"With every passing hour, our solar system comes forty-three thousand miles closer to globular cluster M13 in the constellation Hercules, and still there are some misfits who continue to insist that there is no such thing as progress."-- - Ransom K. Ferm
Greetings, and welcome to our annual New Years Eve marathon of loose ends. This is sort of stream-of-consciousness gaming, trying to resolve or at least update issues/concerns/lives that have been left hanging or whatever. Anything the GM felt was reasonable to deal with at this time. Other pending issues will be left dangling over our heads to be used against us at a later date. Happy New Year. - the Scribe
Capital: Mark and Katerina Bach
Mark and Katerina arrive on Capital. Mark is not killed and buried in the rose garden, but Constantine and Aleksandr are not happy at all. Mark's not even a Navy man, for pity's sake! Much grumbling and glaring.
The babies arrive just in time to save Mark's bacon. Cute babies do this. Tatiana, Maria, Alice, and Ann - in that order. All fraternal, non-identical quadruplets. With adorable babies in the room Mark is practically invisible.
Speaking of progeny, the quads set Constantine and Piotr off on another baby kick. After all, with one birth, Aleksandr's sister has caught up! On the other hand, Aleksandr is more than willing to leave it at four for them. Their kids are old enough that maybe he and Ilsa can go on a vacation without children!! (Can they do that?) Ilsa: "I'm fine with that, but could you please inform your father and uncle?" Aleksandr will quietly have a little "operation", and just tell his father and uncle that "well, you know, it seems it's just not meant for us to have more children..." Eventually, Piotr and Constantine will give up and go bother Katerina and Mark. Wonder if anyone's told Mark that he's having the next four?
Capital: The Androchevs
Viktor, Katarina, and Vasilli Androchev arrive on Capital after about eight months travel. Katarina has had enough ship travel to last her a very long time. That's not an environment to raise a child in. Besides, Capital is so...magical. The Imperial estate is like a fairy castle floating in the air. Starry-eyed she may be, but Katarina is now out of her element - she's socially adept in the Marches; this is the big leagues. Viktor will be a supportive husband and not punch out the people who say nasty things and upset her. Unless he gets the opportunity to do so safely at a later date.
Katarina isn't happy. She thought living on Capital would be like being on Lanth, or Rhylanor, and it's not. Viktor: "What do you want to do?" She wants to go "somewhere civilized, but not here. Why don't we go to one of the support planets and spend some time there? Vasilli needs some time to be a normal little boy. We can decide what we want to do later on." If they decide to go back to the Marches eventually, Viktor can probably wrangle some sort of planetary government position back home.
Viktor is able to get a short audience with the Emperor and Empress during that first month, for a whole ten minutes. It's a nice moment for his wife, which is what he wants. It's not like the casual attitude of the Imperial households trip to Rhylanor by any means, but it's something.
Now about that sibling for Vasilli... Still nothing, so Viktor goes see a professional. Doctor: "The problem is the radiation exposure. There's a high possibility of complications - miscarriage or deformity. Your wife seems to have a delicate nature, but you will have to discuss it with her. The other possibility is to use clonal or other technology." As far as Viktor is concerned, it's up to Katarina. She's not into the "outsourcing" options, but she does want to have children. She's willing to try the artificial insemination route, but nothing too outré. And if it doesn't work, then it's God's will. They move to a nearby world (one jump away), where it's much less rigid, more relaxed. Very much like Rhylanor (only much more so).
It will take almost a year, but they will be successful. And eight months later (30-1124) Vasilli will have a baby sister - Sashenka. It's a difficult birth for both mother and baby, but thanks to modern technology, both make it. By that time, they've made a home for themselves and decide not to return to the Marches. Why? They have friends here, Vasilli's happy... Unless Viktor really wants to go back. Nope. He doesn't want to sit around and do nothing though, and he is able to get an administrative position, at least peripherally associated with the military.
There's just one nagging little issue for Viktor, though. He once had a meeting with Grey, at which Viktor asked about Mercer Black. Grey looked at a file, closed it, and said "You're not cleared for that." This bothers Viktor. He tries to get information after moving to his new home. First he has to get people to understand where Regina is, which is a problem. But he does get to know other military people, and tries to use the old boy net to find out. In about two years, he will get a file. His friend brings it over. "It's been edited, but that always happens." He gets information and supposition. He's an asset to the ISA, and the ISS, and the IBI. Maybe. And maybe the army. They know what his background is. Right now Black is useful and valuable. He plays the game and provides information. What Viktor wants to know is WHO he is. They believe that he is, or is related to a person named William Ridberg, who was the head of the ISA on Rhylanor. Not that Viktor knows who this Ridberg is or was. At least now he knows that the guy is tied into the intelligence agency, and is twisted and evil since he's linked to a series of murders and blackmails, that sort of thing; he's utterly ruthless. Viktor reads it (even the really icky parts - like excerpts from the torture and then burns it. It still bugs the hell out of him that Grey wouldn't tell him about Black, even when Viktor was acting as governor of Regina. Grey acted as he felt was best. We'll know in about three years if any of this has any impact on the active PCs.
This shifts Viktor Androchev to retired and/or NPC status.
Regina: Ghaer Raller
Ghaer has decided to leave Regina, permanently. He's seen too much unhappiness here, and he knows too much about too many people. Strangely, this is a brief moment in his life where everyone seems to have forgotten he's there. Which means it's a good time for the trouble magnet to sublet the apartment, pack up a few things, and take the new wife to meet the parents in Aramis subsector.
The marriage might have taken place in an alcoholic haze, but Ghaer's wife is quiet, useful around the house, and not high-maintenance. In other words, she's normal. She had pretty low prospects for a mate, and consequently low expectations, and she's pretty happy with Ghaer. Ghaer will let her brothers ride out the lease on his old apartment and then, who cares?
Ghaer has enough money to live pretty comfortably for quite some time. And he has useful skills that don't involve killing people. Getting out of the Regina area is a good idea for a Vargr right now any way, what with all the Unity crap. The only people Ghaer says goodbye to are Joe Lee and Victoria (Corina's adopted daughter); he doesn't risk trying to see anyone else.
Then he just leaves Regina without a backwards glance. (There have been a few threats by the Evil Tod to drag Ghaer back into play again, but that's for the future.)
Lanth: What's up there? (Or: Marcy and Steiner and Sengi - oh my!)
Time for the Chosen One to go back home for a year. (One year in the Imperium, one on Birabetes or she gets cranky.) Marcy wants to swing by Capital to say hello to Ilsa and the kids, which will be easy to add to the itinerary. Aeisha can show Jeremy her cool new video game, and Marcy can vent to Ilsa about the Birabetans.
Steiner is going to be going to Birabetes as well. The Kaesthra has requested (uh, right) her presence there. Especially since she's the mother of a Var-Sengi. As a rik, she's treated as a foreign dignitary while on Capital. More people can comment on how well she speaks Galanglic. (A source of great amusement to Steiner.) She's not known here, she's the only "Sengi" female these people have seen. So that's what the women are like!
This trip is apparently even more important than usual, as one of the Var lords comments to Marcy. Var: "It's very important for the Chosen One to be on Birabetes. It's coming to a critical juncture - well, I must not speak of this. That is for the Kaesthra." Oh lovely. Marcy's going to have to chat with her friend, the green lady when she gets there.
On the trip to Birabetes, Marcy at least has Steiner to talk to. Marcy: "Since you've been off with the men so much, you don't understand. I didn't really understand myself until Jonathan died, but the women have a lot of control. They control the estates, and the breeding."
They arrive on Birabetes. Wow - that's a really flipping tall tower!
There's a really important little ceremony coming up for Aeisha, but Marcy can't find out anything from the j'ai. It's all to do with the Kaesthra, and involves a "presentation". Marcy will sit on the Kaesthra's left for the ceremony. The Chosen One is escorted into an octagonal room by Sengi. Everyone is seated above, sort of in an auditorium.
Aeisha is left in the small octagonal room with her little knife. And a creature of metal and flesh, and fangs, and sort of Corathi-looking is let into the small box with Aeisha (who has a small knife). Marcy: "Can I give her advice? I could yell if it's permitted?" Kaesthra: "It would be unseemly." Doesn't mean she won't do it if she thinks it's necessary. She's currently clinging to the hope that the Sengi wouldn't let anything happen to the Chosen One, and not the (probable) reality that if something happens to her it means that she wasn't really the true Chosen One. Steiner really wishes she weren't present, in case something goes wrong that Marcy has to deal with.
Go wrong? What could possibly go wrong? They're just letting a Corathi into the octagon with Aeisha and locking the doors. Perfectly safe. With inhuman speed, the Corathi slashes forward to skewer Aeisha in the upper thigh. She assumes a fighting stance, knife in hand. The Corathi circles, then crouches down like it's going to pounce. Then it crouches down some more, then it goes down on all fours.
She has tamed the Corathi." Did they not expect this? The Ba Notrs are raising eyebrows and shrugging. One of them closes a silver book, binds it with leather, and covers it in cloth. He nods to the Kaesthra. Aeisha shouts for the gates to be opened, and they are. She rides the Corathi outside, and dismounts among a group of Var-Sengi. J'ai see to her wound, which is barely bleeding by the time she gets outside. After she gets bandaged up she goes up to where Marcy is sitting and sits down on the Kaesthra's knee. Marcy: "Is the test finished?" Kaesthra: "Yes. Come, child, your mother will want to tend to your injury." He carefully hands the sticky child over to it's mother.
The girl, her mother, and the Corathi go home together, Aeisha riding. She dismounts outside the house. Aeisha: "I think I'm going to call him Max." Marcy: "Uh, why are you going to call him Max?" Aeisha: "Like the horse on that one tri-dee show." Marcy: "Okay. Is he going to live with us from now on?" Aeisha: "Sure. Why not?" Marcy: "Can you talk to him?" Aeisha: "Sort of." Marcy: "Because I'm a bit concerned that when you're not around, Max may eat someone." Aeisha: "Oh, they don't eat." True, sort of. Corathi are always hungry, but they can never satisfy their hunger. Yeah, just what you want hanging around the place. And what happens with the new pet when it's time for Aeisha to go back to the Marches for a year?
In the aftermath of the great test, Steiner is with several Ba Notr's and riks, walking with the Kaesthra. The Var seemed pleased with the way things have gone. Kaesthra: "That went well. Again our clans grow in strength and power. All is proceeding according to plan." They go into one large building that looks fairly new - armorcrete, flint steel. They go into one room with a lot of electronic gear and off-world techs, then through to a viewing area that overlooks a huge room containing several hundred Corathi, all bumping into each other. ["Several hundred" and "Corathi" are not words one wants to hear in the same sentence.] Var: "Yes, she is of true blood. She can command the Corathi. The ancient writings are true." Rik: "And when do we proceed with the next phase of the plan?" Kaesthra: "In the fullness of time." Maybe next Thursday at 4:00, maybe in 3,000 years. But they won't make the same mistakes as the others before them. No siree. They'll make new ones!
As Steiner is watching, a Var nods and a few j'ai are thrown in amongst the Corathi, who go wild and rip them apart. There is much nodding of heads. They head back. Var: "There is nothing like the sight of fresh blood to bring on an appetite." Yeah, time for the post-test feast. Steiner is in on the feast prep - the slaughtering of animals, etc. Good thing she's not easily rattled. Corathi. Oh boy.
Marcy tracks down a Var to ask a question. She discusses the chamber she saw "some time ago on Ruie, with a crystal case and a female in it that looked sort of Bach-like and had a sword. She was on a pile of dead creatures that looked like that Corathi." Var: "That is a matter for the Kaesthra." He won't say anything else. Argh!
Oh well, at least Marcy can speak with his Kaesthraness at the big feast. (The Sengi are into feasting. And bundling - lest those humours build up.) Marcy: "I was wondering if I may have a word with you. It may be important." Kaesthra: "Of course. All of us here honor the mother of the Chosen One." Marcy tells him about the chamber with a giant pyramid of Corathi bodies and the crystal case with a very, very tall woman with a sword, and glowing runes on the case. This is followed by a lengthy pause. Kaesthra: "We must speak no more of this here." There are several Var looking at Marcy askance. Oh-oh, social faux-pas? Kaesthra: "We shall speak on this tomorrow." Marcy: "Okay." Yeah, she may just be a puny human, but as Marcy recalls, humans met up with Corathis before, and kicked their asses. It wasn't easy, but so there.
Marcy's friend the Green Lady is at the feast, and comes over to visit. Females are much less uptight and formal. The most clever thing the women do is to convince the men that they're in charge. Poor dears. Marcy decides to introduce her friend to Steiner. Fortunately, Steiner knows how to comport herself with someone of a loftier status, and doesn't make any of her own missteps of a social nature. The only comment the Green Lady makes to Marcy is that "she speaks like a man. I've heard of her." Marcy: "Yes, but she's also the mother of a Var, and as a Var yourself, you know things she may not." Green Lady: "The rik is... It is difficult to reconcile. She is a warrior, and a general, yet she is the mother of a child." Marcy: "Yes, but she is the mother of a Var, and she needs to know what the mother of a Var needs to know." It's okay, Steiner doesn't mind being talked around, especially if it provides useful information. GL: "All children are raised communally until they reach the age of the ritual of choosing." Marcy: "What age do they go to the ritual of choosing?" GL: "Around age eleven or twelve, when they reach sexual maturity. Even among the Var, not all are found worthy." Marcy: "Hey, you're telling me! We're here toasting the testing of my daughter." GL: "The children go out on their own into the wilderness for a year, and if they survive, they come back to become [a word meaning squires, sort of] within their clans." By the time Marcus is eleven if he can't survive that sort of "test", then Steiner's really dropped the ball.
Next day, Marcy goes to see the Kaesthra. Okay, now Marcy isn't Var, and normally wouldn't be privy to this, but,.... The book with silver pages is brought out. Kaesthra: "In this you will find what you are seeking." Marcy: "I can't read the runes." Kaesthra: "Then you must learn." Marcy: "Who can teach me the language?" She will need to learn the basics of the Lord's tongue first. The Kaesthra will send a few of his j'ai to teach her. They will have a year, and if they fail to teach her in that time, they will all be killed. Right.
Aeisha's new tutors will show up to train her in the Sengi traditions and ways. Normally she'd be allowed to run free until the Ritual of Choosing age too, but she's advanced for her age. Marcy will be seeing her in the evenings or at lunch if she's allowed to eat. Marcy isn't happy about that. And Aeisha needs to eat. Marcy tries explaining about hungry children and attention spans, but gets a lecture about how "today does not matter". Marcy: "You're in my house, and in my house today counts!" Nice try. Aeisha likes the fighting stuff, but finds the history and language parts boring. It's all "who fought who at which battle, and how many heads were taken, and who betrayed whom." And all their history is written in this obtuse epic poetry stuff. The war stories can be fun, but there's lots of contemplative writing that Aeisha is just not into yet.
Then the promised j'ai tutors arrive. J'ai: "Forgive us, great lady, but our instructions from our master is that from this moment on we are to speak with you only in the lesser Lords' tongue." Marcy: "Okay, but please go slowly and use small words at first." Marcy can practice with the Green Lady, and she has nothing better to do what with all her daughters time being filled up.
Steiner's job now is to see to the Chosen One and her mother. All rightie. Steiner has some of her own troops with her, and she still has training to do. She can also hone her own skills, which is good. And Lord Goran Kurtashth, the Ba Notr (and Marcus' father), not only gets to meet his son, but he can pay Steiner more visits now that there's no commute. There is some discussion of Steiner amongst other Var, since while she's the Ba Notr's consort, she has no husband. And she's obviously fertile. Steiner doesn't get to hear any of this herself of course.
Steiner does catch an undercurrent of concern among the other riks. They are the best thing since sliced bread, but the Imperium and the Solomani have vast engines of destruction and could squish them like bugs (big, dangerous bugs, but bugs nonetheless), should the alliance between the Imperium and the Sengi break. They're convinced that the day will come, and they must be ready. It's just a prudent thing to do, as part of their 10,000 year plan. Nothing to worry about now. Meanwhile, Steiner will pay attention and be ready for whatever it is she needs to do down the line. Considering the Var apparently think the answer to their problems is the Corathi, things are certain to get interesting.
or lack thereof
It's turned into a pissing match between Grey and Astridi. Grey with the minimalist, direct idea, Astridi with the lower-key, less expensive, softer approach. The Imperial forces aren't after territory, which will help minimize the repercussions for the Imperium. There are some Unity-leaning Vargr leaders who are trying to drum up sympathy and support, and there may be some fanatics stepping up the terrorist thing, but it really is effective military strategy. Besides, all those planetary bombs have been piling up....
Actually, to the people in the know, it really wasn't what you'd call a "measured response"; it was brutal. But probably effective. It was less costly in terms of lives than the counter-insurgency route they were trying before. Grey does tend to make decisions and take decisive actions disregarding the political ramifications because he doesn't give a rat's ass. It's not that he's naive politically, he knows who to play the game, he's just using his own damn rules.
Unity has declared that since the Imperium has hit non-military targets (or so they claim), then civilians are now legitimate targets for Unity. That bodes well.
Post-Menorb/Boughene I: Regina
Breaking news: JP Sterne was apparently the victim of some sort of assault. He claims that eight or ten big men attacked him when he came to Regina on business. His uncle, Gerhardt, had no comment. Rumors are that Uncle Gerhardt took JP to the woodshed and reasoned with him, explaining that the family name is not to be besmirched because he was too cheap and too stupid to fulfill his side of a contract. Bad JP.
Duane Flett will receive a SterneMetal company check, signed by JP Sterne himself, for the full amount of the promised $250,000 credits. Duane stops talking about Sterne being a welcher, and converts the money into large bearer bonds to be hidden somewhere, since he still doesn't trust banks.
Solomani representatives show up to inspect the old consulate grounds on UpPort, then leave. They release the consulate lease, and will conduct all their business from Rhylanor. There is a Solomani citizen on planet who is the official consul on Regina, dirtside. Safer down there. He's just a businessman who functions as consul. No more UpPort ambassadors or anything for Regina, the life-expectancy for Solomani diplomatic personnel there was just getting too flipping low.
Post-Menorb/Boughene II: En Route to Rhylanor
On board the luxury liner, the mysterious Mr. Sandoval has shown up to bother Max. He's all casual and friendly when Amanda's around, but has a private conversation with Max under the pretext of a game of Bridge (Amanda hates Bridge). Sandoval: "I need that other ring." Max: "Excuse me?" Sandoval: "The other ring. You might not have it, but you know who does. I want it." Max: "What if I can't help you?" Sandoval: "It's all right, I'm not concerned about you. I'm just concerned about your companion. What with all this piracy and all. We wouldn't want anything to happen to her, now would we?" Max: "Perhaps you'd like to tell me what was written on those rings. Just to make sure I have the right one." Sandoval: "That's not your concern. But I can see you'd rather be elsewhere. I'll be in touch." Max leaves, and returns to his stateroom.
Amanda is in their room eating an apple, and there's a large fruit basket on the table that wasn't there before. Amanda tells him it was delivered by a steward, but there's no card. Max rings for the steward to ask who sent the basket. Steward: "I don't know, sir. No deliveries were made to this stateroom today." Max: "Well, someone delivered it, and I'd like to know by whom." Steward: "That would normally be me, sir." Max: "Amanda?" Amanda: "No, no. The other steward was much bigger. Six two, six three. He had a scar across one eye too. I was going to say something, but I thought it would be impolite." Max: <to steward> "If you see anyone, passenger or crew, who meets that description, let me know, okay?" He tips the man $50 credits. Steward: "Yes sir."
Amanda gets a funny look on her face. Max: "Are you okay?" She spits some of the apple out. Inside is a little piece of paper, like in a fortune cookie. Max looks at it. It says "Poison". Cute. Amanda: "What does it say?" Max: "Nothing really. Just part of the wrapping." Amanda: "Oh."
Max buys a keychain light, and a small laser pointer in the ship's shop. When he messes around with the laser and the stone in the ring, sure enough it projects data and a starmap on the wall. Merde. The map is of the Regina system, with some other accompanying data. Not stellar data; could be ground coordinates though. Max looks through it when Amanda is in the fresher.
He takes Amanda to the jewelry shop, and has her find something for herself. In the meantime, Max tries to find a stone to replace the one in the ring. They can make a cubic zirconia that size and shape, and the same color. No problem. They can have it done by tomorrow. Max explains that a friend of his has the same ring, but he's lost the stone. Clerk: "Ah, I understand. We get that all the time. Of course we usually get people after a trip to the casino, but I don't ask." Max pays the $80 credits for the fake rock, and $200 for Amanda's little gold chain. They go to dinner. Then there's the usual shipboard stuff, dining and dancing. No one dies.
Max is woken up in the middle of the night by the lights coming on. Sandoval has moved a chair over beside the bed. Sandoval: "I thought we'd talk about that ring. Don't worry about your friend, I've given her something to help her sleep." Max: "Who the hell are you?" Sandoval: "I'm the one asking the questions. You don't want me to get unpleasant." Max: "Too late." Sandoval: "Well, I've given you enough time to think about it." Max: "Okay, look. Give me until tomorrow, all right? It's not like you have somewhere else to be, we're in jump. <pause> Well, I obviously don't have it on me." Sandoval: "All right. Don't disappoint me. I don't like to be disappointed." He leaves. Yes, Amanda is still breathing. Max checks the ring, and it is soft enough for the surface to scratch. It's some sort of semi-precious stone.
Next morning, Amanda is bright and chipper at breakfast, and apparently has no clue anything untoward happened during the night. Sandoval comes over to say hello. Sandoval: "Amanda! Sleep well last night I hope?" Amanda: "Oh, I slept like the dead." Sandoval: "Everything all right?" Max: "Fine so far." Sandoval: "Good, good." Max: "Would you care to try again for that foursome for Bridge today?" Sandoval: "Yes, that would be great. Oh, and Amanda, have you had a chance to see the native dancers yet...?"
When Amanda goes off to see the dancers, Sandoval cheerfully showing her the way, Max returns to his room and the ring. He's able to pry it out of the setting, cracking it in the process. He manages to further break it into three pieces - one he flushes, one he gets rid off in the men's room when he goes to see about the stone, the third is left in his pocket for now. Jeweler: "Oh, I finished it last night, but I didn't want to disturb you." Max: "That's all right, someone else did it for you." The jeweler fixes the mounting, sets the stone, and buffs the whole thing up nicely. Max also buys something sparkly for Amanda, so he has a reason to be in the shop, and gets a separate receipt that doesn't mention the ring. Just in case.
Max finds the ballroom with drums and natives and things on fire. Amanda is laughing hysterically. She's to the point of gasping for breath when Max arrives. Max: "What did I miss?" Amanda: "Tony was telling me about this dance group he saw, and - oh you'd have to hear it the way Tony tells it. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants." Max sits down. Amanda: "Did you know Tony has travelled all over this sector?" She goes on at some length about Tony Sandoval. Max listens politely. Sandoval: "Did you manage to get that business of yours taken care of?" Max: "Yes. I did." Sandoval: "I'm looking forward to that bridge game." Max: "Whenever you say."
Amanda goes off to the day spa for a bit, after lunch. Sandoval: "Not that I don't trust you, but I'd like to inspect the merchandise." Max: "Fine." To Max's room. Sandoval knocks and a large man opens the door. Max: "You know, I'm really getting tired of this. Don't you have your own room?" Sandoval: "I enjoy my privacy." Max: "So did I." They go inside, where the big guy is sitting on the bed.
Max takes the ring out of his pocket. Sandoval: "Is this it?" Max: "Judas priest, I hope so. If you're looking for something else, I don't have it and we're both out of luck." Sandoval examines the ring, shining a light through the stone. Nothing happens. Sandoval: "This isn't the original stone." Max: "That's not my problem. You said you wanted the ring and I've given it to you." Sandoval: "Well, I'm going to go have a chat with the jeweler, and if I find out you've been in there..." Max: "Of course I've been in there. I bought something for Amanda there." He sets the small box on the table. Sandoval: "How sweet. I'm sure I can convince the jeweler to let me know what other services you've been buying. Then maybe I'll just pay Amanda a visit." Max: "Don't lay a hand on her, you miserable son of a bitch." Sandoval: "That almost sounds like a threat." Sandoval kicks Max in the groin. Ow! The bastard. An exchange of blows ensues. Max gets the crap beat out of him, Sandoval concentrating on the same area he went after first. (Tony obviously has issues.) Then Hugo (the big guy) gets into the act, grabbing Max's arms from behind and holding him in place. Sandoval reaches down and grabs the damaged area. Sandoval: "You like to fight, huh?" He squeezes, then Max is being slapped awake. Sandoval: "Where's the fucking stone? Do I have to have to do this to your girlfriend? Or a variation?" He takes out a wickedly sharp-looking switchblade, Max feels an intense, sharp pain then Sandoval dangles something in front of him briefly. Sandoval: "One down." He tosses it over his shoulder. Sandoval: "You know, I can fix it so that when I get through, they won't even be able to regrow it. Your girlfriend want kids?" Hugo: <uncomfortable> "Jeeze, boss, I don't know. Maybe he's telling the truth? He's got some cojones." Sandoval: "He did. Hey, maybe I should cook something up for Amanda. Maybe she'd like some Rocky Mountain Oysters." Max: "The stone..." Sandoval: "Yes?" Max: "Damaged." Sandoval: "What do you mean, damaged?" Max: "Pocket..." Sandoval finds the remaining shard of crystal. Sandoval: "Fuck!! Those sons of bitches are going to get away." Hugo: "What do you want me to do with him, boss?" Sandoval: "We don't want any embarassing questions asked." Max: "No questions. Leave Amanda alone." Sandoval reaches into his coat, takes out an auto-injector, and uses it on Max. Things fade away.
Max wakes up in his room. Someone has applied suture tape to his, um, bits to prevent him from bleeding out. There's a note on the water glass (yes, there's something floating in the glass). Note: The wise man knows when to keep silent. Thanks to the anesthetic in the suture tape, Max is able to crawl to the com unit and hit the emergency call button before curling up on the floor. A steward arrives within minutes, and eventually notices the blood. A doctor is summoned, but he's not only intoxicated, he's apparently some idiot who isn't able to do much more than treat motion sickness and vapors. Max is able to grab the steward by the shirt when he bends down. Max: "Find me a real doctor. Crew or passenger, I don't care, but sober and competent. I'll make it worth your while." The steward takes off, with the useless doctor. A few minutes later, the steward returns with another steward and a female passenger. Steward: "What the hell's happened here?" The female, Dr. Lange, is about twenty-five, with long auburn hair, bright green eyes, and she's lightly scented with some sort of musky perfume. (That's just cruel.) Dr. Lange: "Did someone call for a - oh my God!" At least she's quicker that the other one. She bends down by Max. Dr. Lange: "Are you all right sir?" Max: "No." Dr. Lange: "Let me take a look..." She examines Max carefully and efficiently. Dr. Lange: "Sir, are you aware you're missing a testicle?" [When was the last time that question came up?] Max: "Yes. Glass, on the counter." What anyone's going to make of the note is another issue, but Max doesn't stay conscious long enough to find out.
He wakes up in the ship's medical ward. Dr. Lange: "Well, hello. How are you doing? It was touch and go for a while, but I think we got everything wired up all right." Max: "Amanda...?" Dr. Lange: "Amanda? Is she a friend of yours?" Max: "My fiancée." Dr. Lange: "Oh, that must be her who's been waiting outside with your friend. I'll let them come in for few minutes." Friend?
Amanda and Tony Sandoval are let into the room, and Dr. Lange leaves. Amanda is very upset. Sandoval: "Don't worry, Max old buddy, we'll find whoever's responsible. And don't you worry, I'll take care of Amanda for you." Max: "Amanda, can I have a moment?" Amanda: "What? Oh. Of course." She figures it must be a guy thing and gives them their privacy.
It's not a guy thing. Sandoval: "How you doin'? Bet that hurts like a son of a bitch. Did you see who did it?" Max: "No." Sandoval: "Damn! Too bad. I bet you'd like to get your hands on the guy." Max: "I guarantee it." Sandoval: "Too bad you can't remember anything." Max: "Isn't it." Sandoval: "Don't worry, I'll take good care of Amanda. Nothing will happen to her. You just rest." He pats Max's shoulder in a pal-like fashion, and leaves with a big grin on his face.
Dr. Lange came in on the end of the conversation. Dr. Lange: "Wow, it must be great to have friends like that." Max: "There's nothing like it." Dr. Lange: "Don't concern yourself with anything right now. I've given you painkill." And they've hooked up the machine that goes ding.
The rest of the trip, what there is of it, passes uneventfully. Max isn't allowed to go back to his stateroom, probably for insurance reasons. He's unfortunately not able to give anything more than a very vague description of the men who assaulted him, and he didn't know who they were (technically true, sort of). Darn. Dr. Lange checks in on Max one last time when the ship jumps into system. Dr. Lange: "You'll want to go see a surgeon once we get to Rhylanor, at least for a post-operative exam. And if you need anything to help you get through this, Prozac, Zanex, whatever... In fact, I'm going to write you a perscription before I go. Fill it, then use it if you feel the need. I want you to know that I'm there for you, any time. You just call me. It's possible you may have some erectile dysfunction issues, but it would probably be psychological - which is perfectly understandable." The lovely doctor's name is Barbara Lange. She's very nice looking, in her late 20's to early 30's. She has gorgeous green eyes, and long, thin fingers. She makes sure Max has her card, the one with all her numbers on Rhylanor. Barbara: "Even if you don't have any problems, give me a call. Don't worry, I wouldn't let something like that go to waste." She smiles and leaves.
As they get off the ship, Sandoval walks out all chummy with Amanda. Sandoval: "I'll make my goodbyes. I'm sorry it wasn't as pleasant a trip as you would have liked, but it sure was a pleasure to make your acquaintance. <to Amanda> I'll be sure to look you up, now that you've given me your number. Max, you take it easy there, buddy." He turns and walks away. Amanda: "Nice guy." Max: "Yeah. One of a kind." Amanda: "Definitely a change from the people we've run into on Regina. It's nice to meet someone who's genuine." Yup, a genuine, sick son of a bitch.
Max makes contact with Joe Brenowski, gives him $6,000 credits in pay, and mid-passage to wherever he wants. Max explains about putting the Bonaventure into dry-dock on Regina, and not knowing when they would be getting back out on the ship. Max: "I'll get in touch when I'm on Regina next." Joe: "Okay." Joe will actually get to travel as a passenger rather than crew. Kind of weird.
Max goes to see the urologist Barbara recommended. He's checked out, and the doctor has some interesting news. Dr. Turner: "You know, in a way, this was fortunate." Max: "Excuse me??" Dr. Turner: "You had a blockage in one of your ducts. You were only firing on one cylinder, so to speak." Small tumor, pre-cancerous, easily dealt with. Dr. Turner: "If the blockage had continued, or grown, it might have gotten much worse. So, like I said, whoever did this actually did you a favor." Max: "I'll have to thank him if I run into him." Apparently, he's only been getting half the hormones he should have been, possibly for quite a while. Dr. Turner: "Have you been feeling less energetic? Less aggressive? Lethargic?" Max: "I don't know, maybe. It's hard to tell, what with everything that's been going on." Dr. Turner: "That's understandable."
Once the surgery is completed, Max is told to "expect an increase in libido", not that he's interested in that right now. He's cautioned to expect changes due to the return to normal levels of testosterone. Well, as long as he doesn't turn into a Marine. After about a month, it's "boy, I don't remember being this randy before! " He definitely notices whenever the nurses bend down to pick something up, when a female has a button or two undone, anything like that. Dr. Lange did a fine job. Maybe Max owes her dinner...
To fulfill the conditions of Amanda's release from Boughene, and because it's definitely needed, Max makes arrangements for her to see a psychiatrist. It takes a bit of digging, but he's able to find Dr. Marsh. He's an older gentleman who is used to dealing with military personnel, can handle issues involving violence, and is less apt to want to hug. Max delivers Amanda's medical file, and gives the doctor the background information, including the fact that Amanda claims to not remember anything about her kidnapping or any of the following events on Menorb and Boughene. Max isn't sure she really doesn't remember. Dr. Marsh: "Oh no, she's obviously blocking that off. She needs to come to terms with what happened, to see that she's still a good person, and none of this was her fault."
Amanda has had the most extreme experiences to deal with, but Max has his own issues, what with the incident with Amanda and Captain Spencer, that whole Vera Cruz mess, and everything that's happened with Amanda recently . Both Amanda and Max will be seeing Dr. Marsh for a while. Nothing to be self-conscious about, especially on Rhylanor. Besides, they've been through a lot in the last year or so, it will do them good. As may a bit of space?
Regina: Misc. Political Update
The tacit agreement of "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" with regard to Artificial Persons will be allowed to continue by the current Duchess, Corina Armstrong (née Ling-Raleigh). However, should an AP go berserk or something, then all bets are off. It's kind of hard to self-police a group that isn't really a group. What does she expect them to do - wear little badges? Always travel in threes? No matter, it's hard to argue with the Powers That Be, especially for people who don't have any status as well, people.
On the other hand, the Duchess will not tolerate discrimination against or persecution of Vargrs due to the actions of Unity. None of that "the only good Vargr is a dead Vargr" nonsense. Not that any Vargrs on Regina would be likely to just roll over and play dead without a fight.