This subplot involves all the characters, a few NPC's and some of the villains. An art show's gala opening is in the works for Sunday evening and a few of the PC's have been invited. For the others this is an opportunity to visit them and see what they were doing as of Sunday, May 28, 2000 (game time).

Each section is divided up into time frames with the names of those involved. Some are starting points for adventures and a link will be placed at the end to indicate it is so. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did. Any suggestions on how to set up future installments, or comments on this set up worked will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 28, 2000. 4:00 p.m. The home of Dr. Edward Jackson, Chester.

Dr. Edward Jackson, renowned doctor and researcher into meta-biology, opened the door to the guest room and glanced in on his patient. The being that Winona Horowitz dropped off on his doorstep was still sleeping. Eddie glanced at the banks of equipment, automatically checking, even though his system would have let him know if there was any change in the patient's condition. His metabolism is so strange. And his blood…

Hands caressed his chest from behind and a body leaned up against him, "How's the guest?"

Eddie smiled softly and closed the door. Turning in his wife's arms, he kissed her. "Fine, still out. His body is repairing itself."

"I wish she wouldn't keep dropping people on our doorstep like that," Captain Candice Jackson muttered, laying her head on Eddie's shoulder.

"You just wish she'd stop showing up at all," Eddie teased her. "I mean she is petite, nice body… Ow!"

Candice smiled at him innocently. "Let's not talk about her, okay? Are we going to this gala thing?"

Dr. Jackson shook his head. "His body is so different… I don't want to be too far away."

"Good," Candice swayed down the hall, dropping articles of clothing behind her. "We'll spend a nice quiet evening at home. Just the two of us and the baby monitor."

Blackjack stirred briefly and then went back to sleep.

4:30 p.m. University of New London, Dorms

Alex Trevant grunted as he replaced the floor board that hid his costume. With a sigh, he went back to worrying over his bills.

Now that his ex-roommate had ditched him to go wondering around the Rockies, Alex didn't know if he could continue staying on campus. I would hate to move back with Mom. The ads he had placed around campus were coming up empty.

Robbie "Duck" Jones stood awkwardly at the door. Wow. University. I hope this guy likes me. I would love to live in the dorms.

He knocked. The door opened. Standing in front of him wearing only University jogging pants, was a young man with straight, dark hair. He had a runner's body.

Alex looked over the young man in the doorway. Gawky didn't begin to describe him. Slightly shorter with lank brown hair cut short in a very sensible cut. He wore rather thick glasses, and average clothes. He looked very young and a little uncertain.

"Hi," Robbie spoke quickly, "I've come to see about your ad for a roommate."

4:30 p.m. Police Headquarters, E-Town

Zoe Davis turned the invitation around in her hands as she approached Terry's desk. He glanced up and held up a finger as he finished the phone call.

"Nothing new on this whole Friendship Fire thing. That was Joe, he just gave me the results of the autopsy. He's ruling it death by heart attack. Also said that the soot was from a gasoline fire. His personal opinion–the man was frightened to death."

Zoe nodded. "Terry, I've been invited to a gallery opening that I'd really like to attend. Would you be interested in going?"

She held her breath as Terry arched an eyebrow. "Don't tell me that you can't find a date," he teased. "What time?"

"7 p.m. tonight."

"Okay, pick me up. That said, I better get home and change."

5:00 p.m. Home of Jon Hamilton, Cookston

"God dammit, Kate, I think she can handle watching the kids while we're gone." Jon's voice carried easily from the upstairs bedroom to the living room where Ivy sat watching her two children.

Rebecca bit her lip and continued surfing through the channels. Andrew looked up from a botany book and scowled at the ceiling.

"Okay. Just ignore them. I still can't find this plant." He touched one of the flowers on Ivy's body. "It just isn't in here."

Ivy spoke quietly, "It's a hybrid I'm culturing in the park… very hardy and easy on the soil." She kept most of the anger out of her voice. The bitch thought huger unfit to watch her children! "Maybe we–"

Whatever Ivy would have answered was stopped by the appearance of Jon and Kate. Jon was wearing a traditional black tux and adjusted his cuff link one more time. Kate was wearing a black evening dress that was cut low and hugged her body tightly.

As Jon kissed the children good bye and muttered admonitions to be good, Kate smiled at Ivy over his head. Linking her arm through his, the two left the house.

Smug whore, Ivy thought, but returned the smile. She only wished she could see Kate when the rash started. So many plants caused allergic reactions in the skin. Particularly the one she had made brush Kate's legs and thigh as she walked to the car. She turned to the children. "Now that the house is ours…?"

5:00 p.m. The home of Julian Locksley, E-Town

Julian lay awake, his eyes still closed. Upon waking he had reached instinctively for the woman that should have been at his side. The familiar pain lanced through his heart making breathing difficult. Marina. It was a word that knifed through his whole body.

Levering himself into a sitting position, he glanced at the alarm. Another night of roaming the streets of New London, hunting for wrong to put right. Another day of sleeping the night's activity away. But Julian liked it that way. He pushed himself so that he would be to tired to dream. Julian hated the dreams.

He forced himself to shower and go through the normal routines of waking. He walked back into the bedroom and paused at the dresser. The invitation was propped up against the dresser mirror. He looked at it for a long time.

She had loved the arts. Unbidden memories of previous openings sprang fresh into his mind. Closing his eyes he could almost hear her laugh as he tried to help her dress, his hands not sure of the oddity of dressing her instead of undressing her. Her voice sharp with irritation if they were running late. The few times when they were very, very late. He smiled bitterly. And opened his eyes.

He opened his closet, glancing from his evening wear to the his chosen suit of vengeance. For long moments he hung balanced between the two choices. And then he reached out, laying out the white dinner jacket, followed by a white shirt, black tie, cummerbund, pants and shoes. It would be his first outing without her. He would go because she loved the arts.

5:10 p.m. The home of Joe and Lyta, Edo

Lyta Forrester took her shoes off with a sigh and went through the mail as she moved further into the house. Her mind went over the day as it always did, winding down. Her boss had surprised her by giving her the tickets to this Gala opening. Formal, cocktails and dancing. Ducky. Just ducky. I get a little leisure time, and I have to spend it in prom clothes. I really couldn't politely decline, though, since my boss really thought he was doing me such a big favor.

She changed and headed down to the workroom. Joe was already down there, eye plugged to the microscope. Eight small boxes, neatly labeled with addresses, sat beside him on the the work table. Taking a quick peek inside, Lyta saw that all the boxes contained fine black dust.

"Hey sweety." Not wanting to jostle Joe or the microscope, Lyta sat down across from him without the usual hug and kiss. She propped her chin on her hands and sighed. "Joe, how much do you love me?"

"Well, of course I love you lots…" Joe's voice trailed off as he slowly, deliberately lifted his gaze from the eyepieces. "Hold it. Is your mother coming to visit again?"

"No, it's nothing that bad. It's just an evening of uncomfortable clothes. Do you think you can rent a tux?" Lyta sighed and handed him the tickets. "My boss sent 'em to me. He seemed to think he was doing me such a big favor, I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd sooner work overtime with no pay."

"Hmm." Joe blinked at the tickets, trying to shift his vision back into the macroscopic level. "Art gallery opening. Fancy dress stuff." He paused, contemplating. "And probably no animation cels among the lot, I'd wager. Well, anyway, where you go, I go." He smiled at Lyta winningly. "As soon as I remember where I keep my ties, that is. Bleah."

"Well, I'll be wearing heels, so at least we'll be equally uncomfortable."

Joe suddenly grinned. "Hey, maybe I ought to wear the Darkling suit. Do you think it would cut down on unnecessary mingling?"

5:15 p.m. The home of Akemi Rhodes, Chester

Coming out of the shower, Akemi dried herself off and then tossed the towel aside. Naked, she sat down at her assemblage of desktop machines, staring at their monitors. Three brand-spanking-new PowerMacs for work, and a fourth as a dedicated net communications platform. She turned to the monitor for the latter computer. The events of her night with Desmond were still fresh in her mind, and work was out of the question at the moment. Catching up on email and web traffic from the past two days should help her focus well enough to get started on the project planning, and looking for likely local people and outfits to help produce the video footage. She certainly didn't lack for inspiration at this point, she thought merrily. Her eyes twinkled as she began culling her email backlog. Having a personal leased ISDN line was very nice.

Finishing that, she decided to go through her parents data base. Hopefully she would find a lead on a really good secretary.

She frowned. She would need a good one, someone capable of handling not only the secretarial stuff, but anything else that might come up. Unfortunately, that sort of expertise cost money. Money she might not have to allot. She scrolled through her parents' database of contacts, hoping to find at least a lead. Anything.

Curious. She leaned forward and noted the entry. Trott, Elle ** 795-234-1223, Beaver. It was the only entry that had no other notes or notations by it. No, not quite. Another drew her eye. D. R. ** 604-555-2341.

Hmm, Akemi thought as she drag-n-dropped the entries into a priority file, it couldn't hurt to interview them. If I hit it off with one of them, who knows what we could work out? Then she paused. I still have to be careful, though. Jadestorm is going on the warpath against Shocker, and I can't let anyone get too close before that battle is finished–especially not anyone who might draw undue attention to Mom and Dad.

She was startled out of her thoughts by the doorbell. She rose to her feet and checked the security hole. Armond stood on the step.

Akemi pursed her lips. Must be important.

Opening the door, she was surprised by the troupe of people that carried packages into her house. Secrets, the lingerie shop; Delanies, Burke's Jewelry, Stepps. One by one the people placed their packages and then left, casting sideways glances at the naked woman. Leaving her with Armond.

You'd think people who work in high-fashion clothing firms would be used to seeing naked women. We have to change outfits sometime.

"Mr. Reach respectfully requests your presence this evening," Armond informed her, not even blinking over the fact the woman had answered the door naked.

Akemi had watched the procession in silence, her expression a mixture of curiosity and bemusement. I could use a scene like this in my next CD-ROM, she thought. I wonder if I could convince Armond to reprise this role for the camera…

Though come to think of it, I'm still not sure if he's even alive between the legs. But that's not what we're here for, right now, is it?

Slowly, she opened the parcels. A silk cheongsam from Delanies, ankle-length, jade green with gold phoenix embroidery over the breast, and slits on either side up to about mid-thigh. Pearl teardrop earrings with gold fixtures, from Burke's. Skin-colored stockings from Secrets, and gold-colored open toed sandals with ankle straps and 6cm heels from Stepps, completed the outfit.

Her eyes quietly went wide. Even if you could get these things off-the-rack, it'd be about $1200, easy. And I know that at least that cheongsam wasn't mass-produced. $2000, maybe? This must be a VIP-level occasion.

She looked through the parcels again. No bra, no panties, she confirmed. Good. He knows enough that anything larger than a g-string would show through the cheongsam, and ruin its lines. Akemi smiled to herself. Then something else occurred to her: But what made him think of this shade of green? Coincidence? Or…?

She looked up at Armond. "Is this a private party, or are we going out somewhere? And when should I be ready?"

"You have one hour," Armond answered.

Akemi scratched the nape of her neck with a fingernail, noting the significance of what he didn't say as much as what he did. "So tonight I'm Cinderella, huh?" she said wryly. "Seeing as how I've already laid the Prince, I think we're doing things just a little backwards. Still," and here she gestured, casually taking in the entire ensemble, "we can't let this go to waste, now can we? It's a good thing I've just had a shower, too, seeing as how we're pressed for time."

She sat down and started rolling the stockings up her legs, one at a time. The hell with nylon, she thought. They don't call them "silk stockings" for nothing. Then she looked up at Armond. "Why don't you sit down, or at least make yourself a little bit less uncomfortable?" she offered. "Even with most of the work done for me, this is going to take a little bit of time. That reminds me: when the ball–or whatever this is–is over, do I get to keep this present from my Fairy Godmother? Or am I supposed to turn into a pumpkin at midnight?"

Akemi blinked as a small smile twitched the corners of Armond's mouth, "Desmond is not fond of pumpkins. They are yours. He does not like getting gifts back. And I do not think he would appreciated being called a fairy."

He continued to stand, as ready for action as always.

She playfully stuck out her tongue at him as she stood up and carefully picked up the cheongsam. "Well, I suppose not, if he'd turn down the chance to sleep with a stud like you," she replied, mischievousness written all over her face. "And I bet you have men and women alike eating out of your hand when you smile, just like your boss." She batted her eyelashes at him for emphasis.

"But you know," Akemi continued, working her way into that magnificent dress, her manner turning serious again, "that's the second time in as many days that I've heard you alternate between calling him 'Mr. Reach' and 'Desmond.' Just what is the relationship between you two?"

His humor disappeared, and Akemi suddenly found herself back in the 'them' category. "I am his bodyguard."

And I thought the Japanese took the 'insider/outsider' concept to extremes, Akemi remarked to herself as she adjusted the bustline and collar of the cheongsam. But wittingly or not, I've touched a nerve, and I have to at least try to make up for it.

She walked over to him, fastening the ornate buttons that ran diagonally from right hip to throat, and which, when complete, would bring together the completed phoenix embroidery. "It's not that simple, is it?" she said, more a statement than a question. "There's a bond between him and the rest of you that exemplifies master and servant, the kind of bond that can only exist in such situations."

Picking up the earrings, she stepped into the bathroom, leaving the door open. "You'd die for him," she called out, loud enough to be heard, but not so loud that she was shouting. "And he knows it."

When she came out again, some twenty minutes later, her hair was styled–nothing fancy, just a simple straight-back look; there wasn't time for anything more elaborate. The earrings were also in place, and her makeup was done.

"As for me," Akemi continued, as if there had been no pause, "I've never met anyone for whom I feel anything like that." She sat down again and strapped on the new sandals. Then she paced around a bit, trying to get the feel of them. Finally, she turned to him and smiled. "Shall we go?" she asked, offering him her arm.

5:30 p.m. New London Airport

Gailyene O'Hara checked the time and the departure schedule again. A vacation would be very nice, especially after that whole Duke's Bridge thing. She was a dancer. She had no desire to be foolishly rescuing people all the time.

She had earned this vacation.