In Pursuit of Justice

The investigation into the deaths of Spencer and John Collingwood is going to involve a special court of inquest, per the orders of Arch Duke Paolo Astridi. The members will all be nobles, of course. Mohamed Chang is asked to serve, as is Grand Admiral Grey. Grey is busy, and considers this although a duty, basically "fluff", so he's not going. In his stead, he asks his wife, the lovely Danirelle "Viper" Kalugin Grey to go. After all, it's on Regina, she can see her family, and how much trouble could she possibly get into while serving on an inquest?? (He'll find out...)

Since Viper is the highest ranking noble, and she actually has experience as a lawman and bounty hunter, she will be the "head noble", so to speak. D'Aubisson is also in the group, and takes advantage of the opportunity to sketch Viper en route from Rhylanor. The inquest will actually be headed up by a representative of the Imperial Ministry of Justice (Judge Erica van Mieter). The death of Spencer Collingwood in particular is suspect. No one is disputing the fact that John Collingwood shot himself, although the cause is in dispute, and there are rumors that drugs may have been involved.

Before departing for Regina, Viper is given some forensic information to read en route. The senior Collingwood did actually die from a high velocity gauss round, but the tissue damage, trajectory, etc. indicate that the round was fired from a gauss rifle, not a pistol, and from farther away than contact range. Sounds very fishy.

195 - 1122.

In another sector, Lt. General Viktor Androchev is out in the field, observing the smoking ruins of a village, when he is politely served with papers summoning him to appear at the inquest on Regina. The messenger is a Naval officer in an impeccably tailored uniform, and he waits as the General reads the document "requesting and directing" Viktor to appear as a witness before a special judicial body that will be convening on Regina on or about day 202, to investigate the deaths of Spencer and John Collingwood. Of course, Viktor is a five week trip from Regina. Tricky, that.

Viktor asks to send a message with the courier that he is more than willing to testify, and will leave as soon as he is able to do so. In the mean time, would video taped testimony suffice? The courier points out the Viktor is "ordered to report with all speed. Disregard this at your own peril.". The courier is merely bringing this to the General's attention.

Viktor sends for his admin officer, Vlickelplesterb, and the Navy lieutenant waits as well. A Vargr in camo is observed taking sacks of something out of the bank. Viktor's men ask if they should take the shot, and Viktor replies that he will take the shot. As Viktor readies his rifle for the 1600 metre shot, his men discreetly exchange money. Viktor fires and hits the Vargr, who drops (for the record, he was hit in the groin), then crawls away a few minutes later, without the bags. Thermals report all clear in the village, and Viktor is asked if he will be going in to the village The lieutenant leading the unit into the village square radios that the General "really ought to see this". Viktor links directly with Lieutenant Sanchez, so he can see what they are seeing, as he takes his command vehicle in, along with the Naval officer. There are human bodies on posts around the square; they've been skinned. "Col." Taylor, who is the local military representative and really hates Vargrs is coming along to the village. Viktor takes a moment to ask (via helmet conduction only) his aide what the odds were on the shot, and the Colonel tells him "three to one. That was sheer luck sir." Viktor replies "Yes, but don't tell the troops that - it would be bad for morale." The Colonel says "I was thinking about the $50 credits I just lost sir." Viktor will see to it that he gets an invite to dinner. Viktor has also been tipped off that General Francesca Marx, Viktor's 'boss', could be popping in for a visit any time now. But hey, no pressure.

There are scrawled messages on the buildings, in Vargr. The general tone of the messages is "This is what will happen to all the humans." Viktor is informed that this may not have happened if some of the local partisans hadn't gone into a Vargr village the week before and gotten a bit free with the flame-throwers. The males were out of the village, and it was almost entirely women and children in the homes. The partisans did not clear the buildings before they torched them. Viktor is informed of this in private.

Vlickelplesterb arrives, looks at the summons, and informs Viktor that it's definitely an official document, but that since it was delivered by unknown courier, perhaps they should send for a confirmation. After all, the courier could be a spy. Just in case, he perhaps should be kept incommunicado. Viktor responds: "Make it so, Captain." He'll give Vlickelplesterb a bad time about being out of uniform later (field promotion - Vlickelplesterb was a lieutenant a few minutes ago).
Viktor has no intention of disappearing to Regina for ten weeks with General Marx about to show up.

203 - 1103.

Mr. Black has already informed Corina that Astridi has arranged an "investigation" into the death of Spencer Collingwood (in particular), but it shouldn't be too much of a problem as he's sending "a bunch of nobles." Black evidently doesn't know that Viper is one of the nobles. Black has not yet been able to acquire a copy of their warrant, so he doesn't know precisely what kind of powers they have.

Viper's arrival attracts quite the adoring crowd. She actually stays and signs some autographs to try to keep the fans happy. The security people are very stressed. Chang meets Viper and Judge Mieter, escorting them to Clairidges. The actual proceedings will begin on 204. Viper has her usual suite of rooms. Her servants don't have much to do, it's sort of like a vacation. Viper has absconded with one of Grey's secretaries for her own - a young human female named Terry, who is very good at her job.

Viper makes the necessary courtesy calls. Terry has already made contact with Corina's personal secretary. Corina will invite Viper to breakfast (and maybe she can find out something about the inquest). One of the things that Corina doesn't yet know is that Blaelok is on the list of people who have been served with a summons to appear; he can always ignore it, as a diplomat.

Viper goes for an early dinner at the Oaks, where the denizens give "her Grace" a bad time (all in fun), then back to the hotel to go over the huge list of people on the subpoena list. Lovely. There goes Viper's plans for an easy evening.

Meanwhile, the new Solomani Consul has arrived. The Starport Authority men do a great job, and no one is injured. A lot of very ripe fruit is used judiciously though. The Consul will be available to present her bona fides to the Duchess as soon as she cleans up. Nicolai goes to the consulate to meet the new consul. After a security check by the newly arrived, very serious-looking marines, Nicolai is escorted in to the consulate. After a brief wait, Nicolai is escorted by a very polite young man to the new consul's (formerly Blaelok's) office. She is about 5'6" tall, dark hair, blue eyes, and cute as a button. She introduces herself as Jessica Creuvik, and she is a bit surprised to be greeted so warmly by Nicolai, as she was told that Regina was a "hell hole". There was the incident at her arrival, but Jessica isn't surprised as she noticed the crowd had a high percentage of "those people" (aliens, most likely). Jessica has been given a copy of Free Thoughts. She's already had Free Thoughts served with papers - she's suing for libel.

Before Nicolai leaves, Jessica announces: "You have a quite excellent body, may I use it some time?" Brief pause. Nicolai asks "May I inquire as to what you want to use my body for?" Jessica raises an eyebrow. "My, you have been away for a long time." Seems she just wants an appropriately Solomani partner to take care of those pesky needs. Nicolai does not turn her down, but now would not be the right time.

Corina makes her usual radio address. (See Democracia issue 24.) It doesn't go as well as she hoped, and once she's finished she feels hands rubbing her shoulders. It's Black: "Now now, we all have our bad days. It's delayed tape, we can fix that." Next take is much better. Black invites Corina to dinner (Jack is on planet), but she declines, as she has invited the new Consul to dinner.

Shiv has been staying with Junior for several days. She's not easy to live with, but in Junior's eyes she can do no wrong. She tells him that she's spoken with several of the patrons who were in the Cadaver, and apparently Volkov just walked in, killed Bernard, and walked out. Junior doesn't think that sounds like Nicolai, so Shiv suggests Junior go talk to him then.

Globber contacts Corina and tells her: "We've pretty much concluded with the investigation, and we have managed to extract statements from several witnesses who are willing to testify. I think we can definitely proceed with murder charges against Mr. Volkov. I just wanted to keep you informed." Corina thanks him. Globber makes UMMing noises, and eventually chokes out that he's found a leather-bound first edition of "Ulysses", and wonders if Corina might be interested in seeing it? Corina would love to, and makes a dinner date at her home for tomorrow.

Junior finds Nicolai in the Bread and Bean, and says hello (he knows Nicolai from Regina Trauma). He asks if Nicolai would mind being asked a few questions. Nicolai doesn't mind, so Junior just charges in and asks "Why'd you beat up the bartender?" Nicolai responds "Which bartender?" Pause as Junior wonders if Nicolai has beaten up a lot of bartenders. Junior is more specific: "Bernard. At the Cadaver." Nicolai says "He poisoned my tea." Junior says that doesn't make much sense for Bernard to have done that. Nicolai informs Junior that "I had tea, and I was poisoned." [Post hoc ergo prompter hoc logical error here.] Junior figures there's no getting through to Nicolai once he's made up his mind, and Nicolai figures there's just no understanding these Imperials. Nothing is really resolved here.

Mikie is working at D.S., when he notices a tall, gaunt, well-dressed man walking by. What the hell is Blaelok doing back? Oh well. Blaelok continues by. Irving looks up from his paper and asks Mikie if he can "move things with your mind?" Oh great. Irving is reading Free Thoughts. Mikie attempts to explain to Irving that some people say and print things that are not true. He's not sure how well Irving grasped this, as Irving is then thinking about going to speak with the "Free Thoughts guy" because he must just not understand things. Mikie gives up and goes back to work.

After Globber's call, Black comes to Corina's office . Corina and Black discuss the status quo on planet - the troops have returned to their barracks, officers have been arrested, and there have only been 15 to 20 deaths. Jack is being set up to take over, so that's going well so far. Corina tells Black she will be seeing Viper for breakfast. Black wants her to see what she can find out about the specific purpose of the inquest since they haven't gotten a copy of the warrant yet. Corina suggests Black just ask for a copy. Black replies "But where would the fun be in that?" Corina sighs. "Whatever flips your switch Mercer." Black gives Corina a bit of a smile, and leaves.

Nicolai leaves the Bread and Bean, planning on going for a walk in the park. Black cars and vans screech to a halt, men pour out, and "Police, freeze!" is yelled. Nicolai stops. A large car pulls up, and Globber gets out. He walks over to Nicolai, and announces: "Nicolai Volkov, I arrest you in the name of the Emperor." Nicolai asks on what charge, and is told "murder in the first degree". The police are taking no chances, and although Nicolai does not resist arrest they chain him up rather well. He is taken to the station, and given the opportunity to confess. Nicolai clams up, so they give him his one phone call before putting him into his cell.

His phone call is placed to the Solomani Consulate. The consul speaks with Nicolai, and is horrified to hear that Nicolai has been arrested and charged with murder. Jessica asks if Nicolai did murder some one, and Nicolai responds: "Not that I know of." [???] Jessica will send a lawyer.

Junior goes home, tells Shiv that Nicolai says "he killed him because Bernard poisoned his tea". Shiv doesn't believe Bernard was smart enough to do that. Lucky for Nicolai that Shiv isn't going to go after him until after the big grav ball game.

Corina has dinner with Consul Jessica Creuvik, in an attempt to establish friendly relations with at least one Solomani representative. It goes fairly well, especially considering that Corina forgot about the Solomani and their generally vegetarian ways, and served London Broil. Jessica thought dinner was delicious, didn't recognize real meat, and when asked what the main dish was, Corina sensibly just said "London Broil".

Nicolai's lawyer arrives. It's Samuel Weseli, attorney at law. He tells Nicolai that the prosecution has witnesses, and potentially a security tape. Weseli suggests that they plead diminished capacity, temporary insanity, and try for maybe a mental institution rather than prison. Eventually Nicolai gets the lawyer's attention, and tells him Nicolai's version of the truth: he went to the Laughing Cadaver to find a new place to have tea (first mistake), ordered and drank the tea (second mistake), started to leave, felt ill, went back in to the Cadaver's bathroom (third mistake) where he passed out. He awoke in a low berth on a Ling Standard ship. Samuel wants to know what all that has to do with the case? Nicolai feels that the reason he went after Bernard is important, but Samuel points out that revenge isn't justification for murder. Nicolai protests that he didn't deliberately kill Bernard. It's very carefully explained to Nicolai that it would not be in his best interests to makes statements that would prove he had the motive for premeditation. It's bad enough that it will come out that Nicolai is a member or former member of an elite commando group, highly trained in martial arts. Nicolai will be held to a higher level of responsibility than some one without that kind of training. Plus, Nicolai is a Solomani, and it's going to be hard enough to find an impartial jury. Nicolai suggests that they have the trial moved to a different location, but there's no way that's going to happen. Nicolai can either take his chances with a jury trial, go for a non-jury trial (he's getting Judge Bubba), or try a plea bargain. Weseli offers a suggestion: Nicolai may have something to offer in exchange for a lesser sentence, or maybe none at all. Nicolai is willing to deal, asks Samuel to see what he can arrange, and says "SuSAG".

After much arguing, the special investigators decide to not hold their proceedings in the DukeDome or in a hotel. There are many available rooms in the Imperial Courts. As the only local certified Imperial Judge is Judge Bubba, there's lots of unused space, and it's neutral territory.

Globber lets Corina know that Volkov has been arrested, and that Volkov's lawyer has already approached the police and offered to 'deal'. But it seems more like intelligence info than police matters. Corina suggests that Globber then coordinate with Black. Right.

204 - 1122.

Several guys with suits show up at the jail, and take Nicolai to the big grey building with no windows. Into the basement. For a little chat.

Viper, et al are reviewing the forensic evidence, starting with the "easy" one: the public suicide. Some kind of drug shows up in the blood sample left over from John Collingwood's remains. It's a psychomemetric, but not one that shows up in any of the databases. Viper wants to find out if there are any records of any patients on Regina showing up with signs of the drug in their blood stream. There are. One record is of a man admitted for psychiatric evaluation, but the person's identity has been omitted (that's because it's Globber). There is information on the patient's highly erratic behavior though. The other record of interest concerns Will Delgado. After he was injured in the duel with Collingwood, Will was admitted to Regina Trauma. His blood work is still on record, and a comparison shows the telltale signs of the drug in question. The group decides to subpoena Will, but he's off planet and unavailable. "This is strange. Everyone who has come in contact with this drug is either dead or has disappeared. This definitely makes the death more than just a straightforward suicide."

Nicolai is seated, but not restrained. The Director comes down to see Nicolai about this "spot of bother" he's in, asking "And just what information do you have that might be worth a murder?" Nicolai: "The Regina slasher?" Black: "Amusing." Nicolai: "SuSAG?" Black: "Now you've peaked my interest. What can you tell me about SuSAG that I don't already know?" Nicolai: "Well, that's the problem - you probably od already know." Black: "You'll have to do better than that if you want to play in the big game." Nicolai: "I can tell you about the raid on SuSAG." Black: "That might be interesting." Nicolai: "I can tell you who was in on the raid. And who did it: Corina, Dirk Savage, Behrel Dom Camreal, Ghaer Raller..." Black: "And next you'll tell me the Duke and Duchess of Rhylanor." Nicolai: "I see you already know." Black sighs. "It's a good thing I think you'd be wasted on a prison planet. Judge Bubba is not a man known for his kindly nature when he sees a man who has done wrong." Nicolai: "What do you want? " Black: "Well, I don't know for the moment. But if I were to take you under my wing so to speak, I could 'postpone' any legal action against you. "Nicolai: "Would this be an ongoing thing or just the one job?" Black: "That would be up to me now wouldn't it? You are not in any position to negotiate. I could make your problems go away. However, if you wish to take your chances, that's entirely up to you. Did I mention I know his honor? Sometimes the judge and I dine together..." Nicolai: "How long do I have to decide?" Black: "A decision before you leave this room would be good. This is a limited time offer." Nicolai: "You don't seem to be leaving me with much of a choice." Black: "You have a choice, just not a good one." Nicolai:" It's either your legal system, or your extra legal system." Black:" You could always make a run for it." Nicolai: "Gee, sounds like such a wonderful offer." Black: "You won't have to sign anything in blood." Nicolai: "Well that blows all the stories I've heard about you." Black: "I take it I have my answer? Just so you understand our relationship - I now own you. I'll be in contact with you for your first assignment. Since your old boss is in town, you're going to betray him, and I'm going to watch. He has diplomatic immunity, so there's only so much that can be done to him, but I can make sure he's useless as an intelligence agent." Black then places a call to Globber and tells him: "there's been a mix up at the evidence facility...The evidence is gone... Yes, a pity... Well what can you do? Without the physical evidence...We'll keep working on it, perhaps it will turn up eventually." Nicolai:"Thank you for your generous offer. I trust you'll be in touch with the details." Black:" When the time comes. Meanwhile, I suggest you go out and enjoy your freedom. Check in on your young lady; I'm sure she's been worried about you."

Nicolai leaves, goes to the Rottweilers practice, and takes his frustrations out on the opposing practice team. Krag noticing that he's upset, offers to pray with him. After the practice Nicolai then requests an audience, through the Solomani Consulate, with the Duchess of Rhylanor. Viper receives a handwritten note from the Solomani consul, requesting an audience. Viper tells Terry that yes, she does want to see Nicolai, it's just a matter of when. Since everything is pretty much scheduled except for lunch. Nicolai is free then.

At the Discarding Sabot where Mikie is tending bar, a voice Solomani accent asks for a fruit juice. Mikie gets Blaelok one. Blaelok is all friendly like, and wearing a suit that looks even more expensive than the ones he used to wear (if that's possible). Pleasantries are exchanged, inquiries are made about respective spouses, etc. Mikie asks Blaelok what the <bleep> does he want? Blaelok mentions the nasty flu virus that's on Regina, then he tells Mikie about running into Theresa earlier, and discussing how important it is to get a flu shot. Mikie, on the other side of the bar from Blaelok, drops a knife into his hand. Blaelok goes on that he referred Theresa to a particular physician, but that he can, if Mikie wants, make a phone call? Mikie, on the edge of a full panic tells Blaelok to make the call. He does, telling some one he calls doctor to "give her the standard shot". After he hangs up the phone, Blaelok tells Mikie "I like to think of you as more than a friend , you're sort of family. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now. Especially without the help of your father. His grasp of advanced viral genetics is amazing. I don't suppose you know that your father is a man of vision? He's also susceptible to a certain amount of persuasion. And charmingly, he has some concern for you. I wonder, when he was growing you in the petri dish, were you his favourite even then?" Blaelok smiles. "I didn't come here to taunt you, Michael. I like you, you're a smart boy. Once your little job for me is done, I've arranged for you to take a vacation with Theresa. Cogri's lovely this time of year. I'll be in touch with the details. And I trust you won't be saying anything to the wrong people. I hear things, and I would be very unhappy." Mikie replies: "Your happiness is the most important thing in my life right now." Blaelok nods. "That's good. Oh, the juice." Mikie offers to pay, but Blaelok insists, sets several thousand credits on the bar, and leaves Mikie there.

Erica votes to break for lunch. Viper goes to meet Nicolai at Clairidges. After they're seated and the standard greetings are exchanged, Nicolai tells Viper "I don't know what you could do to help me, but you're the only one who can help me." Viper: "What have you gotten yourself into?" Nicolai: "You've read about what happened in the Laughing Cadaver?" Viper: "Fire, riot, death of a bartender." Viper: "The bartender didn't die in the fire, he died of a blow to the head." Viper: "I'm guessing that you hit him?" Nicolai: "He died because he gave poisoned tea to the wrong person. Now I've been charged with his murder." Viper: "Which you did technically commit." Nicolai: "To you, I won't deny that. The charges are going to be dropped, due to a certain person in Regina Security." Viper raises an eyebrow. "What did you have to do for that?" Nicolai: "I don't know yet." Viper: "Oh, unspecified future favors, ouch!" Nicolai: "I didn't have much choice." Viper: "I can understand that, if we're talking about who I think we are, he usually doesn't although he makes it sound like he has." The bottom line is Nicolai wants Viper to grant him a pardon. Oh is that all. Viper suggests "You could do him this one favor, and then move off planet, somewhere he can't find you easily." Nicolai is not willing to do that. Viper: "Then there's the problem that if you've told him you would do this thing for him, and then don't do it, he will be very upset. He can be very dangerous when he's upset." Viper doesn't know if she even can pardon Nicolai since the charges have been dropped (Nicolai is willing to go in and confess if he can expect a pardon); also, in theory, it would be up to Corina to pardon Nicolai. Viper does offer to mention this to Corina, even though Nicolai doesn't feel there's any chance Corina will agree to pardon him. (He's right.)

Theresa comes into the bar, and says hello to Mikie. She tells him about talking to Khirrll about the flu, and going to get a flu shot at one of the flu shot clinics that have sprouted up around Up Port (just like the one the new improved Weseli went to). Mikie asks if she's seen Blaelok, but she didn't even know he was back. Mikie tells her he is, and to be careful; if she runs into him, just "don't believe anything that man tells you". Theresa promises she won't.

Shiv wants to do something about Nicolai. Maybe Junior can find more out about him, maybe even take care of the problem for Shiv... "Why if you were to take care of something like that for me, I might... " Shiv gets real up close and personal with Junior, and gives Junior a sample of what might be to come...

Nicolai goes back to the Solomani consulate, to see if he can get some additional help there. So, he gets to see Blaelok, who inquires: "How is our friend Mr. Black? I hear your dropped by to see him today. You appear to have all the original parts, so it' couldn't have gone too badly." Nicolai tells Blaelok about Black planning something against Blaelok. Blaelok is not impressed. "My plans were already put in motion a long time ago." Nicolai: "He seems to think that I can help him with that." Blaelok: "Doesn't he understand that he's completely outclassed, genetically speaking?" Blaelok indicates Jessica - "So, what do you think of my student?" Blaelok asks Jessica "how's my little patient?" Jessica: "Better now." Blaelok: "No pain, no swelling?" Jessica: "No sir." Blaelok: "Well I understand the report came back no antigen." Nicolai: "Is there something you want to tell me about, or something I should take precautions against?" Blaelok: "I don't know, I have to be sure where your loyalties lie." Nicolai: "My loyalties have always been Solomani. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't be here having this conversation." Blaelok has Nicolai given a shot of what he tells him is vaccine. Then Blaelok goes on about his pet project, and trying to make people all nice and cooperative. How there is a need for shepherds and sheepdogs for the sheep, once there was an efficient way to get sheep. The currently used conditioning techniques are really too time-consuming and inelegant. Blaelok: "It would be so much easier if people were predisposed to the correct behaviour." Nicolai is beginning to get uncomfortable about this whole thing. Blaelok tells him: "I'm not here to debate with you. Thanks to our local friend Mr. Griffin, I have not only located the raw data, but an experienced bio-geneticist as well." Nicolai: "His brother?" (No, Andrew is really dead, but Nicolai doesn't know about Mikie's father.) Blaelok: "No, but that's not relevant. Now about Mr. Black. I spent time with his sister, Christine." Nicolai: "I know." Blaelok: "Apparently Mr. Black and his sister are very, very close." Nicolai: "Ah. Deviants." Blaelok: "Yes, well you know the reason they told you not to do that. I made good use of the time I had with Christine..." Nicolai: "I have one question - the Duchess of Rhylanor is on planet. Is she on the list of shepherds or sheepdogs? Or sheep?" Blaelok: "I would prefer that she not be on planet; her husband strikes me as some one who would be a large problem should anything happen to his wife." Blaelok will provide vaccine for Viper, since she has inconveniently shown up. Nicolai asks for two doses - one for Viper, one for her husband. Blaelok gives Nicolai two auto-injectors, tells him they contain a vaccine against the virus, and he should get them to the Duchess as discretely as possible. Blaelok: "It won't do for the Greys to know the source of this." Nicolai: "I'll do my best." Nicolai voices his concerns about Regina being used in Blaelok's experiment "They're no threat to us." Blaelok: "Why should I care? They're mud people. It may make you happy to know that we've modified the virus, and it will take as many as five years to realize it's full potential. Regina will just gradually become a more pleasant place. They may be lower life forms, but one does not stand by while one's cattle gores each other. "

Mikie goes downport to see his father. Dr. Taylor is very pleased to see Mikie, very demonstrative. Not normal. Mikie checks, and sure enough, his father has been 'changed'; all the aggressive parts of Dr. Taylor's brain are suppressed or gone. He wants to work hard, fit in, and contribute. The one 'good' thing about this disaster is that he is really finally at peace with himself. Mikie leaves and returns Up Port; no, he is not going to tell his father what is happening.

Back at the consulate, Nicolai is getting ready to leave. Blaelok: "There is one thing Nicolai..." <bright flash> Nicolai isn't missing memories, but he is missing a couple of minutes of time. Blaelok says: "For your protection. And mine. Mr. Black shouldn't be a problem for long. Assuming he does have normal sexual relations with Christine, he should become symptomatic very shortly. Considering the effects of ordinary tertiary syphilis, imagine... Even for Mr. Black, once his behaviour becomes dangerous enough, his associates will no doubt take care of him. The best part of the modified syphilis is it constantly mutates, and we've eliminated the secondary effects, it goes straight to the brain. Oh, and one more thing Nicolai. Mr. Griffin was useful once, but he's grown a bit recalcitrant." Nicolai: "You seem to bring that out in people." Blaelok: "Give him this. Tell him to ensure that Theresa gets one of these every two days, as the less virulent form if the virus she has been infected with can be kept under control." Nicolai: "You know, if you keep pushing him, he's going to go off." Blaelok: "Oh, I fully expect him to. It makes life interesting. Tell him I will see to it that a supply is delivered every couple of days. And he shouldn't miss a dose." Nicolai unhappily leaves to find Mikie.

Viper decides to do some information gathering of her own. She contacts Captain Midnight, and hires him to do a little job for her. She wants him to hack into the computer systems for SuSAG and the Solomani Consulate, and look for a particular drug. She doesn't know the brand name yet but she has all the data necessary to search for it by chemical characteristics. It will be expensive, and difficult, especially the consulate, but the Captain will give it a shot. Maybe the high tech laptop he has (and got from Mikie) will be of use.

To be continued...