"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."-- Theodore Rubin


There's a message for Will on his phone to meet Bunny (and unspecified others) at the Club Zambezi for dinner, assuming he gets off work sooner rather than later. Off he goes, in a cab not the big black official Regina Coroner car. (Restaurants hate it when you drive up in that.)

Now, back to Bunny and her pals. Driver: "I believe you have something that belongs to me." The driver is an average-looking, very calm individual. Perhaps a touch of smugness, but that's the only visible emotion. A little shutter opens up on the centre of the circlet, revealing a small, pinkish, wriggling thing. There's a collective "Eeewww!!" from the passengers. Kiffin: "We do?" Driver: "Which one of you has the attenuator?" Kiffin: "What's an attenuator??" Driver: "I won't ask politely again." Bunny is fascinated, Ariana's nails are biting into Robert's arm. Kaeth, being the closest, and having the thing the man wants, decides to do something. He takes the first thing that comes to hand in his pocket (attenuator, change, keys - whatever) and tosses it onto the front seat. (Change.) Kaeth is on fire. In his mind, that is. To everyone else, it just looks like the Vargr has gone berserk - screaming and rolling around.

Driver: "Anyone else?" He looks sublimely serene. Driver: "You know what I'm looking for." An image of the black item appears in everyone's mind. This means nothing to Kiffin or Bunny, mind you, but Robert is trying to not think about where it is. Kiffin tries to help Kaeth and sees something fly under the seat as he's rolling around. (That would be the attenuator thingie.) Ariana has panicked and is in the fetal position behind the bar telling the driver to "Leave me alone! I don't have it!" Kaeth is still rolling around on the floor. Kiffin: <to the driver> "Leave him alone!" She has the man's full attention now. He concentrates on her, but doesn't get through. He looks puzzled, then pushes harder. Kiffin pushes back, rather ineffectually as she doesn't know what she's doing. Kiffin feels something start to tear, like skin but not. He hasn't gotten through yet, but. It's like being behind a thick plexiglas window that someone is banging on with a hammer, sooner or later, he's going to get through. Bunny throws one of her shoes at the man, it bounces off his shoulder but doesn't distract him from Kiffin. Bunny starts trying to remove a bottle from the auto-bar. She's forgotten her new gun.

Robert shoots himself up with psi-shield (or whatever he was told was psi-shield). It will take a few seconds before the disorientation and hallucinations start. Once they do, Robert's first thought is "Did he give me shield or some kind of damn recreational drug?"

En route to the Club Zambezi, Will sees a small red, Denzetti stuck under an auto-truck. Will is going to stop the cab, but everyone is out of the car and swearing at the driverless auto-truck, and not apparently in need of medical assistance. The cab informs Will that there will be a five minute delay, due to the need to take an alternate route. It's not as prosaic a view, more industrial. The only thing that's happening around here is some one having a good time in a limo parked in the shadows. Wow, it takes a lot to rock a limo. Will: "Damn! Not on my suit." He has a nosebleed and a headache suddenly as he's passing the limo. As he passes the limo the sensation fades, and the cab merrily continues toward the restaurant. Will makes a call to Mr. Black, but he's on planet "entertaining a guest". Will: "Ta-ta." He hangs up and calls Jimmy Weseli. Will: "I know where your psionic assassin is." He tells him where the limo is. Jimmy: "Stay where you are. Don't do anything." Will: "Don't send anyone unless they have psi-shield." Jimmy: "It's going to take us a few minutes to get people together."

Will gets out of the cab so he's not too conspicuous. Then he remembers that Bunny's message said something about taking a limo to the Club Zambezi. Naturally, if there's a limo with a psionic assassin in it, then of course Bunny is in it and in danger. Will must rescue her! Will does have a body pistol in his pocket, collecting lint. It's better than a rock or a chunk of brick. He puts in his hearing protection and turns up the gain until it buzzes. Then he runs across the street to the limo and pulls open the driver side door.

The door opens. The driver wasn't expecting that. Suddenly, Kaeth isn't on fire and the odd pressure is off Kiffin. Will feels like he's been hit in the head with a hammer, no physical damage, but he's thrown backwards. Will feels the gun in his hand fire, but that's all that registers.

Robert is worried about Ariana, who appears to have gone all rubbery and is flowing over the floor. Robert grabs Ariana and tries to get out of the limo. Kaeth comes up very angry, but disoriented. Bunny is now spewing seltzer all over the place. Ah, that's what put Kaeth out! Will gets up and fires on the driver. He hits. The driver looks mightily pissed.

Kaeth launches himself at the driver, going for a leap and bite. The driver is getting out of the car to deal with Will when Kaeth dives at the man's head, tearing off an ear. He was moving, so Kaeth didn't get a decent grip. Kaeth spits the ear out and rolls back onto the floor, spitting. The driver brings up a surfgun, seriously trumping Will's bodypistol. Will fires and hits the man in the hip, then there's a huge muzzle flash and the ripping noise. Will rolls for cover, escaping the non-existent surfgun fire. Damn psionic. The driver walks away, with Kaeth taking a snapshot while leaning over the back of the seat. He hits the man in the centre of mass. He twitches but doesn't go down. Maybe he's wearing body armor.

Robert gets Ariana out of the limo and hiding behind the car. She's screaming "Kill the fucker!!" Robert starts drawing from his full-flap holster. Will fires again, hitting, but the man disappears in a sort of a fog. Cool trick. Kiffin sees the man on the opposite side of the car, near Robert and Ariana. He's watching himself disappear, smiling. Kaeth notices the ear he spit out vanish. Oh. He grabs a bottle from the bar to rinse his mouth out. That's better. Wait a sec - Fleischman's?! The bastards.

Kiffin steps out of the car and right into Robert's line of fire. Thanks to the psi-shield, Robert sees the driver coalesce just before Kiffin emerges. Robert attempts to shoot the evil mind-sucking psionic, even if that blonde chick is in the way. Mostly. True to form, Robert has shot the man in the groin. The man staggers, convulsing forward but not going down. The psionic turns his attention to the man who shot him - Robert. Robert is hit psionically, and for a second his vision goes red. His eyes and ears are bleeding, as well as his nose. He's somewhat stunned, and is knocked off balance. For a second, Kaeth sees the guy become visible, then he disappear again. What's in that bottle? And can the rest of them have some?

Bunny is in the front seat now, doing something with the peddles and stuff. Will is searching the shadows for the vanishing man. Kiffin is now right beside the driver, who looks a lot larger standing up. And rather solid. She grabs for the circlet, not knowing what else to do, but she misses. Damn. Now he's noticed her.

Bunny slams the limo into reverse, very quickly. Bunny: "Sorry!" Hey - from farther away, the man becomes visible again. Ariana grabs the gun from Robert, screams "Die, motherfucker!!" and fires many rounds down range. None of them hit the man she can't quite see. Kiffin feels a very faint tug between her legs. If she were male, and had something dangling, it would be bad. And she's got a really, really, short dress on thanks to Bunny. The bullet barely creased the bottom of the hem.

The man in blue grabs Kiffin by the throat (nothing fancy, no psionic crap), and gives her a hard squeeze. With both hands. Kaeth attempts a shoot out the open window as Bunny shifts gears. Kaeth's shot goes through Kiffin's bicep and then into the upper arm of the man in blue. He lets go of her. The limo shoots forward, and Robert grabs Ariana and rolls them out of the way. He's very lightly clipped as it goes by, rolling further. Bunny has seen people drive. As the limo gets closer, the man in blue fades out for Kaeth and Bunny. They can see Kiffin fighting with...nothing. The man cocks his arm back to hit Kiffin, then his eyes get big and he dives to the side, taking the clinging Kiffin with him. The limo shoots past and rams into a wall.

Bruises, but no actual physical damage to Kaeth as he's tossed around. He clings to his gun, watching the crystal roll across the floor, followed by a wallet, a pocket knife, some keys, a Dakar coin, a couple of packages of Trojan Memory-plast condoms (they're more than ribbed for her pleasure), a shot glass... He'll worry about that later.

Kaeth doesn't want to shoot Kiffin, but she's so tangled up in the man that it's impossible to get a clear shot. Kaeth aims for the center of body, hoping to miss the girl. He takes the shot, hitting the man in the chest. He coughs pink frothy blood onto Kiffin as the lung is impacted. Robert's gun is on the ground in front of him, and he grabs for it, making a snapshot. The shockwave ripples from the bullet really weird him out though. He fires, missing the man and Kiffin as well. It passes by Kiffin's head a bit closer than she'd like.

The man in blue decides to get the hell out of here. He uses a pain-compliance move (thumb in the eyesocket) to get Kiffin off him. It works, rather quickly. He shoves, rolls, gets up on his feet and runs off. Kiffin lets him, not wanting to get shot again. She gets in the side door, not getting in Kaeth's way. Kaeth takes a shot at the blob that's fading into view, hitting him in Robert's favorite location. Robert takes a shot and hits the man in the chest again. The man staggers and falls down onto the pavement.

Kiffin's purse is on the floor of the limo, but it came open during the mess and most of the contents have spilled out. She has to go digging around in the debris that's been rattled loose from under the seats to find her phone. It's quite the archeological dig in here. She finds a wallet and some keys, which she sets onto a seat. There are several packets of prophylactics - the expensive, memory-plast kind! Happy Sea Anemone, and Python of Love, and they're flavored. Right, onto the seat. There's a stick of gum that hasn't been made in years, Kiffin's 5mm (back into the purse), the black crystal thing (also into the purse), and her phone. Finally. She dials Mr. Black's number. A male voice answers, and when she asks to speak with Mr. Black, she's told "He's not available right now. He's on planet, entertaining a guest." Kiffin: "I'm not sure who I'm supposed to talk to then." Man: "Who is this?" Kiffin: "It's Kiffin." Man: "Okay. Leave your message with me, and I'll see to it he gets it right away."

Everything around Kaeth is grey. He sees nothing but greyness everywhere. It's like the cartoonist suddenly removed all the background. He pulls the trigger, hoping it's aimed in the right direction. Robert is watching as Kaeth fires like a blind man, literally. At least one of the rounds hits the body, as it jerks. But wait, it's not a body - he gets up to his knees, and is apparently trying to raise his hands. Robert shoots him anyway. He falls. Sirens getting closer. Kaeth's vision finally clears, gradually. He sees a body in a pool of blood. No one could survive losing that much blood. Really. The police are just arriving, and Kaeth runs up to the body, to render first aid of course. He sloshes through the blood. Robert staggers forward, to intercept Kaeth. Robert: "Do you still have it?" Kaeth shakes his head. Kaeth: "In the limo." The man is still alive, apparently. His eyes are still open, and blinking. Kaeth attempts to cover the circlet with his knees, but he's not able to. The dying man lurches upward, grabs onto Kaeth with a bloody hand, and says "Don't betray the cause." Kaeth: "What cause?" Man: "Yeah man, free enterprise." Huh? He collapses and lays still.

The cops are here now, see all the blood, which makes them a tad jumpy. Cop: "Okay, everybody - hands up! Do not move." The cop accidentally kicks the circlet, which skitters across the pavement, heading right for the sewer drain. Just before it gets there, it's stopped by a man in a dark suit. He picks it up, looking at it. The shutter is closed. Kaeth: "That's some sort of psionic amplifier or something. Don't point it at me." The Regina Security agent takes the circlet, walks over to the limo, and hands his phone to Kiffin. It's Mr. Black on the other end.

Robert comes over and searches through the limo once Kiffin steps outside to have her arm bandaged. He can't find the crystal thing, but he does find a wallet - it has several thousand credits in it, along with Seymore Globber's ID. Oh hey, isn't that the police commissioner? It also has pictures of females. Scantily clad, attractive females. One of them is laying on a bed wearing a diaphanous gown. She looks familiar. Really familiar. That's because it's a picture of Corina Armstrong (née Ling-Raleigh), the duchess of Regina. Robert is having problems dealing with the mental image of Globber and Corina together, in an intimate sort of way. Ick. Besides the pictures, there are groups of bills held together by pieces of white paper, and with names written on them. None of the names mean anything to Robert, but he takes the wallet just in case. He too, leaves behind the special, memory-plast condoms. Such a waste.

Black: "Kiffin, take your friends out. <pause> I mean see that they're taken to the hospital. Go with them, I'll be back shortly." Kiffin: "What do I do with the attenuator crystal?" <lengthy pause> Black: "You have the attenuator?" Kiffin: "Yes." Black: "The circlet and the attenuator?!?" Kiffin: "Yes." Black: "Stay there. I'll send a car for you." Kiffin: "Okay." She hands the phone back to the man.

A few minutes later, a nicer black car comes up. Martin and a young blond man get out - they're Kiffin's ride. The latter doesn't even insist Kiffin get into the trunk. [Yes, it's Trunk Boy.] Another man in a black suit and a cop, carry the dead body to the limo, which is on flames as the others are being put into the ambulance.

Everyone is medicked, and Robert is put into a nice soft room, with nothing to warp or dissolve, and is given Valium. The psi-shield will wear off, and eventually the hallucinations will stop.

288 to 289-1123.

Time to be discharged. Robert is sure his clothing has been gone through, but they didn't take anything. In fact, whoever did it left behind an envelope full of cash. A little note is paperclipped to the money: The management wishes to thank you for your assistance. Robert, Ariana, and Kaeth all have envelopes. The news reports on the hospital tri-dees show a story about a man stealing a limousine and dying in a crash.

Robert and Ariana go back to the Ruby. Ariana goes to her cabin while Robert checks on the work done so far. The bridge is still a mess. Ariana comes back out. Ariana: "Robert, we need to figure out what to do with this." She's holding up a darker-than-black crystal. That would be the real attenuator. Robert: <shocked> "How the hell did you get that?" Ariana: "I've had it for some time. I hid it somewhere no one would look." Robert: "What about the other one?" Ariana: "It's a fake. I had it made when I found this one." Robert: "How did the other one end up in the Chandlers office?" Ariana: "I put it there." Robert: "I don't want to know." Ariana: "I don't know what it is, but I know someone would probably pay a lot of money for it." This one is sort of octarine in color. Interesting. Robert: "What to do with it...Hanging on to it wouldn't be a good idea, since some nasty people would come looking for it." Ariana: "I'd rather not have more unexpected visitors to the ship." Robert: "Well, we can go looking for whoever might want it, or we wait for someone to come looking for it." Ariana: "We hang onto it." Robert: "I can think of one person who might be very interesting in it." Ariana: "Oh?" Robert: "Your art collector friend." Ariana: "Well, that's interesting, because while I'd never want to owe a favor to Mr. Black, I wouldn't mind having him owe me one. Let me tell you about Mr. Black. Sit down. I don't know too much, but I'll tell you what I do know. He's the director of Regina Security, and the power behind the throne. He's someone with a long reach, but he's basically a businessman. You can deal with him. He has no interests beyond himself, unlike a lot of the others around here. We'll have to deal with this carefully, because Mr. Black doesn't like to owe people favors." Robert: "Since we're in a sharing mood..." He drops the wallet on the table. She looks through it, and is very interested. Ariana: "Who's this Globber guy? The name sounds familiar." Robert: "He's the Starport Police commissioner." Ariana: "Does he have a wife?" Robert: "I don't know for sure, but I don't think so." Ariana: "Damn." She looks through the pictures. Very interesting. Robert: "I think maybe we should pay a visit to the commissioner." Ariana: "I'll let you take care of it. But not too soon I hope, because there's suddenly an opening." She drags him back to the cabin. Eventually, the workmen will be showing up, but who the hell cares now?

Elsewhere, Kiffin is taken through the executive entrance into Regina Security. Black's secretary is expecting Kiffin. Secretary: "Mr. Black will see you now." Kiffin is buzzed in. Black is looking rather casual in his polo shirt and slacks. He seems pleased to see her. Black: "Kiffin, please, sit down. Can I fix you a drink?" Kiffin: "No, thank you." He's trying to not drool too much, or be rude, but he'd really like to look in the box she has the circlet in. Kiffin: "Oh, here." Black's eyes almost twinkle as he takes out the circlet. Kiffin: "There was - something - in there." Black: "Um-huh. Yes, it appears there was. <mostly to himself> And the attenuator as well. The range is seriously limited without it." He goes behind his bar, which slides noiselessly out of the way. There's a vault back there that he opens with a retinal scan among other things. He places the circlet and crystal, fitted into place on the circlet, into one of the safety deposit-like boxes. Inside the vault are all sort of odd things, including a large number of what some people would recognize as Therian. Kiffin doesn't, but she does see all sorts of pretty glowing runes. It's Black's micro-storage unit for unusual artifacts. Maybe he's trying to collect the whole set. He closes up the vault and slides the bar back into place. Black: "It goes without saying that discretion is required here. I don't show this to just anyone, but I know I can depend on you." Kiffin: "Of course. I hope I did all right, it was all sort of confusing." Black smiles and sits on the desk in front of her. Black: "You did very well." He reaches forward and gently brushes a strand of hair back behind Kiffin's ear. It's a rather intimate gesture. Black: "Why don't you join me for dinner tonight? Say eight o'clock?" Kiffin: "I'd like that." Black: "Oh, and you're still staying at the Jasmine Club aren't you?" Kiffin: "Yes." Black: "Well, a friend of mine has had to go Coreward for a while, and there's no one staying in his apartment." He takes a set of keys out of his pocket. Black: "You can stay there, and have more privacy." Kiffin: "Are you sure?" Black: "Certainly. I may have need...may need your help on occasion and it would be a more comfortable place to discuss business. I'll have your things sent over." He drops the set of keys into her hand. Black: "I'll see you tonight then."

Kiffin is escorted out by one of Black's men, for reasons of security and her safety. It's too easy to get hopelessly lost inside the big grey building with no windows - doors aren't labelled, and all the corridors and glassed-in offices look pretty much the same. A driver is there to take her wherever she'd like to go. Kiffin is momentarily puzzled, but the driver says " Ah, yes ma'am" when she holds up the keys. He drives her up to level 1, and escorts her into a very nice apartment. Not only does it overlook a secluded part of Aguilon Park, but also a private, smaller park for the complex. This is a neighborhood that's so upperclass they took living space away to make it into a park. The apartment is1,500 square feet in size, furnished, and nicely decorated. There's a mini-bar with Creme de Violette in it, and a humidor with Sobrainés. Gee, wonder who those are for?? The bathroom is a religious experience. Kiffin decides to try out the enormous bathtub. Room for two, and then some. Ah yes, blondes and bubbles.

Kaeth finds a crumpled piece of paper with blood on it, in one of his pockets. The dying guy must have put it into his pocket when he grabbed Kaeth by the shirt. It reads Sturvigant and has a Regina phone number below the - name? Kaeth goes to a public terminal and calls. A male voice answers, but there's no video. "Hello?" Kaeth: "I have a number and a name. Do I need to say it?" Voice: "No. I have the $30 million. Do you have the object?" There's a brief pause as part of Kaeth's brain registers "30 million??" Kaeth: "No, I don't have it. The authorities do. Run."

Back at the Ruby, the repair workers will be interrupting the happy boinking couple. Ariana: "You know, if I had known sex would be this good, I would have started a lot sooner. Are all men like you?" Robert: "I have no idea. I'm sure all the parts are comparable..." Ariana: "Well, tab A does fit into slot B." She lays back in the bed and ignores the workers making noise.

After a reasonable amount of time has passed in snuggling, Robert puts the $50,000 in the ship's safe and gets cleaned up. He's going to go pay a visit to the police commissioner. At the commissioners office Robert finds out that Ariana had called ahead of time. The middle-aged Vargr female who's Globber's secretary/minder was expecting Robert. Rourrgith: "Just a moment, I'll let him know you're here." She goes to the office door, opens it, and calls out "Boss! Mr. Shelzie's here." Globber's voice: "Ah, send him in, send him in." Robert goes in to find a cluttered office (a sign the owner's either a madman or a genius), smelling of garlic and spaghetti sauce. The spatters of sauce are remarkably like the blood spatters in the pictures on the wall. It none the less smells very yummy. Globber: "Yes, I heard about you from an associate of Count Barada's. Some Chianti Clasico?" Robert: "No thank you." Globber: "It complements the meal well." Robert: "Oh all right." Robert has just had sex, so he knows the meal's not better than sex, but it's definitely good.

For a while there's eating and digesting. then the fabled Neo York cheesecake. Globber: "You'll have a slice?" Robert: "A small slice." Now they can have dessert and coffee. Robert: "Well, to get down to brass tacks commissioner..." Globber: "Oh, yes. Of course. How can I assist a friend of Count Barada's?" Robert: "Actually, I can help you." He takes out the billfold wallet. Globber: "That looks just like mine." He feels his jacket pocket, finding no wallet. He takes the billfold. Robert: "It was discovered in the back of a limousine." Globber opens the billfold to check it, and a packet of the special condoms tumbles out. In the most amazing display of hand-eye Robert has ever seen, Globber pops open his desk drawer, flicks the falling condom packet neatly into the drawer, and pushes it closed in a single moment. Wow.

Robert: "Uh, any how, it was found in the back of a limosine, as I said, and we thought it best to return it to you." Globber: "We?" Robert: "My associate and I." Globber: "Well, I can't thank you enough. This is what Regina needs - more honest citizens like yourself." Robert: "I'm glad I could be of assistance." Globber: "If there's anything I can ever do for you, please, give me a call." Robert: <standing> "I'll keep that in mind, of course." Globber: "Here, take my card." He scribbles something on the back of the card and hands it to Robert, who puts it into his pocket. They shake hands. Robert: "I'm sure we'll meet again." When he gets to the office door, the lightbulb comes on. Robert: "You know, it just occurred to me. There is something. Not too long ago, there was some falsified documentation that was presented in the courts here. Sanity papers, I thing they're called. In the name of Robert Shelzie." Globber: "Really? Well, please give my secretary the particulars." Globber is already on the phone when Robert closes the door. Robert gives the pertinent information to Rourrgith, thanks her, and leaves. Not until he's outside of the station does Robert look at the card. On the back is written: "Please extend to my friend Robert Shelzie all courtesy." It's signed Seymore Globber. Robert would get different reactions to the card in different places. He'll put it in the safe when he gets back to the ship.

Back at the Ruby, Robert finds a couple of really big crates, and a note from Ariana: "Going to take care of a few odds and ends. Be back tonight." The workers are done with the airlock, but it's going to take weeks for all the repairs to be done. Ariana wants it done right, and she's not worried about leaving in a hurry. Robert checks the computer, and the only thing on it about the cargo is: "MilTech Gendyne GR6 Mark IV, two each." Okay.

He pokes his head into the bridge, but doesn't bother the workers. He goes back to the cargo area. He does notice that one corner of one crate has been cracked like it was banged into a bulkhead or something. It has been duly noted on the packing manifest, so Robert isn't too worried. He takes a peek and sees that the contents aren't touching the sides, and weren't damaged, but he sees some olive drab, and yellow. Nothing is leaking onto the deck, so it's no big deal.

He's playing virtual squash when the door chimes. There are a couple of young ladies at the door - 5'10", blonde. Blonde A: "Are you Robert?" Robert: "Yes, and you ladies are?" Blonde B: "Complements of a friend who wanted to say thanks." One of them sets down a boombox and turns on the music. He leaves the hatch open. Blonde B: "Wouldn't you rather go somewhere more private? Your friend paid for the full treatment." She smiles. Robert: "Uh, I appreciate that fact a great deal, but let's just say that my significant other doesn't have the same sense of humor as we do." Speak of the devil, the comm unit rings. Robert makes sure he answers from one away from the blonde women he'd have difficulty explaining. Ariana: "Hi. Look, I'm working a deal on some valuable cargo, but I'm going to have to stay on in DownPort." He can see truck traffic in the background, she must be in the industrial section. Robert: "Were you expecting some equipment for the ship? Robots or something?" Ariana: "Ah good, they were delivered. You'll have to get your own dinner. I probably won't be back until morning. Talk to you later, bye." She rings off. The workmen have stopped what they were doing in order to make sure the blonde females don't get lonely. Robert gets an idea. Robert: "Ah, gentlemen! I really don't have the time, but perhaps these ladies can do their show for you." The ladies have been paid for, so they don't mind. Robert decides to go to dinner at Club Zambezi, since he never got there the last time, and this way he's the hell away from the ship and the ladies.

Kaeth has gone to Curl Up and Dye to get all clean. He'll come out shiny and a bit fluffier than he'd normally like, but he'll look good. As he's finishing up under the dryer, it's suddenly flipped up and an attractive booted foot is placed on the seat, between his legs. Vrrefra: "Hey, stranger." There she is! Kaeth: "I knew I liked this place for some reason!" Vrrefra: "So, you never called. Too busy with all those other gals? You're going to make me work for it, huh?" Kaeth: "My heart was broken, what else could I do?" Vrrefra: "You can buy me dinner to make up for it. Or better yet - the Ambassadore has room service." Is that a nervous twitch, or is Kaeth's tail wagging? Vrrefra's there to have her nails done, but that should only take a half hour. That allows Kaeth to make the arrangements. Yes!!

The female has apparently made quite the study of the art of seduction. It's not just bouncy, it's pure decadence. When she leaves early the next morning, it's clear that it's not a long term thing she's looking for, but "who knows, maybe we'll hook up again later." Saw him, had him, done now. Her scent lingers for some time, as Kaeth relaxes. If he weren't a Vargr, he'd be purring right now.

Dinner with Mr. Black. He picks Kiffin up in a car without a driver - he'll take care of that himself tonight. Then it's off to some dark corner (well not that dark) of Old Port. Black raps on a nondescript door which is opened by a man in evening wear. It's a small place that smells of herbs. They serve Northern Italian cooking, to people who know where to find them. They have a nice, multi-course dinner with wine, the whole thing. It takes hours - very civilized. A glance around the room at the clientele reveals people in extremely expensive clothing. The Vargr couple at one of the tables look very nice - he's wearing a very subdued suit that was probably personally made by the man who's name is associated with the design.

After dinner, Robert goes back to Weintraub's to purchase an engagement ring. He has $50,000 credits, not that he intends to spend all of that. He actually ends up spending $15,000 on the engagement ring and wedding bands. The engagement ring is wrapped, and he has the wedding bands kept by the jeweler for later fitting. Robert returns to the ship and leaves it on Ariana's nightstand to find when she returns.

On her return, Ariana opens the big crates like a child at Christmas. The boxes contain two incredibly gnarly, vaguely humaniform robots. Robert: "And these are for?" Ariana: "For the ship." Robert: "These are to replace the mercs?" Ariana: "Something like that. I don't want any more surprise visitors. It'll take me a while to get them all warmed up and ready." The things have a ton of firepower, internal ammo, rocket launchers, the whole shebang. They're a bit big for some of the internal corridors, but they can fit out of the cargo hatch just fine. It's going to be a while before Ariana finds the ring, since she's merrily messing around with the robots. That's okay, Robert is just glad she's happy.

After dinner, Black takes Kiffin back to her new place, and sees her to the door. Black: "It's been a most pleasant evening." Kiffin: "It was wonderful, thank you." Black: "I'll say goodnight then." And off he goes. If he'd been in a bit less of a hurry, he probably would have been invited inside. Kiffin goes out onto the balcony for a while. It's very peaceful, until she hears someone behind her clearing their throat. She turns to find a 40-ish man in a very stylish grey suit standing behind her. Man: "Eh-hum. I apologize for letting myself in. The door was..." Kiffin: "The door was locked." Man: "My name is Sturvigant, and I believe you might be able to help me."