"Life improves slowly and goes wrong fast, and only catastrophe is clearly visible."-- Edward Teller

Whiskers, a hyper-intelligent, giant rat, once belonged to an odd little man who had fallen on hard times. The man decided to try to regain his money by playing Whist. For money. Nope. That's why they call it "gambling". The second owner doesn't care for the rat, and doesn't know what to do with it. He is not nice to Whiskers, but one day comes back to his ship drunk, and doesn't chain the rat up well enough. Whiskers decides to leave, and jumps ship. He is an intelligent giant rat, after all.

Going past the local GigaMart, Whiskers smells food and goes in. This causes quite a bit of consternation and panic amongst the patrons. A large, unpleasant man grabs a broom and tries to beat the rat, but Whiskers snatches the broom away, bites off the broom part, and bites the man on the leg. Yech! Whiskers wields the now shortened stick in a way that indicates he knows what he's doing, and whacks the man a few times. Then Whiskers dives into the cheese display.

A few minutes later, the police show up to find the big rat laying in the cheese display, full and happy, and unable to resist. They at first don't know whether to take Whiskers to the pound or to jail, but settle on jail. While there, Whiskers is able to rescue his cell mate, a small nervous man, from a giant spider in the cell. The small man's employers eventually show up to get him - a large man, panting heavily and wearing a tuxedo, and a very buxom woman chewing gum, and wearing a lot of makeup and a white Angora sweater. The woman thinks the big "mouse" is just adorable, and wants to take him home. The fine is paid, and Whiskers goes to their yacht. When Whiskers tells the woman he's actually a rat and not a mouse, she doesn't want it any more. Her man sicks his Thragr on the rat, and Whiskers takes off running. He dives into the first doorway, accidently launching the escape pod out of the ship attached to Up Port. The pod lands, and Whiskers is picked up by the rescue crew, who decide to keep him as their mascot. He gets a collar and a license, but he doesn't like the big bell. The bell only lasts a couple of hours before it starts to drive everyone crazy, so the rescue crew removes it, for their own sake.

82, 1121.

Trevor has been watching the media frenzy over Mitchell in between getting some head shots copied off the holos. Then he takes the bag of contraband (body pistol, drug capsules, cigarettes, etc.) over to Ken Oshida at SolSec. Ken: "Surely this is a local matter?" Trevor: "Since you're the one who referred the case to me, I thought perhaps I should bring this to you first. But if you don't want it I can take it down to the PD, no sweat." Ken asks casually about what Trevor has found out. During the conversation, Trevor mentions "...she had a Vargr boyfriend, but..." Cups are being set down suddenly all over the station. Trevor: "...I think that was just teenage wildness." Ken: "Things must be very different where you come from." Trevor: "This isn't politics, just a teenager who isn't thinking." Ken: "Race is all about politics. And I'd like to know some more about her boyfriend." Trevor shrugs. "Well I don't even know his name, I just have this photo of him -" He produces the cropped still. Meanwhile Ken's Lieutenant has interjected himself into the conversation. To Trevor he says, "Who's your employer, if the girl is dead?" Trevor: "His last name is McNaughton. About the only thing I know about him is that he's former Solomani Navy." Lieutenant: "Captain McNaughton? I see. You did the right thing to bring this to us. We'll take over from here. Did she have any compromising photographs or holos? Diary or anything?" Trevor: <evading the question> "Well, I haven't figured out where she was living yet." Lieutenant: "Well, keep Ken apprised of what you find out. This is a very serious matter. Oh, and Ken, we have got a report of some kind of mutant geneered animal in the Rescue Station, Sector 4, Grid 6. It'll have to be picked up and destroyed." Oshida: "Yes sir. <to Trevor> Since we're going to be working together, want to come along?" Trevor: "What's with the animal pick up? Are engineered animals illegal here?" Trevor is beginning to develop a distaste for the Lieutenant's "agenda". Oshida: <as they walk out> "It's a controversial ruling, but those with human-like attributes are. There are some issues with the uplifted species, and it sort of carries over to some of the lower species. And the Lieutenant... well, if it isn't shiny and pink, with hair only on top and in the appropriate places, he doesn't want it around. So, care for some coffee?" Trevor: "Sure. How about if we catch a cup in here? <indicating a coffee shop> I just have to make a little side trip here, if you know what I mean..." Trevor walks toward the bathroom and out the side door. He then runs down the alley toward the Rescue Station. He runs in and grabs one of the uniformed men. "Quick, you have to get rid of the rat, they're coming to destroy him!" Rescue worker: "How did you know that we had him?" Trevor: "Never mind that, they're coming to take him away. Let's just say I'm a sucker for animals." Rescue Worker: "But it's just Whiskers!" Trevor: "Right. So you have to get rid of it before SolSec gets here! Here's my key, take him to my apartment." Rescue Worker: "What? Trevor" "They'll have the right to search the station. Take it to my apartment. You haven't seen me, I've got to run." Trevor darts off.

Rescue Worker: "C'mon, Whiskers, let's go for a walk." Whiskers is more than happy to go for a walk. Along the way they run into a woman and a little girl. The girl wants to pet Whiskers, but the woman pulls her away, telling her daughter "Don't touch that! You don't know where it's been." Whiskers: "Hey, I've been in the Rescue Station. I liked it there. You guys are nice." Woman: "It can talk! That's not right." Perhaps it is better that the rat find a new place to live.

Whiskers is taken down the street on the slidewalks, and to Trevor's apartment. Rescue Worker: "Now you stay here, and I'll come get you later. Try not to get into any trouble, okay?" Whiskers: "Can I watch the tri-dee and look for something to eat?" Rescue Worker: "Uh, sure." He leaves, and Whiskers goes looking for food in Trevor's cupboards. He doesn't make too much of a mess, and he does try to sweep up, with his tail, and puts it into a neat little pile. After a few minutes, Whiskers finds some meat in plastic (oh-oh - that would be the natural steak that Trevor found in the girl's room), which he gobbles down. They tasted just fine. Then he sits down in front of the tri-dee with a glass of milk. Voiceover: "...landing on the tree branch, where it's eaten." Whoa, wrong channel!

Ken suggests Trevor see a doctor about his diet or kidneys. Trevor: "Uh, yeah. Maybe I've been eating too much fiber." Ken: "Boy, you sure made the Lieutenant's day." [Referring to the potential political capital represented by the information on McNaughton] Oshida acknowledges in a diplomatic way that the Lieutenant is an ambitious jerk. After they have their coffee, they go off to the rescue station. Trevor waits outside, since it's official business. A couple of minutes later, Ken comes out. Ken: "It's that rat's lucky day I guess. He got out before we got here."

Trevor: "What about McNaughton? Will your lieutenant be satisfied with knowing his daughter had a fuzzy friend?" Oshida: "McNaughton comes from a group of very influential former service men and women. The LT would love to have McNaughton under his thumb. Besides, the Lieutenant gets a big charge out of bringing down anyone who's higher up on the food chain than he is, but you didn't hear it from me. He came up through the ranks, and has a boulder on each shoulder. Not very well educated, but with a certain animal cunning. Don't get me wrong, most of the people in my unit are there working for the good of the public. Just like in the police force, SolSec isn't able to weed out all the people who see public service as a way to gain power over others. But I've already said enough." Trevor: "Do you think that some of those other people in McNaughton's group, who might have known about what his daughter was doing, might of arranged an accident to keep him out of black mail range?" Oshida: "I wouldn't know. His group is made up entirely of old Naval officers, from good families, and of means, so it's hard to get some one inside. They know everyone. So if they did, it would be difficult to get any evidence on them." Trevor: "You might want to mention to your boss...." Oshida: "I've been told to keep my boss out of this, by his boss." Trevor: "You still might want to mention to your boss that if I'm going to get closer to these people, he can't use the information he has. My boss would know that the information had to come from me, so the LT has to wait, or I'm no good to him." Oshida: "We're not looking to destroy McNaughton and these other people, it's really for their own good. Sometimes people get involved in things when they're depressed or confused, without understanding what they're doing." Ken and Trevor part company.

Whiskers has been trying to fix the computer, and it's gone badly. When Trevor opens the door, the lights are flashing, the shower is going on and off, the furniture is setting and unsetting. Trevor: "Hey you! Get out of there!" Whiskers: "I was just trying to fix it when those pieces popped out. And my name is Whiskers." Trevor: "You can talk?" Whiskers: "Yes." Trevor: "I'm pleased to meet you, Whiskers. This is my apartment. I think we'd better call the maintenance person up here." He calls and tells the man that "something went wrong with my computer, and I tried to fix it." Maintenance: "You tried to fix it?!? <off to one side> Bill! Better grab your tools. We'll be up there in 15 minutes." The food processor is dropping out furry, green drumsticks, that sort of taste like a cross between popcorn and chicken. Fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rings. Trevor gets Whiskers to curl up in the corner behind the couch. This is going to be bad enough without him "helping" some more. Maintenance: "Good thing we came up here. Looks like one of your main feeder lines has some kind of corrosion going - we'll take care of that too." One of the men 'borrows' Trevor's fresher, and when he comes out he happens to catch site of Whiskers Bill: "Harry. Harry, there's a rat in here." Harry: "Bill, we're on level 86. Of course there's a rat there. It would be unusual for there to not be a rat." Bill: "Harry, it's a big rat." Harry: "Of course it is." Trevor: "It's my pet." Harry: <humoring him> "Right. Sure it is." Bill: "Harry, it's a really big rat!" Harry: <to Trevor> "You'll have to forgive Bill, he has a thing about rats." Bill: "I fell down an accessway when I was a kid. There were rats there. Lots of rats. .." As they're leaving, Harry is on the phone making a counselling appointment for poor Bill. But not before handing Trevor a bill for $250 Solars. Ouch! Hey, they are plumbers, and he did say he'd tried to fix it.

Mitchell isn't going to wear the same suit to his breakfast meeting with McNaughton, so he needs to go out and buy some casual clothes. Back to Joplin's for some more shopping. He's becoming such a clotheshorse.

Gabrielle is still the pet of the week in the clubhouse. One of the punks comes by in the morning and tosses some kind of protomeal onto the floor in front of Gabrielle. The wirehead nearby stims himself awake, offering some to Gabrielle, who doesn't want any. Cat's boyfriend comes back, with a couple of nasty-looking men with stylized crew cuts and black skindye jobs, in black tight-fitting clothing. Not leather, but black trenchcoats, black ripstop pants, black boots. Good grief, even the Senji wear more color. Man: "Where's Cat? We've got business." Boy: "Hey, chill dudes. Cat'll be around. Here, have some Blue Calm. Ah, there's my girl Cat!" Cat slinks in. Cat: "So, everything set?" Man: "Absolutely, prime stuff. All we need to do is discuss renumeration." Cat: "That's taken care of." Man: "Your Freebooter friends better not be late." Cat: "So, you bring me a sample? I don't want a repeat of last time." An auto-injector tube is handed over to Cat. Cat: "Hey Tabby, bring a needle over." Gabrielle tries to be unnoticed, but to no avail, as she's brought forward to where the meet is going on. Tabby: "You want I should calm her down first?" Cat: "No, I want the mind clear. <to Gabrielle> We need you to do us to do us a favor, Lucky. Tell us if you notice anything bad happening." Cat uses the auto-injector on Gabrielle.

Gabrielle feels incredibly cold, and awful, like she's dying as the drug moves through her system. Cat: "Ah, shit man! what kind of crap is this? She looks like death warmed over." Man: "How can you tell with all that makeup?" A few seconds later, heat explodes outward inside Gabrielle's body. She feels like everything is moving in slow motion, except her. She can smell the sweat on the smaller black guy; he's obviously nervous about being here. She can hear him blinking, she can hear a fly buzzing in the room next door. She hits the man holding her on the left, hitting him in the stomach (kidney shot). The guy's is obviously out of shape, and doubles over in pain. Then she turns to the man on her right, who's twisting her arm up behind her, but it's just dull pain, in the back in her mind. She's had worse, and recently. And that damn thing in her head is itching something fierce. Something makes a loud popping noise, probably her arm, but she ignores that and turns into the man, twisting his arm in a very unpleasant fashion. Someone in the room is screaming, and Gabrielle is pretty sure it's not her. She gets his arm off her and goes for that bitch Cat. As Gabrielle moves towards her, she sees the blades just coming out of Cat's hand. Gabrielle is feeling really good right about now, probably from the endorphins being released in response to the pain. She hits Cat in the center of the chest, and Cat goes flying backwards. Gabrielle felt a lot of resistance, and her hand feels like there's something grating inside. Cat's laying on the ground, her leather (and armored) bustier having taken on an odd shape, and is drawing something out of her pocket when Gabrielle goes for the door. The door is locked, but Gabrielle kicks it. Obviously cheap construction, it flies open, off the hinges. The punks are apparently throwing things at Gabrielle, since she feels several small objects hit her back. Then she's down the short hallway and out into the crowd.

Mitchell and Trevor, both en route to the breakfast meeting with McNaughton, see a wild-looking female in punk black and white makeup, one arm hanging, the other arm bloody up to the elbow, running incredibly fast through the crowd. Gabrielle starts to stagger, feeling coldness creep outward from where the punks hit her in the back with whatever they threw at her (that would be the bullets). Mitchell: <thinking> "That's what we have police for." Trevor hits the emergency button on his communicator, requesting police and medical assistance. He also sees several other people in similar black & white makeup, along with two men with black dye jobs, come out into the crowd. One of them starts to point something at the girl, but puts it quickly into his pocket when he sees that people may be watching; they continue to move towards the girl. Trevor doesn't feel like just doing nothing, so he ducks into a sporting goods store. After some very quick dickering he buys a synthetic baseball bat for $20 and takes it, unwrapped. He then exits the store heading towards the female.

As he approaches, Trevor can see blood on the girl's back, and some silvery splinters. Tranq, and enough of it to take down your friendly neighborhood crazed elephant. One of the black-dressed guys flashes a badge or ID of some kind at the crowd, telling them to "Keep back". He then turns to one of the black & white boys, and says "No comebacks." The man moves his hand and about 12 inches of polished steel appears. Trevor jogs up and steps into the swing. Batter up!! Trevor hits the man and the bat goes completely limp. Man: "Ow!" Trevor then notices the safety logo on the bat. Damn the high tech safety! The man in black now turns his attention to Trevor, turning his tube like weapon toward him, as Trevor drops and slides at the man's feet. Trevor hears a scream, and sees a bystander's head and shoulder literally disintegrate before they hit the ground. Trevor hits the black man in the legs, and is really annoyed that the man just does a 360 degree flip in the air. What the...? Are all the bad guys in this place enhanced acrobats or something?!? Trevor is missed by the man's sharpened metal tentacle (appearing out of what used to be his left arm) as it shoots by.

Mitchell decides to go shopping too, and steps into the sporting goods store. Golf is Mitch's game, and he takes a titanium club and some balls out onto the sidewalk to test. The clerk is perplexed, but doesn't interfere, not wanting to leave the cash register, or lose a sale.

Trevor hits his opponent, but the man's coat goes rigid. Trevor grabs the man, who is attempting to flee, from behind, then feels the tentacle thing wrap around his back. Trevor throws himself backwards, onto the tentacle, and tries to kick the bad guy in the head. Gabrielle is still trying to get away from the people - any people, but everything is moving and bending, and she's not feelling right. The other man in black approaches her, trying to give her a cigar or a pipe or something. She tries to bat it away. Trevor misses kicking his man in the head. Mitchell tees up, and takes his best shot - at the man Trevor is fighting with., with the titanium driver, visualizing the green 300 yards away. Fore!

Good shot!! It hits the man right in the front of the throat, crushing his trachea, and sticking there for a few seconds. Then everyone has to dodge the madly flailing, sharp tentacle as it cuts the slidewalk rail, and flashes around. Trevor then goes after the other man in black, who's pointing his finger or something at the girl. Trevor gets up, charges, and does a flying tackle on the bad man. Mitchell switches his attention to the people in the black & white facepaint. They're hanging back, and Mitchell has a fairly good shot. I wonder what his starport handicap is?

Man: <to Gabrielle> "Hey, it's nothing personal." Then he drops down as Trevor clips him hard in the back of the knees. That was a great hit! The man goes down hard, snapping forward into the pavement, face first. The man in front of Gabrielle just suddenly drops out of sight. She stumbles off. Mitchell's drive hits one of the punks right in the middle of the chest; he doubles over and slinks off, passed by his associate, who is suddenly alone.

Mitchell returns to the Sporting Goods store. Salesman: "Well, what do you think sir?" Mitchell: "Do you have the rest of the set?" Salesman: "Of course sir!" Mitchell: "Have them sent to this address." He gives the man his card, and charges the 600 Solars. Damn fine clubs; Mitchell has excellent taste. And none of those pesky safety devices to deal with.

Trevor is still wrestling with the other man in black, laying on top of him as he kicks. Trevor reaches around and grabs for the man's privates. The well-fitted, padded jockstrap gets in the way. Well. The boys in blue are finally here, and hose the whole general area with stunners. Gabrielle is hit, but it's just sort of a general buzzing, and she keeps going. Mitchell sees her, and sees people around her go down when they're not being hit directly. The cops try stunning her repeatedly, but can't bring her down. They're confused about what to do, since the stunners always work. Gabrielle continues to stagger onward, tossing a barrier out of the way, and then disappearing from view. Wow, she teleported! (Well, no, she fell down an accessway that was blocked by the "Men Working" barrier.)

Over by the pile of stunned people. Young cop: "Sir, I think this one's...dead." Older cop: "You sure?" Young cop: "No sir. I've never seen a... dead body sir." The older cop goes over and checks. Older cop: "Yup, he's croaked." He picks up a golf ball and holds it in front of the dent on the throat. Yeah, that matches. Ah, the "mechanism of injury", but how would that happen? Mitchell goes off to breakfast, as Trevor is rounded up with the other stunned people, and put into the paddy wagon. Their hands and feet are put into high tech shackles that keep them feeling completely numb. They can sort things out at the station.

Mitchell, who habitually gets up really early any way, is too early to go to the restaurant. He'll get some coffee. He asks the clerk at the sporting goods store to recommend one, but he doesn't drink that nasty coffee. He only drinks good synthetic stuff. If he hadn't already made the sale... Mitchell really wants to get back into space. He needs some Marines to shout at or something. Mitchell finds his own, proper coffee shops, and orders real coffee. Black. Coffee clerk: "What kind of coffee sir?" The man rattles of 30-odd coffee types. Mitchell: "I'll start with the A's. Black Arabica, medium roast." Clerk: "Cream sir?" Mitchell: "No, I said black." Clerk: "Sugar?" Mitchell: "No, I said black." Clerk: "Whipped cream?" Mitchell: "No, I said black." What part of "black" doesn't he understand? This is beginning to seem like a cheese shop. Clerk: "Very good sir. Scone?" Mitchell: "No, just coffee." Clerk: "Bagel?" Mitchell: "No." Clerk: "Croissant?" Mitchell: "No." Clerk: "Doughnut?" Mitchell: "No." Clerk: "Crueller?" Mitchell: "No." Clerk: "Here you go sir, that will be 3 Solars." At last! Mitchell takes his coffee and wanders over to the nearest police station. You never know, he may end up here some day, might as well find out where it is.

In the aforementioned station, where Trevor is massaging his ankles. Police Lieutenant: "Who are you and what were you doing?" Trevor: "I saw a female who was obviously injured and staggering, and was being pursued by several men. So I pushed my com button to summon you guys." Lieutenant: "So you know the female?" Trevor: "No". Lieutenant: "You jumped into the fray for a perfect stranger? You're not exactly a cop who used his brains." Trevor: "I guess that's why I'm no longer a cop." Lieutenant: "That's right. This was police business." Trevor: "They were going to kill her." Lieutenant: "You should have let the police take care of it." This is followed by the now usual threats about what will be done to him if he is found to be causing trouble in this precinct at any time in the future.

Since the media will probably put Trevor up as a hero, the police decline to press charges, this time, but Trevor gets another lecture on vigilanteism. Trevor makes notes of the Lieutenant's name, and which precinct it is, so he can cross it off his map and not get into trouble in this particular precinct again. The Lieutenant doesn't want Trevor to speak to the press right there, so he is driven to the edge of the precinct and let go. He has five minutes to make his meeting.

Mitchell, relaxing with his coffee, sees the news footage. The cameras caught the "projectile" [read: "golf ball"] in flight, but not where it came from. Lucky for Mitch.

Gabrielle has fallen down a hole into a hall of sorts. There are several workers hanging loose by their safety straps, stunned; they looked up to see what was going on at the wrong moment. Gabrielle staggers off in the direction she's pointed, ignoring the shouts of the police to "Stay where you are, or there'll be trouble. We're coming down to get you." She stumbles down the arcology's equivalent of a sewer tunnel until a man in a black bodysuit drops in front of her. Man: "Yo. Paint. What you doing in Jacques [Note: pronounced "jock".] territory?" He reaches down and pulls out a knife. Gabrielle: "My name's not Paint." Man: "I don't care who you are. I know what you are. Paint's don't come into Jock territory." She turns to go, but one of them drops in front of her that way. Gabrielle: "Just leave me alone." Man: "Oh no, you're coming with us to see the Captain. You can walk, or we can drag you. Your choice." She's too tired to argue and follows them deeper into the tubes. Some time later they have her sit down on the lip of something and push her down a huge waterslide-like thing. She's not together enough to land right in the water, and starts to drown. Someone grabs her from behind and yells at her. She eventually figures out he's telling her to "Put your feet down!" Oh. She stands up. She's in a shallow tank, with little fishes in it.

Man: "Come. We must take you to the Captain." Gabrielle: "Please, I'm tired." They escort her to a deep tank, put something against the side of the tank and call the captain, who shows up a few moments later, in a small submarine. Captain: "So, what have we here?" The tale is told of the finding of the Paint who claims to not be a Paint. Gabrielle: "I'm not a Paint." Man: "You sure look like a Paint." Gabrielle: "It wasn't my choice...." Captain: "It wasn't your choice to come into the territory controlled by the Jacques?" Gabrielle: "I fell." They take her into another room full of odd pipes, colored things everywhere, suits on the walls (diving?). An odd sort of tribal council is formed, with the captain putting on a kind of knitted hat (ceremonial headgear?) and presiding. Captain: "Well, what are we to do with this Paint who says she's not a Paint, who's come here to the land of the Jacques?" One of the rubber suited members pipes up with: "Let her sleep with the fishes, that's what I say." Another says "Whatever the Captain says." Captain: <to Gabrielle> "You look tired and hungry. Bring her some food. So, Paint, tell your story, you look like you have one to tell." Gabrielle tells them about being taken by the Paints from her apartment, held against her will, and as much of the drugged episode as she can put together in a vaguely coherent fashion. Captain: "And you can prove any of this? Or are you just saying this because you know Jacques don't make war on civilians?" Gabrielle: "I don't even know who the Jacques are!" Captain: "We are the Jacques." Gabrielle: <exhausted> "I don't care if you believe me or not. Do whatever you want. I don't care." Captain: "If you are not a Paint, then you would do well to not wear their colors." Gabrielle: "I already told you - it wasn't my choice." This isn't going well. During this pointless exchange, Gabrielle loses consciousness.

Trevor has made it to the restaurant where he's to meet McNaughton. Maitre d': "Do you have a reservation, sir?" Trevor: "I'm with the McNaughton party." Maitre d': "This way sir." Trevor is taken to the McNaughton table, where Mitchell is already waiting. He looks great, having just spent the morning hitting a few balls. McNaughton: "Ah, that would be Mr. Cavernon." McNaughton is looking somewhat oddly at Trevor, but doesn't say a thing. McNaughton: <to the waiter> "You'll have to excuse Mr. Cavernon, he's a private investigator. <to Trevor> I must say you've captured the flavor and milieu very nicely." Mitchell: "He certainly has no trouble at all stepping up to the plate." Trevor sneaks a glare at Mitchell, who he did not see hit the golf balls, but did see on the tri-dee yelling orders on the burning ship. Trevor: "Believe one tenth of what you hear." McNaughton: "This is Captain Mitchell Taylor, a former associate of mine, who has agreed to assist me, or rather you on this." Trevor: "Glad to have you." McNaughton: "Mr. Cavernon, I've certainly been entertained by your tales of derring-do." Trevor: "I feel so much better now. Like I said, believe one tenth of what you hear." McNaughton: "Please feel free to speak in front of the Captain, as you would in front of me. I trust him implicitly." Trevor: "Captain McNaughton, your daughter was involved in some things that could be harmful for your career. Before I continue, you have to decide if it's worth it." McNaughton: "How can I live with myself knowing that the person responsible for this is smiling in the mirror, pleased with himself at having gotten away with it? I want the man who did this to pay." Trevor: "One of the possibility is, you have a number of friends who are former Naval officers, and if one of them found the activities that your daughter was involved in were.." McNaughton: "No. I've known these men for 20 years. No. You're barking up the wrong tree. I suggest you look elsewhere." Trevor: "I'm just telling you what I've found out. If you can't accept the possibility..." He hands a photo of the Vargr to Mitchell, who looks at it and hands it to McNaughton. McNaughton: "What is this?" Trevor: "Sir, I don't want you to be unnecessarily burdened by the knowledge of your daughter's activities." Mitchell: "I believe that if what you're implying is the sort of thing that could be used against Captain McNaughton, he would be better off knowing beforehand." McNaughton: "Mitchell, please handle this." McNaughton leaves Mitchell to handle Trevor. Trevor: "His daughter was indiscrete enough to be taped in compromising position, or positions, with this Vargr." Ew. Brief pause while Mitchell fights the gag reflex.

Mitchell: "So what was that altercation in the mall?" Trevor: "I don't know. There was this woman in need of medical attention, and these men came after her. They were trying to get her somewhere quiet, and I couldn't allow that. When they tried to kill her, I decided to intervene. That's when I went for the Louisville slugger. By the way, I saw your little airship escapade. Been flying them long?" Mitchell: "No. First time."

Gabrielle wakes up later, feeling much better. She's no longer wearing paint, her hair is clean, and someone has removed her "costume" and replaced it with skintight black clothing. Man: "How are you feeling?" Gabrielle: "Better." Her left arm is sore and slightly swollen, but has evidently been popped back into place. Her right hand still makes a painful grinding when she flexes it. Man: "Don't do that. I did all I could, but you should go see a real doctor when you leave here. The Captain wants to see you now." She's led out to one of the really big tank, this time with a dolphin looking over the top. Dolphin: "She one?" Captain: "Yes, she's the one." The dolphin looks intently at Gabrielle. Dolphin: "She pretty. Not bad." Captain: "Are you sure?" Dolphin: "Fa sure." Gabrielle walks over, fascinated, and asks if she can touch him. Captain: "Yes, go ahead." She touches the dolphin, carefully, and Fa likes it. Gabrielle has a very slight nosebleed, but doesn't think anything of it.

Captain: "The dolphin is... very perceptive. He says you're a good person, not a Paint. He believes your story." Gabrielle: <to Fa> Thank you." Captain: "Here, takes this. <he gives her a knitted hat like thing> This will be a sign to my people that you are under my protection. My men will lead you out of here. Be careful though, we ran what you had of ID on you, and someone has 'jacked it. They've got someone living in your apartment, as you." This means Gabrielle effectively doesn't exist. What does she do now?

Mitchell has gone back to Trevor's apartment with him. Trevor: "You don't have a problem with rats do you? I have a pet rat. <pause> He's rather big." Mitchell: "Few things bother me." He thinks, but doesn't say, once he sees Whiskers, "He said 'big rat'. He didn't say 'huge 4 foot tall, semi-sentient, giant rat', which would have been more accurate." Whiskers: <to Mitchell> "Do you have any beef jerky?" Mitchell: "Uh, no. <to himself> Huge, semi-sentient, giant talking rat..." Whiskers: "Could you bring some with you next time?" Mitchell: "I'll try to remember."

Trevor and Mitchell go over the phone numbers in Rebecca McNaughton's little black book, trying to find something useful. All of the numbers are apparently business owned, not personal numbers; the businesses lease out the communicators. Mitchell: "Well, we could try calling one of them." Trevor agrees, and they randomly pick a number and call. They hear wind and thrumming in the background. "Yeah, who is it?" Trevor: "My name is Trevor, and I'm a friend of Rebecca." Man: "'Bout damned time she called! I've been sitting on this stuff forever! When's she coming to get it?" Trevor: "She can't make the pickup herself. Where can we meet?" Man:"She gets her stuff when I get mine. The usual place, tomorrow, noon." <click> Trevor: "Well, that wasn't very helpful. Except I can't believe she'd be stupid enough to sell this stuff." Mitchell: "I don't know if this helps, but Captain McNaughton said one of her friends was named Zach. He said another one was named Boony, but I think that was a classification rather than an actual name." They're about to call another number when Rebecca's communicator rings. Trevor: "Hello?" Strangely accented voice: "Who is this?" Trevor: "My name's Trevor. Who's this?" Voice: "A friend of Rebecca's. Tell her to call me, on my private line." Trevor: "She's not likely to do that any time soon." <pause> Voice: "Why do you say that?" Trevor: "Because she's dead." There's a choking sound on the other end. Voice: "What do you mean she's dead?" Trevor: "We need to talk , but not over the phone line. Meet me at Community Square at noon tomorrow." Voice: "No. You want to talk to me, you meet me at Rainbow Community tomorrow - no, day after - at 10:00 AM." <click>

They look it up and "Rainbow Community" is a private, floating Freebooter commune. It would take about 15 minutes or so to get there, if it's where they say it will be. It's an older community, and as a Freebooter community, the "owners" aren't registered. Mitchell: "Maybe we should make a stop before leaving the arcology." Trevor: "Where?" Mitchell: "A bonding agent." Trevor: "You have adhesive problems?" Mitchell: "No, no, I left my sidearm with a bonded agent, and I'd like to pick it up." Trevor reminds Mitchell that firearms are illegal on the planet, not just the arcology. Besides, "I expect they're going to search us when we get there any way." Mitchell: "You're right. Maybe I should just bring my golf clubs. I bought a new set today." He smiles at Trevor. Trevor: "For the first time I understand why they call them driving ranges."

Gabrielle is escorted to her own place so she can be shown that some one who resembles her really is living in her apartment. Man: "There's an apartment nearby that you can use. The new owners won't arrive to move in for two weeks, so you can have some time to get things together." Gabrielle: "Thank you." She feels the back of her neck. Man: "Oh, the Captain said you might want this." He hands over an envelope, which Gabrielle opens. There's a small electronic device with a long, thin wire. Man: "It kind of...came out when you fell asleep." Gabrielle: "Thank you. If I can do anything for you... I know I'm frelling useless right now..." Man: "That's okay. Hey, if you ever need some where to go, you know where we are. Just look for water." He gets Gabrielle into her temporary digs, gives her the key, and leaves. Out the door, not by diving into the drain.