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Last Updated    October 13 2017
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Between Break And Entry Jobs

Equus      After speaking to the police Lieutenant sent by the Captain, Terin and Munarshu went to a museum for the rest of the morning.  Done there, they ate lunch at the consulate and planned to rest through the afternoon, to be awake for their planned "excursion" that night.  Before bedding down for the afternoon, Munarshu sparked his comms to call the police Captain's number and ask if they could be issued non-lethal weapons that night, instead of .38 pistols?  He also wondered if the police could get them a thermal scanner of some type to use too?  Munarshu wasn't surprised when his comms went to voice mail, figuring the Captain was sleeping in preparation too.  At the same time, Terin set his comms to wake him around dinner time and the men grabbed an afternoon nap.  Around them, the consulate staff looked on disapprovingly, but They weren't causing more trouble.

Waking for dinner, around 5pm, Terin talked up the idea of going out for food at a decent restaurant.  Still, they'd been told they could get free food from the consulate staff, and the quality of that wasn't that bad either.  Since Terin didn't have lots of cash, they decided to talk to the staff and order dinner, and ask for some beers to be brought in.  Making sure they were alone while waiting for the food, Terin asked, "So what are we going to do about this op?"  Munarshu bluntly answered, "Go."  Terin pushed, "Do you really think it's going to help you?" and Munarshu said, "It doesn't matter if it helps me or not.  What matters is that it makes them happy, and if they're happy..."  Terin interrupted Munarshu, saying "They're irrelevant."  But Munarshu reminded Terin the Captain made it clear he could legally make their lives very uncomfortable, and Terin had to admit and consider that.

With Terin thinking about that, Munarshu continued, "So, if we don't cooperate, we might as well find someplace to rent for a very long time."  He didn't suggest how they'd make any money to pay rents, or how long they'd stay out of legal confinement?  The one thing that kept coming up was a question.  They both wondered why the Captain was so intent on finding something to tag this company with?  Both agreed it looked to be both important and personal to the officer.  On that theme, Munarshu checked for any answer from the officer on the message he'd left earlier, and found the Captain hadn't called yet.  When Munarshu told Terin that, Terin suggested they go out on the town and blow off the operation that night.  Try to show the police they still had a say in things?

Not liking being a pawn either, Munarshu also pointed out the downside, challenging, "You really don't want to leave this city, do you?"  Terin ignored the Captain's threats and reminded Munarshu he had his Ident.  So, he could leave the city any time he wanted.  After a short silence, Terin said he really wanted to get some word from the ship, with more information about what had happened in space?  But when he called the station, they said they still had no direct communications with the California.  Terin asked if there was any more information on the thief, and they repeated their last update.  He'd either boarded or delivered something to the rogue ship before it broke port.  If he wasn't aboard, he'd disappeared.

The last update on the California was that she'd burned out-system chasing the rogue, to take her into custody.  Despite the close proximity of the jump limit, the rogue had tried to burn for a pirate point between the orbits of Equus and her nearest gas giant while trying to lose the California.  The blockade runner was prevented from jumping by damage from the fight, which also damaged the California.  So, they were now waiting in the outer system for an on-coming Imperial Navy Cruiser to arrive from the pirate point.  While Terin also knew there'd been casualties, they had no report from the ship or Navy about those.  The station apologized because that was all the data they had.  When Terin asked them to connect him to a naval resource, he was told they couldn't just patch him over.  He had to call the Navy himself.  After he ended the call, Terin decided to call the Scout command instead of the Navy, given his past.

Connected to the scouts, Terin identified himself and got some more data.  He learned the crew of the Hotel California were ok, but there'd only been one survivor from the crew of the IIS Skygge Sturek.  Terin gave the officer he spoke to his condolences on the loss of the ship and crew.  Terin was told his crew had control of the rogue, and it seemed there'd been "significant casualties" from the crew of the blockade runner.  Terin was happier because "significant casualties" meant survivors.  That meant there wouldn't be accusations of vigilantism.  Terin was also told, as the station had said, that an Imperial Navy cruiser was on the way to the scene.  They estimated the ship was ten hours from rendezvous.  Terin confirmed the scouts had communications with the California and asked if they could relay his request for updates to the Scout administration?

The officer said he would, and took Terin's comms information.  Terin also asked if they could ask the crew of the ship if Munarshu's Ident had been found on the rogue?  That got a snort from the officer.  The man then got control of himself and asked if Terin had been involved in ship to ship combat?  When Terin said he had been, the officer reminded Terin of the very low odds of finding "any" small hand-held item in the debris of a combat-damaged ship.  Terin agreed, but suggested there might always be a chance, to which the officer agreed.  Despite the smirk on his face.  Done with the scouts, Terin updated Munarshu on the new stuff he'd learned.  Terin next leaned back to see if he could get some more sleep?  Despite the rest they'd gotten, he was able to drift off to sleep with the practiced ease of a military veteran.  Munarshu also grabbed more sleep, uncertain what they'd end up facing later that night?

The Clockwork Of Break And Entry

     At 11:15pm, Terin's comms started alerting, just before the alarm Terin had set.  Answering, he found it was the police Captain, confirming they were getting ready to meet the car sent for them?  The Captain said he'd gotten Munarshu's message and made sure they had pulse guns available.  The officer said the weapons used electronic modules to create a 'directed shock wave' that would be aimed by the person firing it.  The wave was effective out to ten feet, and should knock any average Human targets off their feet if in range.  It would also likely knock anything from the grip of any targets hit unless an object was very tightly held.  Still, the Captain recommended they take both those and the .38's.  He also said they couldn't give the team any thermal detection tools.  Terin accepted that before trying to dig into just why the officer hoped something would be found about this particular import/export firm?  But try as he might, the Captain answered with generic answers, and said he was following the case where it led.

While Terin knew the man was lying through his teeth, he saw no way to get through the lie.  Changing his direction, Terin tried to dig into the beginnings of the case.  The Captain's answers easily stuck to the facts as they began to exist after Munarshu's Ident was stolen.  He'd certainly shared some records with Terin and Munarshu showing the firm had a clean legal record until then.  Still, those might not be all of, or even accurate, records.  Terin couldn't break through the well-built walls that kept him from what the Captain was hiding.  Or even put any light at all on "if" he was hiding anything?  As Terin verbally fenced with the man, Munarshu's paranoia flared and he felt an unjustified fear he'd be leaving Equus alone after Terin invoked the man's wrath.  Terin wasn't concerned on that score, as long as they survived the coming night.

Soon, Terin could ask no more questions that wouldn't turn accusatory, so he thanked the Captain and updated Munarshu on what he could.  Munarshu wasn't surprised the Captain was lying to get what he wanted, and accepted moving forward to get through the situation with the best outcome they could reach for themselves.  He honestly had no clue why Terin was verbally thrashing around like an animal caught in a cage?  They could both see and recognize the cage, and deal with the situation more intelligently.  For Munarshu, that meant getting what they had to do done without getting shot or arrested.  Preparing what little they had to in order to be ready, Terin and Munarshu discussed things.  What very little of Saturday was quickly slipping to Sunday, and that hopefully meant the business cycle had wound down.  It was possible the person in Kelly's office might have left for the weekend, or might be catching up on sleep if he was indeed living in the office?  So there were "some" hopes.

Meeting up with the police techs and the rest of the team, Terin was disappointed to see they hadn't gotten more backup.  The techs connected up the network to Munarshu's glasses, and Terin suggested using the side-door.  That entered the office space next to Kelly's office.  It meant they could almost move directly to the office they were targeting.  After the Captain and detective agreed, they spoke with the specialist on how they'd approach the office, so he'd open the right doors.  And after their team was in place with the doors opened, hope faded.  Looking through the door adjacent to the wall of Kelly's office, they saw the lights still on in the same areas they'd been the night before.  So much for the hope of a settling work week.

Terin's first reaction was to listen in the relative silence, but he couldn't hear a thing.  The open shipping area wasn't occupied.  Scouting past that, Munarshu checked the break room while Terin listened at the door of Kelly's office.  What Terin heard was some kind of movement, as if some person were walking or pacing inside.  He couldn't tell more.  Munarshu verified no one was in the kitchen area, and came back to where Terin and the others stood.  After updating Munarshu in whispers, Terin stepped back and gestured with his arms, saying, "Well, Captain Door Crasher, go for it."  Despite the 'one person door' and simplicity of the situation, Munarshu interrupted, decribing a highly elaborate plan where he'd scan left and Terin would follow, scanning right while trying to cover the whole office.  The detective simply kicked back on his heels thinking, 'It's just an office.'  They discussed it until Terin finally turned to the detective to ask his thoughts.

The man just said they should go in and deal with what they found.  If they ran into trouble, he'd come in and arrest everyone.  When Terin asked, "Arrest them for what?  And arrest who?" the detective ignored the first part and said "Everyone in the office."  That didn't comfort Terin since he and Munarshu would be in the office.  When Terin pointed that out, the detective calmly said, "No.  According to the Captain, you're not even here."  Considering the first question, the detective suggested the first man in should kick the door and scan the best arc he could, rather than limiting himself.  After that, he could step in to the right while the next man could step in to the left, to present a broader line.  Terin said, "Before we kick anything, why don't we see if it's open first?"  With that, he gently reached forward and turned the door knob, which turned despite having been locked the night before.

They then agreed Munarshu would open the door on the count of three, and do as the detective suggested.  Opening the door, Munarshu stepped in and did a wide scan to see a man, dressed in simple business attire with no jacket, standing by a desk.  He'd been leafing through a stack of flimsies.  The office was a basic set up, with a desk against the wall to the right, and a larger desk in the middle of the left end of the office.  Both desks, and much of the other furniture, were made of hollowed out and metal-strengthened coral stone.  It sold well as "fashionable" out-system, but was generically available for a stone locally.  The man saw Munarshu enter, and asked, "Who are you and what are you doing in my office?"  The question wasn't a demand, or even in more than a conversational tone, but something in his inflection commanded an answer.

Munarshu continued moving in, as planned, and ordered, "Drop everything in your hands!" and raised his pulse weapon.  Threatened against using the deadly stack of flimsies in his hands, the businessman didn't look at all disturbed by the pulse gun.  Hearing the words after Munarshu step in, Terin considered just closing the door and walking away, if ever so briefly.  Peeking in, doing his best imitation of "Kilroy was here", to see if the person in the office was complying, Terin saw the businessman in the opening stages of a staring contest with Munarshu, the sheaf of flimsies still in his left hand.  He certainly didn't look concerned at all with Munarshu's leveled weapon.  Having satisfied his curiosity, Terin turned the man's view of "a disembodied head poking through the door" into a second office invader as he stepped in, to Munarshu's right, and raised his own weapon.  Kilroy was, at last, fully here.

Munarshu briefly continued the staring contest while Terin visually cleared the rest of the room and saw.  Behind the businessman's desk, a wall dividing the back of the office from the expected space unaccounted for in the office.  There was a door to the left of the desk as they stood examining it.  That led back, behind that wall.  From what they knew of the available space it was, at best, a walk in storage closet or hidden safe.  But they had to go in to find out.  With the man still between them and the desk and door, Terin said, "Be a good sport, turn around and put your hands against the wall please." as happily as if he'd ordered a beer from a friendly bartender.  As Terin said that, the carefully laid plans in Munarshu's head evaporated in the moment and he stood there mentally trying to grab his plans back to something he could remember and use.

Grasping on the businessman's demand, Munarshu said, "My name's Munarshu and I'm here to relocate resources", surrendering legally usable information for his prosecution.  Hearing that, the businessman casually set the flimsies on the desk, appearing to ignore Terin, and said, "Well, Munarshu, I have this funny feeling we're going to have to deal with the local police on this matter", in what continued to be a completely reasonable voice.  To Terin, the man seemed as concerned as if he'd just suggested they continue a business meeting in a local restaurant.  He continued, "So, why don't you put down your weapons while I call the authorities?"  Terin said, "Um, No.  Because you're gonna turn around and put your hands against the wall, please.  Because I'd really not rather blast you."  This time, his tone was flat and more direct.  That got him an 'OK, they're not getting it' look as the man said, "Well, gentleman whose name I don't know, I've already called the authorities." In a tone of stated fact, not 'Gee, I hope they fall for this.'

In what would appear to be an obvious show of bravado, Munarshu shrugged and said, "That's fine."  And while he was truly not concerned about the police, due to his own back up in the hall, the businessman had no way to know that.  Still, Munarshu's display had no effect on the man's very obvious cool self-assurance.  Something neither Terin nor Munarshu were taking into account or even appearing to notice.  Munarshu made a decision grimly and said to Terin, "You cover him and I'll clear the other room."  Terin leveled his weapon and stood ready for Munarshu to move.  But, as Munarshu started, and before Terin could stroke the trigger of his weapon, the business man moved with a speed that was alarming to swing a blow at Munarshu!  Belatedly, Terin fired.  Munarshu took the hit while realizing this guy must have some implanted cyber-tek!

Expecting a fight, Munarshu's sudden thought of implanted enhancements didn't stop him from getting hit, but he did try to brace.  Still, the blow was much harder and more painful than he'd expected, and was followed up by Terin's shot.  Since the pulse weapon was an 'area affect' weapon, and they were both nearly ten feet out.  Both the man and Munarshu were hit and knocked back.  Munarshu was bounced against the wall hard, but was able to catch himself and remain standing.  He still knew he'd be sporting pretty-colored polka-dot bruises for several days at the least.  Ironically, while the businessman was knocked from his feet, he was thrown back to the floor just in front of the door Munarshu planned to investigate.  And while still standing, Munarshu had also lost control of his pulse gun.  That landed on the floor, just too far for him to quickly grab for it.  So it was 'try to grab it before the bad guy recovered' or 'deploy the .38.'

The man was rising back to his feet before Munarshu could decide, and ignored the weapon while straightening out his clothes again!  This only cemented in Munarshu's mind his assumption the man had had some surgical "enhancements" installed while ignoring the ridiculous possibilities.  With that running through Munarshu's brain, Terin's voice ran through the open door as he called out, "A little help?"  Munarshu simply bowed to the inevitable and drew his .38 to level at the now standing man.  Again suddenly, the man went from casually standing and self-grooming into a flat out charge against Munarshu.  Terin fired his pulse weapon and Munarshu fired a slug.  At that range, Munarshu's round couldn't help catch the man square center because he aimed at center mass.  So the round caught the man right between the lungs before Terin's shot bounced them both against different walls.  Still, the man not only didn't fall, but only briefly glanced at the 'not bleeding' hole in his shirt before starting to advance on Munarshu again!

Seeing that, Munarshu and Terin fired again.  The detective and specialist also moved in with their .38's at the ready.  Terin's fire hit just after Munarshu's, bouncing the man against the wall again with Munarshu's round hitting the man's abdomen.  Despite the fusillade, the man again remained standing and turned to start advancing!  Terin said, "Police are here", because the officers had entered screaming, "Police!  Everyone Freeze!"  With the man still advancing on Munarshu, they all fired with Terin's weapon playing rope-a-dope, bouncing the man off the wall with his pulse gun.  Munarshu's shot took the man in the chest while the detective hit the man in the head and the specialist got a clean shot into the wall some four feet from the attacker.  After that, the man crumpled to the floor, but was still not bleeding at all!  As things ended and they looked closer at his collapsed form, they could see the detective's shot had ripped open a section of the man's face.  That showed the "head" was entirely an electronic device!  It appeared the "man" was an android!

There was stunned silence as those in the room took that in.  While androids were commonplace in most of the places the crew worked, this level of work was far beyond that.  Just the cost of making a 'Human-replicant' android was a massive expense.  But creating one which could also act convincingly like a human being was an expense that only the top earning corporations could afford.  Beyond that, there were the Shudusham Concords, signed before the founding of the Third Imperium.  While they held no legal force, they were a guide to laws regarding androids across the Imperium, which laws this android certainly violated.  To make things even more complex, the cost of building such a device was astronomical.  And as insane as the high cost was, it meant only an extremely small number of firms "could" build it, much less do so in secret.  And those questions didn't do anything to suggest why it was playing the role of a manager in an undersea import and export firm?  Given all those impossibilities, Munarshu decided the creature had to be a cyborg rather than an android.

His belief was logical, and would be much more legal, since it would cost less to relocate a sophont's brain into their chest or abdomen while building a biomechanical replacement body to live in.  It was still beyond ridiculous in cost, but much more reasonable than creating an android which could perform as they'd seen this device do.  Still, Munarshu's belief didn't stand up to the complete collapse of the device when it took a single critical head shot.  There should have still been some sort of means by which the relocated brain could communicate with the outside universe.  The others were more willing to suspend disbelief and go with the android theory.  Add to that, they had hit the device in its chest and gut too, before the head was shot.  So, an armored brain case should have been damaged.  Considering the device, Terin fired his pulse gun again and the "man" shook and bounced as it slid against the wall.  It then further sprawled on the floor with Terin's hearty approval.

Being even more cautious, Terin asked if the detective had zip ties, just in case?  Munarshu suggested zip ties wouldn't do the job if needed, and the detective stepped forward using metal cuffs to secure the 'device's' wrists.  Seeing that, Terin finally made the move he'd wanted to, heading for the door to the hidden space.  Entering, Terin saw the entire back of "Kelly's office" turned out to be a walk in closet-sized "tech cubby" with spare parts, maintenance supplies and a charging station.  Presumably for the humanoid robot on the office floor.  This included replacement arms and legs, already flesh-wrapped, that had connective installation joints.  Scanning the parts and containers, Terin looked for any kind of device that could replicate Idents.  While he didn't see anything like that as a "stand alone" device, he had to admit that any computer with a connector that could mate with an Ident "could" do the job with the right software.  Disappointed at first, Terin decided to check deeper into the parts.  While they were of interest, he saw they couldn't likely use any of it.

Looking for an Ident burner, Terin saw a lot of very very high tech goods.  And while it would be illegal to own, he also recalled that the world government was a Feudal Technocracy!  So, while he was certain the local government would confiscate the tech, he couldn't be certain what effect handing the stuff to the locals would have on the world government?  But he also had zero say in that at all, and knew there'd be very little survivability in trying to get involved.  At least Terin was no longer worried about being arrested for being involved in the situation.  He just had to continue to follow the orders of the local police.  While Terin searched in the back closet, Munarshu watched as the Captain arrived and stepped forward to examine the device.  Removing its clothing and pulling at its synth-skin, he even pulled out a pocket knife and started cutting the skin away.  After half an hour exposing the systems and mechanisms beneath the skin, he would confirm it was a human-replicant android.  But while he worked, Terin returned from the closet and asked the detective if he'd had any idea they might find an android?  The detective admitted having no idea and his tone of voice testified to his honesty.

Coming out of the closet, Terin began exploring all the drawers and storage in the office itself, looking for Munarshu's Ident.  They found a large number of flimsies, office supplies and administaria, but didn't find anything related to the Ident.  In fact, the only thing they found at all was a blank Ident.  When Terin asked who would want a blank Ident, Munarshu pointed out it could have records burnt to it, but wondered where the burner was?  Munarshu waited a bit while those in the room silently regarded him before suggesting the android had it built in.  It was becoming apparent that the android might well have been serving as a number crunching management system for the business despite the bizarre cost to create it.  Still riding their theories into the ground, Terin asked the Captain if he thought the android could copy an Ident?  Not even aware there was an android moments before, the man said he had no idea.  At the same time, other police officers had arrived, having been called by the android, and were confused to find officers already there.

When Terin asked if the Captain could call in computer specialists, the officer said he was certain he could, in a tone that made it clear that was all Terin would know about it.  He and Munarshu had played their parts and this was now an 'internal matter'.  Realizing their time in the office was closing rapidly, Terin visually measured the space in hopes of finding a possible hidden storage space while Munarshu asked if the Captain could get them a densometer to test the walls?  The Captain told Munarshu the police department was not a starport in a cool tone, suggesting Munarshu shouldn't continue to view them as a magic bag of everything.  At the same time, Terin's visual math was now adding things up since he was able to see the maintenance closet.  In a final gasp towards finding any information on Munarshu's Ident, Terin asked for and got permission to try to hack the locked terminal the android had appeared to be using on the desk.

After an hour, in which Munarshu did his best to stick his nose into everything, Terin finally admitted defeat.  When Terin gave up, Munarshu had to admit he'd found nothing 'not related' to the business.  They did search the larger office and found another standard main computer, but there was no data to provide any relationship between the android and their computer.  They also found a lone security camera in the reception area.  When Terin and Munarshu worried about their break in the night before, they were told the Captain had it covered.  With that, the Captain made sure they had a ride back to the consulate after they turned over their weapons.  There, the night shift worker let the pair in and they exchanged pleasantries.  Terin and Munarshu then moved to the day room, at 2:43 am, Sunday morning to grab some sleep.

Seeking Keys And Finding Locks

     Aboard the rogue ship, the crew had loaded all the free floating items in the ship into the ground vehicle in its cargo bay at Zimzod's order.  They expected him to order the truck moved from the rogue to the California.  But Zimzod didn't want to make it look like they'd looted the ship, though they'd done exactly that.  So, he said that everything found was to be put in the vehicles cargo bed and left there.  Including the vehicle mounted VRF gauss gun, which even Aali wanted.  Aali agreed to leave everything else, except the PRIS goggles.  Those, she planned to keep in the California's engineering space, for general use.  This would mean she'd have her own personal set, a set for her armor which had been given to her by Lady Seldrian Aledon, and this set from the rogue.  Fesic wanted to discuss things in a bit more detail, to make sure they considered all options before leaving everything for the Navy.  Especially the few boxes of grenades.

They talked and Zimzod said there was nothing in the pile of goods, including the VRF Gauss gun, that they couldn't buy themselves.  He also insisted he really didn't want it to seem they were looting the ship.  Done talking, Zimzod asked Aiden and the others about trying to reach any of the other spaces in the rogue that hadn't been crushed.  And while the sensors showed there had been passable corridors, they were all beyond access thanks to the scout wreck.  Cutting through the ship's hull wasn't an option either.  It was possible someone was caught in one of the voids, but certain they hadn't survived if they did.  When Zimzod considered the very small odds Munarshu's Ident could be in one of them, he had to accept they wouldn't get it without a shipyard.  That went double for the remains of the scout ship.  That meant, with five hours left before the Navy arrived, they could only kick back, relax and wait.  The only thing they might have left was cracking the rogue's computer.  But when Zimzod asked Emkir about that, the Admiral said he didn't feel the time was worth it.

Aboard the California, Mikah had woken and gone through the messages she'd gotten from those working aboard the rogue.  When she heard that Zimzod had asked Emkir to work on the computer, something clicked in her memory.  Grabbing her collection of data crystals, Mikah snagged one and loaded it into a port in her stateroom computer console.  When the crystal's file structure opened, Mikah saw what she remembered.  A complete copy backup of the stolen Stepozhevaci hand computer!  And that had the computer hacking software they'd used to hack the Quasar Viper's computer.  Mikah's timing couldn't have been better as she called Zimzod to tell him what she'd found.  Emkir was telling Zimzod he wouldn't be able to crack the rogue's computer while Mikah told Zimzod she'd found the Stepozhevaci cracking program.  Not aware of Mikah's comments, Emkir did his best to ignore a brief moment as Zimzod's eyes glazed over.  Then, he was completely surprised and mystified when Zimzod leaned forward and said, "It's OK.  We have this covered."

Emkir just shrugged and said, "Well, that's nice." in an annoyed tone while part of him had to wonder why he'd wasted so much time trying?  Over the active comms link, Mikah heard Zimzod tell Emkir it was covered and got dressed to move to the med-bay.  There, Mikah checked on the two sleeping 'not-dead guys' only to notice the one who claimed to be a Scout Lakminer who'd survived the ram, was no longer secured.  He had accepted being secured when she sedated him that morning, after she treated the prisoner from the rogue.  Now, he was still asleep but someone had unsecured him.  Mikah checked the prisoner, who was still a 'sleeping not-dead' guy.  Mikah smiled at that, because she wanted someone for the authorities to question, so there weren't charges aimed at her crew.  She did make sure the prisoner's bonds were still secure.  After her basic checks, Mikah called Zimzod again, to ask about the Scout?  Zimzod told her the IISS had sent them files which had his picture, so he was who he claimed to be.

Mikah checked the bandages and saw she'd have to spend an hour or more cleaning the wounds and such.  Since Scout Lakminer was only bruised and battered, Mikah woke him to send him out to help the others.  When he was fully awake, Mikah congratulated him on becoming a temporary member of her crew since they'd proven his identity.  She then called Zimzod to tell him she had another worker.  Zimzod said they were actually done aboard the rogue, so Mikah told Lakminer to find the ship's lounge and relax.  After he left, Mikah started to work on cleaning and re-dressing the prisoner's wounds.  When she told Zimzod she planned to work on the prisoner for the next hour and a half, Zimzod asked where the cracking software was?  After helping the others cross back to the California, Zimzod went and grabbed the crystal before realizing he needed a computer tech to find and use it.

Accepting he'd have to let the secret out, Zimzod found Emkir before he started to relax.  Handing him the crystal, Zimzod said, "Here.  Use this to crack the computer."  Surprised, and with no clue what Zimzod was on about, Emkir sparked up the crystal in his hand-comp and watched as a directory structure played out.  Not sure what he was looking at, Emkir began exploring until he realized it was full of Stepozhevaci governmental data.  Operations files, financial files and other data high-power stuff.  He also found a directory listed as containing computer cracking software!  Zimzod watched Emkir's face and realized there was a lot more than the cracking software on the crystal.  Because of that, he told Emkir to download "Only" the cracker before returning the crystal.  Emkir did download only that package, but launched and tested it before returning the crystal.  And now, he knew they still had a copy of the pocket computer they'd turned over to Lord William.

With the software, and having handed back the crystal, Emkir got back into his vacc suit and went back over to the rogue.  In the computer core, Emkir jacked in with his hand computer and started working on using the software to access the rogue's computer.  Half an hour later, he was in!  Not only that, Emkir read the report and saw the program had reset the passwords for all administrative and system level user accounts.  He owned the ship!  Beginning to browse the file structure of the ship's computer, Emkir comm'd Zimzod and said, "We're in."  When Zimzod asked how long it would take to figure the ship out, Emkir considered the system and estimated he'd be able to sort out the major sections in three to four hours or so.

Back in the California, Zimzod considered what else had to be done?  Aali wanted to join Wall-e on the hull, investigating the ship's hull and sensor damage.  Considering the expanse of hull, Aali suggested it would be easier with more people helping.  When Aali asked for help, Fesic asked Zimzod if he wanted someone over on the rogue to cover Emkir in case of surprise?  Zimzod said they were pretty sure they'd checked the whole ship and nothing was getting out from the crushed voids.  So, he had everyone who was able gear up and move onto the dorsal hull.  Aiden also ran diagnostics in the bridge, to see if he could provide guidance.  Despite their wounds, even Rol and Zimzod joined in along with Lakminer.  While working, Zimzod asked Rol about the damage to his battledress from the shoot out.  Rol also considered the damage to his own armor.  He also knew he'd soon have to take the full week to do a complete maintenance on the Battledress, which hadn't been done in some time.  And, inside the ship, the rest of the androids aboard were working from one end of engineering to the other, running diagnostics to see if anything had been damaged internally.

It took those on the hull between sixty and ninety minutes to map out the damage to the best they could.  Aali estimated they'd lost twenty percent to a quarter of their sensors.  The bad news aside, the good news was that the ship's jump grid wasn't damaged, keeping repair costs down.  Still, there were some seriously damaged hull plates and the rest of the affected surfaces were blasted and should be replaced just because of that.  Done, Aali said they'd have to spend some time in a ship yard for repairs to the hull, sensors and ship's electronics.  She told Zimzod she'd have a more detailed list and cost estimate when she had time to crunch the numbers.  Lucky for them, one of the chief parts of Equus' interstellar economic makeup were ship yards.  So, they went back inside to recharge their suits, eat dinner and continue what work or hobbies they wanted to.  Direct contact was also made with the cruiser INS Midindir Kada.  Relaxing after cleaning up, Mikah learned from the cruiser's Captain that they could be due some share in the salvage rights to the rogue ship.

When that news broke, and before Aali settled down to start crunching the numbers, the chief engineer suggested some down time.  Mikah said that sounded like a good idea and Aali also offered to help lubricate it with a small amount from her and Emkir's collection of alcohol.  Mikah liked that idea a lot, and enlisted some of the crew to help deploy bottles.  She still reminded them the Navy was coming to visit.  So she warned them not to get too tipsy.  The ironic thing, as Aali declared "The Rule of Transport 18", was that Emkir would be the only person not able to take part.  He was in his vacc suit in the computer core of the rogue ship.  Aiden was also warned to drink with care because he'd still be driving when the Navy arrived.  Aali planned on sipping from a glass of cognac herself.  Mikah suggested Aiden get a lemonade when Aali broke out the booze, to match the still lingering lemon-vanilla scent of his cockpit.  So, they found him a hard lemonade and Aali pulled out an air freshener to attach to the bottle's neck.  When it was delivered, Aiden fantasized killing the inertial dampeners and hitting the thrust in revenge.

Eventually, the Midindir Kada sent a request for an official report on the battle between the California, Skygge Sturek and the rogue.  When Aiden said he'd start compiling his report, the naval officer dryly said they wanted the "official report", from the California's Captain, which would include his report as subordinate data.  Aiden just shrugged at the stiff-assed navy twit and passed the message back to Mikah.  Feeling a bit more relaxed than normal, Aiden activated a comms to Mikah and said, "Oh, Captain Darling?"  Having only just started drinking, Mikah heard the comms and could only think, 'Really?  Someone's cut off.'  But she answered, "OK person looking for a whipping.  What's your problem?"  Aiden said "The Navy would like to talk to you." and Mikah said, "Ok, I'll talk to them in private."  Mikah then went to her stateroom with Zimzod following her and Aiden told the navy man to hold before bouncing the call.  The couple discussed how to properly punish Aiden while making their way into the stateroom.  With the door closed, Mikah answered the call and said she had her XO with her.

Mikah was told the commander of the cruiser was waiting for reports on the battle and their current status and needs.  Mikah gave a general verbal report on the battle and promised to fill out the proper forms when they were sent to her.  She also said they had searched the rogue and collected all the evidence and material found aboard into the cargo bay.  Mikah gave the officer a general run-down of the condition of the rogue and said they had one "semi-alive" prisoner in their medical bay.  Told that, the officer asked, with a raised eyebrow, "Semi-alive?" and Mikah explained the man's medical condition.  She followed that with a quick cover of the battle in the rogue's engineering section.  When Mikah finished her verbal report, the officer said the cruiser would arrive in an hour and a half, and asked if the California would need any assistance?  Mikah said, "We need repairs" and he asked her to elaborate, so Mikah verbally sketched the hull and sensor damage.

The officer said the engineering staff of the Midindir Kada would be standing by to help the crew and asked if they could fly in-system on their own?  Mikah said they could and he asked if the rogue was also able to move back in-system under its own power too?  Mikah said it could, if it had a prize crew.  After Mikah and Zimzod finished talking to the cruiser, the whole crew had two hours to consider what they'd like to do with the 30 minutes left in Mikah's drinking limit.  Rol certainly didn't want to start a drinking contest and feared waking up as the Hotel California's hood ornament!  Mikah also had to continue caring for the wounded, including Zimzod and Rol.  Especially since they'd had time to relax.  Organizing for that, the comms started to buzz and they saw it was a message for Mikah from the Ulir city Imperial Consulate on Equus!

Again, Mikah took the call in her stateroom and brought Zimzod with her.  Reading the message, Mikah saw it was from the official Imperial Minister representing the Imperium in Ulir city on-world in the Equus system.  And he didn't miss the chance to use any of his various titles.  The message warned Mikah that members of her crew were possibly preparing to violate laws, local and Imperial, and she might want to prepare for Imperial charges on her return.  Reading the message more completely, Mikah realized the charges would be lodged against Munarshu and Terin, so she wasn't at all concerned.  Not wanting to blow the minister off, Mikah replied that she'd be in touch with him after they returned in-system.  Eventually, an hour out from the cruiser's arrival, those still drinking switched to either water or juices as preferred.  Still, it was time to start tracking the cruiser's approach more seriously.  And, it was time to plan, or not, for a meeting party.  In that case, Mikah wanted to keep things completely casual.

On the rogue, Emkir explored the ship's computer and found the one thing he wanted...the log.  When he opened it, Emkir found the Captain had used a personal cipher.  He didn't encrypt the entire message, but replaced all key words, and possibly some non-key words with code words.  At first, Emkir did his best to test for relational matches, where a code word was related to the actual word represented.  But nothing seemed to fit and match with the plain text at all.  Emkir realized he'd have to put more time and energy into the log.  Still, enough was not encoded that Emkir could verify that "someone" had paid the crew to come to the Equus station.  They were then to wait on-station until they received a signal.  And when that signal came, they were to transport "something", represented by an encoded word, to "somewhere" also an encoded word.  That confirmed the ship had been sitting and bleeding money while waiting for the signal.  And the person who'd stolen Munarshu's Ident had sent that signal before either boarding or delivering something to the ship.  And, if he simply delivered the item, he had then disappeared.

The next step was computer forensics 101.  Emkir checked the user accounts listed, figuring that if they had someone new sign on-board the ship, there would be a new account created that day.  Even as a guest.  But there were no new accounts.  Of course, that meant nothing because the person who was dirtside could have been an existing member of the crew.  Or, an account could have been pre-created because they knew who would be boarding.  One other thing Emkir learned was that the chief engineer had also been the ship's First Officer, confirming Zimzod's guess.  But, disturbingly, the chief engineer was female.  Since none of the bodies they found were women, she either died in the ram or may have escaped the ship herself, before they broke dock.  Beyond that, the rest of the work would be "blunt force trauma" while he searched through non-system directories for anything of value.  To reduce the task, Emkir wrote a quick script to scan all the directories for all file names and filter them through any terms he entered into a search file.  That took him fifteen minutes before he was out of terms he could think of.

Secrets And Meetings In Space

     While the crew relaxed on the California, Emkir worked on the rogue, spending the next hour or more searching through the ship's computer files for anything of interest.  While he didn't have the software to find anything hidden, he could search the files for what was visible.  Using his root access to force hidden files out before hunting for them would take too long.  After an hour of blunt force trauma, Emkir had found two executable files which he couldn't identify a purpose for.  After every test he could run outside of launching them, Emkir was down to launching them or storing them unexplored.  The risks he considered in launching them were minimal except for one.  With the ship largely disabled, the only really bad thing that could happen would be an eraser.  If he launched something like that, it could erase all the data on the ship's computer, leaving none of the evidence there to be recovered.  Emkir didn't want that!

Considering that, Emkir also had a list of preventative measures he could take.  Top on that was to open a link between that computer and the California's computer.  Then, he could create a secure and firewalled directory in which he could store archived copies of all the programs he could find that were not just ship's operational garbage.  That way, he'd have copies in case anything went completely into left field.  Emkir knew he wouldn't be able to ID or copy any hidden or covertly named files, but it was a step forward.  After he did that, Emkir cut the links between the computers, so the California would be safe.  After doing that, Emkir comm'd Aali and went through the steps with her to see if she could suggest anything else to try?  When she agreed with Emkir's steps, it was down to which executable Emkir wanted to try first?  With no data one way or the other, Emkir decided to go in order, executing the program he'd mentally labeled "A".

Having set up process trackers, memory traces, sniffers and other utilities, Emkir saw the program start.  He watched as it immediately spawned sub-threads before each of those threads created sub-instances of other sub-processes.  When it reached a level of activity, a console appeared and Emkir was presented an error message saying "Unable to Connect Communications Device".  So the program had tried to get to some device and failed to get a response.  After that, the program crashed.  When he was sure all the sub-threads and processes had died, Emkir searched through his logs and other diagnostics.  One of the capture logs he'd set up presented a list of the hardware addresses and ports called by any of the processes run by the threads or the main program.  Emkir then ran a few procedures which queried the computer's main hardware tables.  Then, he played 'pick and match' until he found the hardware address.

The program had activated the ship's communications system and sent a message.  Emkir could only guess it was waiting to receive a message back and then dying when it didn't get an answer.  From its performance, Emkir could only guess it was some kind of computer-managed communications process.  With this in the Captain's personal directory, Emkir guessed the Captain used it to make contact with some unknown "other party" and the channel opened could even be encrypted so the rest of the crew had no access.  After he was done exploring all the logs and recording or capturing all the data he could, Emkir copied his results to a secure crystal and then cleared the registers and cache before preparing to launch the second file.  That one was in the chief engineer's directory.  When Emkir ran it, he watched as it appeared to try to access every system aboard the ship.  Where it got an answer, it reported connectivity "Functional".  Where it failed to get an answer, it logged the address and port "Non-functional".

Emkir watched and tracked the program as it executed, and could only guess it was a very high level diagnostic program.  It looked to have been written to test basic connectivity of the ship's main computer to all the major and minor sub-systems in a sort of quick "What have we lost" test.  Emkir thought that was a neat idea, but knew it had been written custom for this ship.  It even had the hardware addresses, ports and data for that ship's hardware.  He also hadn't found a pre-compiled version of the program, nor could he find any data file feeding the program its addresses.  That meant that, while he could write a program like it for their ship, he couldn't copy the version from the rogue to re-write.  Checking in with Aali, as he had been doing periodically, Emkir told her about the program and she agreed it would be nice to have.  She did ask if there might be a decompiler, but Emkir couldn't even say what language the program had been written in?  So, he had no idea what decompiler to look for, and one wasn't obviously there.

Since Emkir had already archived copies of all the files from the crew's personal directories, there was nothing left for him to do.  And he did want to go back to the California and have a drink himself, with just over two hours before the Navy cruiser arrived.  After he got back and set his vacc suit to recharge, Aali handed him a snifter and his bottle of 200 year old whiskey.  Emkir was pleased, since Mikah had laid down the law they should stop drinking at least an hour before the cruiser arrived.  That meant he had a fair enough bit of time to relax with his drinks before things had to be squared away.  Most of the crew had been relaxing and watching vids from the ship's entertainment system or exchanging what stories they could with Scout Lakminer.  Aali spent her time doing the math, based on the data she'd collected or downloaded from Wall-e.  On the bridge, Aiden was manning systems and drinking lightly while passing the periodic messages from the Midindir Kada to Mikah.

Hail The Long Awaited Cavalry

     After the cruiser reached close comms range, the ship's Captain wanted to speak directly with Mikah.  For that, Mikah went to the bridge and strapped into her console as they started to talk.  After the greetings, the Captain nodded to someone off-screen and he said, "It's about time I got a good close look at this blockade runner."  They waited for the results to come in from the cruiser's scans before the Captain said, "Daaaayuum!" in a surprised and very impressed tone.  Mikah nodded and said, "The scouts did a bang up job!"  The Captain nodded and said, "I wanna hire you as the person who buys our missiles from now on."  Mikah said, "No thank you", out of respect for the lost lives and the Captain said, "Understood.  So what are the status of your crew and casualties?"  Mikah said she had minor injuries among her crew and one scout survivor from the Skygge Sturek.  She also briefly mentioned the prisoner and their "salvage property".

Mikah made sure to mention salvage rights and the Captain made it clear they'd start that paperwork to process that claim soon too.  His tone also didn't suggest he considered that would be hard to do.  The Captain also said he'd assign a Lieutenant Commander to take custody of the prisoner, along with a team from the cruiser's medical section.  When the Captain offered medical help for her wounded, Mikah said the prisoner was the only casualty seriously wounded.  So she wasn't worried.  The Captain then asked about the blockade runner itself, wondering what Mikah could tell him from their explorations aboard?  Mikah gave a basic description of the ship's layout and said they'd gathered all the possible evidence into the bed of a ground vehicle in the ship's cargo bay.  When she said they'd also gotten access to the ship's computer, the Captain seemed surprised again.  Seeing that, Mikah proudly said, "We have a really good computer guy." with a smile on her face.  The look on the Captain's face, as she said that, was something akin to his being in the presence of skill levels he wasn't used to dealing with directly.

Mikah said she could get Emkir on the line and they could set something up, and the Captain said he'd connect one of his data tech specialists.  He and Emkir could then work together to share what wanted to be explored.  They then briefly cut the line so Mikah could buzz Emkir, while he was coming down off his whiskey buzz.  Emkir answered and Mikah said, "The Navy would like to speak to you about what you discovered and how to set up a link between their ship and the blockade runner?  You take care of it."  Emkir agreed, and asked, "Are they going to board the California or am I boarding their ship?"  She told him he'd work with them on the comms while they were still approaching.  When Emkir comm'd the frequency he was given, he was connected to a Lieutenant Commander backed up by an entire IT section!  Their mission was to set up a computer network with the rogue and start exploring the ship's computer.  And, to the extent they could, remotely explore the ship itself.  Emkir worked with them and quickly had the network running so the navy techs could start their work.  When Emkir did ask that they turn over any information about Munarshu's missing Ident, the Commander said "Absolutely."

After Emkir finished with the techs, the comms was passed back to Mikah and the Captain while the cruiser continued its approach.  Eventually, the conversations came to an end and the crew of the California continued to relax until the cruiser got close enough to start launching boats.  Some of those boats launched were a third of the size of the California herself!  Aiden sat in the bridge of the ship watching as the arriving cruiser blocked out the stars with its massive form as the 30,000 dTon vessel arrived.  It was the epic crescendo of every "evil empire vs the good guys" tri-vid or other entertainment ever filmed.  Watching on a secondary screen, Fesic considered how that view looked from "the other side" of this encounter.  As a battery commander in countless battles, he'd be listening to the orders of the ship's chief gunnery officer about then, planning how to turn the smaller vessel into a colander.

One of the boats launched from the cruiser docked with the California and, after the pleasantries, took custody of the surviving scout and, after a medical review, the prisoner.  Mikah spent much of her time working with the medical people checking over the prisoner.  A Scout officer also came aboard from the cruiser to work with Scout Lakminer.  The Scout officer turned out to be an IISS Liaison to the Imperial Navy who just happened to be assigned to the cruiser for a year of cross training.  Finally, a member of the cruiser's command staff came aboard and sat down saying, "OK Captain Kirlim.  We now have to deal with the legalities of the situation."  Despite his pleasant demeanor, Mikah was sure this was going to be every bit as uncomfortable for her as she feared.

Referring to his handcomp while sitting, he began, "So, whereas this rogue ship, the IMV Kakishuu, illegally broke dock, caused significant loss of equipment and some loss of life, and whereas you were deputized to pursue the ship, and whereas your ship was damaged in the legal pursuit of the IMV Kakishuu, you were hereby deputized properly.  The Imperial government recognizes this.  But you need to authorize and acknowledge this report.  Put your thumb print there and will be no legal charges against your crew or ship for the aforesaid action."  The officer spoke in the almost completely disinterested voice of someone who was speaking from rote memory.  Mikah knew the Navy and government had set out salvage bounties as a method of co-opting civilian spacers to act against pirates rather than flee.  But this was the first indication how successful that program might be, if this officer was that bored with awarding salvage rights.  When Mikah leaned in and put her thumb on the reader, the officer actually showed some emotion.  Pleased, he said, "OK, that's part one."

"Part two", the officer nearly announced without raising his voice, "We had, as we approached, not only scanned the blockade runner but we've also scanned your vessel and we have cataloged all the damage we can determine was recently battle-caused."  When Mikah simply said, "OK." he continued, "And we noticed a couple of things you should probably have looked at anyway."  With a wink, the man said, "We're classifying all of that as recently battle-caused damage."  Mikah caught on they were being given freebees and this suddenly got a lot more interesting!  After the quick pause, the man said, "We had determined that your ship's boat bay is empty?"  Mikah confirmed that while briefly wondering where the man was going with the question?  He then said, "We assume you deployed that boat in your ship's defense and it was destroyed in the action?"  The question was more of an assertive statement, demanding she agree with it.  And after a brief struggle to get onto the exact same page as the officer, Mikah simply said "Sure" with a big grin on her face.  The officer nodded and said, "We'll list that as a combat loss."

After he made those notes on his datapad, the officer set it aside for the moment and said, "What will happen now is that you have partial salvage rights against the IMV Kakishuu.  It will be hauled back to port and a determination made if it will be ripped apart for salvage, sold off 'as is' or repaired and sold off?  Either way, we can come up with a rough estimate of the value of the ship and we can compare it to your repair costs.  In addition, we've been in communications with the ship yards in-system and found an open repair bay from those reserved for military service, in which capacity you were acting.  So we have estimated, based on the opinions of my chief engineer and other professionals, that you may be in-system here for another month or so.  However, when you leave, you will do so aboard a fully repaired ship with a replaced ship's cutter."  When he said that last part, the man winked and Mikah figured 'in for a penny...'  She asked what they'd do with the old cutter?  He nodded and said, "I see" as he made a notation on his datapad and continued, "I see you'll be taking the cash value on the new cutter?" as if that were the most natural response to the question possible.  Mikah confirmed that and sat back with a smile was.

Before the man could pack up, Mikah decided to see how far this gravy train could run, and said Sir Zimzod Egosion's battledress had been damaged in the action.  Reopening his datapad, the officer joked that he did forget a section before asking, "Does your ship have an armorer?"  Mikah said they did.  The officer said he'd have an armorer from the cruiser's marine contingent speak to their armorer and see what could be done?  He also asked Mikah to have a list prepared of any crew whose armor was damaged in the action, so that could be considered too.  When Zimzod joined in and asked if they had a spare breaching charge, the man considered the request and said he could look into that.  Zimzod said, "Good, because we used ours to get into that ship."  Hearing that the officer said, "I'm sure we could give you two." as if two were the number of charges to be replaced.  Soon though, the interview ended and the officer left.  Before they started to burn back in-system, an armorer visited the California to confer with Rol.  That done, they said they could deliver all the supplies Rol would need to repair the various suits of armor.  They also restocked Mikah's medical supplies as a matter of course.  When Zimzod asked about browsing through the gear they collected into the cargo bay of the Kakishuu, he was told they had no idea what piece would provide the clues needed to unravel what the ship was doing, and for whom.  So, no souvenirs.

The cruiser's chief engineer also came across, to consult with Aali and Mikah.  He brought the cruiser's scans and diagnostic data with him, to be given to Aali.  The Naval prescription for repairing the sensor and hull damage was to just rip out the dorsal hull plates from the blasted section and replace them.  Aali and he both knew you could remove the plates from the lanthanum grid, which wouldn't need repair, and replace the plates and electronics regardless of battle damage.  This just meant the crew had to crawl into the near-hull spaces to detach wiring harnesses and couplings.  They could then just re-run all the cabling and connect and secure the new plates.  It was the fastest way to get the ship back on her thrusters.  The largest part of the job would be scanning the hull, to design the custom plates before they were made.  After that was done, they'd just unweld and disconnect each plate and swap it fairly quickly.  The ship could even operate normally until the plates were ready.  It would take about a day of scanning to prepare for that before largely being left to their own devices for a few weeks.

With the plates scanned, they'd have to have the ship moved into a dry dock for the removal and replacement process.  But they'd be able to leave the system fully repaired after a month's time.  When Zimzod asked Mikah about their cargo, she said they'd only have a time limit if they made the deal with the Illiesh Shakhik to haul their cargo.  They'd then have six months to make delivery in the Lanth system.  And, they were going there anyway.  The repairs would only cost them a months' time, so they were good.  When Mikah asked about taking something from the blockade runner as trophy, she was told she and her crew could have a name plate from the ship.  Since they already had one fused to the bridge wall for the GNS Lilmett kin Vyste, Mikah liked that idea and the cruiser's Captain said he'd have his engineers raid the Kakishuu for a name plate souvenir.  Mikah thanked him very much, and was very pleased at how things had played out.

After The Parties

     After four more hours of shuttles, visits and some field repairs and rigging, the last visitors left.  When the cruiser's prize crew boarded the Kakishuu, the officer of the deck comm'd the California to say, "We'll meet you back in system."  Sensors showed the cruiser was waiting until it recovered its one remaining boat before moving back towards the port.  It was 4 am Sunday morning by the time they started plotting a flight plan.  The California had spent fourteen hours at a high thrust burn chasing the Kakishuu, so it would be twenty two hours more before they returned to the port again.  When he was sure they weren't going to have more teams aboard, Zimzod went back to his battledress and pulled out the KCr 100 he'd found in active Imperial currency.  He got Mikah alone and revealed the cash while saying, "I pulled this off the ship as payment for this shit and everyone is getting a cut."

Since no one else was there when he found the hidden drawer, Mikah was surprised when Zimzod revealed the ten KCr 10 certificates.  Because Terin and Munarshu weren't aboard, Zimzod said they'd miss out.  Their long standing rules said KCr 30 would go directly to ship's funds.  Another Cr 14,000 would pay back some of the over Cr 160,000 debt still owed to Mikah since fitting out the first ship in Regina.  Finally, each of the seven aboard would receive Cr 8,000.  When they talked about being "legally" required to send Dame Inger a share, Mikah said "Fuck her!"  Zimzod suggested they buy her share of the ship out but Mikah said the ship was worth something like MCr 160 or so.  And since there were now only seven shareholders in the ship, they'd have to raise nearly MCr 9.  And that was even if she was willing to sign on the dotted line and sell her share?

Done with the last order of business before new orders were given, the California started the burn back to the port.  While getting moving, a message came for Emkir, from the cruiser's IT division commander.  They asked for a get together in port to talk, and were very impressed.  A comment from the section leader said, "I don't know what you did, but you got the keys to the kingdom here in a way I've never seen!"  Of course, that was a problem for Emkir, because he couldn't tell anyone how he cracked the computer without having to explain the software.  And where it came from.  And Emkir knew well the kettle of fish that would open up.  He'd have to avoid this officer and his people while stuck in this system for the next month.  He also had no idea how long the Midindir Kada would be staying in-system?  Emkir played it diplomatically, sending back, "All I can tell you is that this method is a trade secret restricted to certain members of the California crew."  He left it at that for the moment and hoped that would stick.

With the ship under way, Aiden made sure not to 'rattle the engines' nor did he plot 'a pleasure cruise'.  Aiden also got a stim from Mikah, in case he started to feel the hours coming.  With the ship on the move, Rol's wanted to take some time recovering before starting to go through the supplies delivered by the cruiser.  He'd then help with prioritizing the fixes and help with the repairs.  Organizing things, Rol repaired Zimzod's battledress and the combat armor suits then added the rest of the composite to his stock.  Digging in, Rol also found a somewhat flat rectangular box he didn't expect.  Checking the component ID number on the box, Rol was nearly blown away.  Opening it to confirm, Rol found they'd given him a spare set of CPU and computer boards for Zimzod's battledress!  Mikah also told Fesic he'd gotten a replacement breaching charge, since the Navy had given them two.  She also make it clear both charges would be kept in the ship's locker.

Emkir quickly started trying to talk Aali into their stateroom for some fun.  Despite his desires, Aali said she had work to do on the ship.  Overhearing, Terin joked, "Come on, it's only two minutes." with a smirk on his face.  The couple debated on what was needed with twenty hours of flight time ahead, to return to port.  Eventually, Emkir lost, and Aali went to work in engineering while Emkir logged into a terminal and began writing a filter program.  The program would sift the ships logs he'd copied from the Kakishuu for any terms he entered, and the names of all the systems in the Spinward Marches.  At the very least, he hoped to get an idea of their travels.  At best, he wondered if he'd find a connection with any of the people they' dealt with, or threads of mystery they'd happened on in their travels.  Since the program didn't take long to write, Emkir spent the hours of travel changing the terms and words in the filter file to see what he might find?

Mikah only wanted more sleep and Zimzod joined her, leaving Emkir in command of the ship.  When Emkir complained about having to work on his program, Aiden said Emkir could as easily write and test his program on the bridge while manning the flight controls.  Aiden then went to his stateroom, set his alarm and went to sleep.  Fesic also took the chance to rack out and sleep.  Getting control of the bridge and knowing Aiden was asleep, Emkir pinged Aali in engineering and told her to come to the bridge, because he "wanted to show her something".  Aali quickly figured out Emkir wanted to 'leave some stains' on the bridge.  She managed to talk him into calling her an hour or so before he was about to surrender the chair to Aiden.  So, they'd have more time for fun.  Eventually, everyone took shifts working at chores, or getting sleep as time passed.

The End Of The Drive

     Back on the bridge, Aiden started getting direction from the port.  Others of the crew started waking up.  Aiden saw they were being directed to an in-station parking bay.  That space would have pressure doors through which the ship would enter to settle on a landing deck.  Then, the doors would close and the bay would pressurize while workers came out to hook up umbilicals and port service feed cables, etc.  After it was pressurized, the bay would be their berth, and had a smaller number of staterooms and offices integral to it than the berth they'd had in the Rhylanor system.  Still, it wasn't hanging off the outside of the hull like the docking collar they'd paid for when they first arrived in-system.  Guiding him in, the port told Aiden the ship could remain in that berth for their entire stay in-system, except time spent in dry dock.  He acknowledged that and they'd also said all the costs for the berth had been covered, 100%.  That covered the berth, networks, consumables and other services provided to the ship by the port.  When Aiden got punchy and asked about OxyAccounts, port control said Mikah could take that up with the port administrators when she got the chance.

Along with "official communications", unofficial chatter also came while some in port control asked for details on how badly the crew of the Kakishuu had suffered for the damage they'd done to the port?  Finally, after the ship settled into the berth, port central asked to speak directly to the Captain.  Mikah, with Zimzod, got on the line to ask what they needed?  The port master said that, during the chase and battle, their workers had been working to patch the station hull and clean up whil recovering recyclables and debris.  During that work, they found an interesting item in the debris, caught within the docking compartment.  When Mikah asked what it was, they asked if one of her crew members was missing an Ident?  Mikah was so surprised, she couldn't hold in the laughter, and neither could Zimzod.  It seemed whoever stole the Ident only needed it to get to the Kakishuu's dock, and had then tossed it aside.  Engineers say it was caught in the lacerated metal of the hull when the ship broke dock.  It had then hung, floating in the remains of the compartment when it was voided.  Mikah said they'd pick it up when they came to central offices, which was good with the port.

It took another hour to dock the ship and deal with the paperwork.  Mikah was then told the station master was waiting on her pleasure to meet with her.  He wished to discuss the deputation, and actions the ship had taken on behalf of the station.  He also said the entire crew were free to visit the station any time while they were in-system, and their OxyAccounts would all be waived.  Mikah thanked him for that and they set a face to face meeting for an hour from then.  Mikah said she'd also be bringing her executive officer with her.  And despite the hour, the station master said that time was perfectly fine.  While they talked, port workers hooked up the ship so they had everything, even the porn, for free.  As soon as he woke, Emkir reached out to the Illiesh Shakhik, to update them on the pending cargo deal.  When he got the ship, their super cargo was surprised to even hear from them again.  He'd figured they'd suddenly left the system.  When their Captain came on the line, Emkir gave an edited version of the events since the California left port.  To say the least, their Captain was nearly speechless.

Still, the Captain said they weren't getting many takers and had to move the cargo.  So he asked Emkir to call when the California was lifting again, to decide then.  After that, Emkir told Mikah the Shakhik's Captain was still interested.  Mikah thanked him just before Zimzod asked Mikah if she wanted to do more "zero-g practice"?  When she said she did, they went to his stateroom and locked the door before hunting the mighty zero-g spot.  Emkir next went to engineering, and gave Aali a copy of the ship computer cracking software.  He thought she might find it useful someday too.  Beyond that, and securing the ship, they had a few hours down time and decided to get more sleep.  Aiden also went back to sleep, because he'd felt he couldn't have rested during the return to port.  He set his alarm for 10 am local.  After they docked, Rol also set the armor work aside and hit the rack too.

Terin and Munarshu had been asleep in the Ulir City consulate, after a day of recovery while the ship was returning to the high port.  They'd spent the dark hours of Saturday night trying to beat up an android and find Munarshu's Ident.  The two slept in, hoping the police wouldn't show up again the next morning.  Waking up mid-day, a staffer told Terin and Munarshu the Consulate had gotten messages to the California.  So, they stayed in the building watching local news, avoiding the police, and hoping to get any more information from the Minister or his people.  Still, they did see one bit of interstellar news:
     Mertactor (B262732-B  S  Cp  610  Im  G1 V)               Date: 260-1112
    Following the first successful performance of the "Heavenly Voices Choir" from the Pavabid
    system, system authorities are dealing with continued reaction to the performance and presence
    of the choir.  Protesters interrupted the performance at least once while venue security and
    local law enforcement worked to keep the event as orderly as possible.  While the performance
    tour is hoping to help build a bridge between Pavabid and the outside universe, especially the
    Imperium, authorities do admit security and the reactions in each system visited will be
    interesting to manage.   

All this happened while Terin and Munarshu were unaware their ship was returning to local orbit.  Most annoying, while they'd helped the local police, they didn't get any data on what was learned, and didn't find the Ident.  Or any evidence suggesting the Ident was involved with anything in the office?  Planning to try and connect with the ship through the Scouts the next day, if they didn't get more information from the Consulate, the had two racked out Sunday night.

Meeting To Settle Accounts

     When the time came, Mikah and Zimzod found a driver with a small electric cart waiting to drive them to meet the station master.  Despite the hour, the station master was very pleased to meet with them.  He introduced a number of his subordinates and the station's local in-system defense coordinator.  While that happened one of the assistant directors gave Mikah Munarshu's Ident.  She checked to find it was in perfect working order.  Taking it, Mikah decided the man claiming to be Munarshu had no ID of any sort.  So, unless he could prove he was Munarshu, she couldn't hand over the Ident, nor could she start paying him again for work done.  But, future punishment aside, they sat down with the station master to many congratulations for surviving.  There were also a number of apologies up front, for their mistakes on the details of the blockade runner.  Because of their mistakes, they were very happy to help the crew manage their repairs and other losses.  Part of that had been the waiving of OxyAccounts for access to the station.

The station had also enforced a 20% discount on everything bought on-station for members of the California's crew who'd taken part in the battle.  They would also provide free passage on flights between the station and surface for the time they remained in system for repairs.  Finally, since the port had technically chartered the ship, they were paying each of the crew who'd been part of the battle a full month's salary, based on their position aboard, and based on the highest commercial rates.  That worked out to:
     Mikah: Cr 10,000 ( Captain and Medic )
     Zimzod: Cr 5,000 ( Executive Officer )
     Aiden: Cr 5,000 ( Pilot )
     Emkir: Cr 2,000 ( Computer Officer )
     Aali: Cr 7,000 ( Chief Engineer )
     Rol: Cr 3,000 ( Security )
     Fesic: Cr 3,000 ( Chief Gunner )

They also offered to send crews to recover both their cutter and Munarshu and Terin, and pay off the docking fees the cutter had built up over the past days.  Recognizing the crew would be in-system another month, during repairs to their ship, the station agreed to cover all their food costs on-station.  That covered all food ordered to be delivered to the berth or when 'eaten in', at restaurants.  Finally, they were setting up a concierge office to help the crew find any and all entertainment opportunities they might be interested in, and getting them access to those.  The station would comp all on-station entertainment, while working to find deep discounts for off-station venues.

When Zimzod asked if they'd grant the crew the right to carry weapons, the Station Master said he could extend their Imperial rights on-station only.  He could do nothing on-world or on arcologies which belonged to the dirtside powers.  Beyond that, the Station Master asked if they had any questions?  Mikah's concerns were more about publicity.  She asked if the issues surrounding the Kakishuu had become news yet?  She was told they had informed the media that a ship had broken dock at the port, that it was being pursued by the proper authorities and deputized forces.  They added that those authorities had detained the ship and questioned the surviving crew with minimal casualties.  Mikah accepted that, but asked again to, confirm that their names weren't included in the media release?  When that was confirmed, Mikah was pleased until the port master said there was one 'troubling item.'  As Mikah and Zimzod braced, the man explained that each city had an Imperial consulate, which was much less important than "The" Imperial Embassy.  He then said the port was repeatedly getting calls from the Minister running one of the consulates, in a violation of policy to call the On-world Embassy first.

The Station Master told Mikah and Zimzod the Ulir city Consulate Minister was repeatedly calling the port, asking for Lady Mikah.  That had become a bit disrupting.  The Station Master said the minister seemed to be very put out about Terin and Munarshu's behavior.  Hearing that, Mikah realized this was the same guy who'd sent her the whiny message when they were chasing the rogue.  Mikah nodded and said she'd give him a call.  The Station Master said he would be very grateful, and it would take a load off their comms techs.  As he said this, the Station Master also said they had the Minister's business and personal numbers.  When Mikah heard that, she checked the time and saw it was nearing 5:30am in the morning in that city.  Then, she said, "I'll give him a call right now." with an evil grin on her face.  Despite the fact the station wanted this off their plate, they had an ops tech open the comms line for Mikah and all settled back with grins.  They also made sure they were visible to the comms in her background.

When the bleary-eyed minister answered with a static image, Mikah said, "Hello, this is Mikah Kirlim, Lady of the Court of the Domain of Deneb, Knight of the Imperium, Captain of the Hotel California, and currently under contract to the Port of Equus and the Imperial Navy." in a very formal tone.  She continued, "Might I assist you in some sort of inquiry?"  Mikah didn't have to see what he was going through while the minister worked to reorganize his voice.  He soon came on video too, still smoothing his hair down and having moved to a spot in his quarters with a neutral background.  The man answered, "Yes, Your Ladyship!  Thank you for contacting me back Your Ladyship!  I've been trying to reach you because there may be a problem being caused in Ulir City by some of your crew members."  When Mikah asked what sort of problems, the minister said, "Well, I'm not quite sure.  But, I understand that they are interacting with the local police department in a rather unsanctioned way.  And while I do not have the resources to investigate that, it seems to me that they are breaching local laws.  And, ultimately, when it all comes out, they may have breached Imperial laws."

Mikah very quickly realized this self-important and very judgmental man liked to hear himself talk.  And after she heard him say, "interacting with the local police department", she knew he was just a blowhard.  Mikah wished she could simply fire a missile at the man's location, and Zimzod said, "OK.  So, what you're operating on is a whole lot of speculation?" in an accusatory tone.  Turning his attention to Zimzod, the man very politely asked who he was speaking with?  Zimzod looked down his nose, answering, "Sir Zimzod Egosion, Knight of the Imperium, Landholder in the Regina system and Executive officer of the Hotel California, currently under contract to the Port of Equus and the Imperial Navy."  While listening(and quietly enjoying), the port officials could feel Zimzod's tone drive the temperature of the conversation down a few more degrees.  This showed on the minister's face and he answered, "I'm sorry your Lordship!  But I must admit that, yes, I am, at this point, speculating on the possible outcome.  But this is what I am trained to do."

Zimzod nodded while seeing there was just too much stuffing in this guy's ears for him to hear reality calling any time soon.  Zimzod said, "OK.  Not a problem.  We got somebody coming to pick up our crewmembers and they'll be out of your hair shortly."  Hearing that, the minister carefully asked, "Under whose authority?"  His tone suggested the minister had some 'regulatory concerns'.  When Mikah said, "The starport", he again carefully asked, "They've made a new Ident for him?" with his tone still suggesting he might see some regulatory issues.  Mikah decided this was taking too long and snapped, "We found his Ident and they will be bringing it with them."  Missing her tone completely, the minister was very pleased as he gushed, "That's wonderful!  How soon will you be arriving to pick these gentlemen up?"  Mikah considered saying they had to observe a 30 day quarantine, because they'd been slumming with the local diplomatic staff, but knew that was too big a kick in the teeth.  Mikah said, "We'll have them out of your hair by the end of the day.  We haven't spoken to them yet so...  There you have it."

The minister said that, as far as his staff had communicated to him, the men were sleeping.  Mikah smiled and said, "Oh Good!  I'll wake them up." as her smile expanded even more.  Pleased with his interpretation of how the interview had gone, the minister happily said, "Thank you very much Your Ladyship!"  After that, Mikah cut the line and Zimzod suggested they pull a prank on Munarshu.  When she said, "Sure!" Zimzod asked the port officials, "Now, he has to have his Ident to leave the planet.  But he doesn't actually have to be the one holding it to get off world, does he?"  When they said he didn't, Zimzod suggested they give Munarshu's Ident to station security.  Then, they could send a team to the surface with it.  But, instead of giving Munarshu the Ident, they'd then use it to clear things with the Ulir and Equus authorities while placing Munarshu in cuffs and "detaining him" for the trip back to orbit.  When Zimzod suggested they treat Munarshu badly while he was "in custody", Mikah said they shouldn't actually hurt him.  Zimzod agreed that hurting members of the crew was her job.

With that decided, the port officials began making Zimzod's plan start to happen.  Zimzod helped with a call to the down-port, authorizing port workers to recover their cutter.  At the same time, Mikah called Terin's comms.  Having had nothing to do since Saturday night, He and Munarshu had spent Sunday laying low and recovering from lack of sleep.  Still, it was very early in the morning Monday when his comms woke and annoyed Terin.  Answering, Terin wondered 'What now?'  Looking at the caller data, Terin was surprised and answered, "Hello Lady Mikah!  Glad to see you're back."  Mikah said, "Yes, we're back." and Zimzod asked, "What have you two been up to?"  Terin said, "Nothing, really."  Zimzod asked, "Where's Munarshu?" and Terin said he was sleeping.  Zimzod nearly growled, "Wake him up."  Nodding, Terin went to where Munarshu was sleeping and gently kicked his leg to wake him.  When Munarshu saw Terin standing over him, he nonsensically snapped, "Get your dick out of my face!"

Terin said, "It was my foot, but thanks for the compliment."  Terin also turned his Ident to face while Munarshu whined, "What do you want?", stretching out the last word.  On the Ident's screen, he and Terin could hear Zimzod ask, "Hey!  What have you two been doing?" again.  Suddenly realizing what was happening, Munarshu woke up more as he said "Oh!" in surprise.  Munarshu then asked, "You're back?" while trying to get his brain in gear.  When Zimzod replied with the obvious, "Yeah, we're back." Munarshu said, "I hope everything went well and everybody's safe?"  Zimzod said, "Uh.  Yeah." before pausing.  Zimzod then continued, "We're gonna be sending somebody to pick you up.  And they will pick you up right where you're at, and bring you back to the starport."

After Zimzod told them their ride would get there in a few hours, and they said they were glad everyone got back unscathed, Mikah told them Rol and Zimzod had been shot.  She also told them about the crew of the Skygge Sturek.  That brought down Terin and Munarshu's spirits.  When Terin asked about the cutter, Mikah said the port was recovering that too.  Terin said they'd be waiting at the consulate and the call was ended.  Zimzod made sure the port authorities knew to treat Munarshu "real bad", but not really hurt him.  And the port master assured Zimzod he had no problems with the plan, which had already been set in motion.  An aide had already received the Ident and shuttled it to port security.

After that was done, Mikah started looking ahead, to the coming month in system.  She asked the port officials what they'd go see or do as far as tourism?  Like all locals who'd rarely explored all sites of interest local to their homes, the executives only came up with the standard answers.  Some of those were the very tours and sights the crew had seen in their day on-world, four days before.  When they mentioned the undersea safaris, Mikah thought that sounded good.  After another hour, the conversations wound down and, around 6am, Zimzod suggested they grab an early breakfast.  Mikah answered, "Why not?  It's free." and they left.

Off To The Big House In The Sky

     After the call, Terin and Munarshu were too excited to sleep and organized what little they had before watching vids.  Eventually, the woman manning the night shift came into the room and said, "Oh!  You're awake.  Good!  The Minister should arrive shortly and some people from the starport have landed.  I understand they have some sort of documentation which should allow you to return to your ship."  She continued, "They've told us you may have an extended stay on the highport, because they've not yet found your Ident."  Eventually, the Minister arrived and delivered a speech to them, down the line of his nose, about the evils of getting involved with the wrong elements.  When Terin said, "I didn't get involved." the Minister said, "You obviously did.  You are with him."  The Minister's air of superiority was such they didn't even bother trying to do anything more than ignore his "wisdom".  It wasn't very much longer after that the team from the port arrived at the consulate.

After they were let in, Terin and Munarshu saw it was a four-man team wearing port security uniforms.  The same kind of security folks Munarshu had tried to climb into a vent to escape.  And Munarshu couldn't run in the consulate.  One of the men looked like a possible officer, or NCO, while the others just appeared to be big bruisers.  So, while Munarshu and the bruisers eyed each other, the group's leader walked over to the Minister and showed him something in a case of some sort.  Doing that, he also whispered to the Minister deferentially.  After the Minister nodded his approval, the leader said, "We'll be taking custody of the prisoner from here, Sir." in an accommodating tone.  Of course, that caught both Terin and Munarshu's attention!  Munarshu literally squeaked, "What?!" while the three bruisers moved up to grab and man-handle him.  They forced his hands behind his back and locked them in manacles!  Terin stood there shocked while this happened, but waited because there was nowhere to run.

The Minister watched with obvious pleasure as the spacer got what he saw as the man's payback.  This continued while the leader of the security men came to Terin and said, "Sir Knight, your Captain wonders if you will accompany us back to the station with the prisoner?"  This made it clear to Terin the hard treatment was only being directed at Munarshu, and wouldn't target Terin.  Relieved, Terin said, "I will be more than happy to".  Terin then broke out his Ident and started taking vids of Munarshu's treatment.  Terin also said, "Let me just grab what little I have with me."  Pleased things were going smoothly, the security man led his party while showing all deference to Terin as a Knight, and the bruisers dragged Munarshu along.

Before quite leaving the consulate, the leader then told the bruisers, "I'll escort the Knight to the ship while you take care of the Health and Immigration requirements."  His tone struck a near perfect quality of foreboding.  The bruisers then stopped dragging Munarshu along, giving him a second to wonder what that meant?  Then, one of the bruisers very quickly pulled out an air-multi-hypo while the other two held Munarshu.  They then delivered a number of "vaccines".  During the action, Terin made sure to keep everything 'in frame', filming the entire process.  The procession then got moving for real, and Terin did his best to film over his shoulder while they left the consulate and boarded a transport outside.

While Terin was settled in a comfortable seat, he got to film Munarshu being "boarded" into a holding box on the back of the transport.  The chains of his manacles were connected to a snap on the wall of the truck before a bruiser climbed in with him.  The man sat in the one installed jump seat, assuring the prisoner wasn't injured in transit.  Not comfortable, but not injured.  During the entire passage, neither Munarshu or Terin had any idea of Mikah and Zimzod's involvement, and simply wondered if this was a normal reaction to having one's Ident stolen in the Equus system?  Soon after the vehicle got moving, the bruiser with Munarshu checked his chrono, looked at Munarshu and said, "So, the first effects should be appearing fairly soon."  Feeling a sudden hollow in his gut, Munarshu asked, "What effects?  I thought you just gave me a..."  He was cut off by the guard, who cheerfully said, "Oh.  We have to clean you out before we get you on station."

That added a dimension to what he thought had been butterflies in his stomach.  All Munarshu could do was sputter, "What?!" in a shocked and panicked voice.  The man calmly told Munarshu he'd been given fast-acting laxatives.  And, it didn't look like this guy specialized in carefully removing his garments before the drugs took effect.  This didn't bode well for Munarshu's weekly laundry.  Soon, Munarshu began feeling a bit feverish and the guard said, "You'll be needing this about now."  He started to hand feed Munarshu water from a bottle.  Despite the humiliating circumstances, Munarshu did his best to suck the water from the bottle, because it made him feel better.  Entering a berth for the port's ship in the downport, Terin was comfortably led into the passenger cabin with little chance to do more than film Munarshu being near-dragged into the craft's cargo bay.  When Terin asked to ride in the bay with Munarshu, he was told it "would not be appropriate".  When Terin asked if they could set a camera on Munarshu during the flight, he was told that would also be inappropriate.

While Terin was settled in complete comfort for the ride to the station, Munarshu had his manacles re-positioned so his hands were in front of him before the chains were raised (with his hands) to a clamp on the wall.  After that, the security man carefully cut away all of Munarshu's clothing, politely sparing him the issue of soiled laundry.  Displaying perfectly timed actions and calculations, it was very quickly after that when the laxatives began to have their "full" effect on Munarshu.  The ship lifted as Munarshu felt the waves of response as his body reacted to the laxatives.  Those were assisted by the gravitational effects of the launch.  Midway through the flight, they gave Munarshu more water to keep him from dehydrating.  After that, the man put on elbow-length gloves and started roughly but efficiently connecting various tubes to Munarshu's body and "flushed him out" completely.  That was followed by pressure washing Munarshu and the bay repeatedly with ice-cold water.  The last process Munarshu was subjected to was to be sprayed with a foam, from the neck down, that sterilized any agents still on his skin.  It also had the side effect of removing all his body hair from the neck down too.

Eventually, the man caring for him slowly dressed Munarshu in that famous paper clothing which prisons gave to their various clients.  After that, it was announced they were arriving and Munarshu had his manacles removed from the clamp and transferred so his hands were again behind him.  The vessel settled in its berth and they frog marched Munarshu out of the ship.  At the same time, Terin was led out of the ship's passenger cabin and they both arrived at a small electric cart as Terin gaped at Munarshu's "new look".  Terin could only guess what they'd done to the engineer, and was very glad they hadn't done the same to him!  Getting close enough, Terin said to Munarshu, "That's a great fashion statement.  You should wear that more often."  Trying to find any way to save any face, Munarshu asked, "You know what the difference is between you and me?"  When Terin said, "I didn't fuck up", Munarshu said, "I make this look good" in a tone suggesting there was anything positive about his new look.  Sadly, all Munarshu's comment did was make him appear even more deluded.

Then, Terin watched as they finished frog marching Munarshu to the cart and used zip-ties to attach his manacles to a back bar on the cargo pad back of the cart.  Terin was settled into the front passenger seat as the leader of the port security team took the driver's seat.  IN the back, two of the team members sat, one on each side, sandwiching Munarshu.  The fourth man grabbed a second cart to follow them.  Munarshu noted that man appeared to have a handgun, just in case.  After they'd landed, the driver comm'd his HQ to say they would be arriving at the California's berth in twenty minutes.  The HQ called the crew and Mikah had everyone out waiting for Munarshu's arrival in chains.  They watched while the cart arrived with Terin sitting up front in comfort, holding a drink in his hand as he rode.  On the vehicle's back, Munarshu was chained to a bar in prisoner's paper whites and held by two security agents.

When they pulled up, the leader of the team stepped off the cart and moved to hand the package they'd shown the minister to Lady Mikah.  Terin dismounted as the man turned to him and said, "Sir Terin, thank you for flying with us." and gave the Knight a salute.  At the same time, the zip-ties were snapped off the manacles and Munarshu was made to stand up, off the cart.  His "escorts" half-lifted Munarshu by his armpits and half-dragged him to stand before Mikah.  The team leader formally said, "We return this package to you.  The prisoner is yours now."  Mikah said, "Thank you.  Please release his bonds."  With that, the security team released the manacles and let Munarshu stand easy as he smiled to them and said with foolish bravado, "Thank you sir.  May I have another?"  Obviously, this was all about appearances to Munarshu, who hadn't figured out it was the substance of his actions, not how he thought he looked to others, that mattered.  Standing and watching, Rol answered Munarshu's question, "Yes you may." in a voice that promised swift fulfillment if Munarshu pushed it.  The team ignored him because they had other criminals, and stowed their gear on the carts before driving out of the berth.

Terin stepped up , reported in and gave a brief description of what he was able to catch on vid.  Terin complained that the security team had separated them while Munarshu went through the "white wash" in a cargo bay.  Mikah told Terin that was fine before turning to Munarshu and happily asking, "So?  Did we learn any lessons?"  Again, hung up on appearances, Munarshu lifted his chin and said, "Yeah.  Local constables can be kinda cool."  Mikah simply turned to Zimzod and asked, "Who gave this guy to us?"  Zimzod reminded her Munarshu had presented himself due to a help wanted ad the ship had posted in the hiring hall in Rhylanor.  Mikah shook her head and decided they had to screen people they found that way much better.  Emkir said, "On-line services like that should only be used for porn", and got a laugh.  Then, with the show over, Mikah ordered Munarshu back to work and Zimzod told him to get dressed.  Aali simply said, "We'll talk later."  From where he stood and the ship sat in the berth, Munarshu could see the fried and blistered dorsal surface of the hull.  That gave him something to react to other than his situation.

Before the crew wandered off to their interests, Mikah told them about the port's offers and reminded Munarshu he was still grounded.  That added to the fact Munarshu didn't have an Ident anyway.  Munarshu went to his stateroom to get dressed and planned to order replacement clothing when he got the chance.  After dressing, Munarshu grabbed a foil pack for chow and went to work in engineering.  There, Aali made it clear he was on punishment detail, and directed him to work his way into the accessible spaces inside the ship's hull to detach electronics and cabling running to all the hull plates to be replaced.  In the meantime, she'd handle regular maintenance and housekeeping after checking why Emkir had been calling her?  Emkir had gone to the ship's lounge to review the result data from his filter program, but decided he needed chow first.  So he called Aali in engineering to suggest they go out and have the most expensive free breakfast they could.  After she called him and they went out, Aali also decided to see if there was anywhere she could have her clone-scan updated?  She didn't find a facility that could do that but figured she'd spend more of the morning looking.

Rol decided to simply relax, since he'd still very recently been shot, and had wounds to recover from.  Fesic decided to take a short walk to the nicest local restaurant he could find.  Flashing his Ident, they got a top notch breakfast for free before coming back to study the cargo sealing system.  Back on the ship, he studied until lunch.  When Aali and Emkir returned from their breakfast, they did bring a doggie bag for Munarshu to enjoy.  Emkir and Aali also returned to their tasks until lunch.  Aiden decided to have chow then spend the morning shopping for any sealed combat armor the shops on-station had.  After hours of searching, Aiden was as disappointed as Fesic had been while searching for HUD-gear.  Aiden found all manner of underwater gear, but there was little in the way of space-borne combat gear.

Terin first uploaded the video he'd captured of Munarshu's incarceration to the ship's computer before making sure everyone but Munarshu got to see the file.  He didn't plan on leaving it available for long, since he hoped the event had made its own impact with the engineer.  Watching it, Mikah said she wished he had vid of Munarshu falling asleep and the original robbery in the club.  Aali and Emkir watched it with Mikah before they went to chow, and Aali said Mikah might be able to get the video from the police, or the club.  When Rol referred to Terin's vid and suggested Munarshu got off easy, Terin reminded Rol that he couldn't see or film what happened in the cargo bay?  He pointed out that Munarshu went in wearing his own clothes and "not very ruffled".  And came out in paper prisoner's clothes and scrubbed almost white.  After the viewing, Terin went to breakfast and returned to the ship to work the rest of the morning with his stent.  Mikah and Zimzod booked an undersea "extreme" sea monster safari, which they got at a steep discount, thanks to the port's concierge.  That cost them Cr 2,000 each for a full day's adventure along with two meals.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

    Munarshu: Detaching cabling in tight spaces
    Terin: Working on his stent
    Aiden: Returning to the ship after shopping for sealed combat armor
    Aali: Handling maintenance work and housekeeping and looking for a scan facility
    Emkir: Reviewing his results from the filter program in the ship's lounge
    Fesic: Studying the cargo sealing system
    Mikah: On an all-day underwater sea monster safari
    Rol: Relaxing and recovering
    Zimzod: On an all-day underwater sea monster safari

Next: Sharing Deals And Distractions