"...If you permit this evil, what is the good of the good in your life?" *

206 - 1122.

Mikie gives the inhibitor to Theresa. He tells her it's because of a problem with her flu shot. She doesn't argue, and really isn't at all concerned. It's going to take Mikie a while to recover enough to 'question' Blaelok again, so he will rest for now, and try again tomorrow.

Nicolai is concerned about information Blaelok has falling into the wrong hands. Like the ISA, or Black. He is going to try to contact another on station CRI, Barclay, to see if he can get some help in taking care of Blaelok in a rather more permanent way. Sooner rather than later.

207 - 1122.

Nicolai calls Mikie to see about going back to the destroyed apartment to try and retrieve what's left of his CRI knife. Nicolai is still in pretty bad shape, what with the neurotoxin, the broken arm, and all. Mikie goes to the apartment, spoofs the police tape, packs a couple of bags of clothes, etc. No knife. No robot parts. No other, non-robot body parts either. Mikie will let Nicolai know.

Ghaer has been down on planet helping Jack. There were certain popular officers who 'expired', so in order for Jack to gain acceptance, he and Ghaer have been arranging for burials with full military honors. This also gives Ghaer the chance to make sure the dead men really are dead. Honest. It's a sidetrack from the search for the feral senator, but Ghaer will need backup for that any way.

Jack will be staying on planet to bond some more with the military leaders. Ghaer will be taking his 'burial detail' back up with him. Funny how the members of the burial detail are all experienced combat veterans.

As Mikie is leaving his apartment, there are several guys in suits waiting. Mikie sets down the bags, and replaces the tape. "That's a felony you know", one of the men comments. They pick up the suitcases, and say "Let's go Mikie." They're from Regina Security, and Mikie recognizes them, so whatever.

Corina makes sure that the air circulation system is set on high, so there's a bit of a breeze on Up Port. They are trying to vent as much of the frozen viral agent into space as possible, but they are going to have to bring up additional air supply.

Mikie is taken to a car, and the bags are put into the trunk. Theresa is already in the back seat, and Mikie asks why? The response is "He thought you'd want her with you. 'Til death do we part', right?" Cute. Off to the big grey building with no windows. They go into a different entrance from the ones Mikie knows, then to a keyed elevator that goes up to level 1 (Mikie thinks). There is a very nice set of rooms up there, and an older, armed concierge. He greets them, and takes them further in to a set of suites off of a central garden with a fountain. One of the suites (about twice the size of Theresa's apartment) is opened up, the bags are taken in, and Mikie is given a key. The 'muscle' says "Have a nice time Mikie" with a leer. The security guys leave.

There's a nice fruit basket on the table with a note: "Thought you might need a place to stay. Regards, B." There is a knock on the door, Mikie answers it. There is a tall, serious (but attractive) looking dark-haired young woman in a pinstripe suit. It's Brigitte, Mikie's bodyguard. Or so she says. Mikie asks her in, and she enters, followed by several other people Mikie doesn't know. Mikie's picture, handprint, retina print, and blood sample are taken, very quickly and efficiently. Then he's asked to sign a document - it's the 'Regina Official Secrets Act." He asks what that's for, and Brigitte tells him "If you say anything Mr. Black doesn't want you to he'll kill you." Mikie: "So why am I signing this??" Like this is different. Everyone leaves. Looks like Mikie is on the staff of Regina Security now. This is not a complete surprise. Theresa asks if she can do anything for Mikie - take off his shoes, rub his shoulders? Mikie says no, as evenly as he can. Theresa's response is "I'll clean up then."

Nicolai goes to visit Commissioner Globber, since they are both in the hospital. Globber is surrounded by visiting cops, food (not of the hospital variety), and fruit juice (chianti actually, but it has fruit in it). Globber is feeling rather friendly, and invites Nicolai in. The other cops leave, gradually, after Globber invites Nicolai to join him for some canoli. Nicolai, salivating, says yes (he has taste buds). The food is very good. After the meal, there is some not entirely at ease chatting. Globber still considers Nicolai a murderer, and makes no bones about saying so. Nicolai informs Globber that "As soon as possible, I'll be leaving Regina." Globber: "That might be for the best. Where will you be heading? Home?" Nicolai: "No. I don't know exactly where I'll go, but there must be some place that's more in the middle of the Rim and Regina extremes."

Mikie picks up the phone, and the concierge answers. Mikie asks to speak with Mr. Black. The concierge rings off, and a few minutes later Black shows up. He asks Mikie if he's settling in nicely? Mikie: "Yes, thank you. I'm guessing that I'm now on your payroll?" "It's a mutually beneficial arrangement - I have need for some one with your abilities, and there are certain perks that come with the job. I think we'll start you off at $100,000 a year. And this way you get a certain amount of protection from the Solomani agents that may come later. They're known for their vindictiveness and viciousness. And that's from my staff. Well, any way, here you have all the comforts of home. Staff, cleaning people, etc. We can send up a chef if you like, but I didn't think that would be necessary." It's not; Mikie would rather cook himself. Black continues: "Besides, it's less of a commute for you. Especially with your current assignment. Right now you will be working directly under me, in 'special projects'. If you take a look at the org chart, you're off over to the side." Black has other business, so he says good-bye and leaves.

Corina had requested Mikie try to get the answer to two questions from Blaelok: was he the person who grabbed her after the duel and had her bio-sculpted, and what did Blaelok and Ming-Na Ling exchange during the wedding reception. Mikie goes down to the basement to work with Blaelok again, hoping it won't be quite so hard this time. It's not; it's much worse. Blaelok is more resistant, and more aware now. Blaelok does not want to give up the information on Corina, so he tries to keep Mikie out by bringing up easy to read surface thoughts and images. Blaelok knows enough about Mikie to know just how to get to him; the images are vivid and brutal - Mikie's mother shooting up drugs, Theresa being gang-raped by Satan's Slammers, etc. It's hideous, but it doesn't prevent Mikie from getting the information.

On the other hand, extracting just the two answers from Blaelok is so draining that Mikie doesn't try for anything else. Blaelok does, however, try to make a 'deal', so to speak, by offering Mikie a glimmer of hope for Theresa - her backup tape may be used to restore the parts of her personality damaged by the virus. Blaelok happens to have a recent tape of Theresa, in the hands of a trusted agent. Blaelok can't even tell Mikie who it is, as the contact was made via dead drop only. But if Blaelok were to make a phone call, the tape could be acquired, and what harm could there be in letting Blaelok make one little call? Mikie doesn't trust Blaelok at all. The parting image Blaelok provides is of Theresa in a little jumpsuit, sweeping the street, and being harassed by street punks calling her 'retard'.

Mikie leaves Blaelok, and goes upstairs (good thing it's a short commute). He feels awful, so he takes a shower. He's standing under the water , when the drips from the shower head takes on a thicker, darker nature. Like something is dripping from above. Mikie looks up to see a net shelf of sorts, with Theresa on it, hacked into pieces. The hallucination only lasts a few seconds, but leaves Mikie incredibly shaken up.

Mikie gets dressed and phones Corina to let her know he has the information she requested, and would she rather he give it to her in person? Corina asks Mikie if he's okay, and the reply is "No, I'm not." Corina: "Is there anything I can do?" Mikie: "No." They arrange for Mikie to come to Corina's office. Mikie arrives at the office, with Brigitte, who he convinces to wait in the anteroom, although she's not happy (like the Duchess is going to try to shoot him or something, jeeze). Mikie sits down and tells Corina "It was Blaelok who took you after the duel, but it goes back further than that. Ming-Na was asked to provide the bacterial precursors, viral carriers that Blaelok needed for his project. She asked what he'd done for her lately, and wanted something in return. Ming-Na knew about the Solomani mind-control procedures, and she was getting concerned that you were 'out of control'. Blaelok got what he wanted in payment for him grabbing you, getting you off planet, and implanting control codes. Blaelok took mem-wipe afterwards, so he doesn't remember what the codes are, or what exactly they do. I'm sorry, but I can't get them." Corina is not happy to hear all this.

On his way out, Mikie runs into Special Agent in Charge (just ask him) Rollings of the IBI, who is waiting with two more expensively suited men. Rollings: "Well, well, if it isn't Michael Griffin. We've come a long way. Long way to fall." Mikie: "Fuck you." Rollings: "In your dreams. We'll be seeing each other, I'm sure." Whatever. Like anything Rollings could do to Mikie would compare with what's going on now?

The two new suits are Mr. Green - ISA, and Mr. Smith - ISS. (How imaginative.) They are making a courtesy call on Corina, before picking up Mr. Blaelok. Corina isn't confident in their competence, so why should she help them? They don't care what she wants, don't actually need her help, and pretty much intend to get Blaelok regardless. Corina doesn't have any problem turning Blaelok over to the ISS or ISA, but because of the quarantine, they will have to have him kept in a secure facility on planet. They've thought of that, but they have arranged for a secure container for him. That's nice, but the system is in quarantine. The quarantine doesn't apply to them, obviously. Corina disagrees. They have made arrangements for a Naval vessel that has not docked with the station to receive the medical container, so there will be no chance for contamination. Not bad. Corina tells them "I'm perfectly willing to have Mr. Blaelok's body transferred... " Smith: "His body? He is alive?" Corina: "He was the last time I saw him." Smith and Green are concerned about Corina's contact with Blaelok, and obviously don't like the idea of parting with any information about him. Corina, who has been through enough in the last few days to not care what these twits wants, tells them: " Oh please. I know about Section 9, I know about Evan Sontag, I know about the viral reeducation program." Nervous glances are exchanged. Green: "This is somewhat awkward, your grace. We have very explicit instructions as to what to do with anyone who has been made aware of this knowledge." Smith is fingering his firearm. Corina: "Cut that out - I don't want any accidental discharges in my office." She tosses a copy of Free Thoughts on the desk - "Where have you guys been? Read for yourselves." Hmmm. The tension levels off before anyone is shot. Their concern is transporting Blaelok from Regina Security to the shuttle bay, and they want to borrow some of Corina's marines; the transfer would be the best place to try to get Blaelok. Corina suggests that perhaps it's best to do this surreptitiously. She agrees to speak with Mr. Black, to let him know the ISA/S are here.

Corina phones Black. Black answers the phone in a very irate mood, Corina tells Black that she has "representatives from the ISA and the ISS here in my office, and they have requested Mr. Blaelok be turned over to them for interrogation." Black: "No, I need him! (to some one in his office) What the fuck are you doing you idiot?!? (back to Corina) Oh, all right! Fine!!" Corina: Mercer? Are you all right? Black: Of course I am? Why do you ask? <aside> If I could get some decent help around here!" He hangs up. Corina looks quizzically at the phone. How odd.

Black is on a real rampage, yelling at his men. "Where the fuck is Christine!! Why isn't she here??" A frightened employee (the one who drew the short straw perhaps) answers "Uh, sir, she's in the sanitarium." Black: "What the hell is she doing there?" Employee: "Um, because you had her put there??" This is not good. Not at all.

Ghaer goes to his apartment, sees that Kirrhl's stuff is gone. She's left a note saying she's "sorry, it was a job, you were just a mark - I didn't mean to fall in love." Great. But she was working for whom?? Ghaer goes to Corina's office, and is immediately pounced upon and vaccinated. Ow!! What the heck?

Black is coherent, but his moods are shifting violently, and he seems to forget stuff. His doctors have been able to reduce the growth of the syphilis, but the damn thing keeps changing. Black is doing much better than Christine. The docs would like to put Black on mood leveling drugs, but he isn't going to go for that. He calms down, and is quite friendly when Mikie shows up to speak with him.

Mikie tells Black about Theresa's tape and Blaelok's request to make a call to his agent. Black says "Oh, I don't think that will be necessary", and drops a tape labeled 'Theresa' onto his desk. "I take it you'd like this?" Mikie, impressed, says "yes". Black informs Mikie about the guys from the ISA/ISS coming for Blaelok. Mikie is not happy about somebody taking Blaelok off alive. Unfortunately, the other security agencies are keen to find out all the can about "SolSec, the most powerful, all-knowing, security agency, and Blaelok is their chance. I wouldn't mind having more time with him myself, but he's not very amusing. Don't worry Mikie, I'll arrange for Blaelok to be memwiped. I wouldn't want the ISA agents to worry about your being a security leak, you just coming aboard and all." Not that Mikie would feel more safe that way. The phone rings, and Black is told the ISA/S guys are there to see him. Black: "Fuck 'em, they can wait."

The phone rings a second after Black disconnects, which sets him off again. "What! Who the hell is calling me on the phone?" Corina: "It's a communication device, that's why I'm using it. I'd like to know if there's any way you can confirm the identity of the ISA agents. They've arrived here rather suddenly, and are in a big hurry to take a man with diplomatic immunity off planet. I'd rather you make sure who they are, before turning him over to them." Black could send some one off planet to Rhylanor, but that would take weeks. Black thinks for a minute then tells Corina "There is some one on planet who has been working for the ISA, and several other organizations. He may be able to help." Black gets off the phone with Corina, and sends some one to bring in Mr. White. Nicely, unless he objects. Black tells Mikie he wants him to stay when White is brought in. Mikie: "You're the boss." Black: "That reminds me." He deftly flips a metallic-looking card into Mikie's lap (Black must practice a lot) - it's Mikie's new i.d. badge, which glows when he holds it.

Back at her office, Corina gives Ghaer a run down on the status quo. Blaelok's clever plan, etc. Ghaer asks if Ling Standard had anything to do with the virus, since if so, there may be information she can access. Corina doesn't believe there will be anything useful obtained through Ling Standard. She's trying to not give a direct answer.

Mr. White is asked to go to the Regina Security Agency. He goes along politely, and is brought in to see Mr. Black. Mikie is in the room too. White is shown pictures of several people, asked if he recognizes them, which he does. White: "Yes, I know who they are." Black: "So, who are they? You're a trained investigator." White: (pointing) ISA, ISA. Black: "Thank you very much Mr. White, you've been most helpful. Jack? Take Mr. White wherever he wants. ON the station... NOW!!" Jack leaps into action.

When White leaves, Mikie tells Black "you know I couldn't read White - he's using a shield." Black: "Well, that's not unexpected, given his line of work." Mikie: "No, but it's not the standard shield, it's more like what Blaelok used. " Black: "Interesting." Mikie points out that White knows he's a teep, since Blaelok told him that when he sold him the Palladium Group. Black decides that Mr. White needs watching, so he sends people off to run surveillance on White, and to make it very careful, very loose. The topic goes back to Blaelok, and the desire to not give him to any one. Black: "There's unfortunately no way to not give up Mr. Blaelok. Although I suppose he could always be shot while trying to escape..." (Black's mostly joking.) Mikie responds with "My aim isn't that good." Black is very surprised. "Why Mikie! Did you have an anti-religious experience recently?? One would almost think you were volunteering to drop the block on our Mr. Blaelok?" Mikie: "Yes." Black looks at him and says "You have a level An i.d. badge. Clip it on, and no one will question where you're going. I think I'll go have lunch now." Black leaves, in a good mood. Mikie clips on his badge and walks out of Black's office, heading down.

To be continued...

* "He had heard the midnight bells jangling: If you permit this evil, what is the good of the good in your life?
- from King of the River, Stanley Kunitz