"Every man for himself, his own ends, the Devil for all."-- Robert Burton
90 - 1121
Trevor, blissfully unaware of all the twists and turns life has been taking for the rest of the group, gets up bright and early to go work out. The local gym has the primitive hand and free weights - purists. Trevor approves; he's never been into the easy, hook yourself up to some electronics kind of work out. And he's got to do something in the morning before he can go see his boss, Brizzk, who's not a morning person. [Little does Trevor know his boss is no longer any kind of person at all.] Trevor stretches, does the aerobic thing, and works out with the weights along with some serious health nuts - no steroids here, just grass and carrot juice and the like. Trevor goes up to the juice bar, and asks "Do you have anything with yeast in it?" Juice bar man: "What type of yeast? 'Morning Starburst', or..." Trevor: "Beer. The kind that comes in beer." Juice man: "Brewer's yeast? Top or bottom?" Trevor: <carefully> "Do you have a beer?" Juice man: "Oh yes, all natural of course." A tad convoluted, but Trevor does get his beer. Juice bar guy: "You're new. I haven't seen you around before." Trevor: "I'm new to this arcology. Are there any grav-ball clubs around here with a zero-g gym?" Juice man: "There is a zero-g gym, but it's not in a grav-ball club, it's a private club." Trevor: "What's the name of it?" Juice man: "It's the Hephaestus Club." Trevor: "Is this a sex club, or what?" Juice man: "I don't know. That's the thing about a private club, they're kind of private about it. You either belong to the club, or you don't get to know what they do. I do know one of their members works out here." He points out a very lean looking man who's working on flexibility exercises and who has a number of gnarly looking scars. Ah, a soul-mate of Trevor's; he goes over. Trevor: "Mind if I join you?" Tough guy: "It's a free arcology." Trevor: "I understand you belong to a private club that has a zero-g gym?" Tough: "Maybe." Trevor: "You could say that I'm an aficionado of grav-ball, and it's hard to find some place to practice, when no one has a zero-g gym." Tough: "I suppose if you go in for 'sports', or that sort of thing." Trevor can hear the quotes in that statement. Trevor: "So, what's so great about your club?" Tough: "I don't know if an aficionado of grav-ball would appreciate our sort of club. We're not into the steroids, the performance-enhancing drugs, and armor and all that. We're purists." Trevor: "I can appreciate that. I'm not into the drugs and steroids either. Maybe I am member material." Tough: "You look a little soft to me." Trevor: "Perhaps I am, but I don't know until I've checked it out myself, do I?" Tough: "In fact, you look like a cop to me." Trevor: "And tell me, what could you be doing that could interest the police, on Rainbow Commune, where everyone minds their own business?" Tough: "Everyone minds their own business here. But if you're interested in my club, all you have to do is pass the entrance exam." Trevor: "Let's go." Tough: "I think the alley out back will do." They head outside to settle things. Trevor: "So, are there any rules?" Tough: "No eye-gouging or groin-kicking. Since your new, no cestus, no biting, no hitting below the belt." Trevor: "And no weapons? I just want to be sure you don't pick up a two by four or something." Man: "No weapons."
The man takes off his shirt, revealing many scars, mostly on the front of his torso, and the fighters square off. The scarred man is feeling out Trevor, who misses on his first attack. Many blows are exchanged back and forth, between the brawlers. Trevor gets in a couple of good shots, but is apparently dropping his left - because every time he lands a punch, the big guy counter punches Trevor's face. The tough guy finally gets in a perfect blow, knocking Trevor to the ground, stunning him. No teeth are lost, but a couple feel a bit loose. Next thing Trevor knows, he's being helped up and patted on the back. Tough: "No bad! Come on, let's get you cleaned up." They go back inside and the 'cut man' does some first aid on Trevor. Tough: "What's your name?" Trevor: "Trevor." Tough: "Look me up at the club." He writes something on the back of a business card. Trevor: "What's your name?" Tough: "Max." They have a firm, manly handshake, but without the crushing thing. Max then takes Trevor to a doctor, and backs up the explanation of a weightlifting injury. Trevor is scanned for brain damage (two or three cells have been lost, but nothing too bad), his teeth are cemented, and some devices are implanted under the skin on his face to help with the swelling and bruising. Max invites Trevor to look him up later, at the club. Max: "It's on a lower level, sunward side." [In sort of the Little Regina part of the arcology.] Max leaves Trevor with the doctors. Trevor has a little electronic medical card to hang around his neck, that connects to the sensors under his skin, and he can connect to the vidphone to check in over the next 24 hours or so. Trevor looks like the result of a bad makeup job to make some one look like Trevor. He'll feel a bit groggy, what with the nerve blocks on his face, and he's warned that he won't be able to feel pain in his face for a while. Trevor goes back to the Horizon Hotel, and sits down in front of the Grav-Ball Network for some more grav-ball, all the time.
There are no messages for Trevor when he wakes up that evening, so Brizzk hasn't called. He gets up and then realizes that it's well into the evening. He puts a suit on, goes off to find food (he's starving), then it's off to the Last Chance Casino. The sparking, dangling sign has been removed, as it was a hazard. Trevor goes into the club and spots the lovely Tabitha Hauks working in the hostess outfit. How interesting. And he spots Phillippe, off in a corner, and several other familiar people, like Mitchell. The other security guy Trevor met earlier (one of the few living ones) is on the floor, and Trevor approaches him. Allen: "I figured you'd been laid off after the change in management." Trevor: "What change in management?" Allen: "Uh, yeah...I guess you missed some stuff. You might want to get out of here before the new management recognizes you, seeing how you were associated with Brizzk." Trevor: "So Brizzk had some business problems?" Allen: "Yeah, I heard he had an accident. He was cleaning his gun and it went off." Trevor: "And the real story?" Allen: "Some guy with real juice came in and capped him. I heard it was the mob." Trevor: "Well, I guess I better go meet the new boss." Allen stares at Trevor like he's nuts, and talks into his sleeve. Phillippe comes over and tells Trevor "There has been a change in management, and things are a bit disorganized. Perhaps you could come back tomorrow?" Trevor: "And to whom do I report tomorrow?" Phillippe: "To me. And I apologize for the inconvenience." Trevor: "Not a problem. I just want to make sure that the new people don't think I was associated with Brizzk in anything other than a purely business fashion. It's not like I was attached to him or anything." Trevor takes his leave and heads out of the casino.
Next stop, the local police station, and a meeting with Lt. Jane Nagala. Nagala: "Mr. Cavernon, nice to see you again. How may I help you?" Trevor: "I'm here for my $5000 Solars from Sergeant Gerard. I handled that Last Chance thing for him.... You know, that mangy Vargr Brizzk who was dealing drugs, pimping, doing child porn and messing things up." Nagala: <looking confused> "I'm not sure what you mean." Trevor: "The $5000 Solars Gerard offered to get rid of Brizzk. The guy he was taking kickbacks from. <pause> I didn't kill him, but he's been taken care of, so I'm here to pick up the money Gerard offered." Nagala: "Would you like to make a statement?" Trevor: "About what? This has nothing to do with the police. The visiting officer from the Vantage Police Department is in no way connected. <pause> Didn't you bring Sergeant Gerard from Freemantle Arcology to take care of things you couldn't? You know - party officials, blackmail and all that? Look, I understand how it is. I used to be a police officer, and police officers have a lot of constraints on them, and their actions, even if they're creative solutions to a problem, could reflect badly not just on the individual officer, but on the entire force. Believe me, with my record, I know what that's like." Nagala is looking over Trevor's shoulder, and she has a very unhappy look on her face. Nagala: "Maybe you should speak with Detective Sergeant Gerard. He's in his office, down the hall." Trevor: "Okay. Do you need to approve the chit for the money, or does that have to come out of his other funds?" Nagala: "Gerard would have to take care of that..." Trevor gets up to leave, and sees the two men in green uniforms who were just outside Lt. Nagala's room, one of whom is putting away a tape recorder. Officer: "Excuse me, but you wouldn't happen to be Trevor Cavernon, would you?" Trevor: "Yes, I am." Officer: "Would you care to come with us to clarify some things?" Trevor: "By all means." Officer: <to his companion> "Corporal, go bring Sergeant Gerard along. Now." Trevor is taken on board a grav vehicle, and back to Freemantle, to the unmarked building with the armed guards. Once in an interview room, the tape is played back and Trevor is asked to elaborate, while Gerard is brought in. Trevor is asked to summarize, for the investigators, the conversation he had with Lt. Nagala, and what prompted it. Trevor: "Gerard was busting my chops here on Freemantle.." Gerard: "I don't know what he's talking about!" Officer: "Shut up." Trevor: "Anyway, I went to Rainbow, and Gerard followed me there and started using his position to harass me further." Gerard leaps up to protest once too often, and is hit with several stun batons. Officer: "Do go on, Mr. Cavernon." Trevor tells the SolSec officer the truth, that he went to see Nagala to get Gerard into trouble, because of the way he'd been harassing him, and how he saw Lonny take money from Brizzk. Officer: "Did you have dealings with this illegal alien?" Trevor: "Was he illegal?" Officer: "Yes." Trevor explains about the Naval captain who's daughter died under suspicious circumstances, and being hired to look into it. How the trail lead to Rainbow Arcology, and Brizzk's brother (who was murdered... Basically, Trevor tells SolSec the truth. Creative little devil. The officer takes a private phone call, then thanks Trevor and tells him he's free to go. Subordinate: <indicating the unconscious Gerard> "What about this one?" Officer: "He's free to go also. I've been informed that this is a local matter." Trevor will have a head start, since Gerard is unconscious, and they will give Trevor a lift back so nothing happens on Freemantle, that could effect their statistics. Once back on Rainbow, Trevor goes to bed.
Trevor wakes up in the morning, and goes to the Last Chance. Only it's not the Last Chance any more, it's the Silver Rainbow. The outside has been toned down, it has new oaken doors and there's a discreet brass plaque instead of a huge, tacky neon sign. And the place is closed until noon. Hmm, he'll come back later.
At about this time, Mitchell is finishing up his meeting with the charming Megan, who is concerned that Mitchell looks tense. No, he's just still a bit injured. Megan: "If there's anything I can do for you. Anything at all..." Uh, not for now.
Trevor eventually locates the Hephaestus Club, in spite of being warned by the locals that he doesn't want to go there. He tells the man at the door that he's come to see Max, presents the card, and is ushered in. The decor could be described as, well, gladiatorial. Statues of glistening wrestlers, etc. The members seem friendly enough and two come over and introduce themselves as Ted and Frank. Trevor explains that he's a guest of Max. Ted: "Ah, a guest of Max. Will you be here for the match?" Trevor: "I don't know, when is it? I may need to go to work." Frank: "It's usually at ten, but there's usually some preliminary entertainment as well." Trevor: "I was really more interested in the zero-g gym." Ted: "We don't really use that much any more, we've more into the traditional style right now. But why don't we give you the tour?" They take Trevor further inside, and head to what was originally a grav-ball stadium. The seating is still there, but the arena looks lower tech, and much more like it should have Roman gladiators fighting there. This is the main arena for the clubs 'matches'. Trevor: "Do you fight with weapons as well as bare-handed?" Frank: "Oh yes. It depends on the level." Trevor: "Is there betting?" Ted: "Of course." Trevor: "Are the matches just amongst members?" No. They have sporting combat between members, but the betting is done on matches involving outsiders who are well paid. They use primarily traditional hand weapons, and the point of this group's tong is to become the best all around warrior. Frank: "So, are you just visiting, or are you going to take part in any of the open matches tonight?" Trevor: "I don't think so. I'd have to be an idiot to just step out there without knowing what the competition is like." Ted: "Of course." They are sizing Trevor up as to his reach, which leg he favors, etc. One of the members has recognized Trevor. Man: "Hey, aren't you the man who pushed that guy into the slidewalk gears?" Trevor: "Yeah, not one of my shining moments." Man: "Yeah, I saw you on the tri-dee. Got a taste for it, huh? You wouldn't be the first one. You can pick up some techniques here, that's for sure, and we've got some connections with the local authorities, so they don't bother us. We even have some SolSec agents as members. Not that anyone uses anything but first names here. Who you are when you leave the club is your business; we value each other's privacy here." Trevor will try to return to the club for the match.
Sophia brings in Gabrielle's breakfast. Sophia: "Madame has a guest, on the terrace." Gabrielle has Sophia take breakfast out onto the terrace, and dresses. The guest is the ever-charming (well, he's ever-something) Dr. Neil. What a way to start the day. The terrace is glassed in, gorgeous, and sticks out of the side of the station. The doctor is seated primly at the table, and rises to greet Gabrielle. Gabrielle: "Good morning, Dr. Neil." Neil: "Good morning. I just wanted to stop by and make sure you were doing well. Everything is well, is it?" They both sit. Gabrielle: "Yes, thank you." Neil: "Good, good." He reaches forward and pats Gabrielle's hand again. Neil: "Do you have plans for today? I could leave you my driver if you like." Gabrielle: "No plans as yet." Neil: "Then perhaps you would join me for dinner?" Gabrielle: "Thank you, that would be very nice." (Good thing she was raised to lie convincingly, just to be polite.) Neil: "Excellent! Shall we say, nine o'clock?" Gabrielle: "That would be fine." Neil: "I will leave my driver at your disposal. Use him as you see fit." Dr. Neil puts his cup down in the saucer, and leaves, all without making any noise at all. Gabrielle finishes breakfast, and represses the urge to shudder.
On his way back to the casino, Mitchell stops at a public terminal and looks up Randolph (the man who's aerostat Mitchell fell onto). He calls and gives Randolph an open invitation to the casino, for him and his friends. That should be an interesting group. Mitchell goes back to the casino. Malcolm: "It's about time somebody showed up to work." Mitchell: "It's about time somebody got up to go to work. I've been working."
Trevor shows up and Phillippe calls upstairs. Malcolm has Trevor sent upstairs to the (former) pimp's office. The office is somewhat less tacky, although it still comes with a guest chair with a large hole in the back. : <looking at the chair> "You learn fast!" Malcolm: "Please, have a seat." Trevor sits in the chair. Malcolm: "Do all of your cases turn out to be this interesting?" Trevor: "No, and I believe you've killed my last lead." Malcolm: "Not me. Not when there were so many people willing to do it for me. Do you know anything about Borloi oil?" Trevor: "A bit. Why?" Malcolm: "I think I've discovered the secret to the unlamented Mr. Brizzk's success with the ladies." Trevor: "Borloi?" Malcolm: "Very pure, in wine. You offer a lady guest a drink, and she can't help but come back for more. Very useful. And apparently, Brizzk was about to receive a very large shipment of Borloi oil - four tons. It's sitting in a ship right now, with the pilot baby sitting it." Trevor: "Have you seen the pilot yet?" Malcolm: "Seen him, talked to him, he wasn't impressed with the 'old man'. We got some tape of him, but not much. He knew where the cameras were. I'll have to remember to change the camera locations." Trevor: "If I have a picture, and he has a record, I might be able to find out more about him." Malcolm: "Tabitha got a good shot of him, I'll get you a copy." Malcolm realizes he's inadvertently mentioned Tabitha to Trevor. Damn. Trevor: "Did he set a price?" Malcolm: "No, and I didn't mention one, since I didn't know what something like pure Borloi oil would go for." After some interesting math, Trevor figures it would probably be worth around 250 million Solars on the street as individual doses. That is a lot of money. Trevor: "Well, it may be worth 250 million, but that's street value. Whoever moves it has to deal with distribution and the like." Malcolm: "I think the people who have it don't want to deal with that." Trevor: "It's probably a million Solar deal." Malcolm provides a digital and hard copy picture of the pilot to Trevor. Malcolm: "Just one thing. I have a silent partner here now. A very disturbing silent partner." Trevor: "Yes?" Malcolm: "Have you ever run into a General Marco Capeletti? He's known by a number of colorful names." Trevor: "SolSec?" Malcolm: "Yes. He thought it would be a good idea for me to run the place for now." Trevor: "And with people like that, you can't really turn them down." Malcolm: "Oh, and about the real reason you came here? I'm afraid that material has been destroyed, due to my clumsiness. I do apologize." (Referring to the vids of Rebecca McNaughton.) Trevor: "That's all right. I'll see what I can find out on your friend here, police record, or whatever. Anything else you need?" Malcolm: "Yes. I'm concerned about where the Borloi came from, as well as the pilot. Could you look for some sort of back to nature tong who's colony went bankrupt, in the Near Böotes Cluster?" Trevor: "Okay..." Malcolm will hit the floor when Trevor leaves.
During this conversation, about sixty people in odd attire come into the casino. It's Randolph and his friends and hangers-on. They're all in neo-Regency clothing, and Trevor can leave unnoticed thanks to the place filling up with nuts. Nuts with money, however. Randolph greets Mitchell effusively, and introduces his wife, Tricia. Tricia: "A pleasure. <whispered> Come see me later." Mitchell: <in his head> "Nooo!!! It still hurts..." Mitchell plans on heading up to his office when Malcolm comes down.
Randolph notices Malcolm and chats him up. Randolph: "Interesting accent, sir. Where do you hail from?" Malcolm: "Regina. It's near Jenghe." Randolph: "Is that in the Cappella subsector?" Malcolm: "No, it's near Dinom." Randolph eventually catches on that Malcolm is from the Imperium. Oh. Randolph: "Really? So what brings you so far from home?" Malcolm: "In my experience, it's usually because of fleeing the law, your family, or some one's husband. Or father." Randolph: "And which is it?" Malcolm: "That would be telling." Randolph: "Well sir, I'm informed by my good friend Captain Taylor that you have an excellent game of chance here." Malcolm: "And Captain Taylor does know about chance. What can I get you tonight?" Randolph: "Oh, I'd say $500,000 Solars to start. I assume my mark is good?" Of course. Malcolm figures he can always contact his silent partner if some one tries to welch on their marker.
Less than half an hour after they arrive, there's about $1,000,000 in chips that have been drawn, just by Randolph's party. And that's only counting the ones with confirmed drafts. There will be no problem with this group, they have super-platinum cards! Randolph is over at the roulette table, complaining about the $500 Solar limit. Malcolm: "That's to protect the players, sir. Lady roulette can be very unkind." Malcolm gallantly agrees to raise the table limits however. Phillippe recommends that Malcolm bring in extra 'entertainers', and security. Calls will be made. And Tricia keeps checking on Mitchell when he comes back down. Suzette shows up too. What is it with Navy guys??
Gabrielle eventually makes an appearance at the casino, to check on her boyfriend's assets. Tabitha is for some reason keeping an eye on Trevor when Gabrielle sees her. Then two bodyguards show up, with two principles - man of a certain age, who has had enough bio-sculpting to be almost generic-looking, and an older woman with grey hair, dressed very conservatively and walking with a cane. The bodyguards look a bit unhappy with the boisterous crowd, as their group heads for the back area. Mitchell goes to greet the new guests, and is told by the woman that "We're here to see the owner. No doubt he is expecting us, please give him this." She hands Mitchell a calling card that's totally black except for the gold edging. That can't be a good thing. Mitchell takes the card, and goes over to Phillippe to ask him if he knows who the heck they are. Phillippe: "The previous owner had some dealings with these people." Mitchell: "And who are these people?" Phillippe: "I did not think it politic to inquire, believing that it would not be advisable if one wished to continue to respirate." Mitchell asks Phillippe to tell Malcolm he needs to see him in the office. Then he goes to Tabitha, with the card in hand, and tells her he'll be leaving the floor for a while, then goes to fetch the new guests. Trevor: <to Malcolm> "Do you want to take your bodyguard with you?" Only fair, after all - they have bodyguards; Trevor has already been "checked out" by them; they clearly recognize another professional. Malcolm: "Meet me in the office." Mitchell takes the guests upstairs, and guides them into Malcolm's office. Woman: "Where is Mr. Brizzk?" Malcolm: "Mr. Brizzk is dead." Woman: "I see. Am I to understand that you are our Mr. Brizzk's replacement?" Malcolm: "Yes, ma'am." Woman: "We'll see about that." Malcolm tries to explain that he did not personally remove Mr. Brizzk. Woman: "What is your name?" Malcolm: "Malcolm Edwards." The woman exchanges glances with the generic man, and then turns back to Malcolm. Woman: "You're a very long way from home, Mr. Edwards. You should be more cautious." Malcolm: "Mr. Brizzk was removed, and the people who removed him thought I should take his position. Since they are people who are not noted for their sense of humor, I accepted." Woman: "So you are telling us you have people behind you." Malcolm: "I'm telling you I did not seek out this position on my own, and I'm not working for myself." Woman: "Well, whoever you were working for, now you are working for me. If you want to continue breathing." Malcolm: "May I know your name?" Woman: "You may call me Mrs. Kinder. Has my shipment arrived?" Malcolm stumbles a bit, trying to explain about the mess Brizzk left. Mitchell: "We are still trying to sort out all of Mr. Brizzk's affairs." Kinder: "You had better find my shipment, or I will hold you responsible for it." Malcolm: "Which shipment would that be, ma'am?" Mitchell is really hoping it isn't something they've already given away.... Mrs. Kinder asks to use Malcolm's phone, calls the SolSec prefecture, and asks for the current prefect, who takes her call. She makes sure everyone hears when the prefect answers. Prefect: "Mrs. Kinder! How lovely to have you back with us again. We are still on for dinner tonight, yes?" Oh goodie, the old scary woman is pals with the head of SolSec. Does it get any better? After a brief, but pleasant little chat, Mrs. Kinder rings off, and turns to Malcolm. Kinder: "I believe there's a matter of five tons of purified Borloi oil." Five tons??? Malcolm: "I thought it was four tons. At least that's the amount the gentleman who was here earlier mentioned." Kinder: "Mr. Brizzk was to deliver me my five tons of Borloi oil. Now that he's gone, you will deliver it to me. The ship will be docking on bay 16, level 4. I expect you to meet it. You'll need this to take possession of the shipment." She signals to a bodyguard, who brings a briefcase over. It contains a very nice, covert gauss smg, and a high tech security envelope as "payment" to be delivered to the pilot; the smg is not left with Malcolm. Kinder: "Tomorrow night, midnight. Not one minute later. I assure you, should you fail to make the delivery, you will find death the more pleasant option." They leave.
Gabrielle sees the woman leaving, and is sure she knows her. But from where? That's so annoying. After he follows the woman out onto the floor, Mitchell goes over and asks Tabitha about the card he had earlier. Tabitha: "It was a black card. How would I know what it means? I was in the data section. Maybe I could do something if I had a decent computer..." Mitchell: "It should be here soon."
Sure enough, at that moment the trustworthy Megan O'Hanlon arrives at the casino with a laptop case, and is pounce upon by several of Randolph's intoxicated friends. Guest: "Ah, who's this charming wench?" One of them has taken her by the arm, and the other one is dropping 50 Solar coins down her blouse. She's not sure what to do - she wasn't trained for this! Trevor leaps into action. "Gentlemen!" He takes them by the arms and they protest. Trevor is trying to explain that the small female is NOT part of the entertainment when Phillippe shows up. Phillippe: "Gentlemen, I was perusing the wine cellar, and happened to come across a bottle of Chateau Lafitte '27." Guest: "27? Really?" Trevor: "Shhh. It's a secret." They go off to the wine cellar with Phillippe. Mitchell asks Trevor to escort Megan to his office, where Mitchell takes possession of the computer, and makes sure Megan is all right. Megan hasn't seen 50 Solar coins before, and wants to stay at the casino for a while. Mitchell thinks that would be fine as long as she's careful.
Trevor is cornered by a female patron, who admires his athletic build and, perhaps, military bearing. Female: "What brings you to the Rainbow?" Trevor: "I work here." Female: "Oh, good." Trevor: "No, I work here as security." Female: "Why that's perfect. I have a security problem I'd like to discuss with you. My husband is insanely jealous, you see, and I'm afraid he may have planted a listening device somewhere on my person. Would you help me look for it?" Trevor: "If he had planted a listening device on your person, he would have heard that last comment, and that would no doubt make the jealousy matters much worse, so if I were to allow this to go any further, your husband could become dangerously angry with you, and I can't allow you to take that sort of risk." Pause. Female: "You're gay, aren't you?" Trevor: "Yes ma'am." Female: "Such a waste. Should you ever decide to...change your mind, give me a call." She gives him a card. "Besides, I might need a bodyguard some time." Right after she leaves, an attractive young man approaches Trevor. Man: "Hello. I couldn't help overhearing..." Argh!!! Trevor: "Look. I understand that the guests are in need of entertainment, but I'm working, and I'm security." Man: "I understand. You look very familiar. Do you by chance belong to the Hephaestus Club?" Trevor: "I've been there." Man: "I thought so. Perhaps I'll see you at the club. Nothing like a little manly competition. Any how, like I said, perhaps I'll see you at the club." He goes over and chats with some of his male friends who look over at Trevor and nod. He's left alone to work after that, although the men do seem to watch him appraisingly when he's dealing with security issues.
Gabrielle is seated at the bar, trying to remember where she's seen that older woman before. Definitely back home on Aquitaine, and not live - on the tri-dee or in photos. Malcolm locates Gabrielle; not difficult. Malcolm: "Hey sugar. I need to speak with our principle. Now." Gabrielle: "That could be difficult. He's working right now. What exactly do you need?" Malcolm: "Well, I would kind of like to know what I'm dealing with, with Mrs. Kinder." They move away from the bar. Gabrielle is sure that's not the woman's name, but doesn't say anything. Gabrielle: "Who is Mrs. Kinder?" Malcolm: "The old owner." Gabrielle: "The old owner? I thought Brizzk was the old owner?" Malcolm: "No, she's the person with the leash." Gabrielle: "I see." (Not really seeing at all.) Malcolm: "Somebody who drinks with prefects for dinner." Gabrielle: "Let me see what I can do." Malcolm: "I've got an idea, by the way, that I may need some help with. But that's for later. Right now I have to go out." Gabrielle is thinking of going back to her flat, when who should breeze in but Dr. Neil. She stays where she is, watching Neil look around the room, behind his little blue shades. Malcolm asks Trevor how long he'll need to find out about the pilot. Trevor: "I can go now if you want me to leave?" Malcolm: "That would be good, since I'm going to have to go meet him in an hour." Trevor: "Do you want me to go with you?" Malcolm: "Might be a plan, once you come back with the information." Trevor leaves.
Trevor logs into the criminal history database, using his access as a "licensed security professional" and runs the photo. He finds the man is: Manny Ritter, a highly decorated, former Solomani Navy lieutenant commander, a pilot, who received a dishonorable discharge for trafficking in controlled substances. He and his team were salvaging a damaged medical ship when a case broke open to reveal highly desirable pharmaceuticals, and well, no one would miss it.... But some one did, and the Navy made and example of him. Trevor gets the info on where the offense took place, and what the substance was. Also, he checks for a ship registered to him or to the same address that his pilot's license lists, but there's nothing under his real name. Trevor has it checked under the known aliases. There are a couple of extraditable charges pending on Vantage, but not for anything major, just small drug stuff. He's managed to avoid anything major like murder or shoot outs with the police, but it looks like he has connections or a backer, or he's a snitch, since his last crimes have been punished by slaps on the wrist in spite of being a career criminal. In fact, his last crime resulted in a sentence of personality adjustment, but was commuted to probation. Hmmm. The information on Ritter's court martial lists the officers on the board, and one of them is Captain Mitchell Taylor. Oh. Is this a real deal, or is he trying to screw Taylor? A bit elaborate for that, maybe. Trevor takes his info back to the casino.
Randolph's group decides they need to eat now, and most of them go to the Carnivore Club. Some of the party is not going to eat meat, thank you, so they eat downstairs. Mitchell heads up to check on Tabitha and the computer. The laptop meets with her approval. Tabitha: "What's the first project?" Mitchell: "Are you sure it's secure?" Tabitha is sure the connection she has is as secure as is possible. She's spoofing some one else's address for her connection, and it changes a hundred times a second. Mitchell: "First project is the pictures Malcolm got off Brizzk's computer. We have two shadowy figures in the background, and we need to try to identify them, if possible." Tabitha gets to work on the computer, with Mitchell nearby. Mitchell: "Do you know anything about a Mrs. Kinder? She made a phone call to the prefect, and he answered." Tabitha: "Ouch! Do you have a picture?" Mitchell: "If you can pull one off the security camera." Nice idea, but Mrs. Kinder evidently had some sort of scrambling device on her (or another member of her group), so there's only one shot where you can even tell it's a human female. Mitchell: "She was fairly old, grey-haired..." Tabitha: "Well, that narrows it down to only several million people on planet." Tabitha is able to get one of the pictures off Malcolm's tape to come out fairly well, and it's a male of indeterminate age, who could be the man with Mrs. Kinder. Could be. Tabitha is typing away, working on a SolSec site when she suddenly stops. Mitchell: "Are you okay?" He looks at the screen, and there's a bulletin about the death of a SolSec Colonel. Tabitha's husband.
Trevor returns with the information on Ritter, including the little tidbit about Mitchell's involvement. Mitchell was the one who wrote the official opinion of the board of officers, and he was not nice. Trevor: "So, we know that he has the credentials to be a drug runner, and he's a good pilot. And he may be on the hook to somebody, having gone from brain wiping to probation. It could be a sting." Malcolm: "Well, that could be awkward. What do we tell the police? We're working for General Capeletti, trying to uncover a ring of drug dealers and white slavers - really! Only now we can't get to Capeletti. We do have Dr. Neil." Oh goodie.
Malcolm and Trevor go up to Mitchell's office to find Mitchell with a bottle and two glasses in his hands, and Tabitha with tears in her eyes. Trevor: <thinking> "Hey, none of my business." Malcolm: "Sorry to interrupt, but we've got things going on." Malcolm brings Tabitha and Mitchell up to speed, and with some prompting Mitchell remembers Ritter. Mitchell: "One other thing - Colonel Hauks has died." Malcolm: <to Tabitha> "My condolences" The medical report bears out that his death was not suspicious - too long without any brain activity. Guess that makes Tabitha a free woman. If this were Regina, the Colonel would have at least one 'not dead - just kidding' card coming to him...
Trevor and Malcolm go off to meet the pilot, who wants to meet in a bar. He mentions The Usual Place, but Malcolm does not want to go there. They compromise on Smitty's, on level 3. Phillippe will look after things on the floor at the casino, and back up Mitchell, who is not going. We are sure that Manny would remember him in a way that wouldn't promote a good business transaction.
Dr. Neil leaves the casino with Gabrielle, and takes her to a restaurant in the Aquitaine (French) style. Dr. Neil speaks the Aquitaine language fluently, although he does have an accent. Gabrielle: "I'm very impressed." Dr. Neil: <shrugs> "I have a gift with languages." There are pictures of the royal (sort of) wedding of Queen Marie of Aquitaine and Ephor Ian Kellerman of Polyphemus, including family photos. Oh, that's where Gabrielle has seen the older woman; she's Kellerman's aunt. Gabrielle: "Is there a way of contacting Marco, in case of emergency?" Dr. Neil: "Yes, with a two week time lag. One week out and one week back." Gabrielle: "Oh dear." Dr. Neil: "Is something wrong? Please, think of me as your friend." He covers her hand with his. Gabrielle: "I'm in a bit of an awkward position." Dr. Neil: "Is there some way I can help? You have but to ask." Gabrielle: "Marco asked me to do something for him, but he didn't say what to do if he weren't here. He asked me to keep an eye on things." Dr. Neil: "And something has happened? Are you in danger?" He gives her hand a gentle squeeze. Gabrielle: "I don't think I'm personally in any danger, unless I stand too close to the others." Dr. Neil: "Tell me what's happened." Gabrielle: "I saw a woman in the casino, coming out of the back rooms. Malcolm told me she was a Mrs. Kinder, and she was the one who had been 'holding Brizzk's leash'. Malcolm wanted to speak with Marco right away, and I told him I'd see what I could do. I didn't tell Malcolm that the woman was familiar looking, because I hadn't placed her yet, but I have now." Dr. Neil: "And who is she?" Gabrielle: <indicating one of the photos on the wall> "She's that woman. Alexandra Kellerman, the aunt of Ian Kellerman. Quite frankly, I'm out of my depth." Dr. Neil: "Yes, I understand. I wouldn't be too sure then that there isn't some risk on your part, if it involves the Ephor of Polyphemus." Gabrielle: "Some one at that level wouldn't even notice I was alive." Dr. Neil: "That may be true, but I will do everything I can to ensure your safety. Unfortunately I don't know that I can do the same for your friends." Gabrielle: "I understand." Dr. Neil: "Don't worry, we'll think of something. Trust me. I won't let anything happen to you." Dr. Neil orders a nice meal, and it's very much like home for Gabrielle; the restaurant cooking has a decidedly home-made style. Dr. Neil changes the subject, and spends an hour keeping Gabrielle distracted, and she can almost forget about the Kellerman woman, if it weren't for the photos on the wall. The aunt looks a lot more malevolent in the photos, but it's an official state photo, and those cameras only three settings: dyspeptic, pithed, or malevolent.
They get back to Gabrielle's flat, and there are four very fit young men from the Condor Legion there; Capeletti's men. Dr. Neil: "They're here to make sure nothing happens to you. And should you need anything, I'll be in the next room tonight." It just keeps getting better. Dr. Neil: "I think you should take this." He removes a small, delicately engraved pistol from his jacket and hands it to Gabrielle. Gabrielle: "Do you really think this is necessary?" Dr. Neil: "General Capeletti entrusted me with your safety. Right now your friends are a disgraced Naval officer, a murderous ex-policeman, and an unknown Imperial who's probably a spy, and they've all run afoul of the family of the Ephor of Polyphemus and who knows who else." <pause> Gabrielle: "And the safety is here, correct?"
Mitchell sits up with Tabitha, who does a lot of crying, and falls asleep. He puts her to bed and goes back to his room, where the bed has been pre-warmed, by Suzette. Mitchell begs off, due to the injury. Really. Or he's just tired. Suzette understands, tucks him in, and kisses him good night on the forehead before she leaves. Perhaps when Mitchell recovers she'll be willing to share with Tabitha. But what about Megan? [A girl in every port.]