"...confused alarms of struggle and flight"*

215 to 216 - 1122.

When the Ambassadore blew up (well, mostly), Corina immediately called the Navy. She tells them to make sure that no ships leave. "I know that we're under a quarantine, but I have reason to believe some one may be trying to leave. And try to actually disable the ship this time, we would like to speak to the people involved. Have any Solomani ships, or any ships with Solomani registry come into system?" Nope. Corina goes into overdrive, trying to make sure that everyone is keeping track of all the emergency services, and important things like the air circulation system (in case the Sols try to finish what they started). She's advised that perhaps she should leave station. Corina: "Why? Do you think the blast doors don't have the structural integrity to withstand another blast?" Aide: "They did blow out the fusion lamp, ma'am. What if they placed explosives against the crysteel dome?" Okay, so that is a valid point, but Corina's main concern is that it's the Sols trying to continue with their pet project. She doesn't want to leave, but is told Jack is on the line. Jack: "Are you all right? I think you should get down here, I'll send some one." Corina: "I don't think I should leave right now." Jack: "What if they're after you?" Corina: "Do you have some people you can send up?" Jack: "Good idea. But if you're not coming down, I'm coming up." Sounds good.

When Nicolai gets out of the autodoc, he wants to know if there have been any other reports of unexplained bright flashing lights. He's trying to track uses of LB5's. No reports so far. And no word from Black. Nicolai wants to be let into the armory now. The two agents exchange looks. Agent 1: "What harm could he do?" Agent 2: "Think about what you just said." Agent 1: "What do you need?" Nicolai: "Armor, weapons." Agent 2: "Be specific." Nicolai: "Combat armor, sealed, with commo. Extra battery packs, extra air. Military gauss rifle, extra magazines." Agent 2: "We don't have that kind of equipment here." Nicolai: "Well, what do you have?" Agent 1: "Handguns, soft body armor, that kind of thing. Nothing like military weapons or armor." Nicolai: "Okay, I need one person, armored and armed, who knows the station inside and out." Agent 1: "You're in Operations, they're the ones who would handle that." Nicolai: "I just signed up yesterday! I don't know anyone yet!!" Agent 1: "Well, I don't know anyone in Operations. The only time I see them they're in balaclavas." Black chooses this moment to magically reappear, without a scratch on him, just a little dust on his clothing. He's a bit surprised to see Nicolai's condition. Black moves past Nicolai, uses his palm print to open the armory door, and takes a small black crystalline w/ odd squiggles on it out of his pocket. He puts it up on a shelf, where there are a lot of other similar things, including a disc-like object. Then he leaves the armory, locking the door again behind him. Black <to Nicolai>: "Watch yourself, it's interesting out there."

There is a rumor that the Starport is under attack, and the inhabitants are on the edge of panic. Corina is told that one of the problems is that there are escape pods for 1,000 people, but there are about 50,000 people on station. Hmmm. Can you say 'Titanic'? The original thought was that the Naval vessels in the area would assist with any necessary evacuations. Corina gives the order for the shuttles to start evacuating. Meanwhile looters have broken into InstelArms, and there have been reports of looting elsewhere also. Corina announces to the media that "the authorities have been ordered to shoot anyone caught with stolen property in their possession, or in the process of looting." MilTech is under fire, but they are firing back with a belt fed machine gun, although they're pinned down. A call is placed to MilTech once the police arrive, to have them cease fire so that the officers can safely enter the area, and so that the people formerly considering a looting career can leave. The Marines have started to arrive, and Corina has them sent first to cover the arms dealers (prime looting targets), then to the waiting areas for the shuttles to keep order.

Viper, on board the bad guys' ship, realizes that Mr. Friendly Eyes had removed all her jewelry, and that includes her Therian vac-suit bracelet. Son of a bitch. All she has left is her wedding ring and the blue dress.

Behrel is upset because he can't find anyone to get his wife and kids off the station. Rick Walker is off planet, there are no Sengi ships on station, so maybe the Navy? Kitty makes the call, since she knows most of the Navy personnel; personally. Well, the men, anyway. Some Marines show up a little while later, to escort Kitty and kids. Behrel will see her onto the transport, but then he's staying to support his friends. There's a brief delay, as Kitty is feeding two of the boys, but they take the meal on the road. It's very weird seeing assault boats backing up to the docks and disgorging Marines. There are quite a few people still looting. One guy picks up a large planter and throws it into a window. Then he learns about windows that aren't glass, as the planter bounces off and hits him. Evolution in action.

Kitty, the boys, and the nanny get onto the assault boat that's leaving for a starship to get more troops. Then Behrel decides to get down to business. Viktor's gone, Ghaer's somewhere on planet, so he calls Mikie. No answer. Then he calls Corina. Behrel: "Hi. I've gotten my family to safety, so do you need any help?" Corina: "Yes. Come to the DukeDome." Behrel: "On my way." He's off to the DukeDome when he almost bumps into a very attractive blonde female in a business suit, but she dodges out of the way extremely nimbly, looking wonderful. She says "Excuse me," in a Solomani accented voice. Behrel finds her intriguing, as she moved very quickly. She's headed in the same direction as Behrel, towards the DukeDome. Behrel: "So, where are you headed?" Blonde: "Somewhere safe." Behrel: "But the docks are the other way." Blonde: "I have no desire to be crushed. If you'll excuse me." She heads off, with Behrel following, but she vanishes. Behrel is worried, so he picks up the pace.

Nicolai has managed to get some help, thanks to Black's arrival, and is assigned a man who knows the station well - Abercrombie Fitch. Nicolai is taken by Abercrombie to the Operations annex, to get some proper equipment. It's a plain office building. The sign says: "Warning. It is unlawful to take photographs or make recordings of these grounds or its occupants." Nicolai goes in to re-create his equipment ensemble. The guy at the front, Phil, is told by Abercrombie that "Black said it was all right." Phil: "Oh yeah, you're that Solomani. You don't look so tough to me." Nicolai: "When was the last time you were blown out of the second floor of the Ambassadore?" Phil: "I try not to get blown up. I guess you are tough. I just hope you're smarter than you look." Nicolai equips and arms himself to the teeth. Phil: "Low profile and discretion are not something you guys know about in the Rim, do you?" Nicolai: "That's your job." Phil: "Mr. Black likes the expression 'iron fist in a velvet glove'" Nicolai appears to favor the iron fist in an iron glove method.

Nicolai asks Abercrombie how many uniforms were found in the pile on planet? Abercrombie: "Ten." Nicolai: "Okay, what if you were a group of well-trained men who didn't want to be found, where would you be?" Abercrombie: "In a crowd. No one's checking I.D., and it's chaos right now." Nicolai: "What if you wanted to avoid the crowds?" Abercrombie: "There are all sorts of industrial sections that could work." Nicolai: "Are any of them near the docking bays?" Abercrombie; "Yeah, several." Nicolai: "Right, we're going to track them down. you and me, let's go." Abercrombie: "Just who are these ten guys we're looking for?" Nicolai: "Remember that house down on planet?" Abercrombie: "And the two of us are going after them?" Nicolai: "Look, I'll take care of the ten guys, you just watch my back." Abercrombie: "Oh sure, 'you just watch my back'. <sigh> Okay, let's go. "

Nicolai and Abercrombie search around for some time, and go into an old access area on level 22 that leads to the airlocks for the inspection hatches. There's a perfectly clean circle, and a pile of suits (looks like Regina Security suits; i.e., expensive), and two lab coats. And several Regina Security I.D.s. So, it looks like a couple of lab techs killed ten Regina Security agents. This maintenance hatch is not really used now, since it was designed for use by people, and the maintenance is now being done by robots. Nicolai: "We better call this in."

Behrel shows up at the DukeDome, and after some bickering with the Marine guards (for some reason they perceived a heavily armed man in battledress running towards them as threat - go figure), he is shown up to see Corina. Behrel: "What do you need me to do?" Corina: "What I really need is a sort of flying squad to check for unusually activity, especially around maintenance areas, that sort of thing." The phone rings, it's Scalese, who lets Corina know that Victoria (who was in school when the explosion went off) is at his place, with his kids. Corina thanks Gino, and she'll call when it's safe for Victoria to come home. Scalese: "No problem. the kids are having a good time."

Corina phones Black. Black: "Ah, Corina. I trust all is well? I tried to call, but I ran into problems with your secretary." Corina: "I'll check into the communication problem." Black gives Corina the 'body count': 162 dead, 1,000 plus injured. Black: "Could have been worse. But there is a lot of looting going on." Corina: "It's just Regina lightheartedness. Sort of a Regina sale day." Black: "You might find it interesting to learn that a bunch of your red shirts are heading for the park. You might want to give another speech." Corina: "I'll do that." She tells Black about setting up STA and the Marines to keep an eye out for any one up to no good around essential services. Black: "Good, good. I have my men mingling in with the crowds, keeping an eye on the leaders, that sort of thing. "Corina: "What about the fusion lamp?" Black: "It's toast. It will have to be replaced." Corina: "Have you done any testing in the park since the explosion?" Black: "We've taken samples, why?" Corina: "Because one of the ways of distributing the spores could be a bomb." Black hadn't thought of that. The samples will be tested right away.

Viper and Mikie's ship is slowing moving away from the station, which they can see through the port. Viper is trying to get to the knife beside her. A computerized version of Mr. Friendly's voice asks Viper if she's "comfortable? Anything I can do for you?" A robotic arm comes down towards her. Viper: "Get away!!" Mr. F: "I'm sure you'll soon come to appreciate me." Viper: "Get used to disappointment." Mr. F: "I have a special treat for you. I think you'll like my next body. I like to think of it as the ultimate disguise... Aren't you curious?" Viper: "Nope. Not at all." Mr. F: "Oh, I insist. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." Viper's bonds are released, and the arm carefully takes her shoulder and escorts her to the next room. She's still feeling weak and a bit wobbly, and she's walking on a cold floor in bare feet. Viper: "Since you're in talking mode, will you tell me where the hell we're heading?" Mr. F: "Can't you tell?" Viper: "It's space. I'm a gunfighter, it all just looks like black stuff with little white shiny bits." Mr. F: "Ah, let me alter the attitude." The ship turns slightly, and Viper can see it is slowly drifting towards a really big ship. Viper: "We're headed for the Agamemnon aren't we, you bastard?" Mr. F: "Of course." Viper is taken back into another room, to see the "new body", in a low berth. It's apparently Grey. Mr. F: "Of course we still have to complete the final modifications to allow me to use your husband's body. If you like, you can watch?" Viper declines, not wanting to discuss this at all. Viper: "In typical megalomaniacal fashion, do you want to tell me why you're doing all this? You're about to blow up a station with thousands of innocent people. You're going to kill the Duchess of Regina, my husband, and a lot of people you don't even know. What's in it for you?" Mr. F: "Nothing, really. But it's perfect don't you think? Everyone will blame SolSec, and this will be too big to ignore, and no doubt the Navy will have to take action. " Viper: "So you want to start a war? You still haven't answered my first question - who are you?? If I don't get a name, I'm going to just have to start calling you 'Bob'." Mr. F: "I don't think I would like that. You're interested in my name? How sweet. You can call me Morgan." Viper: "Morgan what?" Morgan: "Oh I just call myself Morgan now. I used to have a family name, but I don't really remember what it was any more. I've been so many people." Viper: "What are you?" Morgan: "The Next Stage." Viper: "Oh great, you're one of those f...ing Solomanis!" Morgan: "Who we are isn't really important, is it?" Viper: "Yes it is." Morgan: "If this were a Dick Salamander movie, I'd tell you all about our clever plan. But it's not a movie. Don't worry, you'll understand once you've been freed of your confining flesh." Viper: "I happen to like my flesh. I don't want to be in some kind of weird freaky robot thing!" Morgan seems a bit put off, so Viper says "Hey, maybe where you come from, Bob, it's normal to be a weird freaky robot thing, but where I come from it's not." Morgan: "That's just because you don't understand the possibilities." There's a slight hum, and Viper feels good. Really, really good. Direct stimulation of the pleasure center. Physically wonderful, but Viper hates it. Morgan: "That was Danirelle my friend. Allow me to demonstrate Danirelle who is not my friend." Stimulation of the pain centre. When it is turned off, Viper is surprised to see her body is intact. Morgan: "That was on a low setting. Now, if you're very polite, maybe I'll let you have some of your belongings." Morgan admires Viper's spirit, and at least so far, he finds her amusing.

Morgan: "Are you comfortable?" Viper: "No! I am not comfortable. I'm walking around in bare feet on a cold deck, wearing next to nothing." Morgan: "My apologies, allow me to turn up the heat." Morgan goes on to explain how they aren't quite done prepping Grey yet, they still need to remove "an unimportant part of the brain to make room for the implant." Viper: "There are no unimportant parts of the brain. All the parts are important, they make you who you are! You can go after somebody else's body, like Paolo's. If you want supreme power, there's the body for you." Morgan: "I'm not looking for supreme power. Besides, you're not married to Paolo. Now, do you promise to behave?" Viper (sarcastically): "Do I get a cookie?" Morgan: "If you promise to behave, I won't damage your friend. Too badly." Viper: "Of course you won't, your friends want to experiment on him." Morgan: "Well, all we need is the living brain, I could do quite a lot of damage to the other parts." Viper: "It looks like you've already done that." Morgan: "Oh, I think we could still do more. Let's find out shall we?" The robotic arm extends a probe, and pokes Mikie in his broken arm, which rouses Mikie from his torpor in a very unpleasant way.

Morgan: "Will you behave?" Viper: "Where am I going to go? I can't fly a starship." Morgan: "That's true." Viper is left unrestrained in the room with Mikie. A door shuts, closing off the rest of the ship, including the brain bin. Viper looks out the air lock window, and she can see the starport. She looks around something to signal through the window, but can't find anything. Mikie is shivering from shock and cold, so Viper rips off the bottom skirt of her dress to cover him with.

A vid screen suddenly starts showing binary information. It's obviously not for Viper's sake. Mikie is awake, and does feel slightly warmer, although he's in no condition to be of any help. Viper decides to try to find a way to open the airlock, since being vented into space is preferable to the current option. She's right.

In Corina's office, Behrel notices a sort of warble along the wall. It's a bit like Chameleon 3 would be if it worked indoors. He casually works his way over that direction, and draws his sword. The blonde female suddenly appears before him, and he swings right through her, meeting absolutely no resistance. Hmmm. Hologram. There's a voice from behind Corina's desk, and the blonde appears. "Wait! I mean you no harm. Your men wouldn't let me see you." Corina: "Who are you, and what do you want?" Blonde: "I'm Julia Maybock, and let's say I work for the Solomani government. I'm here pursuing a rogue operation." Corina: "Yeah, we could call this 'rogue' all right." The blonde sort of looks like Pamela, which is a bit disturbing. Corina: "If we're to defeat this operation, what do we need to do?" Julia: "My preference would be to capture them for reconditioning, but I am authorized to take extreme action if necessary." Corina: "How many are there?" Julia: "We're not sure. The only one of use who would know for sure is the man you knew was Blaelok, or Blevelt. I knew him as <pause> Father. Not an admission I make with pride." [Not an admission Corina is thrilled to hear, either.] Corina: "What are they after?" Julia: "What I've been able to find out is that they are here to exact revenge for the death of Blaelok and his wife." Corina: "What would constitute revenge?" Julia: "Well, where are the people most involved? They would be the most obvious targets." Corina calls Black. Corina: "Mercer, I think I've found out who's behind this. It's some associates of Mr. Blaelok, out for revenge for his most recent demise. We need the location of Ghaer, Michael, and Nicolai." Black: "And this information is coming from where?" Corina: "A representative of the Solomani government." Black: "And you believe them?" Julia: "Your grace, if I'm to help you, I need to count on your discretion. My government doesn't like it's dirty laundry aired in public either. I know you have a reputation for discretion, as some one who knows how to make the tough decisions even if innocents are involved." Corina <to Black>: "Let's just go with this for now shall we?" Black: "Ghaer is on planet and out of radio contact. We can't find Michael, he's disappeared. We can't even find his tracker, although it's fairly short range." Corina: "Michael was Down Port for the funeral." Black: "And we know what happened there, don't we." Corina looks at Black quizzically. Black: "Ah, well perhaps this is best explained with a video." Black narrates video tape of the fire, the bodies, Theresa's mutilated corpse hanging from the tree with the missing finger and all. Black: "One other thing. According to forensics, most of the victims were not dead when the fire consumed them." Charming. Corina: "If this is revenge, they'll want to escape." Black will concentrate on finding a ship of some sort, although nothing out of the ordinary has shown up in system recently.

Back to Nicolai and Abercrombie, in search of the bad guys' trail. Nicolai: "If you did something like this and wanted to get away completely, with no comebacks, absolutely no sign of any kind that you were here, what would you do?" Abercrombie: "Well, that would be kind of hard, you could have bumped into any number of people on port. I mean you'd have to destroy the entire star- holy shit!" Nicolai: "And how would you do that?" Abercrombie: "The reactor." Nicolai calls Black, tells him they have "a situation" Black: "I know we have a situation." Abercrombie: "Hey Nicolai, take a look at this." There's an aluminum case on the floor, open, with foam core inserts. There's an open section where the bomb would go. Judging from the size and shape of the hollow foam, Nicolai figures it's a small nuke. He's seen them before, but he's never actually been trained to disarm one. No one else knows who to disarm one of these things either, but Nicolai does know they have a sort of key. Abercrombie: "And in lieu of having the key?" Nicolai: "Run. They have anti-tampering devices." Nicolai doesn't know if he can spoof them, as this looks like a newer version than what he's used to, it's smaller (2" in diameter, and about 10" long) .

Corina <to Julia>: "If you want to see the plan fail, you need to give whatever information will help to the director of Regina Security." Corina gives her the directions, and once Julia leaves, Corina calls to let Black know she's headed his way. Black: "Exactly what are your orders with regard to the young woman?" Corina: "I want you to use her in whatever way you see fit." Black smirks slightly, and hangs up.

Corina calls Jack, asks where he is - she wants a ride off this rock. Jack: "I'm glad you've finally come to your senses. Do you want me to come get you?" Corina: "Yes. Dock with the DukeDome." Jack: "Will do." Corina: "Behrel, will you be so kind as to escort me safely to my ship?" Behrel: "My pleasure." Before she leaves, Corina gets info from the STA people who were checking out the spot where Nicolai found the clothing. The docking bay seals were recently expanded, indicating use, but there are still no signs of unexplained ships, or anything unusual in the area.

Viper cuts off Mikie's IV, and he starts to feel better. They evidently switched to a non-persistent version of Suppress to avoid brain damage, and after a few minutes Mikie can feel it start to wear off. Viper is still trying to find a way out, even if it's into space.

Corina gets safely onto her own ship, with Jack. En route down to the planet, they are challenged by the Navy. Corina: "You can have guards meet me down port to verify my identity." Navy: "No that's all right, we accept who you are." Corina: "No, you don't trust me, or anyone. There are people here who are capable of falsifying Imperial military and security I.D., and of replicating Admiral Grey, so no one is who they say they are." One of Jack's friends is on board the Agamemnon, he gets on the radio, and wants to identify Corina by whether or not she knows where Jack's mole is. Jack, in the background is muttering "you bastard", and Corina tells them that the mole is on "Jack's member". It's her all right.

The collision alarms go off as Corina's ship bangs into something invisible. Corina requests naval assistance, as her ship may have hit a mine. Actually, they've hit the invisible ship that Viper and Mikie (and the Grey-sicle) are on. Viper sees the yacht, and tries madly to signal through the porthole, using a pillow.

Grey's body walks into the back room. Morgan/Grey: "There has been an unfortunate turn of events" Viper: "Yeah, Bob, you've run into a ship!" Morgan/Grey: "You're fortunate that there are more pressing matters to deal with." He turns away from Viper and says "Head for the starport, we'll go to plan B." Behind Morgan are ten Marines and Navy officers of varying grades. New bodies for everyone! Several of them are wearing weapons, which sparks some small hope in Viper.

Corina orders her gunner to fire the sandcasters around the ship, to try to outline whatever they hit. This does allow them to see part of the blobby ship, and Corina tells the gunner to fire. he's concerned about hitting the station. a Naval ship picks up the stealth ship now too, and Corina orders them to fire, even though the station may be hit too. Corina: "Just try to be precise."

Huge beams shoot past the yacht towards the invisible ship, and the station. Corina orders her ship downport, but the ship's maneuvering thrusters, all of them, were evidently damaged by the collision, and is headed for the station. oh-oh. The whole subsystem for the thrusters has been damaged. They can try to turn the yacht enough to slow the ship enough to allow a survivable crash with the station. Corina and Jack and all the crew but the pilot and engineer will take the air-raft out of the ship. The pilot and engineer are to stay with the ship and try to slow the crash to avoid damaging the station. The pilot says "I understand ma'am, I'll do my duty", with the look of 'thank you for ordering me to my death'. Corina notices this, and tells him "Look, if I could, I'd stay and do it myself. I'd probably do a better job, but I have other duties." Oooh.

Jack, Corina, and the gunner get into the vehicle airlock (they are all wearing vac suits already), close the inner hatch and then start to open the outer one, but it only opens a little way then seizes up. Damn - another damaged section. They can't open up inner door because the outer one is open, can't close or fully open the outer because it's damaged. All three manage to squeeze out of the partially opened door, to head for other airlocks, but they can't get that far due to the acceleration of ship as the pilot attempts to correct its course. Jack and Corina manage to stay close to the ship, but the gunner gets pulled off and out on his safety line, and he ends up being bounced into the thruster blast, which is immediately and rather spectacularly fatal. Corina and Jack decide to head back to the air boat, and strap in. It's a good thing, too, as they are thus protected when the ship crashes into the station.

There's one heck of a big crash near where Nicolai, Abercrombie, and Behrel are, as the front of the yacht has hit the airlock, wedging itself in like a cork. The pilot did not make it. Jack and Corina are waiting for the safety foam in the air raft to dissipate. Behrel checks out the remains of whatever was in the cockpit, while Abercrombie checks out the reactor's reserve fuel storage area; it's a honeycomb sort of set up, and full of metal cylinders, about 200, the same size as the missing bomb. Exactly the same size. They're radioactive fuel rods. Nicolai: "Can we jettison the fuel reserve?" Not all of it, and not without the 'proper authority'. Oh joy.

The navy ship manages to miss the bad guys' ship, although the energy bolts are close enough to make Viper's hair partially stand on end. The ship heads for Up Port, does a quick 180 degree turn, and docks. Pretty slick, but now what?

Nicolai wants to know what the fastest way is to get the fuel rods off the station, and the only answer may be a bucket brigade to pull them one at a time. Great. Meanwhile, Corina and Jack move out of the yacht and look for a man-size airlock. Corina discovers that the baby really likes zero-g. Jack points out that the closest airlock is warped, so they'll look further along, then he grabs Corina's arm and points. There's a black outline of a ship further along the side of the station. Corina makes helmet contact with Jack and tells him "that's the bad guys' ship!"

Morgan (aka, Evil Grey): "Well my dear, time to exit the ship." He gives Viper a pair of blue pumps. Viper: "I don't wear heels." Morgan: "You'll just have to make do." Viper: "Wow, did they grow you like this?" Morgan: "You're so cute. Please don't make me do something unpleasant." Viper: "Too late!" Morgan: "Oh no, you haven't seen me unpleasant. Not yet. You'll cooperate - you wouldn't want anything to happen to your beloved husband would you?" He's playing with a brain in a container. Grey's? One of the 'officers' asks Morgan "What about the teep?" Viper: "Bring him or I don't cooperate." Morgan: "Give him a jumpsuit." Other bad guy: "Pin the leg, give him some pain kill; I'm not carrying him." They shoot Mikie full of painkill, which helps, lay open his leg, pump some white stuff in and stitch up the leg. Fortunately, Mikie can't feel how much it hurts when his unset arms are shoved into the sleeves of the jumpsuit. Bad guy #2: "What about the bomb sir?" Morgan: "Yes, that would be inconvenient. activate the delay." Bad guy #2: "With pleasure sir... activated. We have eight hours." Morgan: "That should be plenty. Who's Grey's man on station?" Bad guy #1: "A Seymore Globber." Morgan: "And where is Mr. Globber?" Bad guy #1: "He's apparently the police commissioner, sir." Morgan: "How convenient. Let's go see Seymore, shall we?" They leave the ship.

Corina calls Black "we've managed to at least delay their escape, and have kicked them back into play." Black: "I'll send backup." Corina and Jack get into the station, and run into Behrel. Corina: "You need to help us - the bad guys' ship is that way." Behrel: "The bomb is in the reserve fuel rods, over there. And it looks just like the other ones." Corina: "Oh. Well, let's go after the people."

Nicolai requests the assistance of an explosive sniffing dog or something from the STA. They have a neo-dog named Charlie, but when they find the device, then what? (Somebody just had to ask!) Nicolai has the most experience, and he's only seen the things, he's never disarmed one.

Corina, Jack, and Behrel meet up with Nicolai, and the blonde Solomani comes running in. Julia: "You don't know what I went through to find you!" Corina: "If you know how to deal with the nuclear bomb device, you better get inside there and help them." Julia: "I have no experience with demolitions. But I've just spoken with your Admiral Grey. He's on station, and they're looking for us, so we can join forces." Corina: "Let's go."

Morgan/Evil Grey: "Oh just one thing - we don't want any trouble, so..." He injects Viper with a mild paralytic and puts a bandage around her head. One of the pseudo-marines supports her. Viper concentrates on getting her hand near the man's gun, planning on firing his gun, even if it is still in the holster - anything to at least draw attention.

Black phones, just as 'Admiral Grey' and his party round the corner. Black: "I thought you might want to know," Corina can see the blonde chick behind him in restraints, "that I have learned our blonde friend is here without any official sanction of any kind." Corina doesn't bother to hang up and goes for her gun, planning on shooting "Grey" first, then the blonde's double.

Viper pulls the trigger on the gun and it goes click. The 'marine' smiles and says "Smartgun". Viper decides to pull the gun out and at least beat some one with it. He's reaching for a gun in his coat, ignoring the gun in his full flap holster. Behrel steps in front of Corina, to her left, covering most of her but leaving her gun hand uncovered. Corina shoots "Evil Grey" in the upper leg, a flesh wound, creating a rather spectacular blood stain on the white uniform. Since Corina shot Grey, Jack shoots Viper, [whoops, forgot to explain that impostor part to Jack], hitting her in the chest (artery, very bad). She drops. Behrel moves to Viper, since she's the person to whom he has the most loyalty.

Corina to Jack: "Shoot the Marines!" Jack has already shifted targets. The suppress has almost worn off of Mikie, but the brains of the bad guys are seriously shielded and don't read like a brain at all really. So there's not much he can do in his current condition, so he just sits against the wall. The blonde female is shielded too, but it's a mechanical shield...

Back to the mad search for the nuke, where Nicolai hears the gunfire nearby and reminds Abercrombie why he's there: "Watch my back." Abercrombie: "I'm watching, I'm watching."

Corina is shot in the spine from behind, by the blonde. Corina feels the slightest prick in her back and starts feeling cold from the waist down. Corina: "Black - send medical help. Grey is not who he seems to be, and neither is the blonde. " Black: "What do you mean - I've got the blonde!" Corina: "Precisely! And there are ten others down here in uniforms too." Black: "I'm on my way."

Abercrombie answers Nicolai's phone: "Sir! Yes, sir...right. Bomb, sir... nuclear bomb... Yes sir...<to Nicolai> Carry on." Gee, now he has Black's blessing. How special.

Behrel is being fired upon by the bad guys, as he's in battle dress and therefore the prime target. He scoops up Viper and runs around the corner, as the bad guys concentrate their rifles on him. Behrel is getting lots of warning lights, so he fires the armor's explosive bolts, pops out and draws his sword, ready for action.

Corina sits down, turns to look for the blonde, but she's gone. Corina turns back to Evil Grey and shoots him in the ear. He doesn't fall over, and some fluid leaks out. She can see stuff inside the skull, and it involves wires and tubes, and stuff. Aha! She knew it wasn't Grey!! On the other hand, what the hell is it?

Behrel medics Viper, and gives her a gun. She feels much better now. Behrel: "That's a good look on you." Viper: "Yeah, yeah. Where's Mikie?" Behrel: "I don't know."

Nicolai pulls out yet another fuel rod and it beeps. He looks at the bottom, and the rod has gotten several inches longer. Nicolai triggers, dashes the bomb to the rod disposal door and cycles it. Nothing happens, because there's no power. Nicolai calls over one of the engineers, gives him an extra fuel battery, and then has to help when the guy's hands are shaking so badly he can't connect the wires. The disposal is cycled, and there's a bright flash outside the station. Nicolai: "Keep looking, there may be another one. Be careful, and call me if you find anything." He leaves.

Mikie saw the blonde jump straight up into the rafters, and then blur out. He can still detect the psionic whirr of her mechanical shield. Fortunately, Mikie has been around this type of shield so much that he can actually 'hear' it. He tracks her as she moves above them.

A bunch of Marines, the real kind, show up, and one of the fake officers tries to order the Marines around after Viper, but the real Sergeant says "Yeah right, nice try", and he and his men open fire on the bad guys. Don't mess with the Corps.

Nicolai decides that he deserves to get into the fight too, and shows up with his light machine-gun. It's a bit confusing as he is having a hard time figuring out who's who. He sees Mikie slumped against a wall, looking up. Nicolai looks up, but can't see anything, so he just starts spraying the upper area. Mikie attacks the blonde psionically, trying to overload the shield, and causes her to stumble and fall. Nicolai can sort of see a bit of a distortion, and fires at it as it falls, then as it bounds away towards Corina. Blood spots are left on the floor, seemingly from thin air.

Behrel has been charged by one of the fake Marines in dress uniform, and stabs him, skewering him on his hand and a half hull metal sword. Viper is firing at the oncoming bad guys. Corina shoots the Evil Grey thing in the knee and he falls over, hitting his head. His brain cylinder pulls itself up, sprouts legs, and skitters away. <What the....???> Viper sees it heading for her and Behrel and yells "get it!!" Behrel is a bit busy, as the fake Marine on his sword stabs with the bayonet and empties the magazine into Behrel's abdomen. [Big ouch!]

Viper shoots one of the fake marines, shattering his shin. He falls, and then his brain sprouts legs and runs off. This is repeated with others. Ick ick ick.

Mikie puts all his remaining strength into a psionic assault on the blonde, and this does take her out, in a rather permanent fashion. She falls, and becomes visible. Nicolai checks to see if her brain is 'normal', and it is, except for looking like it's been cooked like a berry pie. Mikie is still conscious, but bleeding from his eyes and ears.

Black shows up, finally, with medics and others. The 'mopping up' can now begin. Ten bodies are found without brains, not including Evil Grey's body which is also missing a brain; also found are the blonde's body (with cooked brain), and six shot up brains. That leaves five brains unaccounted for (the Tattler should have a field day with this one). Nicolai: "Where did those come from?" [referring to the dead brains] Viper: "Those bodies." Nicolai: "Where'd they come from?" Viper: "The ship that kidnapped Mikie and me." Nicolai: "Where's the ship?" Viper: "That way." Nicolai heads that way, figuring the brains would head for the ship. He's trying to not think about the fact that he's chasing brains through the lower areas of the starport. He uses a breaching charge on the exterior hatch, blowing it open. That leaves the inner door. Nicolai sets a second charge, and Corina tells him to stop, as there might be material on board they need.

Black is surveying the damage, and walks over to where Mikie is sitting. Black: "Well Mikie, I see your luck continues." Mikie just looks up at him. LUCK? Speaking of 'lucky' people, Viper now has to go over and check the body to see if it really is Grey's. The medic tells her "There's some scarring right around here..." Viper checks, and it is in an area that Grey would have scars, and they appear to be the correct 'age'. Damn - apparently it is Grey's body.

The ambulatory people concerned, Black, Corina, Viper, some of Black's techs, go over to check out the ship. Inside the ship they find a storage refrigerator with a brain floating inside yellow liquid. It's labeled "specimen four". Black: "So who owns the brain?" Nicolai: "Who's missing one?" (No one answers that question.) Black asks Viper, "What do you want to do with this?" Viper: "I don't know, but I guess we'd better have it taken care of."

The little ship has jump drives, but no food processor. The engineers have never seen anything like these drives before. Black: "All right, this ship is classified, everyone off." Viper would like the Navy to see the ship at some point, and Black agrees with this. Nicolai is left to guard the ship. The brain is being carried out in it's 'jar', and it's completely unshielded. Mikie 'looks' psionically at the brain, and it's most definitely William Grey. It's sort of asleep feeling. Mikie gets Viper's attention, and tells her who the brain belong to. She in turn tells Black, and asks for his help. Viper: "Do you know of anyone who can perform this sort of procedure? I know it doesn't exist, I know it's illegal, but I also know you know everything." Black: "Well, <looking towards Corina> I don't think that's for me to decide..." Corina says "Yes. Do it. Whatever it costs." Black places a phone call: "I have a project for you... Yes, I realize that... It would be a personal favor to me... Yes, with all that entails. The usual place? All right. <to Viper> You may come. Only you."

Black has Viper medicked then orders Mikie seen to as well. Nicolai: "Who's the blonde chick?" Corina & Behrel in unison: "Which one?" Nicolai: "What do you mean, 'which one'? How many are there?" Corina: "Well, Black has one." Black to Corina regarding the other Solomani blonde woman: "How interesting, she was telling the truth." Viper's thoughts: "I don't want to know, not at all, nope, nope."

Black, Viper and Grey's component parts end up at Tobasco Jack's place, where all the rattlesnakes make Black nervous. Jack makes Black wait out with the snakes (organlegger humor), and takes Viper into the back room with Grey's body. Apparently Tobasco Jack's doctor is a Vegan. How, um, interesting. Evidently he's very good with those tentacles. After conducting the examination of Grey's body, the Vegan doctor tells Viper: "This will take some time. Four hours. Perhaps you would like to acquire some body feeding nutrient substance for?" Viper: "Uh, yes, and get cleaned up and into proper clothing." She asks Jack where she can clean up, and he shows her to the fresher, where a snake crawls out of the toilet and slithers away. Viper: "How many snakes do you have Jack?" Jack: "I have no idea." Viper: "Do you have anything I could borrow for clothing?" Jack goes through the closet which contains much clothing, most of it foreign looking. After turning down the gold lamé catsuit and the saloon dancing girl outfit, Viper ends up in a pair of jeans and a tube top. The jeans are very snug, but they fit, and it's better than the dress, and the psychedelic tube top with a big "hair shirt" kind of long-sleeved shirt round out the ensemble.

Back at the scene of carnage, Nicolai remembers Theresa's finger being removed, so he searches for the ring. He searches around the bodes first, and then the ship, from stem to stern. He looks through every single little drawer and compartment. He finds a hidden little drawer with a secret compartment in the bridge. As he's trying to get it open, the ship shudders, and there are bangs from the stern as the explosive bolts are fired. The air is getting sucked out, and the bridge controls come on. The ship is apparently powering something up too. Engines?? Nicolai slaps a breaching charge on the navigation panel, sets it to blow, runs through the ship and dives out the back. The ship moves a few dozen feet from the station and jumps. ??? Nicolai calmly drifts in his combat armor, towards the station docking ring.

Back at Tobasco Jack's, some hours later. The Vegan and Jack, as they come out of the back room - Vegan: "Am I not a master?" Jack: "Beautiful work, my friend, beautiful work. Now, there's the matter of my fee". Viper: "Yes, there is." Jack: "How about an i.o.u.?" Literally. He wants Viper to write out "IOU for one corejob", and then sign it. Viper does agree, although she's a bit concerned about the potential blackmail value, but what's she going to do, say no? She signs it. Black gets down from his perch on the back of the sofa (guess the Director doesn't like snakes), and gives Viper and Grey a lift. Grey gets to ride in the trunk. But it's a nice trunk! Really. Viper asks to be taken to a secure docking bay, where she can get Grey aboard one of the naval vessels before he wakes up. Good plan. This they do.

Black shows up where Nicolai is. The ship is gone. Black is rather angry: "Somehow the technology that would have allowed me to put a useful brain in your body has disappeared. Don't you have guns to clean or something? I want you working with the tac team, and not putting your fingers into things you don't understand." Nicolai hands him back the Regina security badge, and tells Black: "I have a house on Down Port. I think I'll go there for a while." Black: "I suggest you pack your things." Nicolai: "And go where?" Black: "That's not my problem. I understand that Zhodane is lovely this time of year." Nicolai: "I'll need time to sell my house and everything." Black: "Every Solomani I've met has been nothing but trouble." Nicolai: "I could say the same for every security man I ever met." Black: "Well, you've performed some small service... " Nicolai: "You're damned right. I saved your station." Black: "Somehow I think that if you had not been here, all this wouldn't have been necessary......" Nicolai fumes, but doesn't attempt to throttle Black. Black's response is to grant Nicolai 'nonexistence' until he packs up his stuff and leaves. Which had better be soon.

Black to Corina: "Your grace, what did you want me to do with the Solomani girl?" Corina: "The Solomani girl?" Black: "Yes, the one in the basement." Corina: "I don't know. Maybe we should hold onto her until the Imperial authorities ask their questions about what was going on. On the other hand she was trying to help. Let her go." Black: "Let her go?" Corina; "Yes. Give her medical attention and then release her with a ticket to the Rim. We owe her that much." Black: "I guess we could do that. It would certainly be different."

Blanc-Noir et Cie has offered to purchase the damaged Ambassadore. Corina wants to know who their legal representative on planet is. It's a Mr. Renault, of the Banque de Genève. She has him sent an invitation to the Tea House, for a later 'chat'. Corina is bound and determined to find out who is behind Blanc-Noir. Nicolai calls Corina, and asks about the blonde girl. Corina: "Black has her, and she was apparently Solomani." Nicolai: "Do you want me off planet? Black does." Corina: "You're Black's employee, not mine." Nicolai: "Not anymore." Corina: "That's between the two of you." Corina is not going to cross Black on this, so the boys can just work it out for themselves.

Nicolai contacts the Pikhans and tells them they need to pack up his house and ship it to him, to his address in the Rim. He calls the knifemaker to see if his replica CRI knife is done. Nicolai tells the knifemaker he needs the knife now. The knifemaker says it did not come out pure black, it came out an opalescent black. Nicolai will take the knife anyway, especially since it's even cooler looking than the original. Nicolai will have all his personal belongings packed up and shipped on a separate ship.

Nicolai wants to make sure he meets Julia (the original Solomani blonde) on the liner, and gets to know her. She's a bit less attractive than usual right now, but the bruises will heal. He is planning on returning to the Rim, as he's always wanted to, and he hopes Julia can help him do it. He will find out that she's the daughter of Blaelok (or Blevelt, or whatever his name was) and Pamela.

On the Agamemnon, Grey is told by Viper that he hit his head on an overhead, during a misjump. Grey publicly accepts this, but pulls Viper into their quarters and says: "Okay, that's the official story, but now I want to know what really happened. You're a terrible liar." Viper: "Well, next time you decide to alter an official report, you should let me know." Grey explains what really happened: he ordered the official report falsified to protect the aide that works for him. This aide, on his own, purchased the drug with the intent of bringing down Spencer Collingwood. Grey: "Although he did that on his own - he was trying to do what he thought I wanted. I was indiscreet, and vented my frustration rather irresponsibly. What I said was 'this man is a traitor, and is trying to destroy the Navy. Something should be done to stop him. ' And in the end, the results were not unappreciated. Having said that, it is not the kind of action I would have taken myself or allowed if I had known of it." Viper: "Okay, do you think, that when you knew who I was doing this inquest for-" Grey: " I didn't know you'd been selected for the inquest." Viper gets really quiet. Grey says: "I arrived after you'd already left." Viper: "Oh dear." Viper didn't want to have to do this, but she tells Grey everything that happened. Everything. This includes the fact that Grey gave her a nice send off before she left Rhylanor. Bouncy bouncy. She'd like to have her brain scrubbed. Grey takes this quietly. Viper gets a pregnancy test done, and thank God it's negative.

<Out of timeline...> In later days, on their return to Rhylanor, Grey is a bit distant for a while, and Viper spends a lot more time on the range. Some days pass, then Grey storms into their house, grabs Viper, carries her upstairs, kicks the door open, and then kicks it closed. And she thought the doppelganger was vigorous!! Oh boy. Four times 'oh boy'. Afterwards... Grey: "I think it would be best if we just never mentioned this again." Viper agrees. 28 days pass, and nothing happens. A few days later, Viper visits the doctor and has a test done. Now she'll just have to wait for the results. And at some point, Grey finds Theresa's wedding ring in the pocket of one of his jackets. He recognizes it as a mirror image of Viper's ring, and he knows the story about Annalise and Annabelle's rings. He'll have to speak with Viper about this...