"History is made at night. Character is what you are in the dark."-- - Lord John Whorfin

162 - 1123.

Outside the Red Sails.

Kay: "Who's hit?" Emma: "I am. And if we leave now I'm going to leave a trail." Her leg is bleeding profusely. Kay checks her out. Kay: "Good God. What did he use, collapsed crystal?" He needs a corner to duck into for a few minutes. Emma: "Look, can you just stop it from bleeding right now?" Kay: "Yeah. <to Nicolai> You'll probably want to do something about that flap." Nicolai: "What flap?" On his back, but it's just clothing. Nicolai: "Oh that's right. I'll contact my tailor in the morning." Frank looks around at what's available - mostly closed shops. He finds a closed clothing shop and bangs loudly on the door. A man opens an upstairs window. Man: "What!?!! We're closed." Frank: "There's been an accident. I need to get this woman off the street. I'll pay for the inconvenience." He waves a $5 credit note, and amazingly enough, the door is opened moments later. Nicolai sees several men sort of sauntering over their way, and he points it out to Frank. Frank: "Be cool." They go inside, and there's a brief argument over the quality of the cloth Kay wants to use for bandages. Man: "Before you bleed on my goods, let's see the color of your money." Frank hands him a $20 credit note, which he tries to tear and can't, so it's good.

Kay does a good job patching Emma up, at least temporarily; the guy with the knife did a great job laying her leg open. Nicolai asks for another exit and is shown the delivery entrance out back. It leads to an alley down between warehouses. Margery picks out some clothing (some of it is ready made), to replace the six coins and two small strips of cloth that she's wearing. Margery: "Is Bernie in a really dark cell?" Frank: "We don't know." But they can hope. Nicolai keeps an eye out for bad guys in back, keeping the rear clear. Kay: "Oh right - tetanus shot! When was your last tetanus shot? Never mind, I'll give you another just in case." Ouch! (Damn those square blunt needles!) Frank: "Back to the hotel? It's safe and nearby. That's a leg wound, right? We don't want her walking on it. You stay here and I'll go get us a ride or a cab or something." He goes out the front, sauntering, short shotgun under his coat, and his other hand on the PlusP flashlight in his pocket.

As soon as Frank steps outside, the two men they saw as they entered the shop intercept him. Thug: "Come friend, let us relieve you of those heavy money bags you Imperials always carry." Frank: "I don't want any trouble." Thug: "Trouble is the bane of our existence, friend. Let us help you with yours." Frank: <timidly> "Just don't hurt me." He can't believe these guys are falling for this - five year olds on Regina know better. The two men close, Frank blinds one with the flashlight and clubs the other one up the side of the head with the barrel of his shotgun. Nicolai comes outside to see one guy on the ground and the other one wandering around blind. Nicolai: "Drop it." The man on the ground gets up and runs away. The blind man is wandering around slashing walls with his sword. Nicolai: "He's a danger to himself and others. Maybe we should disarm him." Frank: "Let me. Here, hold this." He hands Nicolai his shotgun and takes out his ASP baton. The blinded man recognizes the sound of the baton coming out and decides it's time to go. Hard to flee when you can't see where you're going though. Frank hits the guy on the hilt of the sword, hard. The weapon is dropped and the thug escapes, pinballing off walls as he stumbles off.

Frank approaches a man with a cart and animal. Frank: "Excuse me, I'm looking for a driver to take a companion of mine who's had too much to drink up the hill." Driver: "Certainly sir." Frank: "How much?" Driver: "How big is your companion, sir?" He gives him a size relative to the driver. Driver: "Oh, not a problem sir. A silver." Frank goes back in and splashes bourbon on Emma. Frank: "You've been drinking. It'll raise less speculation." Emma: "That's fine, but next time warn me before you splash alcohol on me." Frank: "Oh, I'm sorry. Here." He hands her the flask. She takes a drink and then Frank takes it back and shares with Kay. This way they've all been drinking. Frank: <to Nicolai> "We shouldn't all leave in a big group. I'll go with Emma and Kay, you take Myron and the girl. Give us five minutes and then follow." Nicolai buys a large seacoat for five credits, to cover his cut clothing. Frank carries Emma to the cart and sets her in it; she's never ridden in an ox cart before. How interesting. It smells of vegetables, and has no shock absorbers. Emma feels every jolt.

Frank wants to go see a proper doctor, no offense to Kay, but he's just a medic. Kay doesn't take offense, he'd rather Emma see a doctor too. Anders is at the hotel, and they'll find her when they get there. As they're heading up the hill, they look back to see a large group of men outside the Red Sails who appear to be taking advantage of the disturbance to have an outside barroom brawl. Nicolai's group is coming up the hill five minutes behind Frank et al. Nicolai sees a police cart and several men being rounded outside the Red Sails. The back half of the party gets a couple of cat calls about the "offworlder with the boy" - Margery is wearing pants, after all. Nicolai doesn't pay much attention, and he tries to keep Myron and Margery on task. Then some one runs towards them, spinning something over his head. Bolas? Nicolai gets out his high tech flashlight (it worked for Frank), and flashes it right at the runner just before he lets fly his weapon. There's a tinkle from the second floor of a nearby house, and this is followed by a shout of "I see you, Affel! You owe me a window!!"

Back at the Metropol, Anders receives a message. It's a request for services, delicately worded, and they wish to call on her. It's something about an, um, infection. Anders figures if it was really serious they wouldn't have send a note. Has someone been less than careful with the locals?

On their way up the hill, Kay glances down an alley and says "Trouble? Keep moving." There are faint sounds of an altercation down the alley, but nothing to be concerned about. None of their business.

A person comes into the hotel, with a fairly good local accent, and wants to take Anders to his principal. If it weren't for the fact that he has just a bit of too pale skin on one of his arms. Anders: "Sorry, as one of the few high tech doctors on this planet, I don't make house calls." Man: "I see. Well, what is your room number?" Anders gives it to him. Anders: "Don't worry - this is a hotel with a lot of offworlders. Your boss won't stick out." Man: "I don't know what...Yes. Well." He leaves, Anders watches him. Frank's group sees the man leave the hotel furtively as they're approaching.

Back down the hill a woman runs out of an alley and straight to Nicolai and Myron. Woman: "You've got to protect me!" Nicolai can see the knife she's carrying and keeps between her and Myron. Woman: "Please! He's behind me!" Nicolai can smell the blood on her. Nicolai: "Protect you from what?" She's looking behind her, and Myron is pointing his gun down the alley like a shield; Margery is staying behind him. Nicolai looks down the alley and he can hear footsteps running the other way. Nicolai: "Looks like he won't be bothering you tonight." The girl drops the knife and collapses to the ground. Nicolai: "I don't need this." He checks the girl for other weapons and finds a really nasty knife that looks like it would be useful for ritual sacrifice. Or pruning. Nicolai picks it and the other knife up and pockets them. Then he picks up the girl and tells Myron to continue and he'll be right behind them. They're all feeling tired as they continue up hill.

Frank and his party have arrived outside the hotel. Driver: "Good heavens, I should have charged you two silvers!" The doorman comes up and is briefly puzzled when he can't figure out how to open an ox cart. Frank overpays the driver a bit, and tosses in a tip. The driver leaves with the bizarre cow. Or horse. Frank's not sure which. Emma stands up and almost falls over. She's bleeding again. Frank picks her up and carries her upstairs. They get to Anders' door and Frank bangs on it. Anders opens the door, expecting a patient, just not this one. Anders: "Inside, put her on the bed." She checks out the wound and figures whoever did this used an obsidian blade. And there are small pieces of the stone embedded in the wound. The fragments seem almost barbed, like they were designed to break off. She gives Emma a local and goes to work on the injury.

Anders: "So what did you do to piss off Og here?" Emma: "I was in his way." Anders: "I wouldn't do that again if I were you." Emma: "It wasn't deliberate." Anders sprinkles in the "magic powder" and seals the injury. She decides the leg needs to be held in position for an hour at least, while the Regen™ works, and recommends Emma try to sleep. With the drugs and everything that's gone on, it seems like a good idea.

Nicolai hears a hushed "Shit!" as he's entering the hotel. The doorman opens the door for Myron and Margery, and his jaw drops as he looks at Nicolai and the girl in the light. Nicolai looks down and sees his coat is being dyed red. He knows where the off-world doctor is so he'll take her. Up to Anders' room.

Anders is expecting her patient, since it wasn't him when Frank knocked, and opens the door to find Nicolai, drenched in blood. Not his this time, which is novel. Anders: "Inside." Anders and Kay take over, and Anders works her usual magics. The girl was slashed once, in the abdomen, but it didn't penetrate all the way. She looks much better when Anders is done.

There's another knock on the door. Anders, hoping it's not another bleeding female, finally gets to see the patient she was expecting. Anders: "Come in. Sorry about the lack of space - it's been a bit busy." Patient: "I...see. Yes, well. Some one told me you were from off world." Anders: "That's correct. <to Frank> Frank, do you mind?" She nods towards the door. Anders: "Perhaps you can erase the blood trail in the hall, or have the staff do it." Frank: "Right. I'll be in the bar." He hits 'save' on his PDA and leaves. Patient: "Let us just say that after a long night when I go to relieve myself I wish to never do that again." Anders understands. Patient: "You would have thought that a young lady of society would have been more careful." Anders doesn't say (but thinks) "She slept with you, didn't she?", and gives him a shot with a larger bore needle than perhaps would be necessary. Self-inflicted injury, after all. From the description of the symptoms, Anders believes the young man caught something of a non-local variety, a variation Anders recognizes. Anders notices how uncomfortable the young man is when she comments about him or his young lady being off-planet recently. Now there's just a matter of recompense. What can he afford? He's dressed nicely, but is a local. He's carrying a very nice blade, and is probably noble. Anders: "Twelve credits." That's about a year's wages for a journeyman on planet. Anders: "Don't worry, you only need the one shot." Patient: "Thank heavens. My courage would fail me." Don't mess around if you can't handle the treatment. Maybe it will be a learning experience for him.

In the bar, from behind him, Frank hears "Ah, the offworld officer." Frank: "Howdy. Join me?" Ved: "No thank you, I must keep my wits. Are you the one who saw the assault?" Frank: <innocently> "The assault?" Which assault? Ved sees the young man who was in to see Anders and says "Your Grace" politely. Patient: "Ah, detective. Good evening." A number of armed guards leave with the young man. Ved: "Did you see this? Anything about this?" Frank: "What assault?" Ved: "On a young woman. How many large offworlders do you have around here?" Frank: "Four, currently, I think." There are just too many big offworlders carrying in bloody young women tonight; it's getting confusing. Frank: "You might talk with the doctor." Ved thanks him and goes upstairs.

Back in his room, Nicolai is trying to figure out how to wash his coat. He has the servants bring up water for the shower. Cold. This makes the maid giggle.

Another knock on Anders' door. She opens it to find a man in maroon. She steps outside to avoid waking the girls. Anders: "Yes?" Ved introduces himself, and asks if a young woman was brought in to her with a knife injury. Anders asks for a description, not mentioning that she has two young women with knife injuries. Ved describes the young woman Nicolai brought in, who is blonde. Ved: "We believe her to be the victim of a serial killer. We found his other victim." Anders: "Tonight?" Ved: "Yes. Down the street of the candlemakers." A woman with a stab wound to the abdomen and then the throat, wounds Ved describes. Anders: "Does the killer usually strike twice in one night?" Ved: "No. What was the word she used...escalating." Anders: "You've had other survivors before?" Ved: "No. This is the first one." A guard will be left behind in the hall. Anders: "If I'm going to have a guard I'd prefer him to be on the balcony rather than in the hall." Ved: "Ah. Of course." Ved and the guard are let in, after Anders cautions them that she has more than one patient. When they enter, Ved recognizes Emma. Ved: "She was attacked? This is the offworld detective." Anders: "She wasn't attacked by the same person. Different incident." Anders gives Ved a description of the weapon used. Ved: "Ah, I've heard of them. Nightwalkers. From the north. The Chin. Very expensive. If these people are your enemies I'd advise you to leave planet." She goes downstairs to get Frank. Anders: "I need you to come upstairs and move her. You'll need a stretcher or something to carry her on. Maybe take the door off." Frank: "How about a blanket and two poles?" Anders: "That'll take too long." Frank: "I've seen people with staffs around here." Anders: "Fine. I'll leave you to it."

Frank speaks with the concierge about getting a stretcher. The concierge sends a boy for the "wine bed". The what? It's an ornately carved leather stretcher for guests how have had too much wine. Well, that'll work. But he'll need help so he'll go get Nicolai.

There's a knock on Nicolai's door. He takes his gun out and opens the door cautiously. It's the police. Oh lovely. Ved: "Mr. Volkov?" Nicolai: "Yes?" Ved: "You brought in a young woman tonight, who had been stabbed?" Nicolai: "Yes." Ved asks several questions about exactly where Nicolai was, and where the light was, etc. Nicolai is an expert at being debriefed, and hands over the weapons he picked up. This will take some time.

While the police are still with Nicolai, Frank heads to the room and sees a cop outside. He nods to the officer, who tells Frank "The detective is questioning a witness." Frank: "Will this take long?" Cop: "He is very thorough." Frank goes and asks at the front desk for help with the wine bed. Clerk: "The wine bed? Yes sir. <calls> Abdullah!" A very big man comes out front. He's a beefy young man working his way through school. He and Frank go up to Anders' room and pick up Emma. Frank tucks her into bed and makes sure she has lots of fluids nearby.

163 - 1123.

When Emma wakes up, early in the morning, she can tell what her pulse rate is by the throbbing in her leg. Even with Regen™ it's really unhappy. And she really, really has to go to the bathroom, but her leg is still splinted up. Frank is sleeping on the floor, against the door with his shotgun and one of Emma's pillows. How cute. Emma tries to figure out how to get out of bed with the high tech splint on. Frank rolls over and hears the crinkle of paper. He unfolds the note and reads: "Caution - Hamad". Oh that's helpful. Is it "caution of Hamad"? "Caution, signed Hamad?" Emma: "Ah, Frank?" Frank: "Yeah?" Emma: "Could you give me hand?" Frank: "Sure. In the mean time, take a look at this." She reads the note.

Anders' other patient wakes up and Anders reassures her. Girl: "My father should report him." Anders: "Who?" Girl: "The giant. I'm sure he was behind me." Anders: "The giant was behind you?" The girl's a bit shocky and not making a lot of sense, and she's hungry. Anders has food brought up and asks for a kid from the hotel to run a message to her family. The girl apologizes for the trouble and tries to eat daintily, but fails. After she eats Anders tries to get her to rest. Anders isn't about to let her be questioned in her current state.

Frank shows up to act as messenger to Anders. Frank: "Emma wants to know how long she has to wear the mono-pod." Anders: "Let me take a look at it first." She tells the cop she has to check on another patient, and leaves with Frank.

Downstairs at breakfast, Nicolai hears a lot of wild gossip about murders and such. Predictable, really. He heads up towards Anders' room, but en route he runs into Caldecott. Caldecott: "Mr. Sinclair! I've been looking for you." Nicolai: "You've found me." Caldecott: "Mr. Evans wanted me to find out if you'd heard anything about Mr. Williamson." Nicolai: "I have other business to attend to besides finding your missing person." Caldecott: "I'm sure you do, although you're very closed mouthed about whatever it is you're doing here." Nicolai: "There's a reason for that. People who open their mouths usually don't open their mouths again. I've found your missing man. And he's really gone native. It's rather distressing." Caldecott: "Oh dear. Where is he?" Nicolai: "At the Red Sails. I suggest you get your superior and go get him. And you never saw me." Caldecott: "Ah, of course."

Anders checks on Emma. Anders: "You can take it off, but be careful. Don't take off running or anything. In a couple of days you should be back to normal, but until then don't do anything silly. Oh and by the way, the local detective said whoever cut you is a Chin, and if he had enemies like that he'd leave planet." Great. Frank helps Emma downstairs to breakfast. Frank: "Right, Myron and I will go see Hamad. You stay here." He gives her his PDA with his notes, and his sawed off shotgun. Frank: "You might want to keep an eye on the other girl." Emma: "What other girl?" Frank fills her in on what she missed. Emma: "You might want to take some one else with you and Myron." Frank: "Don't worry, I'll take care of it."

They go back upstairs, and Frank bangs on Anders' door. Anders flings the door open and steps out. Anders: "I have a patient. Don't do that!" Emma: "I'm sorry, he only has one setting. It's not quiet." They're let in, and Frank asks about the other girl. Anders: "Well, she's going to live, unless the slasher comes back to have another go at her. She has police guards now. What with the drugs and everything, she's a bit mixed up about the sequence of the attack, but that should get better."

Back in Myron's room, Frank gives Margery something to do: look after Emma. Margery finds the fact that Emma was a police detective fascinating, and wants tips just in case she ever gets that sort of role. Emma: "Have you ever watched Major Case Squad?" Margery: "Yes." Emma: "It's nothing like that." Margery: "No doubt! Globber hasn't been that skinny since, well, ever."

Anders goes downstairs to get something to eat. When she goes outside to get some fresh air, a local boy runs up to her. Boy: "Lady doctor, lady doctor!" Anders: "Yes?" Boy: "That man over there has been pointing a box at you!" She looks at a man who appears local, and has a basket with him. She decides to be the crazy lady and assault the man. As she approaches the man he shifts his weight, into a fighting stance. But he wasn't expecting Anders to attack his basket. It's a sturdy basket, doesn't break when it hits the ground , and seems to be woven around a frame of some sort. And it has a hole in it. Man: "Bloody Imperial!" Anders can see the box with a Hortilez logo on it, and figures it's a camera. Now she hits the man. The attention of the people outside is now firmly on the altercation. Anders: <to the crowd> "This man takes pictures of small children without their clothes!" She shows the camera. Man: "Offworlder!" Woman: "No, she has exposed this evil." Anders: <to the photographer> "If I were you I'd run on that leg." He goes for a gun. Anders interferes and the man becomes a gunflinger. There's a crack, an uff, then a scream. A riot is about to break out, and it looks like the cameraman won't be able to answer any questions without a medium. Anders points at a man and says: "You! Call the magistrate." Anders then helps the man to a cart, which she commandeers. Driver: "You cannot take that, it's municipal property!" Anders: "I'll bring it back." Driver: "But -" Anders: "You can come with me." He can't do that, he's working. He's carrying a yoke with two big buckets - he's the night soil collector. Anders is escaping on the shit wagon. She leaves before the poor confused man can decide to go or stay, using the crop to put the ancient horse into forward.

After a slow escape down the back twisting roads, Anders stops to let the man off. He's still swearing at her for all the trouble she's caused him. Anders: "You should be thanking Allah that you're still alive." He mutters something as he gets out of the cart, then tips over. The hip is broken. Anders takes him to Sister Bridget's clinic. The man tries to put up a fight, but with a broken arm and a broken hip he soon realizes this is stupid. Anders hears approaching police clackers, and drives him around to the back of the clinic. There is another soil cart, and another man with two buckets. Carter: "That is Ahmed's cart." Anders: "Can you take it back to Ahmed? He's waiting with two buckets." The new confused man agrees. Anders takes the man into the clinic, and leaves him there. She hoofs it back up towards the hotel, hearing people talk about having to find an offworld child-stealer. A man, which means Anders is off the hook.

Anders is beginning to think the local serial killer is an offworlder, since he had to have honed his craft at some point, and he appears to have started off here already quite adept. Maybe he's been moving from planet to planet for a while. Anders is pondering this as she walks up to her room, and hears people talking outside her door. Man: "...how will I make my living? Whoever heard of a one-handed silversmith?" Second man: "She's a miracle worker, don't worry." Anders arrives to see the man who was shot by the stray bullet outside. She brings him in, and the young man passes out part way through the disinfecting process. This makes it easier for Anders to work on his hand. She makes a mental note to resupply on medical glue, and takes a nap after this patient. She doesn't charge him anything for the treatment, since she contributed to his injury.

There's a knock on Emma's door. It's the detective. She lets him in. Emma: "Yes?" Ved: "Miss Walsh, I must ask for your help. We have a witness." Emma: "To...?" Ved: "The killings." He describes the girl, and what happened last night. Ved: "But the doctor will not let us see her right now." Emma: "The girl probably isn't in any condition to be questioned. Dr. Jorgensen knows what she's doing." Ved: "What I know is the killer is definitely human, and apparently average. And the victim does not fit, she was a blonde. But the other girl was a brunette." He give Emma a fairly good report on what transpired the night before. Emma: "Was she cut in the same way? The blonde?" Ved: "Not exactly." Emma: "It sounds like she walked into the wrong place at exactly the wrong time."

Nicolai has gotten his clothing repaired and cleaned. He decides to go see Mr. Evans, who opens the door. Evans: "Mr. Sinclair. Quickly, inside." Nicolai enters. Evans: "I understand you're quite the hero." Nicolai: "No. Did you find your person?" Evans: "Not yet. We're still getting things together." Nicolai sees the covering on the bed (can't sleep on those nasty local linens), a med-bot, and a nice tea and coffee service in the room. Evans is wearing a T-shirt and body armor. Evans: "I'm sorry, tea?" Nicolai: "No. I have to get back to my other project." Evans: "Of course. I won't ask." Nicolai: "Good. Then I won't have to kill you." Evans chuckles stiffly at the military humor, not realizing Nicolai wasn't joking.

Frank and Myron are on their way to see Hamad. Frank notices two men following them, in local clothing. But they're wearing boots rather than the slipper like shoes the normal locals would be wearing. Ah. Frank is wearing light, low boots with reinforcement in all the right areas. The two guys notice Frank noticing them. Frank: "Myron, wait here." He walks right up to the men. Frank: "Why are you following me?" He thumps the smaller guy in the chest as he talks to him. The older of the two calms the kid. Frank: "And who are you supposed to be?" Man: "I'm just a responsible citizen. And so is officer Chong." That would be the younger man. They really are locals, just not civilians. Frank: "You might as well walk along with us." In the local argot, Chong asks "How did they find us?" The older man replies "Because I let you do the walking." He turns to Frank. Cop: "So why is some one from the thriving metropolis of Regina here on El Fahaz?" Frank: "What with Regina being so quiet and dull, I just had to get out and see the world. You can only take so many champagne bubble baths." Cop: "Yes, I have heard the police there have many things. We have heard of the Denzettis - ox carts that need no oxen." Now there's a novel idea for an ad campaign!

Frank makes sure they arrive on time for the appointment, and he and Myron are shown in. The one guard still gives Frank the "I could take you" look. The cops wait outside with the guards. The older cop obviously is known to one of the guards. Guard: "Ah, you made inspector!" Cop: "Kiss my ass."

Frank: <on commo> "We're going in. I'll leave my mike hot." Just in case. Nicolai and Emma are listening. Nicolai tries to keep track of how long Frank is walking, to figure out how far inside he goes in case he needs to go in after them. He can get a very general idea, although he can't tell when they turn corners or anything.

Myron and Frank get to see Khalid, who doesn't look soft and squishy in the least. He's a large man, sitting in a side area off a central courtyard; several women are nearby. Introductions are made all around. Khalid: "Your other gentleman is not here. The soldier." Frank: "This is a friendly meeting. " Khalid: "I appreciate your discretion. You represent Mr. Tingler?" Tingler is said with the same sort of feeling as "scum" would be. Myron explains that he works for Tingler Enterprises, but he doesn't represent Bernie Tingler. Myron and Khalid get into the discussion, but Myron seems to Frank to be talking business, and Khalid seems to be speaking with a rather disapproving tone. (Thank you, Bernie.) Myron: "Look, what Mr. Tingler did was not as a representative of the corporation." Khalid: "Ah, he has not been bailed out?" Myron: "No, and I don't think that's likely to happen." Khalid looks over his shoulder and says "Please join us." One of the women sitting off to the side comes over. Khalid and Myron stand, and Frank does too (after a pause). The music stops and Nicolai and Emma hear a new voice over the commo. Beth: "Myron. Doing Bernie's job again?" Nicolai: <to Emma> "Looks like there's an opening in the company." Myron: "Not really. Here's your contract." Beth hands the contract over to Khalid, and the discussion turns esoteric, in an accounting sort of way. Frank stops listening and just checks out the room and everything he can see from their location; it's like a prison, but going the opposite way. Whoever designed this place was good.

Khalid: "Most impressive, Mr. Greenstone. I suppose you have no interest in leaving the hurly-burly of the entertainment business for the more sedentary life of a planetary shipping house?" Myron: "Uh, no sir." Frank: <mumbled to himself> "Oh yeah, we all want to move here. Gives me a woody just thinking about it." Beth is willing to go, but she wants to stay at Khalid's until it's time to actually leave, as she has a student here, and is studying the local music. Frank and Myron are invited to lunch and accept. Frank takes great delight in tormenting Nicolai and Emma with comments about the wonderful food. Frank: "Wow! This just come out of the oven? This is great." After a very fine lunch, they are allowed to leave peacefully, past the glaring and posturing display at the front between the young guard and the older cop. Frank tells the younger guard to "keep up the good work. Maybe you'll be a real guard some day." Guard: "I've been told that I can learn much by listening to my elders." Frank: "We've got a saying back home on Regina - I didn't get this old by being stupid."

On the way back up town, without their police escort, Frank and Myron are stopped by the military police. Frank: "Is there a problem?" MP: "There was a riot. It seems a man was caught taking pictures of young boys, but he escaped from the crowd." Frank: "Well, I hope you string up the dirty son of a bitch."

The rest of the trip back to the hotel is uneventful. Emma: <to Frank> "Did you enjoy lunch?" Frank: "Oh yeah, it was great. I brought you a roll." He takes it out of his pocket and dusts it off before handing it to Emma. The discussion moves on to finding the fourth girl, Oriana, who is in the Silver Wren. Since it's apparently a place for women, Emma volunteers to at least go check it out. Frank: "Hey, perfect! We've got the perfect reason for her to go there. She can go ahead and get her hair done there and act as our inside man." Nicolai: "I don't know about that." Some discussion of exactly what sort of place the Silver Wren is. From what Olaf told them, it sounds like a day spa or something. Emma asks the concierge about the Silver Wren. Concierge: "Oh, it's a wonderful place for women. Madame can find whatever she needs there." Frank: <to Emma> "If you're worried about that scar, I'm sure a pair of black silk stockings would cover it up real nice." She changes into something nicer before going out.

To the Silver Wren. Cool inside, diffused lighting from glass bricks in the ceiling. An entire wall of odd beakers for mixing scents, incredible jewelry, even a section for "women's problems" that includes offworld stuff. The clothing is modeled, not on racks, and Emma does need to replace a few things. She's approached by one of the staff, who enquires how they may be of service. Emma: "...I could use some clothing." Frank and Nicolai aren't actively listening, just with half an ear. Several girls model clothing for Emma's inspection. The third girl is Oriana - success!

Emma: <quietly> "It's Oriana, isn't it?" Oriana: "Yes, it is." She twirls. The women chat clothing and colors for a while. Emma: "Myron would like to speak to you." Oriana: "Make it quick." Emma: "Is there a way we can do this?" Clerk: "Madame would like this in a different color?" Emma: "Yes. What would you recommend?" Clerk: "With your coloring, perhaps a blue? We have it in a variety of shades." She sends Oriana to change, and she comes back in blue. The clerk hears what sounds like an altercation, or at least raised voices, in the section next door, and goes to check it out. This gives Oriana and Emma a chance to talk for real. Oriana: "Get me the hell out of here." Emma: "Who do we have to talk to? Who's got your contract?" Oriana: "Hazzah. As she reminds me every day." Emma: "We'll take care of it." The clerk returns and apologizes. Emma makes several purchases, including some lingerie. (That should make Frank happy.)

At the Metropol, Nicolai's phone rings. Nicolai: "Yes?" Evans: "Mr. Sinclair?" Nicolai: "Yes." Evans: "We have need of your services." Nicolai: "Why?" Evans: "I'm afraid we've misjudged the situation somewhat." Sounds of raucous behavior in the background, breaking glass. Evan: "I'm afraid Mr. Williamson has gotten himself involved with the locals. He's being quite unreasonable." Nicolai: "Well, drug him and get him home!" Evans: "There are rather a lot of them between us and there." Williamson: "Get your hand off my mouth, I don't know where it's been!" Nicolai: "Where are you?" Evans: "A block up from the Red Sails." Nicolai: "All right. Call me when you get to some where a bit more secure."

About five minutes later, Evans rings back. They're holed up in a building, of indeterminant purpose, in a storeroom. Nicolai wonders if there isn't a way they had planned on leaving planet when they found Williamson? Of course. Evan: "Our pick up, in theory, is 15 minutes away at most." In theory. Evans: "Wait, wait! I can do an auto-call on the air-car." Nicolai: "Sure, that'll tell everyone where you are. If you're somewhere where you can lay low, keep Mr. Williamson quiet and let everyone pass you by." <pause> Evans: "That could be a problem." Nicolai: "Why?" Evans: "It seems Mr. Williamson won quite a bit of money." Nicolai: "Well, give it back." Evans: "Right. Caldecott!" Caldecott: "Sir?" Evans: "Take this money, and tell them Mr. Williamson wants to buy everyone a drink." Caldecott: "But sir, there were things on the floor!" Evans: "We'll give you a shot of broadband antibiotic when you get back. And put that thing down before you shoot some one!" Caldecott: "Yes sir." Footsteps. Nicolai: "Look, I'm in the middle of something right now, and I can't just drop everything and come after you." Evans: "Not more trouble with the locals?" Nicolai: "Let's just say your little lost sheep isn't the only security problem here. Do I make myself clear?" Evans: "Abundantly. <muttered> SolSec always thinks their business is more important than anyone else's. <into the cell phone> Not that they don't do a good job!" Nicolai hangs up and asks Myron if he's given any thought to how to get off this rock. Myron has asked the concierge and a couple of other staff members, but he doesn't have anything concrete yet.

Emma arranges for her packages to be delivered to the hotel, and leaves the Silver Wren to walk back. Some one starts paralleling Emma. She keeps an eye on him, and finds his partner. Emma: <on commo> "I've picked up two. One in front, one behind. Checking for outriggers." Frank: "Where are you?" She gives her location. Emma: "I'm not carrying packages." Frank: "On my way. " Nicolai comes with him.

Emma looks for an expensive shop, one that should have security. She finds a nice jewelry shop and goes in. Clerk: "Good afternoon." Emma: "Good afternoon." Clerk: "May we be of service?" Emma: "I'm looking for something local." Clerk: "Ah yes. Please be seated. Tea?" Emma: "Yes, thank you. Is this Greenburg Goldsmiths?" Clerk: "Yes it is." Emma: "You were recommended to me." Actually, she just wanted to give Frank the name of the shop.

Frank and Nicolai are moving quickly to the location, Frank goes around to look for a back entrance, and spots a florid man who looks familiar. It's Gamaulte, the chubby little bastard, and he has a new crop of bodyguards. Frank doesn't have time to deal with him now, he has two bad guys on his person. He's thinking several different things right now - he's worried about his officer, like a good sergeant, and it's his girlfriend too. He'd have to work hard to find a new one, and he'd rather not. Not wishing to screw around, Frank walks by Gamaulte and the bodyguards, and nonchalantly punches the largest bodyguard right up the side of the head. That's our Thumper! The guard drops like a poleaxed ox, and Frank just keeps on walking. [Hey, what's the matter with Ralph? I don't know, he just fell right over!]

Two things stand out to Nicolai: the two men who are not dressed quite as nicely as the other people in the area, and the man wearing Imperial Marine combat boots, standing right across the street from the goldsmith's. He's wearing local clothing, and Nicolai can't see his hands. The Imperial is concentrating on the shop, and Nicolai walks in the man's direction, like he's going to walk by. The Imperial is not having a good day, and fails to see Nicolai due to the "superior" Solomani SEP field. Nicolai goes past the man and stops, right in front of a tea booth as luck would have it. He buys a cup of tea.

Frank is making his way towards the goldsmith's shop, but he fails to notice the Marine. Nicolai hears the Imperial say "Second target's in." Nicolai tries to subvocalize to Frank, who has a hard time understanding him. Nicolai: "Frank, you've been picked up." Frank stops to look in a shop window, and can see Nicolai in the reflection. Emma hears the message too, but there's not much she can do about it. Frank goes into the bookshop beside the tea stand, this time noticing the tall man in Imperial Marine boots, with Nicolai behind and to the side in his blind spot. Frank discreetly unfastens the safety strap on his holster, and picks up a copy of the local paper to put over his gun. Nicolai sees the Marine watch Frank and scratch his ear, then one of the men who had been on Emma crosses the street with a bundle, heading for Frank. Nicolai: "Frank, on your six." Frank turns to see a local coming his way with a package. He looks at the man's feet, and he's wearing odd boots, not something he's seen locally. Frank moves away from the counter, sliding his gun into the paper behind a shelf.

Nicolai does something he's wanted to do since arriving in the Marches: take out an Imperial Marine. Or at least try. The Marine notices a movement near him, just as Nicolai grabs his elbow and slams him into the stone wall. The man with the package dodges traffic and continues towards Frank, holding his package. Frank exits the shop and starts walking. Nicolai notices something fly out of the Marine's hand, but can't tell what it is. Nicolai moves the Marine over top of whatever he dropped, there's a small pop, and the man starts coughing. The man approaching Frank "trips", tossing his package through the air towards Frank, who intends to leap behind the nearest cover, but there isn't any. Fortunately for Frank, the opposition didn't do a good job of tossing, and he's closer to it than Frank is, especially since Frank has dropped to the ground.

Where Emma is, there's a bang and the windows rattle. Someone outside screams. Then there's Frank's yell of "Freeze! Police!!" Old habits die hard. Emma goes to the door to see what happened, and two men come up on her suddenly. One swings on her and misses, and the other one misjudges and hits her, but more lightly than he intended. Frank: "Emma!!" He runs across the road, since he can't see her past the two men in the doorway. Emma takes exception to being smacked on the side of the head, and kicks the man hard on the point of the hip. Then the shop security shows up and both men end up out on the sidewalk, although standing. Just. Frank and Nicolai arrive at this point. Nicolai hits one in the chest, but the man doesn't go down, and he returns the favor, kicking Nicolai right in the protective. Their both wearing armor, obviously, but Nicolai's really touchy about being kicked in that particular place. Frank's target runs into the crowd. Frank runs into the shop to see if Emma's okay. Frank: "Are you all right?" Emma: "Yes." Frank spins and chases into the crowd - what he does best. Meanwhile, Nicolai returns the favor, in spades.

Frank catches up with the man running through the crowd, finally getting him to stop before Frank has to shoot him. Frank: "All right, turn around." A real cop shows up. Cop: <to Frank> "Put your weapon down, please. <to the other man> And you, don't move." Frank holsters his weapon. Cop: "Thank you. Step back please." Frank steps up and shoves the bad guy into position on the ground, but the man drops and rolls, not continuing when he hears the clicks from the police guns. Frank can't resist, and he handcuffs the man before stepping back and letting the local cops take over. Nicolai watches as the package delivery man tries to escape while deaf and covered in black powder soot. The Marine eventually stops throwing up; he's an offworlder and will only be detained for questioning.

Everyone talks to the police, who come to the conclusion that it was an attempted robbery with Emma as the victim, and a planned distraction. Nicolai: "This one is average looking, and perhaps was looking for his next victim?" The cops search the bad guys. They come down to the shoes and one of the cops takes a loop of rope off his belt and hooks it around the man's neck, then ties his ankles. They do the same thing to all the guys with those boots. Hmmm.

Emma has purchased a small, delicate gold chain. This makes her a customer of the goldsmith, who is of course horrified that one of his patrons was assaulted. Accursed thieves! Frank sees Gamaulte across the street, talking to an officer, and pointing to Frank. The cop shrugs.

Nicolai: "Maybe we should go see Anders." Frank: "Yeah. <to Emma> We should have you looked at." Emma: "It's nothing. Maybe he was aiming for someone taller." Frank: "It doesn't look like nothing." Emma protests, but Frank takes her by the shoulders, turns her around, and shows her in the window. Emma: "Oh." The bruise is rather spectacular, but on return to the Metropol, Anders assures them it's not serious. They go to brief Myron. Myron: <to Emma> "My goodness! Are you all right?" Emma: "It's not as bad as it looks." Myron: "Did you see Oriana?" Emma: "Yes. She's all right, but she wants out of there now." Myron will make contact and start negotiations.

Back to the Metropole, Frank decides to speak to the concierge, and arranges for a "nurse" to visit Nicolai later, as the Solomani is just too much of a tight ass. Besides, he's been complaining about being too old for this stuff. Frank will personally make sure that Emma doesn't have any tight muscles.

Nicolai gets called. It's Evans, again. He wants to know is Nicolai is available yet? "Please?"