And then some other stuff happened...

201 -1122.

Mikie and Theresa are out for a walk when they run into Vinny Weseli. Word on the street is that Vinny has gone straight, and is out trying to "do good works", after recovering from a serious illness. This is too weird. And apparently true.

Vinny is really friendly, and says hello to Mikie and Theresa. Mikie thinks this is a bit too bizarre, as Vinny is all cleaned up, has gotten a haircut and a shave, and is all perky and happy. After chatting for a few minutes, Mikie learns that Vinny got really sick after getting a flu shot at some "free clinic" in Old Port. The shot must not have worked, since he got sick right afterwards; when the fever broke, he felt "like a new man". Mikie does a quick surface scan, in case this is some kind of new scam, and finds out that there is not an antisocial thought left in Vinny's brain. He's full of goodness and light, and the need to "conform", and some parts of his mind seem to just not be there at all. Oh shit. This sounds a lot like what Mikie heard Blaelok describe to another Solomani, as the next step in their "making the lower classes into good little citizens" project.

Mikie also hears on the street that Nicolai is a dead man, he just doesn't know it yet. Shiv is going to kill him (or have him killed), because of what happened in the Laughing Cadaver. This is really bad.

Theresa has been checking up on Khirrll while Ghaer was off doing the Lassie thing on planet. Khirrll evidently really, really missed Ghaer.

Black fills Corina in on the other news, about the incident at the Laughing Cadaver, and the death. The information they have been able to obtain, it appears that "Nicolai walked in, ordered a cup of tea from the bartender, and hit him. He died from it. The blow, not the tea. The word is the owner of the bar is going to carve her revenge out of his backside." Evidently Shiv has a reputation as being from the other side of the law, and is reputed to be lethal. Black says, "Of course, we could release a report that the bartender was only knocked unconscious and died from the fire, or we could spirit Nicolai off planet. I know he was your employee, and you might be concerned about him..." Corina's concern is that "no innocent bystanders are killed in the process", and suggests that perhaps Nicolai could be warned, just to keep things even (knowing that Nicolai is unlikely to pick up on this rumor by himself).

The other issue concerning the Cadaver is that "the owner has made some complaints. Apparently, through some legal wrangling, the company of Blanc-Noir et Cie has acquired leases in perpetuity for large sections of Old Port. Nothing illegal, but this leaves the Laughing Cadaver with no place to rebuild."

Corina details her idea to form a sort of red light district in Old Port, possibly in the large empty space the Pikhans made. Black suggests that they investigate the possibility of making some kind of less expensive deal with Blanc-Noir. Corina leaves it up to Black. Oh, and since Christine is off on Cogri vacationing, and Jack has been sent to Rhylanor to pick up the OBGyn, and the Ling family retainer (a female Aslan) who will be the nanny, Black makes sure that Corina has his home number, just in case she needs anything. Anything at all. Black is either really flirting, or is having fun. Either way, eww. Corina will take him up on dinner ONLY tomorrow night.

Corina phones Nicolai to let him know about the "word on the street". She explains that she assumes he doesn't just kill people with no reason, but the owner believes he's responsible for the bartender's death, is really unhappy, and has a revenge thing going. Nicolai isn't concerned about Shiv, but that does explain why people have been moving away from his table in the Bread and Bean. This concludes Corina's responsibility to forewarn Nicolai.

Before ringing off, Nicolai tells Corina he heard what happened to her power forward, Khah Ftyawwiyl, and Nicolai saw the car that the people who grabbed him were driving. He gives the description to Corina, who checks in with Black. The car was reported stolen from a rental agency on level 2. The normal security cameras did not pick anything up, but they don't pick up everything. Black does point out that Nicolai has turned out to be the last person who had contact with the power forward before he was snatched, and this could be connected to the ISA documents that were delivered to Nicolai. Black suspects the people who snatched the power forward were ISA agents. Corina points out that if that is the case, they will probably be interested in Nicolai, so he should be watched. Black naturally does not recommend that they pick up ISA agents and "squeeze them for information"; the ISA tends to frown on that. Corina tells Black that "this is a security issue, and it's therefore your area of expertise". Right. Black understands (this way Corina has deniability). On the other hand, Corina wants whoever is responsible for slicing and dicing her power forward caught. She's got a big game coming up, and a major bet with Stern. Black doesn't really understand the concern about the athlete, but Corina explains it in terms of some one killing the lead tenor, just before opening night at the opera. Ah, now he gets it.

Corina is concerned about not having a decent power forward to back up the second stringer. She finds out that Krag Kiron is rumored to be on planet, and decides to try to find him. He has had a number of altercations, and has several warrants out on him for minor things, but no one knows exactly where he is. Corina calls Globber, making him really nervous, as usual, to ask for a favor: she wants to know where to find Krag Kiron. Globber thinks for a few minutes, and is able to tell her that Krag has been seen helping out at a soup kitchen in Old Port, one that Corina's Foundation is funding. She decides to go speak with him.

After listening to Krag (yes, he's there) testify in front of the locals, Corina approaches Krag to thank him for his work, and to bring up something else. "I have a proposition for you that might help you expand the reach of your ministry. Your past, and your celebrity helps you to reach people who would not normally listen. God works in mysterious ways, and my power forward has been murdered, and I have a vacancy, just before a big game. Would you be interested in playing for me, in exchange for the opportunity to preach after the game, to a stadium full of fans?" Krag tells her that he "must pray", falls to his knees, and asks God (in a loud voice) for guidance. God eventually lets Krag know that he should play, but right now he must "go smite evil". Corina asks Krag to please show up at the stadium when he's done "smiting evil", and then she gets out of his way.

Nicolai, as a lark, decides to try out for the Rottweilers. He used to play when he was active duty CRI (grav-ball is the only officially sanctioned 'religion' in the Rim after all), so what the heck. He does well enough to actually get picked as one of the people they want to use for one reserve position or another. Afterwards, in the crowd of fans and autograph hunters, Nicolai notices (WOW!) a 'schoolgirl' in the crowd, with an autograph book, and a large knife tucked up one sleeve. He loses track of her in the crowd after a while, but he is on alert. He's still there when Krag Kiron shows up to try out for the team. Corina has phoned the coaching staff to alert them, but Excessively Tall Jones makes a comment about "yeah, he was good, in his day..." Krag asks where he can "put his stuff", and when he's told "anywhere", he throws his large axe into the support pillar (up to the nub), right beside Jones' head. Then Krag hangs his bag on the axe handle. Point taken.

Nicolai, who had followed Krag's career years ago (Krag is originally from the Rim), takes the opportunity to say hello to Krag, and then decides to scrimmage against him during the tryout (Krag insists on a real tryout, as he is "only a simple man of God"), so he can say later he actually did. Way cool; possibly fatal, but cool. Krag loosens up, flexing his tattoo (religious sayings and images, plus a few happy bunnies on his back - the latter thanks to Cali Turner) and scar covered muscles, then the tryout begins.

The coach calls Corina to let her know that Krag is there, and she has him close the trial to the public, then heads that way. Krag plays like an obscenely experienced berserker, and Nicolai tries to use his knowledge of Krag's moves in his college days to help him. Nicolai does better than the others, because he doesn't fall for all the tricks. And the struggle continues (play Star Trek fight music here) for a while. Krag is definitely on the team, and since Nicolai has "good hustle", he's on the team as an alternate. They move on to the drills, and the fundamentals.

When Nicolai is in the shower, he steps out and reaches for a towel, only to be confronted by the small, elfin female he had mistaken for a schoolgirl. It's Shiv. Nicolai tries to talk to her, but she informs him "It's a good thing we've got a game coming up and you're on the team, but once the game is over, your ass is mine." Nicolai starts to say something, but Shiv interrupts with "I'm not here to debate, I'm here to tell you how it is, Rim boy." Nicolai tries to swat the blade away, but Shiv is faster than he is, and the blade never loses it's mark. Nicolai tells her that all he did was deck her bartender, for serving him drugged tea, but Shiv informs him that "if you have a beef with one of my employees, you deal with me." Nicolai says "Well, if you have rules in the place, you should post them." Shiv is not impressed, and rolls the 9" blade along her fingers as handily as if it were a coin, before putting it away. She takes at look at Nicolai's "equipment", says "I've seen better", to which Nicolai replies "so have I". Shiv is nonplused, and leaves.

Then Nicolai is snapped in the buttocks by a wet towel, wielded by Krag. Boy howdy does that hurt! Male bonding takes place. Nicolai pays for it in spades the next morning... He's not as young as he used to be.

Corina has the local CEWhatevers from LingStandard (Xavier Ling), and Naasirka (a Martel) in to her office. She wants them to remove their mercenaries or whatever they want to call them off of Regina. The Martel informs her that all they have are security forces, and "advisors" only, and they are entitled to have them there. Corina insists, repeatedly. The Martel states that "Those are strong words from some one who is not yet even officially the duchess. Something could happen to you in the next year." This sounds like a threat. Corina calls for her guards, who hesitate, because they don't want to be sued, or whatever. This goes back and forth, getting quite nasty, with threats being implied and spelled out, on both sides, and the Martel making it clear he believes that she's doing this to benefit LingStandard. Corina informs the Martel that he can play this any way he wants, but she will not tolerate corporate wars, shouldering, or the kind of crap that's going on near or on the planet. If they continue, she will make it very, very expensive for them. The Martel leaves, after agreeing to get back to her with the decision from the Naasirka powers that be within 24 hours.

Then Corina goes after Xavier, on exactly the same issues. Xavier doesn't take it well. "Look here youngster, you don't talk that way to your elders." Corina tells him to pack up his troops or she will have him arrested for failure to obey a planetary officer in the performance of her lawful duties. "You would not dare..." "Guards!" Ghaer enters, with assistants, and is told to take Xavier into custody. Xavier threatens Ghaer with: "The bounty hunters will be the only ones who will know your names." Ghaer swears out another complaint, as Ling has now threatened an Imperial officer. Corina calls Globber, to request a separate holding cell, but they're all booked up. Ghaer tries to get Xavier into military custody, because of the other threat, but the desk sergeant makes him try to fill in all the paperwork (all eight pounds of it), which must be processed prior to the transfer.

Corina ends up speaking with Black and Globber, and Xavier does end up with a separate cell, but it's a cell. In jail, and some of the other inmates are threatening his life and limb, and some of them are trying to "arrange a date". He'll only have to spend a night in jail, but it will definitely leave an impression.

Corina checks into the Naasirka mining contracts. They are about forty years old, pretty much ironclad, and give rights in perpetuity, but not ownership of the land. And they don't have to be environmentally responsible, either. Sweet deal, signed by Duke Norris' late father, just before he became "late".

Corina goes to see Globber, as agreed, in the evening. She goes to his office, where he has a copy of the Times crossword puzzle on his desk, partially done. In ink. He wants to review the Cadaver case with her. The death was caused by a single blow to the jaw, by some one who was extremely strong and obviously highly trained in martial arts. He lays out all the forensic evidence, including the slight "imprint" of part of a signet type ring (like the arrowhead insignia ring Nicolai wears openly?). Based on the evidence, and the witnesses, they do have a suspect. The question is proving if it was manslaughter, murder, or self-defense, if they can't get testimony. He places a picture of Nicolai on the table. He has not brought Nicolai in for questioning yet, as he wanted to check with Corina first. Just in case. Corina tells Globber to handle this case as he would any other investigation. If he feels that he has enough evidence to warrant an arrest, and a probable conviction - given a Regina jury, then he should go ahead with it.

They discuss the issue, and Globber is unsure if he should pull Nicolai in right away, or leave him lose until they have enough evidence to just nail him, and then snatch him up all unexpected like. The other concern is that the "word on the street" is Nicolai is a "marked man", due to the fire, etc. Corina states that he can evidently take care of himself; she also points out that although she's not asking for a favor, Nicolai is now on the grav-ball team (game's on Friday), and a lot of residents might be upset if Nicolai were arrested before the big game. And the only certified Imperial judge is Judge Bubba, and he won't be back from his hunting trip until the game; so, no hurry. Globber decides that since Nicolai does not strike him as the sort of person who could be rattled effectively by just bringing him in to the station, that an arrest will wait for now.

Corina would not be opposed to being kept informed, and she is certainly available to discuss cases with him, and act as a sounding board for Globber. On the other hand, Globber frequently is involved in the kind of cases he would not consider appropriate for discussion with a woman. That's understandable, but Corina suggests "We could get together and read a book..." Globber flushes and stammers briefly, but recovers and congratulates Corina on being a mother to be (well, Globber is a very observant man).

202 - 1122.

Corina gets a phone call at 5:00 a.m., from the police. It seems they neglected to remove Xavier's belt, and he tried to hang himself with it. He didn't break his neck or anything, but he was strangling for a while before he was found. He's not dead, but there was damage to the trachea, and possibly some brain damage; he's in the hospital, in stable but critical condition, in a coma.

Corina calls Special Agent Rollings of the IBI, and requests that he investigate the incident at the police station. She has to explain, very carefully to the greatly sucking up Rollings, that she wants an investigation, not a witch hunt. Gee, does Rollings remember how to do that?

Corina speaks with the Naasirka Martel, about what happened to Xavier. The Martel says "I apparently underestimated you." Corina states that "My uncle and I had a disagreement, he refused to cooperate, and was taken into custody. During the night, he evidently attempted to kill himself." The Martel is not impressed: "You may be able to get away with stringing up your uncle, but I will not be 'disappeared'. I know about your dog Black, and I'm not afraid of him. Your position does not give you the authority to kill people by fiat. " (But she doesn't kill people by fiat; she kills them by Denzetti.)

Corina attempts to explain: "You misunderstand. We could have a profitable, and beneficial relationship on this planet. I'm not hostile to all mega-corporation activity. And I'm not taking the "Ling side". The Martel, who hasn't been very good in the "win friends and influence people department" during the conversation, states "my reports indicate that you're a deranged megalomaniac. " "Ah. Well, be that as it may, that does not preclude our having a working business relationship."

The official word from Naasirka, eventually, is that they will remove their personnel, under protest. They are suing Corina personally for everything they can think of, including lost profits. Corina has a memo of "legal clarification" sent in response, stating that they are allowed to use their "defensive security personnel" on the drilling platforms and in a tight perimeter in the swamp around them, so this should not preclude their doing normal business.

--- Elsewhere...

On Rhylanor, Bunny's dad shows up at Will's apartment one day, just as Will is coming home; Will invites the Count in. He tells Will that he "won't be here for long", and all the Count wants is to ensure his daughter's well being and future. And, since it's not like he's worried about being sent to prison, since he's dying anyway, the Count has decided to take Will out of the picture. They are struggling over the splinter gun, when Bunny comes bouncing out of the bedroom in her negligée (okay, so she wasn't supposed to come here). The gun goes off with a loud ripping sound, and Bunny falls to the ground, her upper leg shredded. Will and the Count drop the gun, and Will hits his panic button (he's been expecting the Count to have him killed or something, so Will had arranged for special security and medical alerts). He applies direct pressure, and tries to keep Bunny conscious. She's just "so tired..." "Bunny, you have to be strong for me, don't leave me."

The Count has fallen over, and is apparently alive, just, but has had a seizure or stroke. The doors are burst open, the security people rush in, and only one of them ends up throwing up in the bushes (icky violence, and all). The ambulance arrives shortly later, and Will and Bunny are whisked off in the grav ambulance. Will gets on the radio, and gives the hospital information en route. Another ambulance is sent for the Count; his ambulance is not running with lights and siren when it arrives at the hospital. Oh well.

Bunny's heart stopped on the way, as she threw some clots (shredded pieces of arteries and veins, etc.). She's stable for right now, but there is some lack of blood flow to the brain, in an area they would prefer to not use invasive techniques. The trauma doctor (who, since he's not a neurosurgeon, has a good bedside manner) is trying to use small words with Will, who explains that he's a doctor too. Ah, well that's a different matter. The big words are brought out, and then Will calls his boss, the neurosurgeon in charge, who comes down to consult. To make matters worse, the Count was evidently using "special" loads; thallium, more than likely, as well as other "unidentified toxins". She's young, but they are still concerned about the heavy metal and other poisonous substances in her bloodstream, and the lack of bloodflow to her brain. It's too soon to tell.

It's several days before Bunny shows any signs of coming out of her restful state. She asks for "Daddy" first, and is very "fuzzy". She's already been prepped to regrow her leg. Apparently, there is some "reduced activity" in one of the lobes, which was expected. She has definitely lost sight in one eye, and she may have lost some ability to process image information. At this point, beyond that, they don't know exactly how much damage has been done, but Will needs to prepare himself for a lengthy recovery.

Bunny's speech is slow and careful, and she has trouble remembering some words. She has some memory gaps too, and doesn't remember what happened to her. She asks about her father, and Will tells her he passed away (about three CVAs at one time). She's being given a lot of drugs, and she doesn't yet ask what happened to her. When Bunny sleeps, Will works. They are gradually reducing the drugs, and Bunny is definitely operating at a lower processor speed than before. There are all sorts of possibilities for treatment, but there are no guarantees.

The doctors will do whatever they can, especially for someone the planetary Duke (William Grey) comes to visit. Will introduces himself to Grey, and is quite honest about the situation regarding her father's disapproval. Will was in the Navy, and he knows exactly who Grey is, not that he cares right now. Grey gives Will the same "measuring" look he gives everyone (a bit disconcerting), speaks with the doctor, ordering "Whatever she needs, doctor", then leaves.

Bunny does get better over time, although she's definitely not the same person she was before, she's not as sharp. She likes to watch cartoons, but she will get somewhat better - she just has a blank slate in a few areas. One eye is undamaged, but the optic centre of the brain is damaged; they will be able to get her to the point where she can recognize light and dark. Will intends to stay with her, no matter what. The leg is being regrown, so that's not a major issue when all is considered.

The family lawyer does contact Bunny, but as she's not quite capable, he speaks with Will. There's a small (3500 sq. ft., "small") summer house where Bunny spent a lot of her childhood, but the Count spent a great deal of money trying to reverse his brain cancer, and didn't pay attention to his business concerns. There's about $150,000 credits in addition to the house. Will is planning on using that money for the medical bills, but there are none, thanks to Grey. It is the Analise Grey Memorial Hospital after all. The house hasn't been used for a while, and it needs work. Will and Bunny will remain in the apartment during the week near her medical appointments, and then will spend the weekends working on the house.

One room in the house in very clean, it's an office. Will finds a safe, and a locked desk. The safe, once Will gets the locksmith to open it, contains four of the foil security envelopes, $10,000 in cash, and a small ultra high tech gauss pistol. Will calls and leaves a message for Admiral Grey, who is on maneuvers for a month. In the desk drawer is an appointment book with some kind of birdwatching notes? "Thrush", "sparrow", etc. are mentioned, along with a note to "call Blaelok". Will locks this in the safe, which is then keyed to his handprint.

Late at night, he hears noises in the lower floor, the sound of glass breaking. Will gets his gun, and heads downstairs as he hears the wooden office door being forced. Will pushes the call button on his panic button, after telling the figure to "freeze", and he is garroted from behind. Will fires at the person in front of him, hitting him. Will hears Bunny's voice "Will??", then the sound of a shotgun action being cycled upstairs. A male voice says "We don't want any trouble, now do we?" Will drops the gun, he and Bunny are tied up. A few moments later, another man enters, one with a very pronounced Solomani accent. One of the men informs Blaelok that the code on the safe has been changed. Blaelok tells him to "ask them if they have the code", the man draws back the shotgun, as if to hit Will with it, but Blaelok says "I said ask them." Will tells them "I have the code, do you have the authorization?" "Open the safe." Will opens it, and Blaelok tells his men "don't touch them".

Blaelok takes the security envelopes, the men search the office, making a mess but discarding the old appointment book as uninteresting. Blaelok goes in, gets on the computer, gets whatever he wants downloaded to a memory crystal, and then crashes the computer. Will and Bunny are moved away from the door to the den, and one of the high tech flashing thing goes off inside (destroying any biological traces), and some material is sprayed on the area where the guy was bleeding. Blaelok does cut Bunny and Will's ropes before leaving, trusting that "there won't be any problems I trust? Not over a burglary?" They leave.

Bunny is not too worried, as she's not yet really sharp enough for that yet. After the security people finally show up, and are told they had a burglary (just like Blaelok asked): it was more than one man, they had masks, and they were obviously used to high tech locks as they were confused by a mechanical lock. The officer asks if they need to have counseling, but Will declines - he's from Regina, and Bunny is brain damaged. The officer is quite concerned though, and wants to make sure they have the phone number for the counselor, just in case. Will applies medication to the ligature on his neck, and hangs up his pajamas over the bathtub (he doesn't tell the police they may have blood on them).

Bunny is mentally sometimes an adult, sometimes about twelve years old. And after about three nights, Bunny's animal needs crop up, and Will decides to respond. During the passion, Bunny whispers that "sometimes I do remember things, I remember that I love you". The next scans will show that Bunny is doing pretty much okay, she will just need to replace the memories she's lost. Will arranges for Bunny to see old school records, and see old friends and all. She can even see Reggie, but only under controlled circumstances, as Will is likely to harm him otherwise. Reggie does make a snide comment at a party about Bunny's "condition" being why she's still with Will.

Fortunately, Bunny has nice friends, and her old girlfriends are more than happy to help. They throw a party and help Bunny get ready for it, and visit, and help her dress for things, etc. Will makes sure they understand what to expect from Bunny. At the first real party, her friends have taken Bunny out to the salon and everything, and it's like having the old Bunny again - she looks great, and has fun.

Bunny starts to sharpen up gradually, but she will never regain the social acuity she once had. But it's only the dance of power she's lost, and her friends seem to like her even more this way. And it's not like she had any job skills to lose. Will is planning on fixing up the house, before deciding whether or not to sell it at a later time. Bunny enjoys just spending time with Will, and is falling in love with him again. One night they are sitting in front of the fire together, and Bunny asks why they aren't married? "Do you have a wife somewhere?" Will explains that no, he doesn't have a wife, that he's just been waiting for her to say yes. There was a problem with timing after her first husband's death, then her father didn't approve, etc.

Bunny says "I can't say yes if you don't ask me." Will gets down on one knee, and asks Bunny to marry him. She says yes, "as long as you promise to ravage me every night." He'll try, but that could be a problem when he's working. Bunny answers by pushing him back onto the bearskin rug in front of the fire, and she's doing the driving. Enough said.

The house will be put on the market, and they will buy a condo closer in to town, with more room than Will's apartment, and closet space for Bunny's clothing. She does still like to dress up, and she will get to the point where she has an IQ of about 80. Her concern is that she'll bore Will, as she's not as smart as he is. But she' s a very nice person, and Will loves her.

A few months after the accident, Will and Bunny will get married in a small private ceremony. This is after Will arranges for Bunny to consult with the family lawyer, to make sure no one feels that Bunny is being taken advantage of. The lawyer has had a chance to see how Will treats Bunny over several months, and there isn't a huge fortune to be concerned about anymore. Bunny does have some personal money, and she had purchased the hospital on Regina before leaving. The lawyer has known her since she was a girl, and he's never seen her happier; he thinks Will's okay.

Will, being a graduate of the Naval Academy like Grey, will also attempt to get word to him about the "packet" theft, the potential DNA evidence dried onto Will's PJ's, and the remaining appointment book. However, since Viper and Grey are both currently off planet, this may take a while. Will is certainly not going to trust anyone except the Admiral and his wife with this information. Besides, Will owes Grey for what he did for Bunny; and Grey is not the kind of person to accept a cashier's check as repayment.