"Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain"*

214 - 1122.

JB insists that Mikie stay with the family, at least for now. They're a bit worried he might "do something". They have plenty of room, and Mikie doesn't really know where to go any way. Besides, he's part of Theresa's family now.

All the other guests eventually will head home to Up Port. Nicolai is still wondering if he can get his knife back, or the remains of his knife, or at least the insignia. But it's all still part of the evidence while Globber figures out what to say happened in Mikie and Theresa's old apartment. It shouldn't take Globber long to come up with something plausible.

Nicolai goes to the big grey building with no windows, and flashes his shiny new I.D. card. The card is carefully checked, they do a retina scan, the whole nine yards. Nicolai asks if he has an office, and if so, where is it? He's shown his little office, in the Operations section. The other people in the department are on ops. Nicolai asks to be shown the training facilities, which he plays with for a bit. And then he goes off to wander around and see where his I.D. will let him in, and where it won't, as he is not allowed to go everywhere.

Black stops by to see how Nicolai is settling in, and if he needs anything. He gives Nicolai a training schedule, so he can peruse it and make any changes he wants. Nicolai will be sharing a secretary with a couple of other supervisors in the department. She'll go over the forms with him at some point, so he knows how to requisition things, but he'll save that for later. On his way out, Black stops Nicolai and says "Do something about the suit, will you?" Nicolai: "What suit?" Black: "Precisely." Everyone else in Regina Security wears suits. Nice, dark suits. Fine. Nicolai will wear a suit.

Nicolai goes to Christie's to get his stuff, which is amazingly enough already packed up and ready to go; and there's a new door too. Nicolai leaves a note telling Christie where he'll be, then he gets a room at the Ambassadore for a few nights, until he decides what to do about Up Port accommodations.

Junior, having nothing better to do, goes home to his gun range/shop/apartment. The door of his apartment is not quite latched, but he goes in any way. Shiv is there, and says "Junior, I need $500,000 credits." Junior checks his card, then says "Yes. What for?" Shiv: "I have a chance to buy the lease back for my place, in perpetuity." Junior: "Wouldn't it be easier to just kill some one?" Shiv: "Well yeah, but I'd have to know who to kill." Junior: "Oh, the Blanc-Noir people." Shiv: "Right. They can be traced to the Banque de Genève, and we all know how talkative they are." Shiv needs the money in cash, and tonight. Junior goes to his gun safe and gets the money for Shiv. She bounces up and down, and hugs Junior, very happy. Shiv tells Junior that it's just a loan, and she's good for it. Shiv intends to buy the location back, then create a corporation and sell stock. Junior attempts to convince Shiv that she will need knowledgeable people to help plan that. Maybe one of the patrons from the Cadaver knows.

Shiv borrows a gun bag from Junior for the money, and tells him "you're a partner now". She has several hours before she has to meet the guy from BNCie, so she goes into the bedroom to show her appreciation to Junior. Ooh baby, ooh baby, ooh baby.

When Viper leaves the Blakes', the paparazzi will leave too. Viper had her pet Marines keep them as far away as possible, but... As she's leaving, she's accosted by one of the slimeballs "Is there any truth to the rumor that your husband and the deceased were related?" Viper: "I've never heard that rumor." This attracts the attention of all the other reporters. (Oh, there's blood in the water now!) Reporter: "So she was not the great-granddaughter of the missing Annabelle Grey?" Viper: "I wouldn't know." Reporter: "What about the wedding ring? The one that's identical to yours? Perhaps this [showing a photo] will refresh your memory??" Viper: "Who are you? What paper do you work for?" Reporter: "I'm independent." Viper: "I don't think that the funeral of a friend is the appropriate place for this kind of a conversation, but if you'll check with my secretary, we can see about an interview." Reporter: "I'd like to interview you. Or I guess I'll have to print the story as it is." Viper: "And I guess my lawyers would be in touch with you." Reporter: "Well, I'll contact your secretary. The name's Neil Arlen." Viper has heard of him, he works for a news service, and only in print - none of that trashy tri-dee stuff.

Viper, realizing what is going to happen with the reporters, asks the Blakes if she can leave a couple of Marines at their place to make sure no one bothers Mikie while he's grieving. Especially no reporters. The Blakes are okay with this, after all, it is the Duchess of Rhylanor.

Junior recalls that a Randall Gary, of Verblishnik, Uraehu, Wong & Goldstein, owes him a favor. He calls in at the offices, but Randall is off planet, and won't be back for a few days. But Paul Verblishnik is there, and speaks with Junior. He tells Paul what's up with Viper and Blanc-Noir et Cie, and Paul agrees that a deal involving that amount of money needs to be checked carefully, and he agrees to consult on it. Junior gets Paul's card, and then gives all the details to Paul's secretary, who is competent, and very pneumatic.

Viper warns her secretary about the damned reporter calling for an appointment. Viper isn't sure if she wants to talk to Arlen at all, but she really doesn't want to deal with it now. The secretary can make an appointment for a week or two in the future.

Junior returns home after visiting with Verblishnik, but Shiv is gone. Bugger. He sets out to find her, questioning whoever he thinks may help. There is no office on Regina for Blanc-Noir et Cie, so he goes to the Banque de Genève. An attractive, middle-aged woman in a well-cut business suit comes over to see if she can be of assistance. Junior explains that his "partner was supposed to meet for a deal with Blanc-Noir, and I thought it was here." The female replies "If your business partner wanted you to know, they would probably have informed you as to the location. The Banque de Genève prides itself on its discretion, and we would be not be able to divulge any such information." Junior tries to bring up his "other partner", Mr. Verblishnik, but it's no go. Junior hangs out in the lobby for as long as he can, but the bank does eventually close.

Junior eventually goes to the old site of the Laughing Cadaver, where there is a sign advertising the "new development from Blanc-Noir et Cie!", and showing a drawing of some kind of honeycombed apartments. Shiv doesn't show, neither does anyone else.

Everyone settles in for the night, in their various hotel rooms, homes, etc., on Up Port or dirtside. Night passes, with no obvious ill effects.


At about 6:00 a.m., one of the old Cadaver regulars wanders by and sees Junior. He tells him "Hey man, where have you been? We've been looking all over for you. Shiv was asking for you before she lapsed into unconsciousness." Oh-oh. Turns out Shiv was assaulted somewhere else in Old Port. Junior gets the location and heads that way.

There are cops still in the area with a fair bit of blood on the sidewalk, around an empty office; phone lines, but nothing else. Junior is able to find out that Shiv was shot, in the back. She lucked out though, the finisher just grazed her skull. Junior makes the appropriate donation (covertly) to one of the uniform cops waiting for the detectives, and goes inside the office. It's extremely empty, and looks like the carpets have been very recently cleaned. Junior goes to the emergency 24 hour carpet cleaning service, to see if he can find out anything. They don't want to give him information on the client, and the machine that was used is already out on another job. Damn. Junior goes to Regina Trauma. The ICU waiting room looks like a gypsy caravan exploded. There's a huge crowd of smelly, unsavory people here - the regular crowd from the Cadaver, including Tabasco Jack.

Shiv was shot in the back, and judging from the boot print on the front of her shirt, the person then put his boot on her chest and shot her in the head. Junior's response: "We've got to find him." Jack: "No shit. I've got the word out." Junior: "You know what she was doing? She was meeting with Blanc-Noir, and she had 500K with her." There is much discussion about who did this, and the fact that something needs to be done, but no one comes up with a clever plan (or at least not one they share - probably because they all understand the conspiracy laws from prior personal experience).

Nicolai goes into the office to at least put in an appearance. Then he has to go shopping for a reasonably cheap security apartment on Up Port. And he calls the knifemaker about getting the replacement knife made. This won't be cheap, but at least the man knows his job.

Junior lays out everything he has been able to find out so far, and compares notes with the others. Tabasco Jack has checked all the sources he can think of, and whoever shot Shiv wasn't local. The office was set up through the Banque de Genève, and was rented about a week ago. This sort of starts to narrow it down. It's something. Junior decides it's time to contact his friends - he's a recipient of the Supreme and Ultimate Medal of Thanks, so that means all the Pikhans on station are his friends, and the Duchess of Rhylanor was also a recipient of the medal, so that's another option, and the Birabetans owe Junior a favor...

Junior figures the local constabulary will only barely investigate Shiv's shooting, unless something really entertaining should fall into their laps. This means he needs to do something to get the wheels moving. He tries calling the Ambassadore and Clairidges, asking for "Duchess Kalugin". He gets a "no" from both locations. They don't give out that info, and she's not a Kalugin any more. Junior checks out the society column, and sure enough, it says she's staying at Clairidges, so he goes there.

Clairidges doesn't say whether or not the Duchess is staying there, and they won't ring her room, assuming she's staying there at all, but Junior is allowed to leave a note, which he does. He tells Viper that he needs her help, and he'll be in the bar. Junior hangs out in the lounge, and eats a large breakfast. He's politely woken up and asked if he would like some one to escort him to his room. No, he's waiting for a lady. But he does want some coffee. Junior discovers just how good the coffee at Clairidges is.

Nicolai takes the listing of available apartments to the Bread and Bean, circles all the ones that aren't above level 3 or below level 6, then heads out to browse for a place to live. He accidentally knocks over a little old lady (literally), and when he helps her up, she whacks him in the shin and reads him the riot act about "respecting his elders", but she eventually her train of thought takes a different sidetrack, and she wanders off.

Viper gets up and sorts through the morning's messages. The fan letters, the deranged fan letter (they want a pair of Viper's underwear), the letters from the local nobility, etc., etc., etc. The responsibilities of being popular. And all glowy.

Nicolai eventually finds an apartment on level 4, for $2500 a month. It's about the size of a large trailer. Nicolai decides to go through the apartment very carefully and check out every little tiny detail to make sure it's clean, as secure as he can tell, etc.; for that kind of money, it better be. As soon as Nicolai gets all the way inside, the guy showing the apartment runs out, slamming the door. As Nicolai tries to figure where one can get cover in an empty apartment, the door opens again as Nicolai gets behind the kitchen bar. "Hey Nicolai, I've got a message for you!" Nicolai sneaks a look and it's some guy with a flame-thrower. Nicolai dives for the back room, then heads for the bathroom as he hears the flames crackle. He turns on all the water he can in the bathroom, listening to the interior wall bulge, and the air starts to get noxious from the fumes from the melting plastic. Nicolai takes out a grenade and removes the fragmentation sleeve. Oh, and there's some dead realtor in the shower. His neck is all twisted around funny, and he's staring up at Nicolai.

The interior wall is starting to melt and pull away, and noxious fumes are building up. Nicolai wraps his stump with a Wet towel, punches a hole in the wall, and throws the grenade through. He wraps himself in a wet blanket, triggers, and runs for it through the now larger hole. He dashes through the apartment, opens the door - letting more oxygen in, which refuels the fire, and letting thick black smoke out into the hallway (which sets off the alarm). He gets out, stops, drops, and rolls, then runs out. He trips over something, like a cord, but keeps going. There is a huge explosion off to his right as the claymore goes off. It feels like a hot wind hits the right side of his body, and he is knocked down the hall. Dozens of ball bearings have hit him, all over his side. He's bleeding, externally and internally, and things are definitely broken inside. Nicolai lays there and waits, still triggered.

Viper is asked if she actually wants to see any of the people in the letters. The fan letters can be taken care of rather quickly by deciding which picture to send them. She decides on one of the pictures of her riding a horse.

Nicolai sees something dark coming towards him, feels heavy footsteps headed his way. Some one says "He's still alive," and as it's too much of an effort to do anything, he lays there as the medics start to cut away his clothing. Since they are not here (apparently) to kill him, Nicolai untriggers, losing consciousness.

Viper reads the note from Junior, and asks some one to bring him upstairs. Junior, who is dead tired but wired on caffeine, comes upstairs. Oh goodie, it's Finch Man! Junior tells Viper that "some one tried to kill Shiv, assassinate her, and took the 500K she had on her, probably, and the Blanc-Noir guys, and she was trying to buy back her place, and the police are treating it like it's nothing." Viper: "What do you need me to do?" Junior: "You could - So me and the pals got the word out, and she's in the hospital doing the beep-beep thing - But you know we've got to find him, and ...." Junior keeps babbling, and Viper keeps trying to make him understand that he needs to go get some sleep. Eventually he is sent off in the company of a Marine, who will help him get home in one piece.

Corina is reading the fresh newsfaxes with her morning coffee. One of the local headlines reads: "Local Man Burned, Blown Up - Miraculously Survived" Corina phones Black and tells him: "You bought him, you take care of him. Anything he breaks, you have to pay for." Black: "Mr. Volkov apparently has some unresolved conflicts from his past. " Corina: "That's an understatement." Black: "Apparently they used a flame-thrower, and left a claymore outside the door just in case. We've gone over the equipment used, and everything was from off planet." Corina: "Well, he works for Regina Security now, so maybe some one was trying to get to you." Pause. Black: "I hadn't considered that, but I don't think I have any enemies..." (Left alive?) Black will have to investigate further.

Corina has a bit more freedom, now that the Duchess of Rhylanor is on Port and diverting all that attention. Corina will go shopping after she reads the paper. Oh my. Free Thoughts is at it again: 'Sources' indicate that Theresa Griffin was Grey's cousin, and possibly the legitimate heir to the duchy of Rhylanor. "And why was the Duchess of Rhylanor at the funeral? Making sure her husband had a clear claim to the title?" They go on about how she used to be known as "Viper", is a stone cold killer, and how she's a vicious social climbing bitch who would stop at nothing to get what she wants. And "is she perhaps grooming her husband for a grab for the purple?" Viper also sees this crap, and starts pondering the offices of Free Thoughts blowing up again. Viper's cousin Brigitte is a demo artist, so...

Viper has been invited to a tea for a women's group. It's for a children's charity, and Viper has it checked out before hand; it's not an organized, big charity, it's really a small bunch of rich women doing good works. Viper will attend.

And now it's back to the inquest!! It's Globber's day to testify, and Viper has a bunch of questions. First off, Viper wants to know who was present at Spencer Collingwood's death? Globber sits there in his expensive suit, and sweats a lot; he doesn't really want to say, as they are people he'd like to protect. Globber says "Well, they weren't people I knew. I don't' know why the officers there didn't take down the names, I'll have to check into this." Viper wants to know what exactly happened, and who was at the crime scene when Globber arrived. Globber: "Um, a couple of Marines." Viper: "I'm going to have to speak to whoever assigned the Marines. " She's just about ready to have Ghaer dragged in, in chains if need be, since he's a Marine and may actually know something. Viper wants a list of all the Marines who had duty at the DukeDome at the time. No problem.

Ghaer is on planet, but they are able to reach him by radio. If he was there (at Spencer's death), she wants his story. Viper: "I need to know what happened on the night Spencer Collingwood died, and don't leave anything out, that would be annoying. Globber has been dancing around it, and won't give me any answers." Ghaer: "I have no idea what happened before we [he and Viktor] arrived at the Ducal estate. When we arrived, we found the late Exchequer ranting about his son and mauling the unfortunate Bunny. We tried to talk him down, but he was quite enraged. He was going to further his unwanted advances on the widow Collingwood, so I fired a round of tranq, hitting him in his artificial eye. He threw a vibra blade, hitting me mostly in the body armor, and I dropped. At that point, Viktor fired one round, taking him down." Viper: "So Viktor shot him?" Ghaer: "Yes" Viper: "At what range, and with what weapon?" Ghaer: "A gauss rifle, at about 10 feet." This jives much better with the forensics report. Ghaer: "Collingwood was irrational, acting almost on impulse. As a matter of fact, he may have been on Impulse literally." Viper finally gets to ask about the odd drug, and Ghaer tells her about the Impulse, and Tiger Collingwood, and the drugged wine from Paolo Astridi. Ghaer: "From the information we were able to find, Impulse was developed by SuSAG, but not marketed, due to its unpredictable nature and side effects. It can be countered by the use of a floculating agent, but that would be experimental. The drug was not obtained through official SuSAG channels, as far as we were able to determine, and they were trying to find out how it had gotten out." Viper asks about who did the drug tests, and Ghaer tells her that it was "Charlotte Steiner's personal physician". Viper: "Ah, another person I need to speak with." Ghaer doesn't know who called the police on the night of Spencer's death, but it might have been one of the Marine guards at the ducal residence . Viper: "So the entire shipment of liquor was tampered with, and it was all from Astridi?" Ghaer: "Yes, but he apparently often makes this type of gift, and it might have been 'prepackaged". There was no way to tell exactly from whom it was sent.Ghaer is thanked for his cooperation.

Judge Erica van Mieter leans over to Viper, and states that "It's obviously a straightforward case of a public official committing perjury." Viper wants to give Globber the opportunity to 'amend' his statement. They will take a break for lunch, and then continue. Viper goes to her hotel room for lunch, and is planning on calling Corina. Before she does, Black calls Corina to tell her that "Our commissioner has apparently gotten himself into a bit of a pickle. Sergeant Raller told the unvarnished truth, which doesn't exactly match the official report." Corina: "This isn't entirely a surprise, unless you assumed the people on the panel were complete idiots. Now we just need to explain why the official report was falsified." Black: "It's not just a matter of the official report, since Globber has perjured himself at the inquest." Corina wants to know if Black has found out what the writ is for the inquest, and he does now have a copy - "they have pretty broad powers." Corina: "Yes, but if Globber was charged with perjury, would it go to a local court, the local Imperial court, or directly to the Arch Duke?" Black: "The local Imperial court." Corina: "Well in that case, I would have the power to pardon him. I'm not saying that's what I would do given the political implications of that, but at least it's a possibility." Black: "Yes, but that could conceivably cause some ill will, especially between you and the Duchess of Rhylanor. I suggest that since you know her personally, you speak with her beforehand." Corina had already thought of that. Corina then learns Globber's current whereabouts from Black. She has her secretary call the restaurant and add another place setting at his table as she's on her way to have a discussion with Globber. Globber is also warned, so that he doesn't end up wearing his lunch in suprise at her sudden appearance.

As soon as Corina hangs up, Viper calls: "I've come up with a bit of a sticky situation, and I'd like to forewarn you. It appears that the Commissioner has perjured himself in front of the committee. I think you realize what this means, and that this could cause a lot of unpleasantness." Corina: "I agree that it would be in the Commissioner's best interests to tell the committee the complete truth. But do you really want to have the unvarnished truth on the official record?" Viper: "At this point, considering the version I've heard, I don't think it would be a problem." Corina really tries to convince Viper that she should consider all the political implications before reaching that decision. Corina: "Do the terms of your writ specify that the conclusions of your investigation be made public?" Viper: "No. The results will go to the Arch Duke, and he would decide what if any of it will be made public." Corina: "Although the Commissioner might be prone to make up details in order for things to fit nicely, he would not be inclined to lie under oath unless he had a good reason, like if he was ordered to do so." Viper: "And who would have the power to do that? There are two people I can think of who could have yanked his chain to that degree: you or Black, and I don't see any reason for you to have done that. " Corina: "I didn't say that I had done that. But I want the members of the inquest to be clear as to the political ramifications of the truth going into the official record, before Globber comes in to amend his statement." Viper is not pleased with Corina's tack of telling her what she and the committee want; it sounds like Corina is giving orders. Viper says nothing about that now though, and agrees to speak with the committee members before recalling Globber at 2:00 p.m. Corina will go see Globber herself, to encourage him to tell the truth.

Corina joins Globber at the Escargot d'Or. Globber is very nervous, but gracious of course. The waiter appears magically, along with the sommelier, and the chef. Corina has already pre-ordered the lovely chef's special, so she sends them off, and is left with Globber, who is slurping escargot. Corina: "I think we need to discuss your testimony to the inquest panel." Globber: "My testimony?" Corina: "I think you should have consulted with me about the potential political ramifications before your testimony. It was a tactical mistake to not tell them the truth. They know the truth, or at least enough to know that what you told them was not true. Your career may be at stake. I don't think you'd like a future on the other side of the bars. However you will be given an opportunity this afternoon at 2 p.m. to amend your previous testimony. You need to emphasize the pragmatic reason that everyone involved went along with the 'official' story. The point is, tell them what was done and why. At this point they know what happened, so you might as well come clean. I understand that you were trying to protect Viktor and Ghaer from Collingwood's friends [an assumption, or a statement?]. The Duchess has assured me that the wording of the writ does not require the findings to be made public. That will be up to the Arch Duke." Globber, sweating profusely as he envisions a future in prison, agrees to tell the unedited version to the panel."

At the hospital, Nicolai regains consciousness. The doctor tells Nicolai that he's a very lucky man, and that "your friends will be very pleased to hear that you'll recover; they've been calling about you." Nicolai: "Oh really? That's interesting, as far as I know I don't have any friends on planet. Who's been calling?" The nurse is able to tell Nicolai that his brother Vasily has called several times. How interesting. Especially when you consider the fact that Nicolai doesn't have a brother.

After the doctor and nurse leave, Nicolai calls Regina Security. Black: "Ah, Nicolai. You continue to amaze me with your resilience." Nicolai: "Let's just say I refuse to die on foreign soil." Black: "Well I suppose we could arrange to take you to the Solomani consulate, that's not foreign soil." Nicolai: "It is as far as I'm concerned." Black: "Well, remind me to carry silver bullets in the event that you turn on me in the future." Nicolai: "I'm not a werewolf." Black: "Fortunately, you do have excellent medical benefits." Nicolai: "Good thing. Unfortunately, the people responsible know they didn't finish the job. My brother Vasily has called repeatedly." Black: "I wasn't aware your brother had decided to relocate to the Marches?" Nicolai: "If I had a brother, I doubt he would relocate here." Black: "I'll see what I can find out." Nicolai: "Let me know if you find out who my brother is." Black: "Of course. I'll keep you posted." Nicolai: "And I'd like some of my 'gear'." Black: "I'll have something sent over."

Mikie has actually decided to get out of bed. JB checks up on him, as he's kind of concerned. "Come on down son, I'll fix you something to eat." They go downstairs. JB: "Have you thought about what you want to do? Like I said, you're welcome to stay." Mikie: "I don't know yet." JB: "Take as much time as you need." Everyone gives Mikie plenty of space, and they are very, very nice. He accidentally finds a copy of the news article about Theresa being related to Grey, which has a picture of the rings. It makes reference to the Free Thoughts article, which Mikie calls up. Lovely - it goes on about Viper's 'true nature', that she and or her husband had Theresa killed to get rid of the threat. This is all incredible crap as far as Mikie's concerned, but it's hard to find the energy to get angry.

Junior sleeps for a while, waking up because of all the liquid he drank beforehand. He's collapsed fully clothed on the bed, and the 9mm is putting pressure on his bladder, so he gets up, but now there's no more pressure on his bladder!!! He carefully walks past the tri-dee with the waterfall, and the dripping faucet to the bathroom. Gosh, maybe he shouldn't have drunk all that coffee!

Meanwhile, back at the inquest board: Viper: "Commissioner Globber, there appear to be some details missing from your statement. We thought it would be best if we gave you the opportunity to fill in some of the missing information." Globber says that he would be happy to amend his statement, as he has had advice that telling the whole truth would be a good thing. Chang: "Advice from?" Globber: "Friends. At this point I would like to answer any questions you have, and I can assure you the answers will be truthful." Chang: "Duchess, if I may?" Viper: "All right, you can ask the first question." Chang: "It has been brought to our attention that you arrived late to the scene. From the point you arrived, give us the details, just the facts of the scene." Globber: "When I arrived on the scene, the senior Collingwood was on the floor, dead. Present on the scene were Sergeant Ghaer Raller, Major General Androchev, and Caroline Collingwood. As I arrived, I observed that General Androchev was lowering his rifle from the firing position." Viper: "We're a bit concerned that the official report states that Spencer Collingwood committed suicide, but that the forensic evidence clearly shows that could not have been the case." Globber: "After discussing the incident and receiving instructions..." Chang: "With and from?" Globber: "I'd rather not say." Chang says nothing. Judge van Mieter: "Well I'm certainly curious. Some one has contributed to perjury." Viper: "From what I have heard, there is no clear reason to conceal the actual details of this incident." Judge: "Mr. Globber, you are in very serious trouble. You are facing charges of perjury. I suggest you answer the Duchess's question thoroughly." Globber: "The report was altered after consultation with those present, and direct orders from Admiral William Grey". Eep. Viper: "And did the Admiral give you any specific reasons for this?" Globber: "Yes, we discussed this, and since Spencer Collingwood's behavior was at least partially caused by the drug Impulse, which was in wine that came from the Arch Duke, the Admiral felt that it was not in the best interest of the Imperium to reveal the truth." Viper: "So the reason that an official report was altered was to spare the Arch Duke emabarrassment?" Globber: "I do not know that the reason was to spare the Arch Duke embarassment. I didn't believe it was my place to question the Admiral's reasons." Viper: "Most people don't". Chang: "So you spoke directly with the Admiral?" Globber: "Yes. And now that I have revealed that, I would like to inform you that you are all privy to information covered by the Imperial Secrets Act." Viper asks to see the document that Globber has signed, and he does show her, but only her (and actually what he shows her is not a signed acknowledgement of the Imperial Secrets Act, but she merely raises an eyebrow, says thank you, and does not elaborate to the others present what he did show her).

After Globber leaves, Chang asks if at this point they really need to question anyone else as to the details of Spencer's death? Viper has a request sent to Steiner for information. She would like to actually speak with Steiner, but given the distance, she understands this could be difficult. Viper would like a copy of Steiner's doctor's report on Impulse, as well as recorded or written statements on whatever information they have on the subject.

Viper has an unofficial, private chat with Globber about making sure that all the evidence matches if he's going to make up reports. Globber will tell her that they had taken care of the forensic evidence, but the panel was given material they should not have been able to obtain, in theory. Viper: "This pretty much makes the inquest kind of a moot point." But Viper would like the drug tracked down and identified. Globber: "Then you should tell your husband to be more careful when he makes acquisitions from SuSAG. I covered up for him, but..." Viper: "So your saying that my husband got the drug from SuSAG?" Globber; "Well, that's not for me to say. I have my orders. My information was that the liquor was actually originally intended for Spencer Collingwood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but was misdirected to John Collingwood. Of course, the exchequer was instituting massive cuts to the Navy..." [at the direction of the Arch Duke]. So that certainly does give Grey a motive.

Viper checks in with Capt. Midnight, to see what he has been able to find out about the drug. He has very, very interesting, expensive information on Impulse. He has the notes on Impulse, what it is, and it's effects, and.... Midnight: "I found information that some of it was released not on the private market, but..." Viper: "A private auction?" Midnight: "You could say that." Viper: "Any idea who acquired it?" Midnight: "I was able to track it down to the Navy, to a certain Capt. Rutherford". [One of Grey's aide de camp; his G2.] Viper: "So, just how much do you want for this information, exclusively?" Midnight: "For exclusive information like this? I don't know... I guess a megacredit should about do it." Viper: "I think I can arrange that. However. If I find out that you decided not to keep the information exclusive, I don't know that you could run fast enough or far enough." Midnight: "What information?" [pressing the delete key]

The word on the street is that Blanc-Noir had Shiv hit. But the problem still remains that no one knows who the hell is behind the company. It's a subsidiary of BNC enterprises, and then it goes off planet, to Deneb. Junior's phone rings. "Hey, Christophe! How's your girlfriend?" Click. Junior is off to the hospital.

Nicolai gets some lovely flowers. Orchids. Oh-oh. It's not Blaelok's poisonous orchids, but they're still orchids. No name of a sender on the card, just: "The flowers are called Traitor's Orchids. A fitting gift. Enjoy your last few days." Nicolai asks if the nurse saw who delivered the flowers? No, but they were from a local florist. Nicolai calls, and tells them that he "just received some lovely orchids from a friend of mine, and I've lost the card with my friend's address." They look it up, but there's no record of the transaction in their computer system, at all.

Nicolai phones Black: "Interesting flowers I just received." Black: "Oh, you got the roses?" Victor: "No, orchids." Black: "I didn't send orchids." Nicolai: "I know. My brother did. I want my equipment from my hotel room." Black: "I'll send some one right over." Nicolai sends for his doctor, who admires the lovely orchids, and even knows their name. Nicolai: "What kind of shape am I in?" Dr.: "Well, you look like hell, but you'll live. I see no reason to not discharge you tomorrow." Nicolai: "How about today?" They have to remove the drains first, and the doctor agrees to do that today, after he sees his other patients. Nicolai: "And I'd like some kind of prosthesis, I don't care what kind." Dr.: "We don't usually fit prosthetics on during regrowth, it could damage the new limb." Nicolai: "Do you think I really have any fucking choice in this? There are people after me." Dr.: "Perhaps you could change your name and hide for a while?" Nicolai: "You can't hide from these people." The Dr. will discuss the possibility with some one in rehab, later.

Junior's phone rings again. "Hey, Christophe. I forgot to mention, before I killed your girlfriend, I had her; she was sweet." Junior: "Yeah, you and 500 other guys. Do you know what she has? You should get yourself checked, man." Voice: "I like it when they fight." Junior: "That's not what I meant." There's a second voice in the background: "Who are you talking to? Get off the phone, we've got work to do." Junior: "Regina Security is listening to this you know." The voice does not seem to be impressed, and just rings off with a cheerful "See you!"

Nicolai is offered a newsfax by the candystriper, which he takes. She's very cute, about 15, and she sets the thick newspaper on his tray. It's a very heavy newspaper. There's a large handgun in the Arts and Entertainment section. Now that's entertainment. She continues on her way, and Nicolai checks to make sure there's a round chambered - there is. The doctor stops by shortly thereafter, and removes Nicolai's tubes. He has several shunt sites that are packed, and he will have to come into the nurses' station (or some medical facility) the next day to get it repacked.

Junior has gone to Regina Trauma, in really full kit. Nicolai is walking out and he sees a flyer with his name on it on the bulletin board: "Coming soon, the First Annual Nicolai Volkov Memorial Barbecue" There's an eagle or some kind of bird at the bottom which seems vaguely familiar, and the phrase: "oderint dum metuant". Nicolai has no clue what this means, and he doesn't know about the other places it's shown up. He phones Mikie, but gets "The number you have called has been disconnected or is no longer in service. Please check the number and dial again." At this point he sees Junior, armed to the teeth come in. Nicolai goes over to him and shows him the flyer. Junior looks at it and says "What? You want me to bring the beer?" Nicolai: "Does this have anything to do with Shiv or her friends?" Junior: "Are you on some kind of drugs?" Nicolai: "No. [Technically speaking, untrue.]" Junior: "How would I know? Why would it??" Nicolai <to the nurse at the station>: "Do you know who put this up?" Nurse: "No, but it wasn't there fifteen minutes ago." Not good.

Nicolai leaves the following message on Mikie's phone : 'Tell me they're really dead. If they're not, we're in deep shit." He says this in front of Junior, et al. Nicolai then asks Junior: "You think Solomani are after her?" Junior: "They're off-worlders. They could be Solomani." Nicolai: "Do you know I'm Solomani?" Junior: "You have the right accent, but you don't dress nicely enough to be high up on my list." Nicolai: "Whoever's after her, they may be the same people who are after me."

Mikie goes to the room he's staying in, to make a call, and his cell phone is chirping - he's got voicemail. He listens to the messages, one marked urgent. The urgent one he gets first, it's the one from Nicolai. Great. Black has also left a message, checking on Mikie "Wanted to see how you were doing. There's no rush to come in." There's also an old message from Theresa: "Hi Mikie, it's me. I've been kind of bored here at work so I wanted to call and say hi. I've picked out some things here, and I can't wait to show you. Love you, bye." It's going to take a few minutes before Mikie can call Black.

Once he gets a handle on himself, Mikie goes to use the phone, but there's no signal. Oh bugger; maybe the battery's running low or something. He goes to use a regular phone, but when he picks it up it just goes 'click'. Oh shit. He goes downstairs, panic building, to look for JB, who was in the kitchen. Mikie rounds the corner and sees sensible work boots sticking out on the floor, and blood slowly spreading. The blood has some kind of boot prints in it. No. Not again.

Mikie goes to the body, but it's not JB, it's one of the male cousins. There's noise in the family room, so Mikie rushes into the room. All the Blake family members are in the room, on their knees with their hands behind their heads. There are some men in black with weapons aimed at them.

Nicolai phones Black. Nicolai: "Where's Mikie?" Black: "He's having some time to himself." Nicolai: "The street justice isn't over yet. Some one's on Port cleaning up, and if they're after me, they're probably after Mikie too." Black: "He's being watched by several of the Duchess' Marines, and several of my men as well. I would have heard if there was trouble." Nicolai: "Do you think for a moment that if SolSec or Section 9 wanted me or Mikie dead that there would be anything you could do to prevent it?" Black: "Well if that's the case, why bother?" Nicolai: Could you at least check up on your men?" Black: "All right, anything to humor you."

Mikie is unarmed, the men in black are shielded, and they have weapons trained on the family, so he raises his hands as he enters the room. Thug #1: "You must be Mr. Griffin. Nice of you to join us." Mikie: "I'll do whatever you want, just don't hurt them." A nod is given, and one of the men aims his gun at the head of one of the children, a little girl, and pulls the trigger. JB charges and is shot in the abdomen. Thug #1: "Now that you see that I'm serious, I can assume you won't give me any trouble. Put him in restraints." Mikie is put into body chains, unresisting, and he asks the man to just "let them go, I'm the one you're after. Please." One of the men comes over with an auto-injector, at his leader's signal. Thug #1: "After all, we are dealing with a powerful psionic." They give Mikie an extremely large dose of psi-suppress, mixed with some other sort of drug (to keep him manageable). Thug #1: "We're done here." The other men turn their SMGs on the family members, shooting all of them. Then one by one, they are all shot in the head. Although Mikie doesn't know it, he's witnessing the same boot on the chest method used by Shiv's attacker.

Mikie is escorted out to the large humvee like vehicle. Thug #1: "Finish it up." Flame-throwers are used to set the house ablaze. Thug #1: "I'd have the ground tilled with salt, but there are other people I have to take care of." Mikie is tossed into the trunk of the vehicle, which drives for a few minutes and then stops. The trunk is opened, and the spokesman leans in. Thug #1: "I didn't want you to miss this." Mikie is pulled up so he can see, and they've stopped where Theresa was buried. Her grave has been dug up, and her nude body is hanging from a tree by her neck, twisting in the wind (literally). "Oderint dum metuant" has been carved into her chest. "Don't worry, the birds will take care of her. Oh wait, what's that?" He takes a set of bolt cutters, goes over to Theresa's body, cuts off her finger, takes her wedding ring (the band and the engagement ring are interlocking) and tosses the finger away. "I know some one who'll like this. Let's go." Mikie is shoved into the trunk again, and the vehicle drives off.

Nicolai gets a phone call. Black: "There's no response. There could be a problem." Nicolai: "No shit. Where?" Black: "The Blake house, up in the...Never mind, just meet me in docking bay 6, level 2." Nicolai is about to leave when Junior asks: "Are you armed?" Of course. Junior wants to make sure he has enough gear, so he calls his gunshop. Junior: "Could you send Brian over with kit number 6?" Tom: "Sure boss."

Nicolai gets to the shuttle, and Black is there waiting, along with a unit of well-armed men. The ship lifts immediately. As they approach the planet, one of the crew brings up the display. "Sir, it should be coming up now, it'll take a few minutes. I'm getting some interesting thermals here. " They zoom in, and it's a big fire. There are some stationary heat prints in the immediate area; stationary and cooling. Black: "I'd say whatever happened, we missed the party." Nicolai: " If they're still cooling, we can't have missed it by much." Black: "This equipment is very sensitive. All this means is that they were killed less than an hour ago." There is some vehicle traffic, including a large truck or bus. Nicolai suggests that they set some one down ahead of the vehicle, to observe and report, and then go check out the house. This they do.

They arrive at the house, which is now just a pile of glowing embers, having burnt to the ground. The shuttle is parked a ways away, and they carefully move in. Nicolai uses this opportunity to observe the operational tactics of the team. They get the all clear from the advance men, and move in carefully, "watch your feet". Nicolai is looking for footprints, vehicle tracks, etc. One of the men see a bunch of birds, and they go that way. They find Theresa's body. Her eyes are gone, and they chase the birds away. Black comes up behind Nicolai and says "The same phrase that was written in blood on the walls of their apartment." Nicolai stares at him, having no clue what he's talking about. Nicolai: "What does it mean?" Black: "'Let them hate, so long as they fear'. Or something close to that." Nicolai helps take Theresa's body down and place it back into the grave.

They head for the main house. Black: "Well, Hastings, what have you got?" Hastings: "It's too hot to go in, but there are definitely bodies in there, sir, a lot of them." Black: "Mr. Griffin?" Hastings: "Can't tell. Some kind of accelerant was used. We won't be able to get in to check for a while." Black <to Nicolai>: "I think we can make a guess as to where Mikie is and why he's not returning your calls. Now we just have to wait for them to strike again." Nicolai: "Well, you have two targets." Black: "Two?" Nicolai: "Shiv is one." Black: "Why her?" Nicolai: "I don't know, but it may have something to do with Blanc-Noir. That's what her boyfriend Christophe thinks." Black (to one of his men): "Take care of the scene, get forensics in here."

One of the men looking for escape routes radios Black: "There are tracks that go about 10 clicks to a small clearing, and there are a number of vehicles here - burnt vehicles. Along with a bunch of weapons, clothing, and equipment." Black: "Any sign of where they went?" Man: "No, it's the damnedest thing. It's like they disappeared into thin air." Pause. "Sir, there's something else here. I don't know what to make of it - you need to see this."

They head that way and touch down, then follow the man over to where the uniforms are piled up. There's a circle around the pile that is devoid of grass and any other biological material. This is beginning to become annoyingly familiar, but kind of spooky.

Black takes a look at the scene, then turns to Nicolai and asks: "What exactly are we dealing with here? Do you know?" Nicolai: "At the very least? A SolSec clean up team." Black: "And what does that mean?" Nicolai: "That they are very good, that they won't leave any signs behind. That [indicating the cleared circle] is probably an LB5." The weapons are all very normal Ling Standard products, could have been bought any where, even on Regina proper; nice and clean.

Nicolai: "Are you sure they're dead?" Black: "Blaelok and Pamela? You'd know better than I would - you and your friends were at the scene, I wasn't." Nicolai: "It wouldn't be the first time they 'died' and came back." Black: "What does it take, a fucking stake through the heart?? Nicolai: "If you could find the right heart." Black: "Well whoever it is, I guess this means we have nothing else to do but bait them out and wait." Nicolai: "We know what the bait is." Black: "I'll put my best men on you."

The man watching the big vehicle calls in - it's a school bus full of children on a field trip. Black, Nicolai, and some of the men will be returning Up Port. Black: "The first stop is the hospital. We're going to squeeze this Christophe person, see what he knows." Nicolai will be kept on a short leash, under surveillance. Black motions to two of his men, Bob and Jimmy. Black: "You two, you are on him like white on rice." Nicolai: "But not too close." Black: "Keep your distance, but if he so much as breaks wind, I want to know." Nicolai: See that circle? [indicating the cleared area] You have to be at least that far away." The two men glance, perhaps unhappily, at the spot. Nicolai: "One other thing. If they're Solomani, they may be CRI." Black: "Anything else that I should know? <to his men> Take him to the hospital, and take me to my club."

Viper is told that the captain of the Agamemnon is at her disposal. Whenever she wants to leave for Rhylanor, or whatever, she just needs to give the word. An aide delivers some information that she may be interested in. "We checked in on the Marines you left on the planet, and were unable to reach them. Our satellite picked up this." He shows Viper a series of images of a burning house, then a burnt house, and "these dark objects, those are bodies." Viper: "How long ago?" Aide: "About an hour, ma'am." Viper: "I think the head of security should be contacted." Aide: "The head of Regina Security is already down there ma'am, that's his vehicle in these shots." Viper calls Black, and she's transferred to his cell phone. Viper: "Mr. Black, I understand that you are on planet, and at the site of an altercation." Black: "Actually, your information is out of date. I'm currently on Up Port, in my club." Viper: "Then you're on top of the situation?" Black: "It is being handled. And my condolences; I understand Mr. Griffin was a friend of yours." Viper: "Have you confirmed that he's one of the casualties?" Black: "No, but we have found what we believe to be the bodies of the entire family, and it would be unlike Mr. Griffin to just leave under those circumstances." Viper: "No, but he does have a knack for not being where he's expected to be." Black: "Let's hope that's true." Viper: "When you are able to identify the remains, please let me know." Black: "Of course your Grace." Viper: "Do you require any assistance?" Black: "No, I believe this may necessitate the more delicate touch." Viper: "If you change your mind, let me know." Black: "I will. I trust you will resist the urge to participate until then?" Viper: "Of course."

Viper is now left with the knowledge that the Marines she left on duty on the planet are dead, as are Mikie (probably) and others. Viper informs the Captain of Marines that she would like the information on the next of kin for the dead men, as she would like to be the one who writes them. The Captain is only too happy to pass on that duty. He tells Viper "You give me the word, and I'll send out a company of Marines, and I can guarantee that I'll find out who did it, if it means burning the whole planet to the ground." Viper hopes this will not be necessary, but it's could to know it's an option.

Nicolai is still in ICU with Junior when some one screams down the hall. Everyone runs into physical therapy, and there's a leg sticking out of one of the hydrotherapy pools. It's Christie. Some one forced her mouth over one of the water jets, and drowned her. Nicolai goes back to Shiv's room, and tells Junior "You don't have to move her out of the hospital, just make it look like you have." Junior: "People will know. But you're right, we should move her out of the hospital, there are too many innocents here." Nicolai: "The people who are after her and me are harder to kill than I am." There's a sobering thought. Junior makes arrangements with some of the people at the hospital for Shiv, to set up a couple of 'decoys'. Junior: "Right, you go to Shiv's place, you go to my place. We'll be - never mind where we'll be, it's where the next firefight will take place." Junior calls Viper and asks if she can "send some one to pick up Shiv, and take her to your big ship, because the bad guys are after her??" Gee, of course Viper can arrange this. She's just helping out a friend, so if she gets a crack at the bad guys, it's just a bonus. It's not like she's going back on her word to Black, it would just be a happenstance.... Viper makes the call, puts on her armor, and tells her secretary to get into some too.

Mikie has had God knows what kind of drugs besides Suppress, and he's out of it; all things considered, this is a blessing. He's given something that makes his blood feel like ice - it counteracts the non-Suppress drugs, so he wakes up in some kind of industrial building, still in chains, stripped, and with no clue where he is or how he got there. A man's voice says "Ah, the legendary Mr. Griffin. Let's have a look shall we?" Mikie is grabbed by the body chain and lifted up and out of the trunk one-handed by an average-looking man, 6' in height, with nice friendly brown eyes, who is the one doing the talking (his voice has that nice, non-accented anchorman kind of tone); the (apparent) leader of the group. "We have a few things we need to get from Mr. Griffin before he goes to join his wife." He looks around the room while holding Mikie, like he can't figure out where to set him down, then goes "Ah, perfect." He takes Mikie over towards one wall, where there are several large hooks, and slams him against one, ramming it through Mikie's right shoulder. "And we can't have you causing any trouble." He picks up a metal pipe, and begins to 'lecture' his men. "It's all about fundamentals. <hefting the pipe> Man's first weapon. Observe the long bones of the legs." Whack. He uses the pipe to break Mikie's left leg. "Now, the question is, right-handed or left-handed? What do you think? Check the palms. Now, the hint is the index finger - look for a bit of a callous to indicate the use of a writing instrument." He examines Mikie's hands. "I see that our friend here is evidently functionally illiterate. With that in mind, along with his reputation as someone rather acrobatic, perhaps we'll do both." He very quickly takes a short swing with the pipe, breaking Mikie's left arm. He then hands the pipe to one of his men, and has him do the other one. Not as efficient this time. "No, no, you've hit too low, you've just broken the radius. I'll show you how easy it is, you don't even need the pipe." He hyper-extends Mikie's arm, and breaks it 'properly' this time, slowly. "There, a broken leg and two broken arms. But we've left him a leg to stand on. Now <to Mikie>, you stay here with my associates. I have some business to attend to. I have to see some of your friends, they have to be taught a lesson." He takes Theresa's ring out of his pocket. "Quite the momento. You know, I think I may keep it myself." He puts it on his pinkie. "What do you think? Is it me?" He smiles. "I'm sorry I didn't' get to meet your charming wife in the flesh. I'm sure she would have been quite delightful." He leaves.

Back at Regina Trauma, the Marines have shown up, with a transport. There is a bit of a fuss when Junior tries to go along, as Viper's instructions only mentioned taking Shiv. When the Marines attempt to leave with Shiv, some of her friends are blocking the way out of the ambulance entrance. Lt.: "You get those vehicles out of the way, or I'm going to order my Marines to open fire. I mean it sir." The drivers suddenly have to go home to unplug their toasters. Junior: "Excuse me, could you possibly call to confirm whether or not I'm permitted to go with her, sir?" Lt.: "You'll have to wait here while I check sir." They leave. Nicolai: "Good job. You've just painted them as a target." Junior: "They're Marines. They're supposed to be targets!" Junior follows at a discreet distance, and sees the Marines' vehicle drive onto the shuttle, which takes off immediately. Junior figures if the bad guys can get Shiv on board the Agamemnon, then it's game over any way. Junior goes to the park, and although there are no Sengi currently playing j'la, he waits on one of the stone benches . And he waits.

Nicolai gets a suite in the Ambassadore, overlooking the park. He's not going to be out on the balcony, but at the balcony window, after demo-ing the room. If anyone enters uninvited it's going to be boom today. The worst thing is that one of the adjoining suites has a couple of people who are having way too much fun, and they're being very vocal. Eventually they do stop. Nicolai calls the front desk and informs them that he absolutely does "not want to be disturbed, for any reason. If anyone comes up here to disturb me, I will beat and mangle them to within an inch of their lives. Is that understood?" Clerk: "Yes sir." The suite on the other side is unoccupied, but a man in a maintenance uniform comes out onto the balcony, and smokes a dopestick. There's some conversation between him and another guy inside the room about "getting the fucking thing set up" so they can go. Something that's heavy enough to rattle the artwork is set down inside the other suite. Nicolai reorients some of the demo, just in case.

The room phone rings, and Nicolai lets it. He doesn't bother to check the messages either. Some time later, the front door bursts in and several men in black balaclavas burst in, the first man sees the mines and stops. Nicolai opens fire, hitting three of them, then a voice yells: "Cease fire, Goddamn it!" It's Black. Nicolai stops firing, and deactivates the mines. Black: "You idiot, you're shooting your own men. Nicolai: "How was I to know it was you?" Black: "When I call you, you fucking answer the phone." Nicolai: "And how was I to fucking know it was you?" Black: "You could answer the phone. Now I have three casualties from friendly fire. Nicolai: "Next time they'll be more careful when they enter the room. Consider it a training exercise." The wounded men are taken out to be medicked. Nicolai: "I don't know why this guy Christophe thinks he's a target." Black: "He might not be. I have a guess as to why Shiv is involved." Nicolai: "Blanc-Noir?" Black: "I don't know about them, but we were able to trace back some of the weapons to Ling Standard on Up Port." Nicolai: "Shiv bought the guns?" Black: "No." Nicolai: "Just a wild guess." Black: "The money that purchased the guns tracks back to Christophe. We figure they baited her to bring the money, and it wouldn't have been difficult to find out that the only thing Shiv cared about was her bar. We'll be having a conversation with her friend Christophe later to confirm a few things, but it appears she was merely used to acquire the funds to purchase the weapons and some of the equipment locally. Quite ingenious, really."

Nicolai tells Black about the workers in the room next door. He's not positive they did anything untoward, but he would like that other room checked, for surveillance equipment at the very least. Black has one of his techs go over the room. The tech comes back in, and tells his boss that there were no signs of anything unusual, and banging Nicolai heard was just a large couch being set down against the wall. Tech: "That's the hardest damn couch I've ever sat on. Felt like sitting on modeling clay." Everyone else suddenly yells and runs. Nicolai goes for the balcony.

From her level two suite at Clairidges, the pacing Viper sees a bright flash, the window comes out of the frame, due to the really, really fucking HUGE explosion. Junior, across the park by the Japanese rock garden, is hit by the shock wave. All the station's alarms are going off, there's a tremendous fireball, and Viper's security guys tear into the room and throw her to the ground.

A smoking suit of armor sails through the park and lands with a thunk. Nicolai is amazingly still conscious, but unhappy. He removes the crushed and leaking grenades from his person, and looks at the bent remains of his rifle. His inner ears are very messed up, and he has a hideous case of the bed spins. Nicolai's helmet feels a bit tight, so he removes it. Better the helmet than the skull. Nicolai finds a tree to lean up against.

There's a huge section missing from the Ambassadore. The fusion lamp that provides the light shatters, plunging everyone into darkness. The blast doors are down, and there are injured people everywhere, from the explosion or shrapnel, at least. Viper is contacted by the Agamemnon, where they saw the blast through the dome above the park, the fireball was that big. They will be sending some one to retrieve the Duchess directly. She advises that they will probably need to render aid, which she will do until they do so. She and her Marine bodyguards go out into the park, and help with the injured. Viper may not be a medic, but she can help move people, and all that. As she's helping, some one who is incredibly well-trained hits Viper in the joint of her armor, sending a drug-laced spike into her back, and causing immediate paralysis. She feels herself being passed from person to person, then placed into a vehicle.

As Viper is lying there paralyzed in the moving vehicle, a man is looking down at her and grinning. It's not some one she recognizes, and it's not Mikie's new "friend". The vehicle stops, Viper is carried through some panels into the bowels of the station. They stop, pile up all their clothing, and move away. There's a bright flash, where the clothing is. Viper is taken through some other panels, then placed into another vehicle and driven for a while. They take her out of the vehicle, in some kind of warehouse kind of place, and cut her out of her armor, then out of her underskin, leaving her naked and cold. "Son of a bitch" is the kindest thought going through Viper's mind.

One of the men who picked up Viper walks into the main room where Mikie has been left. "Hey Michael, are you still awake?" He pokes Mikie where the hook sticks out of his shoulder. "Didn't want you to get lonely, so we brought you a little friend." Viper is brought in, her hands and feet are placed into manacles, and she is hung by her hand restraints from a ceiling hook so her feet just brush the floor. The thug is still speaking to Mikie: "See anything there that you like?" He grabs her breast. "I'm telling you, firm." The group's leader walks in, and is told: "Here you go sir, one duchess." The boss man hits the second guy in the throat, and says "You incompetent fuck. That's the wrong Duchess." He takes out a suppressed pistol, points it at Viper's head, then shoots the man who screwed up in the head. He then decides that Viper "should at least be useful as insurance. Well, I don't want her causing trouble, see to it that she's entertained." One of the other men goes over to Viper, says "You're going to enjoy this", and injects her with something. Her body's there, but her mind is off somewhere eeellllssssseeeee. oOoOoh. Feel good.

Junior, in the park, goes into doctor mode. As the place is incredibly dark, he uses the first thing he can think of, not having a flashlight handy, and turns on the Supreme and Ultimate Medal of Thanks. The flaming holographic image provides some light, and certainly gets people's attention. Junior's plan is to medic until he drops or runs out of patients, whichever comes first. The former seems more likely.

Back in the warehouse, the leader nods at one of his men and says "Get the box, I want to check on it." He's given an aluminum attaché case. "Well, we may not have the luxury of making it personal, but we can be thorough. Catastrophic reactor failure." It's decided to arm and set the bomb now, and everyone leaves to place it, except for the happy Viper, Mikie, and the friendly eyed boss. He stares at Viper, remarks <to Mikie> "Quite lovely, isn't she? ... Yes, I work very hard, I deserve a little something, don't you think?" He strokes Viper's cheek (her brain is saying nasty, unpleasant things, but her body just isn't cooperating). He turns his attention back to Mikie, walking over to 'visit'. "So, what are you up to? Just hanging around?" Mikie: "Why do you still need me?" Boss: "Oh, we're going to take you back to R& D. Don't you know how valuable you are? You're a manufactured psionic. We know all about you and Daddy. Between you and he, we should make some significant inroads. Imagine - telepathic minders for the masses. Don't worry, we're not going to kill you again, you have a use. And you're not going to die, you have something to live for." Mikie: "What?" "Why, revenge, of course. Surely you want to kill me? Give in to that lovely glow of rage, bask in it's warmth. You know, I actually miss that heat." Mikie (more automatically than with any real feeling): "It's hot where you're going." Boss: "Really? I hope so - I could stand a tropical vacation, I certainly deserve it. And now I'll have some one to go with. <to Viper> Isn't that right sweetheart? You know what's really neat? We now have the ability to make the subject obedient and docile, and yet keep the original personality aware but not in control. Diabolical, don't you think? Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just step into the other room for a few minutes. Don't go anywhere."

Nicolai has finally managed to stagger to Regina Security. He's grabbed by a couple of suits before he falls over, and he points toward the armory. They take him to the infirmary. Nicolai (who still can't hear anything) says "Where's Black? The last time I saw him he was in the Ambassador." This is not what they want to hear. Nicolai eventually remembers he can read lips, (it was a really big boom) and sees them say "He's in really bad shape. Put him into the autodoc." Before they do, Nicolai tells them he has a Vigilante, and wants to still have it when he's done. Other than that, he's very grateful to know that Regina Security has their own autodoc. They put him in, and he's out.

The boss comes back in to the room with Viper and Mikie, and checks Viper's vital signs. He gives her another shot of something that doesn't completely paralyze her again. He takes her down, removes her body chains so she can rest her feet. He puts her into a diaphanous, low cut, blue silk gown. Then he puts the manacles back on. To Viper, they feel like they weigh six hundred pounds.

The other bad guys return. Boss: "Let's get this show on the road. We definitely don't want to be here at the wrong time, do we gentlemen? Ah, Regina. It's been interesting. Get him." Mikie is yanked off the hook. The boss man sweeps Viper into his arms, like she's light as a feather. "Like going over the threshold, isn't it? Hmmm. You smell nice." Viper thinks about killing him. Repeatedly. When they get outside, Viper counts ten men in addition to her new boyfriend. They are taken to a small ship, and Viper is strapped into an acceleration couch, as is Mikie (still in his restraints).

There are two 'techs' in white, and they slice open the back of the boss' neck open, remove some kind of metal tube, and put it into a slot in a honeycomb-like section of wall near the computer. This is repeated for all of the men. Then the techs start dragging the inert (robot??) bodies out onto the dock. Viper tries desperately to use her underdeveloped telekinetic ability to get a knife to fall off of one of the armed bodies. One of the techs starts behaving like he's trying to not do what he's doing. It's very strange. This continues until all the bodies are stacked out on the landing bay, and then both of the techs stand near the bodies, and one of them holds out the LB5's and sets it off.

Viper turns away from the flash, and feels a sharp poke in the ribs. It's a knife!! It's on the couch beside here, and, she hopes, hidden from view. The ship, which is apparently automated, starts to power up, the hatch closes, and drug sleeves attached to IV tubes drop down onto Viper and Mikie's arms.