"Things which you do not hope happen more frequently than things which you do hope."-- Plautus,


Kiffin comes home after exhausting herself at the gym and lays down on the couch for a few minutes. When she opens her eyes next, the lights will be on evening setting and the time is 8:30 p.m. Damn. Still in her workout clothes, she'll go to shower and change.

After finally convincing Ariana that he really isn't up to any more bouncy, she and Robert go downstairs for some food at around 11:00 a.m. Ariana has found a robe-like thing to wear, although it's a bit more revealing than she'd like. They find the nice kitchen, with a fair-sized table, and about a half dozen people at it. Four women, a couple of men, all good looking. Brad: "Hey, hi! I'm Brad." Terri: "I'm Terri. You two must be new. <to Ariana> What's your specialty?" Blushing, apparently. Offers of help, pointers, etc. Robert and Ariana keep very quiet, and try to keep a low profile. They get food from the buffet and take it upstairs, which is a bit anti-social. They see a female Vargr coming out of a shower, towelling off her long, honey-colored hair. Oh, and Angela's here.

Angela: "Hi, are you getting settled in okay?" Robert: "Yes. Although it's a bit unusual." Angela: "Really? In what way?" Robert: "Well, we're not used to being in uh, a place like this." Angela really doesn't get why staying in a bordello would bother them, but to each his own. Robert assures her that everyone has been polite and helpful, really. Angela leaves, and Ariana runs over to Robert. Ariana: "Oh my God, did you see the boobs on that one? And I don't know if you noticed, but that one guy, Kevin?" She holds her hands apart like someone describing a large fish they'd caught. No, Robert didn't notice. Ariana: "That looks...painful." Back to reality. Ariana has about $10,000 credits on her in cash. Well, not on her, in the room.

Back to the room, where they discuss making contact with the outside world. Robert: "I don't want to call Bunny, because she's connected to the coroner, who's connected to Black, who works for the minister of Justice." Ariana: "Yeah, that won't work." Robert: "And Kiffin, who's also apparently also a close friend of Black's is out too." Ariana: "Great. What about Kaeth?" Robert: "I don't know that this is something Kaeth wants to get into." Ariana: "We need someone who can operate in public if we're going to stay here. I don't know much of anyone else." Robert: "Neither do I." Ariana: "Kaeth was on Planet X with us." Robert: "I know. I don't think we have anyone else we can call. And we've got to find a way to talk to him without it leading back to us." Ariana: "Let's talk to Angela, see if there's a way to get Kaeth here." Angela is called, and comes up to speak with them. Angela: "What can I do to help?" Robert: "We need to get a friend of ours over here, and we need to do it in such a way that anyone who's listening won't know it's us. I was thinking maybe you could have someone call him from here, maybe with a special offer or something?" Angela: <smiles> "I know just the person to invite him."

Kaeth's portable rings. Female Vargr's voice: "Is this Kaeth Voeguae?" Kaeth: "Yes, it is." Oenvoe: "Well, you dropped off your business card and won a free visit to Angelique's. I'm hoping to see you, real soon.... I'm really, really anxious to meet you." She describes what she's wearing, in detail. Oenvoe: "And I'm very wet." Kaeth: "I'll be right there." Click. He doesn't really have business cards, and it might be a trap, or a mistake, but parts of him don't care.

To Angelique's! It's on level 2, very discreet, and very nice inside. He goes to the side with females in it. The Vargr with long flowing golden fur comes over. Oenvoe: "Hi. Do you want some company?" Kaeth: "Well, I'm Kaeth, and -" Oenvoe: "Oh! You're Kaeth. Yes, well, your visit is on the house today. Our way of showing customer appreciation. Would you like a drink first, or would you like to go upstairs?" Kaeth: "Whatever the lady suggests." She orders two Varlick's Blood, on the rocks. It's served in very suggestive cups. Then Kaeth follows her upstairs, enjoying the view.

At the top landing they run into Angela. Angela: "Oh, you must be Kaeth. I'm sorry for the subterfuge." Shit. The female smacks her lips suggestively at Kaeth and waves as she leaves. Kaeth manages to not whimper audibly. Angela: "There are some people here who want to see you. This way." Kaeth follows her down the hall, where she knocks on a door. The door next to it opens a crack. Angela: "Nothing to worry about, senator." The door closes, Angela lets Kaeth in to the other room. Angela: "If you need anything, call me." She leaves.

Kaeth looks at Robert and Ariana, and the room. Kaeth: "So, is this a typical human honeymoon?" Robert: "Uh, no." It is memorable. Robert: "Okay, last time we talked, you didn't seem too eager to get involved in our problems, and we understand that. But there aren't many people out there we can trust." Ariana: "Look, Kaeth, we need someone's help. We're willing to pay you." Robert: "We need to know more about what we've gotten mixed up in." Kaeth: "Well for one, the blonde, slightly bombed thing we found, in the park?" Robert: "Oh, Kiffin. Sure." Kaeth: "She may be tied into Sturvigant. You remember the security guy?" Robert: "I've seen a lot of security guys, come on." Kaeth: "The one who was with the governor when she got whacked. The big guy who was looking at us. He's Sturvigant." Robert: "And he's hanging out with this Kiffin person?" Kaeth: "That's what I've heard." Robert: "And she's a friend of Black's? And the interim governor of Jenghe ends up dead because of this and we get blamed??" Kaeth: "You get blamed?" Robert: "Here's the problem. Ariana and me, well, mostly me, have been set up as the assassin." Kaeth: "How did this happen?" Robert: "The suspected murder weapon was Ariana's gun. The one she just bought. We checked." Kaeth: "So, Ariana buys the gun the day before the assassination, and without practice, is able to put three head shots into...?" Robert: "Exactly! You've seen her shoot! And you see how this makes no sense. We need to find out who set us up." Kaeth: "Who benefits if you and Ariana are sent up the river?" Robert: "I don't' think that matters. I think we're just convenient. The only person I can think of is... Well you don't know about that." Kaeth: "Do you know someone named Barada?" Robert: "Yes, we do." Ariana gets a rather surprised look on her face. Kaeth: "Could he be involved with this?" Ariana: "I don't think so. No." Robert: <to Ariana> "Have you ever heard of this Sturvigant guy?" Ariana: "No." Kaeth: "Can you think of anyone who would want you tossed out of a line of succession or something?" Ariana: "Not me, no. But a friend of mine." Kaeth: "Could someone be trying to get to him through you?" Ariana: "That's very possible." Kaeth: "Might he know this Sturvigant guy? Or Hunter or Osbourne Banks?" Ariana: "No, and he tells me everything, so I think I'd know."

Robert has thought of something else. It's a remote possibility, but "it might be connected to my uncle. Before we went to Planet X <some time before> someone showed up here with phony commitment papers for me. And my uncle does live on Jenghe." Kaeth: "Was he connected to the former governor?" Robert: "I don't know, that's my uncle's business." Kaeth: "Does this Barada guy have interests on Jenghe?" Ariana: "I believe he did have some interests there, yes." Kaeth: "What about your uncle?" Robert: "My uncle has major interests on Jenghe." Kaeth: "So, maybe that's the connection. We need to follow up on it at any rate, see if we can tie anything together." Robert: "We can probably handle the computer searches." Kaeth: "Uh, don't you think that sort of stuff will be flagged?" Robert: "Well, yeah." Kaeth: "Let's make it simple. What specifically are we looking for, information-wise?" Ariana: "We need to know who's behind this, and why. This Sturvigant guy is interesting, for one. And Kiffin. We met her, and now she's with Sturvigant right after the governor is murdered and we're framed. Maybe that's why it was arranged for us to meet her." Robert: "It's possible." Ariana: "I mean if she's just Sturvigant's tool, then maybe we can turn her. I have experience with people, maybe we can get something out of her. Take her to dinner, give her a few drinks, see what we can get." Kaeth: "I suppose." He doesn't have that much faith in Ariana's people skills, having seen them at work. Robert: "We also need to keep Bunny out of it, because of her connection to the coroner and his boss. Not that she doesn't seem nice or anything, just a bit odd sometimes." Ariana: "So she's either the greatest actor in the world, or..." Robert: "In either case, her husband is the coroner. And as such, he's connected to Black." Ariana: "Exactly. And considering Mr. Black's position in the bureaucracy...I mean the man is the director of Regina Security." Kaeth: "The what???!! The director of Regina Security??" Robert: "Yeah." Ariana: "Don't you know about Mr. Black?" Kaeth: "Nooo, not until thirty seconds ago!" Ariana: "Sorry. I thought you knew." Robert: "You haven't been to the big grey building with no windows, have you?" Kaeth: "Yeah." Ariana: "Who's office do you think is on the top floor? One Mercer Black." Kaeth: "Not something I needed to know, thank you." Robert: "He's a powerful man." Ariana: "And anyone who crosses him has a tendency to end up dead or worse. Count Barada has told me about him. They've had some dealings before. Black occasionally needs someone to help launder some of his extra money." Interesting, but still not something Kaeth needed to know. Ariana: "I should warn you that just by telling you this information I've put you at risk. I owe you that much. I don't want you going into this blind." Kaeth: "Oh, thank you so much." Ariana: "And I want you to know that debt cuts both ways. If there's anything I can ever do for you... <to Robert> Not like that, hon, but as you know, with my past I haven't had many friends." Robert: "I understand." Kaeth: "Okay. So, Hunter Banks was connected to Black's superior. Did Black have her killed to get to Banks, or did Banks get rid of her because she was a threat to him?" Robert: "Or, someone's tired of having Black or Banks around, or both." Ariana: "It could be. I just know I want to stay alive. I can't leave because they've shut down the port and all the ships have to be cleared through Regina Security. We have to find out who's behind all this." Robert: "Right now the only person we know that might have information, is Kiffin. We need a place to arrange a meeting." Ariana: "Some where away from the prying eyes of Black's people." Kaeth: "I know some place where Regina Security isn't welcome, and doesn't like to go, but does the image of throwing fresh meat into a piranha filled river mean anything? The place I'm thinking of is the Cadaver." Ariana: "the what?" Kaeth: "The Laughing Cadaver." Robert: "I've heard of it. Didn't it burn down?" Kaeth: "Yes, but it got better." Robert: "Set it up. Preferably tonight." [Note: Kaeth just thinks Regina Security doesn't have any connections to the Cadaver.] Kaeth leaves, stopping in the bathroom to put the inserts into his vest, then he leaves. He goes to a public terminal to do research.

Shelzie Medical currently has a license to manufacture Regen™, and it's the only planet in the Regina subsector that does. And that's a SuSAG license. Oh dear. There's a holding company that's a minority interest (40%) holder in Shelzie Medical, and that leads back to Count Barada. Kaeth manages to find out about a holding company traceable back to Hunter Banks, that tried to pull out a hostile takeover of Shelzie Medical. Oh really? And other holding companies with connections to her have been buying up all sorts of assets and interests on Jenghe. Looks like she'd been using her office to gain financial control of Jenghe. Hmm, maybe the Shelzies are behind the hit? Or Count Barada? And the huge scandal that would follow, maybe it could be used to their advantage. The Shelzies and Count Barada? Some sort of horrible family thing that Kaeth's stumbled into?? Did Ariana whack Banks really? And then she married Robert the next day? And where do Sturvigant and that Kiffin girl fit?? Argh - headache!

Robert and Ariana do their own search. They don't need to look up anything about Count Barada, obviously. But Ariana can use Angela's terminal in the bordello (she uses it for legitimate business). As Robert doesn't have research skills, he tends to Ariana - rubbing her shoulders, and the like. He can feed her snacks, and she can lick his fingers. On a break, Robert gets a dozen of the Happy Anemone's and sends them, anonymously, to Globber. How nice. Ariana: "We'll see who surfaces now that we've started taking action. And if somebody kills Kaeth, then we'll know he was onto something. We'll see if he can arrange a meeting." No doubt Kaeth would be pleased to know his potential demise is for a good cause.

A bit earlier. Kiffin changes and answers a knock at the door. It's Sturvigant, and he's looking recently shaved and quite pleased with himself. He's carrying a bottle of champagne. Sturvigant: "You didn't get the package I sent you?" Kiffin: "Yes, I got it." Sturvigant: "Well, don't keep me waiting." He steps inside, closes and locks the door. Kiffin goes into the other room and reluctantly changes. Everything fits perfectly. She comes out to find Sturvigant chilling the champagne. He gives her an approving look. Sturvigant: "So, have you had an interesting day, or have you been a naughty girl?" Kiffin: "What? I - I haven't done anything." Sturvigant: "I don't think that's the truth. I think you've been very naughty." He grabs her by the arm and pulls her into the bedroom. Sturvigant takes off his belt and "disciplines" her lightly. Kiffin tries to fight him, but he's so much stronger than her it's pretty useless. Then he gets down to business.

Sturvigant is quite accomplished, and good for four or five sessions. He definitely knows how to push people's buttons, and really enjoys doing it. Afterwards, he pets Kiffin for a while, then gets something out of his jacket. It's a very nice necklace of many shiny stones. He puts it on Kiffin, lovingly - like a boyfriend or lover giving a gift. Sturvigant: "Beautiful. I wish I could stay all night here with you, but unfortunately I have business to attend to." He runs his fingers through her hair, strokes her cheek, then dresses. He kisses her before he leaves.

Kaeth decides it's too late to go talk to Kiffin. He goes to the Happy Tummy. It's full of Vargrs of course, and Kaeth spots Vrrefra, still with the hulking grav-ball player who's wolfing down food at a high rate. He laughs too loud, and chugs down a liter of beer. He probably weighs 150 kilos, at least, he could probably rip a person's arm right off. His canines (upper and lower) have been sheathed in stainless steel, he's wearing a wifebeater with the Rottweiler's logo and his number. He has gold painted nails with diamond studs. Ooh, classy. Kaeth tries not to think about what Vrrefra sees in the guy.

Back to Angelique's, where a question as to what he's drinking draws a "saltpeter with a water chaser, please" from Kaeth. He gets escorted back up to the newlyweds. No, Kaeth hasn't made contact with Kiffin, but he does give them the down and dirty about what he found. Kaeth: "The governor wanted everything she could get out of Jenghe." Ariana: "I'll say so." Kaeth: "I think the lady got rather greedy while trying to set up her own personal powerbase." Ariana: "Makes sense. Jenghe is a good location. Away from Regina, out from under Black's thumb..." Kaeth: "Other people had similar interests as far as targets. SuSAG, SterneMetal, others...If there was anything worthwhile on Jenghe, Hunter Banks wanted part of it, and some of it was already taken. This Sturvigant guy is part of it too, and whoever he is, he has money and power." Ariana: "All the more reason to talk to Kiffin." Kaeth: "Yeah, but I didn't want to head over there, if she's his squeeze, by the time I finished at the library... What if he answered the door?" Robert: "Then maybe we should give him something else to be interested in." Kaeth: "It's a bit late, away from this rarefied location." Robert: "Then how are we going to make contact?" Kaeth: "I'll go there first thing in the morning, in my best jogging clothes, and try to make casual contact." Robert is wondering what Dick Salamander would do right now?? It would involve cool gadgets, sang froid, and more good luck than Robert has seen in a while.

Corina gets many updates on the Hunter Banks killing. All indications are that the death was something politically motivated and ordered by the Duchess and/or the Director of Regina Security, so it's safe to actually investigate. No orders from Regina Security to arrest certain specific people. Pressure is being exerted by the Ministry of Justice though.

Corina summons the Minister to brief her personally. Yes, at this hour. She has a small child - when Corina's up, everybody gets to be up. Banks seems miffed that he's been summoned. (He doesn't get UpPort very often, and that's the way he likes it.) Corina expresses her condolences, and her personal interest in the case. Banks: "The investigation is proceeding. Nothing at this point, although we may have a couple of suspects. It's all circumstantial right now." Corina: "Are there any indications as to the motive?" Os: "Not yet. I can't think of any reason why Hunter would be killed, as she was such a much loved woman." Really? Corina: "Had you been in contact with her recently?" Banks: "You know how it is with siblings - grow up, out of touch..." Get too busy with your bugs.... Corina: "Is there anything I can assist you with, funeral arrangements, anything like that?" Banks: "No, thank you. That has already been arranged." Corina: "Well, let me know if there's any way in which I can be of any help." Os: "Of course, your grace." That would be the polite dismissal exchange. Banks leaves to return to his own turf.

Next on Corina's late agenda is Mercer Black. He's no doubt been notified about Banks' visit. After the usual pleasantries, it's to the point. Black: "Regarding this assassination. I believe you've already spoken with Osbourne Banks?" Corina: "Yes. He's mystified as to why anyone would kill his sister." Black: "Of course. " Corina: "And how does that concern Regina Security?" Black: "It concerns Regina, so it concerns Regina Security. Also, I've been aware of certain dealings, shall we say, in which the late governor pro-tem was involved on Jenghe that I think could have some bearing on recent events." Corina: "Oooh! You've got spies on Jenghe! Now, I get it! What would you like me to do, Mercer?" The Duchess has a well-developed sense of humor. Black: "Well, let me back up a bit. You know that there are a number of financial concerns involved here. One Count Barada, who has some interests on Jenghe -" Corina: "Yes, but isn't Count Barada dead? Didn't we have a Count Barada murder investigation thingie?" Black: "Let's just say that the Count's interests are still being tended to. And those interests include stock holdings, in particular a 40% share of Shelzie Medical." Corina: "Who controls the remaining 60% of the stock?" Black: "Adam Shelzie. Well, 55%. The rest is owned by various interests. We believe Hunter Osbourne, through a holding company, was behind a hostile takeover attempt of the company." Corina: "Well, since Adam controls 55% of the stock, it's difficult to take it over that way." Black: "Yes. However there is the question of the successor for Hunter. I didn't know if you had any candidates in mind that you would wish us to investigate, do background checks, what have you." Corina: "As far as I'm concerned, the best candidate is the person who had been doing the job efficiently for years before Hunter Banks - Cali Turner." Black: "Unfortunately, neither is she on planet, nor would she be acceptable to certain outside interests." Corina: "What outside interests?" Black: "The Duke of Rhylanor." Corina: "The Duke of Rhylanor doesn't like Cali Turner??" Black: "Then of course there is the choice of Adam Shelzie himself, if one would feel him out and discover his loyalties. He certainly has a financial interest." Corina: "I don't think that Adam Shelzie has demonstrated his loyalty to our person or our causes in the past." Black: "He may not have had the proper encouragement." Corina: "If you think that you have a handle on him and can control him, then..." Black: "I don't know. I haven't had a chance to feel him out. He's certainly got the financial wherewithal to be an asset to the planet." Corina: "I'm not looking for someone to bankroll the planet. I'm looking for someone I can count on to make certain decisions." Black: "Does your Grace desire anything else?" Corina: "You're the one who called this meeting. I assumed you had something specific in mind." Black: "No, not at all, your Grace. We hadn't met for a while." Corina: "By the way, you can cut the 'your Grace' bit. It's rather officious." Black: "My apologies." Corina: "Now, about Osbourne Banks. What background can you give me on him?" Black: "The information we have on the minister is rather scant." Corina: "That in itself is useful." Black: "He has been in this position for some twenty-odd years. He was appointed by Duke Norris, as a sort of sinecure. His primary interest is in insects, he has an extensive collection. Of course, that's not to say that the minister has been a subject of investigation." Corina: "You wouldn't be much of... an orchestra conductor if you don't understand the strength and weakness of your players." Black: "Certainly." Corina: "I think we need to, as close as possible, find out who was responsible." Black: "And then what? Inform the minister?" Corina: "I don't know, is he going to go off on some wild-ass revenge thing, or let the wheels of justice take control. I think it depends on what you find out." Black: "There are any number of possibilities at this stage. There's even a potential link to a relative of Adam Shelzie himself." Corina: "Shelzie just gives me the impression as someone who would walk into Clairidges and punch out his competitor, not hire out a hit, but I could be wrong." Black: "Shall I take it then that you wish us to investigate the death further?" Corina: "By all means, investigate." Black smiles and leaves.

Kaeth: "Look, if I had a blonde girlfriend, or one with long, golden fur, or... <lenghthy pause> Never mind. Any how, if I did, I wouldn't be running around at night, but Sturvigant is a spook, so I don't know. I'm not a spook." Robert: "Look, we're not asking you to surveil her, we're asking you to make contact with her. We're not asking you to, pardon the pun, shake a tail." Kaeth: "All right, I can try to make contact. I'll have to leave here to make the call so there's no trace back to here."

He goes to a public terminal to call Kiffin. She's there. Kiffin: "Hello?" Kaeth: "Ms. Brevette?" Kiffin: "Yes?" Kaeth: "Are you alone?" Kiffin: "Who is this?" Kaeth: "Someone who needs to speak with you on an urgent matter. We think you may be able to help us." Hmm, the last person who said that... Kiffin: "Leave me alone." She hangs up, and goes to the shower.

Kaeth returns to the bordello. The dark-furred is there. Sigh. Azukdah: "Hello, back again I see. Maybe you're looking for something a little different? Would you like to buy me a drink?" Kaeth doesn't know how to make contact with Robert and Ariana, so he asks for Angela. Her majordomo tells him that Angela is seeing someone, but he can get her a message. Kaeth: "I'm more interested in a couple of people who don't do much business, and don't see many people?" Majordomo: Ah, a couple. Of course sir." Kaeth: "No - I mean I'm interested in a specific couple. They're new here? Very new?" Majordomo: "Ah. One moment please." He makes a discreet call in-house, then returns to Kaeth. Majordomo: "Yes sir, this way. They're waiting for you." He's escorted upstairs, and goes in to see Robert and Ariana. Kaeth: "We're going to have to try another approach with Kiffin. She blew me off." Ariana: "If she's part of things with Sturvigant, we need to talk to her." Kaeth: "I'll try again in the morning." Ariana: "I suggest tonight." Kaeth: "How are you going to get past security? It's level 1, and a very private area." Ariana: "We'll have to get new clothes on the way. The security people are looking for things that don't fit." Nice, expensive clothing fits. Ariana: <to Kaeth> "Can you get us into the apartment when we get there?" Kaeth: "I can knock." Ariana: "Well, I guess we can try that, if we don't have any other options. Kaeth, you have a weapon?" Kaeth: "Yes." Ariana: "Then you can make sure we're not followed." Kaeth: "But I'm not a - oh never mind." Grumble.

The place is busy, so it's better cover for sneaking out. They jig and jag, and blend with the crowds on the way to buy appropriate clothing. Because of the hurry Ariana ends up paying extra. Clerk: "I can have this for you by Thursday." Ariana: "I need it now. I'm late for a party." She's outfitted, as is Robert, in expensive clothing. Ariana's is very almost-revealing with areas of light and dark that catch the eye. No one will remember her face. Kaeth gets upperclass security clothing. He's not happy about being the big gun, since he's not one.


It's about midnight, and it's off to level 1. Kaeth: "We're not going to the Cadaver dressed like this." Ariana: "No, we're going to her apartment." Kaeth: "What?!" Robert: "We need to know what she knows. " Ariana: "So we are going to talk to her. Whether it's a friendly or unfriendly conversation is up to her." Robert has the same attitude - he's not that fond of the blonde chick. This time the doorman just tips his hat. Ariana hangs on Robert's arm, giggling. They come to the door.

By this point, Kiffin has finished her shower and put on sweats. Then there's knocking on her door. Not Sturvigant again? She looks at the camera, and sees a couple. They probably have the wrong apartment. Kiffin opens the door, and Ariana "stumbles" forward. Robert tries to stop her, not knowing who's inside, but he's not quick enough and just goes with her. Kiffin backs up quickly, Kaeth follows and shuts the door. There's a pile on the floor, and it's amazing Ariana doesn't fall out of her new dress. Okay, this is unexpected.

Ariana: <to Kiffin> "Don't panic, we're not here to hurt you or anything." Kiffin: "Please leave." Ariana: "We need to talk." Kiffin: "No. Please leave." Ariana: "We need to talk to you about Sturvigant, what your relationship is with him." Kiffin: "Get out." Ariana: "Please, all our lives could be in danger." Robert: "Including yours." Kiffin: "I can't help you." Ariana: "Can't or won't?" Kiffin: "I can't." Robert: "Look, we know you're associated with Mr. Black, and we know you're also connected to Mr. Sturvigant." Ariana: "Look, I don't think you're a willing accomplice to Mr. Sturvigant, and we may be your only hope. Sturvigant must be stopped." Kiffin backs away from Ariana a few steps. Kiffin: "You don't know - you have to leave." Ariana: "But you're not here willingly are you? Whatever relationship you have with him, it's not your idea, is it?" Everyone in the room jumps a few inches when the knock comes at the door. It's followed by a cheerful voice from the other side. Sturvigant: "Honey, I'm home!!"

Kiffin: "Balcony - it's the only other way out." Robert, Ariana, and Kaeth run to the balcony. Sturvigant: "I'm waiting..." Kiffin: "Coming!" She opens the door. Sturvigant steps in, pulling the door shut behind him as he backhands Kiffin across the face, hard enough to knock her to the ground. Sturvigant: "Dammit bitch, when I knock on the door, I expect you to answer it! I don't want to be left standing outside. Get me a drink." She gets up and runs to get him his drink. The people fleeing to the balcony didn't see Sturvigant hit her, but they definitely heard it as they closed the sliding glass door behind them. Ariana: <whispered to Robert> "We can't let him get away with that, that rat bastard." Fortunately, Sturvigant's back is to the balcony when he sits down on the couch. But he's got the universal remote, which also adjusts the window darkness. Kiffin can see shadows out there, so if he looks back... He turns on the tri-dee, and cranks up the volume on a wrestling match.

Over at the NQA clinic, Reid mentions in passing that Kaeth stopped by, and Anders is able to ferret out more than Reid really intended to tell her. Reid: "He was asking questions about the governor of Jenghe who was just assassinated. A couple of his friends are involved in the mess some how. I just warned him about the man who's connected to the investigation, told him that this Sturvigant character is very dangerous." Anders: "You told Kaeth the man is dangerous. That's it?" Reid: "Well, he is." Anders: "Is he ISA?" Reid: "Not any more. He was. He was let go." Anders: "Who does he work for now?" Reid: "He worked for Hunter Banks. He was her Man Friday and head of security." Anders: "He didn't do a very good job if she's dead." Reid: "Which, my suspicious nature tells me, means he was probably in on it. And it wouldn't be the first time for Sturvigant." Anders: "Not the first time?" Reid: "Yeah, when he was with the ISA, he was involved with the overthrow of a planetary government. He infiltrated the leader's party, ended up in a position of trust, and when the time came he killed the guy. Very handy." Anders: "And you think he'd be willing to do something like that again?" Reid: "He's a cold son of a gun. He'd kill his own mother for the right price." Anders: "Okay, he's definitely dangerous." Reid: "Yeah, the other rumor is he's had some modifications done on himself. Although, he's not the sort of person to get involved in something like this without there being a principal. I'd be really surprised if he wasn't working for someone else, a third party." Anders: "That's why I think we should snatch this guy, squeeze the truth out of him and kill him." Reid: "I don't do that any more." Anders: "I'll go do it." Reid: "No, I don't want you to end up becoming what I did." Anders: "I don't think that's going to happen, dear." Reid: "That's what we all think." Anders: "You weren't doing those things because you wanted to, you were doing them because you were manipulated into it." Reid: "It's too dangerous. There are a lot of people who need you, who depend on you." Anders: "No one's indispensable, Reid. The work goes on." Reid: "No, you take care of people, mentally and physically broken people who come through that door." Anders: "I'm not going to do anything fatal." Reid: "Besides, we don't really know what's going on. There's been more than one time when I thought I was doing the right thing, only to find that I'd been lied to." Anders: "So, let's find out. Let's go see your friend." Reid: "I don't know where he is. And he's not my friend." Reid finally agrees to help Anders at least check things out, since he knows there's no talking Anders out of something when she's got her mind set on it.

While Reid gets a few things together, Anders calls up an insurance agency to find out what it would cost to take out $50 megacredits in term life on a person. The agent tells her it depends on the person's health, and the risk assessment. Anders can download her recent physical info, and take the online risk assessment (written for people who live on Regina UpPort, which means it won't explode if Anders answers the questions honestly). She tells the agent that she's the principal of a medical facility, and she wants to make sure that if anything should happen to her, the clinic would go on. The premiums would be high, but it's certainly do-able. Then Reid walks in on the middle of the conversation and goes ballistic. Reid: "What are you doing? That's not what I meant! What about me? Do you think any amount of money can replace you?!?" Anders: "No, but I'm counting on you to not let me get killed." Reid: "That's not always something we can control." Anders: "Reid, people die. There's a 50-50 chance it'll be me before you." Reid: "That doesn't mean you have to go off and do something this dangerous." Anders: "Even when you aren't doing something dangerous, people die. I'm not doing this because it's dangerous, I'm doing it because it's the right thing to do. Just like you got involved in dangerous things because you were doing what was right." Reid: "And I was doing things because people were telling me it was the right thing to do." Anders: "Are you saying I'm being manipulated?" Reid: "I'm just saying that this might be something political." Anders: "Oh, and I've never gotten involved with something like that!" Reid: "Any time an organization or government gets involved, it always gets all twisted." Anders: "Well, we're not an organization, or a government. We're two individuals. They won't be expecting that." She's a tiny woman, but she doesn't back down when she's made a decision.

The trio on the balcony is cold, dampish (park sprinklers), and can't see what's going on. If they were to put their ears up to the glass door they could hear, but that would be risky. Ariana: "What are we going to do? Who knows what he's doing to her in there? Robert, you've got to do something." Interesting - Ariana rarely shows that much concern for people she knows, let alone a relative stranger. Robert: "We will. I just don't know what yet." Inside, Sturvigant is watching wrestling on the tri-dee, and ordering Kiffin around in a casual sort of way.

Anders: "Do you know where to start?" Reid: "Yeah. Apparently, Sturvigant is holed up with some young woman on level 1." Anders: "Well, let's go talk to him." Reid: "It's 12:30 in the morning!" Anders: "Okay, then let's go check it out." They go to the park, to see if they can find out if the lights are on at the apartment or something. Reid: "It's over this way, through those trees." They walk over and Reid brings up some cool, small binoculars. Reid: "Here, what do you make of this?" A human male, a Vargr, and a human female. How interesting. Anders can definitely identify the Vargr. Reid: "I believe that's the intrepid Kaeth, with whom I spoke earlier." They can't tell more from just looking at them. Reid: "How much do you want to know? This is a very serious question." Anders: "About what?" Reid: "About what's going on." Anders: "I don't need to know the cosmic meaning of all this. I do need to know if this is a sanctioned ISA op, because then I may back off." Reid: "I don't know, but the female is afraid, and concerned. The Vargr is angry and uncertain, as is the human male. And they're all cold." Anders: "Let's do a knock and pass. See what Sturvigant is up to." Reid: "He knows me." Anders: "He doesn't know me." They go inside. Reid stops her. There is at least one security guard, maybe two." Anders: "That's okay, I don't look like the sort of person who gets thrown off of level 1." Sure enough, Anders walks in unmolested, with Reid hanging back out of camera range for the apartment. Anders knocks just as Kaeth puts his ear up to the glass door.

Sturvigant: "Go see who it is." His hand goes to his jacket, and Kiffin hears a snick. Kiffin goes to the door. There's a short, dark woman outside, according to the view through the security camera. Kiffin: <to Sturvigant> "I don't know who it is. It's a woman." Sturvigant: "I'll be right there." He slips his shoes on and goes over. Anders: "Hi! Is Dena here?" Sturvigant: "Who?" Anders: "Dena. She said I should come over for drinks." Sturvigant: "Look, I don't know who you are, but you've got the wrong apartment." Anders: "Oh no I don't, you're here." Sturvigant: "I don't know who sent you, but I suggest you leave." Anders: <to Kiffin> "Hi. Would you like me to come in?" Kiffin shakes her head. Sturvigant: "Look, I'm trying to be polite, but you're trying my patience." Anders: "That's okay, I know who you are." She backs away. Sturvigant closes the door, but as Kiffin has seen the people on the balcony trying to peek in and then struggling to close the stuck door, she has to distract Sturvigant and stumbles against him. He catches her. Sturvigant: "Already? Well, we can fix that." He picks her up, slings her over his shoulder, and heads for the bedroom. Kaeth: "Let's get Ariana out of here." They head for the door.

Anders: "You know, Reid, I'm ready to use my IOU. Blow the door." Reid: "Are you sure? You aren't just doing this on a whim?" Anders: "It's more than a whim, and he's beating his roommate right now." Apparently the fresh bruise on Kiffin's cheek was the last straw for Anders. Reid: "Okay." He leans against the door, gets a stern look on his face, and just as the former balcony trio get to the door the deadbolt spins and pops off like it was demo'd, and the door opens. They dive behind the sofa.

Anders starts to go into the room, but Reid stops her. Reid: "There's someone behind the couch." Anders: "Is it Sturvigant?" Reid: "No. The one's from the balcony. I think Sturvigant's in the other room." Anders: "Fine. You guard my back, I'll check out the other room." Reid hands her a handgun before letting her leave. Reid: "Behind the couch, get up slowly so I can see you. That couch is concealment, it's not cover." It's said very calmly. Robert holsters. They come up very slowly to face Reid with a gauss carbine. He has his finger on the trigger, which is half pulled. He looks about as funny as a heart attack.

When Anders enters the bedroom she sees a man standing up and a woman laying on the bed. Anders goes to shoot the man, but by the time she gets all the way into the room, there's just the woman. Wha-? Anders is hit, and sees the man's hand come out, bloody, of her abdomen. She pulls the trigger on her gun and shoots him in the hip just as Sturvigant hits her in the left elbow, breaking it.

There's a noise from the back room, but it's muted. Reid: "Lay down!" They do, but quick. Reid runs for the back room. Kaeth goes for his med pack.

Anders shoots Sturvigant in the eye. He goes down just as Reid shows up. He gives the room a quick one over, checking for other potential threats. There are none, as the only other person in the room is a rather stunned Kiffin. Reid: <to Anders> "This is very unfortunate. This is bad. Sturvigant has friends. They aren't going to be happy." Anders: "Not a problem, simple self-defense. And that's just how I'll explain it to the authorities." Reid: <upset> "How are you going to explain this? This is the man's home! You broke in and killed him. It's going to be awkward. What do you want to do with the ones in the other room, they're apparently searching the apartment."

Ariana gets a nosebleed. Robert: "Do you have psi-shield?" Ariana: "Well I have what you gave me. But not with me." And yes, they are searching the room. Not that there's much to find there.

Anders calls Regina Security. Anders: "My name is Anders Jorgensen. This is my comm link number..." Mr. Black is not available, but they do take the urgent message. Anders sits up beside the bed. Anders: <to Kiffin> "Are you all right?" Kiffin shakes her head, still trying to get her brain around what the heck just happened. Anders gives her a business card. Anders: "Here's my clinic address. If you go there, you can get medical help if you need it, or you can just come and talk to someone. All right?" Kiffin takes the card and nods, part of her wondering who the small woman and her scary companion are.

Robert is helping Ariana with her nosebleed as Kaeth continues to search. Nothing of interest in the coat except for a key to a locker in one of the inside pockets. Kaeth pockets it before Reid returns. Kaeth: "Is Anders all right? I've got my kit." Reid: "You - medic. Take care of Anders. She dies, you die." No pressure, jeeze. Kaeth leaves the room. Reid: <to Robert and Ariana> "Now you. Why were you here?" Robert: "We were here to get answers. Sturvigant framed us for murder, or knows who did." Reid: "It doesn't matter what he knew. Leave. They're coming." Robert fumes, but leaves with Ariana.

Reid goes into the bedroom. Anders: "I've called for help. You should go before they get here." Reid: "I won't leave you." Anders: "You don't have any medical training, you'd just be in the way and I'd have to worry about you." Reid looks unhappy. Reid: <to Kaeth> "If anything happens to her, I'm holding you responsible." Kaeth: "Then give me back my gun." Anders: "Reid, that's projecting responsibility. Kaeth will do the best he can. I'm responsible for being here, not him. Now go." Reid leaves. Anders calls Regina Security again, having gotten no response. Anders: "Hi, this is Anders Jorgensen again. Did you manage to get Mr. Black?" Agent: "We relayed the message." Anders: "If I don't hear from him, I am going to make other calls, to other agencies. He won't like it." She hangs up.

Reid gets out the front door and fades. His emergence from the bedroom stopped Robert and Ariana from leaving, not really wanting to leave with this guy. As they exit the door, figures in black CES's with black body armor and black balaclavas. Freeze!" They're all shoved to the ground and watched, while the others go in to clear the room. The apartment is cleared.
Black: "Let them up." Agent: "Sir!" Black reaches down to give Ariana his hand up. She pulls away and goes over by Robert. Black: "Shall we go inside? It's probably more comfortable inside." They go into the bedroom, where Kiffin has been moved to.

One of the men in black comes out of the bedroom. Agent: "Sir, I think you ought to take a look in here." The man with the red cross on his sleeve is helping Kaeth, who's muttering about Anders' veins being too damn small. Black enters and looks at the medic. Medic: "She'll live sir." Black: "Good. See that she gets what she requires. We'll talk later." Kaeth: "We may need to get her to Regina Trauma." Medic: "I know that. Where did you get your medical degree, son? We don't move her until I say she's properly stabilized. Don't worry." Sturvigant has been covered with a blanket.

Black comes out of the bedroom, speaks with one of his men. Black: "Gentlemen, this area is secured, return to your posts. Phil, I'm sure Robert and his wife would like a drink." Phil: "What would you like?" Robert: "Water." Ariana: "Whatever you've got." Phil brings Robert water, and Ariana a glass of something iced tea colored. (It's not iced tea.) Robert sets down his water, and prevents Ariana from drinking. Black: "Oh please. Surely you don't think I'd have to resort to poisoning you, do you?" He seems insulted.

Kiffin just stays off to one side, quietly. Black sits down. Black: "Well, this is certainly an interesting turn of events. I'm curious to know why you're in my friend's apartment." Robert: "You mean hers?" <indicating Kiffin> Black: "No, she's just staying here." Ariana: "We came here to talk to her. We came to talk to her because she knows Sturvigant." Robert: "Then he came home unexpectedly, and a dark woman showed up a little while later." Black: "What's your relationship to the dark woman, and her <Kiffin>?" Robert: "I don't know who the dark woman was, and you introduced me to Kiffin." Black: "So, you just happened to be here to speak with Kiffin, and that dark woman just happened to pick this time to come over and shoot Mr. Sturvigant?" Robert: "That's correct." <lengthy pause> Black: "I must say, and I don't know why, I believe you. Please, have your drink. I assure you, if I wanted anything to happen to you, it would have. And Mr. Sturvigant's demise in itself isn't an unwelcome development." Robert: "Maybe not for you. But it sure doesn't solve my problems." Black: "You're concerned that Mr. Sturvigant had something to do with setting you up." Robert: "Yes." Black: "Come with me." He takes Robert into the bedroom. Black: "I suggest that you take this pistol, and place it into the hands of Mr. Sturvigant. The security camera was jostled, who can say where the shot came from? It wouldn't be the first time a security person had taken out his principal." Robert takes the pistol in the baggie, and puts it in Sturvigant's hand. Black: "We need to make this all nice and tight." Another handgun is produced. Black: "You'll need this. When you discovered Sturvigant, he fired and wounded you, you shot him in self-defence." Phil shoots Robert in the leg. Robert goes down with a yelp of pain, and glares at Black. Black: "Look at it on the bright side. Instead of being the suspect in an assassination, you're the hero." Robert: "What is this going to cost me?" Black: "Nothing. Now I suggest the rest of us leave. You tell the police that you had some dealings with Sturvigant, which is true, you discovered he was involved, came here to confront him, he wounded you, and you killed him in self-defense. I'll make sure Ariana gets back to her ship." Not like Robert has much choice in the matter.

Black emerges from the bedroom and returns to the livingroom. Black: <on the phone> "Yes, police? I'd like to report a shooting. Level 1." Then he puts out a partially smoked Sobraine where it will be found. Kaeth goes with Anders when they take her off to the hospital. Kiffin is herded out, wrapped in a blanket.

The police, the nice level 1 police show up. Cop: "What happened here?" Robert: "He shot me! I shot him back." He's medicked, the ambulance shows up, as do more cops. Robert is taken to Regina Trauma.

Ariana will be dropped off back at the Ruby. The others arrive at Regina Security. Kiffin is taken to one of the medical rooms. Black: "What happened? We lost track of you." Kiffin: <confused> "Lost track? I don't understand. Sturvigant -" Black: "Look, she's no good to me like this. Wipe her and I'll find a use for her later." He storms out of the room. Very uncharacteristic of the director, but no one's going to say a thing. No sir. Kiffin is taken into the next room by a couple of medics who at least examine her hand. The redness on her hand is the result of an allergic reaction to bee venom. Turns out Sturvigant had lied to Kiffin, as she suspected, and was just giving her ibuprofen, the bastard. A shot of antihistamine proceeds the shot of mem-wipe.

291 to 292-1123.

Kiffin wakes up in her room in the Jasmine Club, a bit muzzy. No memories of the last 2.5 days (60 hours). She remembers the incident in the limo, and getting the device to Black, but that's about it.

Anders is medicked, very properly. Robert is medicked and gets a pre-typed statement that makes everything all right. Sturvigant is made to look like he shot Hunter Banks, and "on a sheer fluke, when confronted with someone with whom he had business dealings, was shot and killed in self-defense by Robert Shelzie". Security people keep the press at bay, but he's the hero of the week, which would make it awkward to have him killed or anything. He even gets to meet Sir Osbourne Banks. Oz: "I just wanted you to know, I'm naming my latest discovery after you. Well done son." He wanders off to name some bug after Robert. It's a compliment, really.

Kaeth calls Regina Security, wanting to see the Director in order to try and clear up any misunderstandings involving him and Mr. Shelzie. They'll relay a message if he likes. The message? Kaeth: "Something's missing." That's it. He makes sure the locker the key fits is paid for and he does not check to see what's been in it. He doesn't want to know about the millions of credits in cash, apparently.

Kiffin calls Black to apologize, as she's sure she was supposed to do something for him, and she's lost several days. Again. Black: "That's all right. After that encounter with the psionic, we thought it might be better for you to be somewhere familiar while you recovered." Kiffin Thank you. I'm sorry for the bother." Black: "I know, you've already apologized. Don't you remember when you called me yesterday? We've had this conversation three times already." Kiffin: "Oh, good grief, I'm sorry." Black: "Don't be concerned. You just rest and recuperate, and there's no need to go back to work right away." Kiffin feels like an idiot now, she'll have to think of some way to make up all the trouble she's caused to Mr. Black. Maybe she can make him dinner...

Black pays Anders a call once she's out of danger. Black: "Anders, please do not insert yourself into matters that are not your business. You have caused an untold amount of trouble for my agents. This time I would have preferred a call before things got to the point of needing advanced medical care. It would have been more useful for us to have Sturvigant alive. Then we could have gained information about his associates or employers." Anders: "I don't need to know anything about Mr. Sturvigant. You need to take better care of your operatives' safety." Black: "I think you might have overestimated the risk." Anders: "I don't. Sturvigant was beating Kiffin that night. And God know what would have happened to the people on the balcony." Black: "Well, that's all behind us now. Hopefully." An anonymous benefactor will thoughtfully send a nice donation. A refurbished auto-doc. That will come in handy when Anders needs sleep or is away on one of her little "projects".

Kaeth is on the slidewalk when a human female bounds over to him. Melinda: "Hey you! You're the Vargr who's friends with that blond guy." Kaeth: "Robert Shelzie?" Melinda: "Yeah, that's him. You don't have his number, do you? He gave it to me, but I lost it." She's wearing her Shop Smart - Shop OmniMart! button. Kaeth: "Oh, yeah, I saw him recently. I think he's on his honeymoon." Melinda: "Oh. Well, if you see him, tell him I said hello, okay?" Kaeth: "Right. Sure." Melinda bounces off.

Robert is very unhappy with Phil, who shot him in the leg that wasn't in a brace. And if he'd hit him any higher up, something Ariana's quite fond of might have been damaged. Phil better hope he's never in the crosswalk when Robert's driving a rental. Robert gets his fifteen minutes of fame, and he and Ariana and Globber and his date go to dinner. Robert makes arrangements with Angela so Kaeth can have a night with the two Vargr females, Robert will pay. Kaeth gets a message that a "special gift has been arranged for you at Angelique's. Please call to make arrangements, and prepare for the time of your life." By the end of the evening, he's begging for mercy, but what the heck.

A couple of suits show up just at the point when Kaeth can't take any more, send out the girls, toss Kaeth his pants, and drag him outside. People carefully don't notice. The car goes a distance, stops, Phil gets in, and the car continues. Phil: "You asked for the Director." Kaeth: "Well, I asked for the Director because of the people involved." Phil: "The director sent me." Kaeth: "How do I know the director sent you?" Phil: "You'll just have to trust me." Kaeth: "I'm trying to give something back, but I want to make sure it doesn't get back to the wrong people." Phil: "All right, I'll pass on the message. But you better not be wasting his time." He's dropped off in a bad part of town. No one bugs him. He gets home, goes to sleep.

In the middle of the night, some one is kicking Kaeth's bed. It's Phil again. Phil: "This had better be good. Sir?" Black steps into view. Kaeth: "Inside pants pocket is the locker key I took off Sturvigant before anyone arrived. I made sure it was paid for, but I don't want to know what was in it. I only ask that if it is valuable, it be used to pay down the debt for Anders or Mr. Shelzie." Phil retrieves the key. Black: "Whatever is in there will be taken care of. I apologize for disturbing your sleep." It's crowded in here, with all those RS guys. The last guy out grins, and tucks Kaeth's blankie around him. Agent: "By the way, your lock is broken." They leave, and later Phil goes to recover the $30 megacredits from the locker.

In the next day's paper, there's a picture of Sal Weseli, who is not the same man who was wearing Sal's coat, and a story about him being badly beaten. He'll no doubt pass that along at some point, to the correct relative.

292 to ??-1123.

Corina agrees to Mr. Black's recommendation, pending his conversation with Adam Shelzie. They want to know where his loyalty lies, should the question arise. This means a quick trip to Jenghe for Black, who arranges to meet with Dr. Shelzie to sound him out about the possibility of taking over the now vacant position of governor. Adam certainly isn't averse to a political position on Jenghe, after all - the Shelzies have a long tradition of service to the Emperor. Black: "And the Emperor's representative on Regina?" Adam: "The Duchess?" Black: "Can she count on your support? More importantly, can I count on your support? It's a small thing to ask in exchange for a governorship. It's a yes or no question, Dr. Shelzie." Adam does know that Black is a man who always lands on his feet. Adam: "Given what I know about you sir, yes." Black: "That's all I ask. I'm not expecting you to die for me. [He has other people to do that.] And as governor, you'd be entitled to your slice of the taxation. I understand that you're comfortable, but discretionary funds are never unwelcome." Adam: "Naturally not." Black: "Oh, and one other thing. As I understand, your family has aspired to the nobility, is that correct?" Adam: "Yes, that's true." Black: "I have friends, friends you'd like to meet. They are well-born, but not necessarily well-heeled. They may prove useful for you to know."

Based on her prior dealings with Adam Shelzie, Corina has decided to keep her friends close, and everybody else closer. Black returns to report to her. Corina: "And what about the frog situation?" Black: "What about it? They're contributing members of society, and besides it would be hard to evict a million giant frogs." Corina: "Ten million. And I wasn't suggesting evicting them. Besides, they're the new governor's problem now." And she seems to like it that way.