"A paranoid is a man who knows a little of what's going on."-- William Burroughs
Robert, having left Kiffin at Regina Trauma, walks to Clairidges to meet his real girlfriend. Hey, this chick isn't his concern! (Ah, the subtle influence of Regina wins out over the civilization of Rhylanor.) Will is summoned to Clairidges to have dinner with Bunny, Ariana, and Robert. Bunny: "I can't wait for you to see." Will: "See what?" Bunny: "You'll have to wait. I have a surprise for you." A good surprise??
After not too long a wait, Kiffin's injury is tended to. Doctor: "Okay, now if you take any of these for the pain, don't drink any alcohol unless you want to have a really, really good time. These may make you drowsy, and you'll be very susceptible to alcohol. The synthetic skin bandage will slough off by itself in a couple of days." Kiffin thanks the nice doctor and leaves for Clairidges, she did promise Mr. Black she'd go.
Kaeth returns to Sparkly Bits and Baubles to pick up Vrrefra for dinner, but she asks him to meet her in the lounge at Clairidges. She has to stop at home to change. Kaeth isn't at the bar for more than fifteen minutes when his date arrives. It seems she threw on something nice for the occasion, and most of it landed on her. Looks like she squeezed into some neat-looking metallic shrink wrap, applied a hair dryer, then rolled herself in tiny little rhinestones that reflect multi-hued, iridescent light. How she got into it so fast is beyond Kaeth, but woof! Vrrefra is also wearing a nice, spicy musky perfume. To humans. To Vargrs, it's "Hey You!" She slinks up to the bar, and her very appreciative date. She slides onto the bar stool and almost slides off, so Kaeth has to catch her. Just as she planned.
The other girls have arrived early in the dining room, and have a table. Will arrives first, and a couple of strange women are waving him over. Wait a minute, that might be Bunny...Will goes over to the table, and it is Bunny. And how! She's got a new hair color, and very glam makeup. Will is surprised at the platinum blonde he'll be sleeping with later. There's not a lot to the dress, so it must be expensive. Will hopes it's coming out of her account. It almost looks like dragon-skin, but it's white. Albino dragon - more expensive! Will: "You look stunning."
Robert, just a few minutes behind Will, sees him go over and sit down with some strange blonde. Then the other unknown woman with tasteful makeup, stunning crimson dress slit up the side, and very stylish, streaked blonde hair waves at Robert. Well, at least the bimbos Will's picked up look expensive. He goes over and it doesn't take any effort at all for Robert to effect the stunned look. Wow. He's never seen Ariana all primped up before. And after spending the day under Bunny's expert tutelage, Ariana is incredibly attractive. Bunny re-introduces everyone, and the waiter removes the martini glasses. Bunny isn't drinking, but Ariana is. Bunny just has a spritzer with a twist of lime.
It looks like Ariana's been drinking for two. She's very relaxed and friendly. Very friendly. Oh-oh. She's in a good mood and is complementing both Robert and Will. Oh, and Bunny looks wonderful too. Ariana isn't snockered, she's just lost some inhibitions and is relaxed. After ordering, but before dinner arrives, Robert gives Ariana the pendant he bought for her. She's thrilled, squeals, leaps up and plants several big kisses on Robert.
Kiffin arrives at Clairidges to find her table is waiting for her. She doesn't remember reserving a table, but when you've had as major a memory loss as Kiffin has dealt with, it's nothing to worry about. She's taken to a small table overlooking the table with Robert and two blondes, and another man, and is told that "the gentleman will be joining you later". Oh, the blonde that's hanging all over Robert must be the girlfriend the thugs thought Kiffin was. Which is silly, because neither one of the women at that table look like Kiffin. And since the blonde with Robert doesn't look like the female in the picture Mr. Black showed her, Kiffin doesn't realize that she's that Ariana person.
Bunny: "Well, what have you boys been up to?" Robert: "Oh, just took care of some ship's business, got mugged." Bunny: "Mugged? Well, that would account for the unusual bruise on your right wrist." Robert: "Bruise?" He looks. Yup, there's a bruise. Bunny: "I'm sure Will would tell you that's a bruise from being grabbed very hard by a human hand. Will, you're the expert, you tell him." Will: "Robert was there, dear. He'd know what happened." Bunny: "Oh, that's right! Do tell us." Robert: "Actually, they were terribly incompetent thugs..." Who are sitting at that table over there, with a gentleman in a white suit with a thin black tie and a mane of white hair. Robert: "And, that would be them over there, sitting with that man with white hair." Bunny: <to Will> "Dear, those are the men who assaulted Robert, can't you go arrest them?" Will: "No, I'm the coroner. But I could declare them not dead." Or he could autopsy them and make sure they weren't dead. Bunny: "Can't you do something? Badge them?" Will: "Put it this way, I expect the police to not chop up dead bodies, and I don't go around arresting people. If Robert wants them arrested, he can contact the police." Bunny: "But were they after something, or did they have a darker purpose?" The conversation continues through dinner, off and on.
One of the muggers waves at Robert. Robert waves back, with one figure extended. (Yes, that finger.) Kiffin sees the thugs, and the waving between them and Robert, although she can't tell how Robert waved. The people who asked Robert questions, and hit her. Maybe he knows them better than he's admitting? They're sitting with a man with a Dirk Savage tan, and smooth skin that's not quite right, like he's had too much bio-sculpting. Very lovely white hair, looks almost sculpted.
Robert: "Like I said, I wasn't impressed by their intelligence. They mistakenly abducted another blonde female with me." Ariana: "You were with another woman?" She gets a look in her eyes. Robert: "Perhaps we should have dessert." Ariana: "I'm not hungry. Who was this woman any way?" Robert sees someone who looks like the female in question, as she's being joined by an exquisitely dressed, average-looking man. Ariana sees where Robert is looking. Ariana: "Oh, is that her? Were you planning on joining her later? I'll be going to the ladies room." She storms off. Bunny goes after her to make sure she's okay.
Nothing is thrown, but Robert's girlfriend glares at him as she stalks off. Will's beeper goes off, he speaks briefly with Bunny then runs off. Leaving Robert all alone.
Mr. Black arrives when Kiffin is finishing her dessert. Black: "I'm sorry I'm late. Something came up that I had to handle personally." Kiffin: "Oh, that's all right." Black orders champagne, as it will go nicely with the elaborate, flaming dessert. For some reason, Kiffin has been getting a lot of personal attention from the staff. Black: "In any case. Have you met Mr. Shelzie?" He indicates Robert. Kiffin: "I didn't know his last name, but I met him earlier, with some very unpleasant men." Black: "Really?" Kiffin: "I think they thought I was his girlfriend, but I don't look anything like her." Black: "Well, I think she's not looking much like she does normally. I think she's been to the salon." Kiffin: "I still don't think I look like her. The men wanted something, but they wouldn't explain what it was." Black: "Yes, unfortunately Regina has a rather unpleasant aspect to it." Kiffin: "The men are over there, with that man in white." Black: "Hmm, locals. Independent security types." Kiffin: "One of them hit me." Black: "What? Good heavens, I see that now. I'll see to them later." Kiffin: "What's an attentuator?" Black: "I'm not sure." Kiffin: "That's what the men were looking for. They said it was on board Mr. Shelzie's ship." Black: "I don't know, but that's certainly something worth finding out. Mr. Shelzie seems to be alone. Why don't we join him?"
Black escorts Kiffin over to Robert's table. Black: "Ah, Mr. Shelzie. We meet again. It seems we have similar tastes in restaurants." Robert: "Mr. Black." Black: "Have you met my particular friend, Miss Brevette?" Robert: "Yes, under rather unfortunate circumstances. What can I do for you, Mr. Black?" Black: "Oh nothing. It looked like you were here by yourself. Although it appears the others departed rather abruptly." Robert: "Well, I'm afraid my particular friend didn't take well to my being mugged." Yeah right, that's what ticked her off. Black: "Oh, is she from Rhylanor too?" Robert: "No. You remember Miss Smith." Black: "Ah yes. Well, how are you finding Regina?" Robert: "Better than the last planet I was on." Black: "That's good. You know, Kiffin is quite familiar with all the interesting places here. If you were looking to divert yourself, I'm sure she can recommend something. I know travelling by ship can be rather tedious." Robert: "Actually, I find it very comfortable. But now I suppose the gentlemen at the other table are expecting us to pick up whatever it is they're after." A waiter comes over, whispers something to Mr. Black. Black: "Would you excuse me?" He gets up and leaves Robert alone with Kiffin.
Ariana emerges. She walks up, very calm and cool, and out of nowhere, she slaps Robert across the front of the face hard enough to cause a bloody nose and a resounding whack that can be heard across the restaurant. Ariana then walks over to a gentleman sitting at another table alone, says something Robert can't hear, then walks off with him. Robert stands up, says "If you'll excuse me", takes the napkin, and leaves for the ship.
Meanwhile, in the lounge, Kaeth sees someone who looks vaguely familiar come in with a man. She smells somewhat familiar, and the voice is definitely Ariana's. She's with a man who looks rather bewildered as Ariana orders and knocks back several bourbons. Oh-oh.
Bunny emerges from the bathroom to find no Robert, no Ariana, and a blonde stranger at the table. Bunny: "Oh, I'm sorry, I must be at the wrong table. No, this is the right table. Do I know you?" Kiffin: "I don't think so. My name is Kiffin. Your friends left. I think Robert's girlfriend was angry, possibly because of me, but I'm not sure." Oh, I'm Caroline Delgado, but all my friends call me Bunny." Kiffin: "I'm pleased to meet you, and I apologize for the interruption." Bunny: "No, no, that's all right. I'm all by myself, and my husband has been called away on official business. Please join me." Kiffin: "All right." Bunny: "After all, we have these lovely desserts that would just go to waste." Waste chocolate mousse? From Clairidges? Egad no.
Ariana is drinking like a fish and talking up a storm to the poor confused man. Kaeth: "Miss Smith?" Ariana: "Kaeth?" She gets up and sways over to where Kaeth is sitting. Kaeth: "Uh, where's Robert?" Ariana: "That f***ing bastard." She sits down next to him. Ariana: "Bartender." She points down, puts and arm around Kaeth. Ariana: "Why are men such bastards?" Vrrefra is rather bemused by this turn of events. Ariana is on her third double Scotch, and has buried her face in Kaeth's fur. Ariana: "Why are men like that? Why do they do things like that? Why can't they be like you, all soft and furry?" There's still that poor bewildered man at the other table, but he takes the opportunity to sneak away. Vrrefra: "This seems like a bad time. Maybe we should re-schedule. Here's my home number. Call me." She ignores Kaeth's yelp of dismay, puts a card on the bar for him, and takes the lusciously sparkly body of hers (that she was willing to share) away. Arrrgh! This is all Robert's fault. Kaeth will just have to kill him. Ariana is rambling about how Robert has done her wrong. Something about him "having another woman waiting in the wings". The bastard. Kaeth: "No chance they could have been just friends?" Ariana: "She didn't have the just friends look. I know a painted hussy when I see one. [Ouch!] They're probably together right now. Consummating their - their - whatever it is they're consummating. You know! I should have known. You know what those pilots are like. I should have known better, I thought he cared about me." Kaeth: "He'll probably come crawling back. Why don't we get you back to your ship?" Ariana: "No, they might be there. Can you help me find a hotel or something?" Kaeth: "Sure." He takes her to the Ambassadore, since it's more high tech, more Ariana, and there was that annoying issue with the last person Kaeth checked in to Clairidges
being carted off by the police.
Bunny is talking about some friend of hers, named Rex, who's a doctor. It's not her husband, he's named Will. Kiffin doesn't realize she's hearing the next installment of the Rex Ruskin - Crime Doctor series. Bunny: "...Rex was the only one who noticed the slight indentation on the index finger..." which indicates that the grenade was thrown left-handed. Fascinating, but kind of confusing.
In the lobby of the Ambassadore, Ariana sits down, fishes around in the little purse and pulls out a wad of money. Ariana: "Here, you take care of it." A man with a waxed mustache and a deep tan is watching. Somewhat intoxicated female, obviously had her heart broken, lots of money... He's dissuaded by the vicious Vargr boyfriend. Or vicious Vargr bodyguard. Note the vicious. Kaeth arranges for a room, and two keys. When he does, he locates Ariana, who is in the lounge, drinking again. Kaeth is starting to get concerned about alcohol poisoning. And there's some slick guy with her. Gigolo: "...when my wife died..." He seems really sensitive, but Ariana's not paying much attention. He puts his arm around the back of her chair, she grabs his wrist and puts it on the bar, not gently. Then she glares at him. He is after all, a man. Like Robert. The bastard. The slick guy goes to join a compatriot, muttering something about "lesbian". Ariana is working on shots, and tells the bartender to "leave the bottle". Bartender: "You're going to have to take care of the tab, miss." She looks in her purse, but she gave Kaeth all her money. Things are looking bad when Kaeth arrives and pays the tab. Ariana: <to Kaeth> "Did you get a room?" Kaeth: "Yes, I got a room." Mr. Sensitive guy is looking over at his friend with a "what did I tell you" expression. Kaeth takes her out of the bar and towards the room. Ariana: "Thanks for taking care of me, you're a really good friend." Kaeth's nice, and warm, and furry, and being drooled on.... And that's just in the elevator. Kaeth gets her into the room. Ariana: "You're not going to go are you? I don't want to be alone." Kaeth: "I'll stay for a bit."
Back in Clairidges, without the men. Bunny: "So, what do you have planned for tonight?" Kiffin: "I'm not sure. Nothing's turned out the way I was expecting." Bunny: "I know what you mean. I'm in the same position. Want to hang out?" Kiffin: "All right." Bunny: "You look so serious, you look like you haven't been having a good time today. You need to get out and have some fun. I know!" Bunny whisks Kiffin away, and hails a cab. Bunny: "Two attractive women like us, we deserve a night out. I know, let's go to the Purple Oyster, or Discarding Sabot. Any preference?" Kiffin: "I don't think I've never been to the Purple Oyster..." Bunny: "The Oyster it is, then!"
Kiffin has had a pain pill (it didn't hurt until the doctor started poking around), and one glass of champagne. So, it's more like three or four glasses of champagne. Bunny of course, doesn't drink alcohol (that's a whole different problem), but is enjoying the dancing and carousing. The club has a live dance band, and the place is rocking. There's a bit of the "hey, baby, what's your sign" stuff, but mostly just people having fun. Bunny doesn't dance with the same person twice, and she sits out the slow dances. Just harmless fun. People come over and chat, drinks will be bought for Bunny and Kiffin - little fizzy things and the like. Everyone is really pleasant, and the fruity drinks are good tasting. It's spread out over several hours, and Kiffin just has a nice glowy buzz on. Nothing serious. A happy time is had by all.
On the other hand, Robert goes on board his ship, and locks the door. He hears thumping coming from aft. He goes to the bridge and finds a box with a bunch of spaghetti wires connected to the keypad that controls the door to the bridge. The bridge door is open, and nothing's in it. Robert goes onto the bridge, and brings the engineering 'bot on line. He gets RoboVision. He sets it to passive thermals so it won't bring up any lights. This version is set for engineering purposes, very colorful but without much definition. The robot is fully charged. Robert has it unhook from the recharging station and move out into the corridor. Robert draws the 10mm from beside the pilot's chair as he hears "What the fuck is that?!" over the radio, then gunshots. Hey, they're shooting his robot! [No, they're shooting his girlfriend's robot.] He has the 'bot turn on it's plasma cutter, as it's taken some damage.
Robert locks down everything between engineering and the bridge, switches the vid to regular, thanks to the light from the cutter, and uses it to herd the men towards the bridge. He orders the robot to lock itself down, then he turns off the gravs, but the ship's docked. Whoops - forgot about that. He removes the electronic box from the bridge hatch as carefully as he can, but there's sparking and all the power goes off. Damn. From inside the bridge, but not in the doorway, Robert calls out to the intruders. Robert: "Is there something I can help you gentlemen with?" Voice: "He's on the bridge!" Racking of slides and actions. Since they have shotguns, Robert's not going to wait. Both sides fire simultaneously, the intruders nothing more than backlit shadows. One of them staggers and falls. Robert's pretty sure he got one. There's a satisfying groan of pain. There's a boom, stuff ricocheting around, then a boomf, and something whooshes by Robert like a softball and bounces around inside the bridge. Robert: "Shit!" He dives out just as the grenade goes off. He's momentarily backlit and airborne. He hurtles down the corridor, but actually takes not a scratch of damage from the shrapnel. <insert golf clap here>
Robert picks himself up off the ground, his gun a couple of feet away from him over by the moaning guy. Voice: "He lost his gun!" They saw it skitter across the floor. One of the intruders turns to the left, fires again and there's a thunk over at the starboard airlock. The other man is providing covering fire. Robert is hit in the upper leg by buckshot, at optimum range. It's bad. Good thing the bad guys just take off. Robert crawls toward the bridge and the emergency button. It's a long, long way, and Robert loses consciousness briefly several times along the way. It's very heroic. And really messy.
At about the time Robert reaches the emergency call button, the authorities show up to find out why the ship is without power, and was the site of gunfire. But it stopped long enough ago for it to be safe to check. Cop: "That's okay buddy, you're going to make it." Robert mumbles something about locking down the ship, and gets a vague picture of a hairy hand slipping his watch off and into a pocket.
Some time later, Robert wakes up in Regina Trauma. He's questioned by a man in a suit. Robert gives him as much information as he can, but it's not much. Robert: "I was trying to herd them out of the ship with the robot, as I didn't want to get too close to them." Investigator: "Do you know why some one would be breaking into your ship?" Robert: "No." Investigator: "Were you carrying any valuable cargo?" Robert: "No, we don't have any cargo right now."
Kaeth had called the ship earlier and left a message for Robert to call about Ariana. Kaeth gets a call at home, waking him up, from a female human. Woman: "Is this Kaeth?" Kaeth: "Yes. May I help you?" Woman: "Yes, I'm returning your call. You left a message." She holds up her Starport Authority badge. Oh. Kaeth: "I'm looking for Robert." Officer: "Oh. Are you a friend of Mr. Shelzie?" Kaeth: "Yes. I was trying to get in touch with him." Officer: "Do you know where we can locate the owner of record of the Ruby, one Ariana Smith?" Kaeth: "Yes." He tells her where she can meet him to talk, if she likes. Officer: "We'd like her to come down to the station. We're investigating the shooting of Mr. Robert Shelzie, by person or persons unknown." Kaeth: "Shooting?" Officer: "Yes sir. I can't give out any details, of course." Kaeth: "I'll have her get in touch with you as soon as possible." He hangs up, calls Ariana's room. No answer. He goes to the hotel, and hears moaning and thumping. He uses his spare key, opens the door and hears a woman's scream, cut short. Kaeth enters, gun drawn. Ariana is half off the bed, looking pasty and sweaty. She's apparently had a nightmare, but has now gone back to sleep. She has a slight nosebleed, but otherwise seems as all right as she should be, given the amount of alcohol consumed earlier. Kaeth manages to wake Ariana up, but she's still drunk. Ariana: "Oh, Kaeth...Is it serious? How much battery power do we have?" Kaeth: "About 90%." Ariana: "Okay, I'll put on my vac suit..." She rolls over, starts to snore, and drools lightly. Sigh. Kaeth orders her up a neo-denim jumpsuit. For later. Kaeth goes downstairs and orders coffee.
In the café, he runs into a couple of Vargrs he knows. He's given a bad time about being with a human, how much does she charge, there are some things only human women will do.... All in good fun. Kaeth eventually distracts them by asking about missing members of their merc unit. It gets quiet for a minute, and they toast a fallen comrade. They're obviously coming back from a successful but expensive mission. Kaeth gets pulled into the toasts to those who were lost, but is able to extricate himself and go home.
Nothing bad happens at the Purple Oyster. Eventually, a cab is called. Bunny drops Kiffin off in front of the Jasmine Club. She stumbles a bit, but she's just really happy. The night doorman is very sweet, and helps her inside. He's very nice. She tells him so.
Kiffin wakes up the next morning. She has no hangover upon waking up in bed in her pajamas. Actually, she's feeling okay. There's a slight sensation that everything (brains, organs, etc.) isn't exactly attached completely, but it's not really an unpleasant feeling. She remembers the doorman, but not someone giving her something to drink and putting her to bed.
Kaeth wakes up after a nap feeling not bad, but he managed to not drink much. He has a headache, and is rather bleary-eyed, but not bad. He calls Clairidges, to check if Miss Smith is still in her room. She is. He goes over, bag of ice in hand, to Ariana's room. She's on her back, in the royal position, snoring happily. She has a slight bruise on her forehead, probably from thrashing around on the bed. Ariana: "Hello?" She's hoarse, bleary-eyed, and naked. Kaeth turns off the vid at his end. Ariana: "Yes?" Kaeth: "Miss Smith, you have a neo-denim jumpsuit there, you might want to get into it." Ariana: "What time is it?" He tells her. Ariana: "Oh God." Kaeth: "There's also some aspirin there on the nightstand. I'll speak with you later." He then calls the police to let them know where Ariana is. Let them give her the bad news.
A bit later, Ariana barrels into Robert's hospital room all apologetic-like. Robert reassures her. But he does notice the bruise on her forehead. It's like the bruise on the guy who tried to hire the ship. What the heck is that all about? Ariana: "...If Kaeth hadn't of been there for me, I don't know what I would have done."
The police contact Kaeth to see if knows anything. He doesn't know why the ship was broken into. Detective: "What kind of cargo were you transporting?" Kaeth: "Nothing now that I'm aware of. I'm not regular ship's crew. Their last piece of cargo was a piece of art for a local collector." Detective: "A very expensive piece of art? I know you weren't the captain, but you must have heard things. It's an expensive ship to hire for a piece of art." Kaeth: "It was a painting. The collector wanted it. That's all I know." Detective: "Hodges, run down that art collector angle. See if there are any collectors who might be buying hot art." Poor Hodges.
Ariana: "I'm so sorry. I saw you with that other woman and ....I'm sure it was totally innocent." Robert: "It was a misunderstanding." Robert is able to calm her down. Now she's going to take care of him, it's her matronly duty and sense of obligation. Robert: "Do you know why someone would have tossed the ship?" Ariana: "No. I'll check it out after the police let me have access. Don't worry, I'll take care of it. The important thing is that you're going to be all right. "
Who were those guys??