207 - 1122.
Corina is concerned about the identity of the ISA/S agents. SolSec is perfectly capable of forging perfectly good fake ID., and possibly the Imperial warrant. She wants to speak with some high-ranking members of Naval intelligence. Coincidentally enough, the battleship Agamemnon has just jumped into system. Fancy that. Corina has her communications officer send her message, just as a highly encrypted message begins to arrive. When it comes through, it's a request for information: "Do you have a high ranking Solomani diplomat in custody?" Corina's return answer is "Yes." The Agamemnon returns with "Do nothing, await arrival of Grand Admiral." Okay! Corina phones Black, and tells him to "Don't hand them over!" Black: "And what do you propose I say?" Corina: "That's on the orders of the Grand Admiral." Black: "But they're here, and Grey is " Corina interrupts with "here with his battleship." Black: "Ah. Well, we'll just have to stall and hope Mikie does the right thing." He hangs up, leaving Corina wondering just what he meant.
Corina has sent Ghaer on to Regina Security to see Black, as she's concerned about his mood, and Blaelok. He's left in the waiting room, with several underlings of Mr. Smith and Mr. Green. They're too important to wait, so they've gone to lunch too. Ghaer speaks with the receptionist at Regina Security, and identifies himself. Corina is called to confirm his identity, and he is then escorted into a small interior room by two security agents who remain with him. The room has a pot of coffee, and some magazines. One of the two men offer Ghaer a copy of 'Dog Fancier' magazine. Cute. One of the agents comments "Nice stripes." Ghaer: "Yeah, they made me 1st Sergeant when they reactivated me." Agent: "So, what brings you here?" Ghaer: "Orders." Agent: "What kind of orders?" Ghaer: "Nothing special. Just coordinating some things about a bigwig." Ghaer doesn't drink any coffee, as no one has mentioned anything about a bathroom break.
Grey arrives at the ducal estate, and Corina asks if he's had lunch. Grey responds "As a matter of fact no. Thank you for asking." Corina: "Then I suggest the Jasmine Club, where they have sound dampers better than any outside of Mr. Black's office. Maybe better." They head to the Club for a late luncheon.
Nicolai decides to see how Globber is doing, and just what he might be having to eat today. (Advanced foraging techniques.) Nicolai: "I have a small favor to ask." Globber: "You can ask. Fire away. Oh, and try some of that vichyssoise, it's most excellent." Nicolai joins the Commissioner in his dining experience. Nicolai asks Globber if he's aware of what took place in Mikie's apartment the other day? Globber: "What do you mean?" Nicolai: "It involved the Solomani ambassador and his robots." Globber: "Some information has trickled down to me. Why do you ask?" Nicolai: "In the course of the events there, I lost my service knife." Globber: "How unfortunate, but why are you asking me?" Nicolai: "I understand that evidence has been removed from the apartment, and I was hoping to get whatever is left of my knife back." Globber: "I understand Regina Security has taken care of whatever was in the apartment. Perhaps you should ask them." Nicolai: "But it's possible that the police may have or be able to obtain access to some of the evidence or debris from the incident. I would appreciate it if you could check for me." Globber will at least inquire for Nicolai.
Mikie has gone downstairs to see Mr. Blaelok, who is having lunch too. He's feeding himself some sort of gruel-like substance. Blaelok is alone in his cell, hunched over in restraints. Mikie tells the guard he needs Blaelok moved into the other room. The guard radios for the cell to be opened, and he very carefully takes the heavily restrained Blaelok into the interrogation room. Blaelok is secured into the chair, and the guard leaves. Blaelok: "You're early, Michael. I was having my lunch." Mikie: "Sorry for the interruption." Blaelok: "How's you lovely wife?" Mikie says nothing. Blaelok: you know it's not too late. I can help Theresa. I'm the only one who can help her. How is she doing?" Mikie: "I don't think the inhibitor is working." Blaelok: "Well, that figures, it is experimental. I shouldn't have gone with them, SuSAG was my first choice. By 'them', he means Ling Standard. Blaelok is not even trying to hide to whom he's referring - "You know, Corina's family, friends." Brief pause for effect. Blaelok: "Corina was in on it herself. Go ahead, look for yourself." Mikie checks, and Blaelok does believe he's telling the truth about Corina. But that's enough of the pleasantries. Mikie makes a connection with Blaelok, and tries one more shot at a heavily guarded area of his mind. Suddenly he breaks through and is hit by incredible physical and psychological pain. When he had his arm ripped off and things got worse was nothing compared to this.
Mikie wakes up on the floor. The guard is nearby, very dead. Blaelok is gone. There's a message scrawled in blood on the wall: oderint dum metuant *. If the message was left for Mikie it's wasted. The guard is not just dead, he's cold. Mikie checks his watch and two and a half hours have passed. Oh shit!! The door is locked, the camera has been tampered with, the emergency button has been yanked out, and the guard's shock baton is missing.
Mikie eventually manages to use the guard's belt buckle to pick the lock and get out into the hallway. There are parts of the baton in the hall, and other wires pulled out of the phone at the guard's desk. A set of manacles lie on the floor near the desk. Mikie gets to another room and hits the panic button. He makes contact with some one upstairs, tells them who he is, and that Blaelok has gotten away. They're sending people right down.
In the comfort of the Jasmine Club, lunch and the kind of conversation most reporters would give their livers to be in on takes place...
Grey: "One of the reasons I am here is of no matter. The other is that I have been informed that you are holding a Solomani diplomat in custody, in contravention of the Treaty of Year 3."
Corina: There are also laws against using biological agents against a foreign government, or at least on a civilian population.
Grey: "The only point of the treaty of year 3 is that no individual with diplomatic immunity may be arrested or prosecuted."
Corina: "What happens if they come back? Repeatedly? What happens if they kill people when they come back? I understand what you're saying, but that should not permit a member of a foreign government getting away with murder."
Grey: "I suggest that we escort him to the tramline and send him back with a warning tattooed on his forehead, well, no we can't do that."
Corina: And if the Solomani government is taking part in actions against the Imperium and it's citizens? Do you understand what this plague would do to the Imperium? There wouldn't be an Imperium any more. "
Grey: "I understand exactly what this plague would do to the Imperium. Which is why he must be returned to Solomani space where he can report that it was successful." Grey smiles briefly. "And if something happened en route to Solomani space, that would certainly be tragic, but none of our affair. After all, the Marches is a dangerous place. I was hoping you could suggest some one."
Corina: "I know who you can get to kill him, but I don't know how we can get him into Solomani space."
Grey: "It doesn't have to be in Solomani space, just away from Regina."
Corina: "That's easy then - Nicolai Volkov. He's Solomani, he's CRI, he's a longtime associate of Blaelok's, and he was willing to die to kill the man."
Grey: "Very interesting. I was also given the name of another gentleman who would bear Mr. Blaelok considerable ill will: a Michael Griffin. "
Corina: "It doesn't do us a lot of good to send some one after Blaelok unless they have a good chance of killing him. Michael was also willing to die to put an end to Blaelok, but I don't think he has the kind of combat skills needed to kill some one with Blaelok's abilities and training. "
Grey: "I was given to believe that Mr. Griffin was a powerful psionic."
Corina: "I understand that Mr. Blaelok has a powerful psi shield."
Grey: "I see."
Corina: "If you can find a way to undo that, Mr. Griffin may be useful. The other problem with having some one who has a personal reason to kill Blaelok, is that he may have messed with them, and they may be willing but unable to kill him."
Grey: "No matter. We don't need to decide the specifics right now. I suggest you call that horrid little man you use take care of the preliminaries. "
Corina: "There is one other problem. Some one from the ISA and ISS are here, demanding to take Mr. Blaelok, and flashing an Imperial warrant."
Grey: "I'm not surprised. They haven't been made part of our plans."
Corina: "But how could they have known to come here now?"
Grey: "Even my own staff isn't 100% secure. I suggest you have your man move Mr. Blaelok to the hospital. I'll make arrangements to have him transferred to the Trieste ( a light cruiser). I'll inform the captain and have her make contact directly with you." Grey stands to leave. "Thank you for the lunch. It's always a pleasure to see you. You're looking very well. Have you cut your hair?" Corina walks Grey to the front of the club, where his car and (female) driver are pulling up. Grey: "You do lead interesting lives out her on the frontier, don't you?" Grey steps into his car, which is moving as he gets in, and drives off.
Corina phones her 'horrid little man'. Black: "Yes, who is this? This is Black."
Corina: "Mercer, it's Corina."
Black: "We have a problem. Blaelok has escaped. I'd love to chat but I hope you'll understand I'm a bit busy." <click>
Ghaer's is waiting, as patiently as possible, in his little room. The alarms go off. One of Ghaer's minders gets on his com unit: "What do you mean he escaped? Nobody escapes! " To Ghaer: "Stay!" Ghaer shoves the copy of 'Dog Fancier' into the door before it shuts completely, so he doesn't get locked in. Good thing it was a big issue, as the door cuts almost all the way through it.
Corina, meanwhile, has decided maybe if Black doesn't have time to give her information, that maybe Mikie does, so she calls his cell phone. A curt voice with a Solomani accent answers with "Yes?", then hangs up. Corina rings Black back.. Corina: "He has Michael Griffin's cell phone. Can you trace it?"
Black: "Well, not now, he has to be on the line. Only for a second, but it doesn't work if he's not on the phone."
Nicolai overhears a telephone conversation while mooching food. Globber: "How could he escape, he has diplomatic immunity? ...Well, tell Regina Security to ask nicely... If they're assuming responsibility let them. ... No, cooperate fully. ... Yes, cooperate Regina style. ... Yeah, fuck Rollings. ..." Globber hangs up and turns to Nicolai. Globber: "Interesting. Some one has just called to inform me that the Solomani ambassador has 'escaped' from Regina Security, which is remarkable seeing as the ambassador has diplomatic immunity." At this point, Nicolai hears the phone is his room (across the hall) ringing, so he limps that way as quickly as possible, hoping the hospital has voicemail.
It does. There's a message from Corina: "Nicolai, I hope the hospital has connected me to the right extension, but I thought you should be aware that Christopher is walking about again. I thought that of all the people he might go looking for, you're on the short list. Oh, and he has Michael Griffin's cell phone. or maybe he just has a discount calling plan by using Michael's phone." Oh dear. Nicolai heads back to Globber's room to confirm the bad news.
The heavily armored internal security people reach the area of the cells, and go through clearing them with flashbang grenades. Including the room Mikie is in. Just what he needs. One of the men recognizes Mikie - "Oh shit, it's Black's pet psionic. Better get him topside." They go up in the elevator, once it's been checked carefully; they even look up.
Globber gives Corina a call. Globber: "Your grace, I think something's missing." Corina: "I'm concerned that if there is anything left in the Consulate or Regina Security, Chris may try to reclaim it before he leaves the area." She rings off, as she's in a hurry. Globber (to Nicolai): "You don't think the Duchess will do something foolish do you?" Nicolai: "You're asking me??" Globber: "She's going to do something foolish." Globber puts on his robe and leads Nicolai out to the front desk, where they are confronted by a doctor who wants to know just what they think they're doing?? Globber: "We're leaving. Can you do something about that (N's cast)? He needs to use his arm." The doctor finally agrees to remove Nicolai's cast. The pair leaves, AMA (Against Medical Advice). Nicolai isn't sure what Globber wants him to do, and reminds him about the conversation involving command codes. Well, he can act as a distraction, or look out or something.
Mikie is taken to be checked out by a medic. En route, he sees Ghaer being hustled outside by a SWAT type. Mikie notices that one of the gloves is sort of floppy (Blaelok is missing a hand, thanks to Corina's use of Purple). Mikie tries to read him, but he's gotten a hold of some chemical psi shield. He grabs one of the security guys, points, and tells him "It's Blaelok." They're too confused, and not fast enough, so they lose him. Black comes in a few minutes later, and is concerned that Blaelok might have done something more to Mikie, since he doesn't look at all well. Mikie points out that "I would have felt better if it hadn't been for the flashbang; I think I have a concussion." Black wants Mikie checked out by the doctor. Black's man says "Our doctor??", somewhat concerned. Black accompanies them down to the doctor, telling him to consider it "a challenge. You remember your training don't you?" The point here is that the doctor doesn't usually do nice things to his 'patients'. On the other hand, he does have experience keeping people alive for interrogation, and he is able to do Mikie some good.
Corina has been shopping like crazy in MilTech (weapons, armor, ammo). Globber's car screeches up, and Corina suggests they all go back into MilTech as Blaelok won't be expecting Corina to be there, and besides, they can stock up. This is the second time Nicolai has shown up here in a hospital gown; they're starting to get used to this. And stock up Nicolai does, in spades. Most of the stuff is put into the trunk of Globber's car, as Nicolai really can't cart it all around (what with being one handed and all (they'll regrow that hand, no problem).
Corina's phone rings. It's Black: "This is Mercer. They've just found the body of Admiral Grey." <!!!>
Corina: "Arrange a DNA type with the Navy. And make sure everything possible is done to save him.
Black: "He took two 12mm soft slugs in the head." Oh.
Corina: "Do we know anyone who uses 12mm's?"
Black: "Half the mercs on planet."
Corina: "Where was he found?"
Black: "In the dock area."
Corina: "What was he doing out there? Is there any sign of his car or driver - has her body been found as well?" Nope. Black doesn't have an update on Blaelok yet, but "I'm not expecting him to get far. He's in bad shape, so if he's running around, it's on sheer willpower."
Corina, Globber, and Nicolai figure that Blaelok will be seeking medical help, whether from a 'safe' street doctor, or some one who has been working for him, they don't know. Globber will have all the discreet clinics, etc. checked out, and he has all the leaves cancelled - he wants to make sure there are lots and lots of cops visible on the streets.
They go to the consulate, cut their way through the back fence, and go in through the servants' entrance. There are two Solomani's in suits on the inside. They receive a message on the computer, use the "passphrase", (while reading the message one says: "I'll be damned. Okay, clear it." Before they can do that, Corina shoots one of them, and Nicolai whacks the other with the iron bar from the fence, ramming it into his heart, causing him to inhale his dopestick as he falls to the ground. Those things will kill you.
Ghaer is outside Regina Security, and observes Rollings, Green, White, and some of their flunkies. Green and Smith decide that Regina Security has lost Blaelok, so they are going to leave Rollings and see if they can find Blaelok before Black does. Rollings goes over to Black, starts poking him in the chest and going on about how "I'm in charge of this investigation now", and demanding to go inside. Black calmly blows smoke in Rollings' face for a few seconds, and when he's had enough, he suddenly snap kicks Rollings right in the family jewels. Very hard. Black: "Oh, I'm sorry. My foot slipped. " Rollings rolls up into a tight little ball, whimpering, and falls over. Paramedics come and take him away. The other IBI guys are looking a bit intimidated by the beweaponed RS men in heavy armor. The Regina Security guys get in some taunting: "Hey, maybe you want to come inside. We have some lovely rooms downstairs."
Ghaer tries Mikie's cell phone, but it's answered by odd little voices who start mimicking the phone ring. Ghaer calls Corina to tell her that "Michael's phone has been commandeered by Verbils." Corina: "That's because Blaelok had it." Unfortunately, Corina is heard answering the phone, and another man comes in to the other room, sees the group, and draws his gun. Globber shoots the man, repeatedly. The message is disappearing from the laptop screen as Globber looks at it (Nicolai managed to impale the computer as well. All Globber is able to get is that "he was going to one of the safe houses and would make contact in one week. Safehouse red. Make contact in the park in 7 days."
Ghaer is trying to find a car. He's not about to steal a police car, or one of the Regina Security cars either. He takes an autocab, requesting a stop within one block of the consulate, but not in front. ( A very popular stop.)
Two Solomani marines respond to the gunfire. Nicolai shoots one of them, Corina misses the other. Nicolai takes the commo unit off the downed marine, but there's only one marine so who's he going to call? Nicolai gets on the commo: "This is Frank." Marine: "Frank who?" Nicolai: "We need to get to red." Marine: "What's the passcode? Today's challenge is 'archangel', what's the passcode?" Nicolai (guessing): "Michael." Marine: "Nice try." Oh well. Nicolai takes the opportunity to pick up one of those cool new Solomani rifles (and some ammo) to replace the one Blaelok took away from him and tossed down the air shaft.
They go to the consul's office in search of the safe. The shield is still down, so they can't get in that way. They try to find an adjoining room to go in, and locate a very secure room. They are not getting in there without a cutting torch. They go to another office, find a secret keypad, and they ask Jimmy Weseli (who's been driving for Globber) to try to get past the completely blank four by four keypad. Jimmy looks at it, then gets a landline and calls his Dad on the phone to get advice on spoofing the keypad. It works. A door opens in complete silence. They go through.
Ghaer arrives to find no guard in front of the consulate, a large hole in the fence, and a police car out back. Ghaer follows the trail of destruction, carefully. He luckily is not taken completely by surprise when he comes upon the remaining Solomani marine who is prone in an air vent with his rifle. Ghaer has a few shorter hairs around his ear, but he is uninjured. The marine is shot, and drops his rifle, and panics. The kid is about 19 years old, and is sure the evil alien is going to eat him. He is screaming and begging for mercy when Ghaer hits him with Regen2. He'll be out for a while.
Black wants Mikie to see if he can remember anything about where Blaelok might have gone. Mikie has picked up some errant miscellaneous thoughts, and he manages to remember Blaelok thinking about places he might go if he could. There were three possibilities. Black starts making plans, when Corina calls Black to try to find out if maybe Mikie has a clue as to where Blaelok would have gone, especially some place that might be referred to as 'red'. There is one place that could fit that - it has red pipes above and around the outside. It's in the industrial section near where the commercial ships dock. Corina: "Was that near where Grey was killed?" Black: "Yes." Corina: "That might explain why Pamela was there." (Grey's blonde female driver?) Mikie overhears the conversation, says "Pamela?" Black replies "Yes, and she may have killed Grey." Mikie: "Admiral Grey? Viper's husband?? Does she know??" Black doesn't think anyone has told her yet. Not that anyone would want that job. (Oh, maybe some one with a lingering, painful, terminal illness.)
There's not much besides a mostly empty desk in the ambassador's office. Nicolai picks up the photo of Pamela on Blaelok's desk, to look for something hidden behind the photo. Click. Nicolai yells "Run!" while doing so. Boom. Nasty, but not all that destructive - it was evidently designed as an antipersonnel device, rather than something to blow up the whole office. Ghaer is able to find the group by follow the sound and smell of the explosion, so he joins them and the search of the consulate continues. They find the medical area that Corina had been in earlier. No equipment. There's also a secured room in this area. Very tough to get into, and not something Jimmy can do with instructions over the phone. Nicolai suggests getting Jimmy's father in to try to get into it. Globber declines, as it's already going to get public. Globber finds a plaque that has fallen off the door, and it says "Armory". Nicolai really wants in, but Globber doesn't think it's relevant to the task at hand, so they leave it for now.
Mikie has had time to think about the safehouse thing, and he asks Black "If you were setting up safehouses, would you give them names that matched obvious physical parts of the buildings? Like calling a building with a red door 'redsafe'?" Black: "Of course not." Mikie thinks about the other possibles - one is on a lower level, in a dark, really unpleasant area of the Port that Blaelok didn't enjoy going to; the other is a hidden door near a really nice oak door that Mikie thinks is familiar. After a while, he realizes that it's the back door of Clairidges. Bingo. Mikie tells Black that the place with the red pipes is wrong - it's the one near Clairidges. Black will let Corina's group continue to the other safehouse, and not tell them yet, so they can at least maybe cause a distraction. Black is going to set things up very, very carefully and quietly, as he doesn't want to spook Blaelok. Black: "Paul, you go with Mikie. You know what we want." Once Mikie has confirmed that Blaelok is where they think he is, then they can move in. Mikie is concerned about what will happen to Blaelok at that point. Black tells him "I believe Mr. Blaelok will have been the victim of a murderer. The killer will be killed while attempting to evade capture by the authorities. I appreciate your delicate sensibilities, so we'll make sure it's some one who's done something naughty. I'm sure we have a few of those around here. <several of his men look really nervous> Oh, not one of the staff!!"
Mikie is not thrilled with the idea, but he asks Black if, since Blaelok found chemical psi shield on site, Black has "psi boost? I don't know if I can get past Pamela's shield implant, but I should be able to get past the chemical shield with it." Black thinks about it, takes Mikie to his office, gets something out of a keyed safe, and asks "Have you ever used this before?" Mikie: "Once. It wasn't my idea." Black hands Mikie an auto-injector of what in theory is psi-boost.
Corina and company have done all the damage they're interested in at the consulate, and take the injured marine and the police car off in search of Blaelok. En route, Nicolai comments that "You know, I liked Admiral Grey." Ghaer: 'Liked'?? Nicolai: "Corina got a report that Grey had been killed." Ghaer: "Oh, I don't want to be on planet when Viper finds out. Or the navy."
They look for the building with overhead red pipes. Eventually, they find it. When they arrive at the safehouse, Globber asks if Corina wants him to send for some of his men, but she doesn't think that would be a good idea, since they are not exactly doing official police business. Globber: "You're right, I don't want the rank and file involved here - we've got to kill this guy. I think what we need here is a little Regina street justice, and I don't want my men involved. Jimmy, go home." Jimmy protests, but Ghaer asks him to take the injured Solomani marine to the hospital, and Globber seconds that, so off goes Jimmy (after unloading the stash of guns, etc. in the trunk). Nicolai only arches a brow at Globber's "street justice" comment.
Before they enter (or attempt to enter) the building, Nicolai has an offer for Globber. Nicolai: "If we're successful, and you need deniability, you can use me." Globber: "That won't be necessary. I'm not a spook." Nicolai: "It will look better for Regina if he's killed by a Solomani." Globber: "Do you think anyone will care? He's just another victim of the mean streets of Regina... It's irrelevant at any rate. The die is cast."
Cheap, flimsy interior doors. The door flies open as Globber leans into it, and he goes in with gun in hand. There's a hallway, and another door, looks brand new. Ghaer looks around and eventually finds the camera that's been tracking them for some time, probably. The door is the only way in, unless you want to go cutting your way through a bunch of heavy equipment. Nobody likes the looks of this.
They find another high tech keypad, but Jimmy has left. Nicolai tries to remember the phone number Jimmy called to get a hold of his father, but he can't quite get it. They try tossing a grenade down the hall, shutting the exterior door. Boom. The outer door flies off and away, and the inner door's plastic cover has been blown off to reveal the flint steel door beneath. There are exposed wires on the keypad now, so Ghaer tries to get it to open, and accidentally gets the door to pop open (he's just not sure how he did it). The go in, through the entryway, and find the surveillance room. There is a split screen, showing the corridor they were in, and another corridor that is evidently the other way in. They continue to search, and find the latch that opens the door to the inner living quarters. There is some blood in here, not much. They go through another door, that has a seal on it. There is a table, and medical equipment, quite a bit of blood, and Blaelok on the table. There is a dead medtech in scrubs, with his neck twisted right around. Blaelok has a very blank expression on his face, possibly because of the IV he's hooked up to, or it could be because Blaelok's brain is missing. Corejob. And the body is still warm.
Ghaer gathers up samples of blood from the room. And there's a brain in the sink. (Eww!) Apparently, the brain in the sink was removed from it's original owner, Blaelok's brain was removed and placed into the other body, leaving Blaelok's body and some one else's brain behind. The horrible thought that this might be connected to Grey's body comes up, and a call is made to Black to make certain they still have Grey's body.
They have a body, but it's not Grey's. At least according to the DNA comparison the now very curious Navy people did. The dead man has had some interesting surgical work done recently. Very high tech, at least on Rhylanor. To be blunt, some one had a Grey made. Ghaer had to leave the shielded surgical room to make the phone call to Black, and sees a folding gurney wedged into the pipes. There are tire tracks in the area. Apparently, the gurney was wheeled out here, the person was moved into a car, and the gurney was lifted up and stashed by some one very strong. Alex?
The samples of the blood all over the 'medical' room might be of use in eliminating Blaelok and the dead medtech, and then getting some idea of who Blaelok was moved into. Globber makes a comment about having to send the blood to Rhylanor for that kind of testing, but then he remembers that the IBI just got some new equipment in since the Imperium returned to Regina. Globber: "We can use their machine. They can't do a full sequence, but they can get sex, race, age, hair color, eye color, etc." Samples are sent to the IBI. A while later Globber gets some bad news - they're having trouble with the gene sequencer. Some one messed it up, and the log shows the last person in the room was Special Agent Rollings. Fancy that. After the little incident with Black, Mr. Rollings had gone on sick leave, but he's not at home and his luggage is missing too. Some one matching Rollings' description was spotted on the security cameras going into the Banque de Géneve, and now he's nowhere to be found.
208 - 1122.
Very, very early. Sleep? Who needs sleep?
* 'Let them hate, so long as they fear.' - Lucius Accius 170-86 BC