The Lone Sniper was gagged and bound up in a canvas straitjacket, strapped into a wheelchair which was placed in the center of a circular jail cell, which in turn was centered in a white padded room. Through the walls of the room he could hear a mob repeatedly chanting, "Ditzie, Ditzie, we love Ditzie!"
Ditzie burst into the room through the door, she wore a cute black dress with a cute black hat.
"I just wanted to tell you how fabulous I am!" she shouted.
The Lone Sniper woke up screaming.
He was still in Frankie's asteroid base. Perhaps the nightmare was caused by something he ate. Henceforth, the Lone Sniper would avoid the meat loaf at dinner.
Dana was outside the ship performing an inspection of the Chauchat's hull. She had told the Captain that she was worried about the effect of Efate's tainted atmosphere on her complexion. This wasn't really true.
The fact of the matter was that Dana did not want to go shopping with Ditzie and she needed a plausible excuse. Things happened around Ditzie. Many of those things had a very annoying tendency to go bang or boom.
Dana started her inspection at the port side of the bow and worked her way back to the stern. She caught a glimpse of something moving at the stern near the thruster plates. She keyed the mike in her filter mask.
"Dana to Don."
"Go ahead," replied Don the Khan.
"I saw something moving by the thruster plates, meet me at out at the stern."
"Roger, that. Out."
Dana reversed the 400-mm hard tube flashlight in her hand and quietly began to approach the stern end of the Chauchat.
Dennis and Ditzie walked out of a particularly cheesy gift shop that was run by two really short gay men in red fezzes.
"Rip-off city," said Ditzie.
"Yes," Dennis had to agree.
"May I blow it up, sir?"
If he denied permission outright, Ditzie would just go ahead and blow up the shop anyway.
"Maybe later," Dennis replied.
Dennis and Ditzie were walking down the central concourse of the main terminal of Down Franklin Starport when a blonde haired woman with a prominent nose who appeared to be in her mid thirties, wearing a blinding white jacket and skirt with white shoes, and accompanied by four very large men in dark sunglasses strode out of a high class restaurant. Dennis recognized her.
"Dear God. No!" he moaned.
"Who's that?" Ditzie asked.
"An old friend," Dennis lied.
Big Bill Aledon's mental division of the Imperial Nobility into workers and wankers did not cover all the possible cases. There were some wankers who went to great lengths to pass themselves off as workers, and Minerva, Baroness Hundeinsel, was one of them.
The Baroness had spotted Dennis and Ditzie and closed the distance between with the apparent swiftness of a Marine in full powered armor.
"Dennis, darling," she said in her very polished voice, "I barely recognized you in your charming travel clothes."
Dennis wore a well-worn black field jacket over a black shirt, trousers, and ground-combat boots.
"Minnie, dear," he replied. "It is so nice to see you again."
He actually disliked the Baroness, but his nearly two decades of experience in naval intelligence allowed him to lie with confidence. He introduced Ditzie to the Baroness.
"This is my niece, Ditzamer Spofulam."
As if on a cue, Ditzie did her Imperial Court curtsy.
"What a charming child," said the Baroness. "Did you say, Spofulam?"
"I was briefly married into Spofulam family, it didn't work out for us."
"I see," said the Baroness.
The Baroness herself went through husbands and lovers like a squad of Marines going through an aging crate of combat rations.
"I've heard . . . so much . . . about the Spofulams."
Ditzie looked up at Dennis.
Let's see you answer this one, she thought.
"Well," replied Dennis, "the founder of the family business, Emile, was a quartermaster-armorer for a SURFER unit during the Civil War. Some reputations are . . . a bit hard to live down."
"I see," said the Baroness. "So what brings you to this charming planet?"
"Family business," Dennis lied. "I'm surprised to see you here on Efate, with the local uprising and all."
"Oh, I'm doing what I can for the children," said the Baroness.
"Well, that's good," Dennis lied again.
There was no shortage of orphans on the planet for the Baroness to be photographed hugging. Nor was there a shortage of dashing young officers for the Baroness to shag.
"I'm afraid I must be off," said the Baroness, "I will be serving dinner at a refugee camp."
"Well, somebody has to," replied Dennis.
Dennis had to exercise a great amount of self-control to not let his last statement come out as a sneer.
After the Baroness and her guards departed, Ditzie clicked into her mentally older personality, Ditzamer, and proceeded to interrogate Dennis.
"You really don't like her, do you?"
"No," he replied.
"Norris had an older brother who was supposed to inherit the title and duties of the Duke of Regina."
"William," said Ditzamer, "I remember when Big Bill brought him to the Imperial Court during his last visit to Capital. He was rather cute."
William Aledon was sometimes called Little Willie, but never to his face.
"Well, William was returning from . . . a date with Minnie, when he had his fatal accident. Big Bill always suspected that she had the speeder sabotaged, but he couldn't prove it."
"That was also when General Products, the manufacturer of the speeder, was having severe problems with their quality control systems."
"But that's not the whole story, is it?"
"Minnie did sleep around a bit," Dennis said. "With practically everyone, except Norris, of course."
"Even with you?"
Dennis looked down at Ditzamer.
"Once," he said. "The night before I departed for basic training in the navy. Minnie hasn't aged a day since then."
Dana, Don the Khan, and a Sergeant of the Imperial Marines waited until the EOD robot removed the satchel charge from the main port side thruster plate of the Chauchat. After other Marine Military Policeman finished their search for other explosive charges on the hull, they then walked over to the corpse of the Bargerite laying on the landing pad below the stern of the ship.
"So when you found this man trying to plant a charge on your Maneuver Drive, you hit him on the head with your flashlight?"
"Yes, Sergeant," Said Dana.
The bloodied assault flashlight was in a clear plastic evidence bag in the Sergeant's hands.
"This is a four-hundred millimeter unit," said the Sergeant. "Most people use a three-hundred."
"I'm a big girl, I need a big flashlight," said Dana.
To the Marine Sergeant, Dana's voice seemed a bit too deep for a female human.
"A big girl?" said the Sergeant quizzically.
"Yes," said Dana. "Its only corrective surgery, just like having your tonsils taken out."
The Sergeant started coughing, as if he were choking.
"If anything comes up, you'll call?" asked Don the Khan.
The Sergeant nodded and walked away, still coughing.
Don pulled a five-credit note from his wallet and handed it to Dana.
"Damn! How do you do that?" he asked her.
"It comes with practice." Said Dana. "So to speak."
In the central concourse, a Barger bitch was waiting for her old man, he was supposed to plant a bomb on the Chauchat and return to the main terminal. The bastard was way overdue.
As she waited she saw Dennis and Ditzie talking the Baroness Hundeinsel. The Barger bitch ducked around a corner to make a call to the local clubhouse.
About forty meters down the concourse, three women in red robes and with shaved heads also noticed Dennis and Ditzie. One of the women entered a text message on her personal com-unit and then hit the send key.
Twenty meters further down and across the concourse, four neatly dressed people, two men and two women, also saw the Captain of the Chauchat and his niece. One of the men brought up his com-unit and connected to a pre-programmed number.
"Star-org. Ensign Enleshkaadshar speaking," came a voice over the com-unit.
"The incarnation of Xenu is here in the main concourse."
There was silence over the line, and then the Ensign spoke.
"Maintain visual contact and wait for further instructions."
Observing all this commotion, two taller than average humans in saffron robes were softly conversing.
"Please stick to Galanglic," the taller man said to the shorter and balding man who was his traveling companion.
"I want to go home," whined the shorter man. "The Imperium really is a madhouse."
"It is our task to observe the Imperials and protect our home worlds from their madness," said the taller man in a ponderous voice. "We serve the Consulate."
"You sound like a graduate from that school on Regina," the shorter man continued to whine. "What do they call it? Rim-job High?"
"Oh, shut up!" Said the taller man.
At Windhaven-on-Regina, Lisa had a visitor in the late afternoon. She took a walk across the lawn with Eneri Achter-Altermann.
"So when do they expect to let you out of here?" he asked.
"No idea. Why?" she said.
"We need you back on duty as soon as possible."
"Santanocheev's crew has put out a hit on Dennis." Eneri replied. "It was only an accident that we found out."
Lisa gave Eneri the thousand-meter stare.
"I'm supposed to care?" She said.
"He may not be collecting the Emperor's credit," said Eneri, "but he is back on the job. Yes, you should care."
Lisa continued to walk in silence. Eneri spoke up.
"Do you know how this place came to called Windhaven?"
"No." Said Lisa.
Eneri loved to lecture.
"There was a junior lieutenant whose first job straight out of intelligence school was a staff slot here on Regina. One of the tasks he was assigned was to find a location for this facility for Department Six."
Lisa nodded. Eneri continued.
"Now this junior lieutenant was an afficionado of pre-contact Solomani music."
"Sounds like Dennis." Lisa said.
"Yes." Said Eneri. He continued his lecture.
"He picked up the name for this place from a song by a group called Blue Öyster Cult. How did it go?"
Eneri paused for a second.
"You see me now a veteran," said Eneri, "of a thousand psychic wars, I've been living on the edge so long, where the winds of Limbo roar."
Lisa only nodded.
"I heard," said Eneri, "that they have you in the master bedroom in the manor house."
"Yes," said Lisa. "This place is too nice for some wimp to have abandoned it."
There had been an exodus of nobles from Regina after the last war with the Zhodani.
"Well," said Eneri, "it wasn't really abandoned."
Lisa stared at Eneri again.
"What?" She said.
"This," said Eneri, "was the fief Dennis was granted at Big Bill's request. He just handed the keys and signed the revenues for the estate to Department Six, and went on with his naval career. He's not collecting a cent on this deal."
Lisa's mouth dropped open.
"I'm . . . I'm sleeping . . . in his bed?"
"You could say that," said Eneri.
Lisa suppressed the urge to slap Eneri.
"So," said Eneri, "will we be seeing you on duty soon?"
Lisa silently turned and stormed away in the direction of the manor house.
"I guess not," said Eneri to nobody in particular.
Neither Dennis nor Ditzie found in the main terminal shopping area a penguin suitable for the holovision tank in the Common area of the Chauchat. They would start shopping in the Startown district outside of the starport the first thing in the morning.