104 -1122

The group at Discarding Sabot has agreed to go help the ranchers. Except for Mikie, who is going because Theresa is going. Although she has told him he's welcome to "sit at home and worry." Ghaer goes briefly in search of background info at the University, on eco-terrorists, etc. Theresa, being the red-blooded girl she is, thinks that if they don't want to eat meat, fine. But they better not try to tell her she can't eat meat - she likes a good steak.

The newest and supposedly most radical group of animal rights wackos (or socially concerned environmentalists, if you prefer) is VLFAL Vegetarian and Lesbian Feminists for Animal Liberation. They believe that the eating of meat is the ultimate expression of male domination. If you're a true feminist, you have to be a vegetarian. They do have a brother organization: the GSMAL - the Gay Sensitive Men for Animal Liberation. Fortunately, everyone else in the area (regardless of orientation) qualifies as "insensitive". [And proud of it!]

One person has been killed, several have been injured, fences have been cut (they don't use barbed wire on the ranches). There's nothing to indicate exactly who is responsible for the violence on the ranches, but some of the slogans painted on the barns, etc. have been very generic "Meat is murder", etc. Several groups have claimed responsibility, but no one has been able to confirm their involvement. The local police came over, looked around, didn't find much, and left. They were hoping to get a fingerprint, as they found a drink container in the recycling bin (it was the only thing in it), but the only prints on it belonged to the patrolman who first responded to the scene. Bummer.

While Ghaer was off being information-guy, Mikie was busy calling a service to get bonded bar staff to help out the sleeping Irving, since Mikie is going to be off Up Port. The temp agency is able to provide people, thank heavens.

Viktor returns to his office, the Martel salutes him, and Viktor, concerned because this is not the same furry person he left here, asks "Who are you?" Lt. Vlickelplesterb gives Viktor a copy of his orders, which is signed by Admiral Horace Nelson. Viktor is given a copy of Ghaer's new orders as well, and this does not sit well. Viktor sends for his SAG officer, Jane "JJ" Jones, and asks her about Nelson. She tells him that Admiral Nelson is Grand Admiral Grey's administrative officer (his G-1). Nelson is a humorless, but efficient individual. Viktor is concerned about "who's camp" Vlickelplesterb is in, and is informed that the Martel is "too far down on the food chain to have a camp." That's a good answer. The captain is sent off to get the latest report on the security sweep of Viktor's office.

Viktor calls in Lt. Vlickelplesterb, and asks where Ghaer is? He is told he is on leave, which is customary when being reassigned, which Ghaer has been. The lieutenant is told to find out where Ghaer is, and to get a copy of the paperwork necessary for a field commission. Vlickelplesterb tries to tell Viktor that there is a shortage of NCOs, and a surplus of officers, which is why officers are being RIFed. Viktor doesn't voice his feelings about Vlickelplesterb's opinion on whether the "service" needs Ghaer more than Viktor - Viktor wants to keep Ghaer. (Ghaer is Viktor's Bargr, and they can't have him. So there.) Upon further research, it appears that the general order to have senior NCOs currently in administrative positions to be transferred to line positions came directly from Admiral Grey; this does not mean that Grey actually knows about Ghaer specifically.

Viktor is trying to find some way to keep Ghaer on Regina. Lt. Vlickelplesterb tells him that the only things to prevent Ghaer from having to leave in six days as ordered, would be if Ghaer were facing criminal charges, or was injured in such a way as to be unable to perform his duty. But that would mean that he would be unable to serve in the admin position too. Bugger. Well, for now Viktor will start the paperwork for Ghaer's commission, and start trying to find a way to keep him.

Lt. Vlickelplesterb is told that Viktor wants to at least see every report that leaves his office. And he would like to see all the current reports, and he is waiting for a specific report from Sgt. Raller. Lt. Vlickelplesterb wasn't given any report by Sgt. Raller, but he does have all the standard reports ready. Viktor doesn't want to alienate his admin guy, as he appears to be competent. One of his first duties is to send a letter from Viktor to Admiral Leighton.

Viktor then phones Ghaer, to find out where he is. Ghaer asks if he needs to keep looking for parkas to fit his stripes? Viktor replies "Not if I can help it." Viktor asks Ghaer to come into the office to discuss some things. Ghaer goes to see him.

Back at D.S. ... Luke Tevi, Bonnie McLeod, and Red White (the only redhead in the group) are the representatives of the ranchers. They are still in the bar, as no one has made any final plans yet, and are waiting for Ghaer to get back. And the temp help to show up.

Viktor calls Kelly at MilTech, to ask that she come to the office. She declines, until he mentions discussing the fine levied against MilTech by the Regent. Kelly will come over.

Kelly arrives, obviously dressed for a date, and attracting attention. Viktor tells her that he's willing to cut the imposed $20 megacredit fine to $10 megs. Kelly replies "That's awfully nice of you, " she leans her hands onto either side of Viktor's head, giving him quite the view. "And what can I do for you?" Viktor replies "Nothing", just as his wife walks in. Not happy. Kelly looks at her and says "The General and I were just making a little transaction, honey. And who are you?" "I just happen to be the General's wife." "Well, Mrs. General..." Kelly signs the paperwork, and leaves. Katarina wants to know "what all that was about?" Viktor tells her. "And she came over wearing that?" Viktor does not know why Kelly was wearing what she was. Katarina doesn't distrust Viktor, mind you, it's just that there are some women... Maybe they should go some where more private, say, to dinner? Katarina looks at Viktor and asks 'You're sure you aren't too tired after seeing your girlfriend?" Viktor replies "Nope." They try to leave, but there's some one there to see Viktor.

It's a heavily scarred Marine sergeant-major, with an eyepatch and a missing arm. He's reporting as ordered, understanding that Viktor is short a senior NCO. And this one is not able to fill a line position, although he'd be willing. He's from the 468th, of late, and his name is "McLafferty, Ian C. Sir. " Lt. Vlickelplesterb will show him to his desk.

The Androchev's finally do leave, to go somewhere quiet and intimate. Viktor calls ahead for a quiet table at the Club Zambezi. Not a problem for the Governor and the woman he claims is his wife.

It's evening, and Treal has slept most of the day. He wakes up feeling and looking worse than when he went to bed. First he leaves a message on his mother's answering machine, warning her to be careful, as people keep beating him up (for no apparent reason). He then decides to hit the hotel jacuzzi, and then go out to get something to eat. He figures he should fit in well at a sports bar, looking like a refugee from a grav-ball brawl, and ends up at "The 6th Period", but it's incredibly rowdy, and a brawl starts to break out, so he leaves.

Treal wanders around a bit, ending up at the Escargot D'Or. People look at him a bit askance, but only briefly. It is Regina, after all. Finally - peace, quiet, and really good food. After the day he's had, Treal even orders dessert. Nothing with 'death' in the name, and nothing flaming. Things look much better now, and he decides to go home.

As he exits the restaurant, Treal gets hit up for a buck by a big guy in black. Treal is not having any, and tells him "See how I look? The other guy looks worse. [He's lying.] Don't bother me." A knife is drawn and the guy lunges, Treal escalates directly to a gun, and shoots the guy in the leg. He falls to the ground, screaming. Treal calls for the police, and an officer saunters over from a nearby police box. Treal explains what happened, the cop runs the i.d. , looks at the guy (who keeps trying to interrupt with his pleas for an ambulance) and says "Lloyd Frankener. Jeeze Lloyd, you've only been out two days!" The cop takes Treal's statement, and calls for an ambulance. No hurry. Treal can leave, and does.

Treal feels even better now, having come out on top of an altercation for a change. He does not feel like boogie-ing the night away, but he's been sleeping for hours, so he doesn't want to go home yet. He decides to go to D.S. - not too rowdy, but always active.

At D.S., Treal looks around for a female he definitely does not know, and sees a gorgeous blonde sitting all alone. And her clothes are absolutely perfect - a semitransparent blue silk blouse, and a short skirt. Treal decides to go for the sympathy route, and asks if he can join her. She says "Excuse me, do I know you?" She even has an exotic accent. Treal is invited to sit down, and introductions are exchanged. Treal gets to meet Pamela Blaelok. [He has no idea he should just run away.] Pamela tells Treal he looks like he's "been ill-used." Treal says yes. "By a number of people."

At this point, a group of guys in black pants with white shirts and bow ties show up. Yea, it's the temp staff. The dance floor clears at about this time, as the band is taking a break. This clears the area between the bar, where Mikie is, and the table where Pamela is sitting.

Ghaer has gone to Viktor's office, but is told he has already left to have dinner with his wife. McLafferty advises Ghaer he should find another way to occupy his evening, as the Governor did not look like he wanted extra company. McLafferty comes out from behind his desk, and shakes hands with Ghaer, who has been looking at McLafferty's decorations and wondering if this could possibly be the same man he thinks (nah, can't be - that McLafferty must be dead). Fellow sergeant pleasantries are exchanged.

Mikie happens to look over at the right time, and sees his "favorite" blonde in the whole world. And she looks ravishing, as usual. Of course, with Pamela "ravishing" does not mean the same thing as it does for other attractive females. The guy she's with looks vaguely familiar, and it looks like she's already started on him.

Treal's bored, Pamela's beautiful, so as far as he's concerned, it's perfect. She sees Mikie at the bar, and waves, then asks Treal if he's married? No. "Really? Assuming your current state is due to a recent occurrence, you're quite attractive. " When Treal is looking the other direction, Pamela looks at Mikie, smiles, and makes a throat-slitting motion. She then asks Treal if he'd like to dance? "My husband isn't much of a dancer." Treal is taken aback a bit. "You're married?" Pamela explains that technically no, Christopher's her ex-husband, but they're engaged. And he's not the social type - doesn't drink, etc. Besides, he's off-planet. Treal would rather wait for a less energetic number to dance to, as he was shot in the shoulder this morning. "Oh really? Which one?" There's some discussion about Will being shot in the left shoulder, which must mean he's a private detective? Pammie is willing to wait for a slower dance, but she does ask for a drink refill.

Will goes to the bar to get Pammie another, very expensive drink (it's from a bottle in a locked cabinet), and when he returns there are some "gentlemen" paying attention to Pamela, and they aren't anxious to leave, even when Treal is polite about it. Then he gets less polite, and they still don't want to leave, and one of them gets really rude. Treal is about to pull his gun, but Pamela grabs the guy's finger. First she uses the pain-compliance hold, and then (even though she doesn't have to) she breaks his finger. And moves it around a bit. Ow ow ow ow. She eventually lets him go, and he and his friends leave.

Pamela and Treal go out onto the dance floor for a slow dance. Treal is not what you would call a good dancer, especially since he's all bruised and battered, but Pamela can leverage (or muscle) him into a nice close (very close) little dance. After a few minutes, a very attractive brunette cuts in. It's Christine. Mikie is watching, and is not sure what's going to happen, but it won't be good.

McLafferty catches up with Ghaer. He's off duty now, and looking for some fun. Ghaer decides to take him to D.S., as McLafferty is new to Regina. "Fun" is not even close.

Christine has Treal so close that they might as well be wearing the same clothes. After the song is over, Christine decides that they should go to a table. Treal suggests Pamela's table, since Christine kept looking over Treal's shoulder at Pam. Treal ends up in the middle, between two really attractive females; this it too good. Christine knows who Treal is already, when the introductions start. Her brother is "in the government."

Speaking of her brother, Black chooses this moment to come into D.S. He has not seen Christine yet, but Mikie has seen him and goes for the Crème de Violet. Then he tries to get Theresa to go to the far end of the bar, sort of behind the end. Please. Before the bad stuff starts.

Ghaer and McLafferty have shown up, and McLafferty isn't sure about this "poofta" bar, but he does spot the attractive 'pros'. The ones at the table with the beat up guy. Ghaer looks at the table, and then explains to McLafferty that the blonde is the Solomani consul, and the brunette is "attached to the head of Regina Security", and yes, he means "attached" in the way that McLafferty is wondering. Oh. Well, he's not suicidal. They go to the bar to order some beer, and right after that they both look in the mirror and see Viktor and his wife as they enter.

Katarina decided that she wanted to go out dancing, since they almost never do, and so she has decided to drag her husband to D.S. And for heavens sake, Viktor doesn't have to arm himself to the teeth - that's just asking for trouble. Once inside, Katarina spots a table by the dance floor (next to Treal, Christine and Pamela) and pulls Viktor over to it.

Mikie, having seen everyone who has arrived, is not sure if running would be the best bet right now, or if that might set the pack off. And in a bizarre way, it's sort of fascinating to watch, not knowing who will go off first.

Black takes the drink Mikie poured for him, and asks "What's new, Michael?" Mikie responds "Not much, personally." Black looks at the mirror, sees Christine, raises an eyebrow, and heads over towards Christine, with his men following at a discreet distance. Katarina and Viktor have returned to their table, and she has ordered a bottle of vodka on ice. Viktor is wondering if he knows where all the exits are. Black stops to chat briefly with the Androchevs, exchanging pleasantries, compliments on Katarina's dress (of course, Black recognizes the designer), etc. before going over to the table where his sister is cozying up to Treal.

Christine gets a tad defensive when Black comes over. "I'm just having a little fun Mercer. You don't own me." Black looks at Treal. "Mr. Delgado isn't it? Treal?" Treal nods "Yes. You must be Christine's brother. You have the advantage of me." Black apologizes and introduces himself as Mercer Black. Treal says that he's been "keeping the ladies company", and Black compliments him. "So you thought you'd round out a perfect evening by escorting my sister and the Solomani Consul out on the town?" Christine is getting more worried now. "Mercer...Mercer he's not worth it. I like him. In a wounded bird sort of way." Then she ruffles Treal's hair. Black says "I see. Well, if you're fond of him... I have business to attend to." He then turns to his two men and says "Don't kill him," indicating Treal. Black leaves the table. (And Viktor, at the nearby table, gets to hear most of this; oh, Black has a sister. How nice.)

Christine tells Treal to not worry. Treal thinks Black has an odd sense of humor, doesn't he? Christine explains "It's his job, and the government and all. He's been under a lot of stress lately..." Pamela wishes Treal good night, as she's getting a headache from "all the prattling". She gets up and heads for the bar. Treal is about to beg off, as he's not feeling well (what with being shot and beat up), but Christine convinces him to stay -the night's still young, and she gives him a glass of "pain kill". He figures what the hell and drinks. Then they get up to dance again.

Pamela sits down at the bar, and nods to Ghaer. "Hello Raller. The stripes are quite fetching. They're more visible than usual; is it molting season?" Mikie makes her a martini, she looks at him and says "You know the thing about it Michael - you're still so cute. " Pammie appears a bit less normal than usual even. Is she off her meds, or on too much? Fortunately, she doesn't notice Theresa, who is helping out at the crowded bar.

McLafferty is bored, and wants to go somewhere else, preferably with fewer officers. Ghaer suggests Semper Fi or the Nasty Panda. Hmmm. McLafferty claims to be "stumped", but the Nasty Panda sounds good. Off they go. Oh yes, this is more what McLafferty had in mind!

Viktor and Katarina survive the evening, have a good time, and then get to go home. Then they get to try to give Vasilli a baby brother or sister.

Treal jokingly tells Christine that he was looking forward to being beaten up by her brother, "just to cap off the night." Christine says "Oh, he doesn't do that very often. He has people to do it for him; that's one of the perks of being the head of Regina Security." Treal tells her he doesn't want her to be there when he gets beaten up, so she wants to know where to meet him later. Treal lies. He tells her that he thinks she's very nice. "So nice that I don't want to sleep with you on the first date." Ah, that's so cute. Christine suggests that they meet tomorrow night, here at D.S., since her brother is going to be at the opera, and she'll beg off sick. Since Christine hates opera, this won't be viewed as unusual by Black. "He's used to that, and he'll be occupied for hours." Treal agrees to this, and Christine gives him a rather spectacular kiss and then leaves.

Treal walks out of D.S., and gets cold-cocked from behind almost immediately. Some time later he is woken up by some one who wants him "to appreciate this." Treal is buck naked, trussed up, and tied to the rear of a car. Seems the spokesman has "always wanted to try this". He looks at Treal, who has closed his eyes, and asks that he let them know "if anything goes wrong with the rope back there." As they are going to the car, he says "God, I love this job." His cohort responds with "You are one sick man, Bob." Fortunately, Treal doesn't stay awake very long.

McLafferty is concerned that Ghaer is rather tense, so he arranges for a girl for Ghaer. Ghaer isn't really interested in boinking, but boy, he would love a proper brushing. So he gets one; in some ways it's better than sex, and he looks all sleek like. He and McLafferty part company, and when Ghaer gets home, Khirrll is there. What Ghaer doesn't know is that Theresa has told Khirrll that Ghaer may have to leave, and who knows if he'll be back, so she wants to get in a lifetime of sex tonight. Right now. Oh boy.

Irving wakes up just as things are starting to calm down, very late, at D.S., and comments that he really feels great after his four hours of sleep. He thanks Mikie, looks at his watch, and is really surprised to see what time it really is. Once everything is squared away with Irving about the temp people ("Hey, who are those guys?"), etc., Mikie takes Theresa (who has been helping with drinks) out for a quick bite, then home, where she collapses. Mikie makes sure she's undressed and tucked in before joining her.

105 - 1122.

Irving calls Mikie in the morning to make sure they got home okay. It seems the "tomato juice" Theresa was drinking all night was actually Bloody Marys. Mikie rouses her enough to swallow some water and aspirin before she goes back to sleep.

In the news, the Regina Slasher has struck again. They have identified the victim as Johnny "the Cucumber" Guiseppe, a minor criminal, known for muggings and smash and grabs. His body was found with three diagonal cuts from the left shoulder to the right hip. All three went through his body. Mikie knows what that means, especially with Blaelok off planet - Pamela. Ghaer comes to the same conclusion when he reads the paper. Was she a bit off-kilter last night because she hadn't cut any one up lately?

Treal wakes up in Regina Trauma, again, not feeling at all good. Again. But he's alive, because Black's people know how to obey orders. The nurse asks Treal how he's feeling. He responds honestly - "Like shit." But it's a good change, because no one is currently beating him, so that beats the heck out of the last time he woke up. He sends a note to Christine apologizing for not being able to go out with her, as her brother's thugs beat the hell out of him. He's so polite.

The doctor comes in to see Treal, tells him the damage is all superficial, but very painful. Metal "rug burns" all over his body. Because of the pain, the doctor is putting him on neo-morphine; it's perfectly safe, and non-addictive. Not that Treal would really care right now. The doctor is a bit curious, and asks Treal how he managed to get all this damage done, and he describes being "trussed up like a chicken and dragged behind a car." Except for the chicken part, which Treal has to explain, it sounds pretty much normal for Regina. Treal gets a prescription for neo-morph to take home with him when he goes. Then a nurse comes in to deliver a beautiful bouquet of roses (all the thorns have been carefully removed) from Christine. The note says "Let mommy make it all better. Call me. Christine."

Ghaer is showing McLafferty around the base, etc., as a courtesy. Viktor has to go into the office to pick up the paperwork he needs. And the tea party is later this afternoon.

Ghaer checks up on the "terrorist activity" down on planet, and finds that the person who died was not actually shot. Something was thrown through a window, and he had a heart attack. However, the latest thing involved a couple of ranch hands were knocked out (they had been drinking heavily), and woke up naked, tied up with rawhide, and left staked out in the sun. Ghaer looks into the past of the Green River Valley area, which seems to be the only area of any trouble. The last time there was any real trouble was fifty years ago; a disgruntled grandchild?

Viktor comes in, says hello to his men, and asks if anything is new. Ghaer tells him about the "Slasher" murder, and Lt. Vlickelplesterb brings in the report from the police, as well as all the other reports anyone could ever want. Ghaer is in awe. (Vlickelplesterb needs to gain rank, since his family lost their money, in order to get the right to breed.) JJ gives Viktor the current security sweep report.

Viktor takes Ghaer in to his office for a private conversation. He first asks Ghaer if he's "looking forward to the tea luncheon?" Ghaer is honest and says no. Then Viktor gives Ghaer some paperwork and a little box. In order to make this really official, Viktor needs to have two flag officers agree with him, after a review. There are two senior captains in port. The first one sends Viktor his digital signature after hearing what Viktor is doing. The second captain, Capt. Berkshire is asleep when Viktor first calls, but returns his call shortly thereafter. She listens to Viktor's request, then asks if the candidate "is of good moral character..." - it sounds like she's reading chapter and verse, but she just has it memorized. Captain Berkshire looks more like a senior librarian than a senior captain. She has Ghaer's record pulled up, and agrees to confirm Viktor's commission. She sends her digital signature.

This makes it all official, so Viktor pins on the butter bars. McLafferty smiles and gives Ghaer his first salute, then says he's "waiting for my silver dollar" (tradition). Ghaer gives him a dakar to hold for now. McLafferty then points out that "the lieutenant is out of uniform sir." Good point. Right now, Ghaer is a Varlow sergeant-lieutenant, or a Bargr lieutenant-sergeant, according to his appearance.

Viktor rounds up Ghaer, McLafferty, Vlickelplesterb, and Jones to meet in his office. They have a war meeting, sort of. They have a rather interesting report from the sergeants Viktor has in place watching the Delgado house. They have footage of the IBI and then the men in black showing up. Jim, by the way is okay; he was shot in the head, but thanks to the metal plate in his head, he just has no memory since he ordered a pizza with no anchovies and got anchovies. This was three weeks ago. Well, the IBI can handle this for now, if they're not busy. Ghaer comments that all they're trying to do currently is to prove Mikie was responsible for everything that's wrong in the universe, including the Fifth Frontier War. That reminds Viktor that he wanted to see Michael Griffin. Ghaer is to invite him and his wife to the hostile. Um, he meant to say luncheon.

McLafferty then pushes a button on Viktor's desk that Viktor was not aware of, to lower a video screen. Then he goes over the footage of the assault on the IBI guys at the Delgado residence. There were no shell casings found at the scene, so they were probably using brass-catchers, but Viktor shows McLafferty the casings he picked up at the park when Calvin was originally attacked, and McLafferty identifies it as being of Arkadian manufacture. This doesn't mean that the shooters were Arkadian, as the Arkadians would not have handled the op in that way. McLafferty points out the tactics of the op, which indicates that the shooters were not military. Arkadian ammo can be obtained fairly easily, although it is a bit expensive, and in demand. They are able to identify the person seen fleeing the house as Treal Delgado, who was arrested for the murder of an IBI agent, although not charged. He was also seen in the company of the Solomani Consul, and the sister of the head of Regina Security. Viktor knows this, having been at the table next to them. Viktor is also informed by Captain Jones of what happened to Treal after leaving D.S., and it's believed that the people who assaulted him were part of Regina Security. Ghaer points out that this was "probably just Black protecting his sister". "Protective, is he?" comments Jones.

Jones continues. Not only that, but the bar was very busy, and Delgado was not under continuous surveillance, so he could have had contact with the bartender on duty, who just happened to be Michael Griffin. Mr. Griffin was an employee of the Palladium Group while Christopher Blaelok was running it. Viktor decides that he wants to see Mikie before tea, in his office. Just then Viktor's wife calls, very upset. There's a "disaster" involving the cucumber sandwiches -"it's these government issue cucumbers, they've gone all soft." Viktor promises to take care of this. No one else in the office says anything. Not a word.

Ghaer tells Viktor he can get Mikie to his office right away, just by calling him, and he's the perfect person to take care of the cucumber problem too. Mikie gets a call from Ghaer, who asks him to come to the Governor's office to see him, and to pick up twenty cucumbers for cucumber sandwiches on the way. Oh, and are he and Theresa available for tea later in the afternoon? This is one of the strangest calls Mikie has ever had, and that's saying a lot. Mikie agrees to come to tea with Theresa (she should be human by then), and he'll come over and bring cucumbers. Before he gets off the phone, there's a corporal at the door, with an olive drab car. In the meantime, Ghaer goes to get some BDUs he can wear with his butter bars.

Treal is discussed, and Jones makes a phone call to the hospital. She's told that Treal was discharged five minutes ago, and quietly thanks some one she tells she'll see later (boyfriend?). The group decides that perhaps Treal should be brought in before he gets himself killed, so some MPs in mufti are sent to fetch him.

Viktor has a private conversation with Jones. He asks what she knows about Black, as he greeted her in a very familiar way. She tells Viktor he's "not cleared for that sir." Viktor understands, but asks what she can tell him. It's a bit awkward, but she can say that he was rumored to have had some involvement with the ISA. Enough said.

Treal is outside of the hospital, considering getting a cab, when a couple of total strangers ask if they can give him a ride? He's not too keen on this, but they tell him that the Governor wants to see him, why they don't know, or care - "Maybe you made a pass at his sister or wife or something." Treal is struck by the perverse humor in this comment. Since he's told that they will be bringing him in to see the Governor the easy way, or the hard way, Treal decides to avoid yet another beating, and just go with them.

Since he didn't have to stop to get cucumbers, Treal arrives a bit ahead of Mikie, but not much. Viktor has them both brought into his office. As they are being escorted into the building, Treal recognizes the bartender from the other night, and assumes that this has something to do with Christine. Mikie asks Treal where his cucumbers are? Excuse me?!? He shows Treal the bag of cucumbers, and Treal figures the pain meds are having way too much of an effect.

They are shown into Viktor's office, and Mikie is told to give the cucumbers to Ghaer, who sends them off and calls Katarina. She's thrilled that Ghaer has gotten the cucumbers. Ghaer asks if Viktor has told her that "he's invited two additional people, Michael and Theresa Griffin, to tea?" (Viktor smacks his forehead, realizing his faux pas.) Katarina sighs, and says "No, of course not." She thanks Ghaer.

Mikie asks Viktor why he's there. Viktor tells him "You're here because you have been involved with a number of occurrences of late, not to mention a close if not intimate relationship with Mr. Black and Mr. Blaelok." Mikie informs Viktor that if he uses the word "intimate" in that kind of sentence again, Mikie's leaving. Viktor replies "Not through that door." Treal protests that he only just met the Solomani Consul and Christine Black just the once, and only because they were alone in the bar; as far as Treal knows, everything is related to the disapproval of Pamela and/or Christine's husband/brother/boyfriend/whatever. (Talk about out of the loop.)

Treal is escorted to the waiting room, as Mikie and Ghaer are not comfortable discussing Black and Blaelok around him. Mikie is asked what he knows about Blaelok and Black, and what they have been up to. Oh, is that all? Mikie tells Viktor about the Blaeloks being enhanced, and "not right... really, seriously not right." That they have been enhanced (and how, as far as he knows), that the Pamela who is on Regina right now is not the same one who was there a year or so ago (that one's dead, the current one is some one Blaelok had "made" for him), and he's not sure why the hell the Blaeloks are here, or what they want. They have mentioned some one named Sontag, but Mikie doesn't know who he is or was, and the Blaeloks never really told Mikie what it is they are after. (At least not that he can remember.) Oh, and with Blaelok gone, it's a safe bet that last night's "Slasher" murder was Pamela's work. Viktor is rather taken aback by this, as the report showed that the victim's body was literally sliced all the way through, and Ghaer confirms this is something that could have been done with the modifications he had seen on the 'old' Pamela, so it makes sense.

Now with regard to Black, Viktor wants to know "what his game is." Mikie knows that Black can't stand Blaelok, and the feeling is fairly mutual, but as far as "playing a game", Black has been doing what Black has always done on Regina - keep things working. If Black has an agenda or a game beyond maintaining the status quo, more or less, and seeing that things function (on all the less 'legitimate' levels), Mikie doesn't know about it. When asked about his frequent trips to the big grey building with no windows, Mikie explains that he has acted as a messenger or a courier some times, and just as a potential source of information the other times; although he hasn't always had the information to give.

Viktor asks that Mikie keep him informed about the Blaeloks and Black, as much as possible. Viktor realizes this puts Mikie into a "difficult position", and he is sorry for that. Mikie's concern is not so much for himself, but for his family (Theresa, primarily). This is something Viktor can relate to, and he will try to help out if he can. Mikie leaves, but he will be at the tea later.

On his way out, Mikie stops at the desk of the sergeant major, who eyes him rather suspiciously. "What can I do for you, son?" Mikie asks if the Sergeant could give something to Lieutenant Raller for him, and sets Ghaer's new gold rank bars on the desk. (Mikie has habitually lifted Ghaer's wallet, watch, etc., just to keep in practice, and as a source of amusement; the new gold bars were too tempting.) McLafferty smiles and says "I'd be delighted to return these. You just leave it to me." Humor - it's one of the signs that you are still alive. Bleeding is another one, but it tends to be more painful.

After Mikie leaves, Treal is brought in. Treal explains that he thinks he was attacked because of his father hiding the boy who was wanted for killing his parents. He describes what happened with the IBI guys, and the men in the black balaclavas, and all. He goes on about everything that has happened to him, about the shooting, repeated beatings, etc. Viktor and Ghaer inform Treal that he was beaten at least once time due to mistaken identity - because of his brother Will having taken off with Bunny. Treal doesn't believe that - his brother would never do anything spontaneous, or romantic. Viktor and Ghaer beg to differ, and show Treal the Times and Tattler articles about the "dashing dueling doctor". Oh my Lord. This completely changes Treal's image of his brother. Treal asks if his brother has been the victim of a head injury lately (which he has). Ghaer and Viktor tell Treal about Bunny's father being on the hunt for Will, and it turns out the logo on the buttons of Treal's assailants matches the Count's crest, so that identifies them at least.

For his own protection, Treal will be put up somewhere safe for now, at the Governor's expense. They may need him later, especially in the matter of the assault on the IBI agents, and Falcon Delgado's involvement with the missing boy. For now, they just don't want him to wind up dead. Treal's certainly okay with the not winding up dead (or re-hospitalized) part.

After all the "guests" have left, Viktor asks Captain Jones into the office to confer with him and Ghaer. She is asked her opinion of Treal, and whether or not he was telling the truth. Jones replies "I honestly believe he really is as confused as he claims to be. There's no apparent reason for him to lie, and nothing to indicate anything other than an accidental connection with Blaelok and Black." Viktor then asks her opinion of Mikie. She tells him "I don't know. He's a tough one. We know who he's been associated with - Black, Blaelok, the Palladium Group; he's obviously a player." Viktor asks if she thinks "there's any truth in what he said about the Solomani ambassador and consul being enhanced?" She doesn't doubt that at all. Viktor is concerned about having people like that around, but there's not much they can do. Viktor figures they can at least try to make sure the local powers that be are aware of what's going on. Viktor thanks Jones for her assessment.

Now if everyone can just survive until tea time...