"And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away."
-- Longfellow, The Day is Done


Meredith Quinn, former Marine, recently RIFF'd and now accidentally on Regina UpPort. "Accidentally" because she didn't chose her destination when she left the planet she and a number of others were discharged on. Meredith bolo'd an intelligence roll somewhere along the way and let herself be talked into backing one of her fellow former Marines in a failed scam that resulted in his imprisonment and her being fined into complete bankruptcy and sent off-planet by low passage. She figures she deserves it for not asking questions. Luckily, she not only survived defrosting but found fifteen whole credits in the lining of her field jacket when she was kicked off the ship. Good thing there's a 24 hour grace period on the air-tax.

She goes to the job board. She has admin, and calls about the only job that looks like she could do - receptionist. She gets transferred to Mr. Teuper. Teuper: "Are you blonde?" Meredith: "Uh, no." Teuper: "Do you have big tits?" Meredith: <stammering slightly> "I suppose that depends on your point of view." Tueper: "Well, fax me over a picture." Okay, he's not interested in references, he just wants a recent photo. Meredith: "Or, I could just show up?" That'll work, and costs nothing.

Joe Lee is happily working at his job in the park. There are two uses for the rake - raking and whacking. Word gets around that it's not safe to litter near Joe Lee, by God. His nephew, Paul Lee, now also works in the park, but not in the Japanese garden part like Joe. The rock garden is kept perfect, as the Sengi haven't come back to mess around with it as of yet - but you never know. Joe Lee's current challenge is the new young punks with Swordworlder accents. They survive because they travel in packs. There's been some tagging in the park even. A number of them spend an extended period of time trying to graffiti the Plinth of Knowledge, but all the paint just keeps sliding right off. How annoying. Joe Lee stalks them as they prowl around and smoke raw Borloi. Ick! Joe Lee tells the other gardeners to avoid problems with the punks, and just tell him.

Now that Jimi Ray Malary has retired (again) from the Marines (again), he'd really like a quiet life. There's a music festival in the park (in the abruptly created bowl that was too big and too perfectly round for a fish pond) for the next few days, and he's been invited to play during some of the informal jam sessions. It's a bit of everything, celebrating Regina Days (the anniversary of its founding). It takes up about a quarter of the park, and is quite the event. Stuff on a Stick is raking in the dough! There's a carnival atmosphere abounding.

Behrel has been run out of the house by Kitty. She's going to go visit her sister on Regina proper, and she can see he doesn't want to go see her way too normal sister. The brother-in-law is an insurance adjuster, and Behrel's already gotten the "whole life insurance" speech from the guy, and seen his barbecue. Behrel has spent more money in one day than that man makes in a year. And not only does he fish, he watches the fishing channel! Behrel: "Have a good trip, dear!" He's out of there. The starport is the happening place for Regina Days, much more so than dirtside. Behrel can go out and meet and greet.

Meredith is assaulted by yummy food smells as she passes the park. She hasn't eaten anything since getting out of the freezer (low-berth), and even though your metabolism is supposed to be really, really slowed down... [Insert salivating noises here.] Jimi Ray is in hog heaven. Lots of musicians, contacts to make, schmoozing to do - the whole nine yards. The jazz stuff starts in the evening and goes on until early morning tonight (the first night). Duane Flett shows up, cruising for girls and stuff. As he's in his fatigues, he'll be harassed by some of the artsy types, but oh well. He'll show them his tool of the industrial complex, all right.

The temperature is warm and sunny in the park - it's been set to summer cycle. [Okay, actually, there's a problem with the heating and cooling system and it's being worked on, but there's no need to let the public know.] People all over the place in minimal amounts of clothing, in shorts and swimsuits. Duane and Behrel are quite happy to see the female college coeds, and the coeds are happily watching the males. It's actually almost too warm, especially for someone just out of the freezer. Meredith strips down to just the government issue tank top for upper clothing.

Behrel goes to say hello to Joe Lee. But Behrel is not only a senator, he's an entertaining senator. Fortunately the press hasn't noticed him yet. It's just the lower level arts and entertainment hacks for right now. Behrel is in his beat-up leathers, Duane in his summer issues. Jimi Ray is with the other jazz musicians, some of whom are complaining about the heat. Jimi: "Well it's hot jazz, then!" Good point.

Behrel dodges the reporters, and leaves the roped-off area to see Joe Lee. Roped-off area? There's a $2 credit entry fee, but it goes to charity. Any way, Behrel goes to the Japanese garden section and finds Joe Lee doing the Zen snipping bit that Behrel doesn't understand (but he's sure it's important) in between chasing off the people who keep trying to wade in the koi pond. Feet are all right, but no wading. A man kneeling in the keiza position, meditating across the pond with swords laid out in front of him opens one eye and glares at the couple for disturbing the pool. The swords are neatly arranged on rice paper.... Wait a sec! Joe Lee goes over to the man with the swords (and apparently too much on his mind). Joe Lee: "Excuse me, so sorry. This is not permitted here." Behrel, having leapt to the same unpleasant conclusion as Joe Lee, follows him. Behrel: "Yes, it is a place of peace." Man: "That is why I have come here." Joe: "Why do you believe it is necessary to end your life?" Man: "My master is dead and I am disgraced." Joe: "Did your master die because of you?" Man: "It is a thing not to be discussed with strangers, but yes, I disgraced my master." Joe: "Then perhaps your punishment is to live, rather than die." Man: "If anything, it appears the gods have decided that I am not to die today. I apologize for disturbing your peace." Joe: "If you would like to find honest work, I am employed here in the park, perhaps I could find a job for you." Man: "I am not a picker of litter." Behrel: "Would it be more appropriate for you to gain employment as a teacher? I am always looking for ways to improve my craft." He motions to the swords. Man: "If you are a student of the way then you should find yourself a better instructor. I would not be worthy." Joe: "May I?" He indicates the long sword. The man picks it up, withdrawing about 3" of blade. Joe Lee takes it and fully draws the blade. Eyebrows are raised. Behrel looks, and the sword looks very old, heat tempered, and like it's been sharpened many times. Joe Lee cuts his finger on the blade before replacing it in the sheath. Joe: "It is an honorable weapon." Man: "It was a gift from my master." Joe: "Who was he?" Man: "I am not worthy to speak his name." Joe: "When I came here, there was a Zen master. He died as well. I keep up his estate, but it is in the wilderness and takes several days to travel there and back." Man: "I was not aware this place was so large. I was told the port of Regina was a large place, but not such that it would take several days to traverse." Joe: "It is on planet." Man: "Ah. I'm sorry, I am newly arrived. Well, if I am not to die today, then allow me to repay your hospitality and buy you tea, if there is such a place here." He stands and gathers his weapons and paper. Joe Lee and Behrel take him to the Tea House. The man is somewhere between 30 and 60, and appears mostly occidental. Joe: "My name is Joe Lee. Before my master died I was not a gardener, I was a soldier like you." The mans name is Omi Nakamichi.

Into the Tea House. It's an eclectic mix of occidental and oriental. Omi and Joe naturally gravitate towards the latter, sitting on carved stone seats near the water. Omi: <to waitress> "My company and I require tea, chai, whatever." He places a small lump (literally) of gold on the table. Behrel: "If they don't accept specie here, I would be honored to take care of this." Joe: "Where are you from?" Omi: "A small world, I doubt you have heard of it." Joe: "I'm from Menorb." Omi: "I do not know it." Joe: "perhaps you should stop seeking and find." Omi: <to Behrel> "If they do not accept specie, perhaps you would care to trade for the local currency?" Behrel: "I can do that." He gives Omi $500 credits. Omi: "I know this. Thank you. I do not know your name." Behrel: "I am Behrel Dom Camréal." Omi: "But you are a warrior, like myself." Behrel: "Yes, I am." He gestures to the Sengi sword he carries. Omi: "An interesting weapon. I have only seen it's like once before." Behrel: <curious> "Oh?" Omi: "Yes. A man came to my world, to my master." Joe: "That man who came, his people frequent the park." Omi: "He was a student of the sword. He came to study different techniques. He stayed for several years, then left. He was talented, for a barbarian." Joe Lee recommends a tea, and Omi is shocked to find civilization, especially since he was told that Regina was horrible, and a good place to get killed. Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean you can't get good tea!

Omi talks with Joe Lee as Behrel listens. Turns out Omi was from a low tech world, and one day (fairly recently) some men with higher tech showed up, wanted something his master had, and killed him for it. Omi tried to defend his master, and took several bullets. He was left for dead, but did hear the men mention Regina. He was hoping he might meet the men on Regina. Joe Lee: "It would help to know what was taken." Omi: "A sword which belonged to my master. An ancient blade." Behrel: "Then we find the bad guys and get it back." Omi: "No, I must meditate and decide what honor demands." Behrel: "Find the bad guys." Omi: "If that is what is to be done. But it is not a decision to be taken lightly, and it is proving more difficult than I thought to find the men. I had not imagined it would be this simple for criminals and cutthroats to hide." Joe Lee: "The starport of Regina has more criminals and cutthroats than any other planet." That is a gross exaggeration, "than most other planets" would be acceptable. Joe Lee: "Everything will happen as it should. For now, do you have somewhere to stay? If not, allow me to offer you my hospitality." Omi: "That is not necessary. I will return to where we met and will sleep there." Joe Lee: "No, because there are so many people who live here, we cannot allow them to camp in the park. Please, stay with me. My nephew Paul also lives with me, and he could serve as a guide if I am not available." Omi agrees to this arrangement. Behrel, on a bathroom break, makes a call on his phone. He calls his agent and asks that inquiries be made about a new blade on the market. His agent will check into it, nothing peculiar there, as Behrel is a known blade collector.

Meanwhile, Meredith goes off to see Mr. Teuper. There's a sign at the address he gave that reads "Fantasy Nightwear". Oh dear. She goes in. Blonde: "Yes, may I help you?" It's the current receptionist, who is wearing something diaphanous and only just starting to "show". Meredith explains about the ad and the phone call, and she's taken into an office where there's a balding man with a walrus mustache and a bit of a shed over the tool (so to speak). He's smoking the equivalent of a Swisher Sweet, it's really obnoxious. Candy: "Hey boss, this one's here about the job." Teuper: "Okay, Candy. Thanks very much." Candy: "Sure thing, boss." She goes back to her desk.

Teuper assesses Meredith for a few moments (boy, is that not comfortable). Teuper: "So. About the receptionist position. Actually, it's part time receptionist, part-time personal secretary. Candy will be leaving us soon, and then it will change to full-time reception. We're looking for someone to reflect the image of the company, since they're the first person our clients see." He wants to see what his potential new employee looks like in less, uh, military garb. He goes to another room briefly and comes back with a small box which he hands to Meredith. Teuper: "You can change in there." He indicates a dressing room. Meredith goes into the room and takes a look at the contents of the distressingly light box. It's a one-piece bodysuit made of some sort of TL 10 magic fabric. Sheer and yet shiny, in a dark green that matches her eyes. She'd definitely get more dates wearing this in the park. She's been in the Marines and all, but this is some how more naked than being just naked. And it's not how she's used to seeing herself. She's only got $15 credits, she just keeps telling herself that. The other people in the office scope out the new girl when Meredith exits the dressing room. Teuper walks around her, taking a critical look. Teuper: "Didn't anyone ever tell you how to put on a brassiere? Here." He "helps", but in a very professional, detached sort of way. (Think long-time tailor.) Teuper: "There. Well, I suppose you could always dye your hair." He really has a thing for blondes. Teuper: "Okay, we'll expect you first thing in the morning, the beginning of the week. Oh, and there is an allowance for clothing." Meredith: "What will the pay be?" Teuper: "Fifteen credits an hour." Meredith agrees to this, and changes back into her own clothes. Before she goes, Teuper re-boxes the green outfit he had her try on and gives it to her. Teuper: "Here - something for you to wear on Monday until we get a few other things picked out." Now she has a job that starts in four days, some really spiff lingerie, and $15 credits. Back to the job boards, which still don't look promising but they change every hour. She'll go to listen to the music, outside the paying area, in between hopeful job searches.

Duane is among the crowds, scoping babes. Jimi Ray sees a small alien rodent - Pikhan - come over, wearing a plush jacket and carrying a case. Hey, wait a minute... Jimi Ray has heard of this guy! He goes over as Irving sits down, puts on shades, and pulls out his harmonica . The blues begin, with Jimi Ray playing back-up. Duane is nearby, and overhears a conversation between two cute, pert little blondes. Tracy: "...yeah, my guy's tone deaf. He never takes me to any clubs or anything. I need someone with more style." Inga: "Yeah, well I just want a man! My boyfriend is so sensitive, it's ridiculous. I want a man who'll throw me on the bed and ravage me. After a while, poetry is just poetry." Ever watchful for an opening, the trained killer senses an opportunity and pounces. Duane: "So, what kind of clubs do you ladies like?" Tracy: "Oh. Hello." Inga: "I'm Inga and this is my friend Tracy." Duane: "Duane." Tracy: "You're not one of those cool, cammo, he-man wannabes are you?" Duane: "Wannabe? No." Inga: "So, you know any good clubs?" The number ends, and there is much applause. Duane hasn't had time to scope out the local club scene, but he's pretty sure they don't mean the Grenadiers Club. Male voice: "Hey, Inga!" Oh dear, this would be the sensitive boyfriend on his way. He runs up, wearing his cruelty-free clothing, all soft and sleek looking. He's carrying an e-book with "Getting in Touch with Your Feminine Side" on it. Inga: "This is my friend Emile" He looks Duane up and down. Emile: "Make love, not war. <to Inga> Hey, I found this great vegetarian place." Duane puts his arm around Emile and pulls him up close, fast and hard. Duane: "Emile! Emile, we're going to have fun. I know just where to go. Come on." Emile struggles, very briefly. Duane: "Hey, Emile, you drink that carbonated soda stuff, right? Oh come on, you know you do. Did you know there are thirty-two ways to kill a man with a pop can?" Emile just wants to get out of this alive, please.

Omi agrees to go home with Joe Lee to his place. Joe and Behrel exchange phone numbers, and Behrel will make inquiries and get back to them. Joe: "Did those people come specifically for the sword, or did they take other things?" Apparently they did take anything they could see of value, but they went directly to where the sword was first. That means they knew what they were looking for. Behrel leaves, and checks at Curmudgeon's on the way back to the park. He makes a few more calls to get the wheels in motion.

Jimi Ray has the blues going today. Everyone's really into it, and they're not even near the amphitheatre. Meredith pays the $2 credit entry fee, as the free food and beverage samples will probably make up for it, money-wise. She goes inside and manages to snag some food and drink samples. There are many people in here, but she's not bothered by crowds, even if they are unorganized. She's suddenly hit from behind and goes sprawling. Behrel has bumped into her, quite by accident. He apologizes and continues on to the event organizers tent. Behrel: "Who's in charge?" Ted: "I guess that would be me, sir." Behrel: "Right. Tell me, how many people do you suppose have come in so far today?" Ted: "About five thousand." Behrel: "How many do you expect to get, total?" Ted: "About seven thousand." Behrel: "Right. Here's four grand. <he counts off the money> Everybody else today gets in free. They'll spend the money on the vendors, and everyone will be happy." Ted: "Uh, yes sir!"

When Behrel comes out of the tent he sees the female he knocked over earlier. After the incident Meredith had picked herself up, briefly mourned the loss of the free fruit-cola thing, and watched as a man put up a sign announcing free admission. Typical. Sigh. Behrel spots her in time to see Meredith pick up a couple of loose credit coins from the grass (she made sure no one was nearby like they'd just dropped it), then sit down with her small pack between her feet. Given the way she's dressed and the dogtags, it's obvious she's military (or former). Hmm, the girl's got that just out and everything I own is in this bag kind of look. Behrel goes over. Behrel: "Hi. I just wanted to say I'm sorry for running into you like that. My name's Behrel." Meredith: "Meredith Quinn. And it's all right, really, no harm done." Behrel: "Tell you what, as an apology, let me get you something." A large, strange man in the park, offering to buy her food. Hmm. Meredith: "Okay." He gives her a hand up and they head over to the vendors' area. Behrel: "New here?" Meredith: "Yes." Behrel: "Oh, you've got to have one of these." He gets her something from Stuff on a Stick. Behrel: "And you'll want to try the local root beer with that." He gets some food and drink, and procures a table from some people who are done with it. Really. Behrel: "Here, have a seat."

Irving has finished up his "set" with Jimi Ray. They were smoking! Irving: <to Jimi Ray> "Hey, you're really good. You should come play at the Discarding Sabot. It's a hot place, and if you aren't playing here tonight, come on by!" Duane and his new best friend were close enough to hear this, and Duane takes note, Emile is busy panicking. Duane: "Hey, Emile! I know a place where we can get the juiciest, bloodiest steak..." He pulls the unhappy Emile over by a small group of Vargr mercs. One of them Vargr picks a large chunk of someone out of his teeth. Duane: "Hey guys. I bet you know the best places in town for a nice rare steak. I was thinking of taking my vegetarian friend here out to lunch, because I like him so much." Vargr: "Yeah, I like vegetarians myself." Duane: "You know, I bet he's really healthy, eating all those vegetables." Vargr: <to Emile> "You don't smoke, do you?" Duane: "Oh no, Emile doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, they keep him in a pen and rub him down every day." Vargr: "Ooh, the best kind!" Duane leave Emile with his new playmates and returns to the ladies. Duane: "Don't worry girls, they're just going to have some fun with him." Probably. Mostly. Tracy: "Well, okay." Duane: "I know of some place we can go - the Discarding Sabot." Irving: "Did you say Discarding Sabot?" Duane: "Yes, I've heard it's a good club." Irving: "My partner and I like to think so. Why don't you come by, as my guests?" Duane: "We'll do that. How about it, girls?" Inga: "Well... Okay! But can we hang out here for a while and listen?" Duane: "Sure."

Irving buys Jimi Ray and the other musicians something to eat, with his handful of mixed money. The vendor is under Jimi Ray's watchful eye, so Irving gets the correct change. Irving spots Behrel and waves him over. Behrel brings his new friend Meredith, who goes with the nice man who's buying her food.

Irving introduces Behrel to the musicians. One of them recognizes Behrel's reputation. Musician: "Behrel, huh? Okay, tell me, are those stunt doubles or animatronics, or can Debbie really do that?" Behrel: "Let's just say that some men have not survived meeting Debbie. That article in Fatale? It wasn't far off." Jimi Ray: "So, Meredith, what do you play?" Meredith: "I don't, sorry." Jimi Ray: "Oh!" He looks at Behrel, who neither confirms or denies any other interest in Meredith. Irving: "Well, I've got to get back to the club, but you guys come by any time." Farewells, and then Irving walks off, providing his own soundtrack. Shelly's been a good influence. Not really Behrel's style, he's more heavy metal, but he appreciates good musicians.

Duane offers to buy lunch for Tracy and Inga, so they can sample the local cuisine as well. Behrel: "Meredith, how long have you been out?" Yes, it's that obvious. Meredith: "A little more than a month." Behrel: "What branch?" Meredith: "Marine infantry." Behrel: "Semper fi." Duane hears this and spots the big, oddly accoutered man, hey, that's Behrel. Oh-oh, competition? Duane: "Hey, that's Behrel!" Tracy: "Who's Behrel? Is he one of the local musicians?" Duane: "No, he makes movies." Inga: "I love art films. What's he done?" Duane: "I don't think you've seen any of these." Tracy: "Is he into that new wave stuff?" Duane: "No...Do you understand the term blue movie?" Tracy: "Blue... Oh. Do you mean porno movies?" Duane: "Yes, he makes porno movies. Do you want to meet him?" Tracy: "I don't know..." Inga: "Oh come on! When will you get a chance like this? It's someone who's totally immersed in the hedonistic sub-culture!" Yup, that would be Behrel. Tracy gets pulled along. Duane: "Semper fi! Bastards into Hell." Behrel: "Absolutely." Duane introduces Tracy and Inga, Behrel introduces Meredith. Inga: "Oh, is she one of yours? Your actresses?" Behrel: "No, but Meredith was in the Marines, so she's alright." Inga: "A Marine. Oh." Tracy: "Oh! Oh!! You're Behrel, you married Kitty Bitch!" Behrel: "Yes." Tracy: "You're Mr. Kitty Bitch!" Behrel: "Uh, yeah." Tracy: "Is your wife here?" Behrel: "No, she's on planet with the kids." Tracy: "Oh, that's too bad. When I was in high school, I used to rock to Kitty Bitch!" Inga: "And Seven , Seven was quite the entertainer." Tracy: "Oh yeah, and Johnny Rotten. He was so cool." Several moments of silent adoration go by. Tracy: "Kitty Bitch! Fuckin' A!" Inga: "Not that this isn't a great place, but do you know where the real hot clubs are?" Behrel: "Wherever I happen to be. There are all sorts of places here. What are you looking for?" Tracy: "We're talking the headbanging, asskicking kind of club." Behrel: "Then you want DownPort, Henry's. It's in blue section, tell them I sent you." He gives her a card. The girls are definitely into Behrel and the music stuff. Tracy: "So you must know the places girls can party, right?" Behrel: "Do you know what you're asking, really?" Tracy: "Hey, this is the first time I'm out from under my parents' thumb, okay? I know what I'm doing." Not wanting to get into the middle of this, Jimi Ray goes off to listen to the other jazz musicians, but Behrel wants him to call in later. Behrel rents out DS for the night. (Guaranteed money? Of course Sal's willing!) Then he arranges for a couple of up and coming bands, and the call goes out to the party people. Hoo-rah!

Behrel: "Meredith - what are you up to tonight?" Meredith: "I don't have any plans." Behrel: "Well, if you want to party all night long then you're more than welcome, but if you like, you could make a bit of money." Meredith: "I wouldn't turn down a chance to make some money." He probably doesn't mean anything really weird. Behrel: "Okay, you know Jimi Ray, he's a pal, and I know he can handle himself, but I'd like to have some backup, security-wise. Could you handle that?" Meredith: "I think so." Behrel: "Cool. Do you prefer over the table, or under? Or to put it another way, would you like to be paid today?" Meredith: "Today would be wonderful." Behrel: "Okay, show up and you'll get paid." He gives her a card with his agent's number. Behrel: "Okay, now my afternoon's free, I'm going to go hang out, listen to some jazz. You're welcome to join me." (The card was for the over the counter pay option, Meredith can just hold on to it for now.) Behrel discusses what he wants Meredith to do at the party, which is stay sober and keep an eye on things.

Jimi Ray is so cool, he's on fire. Some of the pure musicians disdain this attitude of giving the audience what they want, but too damn bad. He garners much applause, and business cards. Man: "Have your person call my person. We'll do lunch." Jimi Ray: "Note to self: get a person."

Behrel's party starts at nine. At about 7:30, Behrel gets up to go work out. The night cycle kicks in with a vengeance, and the temp drops to about 50. Meredith puts her jacket on but quick - hey, turkey's done! Duane's little blonde friends don't have anything warm with them, and he takes them back to their hotel - Clairidges. Inga: "Mom made the reservations." They change while Duane waits in the sitting room of the suite. He turns on the tri-D Announcer: "...the Shower Posse fired at a rival gang member, who emerged unscathed from the hail of bullets. A dog, several children, and a man sitting at his kitchen table were injured." The so-called Shower Posse is known to steal a car or van, pull up to the target, then everyone fires full-auto and they drive away. Announcer: "...believed to have come from the Swordworlds..." Ah, the punks from the park.

Inga and Tracy come out, dressed in expensive, trashy clothing. Inga: "Do you want to stop by your place and change?" Duane: "Yeah, sure." They make a stop, and Duane changes into his black BDU's. Tracy: "Dude, you look like a cop. You're never going to get laid in those clothes." Duane: "That would be the idea - not to be dressed when you get laid." Inga: Whatever. Let's go!"

The party at DS is quite the shindig. And to make matters worse, or better, the legendary Johnny Vermin shows up to jam with the band. Duane doesn't care if the blondes wander off, he's not too worried. Hey, an Aslan female is giving him the eye. She looks familiar but he can't quite place her.

When Behrel shows up and sees Meredith, he slips her $100 credits. Meredith: "Thank you!" Ooh, she can eat! Behrel: "If you have to get a little more exercise, there'll be more, but don't put yourself at risk." Meredith: "Not to worry, sir." Wow, 100 credits...

A human female with long brown hair comes over to say hello to Duane. She looks very familiar. "So, are you security or something?" Duane: "No, just here to enjoy the party." She introduces herself as Debbie. Duane blinks. Oooh!! Debbie: "You got anything to help a girl relax?" Duane: "I don't know, what makes you relax?" Debbie smiles.

Johnny: "Hey, Behrel, you got anything... You know I just got out of rehab. I need a little something to bring on my muse, but something light - I got new kidneys." Behrel: "I know just the thing." He orders up the right strength and mix for his temporarily lightweight friend. If nothing else, Behrel's a connoisseur.

After loosing track of the voluptuous brunette among her admirers, Duane goes out front for a breather. He's followed. Debbie: "What's the matter Duane?" Duane: "Nothing. Just stepping outside for some fresh air." Debbie: "Good idea." They do so. Debbie: "Look, is there some place we can go?" Duane: "Yeah, there's somewhere we can go." Debbie: "Your car here?" Duane: "No." Duane orders a cab, and is photographed leaving with the famous Debbie Delong.

The party inside continues. Meredith is approached by a man who misinterprets her line of work. Meredith turns him down, but politely. Man: "You change your mind, come see me." He takes his diamond rings and his diamond and gold spoon, and his spidersilk Armani suit and wanders off. Jimi gets invitations to come play, to step into the back for wild sex, and several other interesting things.

Duane does survive the cab ride, but it's a close call. They do make it all the way inside his apartment. Duane isn't a jaded porn star, which makes it even better. Boy howdy is it good. Debbie is very experienced, and apparently has either had some discreet modifications, or has interesting natural abilities.


Some time later, much later, there are bodies strewn all over the place at DS. Not dead bodies, mind you. Johnny's slumped over in a pile with three women, he's a bit off, what with just getting out of rehab. It was a very successful party. Some great playing, even people who haven't played in years. Irving is even sprawled out asleep on the bar, and Behrel has the staff take care of him. Jimi and Meredith call cabs and pour people into them.

Duane wakes up in the morning in pain, but with a grin on his face. Debbie bounds out of bed and makes herself something with milk and eggs and chocolate sauce. As Debbie is throwing her clothes on, there's a knock on the door. Debbie: "It's probably for you, do you want me to get it?" Duane: "No, I'll get it." He checks before opening the door, and it's reporters. He escorts (a bit painfully) Debbie through the back accessway to the Ambassadore. Debbie: "Thanks Duane. Call me sometime, okay?" Duane: "Got to have a number." Debbie gives him a card with a number handwritten on the back, then cops one parting feel. Debbie: "Hey, take care of that for me, okay?" Duane: "Definitely." Ice, ice, baby... He stops to buy a big bag of party ice, and sees the Tattler article with a picture of them leaving and an article on how she's "stepping out on her boyfriend with local mercenary, Duane Flett. What's the attraction?" A picture inside has Duane's picture on a buff body that's not his, and is rather extremely well-endowed. Like down to the knees. (Yes, but can you pick up peanuts with it?). He gets home, goes into the bathroom, and notices something odd. In permanent marker, there's writing on his personal member. He looks more carefully in the mirror, and it reads "Debbie Delonge approved". Oh. It'll wear off eventually.

Behrel is pleased with the results of the party. Irving has woken up from his power nap, and is now all perky. Irving: "Hey, want to get some breakfast? I was just going to scramble up something." There's Irving, Behrel, Jimi Ray, and Meredith. Meredith does try one of Irving's locusts, but decides it really is survival food, and gets rid of the taste with orange juice. Jimi Ray declines the locust scramble, but Irving offers a plain scramble with cheese and bacon. It involves much clattering, and probably a lot of special tools, but the end result is a fine breakfast that even the humans can enjoy. Irving: "Every meal should be a good meal, because it could be your last." Jimi Ray: "That's a good philosophy." Irving: "And true, in my experience. Shhh, Sal's sleeping. He's nocturnal." It's quiet, and all the tables have been retracted so the cleaning bot can clean the bowl-shaped club. Irving offers to call cabs for people. Meredith: "Actually, I don't have a room yet." Irving: "You can stay here." Meredith: "That's all right." Irving: "No, it's no problem at all. You're not the first human I'd have slept with." Several long seconds of dead silence and much blinking. Irving: "I've got a nice warm sleepball down there, plenty of room." Meredith: "Ah, no, really. I've got to find a more permanent place. But thanks very much." Irving: "Oh, okay. Let me know if you change your mind." Meredith says her good-byes and leaves DS. She runs her necessary errands, paying $20 credits for a seven day air-tax bracelet, $5 credits for a drawer, and she still has $88 credits!!

The morning continues. Duane eventually feels human enough to go get some coffee. Behrel checks in with his agent, and there is word on the street about a discreet auction coming up, a few interesting objets d'art, including a rare sword. Agent: "I'll be in touch when I have more info."

After an all to lengthy conversation (involving a lot of "no"s), Duane is able to get regular, normal, black coffee from the annoying man with the coffee cart. A small group is heading his way - a guy in a pseudo-military uniform, followed by a guy in a suit carrying an odd cue case or something, then another guy in a pseudo-military uniform. Unfortunately, the back guy shoulders Duane out of the way (he wasn't in the way, actually) just as he's taking the first sip of his coffee, black, hot - spilling it over Duane's shirt. Duane launches himself at the man, hitting him hard in the hip. The man spins down and doesn't move. His leg is sticking out at a strange angle (dislocated hip). The guy in the suit has whipped around, as has the other security guy. The latter is drawing a weapon as he pushes the suit out of his line of fire. Duane draws and throws one of his throwing knives, hitting the man in the abdomen. The knife doesn't penetrate, due to body armor, but that's going to bruise. Duane is shot in the upper leg, but being barely grazed by the bullet fired from the 12mm. He has ruined Duane's pants though. The suit dropped the case when he was shoved down, and a sword in a bag pops out. The white handle inset with stones is visible when the suit reaches for it. Duane decides that coffee isn't worth being killed over, and he takes off at a run.

The second bodyguard goes over to check on his fallen comrade, after watching Duane unass the area. Duane hears a number of shots behind him, but none hit him. A van pulls up and a fusillade erupts from the side. Oh, that would be the Shower Posse? But hey, they actually hit the two bodyguards and the suit! A guy with black and white face paint, dreadlocks, and some sort of feathers and beads and crap dangling off his jacket gets out of the van, grabs the sword, jumps back into the van, and it speeds off towards Old Port. No license plate on the van, which is probably stolen. Duane goes to check the men, and they are very dead. No wallet or ID on the suit. Duane makes sure he's not tracking blood, then goes to get a second cup of coffee, then goes home to get that bullet scratch tended to (cleaned out, some antibiotic cream, and a bandaid). Nothing serious, and Duane has a first aid kit.

When Behrel gets up, finally, he sees the news on the killings. He notices the security camera shots taken that show a man in a suit reaching for what looks like a sword hilt, then shoes, and another hand reaching down. In one of the other pictures, Behrel notices a man in BDUs who looks really familiar. Hmm. Behrel gets geared up and goes to the site. It's mostly cleaned up, except for the blood. He speaks to a couple of vendors, one of whom is the guy who sold Duane his coffee (both times). It appeared, to several vendors, that one of the security guards bought coffee, walked back to talk to the other guys, then a fight broke out, and the first guy ran off, then some other guys showed up and the bullets started flying.

Duane's doorbell rings. It's the police. He lets them in. They want to have a word with him about the events of earlier today, and want him to explain. Duane: "I was buying a cup of coffee, when those three guys go by, and one of them hits me...." He tells them what happened. Duane: "As I was heading out of there, I saw those guys show up with the face paint and dreadlocks, that Shower Gang, or Shower Posse." Cop: "Well, thank you very much, Mr. Flett. If you think of anything else, please contact us." Duane: "Yeah, sure."

Shortly after the police leave, Duane's phone rings. It's Behrel. Duane: "Yeah?" Behrel: "You've been a busy boy today." Duane: "Not me." Behrel: "That's not you in the photos?" Duane: "What photos?" Behrel: "The crime scene." Duane: "Don't know anything about no crime scene. Where are you going with this, Behrel?" Behrel: "It depends on whether or not it's you in the picture." Duane: "Why don't you come over and we'll talk." A few minutes later, Behrel appears. Behrel: "Tell me about it?" Duane: "About what?" Behrel: "The guy with the sword." Duane: "The guy with the sword is the guy without the sword." Behrel: "Who took it?" Duane: "That Shower Posse bunch." Behrel: "They were after the sword?" Duane: "Maybe. Maybe they just saw something pretty and decided to grab it." Behrel: "Could be. You going to be around?" Duane: "That depends on whether or not I get hired." Doesn't it always?