"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."-- - Anatole France

152 - 1123.

Nicolai has been trying to keep the people he's sure are following him (it's not paranoia if Section 9 really is after you) away from his partner in revolution - Julia Blaelok. So, he's been making odd side trips and the like. This time things don't work out as he planned at all, as a mis-jump lands him in one of his least favorite places - Regina. Like Black is really going to believe Nicolai got there accidentally?

The passengers are ferried off the now non-functional ship, onto Regina's UpPort. Nicolai waits patiently for over an hour, before the luggage is brought over. One of the local food-cart vendors on the station recognized the captive audience, allowing Nicolai to purchase some food (as do several of the other passengers). He sends his luggage on ahead, hoping to confuse his pursuers.

When Nicolai makes his food purchase, he notices a problem with his card. The six-figure balance is not suddenly a five-figure balance, only showing the lower five digits. This is not good. A trip to the Banque de Genève results in an apology for the inconvenience, and a promise that the matter will be resolved as soon as possible. That means a couple of weeks, since the records must be confirmed from off-planet. Sigh. Lucky for Nicolai his incorrect balance is just over $80,000 Creds

Naturally, a visit to Regina (planned or not) must include a trip to the Bread and Bean. Once there, Nicolai has a nice cup of tea, and buys a cup of coffee for the young woman from Regina Security who shows up to deliver the usual warning that Mr. Black doesn't want Nicolai on Regina. It's really just a formality now, sort of like taking out the recycling.

After his afternoon tea, Nicolai decides to take a stroll through Aguilon Park. While there he's accosted by some rude individual who insists on picking a fight, even though he apparently knows who Nicolai is. The man is a member of the Regina Combatives Society, a group of tough guys out to make reps or gain points or something. Like Regina Up isn't already interesting enough?? Nicolai doesn't bother to trigger since his assailant isn't armed. The "combatant" is at least in good shape, as it takes Nicolai two hits to put him down, and the guy gets a solid blow in on Nicolai. How amusing. A witness to the brief fight hesitantly approaches Nicolai. It's a young man in his twenties, with a steady, slightly worried look to him. He introduces himself as Myron Greenstone, and he has an offer for Nicolai.

Myron is a representative of the Tingle Corporation, and he's on Regina trying to hire some people for an off-planet job. It seems a small party of entertainers (two singers, two actresses) and their agent have gone missing on El Fahaz in the Rupe system. Their ship crashed, stranding them on the planet. Myron doesn't know any other details, and it could be as simple as picking up the waiting people at the starport. But just in case it's a bit more complicated, he wants to hire some people with "street skills". Nicolai can obviously handle himself in a fight, so Myron was wondering if he'd be interested? A simple, fairly quick job off Regina, a few extra bucks - sounds good.

Frank O'Malley was a cop. Was a cop. Past tense. As of ten weeks ago, Sergeant Francis "Thumper" O'Malley is no longer a member of Regina's finest. This leaves Frank in a bit of a quandary, since he'd been a cop for 18 of his 36 years and never considered himself suited for anything else. He'd been a damn good cop, too. Oh sure, he had a rep for being somewhat overzealous at times, and charges of "excessive force" were a pretty regular occurrence, but this was Regina for heavens sake! And it's not like O'Malley was beating up on civilians or anything. But the captain just couldn't let Frank get his twenty years in - the bastard.

O'Malley really needs to find some sort of gainful employment soon. Among other things, he's never quite recovered financially (or otherwise) from his divorce a few years back. He had to replace the furniture and other items (like the curtains) his ex-wife took with her. Not exactly an amicable split, what with Frank coming home to find the place cleaned out with no warning. What kind of sick bitch takes the ice-cube trays out of the freezer?!? A trip to the job-board yields little that's really suited for O'Malley, but one ad looks at least entertaining.

Personnel Needed
A multi-disciplinary team is being assembled for and off-planet project.
Fees are negotiable, based on experience and qualifications.
Details of operation only with hire and standard NDA.
Please send resumés to Box 493R.

What the heck. O'Malley sends an electronic note off, and gets a call back. He meets with Myron Greenstone, and is given pretty much the same information as Nicolai. Myron tells O'Malley that he just needs to check his references, and he'll get right back to him. Some time later, Frank is in the local cop bar when a friend from his old precinct, Dwight, calls. Dwight wanted to warn Frank that some guy was in the station talking to the captain who had "nothing good" to say about O'Malley. Frank figures that's it for that job.

153 - 1123.

Nicolai meets with Myron, who tells Nicolai he's a bit concerned about not having more applicants for the job. Nicolai asks to see the ad, and isn't surprised. It's a great ad if you're looking for accountants or admin people, but that's about it. A new ad is composed, with Nicolai's assistance.

Do YOU know the streets?
Off-planet team needs people who can handle themselves in an urban environment and think on their feet.
Fees negotiable.
Tell us why we should hire YOU.
Box 493R

Now that should attract the right sort of people.

Myron calls Frank and invites him to breakfast. O'Malley figures this is just going to be a polite brush-off, after Myron talked to the captain. O'Malley goes any way - maybe he'll get a good breakfast; this Myron kid strikes him as the type who'd get guilty easily. It's a big surprise for Frank when Myron wants to hire him. Looks like whatever the captain told Myron didn't have the desired effect. Fancy that.

Like "Thumper" O'Malley, Emma Walsh was a cop too. Also past tense. She'd made the mistake of doggedly tracking down a creep with a fondness for young boys (willing or not), and making sure the evidence was enough for the charge to stick in spite of his very wealthy, influential family. Although they couldn't get their boy off, the family was able to exert enough pressure to make sure Walsh's career came to a sudden halt. Ten days later, she's looking for some kind of work too. Emma gets calls from several helpful friends about a couple of job-board ads they think she might want to check out. Can't hurt, and she does need to do something. Both ads go to the same box, so a short E-mail exchange later, and she's off to meet with Myron Greenstone.

Nicolai and Frank get to meet the other people on their little team. One is a Vargr medic who goes by Kay (short for something unpronounceable), and the other is Walsh. Emma had been a member of Regina PD's detective squad for the last eight years, and knew Frank O'Malley when he was on the force. He'd saved her life her second year on the job while providing backup on an undercover operation that went pear-shaped, resulting in a large bad guy holding a gun to Emma's head and using her for cover. Frank noticed right off that the perp's 6' plus frame didn't conceal terribly well behind the 5'2" female. (Criminals are not usually criminals because they're bright.) This ended pretty much as one would expect, with a bang-thump. O'Malley and Walsh had crossed paths on a regular basis in the years to follow, and they'd both heard about the other's dismissal from the force. And now they've ended up on the same post-career path. Small world.

O'Malley and Walsh are immediately comfortable with each other - both cops. This leaves Nicolai feeling somewhat shut out, but it's not personal. Neither of them cares that Nicolai is Solomani, it's just that the population of the universe is made up of three categories: cops, civilians, and bad guys. The last two categories sort of blur together into one "not cop" segment at times. Nicolai isn't a cop. The Vargr, being a former Marine, is pretty laid back. The fact that he's a Vargr would normally be a problem for a Solomani, but Nicolai's gone native.

154 to 161 - 1123.

The week on the liner to Rupe goes smoothly. Research is done on El Fahaz, which is actually a satellite or moon rather than a proper planet. But it works as an adequate substitute for a planet. Frank isn't able to get his ashes hauled as he doesn't want to get involved with any of the married women on the prowl on board, there are no pros, and Emma is a brother officer. There is a serious dearth of female Solomani on board, even if he has strayed from the Party path , and Nicolai is in "mission mode". Myron is too stressed (or too shy), and Kay either doesn't partake when he's working or is the soul of discretion. No naughty behavior, and nobody even gets into a fight and wrecks the ship. Maybe it's that police influence...