Decisions and Departures.

101 -1122

It's early evening now, and the ruins still smolder in the park, whilst the engineers stare at all the damage and cluck their tongues.

Will has become worried that Bunny has not responded to his first letter (sent before the memorial service, in case she leaves right afterward), so he has sent a second. This time, the letter will not go through the Androchevs, but via a courier service, personal delivery only, and the courier is to wait for a reply.

Mikie, having steered clear of most of the havoc in the park, has decided he's sick and tired of Blaelok messing with him, so he decides to ask for a meeting with Black, who kindly fits him in to his busy schedule tomorrow morning at 11:15 a.m.

As he is at loose ends, Mikie decides to get something to eat before deciding where he's going to sleep. Since Blaelok is not likely to show up there, Mikie goes to the Club Zambezi to eat. He doesn't need a table with a view of the burning park; been there, done that.

A decent meal, then off to get a room at the Green Tree Inn, since his apartment is stilled sealed up, and Theresa is Black only knows where. On the tridee, Special Agent in Charge Rawlings (of the IBI) is interviewed, and tells the reporter that "it's a travesty of justice that this murderer has been set free, and I'm going to make it my life's work to bring him to justice." Pleasant dreams...

Viktor is left with the aftermath of the day's excitement, which seems to include a frightening amount of paperwork, and Ghaer doesn't have admin. Oh well. There are claims for damages caused by the CSU, etc. that will need to be dealt with, and Dr. Pritchard (the engineer) is there to give an "after action assessment". The damage caused by the CSU has compromised the explosive decompression protection, so bulkheads will need to be cut, and the costs have not been figured out. It depends at least partially on whether or not they bring in off-planet construction workers, or use the locals. It may be six of one, half a dozen of the other, due to transport, etc. All in all, Pritchard figures they've gotten off cheap, and it will probably only end up costing a megacredit or two. Ah yes, 'cheap'.

Corina decides to return the CSU to MilTech, or rather have it picked up, so there is a minimal amount of damage. They bring a big flat thing to haul it away on - a tracked vehicle recovery unit. Corina will pay for the damage to the park (ripped up grass, etc. - about $20,000 credits), and the doorways (1.7 megacredits if Ling Standard people take the bid, which they will). Plus, Ling gets some cool commercial footage.

Pritchard's preliminary report is that since building a new station would take years, it's going to be less disruptive to just try to fix the old Up Port. So, Regina Up Port once again escapes being towed into the sun. Yea rah.

Viktor sends an invitation to Corina and Globber, to meet in Viktor's office tomorrow. He does not tell them the other has been invited. Viktor also wants the money in the briefcase to be available at that time. Hmmm. Viktor lets Ghaer (who is being followed around by people in lab coats occasionally, who want to run more tests) know that he has nominated him for an MCG for his actions in the park.

Ling Standard will probably be bidding on the reconstruction of the Duke Dome, although there is some kind of old agreement about using at least 50% local labor. That might be subject to change.

Corina takes Jack back to her new ship (which he hasn't seen yet), where they can celebrate their mortality. On the plush carpet. And in the huge oak four-poster. And anywhere else they can think of, like in the little oriental garden, underneath the flute tree... Must remember to send a thank you note to Grand Ma-ma.

Steiner, regretting her behavior with Collingwood, sends Bunny a personal note apologizing. Bunny responds with an extremely polite note inviting Steiner to luncheon after the memorial service. The note is on lovely personal stationery with discreet flowers, lightly scented, in an exquisite hand; sometimes Steiner really would like to have some more feminine surroundings, as opposed to all the stark, dark, warrior stuff, maybe even something like decidedly female stationery. Such is life. Thank God for Paolo's idea about the lingerie.

Will also gets an invitation to lunch with Bunny after the memorial service. Will assumes a more personal meeting. Good thing Will just bought a new suit.

Viktor actually makes it hone to his sick wife and child at a reasonable time. He's concerned, so he calls a doctor for a housecall. The doctor assures Viktor that it's just the "Regina crud", and to not worry. And next time call within normal business hours, as it's around 7:30 p.m. Oh. Sorry.

102 - 1122.

Viktor has stayed up with Vasilli, and when he wakes up he feels like he's coming down with the damned crud too. He calls to find out about getting new air filters, and is told replacing the filters with new, good ones (that filter out viral as well as bacterial bits, etc.) will cost $3,748, 800 credits. BUT Corina has paid for the air tax for all the residents of Up Port for the next year, up front cash. So Viktor has the money available for precisely this type of thing - $50,000,000 credits worth. Even allowing $8 megacredits for the cost of parts and labor for replacing the filters, there is money left over for the $5 to 7 megacredits it will cost to fix the delamination repair project near SuSAG.

Ghaer is busily trying to figure out some kind of PR project to try to get Scalese under control; possibly during the delamination repair. Viktor really, really wants to undermine Scalese's stranglehold over the local labor, but he's not certain how for now. Meanwhile, bids will be requested for the scrubber project, and the CSU damage. Viktor will spend the morning doing paperwork, with the help of the pensioners with admin skills they snagged a couple of days ago.

In order for Viktor to bring the pensions of all the military pensioners up to date, it will cost around $250,000. If they will come in and fill out new paperwork, they will get checks. Viktor can put an indent against the Imperium for the money expended, and may even eventually get the money back. It is glacially slow, and first it has to snow for a million years, but once it gets going, there's not stopping it, so get the hell out of the way.

Corina is able to see Viktor at 11:00 a.m., so that's when Globber is told to come. Viktor will sign paperwork until then, and at noon he will go home to get changed before the memorial. Viktor feels awful. Sort of like he spent a sleepless night, wrapped up in a blanket, and was run over by Attila the Hun and all his hordes. Twice.

Globber arrives early, and comments on Viktor's not looking well. Viktor explains the vector - Vasilli. And he brings Globber up to date on the construction projects. Then Corina breezes in, giving Globber a bright smile, and taking his arm en route to her chair. Globber is flushed, and he's sweating. And producing even more spittle than usual.

Viktor tells Corina that "a representative of your family left this here a couple of days ago. I'm sure it just slipped her mind." Corina looks at the briefcase, and states that she doubts "anything slipped Ming-Na's mind." Regardless, Viktor would like the money returned to the Ling family. Corina suggests he wait, as Ming-Na may not have left Regina yet, and she might take it as an affront. She suggests that Globber can keep the briefcase, as a disinterested third party. "You wouldn't mind, would you Seymore?" Boy, she does love digging that in.

Some discussion is had about Corina's leaving for Jewell, etc. Polite conversation, and since the business is done, Viktor thanks everyone. Corina tells Viktor that Ling Standard will be bidding on the bolo/CSU damage, and that Corina will be picking up the cost. Corina is escorted out, the briefcase is given to Globber for safekeeping. Globber's fine, really, and he leaves. Viktor is going home. Now.

Corina is waiting for Globber outside Viktor's office. "Ah, Commissioner!" Eek! Globber drops the briefcase, which pops open, displaying money everywhere. Corina helps him pick up the cash, rather quickly, since a worker is just starting to test a "blower". Corina and Globber end up sort of mushed together rather intimately (Globber rather quickly removes his face from her cleavage), and then leave together, with a briefcase that has money sticking out of it. Corina asks for a ride to her ship's docking bay, so his driver gets an eyeful. Corina asks Globber to tea tomorrow, at 3:00 p.m., at the Tea House, which is reopening tomorrow. Globber writes her into his real paper dayplanner, and she inquires as to the Thragr puppy's health, and training. The puppy is fine, and yes it can be difficult to train them to go on the flashpad, and their chewing teaches you to not become too attached to material things. As Corina walks away, she hears a heavy sigh behind her, but she continues. There's no harm in enjoying the view as she leaves.

Mikie wakes up with that feeling of being watched. Blaelok is sitting on the edge of the bed, looking even more pasty than usual. There is blood and something else (darker) everywhere, and Blaelok is missing an arm. He's slumped over, and looks like he's been beaten up. And there's an arm-shaped package beside him. For once, Blaelok's suit is not neat and tidy. Mikie thinks Blaelok's dead until he moves.(Damn!)

Where Blaelok's arm has been ripped off, there is what appears to be some kind of artificial grey muscle structure, and veins, slowly dripping the ichor-like dark substance. Blaelok tells Mikie he requires "the services of a discreet physician". No shit. Unfortunately, Mikie is not the kind of person who could just let Blaelok bleed to death. Which is why Blaelok came to him. Damn again. The only 'discreet physician' Mikie knows who could handle this severe damage is Anders, so he phones her clinic, after telling Blaelok that "if you bring any kind of grief onto this woman, I, Black, and anyone else you can think of will be the least of your worries". (Mikie is referring to Anders' husband, Reid.) Reid answers the clinic telephone, says "You know where to find us," and hangs up. So much for advance warning.

Blaelok says he can walk, so Mikie uses a towel to keep the seepage down to a minimum, pays the cleaning staff $200 credits, and takes Blaelok to the clinic. As they arrive close to the clinic, out of no where, literally thin air, a man appears, and the next thing Mikie knows he's up against the wall with a gun barrel pressed against his throat. It's Reid. "Hello, teep." (Note: Reid is a well-trained telepath, and Mikie has not been around him since becoming an active psionic.) Mikie felt his shield go up (reflex action), but he can still feel Reid checking him out telepathically, very skillfully. Reid asks what Mikie is doing here? Mikie responds with "On my left, bleeding guy, missing arm." Reid slowly lowers the hammer on his gun before removing it from Mikie's throat, then allows them to enter the clinic. Reid is really suspicious of Mikie, and stares at him. Anders wants to know what caused the injury, so Mikie tells her he didn't see it, but he's pretty sure it was the warbot from the park, and by the way, the patient's enhanced, with some kind of Rim technology, and he's Solomani.

Just in case, Mikie decides to relieve Blaelok of his gun. Blaelok out draws Mikie, but just hands him the gun butt first, and Mikie gives the cool gun to Reid, who now has something more interesting to concentrate on than Mikie. Anders is able to eventually download the medical info from Blaelok's implanted chip (it keeps overloading her system), tranqs the bejeezus out of Blaelok to keep him still, and straps him down rather dramatically (like for a Virushi on PCP). She's not going to try to reattach the arm, just do a clean amputation, but when she is attempting to clean up the tissue, it appears to be trying to reattach itself, so she makes sure there are no sharp or damaged edges, and then allows the wound to close itself. She does not feel she has the equipment to reattach the arm, so she doesn't. She does, however, keep a sample of the artificial muscle, bone. and "natural" skin.

Mikie goes to keep his appointment with Black, who is somewhat distracted. Mikie tells him that "Blaelok has been messing with my memories, which means I don't remember something he doesn't want me to. Can you help with that?" Black indicates that it's possible. Christine comes in about that time, dressed in a skin tight little black dress (probably enough cloth for a small hankie, when not stretched over Christine's lovely figure). She's pouting about having to go to "this dumb thing" - the memorial service for Collingwood. Mikie then asks if Black is aware Blaelok is alive? "I assume he's alive, since I haven't seen the body. " Mikie answers "Well, he was alive as of about ten minutes ago." Now he has Black's attention! Black grabs Mikie by the shirt, and pulls him up close - "Where is he?!?" "Getting medicked." "Where!?" "At Anders' clinic." Black, to Christine: "C'mon baby, grab your shooter. " "Now we're talking!" Black gets a magazine out of the refrigerator, which means it's Purple. Mikie is escorted to Black's car, and is sandwiched between Black and Christine. The latter is very friendly.

Blaelok wakes up, feeling much better, but he's somewhat upset that the arm has not been attached. "Now you've just made it worse." It's not that he's angry, just somewhat miffed. Oh well. He does ask for a "bag or something..." for his arm, which is provided for him. He drops a small package onto the table for Anders, "for your clinic", and states that he's in her debt. Anders has had the clothing cleaned up, although it's still somewhat shredded; Blaelok will be fine with what he has, and he is being very cautious around Reid. He leaves, just as the Regina Security cars squeal to a halt. Reid feels these are more people than he can deal with, so they are going to get out if necessary.

Mikie manages to convince Black to let him try to get Blaelok outside the clinic before the shooting starts. Black's people are pulling out weapons, and one of them tells Black that the "cameras don't show anything sir." "What do you mean, they don't show anything? They're our cameras!" They'll fix them later. Mikie heads into the section he knows does not show up on the cameras, and sees Blaelok, he thinks, in the distance. He gets close enough to identify Blaelok, who smiles at Mikie and then drops a small ball-like object into a group of children before continuing. Bugger. The kids pick up the ball, and are tossing it around when Mikie gets to them, snatching it up in mid toss. The kids protest until Mikie drops off $5 credits. The money vanishes, and the kids shortly after. Mikie doesn't know what to do with the small, high-tech black ball thing, so he drops it down a mail slot before going back to Black.

Black is unhappy at having lost Blaelok, and Mikie is told that he'll be helping to find him later. Mikie doesn't have a problem with this. Black and his minions take off.

The memorial service goes quite well. Viktor manages to survive making his speech, without throwing up. Viktor sends his regrets about the tea with Ghaer, and goes home to bed. God he feels awful.

At the post-memorial tea, Will is at first a bit unhappy that there are about a dozen other people there, and when asked if she received his letter Bunny responds with yes, and "you are just too sweet." He sits with her a while, Bunny patting his knee. "Oh, you're so cute." Pat pat. A man comes over and offers his condolences to the Baroness, who responds with "Oh fuck him, he was garbage!" Okay.... Bunny is drinking champagne, occasionally almost falling off her high heels, and having a damned fine time. She hugs Steiner, and thanks her for coming, gives her a kiss on the cheek. Apology accepted? Bunny does whisper to Will to "stick around". After the guests leave, Bunny literally pulls Will into a bedroom, and hikes up her short black skirt. There will be much consoling. As Heinlein said: "There's only one way to console a widow, but remember the risks." Will doesn't much care right now, as he's in the arms of his one true love. Really.

Katarina is actually feeling a bit better, so she's capable of making Viktor some broth to sip on while praying for a quick death. It would be much more merciful. Fortunately, Viktor did hire a nurse to help care for all the sickies.

Nicolai is in the Bread and Bean. It's quiet, except for the sound of rebuilding and re-seeding the park grass. Ghaer gets to tell all the people demanding to see the Governor, now, that no they don't get to. But politely, especially when the aging Baron is there. Pritchard arrives with the information on isothermal transformations, etc., and he wants to see the Governor so they can get started. Fortunately, Pritchard and the head man from the Imperial Corps of Engineers get into an argument over which method is better, and this dissolves into name calling and mutual insulting of each other's alma maters. They eventually leave, still arguing, but they do leave.

Will and Bunny have a wonderful time, several times in a row. Eventually, she does send Will home.

Blaelok stops by the Governor's office, all clean and well-dressed, but sans an arm. He tells Ghaer that he came to inform the Governor that he will be leaving planet, to take up the position of Ambassador of Rhylanor, as the position has become available. Ah. His fiancée, Pamela, will be staying on for the time being, as acting Consul. They have arranged for personnel from Rhylanor to repair the damage to the consulate, and Blaelok requests that no one enter the building for right now, due to safety reasons. "I will be returning quite soon, to close some...matters that require my personal attention." He promises to call on the Governor when he gets back. "Oh, there is one small matter - your coroner has some property of ours. A synthetic." "You mean 'George'?" "That's correct." Ghaer promises to start the paperwork. Blaelok leaves, and Ghaer calls Black to inform him of what is going on - Blaelok leaving, the ambassadorial post, etc. Well, that will make things more difficult, but Black considers it a challenge. When Viktor is given this information, it disturbs him. Oh good, he's leaving, but he's going where?? Ghaer is instructed to write a report for Viktor to sign when he feels better, to send to Grey briefing him on Blaelok.

Some of Black's people show up to speak with Anders about her treatment of Blaelok. The spokesman starts to threaten Anders, but then Reid does the magical appearance from out of nowhere trick again. The security guy is coached by Reid at gunpoint to apologize "for my boorish behavior", etc. Anders then offers them half of the tissue and bone samples she took from Blaelok. She also has the information from Blaelok's med chip, and offers it for a price. The security guy tries to pull the "you'll have our gratitude, and we won't bother you" stuff, Anders isn't buying, so threats ensue, Anders threatens to autoclave the samples, so Black is called to authorize money. Black agrees, and Anders states that the amount can be negotiated later.

Ghaer gives Irving a copy of the delaminating repair job report, to get some other input. Irving the consultant will be working in Ghaer's office, and he is not to leave, or take the reports with him.

103 - 1122.

Viktor and Ghaer are there to see Blaelok off, after his ship arrives for him. Blaelok is very interested in finding out who was responsible for the robot. "In this case, I would prefer your more barbaric justice to our rather antiseptic version. Some of those people were my friends." Bullshit! Blaelok does in fact leave, requesting that Viktor keep an eye on Pamela while she is Acting Consul. Pleasantries are exchanged, Blaelok leaves. Viktor resists the urge to have one of the naval vessels open fire.

Corina meets with Black at the Jasmine Club, and they discuss a few pending issues. Some of the members of the 'service' industry are very appreciative of the work Corina has been doing, and would like to donate to the Foundation. She agrees that more donations would be helpful. Corina brings up the money that was laundered through the Foundation's bank account in her absence, and requests that Black not repeat this as it's going to cost her $1 MCR in Imperial taxes. Black apologizes for that. "Some of my people just can't resist a dormant bank account." Corina requests that he give his people more specific instructions as to the Foundation's accounts - like hands off. Black is only too happy to accommodate her, as she is the peoples' brightest star. "The rest of us merely feed from your light". Oh please.

"I do have something for you before you go." He hands Corina a small package. She unwraps it, and it contains a small vial of perfume. Black tells Corina that it "makes you smell good." That's it? "Very good." Okay. Black thinks Corina's husband will enjoy it, and no, it doesn't "come from anyone else". (Corina's concern is that the perfume is not just from Black; on the other hand, it was distilled from some one else, but Corina doesn't need to know that.) In addition, he gives Corina reading material for the trip to Jewell - it's sort of the Jackie Collins version of some of the secrets of the peers who will be on the Council. Black collects art, and secrets, after all. Black wishes Corina a safe trip and a speedy return. "Regina will not seem as luminous in your absence."

During the time Viktor has been sick, he has had the SAG officer sweep his offices, and remove everything. They will then post a 24 hour guard, to make sure no one goes in or comes out that they don't authorize.

Irving has come up with an idea involving a 100 kilometer strip of mylar, magnetics, a nickel-iron asteroid, and the heat from the sun to make and place a mushroom cap-shaped plug into place. They would only have to evacuate 20% of the station's population, and while they would lose a certain percentage of the air, but people would adapt fairly soon - it would just be like living in a higher altitude. Viktor will pass on this suggest to the engineers for further consideration. They should find it... interesting?

Viktor also wants to see Black. And the SAG officer will be sweeping the office again right after Black leaves. As Black enters the office, he greets the SAG officer by her first name. Black comments on the 'redecorating' (i.e., the holes where the bugs have been removed). Viktor tells Black that the preliminary results of the engineers recommend that the station be towed into the sun as a navigation hazard. Black comments that "this would be rather awkward for the 50,000 inhabitants." Viktor goes on about how this is not what he would like to do, but he's having some difficulty getting the maintenance and upgrade work done in a reasonable amount of time. For example, the upgrades to the docking facilities for which the megacorps have been paying. Although Viktor is here temporarily, he intends to see that the job gets done. Black wonders if Viktor has had experience running starports, so that he knows exactly what "these sort of things should cost, or in what order they should be done?" No, but some of this is not that different from prioritizing targets in a combat situation. Black doesn't usually involve himself with the labor aspects, since Regina Security mostly deals with things like spies, but if Viktor would like him to "have a few of these people killed, all you need to do is sign the order. Or would he prefer something more subtle? A few arrests?" What Viktor really wants is to find out is just how much of the costs are actually warranted. Black will see what he can do, and may be able to at least point Viktor towards the right people.

Then the subject of Blaelok is brought up, and Viktor mentions his taking up the position of ambassador. Black's response is: "Well, scum floats to the top. Excuse me, I meant cream." Viktor wants a report on Blaelok's activities on Regina both before and after Viktor's arrival, to forward on to his superiors. Black can't give him anything that can be substantiated, especially considering his current position. "If you don't feel you can provide me with a report..." Not at all. Black is just concerned about Viktor's reputation, and doesn't want him to make a political misstep, based on the best intentions, that could damage his future career. Viktor's career means nothing if he cannot live up to his own code of honor and duty. Black understands, and he will provide Viktor with as much information as he can. He leaves.

The SAG officer is confused about how Black knew her, but oh well. She checks the room after Black leaves, but it's clean. She starts to leave the office, stops, picks up a small golden ball off the floor, and asks if some one dropped it? Ghaer resignedly accepts the Ball of Wisdom. (Boy, are they going to be surprised when they open the box on Rhylanor!)

Ghaer will forward his own report on Blaelok along with whatever Black gives them on to Grey, so it won't come directly from Viktor. Ghaer also contacts one of the human reps for Pik Con Construction about getting one of their people to check out the information on the delamination repair project. It will be expensive, but probably worth it.

Corina meets Globber for tea at the Tea House. Globber is extremely nervous. Corina tries to tell him he doesn't need to be afraid of her. His teacup rattles. Corina asks how he found her? "Simple deductive reasoning." "And that would be based on what after Jenghe?" Globber states that it was based on information from her past, like the fact that she was a pilot in the navy (yes, he's seen at least one version of her naval service record). "Do you know who was responsible for the medical cooler?" "No, I haven't sorted that out yet, but I can make inquiries. I assumed that it was your family." Corina's concern is who her family might have hired. Any way, she does not want Globber to feel uncomfortable around her, she has no intention of telling anyone what happened between them, and she has not told Jack. "You have certainly come a long way from the commissioner you were when I first became regent, and I believe they are positive changes that I would like to see continue." Globber is very, very sorry about what happened, and he would like to make it up to her some way, offering to make her dinner. Evidently he's quite a good cook - "It's one of my vices." Corina replies,"Well, that's no more of a vice than romantic literature." Globber blushes. Corina laughs, and tells him it's okay, she's always enjoyed "Wuthering Heights". She would like to be friends with Globber. She takes her leave, to join Jack.

Mikie speaks to Black about recovering his memories. Black asks "And I'm doing this again why?" "Because Blaelok doesn't want me to remember something, which means you might want to know what it is." Good point. Several men are sent to escort Mikie to "Room B". They exchange glances that indicate this is not a good place to go. Mikie is taken into a room with very complicated equipment, a machine that goes ping, and everything a mad scientist could possibly want. A little man in a lab coat is expecting Mikie, and tells him that nearly all of his patients survive. Mostly. Mikie is given a hair-shear, strapped into a halo apparatus, and restrained. He manages to convince the man to stop warning him what he's going to do, and just do it. Local anesthetic, odd tugging sensations, drilling (!), etc. Then the mental feeling of hot knitting needles being shoved through his brain.

A tall, distinguished gentleman with a scar on his cheek is at Will's door. He is seeking a Mr. William Delgado. The man is Count van der Scheusse - Caroline (Bunny) is his daughter, and he understands that Will has certain intentions toward Caroline. Will tells him that he thinks Bunny is a wonderful woman. The Count agrees, but warns Will that "for some one of your standing, best viewed from a distance." She's grieving, and her father doesn't want Will taking advantage of her, as he obviously is beneath her. "Perhaps a stout caning from my footman. I don't know how things are done on Regina, but where I come from, people know their place." The Count suggests that Will find himself a "bar wench, and raise a litter." Will doesn't think it's any of the Count's business, and no, he's not going to duel with him, as it would just prove testosterone levels. The Count makes several denigrating comments, threatening to lop off both of Will's ears. The Count does eventually leave.

Viktor tells Globber that he wants to speak with Michael Griffin, and does Globber know where he is? Of course Globber knows Mikie, he's small time, and Globber knows just where to find him. Viktor wants him brought in, but politely. Not a problem. (?)

"Michael? Michael, can you hear me?" "Yes..." "Any new memories?" Not that Mikie can tell. Apparently, Mikie's reactions were not standard. And why is this not surprising? The effect is sometimes delayed, so Mikie may have memories return later. Mikie is a bit concerned, and asks if "everything is back the way it should be?" He's assured it is, but he catches the good doctor attempting to cover up something - it's apparently a small piece of Mikie's brain. Ewww!

Mikie is naturally upset by this little discovery, and wants to know what the hell is going on, and the doctor bloody well better put whatever he took out back; Mikie tries to determine if the doctor is shielded (he did know Mikie was a psionic - it was in his file), but he can't tell. (Oh-oh?) Black has mysteriously appeared in the room, points a 5mm at the doctor's head, and echoes the "Yes doctor, do tell us what is going on?" Oh-oh, it appears the doctor has been doing things without Mr. Black's permission. The doctor stammers something about an area of the brain swelling, and tries to pass it off as nothing important, but Mikie loses his temper and takes a swing at the doctor, but Mikie is obviously normal yet, and the doctor is able to block his blow with a metal cover. Ow. There's a brief pause as Mikie does the I've-hit-something-really-hard-with-my-hand dance, and the doctor and Black stare at the very respectable dent in the cover, then Black blows the doctor's brains out. Black then looks at the his two men and says "You two were supposed to keep an eye on him," indicating the dead doctor. Brief dramatic pause as Black, with gun in hand, looks at them . "Clean up this mess." Yes sir! Black does apologize to Mikie, and offers the suggestion that "You can kick the body if it will make you feel better. Or I can give you his home address and you can kill his wife and children if you'd rather?" That's a definite no, on both counts.

One of the newly assigned 'cleaners' picks up the dropped section of excised brain, and carefully passes it up to Black. Mikie asks if he doesn't maybe have some one else who could figure out what the dead doctor did, so Black sends for some one for a second opinion, so to speak. The second doctor, Harold, is some what concerned about the condition of the room, although it would be fairly simple for him to determine that the man splattered all over the floor is, in fact dead. That is not why Black sent for him. Harold takes a look at what has been done to Mikie, and tells Black that the small section of the brain that was removed is from an area of the brain for which no one knows the purpose, and he explains to Mikie what area of the brain he's referring to ("right about there"). It's not the area where Mikie's father implanted the small Therian splinter, so that's somewhat of a relief to Mikie. At least he thinks it is.

Will contacts Ghaer for help and advice. He tells him about Bunny and Bunny's father, and their conversation. Ghaer recommends that Will get more information before taking any actions. Ghaer can get some info on the Count. There's a rumor that he left the Rim because he had to. He does nothing, he's just extremely rich. Ghaer will get back to Will, who should not do anything rash yet.

Ghaer is able to locate Bunny in the lounge in the Ambassadore. She's quite happy, and not actually drunk (although drinking, but it turns out to be tonic water with a twist). They discuss how she's doing, and what her plans are, and Will is brought up. Bunny calls him "Sweet". It doesn't take much prompting to find out that Bunny thinks Will is a very sweet boy, and great fun - for now. He just wouldn't fit in with her family and class. It wouldn't last. Oh dear.

Bunny really likes Will, and he's fun, but she doesn't want to hurt his feelings. Ghaer responds, "You're a bit wiser in the ways of the world than Will, it's your social class. Maybe you should tell Will you need some time for yourself." Bunny doesn't want to be by herself, but Ghaer voices his concerns that her father and Will may clash, and it could get unpleasant. But Bunny believes her father always does have her best interest at heart. Ghaer tells Bunny that if what she feels for Will is real, it will still be there after some time has past. She should get to know Will first. And perhaps she needs to speak with her father... She's currently avoiding daddy, as she loves him, but "he's rather intense."

"Ghaer, you haven't seen me - here comes Daddy." And Bunny's gone out the back. The Count speaks with the bartender, then goes over to Ghaer's table. The Count tells Ghaer that he was told his daughter was with him, and "can you tell me where she went?" "No sir, I can't." "Can't or won't?" Ghaer's response is that he cannot, as he promised his daughter to say nothing. The Count appreciates his honesty, and compliments him in perfect Vargr. He's not too receptive to Ghaer's hints about Bunny and Will. He recommends that if Ghaer is Will's friend, he should tell him to develop an interest in some one "of his own standing". The Count exits.

Will is called into Dr. Auschlander's office. The doctor is very friendly and polite to Will, and this does not bode well. Apparently, Regina Trauma Center has a new owner, and they are going to have to make some cut in staffs. Unfortunately, this means they are going to have to let Will go. Will's thinking "Is RIF in my middle name, or what?" Dr. Auschlander has written Will a letter of recommendation, and hopes he will not give up on medicine? No chance of that. Auschlander has taken the liberty of recommending him to an associate, who just happens to be the chief of surgery at Rhylanor Memorial Hospital.

At the quickly thrown together farewell party, thanks to Dr. Chuck, Will asks around, and no one else has been laid off yet. But everyone is really paranoid about who's next. Dr. Chuck will also give Will a recommendation to Anders, if Will wants to stay on Regina. It all depends on where Bunny ends up as far as Will's concerned, but at least he has some options now.

Viktor's next concern is the water system, and fixing it. This is going to be a major flipping project, and very expensive. And according to a long-standing agreement, 50% of the station's work needs to go to local companies. The re-laminating, the air scrubbers, and the water system are the top priorities, as they are health and safety issues. Viktor would like the Imperials to handle the water project. The original company, Blauvelt, is now defunct, and was investigated for using below standard materials, etc. Filters can be fitted to all the fountains, but they would need individual filters on all the taps in all the homes in order to do that. There is some concern about liability, and lawsuits if word gets out about the lead piping, especially since the Imperial Starport Authority new at least four years ago about the problems with the pipes, but did nothing about it, according to a report that's been found. Whoever reviewed the report obviously wasn't an engineer, because "Pb pipes" was used throughout the report, and "Pb" is circled with a question mark in several places.

Viktor doesn't care what it takes, he wants the water system on levels 1 and 2 taken care of. That's approximately 1,000 people's residences. Viktor wants non-locals to do the work. And for now, they will buy 1,000 industrial filters for $8 creds a piece from one of the companies down planet; the filters will last about a year. This is a much better price than the $100 creds OmniMart sells the same filter for, once it's put in a fancier plastic cover and pretty box. Done deal.

The high bid is $5 megacredits for the whole plumbing replacement project, and there's a bid for $125,000 credits? Pik Con Construction is the low bidder, and it's very tempting, but they have this theory... They intend to use a reverse hose, and will extrude plastic lining into the pipes. The tricky part is the joins, but they have specially trained aquatic rats for this purpose. And the rats have built-in self-determination devices, so they won't be getting loose in peoples' apartments. Of course there is the small problem of the dead rats in the pipes, not to mention "exploding rats" escaping into people's apartments. Hmmm. They'll have to work on that.

The Pikhans have other entertaining ideas about transmuting lead into gold, and creating a temporary station spun out of the nickel-iron asteroid. All this is theoretical, naturally, but "you never know until you try!" The information is passed on to the Imperial engineers, so perhaps they can get some interesting ideas.

Evidently, there will be 4,000 Pikhan engineers with nothing to do very shortly, as they have just finished building an entire city a couple of jumps away. And Pikhans with nothing to do is very, very bad.

After leaving the hospital, Will goes to find Bunny at the Ambassadore. She's in the lounge, and he asks if they can go somewhere private to talk? They go upstairs to her rooms, after she checks to make sure her father is gone. "He's out buying some one. He collects companies and things."

In the lower level of the big grey building with no windows, Harold runs Mikie through several exercises that could be part of a sobriety test for all Mikie knows, but is are actually neurological tests. The doctor tells Black and Mikie that he appears to be all right, and not to worry too much about the small "missing" section; the brain is very redundant, and many people function perfectly normally, even after having as much as an entire hemisphere of the brain removed. [Note: What Mikie and Black are not aware of is that the original doctor had something go wrong during the procedure, a section of Mikie's brain was swelling, so he 'excised it'. Who knows what the side effects, if any, will be, but it was not deliberate.] Black recommends Mikie go home and rest, and not worry too much about it. Evidently Black has had Mikie and Theresa's apartment unsealed and fixed back up, so he actually has somewhere to sleep. When asked about Blaelok, Black tells Mikie about Blaelok leaving to take up the post of ambassador on Rhylanor. Mikie asks about Theresa, and Black just says "Mikie, you should really just go home." Ah.

Back at the Ambassadore... When they get to her room, Will gets down on one knee and proposes marriage to Bunny. Egad. Will knows he's not rich, and he's not noble, but he loves her. Bunny tells Will she loves him too, "but as a dear friend. It would just never work." "Because of what you want, or because of what your family wants?" "I don't know, but I'm just not ready to get married again." "I'm willing to give you more time, but your father seems to want to force things. Is it okay if your father gets me out of your life?" "No, of course not." Will tells Bunny that her father has threatened his life, has purchased the hospital, and fired Will. Bunny is very sorry, and makes a phone call to Verblishnik, et al, and asks that they make a bid on Regina Trauma, up to 50% over. Will doesn't love Bunny for her money, though - he's seen people who have money and are unhappy, and people who have no money and are happy. Bunny is still concerned. She believes that her late husband John loved her when he married her, and that didn't last. Will responds that "one of the reasons he married you is because of your family's power and influence, and I don't give a rat's ass about that. I love you for you." Will tells Bunny about his aunt, Anne Bach, who is the wife of the former Arch Duke of the Spinward Marches (Maximillian). She was his mistress, and he renounced his position to be with her, because he loved her.

Will does not want to pressure Bunny, so he will go to Rhylanor. She can contact him there if she wants to. Well, she can always tell her father she's going to Rhylanor to visit "Bill and his wife". Sounds good to Will. And since he's a TAS member, he has a high passage to travel on, and she can get messages to him through the TAS offices on Rhylanor. She offers to give him money to travel on. He says he can't take any of her money, as this will just confirm her father's low opinion of his motives. Bunny leans very close to Will and whispers that she's going to leave her "plastic here and you can take me out on the town, and then to some secret love nest, and make love to me all night long." Will's shoes do not actually melt. Bunny gets changed, and leaves with Will. Her father brushes past them without recognizing them, thank God.

After a lovely night all over town, Bunny wants to go to a non-recognizable hotel - the Green Tree Inn. They get a room, and are told to "have fun kids". Bunny is, after all, hitting her sexual peak. Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy....

Afterwards, much afterwards, Bunny asks if Will would still love her if she didn't have any money? "Sure." "What would you say if I told you I just donated my inheritance to charity?" "Cool. Can we get married now?" "Well, maybe we could live together?" "That would be fine to start with." Will is concerned about not antagonizing Bunny's father, and hopes that maybe if he sees Will is good for Bunny he'll come around. She replies, "I guess you don't know my father."

Turns out Bunny has made a decision, and wants to leave for Rhylanor with Will. Now. Before she changes her mind.. She hopes that Will won't be upset, but she's already bought tickets, and their ship leaves in two hours. "Two hours!?" Will leaves a message on Falcon's machine asking him to ship Will's stuff to the TAS on Rhylanor. Clothing is thrown together, although Will ends up with Bunny's panties in his jacket pocket, which results in her teasing him unmercifully about it en route to the ship.

Bunny has, in fact taken care of everything, and has gotten the tickets, arranged for the shipboard delivery of clothing for both of them, including nice suits for Will. She hasn't actually given away all her money, just part of it. Will doesn't care, it's her money. And off they go to Rhylanor, in comfort and happiness.

On the other hand, Count van der Scheusse is going to raise bloody hell. And he'll go up the food chain as far up as he needs to, to get his baby back. She's been kidnapped by some local lowlife cad, after all.

Mikie is given a ride back home, and when he opens the door (no longer covered with police tape) there are lights on and the smell of something burning in the kitchen, so that must mean Theresa's home. Sure enough, she comes barreling out of the kitchen, and throws herself at Mikie. Black has "explained everything" to her, so she is not concerned about Mikie's new extreme buzz cut (he'll go to Curl Up and Dye tomorrow), she's just happy to see him. Mikie is extremely glad to have Theresa back, and after locking the door, disarming the meat briquette in the oven, and finding out that her father is safely home in his own place, Mikie and Theresa head back to their bedroom. Theresa has already set out candles, oils, and other neat stuff, so a very happy reunion ensues.

Everyone in the Androchev house is actually feeling pretty good, and Vasilli is sound asleep in the happy baby posture, so Viktor and Katarina can have a little private time together. The phone rings just as things are getting really interesting, and it's the priority code. Katarina suggests they ignore it, and Viktor lifts up the receiver, replaces it, then takes it off the hook. A little while later, at the absolute worst possible moment, the door bursts open and Globber rushes in with several of his men, weapons drawn. All the occupants of the room are briefly frozen in a horrified tableau, until Katarina yanks the covers up. Globber covers his eyes, Viktor bellows "What the hell are you doing here?!?" Globber stammers out his apologies, but Viktor did not answer the phone, even though it was the priority ring, and he's never done that before, and they had the operator activate the telephone handset even though it was off the hook, and they heard moaning, so they thought Viktor may have been injured, and they rushed over, and "I am so sorry, sir."

Viktor gets out of bed, stark naked, grabs the phone, rips it out of the wall, and hands it to Globber. Globber takes the phone, still shielding his eyes, apologizes again to the Governor and his wife, and backs out of the room, beet red in his white formal wear. The other officers follow suit, but not without sneaking a peek or two. The door is shut very quietly. After a few minutes of somewhat stunned silence, Katarina starts to giggle, then to laugh. Viktor ends up joining her. Never a dull moment. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Ghaer has been burning the midnight oil in Viktor's office, going over paperwork, when the SAG captain comes in. She tells him to go home to his wife, or girlfriend, or bed. She'll take over for now, since her significant other is several jumps away. It's an order, so Ghaer goes home. He staggers into his apartment, going straight for the blessed bed, where Krin is sleeping. Brief pause while this registers. Oh well, Ghaer is too tired to care about anything but the bed, and he and Krin have fallen asleep together before (and that's all, thank you!), so Ghaer gets in and thumps.

104 - 1122.

Five seconds after Ghaer falls asleep, the evil alarm clock goes off. Well, at least that's how it seems to him. He leaves Krin still sleeping, showers, and heads back to the office to find the SAG captain asleep at the desk, on top of the paperwork. Her overturned coffee has spilled over some of the documents. Looks like it's going to be one of those days. Again.