A Wedding and Two Funerals.


We last left Nicolai in his hospital room, trying to find whatever Blaelok turned loose in his room. He tries the phone, but it's not working, neither is the nurse call button. Then the lights go out, except for the monitor Nicolai is hooked up to, as it has a backup battery. Nicolai pulls out the monitor cord, which sets off the alarm, sending the "thing" scuttling. The nurse comes running, but the door appears to be locked, or something is jammed into the lock. Several large orderlies are sent for, they break open the door, and light streams in. Nicolai is sitting up in bed, and when the lights come on it's sitting between his legs! It's some kind of furry, six-legged thing, and it looks up at Nicolai, and it... purrs. Purrs?

It's actually a small little creature that has big, friendly eyes, and the nurse's aide recognizes it as a *. They're as low maintenance as a cat, but as loyal as a dog, and sort of looks vaguely like a cross between a ferret and a six-legged cat. And they're very expensive. Nicolai isn't sure about that, but he looks at the creature, and sees that it's wearing a collar with an unengraved little metal disk, and a note is tucked into the collar. It reads: "Get well soon." Cute. The nurses will take care of it at the nurses' station for now.

Corina and Black have a conversation about his unfreezing the Foundation's assets, which he agrees to do. And she asks to borrow Black's car and driver to "pick some one up". She goes to where she had met Mikie yesterday, and when he shows up, as promised, she has him go with her. Mikie isn't sure this is a good idea for Corina, but she tells him he'll be safe in Black's rooms in Clairidges, and no one is going to be bursting in with Black's people outside. And she tempts Mikie with offers of running water, food, a real bed, and a fresher, and other incredibly attractive things for some one who has been cold, tired, and otherwise uncomfortable for days.

Mikie goes into the incredibly wonderful bathroom. If he wasn't already Catholic, he'd start worshipping the god Pfister. A very long, hot bath ensues. It's good to be warm and clean again.

Corina goes off to become Corina again. She's taken to a clinic-like place, anaesthetized, and when she wakes up, her face is bandaged. She's in a bed, back at Clairidges, and when she calls for Jack, he's right by her side. The bandages come off the face in a couple of days, but it will take about a week for the eyes to heal.

Nicolai will not be charging off for a couple of days, and will actually be allowing himself to heal up while in hospital. He has the little * put into a comfy box, with one of those little devices that replicate a heartbeat, and a hot water bottle so it doesn't get cold. And if Blaelok is listening through some kind of bug in the animal, all he'll hear is purring and a heartbeat.

Ghaer is busy wondering what to do next, besides learn the "Ling-Ling" song. Everything seems to be sort of back to normal (for Regina, that is), at least for now. Viktor does request Ghaer attend the meeting between Ramirez and Collingwood. It's basically a male bonding thing.

Ramirez strikes Ghaer as being bright and shiny, but not really deep. He's all telegenic like, but he's obviously just the posterboy here. He is not politically astute, but he's smart enough to know his own limitations, and he is a reasonably competent general. Some light political conversation is followed by war stories, and the exchange of gifts. Ramirez has Collingwood presented with a lovely pair of matched chromed 12mm auto pistols with pearl grips, and Ramirez is presented with a lovely wood humidor filled with Vegan cigars.

Ramirez is wearing one of the "Hi, see, I'm a general!" uniforms. Several other members of the junta are also at the meeting, wearing equally resplendent uniforms. Basically, all of the officers are in their fancy dress uniforms, except for Steiner, who Collingwood invited in her role as an ally. Steiner, in her incredibly basic black (with a small pip on her collar, and a little bit of red piping), is the one who stands out. (Sort of the raven amongst the peacocks.)

The generals split off from the rest of their staff members to sit around a big table, in comfy chairs, leaving the non-generals to have their own drinks and food by themselves in another room. Viktor is seated a bit away from the main general table, listening to the others discuss how things really are. Collingwood is a bit concerned about the Corinistas, and the whole Corina mythos. Ramirez, when Collingwood mentions Corina, gets all misty-eyed, and taps his chest (touching his Corina 'medallion'?). When Collingwood sees where Ramirez is coming from, he backs off that tack. A couple of times Ramirez does make a comment about having to "check with my principals", but they should be represented by the junta, which is present.... Viktor thinks, but does not say "Black".

Ghaer and the other sergeants are talking together, now that they are away from their respective generals. Collingwood's sergeant is very well trained, and doesn't give out any real information about his person, but sucks up all the information from others. Ghaer listens, but nothing much comes out about the coup. It was all so well organized, it went off like clockwork. They do mention arresting some of the members of the Senate, and one of them "cried like a baby", which just pissed them off more. They did have orders to only arrest the senators, not harm them. The Sengi who came with Steiner (the rik's bodyguard) just stand there, like Buckingham Palace guards, looking very large.

The "party' eventually does break up, with much hugging, and kissing of cheeks, and some slapping of butts, especially where Steiner's concerned. Well, she is the only female in the group. And she doesn't even lose her temper when several of the local generals comment on how well she speaks Galanglic. Viktor of course, takes a perverse delight in saying the same thing too. Argh.

Viktor tries to call Will Delgado at home, but his answering machine indicates that Will is at work, in Regina Trauma, for the next several months. Viktor goes there to speak to Will, along with Ghaer. They wake up the bleary-eyed resident, and Ghaer asks Will for a blood sample. Will, who doesn't understand, indicates a nearby tray of blood samples waiting for lab pickup and tells him to help himself. Will tells Ghaer that next time he comes to visit he should at least bring decent coffee. Will indicates that the now cold liquid he is drinking may be "brown, but it is not coffee". Ghaer says that he will bring real coffee next time, and that what he needs is a sample of Will's blood. Will isn't about to just hand over genetic material without knowing why, thank you. Ghaer and Viktor explain that the root cause of Will's current predicament may have been pharmaceutical contamination of the bottle of wine Will shared with Mrs. Collingwood at the Androchev's. When he hears "psychomimetric drug" , Will extends an arm - "here you go". Ghaer handily draws the blood sample.

Viktor then tells Will that the other thing he wants from Will is Calvin. Will is not really keen on this, and is not buying Viktor's reasoning that Calvin will be better protected by Viktor or the Navy. Viktor tells Will "I can do this with your cooperation, but I don't need it." Ooh. Will states that he will trust Viktor's guards if Viktor is willing to place Calvin with Viktor's son Vasilli. Will points out that he has placed Calvin with his family. After a rather significant pause, Viktor agrees.

Will calls his dad, Falcon, and Jim (Falcon's boss and friend) answers. Apparently, Falcon felt he needed to get Calvin somewhere safe, and it would be best if Jim didn't know any of the details. But Falcon is supposed to call in occasionally. Will tells this to Ghaer and Viktor. He'll call them if he hears anything from Falcon, but Will does figure that if Calvin is with his father, he's safe. Ghaer and Viktor do go by the Delgado home after they leave, just to make sure it's not burned out or something; everything looks pretty normal.

Alvin Radcliffe, a craven political animal, is the Deputy Commissioner of the Regina Police Department, and he's in charge (at least on paper) while Globber is out of commission. Alvin's uncle, Senator Rutledge, got him the job. At the moment, Alvin is sitting in Globber's chair, at the big desk, and enjoying himself. For now.

Randi Kyle, at the Foundation, is pleased when the data lines are reconnected, so she can continue to look for the mystery money. Turns out millions of credits have been funneled through the Foundation, then out to dozens of holding companies, then out to other holding companies, etc., etc., etc. This was all done electronically, and is at least apparently untraceable. Right now it looks like the Foundation dispersed all this money.

Rumors are beginning to circulate about Corina. There is a Tattler article about a glowing Corina walking (although not touching the ground) through Old Port, healing the blind, etc. Sounds like they're confusing Corina with Viper.

After worshipping in the temple of the bathroom, Mikie emerges. Jack orders up something nice and solid from room service, and sort of stares at Mikie. He's trying to figure out where Mikie fits, and asks if he "really killed those cops"? No. "Are you really a powerful psionic? What am I thinking??" Sigh. Mikie tells Jack "No, I can't bend steel bars with my mind, and I don't really care what you're thinking." Jack wants to know how the bars were bent, as they are made of an incredibly strong alloy. Mikie tells Jack (and Corina, who's listening from the other room, where she's resting) about Blaelok, and that he's enhanced, and was only pretending to be "fixed", and that he's SolSec. Jack is rather quiet about this for a few minutes, then asks if Mikie has gone to the police, and Corina chimes up "Come on, Jack, the police would just shoot him on sight!" Precisely. Corina tells Mikie that she has sent a letter to Globber, asking that he investigate the murder of the police officers, as she believes that Mikie is innocent. (Currently, Alvin is in charge of the investigation, and he has already made several statements indicating his belief in Mikie's guilt.)

Corina asks Mikie exactly what did happen, and he tells her and Jack everything that happened after the senate hearings, up to his "escape". This includes Rawlings' little prank involving Clem and Roy, what Blaelok did, etc. As to why, Mikie didn't do what Blaelok wanted, and besides, Blaelok is "not right, and probably never has been. And he's evil. And bored." Mikie appreciates what Corina is doing for him, and asks if she could possibly get a message to Black, as Mikie is really concerned about Theresa and her father. Corina asks the Regina Security guy out front to pass on a message about Mikie's concerns to Mr. Black.

93 to 98 - 1122.

Several days later, Randi is able to determine that a lot of the mystery money made it's way to General Ramirez, through at least fourteen steps, and millions went to Field Marshall Collingwood. One million went to Rutledge, and so on. The bulk of the money went to a numbered account in the Banque de Genève. The bank will not divulge any information on that matter.

Randi changes the Foundation's procedures so that the transfer codes are changed irregularly, and any money transfers must be approved by Randi. She also gets a report on this off to Corina (Corina has proved to Randi who she is by telling Randi things about the letters in the safe for Randi- that only Corina would know).

Mikie is given a large manila envelope, by the security guy, who has a really serious look on his face, and says "I'm sorry, Mikie." After a few seconds of sheer terror, he adds "This fell behind the Director's desk, so you didn't get it right away." Resume breathing now. Some people have a truly sadistic sense of humor.

Nicolai gets a visit from Mr. Black. Nicolai asks if Veronica Liu is really dead? Apparently, but Black doesn't believe some one is dead, unless he actually pokes the body himself. Nicolai tries to convince Black that the Blaeloks need killin', but Black isn't really buying the idea that Nicolai is turning against his fellow Solomani - what's in it for Nicolai? Nicolai points out that he likes living on Regina, and he would really, really like to see Blaelok's head on a platter. Preferably dissolving in a pool of acid. He tells Black about the robots, that "George is the dangerous one", etc. Okay... When Black leaves, still rather noncommittal, as he doesn't see the robots or the internal issues involving Liu et al as being really relevant right now.

Ghaer wants to contract Nicolai, as a "special consultant". Among other things, he wants to be able to use Nicolai to make contact with people Ghaer doesn't feel comfortable contacting directly because of being on active duty.

Nicolai does eventually get out of hospital, all healed up and everything. And Christi is thrilled about the * he got for her. Nicolai doesn't say anything, as the * appears to actually be just a harmless pet as it sits purring and cooing on Christi's shoulder. After leaving the hospital, Nicolai goes to see Irving, at Discarding Sabot. Irving is testing the automatic drink dispensing machine he's been working on; it almost works. Nicolai asks Irving if he could possibly build him something to take out a robot? Nicolai gives Irving all the information he has about the robots. Irving is very interested, and promises that he will have something for Nicolai "tomorrow".

A bunch of the restaurants on Up Port are hiring extra staff. Droberte's is closed, but the pastry chef is in there working, apparently around the clock. Hmmmm. Party??

Mikie's manila envelope contains a whole bunch of letters from Theresa, and they all have the scent of her perfume. She has been writing at least a letter a day, sometimes two. She misses Mikie very much, etc., etc. Very touching. The last letter is in the same type of envelope, and also has the scent of Theresa's perfume, but it's not Theresa's handwriting. It's in a very precise, not from around here kind of writing - Blaelok. The note reads: "No matter where you are, you're always close by." The note degrades before Mikie can get a copy made. Damn. Mikie sends word to Black about this, and also informs Corina and Jack, as it probably means that Blaelok knows where Mikie is now. Corina points out that Blaelok may know that she's there now anyway.

98 - 1122.

Globber holds a press conference, with regard to the murder of the police officers. Globber tells the press, and public that the conclusions reached about the case may have seemed correct "to the untrained amateur," Globber glances at Alvin, "But I've examined the crime scene, and evidence personally, and there are questions to be asked, such as why a telekinetic would leave handprints on the metal bars? And why would he leave fingerprints, fingerprints which do not belong to Michael Griffin? If anyone had actually examined the crime scene," again looking at Alvin, "They would have seen that the killer was approximately 6'2" tall...." Globber goes over things point by point. Rawlings is at the back of the room, he slams down something on the table, and storms off. Globber also goes over the question about why two other prisoners were placed in the cell with a prisoner who was a suspected psionic, and was supposed to be kept isolated? And why were two prisoners with records of assault and rape of fellow prisoners were put in with Griffin? Globber believes that "Michael Griffin is apparently as much a victim as the police officers, and is probably in fear of his life, running from both the police and the real killer. " Globber wants Mikie in custody, as a material witness, but he points out to his officers that Mikie "would only be useful as a witness if he is taken into custody still able to talk"; in other words, no more shoot on site, even unofficially. "Of course, this means that there's a killer loose on Regina, ladies and gentlemen. One with phenomenal strength, and no compunction against killing, even police officers. "

Mikie decides it's best to turn himself in, so Corina calls Globber. Mikie is willing to turn himself in, but only to Globber or James Weseli. Globber has no problem arranging whatever Corina wants. (He really hopes that Corina doesn't remember anything, but he's sure she does, and he can't look her in the eyes when they meet.)

Nicolai returns to see Irving, who has come up with something guaranteed to stop any robot. Cool. Irving says "Watch this," and pushes a button. A huge, bar-sized coil drops down from the ceiling, and builds up a phenomenal electromagnetic charge that starts to melt or ignite the nonmetallic fixtures in the bar, while sucking anything made of iron, etc. to it. After a few seconds, Irving turns it off, the power grid in that section goes down then back up, and Nicolai's expression as he looks around the bar gets Irving's attention. "Oh, here I'll take care of this..." Irving gets his fire-suppression gear and puts out the furniture. Sal is going to be so pissed off about this.

Nicolai is certainly impressed, but it's not exactly portable, now is it? Irving says Nicolai will need to bring the robot there to D.S., but not for a couple of days, as the capacitors needs to recharge, or the coil will suck power directly from the main grid, and the authorities are bound to notice that. Right. At least Nicolai has a trap in place. Now he just needs to survive long enough to convince George and Raul to come to D.S. Perhaps if he invites them over for a free lube job?

Mikie is taken to a safe house, and Jimmy Weseli is his guard. It's very quiet, until the door is knocked down. A large form looms in the doorway, Jimmy shotguns it repeatedly, without much effect, and then the figure tosses Jimmy across the room. Mikie runs for it, with the robot in pursuit, and darts into some kind of small vent in the wall, too small for the robot to get into. The second cop who was guarding the outside shows up, fires repeatedly at the robot, to no avail. Backup is called for. Mikie has discovered he's in a dead end, short tunnel, and the robot starts ripping up the wall to get at him. Mikie manages to slip ahead as the wall is being torn open, trying to keep ahead of Raul, but eventually the robot catches him, and the lights go out...

99 -1122.

Mikie wakes up in a room that smells faintly of flowers, with some kind of opera music playing. He's in the Solomani Consulate, with Blaelok. "I'm sorry to have brought you in like this Mikie, I'm sure you had better things to do with your life, but it was necessary." The robot Raul is guarding the only door out of the room. Mikie has been medicked, so he's not suffering from any of the injuries Raul inflicted the night before. And now what does Blaelok want?

It seems Blaelok is convinced that Sontag left important information in the mind of one of Mikie's 'brothers'. Specifically, the brother whose body Mikie is in now. Blaelok wants to try to extract the information, if it's still there, and he wants Mikie's cooperation. (The phrase "Screw you" comes to mind.) And if Mikie doesn't want to help, Blaelok's going to just let him walk out, right? Of course not. Blaelok will send Raul to Aguilon Park after they're done, and Mikie will be released to tell the police that the robot killed the police officers, and where to find it. But only once Blaelok has what he wants. Mikie goes with Blaelok to the little 'work' room, but he's not willing to help, he just doesn't have a choice - "I can do this without your cooperation Michael, don't make things difficult." Mikie does try to fight the drugs, but he only makes it harder on himself. Blaelok tell him if he continues to fight, there may be permanent damage.

After a protracted session with Blaelok that from Mikie's point of view is similar to a very bad acid trip (you aren't supposed to use the whole sheet of blotter acid at once), Mikie wakes up. Where am I? Blaelok says "Thank you Michael, you've been very helpful." Who's Michael? Blaelok escorts Mikie downstairs, and he's ushered out the front door. Who was that man? Mikie wanders outside, not remembering a damned thing, including who he is. He's almost run over when he absentmindedly walks out into traffic. He goes back onto the sidewalk in front of the Solomani Consulate, and is just standing there not knowing what to do when a police car screeches to a halt in front of him. "Mr. Griffin? Come with us sir." Mikie doesn't know if they're speaking to him, but he allows himself to be put into the car.

Finally, the reason for all the massive planning becomes known: Corina is back, and is to marry Jack in a church on Regina Down. The wedding is at 1:00 p.m., and the reception is at 3:00 p.m., on Up Port. Everyone is invited, the general public (up to capacity) is notified after the local notables are given some advance notice. But the invitations did not go out until yesterday, and some had not been opened until this morning.

Collingwood charges out of his office yelling: "What the fuck is this?!?" He slams down the wedding invitation, and tells everyone within earshot that "This is not funny!" Ghaer and Viktor have also received invitations, and they don't know what's going on either, being under the impression that Corina was dead. Collingwood calms down, a bit. "All right, we're going. And if this is some impostor who is just trying to stir up trouble..." Viktor is to have men on site.

Viktor's wife Katerina is not happy with the short notice, but naturally, she comes through with a gift, and looks, of course, stunning. Viktor looks pretty spiff himself, in his dress uniform. Viktor has arranged for an "honor guard" to be nearby, just in case. They are wondering what they have done to deserve "full dress uniforms".

Corina is getting ready for the ceremony, when General Ramirez shows up and insists on seeing her. He gets in, rushes over, and sweeps Corina up in a bear hug, calling her "My Lady". He has that 'glow', in his eyes.... Corina tells Ramirez that Jack wanted him as a groomsman (does Jack know this?). Ramirez is "not worthy", but of course he'll do it. Ramirez leaves to join the wedding party.

Corina and her uncle Xavier head Down Port, both looking expensively well-dressed. As they take their limo to the church, there are literally thousands and thousands of people along the route, chanting "Corina, Corina!" Kind of makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Corina asks him if he likes it, gesturing to the crowd. Xavier is a bit nervous - "if those people go off, we're dead."

Collingwood is at the wedding, grinding his teeth. He still doesn't believe it's Corina, thinks it's some impostor. Steiner is at the wedding, with her usual Sengi bodyguard (it would be unseemly for the rik to travel without escort). No one tries to take away their weapons, but they do look at them nervously. Steiner says "They're ceremonial." Right.

Jack's groomsmen include Ramirez and the two surviving retired Ling guys from his security team. Corina's bridesmaid is Randi.

Just before the start of the ceremony, a palanquin arrives under the control of some very tough, no-nonsense looking kind of guys wearing Ling livery - it's Ming-Na Ling. Ancient and venerable head of the Ling family, usually living on Capitol. (It's quite a trip from Capitol - just when did she decide to come here any way??) She sits at the front of the church, on the bride's side. Nothing untoward happens at the wedding, but the crowd is unnaturally quiet during the ceremony.

Everyone goes Up Port after the ceremony, for the receptions. Corina's motorcade travels slowly, while they wave to the 50,000+ person crowd. Collingwood has been very quiet during the ceremony, and now Viktor and Ghaer go up with him in the military shuttle. On the way, they give Collingwood what information they have on Ming-Na Ling, etc.

Everyone is headed for the scene of the reception, at the grav-ball stadium (it's the only facility large enough for this). The place has a raised dais, and huge red banners all over the place. The event is being catered, of course. Black is there, and he comes over to congratulate Corina. Corina asks him to join her on the dais, and the crowd cheers as she gives him a kiss on the cheek.

Black introduces Corina Armstrong to the crowd. Collingwood is about to explode. Much cheering, etc. Corina is resplendent, literally, in her sparkling gown. And then she speaks. (Text in Democracia #16.)

Collingwood is having an apoplectic fit. It's amazing he doesn't have a stroke. After the speeches, introducing Jack to her people, embracing Black again, thunderous applause, etc., etc., Corina and Jack are escorted out by the Regina Rottweilers, so that the people can have their party.

Collingwood starts to make a comment about "...taking care of that (unpleasant word is about to come out here)... ". Steiner elbows him in the diaphragm, leans close and whispers "Now is not the time or place for a tantrum." Collingwood glares at her, but pulls himself together. He and his party leave, as does Steiner and her Sengi. Collingwood's driver darkens the windows, so the crowd outside doesn't see him throwing a fit.

The caters have begun serving food and drink all over Up and Down Port to the assembled crowds, and bands have started to play. There will be about ten reception parties going at various locations, with video feed from the VIP reception. The VIP reception will take place in the ballroom of the Ambassadore Hotel. The cutting of the cake will take place there, and will be broadcast to the public. The reception is a gala affair, with everyone of the "right sort" there, and dressed to the nines. Ming-Na Ling arrives in her palanquin, and sits down inside. Corina waits until she's seated then takes Jack over to see her. Corina kneels in front of Ming-Na, while she congratulates Corina. "He's quite handsome, you've done well. " Jack says hello to "Madame Ling", but she tells him he's "family now - call me Grand Ma-ma. Well come on, kiss me. It's the only chance I get to be kissed by a handsome man, and you're already taken."

The family stuff is interrupted by one of Grand Ma-ma's retainers - seems a "business associate" is there as expected. Corina and Jack are sent back to their party. The business associate turns out to be Blaelok . He gives Ming-Na a small case, and she personally hands him another small case. Blaelok kisses her hand, and goes to leave. He does of course go over to give his congratulations to the happy couple. Jack starts to make the go for a gun move, and Corina tells him "Jack...all the bullets in your gun wouldn't even make a start." Jack manages to not try to kill Blaelok when he comes over. He congratulates Corina, who knows Blaelok doesn't like to be touched, so she pulls him close and kisses him on the cheek. Blaelok slips Corina a small box into her hand, and leaves. Then she grabs a glass of champagne to get the taste out of her mouth. She'll check the box later, gives it to an assistant for now. (It turns out to be the bulb for a blood red orchid, the "Corina".)

Another surprise cameo appearance comes courtesy of Dirk Savage. Corina had sent him an invitation, and being unable to resist the free food and the chance for attention, Dirk does in fact show up. He congratulates Corina and Jack and asks if he may kiss the bride? Corina agrees, only to find herself in the dipped embrace position while Dirk kisses her. Hey, she's really interesting now that she's a married woman! Jack glares at Dirk, but does not actually beat the crap out of him (because he's not on Impulse).

Viktor and his wife have given the Armstrongs an antique samovar, weighing about 50 pounds. Steiner gives them a set of extremely sharp Sengi knives (the small, concealable type). Ghaer, on behalf of the Imperial military, gives them a small, old clock and inside, a small note: "If you should need it, my time is yours." Globber of course is at the reception, and speaks with Corina. She asks about Mikie and is told not to worry, they've picked him up and he's fine. Corina wants to know what he means, "of course he's fine, he was fine when you picked him up in Clairidges lobby. Why would you have to pick him up again?" Globber explains about the safehouse incident, but no one was seriously injured, and Mikie is back with the police again, so no harm done... Corina will speak with him about this later.

Viktor dances with Corina, and Katerina with Jack. At one point, Katerina whispers something to Jack, and he turns bright red, which Corina and Viktor notice. Katerina cuts in, then tells Viktor she told Jack she wasn't wearing any underwear; Viktor blushes. Then she passes Viktor something to put in his pocket - it's her underwear. They leave very shortly thereafter, going to the front desk of the Ambassadore, where evidently she has already had a reservation made. Upstairs to a lovely set of rooms with an artificial fire and a bearskin.

Nicolai is outside, and sees Blaelok leave and meet up with Pamela. Nicolai goes over and asks "Are you done yet?" Blaelok looks at Nicolai and tells him they have "just one more minor detail left to take care of." They leave, Pamela giving Nicolai an interesting parting glance.

Collingwood sort of staggers up the stairs towards the reception. Nicolai sees this, and decides there will be trouble. He goes in and makes his way to the kitchen, where he gets a white server jacket.

Collingwood gets inside, adjusts his blue dress uniform, and goes over to Corina. Corina tries to be extremely polite to Collingwood, who congratulates her "for fucking up my career." Ghaer has been warned by Jack that a large unknown man has been seen in the kitchen, so he goes off with Jack in that direction, as they are not aware it's Nicolai. Collingwood draws one of the guns Ramirez gave him. The assistant Randi "gave" to Corina starts to dive in front of her, but everything is happening too fast. Steiner is making a beeline for Collingwood, as she fully expects him to do something irreparably stupid. She gets to Tiger just as he's pulling the trigger to blow his brains out, but she only manages to deflect the gun enough to make the shot not immediately fatal. Collingwood made sure that the flying brains and blood would be spattered in Corina's direction - and was successful in that. Steiner signals her bodyguard, who surround her, and then move out to encircle Collingwood and Corina. Corina asks Collingwood if there is anything she can do for him, and he manages to choke out to "take care of Bunny". (Corina is going to have to stop asking that question of dying people.) Corina then gave Collingwood last rites, just in case.

Steiner has pocketed Collingwood's gun, and she calls for a doctor. Several come over, but there's not much anyone can do here. Steiner has the Sengi pick up Collingwood, and take him to Regina Trauma.

Outside no one is completely sure what the heck has happened, and Black suggests Corina make a public statement before the crowds leap to the wrong conclusions, and all hell breaks loose. Corina agrees, but she's spattered with "stuff", and she doesn't want to be seen like that. Black tells her to hang on a minute. He goes over to Christine, and says something to her. Christine says "No way." "Christine, please." "No!" Black whispers something to Christine, and she says "You promise?" Black says "I promise." "Okay." Black returns with a full length fox fur coat. Black's people clear an upper hotel room of it's occupant, so that Corina can speak from the balcony.

"People of Regina. I spoke to you earlier about honor, and the men who served it. There has been a terrible tragedy - Governor Collingwood has been injured in a shooting accident. Our prayers are with him. Out of respect for his family, I ask that you disperse to your homes immediately. There will be other times to celebrate."

Upstairs, in the afterglow, Viktor hears the commotion, and hurriedly gets dressed. He goes downstairs, and meets up with Ghaer. They really aren't sure just what the hell happened, just that Collingwood has been shot, and removed to the hospital. Viktor heads to the DukeDome to see Bunny.

Steiner and the Sengi get Collingwood to the ER. In another example of karmic perversity, Will Delgado is the attending ER resident when Collingwood is brought in. Will is sleep-deprived, but not incompetent. Ghaer has gone to the Marine barracks to hold the fort there. He summons a squad of M.P.'s and sends them to the hospital to do crowd control, and then calls Bob Langtree, Collingwood's second in command, to break the news to him.

The neurosurgeon has been woken up and arrives all cranky like. Steiner tells Will and the surgeon who the patient is, and can give them details about how he was shot, etc. After a certain amount of probing around in Collingwood's skull, and checking the scans, Will and the surgeon both agree that while Collingwood could possibly survive, but he would never be normal.

When Viktor arrives, Bunny is sitting at the dining room table, with two glasses in front of her. She asks if he's here to arrest her? Viktor asks what for? "For killing him." She admits that she gave Collingwood wine with Impulse in it. Oh, bugger. She goes on about how she couldn't stand the way he treated her any more. Viktor tells her he has not come to arrest her, just to tell her about her husband. She asks if he's dead, and Viktor tells her he doesn't know yet. Viktor's phone rings at that point - it's Steiner. She tells Viktor that Collingwood is at Regina Trauma and he's alive, but even if he lives, he's too damaged to ever be himself again. Viktor relays this information to Bunny, who wants to go to the hospital.

Steiner tells Will and the surgeon that Collingwood's wife is en route. They give Steiner a letter they found in Collingwood's pocket; Steiner looks at it, and it's basically an apology to Bunny for his behavior, and that he still loves her. Steiner will see that it's delivered. Steiner makes herself scarce before Bunny arrives, but remains in the hospital.

Will explains to the neurosurgeon that he has a "history" with Collingwood, indicating the dent in his forehead where Collingwood shot him in the duel. Will would really rather not be involved in any decisions involving Collingwood, as people might leap to the wrong conclusions. The surgeon agrees, telling Will that the preliminary work he did on Collingwood was exemplary, and perhaps he should go do rounds now. After that Will should get some sleep (an order to sleep! oh thank God); the surgeon will speak to Dr. Auschlander about getting Will off the permanent rotation. Will leaves.

The Androchevs and Bunny arrive at the hospital. Viktor and Bunny go in, and Bunny gets a status report from the doctor that confirms what she had been told earlier by Viktor. Collingwood will never be the same again. He may be in pain now, and will likely never regain consciousness no matter what they do; if Bunny gives her permission, they can give Collingwood enough morphine to ease him the rest of the way off this mortal coil, so to speak. Bunny wants the opportunity to say good-bye to her husband before that, but she knows that Tiger would not want to survive this way.

Viktor stays in the room, but outside of the privacy screen. Steiner sticks her head in enough to pass Viktor the letter for Bunny, which he passes on to her. She reads it, and says "If he had only told me before..." While Viktor is there, Bunny takes a small liquor bottle out of her coat pocket and dumps the contents down the drain before throwing the bottle away; evidently now that Collingwood is gone, she doesn't feel the need to drink.

Steiner wants to speak with Viktor, but does not want to intrude, so she sends one of her Sengi to fetch an orderly or something to deliver a message. Unfortunately, under the strain of everything Steiner uses a slightly incorrect inflection to the order. Will (who is no small boy himself) is grabbed by two Sengi, lifted up, and carried to Steiner. Once there, he is banged faced first into the floor in front of her. Ah, the "drag the worthless dog before me" inflection rather than the "please ask my friend to attend upon me" inflection. Oops. Steiner helps the rather concussed Will up, apologizes, and explains. Will naturally points out the it would not be a good idea for him to go into the room, and then leaves (Will is not going to stop for anything this time - straight to some hiding place to sleep). Steiner finds a candystriper and asks that General Androchev come outside for a moment.

Katerina is left near Bunny, and Viktor comes out to speak with Steiner. They go to one of the family privacy waiting rooms, which is empty at this moment. Steiner gives Viktor Collingwood's gun, and tells him exactly what happened at the reception, since Viktor didn't know how Collingwood had gotten shot. Steiner tells Viktor he should have Collingwood checked for signs that he had been drugged with Impulse again, and Viktor says "that will be up to Mrs. Collingwood." Steiner leaves after that, returning to her own rooms (where she will probably get at least mildly drunk; what a fucking waste).

There are Marines and other military people all over the place by this time. One of Collingwood's staff remarks to Langtree: "Well Bob, looks like a bump in rank for you. Hell of a way to get a promotion." They are all upset about Collingwood, but they are also soldiers, and people die.

After Collingwood is given his last injection, Katerina is sent off with Bunny, and Viktor will stay to make the other arrangements for Collingwood's body. Viktor returns to the room to find the Marine honor guard rather distraught. An older man has charged into the room, demanding to see his son.

Yes, it's the infamous Spencer Collingwood, and when Viktor goes in he finds Spencer shaking his son's inert body and yelling "Don't you dare die on me, damn you! I'm not finished with you yet!!" Viktor grabs Spencer, and pulls him off the body (ranting and raving are one thing, desecration of a body are another, and Viktor is not about to tolerate that kind of crap). Spencer screams at Viktor "Don't you know who I am?!?", to which Viktor replies that he does know who he is, but he will behave himself. Spencer makes a number of threats aimed at Viktor's career, etc., and Viktor makes sure that Spencer not only knows his name, but how to spell it correctly before Collingwood leaves in a huff. Good Lord, what a family!

The Regina Police have an interesting time trying to question Mikie, who doesn't have a clue what they are talking about. They ask what he remembers, and he tells them all he remembers, which tells the cops that something happened in the Solomani Consulate. Memwipe? Really serious memwipe. They refer Mikie to a doctor who might be able to help, giving the business card to Mikie, and then putting him in the waiting area. Things get confused, and no one ever comes over to take Mikie to the doctor, so he goes off to try to find the address himself.

Commissioner Globber goes to speak with acting Chief Consul Blaelok. Of course, the Consul is more than happy to receive him. Globber has questions about Mikie.

Blaelok tells him " Ah yes, you are speaking about Mr. Griffin. A former employee, and actually a close friend. He wandered into the consulate, and we provided medical assistance. He had a head injury, and was babbling about "the killer" and something about the park. He wandered off and we've been quite worried. I hope you understand, I'm a bit overwhelmed with my current position, I was not intended to be chief consul. Now, I don't mean to intrude, but the late ambassador Liu was rumored to have several robots, one of them named Raul, who fits the description, as he is humaniform. It was rumored that she had certain needs, and was making use of the robots to take care of them. Of course, this is something that, should it have gotten out, would have had serious repercussions - robots are merely tools, after all. "

"I wouldn't worry about adverse publicity here, Mr. Blaelok. This is Regina. Some one having sex with their robot would hardly attract attention. "

"Is Michael all right?"

"Oh yes, he appears to have a small memory problem, no doubt a result of the head injury, but I'm sure that will straighten itself out in time. He's already been very helpful. He's sent us in several interesting directions, Consul, very interesting indeed." On that note, Globber leaves.

Corina and Jack are at their new hotel rooms in Clairidges, attempting to salvage the honeymoon. Corina has changed into a robe. Jack tells her that "Black asked if you wanted to keep the dress, or if he could have it. I don't know why... Personally I think he needs to let this Collingwood thing go." Maybe Black just wants a DNA sample for his collection?

There's a knocking at the door, Corina answers it: "Well, aren't you going to invite your Grand ma-ma in?" On her honeymoon? Ming-Na wanted to check on Corina, make sure she was all right, which she is. Ming-Na asks Jack if he has a cigar she can have, because her doctor won't let her have any. "But don't tell him.". Jack does have some cigars on him, and gives one to her. The two women then settle in for a chat about family business, so Jack gives them some privacy.

They discuss briefly the Collingwood unpleasantness, and Ming-Na commends Corina on the depth of her game, and comments "I knew that purchase we made from SuSAG would pay off eventually. " Corina doesn't ask, but she does express some concern about the Arch Duke's reaction to all this.

Ming-Na smiles. "Oh, I can handle Paolo. He'll be upset, but he'll come around."

"I would think that he'd be upset that his man self-destructed."

"Well, he may blame you at first, but we'll take care of that. Don't worry dear."

After discussing the future of the family, Grand Ma-ma takes her leave, so that Corina and Jack can have their privacy, but not before giving Jack a farewell hug and stealing the rest of his cigars. She winks at Corina. Grand Ma-ma has very interesting skills.

Mikie gets hopelessly lost. He's standing on a corner, confused, when some one comes up and asks if anything is wrong? Mikie tells the man from earlier that he can't find an address, and Blaelok says that he has a map box with him, so "let's take a look"... The screen flashes, and Mikie remembers who he is, and who Blaelok is. The difference is that now he remembers the robot Raul was the one in the jail bending the bars, etc. Any memories that would make Blaelok seem anything but a friend in need has been "modified". Peachy.

Corina wants to have a conversation with Globber about having "picked up" and then lost Mikie repeatedly (wait 'til she finds out they've misplaced him again), but she's told the police are "busy" . It appears there is a robot in Aguilon Park. A big, uncooperative robot. The robot won't leave, and is throwing things (i.e., planters, etc.) at the police, but not charging them. The police are running out of ammo. The police eventually get above the robot, lower something down on to the robot, and the lights flicker as something like the thing Irving built is being used. Lightning bolts shoot out of the robot's fingers, etc. The unit is shut off, but Raul is still at least partially active. They shoot at Raul again, it freezes for several seconds, then moves just one hand, forming an obscene hand gesture. Then Raul blows up. Not exactly another koi pond incident, but it's still fairly spectacular - robot bits everywhere.

Middle of the night, Viktor gets a phone call from Bunny, who is whispering. She didn't know who to call, she thinks there's some one in the house. Viktor tells her that he'll take care of it, and he calls Globber. "At the DukeDome??" "Yes, at the DukeDome." Globber will get the cops moving, while Viktor is en route.

Viktor rounds up Ghaer, and they take off (armed) to the DukeDome, alerting the Marines on site. Apparently Bunny had sent most of the servants away so she could be alone, and the lower floors look deserted. Then a faint scream is heard from upstairs, and the Marines charge up the plush carpeted stairs like elephants on marshmallows. There is no one in Tiger's bedroom, so they move to Bunny's.

Spencer Collingwood is in Bunny's bedroom, with a knife in one hand, and a fistful of Bunny's partially ripped robe in his other. Viktor demands that Collingwood drop the knife. Collingwood grins and says "Just a little fun Marine, you know what it's like. Take a walk." Viktor's rifle does not waver, neither does Ghaer's snub gun (loaded with tranq). When they do not seem to understand, Collingwood completely rips off Bunny's top, and says "Look at that, who could resist?" At that point, Bunny is pretty much loose, though hysterical, so Ghaer fires on Collingwood, hitting him in the eye. This only serves to piss off Collingwood, who swears at Ghaer for damaging his eye - evidently it's artificial. Collingwood feels his eye, looks at Ghaer, and says "That's tranq, isn't it? You bastard!" and throws his knife very efficiently at Ghaer. While the knife is in the air, everyone in the room can hear the hum - it's a vibra-blade. The knife hits Ghaer square in the middle of the chest, and Ghaer falls back and sits down hard. Viktor has had enough, and shoots Collingwood, killing him.

Now the police arrive, Globber trailing them. The police cover Viktor until he puts down his weapon, and then Globber takes over. Seeing the half-naked screaming Bunny, Globber says "Good God, what's wrong with you people?" and grabs a blanket off the bed. He wraps Bunny in the blanket and comforts her. Ghaer has turned off the vibra-blade so it stops trying to work it's way into his chest, but his legs "feel funny". Oh-oh.

Globber tells the officers they can stop covering Viktor. "It's obvious what happened here - that man threw his knife at the Vargr, and General Androchev had no choice but to shoot. It was evidently a reverse Oedipal thing. Collingwood's son died before he was able to exact his revenge, so by taking his son's wife, he would regain control." Ghaer starts to bring up the fact that Oedipus didn't know his father when he killed him, but the paramedics arrive before things get too embarrassing. Ghaer tells them he seems to have a spinal or back injury, but they check him out and discover he fell back against an electrical outlet, and just got a bit of a shock. And the vibra-blade apparently was only just beneath the skin (?), but they'll take him to Regina Trauma just in case.

It is decided that "an unnamed Marine guard" shot Spencer Collingwood. The elder Collingwood, overcome with grief over the death of his son, provoked a suicide by police (or in this case Marine) type incident. Terrible tragedy.

Ghaer's injury has healed to the point of being just pink, slightly tender skin by the time a doctor sees him. Maybe the knife just got tangled up in his fur?? Ghaer does not tell the doctor about being a very fast healing Varlow, as he does not want to visit the psych ward.

Mr. Black makes contact with Nicolai, to inquire about the robot in the park.

"So that was Raul huh?" Nicolai confirms it.

"And George is the dangerous one?" Yup. "Oh." Now Black is beginning to see the problem...

100 - 1122.

Viktor calls Corina's room very early in the morning, to tell Corina that Admiral Grey would like to have tea with her. Jack answers the phone sleepily, and promises to tell Corina Viktor called, then goes back to sleep. Viktor waits about three hours, then calls back. An awake Jack answers, and when he realizes it's Viktor, tells Corina that she needs to speak to Viktor about something, and that he called earlier. Oops. Viktor brings Corina up to speed, and tells her that he has brought Bunny and the Collingwood children (a couple of real brats who adored their father, and picked on the shy Bunny mercilessly) to his home, until Bunny decides what she wants to do. Corina agrees this was a good idea, and asks that Viktor pass on a request for Corina to speak with Bunny, telling Viktor that Collingwood's last request was for Corina to look after Bunny. Viktor will pass on the message. Victor also relays Grey's request for a meeting.

Corina has decided that she will put herself up for the Duchy of Regina, so she is planning on traveling to Deneb to petition the Arch Duke. Surprise! She gets to have a conversation with some one who just happened to be in the Regina area: Grand Admiral Grey.

Grey is somewhat concerned about Corina's past history, and yes, he knows about her family's involvement, but. "Any officer who thinks she can function indefinitely on stim, does not have a good grasp on reality. Your family's actions merely precipitated the inevitable." Corina begs to differ, citing the heat of battle, etc. . Grey, whose own past problems with alcohol give him a unique perspective, says that he is not here to pass judgment on her. However, he wants to make sure that "for you as a person, this is the right decision." Corina thinks "that whatever I might have chosen for myself in the past, this is the right decision now." Grey has spoken with her former commanders, and aside from the one incident, they speak highly of her, so Grey will support her, but she will need to go to Jewell, not Deneb, as the council of nobles will be meeting there; Astridi has arranged it since he's still rather attached to Jewell. Grey is willing to give Corina a chance, but "just because you are confirmed as Duchess, doesn't mean you are immune to removal, should it be warranted." It will still allow her the time to go after her family, if she wants to?

"Actually, I think revenge is a luxury I can't afford."

"You've gained wisdom. Revenge is a luxury statesmen cannot afford."

"I also understand that it is much better to have Mr. Black as a partner rather than as an enemy. "

"He works to his own best interest. He is not a man of, shall we say, ideals."

Viktor drops in on Langtree to see how things are going after Collingwood's death, and to see if the arrangements have been made for the memorial. Langtree is busy packing everything in sight and very enthusiastically congratulates Viktor, but doesn't say for what. Langtree then informs him that Admiral Grey is expecting him.

Viktor immediately heads to Grey's ship and reports. Grey informs Viktor that after going through the entire list of Collingwood's staff the only one left to take the job as Military Governor is Viktor. Everyone else declined. Grey then hands Viktor his new orders and explains that Viktor is expected to do a good job. "Yes Sir!"

Grey then goes on to explain that Mercer Black is useful and that he does "throw things our way occasionally." Grey also informs Viktor that he should stay on Corina's good side for the time being. as it appears she will be the next Duchess. "Yes Sir!"

Grey then tells Viktor "Good work on the Collingwood matter by the way General... You handled that well." "Yes Sir!...Thank you Sir!" "Keep up the good work." "Yes Sir."

The one request Viktor makes is for the "loan" of one of Grey's SAG people, as Viktor does not have any real security staff of his own. Grey will see to that. Viktor has already sent a request to Tranek for some newly graduated staff officers. Grey also approves of Viktor's plans to have the Collingwood children sent to a military academy on Rhylanor; the children will be getting a ride back on one of the naval vessels going that way.

Viktor, having come to the realization that he absolutely does not want to be governor or, God forbid Duke of Regina (he's seen what happens to the people who get that position) then goes home to give his wife the 'good' news. "Honey? We're fucked!" Sigh.