"The fools in this world make about as much trouble as the wicked do." -- Josh Billings (1818-85)


Trevor has spent the day canvassing the area around where Malcolm was shot. The casino security people have been watching him, so he goes over to speak with them. Heavy: "Let's see your shield." Trevor: "What?" Heavy: "I smell the distinct odor of bacon." Trevor: "On the beat I walked, you would have paid for that comment." Heavy: "That's okay, I'm used to paying cops." Trevor: "That's not the kind of payment I was talking about." Heavy: "Oh, I'm shaking. Come on, let's go. <turning back to his friends> Hey, watch this." Trevor takes advantage of the distraction and hits the guy in the chest. Heavy: "You hit like my sister. My turn." But Trevor is quicker, and swings again, missing. The heavy hits Trevor in the jaw, with brass knuckles, but only grazes him. Talk about hitting like a girl! Then Trevor decides to use the wall of the casino as a weapon, and the heavy hasn't learned the importance of balance. The heavy is rammed back into a post next to the wall, which dislodges one end of the huge "Last Chance Casino" neon sign, which swings down and smacks the heavy in the nose and takes him for a brief ride amid sparks and the smell of burning hair.

The second guard is about to reach into his jacket when Trevor heads towards him, and the entrance to the casino. Trevor: "Ah-ah. I wouldn't do that if I were you." The guard slowly moves his hand away from his pocket, to his lighter - which is what he was after originally. Honest. His hands are shaking. Trevor: "Is your boss in? I think you have an opening for a new security guard." He's led inside, by the very nervous man who makes eye contact to warn off other security personnel. Trevor is let into an office, where the casino's owner, Brizzk, is meeting with several other people. Trevor: "Hi. You have an opening in security. I'd like to apply." Brizzk: "Johnny. <sound of slide being racked> "Check him out." Johnny pats down Trevor. Johnny: "No wire boss." Brizzk: "Jeeze, he could have a wire that's too small to find. I'm more worried about a gun. This place is proofed against wires. What's your name, kid?" Trevor: "Cavernon. Trevor Cavernon." One of the men leans over and whispers to the Vargr. Brizzk: "Used to be a cop, huh? And a bodyguard?" Trevor: "That's right." The man whispers again. Trevor: "you can tell him to speak up, it is my life. You have a really dangerous sign outside your casino. It could fall and crush some one, that's a hazard." Brizzk: "Vince wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but he did work for me, so he was family." Trevor: "You need to discipline your children more frequently. He was a bad security guard."

There's a knock on the door, and who should stroll in but Detective Sergeant Gerard. Brizzk: "Hey, Lonny, I understand you know this gentleman?" Trevor smiles. Gerard: "Do you want me to take care of him boss? It would be a pleasure." Brizzk thinks about it for a moment. Brizzk: "Not just yet. I have a feeling Mr. Cavernon might be good for some entertainment." He takes a fat envelope out of the desk and gives it to Gerard. Brizzk: "Give my regards to the boys. That's all." Trevor smiles pleasantly at Gerard as he leaves. Well, well - the good sergeant is on the pad. How interesting.

Brizzk: "You've been asking a lot of questions about me. And there's that incident with my brother in the bar. I'm still not convinced you didn't have something to do with that. Or you could be working for the cops." Trevor: "I'm more discreet that Lonny. And I don't pick fights. <pause> While I'm working." Brizzk: "Well, you do have the stones. All right Mr. Cavernon. Trevor. Here's $5,000. <tosses envelope onto the desk> First thing you can do is a little favor. There's this Captain McNaughton. He's evidently hired a number of people besides you. I want to know who they are, what they're up to, and what they had for breakfast." That should be easy enough, Trevor just has to ask the people sharing the room with him what they had for breakfast! Brizzk is especially interested in "this woman". He hands Trevor pictures of a woman with short, dark hair. Trevor has never met Tabitha Hauks, so he doesn't know who she is. Several of the pictures are of the woman with Mitchell. Brizzk: "Maybe she's just his girl, I don't know. The problem is, Gerard hasn't been able to find out who she is, and when the police don't know, that makes me a bit nervous."

Halfway to Freemantle, Mitchell realizes that he doesn't have the key to Tabitha's apartment. Damn! Well, he doesn't want to turn back, so he continues onward, hoping he'll find a way in once he's there. He parks the rented grav car and goes to the residence, and when he tries the front door, it's not locked. Evidently SolSec agents don't worry too much about being burglarized. Mitchell goes inside, and hears some noise coming from somewhere towards the back - maybe burglars, or the maid in the kitchen or something. Too late now. He sneaks down a hall, and finds two bedrooms. One bedroom is fanatically neat, looks like no one has ever slept in it, and you could bounce a Solar off of. The other bedroom is messy - bed unmade, a nightgown draped half on the floor, and some romance novels on the bed. Mitchell (and everyone else) is hoping the second bedroom is Tabitha's. There are also some files on the bed and the nightstand with SolSec seals and "Eyes Only", "Do Not Remove from Fileroom" and the like stamped on them. Tabitha is a naughty little SolSec agent.

Mitchell rummages quickly through the dresser drawers, until he hears the rather unmistakable sound of some one clearing their throat. A large man, wearing an apron and holding a very big knife is standing in the doorway. Col. Hauks: "May I help you?" Mitchell: "Colonel?" Col. Hauks: "May I help you?" Mitchell: "Mrs. Hauks sent me." Col. Hauks: What the hell are you doing sneaking into my house? I don't care who sent you. My wife and I have an agreement, and part of the agreement is that she doesn't bring her friends over. And I certainly don't need to have them just walking in whenever they feel like it." Mitchell: "It's not what you think, Colonel. Let me explain." Col. Hauks: "Oh, I think I can explain. I heard a noise in the back of the house..." Mitchell: "I know how that one ends." Col. Hauks: "I don't need any of you little gigolos rubbing it in my face." Mitchell: "I'm just trying to do Mrs. Hauks a favor. She's in a bit of trouble." Col. Hauks: "She's a big girl, she can take care of herself." Mitchell: "Not this time. This time she needs help." Col. Hauks: "You have 30 seconds." Mitchell takes this as permission to go back to searching Tabitha's drawers, and he finds the large envelope. Col. Hauks: "That's not what I meant. you have 30 seconds to explain why I shouldn't just break you in half." Mitchell: "Because if I don't return, she'll be dead." Col. Hauks: "Why don't you call the authorities?" Mitchell: "That won't help in this case." Col. Hauks: "All right, I'll play along." He takes off the apron and buttons up his SolSec tunic, flicking the knife point end down into the carpet. Col. Hauks: "I'll go with you." This could be just a touch awkward.

Hauks leads Mitchell to the garage, and is going to take his official SolSec grav-car when Mitchell suggests that might be just a bit overly obvious, what with the SolSec insignia and all, since they're going to Rainbow Commune. Col. Hauks: "Fine. We'll take my wife's car. You drive, I'll take that envelope." They squeeze into Tabitha's little sports car, nice and cozy, and are nearly deafened by the stereo she had left on last time she used the car. Col. Hauks: "What is this?" He pops out a Kitty Bitch tape. Col. Hauks: "This is on the restricted list." He slits open the envelope and nods at Mitchell. Col. Hauks: "I believe you know where you're going." The Colonel checks out the contents of the envelope and chuckles to himself. Col. Hauks: "Naughty, naughty Tabitha. Who would have figured? The old bastard." Mitchell speeds on in the grav-sportscar, with a large SolSec colonel wedged in beside him, heading hell bent for election for Rainbow Commune.

Back on the commune, Malcolm is quite impressed with the doctor. Tabitha is going to make it in spite of everything, and the doctor keeps pulling out all this cool ultra-ultra-high-tech medicine while he complains about the taxes.

Arriving at Rainbow Commune, Mitchell parks the car, resisting the urge to crash into the parking garage. The attendant is very cooperative to the large man in the SolSec uniform. Then Hauks uses the SolSec override on the cab. Even Mitchell cringes at the lack of subtlety involved here. While en route to the hotel, Mitchell tells Hauks "She's not alone, but the people she's with are not part of the trouble." Malcolm would no doubt appreciate the sentiment.

Trevor gets back to the Horizon Hotel to find Gabrielle sitting in front of the tri-dee wearing his T-shirt (nicely, from Trevor's point of view), and channel flipping. Gabrielle: "Nope...nope....Oh, like those are real!....Nope...Eww. No..." Trevor: "Hi, I'm back , I've found a job - finding out what you guys are up to. By the way, what did you have for breakfast? Did you have breakfast?" Gabrielle: "I don't remember." Trevor: "Then it's time to eat." He listens to the phone messages. Trevor: "Did the Navy captain call in?" Gabrielle: "He called Malcolm, and Malcolm went to meet him at the casino." Trevor: "What casino?" Gabrielle: "The Last Chance." Malcolm calls the hotel, looking for Trevor, as he's not sure what to do about the knifed woman, being an automatically suspect Imperial. Trevor: "Hello?" Malcolm: "Hi. Uh, Trev, you can track back this call to get the address, right?" Trevor can do this. Malcolm: "There's been a bit of um, trouble here, and I'd appreciate it if you could see if you can help sort it out." Trevor rushes off to the rescue.

Trevor arrives at the address, and goes to the apartment. He knocks, and Malcolm lets him in. There's a female with high tech bandages, on the bed in the bedroom, and blood all over the floor. It looks like several cows have been slaughtered in here. Trevor has seen quite a few crime scenes, and whoever was doing the bleeding is definitely dead. Trevor: "This is bad." Doctor: "Is this the person with my money? I really need to get back." There's a beep, and the door is whipped open. There stands Mitchell, behind a large gentleman in a green uniform. Malcolm: "Oh fuck." The Colonel pauses in the doorway, looking at the blood, and Mitchell ducks around him. Mitchell: "Ah, Malcolm. And Trevor. Where's Tabitha?" Unfortunately, Colonel SolSec decides to take command of the situation. Col. Hauks: "What exactly is going on here? All of you - I want your identity cards now. You over there! <to the doctor, trying to slink away> Where the hell did you think you were going?" Doctor: "Me? nowhere." Then he pulls a gun. Doctor: "Right! I've got a gun, and I'm leaving." Oh, just wonderful. Col. Hauks: "Now, citizen, you're involved in something minor now, it could mean a fine at the most. You shoot some one, and that would mean imprisonment, or even reconditioning. We don't want that, do we?" He slowly walks towards the doctor, smiling. the doctor is still a bit shaky, so Hauks stops.

Doctor: "It's not my fault - they made me do it! I'm a respected physician. They're criminals!" Col. Hauks: "Of course they're criminals. You had no choice. But it's all under control now." The doctor is, in fact, handing the gun to the Colonel. The cocked revolver, to be more specific, and with his finger still on the trigger. Trevor, concerned about the colonel, and with the bodyguard instincts suddenly leaping to the fore, tries to shove the colonel out of the way while charging the gun, but Hauks' finely tuned sense of paranoia kicks in, and as he's expecting to be attacked from behind, he turns and slams Trevor in the chest. The doctor is startled, the gun fires, everyone pauses briefly to figure out if they've been hit as Trevor and the colonel go down on top of the doctor. Mitchell and Malcolm are unscathed, but as Trevor gets up, the colonel doesn't. The doctor has shot the colonel in the heart. oh shit

The doctor is in shock, Trevor is applying direct pressure, and Malcolm is trying to figure out what the stuff in the doctor's bag is for. But, the man's going to die here if nothing is done, so Malcolm does his best. Doctor: "It wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault." He grabs Trevor. Doctor: "It wasn't my fault. You've got to tell them! It wasn't my fault." Trevor: "You've got to do what you can to help him." Malcolm: "He's in shock." The Colonel has a little box on his belt, and it's flashing and beeping. (Either he's being paged, or it's his 'high-ranking SolSec officer down' alarm.) Malcolm and Trevor will take the Colonel and an auto-cab to the care center. Mitchell tells the doctor to "get out - NOW!", then gathers up Tabitha, her files, the Colonel's utility belt, and the box the delivery guy/assassin left behind, and takes another auto-cab. His first thought is to go to the Last Chance, but then decides to go to another hotel.

Trevor and Malcolm hit the emergency button on the cab, which starts flashing lights and beeping, and goes directly to the care center, where personnel are waiting (he cab called ahead). Doctor: 'This is a gunshot wound. I hope you realize that this will have to be reported?" Malcolm: "SolSec uniform, beeping thing...You won't need to report anything." As a matter of fact, a car pulls up and several local police show up, with Sergeant Gerard. Ah, that would be Trevor's own private Ahab. Trevor allow himself to be pushed backwards by the crowd, into the hospital.

While the work is being done on Hauks, Malcolm is able to get some scrubs, so he can blend in, and not be all bloody. Gerard didn't notice him, so intent was he on getting to Trevor, and besides, Malcolm was in the middle of giving his report to the doctors, so he had that aura of generic medical personnel to protect him. After some time, the surgeon emerges, and demands to know who was responsible for doing the work on the victim. Malcolm confesses. Surgeon: "I don't know where the hell you got your medical training, but that man wouldn't be alive right now if it weren't for you. Damnedest thing I've ever seen, performing a bypass that way. Where did you get your medical training?" Malcolm: "The military." Surgeon: "It's a butcher's job, but it's amazing he's still alive considering his heart was shattered. The only concern right now is brain damage. He went without oxygen for too long; there'll be some damage, but we don't know how much yet." Malcolm: "I tried to keep him oxygenated." Surgeon: "It's not your fault. You kept him alive. Look. There are going to be questions, and judging from your accent, it might not be a good idea for you to hang around. Why don't you take a walk, and get in touch with me later." He give Malcolm his card.

Trevor has gone into an empty exam room, and taken off his shirt. He does have a large bruise, and maybe some cracked ribs. He can see Gerard outside in the hall, standing there and fuming as he looks around for Trevor, who resists the urge to burst out laughing; it would probably hurt any way. After a while a nurse comes into the exam room, sees Trevor, and apologizes for having missed him. Trevor understands, what with the emergency and all. A doctor comes in to check Trevor out, and he does have a couple of cracked ribs. Nothing serious, just painful, so Trevor can go when they're done with him.

Back at the Horizon Hotel, there's a rather insistent knock, so Gabrielle answers the door. It's Sergeant Gerard, who shoves a photo of Trevor in her face and backs her into the room. Gerard: I know you know where he is. Where is he?" Gabrielle: "I don't know." Gerard: "Are you trying to be smart little lady? Let's see your ID. Now." Suddenly Gabrielle remembers when Brizzk took out her identity card and set it on his desk. Oh this just gets better. Gabrielle tries to explain that she lost her purse and ID earlier, but Gerard isn't having any. Gerard: "You do know it's a crime to be without your identity papers? All right Minks, take her in." The little short guy who travels around in Gerard's wake steps forward. Gabrielle is restrained, put into the back of the cruiser, and is taken 'downtown'. Gerard is allowed to observe, but he's a guest, so it's the local, polite police to whom Gabrielle tries to explain about losing her purse, but she unfortunately didn't report this right away, and what with the possible terrorism in the area, it's definitely not a good thing to be without ID. Gabrielle is sorry, she just forgot when it happened, she was too flustered. Gerard keeps interrupting, announcing that "she's lying", but the locals are "just too stupid to see it", etc. Gabrielle is not lying, and repeats that she does not know where the person Gerard is looking for (Trevor) is. Gerard: "She's lying. I'm telling you, I know these bitches, and I know how they think!" Cop: "Sergeant, if you cannot refrain from making that sort of comment, you will have to leave. <to Gabrielle> Would you like to file charges, Miss? I'm serious, that sort of statement is a criminal offense on Rainbow Commune." Gerard: "You pussies make me sick." He storms out. Cop: "Would you like to prefer charges?" Gabrielle: "I don't think so. I think the sergeant is just having a bad day." Cop: "That's very mature of you. Now, do you have a local resident who could vouch for your identity?" Gabrielle: "I've only been here a week." Cop: "Well, where are you from?" Gabrielle: "Aquitaine." Cop: "I don't recognize that arcology. Is it new?" Gabrielle: "It's not an arcology, it's a planet." Oh. That could take weeks! Then Gabrielle remembers she was in the hospital on Freemantle, and maybe their records would help? Could be. After another long wait in the station, a response if received. Interesting. They are able to confirm that Gabrielle has a medical record, but that's it. Apparently her files have been sealed, by SolSec. Gabrielle has no idea why.


Another hour or so in the station. Cop: "Ah, good news! We've been in touch with the local SolSec office. It turns out there's a SolSec officer on Rainbow Commune, and they've paged him to look into this. It shouldn't be long." Yes, Col. Hauks' PDA is going off. Mitchell rouses Tabitha enough to get her to read the message about Gabrielle. Mitchell: "Can we respond?" Tabitha: "Yes, just type in your message and press SEND." Mitchell types in "Identity confirmed", and hits SEND.

The cop asks the magistrate if "verbal confirmation is okay?" Magistrate: "Fine by me." That means a total in fines and costs of $105 Solars. Magistrate: "I'll cut you for it. Double or nothing?" Gabrielle: "My luck has to get better eventually. Sure." The luck is not any better. That makes it $210 Solars. Gabrielle mumbles something about being "willing to work it off in trade." Magistrate: "Although, I am attending a party tonight, and my date has canceled. I might be willing to waive the fine in return for community service." Gabrielle: "I'd be more than willing." Magistrate: "Just willing would be fine. Are they all this friendly on Aquitaine? Say, 7 o'clock?" Gabrielle: "That would be fine. Is it formal?" Magistrate: "Semiformal. Wear something... well, you're a woman, you know what to wear. <pause> Wear something that will piss off the other male guests." Gabrielle: "I can do that." She's dropped off back at her hotel, and orders some things to be delivered from Freemantle, then she goes to sleep.

Mitchell leaves Colonel Hauks' gun, phone, magazine pouch in the hotel room with Tabitha, and takes the PDA, and a metal tube with buttons on it in a loop on the belt. He won't mess with it for now. Maybe he'll find some one to mess with it for him. He goes out and pays to have a message delivered by hand, to either Trevor or Malcolm, with his new phone number. He goes back to the room, and Tabitha is doing better, so he asks her about the metal tube. Tabitha: "It's a stun baton." With some additional features and options for settings. It's not rigid, and it's designed to not break bones. Mitchell: "I'm glad you're feeling better." Now she just looks pathetic, and is about the color of porcelain. Mitchell will keep her in bed as much as possible, but she wants to know what happened. Mitchell: "What's the last thing you remember?" Tabitha: "A deliveryman smiling, and an awful pain." Mitchell: "Yeah, a delivery guy stabbed you, left you really messed up. You told me about a file on Freemantle." Tabitha: "Oh. Ah, just forget I mentioned that." Mitchell: "That would be hard. I went to your place to get it." Tabitha: "You did what? Never mind. Just give me the file. You did find it?" Mitchell: "Yes, I found it. However, I wasn't exactly...when I went to get it...Let's just say that I didn't come back to Rainbow Commune on my own." Tabitha: "Could you be less mysterious?" Mitchell: "Let's just say that Colonel Hauks was less than pleased to find me rummaging around through your drawers." <pause> Tabitha: "You didn't kill him did you?" Mitchell: "No..." Tabitha: "I'm surprised. I don't see any bandages on you. I'll speak to him." Mitchell: "Um, that could be difficult." Tabitha: "I thought you said you didn't kill him?" Mitchell: "I didn't. There was...an accident. He was shot. He's not dead, but he was taken to the hospital. He was hurt really badly." Tabitha: "This is getting worse by the minute." Mitchell shows her what he liberated from the good Colonel's stuff. Tabitha: "Some one's going to come looking for these, they're accountable material. This <holding the PDA> has a tracking device in it. So does the phone." Mitchell: "I didn't..." Tabitha: "Were you aware they can turn the phone on remotely and use it for a listening device?" Mitchell: "No, I didn't know that. I'm a Naval officer, not a spy!" Tabitha: "Not that it will matter, since they know what room we're in and will have turned on the monitoring devices in this room. they've probably got the maids collecting DNA samples. We're dead." Mitchell: "Maybe not." Tabitha wants him to get some electronic devices, and provides him with a list. Malcolm returns to the Horizon Hotel, doesn't disturb Gabrielle, who is out like a light in the bed, but he gets cleaned up and changed. phones Mitchell when he gets the message, and they arrange to meet at the coffee shop near the hospital.

Malcolm is waiting at an outside table when Mitchell arrives. A woman at a table nearby is watching them. She has nice civilian clothing on, and is wearing a armbrass that identifies her as a SolSec monitor. Malcolm: "...Look, make sure she gets vitamin supplements, calcium." Mitchell: "And iron I'm guessing. Looks like I'm stopping at the health food store." Malcolm: "Liquid form." Mitchell: "Liquid? Okay." Malcolm: "Nothing solid for 24 hours. And I'd like her to see a real doctor." Mitchell: "She has seen a real doctor, remember?" Malcolm: "Her doctor." Mitchell: "Well, that I don't know about. I'll talk to her. The woman is joined by a slight man in a lovely suit, and blue-tinted pince-nez glasses. Eep. Espresso and bagels are brought to them, and Dr. Neil takes out a small switchblade and slices it neatly in half. Mitchell doesn't notice this, but then again, he never met the good doctor. Malcolm notices. After discussing things with Malcolm, Mitchell goes to the health food store, then to the electronics store, then back to Tabitha. Malcolm hangs out at the coffee shop, and gives the nice SolSec people a chance to watch him.

Gabrielle's alarm goes off, and her delivery light is blinking. The box is only slightly larger than that required to hold the shoes. Gabrielle takes a shower, etc., then follows the directions for the shrink-to-fit little black dress. It's dry-clean only from now on., but this should definitely fit the magistrate's request. And she waits for her pick up.

Malcolm is not bothered by Dr. Neil, or the woman, or anyone else at the coffee shop. He calls the Horizon Hotel to check for messages, and there are none. He goes out to wander around and actually do the tourist thing on Rainbow Commune. Just like the tourist he really, really is. Lots of 'alternative' stuff - alternative music, art, food, clothing, etc. While on the upper level food court of the bazaar, he hears people discussing politics, and the supposed internal power struggle over who is going to become the new SolSec Prefect, as the current one is really old, and he has yet to name a successor. He's held onto power with his last breathe, and seems to have not been happy with the youngsters below him. Or he's just being mean. And there are local political elections coming up on Freemantle. No one is expecting any surprises there; the current Administrator (governor, sort of) will probably be succeeded by her daughter as she succeeded her own mother, in a free and democratic election. Not like those damned Imperials with their corrupt nobility, no sir. Malcolm is taking all this stuff in, while trying to figure out how the things that have been happening fit in to it all. The Bootes Cluster is a strong supporter of the Wolf Treaty with the Imperium that ended the Rim War. Maybe some one is trying to stir things up? Or maybe it's a power play?

Mitchell will spend the time taking care of Tabitha, and catching naps as she works on spoofing the equipment Mitchell got off her husband. She figures it's been so long since she reported in, that her bosses will figure she's either dead or has gone rogue. Unless she can show up with something so big that "Look what I've done" will get her off the hook.

Later in the evening, Mitchell goes to the Last Chance, to try to find Suzette. There's a big charity event going on, with gambling, dining and dancing, all using scrip. Mitchell spots Suzette going off with a tall, confident looking man in a dress uniform; Mitchell can't figure out which service it is, but it's not Navy. He asks a waiter to take Suzette a note, requesting a few minutes of her time. The waiter takes the note over, delivers it, and then points in Mitchell's direction. Suzette's date looks over at Mitchell, sizing him up.

Gabrielle's date shows up, on time. The magistrate's name is Cyrus Musgrove, or Cy to his friends. Cy: "A dress like that, it would cover pretty much anything short of murder. May I say you look exceedingly lovely tonight?" Gabrielle: "Why thank you." They arrive at the Last Chance, and Cy buys Gabrielle a rose and then shows her off to his Frisbee-golfing buddies. And there's dancing, of course.

Mitchell doesn't get a response from Suzette, so he sticks to gambling. Looks like Mitchell's unlucky at love, and at cards tonight, until a girl shows up who's impressed that losing $1,000 Solars doesn't phase Mitch. So he will have pleasant company, although not as interesting a conversationalist as Suzette, who flirts with Mitchell over her partner's shoulder as she dances. Mitchell waits until the dance is over, and then politely cuts in for the next dance. Suzette's date, whose uniform Mitchell now sees bears a SolSec insignia along with the number 9, might have been about to protest, but then female aide comes up to him. Aide: "General Capeletti, you have a call." His little lieutenant follows him over to a phone. Mitchell: "Remember that conversation we had about meeting some of your friends? I'd like to take you up on it." Suzette: "You just did. Do you know General Capeletti?" Mitchell: "No, I don't." He glances over to see Capeletti on a cell phone in the corner, evidently very, very unhappy with some one on the other end of the line. When the call is done, he tosses the phone at the lieutenant, who has good reflexes (or is use to the phone-tossing thing). Suzette: "Marco? Marco, I'd like you to meet some one. General Marco Capeletti, this is Captain Mitchell Taylor." Hands are shaken, in a manly fashion, but neither of them tries to turn it into a serious test of strength. Suzette: "I believe Mitchell is some one who may be of some use to us in the project we were discussing earlier." Marco: "Oh really? Captain Taylor - you were in the service?" Mitchell: "Yes, the Navy." Marco: "Captain Mitchell Taylor of the Solomani Navy." His eyes sort of unfocus briefly. Marco: "Yes, I seem to recall some sort of unpleasantness prior to your retirement, was there not?" Mitchell: "You could say that, yes." Suzette: "That's enough talk about the past. I think Mitchell may be very useful to us in the future." Marco: "Perhaps, perhaps. There are a couple of individuals involved in the matter I would have to consult first though." Mitchell: "Of course. At your leisure." Marco: "I don't mean to embarrass you, I don't know your current situation. But I have some private business unrelated to the service, and I would have use for an experienced pilot. I prefer working with prior service people, people who have seen the elephant, so to speak, and know what they're about. But that's something we can discuss later. Are you alone?" Mitchell: "At the moment." Marco: "Well, it's a target rich environment, I'm sure that a gentleman such as yourself won't be alone for long." Sure enough, after they part company, a female approaches Mitchell. Woman: "I've been specifically modified to be the ultimate sexual partner." Mitchell gets the deer in the headlights look and mumbles something about "getting punch".

Malcolm, on the other hand, has decided to check out the dead blonde's car again, looking for more clues. He approaches the unknown parking attendant on duty. Malcolm: "I'm looking for RRoyd." Attendant: "Oh, were you a friend of his?" Malcolm: "Why?" This doesn't bode well. Attendant: "I'm sorry, hadn't you heard?" Malcolm: "No, what happened?" Attendant: "That big lift really messed him up something bad." Malcolm: "Is he in the care center?" Attendant: "Uh, no. He tripped and fell, caught his head, and it decapitated him but quick. Bitch about his kids and his squeeze." Damn.

Gabrielle hears part of the conversation between Mitchell and the 'modified' female. How very, charming. On the other hand, the last time Gabrielle saw Mitchell, he was leaving a room full of very dead SolSec agents, so God knows what the man's into. Cy: <on cell phone> "Yes, yes, of course. I'll be there in a few minutes. Gabrielle, I'm very sorry, but I'll have to leave. Would you like me to call you a cab, or would you prefer to stay longer?" She would prefer to stay, as it's still early. Cy: "Of course. May I call on you again?" Gabrielle: "Of course." As Mitchell approaches, having spotted Gabrielle, he overhears Cy tell her "Consider you debt to society paid off. That dress could get you out of anything short of murder." He kisses her on the cheek and leaves. Mitchell: <thinking> "Debt to society??"

Mitchell comes over and asks Gabrielle if she's free for dinner, which she is (not wanting to say anything to the potentially homicidal man that would upset him). Mitchell: "Let me introduce you to a rather spectacular culinary experience." Gabrielle: "It's not a... delicacy, I hope." Mitchell: "No. Well, not that I'm aware of." He finds Robert and they get taken into the back room with the odd, heavy door. Gabrielle sees the two "C"s, biting each other, and is sure she should recognize what this means, but can't pull it out of her memory.

As they enter the Carnivore Club, Mitchell spots Suzette and her date. The gentleman in the military uniform stands, and asks Mitchell to join them. Marco: "Captain Taylor. Do introduce me to your lovely friend." Mitchell: "Of course. General Capeletti, this is Gabrielle." Marco: "My pleasure. Who would have thought it possible - here we are at the table with the two most beautiful women in the club?" Suzette is sizing up Gabrielle, but is not concerned by the 'competition'.

There is much eating of meat, and pouring of wine. The general likes pouring wine. Besides, if you're not drinking with him, that's insulting, and he is 6'6". Suzette is really getting happy, as is Mitchell. Gabrielle is doing fine, and is laughing a lot, but this is the first time she's been in her element since getting to Vantage, so she's happy. The General is a bit loud, and having a good time, and is paying a lot of attention to Gabrielle. Suzette is having a good time too, and doesn't seem to mind, especially since she's playing footsie with Mitch. They both excuse themselves, separately, to go to the restroom. Yeah that's it. Suzette intercepts Mitchell, and tells him "I can't wait. I've been looking at you across the table all night, and thinking impure thoughts, and if you don't do something right now, I'm going to embarrass myself in public." Mitchell: "They do have rooms here."

Marco: "They've been gone a long time. Think they're all right? More wine?" A waiter delivers a note from Mitchell, to Gabrielle. Gabrielle: "I appear to be driving off men tonight." Marco: "I can't believe that. Unless you have some kind of 'special needs'?" Gabrielle: "No." Marco: "I'm sorry, I heard that from an associate. Would you like a ride home?" She would. As they go outside, Marco asks if Gabrielle would like "to see the regular meteor shower? I know just the spot." After a short drive away from the residential/commercial district, they go into an "authorized personnel only" spot (after Marco uses a large knife to get through the chain). Marco leads Gabrielle behind some buildings, onto the outer ledge, "over this way, be careful", up a ladder, and eventually to a flat area on the very top of some sort of tower, with moss on it. Marco gives Gabrielle a boost, then climbs up, using only his arms, then vaults up and lays down on the moss. Gabrielle joins him.

Marco: "I first found out about this place when I was an LT. And this place is still here." He's powerful, good-looking, polite, and doesn't have to coerce anyone. He certainly doesn't have to tonight, either. Gabrielle has been under a lot of stress lately, and apparently this is a great way to work it off. A very good time is had by both of them.

Speaking of good times, Mitchell is in a room above the Last Chance, wondering how Suzette has managed to become sexually starved in so short an amount of time.


Gabrielle wakes up in a big fluffy bed, in a large well-lit bedroom. A female enlisted person comes in with a tray with coffee, juice, toast, etc., inquires as to "Madame's health, and if she needs anything?" Gabrielle: "No, thank you, this is fine." Aide: "The General offers his apologies for not being present, but he had duties to attend to, and asked that I tell you he will be joining you shortly."

Mitchell returns in the morning to Tabitha's hotel room. Mitchell: "Do you know General Capeletti?" Tabitha: "Marco Capeletti? Sure. He's the Commandant of the Condor Legion. I'm surprised you know about him." Mitchell: "He seems like a nice sort." Tabitha: "He's a political animal. He's perfectly capable of smiling in a charming fashion while he stabs you in the back, but he's an okay sort. I'm kind of surprised he's here though, unless he's planning on throwing his weight behind one of the candidates for prefect, although I don't see why he would. Oh well, I don't operate at that level."

Mitchell gets a call on the vid-phone from Malcolm. Malcolm: "Our associates have not returned; neither one of them. How's the patient?" Mitchell: "Doing better. I wouldn't be too concerned about our female associate. She was at the casino last night." Behind Mitchell, Malcolm can see Tabitha sitting up in bed, looking either at Mitchell, or at the screen. Mitchell: "Yeah, she was at the casino last night, and I'm sure you'll be hearing from her soon, if you haven't already."

Speaking of the female associate, the aide asks Gabrielle if she'd like to have breakfast on the terrace?" Gabrielle: "Yes, that would be very nice, thank you." The aide opens the French doors and Gabrielle puts on the large, fluffy robe and follows outside. The terrace is above a wide expanse of green, like a drill field. This is not Rainbow Commune. Or Freemantle, apparently. And there are hundreds of very fit young men and women out on the field, well, drilling. Or whatever. Gabrielle sits out on the terrace, having a lovely breakfast, and wondering where the heck she is.

Malcolm asks Mitchell if he was ever able to find out what the stuff in the metal tube was, and where it was. Mitchell: "The answer to your first question is the purest piece of Plutonium 244 I've ever seen. In answer to the second question, if it's still where i think it is, it's as safe as it's ever going to be. In the police property room." Malcolm: "I didn't need to hear that. How well do you know this area? From a Naval point of view." Mitchell: "It's as stable as it gets." Malcolm: "You were a fire-eater in the navy, weren't you?" Mitchell: "Meaning what?" Malcolm: "You liked to be near the action, right?" Mitchell: "Yes." The conversation goes off into local politics for a bit, then switches to Tabitha. Malcolm: "I don't know where you'd find it around here, but she could use some beef consommé. She needs something high protein, salty." Consommé; he's referring to consommé. (Honestly, some people.) Mitchell thinks he can get her something like that.

Mitchell goes to the Last Chance, and speaks with Robert about getting some hearty beef soup, to go. There are a few uncomfortable moments, as the thought of doing food "to go" is taken as an insult, so Mitchell has to explain about the sick friend, etc.

General Capeletti shows up on the terrace. Marco: "I hope you found everything. I apologize for the venue, but you dropped off to sleep in the car before I had a chance to ask you where you were staying. I hope you didn't miss anything." Gabrielle: "I actually don't have any plans." Marco: "Well, I hope you don't mind, but I didn't want to just leave you by the curb for the morning bus." Gabrielle: "The way things have been going since I arrived on Vantage, that would have been par for the course." Marco: "I'm afraid your dress won't be appropriate for this location - it's a bit rough." Gabrielle: "Where exactly am I, speaking of location." Marco: "I'm afraid I can't actually tell you. It's a military base; you understand." She does. Marco: "But, I can show you around. Lieutenant, would you see that Miss Vanek is outfitted with something more suitable to the terrain?" Aide: "Yes sir." Marco: "Very good. I'll leave you to it, and I'll see you in about an hour." He goes off and yells at some men out on the field. My, but his voice carries.

The chef emerges, inquires as to Mitchell's sick friend, finds his kindness very endearing, kisses Mitchell on both cheeks, hugs him, and provides him with a large metal container of something that smells wonderful. On his way back to the hotel, Mitchell picks a romance novel (hot off the press), in case Tabitha gets bored. He goes back to the room and gives the book to her. Tabitha: "Okay...Is there any particular reason you picked this out?" Mitchell: "I.. just assumed this was what you...preferred to read." Tabitha blushes a lovely red color, and goes to the restroom.

Marco takes Gabrielle out on a little tour, bouncing around on the jeep, and then asks if she'd like to "fire off a few rounds?" Gabrielle looks at him quizzically. Marco: "Have you ever fired a gun?" Gabrielle: "No, I've never even held one." Marco: "Oh, you'll enjoy this." Gabrielle gets to go to the range, fire all sorts of guns - handguns, rifles, machine-guns, a missile, and a tank gun. Talk about fun!

After spending most of the day with Marco, it's time for him to take care of his other duties, and arrange a ride home. Marco: "I hope you'll allow me to call on you again?" Gabrielle: "I would like that very much." Gabrielle is given some clothing to wear, as her dress has been laundered and can now fit in a manila envelope. She's fitted into flight gear, and is taken out to a wasp-like craft and shot ballistically off the base. It's a thrilling flight, and the pilot (Marco's aide) talks about how females are able to withstand higher G-forces, and make better pilots. Aside from the cool flight, there are no problems. (Like anyone's going to interfere with the very fast SolSec craft.

Tabitha eventually emerges from the bathroom. Mitchell: "Gabrielle's not really an AP, is she?" Tabitha: "No." Mitchell: "Who is?" Tabitha: "No one, really. It's a drug. Or a symbiote or commensual. We're not exactly sure, but one of the side-effects duplicates the effects of combat drugs. From the other two subjects who were infected, it appears to be persistent. It remains in the system, and activates under stress." Mitchell: "Where does it come from?" Tabitha: "We don't know that either. It's shown up in odd places. One of the people infected was a noted recreational drug user, not the sort of person who would be connected to high-level pharmaceutical or bio-weapons research. Any way, we're hoping that since she's infected, they may be using her as a guinea pig, in which case they'll be watching her. " Mitchell: "What are the chances that this is something that's coming out of the military or SolSec itself?" Tabitha: "I don't know. All I do know is that the Prefect who's retiring has taken a personal interest in it." Mitchell: "What happened to the other two?" Tabitha: "One of them had a complete vascular breakdown - the drug addict. The other resisted when we tried to bring him in, and lethal force had to be used." Tabitha asks about her husband. Mitchell: "It's pretty serious. They think there may be some brain damage due to lack of oxygen. Do you want me to make contact with him?" Tabitha: "Make contact with some one with brain damage? Who could accidentally blurt out information that might get us killed? I don't think so. God, we are so screwed." Mitchell: "I've been in worse situations." Tabitha: "No you haven't. I'm on an undocumented secret assignment from some one I can't contact, who's retiring, and I've been out of contact with my office for days...No offense, but I've got a retired zoomie who's going to help me defend... Let's put is this way - I made my way up to my position by hard work and making enemies. Enemies who won't be unhappy if something were to happen to me. These are not nice people. These are not old Eton school chums on the playing field. If you want to go, I'll understand." Mitchell: "You know my entire service history, and still know nothing about me." Tabitha: "Mitchell, I worry about you being hurt." Mitchell: "Don't." Tabitha: "I care what happens to you. This is not going to be an affair of honor. These people are animals who walk on two legs. They will smile in your face while they drive the knife into your back." Mitchell: "Look. If I was concerned about this, I would have gone by now." Tabitha: "All right, but promise me you'll take care of yourself." Mitchell: "I always do." Tabitha: "That's what worries me."

Malcolm, the day has been a bust, although he had a good lunch, and saw a cool ship. Probably inserting an agent. Or it could be an airshow. And the pilot and copilot were cute females in tight-fitting suits.

Gabrielle goes back to the hotel, and stops at the front desk to see about getting her own room. She just needs one bed, it's just for her. The man at the desk takes a look at the green flightsuit with no rank, and a SolSec eagle, and offers her a room on an upper level, down at the end of the hall; very quiet. And she gets the government rate of $50 Solars a night, although he doesn't say anything, so Gabrielle doesn't know. The room is bigger than she expected, and very nice. She calls the boys' room, and leaves a message that she's gotten her own room, she's all right, and she's sorry she didn't call in. She'll call back later to get her things.

Mitchell: "Capeletti has offered me a job." Tabitha: "General Capeletti?" She wasn't feeling well earlier, so it's understandable. Mitchell explains, and Tabitha is a bit worried. Tabitha: "Why is he here? He should be off sponsoring atrocities or something. He's SolSec's 800 lb gorilla; he shows up when some one needs to be taught a lesson that goes beyond the hostile tea luncheon." Mitchell explains that Capeletti is interested in hiring him as a pilot, for something personal, not business related. Tabitha: "That would make sense. He has a reputation for taking personal responsibility for everything." Mitchell: "He does like his wine." Tabitha: "I don't know the man that well. He gave a speech to my graduating class." Tabitha: "Maybe there's a chance there. If we get an in with Capeletti, that could be our one chance for getting out of this alive." Mitchell: "Now we just need to retrieve the plutonium." Tabitha: "I was trying to forget about the plutonium. There's one thing I want you to promise me. If things go to hell, I don't want to be captured, not by my own people. I don't want to be reconditioned. I don't want to undergo vigorous interrogation and be reconditioned. Mitchell promises, not really sure, but if it makes her happy...

Knock on the door, Gabrielle answers to find a huge bouquet of roses. There is a hotel staff behind it. He staggers in and sets the flowers down on their stand, and declines Gabrielle's tip. "That's been taken care of, miss." He leaves, and she reads the note, which is, of course, from Marco. "Thank you for the most enjoyable evening and day that I've had in a long time, and I apologize for the dress. Please contact the people at La Mode (a clothing store), and they'll see that you get a suitable replacement. My staff didn't see the 'Dry Clean Only' stamp until it was too late." The dress is very, very small now, but still stretchy. Gabrielle has to try it on, and figures that it would have fit correctly when she was oh, six years old. It's now a shirt. For a warm day. On the other hand, it could be considered a fair trade - one party dress for one SolSec flightsuit.