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Lunch With A Twist

Equus World Map     After spending a few hours wandering the city, Terin had decided to get some sandwiches to bring back to Munarshu.  He was stuck at the city's Imperial consulate.  Not that he couldn't leave the office, but he had no identification.  Even the most trivial issue could rise to sudden incarceration without that.  And since he also had no money, Munarshu could only wander around hoping not to get into trouble,or that someone would offer to pay for his bills.  As Terin had waited on the food line, he got a call, with an ID from the Equus authorities.  They had asked him to connect them to his Captain!  After he did that, Terin listened as the city's authorities told Mikah a rogue starship had broken dock and fled.

Terin listened as he heard the Hotel California being deputized to chase down the rogue.  The ship was believed to be a 300 dTon merchant vessel so the 250 dTon California shouldn't be at a significant disadvantage.  When they asked, they were told they couldn't expect help from the Imperial services.  When the call had gpne out, most Scout and Naval assets were out of place to intercept the fleeing ship's course out-system.  Still, there had been damage to the station, including sectional decompression and some loss of life, when the rogue broke dock.  Because of that, the alarm went out and they hoped someone could answer.  Mikah gleefully accepted the deputization, and ordered the crew to battle stations, while Terin realized he and Munarshu were stuck.  With nothing else he could do, Terin bought sandwiches and went back to the consulate.

Munarshu had decided to catch up on his sleep after Terin left the consulate.  When Terin returned with lunch, he found the engineer out cold.  Setting Munarshu's sandwich out for him when he woke, Terin went to find one of the Imperial staffers.  The minister's aid Terin found told him the staff were very unhappy about the situation.  The Minister himself felt it was not appropriate that the local authorities should put Imperial citizens at risk for a local legal issue.  While the Navy and Scouts had expressed interest, because of the damage to the starport, theyregretted they did not have any ships in positoin to act.  And the political departments of the Imperial government were not happy the locals had involved civilians in the situation.  When Terin said his crew were the injured parties, because Munarshu's Ident was stolen, he was told that only created a more dangerous conflict of interest.

Terin asked how that was, and the aide said that things could work out badly for the crew.  The aide reminded Terin ship to ship combat was very lethal, which was something Terin knew well.  "But", the aide said, "if the crew of the rogue ship were all killed, questions it could be asked if the killings were really necessary?  In an Imperial court of law, questions of revenge could be raised?  Or the actions could be called vigilante killings."  As the aide continued to explain the many ways things could go wrong, Terin saw a number of things he hadn't thought of.  Terin was happy when the aide said the California might be getting data support from some Imperial Admirals.  But the civilian Imperial government were not pleased at the situation.  Still, Terin was asked if there was anything they could do for him, as they reminded him he and Munarshu were guests of the consulate.

They also saw Terin had brought sandwiches back and told him they could provide food services, admitting the food wouldn't be extravagant.  And once the ship came back into comms range and Captain Kirlim vouched for Mr. Sidigur, they could expedite the paperwork.  After it was sent to Rhylanor, Terin was told it shouldn't take more than three weeks to a month for a new Ident to be returned.  When Terin asked, half-heartedly, "Unless they recover the Ident from the ship?" the aide agreed that would be the best answer.  She again said she hoped things would be peacefully resolved, without charges of vigilante actions and Terin thought it might be good to send Mikah a message.  But when he asked, he was told the ship was out of comms range.  Terin was allowed to record a message, but it was not likely to be received any time soon.  When Terin asked if he could use the Consulate's comms system, he was told he could not.  The denial gave him the feeling the staff did not want to get any more involved in the situation than they already were.

After Terin recorded his message, they promised to take it to the Minister for permission to transmit it.  After Terin thanked the Aide for her help, he suddenly felt the desire for a beer and asked if they had any?  The aide said she could have some delivered.  Terin thanked her, asking specifically for some stout before he went back to where Munarshu was sleeping.  There, Terin gently kicked Munarshu, to wake him, and said food was there and beers were coming.  As they ate, Terin settled in and relaxed but didn't tell Munarshu about what had happened while he was sleeping.  When Munarshu asked what had been going on as he slept, Terin said, "Nothing.  We're just waiting."  After they'd eaten a bit, Terin changed his mind and told Munarshu the ship had been asked to go off to catch a rogue ship that broke dock and ran.

They talked about that and Munarshu was ready to bet the odds they would recover his Ident were low, especially if there was any ship to ship combat.  When he moaned about that, Terin joked, "I guess you're gonna be stuck here a long time then.  Maybe we can pick you up on the way back?"  Munarshu just bowed his head and said, "I hope you ordered a lot of beer."  They ate and talked until the beers were delivered and shared out.  Eventually, an aide to the minister came and said, "Excuse me gentlemen, I hope I'm not interrupting?"  Terin waved the man in to sit and have one of their few beers.  As he continued to eat, the man came more completely into the room, and was leading a man in local police uniform with the rank of Captain.  Seeing this, Terin happily invited the Captain to come in too, and invited him to sit.  The Captain acknowledged the invitation but said he did not have the time to sit.

Then, the officer said he wanted to ask them a few questions?  When Terin said, "Sure", the man pulled out an official note-puter and went over the record surrounding the theft of Munarshu's Ident.  He then said his department was aware the California was off chasing the thief's ship and his team had gone over their surveillance data from the bar.  Hearing this, Terin happily said he'd been about to ask if they'd learned anything?  The Captain nodded and told them the police had used video to ID the theif and then tracked the man to a brief stop at the offices of an Import/Export company before he left for the port.  Since he'd only been there very briefly, they thought the man might have picked something up, or met a contact there before he left.

When the Captain said they were unsure what business the man had there, Terin asked if they'd sent in a team to investigate?  The Captain said, "Well, that's why I'm here."  In the sudden pause, Terin asked, "You don't have your own investigative team?" in an incredulous tone.  The Captain said they did, but didn't have enough data to get an investigation opened without tipping off the potential targets.  He suggested the bureaucratic steps they'd have to take to get an investigation of the firm opened might also take more time than Terin and Munarshu would like.  As the Captain spoke, Terin checked out the Imperial Aide.  His face was red, but his expression said he was not able to stop the Captain from speaking to them.  As Terin and Munarshu talked about it, they agreed an import/export firm would have the systems needed to create or duplicate the documentation needed to move cargo between the stars.

Munarshu suggested that his Ident might have been brought there to copy, and the original might even still be there.  When Munarshu mused that out loud, Terin was not so sure about that and asked how long copying an Ident would take?  The Captain said that, from what he knew, it would only take ten minutes to copy an Ident with the right hardware.  When Terin asked if the Captain's was saying they should break into the office and snoop around, Munarshu said they didn't have to break in.  That got everyone's attention, including the Imperial staffer.  He was hopeful Munarshu would have seen past the madness and would shut the plan down.  But that hope was crushed when Munarshu said they only had to visit the place, posting as ship's officers hoping to get a cargo contract for their ship.

When Terin said they might recognize Munarshu from his Ident if they looked at it while copying, the Captain said that, even if someone looked at the image, it would have been a maximum of one or two technicians only.  And they'd have only glanced at it for seconds.  The odds someone would make that connection would be remote, and most of the people in the office would not even likely be involved, or even know about the Ident.  With Munarshu and the Captain stepping on his concerns, Terin gave in and asked the Captain what he had in mind?  The officer said he'd like it if the two of them could go in, get a look around and surveil the place to let the police know what they saw?  The Captain even said he could give them a police comms frequency, so they could call for help if things went to crap.  When Terin said he was only a ship's navigator, not an investigator, the Captain pointed out Sir Terin was a Knight of the Imperium.

The Captain also said that they had been recorded to have been looking for cargos for their ship, so it was not out of their normal work.  Terin then claimed he'd be derelict in is duty if he didn't do the correct computer research on the company before acting.  When the Captain asked what Sir Terin had to research, Terin said he needed all the possible information on the company, before they walked into the place ignorant of the facts.  The Captain said, "Fair enough." and hit a few controls on his data-puter.  He then presented Terin everything the police had on the firm.  That was a good collection of basic facts.  It included the names, addresses and more, of all the employees working for the firm.  He even asked for Terin's permission before bouncing he file to Terin's hand computer.

Changing direction on the officer, Munarshu asked for any data on what they suspected the firm of being involved in?  The Captain said "We don't know", and made it clear that, they could set up a raid and surprise everyone there to take what they found if they had that information.  But they only had the most vague of suspicions, which was why they were coming to Sir Terin and him.  Again, The Captain said they had only noticed the firm because of the theft in which Munarshu's Ident was involved.  Terin asked if past surveillance might show any involvement the firm had with any questionable organizations, but was told the firm's record was completely clean, legally speaking.  So there would have been no surveillance.  The only person in the room who was happy was the Imperial Aide, who enjoyed the work Terin and Munarshu were putting in to shoot down the Captain's request.

In the end, the aide was disappointed when Terin and Munarshu finally agreed to visit the firm and see what they could learn?  When Terin still asked for an hour delay to read the data the Captain gave him, the officer told Terin to open the file.  Terin did, and saw there just wasn't that much there.  A general description was given of the office block in the city in which the structure was located.  Mentions of off-site warehouses were included, but were not involved in the situation.  A run down of the firm's employees was given, along with what little data the police had on them.  This was because they appeared to have been perfectly law abiding citizens.  When Munarshu asked for the office floor plan, the Captain said they did not have that available.

Running out of questions, Terin asked if he could speak to the diplomatic aide alone first?  The Captain agreed, and stepped out of the room as the Aide stood with an expression suggesting he was near an apoplectic reaction.  As soon as the Captain left the room, the Aide assured them Imperial authorities could not help them if they chose to get involved and things went bad.  He also warned that they could be prosecuted by the Imperium if they violated any Imperial laws in the process of what they were planning to do.  Terin said he wasn't against going on a scouting mission, to spot anything the police could use as just cause for investigation.  Still, the Aide didn't seem satisfied with the answer.

Terin also asked about the restrictions on Munarshu's movements and was told there were none.  It was just recommended he stay in the Consulate to keep safe from "accidental" troubles.  The Aide also warned their plans wereonly safe while the police were on their side.  But that could turn on them quickly too, if they were not careful.  Understanding the rational, Terin thanked the man for his information and they let him go.  Once alone, Terin and Munarshu talked and agreed they were both on board as the Captain returned to the room.  When the Captain asked about their plan of action, Munarshu matter of factly said, "We've got space on-board the ship to fill."  Terin agreed, saying "Yep.  Local foodstuffs seem to sell well off-world."  As they were leaving, the Imperial Minister personally came out to try and talk them out of the mission one last time, but his time was wasted.

Off To The Infiltration

     On the way, in an unmarked vehicle, Terin and Munarshu wondered if it might make sense to spend some time shopping the neighborhood, to fit into the area before going to the office?  The Captain said that they would specifically arrive to that office and not browse the neighborhood if they were coming to set up shipping contacts and contracts.  When Munarshu asked about using his glasses to let the police record and advise, the Captain said they could certainly set up a network to do that.  Munarshu was pleased and the Captain called to have a comms and surveillance van meet them two blocks from the office block, to set things up.  After that, Terin and Munarshu would walk to the block and begin their op.

Once they got to the rally point, two blocks from the office, the police techs in the comms van scanned the frequencies and settings Munarshu's glasses could use and set their network up.  of course, they also recorded the settings and encriptions the team used for themselves as part of the process.  Something Munarshu and Terin missed entirely.  The two were told the network would operate on an encrypted sub-network which the police used throughout the city.  So, no matter where they were, they were 'in range' and on line.  A few quick tests showed both the audio and video transmissions were working.  As they prepared to get moving, Munarshu asked if there were other offices for import export firms nearby?  When Terin brought up a local directory on his hand-comp, they found this firm was alone in the local area, and the closest other firm was more than a long walk distant.

When they got to the office, the doors opened into a decently appointed waiting room which was about twelve feet wide by nearly thirty long.  A reception desk dominated the far end of the room was and the only access into the interior office was a door to the left of the receptionist.  At the moment, as she looked up at them expectantly, they were the only others in the waiting area.  As comfortable as the furniture appeared, it was obvious to both that a button push would fold it all down into floor enclosures leaving an empty room.  When the receptionist asked, "Can I help you?" Terin said "Greetings." Munarshu added, "and salutations" and Terin had the horrible realization Munarshu had finished his sentence.  Turning to his crew mate, Terin flatly said, "Don't do that anymore."  As Munarshu opened his mouth to respond, Terin said, "No, no.  Don't do that anymore", more forcefully.  Munarshu responded, "I'll do as I damn well please." as the receptionist tried to decide how long these two men had been married?

Ignoring Terin, Munarshu turned to the woman and said, "We need to talk to someone about filling some cargo space." in a friendly but direct tone.  Despite his tone, Munarshu had put on his "charm" as he spoke, and she responded by hitting some controls on her desk as she said, "Sir.  I believe we have someone out here who would like to speak to you."  A man's voice answered, "I'll be right out."  As they waited, Munarshu made sure to visually cover the room entirely, as a waiting room would no doubt be invaluable to the police in making any case because all criminals hide incriminating items in sight in the entry to their office fronts.  Soon, the door to the left of the reception desk opened and a guy in business attire stepped through.

Introducing himself as Oscar, the man asked how he could help them?  Turning to exchange greetings with the man, Munarshu repeated that they were looking to contract cargo.  Accepting that, Oscar invited the two of them into the office proper.  As they entered the next space, Terin and Munarshu saw this was a 50x50 square area with further open space to their right, beyond a ten foot wall.  Doors in the wall to their left, led to other rooms they could not see into and the corner to the space diagonally across the room to their right was obviously taken up by a smaller office they also couldn't see into.  Directly across from where they entered the space, they could see two doors leading through a wall opposite them.  The main area of the open room was filled with four desk clusters.  It looked like a general open office space with nothing unusual.  None of the doors they could see appeared to be either marked or secured, so they all appeared to be interior doors which would lead to further space used by that firm.

Once inside the door, Oscar led them to the second door on their left and they followed him into a glass-walled conference room with pictures of starships in space and at dock.  On inspection, none of the ships appeared to be owned by the firm and many were ships belonging to MegaCorps like LSP, Tukera and Imperiallines.  Once in the conference room, Munarshu got right to business, getting lost in the idea of a deal rather than the goal of getting shown around the place.  Terin tried to jump in and ask about the firm and its operations?  As the two asked questions designed to make it seem they were serious, the act suffered from the fact the ship they represented only had a 15 dTon cargo bay and the firm were bulk shippers.  That marked them as a small operation, and certainly limited his interest in them.

Oscar asked why they were trying to get into the bulk-run business and Terin said they were more interested in contracts for specialty runs.  Munarshu jumped in, asking if they dealt with any boutique shippers?  Oscar said they had a couple of sales people who kept an eye out for those kinds of shipments.  As he said that, Munarshu asked, "Can we meet them?"  Oscar said, "Hold on" as he checked his watch before saying, "Come with me."  Oscar then led the pair out of the conference room and almost completely across to the far wall, arriving at a pair of desks.  At the two desks, fronted by a file storage credenza, sat a man and woman in professional clothes, though hers were a bit more stylish than his.  There, he introduced the team as Meredith and Creed stood and greeted them.

As they walked, with the door they first entered from to their right, Munarshu made sure to scan everything with his glasses.  This team were the office's specialty shipping sales people, among other tasks.  After introducing them to Terin and Munarshu, Oscar explained their request to the couple.  From what they had said in the conference room, he explained Terin and Munarshu were associated with a ship that would visit the system once every month or two and were looking to lock up specialty shipments on a regular basis.  After they stood, Terin and Munarshu looked Meredith and Creed over and saw he was missing a leg.  While most people wore or had attached stylish or advanced tech replacement limbs, Creed only had a "bare metal and mechanisms" prosthetic.

As Munarshu picked up the conversation, Terin asked if they had a rest room, joking that the beers from lunch wanted to be returned to the wild.  Leaving Munarshu with Meredith and Creed, Oscar led Terin around an office to the door directly opposite the one they'd first entered through.  Past that, Terin saw a rectangular kitchen area with doors to the right marked "Men", "Ladies" and "Storage".  Beyond that space, Terin could see a door leading further into the office space.  As Terin accepted there was still more of the office to see, he turned into the men's room saying, "OK.  I'll take care of business and be right back in."  Out in the office, Munarshu worked to convince Meredith and Creed he was for real.  And he was good enough at it that they were willing to sit down and go over the numbers with him.  Of course, that got him no closer to a grand tour of the office.

        office floorplan

Planning To Lose More Sleep

     As he talked with the pair, Munarshu did learn they had no storage facilities in the building.  Ashe talked, Terin finished up and stepped out of the bathroom to find Oscar waiting for him.  When Oscar began to lead him back into the office proper, Terin asked about the office environment and the company's attitude toward its workers?  Trying to work that angle until they returned to the desks, where Terin was glad to see Munarshu hadn't alienated them.  As they returned, Creed was answering one of Munarshu's questions and Oscar interrupted as he'd been convinced to show Terin and Munarshu around.  Initially pleased at his success, Terin and Munarshu were almost satisfied, but left hanging as they saw almost all the space in the office.  The "almost" included two offices they culd only see the outer walls of.  One in the main office area and another office in the back third of the space, beyond the kitchen and bathrooms.  The door next to that, which led from the office to the kitchen, opened to a back stairs, allowing a second exit in case of fire.

The last third of the office space had an area for shipping and other general support work as well as a break room and the second office.  That was described as the office of the company's overall manager, named Kelly.  Munarshu and Terin were less than pleased to not meet any of the office owners as the tour moved through the space.  In that rear area, they did see racks of digital storage binders defining the legal laws and requirements for shipping throughout the region the firm operated in.  Munarshu made sure to get a good few steady shots of that.  But as they learned that "Kelly" was the main manager, Munarshu got a note from the watching police.  They felt the volume inside those walls was a bit large for even an operating manager's office.  They guessed the room might hold a safe, where they'd find what they were after if it was anywhere.

But the door was closed, and Munarshu did the only thing he could as he put his best effort into trying to meet the managers.  When Oscar checked, he quickly answered, "Well, Kelly is busy but you can meet Michael."  With that, Oscar led them back into the central office as Michael came out in a suit and all.  The fully polished sales manager.  When he came striding forward, all smiles and enthusiasm, it was clear the guy was used to taking charge and driving any situation right into the box he wanted, be it a closed contract or other binding agreement.  And they had already talked themselves into a very small box with their own words.  So when Terin tried to grab the bull by its metaphoric horns and turn it in a direction helpful to their surveillance, he found they had no traction at all.  Both Terin and Munarshu each privatly considered playing the "friends with high nobility" card.

When Terin finally did play it, he didn't go "all out".  He tried to spill a small amount at first, and hope to hook their curiosity to have the rest of it 'dragged out of him.'  But his initial gambit was met with a reminder that while Sir Terin's ship had connections, they had no connections with the Knight's ship yet.  Munarshu blurted out, "Would you like to have a connection?" as Terin said they'd leave it "out there."  offering that the company might gain access to his connections if they wanted a relationship with Sir Terin's ship.  As he spoke, Terin stressed that they might gain the connections, implying there could be significant value in that.  The sales manager considered both comments and suggested they set something up and get their Captain on the line to see what could be set up?  If that worked out, they would see where it led?

that told them the man knew this game and that was as high up on the food chain as they were getting.  So they agreed and said they'd talk to their Captain, to set something up as they ended the visit.  Once they said their goodbyes and left, Munarshu began receiving a steady stream of instructions from the police on where to meet up.  They linked up with the police and were told the surveillance had been a good start.  Now that they had an idea where to look for anything, Terin asked if they'd send a team in and was reminded they didn't have anything to bring before an authority to order such an operation.  Then, the Captain asked what they planned to do later on that night?  There was a brief pause before Terin answered, "Hopefully, going out and getting laid.  What are you doing?"

The officer said he'd hoped they would help further the case, by sneaking into the office that night while the police guarded their backs.  When he said that, Terin started asking about compensation and the Captain reminded him the work was ultimately for their benefit.  The officer said, "You're already stuck in this city..." Terin interrupted and corrected him that Munarshu was stuck and he could leave.  A distinction Munarshu did not appreciate as the captain pointed out Terin's crewman was stuck.  And while helping could solve a problem for their ship, the captain was sure he could find some charges to lodge against both of them, which their captain would have to deal with personally.  And with that, Terin realized they were at least partly in the jaws of a beast and now had to choose their steps carefully.

Still, Terin was not willing to give up right off as he challenged the officer, asking what he thought he could charge them with?  While being vague, the captain made it clear he could find something to charge Munarshu with that would require Mikah to come to the city personally.  And that was something Terin was sure he did not want to cause, as he doubted he'd survive it.  When Munarshu suggested any charges would result in his captain killing him, the police officer said it was not their problem unless she did it in his jurisdiction.  When Munarshu complained the police were trying to hurt them, even while they wanted them to help, the captain said he was not trying to hurt anyone.  He was simply pointing out that things would work out better for them if they helped work things out, possibly even locating Munarshu's Ident.

Before Terin could speak, Munarshu told him to shut up, reminding the knight it was his ass and not Terin's.  Giving in, and despite Munarshu's words, Terin asked, "OK, captain.  You think the Ident might be in Kelly's office?"  The captain admitted they hoped to find something worth investigating in that office.  When Munarshu asked about weapons, the captain said they could likely arm the pair.  Terin asked if they would really need to be armed, if they were going in after hours?  The captain reminded him they had no idea if there was anything illicit going on after hours, or if there was even someone potentially living in a back office apartment?  So it was seen as a wise precaution.  Especially since they were obviously skilled with fire arms.

As Terin pointed out how complex things could get if the weapons were needed, the captain said they'd have two officers with them.  So the police could make sure they were never "officially" there.  As Terin considered the situation, Munarshu made it clear he would take part because of the situation he was in.  When Terin still had doubts, Munarshu said, "You can take the shuttle back up to the station, wait for the ship to return and tell them, 'I chicken shitted out and left Munarshu to handle it'."  Munarshu then reminded Terin Mikah had ordered him to chaperon Munarshu wherever he went, to prevent him getting in trouble.  Sighing, Terin decided they were going to do what the captain asked after all and said he was in.

With that decision made, they decided to talk about what they knew?  The office was largely a nine to five operation.  Terin suggested they go in at two in the morning, to be sure no one was in the office.  The captain said he'd assign them an "entry specialist" and a detective.  For weapons, they had revolvers they could share with the two and Munarshu made sure they'd get extra ammo too.  Once the plan was set, and before Terin and Munarshu were returned to the Imperial offices, they agreed to meet up at the consulate at one thirty the next morning.  From there, Munarshu caught up on his sleep.  Terin browsed around the local area for a few hours before returning to the consulate for dinner and then grabbed some sleep himself.

While the consular personnel made themselves available, Terin kept the situation to himself.  Munarshu did tell them the police believed there might be a ring dealing in forged Idents.  He kept the information he gave to a minimum, saying they'd helped the police get information on the ring.  The staff thanked him for the warning and said they'd post warnings to the port staff to be on the alert.  When Munarshu started speculating about smuggling activities beyond any information they'd gathered, the staff said they'd mention it to their Naval contacts, but that was their department.  Asked if he would be staying at the consulate or making his own arraignments through his ship, Munarshu said he'd set things up for a place to stay once his ship returned to the station.


Fumbling In The Shadow And Light

     Having set his Ident to wake them both, Terin woke first and nudged Munarshu with his foot.  After they took care of their needs and prepared themselves, Terin called the captain, who said there was a car waiting.  The men left the consulate by the subdued lighting of night-time displayed by the city's "skies".  In the car, Terin asked about supplies like flashlights?  He was told they would provide flashlights, but if the office was vacant they could just turn on the office lights.  Terin also asked for and got a first aid kit.  As this happened, Munarshu regretted he didn't wear one of his ballistic ship suits.  In the car, they found the other oficers. After introductions, Terin asked the specialist if he could defeat any possible alarms they'd encounter?  The man simply giggled back at the navigator.  Terin took that as a "Yes".

More seriously, the man told them he'd open the door while they waited at one corner.   He had the detective wait at another corner until he signaled to them.   Then, he wanted them to coem over casually, so it wasn't obvious as they gathered and entered the building.   From there, the office should be easy.  They did what they were told as the man went to his task, and less than five minutes later they got his signal.   Inside the building, they found the specialist had not only unlocked the door to the building but unlocked the office door inside.  Once they got to it, the door was left open a finger's width.  They looked at the door and he asked if they would head in first or the detective?  Both Terin and Munarshu simultaneously said the detective would.

When they turned to the detective, he made it clear he was not going in and asked them what their plan was?  Eventually, it became clear Munarshu was going in first because it was his fault.  Munarshu entered the darkened waiting room and sparked up his flashlight to look around.  The room looked as if it had been tidyed up before the workers locked up and left.  There were no signs of light coming from the door to the left at the end of the waiting area, leading into the office proper.  As the others followed him into the room, Munarshu made it to the inner door and found it locked.  So they stood by as the specialist did his magic with a small device resembling a hand calculator and a few slides, while turning knobs.  Then, the door came open slightly.  As impressed as he was with the man's skill and success, Munarshu couldn't help but wish he had his gauss rifle.

Still, there was no light coming from the office so Munarshu led the rest of the group.  Looking around, Munarshu could see no light coming from any of the visible doors, which were all closed.  Including the doors to the management offices.  After a general scan of the office, Terin quietly reminded them all they were looking for Kelly's office.  Still, they made sure the door to the back stairwell was unlocked, in case they had to run for it and couldn't use the front entrance.  When they opened the door to the kitchen area, they could see the main kitchen space was darkened but light showed from under the bathroom doors.  Looking at each other, they wondered why someone would be spending their nights in the bathroom as Terin and Munarshu failed to consider a janitorial staff.

Taking the risk, Terin moved in close to listen at the door for any noise.  When he didn't hear anything, he figured they left the bathroom lights on.  When he asked the detective if he wanted to investigate or just bypass the restrooms for Kelly's office, the detective drew his revolver and carefully entered, investigating each of the rooms to make sure they were unoccupied.  That done, and leaving those lights still burning, the group moved to the door which led from the kitchen area to the back section of the office.  Checking the door, they didn't see any sign of light from around it, but when they cracked the door they could see the area beyond was lit!  As he pushed the door slightly more open, Munarshu could see signs someone had been working at the shipping desk recently too.

Looking down the hall to the door's left, Munarshu could see light from the open break room doorway, and could also see a screen saver playing on the computer in the shipping area.  But without knowing the settings on the system, they had no way to guess how long the system had been left idle?  And the door to Kelly's office was closed and there was no indication of light from around it either,which was disappointing.  They hadn't seen light under the door to the kitchen area either, so that didn't comfort them at all.  As Terin started to suggest they should get eyes into the break room, and meant that for the detective, Munarshu said he'd go.  Surprised, Terin first watched as Munarshu drew the pistol issued to him and slowly edged closer to the break room entrance.  He did that while Terin edged up to offer him cover if it was needed.  He hoped the detective and specialist would also lend a hand if things went bad.

Once Munarshu had eyes on the space, he saw no one in the lit room and took some time checking for places someone might hide.  As he let the others know the room was clear and Terin turned to get the others moving to Kelly's office.  Munarshu stepped in to check if any of the cooking surfaces and devices in the brek room were giving off heat?  Finding no temperature changes to suggest a meal had recently been made, Munarshu joined the others.  It turned out, they were listening at the door to the sounds of activity inside Kelly's office!  When Terin suggestively said, "Detective..." the man asked Terin, "What's your plan?"  When the detective suggested it would be better if one of them led and the police followed, Munarshu again said he'd lead the way.  But this time, Terin objected and motioned for the group to move back to the kitchen door.  There, he quietly but urgently objected to the evolving plan.  When Munarshu asked if he wanted to lead, Terin firmly said, "No one's gonna lead!"

As they paused to let him have his say, Terin objected, "There's someone in there.  There's no reason for us to be here.  We're breaking the law."  When the detective asked if they wanted to scrub the operation, Munarshu saind no and Terin said yes.  Munarshu was adamant that they shouldn't leave, so Terin suggested they find someplace to hide and wait until those in the office left.  The detective reminded him there could be an in-office apartment in the space.  So they'd be waiting a long time for nothing while it was also possible that others might arrive to take part in the night-time operations.  If that happened, they could end up trapped between the people in the office and the new arrivals.  When Terin stood on the evidence of active movement in the office, Munarshu listened again to see if the sounds might be those made in the heat of passion.  But Passion was not what he heard.

As Terin pointed to a number of hiding places, the detective was all for either advancing the operation now, while they were in control, or scrubbing the work before they got trapped by those possibly better armed than they were. Hiding did not appeal to him. Munarshu pointed out that they ran the risk of having to shoot a civilian if they moved forward, which the detective didn't seem overly concerned with.  When Terin again pushed for waiting an hour to see if anyone left or the sounds died down, Munarshu said, "We either do it now or scrub."  Faced with that, Terin said he wanted to scrub the operation.  When faced with Terin's firm objections, Munarshu agreed to leave and scrub the operation.

When they agreed, Terin said they could try again the next day, if he and Munarshu were still in the city at that point?  No one laughed at how funny the odds were the rest of the crew would find Munarshu's Ident on the rogue once they'd run it down.  Outside the building, and back with the police vehicles, Munarshu asked if they could try it again the next night?  While reluctant to waste more time when nothing might get done, the captain agreed and had them driven back to the Imperial consulate.  But once they arrived, the minister himself was awake and waiting for them.  And as they greeted him, the expression on the man's face suggested annoyance at their activities.

When the minister asked what they'd been doing, Terin said they'd been out seeking some "womanly action."  Terin reminded the man he had said they were free to come and go, so they didn't think it was a violation of the consulate's rules.  The man accepted that, but made it clear he didn't think it was intelligent.  He did grumble that he couldn't expect more from spacers.  The minister continued, that he had news for them about their ship.  With their full attention, the minister told them the California had engaged in some kind of space battle.  Hearing that, Munarshu let out a horrified whine, hoping the ship's paint wasn't scratched.  When the minister said the reports suggested the ship had been damaged, Munarshu continued his rant, making it clear he expected Mikah to have him re-paint the hull with his tooth brush.

Terin joked about how lucky he was that he was grounded and could not get into orbit without an Ident.  But he asked the minister about casualties, and for any other details.  The man said the report had been very brief.  They had only been advised by the Navy that a battle of some kind had begun several light hours away.  As he spoke, it was clear the minister disapproved of the ship's involvement in the situation, but he did say an Imperial Scout service ship had also been listed as involved in the action.  Continuing with the bad news, the minister also told them it had turned out the rogue ship was larger than they had been led to believe.  When Terin asked outloud how a starport could get the details wrong on a ship docked there, Munarshu rubbed his fingers together in the time-honored sign of exchanged wealth, saying "I know how that happened but I'm not touching it."

Still playing the host, the minister asked them, "Under the circumstances, is there anything else we can do for you two at the moment?"  Terin said, "You can find out how the starport screwed up on the details of the rogue ship" in a voice that was just short of acerbic.  The minister said he was certain the Imperial Navy would be asking hard questions about that ina short and rebuking tone.  Terin nodded at that and said that they'd probably check in later in the morning for updates.  Terin did thank the man for the news he'd brought.  They then said their good nights, and the minister said the office would be opening late that morning, for obvious reasons.  Terin and Munarshu went back into the day room they'd been staying in and settled down after Terin set his Ident to wake them in seven hour's time, to wake them at nine.


Off In Not So Distant Space

     Just minutes after Terin and Munarshu had settled in, on the devastated outer hull of the rogue ship, Mikah, Rol and Zimzod had found someone in a vacc suit.  He claimed to be a Scout named "Unar Lakminer", who was the only survivor the wreck of the ISS Skygge Sturek.  Before them, the wrecked fore-section of the Sturek was embedded into the hull of the rogue.  After she'd taken heavy damage, her pilot had decided to ram the rogue.  Not sure anyone could have survived the crash, Mikah had sent his name to the California, to try and confirm Lakminer was who he claimed to be?  But that answer would not come for some time, as they were light hours out of ship to station comms.  And they still needed to get into the rogue's engineering section and make sure any surviving crew there couldn't still maneuver to escape.  At least, Lakminer was not armed and was not asking for a weapon.

Aboard the California, Emkir was in command when Zimzod called after they disabled the last of the rogue's turrets with HEAT grenades.  When Zimzod asked for the ship to move closer, to support the team, Aiden calculated and and loaded into the computer the burns needed to move the ship in.  As he did, Emkir joked, "Just be careful not to hit anything." and Aiden considered using the OMS system to "simulate turbulence".  Other than that, the transit was made easily enough.  With the word passed that the rogue was disarmed, Fesic had shut the ship's weapons down and begun working on diagnostics.  They'd taken hull damage and the California's sensors and turrets would need to be checked, tested and repairs made.  While all aboard were still working at their posts, exhaustion was also starting to replace adrenaline.

Back out on the enemy's hull, Zimzod evaluated the damage done and happily announced, "They ain't goin' nowhere."  But Lakminer pointed out there still could be crew in the rogue's engineering spaces, who could still could run.  Realizing Lakminer was right, Zimzod and Mikah tried to come up with an answer until Rol suggested they use the California's guns to blow the rogue's thruster plates.  He suggested it would disable the ship until the Navy arrived to can open her.  Zimzod and Mikah both liked the idea a lot, but when they called over to Fesic, he said the ship's lasers were not that fine-tuned a weapon.  If they tried to disable the rogue that way, they were more likely to destroy what was left of the ship.  That annoyed Zimzod and Mikah, as they were told to "not" destroy the rogue so that some of her crew could be questioned.

As he considered their situation, Zimzod decided they'd have to get into the ship's engineering section and make sure the ship wasn't moving.  Zimzod said, "Well, we're gonna have to blow the IRIS valve".  So they were back to finding a way to keep a HEAT grenade against the IRIS valve.  Without sticky tape or any other method, a grenade could drift free before it detonated.  Someone had to climb into the wrecked bridge, devastated by their breaching charge, and hand-place the grenade.  They'd talked about that before, tethering someone to a cable before they climbed in and placed the grenade, pulled the pin and were yanked out by the others.  The sharp metal edges of wide-spread hull damage made that dangerous.  Slamming down on anything which could puncture armor could kill a person real fast.

As they discussed how they'd get the work done, Zimzod figured he'd be the one to have to plant the grenade until Rol surprised both Mikah and Zimzod by volunteering.  Since Zimzod's battledress-enhanced strength would likely slam Rol down hard, Mikah would pull Rol.  Zimzod would stand by to rescue Rol if he went flying.  After the "who" was decided, they went over the "how"?  They figured one HEAT grenade would mess the IRIS valve up, but would not likely blow the passage clear.  But it should do enough damage to let Rol to attach a second grenade to it, and finish the job.  After that, it was just a matter of getting the job done.  So Rol took the first of two grenades and carefully made his way down into the wrecked compartment.  Close enough to the valve, Rol compressed the spoon and pulled the pin.  He then paused to judge the forces that would be unleashed when he released the spoon.

Setting the grenade to the best of his judgment, Rol took a risk and let the spoon fly before releasing the grenade.  He then said "Pull!" in a firm and urgent voice as he released the bomb, just as Mikah hauled on the cable tied to his waist.  Rol did not spin as wildly as Zimzod thought he might, and rode across an arc as he reached the full stretch of the cable.  Zimzod was in position to catch him as fragments flew from the briefly illuminated hole that had been the bridge.  After re-setting and preparing again, Rol made his way into the space to see the valve was damaged just as they'd expected.  He saw several places where he could set the grenade so it wouldn't move, even after releasing it and the spoon.

History repeated itself as Rol was recovered unhurt, and the second explosion was found to have blown half the valve clear.  Zimzod, who had led the way, reported that and they were sure the compartment beyond was now decompressed if it hadn't been before.  Gauging the hole, Zimzod figured he could barely squeeze himself through the hole without damaging his battledress.  Grasping carefully, Zimzod used his armor-enhanced strength to bend some of the less supported blades back and widen the space to make it more easy to pass through.  Once he was done with that, Zimzod scanned the exposed compartment and the continuing passageway.  next, He checked his HUD for anything he missed.  It simply showed the passage was empty, if now depressurized too.  Zimzod did see indications of powered systems, and the hint of the power conduits which likely ran beneath the floor plates.

Leveling his gauss rifle, Zimzod led the way into the passage.  It appeared to rundown the starboard side of the vessel.  Rol followed, with Mikah sending the Scout in, between Rol and herself and her laser carbine.  As they moved forward, they soon came to another IRIS valve, but this one wasn't secured.  That meant the passage beyond was also not pressurized.  Once opened, the valve gave entry to an apparent small common area.  As Zimzod scanned the area over his sights, he could see containers of ammunition and other supplies drifting in the now voided space.  It was apparent this was to be a rally point on-board, in the event the ship was boarded.  But where were the defenders now?  Had they considered being rammed?  Had they been they preparing for possible boarders in a compartment crushed they were rammed, which was more amidships?

As Zimzod carefully moved into the space, he said, "Looks like we may have some live ones here."  The others thought his comment meant he'd seen armed survivors in the compartment.  As the California's crew also moved into the space and saw only supplies, Zimzod moved to explore the equipment.  Mikah said they had to get to the engineering section, ASAP!  When Zimzod said they should look through the floating boxes, Mikah countered that and ordered him to keep moving aft.  Shrugging, Zimzod took point again as he did his best to scan some of the stuff floating around.  What he saw were mostly a number of containers of small arms ammo.  As they began moving aft again, they found the passage directly behind the space had entrances to crew staterooms.

As Zimzod took stock of the passage, the battle computer in his armor estimated the passage continued to the very aft end of the ship.  That meant they could follow it to the end and hope there were hatches giving them access to the ship's engineering spaces.  Zimzod read the data his battle computer could show and regretted that no one had a clue what class vessel the ship was?  That meant he couldn't just in-put the ship class and pull up deck plans to help them explore.  What he could do was open a comms to the ship and tell Aiden to hit the ship at close range with their densometer.  That could give them some hope of figuring out where the voids were aboard?  Aiden could then figure out a basic layout and bounce that back to his battle computer.

On the bridge of the Hotel California, Aiden was bringing the ship in closer as ordered when his comms sparked up.  When Aiden asked what they needed, Zimzod told him to blast the ship with their sensors and get him a layout of the interior.  As Aiden did so, and the feed came back, the ship was nothing like anything Aiden had seen before.  But with the thousands of different designs crossing space, built over the last several centuries.  That was not a huge surprise.  The hull did seem something like a civilian ship, not counting the "hood ornament".  And as the ship's computer assembled its findings, Aiden sent them over to Zimzod's battlecomp.  There were five staterooms on the right and four on the left as he looked down the passage.  The readout provided told Zimzod the line of staterooms to the left ended with a space where what he expected would be the last stateroom seemed to have been replaced by a lift.

Lighting Up Compartments

     Having the deck plans, the four moved forward, barely sparing a glance into each stateroom, to make sure the spaces were clear.  At the end of the passage, they found a hatch in the deck plating as well as a lift.  Zimzod knelt down to check the hatch.  It was secured, and the indicator on the hatch showed the space on the other side was pressurized!  As Zimzod joked about it being a hatch they wanted to open, Mikah, Rol and the scout could hear the smile in his voice.  After that, they huddled to discuss how to open the hatch and discussed using HEAT grenades.  Still, they knew they had to capture some of the crew alive because the authorities wanted someone to question.  So they couldn't blow the hatch because they didn't know if those holding up there were wearing vacc suits.  That meant they'd have to risk killing everyone and having no prisoners.  Though it was less satisfying, Zimzod suggested they try to jack into the ship's remaining comms systems and demand they surrender.

When they began to broadcast, Zimzod was very cheery as he described the garland of HEAT grenades around the hatch.  The idea of their breathing air rushing past his faceplate as he smiled in the wind.  His aim was to show a true glee in his terrifying plans.  Even more terrifying, the steady droning voice of Rol as he recommended they should surrender and face charges they could possibly beat.  In the engineering spaces, the holdup crew became fearful there was something worse than Zimzod...an interstellar lawyer!  After a brief pause, the crew from the California got a message back over the comms from a frazzled-sounding male voice.  The man claimed to be a junior engineer who the ship had hired on in their last port.  He said he wasn't involved in anything they had done in this system because he'd never left the ship.  When Mikah and Zimzod both demanded his surrender at the same time, the man simply responded "Done!"

For details, he said, "I'm in my vacc suit so you can come on in."  Before they could address the pressurized engineering section, Mikah asked "Is there anyone else down there?"  But as Mikah asked the question, they saw the hatch discrete switch from "sealed-red" to an amber warning light.  They also saw a mist forming as gas jets fired from around the hatch as the man apparently began voiding the engineering space he was in.  Zimzod was the first to speak, saying, "You come up.  There's nobody else down there, right?"  The man said, "That's right.  I'm the only survivor"  Accepting that for the moment, Zimzod said, "Well, you come up and we'll see."  So Zimzod, Rol and Mikah readied their weapons and waited.  After a few minutes, they saw the LED on the hatch go green and the hatch start to open.

As they watched, the man slowly drifted up through the hatch raised hands first.  As he rose, the man seemed unarmed, in a civilian style vacc suit.  After he'd cleared the hatch, they had him back against the wall and Zimzod dove down into engineering to confirm no one else was in the space.  As she covered the man, he surprised her by vaulting himself off the wall behind him at an angle.  She jerked the trigger in a sudden attempt to shoot the man, but her aim was dead on the spot he had been in.  The spacer was already hitting the passage's side wall and bounced at Mikah from her right!  Making things worse, Rol's fire was partly blocked by Mikah's body as the man made his bounce at her from the side of the passage.  When he pulled the trigger, it was an "off-sights" one round shot which, against all odds, struck home!  And since they had him on their comms, they heard the man's startled cries of pain as well the hiss as his air escaped his vacc suit.

After that, Mikah was bowled into by the rapidly transforming corpse.  Lucky for her, Mikah's skill kept her ready.  Entering the engineering space below, Zimzod also came under attack.  He suddenly drew fire from three directions!  While most of the fire missed him, Zimzod felt an intense pain in his left arm before the med-systems of the suit went to work.  Soon, his armor had self-sealed and he was hit with both anesthetics and other drugs.  The pain started fading even as Zimzod got a boost from the drugs being pumped into his system.  Still, Zimzod's problems were not all gone and he had no idea what kinds of weapons were being fired on him?  He'd also been pushed into a spin by the hit that wounded him.  So Zimzod was now out in the open and had to stabilize before he could even fight back.

After his dive and the attack, Zimzod assessed the situation quickly and realized he couldn't risk burning thrust to get back out the hatch.  Worse yet, being off center even slightly would bang him into the bulkhead, cause more damage and leave him a drifting, open target.  Since he couldn't engage three targets under cover while out in the open, his best option were the arrays of electronics and wiring which made up the ship's drive systems.  A slug of fire bounced off his armor as Zimzod hit the thrusters and burned his thrusters hard.  He hoped the sudden burn would kill his spin while also burying him into a veritable wall of wiring and electronics.  After he "hit", while they gave him some cover, Zimzod also found himself fouled in the wires and cabling.  Not sure what he was ripping loose, Zimzod struggled as he tried to free himself enough to act further.  He also couldn't toss out any grenades or aim weapons.  Zimzod did raise the alarm over the comms that they were shooting in the compartment.

As Rol and Mikah answered, Zimzod called out his best guess on the direction the fire had come from.  Then, he issued some commands to his battlecomp, to refine the data it had as he fought to free a hand.  As soon as he had the information from Zimzod, Rol did his best to orient himself in the best approximation he could and dove through the hatch with his gauss rifle at the ready.  Rol fired as soon as he was clear of the hatch, and only belatedly noticed the form of a human figure in his targeted area while he prepared to fire again.  Sparks danced in that area, caused by his fire, but Rol couldn't assess any damage done.  To his benefit, the targets he could see, from their muzzle flashes seemed to be pouring fire into a bank of electronics and hadn't seen his arrival.  Until he'd fired.

Having reacted with the butt of her rifle first, Mikah swatted the now dead body coming at her away.  Disgusted that Rol simply dove into the hatch firing, Mikah took a second or two to make her plans before she acted.  Using her training, Mikah poised herself just through the hatch, hanging upside down relative to the engineering deck, and began to orient and fire three quick shots at the muzzel flashes she saw.  First, Mikah swung her aim into each area and then she tried to guess where she'd hide while firing off some quick shots.  Then, she opened up, and one of her shots nearly singed Rol's armor.  As Mikah finished up, Rol did his best to re-target the figure he'd seen as Zimzod continued to tear at the wiring.  As he did, the fire directed at Zimzod's cover diminished as those hold up in the engineering section began to re-orient their fire.  Mikah had the same advantage Rol had before he'd opened fire.  None of the holdouts noticed her as she lined up her shots.  And, at the moment, none of Mikah's crew had been hit beyond the initial wound Zimzod took.

Mikah didn't pause to sightsee as she fired, but she could see figures lighting up as she shifted aim and realized, by dumb luck, she was burning armor with every shot!  While she certainly hadn't placed enough fire in any location to do real damage, Mikah knew her targets would be in trouble if they were wearing cloth suits.  At the very least, they'd be placing patches over burns.  As this happened, and Rol re-sighted, the man Rol had been targeting released his weapon and raised his hands as he drifted free of his hiding spot.  It was only the fact the arms were raised straight up and held in the same direction that showed them the body wasn't just floating free and dead.  Rol shifted fire as he saw that, to his right and accepted that this target was honestly disarmed.  Of the remaining sets of muzzle flashes, Mikah chose the right most and retargeted.  Zimzod finally managed to fight his way back out of the cabling.

Just as things seemed to be going their way, Mikah felt someone grab her feet and heard the sound of someone jacking directly into her suit's comms!  The voice of Scout Lakminer said, "Don't worry.  I've got you.  You're safe."  Still, she stroked her trigger and sent light down range as slugs came flying back.  Rounds caught Rol drifting in the open.  Mikah's armor also took some scoring, but it saved her from injury.  Despite the damage done, the re-sighting had its effect and Mikah and Rol both knew they were at least keeping their targets pinned.  With one combatant surrendering and Zimzod clear of the cables, it appeared combat was gonna be over soon.  Unless Zimzod went back into his electronic hole, like the Terrain groundhog, and promised them six more minutes of combat.  Still, not having any positive indication of the battle damage done, Mikah and Rol kept pouring fire down range as Zimzod checked his battlecomp.

Zimzod checked his readouts and saw the "targets" Mikah and Rol were firing all were dead.  As he gave the all clear, Zimzod targeted the one survivor in case that one had a change of mind and a hidden weapon.  Putting all the menace and not a small amount of anger into his voice, Zimzod comm'd the surrendering figure and demanded, "Is there anybody else on this boat?"  Ina defeated voice, the prisoner said, "We were all that was left" Zimzod said "OK.  I've heard that song and dance before."  In the same tone he started in, the man said, "I'm all that's left and you can kill me if you find out I'm lying."  With her weapon on him, Mikah said, "We're gonna kill you anyway, so.." which was not likely the best encouragement for him to spill any secrets.  Still, she happily continued, "We're not gonna wait to find out if you're lying or not."  In the meantime, Zimzod called to have Aiden scan the hulk for life signs.  On the bridge of the "California", Aiden got five or six sensor hits, though some were fading.

After repeated scans while the crew on the hulk waited, Aiden decided he had nine to ten bodies aboard the rogue giving off varying amounts of detectable heat.  He couldn't be sure if that meant they were dead and cooling in self-sealing suits or just hiding?  After even more scans, Aiden felt reasonably sure four of them were dead and cooling.  When he let Zimzod know, Zimzod counted the four of them, including the scout, and the prisoner.  That meant five known bodies and a possible one more given Aiden's data...maybe not.  Aiden reminded them the ship's sensors had taken significant damage too.  That shifted the conversation to shutting down the vessel's power plant, so it would stay put until the Navy arrived.


Winding Down And Wrapping Up

     Mikah turned to the prisoner asking what his role on the ship was and the man said he was hired muscle, nothing more.  Zimzod asked, "OK.  What's up with the sudden departure from the port and what's up with the stolen ID?"  The man said he had no idea what Zimzod meant by stolen ID.  And, on the sudden departure, he said he was not told because he was only hired muscle.  After that, Mikah began inspecting Rol's damaged armor to assess his wounds while Zimzod checked on the bodies.  When he looked, Zimzod saw the target Mikah had been firing at was nearly bisected by her fire.  Calling that out to her, Zimzod gave her a verbal thumbs up and a "Way to Buuurn!" cheer.  Rol's target had been pin-cushioned so it was hard to tell if he'd died of weapons fire or air loss?  On examination, their prisoner was in pretty bad shape too, so he needed to be tended to before they had no prisoners at all.

Checking with Mikah on what she could do, Mikah said they had to get him to the ship's sick bay.  At the same time, she needed to make sure she got Zimzod and Rol treated too.  Zimzod wanted to search the ship.  Since they were done fighting aboard the rogue, Mikah quickly put a plan into action.  Zimzod would begin investigating the rogue because he claimed to be not very badly hurt.  She and Scout Lakminer would get the prisoner across and come back for Rol before she started treating wounds.  Once they started moving up through the hatch, they found Lakminer had grabbed a weapon from the "rally point" and was securing the passage "just in case."  They began moving as Mikah called Emkir and told him to suit up and come over to check the rogue's computer.  That order meant Emkir had to pass command of the California to Aiden.  When Mikah heard that, she firmly ordered that all his decisions had to be passed through her.

Once Mikah had the prisoner across, she explained to Lakminer how to get him to the med bay before she went back to get Rol.  Mikah also called Aali and Fesic, to meet the Scout and prisoner at the air-lock and escort them.  Zimzod chimed in, reminding all that they still hadn't had any confirmation Lakminer was who he said he'd been.  So, he told the crew to handle him with care until they had word back from the IISS.  As Emkir made his way to the lock, he asked if they had run a line from the California to the rogue?  He was told they hadn't, and asked if someone could help him make the transit to the rogue?  Realizing she was one of the few people skilled at that, Mikah helped Rol make the crossing before helping Emkir.  Mikah wanted her people safe before she went in to save the wounded prisoner.

At the same time, Zimzod checked his status and figured he could make at least a basic exploration of the still-intact compartments of the rogue before he went to have his wounds looked at.  He ordered Aiden to continue to scan the ship regularly, in case they had a panic room where more armed troops were able to hide from the California's sensors.  Zimzod then checked the gear on the dead men.  Zimzod found they'd had ACR's and snub pistols.  They had also only been armored in vacc suits, which explained why the battle was so short.  Even minimal wounds had wrecked the suits.  As things stood, he could grab the belts they wore, with two magazines of each ammo type on them.  The vacc suits were trashed but they could pull the two PLSS units as salvage too.

From the engineering section, Zimzod explored one of the still usable passageways and found an intact hatch.  That led forward, to a "Belly Cargo Bay" which also had a side-mounted cargo air-lock exiting the rogue's hull.  In the cargo bay, Zimzod found a wheeled, ground vehicle floating free.  Obviously not prepared for depressurization or combat maneuvers, the body of the vehicle showed a number of dents and other damage including pressure-exploded tires.  As Zimzod gave it the once over, he could tell it was a "technical", or civilian vehicle with armor plates welded on as well as mounts for heavy weapons.  In the mount over the cab, oriented forward on a pintel mount, Zimzod could see some kind of large automatic slug thrower.

Zimzod's first consideration was what they could do with the vehicle over all.  It had seen some abuse but even in its current condition it could be sold if recovered.  Thinking about it, Zimzod figured they'd have to open the cargo bay doors and float it over to the California.  Not sure where they'd store it at the moment, Zimzod's attention shifted to the weapon.  It looked very much like the VRF gauss gun Quinn had accidentally opened fire on him with on Hrunting, as they infiltrated the Sword Worlds base there.  Other than that vehicle, there were a few cases of ammo stored in the bay but nothing else.  After checking out the vehicle and weapon, Zimzod went back above decks to check out the staterooms.  Even as he started out to do so, Zimzod realized the drugs and medical support provided by his Battledress was starting to wear thin.

After Mikah escorted Emkir across from the California, it took the Admiral twenty minutes of exploration to find the ship's computer.  This was both because he didn't know the ship and because of crushed passages and compartments.  When he did finally find the computer, Emkir saw it was actually still powered up!  Always a plus when someone was trying to hack a system.  Still, that meant he needed to find a way to log in and gain control without an account.  And like the others, the adrenaline was wearing off and it had been a very long day.  Emkir was tired.  Mikah was tired too, but her day was just becoming that much more annoying.  Having gotten everyone back and forth between the ship and the rogue, she now had a wounded prisoner and Rol to treat.  And Zimzod would be joining them soon enough.

After Mikah got the prisoner's gear cleared away, she found he was in pretty bad shape.  Scout Lakminer had taken a bit of a beating during the wreck of the Skygge Sturek.  But when she checked him, he said he was only lightly wounded and she didn't need to worry about him.  Accepting that because she pretty much had to, Mikah had to wade in without a trained assistant.  Because she wanted to keep an eye on Lakminer, he was volun-told he was her untrained assistant "starting now."  But her problems started mounting even as she started to work.  Zimzod called back to the ship, saying he was at a point where he needed to return to the ship himself.  He wanted someone to replace him on the rogue, to search it better and back up Emkir as he worked on the computer.

With Mikah and Zimzod the only members of the crew trained in zero-G maneuvering, and she was just starting surgery while he was wounded and unreliable.  The best answer they could come up with was to have Zimzod grab the cable she'd left there on the wreck after helping Emkir cross and secure it between the two ships.  Then, the rest of the crew could snap on carabiners and use the cable to cross from ship to ship.  And with everyone in the crew also fading, it would keep the two ships together as they drifted, once they locked down for sleep.  Zimzod accepted the orders and made his way to the rogue's hull to grab the cable they'd used earlier.  There, he secured one end to the rogue's hull and the other end to his battledress before making the leap.

Fesic, who'd geared up to help receive the prisoner, was waiting on the hull of the California when Zimzod arrived, and the two made the other end fast to the California.  Then Fesic snapped a carabiner to the cable and began moving across to the rogue as Zimzod went to the medbay.  In the medbay, Zimzod commandeered the help of the scout as he stripped, bandaged and stabilized his wounds.  After he was done, Zimzod directed the man through the steps needed to give Rol first aid and get him stable too.  After that, Zimzod first administered a powerful sedative and anesthetic to Rol and then to himself.  On the rogue, Fesic actually enjoyed an experience he very rarely had in his earlier life.  EVA's had been something very unusual for him.  Once across, Fesic stopped, to stand and take in the view that was the impact site.  What was left of the Skygge Sturek had certainly made an impressive mess of the rogue's hull.

As ordered, Fesic made his way around the impact site and to the blasted bridge, which served as the entrance to the rogue.  Squeezing past the remains of the IRIS valve, Fesic moved to the first compartment Zimzod, Mikah and Rol had found.  As they had seen, this compartment was likely set up as a rally point.  Because the compartment was in the ship's starboard side, it was a good guess some supplies had been set up in similar compartments to the port and center of the ship, but any center compartment would have been crushed in the impact of the ram.  Fesic searched through and bundled a number of the containers, seeing many were cases of ball ammo for snub pistols, ACR's and a few boxes of HE grenades.  And after setting this space as a rally point, they appeared to have set up a point in the ship's engineering section, where most of the survivors had been engaged.

In the rogue's computer core, Emkir had begun to realize how tired he was.  He was glad he wasn't an engineer, or anyone whose actions could cause a disastrous malfunction.  As the transfer of personnel went on outside his compartment, Emkir tried to soldier on.  Finally, Emkir saw his fatigue would stop him succeeding at anything.  Especially, since the last time he'd even tried anything like this had been aboard the Quasar Viper, nine months before.  Once he saw he was only failing, Emkir called the ship to say he was returning to grab some sleep.  Aiden answered when Emkir called to say, "This is not going to be a nut that is going to be cracked any time soon, and I'm seeing double.  So I think I'm going to come back home for a while."  When Aiden asked if there was anything he needed to have secured, or if they needed to send another crew member over, Emkir said he didn't think so and would brief Fesic, who was already aboard the rogue.

When Emkir called Fesic, Emkir's first asked how good the gunner's hacking skills were?  Fesic was honest when he said he wasn't a computer specialist.  He said he was really there to search the ship's compartments, to make sure they hadn't missed a lurking crewman or item of special note.  Of course, he was also there to react if Emkir was attacked as the Admiral had been left alone.  Since Emkir was going back to the ship to get sleep, Fesic admitted he was beat too.  So he escorted Emkir back to the California to grab some sleep.  He told Aiden they were leaving the rogue and grabbing sleep.  Before he went to sleep, Fesic offered his help in the med-bay.  Mikah just nodded and sent him to bed.  As people started hitting their racks, Aali secured her stations and also grabbed rack time too.  On the bridge, Aiden did something he hadn't done since the end of the war.

Aiden turned up all the possible alarms from his boards and wired a feed link to his comms before securing his harness and drifting off to sleep right there in his command chair.  Before he drifted off, Aiden sent final reports to the Navy and Scouts and set an alarm to wake him in five hours, to get some decent sleep.  As he reported this to Mikah, Aiden also locked out all ship's controls so that only he, Mikah or Zimzod could access critical systems.  Something else he'd learned to do during war missions, just in case.  Quickly, the only people still awake on ship or on-world were Mikah and the Scout.  And that only lasted until Mikah finished treating her patients.  The last of those was the scout himself.  After she finished with him, Mikah apologized as she prepared to secure him.  Lakminer not only accepted the situation, but said he preferred to be sedated if he had to be secured.  It would make it easier to get past the pain of his injuries too.


Plans and Requests

     In the Ulir city Imperial consulate, Terin and Munarshu were woken by the care-taking staff, who arrived on their regular schedule, despite the facility opening late.  While the pair were officially considered welcomed by the diplomatic staff, the care takers had no problems making it clear they felt the pair were trouble makers.  Still, their actions were efficient enough there was nothing Terin or Munarshu could complain about.  So the men got less than a full eight hours of sleep.  They were also soon told the Hotel California had survived the battle.  After a brief cheer from the two, Terin asked about casualties and was told there was no word yet on that.  Still, the broadcast said the California had managed to stop the rogue ship's escape.  Despite the good news, there was no more information and what were now various investigations had not advanced.  After they had the news, Terin thanked the aide and turned to Munarshu, saying "Look at that!  We still have jobs."

After an abbreviated morning routine, in clothes from two days before and with supplied toiletries, Terin said they had a free day and asked Munarshu what he wanted to do?  Missing the point, Munarshu burst out with "Speak for yourself!"  When Terin asked if he was planning to return to the ship any time soon, Munarshu pointed out he had no cash or Ident.  Terin decided to ignore Munarshu's outlook and look for "something fun to do today."  While he preferred something he hadn't done before, Terin also preferred something inexpensive, since he didn't have that much cash himself.  As he set an upper spending limit of Cr 100, Terin suggested Munarshu call Mak and see if the guide could help them get a discount on a tour?  When Munarshu called Mak, he got the man's answering service and guessed he was off to work.  When they tried to remember where he worked, in hopes of tracking him down, the two realized they only had a vague idea of where Mak's tours started out.

Terin changed direction and asked Munarshu if he wanted to go to a museum?  The engineer paused until Terin taunted him, asking if the man had other plans?  After realizing it was that or sit in the consulate all day, Munarshu glumly agreed to go with Terin, showing bad form since Terin offered to cover Munarshu's costs.  After some time checking directions, costs etc, they left the consulate to hail a cab when a vehicle pulled up in front of them.  As a man stepped out of the ground car, he identified himself as a police lieutenant.  Terin asked what happened to the captain and was told the captain was sleeping and had left instructions.  Some of those included asking the pair to come to the station?

They knew they were not "being asked", and Terin made a show about giving up on their plans as he and Munarshu both agreed and got into the vehicle for the short drive.  Once in a back room at the station, they saw the police had downloaded all the video shot through Munarshu's glasses.  They then debriefed the pair as they also talked about the options for revisiting the investigation that night.  One new thing they were told was that those officers left to surveil the office didn't see anyone else leave the building.  So the people in the office either left covertly or stayed in the office all night long.  It even suggested there could be an apartment, as was mentioned the night before.  So the police wanted to know if the men were still willing to try the investigation again?

Without pausing to consider or even consult with Terin, Munarshu said "Yes" as firmly and decisively as he could.  When Terin said, "Now hold on, hold on..", Munarshu cut him off saying, "Like I said, you can leave any time you want.."  Then it was Terin's turn to interrupt Munarshu as he said, "No.  That ain't the thing.  The problem is", turning to the Lieutenant, "you want us to break into this place.  You can't get enough evidence to see if there's anything illegal even going on in there."  As he spoke, the Lieutenant quietly nodded agreement to Terin's complaints as he continued, "And you're giving us two men who want us to go first through all the doors..."  At that, Munarshu interrupted again saying, "They're giving us an offer we can't refuse."  Terin protested, "Sure we can refuse!"  Munarshu reminded him the police could even tie Terin up at the port with laws and regulations.  And he couldn't even get to the port himself.

Pausing to organize his thoughts, Terin tried again, saying, "See, the problem I have with it is that, if shit hits the fan, we're fucked."  The lieutenant calmly repeated that the investigation could solve their problems, if it worked out.  And could even solve some problems for the police, getting them other benefits.  But they needed people outside the department to get the job done and were just waiting to find out if Terin and Munarshu were willing to do the job?  As he finished speaking, Munarshu again immediately said he was willing.  When Terin complained they'd be the ones getting shot, Munarshu said again that he could leave any time.  Terin pointed out that he'd have to answer to Mikah if Munarshu was killed.

When Terin suggested they wait and see, with the police watching for anyone not previously observed to leave, the Lieutenant said their operating theory was that someone was living in the office.  So, while Terin was hoping to confirm the office would be empty that night, the people who left the office might just return there.  Nodding, Terin said, "Now say we go in there, have this whole big fire fight and a whole bunch of people get dead.  And we find out that they weren't doing anything at all that was anything remotely illegal."  The Lieutenant just leaned back against the wall with an easy smile and said, "Fire arms are illegal here."  That spoke for itself, because "if" any shooting started, it would be the people in the office firing first.  Even if they just showed a weapon, they were "doing something illegal".  Terin stretched the point, asking if they attacked someone with a kitchen knife and people were killed?

The Lieutenant simply said he was stretching the point beyond imagination, but Terin persisted.  So the Lieutenant made it clear his job was not to convince them to help.  It was to find out "if they wanted to" take part in helping the police?  And Munarshu made it clear he was going.  With all eyes on him, Terin reluctantly agreed to join in.  He also asked the consular staff to send a message to the California, but was told his last message had been buffered and not yet sent.  They said it would be some time before they could send the message, as the California had already reported engagement.  They would not send personal messages during a space battle.  Terin still recorded a message asking the crew to let them know ASAP if they recovered Munarshu's Ident aboard the rogue?  With that done, Terin grabbed Munarshu as the police left and headed off to the breakfast and museum.  The early day out cost Terin, who covered Munarshu, Cr 40 for taxi, food and entry.  And after that, they returned to the consulate to rest before their "night out".


A Slow Morning's Recovery

     Aboard the California, Aali was the first to wake after only four hours and change of sleep.  Briefly considering taking some pills to get more sleep, Aali decided to check on Mikah instead, knowing Mikah had been up much longer than the rest of the crew.  Throwing on her ballistic ship suit, Aali made her way to the med-bay, where she saw Rol, Zimzod and two others asleep and bandaged up.  Everyone was breathing, though the guy on the actual surgical table seemed to be in pretty bad shape.  He and the other unknown, who was wearing most of an IISS uniform, were also secured to fixtures.  She decided that meant the team had found prisoners after all.  What Aali didn't see was any sign of Mikah, who she assumed had gone to her stateroom to sleep.  Assured all seemed to be going well, Aali went back to bed to get more sleep.

Five hours after going to sleep, Aiden's alarm went off, waking him on the bridge.  As soon as he was alert, Aiden checked his systems to make sure nothing had changed or gone wrong while he was out.  He specifically checked the sensors to see of any ships were approaching?  But their vector was clear.  Thanks to the attached cable, the rogue vessel's hulk was drifting with them.  When he ran another scan, the hulk showed no heat sources except the ship's still operating systems.  So there were no unexpected survivors.  Assured everything was OK, Aiden went into the lounge to see if anyone was awake?  Finding no one, Aiden grabbed a self-heating foil bag meal and went back to his post.

Once back on the bridge, Aiden started going through his systems and diagnostics in more detail.  He also checked the comms, to see if there were updates from the Navy or IISS?  There he found buffered messages had arrived from the port and from Terin.  When he listened to Terin's message, it was a warning that the Imperial government worried they could be held for a vigilante attack if they didn't come back with prisoners to question.  If that was the case, they could be held for murdering the rogue's crew.  As Aiden listened, it was obvious Terin was doing his best to be as diplomatic as possible.  After listening to the message, Aiden shunted it to Mikah's attention, making sure there would be a blinking light on any console she worked at to get her attention.

The next buffered message was from the on-coming Naval cruiser.  Due to the reports Aiden had been sending, the ship was at full thrust to reach them.  When Aiden checked the times, he realized they'd sent the message once they'd gotten his notice the Hotel California was engaging in combat.  He did the math on that and realized the cruiser would reach them in eleven hours.  After realizing this, Aiden sent an updated report, giving the status of the ship, the crew and the prisoner, to the best of his knowledge.  Aiden saw there were a number of messages from the IISS, one with a file attachment.  Seeing they were intended for Mikah, Aiden first checked to see what time she had signed off?  When he saw she'd only been asleep three hours at best, he sent them to her mail directory.  After finishing with the incoming mail, Aiden sent a short message to Terin, letting him know the crew's status and that they had a living prisoner.

Emkir woke with Aali nuzzled up beside him and gauged how tired he still was before setting his comms to go off in ninety minutes and trying to go back to sleep again.  But after twenty minutes, Emkir realized he wasn't getting back to sleep so he threw on a ship's suit and went to the galley to get a cup of caff and a self-heating meal bag.  Then, as he ate, Emkir considered how he would go about hacking the rogue's computer?  Unfortunately, given his level of training and experience, Emkir was at a loss.  The only experience he had with this level of hacking came from the software Brian had used aboard the Quasar Viper.  And that hand comp and software had been turned over to Lord William in the Rhylanor system.  So all Emkir could think of was suiting up, heading back to the rogue and doing his best to hack it with the limited tools he had.  Of course, that led to thoughts of looting the hulk.  And that thought led Emkir to the decision he'd wait until Aali had eight hours sleep before joining him on a saunter.

Zimzod woke to a "lot" more pain.  When he took stock of his condition, Zimzod realized his left arm was much less useful than it had been after the battle.  Getting himself up and steady on his feet, Zimzod did his best to freshen his wound coverings without removing the bandages or ripping the scabs.  Done caring for his wounds, Zimzod checked on Rol's condition.  His work was none too gentile and this woke Rol to see Zimzod leaning over him and probing his wounds.  Looking up at the XO, Rol asked, "This isn't any interest of yours other than professional, right?"  Zimzod replied, "Your pants are still on, aren't they?" in a matter of fact voice.  As Rol answered, "Good point", Zimzod joked, "You are entirely too paranoid, dude," as he forgot about recent events with Rol and Inger.  Rol just looked at Zimzod and said, "I seem to remember waking up one time before when I had lost consciousness...  Never mind."

After he finished checking on Rol, Zimzod checked on the prisoner's condition.  Still asleep, the man was at least alive and stable.  Sure the man would at least survive until Mikah woke up, Zimzod checked on Lakminer.  As he probed the man's wounds, Lakminer made noises but didn't wake.  Zimzod saw Mikah had secured him as well as she had the prisoner.  But Lakminer's wounds were impact-based rather than combat based.  He'd not been shot or caught in any explosions, so he was either bruised or contused.  After Zimzod finished checking the wounded, he asked Rol if he wanted a cup of coffee?  When Rol said he did, they both limped off to the galley.  As Zimzod prepared the coffee, he asked if Rol had heard anything about scanning or checking the remains of the scout ship for survivors?

Rol said, "Last I heard was something about heat traces.  Then I got out of there, because I had these holes in me." as he gestured to his bandages.  That squared with what Zimzod remembered, and he planned to have someone check the wreck when they could.  As they sat and drank, Emkir, who'd moved to the California's computer to try a few tricks, smelled the scent of coffee and came exploring.  When Emkir commented on the coffee, Zimzod asked, "Oh, you want a cup?"  When Emkir said he'd love a cup, Zimzod suddenly switched to rage as he angrily shouted "Well, you can't have any!"  Then, just as quickly, Zimzod busted out laughing as Rol and Emkir began to realize it was only a joke.  As Zimzod made Emkir a cup of coffee, he asked Emkir about the scout ship?  Emkir said, "I really don't." in something of a surprised tone, because he'd never thought there were any survivors.  When he asked Emkir of anyone else was awake, Emkir said no because he didn't know about Aiden.

Hearing that, Zimzod decided to checked the ship's logs and see if anyone had checked the remains of the Sturek?  Moving to the bridge, followed by Emkir and Rol, Zimzod opened the alve and saw Aiden.  The pilot had spun around to see them too, and then slowly moved his hand back and away from the grip of his weapon.  Looking him over, Rol asked, "Dude, Really?"  Seeing Aiden, Zimzod asked the pilot if anyone had checked the remains of the scout for survivors, and if he could scan it for heat signatures?  Aiden said he had scanned he whole thing, including the rogue and the remains of the Sturek.  And he added he'd gotten no hits at all.  Zimzod said he'd still like to have a physical check done.  In case something was blocking the damaged sensors.  Aiden said, before he did that he should let Mikah know she has some messages and one of them had an attachment.

When Zimzod asked how long she'd been sleeping, Aiden added the time since he'd checked and guessed four to four and a half hours.  Wanting to give her more sleep, Zimzod decided to check the messages himself, as the ship's XO.  The first message he read was from Terin, warning that they needed to bring back prisoners to question or possibly face vigilante charges.  The next message was from the IISS, and showed some level of communications mixing.  This was because they said they were having issues contacting the Sturek and asked after that ship's status?  Aiden made it clear he had sent regular reports including the loss of the Sturek after she rammed the rogue.  But everyone on the bridge knew how confusing long distance space comms could get.

That message was also the one which had the file attached, and when Zimzod checked it, he found it was a roster of the crew of the Skygge Sturek.  In the file, Zimzod found a picture of Scout Lakminer, proving he was who he said.  Responding to that as the XO, Zimzod sent an update on the actions of the Sturek, including the fact Scout Lakminer had survived and was under treatment.  He also recommended the crew for commendations, based on his past in the Marines and Army.  When Aiden said Scouts didn't get medals and Scout Lakminer would only get a Silver Asteroid, Zimzod shrugged that off.  After Zimzod finished, he went back to the med-bay to unsecure Lakminer.  Then, they went back to the galley to relax and wait for the others to wake up.

When Fesic woke, he did a short version of his morning routine and came out to the lounge to see Zimzod, Rol, Aiden and Emkir chatting around a mostly empty pot of cooling coffee.  Fesic asked if they minded if he finished off the coffee?  Zimzod said "Go for it.  I was gonna make another pot."  That perked Fesic up as he said, "Let me get my mug!"  Snagging a mug from the galley, Fesic poured off the last of the coffee and began re-heating it as he also grabbed a self-cooking meal and ripped the bag open to start it cooking.  Zimzod took the pot and started brewing a new batch of coffee.  As he did that, Rol also grabbed a self-cooking meal.  Fesic planned to eat and then gear up to cross back over to the rogue and explore.

When Fesic started getting ready, Emkir said he wanted to go over too, and start working on hacking the computer.  They both started preparing as Zimzod talked about exploring the wreck of the Sturek, in case someone was still alive and trapped behind some material that blocked their damaged sensors?  Fesic said he didn't think the sensors would have missed any heat sources in the dead cold of space but Zimzod was firm that he wanted a physical check.  Fesic shrugged as he accepted the order and said it wouldn't be a problem if they could find a way into the wreck.  Zimzod said there had to be a way in because Scout Lakminer found a way out.

As Emkir geared up, he decided it was close enough to eight hours and woke Aali, to tell her they were getting ready to head across to the rogue.  They talked about the plans while Aali got up and started getting ready to join them in the work.  She also wanted to check the ship for any further incriminating evidence.  In his stateroom, Zimzod checked his battledress and realized it would need some repairs, so he decided to get into his vacc suit for the run.  Of course, that was a bit of an adventure, thanks to the wound he'd taken to the left arm and bandages.  Also, Zimzod's vacc suit was much less maneuverable and he was less able himself, thanks to his wounds.  Zimzod reminded everyone to secure themselves to the cable when crossing to the rogue.  When Emkir told the others he was waiting for Aali to gear up, Zimzod asked Emkir about his progress with the computer hacking?

Emkir said he'd made no progress and wasn't optimistic, but he had some thoughts and Aali could to try getting into the engineering computer.  After talking about how likely that was, Emkir suggested the engineering computer might be less encrypted than the main system.  Zimzod accepted that and looked forward to them trying it.  Fesic wanted to get a move on, as he was ready.  So, as that conversation wound down, Fesic recommended he and Zimzod move to the rogue rather than wait for Aali.  Zimzod agreed, figuring she and Emkir would catch up and he and Fesic moved to the air-lock to head out.  Once across, Fesic and Zimzod began examining the remains of the Sturek.  While the pair could see many ways that appeared to be entrances, they had to experiment before they found one they could enter safely.

Based on the descriptions Scout Lakminer gave, they knew there were four survivors aboard when the pilot ordered Lakminer aft.  The engineer was with a surviving gunner in engineering when the pilot ordered Lakminer to help them.  Lakminer said he'd made it amidships when the pilot accelerated for his ram.  And when he woke, after the impact, he found himself in a horrifyingly deformed compartment before making his way out through a tear ripped open to space.  As Zimzod and Fesic explored, they entered a handful of passages leading to what remained of a small number of extremely deformed compartments.  Some of them were partly crushed in the collision.  But they could find nothing of the forward compartments, that wasn't entirely crushed and destroyed.  And none of the personal compartments remained either.  After an hour of exploration, Zimzod admitted to Fesic that there was nothing to find.  With that, he said they should start the exploration of the rogue.

Step Three: Profit!

     As Zimzod and Fesic left the wreck, they could see Aali and Emkir making their way across to the rogue.  When they came to join Zimzod and Fesic, Zimzod said they'd checked the scout and there were no more survivors or bodies to recover.  That left exploring and looting the rogue.  While Emkir knew his job was to crack the ship's computer, his inner nature urged him to join the looters.  He fought this war of his wills until he finally gave in to duty and made his way back to the rogue's computer core.  At the same time, Aali's concerns were for systems still active and possibly dangerous in the rogue's engineering section.  So she wanted to investigate that section before joining any looting.  Planning to spend an hour doing that, Aali's first tour stop was the bridge, along with the others.  When she saw the blasted IRIS valve, Aali said it would be a lot safer for all to remove the rest of the portal.

Zimzod eyed the valve's remains, which he admitted were dangerous.  He said they'd look for something they could use to finish the removal as they checked the ship over.  He also said he'd go with Aali to the engineering section, to look for a laser torch to do that with.  Fesic soon found himself alone in the ward room as Emkir headed for the computer and the others went to engineering.  Looking around the compartment, Fesic saw cases of ammunition and other supplies drifting in the compartment since the ship's grav-plates were dead.  With an eye out for any Idents in the debris, Fesic briefly searched what was left in the ward room for valuables.  As Fesic searched, he saw a lot of ACR and shotgun ammo cans.  He also saw snub pistol cans with both ball and HE rounds, but no real items of value.

After spending a some time visually sorting through the floating debris, ammo boxes, empty armor bags and the odd personal item, Fesic moved on.  Of the two passages aft, the one to port had been crushed completely when the ship was rammed.  That left the starboard passage, which had staterooms to the right and left.  Choosing "right", Fesic opened the first stateroom to find it rigged with a pair of bunk beds and two wardrobes.  There were also a pair of work stations which seemed to share a computer node.  But there was no fresher, so the crew had to have shared a common fresher.  Once he had his bearings, Fesic began opening drawers and checking clothing and furniture drawers for any valuables.  As he explored, Fesic found a kit of astrogator's tools including a calculator.  While he wasn't sure of the value of the gear, Fesic realized the room likely belonged to flight crew.  Fesic also found four magazines of snub pistol ball ammo, a few personal pictures and effects.  Those included some shiny metal bits of men's jewelry.  While they were likely cheap costume stuff, Fesic pocketed the jewelry and the nav-kit and moved on.

Before moving to the next stateroom, Fesic moved the ammunition to the ward room, adding it to the stuff drifting there.  Sticking with the right side, Fesic entered the second stateroom down when he returned to the passage.  He searched through that stateroom, which appeared to house some of the ship's gunners.  Especially when he found an Ident and sparked it up to see the smiling face of a 'now dead' crewman.  Figuring that was valuable, Fesic moved that in with the ammo and other goods.  Continuing to search staterooms, Fesic was eventually joined by the others.  Zimzod and Aali had gone back to the engineering section, and found the body of the man who'd faked his surrender and attacked Mikah.  While the man appeared unarmed, as he'd claimed, they found on his floating corpse a back-scabbard with a dagger hooked to his web belt.  The belt also had a pouch carrying two 20-round magazines of ACR ammo.  Zimzod removed the belt from the body and took it with him as they moved into the engineering space itself.  To loot the body any more, Zimzod would have to cut the vacc suit from him.

They Got the body out of the way by shoving him into the wiring Zimzod had hidden in during the gun fight.  Once they moved the body into the damaged wiring, they recovered the two other bodies, each with their own belts.  One of the men had a holstered snub pistol and dagger.  The other man had a blade instead of a dagger, but had no handgun at all, so it must have floated away.  They explored the compartment and found the ACR's belonging to the two dead men as well as a third ACR and shotgun.  Zimzod guessed Mikah would find some shells when she checked the wounded prisoner's gear.  As they pushed the two bodies into the electronics with the first, Aali confirmed it had been part of the ship's jump drive.  She did say it was a good thing the system hadn't been charged or Zimzod would have been fried immediately.  After dealing with the bodies, Aali began her inspection of the ship's systems while Zimzod searched for something to remove the IRIS valve with.

Eventually, Zimzod found the tools he was looking for in the ship's machine shop tools, and went out to remove the rest of the bridge IRIS valve.  After she turned her attention to the section, Aali found the ship's plant was still up and running.  While she didn't have access to the engineering computers, she could tell the ship had been intentionally decompressed during the battle.  Aali knew, from the war, that was a standard safety measure, re-compressing some compartments to cook and carry out other activities as needed.  This prevented the loss of consumables like atmo, and damage due to explosive decompression.  Aali could re-compress some sections of the ship where the damage allowed it.  Given their mission and intentions, Aali wrote that idea off.  Looking at the ship's power systems, Aali could tell there was no "ship's boat" in which some of the crew might have escaped.  If their bodies were not found, it meant they'd been blown into space, crushed in the ram or vaporized in battle.

Aali confirmed that the remaining flight systems could be brought on-line and controlled from the engineering consoles.  After making sure there was no danger leaving the power plant on-line, Aali made sure the ship's jump systems were 100% disabled.  She also shot out the primary link from the ship's power systems to the jump capacitors, to make the point very clear the ship wasn't jumping despite the damage Zimzod had done to the electronics.  Next, Aali investigated the engineering computers, which were on-line, but who's screens were locked.  She was able to bring up ship's internal gravity after calling out a warning.  When she then tried to wake screen after screen, Aali saw she had as much access there as Emkir did with the ship's main system.  Aali wrote it off, because her hour in the compartment was done.  After that, she listed all systems and their status and powered off those she didn't want operating.  She then went to help with the looting.

Helping Aali at first, it took Zimzod about fifteen minutes to find the tools he needed to remove the rest of the IRIS valve.  On the way back up to the bridge, Zimzod passed through the stateroom passage while Fesic was in one or another of the rooms.  Once he got to working, Zimzod was glad he'd been trained in zero-g operations.  The job would have been much more difficult without the skills he'd learned, especially with his wounded arm.  Still, it was not as easy as it would have been with the ship's gravity active.  So it was much more ironic when Aali eventually comm'd everyone to say she was powering up the grav-plates.  Aali also told Zimzod she could repressurize some compartments of the ship, and Zimzod agreed it would only make things more difficult as they waited to move from section to section while using compartments as air locks.  After he was done with the valve, Zimzod went into "looting mode" about 45 minutes after Fesic did.

By the time Zimzod joined him, Fesic had largely completed his search of the staterooms on the right side of the passage.  He found the last room, opposite a lift on the left side, was a common fresher and hygiene station.  There, the crew could clean and shower.  Along the way, he'd found precious little in the way of valuables along with some datapads and a few more of the crew's Idents.  None was Munarshu's.  When Zimzod got Fesic's report, he moved to the first forward stateroom on the left side of the passage.  It only had one bed and a larger desk, with "office space" in it.  Fesic said he'd only found double occupancy staterooms, apparently used by the ship's crew members.  Investigating more completely, Zimzod quickly confirmed this was the captain's quarters.  The space included the captain's safe, though he could not just rip it open without his battledress.

In the stateroom, Zimzod found a few datapads but figured the ship's log would be on the computer.  There were several terminals in the stateroom, but all were powered down.  Not skilled with computers, Zimzod wrote off any idea of even trying to hack the systems himself.  After hitting the high points, Zimzod checked the rest of the room for anything valuable, useful or incriminating.  As he ripped drawers from furniture to check their contents, Zimzod saw one was shorter than he expected.  Checking the "under the bed installation", he found a secret drawer hidden there.  In that drawer, Zimzod found actual Imperial hard currency!  The Ceramo-electronic tablets showed a value of KCr 10 each when activated, and there were ten of those!  Zimzod put them right into one of his cargo pockets.  In the captain's wardrobe, Zimzod found a shiny silvered snub pistol in a holster and five magazines of ammo.  Not impressed, he took the weapon because it might be valuable and grabbed the ammo too.

Moving past that stateroom once he'd checked it, Zimzod found the next stateroom down belonged to the Chief Engineer, based on some of the gear there.  He called Aali, who said she'd be up to check it once she was done in the engineering compartment.  Moving on to the next staterooms, he and Fesic searched until they met up and finished the last room together.  All the remaining staterooms were two-man rooms which were obviously meant for the rank and file crew, including the ship's hired muscle.  Some of those rooms may have housed some of the people who'd holed up in the engineering compartment.  As Fesic started counting and matching, he said they were a few bodies short, even if there were no other compartments which had been crushed.  When he said it, Emkir pointed out there were lots of internal spaces that were crushed, so they'd never find anyone who'd been caught in those spaces.

When Zimzod didn't find a stateroom which was obviously the XO's, he decided the chief engineer must have been the ship's XO and went back to investigate that room instead of leaving it for Aali.  Ironically, as he was making this decision, Aali had emerged from the engineering spaces and met him at the stateroom.  So they explored it together, and she found the engineer had a personal set of PRIS goggles!  Aali said that a new set of those cost a few thousand credits as she made sure that item went into a pouch to keep.  As she did that, Zimzod called Emkir saying, "Hey, I found the chief engineer's stateroom.  Maybe you can come here and check it for anything that might help you crack the ship's computer?"  Emkir thought that was a good idea, and needed a break from banging his brain against the monolith that was the computer security.

Aali continued to raid the room for anything of possible value as Emkir arrived to join in the hunt.  Emkir took the datapads, to try with the ship's computer.  When Emkir talked about selling them, Aali said they had no idea what was on them.  So the Navy would want all the datapads, to mine for evidence on the ship's activities.  Emkir mourned the loss of "salable lootage" but agreed Aali was right.  He still planned to try and jack into the main computer with a datapad if he could.  As the couple swapped notes on hacking either the ship's main or engineering computer, Zimzod considered the captain's safe.  He also considered the damage to his battledress, and knew it was sealed up so it was safe enough for short jaunts.  The composite and internal sealant systems would have to be fixed, as well as the core suit, for him to risk it for too long, but he figured a quick "there and back" to rip open the safe would be OK.

Deciding that, Zimzod told the others he was going back to the California to put on his "muscle man suit" and open the captain's safe.  He figured, if the Navy complained about the violation, they'd just say they had to search the safe to see if Munarshu's Ident was inside it?  Having found more engineering tools, and a pocket-comp which they'd have to leave behind, Aali, Emkir and Fesic started sorting the stuff in the ward room.  As time passed, they found a small number of cases holding magazines for gauss rifles and pistols.  They slowly moved and investigated, while being careful not to go spinning or slamming into something after losing a grip or worse.  They cataloged nearly 500 rounds of gauss rifle ammo in magazines, 200 rounds gauss pistol ammo in magazines, 900 rounds in magazines for ACR's, 400 rounds of HE and 400 rounds of ball ammo for snub pistols, 600 rounds of ball ammo for a revolver, 300 slug and 500 shot shells for a shotgun, a blade in its scabbard as well as the three ACR's, four snub pistols and a scabbarded dagger.  That didn't include the captain's shiny snub pistol, which Zimzod added later, but included all the other gear they'd moved from the engineering section and staterooms.

They finally had five Idents, none of which was Munarshu's.  The last item they found were two boxes of HE grenades.  Forty minutes after he left, Zimzod returned to the rogue and headed straight for the captain's safe.  Making sure he had a good firm grip on the exposed front and door, and had anchored himself well, Zimzod ripped as the safe resisted.  Apparently, this safe was of a better quality than the one on the Viper had been.  Still, Zimzod had felt some give, so he knew something was at least bent.  Pausing to get a better grip, Zimzod gave another yank and felt more give.  After checking out his progress, Zimzod adjusted his angle and grip again and, after a few more pulls, managed to prize the door away and rip it off the safe.  Inside the safe, they found five more Idents and a few datapads.  Checking the Idents, they found none were Munarshu's.  Interestingly enough, all of them showed the same man, but none had the same name or personal details!  Fesic instantly theorized this man was some kind of smuggler, and no one disagreed.

As they finished up there, Zimzod decided they should load all the ammo and weapons into the ground vehicle in the cargo hold.  Then, they could consider moving that from the rogue's cargo bay to the now-empty cutter bay of the California.  Zimzod also wanted some of them to search for other compartments around or on the other side of the ship from where the scout rammed her.  Doing the last part first, in hopes of finding more valuables, the crew found mostly shattered or bent corridors, machinery-filled spaces and shattered fuel tanks.  It appeared some of the crew were caught in those compartments and spaces, where they'd been crushed as the ship was rammed.  And there was no way they'd be recovering anything from inside that mass.  As they began moving the ammo and weapons, the return of gravity had brought the truck down squarely on its four wheels.  The mount and VRF gauss gun were still in place though.  A check of the weapon position showed they had cans containing 10,000 rounds, which might be one short ground battle for that class weapon.

When Zimzod asked how hard it would be to move the vehicle to the California, Aali said they could open the powered up bay doors and turn off the cargo bay grav-plates to float it out.  Then, they'd need Zimzod and Mikah to move it, as they had the zero-g skills needed.  On the comms, Rol suggested they could align the ships and tie a line so they could gently pull the vehicle directly across.  Then Zimzod and Mikah would have to slow and stop it so it didn't collide with anything.  When Zimzod considered where to store it, he figured they could even fit it in the cargo bay until they got back in-system.  There, Emkir had a deal to fill that space with cargo.  So they'd have to find a place to move it to again.  Still, it was the working plan at the moment.

Where everyone was at the end of the session:

   Munarshu: Imperial Consulate in Ulir City, resting before their next night operation
   Terin: Imperial Consulate in Ulir City, resting before their next night operation


   Aiden: On the bridge of the Hotel California
   Aali: Preparing to move the truck, weapons and ammo from the rogue to the Hotel California
   Emkir: Preparing to move the truck, weapons and ammo from the rogue to the Hotel
          California

   Fesic: Preparing to move the truck, weapons and ammo from the rogue to the Hotel California
   Mikah: Asleep after late night combat and early morning surgery
   Rol: Recovering from his wounds in the lounge of the Hotel California
   Zimzod: Preparing to move the truck, weapons and ammo from the rogue to the Hotel
          California

   The Prisoner: Drugged and sleeping in the med-bay
   Scout Lakminer: Drugged and sleeping in the med-bay

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Next: Missions And Reunions