For Old Times Sake.

176 -1122.

On Regina, in the bleeping woods, Ghaer, Nicolai, and Mikie have gotten out of the area immediately around the escape pod. They hope to avoid any awkward conversations with the people in the landing ship. Amazingly enough, the ship lands right by the escape pod. Qu'elle surprise!

The ship turns off it's navigation lights as soon as it lands, which is a safety violation. The good guys are hiding behind some large rocks and boulders. In the quiet after the landing jets shut off, Nicolai can make out the sound of water nearby - unfortunately it's the sound of rain falling on the trees.

A voice booms out from above the group: "You in the woods! All we want is the Solomani. Turn him over and you'll be able to go home safe and well rewarded." Yeah, right!

Corina, visiting the Ling offices Up Port, is given the reports for Xavier Ling who is not available. They have "the objective in sight", and want to know if they should still kill the others if they turn over the Solomani? They have nerve gas. Corina doesn't want people using nerve gas on her planet. She goes to see Xavier, who is "in a meeting." Corina knocks, then enters; Xavier pushes the female off his lap...

Corina wants Xavier to make sure no one uses nerve gas, and "this is being handled very badly". Xavier agrees, and says "You're right. This needs a woman's touch." And he dumps some papers in front of her. Corina reminds him that she no longer works for Ling Standard LIC. He knows that, but the papers are Ming-Na's instructions to Corina. Evidently Ming-Na has decided that if the Solomani can make CRI, Ling Standard should be able to make better ones. And there's a report from a scientist, stating that the research could be sped up considerably by using a live specimen - they can do psychological testing, and then vivisection. Corina isn't sure she dislikes Ming-Na enough to let her have Nicolai (talk about "the Ransom of Red Chief"!).

The voice continues above the trees. And the rain is getting harder, and colder. Mikie is particularly miserable (this outdoors stuff is really, really annoying). Now the voice is asking "Is it cold out there??" Bastards. They keep moving through the woods.

There is some kind of disagreement over which Ling is stuck with this disaster. Xavier decides that fine, he'll take care of it. He calls the team, and tells them to "roll up the operation". Corina reminds him that she doesn't want nerve gas used, or any unnecessary casualties. So Xavier tells his people to "put in the finishers yourself, so you don't take out any civilians". Corina is unhappy about this, especially since one of her staff may be down there. Xavier says to not worry, he'll handle things. Okay. Corina leaves.

Corina calls Jack, tells him it's time to go "shoot some doves" down on planet. He's to get some shotguns and ammo and join her. Jack doesn't want to go, as he's in the middle of his massage, but when Corina says "Fine. I'll just go by myself then," Jack agrees to get up. They meet at Corina's ship, where she gives her pilot the afternoon off.

Jack has arrived smelling really nice, and Corina wonders why she wasn't the one "rubbing all those places?" Jack replies "Because you don't have hands like Hector." Then it's off to the place indicated on the Ling Standard report, after consulting some planetary maps. Turns out the area isn't owned by anyone, and is available for claiming under the veterans homesteading law. Corina files a claim, after noting that the mining rights had been signed over to SternMetal by the late General Ramirez. Shortly before his death. The same day as his death, as a matter of fact. How interesting.

Back in the woods, the rain is getting heavier, and the hillside is sliding downhill as Nicolai, Ghaer, and Mikie try to get down off the hill. The ground is starting to stabilize, as it gets flatter. There's a rumbling coming from up the hill, but it's too dark to see anything. Oh-oh. Ghaer decides they need to rope together, just in case, then they try moving laterally, as they can't outrun a mudslide.

Corina takes her ship into the atmosphere. Her thought is to take out the grav car with the wash. Or land the ship on it, if it comes to that.

As Mikie is slogging along in the muck, all miserable, a large dark object looms up and hits him, knocking him to the ground. It's the grav car, travelling about a metre above the ground. They take off, laughing about having "got one". Very funny. Ghaer and Nicolai help Mikie up.

After some damned fancy flying, Corina gets through the atmosphere, using the manual joystick. Fortunately, Jack has sang froid. Although he does ask "What would happen if that lightning were to hit us?", as they move through the storm clouds. Corina's response is "Nothing, the first time."

Ghaer, Nicolai, and Mikie look up to see that it has gotten worse: a large flaming meteorite, or missile is headed right for them. The grav vehicle tries to get away, in a low altitude high-speed run, but Corina deliberately hits the grav vehicle with the wash. As her ship passes over the group, they are sent tumbling into the water, but they are warm for a few seconds. The grav car does not fare well; it gets hit by the shock wave, and wipes out on the water, disintegrating.

Corina flies the ship back to where the grav vehicle was originally, hoping to find Nicolai, et al. She's not walking back all that way, especially in this shitty weather. She explains to Jack about Xavier's muck up, and why they are on planet. They will pick up Ghaer, Nicolai, and whoever else, before Xavier figures out what she's up to. Now they just have to locate the unfortunates. They could announce over the loudspeakers that they have champagne and massage oil on board, and see if anyone wants to join them?

Jack has an idea, and sets up the speaker for the karaoke machine in the hatchway. Corina calls to Ghaer. Being very careful not to touch the incredibly hot exterior skin of the ship, Ghaer and friends head that way, since now they know it's not the Ling ship coming for them. Corina lifts as soon as everyone is on board.

A Naval vessel contacts the ship to ask if they need assistance, since the bow is still glowing. Corina accepts the escort, as her ship is not classified for atmospheric flight except in case of emergency. No one is going to bother them now. Jack takes the three muddy men into one of the rooms to get rinsed off before they track even more mud all over the place. (Well, gee, it's not like it was on purpose.) The fresher is so huge that it almost induces agoraphobia, and after going through the hot water shower with the pulsing, alternating shower heads, Mikie feels much better (although he may have to tell Theresa he's been unfaithful).

Corina calls ahead for a limo to be waiting when they arrive on Up Port, so that her "guests" can get into the car before disembarking the ship. The berth next door has a very new, very high tech ship in it, bearing the Solomani logo. Lovely.

En route to the Dukedome, Corina explains why Nicolai was picked up: they wanted a CRI sample, and Nicolai was the only one handy, since he tends to either shoot or chase off any others. She suggests that Nicolai enter into a contractual agreement to become a Ling Standard employee, to get some kind of protection. He can't hope to beat Ling Standard at their own game, and he might not be able to run far enough, so his best hope is to come to an agreement that gives them the genetic samples, etc. they want. Or Nicolai might be able to get out of this if he can provide an alternative CRI for the company (like one of the guys that keeps showing up trying to kill him). Nicolai tells Corina that the ISA has a whole squad of CRI, and maybe Ling Standard should just ask them for some.

Corina also tells Nicolai that she has put herself at risk to save him. His response is "Oh, so now I OWE you", in a sarcastic tone., She tells him "no, I didn't do it to save you", it was because she made the mistake of telling Ghaer that Nicolai was in trouble. She explains that Ming-Na was ill-advised to go after Nicolai, she didn't know him, and it was actually "Xavier, that spineless little jerk who was behind the incident; the whole operation was screwed up in it's conception, and it was screwed up in it's execution". Nicolai can't get any guarantees of safety, even if he does come to an agreement with Ling, but life doesn't come with any guarantees. She's just telling him what she'd do. What Nicolai doesn't mention is that he feels the technology used to create the CRI is something that is exclusively Solomani, and as such should be protected from other governments or corporations.

Corina asks Mikie if he knows a "discreet source of medical help", so he directs her to Anders' clinic. Nicolai and Mikie go in to get medicked while Ghaer debriefs for Corina (he'll just go to Regina Trauma later). He tells her what happened on board the Ling Standard ship, and afterwards.

Mikie feels an odd sort of prickling sensation when Reid (Anders' husband, Reid Darcy) looks at him (Reid is a telepath, and Mikie knows it). Interesting, this is the first time since the "operation" that Mikie has had any telepathic "inklings". This is good. Right?

Nicolai and Mikie are cleaned out, patched up, and leave feeling much better. Nicolai, due to the Regen, leaves feeling incredibly hungry, so he wolfs down a couple of Atomic Pizzoids before going home to crash with Christie.

Mikie goes home to Theresa, who just figured he had to work a bit late, so it's not a problem. Although he may have to explain the bruising.

It's lunchtime when Corina gets done with Nicolai, etc. She goes to the Foundation, and has lunch with Victoria. She tells Victoria that she's going to have a baby, and asks if she will help take care of a baby brother or sister. Victoria wants to know if she can name the baby, and Corina tells her she can certainly help. It's a secret for now, just between the family. Corina then decides to discuss with Jack the vanilla-scented massage oil that's been driving her crazy all day. Some time later, Corina returns to her office.

Corina meets with Black to discuss the situation about the lack of government on Regina. And has she decided what she wants to do about the government? Corina wants to hold a constitutional convention to draw up a constitution, etc. for Regina. Black isn't sure that this is the best choice, as he believes that form of government is "a bit vague", and people need a figurehead or symbol. They agree on a "constitutional monarchy", as a good thing to move towards, with the monarch having absolute power over the budget. Black will have his Martel draw up a short, vague statement. Nicely written, but not really specific, so no one can complain.

Corina tells Black about SternMetal, Ramirez, and the mining rights. Very interesting; Black will look into it. Black asks if Corina has read the "interesting news article" yet? No, but she does take a look at the Free Thoughts article. Corina decides the Regina Police department should investigate these crimes, and find out who is responsible. And if during the investigation Free Thoughts should withhold evidence, then they will have to answer to the authorities. Corina calls Globber, and expresses her concerns about the contents of the Free Thoughts article. If she were a criminal investigator, she would want to find out what the names and sources of all this information are. Globber explains that the actual writers of Free Thoughts are unknown, and the police have not been able to find out who the writers are, or how they get paid. They do know that the company Blanc-Noir et Cie is the primary source of the paper's funding, and they haven't been able to obtain any information on the company, which is privately owned, and banks with the Banque de Geneve. Globber seems to think that this is not really possible, but Corina really feels that it's important to get to the bottom of this matter. Globber will see to it.

Mikie goes home to find out that Theresa has made reservations at one of the restaurants on the park, as there's going to be a thunderstorm in the park, and won't it be romantic? Mikie manages to repress the twitch. As long as the restaurant is warm...

Theresa is very perky, and full of energy. She wants to go dancing, and everything. Mikie eventually has to fess up to his activities, more or less. Theresa is not happy about Mikie's friends getting him into trouble. Again. "Don't you have any nice friends?" "Theresa, those are my nice friends." Ghaer and Kirrhl are discussed, followed by cuddling and sleep.

Ghaer gets stuck working a double shift, since he's "all rested up". Hah!!

177 - 1122.

Nicolai wakes up feeling much better, and to the smell of tea. When Nicolai goes into his kitchen, Blaelok apologizes for not remembering how Nicolai takes his tea. Lovely. Blaelok is going to file a "formal protest", as no one should be able to mess with a Solomani. How sweet. Nicolai asks who is trying to sell out the CRI this time, and Blaelok doesn't know, but he intends to find out, as the Solomani wish to maintain the exclusivity of the CRI process. Nicolai suggests Blaelok ask the people directly involved: "Ming-Na Ling, who I understand you know, and Xavier Ling". Nicolai wants to go with Blaelok when he speaks with Xavier, and they agree to meet at 2:00 pm at the Tea House. When Blaelok leaves, Nicolai pours out the tea, and disposes of the cup, just in case. He sees that the tin Blaelok was using has old Terran Russian cyrillic writing on it. Nicolai writes down the address, and will keep the tin, but he dumps out the tea. When he does so, a small piece of paper flutters out: "What a waste of perfectly good tea."

Nicolai goes to the Bread and Bean for tea, then goes to the Laughing Cadaver. He orders tea, and when Bernard brings it, Nicolai decks him. Bernard hits the back of the bar, slumps down, and lets out a single low sigh as he expires. It's the Cadaver, so no one bothers Nicolai when he leaves.

Nicolai goes home, and writes a new article for Free Thoughts. It's submitted via a newsgroup, anonymously.

Xavier arranges to speak with Corina, and he wants some advice. He has a meeting with the Solomani Ambassador, Blaelok, who has filed a protest with the government over the treatment of the Solomani citizens on Regina. Corina feels that this makes it something official, so she shouldn't have anything to do with this. Xavier needs to know how to handle Blaelok, and if he should try playing hardball with him. Corina manages to not laugh, but she does tell Xavier that Blaelok is "enhanced", and very dangerous. She suggests he try to be "inscrutable". Xavier figures he can accomplish this, but he obviously still feels that this Blaelok guy is just going to be some kind of pretty boy, and no problem. Corina can't take any more, so she rings off.

Ghaer makes himself popular by bringing the decaf coffee to Corina. Jack asks where his coffee is. Next time Ghaer will bring two coffees. Jack, assuming that Ghaer already knows, makes a comment about Corina needing to be spoiled, due to her "condition" and all. Corina doesn't kill Jack, although she does try to impress upon Jack the need to not tell everyone just yet!!!

Mikie has happily returned to the Discarding Sabot, which is warm and dry. Irving is very pleased to tell Mikie about the test of the new fire suppression system he missed yesterday. It dumps several thousand gallons of water in a very short period of time, and Mikie asks that Irving never set it off when Mikie's around, unless it's absolutely necessary (like for a fire). Please. Irving understands, and he shares his coffee cake with Mikie; no bugs, really. Irving also warns Mikie that "that blonde woman was in looking for you", and "she's not right - she was kind of twitching". Great, just great. And no, she's not "right".

Nicolai meets Blaelok at the Tea House. As they are early, they discuss Pamela, about whom Nicolai has been hearing disturbing things. It appears that Pamela's old personality is resurfacing, and she has refused Blaelok's invitation to see him. There are pharmaceuticals that can help, but they have to be administered up close and personal. No, she doesn't have any control codes (Blaelok has lived with codes, and didn't want it for Pamela), and Blaelok does not want her dead. He wants to get her off Regina, to proper medical care on Rhylanor. In exchange for his help, Nicolai wants to know what happened to Veronica Liu? Blaelok explains that "she was playing outside of her league, and when the guppy tries to swim with the sharks..." Blaelok believes it was George that killed her; not only had she formed a "relationship" with George, but she was bringing him in on ops, and Blaelok believes that George's positronic brain just couldn't handle it. Blaelok did not wish Ms. Liu dead, as this would have resulted in an unknown replacement, and a waste.

Then Xavier Ling arrives, pipe in hand, looking "inscrutable". Or constipated - hard to tell. Introductions are made, and the business of Nicolai's experience with megacorp personnel is reviewed. Ling Standard doesn't take part in things like that, do they? Xavier looks uncomfortable and hopes "that you get whoever was responsible". Blaelok assures him he will. And makes comments about the Solomani having extensive experience with biomedical manipulation, and how the tea, for example, could contain a tailored microbe that causes a small growth on the brain, hideously painful, that could only be helped by a drug that is impossible to obtain in the Marches. Xavier runs to the restroom.

When Xavier returns, looking unwell, Blaelok sets up one of his little high tech sound dampers on the table, and gets directly to the point. "I understand that you are trying to be inscrutable. To make certain there are no misunderstandings, I will be direct: Mr. Volkov is under my protection, and the protection of my government. If anything untoward should happen to him, I will hold you, Xavier Ling, responsible." Blaelok goes on to parrot back some of the conversation Xavier had with Corina, and to point out that the Ling family will not miss Xavier (it's just an opportunity to move up in the corporation). Xavier is dismissed, and leaves, very quickly. Blaelok wants Nicolai to consider this a partial payment towards his help with Pamela, and he will be in contact about Pamela.

Nicolai dashes off an order to the tea company on Terra, then goes to the Bread and Bean for tea (he did not drink any with Blaelok). If anyone were watching carefully, they might notice his hand shake slightly. Then a very attractive female slinks into the chair beside him, and purrs "Did you miss me?" Nicolai tells Pamela "No." She smiles, snaps the dried blood off her skirt (TL 15 Scotchguard), and asks Nicolai to "Be a dear and get me a cup of coffee will you? I've had a hell of a night." Nicolai gets her a cup of coffee.

Irving tells Mikie about the bartender at the Cadaver getting his face pushed in by some big guy who ordered tea, and then decked him. "I guess he didn't like his tea." Irving isn't sure which bartender it was, but they were unable to resuscitate him. He'd been without oxygen for over six minutes, so he would have been really happy about his job, all contented like. Irving comments about how odd it is that humans can only go without breathing for a few minutes, unlike Pikhans, who can evidently hold their breath for 15 minutes. Really? Naturally, Irving has to demonstrate this, and he does. Cool.

Ghaer calls the Solomani Consulate, speaks with Claire, and asks to speak with the Ambassador. Blaelok is not available, but he will be given the message.

Pamela is very friendly, discussing things with Nicolai. She brings up "what's her name", and asks if Nicolai is tired of her yet? No? Then she brings up decadent Solomani women being the only ones who would be able to satisfy his "special needs". Nicolai's twitch gets really serious briefly. Pamela has developed a tick or two of her own, including one involving her implants and the tabletop (snick, snick). She picks up a few young men, and goes "barhopping". Nicolai calls Blaelok to tell him what happened, and Blaelok asks that he follow Pamela.

Then Blaelok shows up at D.S., to ask for Mikie's help in getting Pammie some help. Mikie tells him that no kidding she needs help, and she's evidently remembering her past "death", which is not good. This surprises Blaelok, who points out that this certainly makes it in Mikie's best interest to help get Pamela the assistance she needs. Mikie agrees to help get her to a "discreet location", and if Blaelok wants to ask Ghaer for help, that's up to him.

Five minutes after Blaelok leaves, who should come sauntering in but Pammie and the boys. She plops herself down at the bar, and orders drinks for her party, and tells Mikie to pour one for himself. (Mikie does, but it doesn't contain alcohol.)

Ghaer, having a nice cup of coffee at the Bread and Bean, is hassled by a pair of squids, just off a Navy ship. "Look, it's Tinklie-Winklie! Or is it Ling-Ling?" Sigh. A Weseli talks to them for a few minutes, offering to exchange Imperial credits for local Neuts (which are not used any more), and he gives Ghaer a wink as he leaves. The squids are pleased at having "screwed the little guy", but then they try to pay for their coffees with "local currency", which of course is not accepted. Then one of them tries to leave his watch as security, but his watch is missing. They end up being escorted to the kitchen. Live and learn.

Ghaer leaves, and heads for D.S. He notices Nicolai hanging around outside, and stops to chat. It's quite a party inside, with Pamela paying lots of attention to the boys, and dropping some wadded up bills into Mikie's shirt. Then Blaelok shows up, and stops to see Nicolai and Ghaer, agreeing that Ghaer's involvement will be strictly unofficial if things go badly, and part of a well-planned operation if things go well. They decide to wait a bit, to let Pammie party herself out, or at least to the point of being impaired, before trying to bring her "back into the fold". Normal tranq will have no effect on Pammie, but they just ("JUST"?) need to restrain her long enough for Blaelok to give her an injection, at the base of the skull. Should be a piece of cake.

Ghaer goes in to scope out the action, taking a seat at the bar, which is quite busy. Mikie takes a moment to call Theresa and let her know he may be working a bit late. Some one in the bar sees Ghaer and makes a "Look! Here's Tinklie-Winklie!" Pamela looks over, and calls Ghaer over, like one would a puppy. She asks where Nicolai is, and Ghaer tells her he's "nesting or something". She's concerned that he's let Ghaer off by himself: "Isn't he worried you'll get lost?", and she has Ghaer join her party. Ghaer joins her, and tries to encourage other unattached males to join in the fun.

Ghaer asks Mikie to make sure he's not "stingy" with Pamela's drinks, but she's been drinking straight vodka with a twist! And she's had at least 20 shots already. Good Lord! Ghaer decides that it's not going to get any better, so Nicolai goes in after telling Blaelok he'll try to get a hold on Pamela. Blaelok reminds him to not hurt her, if at all possible. Mikie asks Irving to play something slow and romantic.

And that's when Nicolai comes in, and starts moving towards Pamela. Nicolai cuts in. They dance all nice and close, and Nicolai says "You extended an offer earlier." She smiles and asks "And who will be waiting for me when I step out that door?", and she grabs him, hard, by the neck. Nicolai pulls her hand off, forcefully, and says "Fine, if you don't want to play..." Oh, but now he's piqued her interest. They discuss where to take their "game", and head for the door.

Blaelok steps in the door, with an odd expression on his face. (Odder than normal.) Pamela sees Blaelok, and says "Hi Chris. I'm going to f... Nicolai's brains out. See you later." She suggests they go to the consulate, for the "diplomatic treatment". This is fine with Nicolai, but Blaelok is concerned this might be awkward. Mikie's replacement has arrived some time ago, so he goes to leave. A car with diplomatic plates pulls up, and Nicolai and Pamela get in. Blaelok tranqs the driver, and takes his place. Mikie brings Pamela out a bottle of vodka "for the road". While Mikie is doing this, Blaelok lets Ghaer know to meet them at the large tree in the park.

Blaelok fastens his seatbelt, gains speed, and smashes into the tree. Mikie is watching, and comments "I wonder if he knows that tree has a foam steel core?", just as the car crashes. Pamela is slightly hurt, but mostly seems to find it fun. Blaelok has to remove the steering column from his chest. Nicolai triggers just as Pamela says "Chris?", and goes into scalded cat mode. Nicolai and Ghaer wrestle Pamela, who stands up with both of them on her. Nicolai and Ghaer try to subdue her, and Mikie tries to pull her legs out from under her. It's another one of those life or death struggles, involving icky extended unnatural enhanced bits. Mikie has to go help Blaelok get the injection ready, and then Blaelok announces "She must be held perfectly still." Oh right!!!

Blaelok is not in good shape at all, and tells Mikie he has to do it. He shows Mikie on himself where the injection has to go, and how. Argh. Mikie will try. Nicolai and Ghaer are still trying to "subdue" Pamela, while not dying themselves. And some nearby males are heard yelling "Hey, they're trying to grab that girl!" Now is not the time for civic duty guys, please.

Just as Mikie is about to use the injector on Pamela, he realizes that he can hear Nicolai complaining about "being too old for this shit", but Nicolai's lips aren't moving! This distracts him briefly (the sudden return of telepathic ability, with a vengeance), but he does manage to get the injector part of the way in before she snaps her head, tossing Ghaer away. Then she's on the ground on top of Nicolai, slowly forcing all ten of her bladed fingers into his chest. Mikie lands on her, trying to get the injector all the way in, which distracts Pamela into releasing Nicolai, as Ghaer arrives.

Pamela tries to smash Mikie against the car, but he is able to slip out of the way, so when she hits the back of the car she drives the injector in herself. After an ungodly scream, and a sort of seizure, Pamela falls to the ground. Blaelok tells the others to get away before the police show up, he covers up Pamela with his coat, picks her up, and gets to the other side of the park where a car is waiting. Ghaer and Mikie help Nicolai get to the car, then they all pile in. The driver is directed to the bonded warehouse section, where there's a cargo pod with diplomatic seals on it, and a person with a well cut dark suit opens the pod up. The car drives in.

The driver starts to protest that he didn't sign on for this, but the efficient "doorman" comes by and crushes the driver's trachea. Ghaer medics him, and Blaelok allows it. What the hell. Inside the cargo pod are four very high tech auto-docs. Fortunately, Mikie is unscathed, so that means there's one for all the injured people. After Pamela, Nicolai, and Ghaer are put into the auto-doc, Blaelok asks Mikie to help him. Mikie doesn't see it coming when Blaelok hits him on the side of the neck, knocking him unconscious. Damn.

Some unknown time later, Nicolai, Ghaer, and Mikie all wake up in a really nice hotel room, with the smell of food. They are all nicely healed up (actually, they are in absolutely perfect medical health), and very hungry. The clock says it's 10:00, but not a.m. or p.m., so Nicolai calls down for a newsfax. When it prints out, they find out that they are in the Ambassador Hotel, and they've lost two weeks. TWO WEEKS????

191, 1122.

Mikie calls "Time and Temp" to double check, and sure enough, it's been two whole weeks. Oh bugger. Nicolai calls the Solomani Consulate, to speak with Blaelok, but he's in the other room, and comes in. Pamela is there too, and is back to "normal". Turns out there were problems with the implants and they can cause dementia. Pamela has had all of her augmentations removed, as has Blaelok. They will be leaving Regina soon, once their recovery and a few "minor details" are done.

Mikie is concerned about how he's going to explain the missing two weeks to Theresa, but apparently she, Christie, and Kirrhl aren't back from their trip to the resort on Jenghe. Okay, but that doesn't make up for Blaelok decking him for no good reason. Ghaer's absence was covered up by a request for compassionate leave, due to his mother's illness. This will cover for the absences, but if the ladies compare notes, it could be bad.

The Blaeloks leave the others to their meals, after Pamela apologizes. The bills are already taken care of. Once he reports back to duty, Ghaer is questioned about his presence on Jenghe, as the Regina Security people have pictures of him, Nicolai, and Mikie on Jenghe. Ghaer explains that he doesn't know where her was, but he doesn't remember the last two weeks. The security guys figure that Ghaer is too cool to be lying, and probably mem-wiped himself. Actually, he didn't do it to himself, thank you. They'll be keeping an eye on Ghaer, who hopes they like being bored.

Nicolai is at Christie's making sure the fridge is cleaned, etc. He gets a large box delivered, and it's a brand new gauss rifle (with no serial number), and a smart grenade launcher with a ticket for a really big box (a pallet) at the docks (filled with 144 assorted grenades). All very high tech, of Solomani origin. There are rails on the gauss rifle, and the grenade launcher can be attached to it. Nicolai takes the weapon into the range at MilTech to sight it in, both with the Solomani magazines, and the Imperial ones (both were provided). He attracts a bit of attention, as the rifle is just too cool.

Pamela and Blaelok will be seen around the station for the next few days, arm in arm, all happy like. Nicolai has turned down Blaelok's attempts to get him to accept the position of Solomani Consul, but he does promise to "help out" whoever gets the appointment. Nicolai does want his "permanent file" fixed so it doesn't reflect the unpleasant things it said earlier.

193 - 1122.

Through their newly returned females, Nicolai, Ghaer, and Mikie are invited to a small civil wedding - the Blaeloks'. Naturally, the ladies want to go, and Theresa wants to see what Pamela wears, so it's off to the wedding. Evidently weddings have an interesting effect on Kirrhl, so it's a good thing Ghaer was foresighted enough to reserve a hotel room.


Addendum (out of timeline, but important):

The Sengi, having gotten bored with Jewell once everyone left, head back to Regina. The Ba Notr accompanies Lord Kalarin and his party on board the ship. After a few days of not wanting to deal with it, Steiner goes to see their resident medic, Dr. Butler. Steiner tells Butler that she's discovered she missed her last Lock booster, which she should have gotten a little over a year ago, and she wants to make sure it's "like milk - it doesn't just immediately expire, right?" Dr. Butler explains that no, Lock doesn't just stop being effective all of a sudden, it loses effectiveness gradually. Steiner wants him to test her level, so she'll know if it's still working or not. Dr. Butler draws blood, and leaves Steiner alone while he runs the tests. When he returns, he looks at Steiner and says "Congratulations." Steiner does not faint, she just sits down. Corina and Steiner's doctors both obviously lacked training in tact (female doctors would understand you don't just spring something like that on a woman!).

Steiner is, to put it mildly, a bit stunned by the news. Dr. Butler tells her that he has a theory regarding the VarSengi, and he doesn't believe it would have made any difference if she had been on Lock: due to some of the physical characteristics of the Lords' blood, Lock might be viewed as a "problem" or damage to be taken care of, or overridden. And he was planning on telling people this when?? Good grief, the VarSengi males should have brightly colored warning labels tattooed to their forheads; at least as far as Steiner is concerned. Dr. Butler warns Steiner that there is a possibility that the pregnancy might end before the second trimester, if the fetus is not "genetically viable"; this seems to be something built into the Sengi, to prevent genetic drift. Aside from that, odds are the child will be at least Sengi, possibly VarSengi; if the latter, it will be a ten month pregnancy, not nine. On the other hand, Butler points out that with the Sengi's attitude towards fecundity, Steiner will be very popular once word gets out. The Sengi do not believe sex during pregnancy is a bad thing; come to think of it, the Sengi don't appear to believe that sex is a bad thing period.

Still in a daze, Steiner requests an audience with the Ba Notr and Lord Kalarin, to inform them of her "condition". There is no doubt as to the identity of the father - it's the Ba Notr (Paolo is decidedly on Lock, and there haven't been any other candidates in the relevant time frame). This is taken as good news, although they are not certain how this will effect her ability to perform her duties as rik aler, since this has never happened before (riks are almost always male). They will have to see.

Steiner is left trying to adjust to reality. She is comfortable on the battlefield, but this is something else entirely. Right now she could use a female perspective, but from whom?