"Today, if you are not confused, you are just not thinking clearly."-- U. Peter

286 to 287-1123.

The call that pulled Will away from dinner was nothing too outré. So why did they call the coroner? Because it was an off-planet noble who committed suicide. By stabbing himself, six times, in the back. With a needle-sharp weapon. In spite of the note left on the active terminal, Will is less than convinced it was suicide. Such a sceptic.

Upon examination of the body, Will is able to ascertain that the victim was in fact dead before he was stabbed - he'd been poisoned. Well, that's excessive. Will is able to rule out suicide and determine that the death was attributable to murder. The poison was something very low tech - something not easily obtained on UpPort. Someone went to the trouble of special ordering this stuff. It's easy enough work to find out that it was obtained from a garden supply place, and special ordered by only one person in the last year - the long-suffering butler of the deceased. The butler, when confronted, admits it. Butler: "He had it coming, the bastard." That doesn't explain the stab wounds, but at this point it would desecration of a corpse rather than murder, so it's not all that important.

Will comes home after Bunny, who tells him that she "went to the Purple Oyster with Kiffin Brevette". Will: "I don't think I know her." Bunny: "She's a lovely person, we'll have to have her over for tea. You'd like her. She's very interesting. I think she might have amnesia or something. Do you have any books on amnesia I could read?" Will: "You're welcome to use the library dear." Bunny: "I wonder if it's some kind of psychological thing? Was she in an accident? Or was it some sort of traumatic event that she's blocked out?" But Will doesn't want to talk shop. He's tired and cranky, and hungry. Bunny's hungry too, but she's already eaten dinner. Bunny: "If I order take-out now, it should just take long enough..." Will: "If we order off the tube, then fine. I don't want some delivery boy pounding on my door at the wrong moment." Bunny orders some pâté and other snacky bits. She does have a bottle of champagne chilling in the refrigerator. But then again, she always does.

A fine time is had, at least here. Bunny ends up purring happily next to Will. He made her meow...


We last left Kaeth speaking with the nice policemen. The soon to be late Mr. Hodges had been sent off to investigate the art collector angle. Poor bugger. Ariana is making up with Robert in Regina Trauma. Nothing like almost getting killed to make the girlfriend forget about being angry.

Bunny reads the paper, looking for interesting ideas for her next book. Bunny: "Oh, here's that Mr. Shelzie!" Will: "What Mr. Shelzie?" Bunny: "Was that after you left?" Will: "I was at dinner with Mr. Shelzie, dear." Bunny: "Apparently he was assaulted last night. On board his ship." Will: "Oh, is he still alive? Must be, they didn't page me." Bunny: "Yes, it says here he was taken to Regina Trauma. Look." There are grisly photos of the crime scene in The Examiner - an UpPort newsfax, new to Regina. It's free, and has lots of weird advertising. Newsworthy, but with an edge. Really. Bunny: "Should we send a card? I hope Ariana is all right." Will: "Yes, you should send a card, that would be nice."

On his hospital terminal a few minutes later, Robert gets an e-card. It's got a huggy bear on it, and hearts float up as it plays happy music. That would be Bunny. One would not expect the wife of the coroner to send something quite so...cutesy. Life is just full of surprises.

Bunny: "I think I'll go pay Robert a visit. Unless you have other plans?" Not really, it is Sixday, so Will is only on-call. Bunny: "Did you want to come with? Maybe we could find out who did it?" Will: "Bunny...That's the job of the police." Bunny: "It can't hurt to ask questions. We might notice something the police missed. Pleeeease?" Will: "Okay, we'll go to the hospital as long as I don't have to actually visit Robert. I'll go hang out with some of the staff." Like Dr. Auschlander. Bunny puts on some appropriately cheery clothing.

Kaeth is cut loose, and sends flowers to Vrrefra. Then he goes home, bleary-eyed and feeling scruffy. And annoyed. He's down for a nap.

Kiffin still wants to find the blonde woman Mr. Black wanted her to check up on, and the only way she can think of doing that is to check on the ship he mentioned - the Ruby. After an uneventful walk to the docking bay, Kiffin arrives to find police officers, dried red material on the decking, and crime scene tape. Oh dear. Looks like the police are just finishing up, collecting empty shotgun shells. The main hatch is open, allowing the interior of the ship to be seen. There's no chalk outline, but someone dragged something bloody through there. Disappointed people are wandering off muttering about "no body". Detective: "Right, well we're done here. Let's go." They shut and seal the hatches, take down the barricades, and leave. Well, this isn't good. Somebody from bay maintenance comes out to wash down the blood that made it out onto the actual bay. He sprays liquid from a spritzer bottle and the blood disappears. Hey, that stuff's handy!

Robert will be discharged to out-patient status as soon as they run a few more tests. The doctor leaves and is very deferential to the lady on her way in - Mrs. Delgado. Bunny comes in, a big smile on her face. Will is going to have to get used to the new look, but as far as Robert knows, this is how Bunny always looks. She's brought Robert some red carnations, a helium balloon, and a small stuffed bear. It's from Bunny, so it probably won't explode. Bunny: "Hi, I heard you weren't feeling well. These are for you. Oh, and here are some chocolates. Hello Ariana." Robert: "Hello." Bunny: "I'm so sorry, what happened? The newsfax didn't say much, just that you'd been brutally gunned down." Robert: "Some people tried to break into the ship." Bunny: "I wonder if it had anything to do with those men you saw in Clairidges, the ones with that man with the white hair." Robert: "I really couldn't tell. It was too dark." Bunny: "How are you feeling?" Robert: "Not bad this morning." Bunny: "And how are your holding up, Ariana." She gives her a big hug. Ariana doesn't like people hugging her - personal space issues! Personal space issues!!

Bunny does eventually stop hugging. Bunny: "Will had some things to do, or he would have stopped by himself." Robert: "Not in a professional capacity, I hope." Bunny: "What? Oh!" Much laughter. Robert: "I'm looking forward to getting back to the ship. And somebody took my watch." Bunny: "What? Hospital staff?" Robert: "No, before I got here." Bunny: "Perhaps you just misplaced it." Robert: "No, I remember it being taken off my wrist during one of my more lucid moments." Bunny: "That's the problem with parts of Regina, I'm afraid. I know, why don't you come to our place for dinner? Tonight! I'm sure you're tired of hospital food, and it would be much more intimate. Besides, I'm sure by now your ship is all sealed up, what with the police investigation and all." Robert looks at Ariana, who looks at Robert. She's floundering around like a boat without a rudder in the midst off all this social stuff. Bunny: "Oh, it's settled. You must come. Say, seven?" It's 10 in the morning, currently. Robert: "Sure, seven will be fine." Bunny: "Wonderful. I'll see you tonight then." She bounces off merrily.

Will has been visiting his mentor, Dr. Auschlander. The latter doesn't really approve of Will giving up a promising career as a neurosurgeon to go into forensics, but perhaps it's just a phase. Dr. Auschlander: "I meant to bring this up. I know it's not exactly your concern, but some material is missing from my lab." Will: "Really? What sort of things?" Dr. Auschlander: "Some nutrient solution, neural stasis, various hormonal extracts and solutions. Things we use to preserve some of the tissue samples we work with." Will: "That doesn't sound like the usual drug thefts." Dr. Auschlander: "I agree. Unless some one is growing a brain in their fish tank, it's not very useful, but it is expensive." Will: "What about organleggers?" Dr. Auschlander: "They're usually not interested in the brain." Will: "Could someone from inside the hospital be responsible?" Dr. Auschlander: "It's possible, but we've never had a theft like this before." Will: "Do you have any new research assistants?" Dr. Auschlander: "No, but it's not kept under any serious security." Will: "But you'd have to know it's there to steal it." Dr. Auschlander: "Here, I'll show you where the material was kept." He takes Will into the research lab, and shows him how someone smashed in the glass door of the cabinet and took five items out of twenty-five.

Will: "How were the containers marked?" Dr. Auschlander: "With the scientific name or molecular formula. I thought they were just looking for drugs or something." Will: "No, they took items too specifically. If they were looking for drugs they would have just taken everything." Dr. Auschlander: "That's what I thought. But I mean, sterile cerebral-cortex solution? The police took a report, and they didn't suspect anything sinister." It's Regina. Always expect something sinister.

Kiffin is at the starport, wondering what to do know. She gets the odd spider-sense tingling she's had occasionally and turns around. A man across the street is staring intently at her. He looks like he hasn't been getting enough sleep, and he has a circular bruise on his forehead. Not someone she remembers knowing. He's wearing a rumpled trench coat that looks like he's been not-sleeping in it. Kiffin goes over towards him. When she gets within 10' of the man, he starts screaming. Kiffin steps back, then goes to a terminal to call for help. She tells the operator that there's a man on the corner clutching his head and screaming like he's in pain. Oh wait, he stopped. She looks out, and he's now on the ground, not moving. Help is on the way.

Mere moments later, emergency vehicles show up. A police officer examines the body. Cop: "Yup, he's dead." He goes over to speak with Kiffin. Cop: "Are you the one who called it in?" Kiffin: "Yes." Cop: "What happened?" She tells him. Cop: "Well, you'd better come along and speak with the detectives, just in case." Kiffin: "All right." She's put into the back of the police car (ew - it's very unpleasant back there) and driven "downtown".

Out of the police car, into the precinct. Lots of the usual suspects, tired and rumpled cops, etc. Kiffin is taken over to a haggard looking woman in her 40's (approximately). She is most certainly plain, and her clothing doesn't help. She's slumped in her seat, a dopestick dangling on her lip, a cup of dark oily liquid slowly eating it's way through the bottom of her dingy ceramic cup with the logo of some doughnut shop on it. Detective Burns: "Have a seat." She sweeps the seat mostly clean. Kiffin sits down on the cheap, injection molded plastic version of the wooden institutional chair, having to sort of perch on the edge to avoid the little nub in the middle that didn't get filed down properly when the chair was extruded. This place is almost completely exactly unlike the Jasmine Club in every aspect. The ivory walls are in theory white, or at least may have been, briefly, some time ago. The man at the next detective's desk, in furs and gold chains, is using the wastebasket to revisit breakfast.

Detective Burns: "Don't pay him any mind." She gets Kiffin's particulars. Detective Burns: "How long had you known the deceased?" Kiffin: "I didn't." Detective Burns: "Well, tell me what happened?" She does, exactly as she told the original officer. She's given a statement to sign. She reads it, then signs. She's thanked, and told which way is out. She leaves, having spent only a few hours of her time in the tender care of Regina's finest. They need a better precinct house. Or maybe a Pikhan housekeeper.

Kaeth got Vrrefra's answering machine when he called. He left a message, and did not whimper. When he gets up he gets in the lovely fresher to wash and fluff. One of the problems with Planet X was the lack of freshers. He's been off planet for a while, so he runs through the spam messages and deletes them. Time to go to the clinic and check in with Anders.

It's been quiet on Regina lately. Even the clinic is quiet. Which means Reid isn't there. Actually, Reid is quiet when he's there. Very quiet. He can sit quietly for hours, staring intently at you and not blinking. Anders: "It's quiet today, I don't need any help. If you're looking for Reid, he'll be back shortly." Kaeth: "Well, gotta go. Bye."

Kaeth takes a look at the local rags on his way back to the mall. The Tattler banner proclaims "Brain-sucking Fiend Loose on UpPort!" The Examiner has a small article telling about how "Robert Shelzie, of Rhylanor, was brutally gunned down in a hail of gunfire". Not that there's any other kind of hail up here. A companion piece states "Crime rate at an all time low. Commissioner credits locking up criminals with the drop." Well that would help, yes. In the article, Globber is quoted as saying "We have in fact, determined that 80% of the crimes are committed by 5% of criminals." Oddly enough, the police department budget is coming up for review soon. The crime rate seems to reflect this schedule...

Kaeth decides to check up on Robert. There's a knock on Robert's door. Ariana peeks on the monitor. Robert: "Okay, anyone I know?" Ariana: "Kaeth. Shall I tell him to come in?" Robert: "Sure, but I'll need a bulletproof vest first. Just kidding." Kaeth is let in. Kaeth: "Hey, Robert. Ariana." Robert: "Hello." His leg is in a brace, and he has an aluminum cane. He'll have to get a spiffier one himself. Robert: "What do you need?" Kaeth: "I was wondering if anyone asked you about some unknown bauble you might have been carrying besides the painting?" Robert: "Let's get me checked out, and then we'll discuss this." Kaeth: "Okay."

Robert gets his clothing, and his expensive wheelchair ride to the door. He limps off, towards the docking bays. It's a long walk. Kaeth: "We could call a cab." They walk. Robert shows the odd drawing to Ariana. It doesn't look familiar to her. Robert is worried about the bruise on her forehead. He shows the drawing to Kaeth. Kaeth: "Great. You now have something for the weird excreta file." Robert: "We need to stop by the STA to see about getting back on board our ship."

Will gets paged. He calls in and is told it's "nothing that can't wait, just a heads up. Two bodies, one a transient. No known cause of death, just grabbed his head and fell over. Probably got some bad sterno. The other one was an off-planet type, tall skinny, dark guy. No signs of cause of death, other than the fact that his brain is missing." Will goes into his office. The off-worlder has nice clothing, and an air-tax bracelet. And technically, the whole brain hasn't been removed, just the pineal gland and the area of tissue right around it. It was removed by someone who knew what they were doing. Now what would they use a pineal gland for?? The man is definitely Zhodani, and he has very light marks around his head, like he habitually wore some sort of hat, or turban (or a tiara and tutu, for that matter). Will isn't able to find a record of this man arriving on Regina. At least not legally. Besides the corpse also has a distinct lack of cerebral spinal fluid. Could have leaked out, but there should be something left. Nothing on his clothing, and whoever cut into him did a very neat, tidy job. Not a crazed barber, maybe a crazed neurosurgeon. Sub-cutaneous, healed marks on his head would fit with the training of an adept, from what Will has learned. That would fit in with the turban thing.

Will tries to research psionics and the pineal gland, but it's hard to find any material on the subject, what with the psionic suppression and all. He asks Dr. Auschlander's opinion on the matter. Dr. Auschlander: "Ah, yes. The third eye, window to the soul, mystic powers. Some studies have linked a mutation of the pineal gland to certain psionic abilities, but that was never proven. The psionic suppression eliminated a lot of material, and research into the subject has not been active. I'm only going on what I've read in the past. I might be able to point you to a few people at the university, but keep in mind, anyone who's doing that sort of research is going to be very cautious. I wish I could tell you more. Do you have something going on? Something interesting? It's the same thing as usual here." Oh great, just what Will needs - another enthusiastic amateur sleuth!

At the STA office, Robert and Ariana find out that the ship is to remain sealed until they complete their investigation. Desk Sergeant: "I can put you in touch with the detective in charge of the case if you like?" Robert: "Yes." It's a matter of filling out the correct forms, paperwork has to go from one desk to another, get signed, etc. It should be done by later tonight. Ariana: "Here, will this make it go any faster?" She tosses a handful of money onto the counter. Ooh, tactful! Sergeant: "Are you trying to bribe me?" Robert: "No, no. This is merely a contribution for the Widows and Orphans Fund." Sergeant: "We don't take collections for that here. Take your money." Robert takes it before the nice man arrests them. Sergeant: "Is there a number we can reach you at? They should be done today." Robert leaves him number, thanks the man, then gets Ariana out of there.

Checking for messages, Kaeth discovers he has a new one, but not from the person he was hoping. An unidentified male voice has left the following: "Mr. Kaeth. At your convenience, but as soon as possible, I would like to discuss a proposal that should be to our mutual benefit." Kaeth calls from a public terminal in the STA office, wondering if the phone will ring on a desk in here. Nope. No video, either. Voice: "Yes?" Kaeth: "This is Kaeth.... I was told to call." Voice: "I'd like to discuss a business proposition with you. Can you meet me at the Panda in an hour?" Kaeth: "Yes." Click. Kaeth knows of only one Panda on UpPort - the Nasty Panda. Kaeth: "I may have a line on some work." Robert: "Have fun."

Kaeth attends the meeting, armed and sceptical. This makes him like everyone else. It's loud and raucous in the Panda, as usual. Money is being stuffed in many places. A man in rumpled clothes sits down at Kaeth's table. He doesn't look directly at Kaeth. Man: "Mr. Kaeth?" Kaeth: "Yes." Man: "I understand you were on the Ruby." Kaeth: "Yes, I was on the Ruby. No, I don't have whatever the thing is you're looking for, and no, I don't know where it is." Man: "But perhaps you can find out. Perhaps this would enhance your curiosity." He sets the traditional, fat manila envelope down on the table. Kaeth: "You can get better service from an investigator. I'm just a trauma medic." Man: "A trauma medic with some interesting past experiences. A trauma medic conducting business on an interdicted, low-tech world. I'm looking for something that looks like this." He takes out a picture of some sort of crystalline object. It looks sort of like the drawing Robert has. Kaeth: "And how would I tell the original?" Man: "It is an unusual cut. Geometric." Kaeth: "How do I make contact with you?" Man: "You have a number. It would be very, very worth your while. This is a down payment." He slides the envelope over. Man: "You might want to talk to your other passengers. I wouldn't waste any time with the female, she doesn't know anything. Ariana. Or Barada." He gets up and walks towards the door. On the way, he bumps into a big guy who takes umbrage. He hits the odd man in the head. His head snaps back but he continues out the door. The big man sits down, surprised.

Will is back in his office. He hears someone trying the door. He takes the pistol out of his desk drawer. There's rattling of the doorknob. Will gets on the intercom Will: "What do you want?" Man: "Are you opening? I was told my friend might be here." Will: "We open on Monday. Who told you your friend would be here?" Man: "A policeman." Will: "Did he give you a case number?" Man: "I have copy of a form. Where number would be?" Will: "Upper right corner." The man reads off a number, sounds right. Will: "Okay, where would you like the body sent?" Man: "To the ship. To docking bay...uh..." He has trouble with the numbers, but eventually gets it out. Man: "You know who is doing this thing?" Will: "No, that's the job of the police." Man: "You open on Monday. I can come get the body Monday, yes?" Will: "You can get the body now if you want. You just need to make the arrangements with the funeral home." Man: "I am thanking you." Will remember, as the man turns to walk away, to hit the button that records off the security camera outside the door there. Will: "Memo to self - Next time push the record button first."

After about an hour, Will hears something in the outer office. Will picks up the gun. Will: "Claire?" No response. Will comes into the room and there's a man standing there. He's an average-sized man with some sort of apparatus on his head. Will vaguely hears his gun clatter to the floor. The man walks over to Will, whose body isn't obeying its owner's commands. Will gets the feeling of someone looking for something. He's stuck there watching the man who's wearing a band with a little container on the front of it, with tubes. Some kind of yellow stuff bubbling through, but it's not transparent so he can't see if there's a pineal gland. Then he feels everything go dark.

At some point later on, Will wakes up. He has a mother of a headache, and he's nauseous. Bugger. He drags himself over to the desk, and calls Mr. Black on the terminal. Will: "Mr. Black, it's time to have a meeting." Black: "Are you all right, Dr. Delgado?" Will: "I don't think so." Black: "Is that a bruise on your forehead?" Will: <looking in mirror> "Yes." Black: "Don't move. I'll send someone right over. Don't go anywhere!" Will: "Furthest thing from my mind." Or what's left of it.

Two men in suits arrive, post haste. One of them, the older man, takes out restraints and apparently intends to use them on Will. Martin: "It's for your own protection. You may have already been compromised." Will: "May I see some ID first?" Martin shows an appropriate ID. It glows. The shackles are put on Will, then Martin takes out an auto-injector. Will: "What is that?" Phil (the younger agent): "Nothing you need to be concerned about." Will: "I'm a doctor, that's going into my bloodstream. I'd like to know." Martin: "Something to make you relax." Will: "I can understand the big words, you know." Martin: "To be honest, Dr. Delgado, I don't know. I was told to give you 20 cc's." He sets the auto-injector to 20 cc's, letting Will set what he's doing. Martin: <to Phil> "Cover him, just in case."

Will hears the door behind them open, the outside door. Bunny is sashaying in. Timing is everything. Phil: "Freeze!" Will: "Don't shoot! Don't shoot! It's my wife. Bunny, you need to go home." Phil: "She doesn't need to go anywhere." Will: "She doesn't need to be handcuffed, she doesn't need to be restrained. If you hurt her, Mr. Black will be displeased." Phil: "I don't think the boss will care." Will: "Don't think, it's outside your job description. Just take me to Mr. Black." Phil: "What do you think? What do we do with her?" Martin: "Shoot her full of Mem-wipe." Bunny: "Stand back, I've been taking Tai-chi." She takes an appropriate stance. Phil rolls his eyes. Phil: "Come on, Fluffy, or Bunny, or whatever your name is." Bunny tenses and readies herself as he comes near her with an auto-injector. Will: "Bunny, don't!"

At this moment, Kiffin happens to walk by on her way back from the police station. She hears raised voices from the Coroner's office, according to the sign, which is odd considering it's the weekend. Martin: "It's all right, miss. Don't resist." Bunny: "What are you doing to my husband?!" As Phil comes towards her, Bunny kicks his hand and the auto-injector goes flying. Kiffin enters the room to see Will, Bunny, and two men. One of the men has a gun on Will (who's in shackles) and has an auto-injector in the other hand with some sort of glowing liquid. The other man (Phil) has his fist cocked back (like someone who knows what he's doing) to hit Bunny. Well, that's not right! Kiffin goes to intervene, but is too late to prevent Phil from hitting Bunny in the head and knocking her out cold. Will: "You shouldn't have done that."

Will tries to hobble over to Bunny. Phil: "Ow! Bitch had a hard head." Oh, and now he's used bad language! It's the younger of the pair, apparently not very bright. Will now notices the blonde female coming in. Will: "Note to self: Install revolving door." Kiffin, not thinking what she's doing, walks in and hits the man in the back very quickly. The man staggers backwards, but doesn't go down. Martin: "Freeze!" He's trying to cover Will, but also trying to keep an eye on the new player. Martin: "Phil?" Will goes down to check Bunny, Martin turns towards Kiffin. Will: "Put that gun down!" He tries to slap the gun to one side so it's not pointed at anyone. Pfft! A round ricochets off the floor and hits the light. It's almost completely dark in the room, for everyone except for Kiffin, who just sees the colors shift. There's the one man she hit, and one staggering around running into sharp corners. Martin: "Ow!" Kiffin tries to shove the other guy into his path. It's rather effective. They both end up on the floor, tangled up. Kiffin goes over and guides Will toward the door, bringing along the now semi-conscious Bunny. Phil: "Shit! They're getting away!"

Once outside the office, where it's light, Will checks on his wife. Bunny isn't badly hurt, fortunately. Will: <to Kiffin> "I have to stay here. Can you take Bunny home?" Kiffin: "All right. Where do you live?" Bunny: <fuzzily> "It's this way..." Will: "The new renovated area in Old Port." From inside the office - Martin: "Find the Goddamn lights!" They turn on one of the other banks of lights, to find Will back in the room, but none of the females. Phil: "What the hell just happened?" Martin: "Forget about it. We've got the doc." And this time Will lets the man give him the injection. Phil: "But, what about the girl?" Martin: "Fu- Forget about the girl. Come on, Mr. Delgado, the doctors just need to talk to you. They have to make sure it's you." Will: "Okay, but tell those chickens to stop running up and down my chest and plucking out my chest hairs." Ah yes, the joys of psi-drugs. Will throws up, only hitting Phil. The older man steps out of the way deftly. Will is being taken off in a car to the big grey building with no windows, while Kiffin takes Bunny homeward.

As the sedan drives by, the windows just going dark, Robert sees Will in the back seat and notices a bruise on his forehead. It's none of Robert's business. But that's the third time he's seen someone with that sort of bruise on their forehead, which is interesting. Kaeth doesn't like the fact that there are people messing with other people's minds. Neither does Robert. Robert: <to Ariana> "Do you have any psi-shield on board?" Ariana: "No, I've heard of psi-shield, but it's really exotic and hard to get. Why?" Robert: "Because that bruise on your forehead is just like the bruise on his <pointing at the passing car> forehead, and the one on the man who tried to hire our ship. We need to figure out how to get our hands on some psi-shield. Is that something we can get on UpPort?" Ariana: "I don't know, maybe Bunny knows. She owns the hospital. Or at least she said she did." Robert: "Actually, I was thinking of your other acquaintance. The one we brought back the painting for?" Ariana: "Possibly...But that's not the sort of person you want to owe a favor to." Robert: "We'll try other options first."

Next up: the search for truth, psi-shield, and well, probably not justice.