Blaelok's departure (however it's defined) left his newest "acquisition" with no support, and no minder, so Natasha showed up at the Palladium Group office with her little jock bag in hand, and informed Michael that Mr. Blaelok said "you'd take care of me". Naturally, Michael wasn't going to just let her fend for herself (as Blaelok no doubt already knew), so he acquired I.D. for her, and decided the safest thing for right now would be to move her into his old apartment (Joe Lee only really comes there to visit the J'la board anyway). Of course, how well Theresa handles this is another matter.

Since Natasha is not really equipped to be on her own a lot, Ghaer and Joe Lee have agreed to help Michael with her "socialization". Sort of a tag team effort, with Michael trying to take the largest portion (since she's evidently his responsibility).

Joe Lee was at Aguilon Park, as usual, and spotted several older humans playing on a small J'la board. Naturally, Joe was immediately drawn to them, and saw that they were playing on a 'lower' level than the Sengi do, and would be a great source for learning the basic moves and strategy involved. Joe watched them for a while, and ended up with a promise of playing with the gentlemen in the future. He was distracted from the current game by the arrival of two Pikhans.

The Pikhans approached Joe Lee because they had been told he was the person to talk to when you have a problem, and they needed something found. Joe explained that people usually just talk things out with him, and come to their own conclusions, and that "finding" things isn't really up his alley. Ghaer was also at the Park, and Joe figured that they could get Michael to help, since the Palladium Group is detective agency of sorts (kind of?). The Pikhans were not happy going to speak with "the carnivore", armed themselves appropriately, and demanded that Ghaer "give them back their ship". Turns out they were hit just after jumping into system, by a (apparently non-jump equipped) Vargr ship, and since Ghaer's a Vargr·

Ghaer tried to explain, repeatedly, that while the people who attacked their ship were Vargrs, that does not mean that all other Vargrs were in on it. They were reluctant to buy this, and besides, you can't trust carnivores.

Ferdinand's companion, who showed signs of having been repaired using robotic parts, finally keeled over and passed on while they were at the Park. Ferdinand was willing to go see Michael because Joe Lee had said he was an "expert" at finding things (i.e., detective stuff), and besides he's a human. Ghaer suggested maybe he should take his dead friends equipment, and Ferdinand agreed; then he started to dismantle the other Pikhan's remains! The post-mortem disassembly caused quite a crowd to gather, especially when some one decided that the Vargr was "trying to eat the little guys". Ferdinand evidently doesn't like crowds, so he panicked. Ghaer managed (with the use of stingballs and bursting obscurant) to get them away from the crowd, and took Ferdinand to lunch at the Martel restaurant (lovely breads, and salads), and then to the Palladium Group's office to see Michael.

As it turns out, this was Ferdinand's first trip off Pikhandaru, and he was not used to dealing with all the nasty alien carnivores (humans are okay), and then there was the money thing. Michael and Ghaer managed to pry enough information out of Ferdinand to find out approximately where and when the Pikhans' ship was attacked. The Vargrs that hit the Pikhans' ship literally slaughtered the crew; the two Pikhans in the Park managed to escape because they were working near an escape-pod. The ship was carrying sheets of collapsed-crystal steel that Ferdinand (one of the Pikhans) had made, along with some other raw materials for a Pikhan company with an agent on Regina. The "raw ore" was actually gold (no wonder the ship was attacked), and a lot of it. Ferdinand was instructed to wait in the office, while Ghaer and Michael went off to see what they could find.

They were able to determine that yes, a pack of really rough-looking Vargrs did come through Regina up, and they purchased smelting equipment at the Ship's Chandler's office, who remembered them. The leader was wearing an odd black leather jacket that "looked like it had veins" (anyone we know??), and was carrying a really large knife, "just like those five big guys in black had that came through a few days back( i.e the CRI). Since the bad guys had a CRI knife, Michael called Nicolai. Ghaer cut to the chase, and just told him there was a Vargr running around with a CRI knife, and Nicolai was on his way Up Port.

The Vargrs loaded the smelting equipment into a blue rental van, which was tracked down to the rental agency. The van had been rented by a Mr. Smith, who paid cash, and the van had been returned about 2 hours ago, but had not yet been cleaned. While checking out the van, Ghaer smelled a kind of cologne he had encountered before, while working as a merc, during a clean up operation of a really unpleasant raid. These puppies were giving Vargrs a bad name. One of the rental company employees overheard the Vargrs talking about the "Cadaver", so Ghaer and Michael arranged to meet Nicolai there.

At the "Laughing Cadaver", Ghaer mooned over Shiv for an appropriate amount of time, then he and Nicolai went over to a table near the rowdy Vargrs. The table was occupied by a very nervous-looking suit clutching a briefcase, who looked up at Nicolai and asked if he was 'Captain Smith'. Nope. Then he asked Ghaer the same question. Same answer. Then Nicolai and Ghaer sat down at the table. The suit protested that he was saving the chair for 'Captain Smith', at which point Michael walked up, and Nicolai acted as if Michael was Smith ("There's your chair."). Michael sort of played along, and found out that the suit was there to exchange the contents of the briefcase for money, wanted his cash right away so he could get out of system, and was concerned about SuSag being after him!? The briefcase contained some kind of vacuum container w/ a SuSAG logo on it. Michael told the suit to go to the hotel across the street, check in to room 23, and wait for them to bring him the money (well, no one wanted whatever was in the container, or SuSag, to go off in the Cadaver!). The suit leaves, but Ghaer sees shadows on the window suggesting something dropped onto the guy from above, and then a rather vampire-esque individual oozed into the bar.

A human in an expensive suit met with the Vargrs, congratulated them on the good job they did "sending a message", and made a comment about them not drinking so much that they would not be able to work later. The Vargrs made rude comments, assuming the human couldn't understand (Ghaer translated for the party), but the leader pointed out that killing the human would only be temporarily entertaining, and that they could continue to get money from him. The human left, the party went outside (no suit, but an odd gooey patch·), and Nicolai planted a high tech locator on the most obnoxious of the mono-cycles out front. Sure enough, the Vargrs took off on the cycles shortly thereafter, with the party following (maybe something was following the party in the shadows, maybe not).

The Vargrs were followed to a large, empty (mostly just big empty shelves) warehouse in Old Port. Nicolai got up on to the girders above the group, to observe them and maybe get a good sniping position. Ghaer and Michael stayed at ground level, but got as close as possible. The smelter and molds were obvious, as were the stacks of gold ingots. Then one of the Vargrs looked up, and saw Nicolai, and they started taken shots at him. Nicolai decided the best defense was a good offense, so he just rappelled straight down into the bad guys, surf-gun blazing. At this point, all Hell broke loose gunshots being fired, Vargrs mowed down, Nicolai hit a couple of times, then when he got to an auto-cab, he was rammed by one of the mono-cycles and dragged along the street. Ghaer was picking off bad guys from behind cover. Michael got close enough to take out one of the leader's nearest henchmen, but then the leader decided to use the pouring spout on the smelter as a weapon. Ghaer managed to shoot the spout, spraying the leader with molten gold (eewww!).

And then the cavalry arrived. Sort of. A plasma bolt ripped through the area, narrowly not frying the party. A large armoured vehicle arrived, stopped, set down cherry-picker legs, and proceeded to spew armed Pikhans, who charged in and proceeded to dispatch the Vargrs. Nicolai had managed to pry himself out of the cab, but was badly injured. The Pikhans (none of whom anyone recognized) took the party captive -- they wanted to just shoot Ghaer, what with him being an evil Vargr carnivore and all, but they settled for just behaving like small, furry stormtroopers, and would not allow anyone in the party to give them any information on what had been happening. As the vehicle pulled away, the party could see several Vargr skins hung up "as warnings to others". Nicolai was put into a medical berth, once they were able to make an expanded one for him, so they wouldn't have to worry about him dying on them accidentally. Ghaer and Michael were hooded "for your own protection", the vehicle was driven around for a while, then the party was kicked loose near Regina Trauma.

When the party got back to the warehouse, the Pikhans were all gone. The gold had all been removed (very efficiently), and all the bodies had been looted. The 'pelts' were gone, except for one that a local was trying to sell as a bearskin; Ghaer bought it and burned it in the smelter. The CRI knife was intact in it's melted sheath, on the remains of the leader. The CRI ring was later recovered at a pawn shop, so that Nicolai could return them both to the Rim (unknown though the owner had been). Michael located the crys-steel (didn't look valuable), and took it back to the office, where Ferdinand was still waiting.


Ferdinand was pleased to get his stuff back, but thought that leaving home had been a really bad idea, and he asked Michael to buy him a ticket back to Pikhandaru; anything to get him out of the office. Ferdinand did have some clue about "payment", so he left Michael one of the sheets of crys-steel, which is now in Michael's office, as he doesn't know what to do with it. Ferdinand has been sent home, where only the planet is trying to kill him, and there aren't so many carnivores. Nicolai has once again had a successful mission, as his was to recover the CRI knife and ring, and send them home. Ghaer is having a crisis over not being a Vargr or a Barlow, and he doesn't understand what or who he is anymore (of course, he has not shared this problem with anyone yet). Michael was just happy to drag himself home in one piece.

Of course, this leaves many unanswered questions: Who hired the Vargrs? Who used the Pikhans, and to what purpose? Who was the human that met the Vargrs at the Cadaver? What ate the nervous guy? What is Michael going to get Theresa for her impending birthday? Will Ghaer figure out what he is, or go postal?

168-1121 = end date. (Talk about a bad day!)