"In this world, there is one terrible thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons."
-- Jean Renoir


Mitchell, in the 'Place of Healing', is all relaxed and repaired, but somewhat tender for the moment. The docs tell him "no sex for two weeks, and after that, you can decide how you feel." Mitchell figures, "Hey, two weeks? Six months is more like it." Poor Suzette. Mitchell intends to head back to the Last Chance when he's released, with his pain patch.

Malcolm is trying to figure out the Vargr's filing system. Designed by some sort of dyslexic maniac no doubt. Brizzk's method seems to have consisted of opening a drawer, shoving stuff inside, and closing the drawer; that's when he ran out of flat surfaces to pile the papers on.

Mitchell is greeted by Phillippe on his return to the casino. Phillippe: "Glad you're back sir. A gentleman called to inquire after you." Mitchell: "What gentleman?" Phillippe: "He didn't leave his name, sir." Mitchell: "Of course not." Phillippe: "All I told him was that you were employed at this establishment, but that you were not here." Mitchell: "That's fine." Phillippe: "Can I get you anything sir? A bag of ice? A comfortable chair?" Mitchell: "A comfortable chair would be nice. Preferably in an office." Phillippe: "I will inquire of the manager, sir." Phillippe goes to speak with Malcolm, since he's not sure what position Mitchell really has. Malcolm: "He's in public relations." Mitchell and Malcolm meet to sort things out. Malcolm: "You might want this office. It's central." And decorated like the pimp's office in a French whorehouse. Malcolm: "We'll need to get you a proper computer first. I've removed the Barney stickers from this thing <the infotainment unit>, but it doesn't seem to have helped." The biggest concern is that the 'computer' is actually connected to a main storage area that's shared by all the subscribers. Oh yeah, that's secure! They discuss buying a new computer, or the parts thereof. Mitchell: "How are we doing for money?" Malcolm: "Well, after finding the sports betting thing, we have a lot of miscellaneous cash, much of it Imperial, and probably illegal here." Mitchell: "Do you want me to set up in here then?" Malcolm: "Let's get everything cleaned up first. Brizzk had to hide, being as he was a - I believe the local term is 'skin'?" Mitchell: "That's right." Malcolm: "Fortunately, I'm human, so I can be seen in public. You're still the front man though. We want the business to continue as normal." Mitchell: "It's turning a profit, and we don't want to mess with that." There's the casino, the bar/entertainment, and about a dozen rooms for private gambling and/or entertaining. The Carnivore Club is run separately by some one else (just sharing the location). The books are really simple (and only sort of maintained), and don't do a good job of hiding Brizzk's skimming. Malcolm and Mitchell go check out Brizzk's room upstairs, and receive minor retinal damage when they go in. (Even for a Vargr, Brizzk had bad taste.) Round bed with remote control (voice activated) for the rotation, lots of low furniture with no arms, Vegan cigarettes with marks in the paper like they've been dampened, powder residue on the bathroom sink, bits of this and that. Brizzk didn't have much class, or hygiene, and he was very cocky. Three of the rooms are in use: Suzette's (which is permanently leased), Brizzk's room, and another one leased under the name of 'Mr. Smith'. The latter pays electronically, a year in advance. Carefully searching the room (taking sanitary precautions), Malcolm and Mitchell are easily able to find a lot of cash, including $1,000 Solars in a boot. Malcolm: "Why don't you get cleaned up and start getting comfortable in your new position." Mitchell: "Right." They're going to both need rooms, and that means cleaning up Brizzk's old room. They'll go through it for assets, then have a crew come in and swamp it out. The soft porn in the cabinet they'll leave, also the expensive erotica on the walls.

First thing for Mitchell to do is get information on the employees, who don't have any paperwork or files. He'll come up with some sort of simple form for everyone to fill out, so he can start figuring out who's who. There's a couple of male bartenders who are very good, and well-liked. They're also identical twins, but one of them has a mustache and the other doesn't. There are nine female hostesses who work the floor, and about a dozen croupiers. Also three or four 'entertainers' that are pretty regular, and some that work off and on; the house doesn't pay them anything, they're approved in advance and are allowed to help keep the customers happy. Brizzk didn't sample, he was known to bring in young girls, "almost schoolgirls" is the comment from the working girls. Ick. Phillippe is sort of an ombudsman. He's large, but calm and very polite. The other staff tell Mitchell and Malcolm that no one has ever seen Phillippe lose his temper. And no one really wants to. The staff is competent, and although understandably edgy, capable of keeping things running.

Phillippe is pleased that Mitchell will be the new 'up front man'. Phillippe: "...When the other guy left about a month ago, business dropped off." Mitchell: "What other guy?" Phillippe: "Some sort of Navy man. McNolty or something. He only came in once or twice, he made the society connections that brought the clientele in." And collected a nice bit of change for his trouble. Well, well. Mitchell doesn't want to get much further into things without having a meeting with Malcolm and Gabrielle, which he tells Malcolm. Malcolm: "Do you want to bring Tabitha in on this? What would the best wandering position be for her to watch things? Cigarette girl would be ideal." They discuss this, and decide that Tabitha can work the floor with Mitchell as a sort of general hostess kind of thing. Mitchell will make sure he learns the name of all the employees, so he can recognize their names and faces. There are only a few people who handle the maintenance in back, as most of it's automated. Mitchell makes an extra effort to keep the twins separate, should the one with the mustache shave it off.

There's the magnificent pimp office with the wood and velvet and naugahide, the oversized desk chair, the huge wraparound kidney-shaped desk, the red velvet stuffed chairs, the big picture window that overlooks the casino floor (it can be opaqued), the holographic table monitors, the framed porno movie posters (some autographed) - definitely a certain kind of "look". There are also two smaller offices. One has a small, conservative desk arranged in an obsessively neat manner, and has a practical office chair (very comfortable, but not flashy) - this is the one that the former front man used. It's dusty, but a less dusty space in the shape of a computer. The place would be less cramped if they took out all the empty but nice bookshelves. The other office is currently being used for storage, but can be cleared out if necessary. Both of the smaller offices are near the large one.

And then there are the phone calls. Some people have been paid, others haven't, and it seems to be rather haphazard. This will be tracked properly from now on. Mitchell takes one of the smaller entertainment rooms for his residence, since he doesn't currently have a place to sleep. Phillippe tells Malcolm that if they close the place between 6:00 AM and noon, there's really no business besides the occasional private party or game, and that's scheduled in advance. They decide to shut down the place for the most part during those hours, to tidy up and sleep. Further scrutiny of the office reveals a lot of jewelry on the premises, much of it really gaudy. Some is actually valuable, but mostly just a testament to Brizzk's bad taste. They'll use the jewelry to pay off people who require less restrictive currency than Solars.

Mitchell calls McNaughton, and asks him to come see him, at the club. Mitchell: "It's under new management." McNaughton: "And why should I care, unless this is going to assist in your investigation? Have you made any progress?" Mitchell: "Yes, I have, and this puts me in a position to gain more information." McNaughton asks for directions, and will meet Mitchell there later in the evening. McNaughton is a bit concerned about the safety of meeting in "that sort of place. And you and I are not the sort of people who should be seen in that kind of setting." Mitchell assures him that he'll find the setting improved.

They may end up changing the name of the Last Chance. Brizzk named the place after he got a really good deal on the sign from a bar that went bankrupt. The sign hasn't been the same since Trevor killed the guy with it, so it needs replacing any way. Mitchell and Malcolm will muse on the new name for a while.

The casino is visited by a female wearing black neo-leather pants and jacket, with slicked back brown hair, piercing green eyes. She's a representative of a "local businessmen's association". The association is working on developing the lower levels, and she wants to invite Malcolm to come to a meeting. It's a mutually beneficial association, and is not a protection racket. Everyone kicks in a certain amount of money, which is used to "donate money to the Policemen's Benevolent Society", that sort of thing. The female's name is Ruby, and she's smart, big and tough-looking, but definitely feminine. Ruby: "I hope you'll be more consistent than the former owner." There have been rumors. Ruby gets into Malcolm's space, fishing around to find out "what actually happened to Brizzk? We heard he had some sort of accident." Malcolm: "No, I'd say Mr. Brizzk had an on-purpose." Mitchell: "Mr. Brizzk was promoted. He's now serving in one of our... higher offices." Ruby doesn't seem terribly upset, but now Mitchell and Malcolm know that the rumors circulating among the staff have not left the premises. Ruby invites Malcolm to the next meeting, to discuss "the contribution schedule." Malcolm: "We're still hashing some things out." Ruby will hang out for a while. Mitchell suggests offering Ruby $500 Solars in chips, but Malcolm thinks it's best to give her the option for when she's off-duty. Mitchell goes out and makes the offer. Ruby isn't actually 'on duty', she's executive staff, and she makes her own hours. She accepts the chips, and will be hanging around for a while longer to gamble.

Malcolm and Mitchell get dressed in nice clothing for their first evening. Malcolm is not going to be out in public, just watching through the big window. Mitchell goes downstairs, and tells Phillippe to "let me know as soon as Miss Vanek arrives". Phillippe will do so, of course. Mitchell will be carrying the stun baton, but no other weapon, and will be spending the evening on the floor.

People start wandering in once the place reopens for the afternoon. Some of the people look like they literally just wandered in off the street (spur of the moment kind of customers), but many of the customers are very well dressed. Mitchell goes into schmooze mode; he wears the right clothes, he has the right accent, he went to the right schools, etc. There's a bizarre mix of people here. Some of them are pleased to see Mitchell, and hope the club regains it's previous status. There used to be a lot more of the "nicer" sort of people at the club. That's what Mitchell's here for, after all. He'll have to start meeting these people socially, and invite them to the casino, try to regain the favor of the upper crust. He meets people who knew Captain McNaughton when he was associated with the casino. Mitchell finds it odd that McNaughton asked for directions when he used to work here.

Malcolm checks out the tidy office, but finds nothing under the blotter, or any where else. Whoever cleaned it up was being very neat about it, but not trying to erase fingerprints or anything. Then Malcolm mingles with the employees, trying to get them over their natural fear of the guy who's in charge after the very hostile takeover. It will take a while for the staff to calm down around Malcolm.

Mitchell checks out the less savory customers. Two of them, men, appear to just be the vulgar, obnoxious types (i.e., not a real threat). They make comments about the females in the room, etc. But they have a lot of money. Then a man in a very well tailored suit, coat thrown over his shoulders in the European fashion, a cigarette held just so, blue-tinted glasses. Oh goodie, it's Dr. Neil! He goes over and sits down at the blackjack table, between the two loud men. Neil: <to the croupier> "I'm feeling very lucky tonight." Mitchell points out Dr. Neil to Tabitha, so she's aware of who he is, although she still doesn't exactly know who he is. Tabitha doesn't know why it's important at this stage to check into Dr. Neil's identity, especially when Mitchell tells her he's associated with General Capeletti. Tabitha: "If he's SolSec, that would raise a lot of flags." Mitchell just wanted her to get a look at the man in person.

The good doctor is doing very well, and asks about raising the stakes. Malcolm is buzzed, and he agrees to double the limit but just for a few hands, as they only have about $25,000 Solars in cash, plus whatever's coming in at the moment. Dr. Neil's luck continues, and the table closes. Dr. Neil tips the croupier a couple of thousand. Mitchell goes over to say hello. Mitchell: "Dr. Neil, good evening." Neil: "Captain Taylor." Mitchell: "Please, Mitchell." Neil: "Ah. Mitchell." Mitchell: "Having a good evening?" Neil: "Yes, thank you. I hope I haven't traumatized my dealer though. I appear to have caused a need for a break." Mitchell: "Not to worry. We're still in the shakedown stage, so you'll have to bear with us." Neil: "I have not seen Miss Vanek this evening." Mitchell: "I don't believe she's been in yet." Over Dr. Neil's shoulder, Mitchell can see Gabrielle come in, but he doesn't say anything to Neil. Mitchell: "Anyhow, as I said, we're still shaking some things down here; the previous owner had things in quite a mess. But please, feel free to enjoy any of the games." Neil: "Thank you. I don't find gambling that interesting. It's a way to pass the time though." Mitchell takes his leave, tells Tabitha he's going off the floor for a while, and leaves.

Mitchell joins Malcolm in the office. Mitchell: "Want to take the floor for a while and meet the clientele?" Malcolm: "If I can have the delectable Miss Vanek as my escort; she's better at that sort of thing than I am." Mitchell: "Delectable? You have a thing for her, don't you?" Malcolm: "Sugar's a nice girl." As they're watching the floor, a man comes in who looks very out of place. He's in a ship's suit, and looks like he was clean-shaven two days ago. He looks really cagey, and tries to make a $5 Solar bet at a table with a $50 Solar minimum. Malcolm decides to go downstairs and check out this new guy.

Phillippe spots Gabrielle, and goes over to deliver Mitchell's message. Phillippe: "Miss Vanek? Captain Taylor would like to know if you'd be so kind as to join him in the main office upstairs?" Gabrielle: "I'll be up directly. I'm glad to see you're all right."

Malcolm sees the suspicious man moving around the edge of the room, trying to edge his way to the back. Malcolm tells Tabitha he's going to try to find out what the man wants, but would appreciate her backing him up, just in case. Malcolm: "I like you to keep back, but stay within hearing distance. If I say something about 'Imperial warmonger', I need help." Tabitha: <bemused> "Awfully cloak and dagger, don't you think? Did you learn this from watching movies?" Malcolm: "No, I've learned that if you don't explain the plan in the lowest common denominator, people forget things." Malcolm goes into the back, as the man heads for Malcolm's office. Malcolm: "What the hell are you doing sneaking around, in my club?" Man: "Your club? What happened to Brizzk? Don't try anything stupid." He puts his hand in his pocket. Malcolm: "That's only useful in Lily's, friend, and unless it's a 15mm, I'm not impressed. Brizzk's gone." Man: "Gone where? When will he be back?" Malcolm: "I have a pretty good idea where he's gone, but he won't be back until his next incarnation." Man: "Brizzk's dead? Right. You and what army? Pardon my skepticism, but you don't look like you've got what it takes to have taken down Brizzk. I've seen him cut up guys twice your size." Malcolm: "If we'd been going at each other with knives, that may be. But the people I'm involved with are a lot nastier than I had anticipated, and don't mess around. Brizzk got stupid." Man: "Fine. Brizzk's dead, that's his bad luck. I'm out of here." Malcolm: "You think you can move it anywhere else, fine." Man: <stops> "I got a message you can pass on to your bosses. If they're interested in Brizzk's cargo, they have to deal with me, direct. And my cut just went up." Malcolm: "Do we have to go scraping the surface of the planet for information, or are you going to tell me how to make contact with you?" Man: "Leave a message on the public board, on level 1." Malcolm: "To whom do we address it?" Man: "Pogey. But I'll talk to the money men. I don't want to meet twice." Malcolm: "If I speak to you, it will be on their behalf." Pogey: "Fine, but make sure you have the cash. I have other interested parties." He takes his communicator (ha!) out of his pocket, smiles, and leaves. Malcolm considers having the man beaten. Later.

Gabrielle passes the man in the flightsuit who really needs to bathe, on the way to see Mitchell. Gabrielle looks at him, and Pogey leers. Pogey: "Catch you later." Malcolm tells Tabitha they want info on the man, so Tabitha cuts him off and takes a picture, using the time honored "Souvenir of your visit sir?" ploy. Pogey isn't happy, so she gets a few choice words on tape, too. Tabitha then palms the digital card out the camera, puts in a new one, and takes some real souvenir photos.

Neil: "Ah, Miss Vanek!" He literally just appears in front of her. Neil: "A pleasure to see you again. How are you doing? Well, I hope?" Gabrielle: "Yes, thank you. And yourself?" Neil: "Fine, fine. You're looking very lovely tonight." Gabrielle: "Thank you." Neil says something in a language that Gabrielle doesn't understand. Gabrielle: "I'm sorry..." Neil: "Oh, just something that came to mind. You're probably not up on Middle English. A little something from Chaucer that seemed appropriate." Gabrielle: "What does it mean?" Neil: <smiling> "It's not important. Adjusting to life here on Vantage? I'm sure it's very different from Aquitaine." Gabrielle: "Yes, it's very different, but I'm trying to adapt." Neil: "I do have a message from the General. He apologizes, but he will be occupied for the next week or so. He wanted me to let you know. Should you require anything while he's gone, I will be available to assist you." Gabrielle: "Thank you. I hope I won't need to trouble you." She's wondering what's up, and where she's going to stay tonight. Neil: "It's no trouble. The General is naturally concerned about you. A beautiful woman such as yourself..." He sort of goes blank for a few seconds. Neil: "But please, if you should need anything, don't hesitate to ask." He gives her a friendly squeeze on the upper arm. Gabrielle: "Thank you." Neil: "I don't want to take any more of your time, I'm sure you have things to do." He leaves her. She takes a few minutes to collect herself, and then goes to the back.

Gabrielle has been in the pimp office before. It's still incredibly tacky, and made even less inviting by the presence of the chair that Brizzk was killed in. Mitchell offers Gabrielle a seat, on the other side of the room. (On the tacky, but less weird, velvet furniture.) Mitchell: "Everything going okay?" Gabrielle: "I suppose." Mitchell: "Do you remember when you were picked up by the paramedics and taken to the hospital? On Freemantle, I mean." Gabrielle: <puzzled> "Yes, I remember." Mitchell: "Do you know why?" Phillippe knocks on the door gently, and informs Mitchell that Captain McNaughton "and his party have arrived, sir." Mitchell: "I'll be right with them." Phillippe leaves. Mitchell: "Any way, did they ever tell you why they picked you up, aside from the fact that you were injured?" Gabrielle: "I was unconscious during part of that." Mitchell: <looking for the right words> "I don't know how else to say this, except to just say it. I was told that the medical readings the paramedics got off you indicated you were an AP." Gabrielle: "An 'AP'? You mean a construct?" Mitchell: "Yes. Since then, SolSec has tried very hard to convince me that you were a construct." Gabrielle: "That's a bit peculiar, and why would they have tried to convince you of this?" Mitchell: "To get me to watch you. I have since learned, and you can take this any way you want, but I've learned that you were not an AP, but you had been given a drug." Gabrielle: "Yes...?" Mitchell: "Have you heard of Combat?" Gabrielle: <confused> "As in military combat?" Mitchell: "Combat is a drug that can simulate the reactions of an AP. I don't know how much of this to believe, but that's why SolSec was interested in you. The drug you were given is similar to Combat." Gabrielle: "And that's why you were asked to watch me?" Mitchell: "They're hoping that you'll lead them to the source of the drug. And from what I've been told, you may still be under the influence of the drug. Have you had any incidences of unusual strength?" Gabrielle: "No." Mitchell: "You know, ripped down doors, run through crowds after being shot repeatedly, anything like that?" Gabrielle: "No, I'm fairly sure that I would have noticed that." Mitchell: "I'm sorry, but I couldn't think of how else to tell you." Gabrielle: "That's all right." [Brain cramp!] Mitchell: "I have to go take care of Captain McNaughton now." He starts to escort Gabrielle out of the office, but Malcolm interrupts. Malcolm: "I need to speak with Miss Vanek, if that's all right?" Gabrielle: "Okay." They go back into the pimp office.

Mitchell goes out and meets McNaughton, who is with some people Mitchell has met before. McNaughton: "Captain Taylor." McNaughton suggests that they go somewhere private before speaking, and he leads Mitchell and the group to the very neat office. It was, in fact, his and he apparently was able to make sure it was a secure location. Mitchell starts to bring up Rebecca, but McNaughton stops him. McNaughton: "Before we go any further, Mitchell, we need to know where your loyalties lie." Mitchell: "Where they always have." McNaughton: "Yes, that's what I thought. That's why we've come to you. <indicating one of the men> I don't believe you've met Admiral Tengatsu?" Mitchell: "Admiral." He may not have met him before, but Mitchell has heard about the Admiral - a tough man, career ended suddenly. Tengatsu: "Call me Hiroshi." Mitchell: "Hiroshi. Please, sit down. Andrew, you're the one who asked me to look into this." McNaughton: "Yes, but there are two issues here. That was personal." Mitchell: "And the other?" McNaughton: "Admiral, do you want to take this?" Tengatsu: <nods> "You must be aware, the Near Boötes Cluster have been a force of moderation within the Confederation for some time. But as you know, or may not, Ian Kellerman, the Ephor of Polyphemus, has married Queen Marie of Aquitaine. This tips the balance of the sector towards the more radical side. That means more purges under SolSec, more show trials, more disappearances. The Navy has always remained neutral to politics in the past; our concern was to fulfill our duty, regardless of which faction was in power. But can't afford the purges, or a possible war at a time that the Confederation cannot afford it. The SolSec Prefect is stepping down, which leaves a position of considerable power open. The radicals want to place Tadeoshi in the position. Tadeoshi, who is a rabid radical who has spoken openly of the need to purge the population of the 'wrong element', whatever that means." Mitchell: "Sounds like Capeletti." Tengatsu: "Capeletti doesn't have political aspirations - Tadeoshi does. <pause> Aquitaine and Polyphemus are not very far apart, and have a close association. You might want to ask your Miss Vanek about it." Mitchell: "I might do that." Tengatsu: "Vantage could go the way of Polyphemus, and we don't want that." Mitchell: "Who do we want for Prefect?" Tengatsu: "We have some one in mind. Françoise Aldemann. I'd like you to meet her." Mitchell: "I'd be happy to." Tengatsu: "And as soon as possible. To give you an idea how serious this potential succession is, even now we have information that Tadeoshi is having anyone who is viewed as disloyal watched, and is assembling a list of people to be eliminated. She's quite ruthless." Mitchell: "I can understand your concern." Tengatsu: "We are more than concerned. We cannot afford to watch while the Confederation is destroyed from within. We are men and women of honor, we are determined to make certain this does not happen, and we are willing to do whatever it takes, at any cost. We'd like to know if have your support." Mitchell: "You have my support." Tengatsu: "Good." Mitchell: "A question. What do you know of a Dr. Neil?" Tengatsu: "Only rumors." Mitchell: <tired of people not elaborating> "Rumors of...?" Tengatsu: "He's associated somehow with SolSec, although in what capacity no one knows." Mitchell: "He seems to be connected to Capeletti." Tengatsu: "He's travelled with him, in the past." Mitchell: "I'm in a position that will put me in close contact with Capeletti." Tengatsu: "We know, and that could be to our advantage. We'd like you to cultivate that relationship." Mitchell: "That might work against us if we have to maintain contact. I'm not sure what your relationship with the previous owner here was." McNaughton: "He had contacts. We couldn't always go through the usual channels, as you can imagine." Tengatsu: "And Mr. Brizzk was able to provide certain materials that we had need of." Mitchell: "Then you're the people Capeletti is looking for." Tengatsu: "Really? I was not aware that the General knew about our merry band?" Mitchell: "He's looking for whoever was holding Brizzk's leash." Tengatsu: "We were not Brizzk's keepers. I don't know who his employers were, he was just willing to do anything for money. He provided us with weapons and information." Mitchell: "He may still be looking for you, but not knowing who you are." Tengatsu: "This is my aide, Lt. O'Hanlon. She will be your contact with me." A tiny, elfin sort of female. Mitchell resists the urge to ask if she's old enough to be a lieutenant; or even in the Navy at all. She's about 5'6", slight build, large eyes. O'Hanlon: <recognizing the look> "I'm 26 sir." Mitchell: "If the Admiral has faith in you..." O'Hanlon: "I have two combat ribbons, sir. I've seen the elephant. And the Admiral is right - we need men like you. And people who look up to men like you. I remember the time you..." She goes off about something that happened ten years ago. Oh dear, she has that hero-worship thing. O'Hanlon: "...And please, call me Megan, sir. We're all civilians now." Mitchell: "Megan. Please call me Mitchell." Megan: "Yes sir. Mitchell." Mitchell: <to Tengatsu> "Have you heard anything about Admiral Ness?" (The man Mitchell was associated with, whose fall from favor took Mitchell with him.) Tengatsu: "Oh. Haven't you heard?" Mitchell: "No." Tengatsu: "He took his own life. At least that's what they say. He killed himself with his own fowling piece." Tricky, that, considering Ness was not a large man, so he must have fired the weapon with his big toe. Mitchell: "He was a good man." The group breaks up, and Megan gives Mitchell one of her calling cards, in case he needs anything at all.

Mitchell asks McNaughton to stay, which he does. McNaughton: "Have you found out anything about Rebecca?" Mitchell: "Unfortunately, I was not able to ask Brizzk any more questions -" McNaughton: "What exactly happened to the Vargr? We haven't been able to get the real story." Mitchell recounts the events surrounding Brizzk's demise, up to and including Capeletti capping the Vargr. McNaughton: "You mean he just shot him?" Mitchell: "Yes." McNaughton: "Fucking psychopath... And these are the kind of people who will be put in charge if Tadeoshi is made prefect. It's worse than we thought. We have to act now, before it's too late. You and I, and the others are probably already on a list." Mitchell: "Do we have anyone currently in the service?" McNaughton: "Yes, but you know what that's like, they have to deal with their crew, their assignments, the distance. <pause> But you were saying you'd found something out about Rebecca." Mitchell gives McNaughton a condensed run down, without any of the really nasty details, on Brizzk and his connection to drugs, and the fact that Rebecca had been coming to the club and hanging out with the Vargr. McNaughton: <visibly upset> "Oh my God. My God. It's all my fault. I dealt with Brizzk. He was slime, but we needed what he could provide. If it hadn't been for me, Rebecca would never have come into contact with him." McNaughton takes a few moments to collect himself again, but he does. Mitchell: "What exactly was Brizzk providing to the group?" McNaughton: "I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but the less you know about what you don't need to know, the better. I know only what I need to, and even the Admiral only knows what he needs to. Any of us can be taken and made to talk..." Mitchell: "I understand, but if you need the information Brizzk was providing, you'll need a new source." McNaughton: "We need to know what Tadeoshi is up to, and what Capeletti is up to. We don't even know why he's here." Mitchell figures it might be to back up Tadeoshi, maybe even with troops. Could be. McNaughton: "Do you think it's possible Rebecca overdosed?" Mitchell: "No." McNaughton: "Before you got involved, I thought maybe it was them. Maybe they did something to her to get to me." Mitchell: "That wouldn't have made any sense. Maybe she found something out." McNaughton: "Do you have any children, Taylor?" Mitchell: "No." McNaughton: "In a way, I envy you. Children are a blessing. And a curse. <lengthy pause> I can't think about this right now. I have to focus on the mission. Will you excuse me?" He leaves, looking like he's carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

During all this plotting and sedition, Malcolm has been next door speaking with Gabrielle. Malcolm: "We may have had our first nibble. Someone's talking about a shipment for Brizzk. I can get you his picture, and a name for contact, but I'll need a couple of very hard people to back me up." Gabrielle: "All right. I guess... I'm sorry, I'm new at this." Malcolm: "So am I. I'm used to having a big radio." Malcolm calls Tabitha. Malcolm: "Have you had a chance to process the picture yet?" Tabitha: "On what?" She needs a proper computer to process the photo, but would prefer something that's sterile, and unconnected to anything else. She can have it transferred to another chip, as Malcolm requests, and has it sent up with one of the girls. Malcolm: "Are you all right? You look a bit shocky. Or confused." Gabrielle: "As I said, I'm new at this." Malcolm and Gabrielle see the group leave, obviously from the back area. Gabrielle figures this must be the Captain McNaughton Mitchell was talking about. When Gabrielle looks out the window (on this side - on the outside it's a painting), Dr. Neil looks up, makes eye contact with her, and gives a little wave. Malcolm just sees people gambling. Malcolm mentions the man in the flightsuit, who Gabrielle describes to him. Malcolm: "That's him. He wasn't as stealthy at this as he thought. We're trying to sort out what's where, but I wish your friend hadn't' taken out the previous owner quite so quickly; it's really hard to interrogate a stack of badly managed bills and receipts. Oh, here's your ID." He hands it to her. Gabrielle: "Thank you, I was going to ask." Malcolm: <handing her the photos he found> "And you might want to burn these. The data files have been overwritten." Oh lovely. Gabrielle takes the pictures and says nothing. Malcolm: "You might want this." He holds out his lighter, which she ignores. There's a light tap-tap and the door opens. Mitchell walks in behind Gabrielle, who snaps the pictures down on her lap, and looks to Mitchell to look like she was either caught in the act, or is really embarrassed. (Whichever, it's not as private an emotion as she'd like.) Mitchell ignores the reaction, at least outwardly. Mitchell: "Ah, my putter." He walks over to where he'd had his golf clubs put down, against the wall. Malcolm tells Mitchell about the pilot guy, who "didn't think I had the rocks to take down Brizzk." Mitchell: "You didn't." Malcolm: "I'm going to try to convince Mr. Silent Partner to loan me a couple of hardbodies." Mitchell: "We have some of those already." Malcolm: "No, harder. I want people who'd impress Marines." There's some concern that they don't have enough liquid assets to purchase the Borloi, but Brizzk should have. Mitchell will check out the books, although he recommends they just start from scratch. Gabrielle excuses herself and leaves, Mitchell in tow. Malcolm sends for Tabitha.

Tabitha: "Ah, very nice. It's just exactly how I pictured your office." Malcolm: "Boy, the staff here gets snippy. Be careful, or I'll pay you in alligator desks. Did you happen to catch that guy's accent?" Tabitha: "That's not really my forté." She did get him on tape, and Malcolm thinks he has some one who can identify the accent. Tabitha: "I want to get back. Mr. Goldfarb thinks I'm his lucky charm." Malcolm: "I want my guests to be happy. But not too happy." Tabitha: "I'm a married woman." Malcolm: "How are you doing?" Tabitha: "Life goes on. We do what we have to do. This is a professional relationship. Don't forget, we should be enemies." Malcolm: "I'm always interested in the people I've patched up." Tabitha: "Okay, I owe you one." Malcolm: "No you don't." Tabitha: "I owe you one. And I'll find a way to pay you back, and then we'll be even." She goes back down to the floor, and blows on Mr. Goldfarb's dice again. He's a harmless older gent, who's getting quite a charge out of Tabitha. Mitchell goes over and schmoozes Goldfarb, assuring him of his intention to bring the club up a few notches.

Gabrielle goes over to the bar and to get a drink. Dr. Neil: "Allow me to take care of this. <he orders a drink from the bartender> Oh, that reminds me. The General has arranged a place for you here on Rainbow. He thought you'd want somewhere quiet, so he arranged for a block of flats. I've furnished them myself." (There's a lovely image.) Gabrielle: "That's very kind of the General. And you. Thank you." Dr. Neil: "I do what I can for the General. He's an old friend. And I'd like to think of you as an old friend as well, even though we've only known each other for a short time. Anything I can do for you, just let me know." He pats Gabrielle's hand in a patronizing sort of way, like she's a little girl.

Mr. Goldfarb's luck eventually runs out, but he's a good loser as well as a good winner, and the girls pay him a lot of attention here - he's apparently a regular. At 97, he's doing pretty damn well, and he leaves with a lot of lipstick on his cheeks. It's a very quiet night in the casino, but even with payroll and expenses, the house will clear $1,000 Solars. That's with the clientele at about 20% of capacity. The staff does a very good job, especially Phillippe, who both Mitchell and Malcolm watch in action. He's really good at disarming potentially destructive situations.

Dr. Neil is only too happy to give Gabrielle a ride to her new home. After all, she can't be expected to stay in one of the little suites at the casino - she's the General's squeeze. They go to an upper level, where a number of units have been purchased, gutted, and made into a single, really big luxury flat. Dr. Neil opens the door and gives Gabrielle the key (at least that copy of the key). The doors open into something out of Architecture of the Rim. Beautiful, but it can be a bit intimidating when you're looking for somewhere to put down a glass. A woman in a black and white uniform staggers into the room, apologizing (she's been up all night waiting). Dr. Neil: "Ah, this is Sophia. She'll help you around the place. Her quarters are just over there. <indicating to the right> Allow me to give you a brief tour. <he leads the way into the flat> This is the bedroom..." He pushes open the double doors. The bed is a huge four-poster. Dr. Neil: "Well, I'm sure you're very tired, and I don't want to keep you up. Should you require anything, don't hesitate to call. I am your humble servant." He doesn't quite kiss her hand, but almost. At least the creepy man has good manners, which is nice from Gabrielle's point of view; so few of the people on Vantage have decent manners.

Neil seems to leave, or at least fades into the wallpaper. Gabrielle drops her purse (and the photos) on the dresser, and finds the enormous bathroom (bathrooms should be large and decadent), tiled in cobalt blue, and with a bathtub larger than most hot tubs. Sophia appears. Sophia: "Would madam like me to run a bath, or would she prefer to be alone?" Gabrielle: "You may run a bath, thank you." Gabrielle finds a bathrobe (looks like Naomi Fletcher did the clothes shopping again). Sophia: "Does madam require anything else?" Gabrielle: "No thank you, Sophia. Good night." Sophia: "Good night, madam." Gabrielle gets into the bath, and tries to shut off her brain.


Mitchell finally goes to bed, only to discover it's not empty. Suzette: "Phillippe let me in." Mitchell: "I don't think I'll be very good company tonight." Suzette: "Let me try to change your mood." Mitchell: "I've had an accident." Suzette: "I'm sorry, does it hurt a lot?" Mitchell: "A great deal, actually." Suzette: "Well, come here and lay down. I'll rub your back, and help you relax." A few minutes later, Mitchell has to inform her that that's not his back, and he's not relaxed. Mitchell: "I'm sorry, this isn't working." Suzette: "That's all right. I can wait." But for how long? Without exploding?? Suzette does leave Mitchell to himself, and goes to her own room.

Gabrielle manages to stay mostly awake in the bath. Then it's a quick hunt for flannel jammies, and into the big bed and to sleep. It's been an incredibly long day, and far too confusing.

Malcolm, when he inquires about Dr. Neil, is told by Tabitha that he left with Gabrielle. Tabitha: "That's certainly interesting, don't you think?" Malcolm: "I figure it's one of three things. One, they're working together; two, he's smitten but too shy." Tabitha: "Eww." Malcolm: "Or three, he's using her against Capeletti, who's unaware of it so far." But that's a separate puzzle. Malcolm will take the audio tape to the café, to try to find his linguist friend.

Mitchell also wants to speak to Tabitha. Mitchell : "You need a computer, right?" Tabitha: "I gave a list of components to the Imperial. Are you all right? You look a bit uncomfortable." Mitchell: "I had a rough night." Tabitha: "I am sorry about that." Mitchell: "That's all right, I obviously surprised you." Tabitha: "Maybe I've saved you from a nasty social disease. Do you know where that girl's been? Oh well, you're a Navy man, I guess that explains it. Of course it's none of my business, but your little friend has a lot of mileage on her." Mitchell: <pointedly ignoring the last comments> "I need to find out some information on some people, some of it high level." Tabitha: "That may be information that can only be accessed from certain locations." Mitchell: "I have a feeling that may be the case." Tabitha: "I'll do what I can." Mitchell: "I'll try to get you a computer by this afternoon, if not sooner." Tabitha: "So, do you think you've found a way out of this mess?" Mitchell: "Yes, I think I do." Tabitha: "Well, are you going to share? I'm feeling like I'm just spinning my wheels. Mitchell doesn't want to give anything away just yet, as he's not sure of anything. Mitchell: "You're pretty close to the current Prefect, aren't you?" Tabitha: "Well, I guess. My husband's closer to him. Why?" Mitchell: "What do you know about the possible successors?" Tabitha: "I don't think that anything's actually been decided yet, but there are a few names being mentioned. Tadeoshi's the front runner I suppose." Mitchell: "She's got a reputation for being something of a radical, doesn't she?" Tabitha: "She's tough, and she has very strong ideals, but I don't think she's a bad choice considering the other options. I mean, if Tadeoshi doesn't get in, who will we end up with? Some one like Aldemann? Some vacillating middle of the road person who's going to try to please everyone? We need some one who'll actually do something. I may not like Tadeoshi, but I can respect her. Not that it matters much. I mean we're just little fish, and all that stuff is out of our league." Mitchell: "Okay, well, thanks for the clarification." Tabitha: "Why the sudden interest in politics?" Mitchell: "Capeletti's around, and I just want to figure out who he's with, and who's on the scorecard." Tabitha: "I never really thought of Capeletti as political. I guess he is, in his own way. <looking directly at Mitchell> Why? Is something going on? <no response from Mitchell> Ah, there is something going on!" Mitchell: "Let's say the sharks are circling." The best thing us little fish can do is to keep our heads down and hope we don't get noticed. So what's going on around here? Any news? C'mon, you can tell me about it. It's getting to the point that I think of you as a brother. Believe me, it's such a relief to be around a man who isn't trying to grab my ass or get into my pants." Mitchell: "Malcolm tells me we had a nibble last night, but he didn't get into details. Did he tell you anything?" Tabitha: "Not really, but I'm not sure how much I trust Mr. Edwards. I'm sure he's got his own agenda. <pause> Well, I'm off to the gym. This body doesn't stay this way by itself." Mitchell: "If I weren't in so much pain, I'd join you." Tabitha: "I really am sorry." Mitchell: "It was an accident. Don't worry about it."

Tabitha leaves, and Mitchell calls Megan. Megan: "Captain Taylor! What can I do for you sir?" Mitchell: "I need a computer. A clean one." Megan: "What exactly do you need, sir?" Mitchell: "I can have the specifics for you later, but I wanted you to get started." Megan: "It would help if I had the information sir. Perhaps we should meet?" Mitchell: "Are you on Rainbow?" Megan: "Yes sir. The Admiral wanted to make sure I would be close by to attend to your needs." That didn't quite come out right, but they arrange to meet at Malloy's.

Once Malcolm rouses from his unconscious state, Mitchell is able to get the list of computer parts from him. Mitchell then buys a birthday card, copies the list into the card (now it's in his handwriting, not Tabitha's), and leaves the original list at the casino. On the way to the meeting, Mitchell buys a box of bath beads, and has them wrapped. He gives Megan her 'birthday' present at the restaurant. Megan: "Thank you sir! <pause> Uh, should I open it here?" Mitchell: "If you like." Megan unwraps the present. Megan: "Thank you very much, sir. I'll think of you when I use these. <BLUSH> Uh, I mean..." Mitchell: "Please, we're off duty. Call me Uncle Mitch." No, no, no. The girl has a major crush, and it's going to be much worse if she has to call him 'uncle'. Megan goes off about Mitchell's service history. She knows more about his career than he does, and the stories make Mitchell sound so much more calmly heroic. ("That's funny, I don't remember it being that organized and coherent, and I'm sure there was a lot more running around and screaming...") Megan: "...I only wish my father could see me now." After lunch, Mitchell looks up Megan's father, and he was a Chief Petty Officer on one of Mitchell's ships. He's vaguely familiar-looking. Good record, honorably retired (disabled), on one of the arcologies on Vantage. Mitchell will write him a letter.