"The wage of sin is death, but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Friday."-- - Nanny Ogg, Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett)

162 - 1123.

On his way back from the Velvet Orchid, Nicolai is approached by a shifty sort of local, offering to provide (for a price) information on the "missing Imperial females". Nicolai takes the man back to the Metropole, and sends a bellman up with a message.

A note is brought up to Frank: "Information. Lobby. Nicolai". Frank: "I guess they don't use verbs in the Rim. Or articles." Let's go check it out." Frank and Emma walk down to the lobby. Right behind Nicolai, in the lobby, is a casual looking man keeping an eye on the shifty looking guy. Frank takes a look and sees Nicolai, a crook, and the hotel detective watching them. Ah.

As the two people in Imperial clothing approach, the informant smiles. His eyes settle on the Imperial female, in her almost scandalous outfit. Frank: "So, what's up?" Nicolai: "This man says he has information on the missing girls." Frank: "Oh? There are too many ears here. Let's take a walk. <He grabs the informant's arm.> You too." Amid protests of him being a "poor working man", they leave the hotel and head outside. They walk and talk, letting Nicolai go ahead and clear traffic a bit in the marketplace. "Tea! Lemonade!" "Knives!" Frank: "You have information? You talk, we'll listen. If it's any good, they'll be something in it for your time." Some hemming and hawing. Frank: "If you'd like somewhere more quiet, we can go to the Red Sails." Nicolai: "Or down an alley." Snitch: "No. That's all right. There was a sale. Four young women. The one I know about went to Hamad." Frank shows the man the pictures of the women along with the photo that came with his wallet. The man identifies the correct girls. Frank: "Who's this Hamad guy?" Snitch: "Khalid-Al Hamad. He has a reputation." Frank: "Lots of people have reputation. What kind?" Snitch: "He won his fortune, perhaps gaming, perhaps other harder ways. He has an eye for beautiful young women." Frank: "Well, that's useful." He gives him $5 credits. Snitch: "Be careful. He is a very possessive man." Frank: "That's okay, if I run into any trouble, I'll just tell him my good friend - what was your name again?" Snitch: "I must be going..." He takes off.

Frank: "Fine. Let's not waste any time. I suggest we stop by this Khalid's place and see him. I'm sure he's a reasonable man. Or we can find out if he is." Nicolai: "What about the one I found?" Frank: "Is she there?" Nicolai: "Yes. The owner is willing to discuss her contract." Frank decides to check on Khalid first, at least to make an appointment. As they go, they run into a knot of people heading for the palace. Ahead of them, Nicolai sees very nicely cut grey suits and coiffed hair. The locals appear to be following the Solomani, who are being escorted by several palace guards. Seems official - maybe the diplomat is getting to present his credentials.

Khalid's estate is in the nicer, sort of suburban area. Many walled estates, and primitively pretty. The first few estates have thick walls and ornate gates, with brightly colored uniformed men - rent-a-cops. Frank asks one of them for directions to Khalid's estate, and once they establish which Khalid, it's not far.

They arrive at Khalid's home. Outside is a very stout door, and very business-like guards. Guard: "Are you lost?" Frank: "We are seeking an interview with your master, in a matter of commerce." Guard: "Ah, one moment." He taps his staff on the door, and a junior accountant steps out. Dark hair, lean, black turban. Flunky: "You have an appointment with my master?" Frank: "No, we'd like to make an appointment." Flunky: "And your name?" Frank: "Frank O'Malley." The man looks at Nicolai, figures - muscle. He looks at Emma and doesn't ask her - she's eye candy. He keeps looking though. Flunky: "Where are you staying? I will send a message." Frank: "The Hotel Metropole. We'd like to speak with your master about a recent acquisition of his. I believe there's been an error, and we'd like to rectify it, to everyone's advantage." Flunky: "Ah." The younger guard is looking at Nicolai with the "Yeah, I can take him" attitude. Nicolai just finds this amusing. They are not invited in, but are treated politely.

They leave the compound. Nicolai: "Shall we get to the Velvet Orchid and get the other one?" Frank: "Yeah." Nicolai briefs the party on Tyree, and her interesting AP bodyguard. Frank: "This could get interesting." Nicolai: "Well, she's expecting me to come back with some one." Frank: "We better get the money guy if we're expected to buy her. And if there's an AP, I'm going to want to pick up something else."

Back to the hotel. In Nicolai's room, which has been tidied up, is something on the table the maid found. Something with some kind of circuitry, which the maid set out like it was a cufflink or something. Nicolai wraps it in a cloth, puts it in an envelope, and then into his pocket. Frank and Emma find exactly the same thing in their rooms. Listening devices, and not theirs. Hmmm.

Nicolai goes to the front desk and has the envelope with the bug placed in Evans' mail box. Frank is loading up on the shotgun. Kay: "Will I be needed?" Frank: "I hope not." After he leaves, Kay goes to Anders' room. Kay: "My friends just went out. Will you be available in oh, a half hour?" Anders: "Yes, I will be." She really does know Nicolai.

Frank meets Emma downstairs. Frank: "Looks like some one's interested in us." He holds up the bug. Emma: <showing hers> "Collect the whole set." Frank gets a metal tin to put the bugs in for now, an old tobacco tin. Frank: "Until we can come up with a script; we don't want to disappoint them." Emma briefly wonders just how long the bugs have been in their rooms...

Myron hasn't left his room, to the consternation of the housekeeping staff. It also means no one has had the chance to plant a bug in his room. A quick check reveals none. Frank: <to Emma> "Wear shoes you can run in." Emma: "I don't own shoes I can't run in." Off to the Velvet Orchid.

Nicolai and Myron enter first, then Frank by himself, then Emma by herself. This way they won't look too much like a single group. Nicolai and Myron enter, and since Nicolai has been here before, he knows the drill about the weapons. Myron gives up his Glock. Frank enters, meets the three large men inside (security). They scope him out. "Pardon." Big quiet guy. "Our policy is no one be let in with weapons." Frank: "Of course." Frank hands over the gun in his ankle holster, and the one in the plastic bag. Then the men wait patiently for the other gun. The short shotgun. Frank: "What? This old thing? Does anyone else in there have guns?" "No sir." Frank: "You better not scratch this." He thumps it into the chest of one of the men. Oof. It's put into a box. He enters. There aren't many people in her at this time of day, but Frank sees Nicolai and Myron, and several girls. He's offered company right away, and he automatically offers to buy her a drink. She sits down, and Frank keeps her on his left. He tries to make sure she's not frisking him or setting him up. No, but she does touch him occasionally, just to make sure his interest is aroused. She's good. Tyree walks in. Frank sees the big Aslan, and the 6'4" female (that must be the AP Nicolai mentioned).

The bouncer up front is a bit confused when Emma comes in. Bouncer: "Good evening, miss. Are you looking for the Velvet Orchid?" Emma: "Yes." He looks her up and down, then shrugs and lets her in. He doesn't even ask her to check her weapon, possibly assuming she doesn't have one. Emma enters and is approached by a couple - male and female. They ask if they may join her. Emma: "Okay." They take a table. There's a third party at one of the tables. A chubby man who was probably a big brawler in his youth. His companion is big and still very much in shape, and he's taking Nicolai's measure. Yet another bodyguard sizing up the competition.

Tyree: "Since this concerns Kelly..." She's sent for. Kelly: "Hi Myron. If you're here to make me an offer from Bernie, you can stuff it. He's the reason I'm here, and if I ever get my hands on him - " Myron: "No, no. I'm not here for Bernie. Really." Kelly: "Good." Myron shows Kelly the paperwork, which she flips through. Kelly: "...Three albums? And I get to choose the material on the last two? <flip- flip> Wow. Bernie did this?" Myron: "No, he was gone, so I did it." <flip- flip> Kelly: "Oh... Yeah, I can do this!" The chubby man and his friend walk towards them. Nicolai interposes, planning on redirecting them if necessary. Kelly: "I get FULL artistic control of the third one?" Myron: "Yes, and you get veto power for all the videos." Myron is scoring major points with this.

Chubby: "Out of my way, boy." Nicolai: "This is a private party." This is what Frank was waiting for, and he sits forward on his seat. Emma is in position to back Frank up. The bodyguard tries to hit Nicolai with a set of brass knuckles. Nicolai just calmly evades. The fat man steps back and raises an eyebrow. The big bodyguard gets an angry look in his little piggy eyes, and hauls his fist back several cantons to get even. Nicolai snap kicks the big guy in the groin, dropping him like a rock. The noises indicate the man isn't unconscious. Nicolai picks him up by the collar and sets him in a chair, then looks at the chubby guy. Tyree stands up, snarls something in the local language, and her fur bristles. She's looking at the chubby guy. Like he's lunch. Frank has unsnapped the safety on his holster. Emma's primary gun is in her handbag holster, and her hand is on it.

Chubby: <to Nicolai> "This isn't over." Nicolai just looks at him, not moving out of the man's way. Tyree: <hissed> "Don't." Her left hand (the one with the dewclaw extended) pulls the knife out of the bodyguard's boot and flicks it into the floor. She calls, and several big guys show up to escort the injured man out. The chubby man glares and leaves.

Nicolai: <to Tyree> "My apologies." Tyree: "No, I am the one who apologizes for this distraction." Nicolai takes the knife out of the floor; it's very nice damascus, and Nicolai may have to return it to the owner later. Emma notices that all the working girls and boys become very watchful, but when it settles, everything goes back to normal.

Kelly and Myron discuss business, and it's decided that Kelly will stay at the Velvet Orchid and keep working until it's time to go. Lord knows she'll be safe here. Myron: "Let's go. Kelly will stay here until it's time to leave." Time to leave. Myron: <to Nicolai> "Will he be a problem?" Nicolai: "Which one?" Myron: "Either." Nicolai: "No." Myron: "I'm glad I brought you." He and Nicolai leave first, retrieve their weapons and walk out, only to encounter three really big men with swords. Myron brings up his briefcase, which he bought on Regina (armour value). Myron is sent on ahead, and the big men allow him to go - meaning it's Nicolai they're interested in interacting with. Nicolai radios Kay to pick Myron up on his way back to the hotel. Can do. As Myron passes the men, one of them says "You may need a new dancer soon." Nicolai takes the opportunity to trigger.

One of the big men is quiet, meaning he's the dangerous one. One has two big flintlock pistols, and Nicolai hits him first. One of the guns goes off as it's being drawn, surprising the owner, and the man to his left. They both go down. Frank comes out and stays out of the way - it's not currently any of his business. He gets farther away as the gun explodes (apparently), especially when he sees that Nicolai is evidently on some sort of Combat drug. A few moments later and it's all over.

"Cease and desist in the name of the law!" The cry comes from down at the end of the roadway, behind cover. Frank starts to wander off. Nicolai untriggers. Cop: "Did you see this?" Frank: "I didn't see any of it. I just came out of the bar. That man was there, and those men were on the ground. I didn't see anything. I was looking at that squirrel over there, if you know what I mean." "Please come with me sir." Nicolai goes along quietly, to the police station with the really good coffee smell.

Emma glances at the bodies as she leaves the Orchid. One definitely gunshot, but boy are they using cheap gunpowder here! She notices Nicolai as he untriggers before leaving with the police, but she's not sure what exactly she's seeing. The local forensic expert comes out and says "Uh-huh" a lot as he looks.

Cop: "Mr. Volkov? I am Detective Perez." Nicolai gives him a fairly accurate version of what happened - three armed men versus one Nicolai who did not use a weapon. He leaves out the triggering part. He'll eventually be escorted back to his hotel, to prevent any further incidences.

Frank and Emma head back for the hotel, Frank a ways behind and watching Emma's, um...back. The vendors follow them to the hotel, distracted by the cry of "No, no, no! I don't want any more trinkets! Control yourself Mr. Caldecott." Caldecott: "But sir, they keep coming! I think it's the smell." Evans: "You really must learn to deal with the locals."

Once inside the hotel, Frank suggests a cool shower, which sounds good to Emma. Frank: "You know, maybe we should conserve water." Emma: "Well, that would be very...environmentally friendly of us." Frank: "I think we should be environmentally conscious." Emma: "Absolutely." A shower is filled, taken, and by the time Nicolai gets back to the hotel, Frank and Emma are cool, cleaned up, and very relaxed. They go downstairs with Myron and Kay for G and T's.

Nicolai has been in his own shower for about two minutes when the knock on the door comes. Damn. It's Evans. Evans: "I received your..note. Very disturbing. Unfortunately we don't have a SolSec contingent with us, as they were all needed on Rhylanor for some reason." (Either that, or they didn't want to waste any on Evans.) Nicolai, wrapped in his towel, lets Evans come in so they can talk since the annoying man doesn't seem to be ready to go away. Evans: "I do have some news about our missing citizen." Nicolai: "You know where he is?" Evans: "Yes. Somewhere called the Drunken Dolphin." Nicolai: "And what is he doing there?" Evans: "Well, quite frankly I'm afraid Mr. Williamson has made some bad decisions. He's..well, he's gone...native." Nicolai gasps in horror. (His acting award will be mailed out later.) Evans: "His quest for adventure has apparently led him to some sort of ah..galley." Nicolai: "I believe that he's probably gotten into trouble with the authorities, and has likely been sold into indentured servitude." Evans: "Good God! How barbaric." Nicolai: "It is a primitive culture. You may be able to buy him out of his contract. That would be the non-violent option." Evans: "Do you think this might have something to do with the listening device?" Nicolai: "It may just be someone following me. I have somewhat of a reputation." Evans nods. Nicolai: "I must finish my shower." Evans: "Of course."

Downstairs, Frank and Emma see the man they followed and lost yesterday. A man Frank heard referred to as Fletnor. Frank: "Let's go join him." They go over and take seats at the bar, on either side of him. It's a cop thing. Frank: "So, what brings you here, with all these dangerous offworlders." Fletnor: "Well off-worlders can be dangerous." Frank: "Really? Everyone here has been really friendly." Fletnor: "Have you been successful in your search?" Frank: "Actually yes. That's been going swimmingly. As a matter of fact we only have to locate two more of the women before we can leave." Fletnor: "I may be of some small assistance then. I know a man who has acquired one of the females you seek. He is a powerful man, one who deals in the trade of humans when it suits him." Frank: "Oh, would this be our friend Khalid?" Fletnor: <surprised> "Ah. You've heard of this?" Frank: "Let's say I have many friends. And big ears. I've heard many things about you." Fletnor: "Yes. I'll be going then." Frank: "When I see our friend, shall I tell him I've seen you?" Fletnor: "No, that's not necessary." He leaves, and a flashy guy stands up and comes towards Frank and Emma - Frank's little informant. Then a small, non-flashy person, Fletnor's servant, goes out after him; or at least that's how it appears. Frank invites the informant to join them at their table, and offers to buy him dinner. Frank: "Have you heard anything interesting?" Hamal: "I have heard things that anyone would be pleased to listen to attentively, but of course, because of your foresight, I come to you first." Frank: "That's very good. Why don't you tell us about this while you wait for your dinner." The little guy tries to negotiate money for his cousins' time, and maybe speak with Frank's employer? Frank:

The man who jsut left, his name if Fletnor. He has many friends, but they never meet all together. Mr. Fletnor meets with three people, and then they part and meet with other people, but never the same ones." Frank: "That would be a cell. Where did they meet?" Hamal: "Near a warehouse of a local man." Frank: "Oh? Anyone we know?" Hamal: "The mark outside is of a type of gull that lives in the outer waters." Frank: "Let me guess. This gull is the symbol of our friend Khalid?" Hamal: "Yes."

Seems Khalid is involved with offworlders, and has recently expanded his warehouses. And yes, he both sells to and buys from the offworlders. Supposedly machine parts, small luxury goods, and the like. One or two things have bypassed customs. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Fletnor purchased half a large warehouse that Khalid now shares with him. And Fletnor has been bringing in barrrels, but appears to have no real business, and no actual income. Frank adds $10 creds to the $40 on the table, as well as signing for dinner. Frank does have the guy make his mark on a receipt though.

Frank: "I believe we have an appointment at the Red Sails? If our Solomani friend is back." Emma: "That would be him now." Nicolai is coming down the stairs. First a check for messages. Frank has a very flowery one from Khalid, giving an appointment for the next morning at 10:30. Myron has a message as well, from a large man who sells people - Galam.

According to the information Galam sent to Myron, one of the women went to an Olaf Bakar, the owner of the Red Sails, one to Khalid, and one to a person named Azzah Al-Kayat. Nicolai recognizes that if the locals are following the old Solomani traditions, that's a woman's name, and some one with power most likely. The latter owns the Silver Wren. Nicolai: "What is the Silver Wren?" Emma: "I'm guessing it's a sort of social club, from the name. Hard to tell though." Nicolai: "Like the Velvet Orchid?" Emma: "Only with less floor show." Frank: "One thing at a time. We have a date on the docks." Since the Red Sails is an upscale dockside establishment, for the successful freebooters, Frank dresses like he would for a trip to the Laughing Cadaver on Regina. (Not that cops spend any time there, if they're bright.) Emma: "I'll change into something more appropriate." Frank: <hopefully> "Tight leather pants?" No, but very form-fitting jeans are found. Frank dresses in evening dangerous man attire, with body armour. Nicolai decides it's his turn to go in last, Frank and Emma will go in first, together. The leave the hotel, then Nicolai is approached. "Going out, Mr. Volkov?" It's the oh so predatory Angelique. Nicolai: "Yes." Angelique: "If you're out too late, don't bother. Otherwise, bring a gin and tonic."

Frank and Emma head out, and run into a bunch of robed men apparently in pursuit of someone. Leader: "You - that way. You two, over there. Find the infidel dogs!" These would be the local religious fanatics. They look at Emma disapprovingly, then check Frank's face. Leader: "No, it is not him. He is too old. <to Frank> You should put some clothes on your...woman." Frank: "She has clothes on, and get that torch out of my face before I shove it up your rectal cavity. Move along now, nothing to see here." The fanatics decide not to push things, and Frank and Emma continue. There's a very dark space just after a well-lit section. Looks like a good ambush point. Frank unsnaps his safety, and Emma puts her hand on the gun in her bag. They continue, not too concerned - they're from Regina after all. They may be from Regina, but they aren't expecting a couple of big guys rushing out with a net. Hey, now that's different! Frank crouches down to stabilize himself, and will grab the net. Emma takes her gun out, and stays close to Frank's back. Nicolai is a bit behind, sees the two men and several other following them out of the alley, and triggers. Frank grabs the net and yanks down - he's very strong and the man goes down hard on the cobbles. The other net man keeps moving, and since Frank has taken out his ASP baton, and the local constabulary disapproves of firearms, Emma doesn't fire, knowing the problems the local police has with gunplay, but hits the man in the chest with her elbow, hard. He drops the net.

Nicolai hits one of the four back up men with flexible rod weapons, taking him down. The man Emma hit is reaching behind him, and Frank keeps his baton down by his leg as he steps forward and says "Stop!" in the command tone. Nicolai takes another swing and misses. His opponent does not miss - he hits Nicolai in the chest very hard, with some native work of art. The other two armed men advance on Frank, one swinging, one hanging back. Frank is hit first, but he rolls with it - acting like he was hit hard, then swinging his baton (due to training, aiming for a non-lethal area) and striking the upper leg, very, very, very hard. The nerve shock renders that leg useless, and the man drops. His associate looks at this and pauses.

Now Nicolai's angry. He basically shoves his boot into the man's chest. He falls over. Many broken things there. He doesn't get up. Emma lands a very solid kick to the hip of her opponent. There's a loud crack, the man falls over and he doesn't get up either (but he's not dead). The remaining bad guy gets hit by Frank - a diagonal strike to the man's shoulder, causing another crack. Frank takes a look at the local weapon; it's tarred twine with a knot on one end. Non-lethal, or rather less than lethal but very effective saps. Frank can't help himself, and picks up a couple of coin purses - it's a Regina tradition. All the men also have lengths of rope, and several have folding knives. Nicolai: "I say leave them where they are." Frank gets in a couple of good kicks to the short ribs, another Regina tradition, and besides - they attacked him while he was with Emma, and that's just rude. A couple of quick kicks and they take off, continuing to the Red Sails.

Nicolai is concerned that they were a deliberate target, but Frank feels the men were just common criminals. Nicolai: "Everyone okay?" Emma: "Hmm? Oh fine. And you?" Nicolai: "Old. The body doesn't bounce back as well as it used to." They continue down towards the dock. There's a loud, gutteral chanting coming from a building up ahead. Nicolai: "I don't suppose we can just keep going?" Frank: "I've heard worse. <to Emma> Boy, the Solomani is really touchy. After 18 years on the force I've seen pretty much everything. Although the net thing was different." Emma: "Thank God." Frank: "You would have worried if I'd said 'Ah, the old net trick'?" Emma: "Yes." Emma suggests they check to make sure nothing is out of place, since they were just in a tussle. Shirts are re-tucked, etc. Frank: "I'm surprised you didn't burst a seam. Thank God for high tech fabric." Emma: "Absolutely." Frank: "Do me a favor - put this coin in your back pocket. I want to see if I can tell if it's heads or tails. Not that I'd be looking at the coin." Ignoring Frank's request, they go past all the local colour, and Frank hands the doorman one of his newly acquired purses as he and Emma go in. Nicolai is stopped briefly by one of the really big guys, but he's recognized as an offworlder, and invited to bring in his lovely money.

Emma and Frank get a table in the not as hoity-toity as the Velvet Orchid establishment. No food, but the alcohol level in the pear brandy should make it safe. A female sits down with Nicolai, to provide him company. Then a female in a chadur comes out and starts to dance. Eventually everything comes off, revealing the missing red head of the troupe. She is incredibly good, and only reveals everything at the very end of her fifteen minute routine. Chants of Raishal! Raishal! from the audience. Nicolai asks his companion who the red head is. Girl: "She is Raishal. But why do you ask about the redhead? You have a woman." Nicolai: Perhaps I would like two?" Girl: "Are you man enough for two?" She motions one of her friends over - a red head.

Frank goes over to the big bar along one wall. Frank: "Barkeep! A man could die of thirst here." Bartender: "Never!" Frank lays down a $20 credit note. Frank: "I'd like to talk to the manager or owner." Bartender: "I think that can be arranged, effendi." Frank takes his glass and leaves the bill. Frank: <thinking> "I've got to find this Effendi guy - I must look like him." Moments later a short, bald man comes out and offers his hand. Man: "Olaf Bakar." Frank: "The famous Olaf Bakar? I've heard of you." Olaf: "Only good things, I trust!" Frank gets to the point fairly quickly, asking about the dancer's contract. Olaf: "You do not represent her worthless owner, do you?" Frank: "You're not her owner?" Olaf: "I mean her previous owner." Frank: "Perish the thought. I represent a cultured, and reasonably wealthy off-worlder. Why don't you join me at my table and we can discuss this further." They go back to the table where Emma has been waiting. Olaf: "Ah, a woman who enjoys our ***. You must try something. Both of you." A golden liquid is brought out and poured. It's a bit raw, but has a nice tingly after-taste. Frank shares his flask of bourbon.

Nicolai is the first of the group to notice the annoying chubby guy from the Velvet Orchid. He's talking to several men in the bar. Frank: "Yes, my principal is seeking the four off-world women who were sold by that scum drug dealer. They have been rivals for some time. I'd like to make sure he doesn't get out and get his hands on the women again." Olaf: "Don't worry. Our Vizier, or Regent as he prefers, takes a very dim view of murf." Frank: "Any way, I'm interested in the fourth girl as well." Olaf: "I know one is at the Silver Wren. The Silver Wren! My wife constantly wants to spend my money there." Emma: "A dress shop? Spa?" Frank notices the way Olaf is looking at Emma. Frank: "You want her? I can let you have her cheap." Emma mimes a kiss at him. Olaf: "I think cheap would be very expensive. But it would be worth it." Frank: "Yes, but she's not for sale." Olaf: "Ah, you've broken my heart. The Wren is where old women go to get young, and young women go to get husbands." Frank excuses himself to go to the restroom, takes out his commo unit and calls Myron, to brief him on the "legend". Frank: "I know you're not an actor, don't try to be one." Myron will join them, with Kay.

One of the girls with Nicolai looks over his shoulder then leans close to whisper "Trouble's coming your way. From behind you. He's big and ugly." Nicolai puts two $50 credit notes on the table. They disappear. Emma sees the bodyguard from the Velvet Orchid coming up behind Nicolai, intending to share a big glass jug with him. Emma: <to Olaf> "Trouble." She indicates the bodyguard. Olaf: "That fat pig and his animals."

Nicolai hears "Hey you! Watch where you're going!" The bodyguard is shoved on his back onto Nicolai's table. Nicolai hits him in the throat, resulting in gagging noises. Olaf: "None of that in my club!!" The voice could carry from the quarter deck in a hurricane. Olaf walks over, puts his hand on the bodyguard's throat, does something quick that allows the man to breathe. Olaf: "Get out of my club." Nicolai: "My apologies." Olaf: "Not a problem. Are the girls treating you well?" Nicolai: "Very well, thank you." Olaf gets Nicolai a glass of the golden brandy.

Emma was watching Chubby during the exchange, and he scowled as the bodyguard was moving towards Nicolai. The bodyguard shoved a short guy out of his way en route to Nicolai, and that's when things went from bad to worse. Nicolai walks over to Chubby's table, sets down the pear brandy. Nicolai: "I have no quarrel with you. But if you continue, I will finish it." He walks off. Emma is still watching as Chubby gestures and a non-descript sort of guy eels into the chair beside him.

Nicolai introduces himself to Olaf, who does the same. They sit down at the table again, Nicolai flanked by the females. Olaf: "I was once the captain of the Drunken Dolphin." Now that turns on a light for Nicolai. Nicolai: "Have you heard of any off-world gentlemen who have run afoul of -" Olaf starts to laugh. Olaf: "Tall drink of water - tall as you, not as wide. Something about 'culture', and 'must experience real life'. He's experiencing real life upstairs right now." As a customer, or an employee.

Olaf leaves Nicolai and returns to Frank's table. Nicolai makes sure he can see chubby's table as well as the floor show. They've been there about an hour when Myron and Kay arrive. Emma finally has to make a pit stop in the quaint little ladies' room. Not the best experience, but oh well. She comes back out, looks around and can't see the oily guy who was talking to chubby, and sits down with Frank again. Frank asks Olaf about Khalid, and the woman who runs the Silver Wren. Olaf: "Khalid? He's not as hard as he was when he was on the sea, but neither am I. He's a fair man, but he'd skin a flea for its fur."

Myron and Olaf talk business. Olaf: "...recompense in Imperial credits is acceptable." Kay sits at Nicolai's table and orders a drink. Nicolai gives him a brief run down about the problems with chubby and his bodyguard. Nicolai asks the girls if they know who the tubby guy is. Girl: "Sure. That's Gamaulte. He's from New Quebec." Nicolai: "so what is he into?" Girl: "Tubby? He's absolutely sure he's God's gift to women. It's a status thing with him." The women are not impressed with him, but he's a fairly savage person. Blonde: "The men from New Quebec, they're all savages." Nicolai gets the impression that these guys are a cross between Vikings and a biker gang. The only reason the island hasn't been wiped out is that it's a good source for mercs. Great - a whole island full of Satan's Slammers.

Olaf wants to take Myron to the back, but not by himself. Frank is going with them. Emma: "Do you want me to -" Frank: "I might get lonely." Emma goes back too. They get to meet Margery, who asks if Bernie sent them. Myron: "No." Margery: "Did you find Bernie?" Myron: "Yes, he's in jail." Margery: "Are you going to get him out?" Myron: "No." Margery: "Good."

Out front, a brawl breaks out, and it's moving towards Nicolai's table. They move out of the way, as do a number of other patrons. Nicolai feels a shove in his back and turns to look. Kay: "Shit!" Nicolai: "What?" Nicolai can't look at his own back, but whoever pushed him was using a very sharp knife. It slashed through Nicolai's vest, but didn't hit him. Nicolai looks around for chubby's bravos, but sees none. Nicolai: "Watch my back, we're going to the back room." He clears the way as they move. Kay: "Wrong!" Then a dull thump. Kay: "Move - move - move." Nicolai sees a nondescript guy giving hand signals and goes for him. He hits the guy in the chest, hard, snapping the xyphode process. He's down. Kay: "One behind us with a knife." Then the suppressor thump again.

They get to the bottom of the stairs just as Olaf gets to the top of the stairs and yells "Avast!!" Everyone stops for a couple of seconds. On Nicolai's right is some one who doesn't stop. Nicolai targets him next, knocking him to the ground. Since no one else is moving, Nicolai stops too.

Upstairs in the office with Frank, Emma, and Myron. The window is pushed open and some one tries to come in. Emma grabs the window and tries to pop it closed, but the intruder spiked it open and it breaks. Emma feels a burning sensation on her hip, then as the man rolls in toward Margery, Emma hits the bad guy right in the spine. He becomes much less coordinated, falling to the ground. Frank is pulling up his slung shotgun as some one points a gun barrel through the window at Emma. Frank: "Drop!" Emma drops without thinking, Frank fires his shotgun through the wall. The other "gun" discharges, with much smoke. Nicolai hears the shotgun, says "Making entry" over the commo and pulls his surf gun as he goes up.

Frank runs to the window to make sure there are no other incoming baddies. There aren't - one is down on the ground outside. Nicolai gets inside the room just as the far door opens to reveal a man in a turban and face covering, carrying a double barrelled shotgun; Nicolai aims for him. The surf gun does it's usual work, making everyone at least partially deaf, and hits the shooter in the chest. As the dust starts to settle, Nicolai can hear swearing and feet running away. He follows out the back door into the dust and darkness. He tosses a cylum stick, and it's lit and dusty, and that guy is really dead. He goes back into the room.

Margery is curled up in a ball with her hands over her ears. Frank: "We'd better get out of here, and we're taking Marguerite with us." Kay: "Civilian coming up." Olaf: "What the fuck is going on here!!" Nicolai: "Do we need a door?" Frank: "We've got a door. Put that thing away before you hurt some one by accident." Nicolai: "I've never shot anyone by accident." Frank: "That's fine, but that <indicates the surf gun> is not exactly a precision weapon, and there are friendlies in here."

Myron: "Terribly sorry, but we have to go." He leaves cash for Olaf. Frank reslings his shotgun. Frank: "We're going to walk out of here like nothing's wrong. We need a distraction." Frank opens the door and yells "Fire!" Down the back way to where some of the kitchen staff has been locked into a cabinet. Including a large man with a head injury. The staff is let out, and the group follows. There's a bunch of people gawking, and patrons and staff are leaving.

The party escapes from the non-burning building with the others.