"If you don't control your mind, someone else will."-- John Allston


Robert wants psi-shield. He'll just have to go find some then. For the right amount of money, and some oblique questions, anything can be obtained on Regina. It's not hard to find an area where undesirables hang out. Robert: "Weselis. I need to find some Weselis." He still remembers having his bag lifted by a Weseli when he first arrived on Regina. He asks around and eventually gets directed to a small, nervous little guy in rumpled clothing, who looks guilty of something.

Weseli: "I heard you were looking for something." Robert: "Yes, medical supplies." Weseli: "Yeah, only not the kind you can get in the pharmacy, right?" Robert: "Right. Something...unusual." Weseli: "Unusual in a recreational way? You could try these." He takes out some purple pills with yellow squiggles, and shows them to Robert. Weseli: "I got them from a big guy." [Note: See Caterpillar Delight.] Robert: "Uh, something more medicinal." Weseli: "You mean like Regen™ or something?" Robert: "Along that line, but I'm thinking more of a preventative." Weseli: "Oh, prophylactics. Yeah, sure, I know a guy -" Robert: "No, no. I'm looking for some..." Weseli: "Come on, spit it out, I haven't got all day." Oh-oh, performance anxiety! Weseli: "You're talking about psi-drugs, right? Let's cut to the chase." Robert: "Psi-shield." Weseli: "Like I said, I know a guy. But he's kind of private. He doesn't like to be bothered. I could, you know, arrange for an introduction." Robert: "And I'm sure there'd be an introductory fee." Weseli: "Well, yeah." Robert: "And how much would it be?" Weseli: "Well, you know wheels have to be greased... A couple hundred credits." Robert: "Fine. As long as it doesn't involve the guys in the big grey building." An eyebrow is raised. Weseli: "That'll cost you a hundred more." Robert: "I have two hundred right now. I'll get you more." The Weasel agrees, and asks for a contact number where Robert can be reached once "arrangements" are made. Numbers are given, he leaves. Robert knows Ariana has cash, which is good, as that's Robert's last $200 creds.

About a half hour later, Robert gets a call giving him the address to a storage unit. Robert: <to Ariana> "Do you want to go with me?" Ariana: "Well, you do need someone to back you up." That means she's going. They walk to the address. It's a large unit, and the door rolls up as they approach. They go in, door closes. A man in a nice, but not flashy suit meets them. Man: "This way." He directs them deeper into the storage unit. There are only bare, unadorned light panels in here.

A small table and chairs have been set up in one section of the building. There's a 40 to 50-ish looking businessman with greying hair seated there. He's in a very nice, expensive grey suit. There's a nervous-looking man sitting near him who looks of the Weseli's ilk - plaid jungle pants, logo T-shirt in stripes that clash with the pants, three credit shoes. The man in grey is obviously in charge here. Boss: "Check them out." The nervous, sweaty person closes his eyes and concentrates for a moment. Robert gets a slight headache, and Ariana gets a nosebleed. Teep: "They're okay." Robert is very much not happy.

Boss: "I apologize for any discomfort my associate may have caused. But one can't be too careful. Please, sit down." Robert: "If you have anyone else besides him to join us. Now would be a good time." Whispers are exchanged between the psionic and his employer. Boss: "I understand your unease, Mr. Shelzie, but I can assure you you're quite safe here. Please sit down. <to Ariana> Oh, and Miss Ariana. Or do you prefer Count -?" Robert points at the man. Robert: "This conversation is over." Boss: "Did your mother not teach you it was impolite to point?" Robert: "Did yours never teach you it was impolite to scan people without their permission?? I came here to make a purchase. That's it. Either you can provide it, or you can't." Boss: "I can provide the item. But we haven't discussed the fee. It's a seller's market on Regina, for a commodity that's in high demand. I've had several inquiries today in fact. And I'm not referring to something cooked up in someone's basement. We're talking about Imperial standard issue, the very best. Would you like to inspect it?" Robert: "Yes." A nod sends the first man Robert saw into the shadows. He returns carrying a case with sealed auto-injectors. He allows Robert to inspect it. Looks good, as far as he can tell, and he tries to not let on how not experienced in identifying psi-shield he is.

Boss: "I'm afraid that at the current rates I'm going to have to ask for $1500 credits a dose." Robert: "$1,500 a dose?" Boss: "As I said, it's a seller's market. You're welcome to look elsewhere." Robert: "A moment?" Boss: "Of course. Please consult with your....associate." Robert and Ariana go off to one side. " Robert: "That's $3,000 for two doses." Ariana: "Right, but how long does a dose last? And do we trust this guy?" Robert: "It's not the guy in grey who worries me." Ariana: "You mean Mr. Wiggy?" Robert: "Yeah. But it looks right, so, yeah, let's go ahead." Ariana: "Okay, so how much do we need?" Robert: "$3,000." Good thing Ariana has money on her. She digs it out and gives it to Robert. They return to the man in grey.

Robert: "We'll take two doses." Boss: "Normally I don't deal in small quantities, but my associate tells me you will need them." More whispers. Boss: "I see. My associate says you should beware the man in blue. I don't know what that means, but it's on the house." The exchange of money for goods is made, although the man in charge doesn't actually touch anything himself, he's a careful man. Boss: "Good luck, Mr. - I can't remember what your name is." Robert: "Strephon. You have my ID." Robert and Ariana leave, Robert none too happy about all this psionic crap.

Meanwhile, in the big grey building with no windows. Agent: "This way, please, doctor. If you would be so kind as to sit down here?" Will sits, his restraints are taken off and he's locked into the room. Now he can scratch his chest where those damn chickens have been pecking him. A man in a lab coat comes in. Doctor: "Mr. Delgado. How are you feeling?" Will: "Slightly nauseous with some tactile hallucinations." Doctor: "Just lean back and relax. I'm simply going to perform a few scans. Nothing you won't find familiar." Tests are done, the doctor nods. Suits come in, including Black.

Black: "I apologize for the inconvenience." Will: "The main apology is owed to Bunny." Black: "Really? Mrs. Delgado was mistreated?" Will: "When your hired help showed up, I wasn't going to resist, but Bunny walked in. By the way, you might want to advise your men to lock the door behind them before handcuffing and drugging someone. Any how, my wife came in, saw me in manacles with a couple of strange men, and tried to intervene. I was telling her it was all right when one of your men decided to drug her. When she naturally didn't want to go along with this, he hit her." Black: "Who hit her?" Will: "The one called Phil." Black: "I see. Martin. Would you ask your partner to come in please?" Martin: "Yes sir." Phil is brought into the room. Black: <to Phil> "Mr. Gregory, did I not explain to you that Mr. Delgado was an associate of this organization?" Phil: "Uh, yes sir." Black: "But still you mistreated him and, I'm told, struck his wife." Phil tries to explain that the woman came in unexpectedly, that she resisted, etc., etc. Phil apparently has not yet learned that Mr. Black doesn't much like excuses. Black: "Yes, well. If you had a bit more experience I'm sure you would have handled it better. Andrew, please escort Mr. Gregory to the infirmary." Phil: "But, but there's nothing wrong with me." Black nods to the one of the other men who punches Phil, apparently, eliciting a girlish squeal of pain. Ah, that would be because of the knife wound. Martin: <to Phil> "Look at the bright side. Obviously the boss thinks you have promise." (Or he'd be dead.) They take Phil away.

Will: "The reason I called. The pineal gland was removed, but that's not all. He was missing cerebral spinal fluid. It was gone. Also, a man with a Zhodani accent wanted to claim the body." Black: "A Zhodani?" Will: "Okay, I'm presuming he was Zhodani. Any way, he seemed to have the right forms and all, but I told him he couldn't claim the body until after the weekend. He thanked me and left, then a while later I heard noises in the outer office, went out to check, and found a tall, thin, dark-skinned man. He had some sort of apparatus on his head. It had tubing with fluid in it that may have been cerebral spinal fluid...." He goes over what happened that prompted him to call. Will: "...I don't know if it was the Mind Sifter you were asking about. And the body's gone. The Zhodani body." Black: "Well, you're definitely onto something." Will: "Oh - when the guy was there asking about the body, I managed to hit the record button on the camera as he was leaving. You'll be able to get a time fix on him, and maybe the other cameras in the area can give you a better picture." Black: "Doctor, you are in a unique position to assist us. This is a very delicate situation we're in." Will: "Dr. Auschlander had a break in and some very esoteric items were taken. Like if you wanted to keep a brain in a box." Will gives them a run down of the items. Will: "So if you were going to keep part of a brain functioning, like maybe the pineal gland, those components would probably do the trick." Not that Will's given that sort of thing a lot of thought, before now. Black: "Yes, the Mind Sifter has some sort of living tissue component. That's very useful." Will: "I'm glad to help, but whoever they are seem to be on to me." Black: "The problem is that we are dealing with a psionic, and that makes you vulnerable." Will: "But I don't know anything that they don't know now." Black: "Except for this meeting." Will: "Okay, they know everything I knew before now." Black: "If this person has scanned you they'll know that you aren't a trained member of an intelligence agency - you're merely a public official doing his job." Will: <mostly to himself> "As opposed to a man who would have one of his employees stabbed just to make a point." Black either doesn't notice or doesn't care. Black: "Ronald, we'll need recording equipment in here. And mem-wipe." Will: "But if I don't remember this meeting, I won't know what it is you want me to do. They won't necessarily come after me again, but I'd rather remember that they might." Black: "In any case, we're going to remove your memory of this meeting. I'll give you instructions, but we'll have to arrange it so you aren't aware they're from me. Perhaps in your own handwriting." Will: "I don't think the guy with the thing on his head is going to be running around in the open right now. He's got to figure I'd tell someone what happened." Black: "Yes, and we expect that more than anything else this person is going to want to maintain a low profile. If we can arrange for you to meet with him again, you may be able to convince him that you, as other officials on Regina, are amenable to..." Will: "Bribery?" Black: "Yes." Will: "I'm willing to be persuaded, for the right price." Black: "I appreciate your cooperation, doctor." Will: "Do you know what exactly is going on?" Black: "We know that person or persons are searching for a missing component. And there have been a number of inquiries about the Ruby." Will: "Don't bother telling me all this now, I won't remember." Actually, they'll have Will dictate this onto his personal recorder, according to Black's instructions. Will: "There are other people who are linked to this -" Black: "Naturally. Robert Shelzie for one, and the captain of the Ruby are certainly connected, whether intentionally or not." Will: "I may need help on this. Which may mean going to one of them." Black: "If nothing else, they could prove useful as a diversion. And if you're really getting into trouble there is someone to fall back on - Kiffin." Will's a bit confused, again, about this Kiffin person, but Black seems to - well, trust isn't a word one likes to use with Mr. Black.

In a more comfortable room in Regina Security (yes, they do have some), the aforementioned Kiffin waits with Bunny to find out about the latter's husband. One of Black's men comes out to apologize, and assure Mrs. Delgado that her husband is all right. There have been inquiries made, and they apologize for any inconvenience. They thought that Dr. Delgado was involved in something but it was obviously some sort of mistake.

Kiffin is politely pulled aside and asked to come with the man. She goes, and is handed an envelope. She starts to open it, but Martin stops her. Martin: "Not here, miss. Later." Kiffin: "Okay." Martin: "The Director asks that you see to it that Dr. and Mrs. Delgado make it home all right." Kiffin: "Okay, but do you have their address?" Martin: "Of course." Kiffin gets to take Will and Bunny home, in a cab. They're both a tad muzzy.

Once in the Delgado place, Bunny and Kiffin put Will on the couch, and Bunny goes upstairs to freshen up. Kiffin will make some tea, and uses the privacy of the kitchen to read the note from Mr. Black. Note: "Keep an eye on things and let me know about anything of which you think I should be aware. Don't endanger yourself, but keep your eyes open." Well, if Mr. Black thinks she can be useful, Kiffin will certainly try.

When Will comes around he has absolutely no memory of the last 72 hours. His pocket dictaphone is 90% full, so he transfers it to his computer. Interesting notes - and with no mention of Regina Security. There is a strange blonde woman in his house making tea. That would be Kiffin. Then an even blonder woman comes downstairs holding a cold compress to her head. Will figures it must have been some party! He's sorry he doesn't remember it.

Will: <to the blonde on the stairs> "Hello." Bunny (oh!?!) is happy that Will is conscious and all right. Will: "What happened?" The last thing Bunny remembers is "being hit by some obnoxious man." Will: "I'm sorry dear." Bunny: "All I remember is he was left-handed." The other blonde brings in a tray. Kiffin: "His name was Phil." Will: "Well, we won't be inviting him back!"

And now back to the other people embroiled in this mess. Robert: <to Ariana> "We need to go somewhere to rest, but the ship isn't available." Ariana: "I got a hotel room with Kaeth. <pause> That came out wrong." Robert: "Who's name is it under?" Ariana: "I don't know, I was too drunk when I went to the hotel room with Kaeth." She looks embarrassed and uncomfortable. Robert: "I'll call Kaeth." He dials up the Vargr's number. Kaeth : <eagerly> "Hello?" Robert: "Hi Kaeth." Kaeth: <softly> "Damn. <normal tones> What's up?" Robert: "Is there somewhere we can meet to talk?" They arrange to meet at an open-air (relatively speaking) cantina near the docks, as soon as they can get there. On the way Robert gives Ariana one of the auto-injectors. Ariana: "What am I supposed to do with this?" Robert: "Hold onto it. If we're ever grabbed by a mind-sucking Zhodani, then you'll have it." Ariana: "Great.

Robert and Ariana arrive at the canteen, and get a table. They've been there for about five minutes when Kaeth shows up. Ariana: "Hey, there he is." She waves at Kaeth, who walks over. He checks out Ariana's bruise, which is remarkably like the one on the strange man at the Panda. Kaeth: "So, what's up?" Robert: "When Ariana and Bunny were off doing girl stuff, I was approached by a man who wanted to hire our ship to take him and his associates to an archeological dig. He was sporting a bruise on his forehead - just like Ariana's." Robert happens to notice, as they're talking, a man he doesn't recognize looking at them and talking on a public phone. He has a smudge or bruise on his forehead. Maybe it's Ash Wednesday? Not. Robert: "We should move along."

Will catches up on the dictation from his recorder. Oh, he hasn't been partying for the last three days! Will needs to find out who the mystery man with the headband is, and where he is, and what he's after. Will first checks out the docking bay where the Zhodani guy who was going to claim the body is. The ship isn't Zhodani, it's of Sworldworld registry. When he goes there, the police have just shown up. Will: "Note to self: Put the bag in the trunk. Don't go anywhere without the bag." He badges his way onto the ship. Will recognizes one of the deceased men as the one who came to claim the body. Someone did a bit of trepanning with a really big drill bit. His pineal gland is missing. The other man was simply shot to death. Cop: "Boy, you're fast!" Will: "Well, for your information, they're dead." Cop: "Gee, thanks Doc." The detectives arrive. Det. Santilli: "Geeze, Doc, what - do you just hover around vulture-like waiting for another body?" Will: "I just thought I'd drop by and see if I couldn't enlighten you." Det. Henning: "Well, if I were the coroner, I'd say these men are dead. But since I'm not..." Will: "It's okay, it's already been declared." Santilli: "Well doc, what would you say the cause of death was here?" Will: "I don't know, I haven't done an autopsy yet. I don't know what killed him <the Zho> ,but you can't live for long without the part that's missing." Henning: "Could anyone have done this, or would you need specialized ability - like a surgeon?" Will: "They seemed to know what they wanted and where it was, but they could have used a drill for all I know right now." Will looks around, and the site indicates the man's gland was removed here. Apparently he was siting, unrestrained, in the chair, and the detectives say his heart was beating at the time of death. Gripped in the dead man's hands is a lighter from the Escargot d'Or. Will checks, and no cigarettes, dopesticks, or candles in the ship. How odd.

Kiffin is with Bunny, who's trying to decide what to wear. She's taken to Kiffin, she's a nice girl. They play dress up. Bunny brings Kiffin up to speed on what she knows about the Ruby and everything that's been going on. Bunny: "What do you think about this psionic? What could he want? It's something to do with Robert and Ariana." Kiffin: "Ariana? Oh! <the light comes on> Ariana is Robert Shelzie's girlfriend?" Bunny: "Yes." Kiffin: "Do you think I look like her?" Bunny: "Not really, why?" Kiffin: "The men who grabbed us the other night thought I was Robert's girlfriend." Bunny: "Really? What did they want? Did they say?" Kiffin: "They were looking for something called an attenuator. Do you know what that is?" Bunny: "No, but it can't be a coincidence. Do you think Robert and Ariana are involved?" Kiffin: "He's involved now, but I couldn't say if it's on purpose on not." Bunny: "Will says - but I don't know if I should be saying anything." Kiffin: "Oh. I'm sorry." Bunny: "But it is most interesting. And don't you think all of this must be connected some how? It can't be coincidental. And Will might not have put it all together yet. He could be in danger! Let's go." Kiffin makes sure they're actually fully clothed, before being carried off by Bunny's enthusiasm. As they're leaving the apartment, Bunny has a thought. Bunny: "Will's gun is at his office. We might need a gun. Do you have one?" Kiffin: "No." Bunny: "Right, we'll stop and buy one." Off they go, Bunny dressed to attract rather than kill.

Onto the slidewalk, with Bunny's PDA and her magnifying glass. Off at the first gunshop, where Bunny buys a nickel-plated body pistol and garter belt holster. Kiffin just sort of gravitates over away from the girlie guns and she picks up a flat black 5mm with suppressor. It just feels right in her hand. Her left hand. (She's ambidextrous, so no biggie.) Clerk: "Are you sure you want that one?" Kiffin: "It feels right." Her hand finds the safety like it's the most natural thing in the world. She buys it. Clerk: "Okay...."

Speaking of guns, Robert wants to buy an SMG - he really liked that one on Planet X. They go to OmniMart, where Robert has missed the sale, but still gets a decent deal - $500 credits buys him an smg, and 10 disposable magazines. He missed the coupon sale. Ariana pays for it with one of her $1,000 credit notes, and gives Robert the change. If he could get to the ship, he'd have money. He goes to check his watch to see how much time is left, then remembers his watch was stolen. Robert: "Oh! I'm in OmniMart - I'll buy another one." He purchases a cheap digital watch. It will do for now.

Next stop, the Ships Chandler's office to arrange for a few things. Like repairs. Kaeth: "What's wrong with the ship?" Robert: "A grenade went off in the bridge, and they shot off the exterior hatch." Kaeth : "A grenade went off in the bridge?" The man in the office suddenly remembers something. Clerk: "Oh, that reminds me miss, I have something for you." He hands a manila envelope to Ariana. She takes it, but she'd slightly confused. Robert: "When did this come in?" Clerk: "I thought you left it here before you left on your last trip. Oh, wait, one of the guys who worked on your tune-up before you left found it and turned it in, but you'd jumped before we could get it back to you. You should be careful with jewelry, miss, engineering is not place for things like that." Robert: "We'll keep that in mind." They take the envelope and leave.

Robert: "We need some place safe to check this out." Kaeth : "Ariana, did you check out of the hotel?" Ariana: "No, the room should still be available." They stop on the way so Kaeth can check on Marguerite. He calls his lawyer, but she's still being held as a "material witness". Kaeth is able to locate her darling husband, who's still in the hospital DownPort. Kaeth: "Hey Ezbeki. How are you feeling?" Ezbeki: "I've got a big, fat woody right now! That's two thumbs up. How are you doing?" Kaeth : "Confused." Ezbeki: "Yeah, I haven't heard from Maggie. Is she pissed off at me?" Kaeth : "I don't know. There's been a lot of weird stuff going on lately." Ezbeki: "Well, she'll come back. Best thing is to keep my head down." Kaeth: "Good thought. I'll be in touch."

They go to the Ambassadore, all three into Ariana's room. The couple going into the room next door gives the group a rather displeased look, but hey - it's none of their business. Ariana: "What now?" Robert checks the room for other people, alive or dead. Nope. Time to find out what's in the envelope, so Robert sits down on the bed and opens it up. The envelope contains a strangely faceted stone that looks like the one in the drawing. Ariana: <in a monotone> "I'll take that please." She's pointing a pistol at them and is staring sort of through them. Ariana: "Give me the crystal Robert. I don't want to hurt you. He wants me to." There are tears in her eyes as she thumbs the hammer back on the gun. Robert brings the crystal over towards her. Ariana: "That's far enough." He sets it down on the floor. Ariana: "Back away." Without taking her eyes off Robert, she bends down and fumbles for the crystal, picks it up, and walks over to the sliding glass door. Robert tries to get his auto-injector into his hand. Kaeth draws his tranq-loaded snubgun as Ariana opens the door. Robert sees Kaeth draw and fire on Ariana, who tosses the crystal out the door and then collapses. Robert holds out his smg. Robert: "Shoot whoever tries to pick that up." Robert goes to check on Ariana. Kaeth looks out, his snub pistol still in hand (it's what he has in his hand), and sees a man with a shotgun leaning against a tree and looking up at the balcony. Kaeth fires and misses. The other man fires and hits Kaeth in the chest with a round of buckshot. Kaeth goes down. Not a lot of damage, thanks to his vest, but the back trauma and cardiac thump takes him down and out. Ariana is sweating and quivering, unconscious still.

Robert creeps forward and peeks over the edge. He sees a man with a shotgun, searching through the ivy under the balcony. They never show the prize dropping into thick, badly trimmed ivy in the movies. Robert fires over the balcony. He hits the man in the left forearm. The man ducks under the shadow of the balcony. Robert can't see him, but he can't shoot through the balcony from below. Robert waits for the man to come out into the open. He waits for about ten or fifteen minutes, but still no show. Kaeth wakes up, rolls over, and coughs up God knows what. Ariana stirs as well, but she doesn't remember what happened. Kaeth: "Let's get out of here." No permanent damage, just lots of bruising, and probably a few cracked ribs.

They go downstairs and check out. "Did you enjoy your stay?" Robert: "Yes, very much." They leave a big tip for housekeeping. Ariana: "What happened? The last thing I remember was you opening the envelope." Robert and Kaeth exchange looks. Ariana: "I feel light-headed. Did I faint?" Robert: "No...You'd evidently been conditioned. You drew a gun..." He gives her the condensed, highlight version. Ariana: "Does that mean they have the crystal?" Robert: "Yes." Kaeth : "Are you sure?" Robert: "I didn't see him leave, but I think so." They go to check under the balcony. The footprints indicate the man left by hugging the side of the building, but no way to know if was empty-handed or not. Just outside of the ivy, someone on the sidewalk pockets something and walks away. It doesn't appear to be the man with the shotgun. He does look over his shoulder nervously, but he's on Regina. He walks faster. It's not a Weseli, but... Robert: "Hey, he just put something into his pocket." Kaeth goes that way, the man walks faster and starts pushing people into Kaeth's way. Man: "Help! Help!!" Oh yeah, like that'll help. Robert: "Kaeth - get him! We'll follow." Kaeth : ""I'll try." He shouldn't run, that's prey behavior.

Also on the slidewalk are Bunny (in her "Hey you" dress) and Kiffin. Bunny: "Wait a minute, isn't that Kaeth?" Kiffin: "Who?" Bunny: "Ariana's Vargr friend. And that's Robert, coming this way and panting. And there's Ariana." The man being chased is looking backwards and plows into a huge biker type wearing an orange bandana tied around his thigh. Oh-oh. Bunny: "Come on!" She grabs Kiffin's hand and runs that way. Biker: "What the fuck's your problem!" Kaeth is on his way and arrives as the man is seized by the shirt. He has the look of someone who was running from a wild Vargr and is now in the hands of a mountain of muscle who looks like he's going to "beat the brains out of the little girlie-man". Everyone converges. The small man, mostly on the slidewalk, briefly thinks "You're wearing pink underwear" when Bunny arrives. (Well, she dressed in a hurry, and she's been running...) Kiffin: <to the biker> "Excuse me, do you really want to waste your time on him?" He looks at her, looks at Bunny, looks at her, looks at Bunny. Looks at Bunny. He's fascinated by the almost-out-of-her-dress cleavage. Biker: <to Bunny> "Hello." Bunny: "Hi, I'm Bunny. What's your name?" She holds out her hand, and the big man drops the small guy and takes her hand. Robert and Kaeth take the lucky man off to one side. Robert: "Look, all we're interested in is what you picked up by the hotel." Biker: <to Bunny> "Uh, my name's Mad Dog. Would you like to go get a drink? Your friend can come too." There's a brief flick of the eye over to Kiffin, then back to Bunny. (Quickly, so he doesn't miss anything.) Kaeth goes through the targets pockets, and finds a crystal. He palms it so Ariana can't see it, shows it to Robert. Kaeth: "Is this it?" Robert: "Yeah." Robert gives the man $50 credits. Robert: "Go." Kaeth checks to make sure he has his wallet before letting the guy go. Once the man runs off, Kaeth checks again and realizes the wallet in his pocket isn't his, and is empty. Wait a minute, Kaeth put Vrrefra's card in his wallet. Arrrgh!!! He starts after the man, but he's gone. Damn.

Ariana: "What now?" Robert: "It's time to go back to the ship." Ariana: "Can you believe the outfit Bunny is wearing? Isn't it a bit much?" Robert: "I wouldn't say the outfit is too much." Ariana: <not listening> "I'm glad you're not the kind of man who goes for that sort of thing. Big boobs and small brain." Meowrr! Robert and Ariana and Kaeth leave.

Bunny: <to Mad Dog> "Well, that sounds really nice. Maybe we can get together with my husband." Mad Dog: "What is he, some kind of pencil-necked geek? You need a real man." Bunny: "Well, it's true I don't get to see him much. The police are always calling him up, asking about dead bodies." Mad Dog considers this concept, and thinks better of it. Mad Dog: "Gee Bunny, that sounds nice, but I just remembered...I'll call you." He takes off. Bunny: "How's he going to call me? He doesn't have my number." Kiffin shrugs. Bunny: "That's too bad. He seemed very nice, I think Will would have liked him. Oh - we'd better hurry, Bob and Ariana are getting away. Robert! Ariana! Wait up!" Robert: <to Kaeth> "I don't want them to know we have this. I don't know who she <Kiffin> is, and she's <Bunny> the coroner's wife." Bunny: "Hi guys, what was that all about?" Robert: "Oh, he picked Kaeth's wallet." Bunny: "Why was he yelling for help?" Kaeth: "Maybe he mistook us for someone else." Robert: "We need to get going." Bunny: "Have you had dinner yet? Why don't we dine together? I can call Will." Robert: "No thank you. We really have to get back to our ship." Bunny: "Oh, your ship's not going anywhere. You need to relax. Oh, I'm sorry, where are my manners." She introduces Kiffin to the party. Bunny: "But you already know Robert, isn't that right?" Ariana: "That's right. I've seen you. You were with Robert last night." Kiffin: "Yes, that's right. I'm sorry, I didn't realize you two were - it was really confusing." Bunny: <to Ariana> "Oh, Kiffin's a dear. We should get together the three of us and get massages or something." They're continuing on towards the ship as Bunny makes a call to make reservations at the Club Zambezi.

They arrive at the Ruby. Robert has all the forms, and the police are ready to turn it over. They go on board. Bunny: "This is your ship, huh? It looks pretty nice. Well, aside from all the blood, and the airlock, and it looks like someone threw a grenade into the bridge." Robert calls, and it will take about three hours to fix the airlock. They can come do it tomorrow. Bunny: "See, there's nothing you can do tonight. We'll all feel better after a nice warm, meal." Robert is concerned about securing the ship. Kaeth : "I've got an idea." Robert: "What?" Kaeth : "This is Regina. I'm sure you can get a couple of Mercs to come keep an eye on things. Hire them on for week." Robert is directed to the Mercenary Guild's number, and no worries - they can get a couple of men down to him who are looking for a bit of extra cash. Robert has no problem with this - this is what Marines are for. The first priority is to contact Robert or Ariana, the second is to repel boarders. The men show up. Yeah, they look like Marines. They'll probably stand here and get killed for $25 credits an hour.

Ariana has changed into one of her baggy jumpsuits. Kiffin nudges Bunny, indicates Ariana. Bunny: "You know, hon, we need to fix you up. Come on, Kiffin." Ariana is taken to her room, and a few minutes later there's giggling. Robert and Kaeth have used the excuse to check on the robot to talk in private.

A half hour later, a delivery man shows up, with a package for Ariana Smith. It's from a couturier, or something in some sort of foreign language. Courier: "Can somebody sign for this?" Robert signs, and tries to tip, but it's against company policy. The courier leaves. Robert calls over the intercom, asking if someone has "ordered something from a cutorer, cuteroure, uh..." Bunny: "Kiffin, could you go get that?" Kiffin: "Sure." She goes out, takes the package, and goes back to the cabin.

In the space of the hour and half the girls are busy, Robert and Kaeth discuss what to do with the crystal, and whether or not Ariana is still under conditioning. Robert really wants to know for sure, but he also wants the crystal somewhere safe. Kaeth : "Let's just go with it. We'll mail it at the first stop."

Bunny: "Okay, we're ready!" Ariana looks really good. The girls are whispering and giggling, and casting glances over at Robert. He really wishes they'd stop doing that. Bunny: "You're coming too, aren't you Kaeth?" Kaeth : "Yeah, sure." Not like he has other plans. Bunny: "I've already arranged for a car. We don't want to be all crammed into a little cab." The "car" is a limo. Robert picks up a couple of thousand credits out of the safe before they go.

Into the limo. Robert pays a lot of attention to Ariana. The pendant he bought her earlier is nestled nicely between her breasts. It's not just what you have, it's how you package it. Lots of chatting, and then the car stops. Not in front of the Club Zambezi, either. Oh-oh. The driver turns around. He has something on his head. Driver: "I believe you have something that belongs to me."