"The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be."-- Lao Tsu

88 to 89-1121.

After being medicked, Trevor returned by cab to the Horizon Hotel. No one else was there, so he took his meds, had a shot of brandy, and sat down on the bed. He wakes up with sunlight shining in the window, and wonders how many days he was asleep? Just one, actually, but at least now he feels better. And really, really, hungry. He gets up, showers, and ignores the messages while he goes in search of a lot of food - warm and brown and plenty of it! He goes to the communal kitchen, where he can eat large amounts of food (for free) and talk grav-ball.

Trevor eats like a starving man, then waddles back to the hotel room. He has a lot of messages from Ken Oshida, who wants to talk to him, but does not want to say anything on the phone. Also, the concierge informs Trevor that the police have been asking for him, and wanted him to call when he got in. An officer left a card for Trevor, a Lt. Nagala. Trevor goes to the police station, asks for Lt. Nagala. Trevor gives his name at the front desk and is directed to the lieutenant's office.

Lt. Nagala is very pleasant, and very much a female. Nagala: "I'm hoping you can help me. Trevor isn't it?" Trevor: "Yes." Nagala: "Jane." Trevor: "Pleased to meet you." Nagala: "I know that you were a sworn officer yourself, and are now a private investigator. You're also known to be associated with several people who may be involved in a shooting." Trevor, not sure to which shooting she's referring, waits. Nagala: "We're looking into the shooting of a Colonel Hauks, a SolSec Uniform Division officer." Trevor: "Okay." Nagala: "You were there for part of that I know, or at least you were in the hospital with Mitchell Taylor and Malcolm Edwards after the shooting, and I was hoping you could shed some light on the events." Trevor: "Do you have a picture of the SolSec officer?" Nagala: "Certainly." She brings up a picture on her terminal, which Trevor recognizes as the man from the hotel room. Trevor: "Some of the details are a bit fuzzy, but Mitchell left me a message saying he was going to a specific place and if he didn't get back I should go after him, and then Malcolm called to ask if I could come help him right away. When I get to this place, there's a standoff between an armed man, not Malcolm, who had a bead on the SolSec agent." Nagala: "So you were there for the actual shooting? Excellent." Trevor: "The Colonel was trying to talk down the man, who I'd never seen before, but the man shot him any way." Nagala: "Did any of this encounter seem less than spontaneous? Could it have been prearranged?" Trevor: "I don't know. Like I said, I'd never seen the man before." Trevor: "Do you happen to know this woman?" He's shown another photo of the woman with dark, short hair; there sure are a lot of people interested in her. Trevor: "I don't know her. <he didn't see her in the hotel room> Who is she?" Nagala: "Major Tabitha Hauks, the estranged wife of Colonel Hauks." Trevor: "I've seen her picture before, with Mitchell Taylor." Nagala: "How well do you know Captain Taylor?" Trevor: "Not well at all. I met him about a week and a half ago. He seems kind of flamboyant." Nagala: "Do you know where we could find Captain Taylor?" Trevor: "He arrived at the hotel room where the shooting took place with the Colonel, but I haven't seen him since we left for the hospital." Nagala: "He arrived with Colonel Hauks?" Trevor: "Yes." Nagala: "Do you know where he is now?" Trevor: "No." Nagala: "Had you met Colonel Hauks before?" Trevor: "I didn't actually meet him at all. We were never introduced. I know the others were calling the man who shot him 'Doctor', but I didn't hear a name, and I don't know for sure that he was a medical doctor. For all I know it could mean he's a Ph.D., and some sort of deranged academic." [ Would that make him an acadaemia nut? - Phil, this one's for you!] Lt. Nagala stands and extends her hand to Trevor. Nagala: "Well, thank you very much, I appreciate your coming in. If you do happen to hear from Captain Taylor, or if you see Major Hauks, if you could call me...?" Trevor: "Of course." He shakes her hand and walks out of her office. As Trevor is leaving, he sees Gerard and his shadow, Minks, coming in. Gerard glares at Trevor, who yells "Hi Lonny!!" at the top of his lungs and waves enthusiastically at him.

Trevor gets three steps outside the police station when a dark green car with SolSec eagles on it pulls up. Agent: "Trevor Cavernon?" Trevor: "Yes?" Agent: "Would you come with us, please?" He gets into the car and is driven to an unmarked building with guards outside in dark green uniforms, holding gauss carbines. (Like no one will be able to guess what it is?) Trevor is taken inside and asked to wait in a room. There is another person sitting in the room, who Trevor thinks he may have seen in the Last Chance Casino when he met Brizzk - some kind of flunky. The man looks nervous, and starts watching Trevor. Flunky: "Hey, I've seen you before." Trevor: "Maybe in your LSD trips." Flunky: "What they bring you in for?" Trevor: "Shut up." Flunky: "I'm sure it must be a mistake. I know it is for me." Trevor: "Just shut up." Trevor sits there, calmly, and digests his meal quite happily.

Trevor is shaken awake. Agent: "Mr. Cavernon, will you please come this way?" Trevor is escorted down the hall to a nondescript office where a man in a suit is seated at a terminal. Trevor is gestured to a fairly comfortable chair, and the man looks up from the desk, which is piled with papers. Man: "Martin, find out if Mr. Cavernon wants some tea or coffee." Trevor: "Coffee, please." For the next 15 minutes, Trevor drinks his coffee and waits for the man to do paperwork, and look at the screen as it scrolls by with pictures of Trevor and a lot of pages of text. Pictures of Trevor, pictures of Mitchell, that sort of thing. It may be intentional that he can see the screen. Or not. Trevor isn't too concerned.

Man: "Thank you for your patience. Just looking into some details. I understand that you were present for the unfortunate incident when Colonel Hauks was shot?" Trevor: "Yes. I received a call from Malcolm that he needed some help, and I went there." Man: "Malcolm? Malcolm Edwards, the Imperial citizen?" Trevor: "Yes." Man: "How long have you known him?" Trevor: "About a week." Man: "And when he called asking for help you went right over, even though you had only known him a week?" Trevor: "Well, yeah. I don't mind helping people. It's what I do. We came to Rainbow Commune together, I asked him along to help me." Man: "So when he called asking you for help, you went to help him out of gratitude?" Trevor: "I guess. Like I said - I don't mind helping." Man: "Did you observe any interaction between Colonel Hauks and Mr. Edwards?" Trevor: "Interaction?" Man: "Did they talk to each other? Did they seem to know each other?" Trevor: "They didn't talk to each other, but when the colonel was shot, Malcolm medicked him. In fact, if it weren't for Malcolm, the colonel wouldn't have made it to the hospital." Trevor: "So you would say that Mr. Edwards put forth heroic efforts to save the colonel?" Trevor: "I don't know about that, but he did use all of his medical abilities." Man: "And they didn't say anything to each other? The colonel didn't say anything directly to Mr. Edwards?" Trevor: "No, the colonel really only spoke to the man who shot him, when he was trying to talk him down." Man: "Well, thank you for your cooperation. We appreciate you coming in, especially when I understand you were injured yourself. I'll have a car drop you wherever you like." Trevor: "Actually, I've felt worse after many weekend grav-ball games." Man: "Ah, a grav-ball fan." He jots down a note. (Oh come on, they should have known about that!) Trevor is dropped off in front of the Horizon Hotel, by a clearly marked SolSec car. Interesting to some observers, no doubt.

Once Trevor gets back to his room, he calls Ken Oshida. Ken: "I've been trying to get in touch with you. Where have you been?" Trevor: "At the police station, the SolSec office..." Ken: "I didn't hear about you being picked up by SolSec." Trevor: "On Rainbow Commune. Where are you?" Ken: "On Rainbow Commune." Trevor: "It's amazing the draw this place has for inhabitants of Freemantle. Sergeant Gerard is here too." Ken: "Is he really?" Trevor: "Yes. But you still haven't told me why you called?" Ken doesn't want to get into this over the phone, so he meets Trevor in the hotel lounge.

Officer Oshida is interested in the same thing that everyone else has been asking Trevor about: the Colonel Hauks incident. Don't the authorities speak to each other?? Ken is concerned that the shooter has not been found yet, although the arcology has been (for all intents and purposes) closed down as far as traffic is concerned. It's a floating city - it's kind of hard to lose somebody completely, especially if you're SolSec. Trevor suggests maybe they ought to check the planet below, in case the guy went overboard (or whatever it's called). Ken: "Do you know at the current altitude how far a person could drift??" Trevor: "I assumed you have scanners to detect for human remains." Ken: "We can scan for jumpers. There are sensor-nets, and there are also some unofficial methods - citizens who feel it's their duty to step in when some one tries to take their own lives. Do you feel this man is suicidal? Would he have tried to jump?" Trevor: "I don't know, but he was definitely upset before he shot the Colonel, and he got worse afterwards." Ken: "Do you know what was going on in the apartment before the Colonel got there?" Trevor: "No." Ken: "I see." <sigh> Trevor: "Malcolm asked me to come over, I came over, Mitchell and the Colonel arrived together, right after I did. The man I didn't know was already there. The only thing I know is they referred to him as 'Doctor', and he did have medical gear with him." Ken seems very interested in the 'doctor' bit. Ken: "Did he wear glasses? Spectacles?" Trevor: "No." Ken: "Let's move this some where a little more private. Why don't I buy you lunch? I know just the place."

Ken takes Trevor to an older, scummier part of Rainbow Commune, to a little hole in the wall kind of place (literally), that seats about a dozen people. There are a few other patrons here, and whatever they're cooking smells great. It's a food-over-rice restaurant, and the food is (while different) very tasty. Ken: "...This man, who they referred to as 'Doctor', can you describe him?" Trevor does so. Ken: "And you said he panicked? Did this seem genuine to you, or could it have been an act?" Trevor: "No, I don't think so. He had a lot of medical equipment with him, but he behaved like he'd never seen a gunshot wound before. " Ken: "You seem to have a knack for either running into trouble, or associating with the wrong sort of people. A word to a friend - the office is very concerned with the recent violence here, especially the number of incidents involving firearms. Your weapon is still with the bonded warehouse, right?" Trevor: "Yes." Ken: "You haven't um, acquired another one have you?" Trevor: "No, I don't have a gun, but it seems like EVERYBODY ELSE HAS THEM!!" Ken: "That's one of the problems. We think that some one is smuggling in weapons and other impedimenta, through Rainbow Arcology. Our sources indicate it may be a non-Solomani, even a non-human. But that's not your problem." The rest of the meal is just friendly chitchat, although Ken does give Trevor a parting warning to take care of himself. Trevor heads to the Last Chance Casino, to inform Brizzk that the dark haired female is Major Tabitha Hauks of SolSec. Brizzk: "Oh great. Do you know where she is?" Trevor: "No. I've only seen pictures of her. She appears to be missing, and a lot of people are interested in her whereabouts, including SolSec." [Trevor also gives Brizzk a list of what the other party members had for breakfast. Those were the questions that Brizzk had asked him to find the answers to....] Brizzk: "Sit down, take a load off. <pause> You know, the organization I'm a part of involves more than just this casino. A lot more. We could use some one like you, a person who knows what he's about and can keep his mouth shut." Trevor: "That is part of my current job description." Brizzk: "I heard about you time spent in the sweat box with our friend Ray. You remember Ray." Trevor: "Ray is a nervous guy. They could break Ray in a heartbeat. I'm sure Ray started lying to his mother as a teenager, but the cops aren't his grandmother." Brizzk: "Is that right? <calling out> Hey Ray, get in here!" Ray comes in, takes a seat, lights a cigarette, looking very calm. Ray smiles at Trevor, says "Oh, wait a sec..." and suddenly breaks out in a 'nervous' sweat. Neat trick.

Brizzk: "What did our police friends tell us?" Ray: "Just what we thought." Brizzk: "Good. We'll have dinner together and discuss it later." Ray: <nodding in Trevor's direction> "You did okay." Brizzk: "That's rare praise from Ray. I'm impressed." Ray leaves. Brizzk: "Find me this girl, this SolSec agent, and let me know where she is. And come see me tonight - I think it's time to discuss your position." Trevor: "I think it's a bit early in my career to have that kind of chat. Besides, I need to be in bed by 10:00 PM - I'm still recovering." Brizzk: "I may be leaving Rainbow soon, maybe even Vantage, and I'd like to resolve your employment future with us, or lack of it, before I go." They agree to discuss it soon, just not today.

Malcolm comes back to his hotel room, hears the sound of something feeding, and looks cautiously in. It's Trevor, eating a Gobbler™. The man is still hungry? Malcolm: "Hi there." Trevor: "Hello." Malcolm: "Oh, we don't need to worry about sharing digs with the fairer sex, she's gotten her own room." Trevor: "Really? I'll have to get her room number." Malcolm: "And did you see that SolSec jet? Wow, that was something." Trevor: "SolSec jet?" Malcolm: "Yeah. Well, one of the ballistic transports anyhow. Had everything on it but fangs." Trevor must have missed that. Trevor: "You know that girl Mitchell's been with, the dark haired one?" Malcolm: "I think I know the one you mean." Trevor: "Did you know she's married to the guy with the collapsed chest cavity?" Malcolm: "Really? Boy, that must be awkward!" Trevor: "Why awkward?" Malcolm: "Well, some one knifes the wife, then the husband was shot." Trevor: "She was knifed? Before her husband was shot?" Malcolm: "Yeah, that's why I was there." Trevor: "She was at the hotel room, after being knifed, and before the Colonel was shot, when I got there?" Malcolm: "Yeah." Talk about awkward. And convoluted. Malcolm lays down for a rest, not wanting to interfere with Trevor's eating.

Speaking of convoluted, at the other hotel, Mitchell gets a call from the front desk and is told that a message has been left for him. A written message. Mitchell has them send it up. There's a chime a few minutes later, and Mitchell takes the gun with him when he goes to check the display on the door to make sure it's not another assassin. It's a young bellman, leaning against the wall and adjusting his package. Mitchell opens the door a crack, takes the envelope and tips the kid, who leaves. Mitchell opens the hotel stationery envelope, takes out the folded piece of paper and looks at it, but there's nothing written on it. What the...? There is a bit of oily residue on the corner of the envelope, but that could have been from the kid.

Mitchell wakes Tabitha up and tells her what just happened. Tabitha: "We've got to get out of here." Mitchell: "I think I know where to go." Tabitha throws on clothing, grabs her gun, and with Mitchell's help she opens the window and out they go. Mitchell stops at a pay phone and calls the Last Chance, asking for Suzette. After a bit of confusion, due to the fact that the person who answers thinks Mitchell is asking for an employee, he's told that they cannot tell him whether or not a person is a guest there, but they can connect him to voicemail. (Evidently the guy on the phone does not hold a degree in logic.) Mitchell declines, and hangs up; he'll try back later.

Tabitha: "We're being followed. At least two men. If we split up, it'll make it harder for them." Mitchell: "Right. We'll meet at the Last Chance. But don't go there until I've talked to Suzette." Tabitha: "Okay, I know a place. There's a little hole in the wall spot in the bad part of town, called Malloy's." She gives him directions. Tabitha: "Meet me there in four hours, but not before then. It's a place where SolSec agents go, because it's not bugged." Mitchell: "Right." She gives him a peck on the cheek, and takes off. As Mitchell continues to walk, a dark green car shows up. A man in a green uniform gets out, with a friend, and Mitchell is asked to come with them. Not being stupid, he goes quietly. They don't rough him up or put him in the trunk, or even search him, so apparently they aren't upset with him - yet.

Back in another area of the Horizon Hotel, there is a tapping on Gabrielle's door. She answers, and there's a SolSec lieutenant there. He has a number of very fit, very tough-looking men behind him. Is this a bad thing? Lt.: "Afternoon ma'am. All right gentlemen. <He waves his men in.> We're here to help you pack your things." Gabrielle: "Oh?" Lt.: "The General thought you'd be more comfortable in other surroundings, ma'am." Ah. Now things are beginning to make sense. The men seem a bit disappointed Gabrielle doesn't have more stuff to pack, but they had no way of knowing that.

Mitchell, who has found out that there are no handles on the inside of the doors in the back seat, watches out the windows as they pass by the police station, then by the nondescript building with the SolSec agents outside, and keep going. No one has volunteered to tell him where they're taking him, or why. They end up in the landing area Mitchell first arrived at. They pull up near the edge, a few moments after a subdued SolSec staff car pulls up, along with a truck. Some troops get out of the truck, then a familiar-looking female gets out of the car. It's Gabrielle, and the troops are being very deferential to her. Mitchell figures she must have been a SolSec agent all along, damn her. Mitchell is let out of the car, and led over towards the edge. Gabrielle is also, but much more politely. A transport vehicle shows up, hovering by the edge with the rear hatch open. They get inside. Mitchell knows how to strap himself in, but one of the crew is very willing to help Gabrielle with her harness, having put her in the cockpit, in a comfy seat. Mitchell gets the plain, uncomfortable, Marine seat. Yup, she's definitely one of them.

A military takeoff that wakes Malcolm up (maybe it is an airshow), then fifteen minutes in flight. A fast landing, then Mitchell is escorted off the ship. He sees General Capeletti greet Gabrielle, in a very friendly fashion. Marco: "Good to see you again. I thought - well, it's just too inconvenient for me to go back and forth like that. I hope you don't mind?" Gabrielle: "No, not at all." Marco: "Good! I'm sure you'll want to freshen up, so my aide will show you the way. I'll see you in the Officers' Club when you're done."

The General's aide, the same lieutenant Gabrielle met before, takes Gabrielle into a section of quarters that looks very familiar - up through officers' row, and into some damned spacious quarters - that would be about 4,000 square feet of living space. There are perks to being a general.

Once Gabrielle leaves, General Capeletti turns his attention to Mitchell. Marco: "Taylor! Glad you could make it." Like he had a choice? Marco: "I told you I had need of some one with your piloting abilities in the future, and something has come up for tonight. We'll look at this as a kind of breaking in period for you. We have some, shall we say, extracurricular activities scheduled, and no need to use government resources for that." Mitchell is led off with the men, as he doesn't need to freshen up (that's a woman thing). They go to the OC, to drink and bond, with some other officers and a guy in civilian clothing, and odd little blue-tinted glasses. [That would be the horrible man who Gabrielle told about Mitchell being in the other room killing SolSec agents. (Okay, maybe 'killing' wasn't mentioned.)] Mitchell takes a good hit on the bourbon (no ice - it might rattle, and cause him to lose the aura of calm he's attempting to maintain), calming down a bit. Good thing he doesn't know about Dr. Neil. Mitchell: "I'm glad to see that the trip didn't end with me being tossed off into thin air. I've done that already."

Meanwhile, in the General's quarters. Definitely a man's room, and not one with a lot of fashion sense. There is a woman's dressing room, smaller and more feminine, and full of an assortment of clothing. A large assortment. Apparently the General gave his aide a credit card and sent her out to buy clothes. Most of the external clothing is at least reasonably conservative, but the lingerie is not. Cool. Gabrielle gets changed fairly quickly, not wanting to keep the General waiting.

Idle chitchat in the O Club, with Mitchell listening rather than contributing. He stands when Gabrielle arrives. Gabrielle is given a seat between Marco, and the seat Dr. Neil takes. Eep. Marco: "I'm sorry. Gabrielle, Dr. Neil. I believe you already know Captain Taylor?" Dr. Neil nods. Marco: <to Mitchell> "As I was saying, I just thought that if you weren't otherwise occupied, and I understand that you're not, that we'd have a little recreation tonight. My men say I work too hard." Mitchell: "I'm at your disposal." Dr. Neil offers Gabrielle a cigarette from his case. Dr. Neil: "They're very good. Vegan tobacco." Gabrielle: "I don't smoke, but thank you." Marco stands up and knocks the cigarette case out of Neil's hand. Marco: "Don't you ever bring that filthy alien crap into this mess again." He's red faced and incredibly angry, then two seconds later he sits down and is perfectly calm. Dr. Neil just blinks. Marco: "Goddamn skins* are everywhere." [*Note: A generic derogatory term for alien/non-human.] Then he settles back down, as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. Marco: "Nothing like this Scotch - made with human hands." Mitchell: "I suppose that, were I a smoker, I would undoubtedly prefer human tobacco." Marco: "Damn straight." A number of unpleasant, decidedly racist (speciest?) comments are made before the conversation settles down.

Marco: "I am curious about one thing, Captain Taylor. Who is Malcolm Edwards?" Mitchell: "That is a good question." Marco: "I mention it only because Dr. Neil has brought to my attention that you have had some association with Mr. Edwards, and thought you might be able to enlighten us." Mitchell: "We arrived on Freemantle at about the same time, and I saw him around a few times, and then some one asked me to keep and eye on him." Marco: "Was that before or after you started to share a hotel room with him?" Mitchell: "Before. You know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Marco: "Surely that's a job best left to professionals?" Mitchell: "I would have appreciated that." Marco: "Well, any way. Captain Thomas will show you to my ship, so you can check it out and make sure it's prepped for tonight."

Mitchell is taken to a 300 ton ship, streamlined with adjustable wings. Kind of a really big Delta Research model. There is a flight engineer, but no pilot, as he damaged himself while skiing on the planets surface. (Those rough and tumble kind of guys can't take a few days off and just do something boring.) Mitchell checks out the ship, which is in a military state of readiness, and mostly already prepped for an in-system trip. The ship has maneuver 2 and jump 2, and is armed. Not a lot of armor, but it's not a military ship, so that's normal. The ship has about 80 tons of cargo space, maybe more. That's quite a bit, but part of it can be converted to fuel storage if desired. Mitchell: "How much time do I have for preflight?" Thomas: "The General didn't say, but he likes to do things on the spur of the moment." Mitchell will preflight now. There's an engineer, another prior serviceman, former Navy chief. So the two former Navy guys get to bond. When Mitchell is done with the preflight, he tells Captain Thomas, who advises Mitchell to have his dinner sent for if he gets hungry. And wait.

Marco: <to Gabrielle> "So, do you know this Malcolm Edwards? I'm just curious." Gabrielle: "I met him on Freemantle." Marco: "Really? I haven't had the chance to speak with an Imperial outside of a combat situation in quite some time. Do you think he'd join us for dinner? I thought we'd go to that club where we met, since I've acquired a fondness for it now, and it seems to be an interesting location. It's a good place to at least start the evening, if you're game?" Gabrielle: "I'm game." Marco: "Good! Well. Let's make this interesting. Why don't we call your friend Mr. Edwards, and invite him along? Oh and you might want to bring along something for the evening, and a pair of sensible shoes." Gabrielle: "All right." Marco: "Well. Shall we?" The general is a rather spontaneous man, and evidently believes once a decision has been made things should be done right now. Marco: "I'll meet you on the pad in 15 minutes. Will that be enough time?" Gabrielle: "Yes." She'll just have to adapt to his rhythm. A quick trip to her room, and off to the ship. Once on the way to Rainbow, Gabrielle is handed a phone. Marco: "Why don't you call Mr. Edwards?"

Speaking of Mr. Edwards, he's been back at the Horizon Hotel, listening to Trevor snore quietly in the chair. He had too much of the Gobbler™ L-triptophan, and has nodded off watching the Grav-Ball Channel. To make matters worse, he has a death grip on the remote control, and would probably wake up if Malcolm change channels or turned off the tri-dee. And the girl's moved out of the room, so there's nothing for Malcolm to do there.

He goes out for a walk, and to search for information. He's read Poirot - how hard can this detective business be? Curious about the Freebooters, he's able to find out that the Freebooter activity is about to come to a halt, as the large airborne creatures of Vantage are about to begin their migration through the area. Some of them are really huge, and have been known to blow up, which represents a rather unpleasant navigational hazard. Malcolm goes off into the less savory parts of Rainbow Commune and runs into a local who's had way too much to drink and takes exception to Malcolm's Imperial accent. The Rim War is brought up, as is the 'Stab in the Back'. The drunk's loud, but not physically aggressive, and since Malcolm doesn't rise to the bait the situation doesn't get worse. On the other hand, Malcolm has attracted a lot of attention, including that of a man in an armbrass who is making notes in his PDA. Malcolm leaves.

He goes to the area around the Last Chance, and finds a place called Lily's - a 'social club'. Very high class, nicely appointed; if Malcolm didn't know better, he wouldn't be able to tell right off what else went on here. The maitre d' comes over, asks if "monsieur would like to see a bill of fair?" Malcolm: "Not tonight. For now I'm just here for the bar." Maitre d': "Very well, monsieur. If monsieur changes his mind, he need only raise an eyebrow." Malcolm orders an expensive Irish Coffee, sips and listens. After a few minutes he is joined by a female, who isn't currently occupied. Woman: "I love your accent. How do you like things on this side of the border?" Malcolm: "I have to say that the game on this side is pretty and dangerous." Woman: "Do you think I'm dangerous?" Malcolm: "Oh, I think you could probably make me scream. Not to mention that fact that you'd probably ruin me for life." Woman: "But how will we know? You don't want to go back to Behind the Claw and not have anything to tell your friends?" Malcolm does have some extra money (read: unspent), and she's very attractive and a decent conversationalist. She has to make a living, and right now Malcolm is paying for bar drinks, which does not put any money in her pocket. She's wearing clothing that covers and accentuates, but only hints at what's underneath. Besides, she makes Malcolm part of a couple, and that's less conspicuous. And people feel comfortable here - if they didn't, it wouldn't be in business.

Malcolm buys her another drink (champagne being traditional in situations like this), and does overhear part of a discussion about the SolSec prefect stepping down, and how the issue of his successor is still up in the air. The Party is involved (SolSec decides, and the Party confirms), and there are several factions on both sides. Marguerite Tadeoshi is suggested as the current favorite, but no one knows for sure. It's also rumored that General Capeletti is on planet, for what no one knows. Malcolm has heard of him - Capeletti is a war criminal, a butcher. During various border scrimmages his people followed the regular troops and according to the press, did some pretty horrible things to Imperial units with non-human members. At least that's what Malcolm has heard. Brizzk is mentioned as well, as he's a local oddity, being an alien and all. He's rumored to be paying a lot of money to be left alone, more than that club is pulling in; which means he has good backing, and probably some major side business. As Malcolm isn't interested in heading upstairs, the female goes in search of other game. Malcolm hadn't checked out the prices, so he decides it's safer to decline, and return to his hotel room after the really expensive drinks.

Once at the Horizon again, Malcolm is just putting the electronic key into the door when the phone rings. Argh!! He runs in so he doesn't miss the call. Malcolm: <breathing heavily> "Hello!" It's a non-vidphone on the other end, so no picture. Gabrielle: "Malcolm?" Malcolm: "Hello, sugar." Gabrielle: "Are you all right?" Malcolm: "Why does the phone only ring when you're opening the door or in the bathroom? Never mind. Are you okay?" Gabrielle: "Yes. I was wondering if you'd care to join me for dinner?" Malcolm: "Sure. Where?" Gabrielle: "I've heard of a club, inside the Last Chance." Malcolm: "That's a bit risky isn't it? Are you sure you'll be okay there?" Gabrielle: "I'll be fine." Malcolm: "When do you want me to pick you up?" Gabrielle: "I'm not in my room. I was out, and decided to go out to dinner. I'll meet you there." Malcolm: "In the club, or out front?" Gabrielle looks at Marco questioningly. Marco: "Tell him you'll meet him in the bar." Gabrielle: "I'll meet you in the bar. The big one on the main level." Malcolm agrees, although this whole thing is starting to make him nervous, so he packs his stuff up so it's ready to go. And since he's totally paranoid about going back to the area where he was once shot, he makes sure he has some equipment with him (med stuff in pockets, etc.). Marco, on the other hand, looks like he's about to spring an elaborate practical joke.

As he's the pilot, Mitchell is invited along to the club for dinner, although he isn't wearing appropriate clothing. Marco: "Oh, and there might be trouble. You know how to use one of these?" He hands Mitchell a large caliber handgun. Mitchell takes it, but will leave it in the ship. Mitchell would really like to get the opportunity to call Tabitha, but all he gets is a hot stop on Freemantle to pick up the suit he orders over the phone from Joplin's Clothiers.

Malcolm leaves a note for Trevor, since he can't rouse him. "Gone to the Last Chance. May be a rescue. May need rescuing." Then he goes to the casino, and takes a seat at the bar. He has a good view of everything, and looks for hard cover. And waits for the trap to be sprung.

Marco returns from the cockpit. Gabrielle: "How well do you know Captain Taylor?" Marco: "I've read his dossier, and his psych profile. Why? I'm not worried about him, if that's what you're asking. I assume this has a point?" Gabrielle: "He's been on the edge of some things that bother me." Marco: "You mean his consorting with potential traitors? All the more reason to invite him along, don't you think? Where's your sense of adventure? Don't worry, it'll be fun, you'll see. If you're really worried though, here." He opens a drawer and gives Gabrielle a handgun - a slim, light gauss pistol. Gabrielle checks the gun as she was taught, but it won't fit in her evening bag, as she shows the General. Marco: "Hmm. I see what you mean. Just a moment." He calls his aide, who provides a thigh holster, just like the one she wears herself. Marco: <watching Gabrielle put on the holster> "And you'll be very distracting to the male population if you need to draw it."

The ship lands, and since it's a beautiful night they walk - at the General's suggestion. Marco waxes poetical about the sunset, and quotes Terran poetry. Mitchell, after the poetry, asks the General if he's ever been on one of the aerostats? Marco: "No. They're not very practical for military purposes. Although I understand that during the Long Night, when technology was breaking down the populace of Vantage adapted by manufacturing solar-powered airships." Proof of the superior Solomani intellect. Marco: <to Gabrielle> "That's a lovely dress, but there's something missing." He takes a box out of his pocket, removes a string of gorgeous black pearls (graduated sizes), and puts it on Gabrielle. Gabrielle: "They're beautiful!" Marco: "Oh, think nothing of it. One of my men took them off of a dead Aslan." He gives her a quirky smile, and Gabrielle doesn't know if he's joking, or not, so she decides to just ignore it. Mitchell: "Do you golf, General?" Marco: "No. What would be the point? Hit a small white ball with an iron stick while you walk around with an alligator on your tit?" The General does not golf. The General hunts. He makes a comment about the game on Vantage being good, but he's not specific as to what type of game animal. Mitchell: "I think I may have to try my hand at that sometime."

Malcolm watches the party arrive. A tall, leggy blonde (that would be the General's aide - Lt. Naomi Fletcher) in a black sequined dress that plunges down to the navel, a big guy striding in, a number of other large men, Gabrielle (also in black - no sequins, less plunge, more slink), Mitchell (damn him - he's after Malcolm's girl again!), and that unpleasant little man with the blue glasses who eels into the room (Dr. Neil). (Not that he was particularly unpleasant to Malcolm.) Mitchell offers to speak to Robert, but all the arrangements for the club have been made already. The General only appears to be operating without a plan.

Gabrielle: <to Marco> "Did you want an introduction, or should I just bring him to the club?" Marco: "No hurry. Have some fun first." He snaps his fingers and his aide passes him some plaques, which he gives to Gabrielle. Marco: "There you are. Enjoy yourself. I'm going to go donate some of my money to the crooks who run this place. Not to worry, I expect to get it back later."

Gabrielle approaches Malcolm at the bar. Malcolm: <standing> "Gabrielle, you look lovely. So who's the big guy, sugar?" Gabrielle: "His name is Marco." Malcolm: "Is he treating you all right?" Gabrielle: "Yes, he is." Malcolm sees she has about $10,000 Solars in chips, so the guy evidently isn't cheap. Malcolm: "Is Mr. Blue Eyes with you?" Gabrielle: "He came with the group, I don't know who he's 'attached' to." Malcolm: "I think he's trouble. Be careful. So, do I get a name so I'm not completely blind-sided?" Gabrielle: "The man with the blue glasses?" Malcolm: "The big guy." Gabrielle: "His name is Marco Capeletti." <lengthy pause> Malcolm: "You move in some pretty interesting circles these days girl. Good luck." Gabrielle: "See you for dinner?" Malcolm: "Yeah. You may have to pick me up at the bar." Gabrielle goes off towards the tables, and Malcolm moves over near Dr. Neil, at another area in the bar.

A while later, Robert comes out to tell the General that the club is ready, and he sort of guides the guests. Gabrielle fetches Malcolm. The club is reserved for just this party, so the smaller tables have been rearranged into a single, large L-shaped one. Malcolm is seated across the table from Capeletti, who has Gabrielle on his right. The blonde, Lt. Fletcher, sits beside Malcolm. Marco: "Well, how are you finding everything, Mr. Edwards?" Malcolm: "Oh, not exactly what I was led to believe by either the tour books, or the rumors." Marco: "Ah. <checking out the menu> Do you find you prefer the more well-done sections, or the rarer, bloodier ones? I myself like the blood juices." Suzette giggles and does something under the table that makes Mitchell jump a bit. Malcolm: "I tend to prefer the middle myself - juicy but not still mooing."

Meat is ordered and consumed, and there is no unpleasantness during dinner. Marco: "Robert, the meal is excellent, convey my thanks to the owner, and ask him to join us." Robert: "I'll convey your...compliments sir." A few minutes later the owner is brought in, bracketed by several very large men not in Brizzk's employ. Marco: "Ah, the owner! How nice of you to join us. Perhaps you'd like to have a seat next to your fellow Imperial?" Lt. Fletcher has moved, and Brizzk is stuffed into a chair next to Malcolm. Dr. Neil takes the seat next to Marco and whispers something to him. Marco: "Well, let's ask him, shall we? Mr. Brizzk - the good doctor here tells me you've been involved in some rather unsavory extracurricular activities. Is that true?" The Vargr is very nervous, and makes what Gabrielle immediately recognizes as a huge, potentially fatal mistake - he tries to suck up to Capeletti. Brizzk: "Look, I've got powerful friends. We can come to an arrangement. I can get things for you. Whatever you need. Cash, Narcoleth, whatever you want. I just happen to know where a trader is sitting with 4 tons of Borloi oil." Malcolm tenses visibly at the mention of the Borloi and glares at the Vargr. Dr. Neil: "I wonder, General, just how far this famed Imperial solidarity goes? I sense some tension between our guests." Marco: "I wouldn't put too much stock in the Imperial solidarity. Mr. Edwards is, after all, one of us - a human." Malcolm: <looking at Brizzk> "Maybe it's personal use. Maybe he can use it all himself. Too bad Gvarrk isn't here, he'd have your ass in a sling." Marco: "Let's say, for argument's sake Mr. Brizzk, that I have some interest in this. And that in exchange for your life, perhaps a deal can be struck. I would have to test the product for purity." Brizzk: <relaxing> "I just happen to have a sample in my office, if you have some one who could test it." Marco nods to Dr. Neil, who leaves the room with one of the large men, returning in a few minutes with a syringe full of liquid - Borloi oil, uncut. This much would be fatal. Dr. Neil: "As I am not a medical doctor, I can't vouch for the purity of the sample. Perhaps we can test it in a different fashion?" The syringe is set down on the table, in front of Malcolm. Neil: "I understand Mr. Edwards has some medical training. Perhaps he could assist us?" Brizzk is starting to panic, but he's being held in place by two of the large men. Marco: "I have no love for your race, but that's not the issue here. You can't help your weakness, it's a matter of genetics. However, I cannot tolerate some one who brings drugs into my beloved Confederation, to prey upon children and the weak." Mitchell: "May ask a couple of questions?" Marco: "Certainly." Mitchell: "Did you know a Miss McNaughton?" Brizzk: "Look, we can make a deal. I have powerful friends. You don't know who I work for." Mitchell: "Did you know her?" Brizzk: "No." Marco nods at one of his men who try to speed things up by breaking the Vargr's arm. Gabrielle is very deliberately not watching this, but she and Suzette both start slightly at the unpleasant sound. Marco suggests that this is not something the ladies should be subjected to, so they are escorted to a small lounge next door. Taking advantage of the pause in the action, Mitchell decides that Dr. Neil shouldn't be the only person who gets to whisper to the General, so he goes over to him and says "Plutonium 244". This causes a raised eyebrow, but nothing else as of yet.

The Vargr is now a bit more cooperative. Brizzk: "Yeah, the McNaughton girl. She used to hang around here sometimes. Not for a while though. I heard that something happened to her." Mitchell: "Something?" Brizzk: "She OD'd or something." Mitchell: "On what? And why does everyone want to convince me that her death was a suicide?" Marco: <to Mitchell> "This is interesting. Why don't you enlighten us?" Mitchell: "An associate, sir. His daughter died, and the authorities have it down as a suicide by drug overdose. I read her obituary, called him, and he asked me to investigate." The attempt at either an interrogation or amateur torture event fails to elicit any terribly useful information, and the General finally decides to put an end to it by shooting Brizzk in the head with a large caliber handgun. This blows a hole in the high back of the chair, and tips it over. The shot is audible in the next room, where Suzette is pacing nervously and smoking.

Marco: "Well Mr. Edwards, there is an opening at the casino that was formerly held by an Imperial citizen, and you're the next available Imperial." Malcolm: "I don't know shit about this shit." Marco: "I'm sure you can manage. Captain Taylor can assist you, since we appear to have similar goals. He can provide your public face if you like. I'm sure he'd be good at it." Malcolm: "You're putting me in charge of this place? That's quite the goodwill gesture." Marco: "Thanks to your work on Colonel Hauks, I'm willing to cut you some slack. And from our preliminary tests at least, you don't appear to be contaminated by Vilani blood." Malcolm: "I'm so pleased. I don't know that Brizzk's business partners are going to be as understanding as you are." Marco: "Whoever he works for is either going to be pissed as hell and have you rubbed out, or they'll be wanting to cut a new deal. Considering the attention this place is attracting from SolSec and the local authorities, I'd be willing to bet they'll be wanting to tread lightly." Malcolm: "How is Colonel Hauks?" Marco: "They're doing what they can for him, poor man. They say there's hope, but isn't that what they always say? There's definitely been some brain damage, although they can't tell yet how extensive. In his place, I'd have preferred a quick death. Ah well - back to the business at hand. You will report to myself, Dr. Neil, or Lt. Fletcher only. No one else. <to Malcolm> If this goes well, maybe we can find you a nice little war for you later. I understand you're a combat medic. This place seems to have adequate funding to support your expenses, but if you do need additional capital, within reason, you can contact me. Anything else?" Malcolm: "Plutonium 244, weapons grade, enough to make maybe two devices." Marco: "That's the second time plutonium 244 has been mentioned tonight. Could you be a bit more specific?" Malcolm: "It was smuggled in a grav-vehicle by an assassin. I don't know where it is right now..." Mitchell: "I do. It's in the police property room." Marco: "Where?" Mitchell: "Here on Rainbow Commune." Marco: "Dr. Neil?" Neil: "Done, sir." Neil leaves.

Phillippe is sent for, to remove Brizzk's body (he never liked him any way). Marco walks over, takes the limp Vargr body out of the chair and sits down beside Malcolm. Malcolm: "I hope you're committed to this venture, General." Marco: "100% committed." Malcolm: "Good, because by the time this is over I have a feeling we're both going to have our illusions shattered." Marco: "I haven't had any illusions for some time, Mr. Edwards. <changing moods again> Robert? I think we're ready to see the dessert tray." Malcolm: "I think for the time being I'll be keeping on all the staff." Marco: "That's up to you." He returns to his original seat, across from Malcolm, as the dessert tray is brought in. Marco: "Ah, here we are. Yes, I'd like the burnt cream. I think my waistline can handle it." Phillippe removes the body, and the room is tidied up as much as possible. A screen is put up to cover the blood on the wall behind, although there is still a large hole in the one chair back. Since the mess is covered up, the females are invited back in for dessert. Suzette is pretty shaky, and is smoking a dope stick. Gabrielle is calmer (outwardly at least), and joins the General for dessert. No one takes the very red berry cobbler, and when the tray with it comes by Suzette, she runs to the bathroom. She comes back 15 minutes later, looking pretty awful. Mitchell escorts her upstairs.

Suzette is practically vibrating when Mitchell gets her to her room. Suzette: "But...but, people don't do that! You can't just go around shooting people, it's wrong!" She goes off about a puppy she had as a child, how was hit by a car, and this leads to sex. Everything seems to lead to sex with Suzette. Mitchell gets cleaned up after she falls asleep, and goes back downstairs to a few smirks. Marco and Malcolm are having bizarre, esoteric conversations about obscure authors and philosophers. The subject goes back to speculation as to the whereas and wherefore of the Borloi shipment, etc.

After dessert, coffee and brandy, the party begins to break up. Malcolm: <to Gabrielle> "May I speak to you briefly before you go?" Gabrielle: "All right." Marco: <to Malcolm and Mitchell> "I'll leave you gentlemen to it. Gabrielle..." Malcolm: <to Marco> "May I speak to Gabrielle for a moment?" Marco raises an eyebrow. Malcolm: "About the club. Gabrielle, you were here. Who did you meet here? Was there anyone I should know about?" Marco: "Gabrielle, you knew the former owner? How was that?" Gabrielle: "He had me picked up and brought here to ask me questions I didn't know the answers to. He was very unpleasant." Malcolm: "Was there anyone you think I can trust?" Gabrielle: "A large man named Phillippe. He was a gentleman, and he helped me to get away." Malcolm: "Thank you." Marco: "Good luck. Good hunting." Mitchell: "I told you I was considering giving it a try." Mitchell has never backed down from a challenge, and he damn well isn't going to do so now. The General leaves several of his people (two men and a very dangerous looking woman) to assist with the details for now.

90 - 1121.

Marco is a perceptive man, and on the trip back to the base he makes sure that Gabrielle isn't in need of some time to herself after everything that's happened. He's pleased to discover that being alone is the last thing she wants right now. The General is very, um, vigorous tonight... It's not until afterwards that he says "There's nothing like a good kill to get the blood going." Several other comments of that nature slip out during the afterglow stage, then he switches topics (fortunately). Marco: "Do you think those two are trustworthy? Would you trust them?" Gabrielle: "I think in this situation, I would probably trust Mr. Edwards more." Marco: "That's interesting. You would trust the Imperial over one of our own citizens? Why is that? Please, I want to know what you think - I have enough sycophants around." (At least he recognizes she has a brain.) Gabrielle: "Because I don't think Malcolm has an 'agenda'. And... because it wasn't Malcolm I saw coming out of the hotel room with the dead SolSec agents in it." Now that peaks his interest! Marco: "Oh??" Gabrielle, figuring that if Marco doesn't know already, he will (and besides - she's been worried about it), tells him everything she saw and heard in the hotel, and what happened afterwards with Dr. Neil.

The staff at the Last Chance is assembled, and told about the change in management. Most of them are rather blasé about it, as it involves the upper levels and probably won't effect them. They are assured that the current staff will be kept on for the foreseeable future at least; no radical changes will be made, and business should be allowed to continue as normal. Malcolm: "My associate, Mr. Taylor, will be handling public relations and the day to day operations out on the floor, and these gentlemen and lady are here to ensure a smooth transition." The chair with the large hole in it has been brought in by the female, and is being eyed uncomfortably by some of the staff. Malcolm figures he can use it for visitors, to set the appropriate mood.

After the staff leaves, Malcolm starts going through Brizzk's belongings in his office. He checks out the files on the computer (yes, Brizzk wrote the password down and left it in his desk), and finds a number of videos, all of them sexual in nature, involving the Vargr and human females, and a number of them rather dark in theme. One of those has Rebecca McNaughton in it. It's a submission-domination thing for the Vargr, and Malcolm understands it in that context (although it's still pretty icky), but show it to a Solomani, and oh boy! Malcolm erases and overwrites all the vids except for the one with Rebecca in them. He looks at the vid, watching for background, and finds some indistinct figures in the background. The date information on the file indicates it was made a couple of days before Rebecca's death. It's one of the rather darker, unpleasant tapes, and Malcolm pulls out the frames with the two figures, to try to have them enhanced later.

Mitchell sends a message to Captain McNaughton that reads only "You were right." Then he went out in search of Tabitha. He picks up on the fact that he's being followed, darts down a side alley, and waits with the stun baton at the ready. Tabitha is quicker than he is though, and before it registers that it's Mitchell, she's kicked him really hard, exactly where he would least like to be kicked. Mitchell doubles over and falls down. At this point Tabitha realizes who it is. Tabitha: "Mitchell! Oh my God, I'm so sorry! I didn't realize it was you." Mitchell just lays there in his little ball of intense pain, but he does understand. He manages to apologize for not meeting her earlier, explaining that he was sidetracked, by whom, and for what (Capeletti's little investigation). Mitchell: "And who's this Dr. Neil?" Tabitha: "I don't know for sure. I don't know, but I have my suspicions." Mitchell: "Maybe we should get a cab and get me to a hospital." Tabitha: "Good idea. But you'll have to make the call, I don't dare." Mitchell calls. Tabitha is anxious for Mitchell to break the case for Capeletti, since that might be the only thing to save her bacon.

After being taken to the hospital Mitchell tells Tabitha to take the cab back to the Last Chance, and to ask for Malcolm. Tabitha: "Your Imperial friend? Will he want to help me with what I know?" Mitchell: "I'll let him know." Once in the hospital, ("Well, that's why you have two. Just kidding; you probably won't lose it.") and on pain meds, Mitchell calls to ask Malcolm if he can put up his "patient". Besides, she's very good with computers. Malcolm agrees.

After getting off the phone with Mitchell, Malcolm asks Phillippe into the office. Phillippe: "Yes, boss?" Malcolm: "Miss Vanek tells me you are a gentleman. Do you feel you're in the right place in this club?" Phillippe: "That's not for me to say sir." Malcolm is concerned that Phillippe isn't living up to his potential, although the whole conversation seems to make Phillippe a bit uncomfortable. Malcolm will see to it that additional education and/or training is made available to the staff. Even if he's not going to be here for the long run, it's at least best to look like you're planning for it.

Back in General Capeletti's quarters, the conversation continues. Marco: "Well, this is obviously a point of some concern. Do you understand what's going on here?" Gabrielle: "Not really." Marco: "Drug smuggling, white slavery, illegal arms - probably involving local citizens, even law enforcement, but being controlled by Imperials. You know what they're like across the border - they hate us. The same mentality that nearly crushed us in the war wants to destroy us now. What you said gives me grave concerns. I need some one there who I can trust completely, but that they'll accept. I can only think of one person who fulfills those qualities. I still want to see you, but if you hang out in your new club during the day, no one will think it strange. <very intently> Think about those thousands of children and young men and women who would have become addicted to that substance. I know you love the Confederation and your fellow Solomani as I do, and you don't want to see those children turned into mindless husks..." He obviously believes what he's saying, and is very persuasive. His eyes literally well with tears when he speaks of his love for the Confederation. Gabrielle: "What do you want me to do??" Marco: "I want you to be my eyes and ears. If you tell me no, I'll understand, but this is our hour of need." Gabrielle: <hesitantly> "I'll try." Marco: "That's all any of us can do, try our best. <pause> But that's enough of that for now, you've had a long day." Switching moods again, Marco has Gabrielle roll over onto her stomach, and gives her an incredibly good back rub. Part way through, Gabrielle glances up as the curtains on the doors (open, as it's a lovely night) to the terrace billow in the breeze, and she sees - or thinks she sees a figure in a hat and nice suit on the terrace for a second and then gone. (A voyeur? Or some one interested in pillow-talk?) She tenses up, Marco moves to relax the tense part, and Gabrielle lets him.

At a reasonable hour of the morning, Marco calls Malcolm to let him know that Gabrielle will be "looking in from time to time, just to check in on my interests, and to act as my contact." Malcolm: "And the others as backup?" Marco: "That's right, and in case something happens to her. But nothing better happen to her." Malcolm: "Hey, the first time I met her I was taking care of her." Marco: "I'm holding you personally responsible for her safety." <click> Oh, good.

Tabitha can help with the computer system, although she doesn't have her proper gear with her. She's done lots of roles, and isn't concerned about playing a 'demeaning' role like cigarette girl or something. Tabitha: "...but don't expect me to take care of any customers." Malcolm: "Hey, that's what Lily's is for." Tabitha: "Just clarifying things right from the start." Not that any of the customers would stand a chance once they pissed her off, just ask Mitchell.

Malcolm finds Gabrielle's ID, and some pictures (probably security cam) of her in various poses. There are notes with the photos, comments like "Yum-yum!", etc. Seems Brizzk may have been considering Gabrielle for his next video. (Damn good thing he's dead!) There are also some e-mails from some of the girls from his vids, expressing undying love, and the like. Malcolm deletes the e-mails. Completely.

In the safe are also a number of bottles of wine. Local wine, not the kind of stuff you'd normally have locked up, so why? There is some sediment on the bottom of the bottles. The seals are intact, but there are tiny marks on the corks that indicate some one may have poked the corks with a paperclip, or a syringe. Like the one in the small box in the safe, with a small vial of very highly refined Borloi. At this strength Borloi is more than just a harmless euphoric, and becomes extremely and quickly addictive. Malcolm uses the poor excuse of a computer in Brizzk's office to hunt through the society columns, finding a number of the females, articles like "Missing Heiress", but never some one's underage daughter. Perhaps because that leads to irate male relatives showing up. Even if that shows a certain amount of intelligence, there won't be a lot of sleep lost over Mr. Brizzk's demise around here.