"Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped."-- Groucho Marx

245 to 285-1123.

The trip back to Regina on board the Ruby is uneventful in the grand scheme of things. The new relationship between Ezbeki and Marguerite gets rather strained, however. Maybe it's the close quarters. Lots of arguing, most of it within hearing (and to the dismay) of the rest of the passengers and crew. Marguerite: "...You know, there is more to a relationship than hours and hours of great sex! Where's the mystery? Where's the romance? What about a house and family? Living in the right neighborhood, meeting the right people..." Ezbeki: "You're not catching me at my best! I have this back injury..." TMI!!

Marguerite does adapt well to all the technology, she just treats it like it's magic and gets on with things. Kaeth makes sure Marguerite has his com number in case she needs it when they get to Regina. Marguerite: "Your what?" Kaeth: "My phone number. Telephone?" Marguerite: "I have heard of those. Don't they work like semaphores?" Oh-oh. Kaeth: "Uh, not exactly." He'll have to show her. Things start to go horribly wrong when an attempt is made to educate Marguerite a bit more. Marguerite: "How does this electricity work?" Kaeth tries, but he goes all technical on her. Marguerite: "Yes, but that doesn't explain what electricity is." Kaeth: "It's like high tech steam." No it's not. Robert: "In order to explain electricity, you really need to know a little about molecular biology and physics." Oh boy. Robert: "Electricity is a force." <Lengthy pause.> Marguerite: "I like what you've done with your ship. It's quite nice. I like the color scheme." Ah yes. She doesn't really need to know how it works, she just needs to know how to interact with it. Besides, she's frequently distracted by her relationship with Ezbeki, or at least by all the fighting.

Ariana is in a hurry, and the only stops are very short ones. Kaeth is barely able to resupply and get back on board before she leaves. Ariana will be happy to "get rid of this painting, and take care of...a little matter." Robert: "Do you want to tell me who it is you're dealing with, or would you rather not?" Ariana: "Oh, it's just some officious little prick that's wired into Regina's intelligence community. It's nothing interesting. Believe me, this is not a man you want to hang out with, he's too full of himself. He's a vindictive little bastard though. That's the trouble with small places like Regina, they breed big fish and little ponds." Robert: "Do you want me to go with you when you meet him?" Ariana: "This is Regina - yes I want you to come with me. I'm used to being in the background. If it weren't a personal matter I have to deal with... Maybe we can convince Kaeth to come with us too. It couldn't hurt."

Robert goes to speak with Kaeth. Robert: "Hey, want to pick up a little work?" Kaeth: "You mean getting rid of that damned painting? Yeah. And there's the matter of renumeration for this trip." Ariana joins them, explaining she isn't concerned about the exchange, she's worried about getting to the exchange. Regina is like that. Ariana: "With this being Regina, if you can't trust sneaky, back-stabbing intelligence types, who can you trust?" Kaeth would like to go lie down now, thank you.


At last - Regina! Marguerite is very excited. Marguerite: "What must it be like? A city built by this advanced civilization!" She's even more thrilled by the thought of the city being in space. Marguerite: "Like a fairy castle in the air!" Hoo-boy! And wait 'till she gets a look at the amount of skin and weaponry being displayed.

At last, to the Emerald City! (Well, sort of.) Wow, does paradise always smell like this? (It's much better than it was...)

Marguerite doesn't say anything, she's too polite. And the scent will disappear to notice very quickly. It's the tempo of Regina that will have the most impact on her. The noise, the number of people, the machine noises, lots of close personal contact and very little personal space. It's going to take some getting used to.

Ezbeki: <to Kaeth and Robert> "Hey look guys, I'm going to hit Regina Trauma and get things started. Will you take care of Marguerite, get her settled in and all?" Robert: "Do you have a place on Regina?" Ezbeki: "No. Just get her a room somewhere, will you?" He passes on a handful (literally) of greasy credits. Robert and Kaeth will take her to the Ambassadore, or maybe Clairidges.

They take her to Clairidges, which is a sea of calm amid the frenzy that is UpPort. Marguerite is given a basic briefing on how to use the phone, her key, the fresher, etc. She understands room service, and Clairidges should feel rather familiar. She'll be fine.

Ariana calls the contact number. It's right around lunch time, so they'll be meeting for lunch at the Savoy Grille. Ariana has heard of the place, it's supposed to have excellent food. No doubt.

Oddly enough, Bunny Delgado's publicist is taking her to lunch at the Savoy as well. Oh, and her husband too. The early reviews of Bunny's first book's galleys look good. The publicist wants her approval of the cover art before it goes to the bindery. The cover shows the dashing Rex Ruskin, his lab coat askew (?), looking suspiciously like one of the photos of Will from the news dueling coverage. Bunny loves it, and she wants the original art. Will is a bit taken aback, but it makes Bunny happy, and Bunny is making the publicist happy. Everybody's happy.

The happy people are having salad when an average-looking man stops at the table to speak with Bunny. Black: "Hello, I just wanted to congratulate you on your book." Bunny: "Why, thank you! That's so sweet." Black: <smiles> "Yes, I can see where you draw your inspiration. <to Will> I trust we won't be seeing some of the more interesting cases show up?" Will: "Right." Black: "Well, I can't stay and chat. Mrs. Delgado, Dr. Delgado. I unfortunately have a business meeting. But you must come to dinner with me soon at my club, as my guests." He moves away to a nearby table.

Bunny: "He's such a nice man. You know, I have an idea about a character based on him..." Will: "No. No, no, no." Bunny's imagination would no doubt come up with a character that was traumatized as a child and developed a tragic double life as an adult. Bunny: "Which do you like better - soulless assassin or secret transvestite?" Will: "Bunny, you can't..."

Not far enough away, Black is joined by Ariana, Robert, and Kaeth. Ariana hands Black an envelope and a tube. Ariana: "This is from Samantha." Black takes the letter, then removes painting from tube to check it out. He nods, replaces the painting, and puts the letter in his pocket after reading it. Black: "Miss Ariana, I believe this should be suitable. You did request a favor." He slides a large manila envelope over to her. Black: "And how nice to meet you, Mr. Sheltie." He sort of looks right through Robert, like he's not important. Not that this Black guy is anyone important himself, Robert will forget what he looks like in five minutes. Black: "I apologize for having so little time. Please be my guests. <to maitre d'> Henri? See that they're taken care of - that they have anything they need." He leaves, Henri comes over to give them the specials, etc. At least here the meals are not quite so meat-centric as they are in Fredonia. During lunch, Ariana removes the contents of the envelope. It's a newspaper clipping and a flat photo. Robert: "Good news?"

Bunny: "Well what do you make of that?" She's close enough to see what Ariana is looking at (rather happily) - it's a flat photo of a figure leaning partially out of the window of a car, along with a clipping from a newspaper. "Count Albert Alessandra Dies in a Hail of Gunfire". In this case, "hail of gunfire" actually looks like an accurate description. (Think Bonnie and Clyde car.) Even on Regina this would be difficult to pass off as an accident. Kaeth: <thinking> "Ariana is much less fluffy than she appears." Robert: "You might want to wait until we get back to the ship before you go over those with too much detail." Ariana: <distracted> "Uh-huh. <quietly> Two down, one to go." More that Kaeth really didn't need to hear! Once she puts away the envelope, Ariana particularly enjoys lunch, she's very animated.

Bunny saw the photo and heard the "two down, one to go". Bunny: What do you think?" She's very intrigued, and always on the look out for more story ideas. Will: "I think it might not be wise to do that with someone at Mr. Black's table." Bunny: "Mr. Black was at our table. Don't be silly. What could we deduce from this? Come on, Will, help me out. Try to be Rex Ruskin." Will: "Does Rex want to be three? No." Bunny: <oblivious> "I mean, the clothing, the shoes. Speaks of someone who spends a lot of time on ship, don't you think. Come on, it's fun." Will: "We can play at this if you want, as long as you promise that it won't show up in your next book." Bunny: "I promise." Will: "It's not actually fair, I know them." Bunny: "You know them?" Will: "Well, it's more like I'm acquainted with them." Bunny waves down a waiter and has him invite Ariana and the others over to their table. Will doesn't think this is a good idea. Bunny: "How bad could they be, they're eating at the Savoy? And they know Mr. Black, and he's a very nice man." That makes two people on UpPort with that opinion. But he is the sort of man who remembers anniversaries, etc.

The waiter comes over, tells Robert and friends that "the lady over there has asked if you would like to join them at their table". Robert looks over, sees Will Delgado and some woman who smiles and waves, and doesn't really want to join them. But, he'll yield to Ariana's decision. She wants to join the Dashing Dueling Daring Doctor. Damn that charm!

They move over to the other table, where introductions are made. Will's beeper goes off, he makes a call on his phone. By overhearing one side of the conversation, Robert and Kaeth find out that there's a body in Clairidges, in the room they checked Marguerite into. Will kisses Bunny and leaves. Robert doesn't say anything, leaving Dr. Delgado to leap to his own conclusions, and nudging Kaeth under the table to keep him from saying anything. Ariana doesn't comment.

After Will leaves, Kaeth waits a few polite moments before making his excuses. Kaeth: "I believe that's the room of a friend of mine." Robert nudges him again, harder. Kaeth: "Ow!" A waiter inquires if Kaeth would like something packed to go. Bunny missed Kaeth's comment, as she's busily chatting with Ariana.

Kaeth figures either Marguerite has capped somebody and will need a lawyer, or she's the body. Damn, he finally gets into the Savoy and he doesn't even get to finish lunch. He will get to take off the tie though.

When he arrives at Clairidges, Kaeth sees a familiar looking red haired woman being taken away in handcuffs, in a police car. Later a body will be removed in a body bag. Kaeth goes into the lobby, calls his lawyer at Veblishnek, Irahu, Wong, & Goldstein, gives them a brief run down of what little he knows, and asks them to check into it.

Not back on Regina for even a day, and already there's trouble!