"I don't have any solution, but I certainly admire the problem."-- Ashleigh Brilliant
Königsberg, Fredonia. In the drawingroom of the late Baron von Bulow.
Franz gets everyone's opinion, and prepares a letter. He requests that they not discuss this with anyone else, as it's a matter of some delicacy. Especially the part of him seeing someone who was not his wife. Since the late Von Bulow was known to talk to himself. They're taken back to the hotel, and Franz will join them for dinner.
The big issue among the group is how this much power could be obtained from a battery contained in the purse. Could be a chemical battery. Geoff: "But what's missing is a capacitor, not just a battery." They discuss whether or not it's higher tech than they could have here. Robert thinks it might be something off another ship, or that there's some way of saturating the anti-electric field for a short period of time. Kaeth: "That would lead to other effects, and your PlusP would have worked fine." Geoff: "How much of an electrical charge would be needed to kill like this?" Robert: "You get enough voltage behind something...a couple of amps can kill a man. The only thing that might do it at this tech level would be something very large. The other possibility is it's some sort of technology not from this country." Geoff: "If they removed something from the purse, they may have removed something else from the room." Robert: "True. All we know is that something was able to overcome whatever phenomenon is going on here." Robert and Kaeth launch into a discussion of local experiments (from what they've read and been told) with electricity, and how it doesn't work and is considered a trick by people like Jurgen. Geoff lets them discuss it.
Samantha: "Why kill him like that?" Robert: "Terror." Geoff: "No, everyone would have to understand what method was used to do that. It's not terrorism when no one knows about the method you used to cause terror." Samantha: "Exactly. Not only that, with this important a figure, the entire thing could be easily hushed up. Unless it was aimed at terrorizing a specific person, some one who would find out what happened and would know what it meant, it's rather pointless." Geoff: "If you have terrorism as your goal, then you do it as publicly as possible, and you want as many people as possible to know about it." Robert: "The reason for using this method could just be because it wasn't expected." Now that's true.
Kaeth: "The purse may have been nothing more than the battery power and not the actual weapon. The feet weren't pointed." Robert: "But the feet fit the marks exactly. It must have been a strong enough charge to cause it without penetration. It left a tang of ozone, which means arcing." Kaeth: "The contact points might not have been perfectly set, and that would cause arcing." Geoff: "How would you get a purse onto his exposed chest?" Robert: "It wasn't exposed, it burnt through the cloth." Kaeth: "The purse could have been a decoy." Which means the purse either is or is not a vital clue to the puzzle. Thank God that's settled then.
The party arrives back at the hotel. They step out of the carriage and are walking up the stairs when Samantha feels a sting on her lower back. She spins around, but can't spot anyone in the crowd that stands out. Damn. Samantha: <whispered> "Something hit me." Kaeth: "Where?" Samantha: "Lower back." They go inside and up to their room.
Kaeth examines the area on Samantha's back. There's a bit of fluff on the back of her dress. She's been darted! Kaeth: "Whoa! Don't move." Kaeth is able to remove a very small splinter of some sort of organic material, possibly bamboo. Kaeth shows it to Samantha. Right around the puncture is a swollen area about the size of a shilling, like around an allergy shot. She's been poisoned. Geoff: "Do you have any way to analyze what was in this?" Kaeth: "Not really." Kaeth makes sure the site bleeds, and Geoff gets ice to try to slow the action of the substance. Kaeth will try treating it like a poisonous snake bite, that's all he can think of right now. Dinner will be in an hour, and they don't know how to contact Dr. Jurgen before then. Samantha works on calming herself down.
After about an hour, the numbing feeling has expanded to 3" around the wound. It's spreading, but slowly. Robert: "I'll go down and wait in the lobby for Dr. Jurgen." Samantha: "Don't go alone." Robert: "You mean take someone big to hide behind? Good idea. Come on Geoff." They go downstairs and wait. Dr. Jurgen and Franz enter the lobby, people removing their hats when Franz comes in. Robert goes over. Franz: "Good evening Mr. Shelzie. Are we ready to-" Robert: "We have a problem. Could you come up to our floor? I don't want to discuss it here." Franz: ""Of course. Shall the doctor come with us?" Robert: "Definitely." They go to the elevator. Robert: ""It's Lady Telford that needs assistance." (Yes, in front of the elevator operator.) Franz: "Lady Telford? What is the matter with Lady Telford?" He doesn't quite grab Robert's lapel, but it comes close. Robert: "She's been injured." Franz: "How seriously?" Robert: "I don't know." Operator: "You're floor, sirs."
Please leave my elevator before the fight breaks out.
Kaeth is monitoring Samantha, who's pulse and blood pressure are getting lower. Then she starts to feel like she's not getting enough oxygen when she's breathing. Samantha: "Kaeth, this is not good." Robert, Geoff, Franz, and Dr. Jurgen arrive and Franz rushes over to Samantha. At least she's not bleeding. Kaeth gives the new arrivals a quick run-down on what's happened, and what he's done so far. Dr. Jurgen: "You have the dart?" Kaeth produces it. Dr. Jurgen examines it carefully. Dr. Jurgen: "Hmm, belingu. Used by some in the southern area of the Sultinate. Fortunately we recognized the toxin in time." Kaeth: "What's the treatment?" Dr. Jurgen: "The toxin is susceptible to breakdown when in contact with alcohol. We'll want to bring her blood alcohol up to between 200 and 250, and keep it up there for at least an hour. We can do this intravenously or by mouth." Intravenously has more drawbacks. Dr. Jurgen: <to Sam> "Drink this, all of it." He hands her a flask of brandy. Geoff is sent off to procure more alcohol (about two 1.5 liter bottles of brandy should do the trick) from the hotel. Robert tries to distract Franz by asking him about what was found on the recording device in the Baron's drawingroom. Franz: "Notes about some sort of experiments. A Zendan scientist who disppeared has resurfaced in the Sultinate, and is involved in experiments to do with galvinis. That can wait. <to Jurgen> Well, doctor?" Dr. Jurgen: "We'll know in a few hours. She's young and strong, I have hopes that she'll make a full recovery. It's just a matter of time. There's no reason for everyone to be here, you should go to dinner." Robert: "You and Kaeth should stay here with her." Dr. Jurgen: ""Anyone can stay with her, as long as they make sure she drinks the requisite amount of brandy per hour." Geoff returns with said alcohol. Franz: "The rest of you, please, I've already made all the arrangements for dinner. You can send dinner up." Dr. Jurgen will stay upstairs to keep track of Samantha's vitals, and Franz will stay upstairs to provide comfort. Robert and Kaeth want one of them to stay with her, but Franz is adamant. Robert: "Dr. Jurgen, a word?...<off to one side> Given the circumstances of our presence here, I would strongly advised that one of our party stay here." Geoff: "It would be better to just leave and not make a fuss, and if she says anything weird, we can chalk it up to her being drunk out of her mind. Tell him she reads a lot." Dr. Jurgen: "I have no issue with this. However, the Count is a man who when he makes up his mind about something, does not take kindly to arguments. He is accustomed to being obeyed. If you want to take this up with him you can." Robert: "No, but let's do this a different way." Robert's concern is that she's an off-worlder, and if some symptom shows up that the local witch doctor won't recognize, Kaeth or someone offworld should be there. Robert: "Fine." He's goes to speak with Samantha's maid, Lisette. Robert: "I'd like you to check in on your lady every few minutes, and if something goes wrong, come downstairs and get one of us right away." Lisette: "Yes sir."
They go downstairs to eat - Geoff, Robert, Ariana, Kaeth, Sophie, and Clarice. Good meal, heavy on the meat though. After about an hour, Lisette comes down to inform them that "She's suffering a fever, but the doctor says this is normal, and she's doing well." Lisette goes back upstairs. Samantha is not only drunk, but when she's feverish she gets really delirious. So she talks. A lot. More or less to Franz. Oh boy.
After dinner there's desserts, little pastries, coffee mit slag, the whole thing. Sophie's having a good time, and Clarice is enjoying the continental food and being involved in an adventure. During the meal and the brandy, Geoff notices a hand on his thigh. Sophie's on his right. The hand in on his left thigh. Clarice is glowing as she chats with Geoff. Geoff reaches under the table, takes the hand, gently puts it back on it's own thigh and lets go. Geoff has gone through way too much to screw this up now. It could be a Lady Patricia-sponsored test, too. Looks like lust is in the air - Ariana's foot has come out of her shoe and is making its way up Robert's leg - his ankle, his calf, his knee.... Robert sits upright rather suddenly. Ariana's obviously rather stressed, and she's drinking quite a bit. Geoff makes sure Sophie and Clarice don't drink too much, which would result in a really horrible morning.
Hours later (can't rush a good meal), the party goes upstairs. Samantha is sleeping peacefully by the time they get there. Franz is sitting beside her holding her hand. It's so cute - Robert wishes he had a working camera. Dr. Jurgen tells them the crisis has past, and now it's mostly a matter of taking care of the effects of the cure and the residual effects of the toxin. Dr. Jurgen: "Tomorrow we might want to have one of the ladies take her down for some steam." Good thought.
Ariana goes into Robert's room, not hers. Ariana: "Leave the lights on." This suits Robert just fine. Ariana has had enough to drink to make her lose any inhibitions, including about being heard. This doesn't bother Robert, but no one else in the area is getting much sleep. Kaeth hunts for ear plugs. Geoff laughs himself silly, especially when Robert starts to beg for mercy.
The night passes peacefully. First thing in the morning Geoff bounces out of bed, goes downstairs and has a hearty breakfast. It's a cool, but sunny day. He goes for a run, and Kaeth decides to join him. Jogging is not a normal pastime in this part of town (okay, any parts of town), and they get confused looks. No one says anything though - those upper class people are all nuts any way.
Robert wakes up later, with Ariana tangled up around him. Samantha eventually wakes up as well. Franz is asleep in the chair next to her, slumped over. As for Samantha, she's incredibly dehydrated, her stomach is badly unsettled, there's broken glass in the backs of her eyes, and she feels like she's been lightly beaten. Her joints ache like crazy. There's a pitcher of water by the bed. She has a glass of water, which activates some dehydrated alcohol and the room spins again. Franz doesn't stir. Lisette comes in. Lisette: "Would madame care for some bicarbonate?" Samantha: "Yes, please." After surviving the stirring of the bicarbonate, Samantha drinks it and takes the proffered aspirin. This helps a lot. She gets some help to reposition Franz more comfortably, loosening his tie, then Lisette brings lemon tea.
Robert and Ariana have a bath for two. Kaeth gets cleaned up and brushes. Geoff gets cleaned up and goes to see the doctor. Dr. Jurgen slept in and is shaving. He lets Geoff in, being less formal than Franz. Dr. Jurgen: "I checked on Lady Telford about two hours ago and she was sleeping peacefully. The Count was with her all night." Once the doctor finishes his morning ablutions he's ready for breakfast.
Geoff goes with the doctor. Geoff: "Good thing you recognized what was on that dart." Dr. Jurgen: "The poison is only effective if the victim is away from medical assistance. Fortunately, I had seen this poison before." Geoff: "You've been to the Sultinate?" Dr. Jurgen: "Yes, we travelled there for a while." Geoff: "We?" Dr. Jurgen: "The Count and I." Geoff: "Do you know what the political situation is there?" Dr. Jurgen: "There are very few humans there, especially with the religious fundamentalist in power there now. The sultan is the temporal and religious leader." Geoff: "Oh lovely." Dr. Jurgen: "The centralized government only extends so far though, and each area has their own charismatic leaders, as would be expected with Vargrs." Geoff: "So the actual power isn't really with the sultan?" Dr. Jurgen: "Correct. The real power is with the chieftains, although they do owe allegiance to the sultan, and he bestows gifts on them according to where they are in his favor - things like weapons, horses. The current sultan has expressed his belief that the Hinterlands really belong to the Sultinate and the western powers should stay away. However his ability to project his power is limited. They certainly have a technological disadvantage. " Geoff: "Which could explain why a western scientist, even a human one, would be attractive to them." Dr. Jurgen: "The missing scientist is Ernesto Zelini. He was noted for his eccentricities more than anything else. He was going to make a powered airplane, and he's been involved in a number of schemes including electricity. The latter got him laughed out of the Science Academy. He claimed he was going to harness the power of electricity, and he would succeed where no one else had because he was ten times as intelligent as them. He wasn't known for his humility."
Robert, Ariana, and Kaeth come downstairs to join the pair. The doctor and Robert eat, while chatting with the others and watching for people who might overhear. Kaeth discusses the possible anaesthetic value of the toxin. Dr. Jurgen: "It has been used for several hundred years by eastern assassins." Geoff: "Oh, tell us about the assassins of the Sultinate." Dr. Jurgen: "There was some sort of cult at one time, started by a charismatic religious leader who appeared out of the wilderness. But I think it very unlikely that a member of the Death Cult could have made his way to Königsberg without being noticed." Kaeth: "If you put a white towel over a mans arm, he becomes invisible." Ariana: "Wouldn't it make more sense if it had to do with everything that happened in Albion? We're not that far away, and I'm sure we've made some people very unhappy. Samantha was probably just the easiest target. Was she the last one out of the carriage?" Geoff: "Actually...yes she was." Ariana: "There you are. Most likely it's all connected to that Cutler person." Dr. Jurgen: "I would agree with Lady Ariana. It is much more likely that some one targeted the group because of what happened in Albion." Kaeth: "I agree Samantha might have been a target of opportunity, but we can't assume that." Geoff: "Or they were actually targeting Franz and trying to get to him through Samantha." Dr. Jurgen: "That would be someone playing a very dangerous game. I would not be revealing a secret if I were to tell you that the Count has developed a fondness for the lady." Geoff: "Exactly." Kaeth: "The Count is important financially to the government, isn't he?" Dr. Jurgen: "Yes, but that isn't well known." This topic is discussed further, with the conclusion that more information is needed before forming any conclusions, but at least this group understands the threat level if not the cause.
Dr. Jurgen: "I will certainly take this up with the Count. If some one is targeting the party, then it might be prudent to retire to somewhere less accessible, perhaps in to the Count's country estate, where strangers are easily noticed." Robert: "Especially if we were to let word get out that Lady Telford survived her brief illness." Kaeth: "Let's talk to the lady before we make any decision." Dr. Jurgen: "Of course. She should be able to receive visitors this afternoon, depending on her constitution." Geoff: "Also, Franz might have been targeted because he was in the Sultinate, and he may have seen something." Robert: "Or Ariana may be right. After all, Fredonia and Albion are still not on good terms." Dr. Jurgen: "We were only briefly in the Sultinate, a few weeks before we met you." Kaeth: "How long ago did von Bulow's lights in the sky and Zendan scientist thing occur?" Dr. Jurgen: "About the same time we were in the Sultinate." Kaeth: "Did you see anything?" Dr. Jurgen: "No, but I wasn't with the Count all the time. He went off by himself for a while, said something about sneaking a peek inside the main temple." Always a fun thing to do. They finish breakfast and go upstairs.
Dr. Jurgen checks in on his patient. Dr. Jurgen: "Some fried kippers, bacon and eggs, coffee, orange juice, a good bloody steak to put some color in your cheeks. I'll have some food brought up for you. And I'll take the Count to his own rooms where he can get some rest." He and Heinrich take the sleepwalking Franz to his room, and Lisette is sent to get some sleep herself.
Now all the offworlders can talk. Samantha: "I hope everyone else had a better night than I did?" Ariana: "Oh yeah." She looks at Robert and winks. Kaeth: "We've been kicking some ideas around." Geoff: "We think what poisoned you was something used by a cult of assassins in the Sultinate. They have connections to the radical Islamic fundamentalists currently in power. They could have a bone to pick with Franz." Kaeth: "And a Zendan scientist is missing and may be in the Sultinate." Samantha: "I was awake for that." A discussion of possible reasons to target Samantha rather than Franz directly follows, pretty much the same things that were discussed at breakfast, and still no way to know who's right.
Kaeth: "Then there's the matter of letting people know you're still alive. Maybe encourage them to try again?" Samantha raises an eyebrow. Robert: "He said it, not me!" Samantha: <to Kaeth> "Do you owe me money?" Kaeth: "Maybe encourage them to come after you again, once we've gotten to Franz's estate. A closed society, where strangers are noticed. " Robert: "All we need to do is stay alive long enough to get Franz's zeppelin, then we get the glider and find a way off this rock." Kaeth: "After we hook it up to a rocket sled to launch it?" Geoff: "How about if we drop it from a blimp?" Ariana: "Could work, if the engines were hot." Robert: "They've got a way to heat up diesel engines." Ariana: "Could be done. A pilot light could be designed..." Kaeth: "But what about after we get out of the atmosphere?" Ariana: "Even though it's a stratospheric glider, it's still atmospheric. Beyond the upper atmosphere, it's a ballistic craft. There are no verniers, we'd have to strap on a rocket or something." Kaeth: "Wait a minute, who was making that rocket thing?" No, it was not the missing Zelini person, thank heavens. Ariana: "A rocket is possible, but my concern is the weight. We could get up to the point that the radio works, but getting out of the atmosphere is the issue. Maybe if we get up to maximum altitude, then use rockets to launch into space. If the radio works I could remote pilot in the ship to pick us up before we ran into the sun or something. We should probably fix up some explosive bolts and blow the wings off once we get out of atmosphere." Kaeth: "Wouldn't blowing the wings off make it kind of difficult to make a return trip for the rest of the party?" That's correct, but not good. It would mean part of the group awaiting a pickup at some unspecified time in the future, without knowing if the first group made it off-planet all right or not. There needs to be another option. Ariana: "I'll need a computer to do some modelling." Geoff: "Ever used a slide rule?" Robert: "Or a difference engine?" Ariana: "I need something to work out the weight issues, as well as the stress on the wings if we decide to keep them. I know we can't get everyone off in one trip, but we need to at least get some one off. I mean it's very quaint and all that but I personally would not care to spend the rest of my life here." Kaeth: "What about the Scouts?" Ariana: "I don't know." Kaeth: "They going to pick up a high plume from the rocket?" Ariana: "Of course, if they're watching. They may pick us up and prosecute us for violating a red zone, but I can handle a fine or even spending a few months in jail if it means not being stuck here forever. We don't know what's causing electricity to not work on this planet, and we don't know what else it's doing. And it's way too primitive here for my liking. I'll bet they can't even treat syphilis here." The room gets quiet as people look back and forth between Ariana and Robert. Kaeth: "So...we need to get the glider." Robert: "We need to get the glider." Kaeth: "Which means we need to keep Franz alive until we do that, because he's our means of transport." Ariana: "Or we could go up and carry it down." Samantha: "On who's back? It took you days to get out, downhill and unencumbered." Good point. Ariana: "The other issue is who goes up." Kaeth: "How much do you and Robert weigh?" Ariana: "The glider will be able to take one other person besides us, as long as they don't weigh too much." Geoff: "Ezbeki doesn't weigh much." No one is going to argue with Geoff over sending Ezbeki - especially not when Geoff has that look. Kaeth: "You've said the glider was pressurized, but will it have enough oxygen to wait until your ship or the Scouts pick it up?" Ariana: "If we fill the tanks with pure oxygen, we could extend our range even farther. Maybe rig up a calcium carbonate filter to process the carbon monoxide. We have a lot to do before we can consider who else if going, and if we can come back right away. We have to figure out if it's even possible." Robert: "We need to get the glider." Ariana: "Which means we need your friend." Kaeth: "All the more reason to find out who's behind the murder and the attack on Sam." Ariana: "What happens on this planet isn't our business." Samantha: "It's our business if Albion and Fredonia get into a nasty war while we're here and trying to get to your damn glider." Robert: "We need to stay out of the local politics." Samantha: "We haven't been getting involved in local politics." Robert: "Yes you have, that's why we're here!" Samantha: "The point of this trip was for Franz to get his zeppelin, so you can get the glider, and I didn't hear any objections or other suggestions from you before we left!" Ariana: "She's right, Robert. It's not like she's planning on staying here forever. Besides, she's got Franz wrapped around her little finger." Ariana's a cold bitch when she wants something, that's why Robert loves her. Ariana: "I think Samantha's doing the right thing. <to Samantha> You keep playing Franz. We'll keep an eye open, and if other options appear we'll take them."
Geoff: "We need to find out who tried to kill Samantha, and if they're connected to the Baron's murder. If there's somebody after Franz, or all of us, we need to know who they are." Robert: "That's why we're going to try to get out the word that Lady Telford survived the attack, and hope they send someone else. But how do we know who to leak the information to?" Kaeth: "Sophie and Clarice are more familiar than we are with the local customs." Ariana: "I'm certain that a few words to your servant and things will get around." Samantha: "Lisette? I don't know about that." Robert: "It's useless to discuss how, until we decide if we're going to do it." Ariana: "I believe the idea was to leak the information and hope they came after you." Samantha: "After we were in a more controlled environment, which we don't know if we're going to or when." No leak yet.
Robert: "Samantha, I meant no disrespect by the comment about you getting involved in local politics." Samantha: "Whatever." Kaeth: "We're all under quite a bit of strain." Ariana: "Yes, we're all stressed and touchy. The important thing is that we're working as a team, with the same goal - getting off this rock. I can't wait to see this dirtball planet in my rear screen."
The others will go out with Dr. Jurgen, for quite a few hours. Books are purchased, as are sliderules. Ariana and Robert will learn how to used the later. They can perform test functions and check each others' work. It's going to take time, but it's got to be done - just learning how to use the tools correctly will take days. Kaeth: "Is there any way of telling the Count he may be in danger without him having Samantha tied up and under guard at his estate or something?" Dr. Jurgen: "Well, that would be the tricky part." Kaeth finds a book on Great Hoaxes, that has info on the electricity scams.
Franz eventually comes in to check on Samantha, after getting some much needed rest and cleaning himself up. Franz: "And how are you, Lady Telford. Are you well?" Samantha: "I'm better, thank you." Franz: "Can I get you anything?" Samantha: "No, I'm fine. Just tired. <pause> Um...I don't remember a lot about yesterday." Franz: "You were suffering from some sort of poison. Dr. Jurgen was able to pull you through. We were all worried about you. We almost lost you." Franz keeps looking at her oddly. Franz: "But you're well now." Samantha: "A bit worse for wear." Franz: "Certainly. I hope I'm not intruding. If you'd like to be alone, I understand." Samantha: "No, stay." Franz sits by her. Samantha: "I... didn't say or do anything last night I should know about, did I?" Franz: "Nothing of any consequence. Certainly nothing that bears repeating." Samantha: "Good. Thank you for sitting up with me." Franz: "Of course. I cannot tell you how pleased I am that nothing serious happened. I have become, as you know, somewhat fond of you. <pause> That's not exactly correct is it? It's more than that. And I know I have no right to have those feelings, but there it is. And nothing that you might have done, or said could change that." Samantha: "You have no idea what I might have done." Franz: "It doesn't matter. I love you." Samantha: "You don't know me." Franz: "I know enough. I know that when I'm not with you it's like a piece of me is missing. Just as I understand that some one has hurt you so much that now you're afraid of anyone getting too close, afraid that they'll hurt you, take advantage of you, use you to some purpose. I realize that I have no right to say these things to you. You have your own life and I, well I have a wife. You deserve someone who can devote themselves to you without reservation. But I... You undoubtedly need your rest. I've taken up too much of your time. For that I apologize. If you should need anything, please, you have only to say and I will get it for you." He leaves quietly.
Lisette comes in. Lisette: "Madame? May I get you anything?" Samantha: "No, thank you. I'm just tired." Lisette: "Of course, madame." She gets Samantha a blanket so she can read and rest. Stare at a book. Yeah, that's it.
Done with shopping, the other people have returned. Ariana and Robert take a lot of paper and pencils and stuff into his room. Navy geeks in love. It's so beautiful.
Kaeth tracks down Franz to fill in the gaps in Dr. Jurgen's information about their little jaunt into the Sultinate. Kaeth: "If I may ask, when you were in the Sultinate, when was that?" Franz: "I see you have been speaking with Dr. Jurgen. Yes, we were there about six weeks ago. A few weeks before we met you on the beach." Kaeth: "Did you see anything while you were there? Anything unusual?" Franz: "I would have to check my journals. Some of them were lost, but I will see if I can find the information or recreate it. Why?" Kaeth: "I think there may be a connection to your trip and the attack on Lady Telford, maybe even with the death of Baron von Bulow." Franz: "Don't you think that's sort of extreme? That I had broken some sort of taboo, and that would bring an assassin across the world." Kaeth: "Or you saw a state secret, and states are rarely rational." Franz: "In general I don't allow miscreants to dictate my actions." Kaeth: "I prefer to eliminate them before then, but my concerns are for my companions." Franz: "Of course." Kaeth: "Well, thank you. You have been most helpful. Have you seen Miss Telford? How is she doing?" Franz: "Well. I hope she will be joining us for dinner."
Samantha does come down for dinner - it involves other people, and not private conversations with a man who brings out all those uncomfortable feelings. It's the full party except for the Navy geeks who are doing God knows what upstairs. Before the meal begins, the sommelier comes up with a special vintage that the manager thought "you'd like, your excellency." Franz: "Hmm, that is an unusually fine vintage." A tasting glass is poured for Franz. Samantha is feeling rather paranoid, but as far as she can tell the guy looks fine. But... The sommelier cups his hand over the glass when he presents it, and that's odd. Samantha manages to accidently knock over Franz's glass. Samantha: "I'm sorry. I'm still a bit unsteady." Franz: "Of course. Think nothing of it." The sommelier brings another glass, after wiping up the mess. Sommelier: "Would madame care to sample the wine as well?" Samantha: "Yes, please." She watches as he does the same odd hand maneuver with her glass, then Franz's, and this time she's pretty sure something went into the glass besides wine, like he was palming something almost. Samantha: "Franz - don't drink it!" She stands, grabbing the sommelier's right hand in a compliance hold (if he's not a poisoner, she doesn't want to break him, and if he is, he's more useful alive). As she extends his wrist, a knife pops out of a wrist sheathe - kind of suspicious for a simple sommelier! He twists, going the same direction as the hold, slashing Samantha's hand. Blood all over the place. Kaeth leaps up, blocks the door. Franz seizes the man by the back of the collar (it's what you do with a ruffian) and pulls him away from Samantha. Geoff is protecting Sophie and Clarice. Dr. Jurgen has picked up a steak knife. Samantha hits the man hard in the chest, right over the xyphoid process, something breaks, and it's not Samantha's hand. Franz continues pulling the man against the far wall. Samantha goes with to control the weapon. Franz slams the back of the man's head against the stone wall. He slumps down. Franz drops him and dashes over to Samantha. Kaeth: "What are we looking at, Samantha?" Samantha: "Poison, in the glasses." Franz: "Sit down, you've been injured. Doctor!" Dr. Jurgen: "Of course." He comes forward.
Kaeth checks out the downed man. He has a skull fracture, although the internal damage to his abdomen seems to be the cause of death. Under his jacket, the man has a sort of bladder under his arm, with a tube running down his sleeve. Kaeth: "What? Have we grabbed the attention of Poison, Inc.??" Also in this person's pockets are sketches from the newspaper articles from Albion of Samantha, and a photo print (from a book or something) of Franz. Dr. Jurgen: <to Samantha> "That's a nasty laceration. The tendons appear to be intact. However, it will require some stitches. <to Franz> I suggest taking Lady Telford up to her room." The manager comes in, aghast. This was not the real sommelier, who called in sick. The manager is very concerned about the reputation of the hotel. Franz reassures him. Kaeth: <Dr. Jurgen> "Do you know what kind of poison this could be?" Dr. Jurgen: "Not without analyzing it. I suggest we examine the body ourselves if we want any forensic evidence." No identification on the man, but that's to be expected. Dr. Jurgen: "I suspect that once he finished his job here he was planning on leaving, given that he was wearing a money belt. Zendan ducats - an anonymous currency." Kaeth: "Any ticket or key?" Dr. Jurgen: "No. The shoes are new though, very little wear. Given the workmanship on the undergarments, which are well-worn, this is not a man of high social standing." Kaeth: "Anything else odd besides the poison bladder?" Samantha: "Sheathe. Wrist-sheathe." Dr. Jurgen: <examines it> "Unusual. Excellent work." Kaeth: "No maker's mark I trust?" Dr. Jurgen: "No. Interesting. There seems to be something under the fingernails. Reddish dirt or something..." Like a clay or a slurry, with a chemical smell. Samples are taken for analysis.
Then the police show up, take a statement, pick up the body and leave. Obviously the work of a malcontent. They'll round up the usual suspects and squeeze information out of them. They don't have that Miranda thing here. Franz thanks the officers and lets them know that there will be a reward.
Dr. Jurgen, Franz, and Samantha go upstairs to tend to her wound. The manager takes the others to a different diningroom. Ariana and Robert hear a commotion in the hall, and Ariana goes out to look. Ariana: <to Robert> "Well, dinner was apparently interesting." Robert: "Why?" She indicates Samantha in the hallway, hand bandaged in a bloody napkin, both Franz and Dr. Jurgen holding her arm. Franz is incredibly apologetic. Franz: <upset> "This was all my fault. You never would have been hurt if it wasn't for me. I never should have been so selfish." Dr. Jurgen ignores him and does a very fine stitching job, covering the injury with a reddish gel, and then a bandage.
Samantha: "Doctor, could you give me just a moment...?" Dr. Jurgen: "Hmm? <looks at her, then Franz> Oh! Of course. I'll see you downstairs." He leaves. Samantha: <to Franz> "This wasn't your fault. Unless of course you hired someone to poison you, and then me." Franz: "Perhaps your friend is right. Perhaps it's in retaliation for our visit to the Sultinate. If that is the case, I don't want to be responsible - if anything should happen to you because of me, I couldn't bear it." Samantha: "I'm all right, really. Some one else is going to have to cut up my dinner for me, but I'm all right." Franz: <collecting himself> "Of course. The doctor is waiting for us." They go downstairs to join the others.
Clarice cuts up Samantha's food, the doctor would have dissected it, and no one wants to watch that. Kaeth: <thinking> "You don't normally have secret societies outsourcing. And he's just an infidel. Two attempts, both with poison. Poison to me makes me think it's a coward's weapon, and political. This is starting to sound odd..."
Upstairs, sitting at the desk, Ariana stretches a leg and kicks things off. Ariana: "Sorry. Just getting comfortable. It's kind of hot." She makes suggestive motions with the centre of the slide rule, comments on the fact that "everyone else is downstairs"... Nudge-nudge.
At dinner, Franz suggests that "after everything that's happened, perhaps the quiet of the country is in order and the introduction to the Emperor can wait. We can all rest, and the ladies can take in the simple pleasures of the country life." Franz has a summer house about 25 klicks from the capital. At some point they will go to his ancestral estates, as that's where the zeppelin is, but for now to the closer one. Dinner, wine - but not too much, chat... The wine that was being poisoned is actually very good - complex without being overpowering. Samantha declines any alcohol, except for a taste of the wine.
A pleasant evening, then they can retire. When Samantha returns to her room, there's a rose on her pillow. A man with a spare zeppelin and he can procure roses out of season. Kaeth stops by Robert's room and knocks. Robert puts on a robe and answers. Kaeth notices the large lump on his bed, butcher paper and notes and stuff all over the wall, floors. Kaeth: "We're leaving in the morning to go to Franz' estate. Good night, Robert. Goodnight, lump."
The night passes.
The samples of the poison and of the red clay are sent to the university. The results will be sent to the estate by courier. Everything is packed up, and it's time to go.
They go outside to a carriage for the ladies. Franz thought the "men might enjoy a spirited ride". Mounts are waiting. Franz mounts up with great ease, onto a horse that appears to have flaming red eyes. The others horses are equally fiery. Kaeth, who has done this before, bribes the groom into giving him the calmest of the lot. Robert hates him. Robert: <to Franz> "You do understand sir, that I've never ridden one of these before?" Franz: "But surely, there are horses in Kanaida?" Robert: "I didn't say there weren't." Franz: "Of course, you could ride in the carriage. With the ladies." It's said with a lightly mocking tone. Robert takes the horse, and tries to figure out how Franz is doing it - looks like magic. Robert watches the doctor, who at least is human. Geoff just squeezes the horse into submission.
They stop for a picnic around mid-day. Robert doesn't want to get off the horse, but does. Ow. Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow. Dr. Jurgen offers something for the pain. Kaeth declines for now. On the other hand - Robert: "Yes." A meal, then it's back on the road again.
Eventually (poor Robert) they arrive at what most of the party believes to be an inn, they must need to stay over night before continuing on the Franz's country house. Actually...not. Something in the phrase "country house" appears to mean something altogether different around here. The large, well-appointed inn is actually Franz's place. Oh. Liveried servants greet the Count. Franz: "My guests will undoubtedly want to freshen up after the ride. Then dinner in the main hall, something light, I think." A couple of servants peel off for each person, to escort them to their rooms. Huge fireplaces, guns, swords, and armor everywhere. Even armor that appears to have been made for a dog. One of the earlier counts was very fond of his dog, and took him wherever he went - including into battle.
Big, hot baths, followed by brandy from the doctor for the males. Very relaxing brandy. Nothing like a touch of laudanum to take the edge off. The single females, including Ariana, are in the other wing entirely, making it difficult for Ariana, but maybe more restful for Robert.
At dinner, Franz informs the party that he's having his train brought down for the trip up to his primary estate in a couple of days. Robert: "What do we do in the meantime?" Franz: "Well perhaps we can go into the garden and take a shot or two at the serfs." Quiet. Franz: "It was a jest. Now, about that expedition of yours. You've never actually said why it was you wanted to go up into the mountains of Albion." Robert: "Well, we're going to pick up our ether ship of course." Laughter, a few near chokings. Franz: <smiling> "Of course." Robert: "No, we're going to pick up our glider." Franz: "Really? At that altitude?" Robert: "It has some of our belongings in it." Franz: "I had no idea you were that accomplished a pilot. I've never found the use for them myself, they're more of a sporting vessel." Kaeth: "Has anyone ever come up with any safety device for airships?" Franz: "There's not really any need for them. Our airships are quite safe. Should any of the gas cells be punctured, it will still be possible to land safely, unless one is travelling in an Albion vessel full of explosive gas, which we prefer not to do here." Robert: "One of the things we will need is about one hundred liters of kerosene." Franz: "Not a problem."
Robert next turns the topic to the Zendan rocket experiment. Franz: "Interesting, but to what end? There's so much of our own world left to explore, and space is a vacuum with nothing in it." Robert: "Because it's there. Why do men climb mountains? Because they're there." Franz: "It still seems like a waste of time and money." Dr. Jurgen is rolling his eyes, but not so Franz can see.
The night will pass uneventfully.
Samantha's hand is healing up nicely. Probably won't even leave a scar. The men (Robert, Geoff, Kaeth) go out running in the morning. They have the run of the place, literally. Samantha goes for a walk, not being dressed for running (and the joints are still achy). In the distance is a tall figure on a horse with a rifle across his lap. It's Franz, just keeping an eye on her.
At dinner, Clarice and Sophie had regaled the group with stories of the Dick Salamander (from Robert and Ariana's point of view) like murder attempt at dinner, and how exciting it all was. In retaliation for having missed the fun, Robert and Ariana march around the wings of the house singing Dick Salamander songs. One of the suits of armor they pass has it's visor partially open, which is not consistent with the others. They continue onward. Robert finds a servant and tells him about the suit of armor being out of place. The servant walks up and flips the visor down without really looking at it. Robert: <to Ariana> "Go get Kaeth." Ariana: "What's wrong?" Robert: "There's something odd going on." Ariana: "Okay, but don't do anything stupid." Robert: "You know me." Ariana: "Yes I do. Don't do anything stupid." Robert: "I won't." Ariana hikes up her skirts and runs off, Robert whistling at her.
Robert waits ten minutes, gets bored, and decides to do something stupid. He opens up the visor on the suit of armor and sees a high tech looking camera surrounded by a high tech looking cage (a Farraday cage, but he doesn't know that). He's hit on the head and loses consciousness. "Well, if it isn't the spaceman..."