"I like not fair terms and a villain's mind."-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice


At Count von Hollenstein's summer house. Sometime in the mid-morning.

Clarice is sitting on the veranda, chatting with Dr. Jurgen, while Geoff and Sophie stroll in the garden. They keep in sight of the house, so there's nothing improper. Ariana comes rushing out of the house, and literally grabs the first person she sees - Samantha. Geoff sees this and suggests to Sophie that they go check on What's wrong. Samantha: "What's wrong?" Ariana: "It's Robert, he's found something. Come quickly!" Geoff: <to Sophie> "Get Clarice and go after Franz." Samantha: <pointing> "He's right over there. " Geoff: "I know." Ariana: "Hurry, this way." Samantha and Geoff follow as Franz rides towards the house. Geoff grabs a battle-axe off the wall as he goes by. They follow Ariana. Ariana: "Let's see, I think it was this one. Or maybe that one. Oh bother. No, it was this one. Or...Shit. No, I'm sure it's this way." They look down several hallways, trying to find the one Robert was in . Ariana: "I'm pretty sure this is the one. It had armor in it." It doesn't help that there are lots of hallways in here, and almost all the halls have suits of armor in them. Ariana: "Oh that's right, the one with the dog! This is the one. Robert?" No Robert to be found. Geoff: "What did he see?" Ariana: "I don't know. He was looking at that suit of armor. He said the visor was up." Geoff goes over and opens the visor carefully, with the point on the axe. There's a wooden knot holding the helmet up, and as the visor opens a small black cat explodes outward at Geoff's face. Geoff ducks and the cat careens away. Samantha: "He was investigating a cat?" Ariana: "He didn't tell me what he saw." Geoff wants to check all the suits of armor, since Ariana wasn't even sure which hall it was. Samantha: "All right. Ariana and I will take that side of the hall, you take this one."

Kaeth returns from his run to find no one but servants around. Kaeth goes back to his room to get a shower. He goes through a lot of fluffy towels to get dry, good thing there are a lot of servants.

Visor check! Geoff finds a brown bottle in one and puts in on the floor beside the armor. Samantha and Ariana find nothing. An elderly servant walks by. Geoff: "Excuse me!" Servant: "Yes sir?" Geoff: "What is your name?" Servant: "Hans, sir." Geoff: "What do you do here, Hans?" Hans: "I am the clockwinder, sir." Geoff: "Would you by any chance have seen one of the Count's other guests here earlier? A man?" Hans: "No sir. I was down the hall winding the clocks." Geoff: "Did you hear anything unusual in the last say, half an hour?" Hans: "No sir. But I'm afraid I'm a bit hard of hearing, sir. <he looks down> Oh, my my. I'll get some one to take care of that." Geoff looks down and now he sees the black scuffmarks that run perpendicular to the hall. Geoff: "Sam, look." He points out the marks. Samantha: "They start here, and go over...oh! and through that wall. How clever." Geoff: "Hans, do you know where the latch is on this door?" Hans: "But that is a wall." Geoff: "It has a latch." Hans: "I wouldn't know sir, I wind clocks. Excuse me, sir." Hans turns to leave, and Geoff cocks a gun right behind him, just to test the hard of hearing act. Not even a flinch. Hans walks away muttering about "foreigners".

Kaeth emerges from his room and is wandering around the house. Servant: "Oh excuse me sir, are you looking for your associates?" Kaeth: "Yes, where are they?" Servant: "They are all down that hall over there sir. I believe they are looking for Mr. Shelzie." Kaeth: "Thank you."

Meanwhile, in some other location, Robert wakes up with his head throbbing. He opens one eye slowly, and he's in a stone room, closed off on one side by bars. His hands are in some sort of shackles which are attached to the wall. Sitting on the other side of the bars is a man in local workman's clothing, smoking a cigarette, with his hat down over his face and an assault rifle on his lap. The assault rifle doesn't look like it's from around here. Robert opens both eyes, takes in the rest of his surroundings and hopes for the throbbing to stop. Some one else walks in to the outer hallway, over to the guard. They talk, then the guard says "Tell Mr. Lachlan that our visitor is awake." The new man turns and walks off. Robert carefully gets his legs under himself and carefully stands. By this time the man who left returns with a middle-aged man in nice local clothing. Lachlan: "Really Osborne, I don't think there's any need for the chains. Please take those off." The cell door is opened and the manacles are removed. Robert rubs his wrists. Lachlan: "Are you all right?" Robert: "I've been better." Lachlan: "It's the help you have to work with these days. You're Mr. Shelzie, aren't you?" Robert: "Yes, but how did you know that?" Lachlan: "You'll appreciate the fact that it won't glow here, due to local conditions, but I assure you it's real." He shows Robert his ISA ID card, which doesn't glow, but does have a holographic picture of Lachlan on it. Robert: "I see." Lachlan: "Fortunately for you I recognized you." Robert: "You recognized me?" Lachlan: "Yes, I had the fortune to have worked with your uncle." Robert: "My uncle? You mean Adam?" Lachlan: "Whatever. At any rate, suffice it to say that I owe a favor to a relation of yours." Robert: "Okay." Lachlan: "Good thing I recognized you when you were brought in." Robert: "What happened?" Lachlan: "Some associates of ours became concerned when you found some of our equipment." Robert: "Ah, yeah. I'd like to ask a couple of questions about that, actually." Lachlan: "I'm sure you appreciate why I'm here. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out." Robert: "You're here because of whatever it is that's behind the lack of electricity on this planet." Lachlan: "Do you know anything about the effect? Where it's location is?" Robert: "No, I have no idea." Lachlan: "Yes, well, for longer than I care to recall, I've been on this planet looking for it. We've decided to move on to less covert methods." Robert: "Well, since you know my uncle, is there anything I can do to help?" Lachlan: "Possibly. There are some concerns about bringing in additional personnel here, what with the xenophobia of the natives. Not to mention the fact that they're rather high-minded about some things, and if we were to just show up, they'd get in the way. Unless of course something happened to take the fight out of them, so to speak." Robert: "I don't know what I can do to help." Lachlan: "It won't take too much. <pause> You don't know what a pleasure it is to speak to another Imperial after all this time." Robert: "How long have you been here?" Lachlan: "Eight years. I hope you can appreciate how difficult that has been." Robert: "Absolutely. But if you haven't been able to find what you're looking for in eight years, what can I possibly do?" Lachlan: "Up 'till now we've been working in secret. More extreme measures are needed, overt action. We need to take these people down a peg. And you may be able to assist me." Robert: "Is that what's behind the cold war?" Lachlan: "We've been working on several fronts." Robert: "I'm just trying to understand what's been going on up to now. You're trying to start a war between Albion and Fredonia to make the locals less difficult?" Lachlan: "A nice, high-intensity warfare between the two largest countries would do very nicely." Robert: "What if we could do this without starting a war?" Lachlan: "The plan is already in motion. You are in a position to help me with this. I'm sure when you were in Albion you heard of the assassination attempt?" Robert: "Yes." Lachlan: "That will teach us to use local help." Robert: "You hired Cutler then?" Lachlan: "Yes. Incompetent idiot." Robert doesn't say anything. Lachlan: "I understand that you are travelling with, well, we believe that the person who would be the most useful is this Colonel... Thompson, isn't it?" Robert: "Yes." Lachlan: "Who better for the queen to hire to seek revenge on some influential Fredonian personage such as Count von Hollenstein? We've been working on rumors about the Count being behind the assassination attempt on Queen Marie." Robert: "So let me get this straight. You want me to convince this colonel to challenge Count von Hollenstein to a duel?" Lachlan: "No, no. We just want you to get Thompson to the right place at the right time, and we'll take care of it from there." Robert: "I don't know, this Colonel Thompson doesn't trust too many people." Lachlan: "You've been travelling with him, doesn't he trust you?" Robert: "A little. I'll see what I can do." Lachlan: "Your government, your emperor has need of you. Besides, once we get the device, there are many things on this planet of value. A smart man could make a lot of money. There might even be a knighthood in it. But the most important thing is, you realize the ramifications of this technology, don't you?" Robert: "Well, yeah." Lachlan: "And you want it in the hands of the Imperium, your Imperium, rather than the Zhodani or someone else, don't you?" Robert: "Of course." Lachlan: "Here's what you need to do. Outside of the main building, to the east, are the stables. Go to the north end of the building, the end stall. Have Thompson go with you, under some pretext. My men will be waiting." Robert: "That's it, just get him there?" Lachlan: "The only other service we'll need for you, since you were involved in this other rescue and are known to the locals, is to give a statement to the local authorities that you saw Colonel Thompson kill the Count. Then you'll be whisked away." Robert: "Away to where?" Lachlan: "Off this shit hole." Robert: "You have a working ship?!?" Lachlan: "You didn't think we'd be stupid enough to come here without having a way off, did you?" Robert: "You've found a way around the effect?" Lachlan: "Well, you saw the camera?" Robert: "Yes." Lachlan: "It works. Would you like to see your pictures?" Robert: "That won't be necessary. Is your ship nearby?" Lachlan: "It's somewhere secure. All you need to do is hold up your end, and we'll get you off of this rock and back to civilization." Robert: "I'll do my best." Lachlan: "I knew you would. If you're anything like your uncle I knew I could count on you. Now, you'll need a story for your friends, to explain your absence. There's a hidden panel in the wall here (map). There's a peg inside a suit of armor that opens the passage. Tell them you triggered it accidentally and fell down the stairs. They should buy that. And don't worry. We'll be looking out for you. If everything goes to shit...well, we'll have you under surveillance and we'll cover your ass. Like I said, get Colonel Thompson to the north side of the stables and our people will be waiting for you." Robert is taken over to a hidden door, and through a passageway. Osborne points out the other secret door, then leaves Robert. The door behind Robert closes, it's dark. He feels around for the far door.

Kaeth looks down several corridors "down there", until he finds the others. Kaeth: "What's going on?" Samantha: "Robert has apparently gone off on some sort of Dick Salamander fantasy trip and been dragged through that wall." Kaeth gets down to look, and then the door opens. Robert staggers up and out. Ariana leaps into his arms and almost sends him back down the stairs. Ariana: "What happened? You just disappeared." Robert: "I apparently activated that door, and fell down the stairs." Kaeth and Samantha look at the scuffmarks but don't say anything. (Neat trick, dragging yourself down the hall head first....) Ariana: "Thank God you're all right. I was so worried." Robert: "I could use some fresh air. Isn't there a garden here?" Samantha: "Yes, it's the large garden like thing outside." Robert: "Let's go there." Samantha: "So how did you open it?" Robert: "I'm not really sure. Can we go outside?" Kaeth: "Yes, let's take him outside."

Outside to the garden. Geoff goes in search of Sophie. Kaeth takes a look at the bump on Robert's head. He'll live. Kaeth: "You fell down stairs? You were very lucky with this head wound." There's a worker with a hoe nearby. He stops to rest for a moment, wiping his neck. Robert: "Yes, I was very lucky with this injury. Kaeth: "We should walk you around a bit." It's hard to get rid of all the servants. Franz must have several hundred servants. Robert sits down on a bench and Kaeth makes a big deal about checking him out, allowing Robert to whisper to him so no one else can hear. Robert: <quietly> "The ISA is here. And Franz is in danger." Kaeth continues with the neuro check. Kaeth: "Fuck." Robert: "We can't talk here." Kaeth: "Here, get this towel wet." He hands it to Ariana to dampen in the fountain, then he puts it on Robert's head. A servant arrives with water, ice, and aspirin. Servant: "Is sir all right? The count was inquiring." Kaeth: "He's mostly all right, but I want to keep him moving for a while to make sure. Thank you." The servant leaves. Kaeth: "Are we blown?" Robert: "Sky-high." Kaeth: "Shit." Robert: "Look, it's not safe to talk around anyone, because I have no idea who they are." Kaeth: "Right. They have locals." They go back to the house, and Kaeth asks Ariana to take Robert to have a lie down. Kaeth: <to Sam> "Uh, impossibly secret agency is his reason. Franz is in peril. Can't talk here." Considering how Samantha feels about the ISA and Franz, this is not good news.

As soon as Robert and Ariana get back to his room, he makes sure the servants are all gone. He then looks around the room - in the closets, under the bed... Ariana: "What are you doing?" Robert: "It's a surprise." He starts to take off all his clothes. Ariana: "I'll lock the door." Click. She goes over and hops up on the bed. Robert throws all his clothing in a corner. Ariana takes her clothes off and discards them too. Robert gets on the bed and checks Ariana for "bug bites". Ooh, he's gone all caveman on her. Robert: "Do I have any bug bites?" Ariana: "Who cares? Come here!" ... Afterwards, Robert takes pencil and paper and on a hard surface he writes ISA and gives it to her. Ariana: "Izza?" Robert covers her mouth. He adds a period between the letters. Doesn't help. This doesn't fit into the context of having sex in a manor house. " Robert: <writes> "Right now we are being watched by spooks." She stares at him. He hands her the paper and pencil. Ariana: "What do you mean? Don't understand." She's covering up and getting into clothing. Robert: "Imperial spies on planet. Plotting to instigate war." Ariana: "Can they get us off?" Robert: "So they say. They want to kill Franz." Ariana: "They must know what they're doing." Robert: "They want to blame Geoff." Ariana: "Do what?" Robert: "It's not right." Ariana: "They must have a reason." Robert: "They do. <Scratches it off.> They think they do. I'm not so certain. Do not talk about this around anyone but our group. They have people in Franz's estate. And cameras in his suits of armor." Ariana nods. Robert: "They say they have a working ship." Her eyes get wide.

Kaeth and Sam enter the house just as Franz walks up. Franz: "Hello. Everything all right? I understand that Mr. Shelzie tripped and injured himself. I trust he's all right?" Kaeth: "He seems to have discovered a hidden stronghold through one of your walls." Franz: "Yes, the place is full of secret passages and hidden rooms. There are quite a few entrances and exits in and out of the bedrooms, or so I'm told. Grandpapa found that sort of thing amusing." Kaeth wonders about Grandpapa. Franz: "I hope you've saved your appetites. I understand that cook has prepared something entertaining."

Upstairs there's a soft tapping. Servant: "Mr. Shelzie?" Robert: "Yes?" Servant: "Luncheon will be served shortly. Robert: "Thank you." Robert and Ariana dress, and Robert burns the note they've been writing. He makes sure it's been destroyed, then mixes it in with the fireplace ashes. It burns quickly. He makes sure that nothing they've been writing on has any impressions on it. Just the desk. It may have some impression, but it won't fit in the fireplace. Then he burns the blotter. He's a bit paranoid, but he does admit that burning his clothing would be a bit much. Then they go down to lunch.

Kaeth: "Is something burning?" Robert: "We were trying to start a fire in the fireplace. It's a bit cold." Kaeth: "The fire was already going in my room..."

During lunch, the whole gang is together. True to the rumor, the cook has prepared pheasant, lobster, and other interesting things (nothing too weird though). Just something the cook threw together at the last moment. Robert: "So Franz, have you heard anything further about Baron von Bulow?" Franz: "Still dead. The doctors hold little hope for his recovery. No, nothing at this time." Robert: "Uh, it's probably too soon for the lab results, right?" Franz: "That depends on what sort of tests have been requested. Dr. Jurgen comes in late, to show off the magnificent specimen of a huge, mutated bird/recluse/widow spider thing. Robert: "Is it poisonous?" Dr. Jurgen: "Oh yes. It's quite deadly." Ariana takes one look, screams, and leaps up onto her chair. Dr. Jurgen: "Vibrant colors, look at the markings... A true killing machine. A perfectly designed assassin. Wouldn't you say, Lady Telford?" Samantha: "It's a very well designed spider. But I think you may be upsetting the lady standing on her chair." Dr. Jurgen: "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry." He puts it away in it's box, and Robert manages to convince Ariana to sit down again. Lunch continues. Robert: "Do you do much riding here?" Franz: "Yes, why do you ask?" Robert: "Well, I thought that after the original adjustment period, I thought I might like to give it another try, and I was wondering if you had a horse available?" Franz: "Capital idea. I'll speak with my groomsman, and I'm sure he'll be able to help you select a proper mount. We could make an afternoon of it, it's a perfect day for riding. Perhaps the ladies would like to join us?" Robert: "Absolutely!" Samantha: "I have a confession to make - I never really learned to ride properly." Franz: "It's easy as falling off a log. My dear - uh Lady Telford, there's nothing to it at all." No, Ariana doesn't have equestrian, is Robert nuts? Franz: "Well I expect you'll need to be fitted for kit, but that shouldn't be a problem."

After lunch, some servants show up to properly attire the group. Robert sends a servant off to bribe his way to the second most gentle horse for himself. The most gentle would be for Ariana. They go out to the stable, where the horses are saddled and ready. Sophie and Clarice already know how to ride. Samantha is a bit confused by the odd "growth" on the side of her saddle, but what the heck. Ariana is rather intimidated by her horse, which doesn't bod well for her ride. Everyone does get mounted up (odd side-saddles or not) without injury.

Franz: "What do you say, gentlemen? A bit of fun?" He spurs his horse and is off. Samantha seems to take to riding rather well - good thing, as she's on the horse has to keep up with the leader. Franz sees she's keeping up well. Franz: "Very good!" Then there's a huge (6') hedge right in front of them. It helps to not know you should panic, apparently, as Samantha makes it over the hedge right along with Franz.

The others slow down, looking for a way around the hedge. Robert sees Ariana's horse catching up... just her horse...uh-oh. Robert heads back towards the sound of the swearing. Ariana is sitting on her bum in two feet of water and mud. Ariana: "I am not getting back on that beast. He did that on purpose!" They'll walk the horses from here.

Way up ahead, Franz is having a wonderful time, and so is Samantha. Hey, this is kind of fun! Robert is unhappy that Sophie and Clarice have come along, and also the group is spread out all over God's green creation. Geoff and the ladies are in no hurry, and are walking and chatting. Robert: <to Kaeth> "We need to tell Franz what's going on. At least as much as he needs to know." Kaeth: "Let me guess, the super-spooks have to find out what's making the electricity not work." Robert: "That's about it, yes. They want the technology." Kaeth: "It might not be technology." Robert: "They are convinced it is. They apparently have found a work around." Kaeth: "A workaround?" Robert: "What drew my attention in the armor was a high tech camera in a weird cage." Kaeth: "Of course!" Robert: "They also say they have a working ship nearby." Kaeth: "How long have they been here?" Robert: "Eight years." Kaeth: "Good grief. How many people do they have?" Robert: "Too many to trust anyone except for us, and probably Franz, since he's someone they've targeted for assassination." Kaeth: "Damn. Were they behind Cutler?" Robert: "Oh yes." Kaeth: "But that would have started a war." Robert: "Exactly." Kaeth: "Idiots." Robert: "No kidding. They think Geoff is an Albion colonel." Kaeth: "He is." Robert: "No, they think that's all he is. They don't know he's an offworlder. If they were halfway competent, I wouldn't be having this conversation with you. But they're not." They discuss the idiots and their plans. Neither one of them is happy with the ISA's level of competency. They also discuss whether or not the local phenomenon, and if it could be a natural phenomenon, or even something that a black globe generator could negate. Well...it's possible if the phenomenon is some sort of field. Robert ponders whether or not the ISA idiots might not have a really big cage, and that's why they have a functioning ship. Kaeth: "Why do I think they're lying?" Robert: "They're spooks. Of course they're lying." Ariana: "Can I have memwipe? " Robert: "Me too." Ariana: "Have you decided what you're going to do?" Robert: "No. First we talk to Franz.."

Way up ahead, Franz and Samantha have slowed down, and they return to the group at a walk. Franz: "Ladies, gentlemen. I trust you're enjoying yourselves? It's not much further." Robert: "Not much further for what?" Franz: "I thought you might like to have a rest. It's a lovely day for a picnic." They continue at a slow pace for about another mile or so. Up ahead is a large clearing, where servants have set up a rather elaborate picnic site.

Robert: <to Kaeth> "We need to talk to Franz away from the servants - that was the whole point to this." Kaeth: <to Sophie> "Could you and your cousin help Ariana over? I think her ankle may be bothering her." Ariana: "Yes, I don't feel well, and I have a pain... " She puts her hand over her abdomen. Oh no, a female problem!! The men recoil in horror. Robert: "Franz, before we go in... Franz, what I'm about to say is going to sound incredibly bizarre, but I have reason to believe that you're in danger." Samantha: "The attempted poisoning was a good clue." Robert: "Yes, and I don't think that's the end of it. I've been asked to help set up your assassination." Franz: "Asked by whom?" Robert: "The only people who have electricity on this planet." Franz: "Electricity? Don't tell me you've been taken in by an electricity scam?" Robert: <to Sam> "Maybe you'd better tell him." Franz: "I think perhaps you should finish what you started, Sir Robert. You've been asked to help with a plot to assassinate me, I believe were your words." Robert: "Yes. The idea is to have you killed, and blame it on Albion. In fact, they'd already decided on the Albion officer who was going to assassinate you." He looks at Geoff, who is rather surprised by this. Franz: "It's nothing to be concerned about. In times like these, there are always disturbed individuals." Robert: "These are not just disturbed individuals. These are an organized, trained group of people intent on carrying out their plans, starting with your death." Franz: "And how did you come by this information?" Kaeth: "He was sapped. He didn't fall, he was knocked unconscious. In your home. That's why we've been avoiding your servants." A small woodland creature pops it's head out of a burrow, interrupting the group. Franz: "Ah yes, that's a <he rattles off the scientific name>. Unusual, they're normally nocturnal." It's looking up at them like they're disturbing his rest. Or he's an ISA agent, deep undercover. [God, this disguise is painful.] Since the small animal doesn't appear to be an immediate threat, the conversation continues. Robert: "The intent of these people is to start a war between Albion and Fredonia to destabilize the area." Franz: "We've seen how well that worked." Robert: "If they'd been successful, they would have had one rung on their ladder." Franz: "No doubt. Do yo believe this has something to do with the death of von Bulow?" Robert: "I don't doubt it." Franz: "We must inform the foreign office." Robert: "I don't know if that would really help." Franz: "Cheer up old man, it's nothing to worry about." Robert: "Sam, these people come from the same place we do." Franz: "Kanaidians?" Robert: "No sir. And they've brought stuff that works." Franz: "You must excuse me, Sir Robert, but you have a tendency to speak in a very obtuse fashion." Robert: "I'm sorry, sir." Franz: "Perhaps we should join the others." Robert: "Sam, they've been here for eight years, I don't think they're quite right." Franz: "You'll excuse me, but I have a feeling I'm only getting half the conversation." Samantha: "Franz, if these people are who Robert thinks they are, they are ruthless, without honor, and will stop at nothing to get what they want, regardless of who they hurt." Franz: "Well, we have people who can deal with that sort of things."

A rider comes up on a frothing horse. He hands over a message to Franz, who looks at it quizzically and hands it to Robert. Franz: "I think this is for you." It reads: "Your uncle is very ill, not expected to last long." Robert hands it to Samantha. Franz: "That will be all. The rider leaves." Robert: "They know. Even out here, they know." Kaeth: "What?" Samantha hands him the note. Franz: "I'm sorry about your uncle." Robert: "They wouldn't have had time to find out my uncle was ill. This is a threat." Franz: "Is there something wrong?

Keath: "We're going to have to go into the clearing eventually." Robert: "I suspect they know that I've told him." Samantha: "What were you supposed to do?" Robert: "I was supposed to get the Albion officer to the last stall on the far end of the stable, and they'd do the rest." Franz: "Where did you encounter these people?" Robert: "In your basement, sir!" Franz motions Heinrich over. Heinrich: "Yes, excellency?" Franz: "Have the marshal and his men round up anyone who isn't personally known to him and hold them until we have the opportunity to question them." Heinrich: "Yes, excellency." He leaves.

Robert: "The man in the basement drew this for me. It's behind the suit of armor I found the device in." He shows Franz the little diagram. Franz: "I see. What do you propose we do, Sir Robert? I've already given instructions to round up any strangers." Robert: "I suggest we hunt." Kaeth: "We hunt?" Robert: "You once said to me that direct action was a driving force." Franz: "Good heavens, did I really?" Robert: "Yes. I think this is one of those times." Franz: "Perhaps." Robert: "Now that they know that their plans have failed, they will go on to the next phase of their plan, and they will move on your emperor." Franz: "The emperor is well-guarded." Samantha: "Franz, these are not people who go in for direct action." Robert: "And they've had time to infiltrate people." Kaeth: "Where will the Emperor be in the next few days?" Franz: "I don't know. I too just got back." Kaeth: "Is there any holiday or public event?" Franz: "Not that I know of, the Emperor doesn't usually schedule things for this time of year, as it interferes with his hunting." Kaeth/Robert: "A hunting accident!" Franz: "Eight years they've been here you say? And to whom do they answer? Assuming they answer to anyone, and they're not just a group of unstable individuals." Kaeth: "They're too far away to answer to their superiors directly, which may be part of the problem." Franz: "Why would they want to start this war? To what ends?" Robert: "The war would create the destabilization that would allow them to operate more freely in the area, more in the open, with no one locally being much of a threat." Franz: "In order to understand our enemies' motives, we must understand their goals. You had communication with these individuals did you not? Can't you use your position to our advantage?" Robert: "After getting this note, I'm afraid they've written me off their list of allies." Samantha: "The note didn't say your uncle was dead, it said your uncle was ill and not expected to last long, in other words, get your ass in gear!" Franz: "Well then, we'll send word, and be careful." Robert: "Is there anyone on your estate who has been hired in the last eight years?" Franz: "I wouldn't know. Some of them have been with my family for generations, others are more recent." Kaeth: "Would Heinrich know?" Robert: "How long have you known Heinrich?" Franz: "For more than twenty years." Robert: "Then maybe he could check out the servants." Franz: "I have absolute faith in my servants." Robert: "That's what they're counting on. But believe me sir, they are in your household." Franz: "Well, my train shall be here tomorrow. Perhaps it is time to move on. But I certainly do not intend to allow a band of thugs to interfere with my daily activities." Robert: "Then we should go to lunch, or dinner." More of a light snack, really. From an Empire of Fredonia, upper class point of view.

Franz: <to Sam> "Come, come, Lady Telford. There's no reason to be concerned." Samantha: "So, you've been keeping the secret of your immortality from me, have you?" Franz: "If you live your life in fear, they have already won. Besides, when you meet these people eye to eye, they rarely have the courage of their convictions." Samantha: "The trick is to get them out into the light to see them eye to eye." Franz: "Well, I wouldn't let Sir Robert's information concern you too much. I'm sure he sees the worst possible outcome. There's no reason for you to be alarmed. I will speak to my people, and my servants, and I'm sure everything will be fine." Okay, so he's living in his own little world. Franz: "I hope this won't effect your ability to enjoy this rather magnificent champagne." Robert: "No sir."

As they approach, Ariana starts feeling much better. Robert looks at the servants and sees a very familiar man serving lemonade. He used to be guarding Robert's cell. That would make him Mr. Osborne. Franz: "Heinrich, the gentleman with the lemonade, is he new?" Heinrich: "I believe so, your excellency, I'm not sure." Franz: "Either he's a country bumpkin who was just hired fresh from the field, or he's not who he seems to be, judging from the way he's serving." The man is over serving Clarice and Sophie. Samantha: "I could change my mind about the lemonade." Robert: "Sam, you should have some lemonade." Samantha calls the man over, requesting lemonade. Hey, it's a woman's perrogative

Robert indicates Sam should "do" something about Obsorne, but he's able to make the first move, drops a tube into his hand and shoots Franz. Samantha then breaks Obsorne's foot, hoping to have some one to interrogate. Kaeth turns to look for the guy's backup, as he can't see enough of Osborne to safely take a shot at him. Robert isn't a good enough shot to take the chance from his direction either - he might shoot Samantha. Osborne hits something (drug sleeve, slap patch?) on his arm. Seeing this, Samantha hits him in the neck. Osborne falls over, then goes into convulsions and dies. Samantha knows he shouldn't have done that from her blow. As soon the threat is down, she turns to Franz. Franz: "I seem to have been...shot." He sits down. Robert keeps all the servants except for Heinrich away. Kaeth rushes in, med kit in hand (he's paranoid - some one could have fallen off a horse). Kaeth: "Weapon!" Robert goes over to the body. Samantha: "Don't touch whatever's on his left arm, it's not what he expected it to be." Robert carefully checks, and it's an auto drug sleeve. Osborne was probably expecting it to contain Combat, or something of that nature, and not whatever Lachlan gave him. Kaeth uses his local drugs, but when he reaches into the wound he's pricked by something. A piece of what appears to be a small metal corkscrew... Franz was hit by a Mem-wire round, for some reason it didn't work exactly as it should have. Kaeth: "Get me ice!" If the memory wire can be kept cold, that might stop the expansion. Franz was hit in or near the liver. Robert: <with ice> "We need a surgeon, don't we?" Kaeth: "We need a surgeon, copper wire..." Samantha: "We need Dr. Jurgen. He should be back at the house." Heinrich mounts Franz's horse and takes off. Robert is looking at the body. Osborne is - or was rather, very fit, has callouses on his hands and feet, a few scars, and signs of a burn or a tattoo that was removed under his left arm.

It's a flurry of activity around Franz. Geoff keeps a perimeter watch, freeing Kaeth up to do his job. Blood expander goes in. Geoff is O Neg, so he can donate, but it's going to be tricky to do this with what they've got here. Robert donates his small med kit for what it's worth. Franz: "I'm terribly sorry to be such a bother. Is anyone else injured?" Robert: "Just the assassin, but he's not going anywhere." Kaeth tells Robert what he needs, and Robert gives orders, time to keep people busy.

It's a really nasty injury, and Kaeth needs to remove the wire. Samantha: "What do you need to remove it?" Kaeth: "A sterile field, I need cold - more ice." Samantha: "What else?" Kaeth: "Blood." Robert has servants boil a big pot of water, and he makes sure the horses are ready in case Heinrich comes back and needs a fresh horse.

Kaeth gets more reflected light off a serving dish. It's nasty. Franz is still apologizing. Samantha can tell the memory wire hasn't unfurled all the way, which means it's possible he won't die. Maybe. The liver is a nice, dense organ and took most of the damage, but it's kind of necessary. The tube weapon Robert pulls off of Osborne is carbon fibre, with a rubber band "holster".

Franz is reassuring his servants, asking for lemonade. Kaeth: "Nothing to drink. Franz nods. John delivers the beverage, shaking a bit. Franz: "That's all right John, I'm fine." John goes away, having been reassured, which was Franz's intention. Sophie: "Is it serious?" Robert: "Very." Sophie and Clarice help keep the servants calmed down and occupied. Robert: "Sam?" Samantha: "What?" Robert: "He was one of the two I saw in the basement, which means he's probably expected somewhere." Kaeth: "No he's not expected back." Samantha: "Wrong. He's not expected back if he screwed up." Robert: "Heinrich is going to arrive panicked to the house, they may think they've succeeded." Samantha: "They may have." Franz: "No, it's all right, I'm just feeling a bit tired." Blood has soaked into his (luckily) black clothing, and the white shirt underneath." Franz: "I'm terribly sorry to have spoiled your day." Kaeth: "Oh that's all right." Franz isn't looking at him. Samantha: "I'll forgive you, as long as it doesn't get worse." Franz: "I'll be fine, I just need to rest. I'm sorry to be such a bother." Kaeth: "Talk to him, Sam." Samantha: "Please stop apologizing." Franz: "I just didn't mean to spoil anything..." While they're talking, Kaeth checks out the wire spool, which has been mashed when it hit the cast silver button on Franz's vest, and that's why it didn't deploy all the way. Sam leans in close to Franz and whispers. Samantha: "Don't you dare die. I love you." Franz reaches up and touches her arm, getting it all bloody, but oh well. Kaeth: "Keep him talking."

Heinrich and Dr. Jurgen come tearing into the camp and practically throw themselves off the horses. Dr. Jurgen: "What happened?" Kaeth: "He was shot with a weapon that acts much like a flanged crossbow bolt." The doctor examines the wound. Dr. Jurgen: "Damage to the liver, looks like some..." Kaeth: "If we can get this out, it's going to take at least two people." Dr. Jurgen: "Superficial damage to the spleen..." Kaeth: "The spleen will have to go." Dr. Jurgen: "Yes, well, given the Count's predilections, I'm amazed he still has one. There appears to be some damage to the upper intestine as well, but I believe that is salvageable..." Dr. Jurgen and Kaeth discuss medical options. Dr. Jurgen: "I don't think given his condition that he'll survive the trip back to the house." Kaeth: "We'll have to do it here." Time to scrub up as possible and sterilize. Robert: "We've got boiling water for the instruments, doctor." Dr. Jurgen: "We don't have the time to boil instruments. We'll worry about infection later, but thank you, Mr. Shelzie. <to Kaeth> It appears to me that the best approach would be to cut each of these from the central core, then extract each one." Kaeth: "Yes, but it's going to take at least four hands. Looks like four wires. Not that you need four." Dr. Jurgen: "We need another pair of hands." Samantha: "I don't have medical training, but I can help." Dr. Jurgen: "Oh, I wasn't referring to you, my dear. You can best help by keeping him talking, comfort him. We need someone who could stand a bit of blood, this is going to be messy." Samantha doesn't protest that she can normally handle blood quite well. Robert volunteers. He gets to operate the pump for the transfusion. Samantha: "What do you want me to do? How can I help?" Dr. Jurgen: "Keep him from giving up." Franz chats with Samantha, but he's not all there. He's being a tad indiscreet, and he talks about his feelings for her. Like no one else has noticed. Dr. Jurgen is concerned about all the bleeders. An emergency backup liver would be good, one of the lobes has to be removed. So much for Franz's hard drinking habits. There are two long, lateral cuts in the lower intestine. They can be stitched, but there's going to have to be a lot of rinsing, and infection will probably develop any way.

Dr. Jurgen and Kaeth work well together, good thing they got to practice on Geoff's head a few weeks ago. The memory wire is removed, along with a silver button, part of the liver, and the entire spleen. After Franz has been stitched up and everything is in place properly, Kaeth gives him a shot of Regen™1, as it will put less strain on the rest of the body, and a vitamin booster. Geoff also gets Regen™1, to help replace blood loss. Shortly after getting the Regen™, Kaeth spots some swelling and redness at the site. Good thing Kaeth has epinephrine, because Franz apparently can't take Regen™. Shit. Dr. Jurgen has red berry extract, which is used instead. Heinrich had the foresight to have had a carriage brought out. Robert: "How long have the servants you sent been with the estate?" Heinrich: Twelve or thirteen years." The marshal arrives to check the dead assassin. He does everything but spit on the body, and he may be waiting for the nice people to leave before he does that.

On their return to the estate, Robert takes the marshal down to the hidden rooms where he woke up. No sign of Lachlan and his people though. Marshal: "That's an excellent hand tint." He picks up a color photograph off the floor. It was taken in the hallway with the armor, of Robert and Ariana. It's been modified though - her head has been cut off, very carefully. Oh yeah, that's subtle.

Dr. Jurgen and Kaeth have a little conversation next door to Franz's room. Kaeth wants to get some adrenaline, and while Dr. Jurgen doesn't have any on him, he can have some extracted. Kaeth explains what he wants the adrenaline for. Dr. Jurgen: "I bow to your suggestions. There is little I can do at this stage. Please don't repeat this to Lady Telford, but with the damage done and the chance of infection, I hold out little hope for recovery." They return to the patient, and Kaeth gives his last dose of broadband antibiotic to Franz, watching carefully for any adverse reaction, there is none.

Robert comes upstairs to the hallway outside of Franz's room, and shows Samantha the photo. Samantha: "Okay. And...?" Robert: "It's a threat." Samantha: "Yes. Like she wasn't in danger from these people before this?" Robert: "While I'm concerned about this threat, I don't think it's just against Ariana." Samantha: "Have you ever run into these people before, or dealt with their ilk?" Robert: "No, not directly." Samantha: "I have. We're all at risk as long as we're in their way. They don't care who they go through to get what they want." Robert: "I don't know how to explain this...I don't know how to explain this, but I think Franz needs to know more than he does." Samantha: "I don't think this is the time." Robert: "Right." Samantha: "He's not in any condition to understand it right now." Robert: "Do I look stupid? I know you're not going to march in there to make him understand it right now." Samantha: "What do you want me to know that you haven't told me?" Robert: "These people have electronic devices that work here, I've seen them. They say... they say that they have a working ship. They want a war between Albion and Fredonia." Samantha: "That's what you said before, except for the ship part." Robert: "I keep telling you, but no one's taking me seriously! I'm not some idiot!" Samantha: "What are you talking about? No one said we weren't taking you seriously." Voices have been raised, and Ariana comes over to try and defuse things. Ariana: "Look, everyone here is upset and stressed. We need to hang together, and we need to put our heads to together and figure out what our next plan is." Robert: "We need to find this Lachlan guy." Ariana: "From what you said, I don't know if I want to find him." Robert: "He's the only one who knows what exactly is going on." Ariana: "But the other thing that occurs to me is, what if he really is ISA? What if he really is working for the Imperial government and we step in and screw things up?" Robert: "He already has screwed things up. By bringing in me, by thinking Geoff's a local, and God knows what else." Ariana: "What I'm saying, with what I've experienced, these people... I hate to say this. I can't believe I'm saying this, but dammit, if he's the person behind this we can't let word of what's happened here get off planet. We can't let word get back to his people. People like them don't care what's wrong or right." Robert: "We'll take care of it. If we do this right, we may even come out looking good." Ariana: "The important thing is we need to keep a cool head, and stick together. Robert, you're right, and Samantha you're right too. I'm sorry your friend was hurt. I know how I'd feel if it were Robert, and if you need a shoulder to cry on, I'm there for you. You should try to get some rest." Samantha: "I need to go get cleaned up." She has blood on her clothing, and more than just Franz's bloody handprint on her sleeve. Ariana: "That's a good idea. Get cleaned up, then rest. Everyone's been through a lot today."

Samantha goes to her room, gets cleaned up and changed, and returns to Franz's room. Franz looks like hell. He's laying back on the bed and dictating to Heinrich, trying to make sure all his affairs are in order. Samantha tells Heinrich she'll wait outside until he's done. After about forty-five minutes, Heinrich leaves with an armful of papers. Samantha goes inside to Franz. Franz: "You look tired, you should get some rest." Samantha: "I'll be staying here." Franz: "But surely that isn't proper. I don't want you talked about. Your reputation..." Samantha: "If you want me out of here, you'll have to take me out of here by force." Since there's no way he's going to be able to do that, she'll be staying.

Robert shows Ariana the picture with her head missing. He wants her to understand she's in danger. She does not take it well, but it's in his room, so at least it's in private. She won't be leaving the room tonight. Ariana: "I don't want to scare anyone else, but I'm afraid we're never going to get off this place. I'm afraid that Lachlan maniac is going to kill us off one by one. " Robert: We'll get out of here. Have I ever let you down? <pause> Okay, so I crashed the ship. And I didn't come right back like I said, and..."

Dr. Jurgen shows up to check on Kaeth and offer him some brandy. Kaeth: "Oh, no thank you. I won't need anything to sleep tonight." And no one will be a danger to Franz for the moment, not with Sam in his room, Heinrich is outside the door with a shotgun, and the Marshal's men and people from the estate and the village surrounding the place (word has gotten out that someone harmed the Count). Samantha spends the night in bed with Franz (on top, fully clothed). He reaches out for her hand when she lays down beside him.