Whilst all the pomp and circumstance is taking place on Jewell, Will and Bunny arrive on Rhylanor. The biggest problem is picking up and storing Bunny's luggage (!). Will gets a position at Rhylanor General Hospital, thanks to the letter of recommendation from Dr. Auschlander of Regina Trauma, and Bunny knows lots of people on planet, so she won't get bored while Will is doing the doctor thing.
All is well, until the bills for "a few little things" Bunny needed come in. Bunny has managed to run up $40,000 credit in debt, and she is confused because she thought that doctors made lots of money. Not by Bunny's standards. Will explains the facts of life (financial edition) to Bunny, causing tears and apologies. They should be able to pay off the bills in five months, since Will is a TAS member, and he won't be using the high passage to which he'd entitled each month.
In an attempt to find activities that don't cost large amounts of money, Will introduces Bunny to real camping. Bunny does not discover a hidden love of "roughing it". While in the middle of this experiment, a couple of upper-class types, Gerald van Heuten, and Reggie Blythe-Smythe ride jauntily up to the camp for a little visit. Reggie is sniffing something (i.e., a powdery substance from a small ornate case), and Gerald recognizes Bunny... oh-oh.
"Bunny?" Gerald has his man George bring up a few "necessities" - proper accoutrements like linen, table and chairs, champagne, etc. It's a bit awkward when Gerald and Reggie discover that Will is one of those "working class" types, and the rest of the evening Gerald and Reggie pretty much ignore Will. That's okay - it's not like Will actually likes these twits.
After weeks of parties with Bunny's crowd, and various social events with hospital staff, in between Will's rotations at the hospital, Will comes home to very interesting noises coming from the bedroom. Will pours himself a drink, and waits. Some time later, Gerald emerges from the now quiet bedroom, sees Will, and says "Terribly sorry old chap, I didn't realize you were home." Will tells him to get out of his home, and when Gerald takes too long, Will strong-arms him out the door and locks it in mid protest; Gerald isn't much of a challenge, what with being all squawked out after a long shag. After a while Will goes into the bedroom and wakes the sleeping Bunny for "a talk".
Bunny really is sorry, "it just happened, I didn't mean to..." Will can accept that, but he's worried about Bunny not being happy. Will is even willing to take a position on a luxury liner, which is not really what he wants to do with his career, and Bunny's knows it, but Will is ready to make the sacrifice. They will have to work some things out if their relationship is going to work. Bunny loves Will, not Gerald, and that's what really matters.
Will does run into Gerald, and his little friend Reggie (did Ger's parents not let him have a puppy?), at one of Bunny's soirées. Bunny is off with some girlfriends so she misses the obnoxious comments Gerald makes about Bunny (being an "enjoyable mount") and Will's "shortcomings". Will doesn't care, but he will not tolerate Gerald pulling this kind of stunt in Will's home. Will tells Gerald that if he hurts Bunny, then he will answer to Will. Reggie eventually adds his own lewd remark (gee, he speaks!), and Will tells them both to find a horse if they enjoy "riding" so much, and he leaves. Looks like the current generation of nobility is a wash - too much inbreeding?
Will warns Bunny that Gerald is gossiping about her, and she should be a bit more careful about her choice of companions. If she wants, Will can challenge him to a duel, but he's really not very good at it. Bunny decides to settle things herself. After a few moments, Will hears Bunny's voice raised, and then the sound of a slap. Bunny has slapped Gerald rather soundly, leaving a very visible imprint of her hand on Gerald's cheek - much to the amusement of Gerald's friends and the other guests.
Some days later, Will comes home to find five people in the apartment - Bunny's dad (Count van der Scheusse) and four exquisitely dressed lackeys/muscle. Bunny is out, as her father anticipated. The Count goes through the usual threats alternated with bribes, to no avail. Will loves Bunny, and the Count doesn't have enough money (no one does) to pay Will off. The Count just does not get it, but he does eventually leave. Will checks to make sure he got everything on tape, and sends it off to his Martel lawyer, in case the Count has Will beaten or killed.
Bunny comes home, and Will tells her about "Daddy's" visit. She believes her father really does mean well, it's just that she's all he has left. She will go to his hotel to speak with him; Will thinks this is a good idea, since the Count obviously won't listen to Will.
Bunny returns from visiting her father, very upset. Apparently the Count is dying, and is afraid to be alone. It's some kind of "brain thing", and Bunny wants Will to help. Will suggests that she convince her father to go to Rhylanor General.
Turns out that the Count has seen many doctors, and there really is nothing anyone can do. The Count has a massive brain tumor, and the doctors are amazed that the man is walking around. Will takes Bunny out somewhere really nice for dinner, and breaks the news to Bunny. He has to convince Bunny that he really can't do anything, it's not that he doesn't want to. Will wants Bunny to do whatever she can to make her father's final days as happy as possible, and if that means publicly breaking up for a time, then that's what Will is prepared to do. Since the Count will be staying on Rhylanor, if Bunny needs to make discreet contact with Will, she can do so through the hospital.
Will moves into an even smaller apartment, making it look like he's fulfilled the Count's expectations.
193 to 195 - 1122.
Back on Regina, all is pretty quiet (for Regina, at any rate). The Blaeloks (Chris and Pam) pay a visit to Nicolai to say their good-byes. In Nicolai's house on the planet, not in Christie's apartment on Up Port. Nicolai makes sure it's just the three of them, and Christie is not invited down to have a little visit with Nicolai's evil friends.
The Blaeloks actually do leave Regina, to avoid being thrown off by Corina. Nicolai sees them off, just to make absolutely sure they really go this time, and volunteers to assist the new consul. Blaelok suggests they might be able to locate enough genetic material to clone Mr. LaBland, so "Mr. Griffin doesn't get lonely". Nicolai would prefer they clone Liu if that's what they're going to do. Blaelok comments that he's not surprised by Nicolai's preference, and that the "Duchess seems to have preferred Ms. Liu as well; or at least her secretions." EWWWW! "And then there's Victoria - but that's a matter for another day." Everybody wave bye-bye to the evil people...
195 to 196 - 1122.
Corina's life goes on, with business pretty much as usual, even with the rumors of Corina having commissioned the lewd Percival painting, and the impending gravball game between Frenzy and Regina. Corina has come to an agreement with Stern about their wager: if Frenzy wins, Corina will give Stern an autographed copy of a lithograph of her portrait (she'll get D'Aubisson to sign it as well); if Regina wins, Stern will sing the LingStandard company anthem in the middle of the gravball court. No tattoos this time - been done. Oh, and then there's the Free Thoughts article on Evan Sontag, but that's best left undiscussed.
Nicolai is in the Bread and Bean as usual, when a shifty-looking individual comes in, asks Nicolai is he's "Volkov?", and gives him a package before darting back out of the restaurant. A few seconds later, there's a screech and a thump outside. (Predictable, really.) Nicolai looks in the box, and sees some files and disks, and a partially decomposed pill-like sort of thing. The chemical smell and the pill indicate that these files should have self-destructed but didn't. These evidently were ISA files, and are marked "Eyes Only", and "Project Umbra". Oh-oh. As Nicolai is looking at the contents, he notices a very tall man looking over his shoulder, who makes an interested "Um", kind of noise and then leaves. Nicolai decides he should probably get rid of this stuff before some one gets the wrong idea and shoots him as a spy.
Too late! Ghaer is delivering Corina's coffee when Black arrives to give Corina some very delicate news. Ghaer leaves. Black tells Corina about some missing files, the upset ISA, and the coincidence that Nicolai was given a package by a soon to be deceased individual. The convenient corpse was from off-planet, and had been known to deal with Blaelok. Corina still has a sort of fondness for Nicolai, and doesn't think he would knowingly be involved with something like this - he's not that bright. Black agrees to not go directly to the hard interrogation in the "dentist's chair".
Nicolai has gone to the post office to try to get the package put into the dead letter chute into the reactor, but he can't figure out how to get this done, so he steps out of line and bumps into the 7' tall Aslan who plays power forward for the Rottweilers gravball team. Nicolai apologizes, the Aslan picks up the packages, and hands Nicolai back a package, which is remarkably like his own. Nicolai checks, and sure enough, his package now contains a Regina Rottweilers T-shirt, and an autographed photo of the Aslan. Nicolai says nothing as the Aslan mails "his" package. The Nicolai mails the other package to Blaelok; boy will he be confused.
Nicolai goes for a walk in the park, sees a couple of guys in suits drug and abduct the Aslan, then he gives Mikie a call to invite him and Theresa down to the house for tea later that evening. And to let Mikie know that the Blaeloks have really, truly left Regina. Yea-rah.
Corina gets news that the power forward "interacted" with Volkov, was picked up, possibly by the ISA. They've found the Aslan. Mostly. Apparently the victim of the Slasher. Or not. Corina wants the people responsible found. Now. This is not a good day after all.
Corina sends a letter to Stern:
Gerhart - Really, I can't believe you'd stoop to something like this. Your singing voice can't be that bad, surely!
She doesn't necessarily believe Stern had her power forward killed, but...
Mikie and Theresa get to go see Nicolai's bunker. Er, house. Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rings. It's some delivery guy who has a registered letter for Nicolai Volkov. Nicolai once more makes the mistake of admitting who he is, and signs for the letter. It's written in an elegant, precise hand:
No doubt by this time you're celebrating my departure. I just wanted to give you a little tidbit: I lied about the implant. There never was one. We don't need to use implants when we can do what we need to with simple conditioning. Oh, and when you see Mr. Griffin, let him know that we did not forget him when he was in our care.
Thinking about you.
Nicolai tries to come up with some excuse to get Mikie alone, which is pretty obvious to Mikie, who just asks Theresa to excuse them for a few minutes. She understands, and goes to look around the house. Nicolai shows Mikie the letter. Yeah, well that's Blaelok for you - maybe he had something done, maybe not. He lies so frequently he may not be able to figure out when he's lying himself. Mikie isn't going to worry about it.
Corina goes to the opera with Black. Much witty badinage, many double entendres; if it weren't Black, Corina would think he was hitting on her. Corina admits to Black that she does "find power attractive". In between the acts of treachery and incest, they discuss the political situation, which needs to be stabilized. They decide they may set up Jack as a military leader.
After the opera, Corina goes back to Black's place, where he "whips something up" for them. (To eat.) And he shows Corina the other Percivals, and other paintings. Except for the really scary art.
Nicolai and Mikie discover that Theresa has sort of disappeared. Nicolai tries to use the security system to find her, but it's apparently down. Mikie scans for her, and finds that she's down a couple of levels, with a bunch of aliens. Mikie briefly shares the feeling of eating a very tasty bug, so he tells Nicolai that Theresa is downstairs with a bunch of Pikhans. The Pikhans are taking a break from constructing the escape tunnel. With rails. For the jet-assisted, sled-mounted submarine. Of course. Okay... Then there's the 25,000 kilos of explosives in the basement, disguised as bricks. Oh good.
After a late snack, Black asks Corina what she would do if he made a pass at her? (Run screaming from the apartment would be the recommended course of action for most people.) Corina reminds Black that she is a married woman, and she doesn't think that kind of change in their relationship would be to their advantage. She suggests that "we can fill each other's vulnerable gaps." (Now there's an image...) Black drives Corina home, where she finds Christine and Jack yelling at the sports commentator. Christine leaves to get a ride home. According to Jack, Christine, while "a bit excitable", is actually quite nice.
Mikie and Theresa decline Nicolai's invitation to stay in one of the guest rooms, if they can just find it. The Griffins decline, politely, and go back Up Port. On the shuttle up, Theresa worries that Nicolai and Christie's relationship isn't going anywhere. Mikie isn't going to get into that - it's not his area of expertise. Theresa tells him to not worry, she'll take care of it. Fine and dandy. They get home safely, have a nice time, and then are woken up in the middle of the night by sounds in the room. Mikie gets up to check, and a light it shone in his eyes. From below. Theresa told the Pikhans that their bed squeaked, so they came to fix it. In the middle of the night. Sigh. Before they can be asked to please come back later, they announce that their work is done, and go out through the door underneath the bed. Okay, that will have to be welded shut or something later. Theresa mentions that "this kind of thing never used to happen before I married you", and they get a good laugh out of it. The rest of the night passes peacefully.
197 - 1122.
Nicolai goes exploring, to get to know his new house. Everything is pretty much straight forward, and a lot of things are even labelled. The Pikhans announce that their "work is done here". All that remains is to release the moorings. Moorings? Yes, the house is set in a gel bed, and should settle later.
Ghaer gets a surprise when he gets out of the shower - he's apparently losing his fur! Actually, the brown and grey fur is falling out, to be replaced with puppy soft, very orange and black new fur. Kirrhl helps Ghaer brush out all the fur he's "shedding", and she's a bit surprised to find that it's NOT a kinky dye job after all. Fortunately, she finds stripes sexy. Ghaer does get a bit of sleep before rushing off to get coffee in the morning. Kirrhl sleepily waves good-bye; no one buys lingerie early in the morning, fortunately.
Mikie does get some good news from Mr. Black, of all people. Black has had a "little chat" with Agent Rollings, involving an incident that Rollings had hoped was forgotten. It's not. Black informs Mikie that Rollings will not be bothering him any more. Mikie appreciates it.
The other interesting thing is that Mikie has found himself inadvertantly overhearing other people's conversations - and then noticing that their lips aren't moving. It's gotten very easy to read most people's thoughts now that the telepathy thing is working again.
The newsfaxes are abuzz with the death of the Rottweilers' power forward. Is the Regina Slasher at it again? How will this effect the Rottweilers' chances in the upcoming game against Frenzy? Is it a good idea to assume that new male Aslan food vendor will be easy mark? Who will Shiv blame for the disaster in the Cadaver? And where will the regulars go while it's beging repaired??