"It is absurd to divide people into good or bad. People are either charming or tedious."--- Oscar Wilde


A servant brings in breakfast to Viola and Dwayne. Terribly civilized.

Elsewhere at the hotel, the rest of the party is feeling a bit battered and ill-used. And a tad peckish. Well, most of them, any way. Sparrow is doing okay, as that boeuf bougognion was really filling (and she's not going to ask questions). In fact, she feels absolutely fabulous this morning! It's a great feeling - relaxed, fit, full of life and well, spunky! Tavi: "You can stop being perky any time now." Breakfast is ordered for the group.

There are news reports about the "smell" in the air system. The populace is reassured that the problem isn't a health hazard, and the air circulation system is being run on high. The crews think something might have died in the air circulation system. Reports have come in for various areas, the party goes over the information about where the odors have been reported, eliminating all the places they've been, and looking for where the man Duane contaminated could have gone. The area around Westwind Park is mentioned. That's a start.

There is also a report that an automated refuse collection vehicle had a malfunction and smashed into a car. No injuries. And no bodies in the area are reported. This could imply the dead people were good guys, and were picked up. Or something else. Dwayne goes to the rental agency to sign paperwork about his vehicle being smashed by the deranged garbage truck. He has to fill in forms.

Treal has a message on his machine from Max, asking him to call if he was still on planet. Treal now calls the ship, which forwards to the hotel room. Duane is busy feeding his face, so Max answers. Max: "Hello?" Treal: "Yes, it's Treal. You called? Repeatedly?" Max: "I called. Are you available?" Treal: "Yes." Max: "We're at the Admiral, suite 500. Come over. I'll buy you breakfast." Treal: "Sounds good."

Treal heads on over, and Duane answers the door, looking lightly bruised. This warms Treal's heart, but he doesn't say anything. Everyone else is moving gingerly and looking a bit battered as well. Treal: "I see, have you guys been turning out for grav-ball lately?" Max: "No, we had vehicular issues." Treal: "You ran over a truck?" Max: "No, sort of the opposite." There's a bit more cologne in the room than Treal is used to, a tad beyond subtle shall we say. Sparrow's there, and in contrast with the others, she positively glows with health.

Treal: "Well, you wanted to see me." Duane: "Help yourself to breakfast." Treal does, Dwayne shows up looking happy, and in the same clothing he left in last night. Treal: "What did you want to tell me? You don't have to give me a minute by minute replay, just the highlights." Duane takes Sparrow off to one side. Duane: "Does he smell like food?" Sparrow: "No." The phone rings again. Max: "Hello?" Man: "Yes, I'm trying to reach the captain of the Bonaventure?" Max: "The captain is unavailable at the moment, I'm the first officer, Max Rhys-Fairfax. May I help you?" Man: "I hope so. I'm led to understand that you have a 500 ton subsidized merchant with available cargo space, is that correct?" Max: "Yes." Man: "You have a flight plan filed for Regina, yes?" Max: "Yes, but we don't have an estimated departure date yet." Man: "Will you be leaving soon, do you think?" Max: "Probably. What's the nature of the cargo?" Man: "Proprietary." Max: "Okay, does it require any special handling or storage?" Man: "No, inert materials of a proprietary nature, but they must be delivered in a short time period. I've been stuck, as it were. The original ship that was scheduled to take it to Regina never showed up." He gives Max his number and hotel room, oh, and his name - James Benedict. Max: "I should be able to let you know for sure today when we'll be leaving." Benedict: "That would be fine, but I'll still keep looking for other ships, I hope you understand." Max: "Absolutely." Benedict: "I'm willing to pay double." Max: "I'll be in touch with you later today, and I won't take any other contract before speaking with you. Will that work for you?" Benedict: <relieved> "Yes, thank you."

So much for a peaceful breakfast. First the phone, now the door. Voice: "Room service." Duane answers the door. There is a person outside with a tray, but no one here ordered it. The room service guy is confused, as this is the right room. It's a breakfast with grilled chops, and it smells wonderful. Duane closes the door behind the hotel staff when he comes in to set the tray on the table. Tavi: "So where did you get this meal?" Staff: "From the kitchen, ma'am. Excuse me ma'am, but I need to go now?" Duane: "Max?" Max goes over and tips the now nervous help, who leaves. The pork chops are put onto the table with the other breakfast stuff. Sparrow watches the tray with her eyes like a dog with bacon.

Treal gets the condensed version that boils down to people who eat people going to Regina to make more people tasty. That's where Treal lives, he can't allow that! Besides, that's where his dad lives, and Treal is pretty sure Falcon wouldn't approve of this either. Treal offers his help, even though he's warned it's gotten nasty. Treal: "I did have three terms in counter-insurgency, so I'm used to people trying to kill me even if they're not in uniform." Duane: "The big problem seems to be killing them." Tavi: "If we can kill them one at a time, we think we can do that." Max: "We're trying to stop them before they get off planet and spread this further." They want to check out the park. Treal can go, as he doesn't smell like food, and Sparrow says the others didn't smell like food when sealed in CES or combat armor. Cool. CES's will be ordered for Max, Sparrow, and Dwayne, Treal has combat armor that he'll pick up.

There are at least four of the cannibals on Boughene. Maybe more. The Chamber of Commerce isn't going to like this.

Due to the environmental issues on Boughene, buying CES's, or an equivalent, is very easy. There are "street suits" that perform the same environmental functions as CES's, and they're worn by a large section of the populace. Oh! That's why their clothing looked a bit odd! Hey, now the group will blend. They go to a nearby clothing shop, and Dwayne gets one that's properly fashionable. Duane and Tavi get spares, just in case, when Max suggests two each so they have a change for later. Dwayne's are trés trendy. Tavi: "Are we all armed and armored now?" Yes.

Time to split up into street and research teams. To the park will be going Treal, Duane, Dwayne, and Tavi. Sparrow will stay with Max, who's going to try to track down the letters on the ring, and a few other odds and ends.

The group arrives at Westwind Park. They're greeted by a sign: Park temporarily closed. There's a guy in an orange suit who's going around with a chemical sniffer. It's a large park that's also used as part of the air filtration system. Maybe they can set up an observation point nearby and wait for the park guy to be eaten? There is a distinct smell here. The park is not cordoned off, so they enter, avoiding the man with the sniffer. They head for the worse-smelling area. Dwayne has to go into the park to protect Tavi, the pilot.

Treal is buttoned up except for his faceplate, which is snapped open. Treal takes a step and disappears. Straight down the open manhole. Ah. He radios back to the group. Treal: "Hey! I've found an open man hole. And it smells really bad down here." The others approach carefully as Treal looks down the tunnel using his rifle scope. There are diffuse heat signals up ahead. Duane goes down next, followed by Tavi. Dwayne: "Should I follow on top?" Duane: "Lieutenant, down here." Dwayne comes down. Duane watches Treal's back. They go further down, getting closer to the hideous smell. They find an open hatch, fifty metres from the man hole, that reads "Keep closed." Treal checks for demo. None. They go a bit further, into a large pipe and cabling room. Potable water, sprinkler system, telecommunications system, heat exchangers, etc. There are some olive drab heavy plastic bags with MRE's in it. There's a black and yellow large hatch with all sorts of warning signs. That would be the exterior door. The lights indicate that the air in the airlock is outside air, so don't go there. There is a vial and a rag on the ground. Dwayne looks up to the pipes, and it's dark up there, like someone removed some of the lights. There's a rushing noise behind them. Tavi turns to look and the hatch they came through is now shut, and the placard now reads Locked. Tavi is now in front, as the front has shifted. Treal goes over to the exterior hatch and winds spidersilk around the handle to make sure it can't be opened from inside (in case someone has already spoofed the override). Tavi looks out of the interior hatch port, but there's nothing out there that she can see. There's a keypad on this side of the door, but it also has explosive bolts (Alarm will sound).

The room is lit by the equivalent for a couple of flashlights. Duane turns on his Surfire PlusP and shines it up. Something moves up there. Treal: "We need to begin clearing the room. Don't fire unless it's a hostile, and remember there are things in here that shouldn't be shot." Treal pushes the button to set the exterior door to close and cycle. Treal turns his back to the door, then a figure drops in front of him. Treal tries to buttstroke the figure with his rifle. A fist stops the rifle with a blow, shattering it and sending a jarring shock through the gun. Treal: "Holy shit!" Treal feels something sharp being jabbed into the chest of his combat armor, it penetrates an inch or two. Tavi: "You go that way, you flank that way." He directs Duane and Dwayne to opposite flanks. They follow directions.

Treal switches to his gauss rifle. He fires and hits the figure in the foot as he brings up the slung weapon. The bad guy removes the pointy thing out of Treal's chest and stabs him again, harder. There's the sound of metal being forced through metal and plastic. Treal is stabbed in the chest again, puncturing his artery. The blade is yanked out, and Treal has sprung a leak. Now the back up arrives.

Dwayne arrives to see a figure disengage from Treal and dodge into the center of the nearest pillar, where there are cabling boxes, valves, and pipes. Dwayne fires his shotgun, and might have hit the guy. Dwayne: "Tavi - towards you." Tavi goes down on one knee, to lessen her profile. Duane arrives to see smoke coming from Dwayne's shotgun, and hears noise in the center pillar area and draws a large knife. Treal: "Don't go after him. Grenade." That stops Duane. Treal tosses a polyvalent grenade, with sleeve, into the center of the pillar. Flames burst out, green oily liquid everywhere, alarms, the whole shebang. The inner hatch seals puff up. Time to leave now. The warning buzzers on the collar buttons of the street suits go off. They know, they know!

Tavi is attacked by a flaming, crazed man, in the now brownish atmosphere. The outside air is apparently leaking in somewhere in the mess. Tavi is stabbed in the throat, then shoots the bubbling maniac in the head. That would do nicely. Tavi overpressures her suit, as she's starting to feel a burning sensation. The body is bubbling in a nasty fashion. Ewww. Treal: "Could some one pump a large amount of anti-coagulant into my drug sleeve?" Dwayne gives him a shot of Regen™1, and seals up the hole with burn foam. Dwayne goes to check on Tavi, and he stops to remove the ring from the icky remains. Treal is closing pipes as much as possible. The spider silk has dissolved, so they decide to exit out the exterior door.

Not much left of the bad guy. There's sludge where the body was, and the calcium in the bones has caught fire. Any genetic material in this room is now unidentifiable. And the outside air is a lighter brown than the inside air. This is the first time that the outside environment was preferable to the inside one. They go out, the street suit alarms still going. Dwayne's suit has a timer that now reads 29. Minutes left.

Duane's suit was not bought locally, and it may not hold. Tavi uses burn foam to seal up any bubbling sections on any suit as they crop up. They see some vehicles a couple of kilometers away, and some bright, flashing lights. They go for the lights, Duane and Dwayne basically carrying the very weak Treal.

Tavi, Duane, and Treal are burned at the joints, Tavi the most seriously. Dwayne is okay, although his suit now says 2. They make it to the airlock, hit the Emergency Cycle button, and go in. The door pops open and slams shut after them, a cyclone starts inside, followed by sprays of liquid. Once there's air in the lock, the burning people yank off the bad armor, etc., inhaling a lungful of bad air. Coughing and hacking ensues. The door is opened to reveal people in medical gear, who spray down the group with fire extinguisher sized canisters. Topical anaesthetic is good! Dwayne takes care of the intact gear as the others are zipped into shrink wrap body bags with view screens and rushed off in ambulances. Things are being plugged into the gurneys, and everyone is taken to the hospital for TL D treatment. Thank heavens. Dwayne's suit wasn't yellowish when he left this morning, but he's not complaining.

The newscasts, thanks to the cameramen on sight (they must get paged whenever the emergency cycle is used) will be running the following story: "Four badly injured people were rushed inside minutes ago...an industrial accident...no need for concern."

Sparrow and Max are using a public terminal for their research, not wanting anything to trace back to them if at all possible. Nothing on the symbols on the ring. The Cadiz Explorer is owned by PharmoDynamics, a division of SuSag. Yeah, like we're soooo surprised! PharmoDynamics does research and development into exotic pharmaceuticals. Fancy that. The ship is scheduled to leave tonight at midnight, it just has to finish taking on cargo.

Dwayne goes to the burn ward to check on the other party members. They're packed in gel, wrapped in mesh, and have tubes in all sorts of areas. Replacement skin cells are being electroplated onto their bodies. How really...cool. They're in Russian Sleep while they're being treated. It'll take six to eight hours for the process to be completed, then two weeks of antibiotics.

The authorities, naturally, have a few questions. Dwayne: "We were escaping the area of an industrial accident." Cop: "How did you end up there?" Dwayne: "One of ouw gwoup fell thwough an open, unmahked man hole. We went afteh him, and wehre twying to find out way out." Cop: "Do you recognize this man?" They show a photo of a greasy looking man who might have been the guy. Maybe. Dwayne goes on about the "cwazy man on wahr dwugs or something".

When they're taken out of the vats and wake up on tables, they're kind of coated in rubber. Tavi, Treal, and Duane are hosed down. The membrane will wear off in a few days. They've already been given shots of nanite dispensed antibiotics. Tavi's Corathi claw blade is fine, and it's perfectly polished! She'll need a new handle though. Duane's vibra-blade is intact but needs a new battery. The combat armor is salvageable. It can be repaired, and it will be repaired for the local conditions - resulting in thirty minute ratings, just in case. Duane orders up replacement CES's - one with a thirty minute rating, one with a two hour rating.

Max's cellphone rings, and it's Duane. He explains about the multiple hours of solo Jell-O wrestling. The other ring they picked up is mostly intact, but the star sapphire melted. Does that mean it's an artificial stone, or a real one? They'll have to look that up. Max suggests Dwayne stay at the hospital, just in case one of the bad guys decides they want a little something in aspic. Sparrow's stomach is growling, and as she leans over Max's shoulder to look at the screen, she realizes that he smells really tasty. Sparrow goes to UbiFoods across the street to get protein and coffee.

"Try the number seven." It's Ted, who's eating BBQ ribs. That's it, Sparrow's going to kill him - this time she's healthy and she's got her staff! Just as she's about to jab Ted with her staff, Charles stabs her in the back, through the kidney, and right out the front with a big knife. She jabs Ted hard in the ribs [Note: Not the ones he's eating.] any way. She thinks she hears something crack. Ted hits her in the face, slapping her with a rib and not doing any damage. Yellow flag for taunting! Charles stabs Sparrow again, this time in the other kidney. Sparrow is yelling and swearing, which Max hears. He hits the 911 button on the terminal, and is drawing his handgun from the full flap holster as he crosses the street.

Inside, Sparrow kicks Charles very hard, just missing the important (to Charles) bits. Charles: "Ah! Bitch!" Ted: "You know, that cut looks nasty. Maybe you should have something to eat, just to keep your strength up." Sparrow: "So let me guess, this is your recruitment campaign - you just keep beating me up and offering me bad food?!?" Ted: "Bad food?! Are you telling me that boeuf bourgignon wasn't good?" Charles stabs Sparrow again, in the spine. She drops to the floor, but takes Charles' legs out from under him. One of the patrons stands and shoots Ted in the chest. Ted turns around, draws his splintergun and blows away the man just as Max gets to the door. Max shoots Charles in the nose. Charles shakes it off and spits out the bullet. He's at least dazed for now. Max is rather disturbed. Ted is reloading. Sparrow goes for the temporarily stunned Charles, hitting him in the back very hard. Sparrow is feeling incredibly hungry, but refuses to eat anyone present. Max shoots Ted in the chest, which makes him flinch, but that's it. Charles: <to Sparrow> "If I kill you, I'm definitely going to eat you." Sirens are heard. Ted: "Time to go. We'll finish this later." He fires at Max and a few bystanders with his splinter gun, not really caring to hit anyone, he wings a few pedestrians and Max as he runs off, everyone diving for cover (or at least the pavement). Sparrow hits Charles up the side of the head with her staff when he tries to leave. Charles goes down, falling onto his knife which goes into his chest, he's annoyed, but gets up again. Max leans up and shoots Chuck in the head. Again. Chuck survives long enough to throw his knife 6" into Max's chest, right through the concealment armor. And what's sticking out is dripping in really icky stuff. Then the police show up with weapons drawn. Max sets his gun on the sidewalk, pushes it away, and raises his hands as much as he can considering his injuries.

Sirens, ambulances, paramedics....Back the hospital. Doctor: "...Yeah, the spine's definitely severed." Surgeon: "...Regen...We'll save what we can....These kind of injuries never heal up right." The doctor goes from Sparrow to the next exam area. Doctor: "This one have a name?" Intern: "Yeah, Rhys-Fairfax." He checked for ID. Doctor: "Better see if you can find next of kin." Intern: "What about the spinal injury?" Doctor: "Good thing is, she's an organ donor."

Emergency repairs done, Sparrow is moved to a room. Even under anaesthetic, She's screaming about needing food. Nurse: <to resident> "I don't know, we keep pumping her full of nutrients, but her BP is still dropping." They put her in restraints.

Dwayne goes to buy replacement guns for everyone. Clerk: "Gee fella, you expecting trouble? You don't look like the kind of guy who makes a lot of enemies." Dwayne: "Oh no, they'we pwesents." Clerk: "I may have to close early. You want these wrapped?" Why not? Nothing like brightly wrapped packages to cheer people up! They send Dwayne off with guns wrapped in "Many happy returns" paper.

Max's injuries aren't as severe as first thought, a lot of the gore on him and the knife wasn't his. Ick. The doctor asks him abut Sparrow, since they were brought in together. Doctor: "Are you next of kin for this young lady?" Max: "I'm part of her party, yes." Doctor: "We need someone to make decisions for her. The spinal injury is very severe. She may only regain 20 - 30% of her mobility." They want to give her, or her next of kin, the option of assisted suicide, as they are an enlightened bunch. Max declines, but will keep that in mind.

As for Sparrow, she wakes up in her room. Some one has sent flowers, champagne, crackers, and paté. Oh, the paté smells good. Really, really good. Not thinking about where it came from, Sparrow eats everything in the gift basket, licking the paté container clean. Afterwards, she makes a remarkable recovery. The doctors are amazed. Sparrow informs them that she's just a fast healer. Honest. Max will be discharged at 8:00 p.m, Sparrow at 10:00 p.m. Max covers everyone's medical bills. Talk about supporting the local economy.

Dwayne has returned with the prezzies, but didn't think to get guns for Max or Sparrow, he apologizes for his omission. Max decides it's time for a larger caliber handgun. Max and Sparrow go to the shop Dwayne recommends. Clerk: "Well, I don't know. This came in earlier today." It looks like a .22, which is a weird thing to show a man who just asked for a handgun with really good stopping power. The gun has no markings on it, and the clerk picked it up from someone who needed money quickly to buy passage off planet. The clerk tried it earlier today, with the little black bullets that came with it. He fired it once, at a now melted metal plate. Max: "I'll take it." Clerk: "I've got to get two grand for it." Max pays him. Then it's next door to G & J Metal Sales, where Sparrow buys a 6' mono-linear carbon microtubular staff. So she doesn't break her regular staff on the killer cannibals.


Dwayne phones Viola and asks her for the code to bay 16. Viola: "45567. Come over any time." Re-armed, equipped, and very, very angry, the party heads to docking bay 16, where the code is used. In they go. There's a security guy in a chair outside of 16C. Treal: "Hi. How much do you make in a month?" Guard: "You're Delgado, right?" Treal: "Yeah." Guard: "He's waiting for you inside." Treal: "Let's go." The guard closes the hatch after them.

Once they enter the ship, which is probably not the wisest decision but they're tired of waiting for these jerks, Ted's voice comes over the speaker. Ted: "Welcome aboard the Cadiz Explorer, ladies and gentlemen. I see we're all horribly beweaponed. Is that really sporting?" Duane blows away the speaker. The ship detaches from the dock. Sparrow and Duane go towards engineering, the others head for the bridge.

The hatch to the bridge is locked. Treal: "Take cover." Repeated shots with HEAP dings up the hatch something fierce, but don't open it. Tavi: "Stop." She takes out the Corathi blade while Treal reloads. There's a hole a few seconds later that they can see through. There's a small box in the pilot's chair, and it's rigged up as an auto-pilot or remote control device. Damn.

Back towards engineering, Sparrow and Duane have found a number of barrels marked "Pharmeceuticals. Handle with caution." They're filled with a crystalline sort of pollen. There are signs that there were other barrels here, but were moved.

Treal steps onto the bridge and after a check for obvious boobytraps, summarily disconnects the remote control box. This results in the ship no longer being piloted by remote, or auto-pilot, or whatever. This, is bad. Treal: "Please start flying the device!" Tavi lunges for and grabs the controls at the co-pilot position. Hmm, the ship's power cuts off. Oh-oh. Back in the cargo area, the ship lurches. Tavi: "Sit down and strap in - it's going to be a bumpy ride." Duane: "What about this yellow stuff?" Sparrow: "Get out of there and strap in somewhere." This they do.

Max removes the box and straps into the pilot's seat. Tavi manages to coast into a landing on the surface, without doing too much structural damage. They can see external docking doors on the bay opening, and the Bonaventure is taxiing out. Max gets on his commo to inform the port that his ship is being pirated, but the radio's been tampered with as well. Max's broadcast is broken up, so that's useless. Tavi uses the ship's grapple and hits the Bonaventure in the side. The ship continues on for a while, oblivious. Then the extra weight hits and the Bonaventure is yanked down hard. Treal is thrown off his feet.

Duane and Treal charge out of their ship, heading for the other as a figure in a vac or environmental suit starts to exit the Bonaventure. Tavi sandcasts the other ship's door. A 55 gallon drum slams into the side of the Bonaventure as the man exiting leaps to one side, inhumanly fast. Then he bounds up, a weapon attached to a back pack in his hands. When he pulls the trigger, in the corrosive atmosphere, and surrounded by prismatic sand, there's a huge ball of energy between the plasma gun and Duane. Duane is hurt, the shooter is thrown onto his back, and the unit on his back is smoking. [Note: Do not fire this type of weapon in this type of atmosphere.] The figure gets to his feet, then is hit by a round from the 20mm auto grenade launcher loaded with scimitar, and fired by Treal. Sparrow, Tavi, and Max have emerged from the other ship. The man staggers forward, gouts of something spewing out of the holes in his suit. Ted: "You may kill me, but that won't be the end of it! Not until you kill her too!" [Sparrow] Treal: "Another crazy. Gee, this planet seems to attract them." The others go around the staggering Ted. Ted: "Cowards!!" Max walks out and shoots Ted in the hand, with the black ammo. Ted's hand dissolves, shooting gouts of flames as Ted screams and dies.

The outer airlock on the Bonaventure is clear. They cycle through after Tavi cuts the grapple cable. There is one of the cannibals there, dead, with a knife through his head, a slit cut open, and his liver is missing. Oh - maybe not. Part of it appears to still be in the frying pan in the galley. Duane: "It may be that it's not just humans that can be made to taste good. Maybe it will work with cows or pigs or monkeys." Sparrow really hopes so.

There is a large suitcase in the co-pilot's chair. It's full of 2.5 megacredits worth of negotiables. That could be good for research funding. And there are notebooks. Everything is gathered up, put into the ship's safe, and the crew wait where they are for the authorities to show up, which they do, so they can explain about the deranged man who stole their ship, which they do.

193 to 207-1123.

There's good news about Amanda. After about a week of hell, she starts to recover. This is great news for Sparrow, as it means her condition isn't permanent. To avoid the massive unpleasantness Amanda has gone through, the doctors have Sparrow put into Russian Sleep for two weeks. She wakes up with a very good memory of what it felt like to really be powerful. Too high a price though.

The notes shed a bit more light on the "research project". Apparently, in order to get the nasty result from the plant pollen it has to have help. Some of the formulas were developed from the legends of the Winderoo, from Regina mythos.

The PharmoDynamics people offer a $100,000 credit reward for recovering the ship from the "thieves", if they want to be in the publicity photos. Dwayne takes them up on the offer, then donates the money to the family of the off-duty police officer who tried to come to Sparrow's aid. Much hon, and many invitations that he can accept, with Viola. Roger has gone back to Deneb, since the women here are so damned frigid. Dwayne can ride back with Viola. Dwayne's donating the money, for some reason, pisses Duane off no end. It's not like he's starved for cash, since Max splits all the money left over from medical costs, ship repairs, and equipment (weapons, armor, etc.) between Duane, Tavi, and Sparrow (Dwayne declines). It's a tidy sum.

Speaking of money, the charming people at PharmoDynamics are really interested in any notes, or hints, or whatever they can obtain from the group about their project. They send a legal representative to pass this on to the party. Oddly enough no one has anything to contribute. Lawyer: "That's too bad. Still, if any of you saw anything or remember anything, they'll be more than willing to compensate." Nope. Max destroys the notes. They do keep track of the name of the plant from Menorb, and the one on Regina, just in case.

Amanda doesn't remember eating people. She doesn't remember much after being snatched on Menorb. As long as Max promises to take Amanda off planet, which he does, the charges will be dropped. She's loaded up with drugs and they recommend she get a psych eval every thirty days. Not a problem.

207 to 214-1123.

The trip from Boughene to Regina is uneventful. Once on Regina, the party members go their separate ways.

Max has the Bonaventure put into drydock on DownPort, indefinitely. He and Amanda check into Clairidges for a night, while he makes reservations for them to take a Tukera liner home to Rhylanor where Amanda can get some help. While he's out, Max stops for coffee and is approached by a man in expensive clothing. He sits down. Man: "I represent a concerned party. You were involved with some rogue employees. My principle is concerned that the behavior of said employees would reflect badly on the company." Max: "If you're referring to the people we encountered on Menorb and Boughene, then yes, I'd say it reflects very badly on the company - the name of which is...?" Man: "That's unimportant. You didn't by any chance pick up any identifying keepsakes?" Max: "Like...?" Man: "Oh, I don't know. Personal effects. Necklaces, jewelry, rings. Anything like that. My principle would be willing to offer a generous reward for the recovery of articles of personal value." Max: "Actually, one of my party may be able to help you. Is there a number where I can reach you?" He slides over a card. He's wearing gloves. Then he leaves, sliding through the crowd. Max goes to a public terminal and calls Duane's number. Duane has been trying to locate Rosa, from Menorb. Max leaves a message on his service, letting him know that some one is looking for people who were on Boughene.

At that moment, from behind, before he gets the message, a voice calls to Duane as he walks down the sidewalk. Man: "Mr. Flett. Excuse me, but I was told by an associate of yours that you might have something of interest to me. Something that you picked up after encountering some rogue former employees of the company I represent. Something that might cast aspersions on the organizations good name. I was told that you might have something like that." Duane: "You'll need to be more specific about what you're looking for." Man: "Oh, something say, like a piece of jewelry?" Duane: "Like what? I've been to a lot of places." Man: "Like this ring, for example." He removes a glove and shows Duane his ring. Yes, it's the same damn ring Duane's seen repeatedly in the last month or so. Man: "I can see you recognize it." Duane: "And what if I do?" Man: "I would be prepared to accept a substantial finder's fee for this item." Duane: "I'll have to pick it up. I don't have it on me." Man: "When could we obtain it?" Duane: "Tell you what, why don't you buy me dinner tonight?" Man: "Fine. Clairidges?" Duane: "No, too fancy." Man: "Club Zambezi?" Duane: "Okay." Man: "Seven o'clock then." Duane: "I will show up, so don't bother following me. I hate that." Man: "Of course not. Thank you." He extends his hand, which is gloved. Duane shakes, then continues to hunt for Rosa.

Duane manages to locate Rosa, who's in one of the refugee camps. She recognizes him and throws herself into his arms. Duane: "Yeah? Rosa? What happened? I take it you're not having much luck breaking into the movie business?" Rosa: "It's just a matter of time. But you're the one who looks like you need a home cooked meal and some one to scrub your back." Duane takes out a couple of thousand credits and gives it to her. Duane: "Get cleaned up and meet me at the Club Zambezi at 7:00 o'clock." Duane goes off to check on his myriad of UpPort lockers to find out where he left the ring. He doesn't care, it's just a ring. Then it's off to the Club Zambezi, and the mystery man.

Right on time. Man: "Ah, Mr. Flett. A pleasure." Duane: "This is Rosa." Man: "A pleasure as well. Please, sit down." They do. Duane: "Let's order." Man: "Actually, I am pressed for time, but please enjoy dinner as my guests. You have the object?" Duane slides the ring over to him, he picks it up. Man: "And the stone?" Duane: "It kind of got eaten out in the atmosphere of Boughene." Man: "Ah. Pity. <pockets the ring> I hope you can understand that I don't normally carry around large amounts of cast, but I think you'll find this adequate." He tosses a large diamond onto the table. Man: "And did the other ring still have it's stone?" Duane: "What other ring?" Man: "Ah. Perhaps I was misinformed. Thank you." He stands up, bows, and leaves. Duane pockets the diamond. A waiter comes to the table. Waiter: "This was from Mr. Sandoval." He sets down a magnum of champagne. Hey, Duane's here to have a good time. He wants to party, and invites other people to join him for dinner. At some point Duane will discuss what Rosa wants to do with her life. Rosa thinks Duane needs some one to look after him. Duane takes Rosa home with him.


When Duane wakes up in the morning, it's to cooking smells, a clean apartment, pressed clothes, and Rosa bringing in breakfast on a tray. Fresh squeezed juice, a flower, wonderful food... Duane: "What's all this?" Rosa: "A man needs some one to look after him." Duane: "Look, you don't have to do this." Rosa: "I want to do this. I earn my way." Duane: "Sure you earn your way, but you're not my servant, or my slave. I do a lot of travelling, sometimes I'm gone a long time. You want to get into show business, you go ahead." Rosa: "No. You have paid me already. I do not take money from a man for nothing. You have paid me, and I will work for you. Two weeks worth I think. You have nothing to say about it." Oh.

Elsewhere, Dwayne and Viola are happily travelling together. They aren't in any hurry, and don't have anyone to answer to. No bad guys, no annoying little brother Roger - bliss.

Duane returns Max's call. (A bit late.) Duane: "Got your message. Want to meet for lunch or coffee?" Max: "Coffee." At the café, Duane tells him he "met with Mr. Sandoval. Unfortunately, he found me before I got your message. He was looking for the ring that I had. He was asking about another one, just thought I'd pass the word along that I gave him mine." Max: "I hope he was able to make it profitable for you?" Duane: "Hey, it was a piece of jewelry. Anything I got out of it was profit. Have a good trip to Rhylanor." Max: "Thank you."

Later that morning, Max and Amanda board the liner bound for Rhylanor. At dinner that evening, a man comes over to the table where Max and Amanda are seated. Man: "Oh, Mr. Rhys-Fairfax. You're going to Rhylanor as well?" Max: "Mr. Sandoval, I believe?" Sandoval: "Yes. I have business on Rhylanor. You don't happen to play bridge do you?" Max: "As a matter of fact, I do." And the games go on.