it's not a bomb, or it's a really good one, because Bob can't detect anything. But it is really cold. Oh. Corina figures it's one of those medical containers, and she opens it up to find ..... her original eyes. The guys are wondering what kind of a sick individual would do something like that, but Corina explains that they're her 'original' eyes, and tells them who she is, and how she got to be in the position she's in, and about Jack being missing. Her SternMetal tattoo finally convinces them she's really Corina. And then she explains about Globber having abducted them, drugged and dressed her up, and about his old girlfriend, etc. etc. Their reaction: EEEWWWWW!!

Corina is given a jumpsuit to wear. Not that she doesn't look good, because she does. It's just that it's kind of distracting. She puts on the jumpsuit, and is then asked to "zip it up a bit higher"... Any how. What now? They decide to start where she was last - Globber's house. They can't decide if Globber's gone off his nut, or what. Corina isn't sure if Globber did all this on his own, or if he abducted her on Black's orders or not. Well, everything is so incredibly screwed up on Regina right now...

Corina tells Bob and Ted about the Thragr and the fire, etc., and points out that Globber may not be too happy, and he does know she's gone. "A wounded Thragr. Tell me this gets better?" Not really. Corina did warn them it could get 'sticky'. No kidding. Corina is offered an SMG in lieu of the little handgun, but she would prefer a shotgun. Bob sighs, goes to the other room, and the sound of sawing is heard. Bob emerges with a lovely sporting shotgun, and a barrel that's been shortened. Now that's better. Corina checks it out, and it passes muster.

Nicolai first goes to the Bread and Bean to meet the Weseli, and he tells him he's not going to pay him, as his "news is outdated - everyone already knows." Hm. Okay, so will he at least spring for a cup of coffee? Yeah, but not a $5,000 credit cup of coffee. The Weseli asks if "those are friends of yours?", and indicates the table in the back. The table in the back holds Blaelok and two really big guys, who are wearing rings (the wrong way) and have jock bags beside them. Nope, NOT Nicolai's friends. Everyone suddenly is struck with an uncontrollable urge to pay up and leave. Nicolai goes outside, not wanting to get the Bread and Bean trashed. Again.

The two CRI follow Nicolai outside. They just want to pass on a "friendly warning": the "not being faster than a surfgun cuts both ways". Nicolai makes a comment about hoping Blaelok keeps his agreement with them, since he didn't with Nicolai, but they're not buying that line. And then they start making comments about Nicolai not being stupid, and how he has "friends here", and then they mention his girlfriend, and Nicolai decides to screw this noise, and triggers. He's going to go for them both.

Ghaer was just in the area, and was about to step in to the Bread and Bean for a quick coffee, when he sees the mass exodus from the café, and sees Nicolai. Ghaer assesses the situation, and promptly shoots one of the CRI in the right shoulder, using HEAP, and blowing a chunk of his shoulder off. This is very distracting. And Nicolai is going to have to wait, as the inferior lifeform who shot him will take precedent for the CRI. And the fight it on.

Now that everyone except Ghaer is triggered, things move along at a very fast clip. Nicolai wasn't even bothering to draw, he's just going for the non-wounded CRI using unarmed combat. They get into it, and meanwhile Ghaer is hit in the chest by the first CRI's surfgun (fortunately, he's wearing body armor). Ghaer goes down like a rock. Hey, some one has just gunned down an Imperial Marine, in uniform, so this may go badly for the CRI, later. Not that this helps Ghaer for right now.

Shooting and hitting ensues, very quickly, and very efficiently. Just at the edge of their peripheral vision, the three CRI sort of notice that there's a kind of sparkly glow over where the Vargr (undoubtedly dead) went down. ???

The fight is vicious, as well as quick. Nicolai is still fighting unarmed, as he has not had a chance to draw. He does eventually manage to disarm one of the CRI. Over in the corner, Ghaer has stopped sparkling, and has regained consciousness. Aside for some residual soreness, Ghaer has healed. (Must be yet another feature of the hyper-fur?) [Actually, it's a Barlow thing...] Ghaer is going to be the last person to fire, due to the speed of the others, but no one will be expecting him to rejoin the fray.

The still armed CRI glances quickly over to where Blaelok is watching through the window of the Bread and Bean, whilst sipping his tea, gets a nod, and then surfguns both Nicolai and his own partner (it was the only way to hit Nicolai). Nicolai goes down, not quite dead, but in really, really serious condition, and the CRI who went down with him is not in much better shape. Ghaer's first shot misses and hits the window of the Bread and Bean (but it doesn't break). His second shot takes down the other CRI, but doesn't kill him. They decide at this point to do a strategic withdrawal. Ghaer covers, but doesn't fire, so he isn't fired on either. It shouldn't be too hard to find the CRI - just follow the huge blood trail.

Nicolai untriggers, and goes unconscious. Ghaer tries to medic him, but he needs more paws to cover all the bleeding areas. He hits Nicolai with Regen 1, so that helps some. Nicolai does have a Vigilante, so that will help him heal, if he lasts that long. The SWAT team cautiously arrives at this point, and an ambulance soon after.

Ghaer looks around for Blaelok, who has disappeared. But there is a teacup sitting on a bench right behind where Ghaer was medicking Nicolai. Oooh. Damn him. And then there's the matter of Ghaer's really shredded uniform and armor. He manages to not draw too much undue attention. He goes home, gets into a new uniform, and goes off to do what he originally set out to do, which was to bail out a second lieutenant, who wandered into the wrong bar. While changing, he realizes that his stripes have come back, with a vengeance. The dye job is gone, and he's even more orange and black. Now he looks more like the "Ling-Ling" Barlow character in the cartoon. And after he spent all that time learning the Puff-Puff song.

Nicolai appears to be trying to slowly weed out the "traitors" in the Solomani group. Blaelok's has only ever been on Blaelok's side, so you can't really call him a traitor.

Mikie has managed to get supplies, and has gone deeper into the Warrens than he's ever been. For that matter, he doesn't even know anyone who's been in this part. Well, at least no one will be looking for him there. In theory.

Ghaer decides to check to see if there's any connection between the Shalikovs and Spencer Collingwood, and lo and behold, the younger Shalikov is married to Tiger's sister. This means that Tiger forced out his own brother-in-law, "allowing" him to resign, to keep some face. But the shouting match between the Count and Tiger resulted in other people hearing Tiger call the younger Shalikov a "coward". Hmmmm. Now that is interesting.

Tiger has sent Steiner a bottle of very good Port. There's a note from Tiger stating that the Port is safe, as it has been sealed for ages. Steiner, who has learned her lesson, sends Tiger back a note telling Tiger that if he "drinks anything that hasn't been properly tested", she'll "come over and personally beat some sense" into Tiger. "Remember the champagne?" Tiger admits she's got a point.

Steiner contacts Mr. Black, and asks for a meeting. The person who handles Black's official appointments tells her he can give her ten minutes today, or an hour tomorrow. Steiner takes the ten minutes. The admin guy apologizes, but Black is very busy since he's been reinstalled as Director.

Black is very friendly. "Ah, General Steiner. Do sit down - not that chair." Steiner explains that it's not actually "general, it's 'rik'". But not a major issue. Steiner explains that she's acting in her capacity as an ally. To Collingwood. She tells Black that she's there to "mend fences, and yes, I know we're talking about really big holes". A certain amount of witty badinage takes place, and Black is of course, a reasonable man, and he's willing to deal with Collingwood. Steiner tells Black she's "a bit disappointed" in Black. This causes a raised eyebrow. She points out that Black has either chosen to allow certain things to happen (although they were not in his best interests), or he wasn't aware of them, and then she tosses copies of the lab reports on Black's desk.

Black finds the information extremely interesting. He would like a sample of Impulse, but all Steiner can offer him is the lot numbers, etc. Black offers his assistance in "questioning" anyone that Collingwood or Steiner have in custody, as they can be "very persuasive". Black assumes that they have some one already, but Steiner explains they only just confirmed what was going on. But yes, they do suspect some one. Steiner doesn't point out that they pretty much suspect everyone right now. Oh, and then there's the Blaeloks. Collingwood is unhappy with the Blaeloks playing out whatever games they're into, all over Regina. Black is interested in letting them play, to find out why their here, and what they're after. But not everyone is happy with that situation, and Steiner tells Black so. She emphasizes that she is "merely a messenger" for the Field Marshal. Black tells her that he understands, and wishes that "all the messengers were so attractive", and may he say that "blue suits you?" (Yes, Steiner is wearing blue lingerie today - charming, and well-informed is our Mr. Black. ) Steiner thanks him, and takes her leave.

When she returns to her quarters, Tiger calls to tell her that she was right, he had the Port tested, and it was loaded with Impulse. "But the wine was wax sealed, and under lock and key because of how valuable it is." And only Tiger had the key. Steiner asks where he got the Port, and he says it was a gift from Astridi. "Just like the champagne?" As a matter of fact, yes. Turns out that just before Tiger left for Regina, he received a shipment from Astridi (in theory) - a variety of wines, scotch, bourbon, etc. All very expensive, and in such copious amounts, that Tiger would never have to buy alcohol again. Ever. This may have made sense to some one who entertains as much as Astridi, but Tiger figured it was way too much. So he sent a whole bunch of the booze out as gifts. Steiner asks "To whom?" "Oh, a case of wine to Black, case of Port to Globber, case of scotch to Mr. Scalese. All sorts of notables.... "Oh my God." Oh yeah. "Oh my God."

Tiger calls for Captain Bernadette, to find out if all the "gifts" have been delivered yet. She's not sure, but she'll check with the person who was in charge of the shipping, a Lt. Bigsby. Bernadette comes back shortly thereafter, and Tiger's in luck. Turns out Bigsby nicked a couple of bottles out of the shipment, and drank some. He then went right off, got into it with the MPs, taking on a whole squad of them, and eventually getting his ass tossed into the brig. The good news is that only the wine to Black and the Port to Globber (well, that explains a lot!!) actually went out. Steiner is really hoping Black hasn't had any of that wine, because Black on Impulse does not bear thinking about.

Steiner asks if Tiger has spoken to Viktor yet, and he hasn't, but that's a good idea. Captain Bernadette is sent to "fetch General Androchev". She doesn't get out the main door before running into Viktor and Ghaer, who were on their way in. A couple of minutes later, the Captain delivers "General Androchev, as ordered sir." Damn she's good!

There is a certain amount of awkwardness involved in the conversation between Collingwood and Viktor. Basically, Viktor is told to just assume the "orders" were never given, and all that. Viktor is okay with that. Ghaer, Viktor, Tiger, and Steiner share information about the Impulse, it's now presumed source, the faked documentation, and the incident involving Calvin and his parents. Viktor will try to track down the documents before that gets into the wrong hands. But who ordered the assault on Calvin's house, and the attempts on his life? Viktor and Ghaer are in charge of resolving the rest of this mess. (No one makes a comment about Ghaer's rather more vivid tabby stripes, possibly because they don't want to know...)

Ghaer tells the group about the Shalikovs, and that he suspects one or more of them may be behind the drugging. Tiger doesn't want Ghaer to get involved in that kind of political mess, so he should just ignore everything about that. He's also not sure about them as suspects. Ghaer wonders if the Count's position in the office of the Exchequer would have allowed him to send the alcohol under Paolo's name, but Tiger doesn't know. Steiner, on the other hand, having been Astridi's aide de camp for more than a year, does know. And the answer is yes. Astridi liked to delegate all the "boring" jobs, leaving him to do the things he enjoyed and was good at. So yes, the Shalikovs are possible suspects, but if that's the case there are probably some others on Regina who are also involved.

Other breaking news is also discussed. Seems that Ambassador Veronica Liu, who was not dead apparently after all, but she is now. The starport police responded to the screams, seems she was literally ripped apart. (The robots? The Blaeloks?) The police have not been allowed into the Consulate since then. With LaBland having been blown up, Liu having been ripped apart, and amazingly enough, the next person below LaBland having recently had a fatal accident, guess who is in charge?? Acting Consul Christopher Blaelok. Fancy that.

Ghaer attempts to find some reason to get Mikie involved (he does have skills that could be useful), but as Collingwood points out, whether or not he's guilty, if he gets picked up, it's doubtful he'll live long enough to actually reach the holding facility. Okay, point taken. Ghaer's Lassie genes are giving him grief about not being able to help Mikie though.

After the meeting, Viktor destroys all the recordings he has made since he was given the illegal orders. He also stopped wearing the wire he has been using to make the recordings. Viktor then reassigns the SAG guy, Mr. Smith, with a new objective. Since the bait has been taken, Mr. Smith is to begin making plans for the acquisition of one 10 year old boy and his personal computer files, being secreted on Regina. Viktor will provide the details as they become available. Not that Viktor doesn't trust Mr. Smith. Well, okay, so he doesn't.

Corina, Bob, and Ted return to Globber's place. They are in fact able to find Jack, who is in the basement, in a medical berth, all frozen like. The unit is sort of portable, and has wheels, so they take Jack, and off they go. Corina leads them to the main office of the Foundation for Social Assistance. In the office, Randi Kyle is very frustrated. The assets were about to be unfrozen, but they found some kind of odd unknown transactions, so they need to look into that. And then the strange people show up with a frozen guy. In private, Corina identifies herself to Randi. Oh great, just what she needs - either it's Corina, which could be awkward, or it's some nut case. Not good.

Corina wants some support in taking Jack to Regina Trauma, and that's why she's come to Randi. She does manage to convince Randi (at least mostly) that she is, in fact Corina. Corina was thinking of making a broadcast, and trying to round up a crowd of Corinistas, at least as a distraction. They don't have the equipment for that here, but Randi is willing to help as much as she can. At that moment, several vehicles screech to a halt in front of the building. Randi will try to cover, and buy Corina some time. Corina tries to get out the back door, and runs smack into Black, who literally welcomes her back with open arms.

Black has the building sealed up (no phones out, no datalines out, no one in or out) until he orders otherwise (days, maybe??). He wants to speak with Corina, and he will have Jack unfrozen. Black orders one of his people to make sure Jack is properly resuscitated. "Any problems, it's your ass. " To Corina "Everything will be taken care of." Black promises that Jack will be safely thawed out, and she will be taken to see him as soon as he's back among the living, so to speak. Bob and Roy convince Black's man that they will be going along, to make sure Jack gets the proper care, since "you wouldn't want any stray bullets hitting Jack - your boss wouldn't like that..." Then Corina takes a really fun ride in Black's car to the big grey building.

Black wants to bring Corina up to date on everything that has happened, so she gets to watch the tapes of the senate hearing, Collingwood's outburst, Black's stellar performances, etc., etc., etc. She knows why Black had his flunky kidnap her and bring her back, but says that she doesn't think that it's Black's style to let Globber fondle her unconscious body once she's here. Black doesn't know what she's talking about. She's sure that Globber wouldn't have done all this on his own, but Black manages to convince her he really didn't have that done, as it would not be to his advantage. So it looks like Globber really did just go off his rocker.

During the little drive, Steiner manages to get through the layers of bureaucracy to have a call put through to Black's car, on the vidphone. She tells him that they have narrowed down the source of the drug, and it was a shipment of expensive liquor, and "I wouldn't drink that", as Black is about to sip from a wine glass. Steiner tells Black that most of the liquor is accounted for, except for the case of wine that went , and the case of port that went to Globber. Black tells Steiner that she needn't be concerned, he never drinks or even keeps for himself anything that comes from a third party. Steiner tells him that she hopes he hasn't "inadvertently passed on the drugged wine to anyone". No, at least not inadvertently. Well that's good, but Steiner thinks "it's doubtful that Globber has exercised that kind of restraint, so if he's been behaving oddly, now you know why." Black comments to Corina that this "could explain some things". Then Black tells Steiner "oh, you may find this interesting", and turns the vidphone screen so that Steiner can see the person in the car with him. She looks very familiar, and Black says to "Picture her with brown eyes", and it clicks. Steiner raises an eyebrow and says "Well, this is interesting." Black thanks her for the call, and he will look after the Globber issue. Steiner rings off, not sure what she's going to do with the knowledge that Corina is alive and back on Regina (doesn't anybody ever stay dead around here?).

Black tells Corina that she'll have to decide what she wants to do - go back to her anonymous life, or return to Regina as Corina. Either way, Black can use it to his advantage. He tells her that before she decides, she should let his men give her a tour of Down Port, so she can "see her people". Corina replies "That's low, Mercer." Black goes on about who would care for the common man if not her? Can she really picture Collingwood caring? And Ramirez, while photogenic and easily controlled, really is not all that bright, or competent. If Corina decides to leave, he would appreciate it if she could record some more speeches that Black can "uncover" and use. Corina agrees, but in return, she wants Victoria Aledon returned to her. Black, while neither saying for sure that he has Victoria, nor denying it, seems to find this a reasonable request, especially since Corina is family to the girl. Speaking of Corina's relationship to the late Duke Norris, that does make her in direct line for the Duchy of Regina, which could allow her to 'displace' Collingwood. Besides, he seems to want to "bring Regina into line with the rest of the Imperium", and Black feels that would not be desirable. Corina does agree that this would be going against Regina's nature.

The discussion of Corina's "relations" reminds Black of something he thinks she will be interested in. He hands her a very fat manila security envelope, keyed to Corina. Black refers to it as an "interesting read". However, Corina will have to be a "quick reader, as the paper will begin to degrade once exposed". Just as Corina opens it up, they arrive at the big grey building with no windows, and take the express elevator up to Black's quarters (very nice, and Black makes sure Corina is fed - she's been too busy to eat today, so she's hungry). Turns out the documents contain information about the actions of Corina's family members - the Lings.

Everything Corina suspected about her family, and what they were capable of is confirmed, and worse. Corina's parents knew she was Norris Aledon's daughter, and they decided, after his death, to start manipulating things to get her into place to become Duchess of Regina. They arranged for the amphetamines Corina was taking while in the Imperial Navy to be replaced with hallucinogenic, causing the incident that resulted in Corina being brought up on drug charges and discharged; they made sure the original drugs were replaced so it would appear Corina had so badly abused the stims she lost control. This gave the Lings the excuse they needed to ship their "errant" daughter off to the Marches, to "redeem herself" in the corporate office. They then arranged for the information on Corina's relationship to the late Duke to be made public, at the right time. The worst of it though, is the fact that her own family arranged for Corina to be misled about the extent of her combat injuries, and be told that she could never have children. Corina never bothered going off Lock, and the Ling Standard corporate doctors made sure she didn't get Unlock. Evidently the Lings didn't want Corina to get some bizarre idea to go off and raise kids with some one, thereby foiling their clever plan. [Lovely family - related to the Borgias are they???] Talk about having your perception of the universe rearranged...

Nicolai wakes up in very familiar surroundings - Regina Trauma Center. At this rate, he'll have paid for his own room. Christi is there, and she is really upset about his being hurt. She's not sure if she can handle much more of this. Nicolai uses his years of CRI conditioning to not let on just how painful it is when she holds on to him and cries. He lets her do what she needs to. After Christi leaves, Nicolai phones Regina Security, and asks to speak with Mr. Black. As Nicolai doesn't have one of the "special" phone numbers, he has to go through regular channels; Mr. Black will be told he called.

Nicolai waits a while, but he eventually gets impatient, and calls Ghaer. Now, Nicolai never actually saw Ghaer during the fight, so he's unaware that Ghaer was the one the CRI surfgunned - just as well, since that might result in some interesting questions, that Ghaer might not want to answer. Nicolai asks Ghaer if he could help get Nicolai in touch with Mr. Black. Ghaer agrees to do what he can, and he contacts Regina Security. Ghaer is able to get in touch with Black's number two man, Mr. Soames. The Director is unavailable, but Soames agrees to speak with Mr. Volkov.

Nicolai is dozing in his hospital bed when he becomes aware that some one is standing beside the bed, and that they've evidently blocked off his oxygen supply. Nicolai very quickly reaches up and grabs the man by the throat. "You can let go of my air hose now, and I'll let go of yours." This seems fair. (Gasp, hack.) Soames then takes the place of the somewhat bruised security guy, and introduces himself to Nicolai. Nicolai wants to speak with Mr. Black, and only Mr. Black. He has information to give to him, but as Nicolai does not know this Soames guy, he is sure as hell not gong to give it to him. Soames is a tad annoyed, but he promises to pass the message along to the Director. They leave.

Shortly after Corina finishes reading the damning documents, Black tells her that he understands she needs some time to adjust, and there's some one she probably wants to see. Black arranges for Corina to have the use of a suite at Clairidges, so she is delivered there. A very cold, somewhat confused Jack Armstrong is waiting for her. He's awake and mobile, but he's still a bit shaky, and boy is he cold! They hug, and Corina takes Jack off for a very hot bath - he'll be better able to absorb all the information once he's no longer shivering. Black's people are watching the rooms, so no one will bother the Armstrongs, and the lead guy tells Corina that, although he can't say they don't have keys, he knows what it's like to be away from your spouse, so he'll see to it that they have privacy. Corina thanks him. Once Jack is warmed up, he and Corina have a night to themselves, thanks to the oh-so forgiving Mr. Black. (So, Corina had his sister abducted, and potentially programmed by Blaelok to do God knows what, and still might be - and he's okay with that???)

Steiner has a private conversation with Tiger. She's concerned that his wife, Bunny, may have gotten a hold of one of the bottles of alcohol he had kept for personal use. Tiger is pretty sure she didn't, as he tries to keep anything alcoholic away from his wife since "you know how she is; I have to buy mouthwash that doesn't contain alcohol". He will try to find out for sure if anything is unaccounted for, just in case. [Hmmm. Bunny did bring a bottle of wine to dinner at the Androchev's, and neither Katerina, who's trying to get pregnant, nor Viktor, who doesn't drink wine, had any - just Bunny and Will Delgado...]

What Nicolai wants to discuss with Black is the Blaeloks. And their funeral arrangements, preferably. Nicolai is thoroughly pissed off now, and is willing to offer Black assistance in dealing with the Blaeloks. As he is musing on this, Blaelok shows up and pokes his head in to say hello. Nicolai throws something at him, but Blaelok just catches it. Nicolai makes a remark about Blaelok having "killed Liu", but Blaelok denies this. "Okay, so you had the robots kill her." Blaelok still denies having done anything of the sort, Nicolai has him all wrong. Bullshit. Nicolai doesn't believe Blaelok, and tells him so. Blaelok shakes his head, in a disappointed sort of way, and then leaves Nicolai "something to keep you company" - he tosses something into the room, something that has many legs, and scuttles really quickly out of sight. Blaelok shuts and locks the door from the outside. Nicolai's new mission is to find whatever the hell that thing is and kill it, even if he has to rip up the room to do so. It could be a very long night for Nicolai.

Speaking of long nights, Mikie is in the "darkside" of the Warrens, It's where the heating system vents all the cold air, so he'll be spending the night shivering in the dark, and listening to "things" skitter around in the darkness. Maybe he and Nicolai should start a support group?

On a more positive note, it looks like Corina won't have to worry about Globber. The Commissioner went to a local "house of joy", and was sort of running amok, naked (try not to think about it) in the hallways. The police were called, recognized their boss, wrapped him in a blanket, wait that's not enough, got more blankets, and hustled him out of there. He is going to be under lock and key somewhere safe, until he comes down off of whatever he's on (Impulse). And since Black knows what caused Globber's behavior, it will hopefully not reoccur.