"Good...bad...I'm the one with the gun..." -- Ash, 'Army Of Darkness'

233 - 1122.

Treal is feeling better, after a good night's sleep, and the really keen first-class breakfast the 'prisoners' are served really helps too. One thing for sure, the food has improved now that the Lyrians have taken over. Maybe they should skip the revolution and just open up an exclusive restaurant on Tremous Dex.

Mikie is in the main dining room, along with most of the other passengers. The Prince, after the initial hugging incident, gives Mikie his space, and just occasionally looks at him with sad eyes.

Shaw also, having returned from his private conversation with Esterhazy, partakes of breakfast himself, after telling the Pikhans to "be ready". Right. Ghaer works off some of the made from scratch Hollandaise sauce before eating any of the Eggs Benedict. Shaw then goes to speak with the Pikhans to ask if they've formed up work parties yet. Pikhan: "We're engineers. So we'll be working in engineering. " Shaw is planning on going with them, even though he's not an engineer, which kind of confuses the Pikhans. Shaw explains that Esterhazy has told Shaw he is personally responsible for the Pikhans. So he's going.

The Pikhans head back to engineering, with Shaw and one of Esterhazy's men. On the way through the cargo bay, Shaw tries to determine where Watson has been caged up, and he is able to see a freshly welded cargo pod that has "Dangerous live animal" spray painted on it's side. Odds are that's where Watson is. Unless there's a wolverine on board. There are two guards posted near (but not too near) the cargo pod, and they look very alert.

Back with the 'brave soldiers' of the Crown Prince, the guards have evidently been told to give Mikie extra space. Except for one, who is following Mikie around. He identifies himself: "I am Valer, one of the Prince's group. I've been told to take care of anything you desire." Mikie: "I don't 'desire' anything." Valer: "But should you, I will be ready." Valer gets to follow Mikie to and from the gym.

Ghaer gets to spend his time attempting to reassemble the Book of Knowledge, while preventing Treal from foundering himself on the food. The Vargrs are still jockeying for position and snarling at each other. Ghaer, not being a proper Vargr, is ignored. Treal is happy to be well fed and not shot. The Prince himself stops by to make sure that "everyone is being well treated? No complaints against my men?" Treal: "One of my companions mentioned that you knew or knew of my brother, Will?" Prince: "A neurosurgeon isn't he? On Rhylanor?" Treal: "He is a doctor on Rhylanor." Prince: "I consulted with some of his colleagues. A charming woman, his wife, I must say." Treal: "Yes she is. I just met her myself." The Prince sits down with Treal and Ghaer. Prince: "I really do apologize for keeping you isolated like this, but some of my men do not necessarily have as much discipline as they should, and I would not want you be injured before you are released on Tremous Dex." Treal: "It's a bit late for that." Both sides are having selective memory issues here. They both think the other side 'started it'. Prince: "Is there anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable?" Treal: "I don't think so." Prince: "I would be willing to let you out, if you give me your word that you will cause no more problems." Lily, who has been nearby, goes off about how "we are not collaborators, and you can't come in here offering us special treatment and hoping we'll betray our principles." Treal: "I'm afraid that my Imperial military training would prohibit that." The Prince understands, and admires Treal's attitude. Prince: "Mademoiselle Duprés, if it would make you feel better, I can have the cook prepare gruel and hardtack. Good day." The Prince departs.

Lily <to Treal>: "Col. Shaw will be detained a while, so we owe it to him to make preparations. I've managed to procure another knife." Treal notices the tone in Lily's voice when she mentions Shaw, so Treal starts telling her Shaw stories. None of the stories are true, but Treal goes on and on about Shaw heroism, modesty, and shyness. So Lily "shouldn't be put off if Shaw appears aloof - he's really lonely, but he puts on a brave front, and he is shy. And he does admire determined women." Lily is riveted, especially after Treal tells her that one of the reasons Shaw is reluctant to speak about his past, is that many of his missions may still be 'classified'.

In engineering, Shaw wonders if the lobster-bot can be recalled. It can be, from the console in engineering, but Shaw doesn't have robot ops, so it's not really up his alley. Shaw stays out of the way, and lets the Pikhans do their work. Among other things, they disassemble the secondary bridge and put the parts back into stores. The guard offers Shaw a cigarette, which Shaw takes (although he doesn't normally smoke) it, and chats up the guard, trying to put him at ease. The guard, a young man, is willing to talk about the Prince and their 'quest'; it's not a terribly in depth conversation, as it was really the man's parents who were the ardent supporters - the guard is there because his infirm father expected him to be there. He knows that the Lyrians have been under the thumb of the evil Arden Confederation, thanks to the stories passed on from generation to generation. The guard is also here because some of his peers (six of his schoolmates) came along too, having fallen under the sway of the very charismatic Prince. Shaw works to convince the guard that he's his buddy. The Prince has always told his people that the Imperium is their friend, so that's not too hard. And everyone has heard the stories about the "Arden secret police, who have continued to hunt down and kill the surviving members of the Lyrian nobility." Shaw remembers hearing a bit about the Ardenians, but nothing important, since it involved thugs beating a few unimportant people to death. The founders of the Confederation were very egalitarian, sort of the worker class, and at this point the Lyrian Empire was at the corrupt, decadent stage, so they were easy pickings. And the Lyrians weren't doing any of the work, as the noble class, which meant there were no warm fuzzy feelings from the workers. The guard, Tomas, of course, doesn't give this version of history. He repeats the oral tradition his family programmed him with. He warms up to Shaw, as an older, military presence; Tomas is apparently looking for some assurances, since everything has not been quite as simple and bloodless, or as romantic as Tomas had expected. Shaw takes the opportunity to try to become Tomas' mentor. The Pikhans work away, happy as clams. Lunch is brought in. Shaw asks Tomas to introduce him to some of Tomas' friends - "I'd like to meet them." Tomas: "Okay, sure. As long as it's all right with the Prince." Shaw doesn't want all his work on Tomas to disappear once he's back with his buddies.

The day passes, and the Pikhans and Shaw return to the dining room. Lily is very happy to see Shaw. Lily: "I'm so glad you're back. I can't imagine the sort of unspeakable things they might have done to you. Did they beat you?" Shaw relates his rather boring day to her, telling her about Tomas. For some reason, Lily hangs on every word. Lily: "Oh yes, Mr. Delgado has been telling me all about you." Shaw fixes Treal with a 'steely glare' (well, his version of it); Treal smiles and waves. Shaw: "And just what exactly has Mr. Delgado been telling you about me?" Lily: "I understand how this embarrasses you. There's no need to go into it. I'm just amazed at how well you've recovered from all those injuries! But you must have been so proud when the Emperor decorated you!" Shaw begins to plot revenge on Treal...

Esterhazy knocks, then enters. He has a proper steely glare, which he uses on Shaw. Esterhazy: "Col. Shaw. The Prince is prepared to listen to your offer. <to the room at large> You will excuse us please, but the Colonel has negotiated a separate agreement." Shaw goes with Esterhazy, and is escorted in to see the Prince.

Prince: "Ah, Colonel Shaw. Please have a seat. Colonel Esterhazy, if you would be so kind as to remove the item from his ear." This is in reference to Shaw's psi-shield ear cuff. Shaw sits there until Esterhazy gets close, and then attempts to use the letter opener (previously supplied by Lily) on Esterhazy. Shaw hits Esterhazy in the chest, right in the armor apparently, as there is a sort of metallic sound when it hits. There is some blood on his chest though. Esterhazy backhands Shaw. And the fight continues, with the Prince sitting surprised, nearby. Simultaneously, Shaw sweeps Esterhazy, who, on the way down, hits Shaw in the mouth. But now the Prince gets into the fray. Shaw is flung across the room, into the wall, telekinetically. Shaw gets up after several seconds. Shaw feels a tug, and his earcuff flies into the Prince's hand. Prince: "How interesting." Shaw is trying to deliberately think about not thinking about the incorrect coordinates. After a few seconds, the Prince tosses the psi-shield back to Shaw. Prince: "Here, put this back on. Your mind disturbs me." Good thing the Prince was never in Blaelok's mind.

Esterhazy and Shaw limp back to the dining room. Esterhazy: "How unfortunate for you that I happened to have been badly damaged in the chest." Ah, not armor, but an implanted chest plate. Esterhazy <to the other prisoners>: "Your friend has finished betraying you." Esterhazy leaves, after Lily throws herself at Shaw, pulling him to her ample bosom. What Shaw really wants is a bag of ice. Well, two bags, actually. Ice is procured, and everyone gets to listen to Lily unconsciously quote lines from one of her operas about cruel fate, etc. Lily sings softly to Shaw as she comforts him. Treal, on the other hand, is happily helping Ghaer try to reassemble the Book of Knowledge.

The Vargrs aren't impressed by Shaw, and they have their own plan, thank you. This consists of waiting for the guards to come in, when they're going to pounce on the guards, take their weapons, break out and capture the Prince. Vargr: "No, no - we eat the Prince, just to show them we're serious." This produces another round of fights between the Vargrs.

Mikie, as he's wandering around, sees the Prince being escorted off, looking very tired.

Shaw asks Ghaer to check him out, and Shaw apparently has a mild concussion. It's definitely more than just a little bump on the back of the head - no depressed skull fracture, but more swelling than from a simple knock. Ghaer tells Lily to watch Shaw for signs of slurred speech, that sort of thing. Oddly enough, it looks like Shaw has taken a two-story fall. Ghaer: "What did they do, dangle you off a balcony?" Shaw: "I didn't know he was a TK." Shaw tells Ghaer about the Prince throwing him across the room, from across the room. Ghaer: "That's interesting. I didn't realize he'd be that powerful after his procedure." Now that's interesting.

Treal is keeping an eye on the Vargrs. When they start to sound like they're actually getting themselves sorted out, Treal (who doesn't want the good food interrupted by damage being done to the waiters) goes over and whispers to the dominant Vargr "Hey, while you were gone to the bathroom that guy over there said that you were a screw up and that's he's only giving you enough of a lead to hang yourself. He's sure that as soon as the action starts everyone will actually follow his lead." Treal points to the number two Vargr. Sure enough, this renews the dominance infighting in the group, and temporarily delays any kind of concerted action by the Vargrs.

Meanwhile one of the Pikhans has approached Lily. Gesturing to her ample "tracks of land" he says: "My colleagues are curious. Gravity generators or cantilevers?" Ghaer: "Uh, gentlemen, that's sort of a female thing." Pikhan: "We know. We're curious about the engineering principles behind this." Ghaer gives them a brief description of an underwire bra. The Pikhans decide this is very primitive, so they sit down to develop a better design. It would help if they could examine the pertinent features up close, but Ghaer suggests they use computer modeling instead (it's safer). They'll ask one of the waiters if they can have a computer later.

Shaw asks one of the Pikhans about the lobster-bot. Henry: "Oh dear, you're right." Now that they've changed sides, they decide they must warn the Lyrians, so the Pikhans go over to the guards at the door. Henry: "We completely forgot. One of our robot lobsters is attacking the life support system!" The guard looks at them, and says: "I see." He leaves, probably thinking they're right nuts. Shaw tells the Pikhans that they will not

The Prince sends his apologies to Col. Shaw. He lost his temper, and he hopes you are not greatly injured." Shaw: "I could use some medical attention." Since there really isn't a proper doctor, Ghaer does what he can. Unfortunately, the medical supplies on the liner are sadly lacking. Fortunately, Shaw's injuries are not life-threatening.

Lily is offered Napoleon cognac...and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Her response is "I'll show them I can't be bought." It's decided that the best course of action involves drinking the cognac and coffee, and not allowing the enemy to have it, thereby denying them aid and comfort.

It's fairly late when the Prince drops by alone, to visit Mikie. Prince: "I had trouble sleeping. I had occasion to pay a visit to your friend Col. Shaw. An experience I can assure you, I would not like to repeat." Mikie: "What do you mean by 'pay a visit'? You went to the dining room?" Prince: "I 'read' him, if you will. Although not really. The darkness that such an average visage conceals. Why is it that such truly twisted souls never look that way. Ah, what a goodly image falsehood hides." Mikie finds this rather amusing. Prince: "My apologies for disturbing you. I thought you of all people would understand." He gets up to leave, but Mikie stops him. Mikie: "I'm sorry. I do understand, but Shaw's a piker. He's confused, and there's an area in his mind I wouldn't advise you try to go into; he's been messed with. But if you think his mind is bad..." Prince: "I see. My what interesting people you must have met in your travels. No wonder you're so bitter. I thought I had survived great travails. My parents arrested and executed. My brother shot down before me. Now I can see this doesn't compare with what you have gone through." Mikie: "The problem with 'visiting' people is you should really find out first who they are." Prince: "A painful lesson, but the ends do not justify the means. It's my burden to bear. I thought it might prove useful. <pause> This is a mad enterprise, isn't that what you think?" Mikie: "Yeah, but what does it matter what I think?" Prince: "That's the problem - it matters what everyone thinks. That's the burden of empathy. When everyone around you expects so much from you... But I'm rambling. Good night, Mr. Griffin." The Prince leaves. Mikie goes to the gym, which is empty except for Colonel Esterhazy, who is practicing throwing knives at a dummy. The dummy is full of holes already, and Esterhazy, who nods briefly at Mikie, is doing very interesting things with his knives.

Shaw, sharing Lily's bed area at her insistence, attempts to subtly suggest to Lily that his 'equipment' was 'damaged in the war', kind of things, but this backfires. Lily believes he just needs "a woman's touch", and Shaw's equipment is just fine, thank you. Things don't get completely out of hand, but pretty much what can be done with the clothes on, is done. Lily is embarrassed, afterwards. Shaw explains that under the circumstances, even the most extraordinary people can have moments of weakness, and he doesn't think any less of her.

After a while in the gym, Esterhazy moves on to a sword. He's obviously working out some frustrations of his own. Mikie stays for a few hours, and starts to leave. Esterhazy: "You should tell your friend Colonel Shaw that he should be careful." Esterhazy goes back to his business, and Mikie goes back to his room to try to get some sleep. Or at any rate, to lay down on the bed and see what the different dot patterns on the ceiling tiles look like.

234 - 1122.

At about 2 or 3 in the morning, and an alarm goes off ship wide. A guard runs into the dining room in search of the Pikhans - the life support system has gone off-line, and the backup hasn't kicked in. Henry: "Why hasn't the backup kicked in?" "Because of the lobster, you idiot!" "Secondary's completely gone. Where's the tertiary backup? And the backup for the backup?" The Pikhans and Shaw are taken to engineering, where the Pikhans check everything out, and discover that some one has sabotaged the system, and it wasn't one of the Pikhans, since they're all together. Pikhan: "That means some one else must be on the loose." Shaw: "We need Watson." Bill: "Why?" Shaw: "Watson is a dog. He can take a scent, if there is one." Henry: "Well, I don't expect he's going to find a lot." He pulls out a pair of rubber gloves, with cotton fibres in it." Apparently whoever was messing with the system wore cotton gloves under their rubber ones. Shaw: "It may not be one of the Lyrians." Pikhan: "How do you know?" Shaw: "Well, before we ended up in engineering, we went through the cargo bay, and found some one tampering with the cargo pods." Shaw makes sure the guards see the damage the Pikhans have found. The Prince is summoned, and he confirms that "This is Wiggins' work. There is no need to worry. We have enough air, and we arrive on Tremous Dex tomorrow. I have anticipated this, and I have made plans." Shaw waits until some of the followers leave the area, then asks the Prince what specifically he's done to handle the problem. Prince: "I have made plans. That is sufficient. I do not have to explain myself to you, Colonel Shaw." Esterhazy is close by, glaring at Shaw.

Once everyone is back in the dining room, Shaw goes to see Ghaer. Shaw: "Ghaer. The Prince seems to think that this Wiggins guy was the saboteur, but if he's been in custody, he couldn't have done it, it's too recent." Ghaer: "That would take some one with engineering skills, and I think the Pikhans squished most of them. How much knowledge would this take? And would it have been discovered if the backup were still working?" The answer is some (it's not random damage), and no. Shaw: "Our problem right now is that the Prince thinks Wiggins is responsible for this, and I don't think the Prince or Esterhazy is going to believe anything I tell them." Ghaer: "Do you have monitoring equipment on the lobster?" Yup. Ghaer's concern is that the primary went out, and the secondary was set to go later, without the saboteur knowing about the lobster. The alarm on the primary was disabled, so the saboteur was expecting the secondary to go on. Pikhan: "If the alarm on the primary system had gone off, some one might have discovered the damage before the damage was irreversible."

It's decided that maybe the Prince would listen to Ghaer. Ghaer: "I believe we may be in for more trouble than you realize from the sabotage." Prince: "'We'? I was under the impression that we were enemies, Mr. Raller." Ghaer: "CO2 is an insidious killer, and I'd rather not have to deal with that right now." Prince: "I see. Colonel Esterhazy, see that Mr. Raller has what he requires." Esterhazy takes Ghaer, Shaw, and the Pikhans down to the cargo bay to check out pods for material to be used. Nothing is taken from the one ton cargo container full of gowns and other accouterments, not even the Valkyrian armor. Lily has come along to make sure nothing is done to her Carl, so the Pikhans don't go too wild with the gowns and undergarments. The appropriate components are found, and Ghaer is able to help, especially after being given remedial hammering lessons. The Pikhans take about six hours to construct the air scrubber. Shaw extricates himself from Lily, telling her that she needs to stay away from the Pikhans lest she be injured. Shaw wanders around to observe the Pikhans at work, and trying to make Esterhazy nervous. Esterhazy doesn't really care, but he does go out of the door to check in with his gun crew. Shaw has one of the Pikhans retask the lobster-bot to break into Watson's cargo pod, since "Watson can detect noxious gasses"; or at least that's what Shaw tells the Pikhans.

Once the scrubbers are done, the air is much better, and lightly scented of pine. The guards are replaced frequently, at least the ones who are in the gun crew. Shaw sees Tomas, who brings over his two friends, Joe and Theo. Shaw: "Pleased to meet you. Looks like the Pikhans are going to pull it off." Joe: "Boy, those little guys sure like building things. And they're cute, too. <extending his hand towards a Pikhan> Hey, there little fella... " The Pikhan doesn't actually take the silly boy's hand off, and Shaw explains that they don't like being disturbed, and then he redirects the conversation back to Esterhazy. Joe: "Yeah, what a jerk. 'Make sure your weapons are clean, change your socks'" Shaw: "Yeah, that's what it's like in the Imperial military service." Joe: "Oh we heard about the 'Imperial service' from Esterhazy." Apparently the boys don't agree with Esterhazy's assessment of the coming fight for liberation. Theo: "He's acting like it's going to be a standup fight. Everyone knows that those commissars will just collapse once they see us. " Yeah, right. Tomas: "If the colonel's such a badass, how come he only has one arm? How come he's all shot up?" Shaw encourages the kids' whining, agreeing with them, and going on about how Esterhazy is "just showing off in front of me and the Pikhans." A flask comes out of Theo's pocket, and is passed around - it's very smooth whiskey.

Bing-bing "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of Air Arden, we welcome you to the Tremous Dex system. We are arriving exactly 8 hours, 13 minutes, 45 seconds ahead of schedule. Please remain seated until the ship comes to a complete stop." Pilot humor. Now things get busy, as there's about 12 hours to go before docking.

The Prince wants all the passengers to join him for a 'farewell luncheon'. This sounds good to the Pikhans, as they haven't eaten for a while. Before they head back, Shaw takes a look at the 'lobster-cam', and sees it's near the cargo pod, but it will have to go across open space, and there are guards. The lobster does have primitive avoidance sensors, so it keeps skittering back into the shadows. Shaw has to leave at this point.

235 - 1122.

It's quite the set up in the main dining area. The tables are groaning with food, and gleaming with silver. The Prince thanks everyone, and apologizes for the inconvenience. But the other passengers disagree, and toast the Prince. Shaw doesn't eat his food, he just toys with it, concerned it might be drugged or poisoned. After the meal, everyone's belongings will be returned to them. The 'troublemakers' are taken to one side, and will be escorted off separately so they can't interfere. Esterhazy: "The Prince wants this to end without any unnecessary injuries. Don't worry, you will be released."

Mikie asks to see the Prince, which is not a problem. Mikie: "I have a question about Wiggins." Prince: "I'm not sure what to do with Mr. Wiggins. He's not on the manifest, so he is, technically speaking, a stowaway. I was thinking I might take him with me, for company. I do understand, however, that he is your only connection to the unpleasant individual you are seeking. If you were to give me your word that Mr. Wiggins would not come to any harm while in your care..." Mikie: "I was considering popping him into his own medical berth and shipping him home." Prince: "That can be arranged. Are you sure you won't reconsider and come with us? We could use your help, and once we have reestablished the Empire, I could offer you a place where you would be held in the highest esteem." Mikie: "No. Like I told you before, I already have a job, and I don't do 'causes' any more." Prince: "Well, Mr. Griffin. Michael. Good luck. I hope you find what you're looking for." Mikie: "I hope things go better for you than I expect." Handshakes are exchanged.

Wiggins is carefully installed, with Ghaer's help, in his little medical berth. Mikie accompanies the berth to a shipping agent, where he arranges for the medical berth, Wiggins' file, and notes on what Mikie was able to get out of Wiggins when he 'interrogated' him, to be shipped back to Regina. The package is sent to Mercer Black. Mikie sends a copy of the file and notes separately, to connect with an X-boat so Black knows exactly what to expect. Mikie also makes sure the person handling the medical low-berth is aware that the person on the other ends is expecting the package, and has the name of the ship and captain.

Everyone is escorted off the ship. Esterhazy is met by several men, as is the Prince - although he's in disguise, but it doesn't matter since the man who meets him and his attendants bows. Oh, that's subtle. There is a limo and a traditional laundry delivery van parked nearby. A few seconds later, several of the men who met Esterhazy pull out weapons, and the van's doors pop open, showing about ten other armed men. This is not part of the Prince's plan - he and Esterhazy are taken at gunpoint. One of the Prince's personal aides is given a package by one of the (now evident) Arden agents. Prince: "No, Robert. How could you?" Robert: "Money, sir. Money can buy a lot of things. You can't buy anything with promises and glory. It had no chance to work." Prince: "All right, you have us, but these people are not part of this. They are just passengers. Let them go." Ardenian: "Yeah, right." The group is divided between the limo and the van. The Prince, Esterhazy, Shaw, Ghaer, and Lily are put into the van, along with several guards. Ghaer tries to place himself between the rest of the party and the guards. Treal is put into the limo along with a couple of Esterhazy's men. Shaw pulls Lily close to him, as if to comfort her, and whispers "Start screaming at Esterhazy." Lily: "What? But what about the guards?" Shaw convinces Lily to try to distract the guards, but it doesn't work. Arden guard: "Keep your fat trap shut, bitch. When I want you to scream, you'll know it. Right now I'm busy, but I'll make time for you later. Now, you're lucky, because my orders are to bring you in alive. Don't get stupid, or I might just kill you and take my licks." Prince: "Who are you people?" Guard: "Let's just say that we represent the legitimate government of Arden." Shaw: "The secret police." Guard: "Please, Special Security Service. 'Secret Police' has such unpleasant connotations. We like to think of ourselves as modern law enforcement officers. We just take a proactive stance. And thanks to your helpful staff, Robert, and oh yes, Sarah. She put up some resistance, but you know her parents on the home world are getting on in years..." Shaw says the wrong thing and gets slapped for his trouble. Lily: "I'd mind your manners. This is Col. Shaw of the Imperial Marines. He's responsible for the deaths of better men than you. He's an expert at several forms of martial arts, and has killed five men with his bare hands." Shaw doesn't recall ever doing anything like that; he'll have to check with his PR man (Treal) about this. The guard is unimpressed with Shaw, the Prince, and his 'reinforcements'. Guard: "Using my psychic powers...you understand...I see...catastrophic drive failure. Everyone lost. How sad. That's the problem with you high-bred honorable types, you think everyone behaves like you. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but my only rule is to win." The plan is to take the Prince and his companions somewhere for a little conversation, and then to the home world for a show trial. The Prince suddenly jolts forward. Prince: "Ow! Something stabbed me." Ghaer: "Probably psi-suppress." Guard: "Very good! Ghaer Raller - I recognize you from the hyper-fur." Ghaer plots the shaving and astro-turfing of the Tattler writer. Guard: "I'm surprised at you. You've thrown yourself in with the losing team." After a while, the van goes up an incline, into another ship. There are a lot of men inside, all in the colorless, shapeless Arden Confederation uniforms. Guard: "Take care of these. Be very careful with this one <indicating Shaw>. He's dangerous. I'll interrogate this one <indicating Lily> personally, in one hour." Shaw makes to start something with Esterhazy, until the Commissar decides to have some amusement by having Shaw and Esterhazy fight each other. Esterhazy doesn't want to play their game, so Shaw picks up the knife, crouches, and starts circling Esterhazy. Shaw makes a couple of feints at Esterhazy, trying to get him maneuvered so that Shaw is between Esterhazy and the mouthy Commissar.

Meanwhile, Mikie, who saw the armed men leaving with Treal, and assumed the worst, has followed in a cab. The cab driver, a gregarious man with magnificent mustaches, is very talkative, and drives mostly by feel (and very fast). The driver, Ahmed, offers to provide Mikie with companionship, dope sticks, watches, guns, whatever he wants. Mikie: "Guns? Now that I might be interested in." Ahmed calls his cousin, Abed, to arrange a meet. The cab makes a rendezvous with a police car that has a veritable little weapons shop in the trunk. After establishing that Mikie is not an idiot, the good guns are pulled down. This includes a light machine-gun, some grenades, and something with a power pack. Abed: "Other weapons are available, but would have to be sent for." Not necessary. Mikie purchases four heavy, big herking pineapple grenades, a .357 revolver with Black Widow spiders on the grips, two .38s, a shotgun, and ammunition for all the above. He loads the guns before taking them in the bag provided. Then it's just a matter of negotiation how much of a bribe would be appropriate for the guard at the docking area to allow a "delivery" to be made. $100 credits, and it's done.

Inside the cargo bay, Shaw tosses the knife to Esterhazy and drops to the ground. Esterhazy catches the knife and (obscenely quickly) throws it at the Commissar, hitting him dead in the eye. See practice does make perfect. Shaw is very impressed. At this time, Lily takes a deep breath to gasp, and deploys both her floatation devices, which grab everyone's attention. By that time, Mikie has gotten to the standard airlock going into the cargo bay, and is right behind one of the Arden soldiers.

Esterhazy gets the Prince down under the laundry van, and he's joined by Shaw as Ghaer sprays the area with bullets from a snatched gun. The man who lost his assault rifle draws a sword on Ghaer, who whacks him with the rifle, in the groin. All the males within a mile felt that.

Mikie takes down the soldier, as he's drawing his gun, snapping his neck (not an intentional kill, but oh well). Mikie can see Lily and Ghaer, but not the others, so he starts heading for Ghaer. As he does, a bunch of people are running as if to flee via the airlock, so Mikie pulls the pin on a grenade, drops it into the airlock, and gets out of the their way. A few seconds later there is a big bang (not nearly as movie-grenade like as hoped for), followed by screaming and even more panic.

Esterhazy is firing at people from under the laundry van, as is Shaw. Sometimes the ejecting brass under the van is almost like being shot at, but what the hell. Mikie can tell some one is firing from under the van, which is on the way to where Ghaer is, so he heads that direction. After several more minutes of gunfire from both sides, grenades being lobbed (by Ghaer), and the like, the cargo area is pretty much secured for an escape, although Esterhazy and Mikie have been injured. Ghaer gets the main cargo hatch open, jamming it as best he can in that position.

Everyone ends up together (except Treal), fleeing in the laundry van at high speed. Up on two wheels for a few seconds, around the corner, then smack into and under the trailer of a semitrailer. Minor, non-life threatening injuries abound. Everyone bails out. Liquid nitrogen is pouring out of the tanker truck. The group avoids that, and unass the area, with Ghaer acting as tailgunner, as more of the Arden military show up outside the ship.

Ahmed the cabbie is helping the police (Abed) lay down fire, with a belt-fed machine-gun. Once Ahmed is out of ammo, he recognizes Mikie and they all pile into the big cab. Off to see Ahmed's other cousin, a doctor. Shaw, up front with Mikie, desperately searches for a seatbelt as the car careens through Up Port . In the back, Ghaer is doing his best to medic Esterhazy, who was hit repeatedly. Ghaer: "Mike, the Prince was hit with Suppress - what's the effect?" Mikie: "He'll be miserable and useless for hours."

Ghaer <to Esterhazy>: "Drive failure. Is there any way to make contact?" Isn't hasn't taken very long to cause all this damage, so they probably haven't even had time to load the troops onto the liner yet. After a very wild ride, they end up in a residential area and pull up to one of the homes. Ahmed puts a "Starport Authority: Official Business" placard on the dash, and a $50 credit note is tucked under the visor. A liveried man answers the door, recognizes Ahmed, and says: "Of course sir, I will get your cousin." Abdullah comes to the door, and greets Ahmed, who then introduces his "friends", who are (how traditional) in need of help. The group goes inside.

Abdullah medics Mikie, which helps quite a bit since he was shot through the lungs. Esterhazy has been hit in the heart, which already has scarring, and needs more than Abdullah can do here. Shaw checks Esterhazy out, and the pacemaker is the only thing currently keeping him alive. They pump him full of plasma expander, and hope to keep him alive long enough to get him to the hospital. Abdullah makes a call to alert the hospital, and Esterhazy will be driven to the hospital by Ahmed, who will have a real excuse to speed. Esterhazy is blaming himself for the screw up, and apologizes to the Prince. Esterhazy: "I've fought my share of fights. I'm just so tired." Ghaer and Shaw give Esterhazy hell, telling him that in no uncertain terms he will not die on their shift.

Mikie, Lily, and the Prince have stayed behind at Abdullah's. Marie, a servant, gets them all a nice cup of tea. Mikie suggests maybe Marie can help Lily with her um, problem. Lily <hands to her chest>: "Oh!!" She'd forgotten. Marie can help.

At the hospital, Shaw and Ghaer get a landline to the ship, and Shaw tries to warn the Pikhans about the drive failure, but he can't remember the cosign for the damned Dick Salamander-esque passphrases. The Pikhans try to determine if it is Shaw, finally asking him about the "specifications of the globular support devices worn by your female companion?" Shaw doesn't know, but end up guessing 44 DD, and he is correct. The Pikhans then ask why "some are spherical, and some hemispherical?" Shaw: "I don't know!!" The Pikhans do finally accept that yes, it is Shaw. They will check things out. The call is terminated.

Ghaer and Shaw try to figure out what is going on with the Aden Secret Police, and the Lyrians. Ahmed does tell them that there has been a lot of radio chatter about the "off-world fugitives. That man, that you took with you, who was sick. He seemed familiar. He is a famous criminal perhaps?" Shaw: "A movie star." Ahmed: "A movie star who is sought by the secret police?" Ghaer: "He won't give autographs." Ahmed: "He made movies against the government?" Ghaer: "So far I haven't seen anything that isn't against the government." He gets Ahmed talking about the way things really are in Arden, what the government is actually like, and all. They have seen "Lyria lives!" graffiti and the like, but it's not so bad that people are willing to risk what they have. At least not without a charismatic figure to lead them...

Marie has taken care of Lily's problem. The dress will pull through, but some buttons will have to be replaced. It's possible that several of the injuries in the ship were caused by buttons shooting through the air at high speed. Marie keeps looking at the Prince, like he's familiar, or like she's trying to memorize his face - to turn him in later?

Ghaer and Shaw are still trying to sort the local sociopolitical situation out. Shaw: "The secret police are a bunch of thugs." Ghaer: "No kidding. But it does look like things here are getting to the point where people might be willing to stand up for themselves. The question is, what can we do?" Shaw: "We don't have to do anything but get our butts out of here. If you want to stay, then you're on your own, furball." Ghaer: "I've been on my own for several years now, and I can count my friends on two hands, and still be able to communicate with Marines." Shaw basically tells Ghaer that whatever is happening on Tremous Dex is "not our problem", and they don't need to get any more involved than they already have. Shaw wants to make sure Esterhazy is all right, then go get Watson out of the cargo pod. Since they're in the hospital, Shaw does have himself given the once-over, especially where that bullet in his chest is concerned. As the bullet is not in a position to cause any more damage, it's decided to just leave it alone for now, and not mess around.

Marie, in between looking at the Prince, offers to whip up something quick. Soup? Roast turkey? Mikie suggests soup, being the simplest choice, and suggests maybe Lily could help her? Lily goes into the kitchen with Marie, and Mikie checks on the Prince. Prince: "Is there anything that can help?" Mikie: "Time. You'll survive." Prince: "Somehow the thought of living is worse than the alternative." Mikie: "I know. It gets better. Eventually." The Prince just wants to lie down, after a visit with the bathroom. Maybe a long visit. Mikie goes back to the kitchen, where Marie has cooked up some home made chicken noodle soup. It's very good.

Some of the Arden goons - um, the secret police show up at the hospital, push people around, look through charts, harass patients, and generally act like thugs. They eventually get bored, and wander off before getting to Esterhazy. The surgeon eventually emerges. Doctor: "We've done what we could. If he can survive the next 24 hours, he may live. He's a tough son of a bitch, that's for sure. He's obviously been through a lot. I don't want to know what he's been through." He gives Shaw Esterhazy's ID, and dog tags. Esterhazy will go on the record as "Jeremy Smith". Shaw asks to see Esterhazy's chart, but the surgeon doesn't want to show the chart to a layman. They exchange doctor-speak, the secret handshake, etc. Shaw takes a look at the chart, to see what it says about Esterhazy's recent wounds - two minor penetrating wounds to the lungs, and one to the heart. Shaw's concern was that the wounds not be described or reported as bullet wounds. No problem - the national pastime seems to be avoiding doing what the government wants. Shaw hands the chart back with a thank you. Doctor: "I don't want to know."

Ahmed is able to arrange for local, dockworkers' clothing for Shaw and Ghaer, although Ahmed suggests that a well placed $10 credit note or two will do. Anyway, they go to the dock, and find the cargo pod that contains Watson, with a bunch of Pikhans sitting on top and buying unhealthy food from the 'illegal' street vendors. There are a couple of not so secret police in long leather coats standing around demanding people's papers. Ghaer is called on, and he hands over his papers, including some currency. The policeman tells Ghaer that "foreign currency is illegal on Tremous Dex; I will have to confiscate it." Ghaer: "Oh, thank you." As a distraction for Shaw to get to the cargo pod unmolested, Ghaer goes into the curious but harmless student/tourist mode, asking the nice policeman all sorts of questions about Tremous Dex, and it's history, etc. Reinforcements arrive in the form of some of the Pikhans, who are more than willing to ask their own questions: "Wow, is that real leather?" - "Those are nice boots, what kind of machine did you use for the stitching?" - "You're a secret policeman, right?" - "Not much of a secret, is it?" - "What kind of gun do you carry?" Between Ghaer and the Pikhans, Shaw could have leapt by dressed in a bright pink tutu and the policeman wouldn't have noticed.

Shaw reaches the cargo pod, where he is challenged by the Pikhans guarding it: "Where's the blue jacket?" Shaw: "The blue jacket would have been really obvious - I would have stuck out like a sore thumb." Henry: "Well, if you're Colonel Shaw, what number am I thinking of?" Shaw: "How would I know!?" Henry: "Exactly! Okay, you look like Colonel Shaw. If you're not Colonel Shaw, you're in for a big surprise if you open that cargo container, believe me. So if you're not Colonel Shaw, don't do it." Shaw opens the container and Watson bounds out, happy to see his daddy. Shaw takes a moment to get his Eggsterminator® out of Watson's secret compartment, and strap it on.

Back with the pack surrounding the secret policeman... Pikhan: "What about like a net gun, with special adhesive? Would you guys be interested in something like that?" The policeman is losing patience, and getting a hunted look in his eyes, so Ghaer says thank you, rounds up the Pikhans and herds them back to the ship.

Ahmed takes Ghaer and Shaw (and Watson) to cousin Azul's boarding house. Azul takes them to the "hidden" rooms. Azul is saving up money to take his family to the Imperium, and he asks if "the women there are really as beautiful as on 'Jenghe Rescue'?" Ahmed goes into great detail about Lily, as an example of the beauteous women of the Imperium, what with her "flaming red hair, and her magnificent bosoms".

Besides a cross of some sort, there is a picture of a man who looks remarkably like the Prince. Ghaer: "Who is that?" Azul: "That is King Stefan. The last of the old kings." The story of his death and martyrdom is related, while Shaw mouths "Not our problem" to Ghaer. Ahmed looks at the picture, his eyes grow large, and he says: "Mother of God", very quietly. Shaw: "Shhhh. Not a word. Not until it's time." Shaw turns to Ghaer - "Stop trying to drag me into this revolution!" Much muttering and bitching goes on, with Ghaer trying to convince Shaw that it could be to his advantage to help out, and Shaw not buying it for a second. If this keeps on much longer, Shaw may end up with his eyes closed, his fingers in his ears saying "La-la-la-lah - I'm not listening!!"

Back at Abdullah's place, Lily is concerned not only for Shaw, but for Esterhazy too now. She seems to be rather interested in Col. Esterhazy. Lily: "Will the Prince be all right?" Marie puts her hand over her mouth and dashes out of the room, with Mikie in pursuit (it was either that or bang his head on the kitchen table). Marie goes into her room, takes a bound book out (a Bible - which is also banned) and removes a picture (remarkably like the one in Azul's house). She grabs Mikie by the arm, shows him the picture, and says "It is him, isn't it??" Mikie: "No, this man is older. Who is he?" Marie: "It is King Stefan." Mikie: "Well, it's not King Stefan." Marie: "It is his grandson, is it not?" Mikie: "I don't know. Maybe." Marie just goes off, tears in her eyes, about the Prince and how he was rumored to be dead, and he has returned, etc., etc. Mikie tries to calm her down. She understands that secrecy is needed.

Ahmed shows up to take Lily, Mikie, and the Prince to Azul's secret apartments. It's past curfew, but that's only a problem if you don't know who to tip and how much, so no big deal for Ahmed. So the rest of the party will end up in the secret apartments, where there's an even bigger picture of the late King Stefan. But more important, Azul will get to meet the magnificent Lily. He may never be the same.