"...neither joy, nor love, nor light..."*

195 to 210 - 1122. (approx.)

Viper gets a coded transmission from the Agamemnon, apparently from Grey, saying "it's not safe, things are going on. I have some things to take care of, but I'll send some people to get you. I 'll call as soon as I can". Viper is taken from Corina's ship to the Agamemnon to wait. Viper is pissed off that people keep trying to 'protect' her from everything, damn it. So, while the chaos on Regina Up Port with Corina et al was going on, Viper was kept on board the Agamemnon.

Viper decides to spend her time asking some of the Navy computer geeks if they can help with her investigation into the death of Spencer and John Collingwood. Well, they have really huge computers, and a lot of technical people, but they can only use the computers for official business. On the other hand, the inquest IS official business, so the answer is "yes Ma'am!"

Viper sends them after information on the drug they found in the blood tests of various people involved. She would like them to go after SuSAG's computers too, and possibly SternMetal and Ling, but in order to do that, they want subpoenas issued. Oh, that's no fun.

Viper does get several messages: Bunny Delgado is on planet, in response to the subpoena. And Will Delgado would really like to speak with Viper about some other issues.

And then the Tattler's 'special report' is broadcast about the death of Admiral Grey. "Initial reports that the body of a middle-aged man in a Naval Admiral's uniform was found, killed gangland style. We have unconfirmed reports identifying the man as William Grey, the Grand Admiral of the Spinward Marches and the Duke of Rhylanor." Viper hears this as she's walking by a room with the broadcast on. She heads directly to the communications room: "I want the police, and I want them now." The ship's captain, Jean Deladrier, assures Viper that the news isn't necessarily reliable, especially here. "I'm sure your husband is fine. I'm sorry, can I get you anything? Perhaps you should sit down. Tea perhaps?" Viper is concerned about this news going out by X-boat to Rhylanor, before it's confirmed. The captain is able to convince the X-boat crew to hang around to make some 'repairs''; a few boxes of 'spare parts' are sent over, in what appears to be old liquor boxes (imagine that).

Viper asks how many people her husband took with him, and is told "only his driver". Viper's thoughts: "If he's not dead, I am so going to have a talk with him about security."

Black tries to contact Viper, but isn't able to get her on her cell phone or at her hotel. Globber calls Viper from the hospital to let her know that the DNA tests show that it is not Grey's body, but some one who was altered dramatically to appear to be Grey. Captain Deladrier requests that the body be released to the Navy, so that the DNA test can be confirmed (after all, it is Regina), and to see if any information can be gained from the body. The Captain is especially concerned, since this may mean that his ship was operating under the orders of some impersonator. The Starport Authority isn't really keen to hand over the body, but Captain Deladrier points out that if he doesn't get the body, "I'll send Marines down there to get it, and I have a lot of Marines. I have more Marines than you have employees." Viper intercedes and calls Globber directly, and the Commissioner of course makes the arrangements.

The body is brought on board the Agamemnon, and Viper is asked to inspect the body. She's not happy, but the security people want to check on whether or not the people who did this knew about physical characteristics that would not be obvious from public pictures. Unfortunately, the answer is yes - all the scars, etc. are where they should be. The body shows signs of having been in a low berth recently, so he could have been 'made' months ago. And everything down to the retina prints are exact. Viper is very thoroughly questioned, as no one is sure exactly when Grey was substituted. The question "Were there any changes in his 'intimate' behavior towards you recently" is particularly unpleasant. Viper tries to not second guess everything, or it will drive her crazy.

The Solomani ambassador's body was found by some Starport maintenance people, when he was in the process of being parted out by some organleggers. A gun fight ensued, and the 'leggers lost. The press will report that Ambassador Blaelok was killed by organleggers. Aaah, too bad.

Junior is slowly recuperating in the hospital from the injuries he doesn't remember Nicolai inflicting on him (good thing too), hoping for an eventual return to solid food, and plotting the death of any Solomanis left on Up Port, especially Blaelok. Or the guys with the weird grenade that blows up people but not their clothing. He gets to go to see the physical terrorist, in between watching his cartoons (or grav-ball, if some one else is in the room).

210 to 211- 1122.

Mikie is found in his apartment by one of Black's men, sent to fetch him. Mikie has a very detached sense of people and voices, and running around, but nothing that really makes sense, or matters. He's in profound shock, so they sedate him and take him away. He's kept sedated for the next few days, moved to a quiet facility Down Port, and eventually starts to become aware of Theresa's family visiting him.

Nicolai notices a small story in the Times about the death of Theresa Griffin, daughter of shipping magnate J.B. Blake. Apparently she died in her sleep of a brain aneurysm. Or at least that's the official story. Nicolai grabs the 'Theresa' tape and heads Up Port, not knowing where Mikie is yet. Viper also sees the story, and wants to see Mikie as well. Corina sends roses, a note to Mikie with her condolences, and telling him to let her know if there is anything she can do.

Corina has decided one of the ways she is going to desecrate Blaelok's grave: by having his personal orchid hybrids crossed with dandelions, and then planting them on his grave (even though it may be only until some Solomani show up to claim the remains). The second gardener is more careful after the first one is found dead, horribly twisted in pain from the poisonous orchids. Oops.

Nicolai finds out where Mikie is at, and visits him in the hospital, on a daily basis. Viper will also visit as often as she can. She does still have the inquest to deal with. Viper is particularly interested in all the people who tested positive for the psychometric. This includes the staff sergeant who got his hands on a bottle, took on an entire bar, and was doing quite well until the MPs showed up.

Viper returns Will's call, and arranges to meet him at her hotel room. Captain Deladrier insists that he send a security detail with her, and for once Viper is in agreement. And she wants to make sure her rooms are cleared electronically. The appropriately skilled people will make this so.

Will tells Viper about what happened between him and Bunny and Bunny's dad on Rhylanor, how Bunny was injured, and to what extent. He also tells her about Grey visiting Bunny, and taking care of her medical bills. Will explains about Bunny's mental condition, and how exactly that came to be, which brings Will to the issue of Bunny's Dad. After Count van der Scheuesse was dead, they found out that he had spent most of his money trying to "save his own life", but he did have a house, and they went there to see if it triggered any memories for Bunny.

Will: "The only room in the house that looked like it had been recently used was the office. We opened the safe, and there was this appointment book," which he hands to Viper. "I had the safe re-keyed to my thumbprint. We went to bed, and later heard noises downstairs. It was some one breaking into the office. I went down, struggled with one of them and shot him, they took Bunny captive, and forced me to open the safe. A man with a Solomani accent showed up, the boss, told them to not rough us up unnecessarily, and basically they went in, made sure they had gotten everything, and even picked up this appointment book, but they discarded it. The point is, there are entries in the appointment book showing that Blaelok met with the Count on several occasions; I don't know for what, but the Count was from the Rim as well, and I recognized that Blaelok from Regina." Viper: "The operative term is 'was'." Will: "Oh?" Viper: "Mr. Blaelok is apparently demised." Will: "I see. Well, I don't know that this information will be relevant any more, but Blaelok told me 'This is just a burglary, right? You're not going to report this as anything other than a burglary, right?' And I don't know for sure that van der Schuesse's money went for medical care, I just know that it's gone." Viper: "How much money are we talking about? Millions? Billions?" Will: "Billions." Viper asks if Bunny will be able to assist with the inquest, but Will explains that Bunny didn't remember much after her injury, and they had to "become reacquainted". However, Will never attempted to discuss the issue of what she remembers from the time of John Collingwood's death, so he doesn't really know if she has lost those memories. Viper will have Will go to the inquest, although he won't be as helpful as Bunny would have been, and Bunny can skip it. Will also tells Viper that he kept the pajamas with the blood stains, which could help identify one of Blaelock's men on Rhylanor at least.

As far as the main thrust of the inquest, Viper's primary concern is the who, what, and wherefore of Spencer's death. The reports of 'unnamed Marines', are particularly annoying. Globber will have to answer some rather pointed questions, since he was the senior officer on site. Viper asks Will about the drug, and Will tells her about Viktor and Ghaer being the ones who told him he might have been drugged, and that Ghaer was the one who took his blood sample. Well then, Viper is going to have to speak with Ghaer then, since Viktor is not available.

Theresa's funeral will be on day 214. In the meantime, Viper will continue to try to figure out why the official reports don't match the forensic evidence. Junior will work on recuperating, getting his new (transplanted) hand to cooperate, and worrying about Shiv - she doesn't like hospitals, so she hasn't been around.

Behrel is trying to deal with Kitty, who has become the Supreme Bitch Queen of the Universe. She's fine as long as everyone does exactly what she wants them to do, and she's been firing nannies on a regular basis. Behrel has taken to wearing soft, baby-friendly clothing, rather than the leather studded, pointy stuff he usually wears.

Nicolai goes to visit Christie, who suggests they go to counseling if they want to continue to have a relationship. Nicolai doesn't see why they should need counseling? Christie tells Nicolai "if you don't know, maybe you should take some time and think about it."

Nicolai is concerned about Mikie's drugged state. Basically, the drugs make sure he doesn't really feel anything, but shouldn't prevent him from recognizing people; he's just not responding. Theresa's family visits every day, and makes sure Mikie is not alone during visiting hours. Lots of people, all the time, and lots of sympathy.

Joe Lee visits, tells Mikie "I'm sorry for your loss." Joe Lee is also worried at the lack of response. "Michael, when you're ready, we should make a trip into the past and visit Bruno's garden. You can find me in the park." Joe Lee will have his hands full replanting in the correct patterns, what with all the destruction the park has been through over the last week or so.

Theresa's father, J.B., speaks with Mikie in private about Theresa's funeral. J.B. will take care of all the arrangements, Mikie doesn't need to worry about that. J.B. talks to Mikie about losing his own wife, Lucy. After J.B. leaves, Mikie phones Black, and tells him he wants some things to be interred with Theresa, and he wants Black's help - the wedding photo Theresa was holding when she died, her firearm, and one other thing Black will have to get from Mikie (his religious medal). Black will take care of it.

214 - 1122.

Theresa's funeral takes place on planet, at her family's home. In a bizarre twist of fate, two years to the day from when Mikie first met Theresa. The memorial service will be in the house, then she will be buried in the family plot. Viper is in attendance, as are Junior (who's looking for Solomanis to kill), Nicolai, Corina and a number of other people (Theresa's co-workers, etc.). And lots and lots of Blake family members. Theresa is laid to rest in a lovely spot outdoors (a wooded hilltop), where her father speaks with Mikie alone afterwards. J.B.: "She loved this place, she used to come here all the time. If you need some time by yourself, why don't you stay here for a while? There's a cabin a couple of miles up that way, you could stay up there, but have friends and family nearby. When Lucy died, I must have spent six weeks there.... You know you're still part of this family. Well, come on, let's get you some grub; you look like you're about to keel over." They go back to the house, where all the people are eating and talking. Junior is making people nervous, because he's staring at them strangely (he's hunting well-dressed people with funny Rim accents).

Nicolai goes over to speak with Mikie, and asks "How are you doin'? Are you holding up okay?" Mikie looks at him and says "No." Nicolai: "Is there anything I can do to help?" Mikie responds again with just "No." This is going well. Nicolai: "You know how to get a hold of me."

Viper does the usual "if there's anything I can do", etc. Offering him a place on Rhylanor to stay if he wants. She is genuinely sorry about Theresa, but Mikie just isn't responding well to anyone. Mikie has been keeping himself shielded against picking up anyone else's emotions, so even Viper's aura doesn't help (a shame, since it is a lovely aura).

One of the flower arrangements is a beautiful bouquet of orchids. Mikie looks at the card: "Oderint dum metuant" ["Let them hate so long as they fear."]. Mikie crumples the card in his hand, clenching his fist until it's white. He walks out of the main room, out of the house, dropping the crushed card. Junior picks up the card and looks at it, recognizing it as the same language as used for medical terminology (Latin), but not knowing what it says. He decides that what Mikie needs is a drink, so he gets a bottle and goes after him. An average-looking man interposes himself between Junior and Mikie. Black: "I think Mr. Griffin needs some time for himself." Junior: "I was just bringing him a bottle." Black: "Mr. Griffin does not consume alcohol." Junior: "Well, that's his problem!" Black: "Why don't we go inside with the other guests..." He herds Junior towards the house, distracting him from Mikie. With Junior, this is not too hard. Junior: "Say, you're some one who might be able to tell me - where would I find some Solomanis?" Black: "Might I suggest the Rim? I understand it's full of Solomani." Junior: "But that's a long way away. I was thinking about here on planet." Black just looks at him. Junior: "Oh, I see, deniability, and all that, I understand." Nicolai notices Black and Junior out on the porch, but doesn't join them.

Mikie is left alone at the edge of the woods at sunset. A lonely, empty place, like there's not another soul in the world.