"A peck of troubles. "-- Apothegms, Desiderius Erasmus


With Gabrielle and Trevor laid up until tomorrow, at least, Mitchell and Malcolm go in search of an inn, caravansary, or hostel. And if the latter proves a bit too hostile, they'll try for an inn. The hotel is found in the bottom of the commune arcology, and part of the floor of their room is transparent aluminum. Pretty spectacular, for a view of nothing. Seems familiar to Mitchell. The rooms are $50 Solars each, so they decide to share the room, as it has two beds. And it is a big room - almost as big as Mitchell's apartment. Malcolm turns on the tri-dee, and finds -- Jenghe Rescue! Granted, it's an episode from last season, but he's travelled across space, only to find Jenghe Rescue! Or he can listen to subversive radio. That sounds better. It's a low budget, non-high production value report of the news. Reporting events that are being reported on the regular news, but with a different spin, and actual footage of violence. Like SolSec soldiers beating up civilians. Not that this ever happens in Solomani space.

In the meantime, Trevor has finally come around, and wakes up in the Place of Healing. Trevor is filled in on where he is, and the fact that there was some concern when he didn't wake up normally after the Regen™. He gets left in his room to watch the same tri-dee news reports.

Mitchell takes a look at the news report and thinks "They got the uniforms all wrong. SolSec never would have done this. Or at least they wouldn't have been caught on tape." Malcolm was hoping for more stuff on Freebooters, but no such luck. There is a report on the clandestine violence between the arcologies, and the nasty corporate war between Alderson Transport and Hubline Incorporated. A sanctioned corporate war, currently recruiting mercs for a TL 5 op. Oh yeah, just what Malcolm is anxious to get into. Oh, and it will be televised! At least in places like the Rainbow Commune. Malcolm: "Pay for View warfare?" Well, yes, actually. There's a whole sub-culture of people who follow the corporate wars. Their magazine is called "Fracas". There are personalities, and the wars are kept to lower tech (generally TL 7 or below, except for the medical gear), so that the viewers can follow the action. [Sounds like a bizarre amalgamation of WWF and Soldier of Fortune.] Now, the interplanetary wars are much more high tech, and nastier. Not too much of that in this subsector though. After a few minutes, Mitchell gets really bored. Mitchell: <thinking> "Typical Imperial - he commandeered the remote." Mitchell decides to get some shut-eye.


Sergeant Gerard returns to further harass - make that question Gabrielle. Since she's strong enough to be questioned. Gerard: "You seem like a nice person, I don't know why you're caught up with scum like this. We got this Imperial who claims to be a tourist, hanging out with an Naval officer who was drummed out of the corps. And Cavernon. What are they up to? Really." Gabrielle: "I don't know what they're up to." Gerard: "You could find out. I know you're a good citizen." Instead of trying the heavy routine, he's decided to be nice, Gerard: "I know you don't want to get into any trouble, you just got involved with the wrong element. I know I don't want to see anything happen to you. If you find anything out, just call me." He leaves Gabrielle his card.

After breakfast, and a discussion of what they know, or think they know - the hunter was a pro, and the hunter's hunters were pros, and Mitchell figures at least one side was SolSec - Mitchell and Malcolm head back to the "Place of Healing". En route, Mitchell picks up some flowers for Gabrielle, and Malcolm buys a proper, wooden cane (cruelty free of course). Malcolm gets a traditional hooked cane out of oak for $75 Solars, and Mitchell buys two small mixed flower arrangements, one he has sent to Gabrielle's room, the other he takes with him.

Off to the Place of Healing. Trevor is informed that his "body was healed, but the spirit needed more time. But your body and spirit are one now." They even brought in a shaman for him. Pity he missed that while he was asleep.

Shortly after the flowers arrive at Gabrielle's room, Mitchell and Malcolm do. Mitchell: "Good morning." Gabrielle: "Good morning." Mitchell: "I see the flowers arrived." Gabrielle: "The flowers are lovely, thank you." Mitchell: "Have you had breakfast?" Gabrielle: "Not yet." Mitchell: "Is there anything I can get you?" Gabrielle: "Not really, I don't know when they're letting me go." At that moment, the doctor sashays in. Doctor: "So, how are we doing today?" Gabrielle: "Much better, thank you." Doctor: "Well, it looks like you'll be able to leave us today, once our counsellor checks in on you. Take it easy for the next day or two, and do try to avoid any high velocity metal fragments." A man in a turtleneck sweater, and a jacket with leather elbow patches comes in, and the doctor introduces him as the counselor. Counselor: "Are you sleeping all right? No nightmares? After all, you were the victim of a violent crime." Gabrielle: "No, but I think I was too tired to do anything but sleep last night." Doctor: <to Mitchell and Malcolm> "Perhaps we should step outside and give Miss Vanek some privacy." They leave, Mitchell making sure Gabrielle knows they'll be nearby. Counselor: "Gabrielle isn't it?" Gabrielle: "Yes." Counselor: "Please call me Jim. I just thought we'd have a little chat, see how you're doing. <glancing at her chart> Getting ready to be discharged....Everything going okay?" Gabrielle: "I suppose so..." Jim: "When you say 'I suppose so', that indicates that there's some underlying tension. Is there something you'd like to talk about?"

Mitchell and Malcolm go to check on Trevor, who's engrossed in the grav-ball game on tri-dee. Mitchell: "There's our boy! You did a great job of getting our grav-vehicle back." Trevor: <somewhat confused> "I did?" Mitchell: "Absolutely. Oh, by the way, these are for you." He gives Trevor the other flowers. Trevor: <eyebrow raised> "Is this a Navy thing? All those men, alone in space..." Mitchell: "They weren't for you originally." Malcolm: "After you went sleepy-bye, the remaining short haired guy shot the blonde in the head." Trevor: "I had a hunch something like that was his plan. But they acted like cops." Malcolm: "You also missed the opportunity to interact with one of Freemantle's finest." Trevor: "I'm on Rainbow Commune." Malcolm: "They have some sort of exchange program for law enforcement. It was a sergeant something." Mitchell: "Detective Sergeant Gerard." Trevor <looking at the tri-dee>: "Yes! Yes!!" They only have half of Trevor's attention, the rest being focused firmly on grav-ball.

Malcolm: "It seems our girl may have had a second target." Mitchell: "Or at least a secondary one." Trevor: "Who?" Malcolm: "You." Trevor: "Me?" Malcolm: "Yeah, she had photos of you talking to some upperclass Solomani named McNaughton, and of the fuzzy." Trevor: "Really?" Malcolm: "So what's our next clever plan?" Trevor: "I don't know that staying here on Rainbow Commune will get us anywhere." Malcolm: "Do you know the Vargr's name?" Trevor: "Yes." Mitchell: "I've got another name we can check on." Trevor: "There's no reason to believe he'd be here, and not living on Freemantle. What's the name?" Malcolm: "As long as it's not Boonie." Mitchell: "No, I know what Boonie means. It's Zack." Trevor: "Just Zack?" Mitchell: "Just Zack. And he's a Freebooter." That doesn't really narrow it down, since Rainbow Commune is the largest non-aligned arcology. Trevor: "On the other hand, people generally go to familiar territory if they're going to do something dangerous, so the fuzzy may been known there, by the bartender maybe." Mitchell: "Well, you've got the best chance of any of us to find out that sort of information." Trevor: "Why's that?" Mitchell: "You're the private detective. My background involves blowing planets into little pieces." Malcolm: "From space, in a big ship." Trevor: "There's something to be said for that." Now they just need a big ship. Mitchell: "And you do have the rabid Imperial." Trevor: "Maybe I can just threaten them with my friends."

Now there are some clothing issues. Fortunately, the blouse Malcolm got for Gabrielle is peasant style, with drawstrings, so it's adjustable, and the skirt has an elastic waist, so they mostly fit. Trevor just gets on the computer and orders up some new clothing - chinos and an aged neo-leather jacket, and a cotton shirt. They all have the pre-rumpled look, but Trevor can deal with that at home later. He'll be billing his employer for the $180 Solars, expenses you know. Ouch. Trevor might have been shot, but he's got style! Trevor: "Right, let's go to the bar." Mitchell: "Maybe we should go to the parking lot first." Trevor: "Why? We don't have a car." They want Trevor to look at the blonde's car, explaining that someone using Trevor's name returned their vehicle to the rental agency.

The boys stop by to pick up Gabrielle, who is dressed and ready to go. Mitchell: "We have a few errands to run before we leave, want to come?" Gabrielle: "I'm having a flashback." Mitchell: "I'll understand if you say no." Malcolm: "Maybe we should let her in on what's going on first." Trevor: "Do you want to know?" Mitchell: "And if you want to know, how much do you want to know?" Malcolm: "I'm not sure I want to know." Mitchell: "You already know." Malcolm: "Damn." Trevor: "Let's walk and talk." They leave the "place of healing".

Trevor: "We're trying to figure out what happened to some one named Rebecca McNaughton. Captain McNaughton hired me to look into his daughter's death, which the police believe was suicide, but her father believes was murder. We came to the Rainbow Commune to speak with one of the daughter's friends, who was the Vargr that was killed by the blonde. I'm trying to find out where the blonde came from, and the short haired guys, and if they're connected to McNaughton's daughter." Mitchell: "I'm involved because Captain McNaughton is a former associate of mine." Malcolm: "And I'm involved because if there's something bad that might get across the border." Mitchell: "what?" Malcolm: "Anything that can reproduce the effects of Frenzy but give out readings like for an AP, it's not good for any side." All this has not done a great deal to allay Gabrielle's concerns about hanging out with these people.

They get the keys from the parking attendant, and go out to the sportster. Mitchell watches the attendant's shack while Trevor checks out the car. The attendant is hunched over his vid-comm. Mitchell: "We may not have much time." A van comes up and pays for his parking fee, then parks right beside the convertible. Driver: "Hi. Need any help?" Trevor and Mitchell: "No." The driver really wants to help, as "mechanical stuff - that's my hobby". Trevor: "We don't have any mechanical problems." Driver: "Are you sure? I'm pretty good." Malcolm: "Did you do the van yourself?" Driver: "Yeah, but I had help. Hey Frankie! Now you aren't going to give us any trouble are you?" He pushes open the side door, revealing three other men, one of whom has a shotgun. Trevor dives under the van as the door opens, Mitchell and Malcolm drop behind the car (they're on the far side of the car), and Gabrielle, who was sitting on the hood of the car, doesn't move, so as to not draw fire from the shotgunner.

Two men emerge from the van, wearing black dusters, The man with the shotgun stays in the van. Trevor kicks one of the men in the back of the leg from below the van, knocking one bad guy off balance, and the other legs disappear and the door slams - that means there's a driver in the van, so Trevor gets ready to move rather than get run over. Gabrielle slowly starts to move towards the front of the hood, where there's a low wall. Trevor yells "Grenade!" The bad guys don't know he doesn't have one.

Malcolm is crawling around the back of the sportster, which is where the limping bad guy with a submachine gun is headed. Mitchell is crawling around the front of the car, which is where the bad guy with the handgun is going. Mitchell gets out his multi-tool and deploys the pliers as the bad guy points his gun at Gabrielle's face in an intimidating fashion - she puts on the harmless female look and stops. The driver of the van guns the engine.

Malcolm whacks the one man in the right elbow, but the bad guy's left-handed. Damn. Malcolm is then shot in the chest and there's a loud ripping noise. Fortunately, Malcolm brought his own cloth armour with him, so it doesn't kill him. Mitchell, after the (he hopes) distraction of the gunshot, attacks the man in front with the multi-tool in hand, hitting him in the lower torso. Pity that the duster acts as jack armor. The gun is now redirected towards Mitchell, shooting him in the classic left shoulder. It's a flesh wound. Gabrielle takes out some of her frustration by kicking the bad guy in the gut with both feet, sending him backwards over the low wall. There's a yell, a hornblast from a car on the level below, and a loud thump! Mitchell picks up the fallen, odd-looking handgun which the bad guy dropped as he went over the wall. The temporarily forgotten shotgunner in the side door shoots Malcolm, again in the chest, sending him sprawling onto the ground behind the van, which then backs over his right arm. Ow. Not broken, but definitely ow. Trevor, who was prepared for the van to back up, rolls out of the way. The van clips the car as it backs up and turns, which distracts the guy with the subgun. Trevor pulls Malcolm out of the way, grabbing him by his injured arm. Mitchell hears screams of "Oh my God, I'm so sorry! Somebody call an ambulance!" from the level below. Oops.

Gabrielle rolls off the hood of the sportster. Mitchell tries to shoot the submachinegunner, but the pistol doesn't fire. The intended target ignores Mitchell and dives into the van as it accelerates off. Mitchell looks down to the lower level, and sees a booted foot sticking out from under a big, Cadillac-sized car. The woman evidently hit the man and skidded with him under the car. Since Malcolm's injuries aren't penetrating wounds, he strips off his vest at Trevor's urging, and Trevor flags down the ambulance coming for the man down below. Malcolm has obviously been hit by the van that hit the sportster. Malcolm tells the EMT's about the man who "jumped down below to get away from the van", but one look below tells them he's no rush anymore. Trevor leaves in the ambulance with Malcolm, after telling the EMT's about the "hit and run"; the police will be called.

The ambulance leaves, and the police will be arriving soon. Mitchell: "We better leave." Gabrielle decides to check the hood, since the men have been busily trying to get into the trunk. The hood opens right up, revealing the engine, and a small compartment with a briefcase in it. Ah. It's a really heavy briefcase, so Gabrielle lets Mitchell carry it, and she closes the trunk. They leave the area before the cops show up.

Trevor and Malcolm end up back at the Place of Healing. Again. The ink has barely dried on their discharge papers, and here they are again. Malcolm: <to the paramedics> "There was some other guy, and he was running away, and he jumped." Trevor: "We don't know what the heck was going on. Maybe it was a drug deal gone bad." The local police have shown up here too. Malcolm: "There were loud noises..." Malcolm's now on drugs, so it's no real use talking to him anyway. It will take four hours of work to get him fixed up, mostly. Trevor gets some medical calm, which he takes. Cool.

Mitchell takes Gabrielle back to the hotel room, sets down the briefcase, and goes into the bathroom. He peels off his bloodsoaked jacket and shirt, dropping them into the bathtub. Gabrielle uses the towels and some ice on Mitchell's injuries, and orders him a carafe of carrot juice (that's what he wanted), then she rinses out his clothing for him, before he hurts himself further. Mitchell takes out the gun and puts it into the nightstand by the bed without messing with it. Then he checks out the briefcase, which only has a little bit of blood on it. He is rather pathetically trying to clean off the case when Gabrielle sees him. Gabrielle: "Why don't you sit down and just tell me what you want me to do." Mitchell: "Right. Let's see what we've got in the case, although from the weight I have a pretty good idea. Can you get it open?" Gabrielle: "I'll try." She puts the metallic, high tech looking case onto a table, and checks it out. The lock is very high tech, and looks like it's keyed to a thumbprint or something. No regular lock. Mitchell: "Are you any good at opening these kind of things?" Gabrielle: "I don't know, I've never tried before." Mitchell: "Well, I do have a multi-tool, we can give it a try." Gabrielle: "Okay, give it to me." An hour later, one hinge is off, and Gabrielle has a few scrapes and bruises on her hands, and they're both sore from gripping the tool. She stops for a while and runs cold water on her hands.

Mitchell: "You're relatively uninjured, right?" Gabrielle: "Yes." Mitchell: "Some one should go check on Trevor and Malcolm. I promise to stay put and be good." Gabrielle goes to the clinic, where Trevor is sitting there very calmly watching grav-ball. Very calmly. Gabrielle: "Trevor? Is everything okay?" Trevor: "Yes. Everything is fine." Gabrielle: "We're in the hotel room." Trevor: "What hotel room?" Gabrielle tells him where it is, and that "Malcolm knows where it is." Trevor: "Are you two all right?" Gabrielle: "Mostly. Nothing life threatening I don't think." She leaves before more police show up.

Before going back to the hotel, Gabrielle gets directions to a general/hardware type store. Once there, the female of the "Mom and Pop" operation offers to help. Gabrielle: "I need a small, lightweight pry bar of some sort, and some work gloves." The woman looks at her hands. "I guess you do." Gabrielle leaves with a 2' titanium pry bar and some stout work gloves. All for only $22 Solars. She looks like a local as far as dress is concerned, and hopes to have not attracted too much attention. Then it's back to the hotel.

While he's alone, Mitchell takes the opportunity to play around with the pistol. He first ejects the magazine, then racks the slide (very hard, and painful to do right now), ejecting another round. He then empties the magazine completely, reinserts it into the gun, and eventually figures out the safeties on the 9mm, which he then reloads. Gabrielle returns, with tools. She quickly pops the remaining lock on the back, and finishes off the other lock. Putting the pry bar into the little gap in the back, she can see that there are interlocking teeth that secure the case when it's locked. Damn.

Trevor and Malcolm show up, first knocking, then using the key, then calling "We're here!" before entering. Never hurts to be cautious. Malcolm medics Mitchell, and properly patches up his injury. Gabrielle is only too happy to hand over the job of getting the case open to Malcolm. It's not going to be easy. Trevor: "I wish the rat was here, he can get into anything." Whiskers, who is currently in training with the local acrobatics troupe (he came over in the trunk of grav-car - no one told Gabrielle). Trevor: "I guess I can ask his new friends if I can borrow him for a while." Gabrielle: "I think I'll go get a drink. I'll be in the hotel lounge." She leaves the room, not wanting to deal with the big, talking rat. (It is not a phobia. Giant talking rats just aren't right.)

In the lounge, Gabrielle takes a seat at a small table, and is joined rather quickly by a very friendly man. Man: "Hello there. What's your sign? I'm a Gemini." Before Gabrielle has a chance to respond to this, a man's voice from above the lounge lizard pipes in with "Hey, Gemini, take a walk." Gemini: "And who do you think you - <looking way up> okay." He retreats. An extremely tall man in a well-cut suit is standing by the table. Man: "Is this seat taken?" The very large man sits down. Gabrielle: "I guess it is now." Man: <sitting> "What are you drinking? Bartender!"

Whiskers is brought to the hotel room, and shown the briefcase, which the rat examines, sniffs around and pokes at for quite a while. Trevor: "Can you open it?" Whiskers: "I guess." He carefully levers the heavy case up and then drops it. That does it. The case springs open. Whiskers goes back to practice with the local circus group, after being rewarded with some carrot juice. The case is carefully peeked into, and contains a 20mm X 250mm metallic tube. Hmm. The tube is capped on both ends, with nicely machined endcaps. A really big pipe bomb?

Man: "There's someone who'd really like to speak with you. Shall we go?" At least he waited until Gabrielle had a few sips of her drink before setting his large hand around her arm. Gabrielle: "I suppose we shall." The phone in the bar rings; it's Trevor, calling to tell Gabrielle it's safe to come back to the room. Bartender: "Miss? There's a phone call for you." Man: "She's busy." Bartender: "I'm sorry, she's left." Trevor figures she's on the way back to the room, or has gone to the restroom. Trevor: "Although she's really squeamish about the rat, so I don't think she'd come back to the room." Malcolm: "Maybe she saw the rat leave." Could be, she was in the hotel lounge.

Much examining of the really heavy tube, that weighs about 50 pounds. Finally not being able to stand it any more, the tube is opened. Inside the tube is a shiny metal rod, that is perfectly fitted to the tube. What the heck is it?? Malcolm: "I suggest you call SolSec." Mitchell: "And tell them what??" Malcolm: "I don't know." Trevor: "I'm starting to get worried about Gabrielle. Maybe we should go look for her." Mitchell: "I'll stay here in case she comes back, you two go check the lounge." Trevor and Malcolm leave the room.

Once the others are gone, Mitchell calls Major Hauks. Tabitha answers the vidphone, obviously in uniform. Mitchell: "Ah, too bad, I caught you while you were working." Tabitha: "This is not a secure line." Mitchell: "I was hoping we could get together for, oh, a movie?" Tabitha: "I might be up for that. My husband has a briefing he has to attend this evening. Where did you have in mind?" Mitchell: "Um, since this isn't a secure line, why don't you call me back?" He gives her his number. Fifteen minutes later he gets a call, and there's crowd noise in the background. It's a standard vidphone, so it's not entirely secure. Mitchell: "How soon can you get to Rainbow Commune?" Tabitha: "About an hour and a half." Mitchell: "What do you know about metallurgy?" Tabitha: "Almost nothing. I'm not a miner." Mitchell: "Well, I still need to show you something." She's on her way.

While cutting through the lobby on the way to the lounge, Trevor is spotted by the ever so charming Detective Sergeant Gerard, who wants to ask Trevor a few questions. 'Downtown', naturally. Malcolm manages to avoid the non-Imperial entanglement, and heads for the lounge. He looks around, but doesn't see Gabrielle, so he goes over to the bartender. Bartender: "Can I help you, sir?" Malcolm: "I'm looking for a friend of mine. About so tall, curves in all the right places?" Female voice: "That would be me." Malcolm: "Reddish hair." The female is blonde, actually, but she does have curves in all the right places. Malcolm is hoping the blonde will give him enough space to find his friend, but not go too far. The blonde is currently barely giving him enough room to breathe, but she has lungs enough for both of them. Blonde: "Say something else; you have such a lovely accent." Malcolm: "You're very kind. I do need to find my friend, but I hope you'll stay around and give me a few minutes while you have some champagne." Which of course, Malcolm will pay for.

The bartender does remember Gabrielle. Bartender: "Sure, she was here. She left with a guy, and they looked pretty cozy. Big guy, about 6'10", 300 lbs." Malcolm is thinking "That's the size of Krag Kiron. Okay, so we've lost Gabrielle." Malcolm smiles at the pretty blonde and phones the room. Mitchell answers. Malcolm: "We've got a problem." Mitchell: "What?" Malcolm: "The cops picked up Trevor, and Gabrielle was picked up by someone else - a 6'10" guy. Maybe it was her long lost brother." Mitchell: "Could be." Malcolm: "Or maybe she just got tired of us." Mitchell: "Can you find out where she went? How many 6'10" men could there be on Rainbow Commune? How hard can it be to find him?" Malcolm: "Not hard, but maybe really painful." He'll be heading back to the room, to get his other armor, after telling the blonde he'll be back shortly "and enjoy the champagne. Did anyone tell you that you've got eyes a man could drown in?" He goes back to the room. Malcolm: "And I just got healed too. What happened to all that gun control I keep hearing about?" Mitchell: "Do you want a gun?" Malcolm: "I don't think it's worth all the trouble it would get me into, what with my being a suspicious Imperial to begin with." Probably for the best.

Malcolm goes out and speaks with the doorman. Malcolm: "I've missed a couple of my friends. Did they happen to get into a black van just a few minutes ago?" Doorman: "A black van? No sir." Malcolm: "Well, did you see a really tall guy and a small redhead?" Doorman: "Pretty girl, really big guy? Yeah, they were here. They called a cab." The cabs are open, and sort of cab/rickshaw things, so Malcolm looks around, but he's too late to see them. Doorman: "Did you want a cab sir?" Malcolm: "Uh sure. Did you see which way they went?" Doorman: "That way."

Malcolm, resenting the fact that the cops have made off with the private dick just when his skills were needed, goes off with the cab driver named Charlie to see the sights. Charlie is more than happy to provide anything that Malcolm needs, including redheads. Charlie: "This girl, is she your woman or something? Your wife? She run off with some one else?" Malcolm: "She's a friend. She's kind of young, I was suppose to look after her, it's her first time here and all." Charlie: "You got a Solar?" Malcolm: "One of these?" He drops one into Charlie's hand. Charlie gets on the com, slips into the local argot, and eventually gets in touch with a friend of his. Charlie: "Really big guy, little redhead?" Malcolm: "Yup." Charlie: "My friend gave them a ride." Malcolm: "Your friend got a good memory?" Charlie: "My friend's memory can be very good, when he's motivated." Malcolm takes the hint, and drops some more money onto the seat beside Charlie, how speaks quickly and in the local slang/argot with the other cabbie on the commo unit. Charlie: "He took them to the Last Chance. A casino. Very nice. I can take you there." This he does. Upon arrival, Malcolm pays for the ride, and for Charllie to hang around for a couple of hours in case he's needed, plus a nice tip. Charlie: "This friend must by something special to be worth all this money. I could get you a lot of girls, for a lot less money. They'd be very happy to please you." Malcolm: "What can I say? She's a friend."

After her cab ride, Gabrielle is taken into a large casino. Man: "This way please." He's got Gabrielle by the arm in a very efficient fashion, and rather uncomfortable. They go past a lot of gamblers, and some pretty males and females, and then Gabrielle is lightly shoved into a large cleaning closet. Man: "Stay here." The door is shut. It's dark, boring, cluttered, and Gabrielle is really pissed off. Now this is insulting. The least they could have done is leave her a flashlight and a novel.

Malcolm phones Mitchell to bring him up to date. Mitchell: "How much money do you have?" Malcolm: "Now?? About $10 Solars. The rest is in the hotel." Mitchell: "I'd suggest you just hang aournd outside and surveil the place. What's it like?" Malcolm: "It's a den of iniquity. Or a din." Mitchell: "And you don't have enough money to lose. Check the place out, but I wouldn't go inside necessarily, unless you feel you have to." Malcolm takes a look around, and finds the back alley. He sees several big guys beating up a guy. "That's what we think about cheaters." The big guys leave. Malcolm checks out the man, who is down on the ground, in his own vomit. He's been beaten about the face mostly, painful but not life-threatening. Malcolm calls the medic.

A man comes out of the back door, dumps some stuff into the dumpster, then sits down outside to smoke. He's wearing the casino "livery", so Malcolm chats him up, asking about the local nightlife, etc. The Last Chance isn't the only casino in the area, but it is the nicest. The most expensive, in other words.

The door is open, and Gabrielle is led out and down the hall. Man: "Come with me, miss." Gabrielle: "What, to a whole new, broomcloset?" She's led down the back stairs and seated in a chair facing a shadowed area. There's some one there, smoking a dopestick. Gabrielle: "You wanted to see me?" Voice: "Who are you? Phillipe." The big guy turns a bright light on to Gabrielle's face. Gabrielle: "Who am I? You have me abducted from the hotel, locked in a closet, and you don't even know who I am?" Voice: "Don't play stupid, I know you've been looking for me, and I know you were there when my brother was killed." The voice is strangely accented, like the mouth parts are wrong. It's another Vargr. He gestures, and Phillipe turns on the lights. The 'host' is the twin of the dead Vargr. Gabrielle: "I'm assuming that your brother was the one killed in the bar yesterday. My condolences." Vargr: "Don't push me. I'm not by nature violent. Now Ted here <gesturing to a small person beside him> doesn't get out much, but he does have some interesting hobbies. Like, he enjoys pulling the fingernails off of people who don't give me the answers I want. Who are you, and who do you work for?" Gabrielle: "My name is Gabrielle Vanek, and I don't work for anyone." The conversation goes downhill from there, with Gabrielle not knowing what the Vargr wants her to tell him, and the Vargr becoming unhappier by the minute. Vargr: "So, you don't really know ... and you're nothing but a harmless dupe. Then you won't mind making a call to these acquaintences of yours." Gabrielle: "You want me to call them, and...?" Vargr: "They're probably worried about you by now. Say you've escaped, that you're scared, and you want them to come get you at this empty warehouse you've hid out in." Gabrielle: "What I wonder is why you're so worried about them, and not the blonde who shot your brother?" Vargr: "I'm not interested in the tool, I want the people who pointed the tool. I knew something was up, that's why my brother went to the bar instead of me - we were expecting something to happen." So he sent his brother? Gabrielle choses to not make any comment about that. Gabrielle: "I don't know who hired the blonde, but I doubt it was any of my friends." Vargr: "That's what you say. All I know is one of your friends, probably Trevor, has been asking about me on Freemantle." Gabrielle: "And who are you?!? Oh never mind. Probably a big secret." Vargr: "I'm Brizzk. This Trevor person has been trying to find him since he made planetfall a few days ago." The light comes on. Gabrielle: "Wait a sec, do you know someone named McNaughton?" Brizzk: "I did." Gabrielle: "Mr. Cavernon said something about trying to find out who killed a woman named McNaughton. He works for her father." Brizzk: "Figures. Her father probably had her killed, and now he wants me to be next. The bastard." Gabrielle: "No, the police say it was a suicide, but her father doesn't believe it and wants Mr. Cavernon to find the people responsible." Brizzk: "Why should I believe anything you say? Maybe you're working for the same person, for McNaughton or his friends. Hell, for all I know you could be working for the cops or SolSec." Gabrielle: "Oh, right. I don't know what you want me to do. I'm telling you the truth; I can't help it if you don't believe me." Ted: "Boss, there are ways." Brizzk: "That's right. Talk to some of our friends, see if they can get their hands on some of the SolSec truth drug. In the mean time, put her on ice." Gabrielle: "Why don't you just arrange to speak with Mr. Cavernon? I'm willing to arrange a meeting." No dice.

Gabrielle is hauled away again, this time down to the wine cellar. Many casks and kegs, in a dark, cold, damp room. Phillipe: "I'm sorry about the accommodations miss. Can I get you something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Something to eat?" Gabrielle: "Tea would be nice. Thank you." Phillipe leaves, locking the door behind him, and a few minutes later comes back with a tray. It has little snacky bits, and tea. Phillipe: "I thought you might want something later." Gabrielle: "That was very nice of you, thank you." Phillipe: "Hey, it's nothing personal you know. You want a magazine or something?" Gabrielle: "No thank you, but I wouldn't mind some company." Phillipe: "I've got some things to take care of, but I'll stop by later and check up on you." He leaves, bolting the heavy door. Sigh.

Malcolm makes several circuits of the casino, and after the first one a man comes out the front door, stares at him, and talks into his sleeve. Malcolm goes down the street to the next casino, where he is immediately watched; professional courtesy and all that. The second casino Malcolm goes into, and hits the cheap slots. A Solar a pull, and he wins $25 Solars. Hot damn! Then he goes over to the big lottery machine, and loses $10 Solars. He goes to the bar, buys a beer, and watches the game on the little tri-dee over the bar. He walks out a few minutes later with $15 Solars more than when he went in. Malcolm then goes to the first casino, where Gabrielle is, and makes $100 Solars on the slots, after some time.

At the hotel, a woman with short, dark hair knocks on Mitchell's door. Tabitha: "Well, I'm here. What have you got?" Mitchell points out the tube on the table. Tabitha: "You called me here for a pipe?" Mitchell: "Take a look." Tabitha does, but she has no clue what the heck the shiny contents of the tube are. She's is a bit annoyed at being brought out here for no good reason. Mitchell: "The blonde woman, who killed the Vargr, this was in her car. Her vehicle was also rigged to conceal a weapon from Freemantle." Tabitha: "Okay, what else?" Mitchell: "I'm concerned about the girl." Tabitha: "I told you - just treat her like a real person." Mitchell: "I know that. I have been. How many people here are supposed to know that she's an AP?" Tabitha: "Only us." Mitchell: "Then why haven't the doctor's freaked? She's been to the clinic here at least once." Tabitha: "The normal tests won't show...<pause> Just don't expect anyone to freak. Anything else? Do you need anything?" Mitchell: "A gun would be nice. Something small." Tabitha gives him a small handgun out of her purse.

Mitchell then tells her about the black van and the gunfight. Tabitha: "Did you know them? Had you seen them before?" Mitchell: "I hadn't, no. Oh, and do you know a Detective Gerard?" Tabitha: "No, but I can check him out. Why?" Mitchell: "He's been poking around and mucking things up." Tabitha: "I'll look into it." Mitchell: "Is there any way to take a sample of that thing?", indicating the metallic tube. Tabitha: "I don't know, let's see." She takes a wickedly sharp little knife out of her purse and takes a small piece off the soft metal ore. She'll get it to a lab, but she can't promise to have anything right away. Tabitha: "Be careful. I'll see what I can find out, and I'll come back tomorrow." Mitchell: "It was nice seeing you again, dear." Tabitha: "Like I said, be careful. I'll see you here tomorrow." Mitchell: "We certainly seem to be beaten and shot at a lot." Tabitha: "Then you must be close to something." Mitchell: "I have a medic in my little group; some medical supplies would come in handy." Tabitha: "I'll see what I can do. I'll call you from the lounge tomorrow, since I'm guessing your friends aren't privy to our relationship." Mitchell: "Not yet." Tabitha: "If you have to use that gun, don't get caught with it." She leaves.

Mitchell calls the front desk to inquire as to the availability of the adjoining room. It's unoccupied, so Mitchell takes it, and has the keys delivered. He moves the 9mm and the rod into the other room, puts them in a drawer and covers them with a towel.

Inside the casino, Malcolm sees the really big guy. He watches as the man speaks with some security people, then loads a tray with dainty stuff and tea, and leaves for another room. Malcolm calls the hotel to check in. Malcolm: "Hey, guy, I'm down at this place, the Last Chance Casino, and my lady luck is smiling. Give you a call later, guy." Mitchell orders up some nice clothing, a nice suit. Not as easy to find as the local stuff, but doable. He dresses up nicely, and takes the four shot revolver loaded with HEAP with him. Nice little gun, fits into his pocket, and with the attached extra clip, it's designed to not look like a gun when inside something. He heads for the casino. Malcolm just keeps gambling, small chips, and he's about $200 ahead after an hour.

Phillipe returns to the wine cellar to check on the captive. Phillipe: "I was just thinking, it's kind of cold down here. Would you like a blanket or pillow or something?" Gabrielle: "That would be very nice, thank you." Phillipe: "Would you like a chair?" Gabrielle: "Actually, yes, that would be great." Several minutes later, Phillippe wrangles in a loveseat. Good grief! Gabrielle: "Thank you. Very much." Phillippe: "Well, I thought you might have wanted to put your feet up. Can I do anything else for you?" Gabrielle: "I was serious about the company." Unfortunately, Phillipe has a job to do, so he can't stay.

Mitchell goes to the hotel lounge to ask the bartender about the local nightlife. Blonde: "Well, I know the place pretty well, and as it turns out, I just got stood up." Mitchell: "No!" Blonde: "Are you looking to see the sights?" Mitchell: "Yes I am." Blonde: "Would you like some company?" Mitchell: "That's exactly what I was thinking." Blonde: "My name's Suzette. What sort of entertainment are you looking for?" Mitchell: "My name's Mitch. I was thinking of games of chance, maybe." Suzette: "I know just the place for a gentleman like you." Yes, they are headed for the Last Chance Casino, after a lovely cab ride. Suzette's father is in the Navy too, he's a captain, but not anyone Mitchell knows.

Mitchell shows up at the casino, with Malcolm's girl on his arm. Argh! Mitchell, not knowing about Suzette, goes over to Malcolm. Mitchell: "Malcolm! How are you doing?" Malcolm: "Not so good now that you've shown up with the most attractive woman on the arcology on your arm!" Suzette: "This is the man who stood me up." Mitchell: "Malcolm! Shame on you! I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose, he's really a nice guy." Suzette: <pouting> "I waited an hour..." Malcolm: "I'm sorry! I kept asking, but I couldn't get the right answers." The threesome moves around the room, in a friendly group. When the opportunity arises, Malcolm tells Mitchell he thinks Gabrielle is here, although he hasn't made any actual contact.

Suzette is good company, and she really knows how to gamble. First at Blackjack, then she gets bored (after turning $5 Solars into $500) and goes to the Baccarat table. Everyone loses a bit there. Then to the craps table, where Suzette leans waaaay over the table so Mitchell can blow on her dice for luck. Her dice.

The lady is quite lucky tonight, and seems very comfortable in the casino. Suzette: "What worries me, is ... well, you know what they say, 'lucky at cards'.... Shall we find out?" Mitchell is certainly willing. Malcolm is getting really frustrated - can't find Gabrielle, Mitchell has stolen his date... Suzette: "Why don't we get something to eat?" Mitchell: "That's a great idea. Is there some place to eat here?" Suzette: "Oh, do I have a treat for you. Robert? Can you get us a table in the back?" Robert: "Of course, miss." They're taken to a back room, where there are two animals in leather on the door, biting each other. Robert unlocks the door with a key, and Suzette and Mitchell are taken into the local site for the Carnivore Club. Suzette: "There's something about meat. The tickle of the meat juices in the back of the throat is rather, erotic, don't you agree?" Mitchell: "I don't believe I 've ever thought of it before." Yeah, he's going to get lucky tonight ! Or dead. Mitchell: "Tell me, how does one go about joining a club like this...."

They chat amiably for a while. Suzette is a diletante, doesn't have a career. Has some money, not a lot, but she does have friends. It's good to have friends. Suzette has a lot of friends, and spends most of her time on the Rainbow Commune, as "it's the most interesting of the arcologies. And they're very...relaxed about most things here. As long as you don't mind the fruitcakes on the upper levels, but they're harmless." Mitchell: "The fruitcakes?" Suzette: "The vegetarian tree-hugger types. They're mostly dying out now that the businesses have discovered it. So what brings you here, so soon out of the service? You'll forgive me, but after growing up on every naval base in the area... You still have that look." They discuss Mitchell's recent "retirement", and the like. Mitchell explains that he's "looking for work. I'm one of those types who have to be working at something." Suzette: "What type of work are you looking for?" Mitchell: "I started my career as a pilot, and I was damn good at it." Suzette: "But why would some one like you want to be a pilot? There's no money in it. A person like yourself could be so much more." Mitchell: "Like what?" Suzette: "I don't know, but a man like you, very intelligent, you'd be very useful in a place like this." Mitchell: "This casino?" Suzette: "No, Rainbow. You don't think this place is going to stay like this forever?" Suzette talks up Rainbow's potential for growth, in a number of ways. She has some ideas, but "funding is an issue, and people see some one like me and they just don't take me seriously." Mitchell: "You think they'd take someone like me seriously?" Suzette: "Ah, now there's an interesting possibility! Any how, just thinking out loud. But before you sign on to some cruise line, let me introduce you to some people. At the moment, however, this conversation has gotten way too serious. Refill my glass, won't you? Did I mention this place has rooms?" Mitchell: "Why no, you didn't." Suzette: "I'll have to take you on a tour..."

Phillippe has turned out to be a very nice young man, and feels quite badly about kidnapping Gabrielle. He comes back with a small tri-dee. Phillippe: "I thought you might want to watch something. And I took the liberty of bringing you some hot chocolate." Gabrielle: "That was so sweet!" And then he brings her a big robe, some silk pajamas - "I hope green is all right" - and fluffy slippers. If you're going to be locked in a wine cellar, you definitely want Phillipe in charge.

Malcolm sees Mitchell and Suzette head upstairs. Bastard. Before going into the room with Suzette, Mitchell arranges for a $1000 Solars of chips for Malcolm. And if he asks, which he does, it's okay to tell Malcolm the name of his benefactor. Malcolm appreciates the gesture, but this still doesn't get him either of the women he was after today. George: "Does sir desire anything?" Malcolm: "A porterhouse, but I doubt I'm going to be able to get that." George: "Sir would be mistaken. Right this way sir." Malcolm is escorted to the special room, where he tries not to weep at the sight of what's on the menu. George: "May I direct sir's attention to number 20? The porterhouse." And there's everything else on the menu. It's a magnificent meal, and costs him $700 Solars. That still leaves him with about $600 Solars left, so he's doing pretty well. And he finds a nearby hotel, so he can get some sleep; he needs some.


Phillippe: "Miss? Miss?" Gabrielle wakes up; she evidently fell asleep drinking hot chocolate and watching tri-dee. Phillippe: "I think you had better dress, miss. There are some unpleasant looking men here." Gabrielle gets up, dressing quickly. Phillippe has turned his back to Gabrielle, and she sees him set something down on one of the casks. It's a taser of some sort. Phillippe: "I must have missed this when I searched you, miss. You overpowered me when my back was turned." Gabrielle picks up the taser, a bit hesitantly, and has to ask how to use it. She doesn't want to hurt Phillipe, and she doesn't want him to get into trouble. Phillipe: "Please miss. I'll be all right. They are very unpleasant looking men, and we don't have much time." Gabrielle uses the taser on Phillipe, with his back turned to make it look realistic. He jerks slightly, but doesn't go down. Phillipe: "Once more miss, please hurry." It actually takes takes several more hits with the taser before Phillipe goes down, and he's still conscious enough to not hurt himself when he falls. Gabrielle has just set her hand on the doorknob when it's pulled open from the outside. There are, indeed, two very unpleasant gentlemen outside the door, and Gabrielle uses the taser again, and manages to escape. Then she walks through the casino towards the front door.

Malcolm is woken up in the middle of the night. Evidently there are a bunch of deranged drag racers outside the window. Muttering something about "damn kids", Malcolm dresses and goes outside, hoping to find something interesting. Or some slow moving kids to whack with his cane.

Gabrielled makes it to the front door of the casino and outside. Fog, bright light briefly, fog, bright light again. She turns down the sidewalk, away from the noise of the racers, but there are footsteps behind her, then the sound of a gun's slide being racked. Gabrielle ducks into a little side passage and stays very still. She hears the footsteps approach, stop, then she hears sniffing. She's holding her breathe when she's grabbed by the throat by a very strong man. He's not as big as Phillipe, but he decidedly knows what he's doing when he pins Gabrielle to the wall. Thug: "Where do you think you're going? Or maybe you're bored? Looking for some fun?" He tosses her taser off to one side. Thug: "What? Not going to put up a fight?" Gabrielle: <shakily> "Do you want me to?" Thug: "I know what you want. The boss just wants you back in one piece. We've got a few minutes." He pushes her further back into the shadows, chuckling and reaching for her shirt.

Malcolm is walking across the street, when he steps on something that crackles. He looks down, and picks up the taser, that now has a cracked case. From the far side of the road he hears a man's voice - "Party time, bitch." Now that sounds bad, so Malcolm goes over to investigate, trying the "I'm just a harmless, drunken old man" ploy. As he loadly 'staggers' towards where the thug is working on the laces on Gabrielle's blouse. Malcolm shows up and the thug keeps one hand on Gabrielle as he partially turns towards the new player. Thug: "Get lost old man." He aims the revolver at Malcolm, pulling the hammer back. Malcolm blocks with the taser hand. The gun goes off, right by Malcolm's head. Very bright, very loud, and Malcolm is hit by some hot powder grains. Gabrielle doesn't recognize Malcolm in the brief flash. This creep has just killed some poor man. Not good. He fires again, hitting Malcolm in the bicep. Malcolm tries to hit the man with the taser, as he pushes the button. He pokes the man, and there's a loud bzzap! Malcolm and Gabrielle both get a tingle, since they're both in contact with the man. The bad guy grimaces and his eyes roll back in his head briefly, but he does not drop over, and he doesn't drop the gun. Malcolm decides to hit the guy with his cane, but misses. The bad guy is obviously dazed, since he misses Malcolm completely, hitting a car and setting the alarm off. Gabrielle tries to shove the thug into the wall, but she slips and falls to the ground. Malcolm then makes contact with the cane, causing the thug to drop his cocked weapon, which goes off and fires a round into it's owner's chin, killing him deader than hell, and spraying Malcolm with icky stuff. Just as he planned? Malcolm bends down and picks up the gun, and opens the cylinder. It's a four inch magnum revolver, very nice. Malcolm leaves it there.

Gabrielle carefully gets up off the ground. Malcolm hands her the taser. Malcolm: "Here, take this." He stumbles off towards his hotel room. Gabrielle takes off the opposite direction, as Malcolm drapes himself against the car with the shot out window. The tactical unit shows up and the area is cordened off. Malcolm calls for help and the EMTs swarmed over him, hooking him up to everything they have with them.

Malcolm will be taken off to the hospital, while Gabrielle is running down the darkened, foggy street with a discharged taser, in the wrong part of town, no money, and no clue where the hell she is, and Trevor is probably still in the company of the lovely Sergeant Gerard. The Squid, on the other hand, is all warm and toasty in a nice hotel room, with an attractive, willing female. Again.