Tea Time and Travelogues.

105 -1122

The guest list for the Androchev tea is truly interesting: Scalese, Globber, Black, Kelly from MilTech, Chang from SternMetal, Xavier Ling from Ling Standard, Count van der Scheusse (Bunny's dad), Ghaer, Mikie and Theresa, Ramirez, Steiner, and some other miscellaneous local persons of note. And any respective spouses, dates, or whatevers.

Viktor has given JJ instructions to make sure the robot George is tracked as much as possible once it is released to the Solomani. He doesn't want anything really illegal done, but a tracker would be nice. And if the Solomani find it and complain, the official line will be that the robot must have been bugged before it fell into the hands of the Imperials. Fancy that.

With this number of people, it's a bit more than just a "tea". Katarina has decided they need some nice quiet entertainment. She decides to hire a pianist or something to provide background music.

Jimi Ray Malary has been RIF'd out of the Marines, and has been conveniently dumped on Regina. Well, he wanted to see the "wild west", so here it is. After being disgorged onto Up Port in the crowd, he notices that he has a draft in the back, right where his wallet would be. He spots some one taking off with something that looks remarkably like his wallet, and takes off after him. The pickpocket is slippery, and when Jimi Ray tries to grab him, he ends up running bang into an elegantly dressed woman, sending her ass over teakettle. Oh dear. Jimi Ray stops to help the woman up, apologizing profusely, as her liveried servants collect her packages and ask if she would like them to "thrash him"? No, that's all right - she understands it was an accident. Jimi Ray explains what he was doing rushing through the port, and the woman observes that "you're new to Regina, aren't you?" Why yes, he is just off the boat. She refers him to a police kiosk, when he asks where to report his loss of id., then she leaves after wishing Jimi Ray luck.

Jimi Ray fills out the short "they've stolen my wallet" form, and the temporary id., and then heads over to the job board, as he suddenly finds himself with no money. As he looks over the heads of the other out of work musicians (just out of the military, he does not want to go back to the shooting and blowing up stuff this soon, and he does have a musical background), he is approached by several really large guys stuffed into the livery he saw earlier. Has the lady reconsidered and decided to have Jimi Ray thrashed any way? One of them asks "Jimi Ray Malary?" Jimi Ray answers "Yes, but you have the advantage of me." The big man jerks his head to the left, prompting Jimi Ray to ask "Is that an invitation to go somewhere, or do you have a twitch?" Jimi Ray is told that some one wants to talk to him. Boy, and he hasn't even been on Regina for a half hour! Jimi Ray goes with the men - what the hey, he was looking for adventure.

Viktor has just finished dressing when two of Katarina's footmen bring in a man in a slashed uniform. Viktor asks why they've brought this man in, and is told that "Madame requested to see this person." Viktor asks if she said why, but she did not. Jimi Ray introduces himself as "Captain Jimi Ray Malary, sir." The servants have referred to Viktor as "Governor", and then Katarina comes in, and Jimi Ray is concerned that he has run over the Governor's wife and now he's going to thrash him. Actually, she found a clipping from Jimi Ray's riffled wallet, and saw that he was a musician, thought that they should do something for the recently discharged nice young man. She explains how they met, and perhaps he would like to provide the music? Jimi Ray would very much like to do that, and he plays the piano and sings. Katarina knows from whom to borrow a piano, and the servants show Jimi Ray where to change.

Ghaer has discovered that his lieutenant bars are missing, and when he leaves Viktor's office, still looking for them, he sees them sitting in a little box in the middle of McLafferty's desk. McLafferty, JJ, Lt. Vlickelplesterb are having an auction, apparently. This could be bad.

A lovely piano has appeared magically when Jimi Ray emerges. It's a wonderful piano, no synthetic material used here, and Jimi Ray loves it. What he doesn't know is that the piano is from the Solomani consulate - it seems the music room wasn't touched during the warbot rampage. Fortunately, Viktor doesn't know that Katarina called Pamela Blaelok to borrow the piano.

Jonathan Mohammed Chang has been invited to the tea, and of course he will attend. His warbot will not be brought in, but it will be on beeper call, just in case.

Ghaer, who is sans rank insignia, needs to be at the tea in fifteen minutes. And he's supposed to be in uniform for this. Which he can't be without his little bars. McLafferty asks "Don't you have a tea you need to be at sir?" Ghaer replies that "Yes, so I'm going to have to commandeer this contraband." Ah, but there is a bid on the table from Lt. Vlickelplesterb of a bottle of ten year old scotch. Argh. Ghaer bids a case of Old Toad, then JJ raises the bid by a half case of fine bourbon. Vlickelplesterb says he's had that bourbon, "and it's not that fine." McLafferty looks at Ghaer and says "It's a half case to you. Oh look, you have ten minutes." Ghaer says "Fine, a full case of Old Toad." That's too rich for everyone else's blood, but the 'price' is only good for ten minutes. Fine. Ghaer phones a Rana named René, and he says that yes, he has two cases, but Ghaer better hurry. Level 4, Green Sector, room 216. Ghaer grabs a driver, and off they go, but the driver says it will take fifteen minutes. Ghaer calls Old Sarge's, and finds out that she just sold the set of butterbars about fifteen minutes ago. Damn them! Ghaer tells the driver that he has to get to his location and back in ten minutes. The lieutenant is told to "grab your furry cheeks, sir". Sirens behind them help keep the pedestrians out of the way. The driver will slow down just enough to let Ghaer get out, and will then lead the locals off and pick up Ghaer on his way back around.

Ghaer tumbles out, in a controlled fashion, and runs upstairs to the Rana kegger. It's scary seeing something with a mouth that large chugging beer. Ghaer is able to get the two cases of Old Toad, and staggers out to meet the driver under the weight of all the beer. The car skids to a brief halt, the cops rear end the military car, Ghaer tosses the beer and himself in, and the driver speeds off, briefly pulling the police car along. There and back in eleven minutes. McLafferty briefly complains that the beer isn't cold, but then tells him it's okay, and he can be off. As he leaves, Ghaer sees the driver on the phone reporting the military vehicle stolen, "about a half hour ago...That's right...It's green. You know - olive drab, says "Property of Imperial Marine Corps"?"

Chang has arrived precisely on time, so he's the first one there. Katarina is happy to have some one of a similar rank and background to chat with, so they're on a first name basis almost instantly.

The next people to arrive are Mikie and Theresa. She was in fact able to find something to wear in her copious closet, and she made sure Mikie was wearing one of the really nice suits Blaelok's tailor had made for him. Very spiff.

Jimi Ray is sitting at the piano, watching the people, and notices Mikie's really expensive suit too. Viktor greets Chang and then Mikie and Theresa (who's very excited). Viktor compliments Theresa on how lovely she looks (he's learning, and Katarina is a fine teacher.

The rest of the party gradually arrives, Black with Christine hanging on his arm. Black looks just thrilled to have her there. [There could be delicate political wrangling going on, and he's got a time bomb with him.] All the invitees show up, some with wives, some with 'dates'. In Ramirez' case, his date looks about 17, and not exactly up for this kind of social event, but she is decorative.

Steiner shows up after everyone else. What care has the rik of the schedules of other lesser mortals? Viktor has given directions to his servants that they are not to interfere with Steiner's bodyguards, who, Jimi Ray observes, are really big! Ghaer arrives at about the same time.

The appropriate schmoozing takes place, at least for most of the guests. Steiner doesn't schmooze, and Mikie has no flipping clue why he's at this thing. Scalese is schmoozing Viktor something fierce about construction projects. Black is smoking his Sobraines near the pianist. Jimi Ray segues into "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". Globber and Viktor chat. Only two murders today. Viktor asks if Globber has "received the communication I sent you?" That's a yes.

There is lots of food, as it would not do to have too little food. Black catches the tune, and comments "Very amusing. Are you enjoying the 'wild west' Mr. Malary?" Jimi Ray's thought is "Damn, the wild west is well-informed!" Black then asks how Malary's mother is? Jimi Ray hesitates, says "Uh, she's fine I think. You have me at a disadvantage." Black smiles, says "Yes, I do", then strolls off. He's replaced by Christine, who leeaanns over the piano and asks Jimi Ray to "Play Misty for me." Gee the locals are friendly."

Treal is taking neo-morph and resting in the recliner at the BOQ (bachelor office quarters). He's able to get the driver to order something from Atomic Pizzoids. And some kind of brown fizzy drink that's something but not entirely unlike Coke. At least he gets to skip the tea party.

Black of course is waiting for him when Viktor comes over to chat. "The Earl Grey is excellent. I must ask your wife where she buys her tea." Viktor tells Black "I haven't received your report on the Blaeloks yet." Black sighs, "I thought this was going to be a social occasion", and passes Viktor a disk. Viktor then tells Black "Also, I would request that the private training lessons on the civilians be curtailed at least until my venue is over." Black has no idea what Viktor's referring to, but asks if Viktor knows who his pianist is? No. Black knows about Jimi Ray's mother, who is a coloratura of some renown. How interesting; Viktor doesn't keep as appraised of opera as he should. Viktor tells Black he was referring to "Treal Delgado being roughed up by some of your men. Trussed up like a chicken and dragged behind a car." Black assures him it could not have been his men, but he can look into it. Viktor suggests it's a police matter, then brings up the slasher killing, which Black states is a police matter. He looks over at Globber, who sweats even more profusely. Viktor then brings up Sontag, but Black assures him that investigation is a dead end, nothing but rumors and scary stories; nothing of substance. Viktor hopes Black enjoys the tea, and goes off to speak with Globber.

Globber goes over the investigation of the slasher so far, which is mainly the development of a profile. It's not easy dealing with serial murders, as these psychopaths are difficult to deal with. Viktor would like to see Globber later, in his office.

Viktor and Black end up back at the piano, Christine is told to mingle, and Black comments on Malary's mother's music being more to his taste rather than the more modern jazz. Jimi Ray does not tell Black that Christine is the one that was requesting the more modern pieces, but he does point out that opera is difficult to play on the piano. After Black and Viktor wander off, Ghaer comes over, introduces himself, and warns him about Christine's escort being very possessive, and very dangerous. Jimi Ray asks just who her escort is any way, since he wouldn't introduce himself, and Ghaer tells him he's "Mercer Black, the director of Regina Security." That explains why he's so well-informed.

Viktor stops to say hello to Steiner, who is amused at the little gathering. It's amazing that no one has throttled anyone yet, but it's not over yet. She does suggest that perhaps Christine should come with a biohazard symbol stamped on her forehead. Ghaer in the meantime has gone to say hello to Mikie and ask that in the future he not remove parts of his uniform. Mikie feigns innocence, and hands Ghaer back his watch.

Katarina is very happy chatting with Chang. He's so civilized. Chang is savvy enough to have his escort, Janice from SternMetal, to have a little talk with Ramirez' little date, to give her some advice on how to behave at this sort of event.

Viktor invites Ghaer over to him, and then does the traditional tapping on the glass to get the attention of the party. Viktor wanted everyone to know that "after some consideration I have decided that I am in need of a lieutenant governor, and I have decided to appoint Lt. Raller to this position." Polite applause, Ghaer wishing he'd never met Viktor, the usual.

Ramirez has a private little conversation with Chang about mutual interests on planet. Interests that could make both of them a tidy profit, but "there's no need to tell Mr. Black". Chang says "Tell who what?" Nudge-nudge, grin-grin, wink-wink. Ramirez and Chang can discuss this later down on the planet, and Chang can go hunting with Ramirez - boar, or whatever Chang prefers to hunt. Chang isn't really into hunting animals, which Ramirez believes to mean that Chang prefers "more dangerous game", and he thumps Chang heartily on the back.

The guests wander off, Steiner taking her bodyguards off to the Club Zambezi, as a reward for putting up with the boring tea (no roast beast on a spit, or whatever). Katarina is very pleased with Jimi Ray, thanks him, and has him paid $1,000 credits; her servant rather begrudgingly pays him - he thinks it's too much. Chang is also impressed and asks if Jimi Ray can play classical music as well, which of course he can. Chang may need to get in touch with him. Viktor also offers to assist Malary with the id. issue - with Globber.

Now that Ghaer is lieutenant governor, maybe now Viktor can go to Jewell? Katarina really wants to go - all the right people will be there. Ghaer can handle things, after all, Viktor has managed. Viktor will consider this.

As he leaves the Androchev's place, Jimi Ray accidentally steps on the wrong man's shadow. The man takes offense at this, but will let Jimi Ray leave with all his parts attached if he apologizes "real nice". Jimi Ray apologizes, and the 'slinger says "You don't rile easy, do you boy?" Nope. Apparently the 'slinger is somewhat bored, as he has taken Jimi Ray's arm, and then things get a bit tense. The 'slinger draws, and Jimi Ray uses the sword block unarmed combat maneuver, which evidently is the wrong thing to do with a gun. They end up with Jimi Ray's hands holding onto the gun which is pointed right between his eyes. Oh-oh. The 'slinger raises an eyebrow, carefully lowers the hammer on his weapon, puts it away, and tips his hat at Jimi Ray. Chang has been watching this, and concludes that the musician is apparently quite able to take care of himself; and quite well. Jimi Ray goes off to find a reasonably priced motel for the evening, now that he has money.

Ghaer returns to the Governor's office to find he has an office of his own now, and the other people there give him congratulations and golf claps. He even has his name painted on the door, and a really big leather chair that evidently necessitated the removal of a wall to fit it in. It's a tight fit, but it's just temporary. And there are many people waiting to see the lieutenant governor, including a man in a planetary forces uniform who was told that the lieutenant governor was going to take care of this. "This" is a case full of money.

Ghaer is there until 9:00 at night, since as the lieutenant governor has all the responsibilities, and none of the perks of the governor's office. At least he'll have the help of the newly made first lieutenant Vlickelplesterb. Such a thrill. Katarina suggests they take a nice slow luxury liner to Jewell and back, but Viktor doesn't feel right about that. "Well okay, but how about a cozy little fleet courier?" Now that can be arranged.

Viktor has JJ and Vlickelplesterb send off the appropriate paperwork to try to get him clearance for the information he wants about Black. As that is "need to know" only, it's highly unlikely he will get said clearance, but he feels better asking.

Mikie has no clue why he was at the tea party, but Theresa had an extremely good time. That's all that really matters.

Katarina informs Viktor that they are all packed and ready to go, which is a surprise to Viktor. Katarina knows what he's going to do before he does, so it really shouldn't be a surprise.

Viktor's last little detail is to meet with Globber. He wants to make sure that Globber has "Operation Streetsweeper" underway, which he does. And he asks Globber to look into the incident with Mr. Malary, and to "assign some one to take care of it".

Viktor and Katerina leave Up Port discreetly, with the exception of the Weseli waving good-bye and wishing them a good time on Jewell. Sigh. Oh well, it's not like it was a secret or anything.

106 - 1122.

At 2:00 a.m., there is a pounding on Jimi Ray's door - it's the police. Jimi Ray opens the door, somewhat confused. They ask him if he is Jimi Ray Malary, which he is, then they ask what his mother's maiden name is, and all sorts of other questions. They finally are satisfied he is who he says he is, and then give him his temporary id. It will expire in one month, which should give him enough time to get permanent replacements, but he can contact the police department if he needs an extension. They leave, he goes back to bed.

Gerhardt Stern himself has shown up to see Chang. Stern is in rare form, and didn't realize it was this early, he's sorry. No problem. Any how, Stern has heard that there's this "big to do on Jewell, and Stern wants Chang to check it out for him. Then they can discuss some other projects in the works as well. Including Chang's conversation with Ramirez, excluding Black. Could be very profitable, but they'll have to watch themselves. If necessary, they can always roll over on Ramirez, and Stern will make sure a donation to "Black's retirement fund" will be made. Then Stern asks if Chang is busy, and wants him to come along for some fun - they go out to Stern's new toy. It's a Mark XIII bolo, with a shovel added. "It's a hell of a loader, don't you think?" Chang is suitably impressed, as it's the largest flipping bulldozer he's ever seen. And it still has all it's original firepower. Chang gets to drive it. Not that he knows how to drive it, but (to quote Jack) what the hell, how hard could it be? Stern has provided coffee (well, brandy that's had a few drops of coffee waved over it). They bond, while digging up tracks, scaring the wildlife, knocking down trees, the usual stuff. After a while they go back to the house and Stern crashes on the couch, but Chang has some servants take him to a bed. When he's moved, Chang hears him mumble "Corina". Duly noted, will be considered at leisure, later.

At a more reasonable time of the morning, Jimi Ray goes off in search of the rental ads - boy is it expensive on Up Port. He goes to the Bread and Bean for coffee and breakfast. Expensive, but definitely good quality. He notices the big fluffy Vargr in the coffee shop, unaware that the Lieutenant Governor has had Jimi Ray's jacket pulled, and is currently reading it, while being harassed by a small crowd. Jimi Ray gives Ghaer the polite nod hello.

Mikie and Theresa are at the Bread and Bean having coffee, when he has a vision - and it's a a strong one, much more so than before. (Okay, so the small piece of brain that's missing was the restraining device?) A very strong sensation of real badness, and Ghaer. After the second slap, and Theresa saying "Michael?", Mikie comes back in time to block the third slap, which is observed by Jimi Ray - nice block. Nicolai (of course he's there) comes over to see what's wrong, and asks if Mikie's "spider sense" has gone off. Oh yeah, and Ghaer could be in trouble. Nicolai and Mikie head that way, Mikie stopping to phone Ghaer, to warn him of impending trouble, but he can't say what exactly.

Treal is stuck in his room, with a tridee that only kind of works, and there's a grav-ball game on. He tries to reason with his guard, but to no avail, so he decks him and heads for the rec room. An MP has seen the altercation, yells at Treal to halt, and fires off a shot in the air. Treal darts ahead to the rec room, sending the marines with weapons off in the direction of the MP, saying "There's some ass---- up there with a gun." He sits down amongst the others in the rec room, until a sergeant comes in and sends the marines off to search for an armed intruder. When the men leave, the sergeant turns the game back on, and Treal asks if he can join him as he is not active duty and the sergeant asks what he's doing there. Treal explains the governor has put him there, so he's invited to have a seat. The game is a good one.

Nicolai and Mikie are making their way through the people to Ghaer, and a man in a white uniform (navy) asks the barrista if Ghaer Raller is there. The barrista replies "The lieutenant-governor? He's right over there." The naval man uses his commo unit, and moves towards Ghaer's table as Nicolai gets through.

"That's the son of a bitch who hit me, " is the statement from Treal's guard. The sergeant asks "Is that true, did you pound on my marine?" Treal responds with "No sir, if I'd pounded on him he'd be in much worse shape." The sergeant takes Treal's side, as a combat veteran, over the marine who let a "civilian" beat on him. He'll need some extra duty to toughen him up. "Popcorn?" Treal says yes.

Ghaer is wondering if he can evade the two captains who just came in, and he tries to dart out. Nicolai decides to provide a distraction by spilling coffee on some one. "You clumsy oaf", says the man who gets up. And up. The sun is blotted out for a moment, several people faint. "You did that on purpose." Now this is a distraction! Nicolai tries to apologize, but the large man picks Nicolai up, and asks "Are you evil?" Nicolai responds with "No, of course not." Then Krag asks "Do you believe?" Nicolai says "Yes, I believe." "Say it with me - I believe!" Gee, it's an old-fashioned revival meeting in the Bread and Bean. Krag wants Nicolai to join him in "converting the heathen". Jimi Ray is in awe - it's Krag Kyron the ex-grav-ball player! Wow, he's a legend! (Jimi Ray's dad coaches college grav-ball.)

Krag, still holding his "brother in Jesus", announces that evil better beware as he and his brother are there to kick evil's butt. No one is going to mess with the deranged man. Certainly not one that big. Krag wants to hear everyone say Amen! "amen" "No, like you mean it- AMEN!" "AMEN". Krag leaves, but he'll be back. Oh boy.

Ghaer manages to leave during the mess. Jimi Ray then sees two tall, very fit men who move like cats come into the coffee shop. They are asking people if they have seen the man in the picture they are showing - it's Krag. They ask Jimi Ray if he saw him, and where he was going? Yes, he was here, but no, he didn't see where he went. One of the CRI asks Nicolai if he saw which way Krag went, but Nicolai was busy trying to get his breath back after having it squeezed out of him. They give Nicolai a card with a phone number, just in case he sees Krag. Apparently, they are working on a "deprogramming job", but they just have to deliver. Nicolai hopes they've brought help, and gives them a card with his phone number, just in case.

Ghaer returns to find a captain in his office. Some one wants to speak with Ghaer. Ghaer asks who that would be, and is told "my boss. Shall we go?" The captain looks tough and has no visible ship id's or anything. They go to the Governor's office, where Grand Admiral Grey is waiting. Grey wants to know where the Governor is. "En route to Jewell, sir. He has left me in charge of things, as lieutenant-governor." Grey raises an eyebrow, and says he heard as much, but could not believe that "even Androchev would be deranged enough to leave a butterbar in charge of a planet." Ghaer attempts to convince Grey that things are really not that bad at the moment, but Grey is obviously not happy. Grey tells Ghaer that while he has more than enough lieutenants, he has a shortage of NCO's. Ghaer is bumped back down to sergeant, although he gets an extra rocker for time served at rank (making Ghaer a first sergeant), he'll be able to retire at his highest rank, and he has orders so what is he doing still here? "Because I haven't saluted yet sir!" He salutes, and exits, stopping to give some paperwork to the poor bastard Grey is putting temporarily in charge, Captain Olivetti. Ghaer has taken too long, and Grey steps out and says "Belay that order sergeant." Ghaer is too pack his kit and report to the flagship - Ghaer was obviously not fast enough! This explains Mikie's vision, maybe.

Viper will be on Regina for 48 hours, so she can go say hello and visit people, shoot a few people, etc. She was going to say hello to Viktor's wife, but she's missed her, so she leaves a calling card. Then she visits Ghaer, who tells her that he'll be joining them on the ship to Jewell, just because. She won't interfere, since Ghaer has his orders.

Ghaer gives Nicolai a quick call, to let him know he's going to be gone. Nicolai is asked to watch out for Mikie if he can, as he and Pamela have a "situation" going on. Also, there is some kind of weirdness going on down on the planet, and if Nicolai happens to run into Treal Delgado, he may end up investigating the goings on dirtside. Or not, if Treal has anything to say about it.

Chang and Stern, once they wake up, get to play around with the warbots, and blow up some stuff. Cool. Chang's robot Jack is a scout-bot, and has all sorts of sensors, and Chang tells Stern that "my 'bot Jack says you're wearing pink underwear", but Stern states he doesn't wear pink underwear. "They're salmon." Oh. Stern gives Chang his tickets to Jewell (the best class of course) on Tukera luxury liner, files on the people he needs to know about, and enough money for the trip and to take care of Ramirez, who can be replaced as the head of the junta if he doesn't cooperate and give SternMetal the mining rights they want. After all "we've had one coup, we can always have another". Chang may have found out more than he wanted, but oh well.

Viper gets a chance to go hang out at the Oaks. Where people will not call her "Your Grace", which irritates her. She invites the Griffins to dinner, and they are free. Viper's husband comes too, in civilian clothing. They go to the Oaks, to avoid annoying people.

Nicolai gets a panic call from the CRIs he gave his phone number to. They appear to need help. Guess they found Krag. Nicolai goes to Christi's picks up his gear, and saunters down to help them. Once he gets close, he can hear what sounds like elephants wrestling. He pauses, looks at his watch, then sneaks closer. It's a storage area, a nice discreet place. He can't see anything, and it's gotten all quiet. Oh, except for the quiet groaning. Nicolai moves in closer, and Krag leaps out and hugs him. "Hi buddy." Nicolai asks if Krag has "caught those evil guys?" Krag replies "Yup, I've got them trussed up like chickens, and I was getting ready for the exorcism." He hefts his axe. "But first we must pray." Nicolai goes along with him, noticing he has several tranq darts sticking out of him. Krag eventually does keel over asleep, and Nicolai frees the two CRI. One was duct-taped to the wall, the other was tied a beam with wire. They are willing to agree with Nicolai that it's time to call it a day and get the hell out of town; no job is worth this. As they leave, they hear a sort of purring sound, but Nicolai decides he does not want to know; sounds like a dozen or so purring things.... They make a stop at Regina Trauma, en route to a ship off. It's quite the occasion at the hospital, since Nicolai is unhurt, and he didn't even do the damage.

Chang gets invited to the "lodge", and a car is sent for him. Along with an APC, and a bunch of motorcycles. The overly brocaded assistant to Ramirez is in charge. Chang puts his warbots in the APC (they mostly fit). The motorcade moves out. They arrive at the lodge, and Ramirez, a young female under each arm, greets his new friend. They will have lunch, and take care of business, before the hunt later on. They have the "public" paperwork, and the private paperwork, and the large pile of money. Ramirez is really only interested in the latter, and has no problem with the SternMetal people being in place in 24 hours, so Chang makes a call to set things in motion. Business concluded.

Ramirez tells Chang that they have something "interesting" in store for tonight. "A multiple murderer, he was on death row, and I'm told he's quite clever." Chang wants to use his warbots, but Ramirez insists that if they use the 'bots to hunt the prey down, the actual kill should be made personally. Chang tries to explain that his preferred prey is corporations and planets, not people. He's after profit and resources, that's his "hunt". If he wanted to kill people, that would be easy. Ramirez counters "Well, why don't you come along any way, you might enjoy it." Chang will go along with that.

After several hours of hunting, the prey is still at large. Then he drops out of the trees onto Chang, and the fight is on. The warbot isn't able to get a clear shot at its target, as the fight continues. After a few minutes the 'bot is able to hit the target with it's laser pistol, by firing through Chang's neck. Ow. But, it does serve the purpose of taking down the target, even if it does cause damage to Chang. General Ramirez is disappointed, and kicks the body. Oh well, back to the lodge for the drunken orgy!

Chang is medicked somewhat, but still injured, so he begs off for the orgy. Not saying that there is no way in hell he would ever engage in that sort of activity with this sort of people. Ramirez isn't really happy, but he understands when Chang says he has to be at "the site" in the morning. He does send along one of the girls with Chang. Chang picks the least "used" and cynical one, who he offers the choice to stay in his employ and learn to be a massage therapist. She agrees, and will be going with him to Jewell.

105 to 119 - 1122.

Many people en route to Jewell, by varying forms of transport. Corina and Jack in extreme privacy and comfort, so they can discuss the future (Jack can decide what he wants to do with his life later). Chang is in luxury as well, with no real commitments.

Steiner finds herself also on the way to Jewell, as Lord Kalarin and his liege lord, the Ba Notr, command that Steiner attend upon them. They wish to go to Jewell to further study Imperial politics and culture, and Steiner is to come along to explain things. This should be interesting.

Viper and Ghaer are on the same ship, but not in the same class (literally and figuratively). She does go down to visit Ghaer, but it takes a bit of work, as there are several Rallers on board. And the database is not coming up, due to some one not shutting down their computer properly. Not a problem, they just have all the G. Rallers report to the deck 4 assembly room. The Rallers get together and wonder who's in trouble, and try to figure out just how closely they are related. Viper identifies "her Raller", so she gets to see Ghaer.

Ghaer had asked to speak with Viper before they left Regina, and this is the first opportunity. Ghaer wants her to know about the new Solomani ambassador to Rhylanor - Christopher Blaelok. Yes, he was involved in the robot thing last time Viper was on Regina, and Blaelok was one of the Solomani who showed up to make sure she got proper medical treatment. Viper wants Ghaer to give this and the rest of the information to William as well. So Ghaer will dine with the Greys later tonight.

On their way to Rhylanor, speaking of which, Will arranges to get the elevator key so he and Bunny can have sex in an elevator. The purser would really prefer to not have quite so much information next time, thank you. Will does get the key though. Bunny is in for a surprise.

Ghaer gets an invitation to mess, and will dress appropriately. They will be dining with some other officers, as Grey had not told Viper about that. It's not a problem though. After dinner, the Greys have a private conversation with Ghaer, who gives them the low down on Blaelok, Pamela, the "enhancements", Veronica Liu, etc. Grey listens to the whole thing without saying a single word. He then thanks Ghaer, and dismisses him. Ghaer leaves the lofty reaches, and goes back down to the more comfortable areas of the sergeants' mess.

Viktor and his family arrive on Jewell first, so they get to take a break and sun themselves on the beach. Vasilli needs sun and fresh air.

120 - 1122.

Everyone has at last arrived on Jewell. Corina gets the red carpet treatment in spades, definitely the 'ducal treatment'. They do not play "Darth Vader's theme". Paolo Astridi greets Corina effusively, picking her up in a hug. She whispers "Paolo, if you cop a feel, I'm going to knee you in the groin." Paolo is hurt, really... Then he and Jack get to do the manly handshake thing. Testosterone, don't you love it.

Astridi gives Corina and Jack a ride in his limo, and they discuss the rebuilding of the palace, etc. Turns out Paolo has spoken with Ming-Na Ling very recently, and she's whispered many interesting suggestions in his ear.

They arrive at the palace, and my God it's huge. Enormous statues, tons (literally) of marble, etc. Trés ostentatious. It's not grotesque, Astridi has very good taste, but boy is it huge. On the other hand, for the Archduke, it makes sense. And it's perfect for the College of Peers. Corina leans over to Jack and whispers "If I start to ask if our room has sprinklers, just elbow me in the ribs." Jack nods.

The Armstrongs are shown to their quarters, which has enough room for servants, etc. Astridi then goes off to attend to his other guests, and leaves the Armstrongs to rest up from their trip.

Ghaer is brought to Grey, who informs him that as he is going to be involved in political business, Ghaer is to attach himself to the Duchess, and make sure that no harm comes to her. Gosh, it's a dream come true for Ghaer - he's been ordered to throw himself in front of some one.

Grand Admiral Grey gets precisely the reception he should - nothing more, nothing less. Viktor informs his wife that the vacation is over. Then he gets a phone call from Ghaer. "Hi Vik!" Viktor wants to know what Ghaer's doing here?? Ghaer tells him he's no longer lieutenant-governor, and is a sergeant again, and he tells Viktor who the new lieutenant-governor is (one of Grey's men). Viktor puts in a request to speak with the Grand Admiral, at his convenience, naturally.

Grey has set up shop at the Naval Command Center, where he commandeers an office. Viktor goes there to see him. Grey tells his wife that he's going to be stuck with business for today, so Viper should go shopping for clothes or something. Grey tells her "I'm accumulating money faster than you've been spending it, so please go out and get rid of some of it." Viper asks "Can I buy guns?" "Indulge yourself dear." With a "Yahoo!" Viper is off shopping with Ghaer.

Viktor is shown in to see Grey, past people murmuring in a less than comforting manner, and waits until the Grand Admiral looks up and acknowledges him. Viktor has asked to see Grey because he feels he needs to be given some information about the newly appointed Solomani ambassador to Rhylanor. Grey has already received the bona fides of the new ambassador, in his capacity as Duke of Rhylanor. Viktor gives Grey the information on the Blaeloks, and then tells Grey that he also would like the appropriate clearance to see the information on Regina Security. Grey has a file brought in, unseals it, looks, and tells Viktor that the information is "need to know". Viktor then tells him that the director of Regina Security has been "uncooperative", so Viktor has not been able to accomplish everything he wanted to.

Grey is not terribly interested in all that. He has two things to tell Viktor. First, "I gave an order about senior NCOs, and I expect my orders to be followed, not only to the letter, but in the spirit. The good of the service outweighs anyone's personal needs. And that's the last I'll say about that issue." Pause for dramatic effect. "Second, we have decided to promote you. The 6th Corps requires a commanding officer as they have just lost theirs. An incident involving the natives and a half ton of explosives under a bridge. I can spare a military governor more easily than I can a lieutenant-general, especially since the governership will be taken care of at the College of Peers. " So, Viktor will be free after the College to go to Tulane and take command. It's a real combat position, requiring no political dealings. Viktor asks about the command of the 4417th, but that has already been taken care of by Grey. It's both a promotion, and a punishment, depending on how you view it. Now Viktor just needs to break it to his wife.

Viper and Ghaer have gone over some security issues, just in case, then off to shop. Viper isn't much of a clothing shopper, but she does so love to shop for guns. She does have to deal with some reporters, and some autograph hounds, but it's not too bad. The magazines that cater to the nobility watchers have many reporters and photographers on hand. Fortunately, Viper's other liveried servants are well-trained in handling this sort of thing, and there are lots of media 'victims' around, while Ghaer worries about snipers in the construction cranes. .

Corina, on the other hand, eats up the publicity stuff, and the "adoring crowds", and she does give off the cuff interviews. Naturally, her coming to Jewell to claim her ancestral rights is the subject of much speculation. She is told that "it's rumored that you were once the Archduke's lover, will that color your chances at all?" That is too many open traps in that sentence, so the reporter is told to ask the Archduke.

Corina will be working the parties, etc. And she gets to run into Le Marquis Claude d'Aubisson, who naturally has an impromptu poem, and has a nice chat with her while Jack looks disapprovingly at the effete marquis. D'Aubisson wants to paint her, and gives her his card before leaving. As soon as he does leave, Jack announces "He's gay." Corina tells him that he may or may not be gay, but he is an extremely good contact, which Jack agrees with. Corina will arrange to be painted when Jack is off "getting the lay of the land" before all the formal events. She calls d'Aubisson to make an appointment for 9:00 a.m., earlier than d'Aubisson normally rises, but "you will be my morning sun".

Viktor tells Katarina that he has good news, and bad news, which does she want first? She wants the good news first, so he tells her that he's been promoted to lieutenant-general. That's very good news, and a very fast promotion. Wait a minute. "Why did they promote you so quickly?" "That's the bad news." He tells her about his new assignment, and she has to ask one of her assistants about where exactly Tulane is. When she's briefed, she is not too happy. She'll see if she can fix this. "What exactly caused this?" Viktor tells her that "Admiral Grey was unhappy with my performance on Regina. It could have been worse." Katarina will try to "do something about this." She will arrange to go riding with Grey's wife, and see what can be done. Viktor knows full well that Grey went easy on him, very easy, and he makes sure that Katarina knows it. Viktor will be spending the rest of his time on Jewell lobbying for Jenghe as the site of the new naval facility. Hell hath no fury...

As befits the Ba Notr, he has a "bodyguard" of 1,000 Sengi. The Ba Notr was handpicked by the Kaesthra to replace him a leader of his clan, and he's a forward-looking sort of man. It's a veritable population explosion, what with all the jai, etc.

It will be a couple of weeks before the actual meeting of the Peers. So people can lobby and or mingle. Viktor hangs out with Ghaer when they don't have other duties. And the Solomani ambassador to Rhylanor appears, fancy that!

Elsewhere, Will gets Bunny into an elevator, uses the key, covers up the camera, and mad passionate sex ensues. And Bunny is an excellent bridge player, so she truly is the woman of his dreams.