"I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden."-- Richard Rumbold, on the scaffold.

80, 1121.

Welcome to Solomani space, campers! More specifically, to the Freemantle arcology of Vantage, in the Capella subsector.

First up is Mitchell Alexander Taylor, Captain, retired, of the Solomani Navy. Mitchell's first order of business, after checking his service revolver with a bonded agent, is to find a small apartment. He's got enough money to survive on for quite a while, but he doesn't know how long it will be before he finds work, so he rents a small, middle-class apartment, for $800 a month. It has high-tech, generic, memoryplast furniture, which will do for now. Sort of like a long-term hotel room. Time's a wasting, so off to the job board goes Mitch.

Trevor Price Cavernon, also recently arrived to Vantage, gets a chime at the door of his even smaller apartment, and answers it. It's a young man in the forest green uniform of a SolSec agent, uniform division. Agent: "Ah, hello! Mr.....uh..." Trevor: "Cavernon." Agent: "Yes. Mr. Cavernon. I'm here to conduct a brief interview. I'm Patrolman Ken Oshida." Trevor: "Pleased to meet you." Ken: "I must say I've heard many interesting things about you. You have quite a reputation on Aegir." Trevor: "I have several reputations on Aegir." Ken rattles off a perfect history of Trevor's somewhat colorful life. As he should. Being a good SolSec agent and all. The tale ends with Trevor arriving on Vantage, and his application for an ownership permit for a firearm (currently in bonded storage). Trevor: "The firearm in question was given to me by my fellow officers." Ken: "Yes, that's right." Ken asks a number of questions, including several odd, non-sequitor-man ones. All part of the profile. Trevor has no problem cooperating with this; it's natural.

Ken: "By the way, I understand that you're something of a private investigator. There's a gentleman who's made some inquiries, and we are unfortunately unable to assist him. You might want to give him a call. " Ken gives Trevor a card, asks him to stop by the station house when he gets the chance, to have coffee with Ken and the other agents. Police force bonding.

Mitchell is checking out the local newsfax, and there's a name on page 20 the sounds familiar. It's someone Mitchell served with, a retired senior captain named A. E. McNaughton, and it's actually the obit of his daughter, who apparently committed suicide. Mitchell looks up his number, and phones, but the captain is not receiving calls. Mitchell leaves a message with the person who answers the phone, expressing his condolences, and giving his own phone number.

Shortly thereafter, the same phone rings, and is answered by the same servant. Trevor: "My name is Trevor Cavernon. I spoke with an Officer Oshida, and he gave me this number. I understand that Mr. McNaughton wanted to make some inquiries?" Servant: "Ah, you are an investigator, sir?" Trevor: "Yes." Servant: "I will let Captain McNaughton know you've called. Do you have a contact number?" Trevor: "Yes." The phone number is given, which the servant promises to pass on to the Captain. Hmm.

Mitchell gets a call from Captain McNaughton. McNaughton: "Mitchell. Long time no see." Mitchell: "Yes it is." McNaughton: "I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. <pause> I would like to speak with you, if you have the time free?" Mitchell: "I'd like that." McNaughton: "How long will you be on Vantage? Is your ship docked -" Mitchell: "I'm retired." McNaughton: "Ah. [Hmm. The man who swore they'd have to bury him in his ship is retired??] How about dinner tonight, at my club?" Mitchell: "That would be fine. I'll need directions." McNaughton: "My man Charles can give you all the information - have your man speak with him, and I'll see you tonight." Charles gets on the phone, and doesn't bat an eye when there is no "man".

Since he'll be stepping out tonight, Mitchell checks the phonebook, looking for men's wear. Then it's into a cab, to Joplin's Clothiers- fine fashion in the traditional style. Sounds perfect for a gentleman's club, old money and all that. Although the cab is automated, it does have a real driver, to sort of monitor things. And to chat with the passenger in an overly friendly fashion. After a few minutes of forced chumship, Mitchell inquires as to the meaning of the bright flashing light on the dashboard. The cab is accelerating, and weaving erratically, but the driver can't find the instruction manual, and obviously doesn't work well under pressure. The cab is barreling down the street (mostly), while the driver panics. Mitchell: "Come on, man, pull it together!" Good thing Mitchell has leader, as the driver needed some one to bark orders at him. Unfortunately, as the driver is fiddling with the book, Mitchell looks ahead, and points out the windshield at the young woman. Mitchell: "Son..."

Gabrielle Vanek, just arrived from Aquitane, is hit by the cab. It's like being hit really hard by a foam rubber covered bat, but it's certainly an unwelcome surprise. Malcolm Edwards, the token visiting Imperial, hears the sound of a body hitting a car, and he rushes over. Gabrielle has been hit in the hip, and is bruised and shaken, but not seriously hurt. The driver is panicking, so the car tranqs him. Mitchell is not panicking, and he moves slowly, so the restraints allow him to leave the car.

Malcolm: "Hey sugar, don't move. I'm a medic. Just look at me. Where does it hurt?" Gabrielle notices a Solomani Naval captain, good looking, older, getting out of the cab. Moments later, there's a photographer snapping pictures, and emergency vehicles. Paramedic: "Right! We'll take it from here." Six or eight people in uniform appear, and start giving orders. Oh, and the local police arrive. Hello, hello, hello. what's all this then? They'll need to get some statements. Mitchell is only too happy to tell them exactly what happened, in a precise fashion. And of course, some SolSec agents show up too.

A quick scan for Gabrielle, then it's into the ambulance and on-line with the doctor. She'll be taken to the hospital, but only to let the hospital techs have a look at her. Ah, high tech medicine. It's so nice. The tranqed, unhinged driver is taken off separately.

Another cab is hailed for Mitchell, by an officer who apologizes for the upset. Mitchell: "Not at all." Off to Joplin's, finally. Malcolm hangs out for a while longer, watching the paramedics, and the officials. He chats with the paramedics, since he was the one who first checked out the victim, and he has medical training. They bond, and he's offered a lift to the hospital, which he accepts.

Medic: "So, where are you from? Your accent isn't local." Malcolm: "No, I'm just visiting. From the Spinward Marches." Medic: "The Spinward Marches?" Malcolm: "Out behind the Claw." Medic: "The Claw?" Medic #2: "You know, Jenghe Rescue!" Medic #1: "Oh! You're from Jenghe?" Malcolm: "Close to. I'm from Regina." Medic #1: "Wow, do you know Carrie Turnbo?" Malcolm: "If I knew her, would I be here? I don't think so." The chat continues, and the rider up front is making copious notes. Probably about the patient. Really. Medic #2: "Here we are." They float out the grav-gurney, and go into the hospital. Malcolm plays along with the hayseed Imperial image, gawking at all the high tech stuff.

Once at the hospital, a short-haired blonde woman in a pantsuit, carrying an attaché case, gives Gabrielle her card. Lawyer: "Doubtless the vehicle was violating the safety regulations; the driver flagged on, no doubt by the military officer uncaring of civilian laws. I'll make certain that your rights are protected. Give me a call." Technically, speaking, she didn't actually chase the ambulance.

Several doctors, of various sorts, show up to see Gabrielle, who insists she's fine, but they want to keep her overnight to make sure she doesn't have a bad reaction to the healing drugs, etc. Right. They're just bored. They get distracted by Malcolm, and wander off, leaving the med table to attend to the patient. The doctors are trading stories with Malcolm about the horror of taking 45 minutes to reattach a limb, and one of the med-bots had a servo problem...

A few minutes later a male nurse comes in, to take care of Gabrielle. He asks what her favorite color is, her favorite flower, music, etc. They put a gauze-like blanket over her that warms slightly, then she's put into a big drawer. But with the music and projected images, it's not claustrophobic or anything, rather relaxing. And it at least saves her the cost of a room for the night.

Mitchell arrives, finally, at Joplin's. Clerk: "Something conservative, sir?" Mitchell:"Yes." Clerk: "Something perhaps in navy, or dark grey, clean lines..." Perfect! This man knows his business. Clerk: "What sort of fit would you prefer? Comfortable fit? Athletic fit?" They can show him what it will look like, and it can even be fit to make him look better. Not necessary. Just the one suit for now, $1,000 Sols.

Malcolm <to the medics>: "Any good places to eat around here?" Medic #1: "Oh yeah! What kind of food do you like? Thai? Vegan? Anything you want, you can find." Cool. Naturally, food leads to discussions of common local trauma types - industrial accidents, infectious diseases, vehicular accidents are the norm. Doctor: "You get the occasional inflicted injuries unfortunately, there's no way around that, but we have some very good counselors on staff here. Jim here has actually seen a gunshot wound, haven't you?" Jim: "Yeah, a Freebooter. The police brought him in." Doctor: "Savages." Jim: "You don't see me out there. Any way, join us for dinner?" Malcolm agrees.

Mitchell arrives at the club (Woodward's), precisely on time, of course. Wood, dark colors, reserved; very much a military air to it, sort of like an extremely nice officer's club. Men sitting around in large, overstuffed chairdogs, reading printed newsfaxes. Yes, 'chairdogs'.

A hostess shows Mitchell in to where Captain McNaughton is seated. McNaughton: "Ah, Mitchell! Good to see you." Mitchell<shaking hands>: "Andrew." Sit down, sit down. I haven't seen you since, oh it must have been Admiral Brice's retirement party." Mitchell: "That's right." (Over a year.) McNaughton: "I heard you got caught up in that unpleasantness with Admiral ?. Takei's star is certainly on the rise. I heard she had something to do with it." Mitchell: "That's why I'm here and not in the center chair." McNaughton: "I'm glad you're here, I could use some help. I don't know if you're aware, but I recently lost my daughter." Mitchell: "Yes, that's why I contacted you." McNaughton: "They said it was suicide, and they've closed the case, but I knew my daughter. She wouldn't have done something like that. You did a stint in Intelligence didn't you?" Mitchell: "Yes." McNaughton: "I need to know what really happened, if I'm just fooling myself I can accept that, but I need to know. The police... it was so quick, it was like they didn't really try."

McNaughton gives Mitchell the background information. According to the police, it was a classic suicide by drug overdose (sleeping pills). No note, but most people don't leave notes. And she was at that young college age. It happens. She had a wild streak, spent some time with the Freebooters, even though her father didn't approve. They argued off and on; she had a temper and a strong will, just like her father. She had had a fight with one of her Freebooter friends, and later that day her father returned home and found her dead.

Mitchell: "What about these 'Freebooters'?" McNaughton: "Let's see there was Zach, I think his name was. and what was the other one's name...the one with the funny beard... 'Boony' I think." Mitchell: "What do they use for trade? Whatever they can get their hands on?" McNaughton: "I don't know. Mostly they're those artsy types." Mitchell: "I'll check into it." McNaughton: "The police say it was an open and shut case. A simple suicide. But when the police came to do the investigation, there were a couple of...I don't think they were detectives, they were too well dressed. <leaning forward> You and me, we've been around... they smelled like SolSec to me. Why would SolSec be interested in a suicide?" Mitchell: "I can think of two reasons off hand - she was working for them, or she had something they wanted." McNaughton: "Well, if you could find anything out, carefully of course I don't want you to put yourself into any unnecessary danger, but I'd be very grateful."

McNaughton: "I can't stay, I have to go see my daughter's mother. But you stay. Have dinner." He speaks with Françoise, the hostess, telling her to make sure Mitchell is well taken care of. Mitchell: "One question - membership?" McNaughton: "I'm sure that can be arranged, with the recommendation of a member, and the appropriate fees." He gets up out of the chair like he's a 150 years old, takes a couple of deep breaths, and leaves.

Françoise: "Would Monsieur like to see a menu?" Sir would. He has a very fine, but not heavy meal, and he tips well. After the meal, he declines a cab and will walk the three kilmeters home. Franciose: "Would monsieur like to know that my shift ends in 15 minutes?" He gives her his address. Mitchell: "I'll be walking home." The address is for an out of the box little place, but who knows?

Malcolm, after dinner with the local medicos, goes off in search of a temporary home at the hostel. Boy, this place is big! That building looks familiar. So does that one. A nice policeman notices that Malcolm looks lost, and offers to help. Malcolm is on the wrong level, but he gets directions. On the slidewalk, Malcolm takes note of how well-dressed everyone here is, especially on this level. Like that guy up ahead, who looks familiar. When Mitchell turns to adjust his jacket, he recognizes Malcolm as the man from the accident. And Malcolm recognizes Mitchell as the man in the cab. Small world, uh, arcology.

At the hostel, Malcolm is in the common area, with a lot of young people. Young man <in a leather-like jacket>: "I'm telling you man, they killed her. They said it was a suicide, but you know her, she wouldn't even take an aspirin." He looks repeatedly over at Malcolm, possibly because he's the oldest person in the room, or maybe just because he's not one of the 'group'.

On the other hand, Malcolm is much more interested in the lovely young blonde who has introduced herself as Ingrid. Malcolm: "Ingrid. That must be some ancient Terran word for 'beautiful'." Ingrid: "You must say that to all the girls." Malcolm: "Only the ones I recognize as being beautiful. In your case, that took about a tenth of a second." Young man: "Hey, stay away from my girl!" Malcolm: "Son, if she's your girl, you shouldn't have to tell me." Youth <getting into Malcolm's face>: "You don't want me to mess you up." Malcolm: "Yeah, son, you getting your blood all over my clothes here would really mess me up." The annoying kid can't think of any witty repartés beyond "Yeah, well, you just... you just watch it!", so he goes back to his little friends. Ingrid goes with him, but with a parting smile to Malcolm.

Shortly after Mitchell arrives home his door chimes. He opens it to find Françoise, from Woodward's. He invites her in, of course. Françoise: "I love what you've done with this place. It's so... you. <she holds up the bottle she brought with her> Champagne? You do have glasses?" Mitchell: "I'm sure I do somewhere. I haven't had a chance to do much shopping." Glasses are found, champagne is consumed, the evening progresses as one would suspect. Hey, it's a decadent culture, he smelled right, and this way no one has to wake up alone. 'I know what I want, you know what you want, we both get it, and no entanglements.'

81, 1121.

In hospital, if Gabrielle insists, they will let her go. They'd really like to do some more tests (they're so bored), but okay. They'll just need to run her ID/medical card, which of course, she has. The hospital does offer an opportunity to make some money - they're running a large number of drug trials, and they pay for participants, as Gabrielle is informed when she checks out. She takes a business card, just in case she needs to take them up on it, and goes off in search of a place to live.

Speaking of medical coverage, Malcolm inquires at the hostel about getting some sort of temporary coverage. He's not a Solomani citizen, and the government runs the medical coverage for everyone (although there are private providers), but there is no temporary coverage. There is pay as you go option though.

Françoise orders breakfast before she leaves in the morning. They can at least dine together. After she goes, Mitchell is left wondering how to do what McNaughton asked of him. Mitchell did some military intel work, but this is different. He needs a private detective. The phone book has detectives in it, but if SolSec is involved, they'll be keeping track of them. Hmmm. He thinks of the man from the accident and the slidewalk, the one with the definitely foreign accent. He could be useful.

Mitchell dons one of his plain jumpsuits, and goes out and buys a dark grey jumpsuit, so he can blend with the local fashion trends, color-wise. Lots of pockets. And he buys a multi-tool for $100 Solars. And he has deck shoes. His 'common worker' disguies purchased, he goes shopping for foodstuff, dishes, glasses, cutlery, etc. for his new home.

Gabrielle, a bit behind the others, is search of new digs. Something as cheap as possible. For an apartment, $500 Solars is the best she can do. Ouch. Naturally, she could always go on the dole. Unless that bothers her...

Malcolm goes looking for a gym. He wants to keep in shape, and he's heard the Solomani are into fitness and sports, so he asks the first uniformed person he sees, and quickly gets directions. He heads that way on the slidewalk, and suddenly there's a man behind and one beside him. Up close and personal. Man: "Mr. Edwards, I believe." Malcolm: "You have the advantage of me, and yes." Man: "How do you find Vantage?" Malcolm: "Very friendly." Man: "No trouble?" Malcolm: "No. I've wore out my heels trying to stay away from trouble. Man: "We enjoy our visitors from across the borders; providing they stay out of trouble." Malcolm: "Like I said, wore out my heels trying to stay away from it." Man: "Good, good. Planning on staying long?" Malcolm: "Probably not on Freemantle." Man: "I understand that things are a bit more...visceral beyond the Claw, so they say. You'll find things more civilized here; please keep this in mind when interacting with the locals. and have a nice day." The two men leave. Malcolm continues on, somewhat amused by all the attention.

While he's out shopping, Mitchell buys a gift for Françoise. For about $500 Solars, he finds a nice, tasteful anklet made of gold links alternating with a variety of precious stones. Something that if it's wearer were to break up, it wouldn't lose it's value. Just in case. In case of what? One might wonder about that sort of thinking here in the comforting arms of Solomani society.

The aparment hunter is able to locate a moderate efficiency apartment. (A single room, like what Trevor has.) At $500 Sols a month it's not exactly a bargain, but Gabrielle doesn't have much of a choice, so she takes it. She could get a roommate; it violates fire codes, but it's done, as Gabrielle knows from her homeworld. Best not to do anything to get into trouble right off though. She leaves the apartment to buy groceries at a nearby store.

Their worlds intersecting once more, Malcolm and Mitchell see each other on the slidewalk again. Malcolm moves over to the same slidewalk as Mitchell. And then Malcolm sees the girl from the accident (Gabrielle), behind the guy on the slidewalk. Oh right - that's just a coincidence? And there's Mr. Leather (well, not real leather) from the hostel, coming up the fast slidewalk, looking around carefully. Okay, so they're ALL SolSec, and they've bracketed Malcolm!

Mr. Leather moves up the slidewalk and bumps into Gabrielle. He doesn't lift anything - as far as Gabrielle can tell he was just copping a feel after the collision. She continues, the man goes further down the slidewalk, and Malcolm is still watching when the man stumbles, apparently having some sort of seizure. Several nice men rush up to help him off the slidewalk. One of the men says something about "take it easy, Boony, you're fine".

Mitchell's ears perk up at the sound of "Boony", so he's watching too as the men take the hapless victim into an alley. He starts to struggle, but stops when one of the concerned citizens bends over to 'loosen his collar'. They stuff Boony onto the back floor of a car, and leave. A man in a green uniform watches the car as it goes by him, taking notes. But, the green uniform guys are SolSec too...

Mitchell, having long ago perfected the silent approach (his junior officers must have just loved that), comes right up behind Gabrielle. Mitchell: "Excuse me miss?" Gabrielle <slightly startled>: "Yes?" Mitchell: "The gentleman in the leather jacket who bumped into you earlier, do you know who he is?" Gabrielle: "No. Should I?" Mitchell: "I was just wondering." He fades back, keeping an eye on Gabrielle, who is somewhat confused. Malcolm is watching all this; all he needs is popcorn. His gym does come into view, so he gets off the slidewalk and goes into the huge, cavernous building. This is just too big. Oh well. Bigger is better for the Rim, apparently.

Mitchell walks past the uniformed officer, looking at his name tag - it's Officer Perkins. Perkins: "Negative, negative, that is a black Rodney sedan...No, definitely...Yeah...No, I'm not getting a trace." He looks around for the car. Mitchell continues into the nearby coffee place and buys some beans. When he comes back out, Perkins is still there, and there are several men in suits speaking to him. Suit: "It fell of the track almost immediately. The cameras here, here, and here <indicating them on the buildings> are watching. I want you to coordinate with these businesses. Something's going on around here, and it's not good. Better keep an eye on all the new arrivals in the area too. Have them run the tapes back for the last 24 hours." A new man arrives in a car, with driver. As he emerges from the back seat, he's referred to as "Colonel Landau". Mitchell decides to go back in to the shop and get a cup of coffee, lest he be hauled in for loitering or eavesdropping.

His coffee ordered, Mitchell is standing with the other customers when the SolSec colonel comes up to the coffee bar. Landau: "Yeah, can I get a vanilla latté, decaf please." He glances at Mitchell, who's waiting for his coffee, giving him the assessing look, which Mitchell returns. As he goes to leave, the Colonel stops by Mitchell and says "Any problems, Mr. Taylor?" Mitchell: "No, just doing some shopping. New apartment." Landau: "Yes, I know." He leaves, a car pulls up, the driver gets out, and the Colonel gets in. Mitchell just watches him leave, having successfully refrained from taunting the SolSec colonel by calling him by name.

Since he's lost track of the girl, and the guy with the foreign accent, Mitchell goes off in the direction the car was headed. He walks for a ways and gets to the hyroponics section, which has signs stating that visitors are welcome but "please do not disturb the plants". (What exactly do plants find disturbing?) He goes through that area, taking note of the police doing something with the security cameras. Beyond hydroponics, the signs say "Materials Treatment". There's a barrier across the accessway, but no signs saying no entry or locks or anything. Mitchell goes through to the section that processes the water and waste system from hydroponics. He continues, and runs into a garage kind of area, where he finds some machines, and what appears to be a car, perhaps black, under a tarp. Mitchell bends down to check if the tires are warm, which they are, and if it is a black car, which it is. Then someone whacks him on the head. It hurts like hell, but does not knock Mitchell out, so he grabs his head and yells. The person continues to hit him, and Mitchell has finally had enough so he lunges for the figure, and hits the raven haired, blue-eyed, beautiful woman right in the nose. It's not much of a blow, but her eyes well up, she swings the tire iron, and hits Mitchell hard in the chest. That puts him down. He does hear a crisp female voice say "Put him in the trunk with the other one", just as he loses consciousness completely.

Gabrielle is in the grocery store paying for food, and as she pulls her card out of her pocket she feels something fall out. She thinks "damn there goes a button", and the sales clerk picks it up and says "Excuse me miss, you dropped this." She takes the data crystal from the clerk and thanks him. He give her an odd look, she smiles and asks "is anything wrong?" Clerk: "No miss." He looks at her oddly when she leaves. Or maybe that's just the latent paranoia kicking in. Or he looks at everyone that way.

When Gabrielle returns to the apartment section there's someone near the potted plant at the end of the hall, smoking a cigarette. There are a number of butts at his feet, so he's been there for more than five minutes. Smoker: "Excuse me miss, could you help me?" He moves forward with a map box. Gabrielle, keeping the groceries and space between them says "I'm sorry, I'm not from here so I probably wouldn't be much use, but there's a nice policman down the street there, and I'm sure he'd be happy to help you." She raises her voice slightly as she says that, and sure enough, the young Officer Perkins hears and trots over, only too happy to help. The man extends the map box towards the officer, which makes the man's coat open slightly, revealing a handgun. Both Gabrielle and Officer Perkins see the gun; she runs for her apartment as Perkins goes for his own weapon. Gabrielle is opening her door as she hears the gunshot. She shuts the door, puts the entire bag of groceries into the fridge, and tries to figure out what to do. It's not like there's anywhere to hide in the apartment, but maybe he won't get in.

Fat chance. The gunman opens the door like he has the keycard (maybe he does...) and walks in. Gunman: "I'm sorry you had to see that, but I'm sure we can work something out." Gabrielle: "I didn't see anything." Gunman: "That's right, you didn't." He tosses $50 Solar coins onto the floor - ten of them. Gunman: "If anyone asks you who did it, this is who you saw." He shows Gabrielle a flat photo of a man with red hair, and a leather jacket with an odd logo on it. He then takes the magazine out of his weapon, removes all the rounds (dropping them onto the floor), including the one already chambered. The gun joins the ammunition. He smiles at Gabrielle and leaves.

Trevor, who happens to live across the hall, heard what might have been a gunshot. After a minute or two, when no more shots follow, he looks out into the hall. He sees a man with short, white hair, wearing a tan stylized coat with a lot of pockets come out of an apartment across the hallway and saunter off. Trevor looks at the dead cop, thinking the white haired man might have just been oblivious, but not sure. Trevor goes after the man, yells "Hey!!", and when the man doesn't stop, Trevor runs after him onto the slidewalk, intending to tackle him. Trevor dives for the man, who breaks right, grabs a post, spins, and finishes with a lovely snap kick, directly to Trevor's right eye. Yow!

Trevor grabs the man's leg and holds on. The white haired man uses the other leg to kick Trevor in the throat. Trevor, the inveterate amateur grav-ball player does not give up, and hits the man in the hip. Not enough, but the man's not getting away cleanly. Trevor looks up and sees something interesting over the shoulder of the man he's fighting with, who's facing him. The slidewalk is going towards a black and yellow warning sign and men in hard hats. Trevor does not warn the white haired man about the construction area. Well, how uncivic-minded of him.

Trevor helps the man fall off into the machinery and into the area where the flywheels are turning. It's very ugly. Horrible squishie sounds and a mist of blood all over, and well, just eew. The slidewalks are turned off, and all hell is breaking loose. Cops are pouring into the area, lots of yelling. All this attracts the attention of Malcolm, who just couldn't bear the huge gym any longer and was on the now halted slidewalk. He goes over to offer aid; the police will want to ask him a few questions.

Trevor's primary concern is the downed police officer, although he's probably dead. He tells the officers on the scene, and leads them back to the hall. Where there's no body. And no blood stains. And no sign of there ever having been a body there. This is rather peculiar. Malcolm does point out a section of carpet that appears to have an indentation in it that could have been caused by a body, or some one laying or sitting on the floor. That section is marked off. The police will be speaking to all the residents, and Trevor offers his apartment as a staging area for now, whick is accepted.

Gabrielle, in the mean time has picked up the coins and hidden them in the not yet set up ice cube trays for now. She hears the action out in the hallway as she dials the emergency services number, asking for the police. She stammers out something about "a man with a gun" when there's a knock on her door followed by the traditional identification of "Police". Gabrielle tells the woman on the vidphone that the police are there and hangs up. She opens the door and when the officer says something about there "having been some trouble", Gabrielle replies: "I called about that already". She points at the gun on the floor. The police will now call a forensic team. Officer: "Don't touch anything." No worries there.

Malcolm, in the hallway has been patiently waiting. Malcolm: "You wanted to ask me some questions. Shall I just shut up and sit down?" Detective: "You know, this used to be a quiet neighborhood..." Malcolm: "Who patrols this area? Maybe you should call and see if he's missing." Detective <examining gun>: "Interesting. It's of Imperial manufacture. <to Malcolm> You're from the Imperium, aren't you?" Malcolm: "Yes, and I could probably field strip that for you ."

Back in the hallway. Lieutenant: "What the hell is going on? We've got no body of a cop, and we've got a man in the flywheels down the street, and they tell me it's going take weeks to get him out of the workings." Trevor explains what he saw, and what happened. "...coming out of this apartment." Lieutenant <indicating Gabrielle>: "Her apartment?" Trevor: "Yeah. Anyhow, I yell after him..." He continues on to the part where the man is beating the crap out of him, and Trevor realizes the man is not just a simple hard of hearing old guy. Lieutenant: "Well, we'd better get a doctor to look at you and then a psychologist; you've been through a severe trauma." Trevor: "I'm more traumatized by the dead police officer, but I agree."

There are now people in white coats in the hall, scanning the area where Trevor saw the body. They find no biological matter in that section of hallway. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. This is not natural, and the forensics people say so. Officer <to Lieutenant>: "Patrolman Perkins hasn't reported in." They show Trevor a picture on a PDA, and as far as the hair color is concerned, it could be him. Tech <to Lieutenant>: "Sir, take a look at this." A female tech has found a bullet in the wall, and it has blood on it. Finally - a clue! Lieutenant: "I want this whole area cordened off, all the apartments scanned for DNA evidence. I don't know who that bastard was, but he won't get away with it." [Does being mashed into a bloody mist really count as 'getting away'?] In short order they get the DNA report and identify the missing officer. And they get DNA aplenty from the man in the slidewalk machinery, but they can't identify him. He's not on any of the records. Curioser and curioser.

Out of the way of the techs, and into Trevor's apartment goes the group. Lieutenant: "What the hell did he kill a cop for though? I don't get it." Gabrielle <hesitantly>: "Excuse me, Lieutenant?" Lieutenant: "Yes? Miss Vanek, is it?" Gabrielle: "Yes sir." Lieutenant: "Well, what do you have to tell us?" Gabrielle relates what happened - that she was returning from the store when the man approached, asking for directions, etc., that she ran when she saw the gun, and the man came into her apartment, opening the door by himself. She tells them how the man showed her a picture of a red headed man and told her she was supposed to tell the police that was who she saw. This makes no sense whatsoever, but Gabrielle does give them a description of the man in the photograph. God knows where the investigation will go from here, but everyone gets hauled down, uh, escorted politely to the police station for questioning.

82, 1121.

After hours and hours of questioning, the police are finally done. As Trevor goes to leave the station he runs into a mob of reporters. Reporter: "Excuse me, Trevor! Trevor!" Trevor <unhappily>: "It's started." Reporter: "Excuse me - how does it feel to have brought a cop-killer to justice?" Trevor gets up close to the front reporter and whispers "I've killed one person today, that's a good start." The reporter says "Thanks Trevor!" and runs off.

The next edition of the paper has a banner headling reading: "Bodyguard/Vigilante Puts Criminals on Notice!" It follows with Trevor's quote, misinterpreted to mean that Trevor had "killed one cop killer today, and that's just a start." Trevor gets dragged back downtown to the police chief's office and lectured on vigilante justice, and how it's not welcome on Vantage. Trevor: "Sir, all I was trying to do was get away from the reporter. He used the quote in a way I did not intend." Chief: "You damned well better not. We don't tolerate that kind of grandstanding. I don't know what it was like where you're from, but we consider police work to be serious business here." Trevor: "Sir, I always took care of business, it just sometimes coincided with crime. You would have preferred me to have let the man get away, and you not know the officer was dead? Or that he'd been murdered?" Chief: "No, no. But I don't want to be reading about you every time I pick up a paper." Trevor: "Believe me sir, if you can find a way to convince them to stop printing about me, I'll be eternally grateful." Chief: "Well, that's all for now Cavernon. You can go." A tired and rather frustrated Trevor leaves for home. Probably thinking unkind thoughts about reporters.