"And much of Madness, and more of Sin"-- E.A. Poe (The Conqueror Worm)

310, 1122

Ghaer shouts up to Esterhazy "there looks like there's an accessway or something." Esterhazy: "Where does it lead?" Ghaer: "I'm not sure, it's some kind of a-" A horrible noise is heard from downstairs. Despite Ghaer's admonishments, Esterhazy immediately charges downstairs. It takes him a few moments to locate the crawlspace in the shadows, but he does find it. He sees some blood, and signs of something, or someone having been dragged into the crawlspace. Ghaer is nowhere to be found.

Esterhazy orders one of his smaller men into the crawlspace. There is some disagreement amongst his men as to who is smaller. Finally, some one is selected, based on rank and expendability. Nervously, clutching a handgun, the man goes in. He returns a few minutes later, white faced, sweaty, mumbling about "lots of legs", "eating the Vargr", and "not going in there again." Lovely.

On board the Intrepid Voyager, Robert asks Ariana to teach him how to use the remote robot thing. It's not too hard, but there are some small issues. Ariana: "You have no sense of smell or taste, limited touch, and there is a small time delay. All of that takes some getting used to. And then there are the lapses in communication, although those aren't too frequent." It's just the one robot that has the extra equipment necessary to function remotely like this, and it's by no means a new model.

Esterhazy decides that Mikie has to be awoken, even if he is the Autarch, and insane, and drugged out of his gourd. They don't know what to do about Ghaer, and all the stuff in the basement is way out of Esterhazy's league. Esterhazy asks the doctor to use Stim on Mikie, but the doctor strongly advises against it." Esterhazy: "We have no choice, doctor." Doc: "This could be a matter of life and death." Esterhazy: "Exactly, doctor." Doc: "Look, I'm just a simple country doctor..." Esterhazy: "Then we need a specialist." And since Esterhazy has bonded with Will, he sends a painfully polite to Will, who eventually figures out that he's wanted to consult on the Autarch, at the embassy. Will's okay with that - oooh, a house call!

Robert plays a bit with the remote robot, and doesn't do too badly, but he keeps wincing every time the robot bumps or looks about to bump into anything; it's hard to get used to that. Robert: "Can you set this up so that I can see what's happening on a view screen while you operate it?" Nope. But he can use the backup pair of goggles, slaved to Ariana. Robert: "Can we send the robot out with some relays, and find the dead spots, at least between here and the park?" Ariana: "I suppose so, but that's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of relays."

Will arrives at the Lyrian Embassy. Esterhazy: "Ah, Doctor Delgado, pleasure to see you. And your wife, she is well?" Polite chitchat follows. Will: "Your note said you wanted me here for a medical consultation?" Esterhazy: "Yes. The autarch is not himself, and we need his direction. We cannot find Mr. Raller or Mr. Shelzie. They have disappeared mysteriously. Or not so mysteriously. And our simple country doctor does not feel himself qualified to make the decisions I ask of him. So, I have called you here." Will is taken upstairs, where Mikie is having another psychotic episode involving the Blaeloks (Chris and Pammie) transplanting pieces of Theresa onto him. Then he hears Will speak his name and wakes up. It was just <?> a nightmare. Mikie <refocusing>: "Will?" Will asks if he knows who he is, and who Will is? Mostly. Will gets a close look at Mikie's condition, and is appalled that they're using TL 8 psychiatric treatment. Egad, what is this, the Middle Ages? The doctor proudly tells Will that he's been considering shock treatment or possibly drilling one of two small holes... Will: "I see. And I suppose you use leeches, as well?" Doctor: "Well, we prefer the old fashioned methods." Will: "That's fine for your patients." Doctor: "This is my patient." Will: "Not any more." The doctor is livid, and fumbles in his pocket for his glove. Will, expecting this, and tired of it, hits the doctor before he can challenge him to a duel. The doctor tells Will to "expect to hear from my seconds!", and storms off in a huff.

Will: "Colonel Esterhazy, have the Autarch transported back to the hospital." Esterhazy: "The last time I did that you banned me and my men from the hospital." Will: "You can come in, as long as you don't assault the staff. If you want to know if some one is authorized to see the patient, ask!" Esterhazy demands that he at least receive a list of authorized personnel, as is the custom when dealing with high profile patients, and this is agreed to as a compromise. Will: "You won't be allowed to have armed bodyguards with the Autarch, though. It's not like before, where we were dealing with a normal room, this is going to involve a stay in the psychiatric wing." [The grand medical tradition of talking about the patient like they can't hear you is alive and well.] Esterhazy: "Surely this is something you can treat, give him an injection for?" Will: "The human brain is very complex...." Esterhazy: "We need an Autarch!" Aha, an opening! Mikie: "Colonel? There's an envelope, on the table over there..." Esterhazy gets the envelope. Mikie: <to Will> "I want you as a witness." The Alpha gryphon is sent for. Esterhazy is asked to read the documents in the envelope, but they're just ash. <Expletive!> The chamberlain comes in and asks "Do you wish the Royal Gryphons to be present, dread Sovereign?" Mikie sends the Chamberlain away. Mikie: "Damn, damn, damn." Now he's going to have to get another copy of the documents from Astridi.

Will wants Mikie moved to Regina Trauma where he can receive proper treatment, and no trepanning, not even a little one. Will calls ahead to the hospital to arrange for a psych room. Admitting: "Is it something interesting?" Will: "We don't know." No problem with the room - "private or padded?" Will: "Private to start, he's not a danger to anyone right now." Will is not going to be allowed to handle Mikie's case, because the psychiatrists are going to take over. Damn surgeons always think an operation can solve everything. Some of the Guard de Corps with hand to hand combat skill have been selected to act as bodyguards, since no one is going to be allowed into the psych ward with weapons. [Which should mean that the bad guys will show up, armed to the teeth. Sigh. This is why Empress Ilsa only throws parties with armed guests.]

Between the Intrepid Voyager and Aguilon Park there are a quite a few dead spots, but many of them are very small, only a few seconds. It will take a couple of hours to run the route, as the denizens of Regina take great delight in pushing the small robot over, Pikhans try to peek into its access plates while it's moving ("What is it?" "CCD?" "No, looks like some kind of photo receptor" as they shine a flashlight into the robot's eyes), kids try to spray paint it, etc. Robert and Ariana pass the time muttering about how barbarous Regina is.

Robert is getting a bit nauseous on the robot ride. The robot is a bit old, and has a loping gait. - and going around corners is a real thrill. Just before the park, a person is homespun looking clothing appears, yells "Evil machine, thou art an affront to God!", he and a couple of friends break out the pipes and bricks and contact is lost. Robert: "Damn. I'll go get it. Make sure the airlock is locked." Ariana is concerned that Esterhazy may show up, but there's nothing to be done about that.

Robert gets to the last known contact point with the robot, and spots a young boy with the robot's leg. Robert shouts at the kid and runs after him. The small boy, obviously a Regina native, drops the leg and runs up to a female. Boy: "Mommy! Mommy! That man tried to kiss me! He touched me in my special place!" Large man: "That right, mister? You been fondling this boy?" Robert: "No. I have not been fondling boys. I'm trying to find the rest of this robot." He holds up the leg. Boy: "Mommy, he showed me his..." The soon to be award winning actor then starts to cry. Man: "That right? We have ways of dealing with perverts like you. You look like one of those sissy boys..." He's putting on his brass knuckles when Robert whacks him with the robot's leg, right in the family jewels. Ooh! The man's friends are momentarily stunned, and Robert takes advantage of this - he runs.

Around a couple of corners, Robert runs into a pack of Verbils, colors ranging from blue to red, that have the robot's torso with the head and an arm. They appear to be arguing over it. "Mine" "No, mine!" "Fooood?" "Not foood?" "Bad food!" Robert wades through them and tries to take the parts away. "Mine!" "No, mine!!" "My food, no take!" Robert: "Not food." "My food!" The Verbils that have been sucking the hydraulic fluid from the robot's parts stagger and fall over. Then a cop shows up. Cop: "What's all this then? Contributing to the delinquency of a Verbil, eh?" He checks the hydraulic fluid. Cop: "Smells like pure ethanol. Look, we have cruelty to animal laws here, mister. I don't know where you're from, but here we don't feed alcohol to semi-evolved sophonts." Robert: "I wasn't!" Cop: "Tell that to the judge." He writes Robert up a citation. Robert tries to explain that he was just trying to recover the pieces of his vandalized robot that was attacked en route to the park. Cop: "By itself? Unsupervised?" Robert: "I was monitoring it remotely, that's how I knew it was missing." Cop: "Do you have your robot operation certification, sir?" Robert: "I don't have it on me, it's on the ship." The cop starts writing up more citations, but Robert decides to just offer to pay all the "fines" on the spot. Robert: "Will a hundred credits cover it? I don't have any change." Not a problem - Robert can pick up his change at the precinct's police station. Uh-huh. Right. Now the cop is willing to help Robert get the robot bits back. The cop shoves and kicks the Verbils out of the way, then pulls out a small cannister of pepperspray, which the Verbils seem to recognize. They make unhappy noises about the "bad spray", and run off. Robert: "Note to self: buy pepperspray." The one remaining Verbil glares at the cop and brandishes --- a spoon! Somewhere inside his tiny little Verbil mind forms the thought: "Damn. It must be the other one." Then the cop drop kicks him out of the way. The Verbil's looking at them around a corner and Robert sees that some one has spray painted something on the Verbil's fur [not, but Robert doesn't know that]: "Bad cop, no doughnut." The Verbil rips his fur off, throws it on the ground, and runs off. Robert picks up, uh, drags the rest of the robot off.

Robert drags the robot pieces to a nearby public terminal kiosk that sells the same type of Guide to Regina that he has, although his has stopped working. He plugs it into the recharge port, and it comes up fine after a couple of minutes of installing the updates. He looks up a business that rents pallets, and rents an automated one that will be programmed to go to his location. Passerby: "Nice robot, looks like it had a bit of trouble though. Want to sell it?" Robert: "No it's not for sale." Man: "You sure? It's an antique, you might get a decent price for it, even if it is in bad shape." Robert: "It was in great shape a little while ago, but I appreciate the thought. You're the friendliest person I've met so far on Regina." Man: "Hell, Regina's one of the friendliest places I've ever been! They're so open and honest - if they don't like you, they'll tell you to your face." Robert: "Right. Thank you any way." He heads back for the ship, and sees a one-armed man ahead of him, entering the airlock. Robert tries to wait and follow, but the airlock cycles and locks. Shit! Robert doesn't have a key, the robot doesn't have a key, and Robert doesn't know the combination to the keypad. Robert tries to figure out another way in, but he can't come up with one that doesn't involve a large cutting torch. Who locks a spaceship, for heaven's sake? Everyone on Regina, actually. Robert decides to get a table at a nearby espresso place where he can watch to see who comes or goes. He buys his coffee (his very expensive, level 1 coffee), and goes to the local courier service. Clerk: "Yes sir, how may we be of service?" Robert: "I need a package for this." He indicates the robot parts, and declines to pay extra for the special damage-proof container, since it's already damaged. Not a problem to have it packed and delivered, later today, to the Count's ship.

In the psych ward of Regina Trauma (some place new to blow up!), rounds are just starting. Into Mikie's room comes a group of doctors lead by Dr. Strauss, a tall thin gentleman with porcelain-colored skin, small round spectacles (probably just as an affectation), and a Sigmund Freud beard. Dr. Strauss: "This is our patient, Mr. Michael Griffin, who believes he is the ruler of a large empire, the Lyrian Empire, and prefers to be referred to as 'autarch'." Whispering. Dr. Strauss corrects himself: "Ah, this is Michael Griffin, the Autarch of the Lyrian Empire, who believes he is a commoner -" This is interrupted, while Mikie wonders why he's the sanest person in here, by several orderlies who take 'Doctor' Strauss back to his own room. Whoops! Another, older doctor picks up rounds. Doctor: "Is there anyone else in this room, besides Mr. Griffin, who's a patient? No? Okay. Now, our patient is Michael Griffin..." The file is gone over - usual stuff, age, general medical health, most recent significant events - the death of his wife (from a CVA), her family (in a tragic fire). The doctor's have most of the facts right, if not the causes. Doctor: "What's interesting about this case is if you look at the brainscans....<which they do> you notice this interference pattern here....what you actually see is, if you look at the original pattern ....what we're looking at is almost a second complete set of brainwaves. I say 'almost', because a brain can't produce a second set of brainwaves. Now this is usually only seen in cases of multiple personalities, although the patient has not shown any signs of that to date. Also looking at the brainscans, in areas of memory, you can see that certain areas have a very regular, almost geometric pattern. Although I haven't seen anything exactly like this before, it may be the result of conditioning, possibly as part of a cult. There's no record of military service that would explain it. I think the best way is to proceed with treatment of a bifurcated personality, attempt to identify the other personality and communicate with it, and locate the potential cause of the bifurcation. Certainly the death of a loved one can be very traumatic, but what files we do have on this patient indicate that he is fairly resilient psychologically." They move on to the next patient.

Robert has not shipped all the robot parts - he kept the head, and has taken it to Rossum's Robots, to ask for help. He asks the owner/operator if he can see if the robot has any security codes in memory that can be retrieved. The owner asks if it's Robert's robot, which, of course, it is not. Rossum: "Do you have the ownership papers for the robot, sir?" Robert: "No, they're on board the ship, with the owner, who is a friend of mine, and who is in danger." Rossum: "I am not just falling off the turnip truck." Robert: "I'm sorry, but it's the truth." Rossum: "Perhaps I can show you a robot sir? You require a personal servant, perhaps?" Robert: "No, no I don't need that." Rossum watches the cop finish passing by the door, and then offers to help Robert in his "worthy cause, for a donation." Robert gives him his last hundred credits. Rossum: "The starving children of Rhylanor thank you." Robert: "There are no starving children on Rhylanor." Rossum: "Thanks to kind gentlemen like you, no." A secret section on the tape is found, and played for Robert. "Oh Bobby, do that again... Make me feel like a woman!" Ooh, that kind of tape! Robert recognizes that stuff, and now knows who was in the room watching. Ariana's voice: "Right, we better secure that particular tape. Robot, save under Entertainment, Special, Tape One." At least Robert's tape one. Robert: "Yes, well, I was actually looking for security information." Rossum: "Ah, here is much encoded data here sir. Looks like passwords." Robert: "I'm looking for numeric passwords." Rossum: "They are all numeric. But there are not many."

Robert gets the codes and goes back to the ship, just as he sees Esterhazy, Felix leaving. Felix is doing his belt up, and tucking his shirt in as he goes. Robert goes on board (the airlock is open now), and looks for Ariana. He eventually hears whimpering and finds her. She's pulled a blanket over the remains of her clothing. She's bruised, a bit bloody, and Felix evidently used his belt on her. Among other things. Robert is only trained to do minimal first aid, but he does what he can. Robert: "He's a dead man." Ariana: "He's not worth it." Robert: "No, but you are." Ariana: "I'll be all right. I need to use the fresher..." She runs off to the fresher. Robert doesn't interfere, but stays in the next room.

Robert makes a call to Regina Trauma, to Will Delgado, asking after Ghaer who is very late. Will: "You might check with Colonel Esterhazy, or Robert Shelzie.' Robert: "This is Robert Shelzie." Will: "Ah, well, then you'll want Colonel Esterhazy. You might try the mental wing." <click> Oh great, now Carl's gone crazy too! Robert has to go get Ariana out of the shower, but she's huddled up in a corner, crying. Robert picks her up and puts her in the ship's autodoc. Since the ship is usually run by just her, her two elderly retainers, and a bunch of robots, the autodoc is very high tech and easy to use. The autodoc starts printing out questions, requesting confirmation of treatment. One of the problems is that the psych profile is way off - tranquilize? Yes / No? Robert doesn't feel confident enough to tell the autodoc to do anything about her psychological state, so he tells it to just fix her physically.

He goes into the crew's section of the ship, in search of Arthur and Giles. Giles is hanging in his room. He may have hung himself, but if he did, he tied his hands behind his back first, which would be a pretty good trick. Arthur is found in the kitchen. His upper torso and head, or what's left of them, are in the trash compactor, which Robert turns off. Ariana will be in the autodoc for a while, as there is quite a bit of internal damage to repair. Not to mention the whipping, and Felix is a traditionalist - he has a leather belt. Robert puts on his gloves, takes Giles down and puts him on his bed. Giles is very dead, but did not die of a broken neck; he choked. Robert then does the same thing with Arthur's body, and cleans up. Not a pleasant job. Not, not, not.

Robert then goes to the bridge and checks everything out. The security tape needs to be replaced, and someone evidently set it taping manually. Yes, Felix taped it. Robert doesn't watch much of the tape, just enough to confirm that Felix was taped. The answer is yes, and he waved at the camera and said "I hope you're getting this". Bastard. But looking at the tape, Robert notices that it's the right arm that's missing on the man, not the left. Could it have been Carl and not Felix?

Robert makes a request to undock and take up a parking orbit, which is granted. He takes the ship up and puts it into it's parking orbit, then he takes the ship's gig Down Port. He's given a his coordinates to land, which he does, cursing a blue streak. Then he takes the shuttle Up Port.

Robert goes to Regina Trauma and asks about Colonel Esterhazy. He's told that he's "in the violent ward." Great. Nurse: "Are you a family member?" Robert: "Not immediate family, no, but it is a family matter. Doctor Delgado told me I could see him." Nurse: "Doctor Delgado is a neurologist, this is a psychiatric case." Robert: "Doctor Delgado is the one who told me I could find Colonel Esterhazy here." Nurse: "I'll have to check with the attending. One moment, sir. <she makes a call> Dr. Blumfeldt? I have some one here to see a patient....Yes, number 13...No, not a relative...Yes..." Robert checks the counter for a chart for Colonel Esterhazy, but sees none. He does see a chart for Michael Griffin, room 13. [Which means it's time for another one of those annoying refresher confidentiality seminars for the staff.] As the nurse has a naughty conversation with the doctor, turning her back on Robert, he tries the door to the ward but it's locked. There's an entry buzzer, and it's right behind the nurse's back. Robert waits. He can only see the nurse's one hand, and seizes the opportunity when the doctor evidently leaves her 'hanging' and angry to dump a stack of files onto the buzzer. Nurse: "Hey!" Robert: "We can do this two ways. We can be friendly about this and let me in to see Colonel Esterhazy, or I can call your supervisor.." Esterhazy: "Who wishes to see Colonel Esterhazy?" Robert turns to see the man on the videotape, missing the same arm as the man on the videotape... then Robert bolts through the now open door, down the hall, and darts into room 13. He shuts the big orderly on the other side of the door. The big, heavy door that only locks from the...outside. Oops. The large man waves through the little window. Robert is now trapped in the room with the evil SolSec psionic, uh, Mikie, who's in serious (but higher tech) medical restraints. Robert starts to unstrap Mikie as the orderlies come in. Robert: "Mr. Griffin, I need your help." Mikie is very confused about all this. The orderly unlocks the door, and he's brought friends. Orderly <fondling a huge gun-like thing>: "I'm going to enjoy this, you have no idea how much." What the heck is that - a flame-thrower? He flips the switch on the glue gun. Robert stops what he's doing (having only unfastened one of Mikie's wrists) and takes cover behind the head of the bed.

Mikie hears the rapid staccato claps of a suppressed weapon, and sees the orderlies' bodies fall to the ground. Then a man with a well-turned calf in an impeccably tailored suit enters the room. "Enough of this Michael, it's time to go now." It's Blaelok. Behind him is a striking blond woman. Pamela: "Yes Michael, it's time to go." Blaelok cuts the restraints with his obscenely sharp pocket knife.

Meanwhile, Robert is trying to avoid the glue gun. He and the orderlies are momentarily distracted by Mikie's restraints suddenly popping open as if cut. Mikie quickly dives off the bed and backs into the nearest corner. The orderlies see the look in his eyes and slowly start to turn to see what kind of horrible thing is behind them.

Robert takes the opportunity to run out the door, almost colliding with some one who looks incredibly out of place in his dark black suit, with a very striking blonde woman. Robert attempts to go past, but the man hits him in the solar plexus. Robert falls over, gasping. By the time he gets back up, the bodyguards are lying on the ground, bleeding from the back of their heads. He staggers up and moves, running into Esterhazy (the one who's missing the right arm, so it's Carl, but that's the arm the man in the video was missing...). Carl looks injured, and is staggering along the wall. Robert: "Why?" Carl: "Who?" Carl falls over, mumbling something about a "tall, well dressed man with a foreign accent".

Blaelok: "Michael, is that any way to greet a long lost friend? Well, perhaps this is not the time. Inconvenient people. We will see you later." The Blaeloks step daintily over the bodies of the orderlies, the sticky foam not sticking (TL15 ScotchGuard or repellent evilness?) leaving Mikie in the room.

Esterhazy insists on going to the autarch's room, where Mikie is still trying to hide in the corner. Then the nurse shows up, sees the dead orderlies, slams the door - locking Robert, Mikie, Carl, and the dead orderlies in the room. Then all hell breaks loose - security people, orderlies, everybody in a panic. Security: "What the hell happened?" A couple of other orderlies come in and carefully take Mikie to another room; he sees two footprints in the blood as they take him out, a man's shoe, and a woman's. Security: "Ted? There is nothing on the security tapes." Robert: "Col. Esterhazy? You are his protector, are you not?" Carl: "I have this privilege." Robert: "He needs to get out of here. You need to get out of here. It's not safe." Security: "Three guys dead, footprints in the blood, nobody on the tape, nobody came out of the hall..." Robert and Carl are questioned before being treated. Robert was in too much of a hurry to get out of the room, and the person who hit him didn't really register. Carl: "I didn't see the woman, but I definitely saw the man you described." Orderly: "What the hell happened?" Good question, but no one seems to know.

Several doctor's check up on Mikie. Doctor A: "...but here's what's strange...look at the brainscan. There's where the secondary personality becomes dominant, but the primary personality's still there!" Doctor B: "What do you make of it?" Doctor A: "I don't know, but it's sure weird."

Esterhazy <to Robert>: "What did you see?" Robert: "I didn't see much of anything. I was trying to get his help." As they wait to be examined, they can hear several of the doctors talking in the next room. Sam: "I don't know why we're keeping him alive, the man's a vegetable." Paul: "Jesus Christ, Sam, he used to work here!" Sam: "Well, it's not like he can hear me." Paul: "You know what bothers me? Here's the entry wound, there's the exit wound, but where's the bullet? There aren't any bullet holes in the room or the hall." Sam: "You know what Paul? I think this is your case. You write whatever you want." Paul: "Fuck it. This is some kind of weird spook shit. Death caused by projectile. Not my fault I can't find it, that's a job for the police."

Robert <to Esterhazy>: "What were you doing on the ship?" Carl: "What ship? I've been with the Autarch all day." Robert: "Count Barada's ship." Carl: "I don't know what you're talking about. I've been with the Autarch all day, as is my duty as the Captain of the Guard." Robert: "You can get him out of here?" Carl: "If they will release him to me. He was not involuntarily committed, so if they believe him to be stable, then yes." Robert: "The autarch's been drugged out of his mind. Even I can tell that." Carl: "I am not a doctor. All I know is he must be available for his coronation." Robert: "You're going to coronate a man who can barely keep from drooling in his current drugged state?" Carl: "This would not be the first time. The people need their symbol." Robert: "Maybe you should find another autarch." Carl: "Only the gryphons and the good Lord can select an autarch. they have selected this autarch, and whether or not he is insane, he is the autarch." Robert: "Can you arrange for some of your men to watch him?" Carl: "They are doing so now." Robert: "Can we go somewhere?" Carl: "We are both injured. Surely you can say whatever you need to say to me here?" Robert: "It's not what I need to say, it's what I need to show you. It's a matter of honor." Carl: "You are questioning my honor?" Robert: "No, but I think your honor would require you see this." Carl: "Very well."

They are medicked, then go Down Port, to the gig, then head for the Intrepid. As they approach, they see another shuttle leaving. The shuttle doesn't respond to the hail, and Robert is not in a position to intercept it. Carl: "Whose ship is that?" Robert: "Count Barada's." Carl: "Really? I have heard that the poor man is horribly disfigured, and that's saying a lot coming from a man like me." They board the ship, Robert leading the way towards the bridge. Robert: "There's some thing I want you to see." He plays the tape. Carl turns away. Carl: "What is the meaning of this? This is not me!" Robert: "I'm not saying it is, but it sure looks like you." Carl: "Notice, sir, that my arm is amputated above the elbow. Notice, sir, that the lettering on that sign on the tape is backwards!" Ooh. Robert: "So this would be your brother, Felix." Carl: "It would appear so." Robert: "He's trying to convince me, and others that this was you." Carl: "I can assure you, sir, that is not me." Robert: "I believe you. But he is besmirching your name, and your honor." Carl: "His time will come. But my duty is to protect the Autarch. The tall man with the strange accent may return." Robert will take Carl to Up Port, but he checks on Ariana first. She's still being repaired. Robert does check the security log, and watches the tape to see who was on the shuttle. It was Felix again. Felix: "Arianaaa! It's me, love. I'm back, to give you more of what you want...All right, bitch. You can't hide for long. You know you want it." Robert takes the crystal tapes with him to the gig. Robert <to Carl>: "That shuttle? It was your brother. He tried to finish what he started." Carl: "Did he succeed?" Robert: "I don't believe so." Carl: "It appears that I may break a promise, God forgive me. I must kill my brother." He takes out his revolver, checks the loads. "Take me to the starport."

En route...Robert: "What do you know of Count Barada?" Carl: "That he is very rich, and powerful. That he was horribly injured in some sort of fire, or such, something that is not treatable." Robert: "Radiation burns." Carl: "Truly a lonely life. But at least he does not have a treacherous brother. Treacherous and mad." Robert: "Colonel - I should be honored to be your second, should it come to that. I am not unfamiliar with sidearms." Carl: "I will keep that in mind." Robert has decided to not mention the tentacle for right now, but he'll be sharpening his suit knife.

Carl: "The question is, where to move him." Robert: "Move who?" Carl: "The Autarch. Where will he be safe? And who is the tall man with the strange accent?" Robert thinks everyone on Regina has a strange accent. He decides to contact the Bixby, and asks for the captain. Marine Sergeant: "And who may I say is calling?" Robert: "Robert Shelzie" Sergeant: "Oooh, Robert handcuffed naked to the table in the Captain's cabin Shelzie?" Robert: "That would be me, sergeant." Sergeant: "I'll contact her kinkiness and let her know." Robert: "Thanks. I won't tell her you called her that." Sergeant: "You can tell her anything you want. I don't give a rat's ass." After a few moments, Captain McMasters gets on the line. McMasters: "Bob? Look, nothing happened. Okay?" Robert: "Right." Robert asks if it's possible for the Bixby to 'interdict', so to speak, Count Barada's ship temporarily, but that's not normally a Naval issue, more a local Starport Authority one. McMasters: "No can do. The Admiral already thinks I'm questionable, and I'm coming up for review, and now my sergeant has taken to making snide comments. Fortunately, not around the crew, so far. Sorry Robert." Robert understands, but it was worth a shot.

Robert decides to accompany Carl back to Regina Trauma, but this time he stays on the outside of the room. Carl <to Mikie>: "Sire, we must move you somewhere safer. That man and woman, do you know who they were, or why they would want to kill you?" Mikie is absolutely terrified. Robert is looking into the room, and he sees Esterhazy picked up from behind. Through the window, Robert sees the ugly man pick Carl up and fling him across the room, then grab the orderly in the room and literally rip his spinal column out. Mikie is slumped, apparently unconscious, on the bed.

Blaelok walks over to the bed, just as casual as can be. Robert locks the door, since this time he's on the right side. The door is tested from the other side, then the handle is turned and broken, and the door is rammed open. Robert has, fortunately, gotten well out of the way of the door already. He yells for help and runs.

Blaelok: "Michael. It's all right, Michael. We're going to help you. We're going to help you get Verlak, get your revenge. It's going to be all right."

Robert, after diving under the door, tells the security people that the "intruder is in there! He killed an orderly. He's using Chameleon 3!" He then leaves Regina Trauma, figuring he's got enough to deal with right now, and wanting to get back to Ariana.

Blaelok: "Michael, you need to relax. I'm going to give you something. It's a new form of memwipe." Pammie is rubbing Mikie's shoulders. Mikie <confused>: "No..." Blaelok: "You just need to forgot some of the bad things that have happened to you, until you can deal with them." Mikie: "But you're dead." Blaelok: "Now, Michael. Do I look dead? Do I feel dead?" He extends a hand, and Mikie is able to touch him. Blaelok: "It was the others. Corina, Raller, all the ones you thought were your friends. They're trying to break us up. And that's not all. There's some one who wants to talk to you. Come in dear." Theresa comes in. Theresa: "Michael, I'm all right. he protected me. It's those people you thought were your friends, they were the ones who lied to you." Blaelok: "Here dear, why don't you do this." He hands the auto injector to Theresa. Theresa: "Darling, it's medicine. It's all right. Sweetheart, don't you trust me? Don't you love me? Do want to remember me as I am now, or that lie? I love you, I forgive you. Can't you forgive yourself?" Blaelok and Pammie have sort of faded into the background. Theresa: "Dear..." She steps in very close. She smells right, feels right, even psionically. Mikie <holding onto her>: "I'm just so confused." Theresa: "I know. I was at first too. This will make everything better." He feels the sting of the autoinjector, then just feels tired... so tired.

Robert arrives safely on board the Intrepid Voyager. He has an incoming call. Felix: "Have you been checking up on me? I hear you've been saying some unpleasant things about me." Robert: "I haven't had to say anything." Felix: "Your woman. The count. Did she cry for you? Or just that lovely low moan? Oh, and by the way, I've enjoyed your little home movies. I've made a few little modifications, and I've just finished uploading them for you. Hmmm... Autodoc. Plugged into the ship's main computer. You have to watch those things, you can't be too careful." <click> There's screaming and pounding from inside the autodoc. Robert opens it up, and Ariana leaps out. Ariana: "I couldn't get out! I couldn't get out! it was like a coffin!" She starts to cry, but calms down fairly quickly, making a visible effort to get control of herself.

With Ariana's help, Robert can find out that there are a whole bunch of subroutines interwoven into all the ship's systems. They can't do anything about it, as it seems to have been the work of some sort of insane genius. Well, the insane bit is right. They can't call for help, they can't dock with Up Port, and they can't make planetfall or jump. Ariana: "We're going to die here, aren't we?" Robert: "No, we're not." Ariana: "You're just saying that to make me feel better." Robert: "No, I've been in worse situations." Ariana, wisely, doesn't ask for details. The first task is to try to get control of life support, then Robert suggests crashing the system and reboot from backups. No problem - get into vac suits, make sure they have backups, then crash the system, reboot from a clean backup, take control of the ship, and...?