Extra insurance, anyone?

100 to 101 -1122

Corina and Jack will be heading to Jewell to petition the College of Peers, in a week. For now, they are getting Corina's old apartment aired out and cleaned up so they can move in. Also, Jack is busily setting up his new wife's security.

A few words will need to be said at Collingwood's memorial service, on day 101, and the acting military governor is volunteered. Such fun.

The Collingwood children are off to Rhylanor in the tender care of a petty officer. And boy, is he feeling petty. By the time they get to Rhylanor, the military prep school will seem good.

Bunny will be well provided for, as Tiger had left her the bulk of his estate, and Spencer Collingwood had never gotten around to changing the will he made when his son was ten years old. So, the bulk of his estate goes to his son's, then to Bunny. She is safely ensconced in Clairidges, a very wealthy woman.

Viktor gets all the paperwork and crap that Collingwood hadn't gotten done, plus all the new stuff. And the Baron of Salzie has adopted a new coat of arms that has a leopard like creature, which just happens to be the family symbol for the Baron of Jesuik, and since Viktor is the official highest representative of the government, he gets to resolve this, and any of the other disputes between the local nobles. And some money issues, corporate demands for lost profits due to the dockworkers not moving cargo during the riots in front of Regina Security, and the official Ducal coffers are empty, and the payments that should have been made by the planet have not been. The last alone comes to $2.6 billion credits. On top of this, all the forms are out of date, and any paperwork processed after day 4 must be resubmitted on the proper forms. Senior administrator John Clemmo gives all this information to Viktor, and then tells him these were just the high points, and he'll go over the minor details tomorrow. Oh goodie.

Clemmo asks if there are any other issues that Viktor would like taken care of? Yes, he wants the Duke Dome gutted to be made ready for the next Duke or Duchess. They will prepare the study for the project, assemble a group to study the impact on the starport, and the requests for the funding to pay for an engineer to evaluate the project. The Imperial Corps of Engineers the Imperial Bureau of Engineering, and Starport Authority will all need to be involved. They should have a report ready in eighteen months. Viktor gives him six months, and Clemmo asks which of the legally required inspections, etc., Viktor wants him to ignore? And where will the funding come from? Not to mention all the issues that the Senate is supposed to take care of, and there are only nine senators left alive out of forty, what with the planetary government having shot all the slow ones. Rutledge is on Cogri. Viktor wants to find out how much the senators were "worth"; this will take a warrant, but it's doable.

There's a Committee for a Peaceful Up Port who has filed a suit against Viktor for all the troop marching, which disturbed their sleep, and their peace, and prevented their animals from breeding (??), etc. And other individual suits against the Imperium for the trauma of having witnessed all the various acts of violence. A bill from the Navy for $3 megacredits worth of damage to a destroyer escort from a gantry crane. Plus all the miscellaneous little requests for the Governor to go to tea, judge pigs, etc. And this does not include the military issues.

Not to mention all the people who want to see the Governor, like Madame Ling, Commissioner Globber, Mr. Scalese, and all the heads of the local megacorps. And by the way, the Imperial military presence is in debt big time. Officially, $900,000, which does not include the $6 megacredits of "off budget" items, currently being covered by a loan from the Banque de Géneve, at 20%. Viktor wants to see Madame Ling, Black, Scalese, Globber, Ramirez, and everyone else in alphabetical order as time allows. And Viktor needs to hire a secretary, as Clemmo is just doing this job temporarily.

Ghaer wonders if all the senators who have escaped to Cogri have paid their taxes? Well, Rutledge is known to have left for Cogri. And the starport needs to be brought up to 'code', so a group from the Imperial Corps of Engineers is on station for a four month survey, and by the way, the chief engineer is waiting outside. Along with several hundred people, mainly veterans, whose pensions were cut off during the mess after Corina and all. Viktor is considering having the room cleared by force, but Ghaer convinces him to just step outside, go back into sergeant mode, and order the vets to fill out paperwork (Viktor tells Ghaer to use the old forms, so they will have at least a month's delay).

Elias Pritchard, Ph.D., of the Imperial Corps of Engineers gets to see Viktor, and discusses the survey. The news is not good. He's not sure if the station can be brought up to spec, and perhaps it should be just towed into the sun as a navigation hazard. Everything on the station is wired in a truly lunatic fashion, there is some kind of major power drain on the recreational levels on a regular basis [that would be Irving], the air system is decidedly not normal, the water system is leaking several million gallons a day into the secondary reactor (among other places), which is being pumped into hydroponics and rusting in various other levels, the exterior skin of the station in the area of SuSAG is delaminating and needs to be taken care of immediately so Viktor should authorize overtime and extra crews. Oh, and speaking of the reactor, one of the engineers was injured while inspecting the reactor. He claims to have been attacked by an eight-armed giant flying monkey; he did have a head injury, but there are a lot of vermin in the area. Not to mention the need for an epidemiological team to come in and test the area. Viktor will be getting the results of the structural integrity report shortly, which will tell him whether or not the station will need to be shut down and replaced. Dr. Pritchard leaves.

Madam Ling is the next person scheduled but hasn't arrived yet, so Viktor takes the time for a cigar, and asks that Ghaer order his lunch. Oh, and find Irving - maybe the Pikhans can be of some help with the station issues.

Madame Ling does arrive, fashionably late. Viktor lights her cigar, and joins her. She wants to know what Viktor is going to do about making the upgrades to the port that the megacorps had requested two years ago, even though the megacorps have been paying the demanded higher docking fees for all that time, with no upgrades. Madame Ling does not care who was in charged of the port at that time, Viktor is in charge now, and she wants action. She is aware of Regina's reputation for graft, etc., but Ling Standard is not going to tolerate this. Viktor promises to deal with this, and would like to speak with her in two days (day 103). Her servant comes in to help her out, and leaves his case. Ghaer and Viktor try to point this out, but Madame Ling insists that she did not leave the case. Viktor will "try to find it's owner". The case contains $100,000 credits. This should pay for the new forms.

Now Mr. Scalese is here to see Viktor. The two things Viktor wants to bring up first are the upgrades the megacorps have been paying for, and the naval docking facilities cost overruns and time problems. The first thing Viktor does is to tell Scalese about the problems with the station's safety problems. Scalese wants to know what Viktor is going to do about the safety problems, since it's his people who have to work in the unsafe conditions. This would be easier if it weren't for all the cost overruns. Viktor makes noises about going after the people responsible for the cost overruns, and Scalese agrees with him. Scalese might be concerned, if he was one of the construction company's heads, but he's just a union rep. Ghaer asks if the senators were involved perhaps with some of these construction firms? He suggests maybe Mr. Scalese could help find out some information, as this might free up some funds. Good idea. Scalese and his wife are invited to tea, on day 105, and Scalese accepts. Scalese also expresses some concerns about whether the governments money troubles might cause a problem with timely payment of his people's wages. He is assured this will not be a problem at this time. Just before he leaves, Scalese makes a comment about the use of "military engineers", who are "unskilled labor". Right.

Commissioner Globber is waiting, and has five minutes. He comes in to give Viktor his reports, and he spots a one hundred credit note sticking out from under the desk, with the imprint of a case of some sort on the carpet next to it... But that's not important. Some of the equipment promised to the police rank and file has arrived, and everyone is very happy to get it. Viktor wants a summary of the incident with the robot in the park, so Globber gives him the Reader's Digest condensed version. The police received a tip, and arrived expecting a "deranged garden robot". Surprise. They have been trying to piece together the "post-blast" parts, but the general public in the area were merrily nicking bits, so stuff is missing. The robot has been identified as very high tech, from Rhylanor, or possibly further - Capitol, or the Rim maybe. Viktor decides to let Globber in on some of what they know - that there is probably another robot on Up Port, and that they believe the robot is of Solomani origin, maybe the property of the late (in theory) Veronica Liu, and was the "Raul model". The Ambassador had told Ghaer that there was another robot, designated as "George", and that it was the "dangerous one". Globber points out that there is nothing any one can do about something inside the Consulate, but as Ghaer points out, there should be photographs of people coming and going to the Consulate. Perhaps they can come up with "George" by the process of elimination, using the diplomatic passport photos on file.

Viktor is still going over what to do with the money, as Clemmo is not comfortable doing anything but turning it over to lost and found, and then using it as a "contribution" only if no one claims it. Ghaer suggests counting it as a contribution to Viktor's personal Regina support charity. Okay.... At this point Viktor's wife calls, wondering if he's ever coming home? Viktor then looks at the clock, and sees that it's 10:30 p.m. Eek! He'll be right there!

Around 10:00 p.m., Corina's Grand Ma-ma comes by to visit, so Corina would have some one to talk to (okay, Jack is in the other room asleep, but Corina would really like to be in there with him). Ming-Na tells Corina she'll be leaving tomorrow, and wanted to say good-bye. Also, the family hadn't given her a wedding present yet, so Corina gets an envelope, and Ming-Na leaves. The envelope contains a key, and the number of a docking bay. Corina goes out to check, and finds a lovely new ship. The interior is to die for, literally. Plush in ways most mere mortals couldn't even imagine. Relieved, Corina then goes home to Jack.

Dr. Auschlander has agreed to let Will off perpetual rotation, as some one else is "currently" on his shit list. Will gets to go home to sleep. For some reason, the lock has been changed and a really big guy opens the door. Will is very confused until the large man tells him he doesn't live in this apartment, he lives in that apartment. Oh.

Viktor arrives home to find his wife up with Vasilli, who has colic or something, and has been crying for hours. Viktor takes the baby, and Katarina goes to bed. Vasilli is fine as long as Viktor is walking with him. Eventually, Viktor and Vasilli go to sleep in the rocking chair, at around 4 a.m.

Will's keys work in his own door, but he's not sure that's a good thing. Evidently some kind of raccoons or rats or something have been nesting in his apartment, and making one hell of a mess. Will buzzes the cleaning 'bot, which has been partially scavenged by the rat-like thing. The robot staggers into the middle of the room, and then bursts into flames. The fire alarm goes off, Will's fire extinguisher only works for about ten seconds, and then thumps like there's something rock-like in it. Will's neighbor shows up in fireman clothes, followed by the rest of his team. The robot is put out (turns out it was a model that was recalled due to the fire hazard - no wonder it was so cheap), and the apartment is cleared. Will makes a call and has a new cleaning 'bot sent over. Will sets the 'bot to clean, takes a shower, and goes to bed.

Will wakes up, unsure about how long he's been asleep. He looks out the window, and sees the flags are flying at half mast. Oh that's right, Collingwood. The robot is blinking that it needs emptying - it's full of water, and dead rat-like things. Cool!! Will empties it, and then puts in some more water, just in case there are more of those damned rats. Will is going to go out and get a new black suit, as all he has in his closet is scrubs and jeans, and they're all dirty (no time to do laundry recently).

Mikie has recovered his memory, thanks to Blaelok's flashing PDA. Or at least he's recovered the memories Blaelok wanted him to. Blaelok expresses his concern about Theresa's well-being, since Mikie left her "in the hands of that man". "Oh, and I suppose it would have been better to leave her with you?" "Michael, please, we're like family..." Considering Mikie's parents consisted of a drug addict and a Mengele-esque war criminal, that's not much of a recommendation. Blaelok leaves. Mikie knows that his memories have been screwed with, again. He remembers just being in the police station, but not what he said or didn't say.

Mikie goes back to the police station to get his personal effects (he hadn't had any of the stuff they originally took away from him when he was locked up after the senate hearings). At the station, he runs into his favorite person, Special Agent Rawlings, who makes snide comments about Mikie having "powerful friends", but that the perjury charge still stands, and Mikie better not leave Up Port, and that Rawlings intends to see that Mikie "gets what he deserves". Mikie thanks him, and wishes that Rawlings gets exactly what he deserves, in this life and the next. Mikie leaves after saying hello to the rather worse for wear Jimmy Weseli.

Mikie goes to the rooms in Clairidges where Corina and Jack were, and eventually the Regina Security guy, after making several annoying jokes about the "master criminal", lets Mikie in. Mikie tells Corina that he believes Blaelok has done something to his memory, but he's not sure exactly what. Corina calls Globber, who comes right over.

Corina explains the situation to Globber, and she asks what Mikie remembers about his supposed escape from jail, and what happened afterwards. Mikie tells her what he remembers, and she tells Mikie and Globber what Mikie had told her previously, before Blaelok got to him. Corina is able to confirm that Blaelok is very capable of reprogramming people's memories. Globber is concerned about what the description says about Blaelok's capabilities; Mikie tells him all he knows about Blaelok being enhanced, and how, and that his ex-wife/fiancée Pamela is on Port, and she's enhanced too. Globber wonders if all the Solomani are like this? Hey, from Mikie's experience, pretty much, yes. Corina points out that she did have him expelled from Regina for reasons of "planetary security", for all the good that did. Globber will see what can be done, and will speak with Viktor about it.

Globber goes to leave, but can't seem to get the door to open, and when Corina tries to use the phone, it's dead. Oh-oh. Corina tries to stop Globber from opening the door, but then the door, and Globber get pulled out into the hall and go sailing (rather gracefully, in a hippo doing ballet kind of way). Meet George. He's about 8' tall, and built like a tank, silvery, with all sorts of stickie-outie bits. Corina yells for Jack, then heads for the balcony on the run, with Mikie fairly close behind. Gunfire ensues behind them, probably Jack.

Corina dives off the balcony into the park, landing not too badly, but breaking a rib. She gets up and heads into the lobby of Clairidges. She calls Black, Christine answers, then Black gets on the line. Corina tells Black about the "warbot running amok and killing people in Clairidges", and maybe he should call the Marines, too? Black calls Viktor, tells him there's a warbot going berserk, and Viktor gets all excited and hangs up before Black tells him where this is happening . Oh bugger. Fortunately, Black calls back.

As Mikie is leaping off the balcony there is a big bright flash, and a tailwind. Mikie lands well, as he has lots of practice at this kind of thing, and runs deeper into the park. The Marines are heading for the area, but the blast doors have closed, and no one can get them open. Was George able to do this before he blew up?

Much running and screaming, as a large section of the park side of Clairidges has been blown up. The buggers! Mikie looks back towards the hotel, to see Jack dangling off the one mostly intact side of the balcony, as George (who did not blow himself up, unfortunately) walks out onto the melting balcony, then jumps off and heads towards Mikie's general area, shooting at anything that moves. Mikie is attempting to unass the area when George fires right at him. Fortunately, a large deer leaps in panic at that moment, taking the rounds and protecting Mikie as it falls on top of him. After a few minutes, George heads back towards Clairidges, and Mikie pushes the deer off him. Then he removes the antler part from his ribcage (superficial, but painful), and takes off into the park again.

Massive amounts of running and screaming, especially after Ghaer runs into Dr. Pritchard, who pops up out of one of the hatches. Pritchard is able to override one of the blast doors, so the cavalry (so to speak) arrives with the "big" guns to shoot the robot.

Mikie, in an attempt to evade bullets, runs smack into one of the Var-Sengi lords who is there playing j'la. Immediately realizing this is a potentially fatal mistake, Mikie raises his hands, backs away, and bows down in front of the Lord. Everyone is very still briefly, while the Lord draws his sword. Mikie can't resist taking a look at the j'la board, since it's probably going to be the last thing he sees, and it is a way too complex game. The pattern is actually moving, and seems to involve spiders; Mikie closes his eyes just as the Lord swings his sword at Mikie.

After a few seconds of concern, Mikie assesses that he is not, in fact missing any limbs, and his head is still attached. As bits of dark hair float to the ground, Mikie realizes he now has a tonsure cut. Small price to pay for continuing to breathe, thank you.

George is under heavy fire, and then his black globe generator kicks in. It's flickering, which indicates that George is still able to fire, in between flickers. Very bad. Massive firefight ensues. There's a power drain on the station, and George's generator is able to take a lot of damage. Corina and Viktor separately arrive at the conclusion that they need something much bigger than what they have to deal with George. Corina and Jack head to Miltech, arriving just as Viktor phones - but as Kelly has a customer, she puts Viktor on hold. Argh. Corina buys the continental siege unit (CSU) and the will take it up to level 2 to the park. Once Corina is taken care of, Kelly comes back on the line, and asks how she can help Viktor? He wants to buy the CSU, but is informed that it's been sold, and no, they don't give out information on the customers.

Since the CSU is not available, and Kelly is not being helpful enough, quickly enough, Viktor contacts Ling Standard. While they do not carry CSUs, they do have a heavy-duty mining laser, which Viktor purchases (out of his own account). So, the split screen would now show Viktor getting the mining laser and heading up to level 2, while Corina and Jack are heading up to level 2 with the CSU. Jack is driving the CSU ("How hard could it be?"), and Corina is playing the "Your MilTech CSU and You" (new owner's manual) video in the onboard VCR. Jack manages to get them up to the park with only minor structural damage to the station, and without quite running into (or over) Viktor and his mining laser.

Now it's George versus the mining laser, and the heavily armed Marines, and the CSU (after the first shot, Corina and Jack fast forward the video tape to find out how to lock down the stabilizers). Even with all that firepower, the damned robot is not cooperating, and is still causing damage and casualties. At this point, Ghaer has decided he has to stop George, before more people are killed, and before the robot blows up, either on purpose, or because it's black globe generator overloads; it's the Lassie gene kicking in again. Since it has afforded him a certain amount of protection in the recent past, Ghaer holds onto the Ball of Wisdom, and takes off (between volleys) towards George. Ghaer is hit twice with George's plasma gun while en route, causing some raised eyebrows amongst the Marines who see him hit but still alive, and want whatever the hell he's using for armor. As usual, Ghaer is a bit big for the Ball of Wisdom's protective shield, so he has to sort of scrunch and run, and the tips of his ears and tail get a bit singed.

Ghaer makes it all the way to George, although the Ball of Wisdom is very warm (it's apparently taking a while for it to recover/reset from all the damage it's absorbing for Ghaer's protection). Ghaer tries to see if the Ball will have an effect on the black globe generator, or the robot itself, so he makes contact, and yes, you could call that an "effect"...

There is some kind of bizarre reaction between the Ball of Wisdom and the robot. Apparently, the Ball is able to drain the power from both George and the black globe generator, and keep them both either shut down or at least suppressed. BUT when Ghaer moves the Ball a bit away, it creates an odd sort of vortex (looks kind of like two tornadoes, end to end) between the Ball and George. Hmmmm.

With some creative maneuvering between Ghaer, Jack, Corina, and the Marines, the robot is moved out of the park area and to an airlock. The idea here is to get George off the station, and preferably into the sun. En route, Ghaer has to be really careful controlling (hah!) the vortex, as contact with it literally disintegrates a section of wall. Ghaer and Viktor, both suited up, are going to be the ones to maneuver George away from the station. Viktor orders a path cleared of ships, as he does not want anything to happen to any military or civilian vessels in the area. Ghaer has trouble keeping the vortex under control, as it expands once they are out of the station and the robot starts to drift.

The decision is made to have one of the naval vessels use it's spinal mount gun on the robot, as opposed to trying to drop it into the sun. Ghaer and Viktor have to get a ways away from the robot, for their own safety, which is easier said than done. The vortex has expanded to over a kilometer wide, and a light cruiser vanishes into it just before the shot is taken. Big bright light in the sky, very visible to all the people watching through the dome in the park (Corina, Jack, Mikie, etc.). George is gone, and Ghaer and Viktor end up spun pretty much out of control by the shockwave. In spite of mostly running out of air, they are both rescued.

Viktor is aware of being a little mouse, and a big eagle grabs him, and tries to stuff him down a gopher hole, and there are giant worms everywhere, and then one of the worms says "Sir, sir? Can you hear me?" Urr? "Are you all right sir?" Oh, it's not a worm, it's a navy guy. Viktor will be all right as soon as he can feel his legs, which will not take too long. Ghaer is in another room being looked at very carefully by a bunch of doctors and other navy officers. It seems that Ghaer's suit sort of disintegrated during the explosion, etc., and he is in just the neck ring and some tatters of the suit. But he's otherwise intact (although his is very, very Barlow colored now - orange and black-striped; he's really more of a Barg'r now than a Varlow). This makes everyone very nervous, and the captain is sent for. Ghaer is questioned about the small silvery ball he has a death grip on, and he explains that it is an ancient artifact that he acquired on a Therian ship. The captain opens up a sealed envelope, reads the contents, destroys it, and tells everyone "this never happened". Official secrets act, etc. The Ball of Wisdom (although he never actually told anyone what it was) is very carefully taken from Ghaer, and sealed up in a lead box for shipment to Rhylanor for study. Ghaer is not in a position to argue about this, although the Barlows may not be happy. Then again, who knows what will be in the box once it's reopened?

Viktor arranges for the somewhat used mining laser to be returned to Ling Standard for partial credit, and then he goes to the other scene of mayhem - the Solomani Consulate. The place is a mess, with bodies everywhere, and a George-sized hole in the side of the building and the wall. Mikie, en route to get the tonsure look repaired, has also ended up near the Consulate. He sees Pamela Blaelok being attended to by paramedics; she appears very shaky, and has a head injury, but she's alive - apparently the only survivor from inside the building. Is Blaelok one of the 'victims'? Nah, that would be way too easy. Too many cops and Regina Security people for Mikie to get to talk to her, so he leaves after one of Black's guys makes a comment about Mikie "taking this Catholic thing a bit too far". Ah, humor. Off to Curl Up and Dye, where the mistake is swiftly remedied.

Viktor has a confrontation with Pamela, ordering her (as the only Solomani standing currently in the area) to gather up any other members of the consular staff, and whatever else they feel they need, as they are being expelled from Regina for bringing a dangerous warbot onto the starport, and endangering the public. She has twenty-four hours before being escorted to a ship, and in the meantime Imperial Marines will lock down the consulate - no one else in, and no one out except to leave.

Then Globber briefs Viktor on the situation: Pamela is the only survivor, and they are still working on identifying the bodies, as many of them are unrecognizable due to the damage. However, one of the bodies has turned out to be not a human, but a robot. A robot that was completely human in appearance, and was thought to have been a victim until the coroner broke a scalpel on it. This robot was carrying i.d. that identified 'him' as George Hanson. "George is the dangerous one..." Oh boy.

Globber then tells Viktor they have tracked down additional information he should be aware of. The purchase of a military class Gendyne warbot (the one that some people had assumed was George) was made on Rhylanor, using discretionary funds that should only be available to the Governor or acting governor. The purchase was made 3 weeks ago, and the robot in the park (with the exception of the black globe generator - evidently aftermarket addition) matches this robot. Not only that, but the amount of money missing from the discretionary funds amounts almost exactly to the cost of the warbot, plus an amount that could have been used to purchase (although from whom?) a small black globe generator. This looks bad.

Globber tells Viktor: "I know my place in the order of the universe, and where I am in the food chain, and I'm happy with my place. You have your career to worry about, and a wife and child, and you're basically a tourist here. It would be very easy to blame the Solomani, chuck them off, and forget about it, but I don't think that would be good idea. It would look very bad if it were to get out that the former Governor ordered a killer robot brought to Regina that killed almost everyone in the Solomani Consulate, and the survivors are then booted off by the current Governor. Whether or not this is actually what happened, that's how it could appear."

An agreement is reached that Viktor will not rescind the order to expel the Solomani, as this would be admitting to having given the order to begin with, but to just ignore it and let it go away. Mean time, this gives Globber and Viktor the opportunity to assist the Solomani with extra staff, and reconstruction, and maybe add one or two little touches that would "level the playing field" so to speak. Like lots and lots of cameras and bugs, and maybe an undercover agent or two among the construction workers (there's no way the Solomani can deal with the mess without local help); Globber has some one in mind for the latter job.

Viktor now has some additional concerns: both Vasilli and Katarina are sick with the flu or whatever, and Katarina is convinced that Viktor gave it to them. Bastard. On top of that crisis, Viktor has received some flat photos of him in his office, apparently taking a briefcase full of money from Scalese. He shows them to Globber, and the commissioner will see what he can do. Viktor is very unhappy, so he will see to it that Mr. Scalese is not happy, one way or another. Viktor may not be able lay his hands on whoever is responsible for the warbot, the missing funds, etc., so he'll just have to settle for Mr. Scalese for now...