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Breakfast Stories

     By 11:30pm the night before, the entire crew had gone to bed and the ship was locked down.  Due to the late night the day before, Munarshu's alarm didn't go off until 6am.  Then, he went through his normal morning routine as he grumbled knowing Lady Mikah had scheduled them to return to the amusement park.  He was also a bit off his usual self as the late return and early planned departure meant he had not had his usual full night of sleep.  Still, he left the berth in the bay and returned to the ship, which hadn't been prank-locked again this morning.  In the lounge, Munarshu brought the light levels up and made himself some caff and a foil pack.

As he ate, Munarshu planned to work in engineering until it was time to leave, because he was still on punishment duty.  Munarshu was nearly done eating, before heading to engineering as Rol woke at 7am and began his morning routine.  By the time Rol was in the lounge to cook a breakfast for the crew, Munarshu was busy at work.  Rol was not cooking long before Mikah, Zimzod, Aiden and Fesic arrived for chow.  And once Rol served the food, ate and cleaned up, he started doing weapons maintenance until it was time to head to the park.  As he had started with that, Aali, Emkir and Terin arrived for breakfast.  As everyone gathered and ate, Mikah asked "So what was everyone's favorite ride yesterday?"  Aiden joked, "The bathroom." as Emkir said, "Watching Munarshu turn green."

Fesic suddenly asked, "Can we go on the ride where Munarshu ended up in handcuffs and paper again?"  As he said this, all the others in the lounge broke out in hysterical laughter.  When people could talk again, Fesic asked, "Why exactly did that happen Terin?"  And Mikah asked, "Yeah!  What happened down there?"  Terin simply shrugged and said, "Someone fell asleep in the club."  Wanting more, Mikah said, "OK...  You know we did get a call from the minister of an Imperial Consulate and they were very concerned about you guys being involved in something illegal.  So, what's up?  What happened?"  Terin said, "We were helping the police on a little...thing."  Still not satisfied, Mikah prompted, "Ok?"

Terin continued, "Well, the police found the thief who stole his Ident went to an import/export company briefly.  And then he booked a flight to the station before he disappeared.  And the police thought that they were involved with making phony Idents or something like that.  And they asked us to help out with their investigation because they couldn't get an order to raid the place because they had nothing on them.  So, we, with some police specialists, went in and looked around."  Mikah quietly noted how casually Terin swept the act of illegally breaking and entering into a simple casual statement.

As the crew took that in, Terin continued, "And, we ran into a fully sentient AI running the place."  Obviously disbelieving Terin, Fesic asked, "What's that?"  When Terin elaborated that it was a 'fully sentient Human-Replicant Android AI', Fesic angrily said, "OK, if you don't want to tell us, just say so!"  This reaction was natural as such devices were highly illegal in much of the Imperium.  The cost of making such an android would also be so high that no one could make one without it being noticed.  And no one would build one in order to have it run an import/export office!  Terin chose to ignore Fesic, continuing, "...which we engaged, and the other police came in and took it down.  And we discovered they had no connection with the Ident theft at all."  Emkir leaned forward and asked, with a grin on his face, "So you're saying you couldn't take it down without help", also not really believing Terin's story entirely.

As Mikah laughed, Terin said, "Being the only weapons I had were a sonic shock-gun and a .38 caliber revolver, I just kept blasting it against the wall until the real cops came in and shot it to death.  Munarshu tried to get into hand to hand combat with it, so I was blasting both of them and knocking them both on the floor."  This caught Mikah's attention and sense of humor as she started laughing.  Aali joked, "This keeps on getting better", and Emkir asked if Terin took any video?  Terin said, "No, I don't, unfortunately.  I was too busy shooting the thing."  When Rol asked how many shots Terin fired, Terin admitted he had no idea as he was just pulling the trigger to keep the thing down or off balance.

When Rol asked if those shots targeted Munarshu, Terin said he'd been aiming at the 'droid, but he was forced to admit Munarshu had been in the area of effect of all the shots.  This only got more laughs from those in the lounge.  When Rol finally asked if Terin had been shooting at Munarshu and Terin said he was not, Rol asked, "Why not?"  That got even more laughs from everyone there.  Again, as things calmed down, Terin told them the sonic weapon fired an area affect sort of like a cone.  And he admitted he was not at all concerned about Munarshu and was just trying to keep the android down.  Munarshu just happened to be in that area of affect each time.

Chuckling but still not believing the bit about the android, Fesic again asked, "So what did Munarshu do to get arrested?"  Scratching his head, Terin admitted, "I don't really know." in a confused tone.  He continued, "We were waiting for the folks you said were coming to get us.  And they came in and slapped him in handcuffs and treated me with the utmost respect, so I started taking vids.  I've got vids.  Once we got out to the shuttle, they moved him into another chamber where he got his...paper....attire.  And I wasn't privy to that.  I was not allowed to ride in that compartment."  Still certain they were not getting quite a bit, Fesic asked, "But he didn't do anything to get arrested, so that they had to put handcuffs on and everything?"

And Terin admitted he did not know as Mikah and Zimzod shared silent smiles.  Terin did say they had said something about contamination and a number of people simply groaned, "ohhhh" as they let their assumptions take over.  Reacting to what he imagined they were thinking, Terin quickly said, "They decontaminized him very well." and got laughs over the word 'decontaminized'.  His comments jived with the video he had shown them in the viewing party once he and Munarshu had been returned to the ship, so Mikah accepted that until she could talk to Munarshu as well.  Fesic felt it was complete bullshit even if it was funny bullshit.  But elements of Terin's story, like the AI android were beyond ridiculous.

When Fesic challenged Terin about that and that such a device would be wasted on running a warehouse, Terin admitted such an android was illegal in the Imperium thanks to the Shudusham Accords.  Aali joined in, asking "But running a warehouse?  Seriously?"  Fesic doubled down on that asking, "Why would anybody have illegal artificial intelligence running a warehouse?  Not to mention the cost?"  Terin started to get a bit frustrated as he almost snapped, "I don't know.  That's above my pay grade, man.  I was just there and saw it."  Nodding, Fesic said, "I cry bullshit.  I don't think any of this happened.  And you guys did something to get him arrested, because he came back with handcuffs on and you didn't.  He must have done something that they didn't like down there."

Terin just shrugged again and said, "Maybe losing your Ident is a more heavily punished crime down there than we thought?"  Rol jumped in, saying, "There's another possibility.  They might have liked Terin more than Munarshu."  That got a round of laughs as everyone in the lounge had to admit that was possible.  Especially since they'd had a chance to get to know Munarshu.  They let the subject drop while Aali, Mikah and Zimzod mentally lined up questions to ask Munarshu and Terin asked where he was?  When Mikah said she didn't know, Aali said she'd assumed he was working in the hull spaces, disconnecting cables.  Terin asked why as Rol asked, "You put him in there again?"  Aali said, "No, apparently he went in there on his own.  He continued following his orders I gather."

Mikah said, "He likes it in there", thinking back to Aali's report on him trying to crawl into the ducts when station security inspected the ship back in Rhylanor.  Fesic asked if he kept a sleeping bag in the duct?  As Mikah said "Maybe", Terin suggested they call him out so they could get moving to the park.  When Mikah agreed, Aali comm'd Munarshu to get him to return to the lounge after cleaning up.  Aali reminded him his attendance was required by "She who must be obeyed".  Munarshu agreed and said he'd be there as quickly has he could get out of the space he'd crawled into.  Twenty minutes later, Munarshu passed through the lounge, headed to his stateroom to clean up as Mikah called for a transport.  And once the crew was assembled and the transport arrived, they left to get to the park by 10:30am.

Relaxation And Horror Stories

     Once they'd returned to the park, the crew set about re-visiting their favorite rides from the day before and exploring everything they'd missed on the first day.  Some restrictions applied, like some of the crew not being allowed to use the shooting gallery except to perform shooting exhibitions, for which they'd not get any prizes or pay.  Still, they were able to relax and enjoy the experience as their concierge got them onto every ride they were interested in.  By dinner time, the crew had covered everything they wanted to and about half of them were getting a bit tired.  At times during the day, both Mikah and Aiden had become nauseous and "lost it".  Mikah nearly decorated Fesic and Aiden nearly barfed on Rol.  Fesic even got a little "splashed".

In addition to this, the crew had a lot to eat.  Emkir, Zimzod, Terin and Rol had beer with their food and Zimzod and Emkir got a bit sloshy.  Nothing the crew and their concierge could not help with, but by dinner time, they'd made a bad name for themselves.  As he realized the concierge was not as "gung ho" on their visits, Fesic kept making small comments about the next day's visit to really get even with her for talking Mikah into coming back for a second day.  While he enjoyed the park well enough, Fesic was not a fan of doing amusement parks when there were better ways for adults to spend their time.

Finally, the concierge got them shoe-horned into one of the best eateries on the park for a last big dinner before they left for the ship.  Mikah was a bit put out that they didn't get a private room but they were at least not in barfing distance of anyone else.  After dinner, a transport was waiting and they were back at the ship by 8pm.  There, Aali began checking the correlations from the search Emkir had set up while Emkir went back to work on decoding the captain's log from the Kakishuu.  Rol relaxed and did some reading as he was still recovering from his wounds.  Feeling better after some time to relax and have dinner, Aiden also read a bit before bed.  Mikah planned to watch the news and did light reading while Zimzod did stent work.  Fesic joined Mikah watching the vid.

Terin also did stent work before hitting the rack and Munarshu asked for permission to use the comms again.  When she asked who he was calling, Munarshu said he wanted to try calling the police captain again.  Munarshu said, "it concerned Our little incident down below" and Mikah asked him for his take on what happened?  Especially because Terin had been more than a bit vague.  When she asked what happened, he asked "Which part?" and she said, "The whole thing".  Glossing over the theft of the Ident itself, because he was out cold, Munarshu started on a detailed point by point description of events as Mikah, Fesic and the others in the lounge listened.  He covered notifying Mikah and going to the Consulate, the Captain's theories on why the thief had gone to the firm and the request they help investigate it as they had issues getting a warrant.

Munarshu described how they went into the place as customers and mapped the office, figuring out there might be a hidden room.  Munarshu also made a point of Terin's cowardice when the captain asked them to help break into the office and use a link to Munarshu's glasses to investigate the place.  Aali looked up from the unlocked terminal she was working at and asked, "Munarshu, did your parents have any children that lived?" and got laughs from everyone but the junior engineer.  Still, it got Munarshu to move on from his whining, which had turned to Terin's willingness to let him get hurt while Terin filmed it.

Munarshu explained about finding someone working the first night and coming back the next hoping the office would be closed up.  Munarshu then described the second night's activities in detail, agreeing largely with Terin if in much more detail.  Munarshu described as the fight evolved, the police moved in and they discovered the man was actually a fully sentient Human-Replicant AI Android.  As his points lined up with Terin's description, Mikah was even more bothered by the claimed description of the android.  So was everyone else in the compartment including Fesic.  Mikah said, "OK, I'll tell you what Munarshu.  I will call your captain.  And you and Terin will stand by for this call."  With that, she comm'd Terin and disturbed his concentration and stent work session.  Once Mikah told Terin to come to the lounge as they were calling the captain, Terin squared away his work and did as he was told.

Hunting Answers And Scalps

     When Mikah called, the first thing that happened was that she got the man's voicemail.  She then called the precinct and introduced herself, asking for the captain.  When the admin officer asked what the call was regarding, she said it involved the incident her crew were involved in a few days before.  The officer said the only data he had was the Ident theft and when Mikah said that was not the issue she meant, he tried to direct her to the precinct commander.  Mikah pushed to speak to the captain himself as Munarshu suggested this issue would not be on the police blotter.  Munarshu also suggested she try the lieutenant and she asked for that officer.  At the same time, Mikah noticed that Fesic was leaning in and even appeared to be eavesdropping on the conversation!  Looking at Fesic during a pause, Mikah asked "Yes?" in a 'what the fuck are you doing?' tone.  Fesic answered, "I'm sorry.  Did you want privacy?"

Mikah told him, "Not necessarily privacy, but I don't appreciate you sitting in our laps while we're on the comms.  Fesic responded, "All you had to say was back off and I'll be glad to."  So Mikah looked at him and said, "OK, back off." before turning back to the admin officer.  The officer excused himself and apologized before saying that Lady Mikah was obviously outside nobility and the proper procedure would be to speak to the precinct commander, which she made it apparent she did not seem to want to do for some reason.  When he made it clear she needed to follow procedure unless she could give a reason for ignoring the rules, Mikah said she'd follow up with the Imperial authorities.  Comfortable with that, the administration officer thanked her very much and the call ended.  As this happened, Munarshu checked to see if the captain had replied to the message he'd sent but there was no reply.  It was almost as if the police were ignoring him, as they had started to do once the captain had told him he was no longer part of the investigation when they were on-world.

Following that, Mikah called the Imperial Consulate and got the minister, who was very pleased to be getting a call from Her Ladyship.  She told him she was trying to reach the police captain and lieutenant and felt the local police were stonewalling her.  The man was aghast at their treatment of Imperial nobility and he asked what she needed to know in the event he could help her?  She said she was investigating what happened with her two crew members and needed to speak to those officers.  The minister got a special look of delight on his face as he asked if this had to do with determining the punishment Munarshu and Terin would be receiving?  Shrugging and giving the man exactly what he hoped for if it would get him working on her behalf, Mikah said "Yes" enthusiastically.  He then promised to immediately contact the precinct and try to get both or one of the officers on the comms for her.

As they waited, Fesic said that it was rather odd the police had no record on the events Terin and Munarshu claimed had happened.  He clearly did not believe the android part, which was the hardest thing to believe, and thought the whole story was "bullshit".  Angry he'd been eavesdropping and sticking his nose where it did not belong, Mikah pointed out she'd interviewed them both separately and their stories matched.  So she was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being.  When Fesic said they'd had plenty of time to collaborate, Mikah asked why they would?  As she said that, Emkir looked at Fesic and asked, in a very pointed tone, "Fesic, when did you become the ship's inquisitor?"  A number of people quipped, "That's Rol's job."

Fesic defensively said, "I'm just concerned, as a member of this crew, when someone comes aboard who has been decontaminated, telling us lies about what happened that caused him to be decontaminated..."  Munarshu broke n then, saying "I don't know why I was decontaminated." and Fesic answered, "Well, I'm just trying to say that I'm trying to find out if our health is in danger at this point."  In the tone of a senior officer, Emkir said, "Well, Fesic.  Don't worry.  When you need to know, we'll tell you what you need to know.  Right now, the captain is handling it and I would let her handle it."  His tone was that of an officer letting a lower ranked person know they were treading on regulation-violating grounds.  As Fesic said, "Certainly", Mikah said "Thank you Emkir."  Emkir shrugged and said, "Just being an Admiral." with a smile.  Mikah said, "We can use a little more of that."

When Terin then asked if they wanted to involve Imperial intelligence regarding the AI, Mikah said she preferred to keep things at this level for the time being.  As Terin made it clear he didn't trust the police, and didn't want to get involved, the comms started to buzz.  When Mikah answered the comms, she was disappointed to find she was connected to the precinct commander.  He greeted her and said he'd received word from one of his admin officers and from the Minister of the Imperial Consulate that she'd been asking about a captain and lieutenant under his command?  When Mikah said she wanted to talk to them about the investigation of the shipping company, the commander checked a datapad and confirmed the Ident theft but said they had no record of anything else, as the admin officer had.

Mikah said she wanted to speak to the officers to get information on the activities which the precinct did not seem to have data on.  The captain said he would speak to his officers and find out what he could and let her know.  After she thanked him and he comm'd off, Mikah considered that the captain and lieutenant may have not even told the commander what had happened and may have been running their own side operations.  Happy with the current level of investigation, Mikah said they should leave it at that.  Terin went back to his stent studies while Munarshu asked for permission to call the scout base.  When Mikah asked why, he said he wanted to ask the names of the scouts lost aboard the Skygge Sturek, to see if he knew any of them while in service.

Once Munarshu called the base, they wanted to know why he wanted to know the names of the dead and under what authorization he was asking?  Munarshu said he wanted to write letters of consolation to the family of those he knew.  But the scouts felt that he would have known of their assignments if Munarshu knew them that well, and would not need to ask after the fact.  As a result, anyone he might have encountered who was crew on the ship were so remote an association that it did not fall to him to write any letters of consolation.  When Munarshu pushed a bit more, the scout he was talking to simply shut him down.  After giving Munarshu permission to make his call, Mikah went back to reading medical journals.

Not long after Mikah settled in, the comms began to buzz and she answered it to find it was an officer in the "Imperial Liaison office for the Equus planetary government".  Once they confirmed they were speaking to Lady Mikah, the officer said the issue she had been investigating with the police department of Ulir City had been taken as an Internal matter of the Government of Equus.  She was also politely told it was none of her business any longer.  Annoyed at what she now saw as stonewalling, and feeling the possibility of an advanced AI Human replicant was something significant, Mikah hung up on the man and considered her options.  On the Imperial side of the system government, she could contact the Equus' Imperial Governor, the office of the Marquis or the Senior Admiral of Imperial forces in-system.

Looking for the most law enforcement power she could find, Lady Mikah opened a comms to the Imperial Navy base and had her call routed to the office of the Commander In Chief, Equus forces.  Once she was connected, a Lieutenant Commander asked why Lady Mikah needed to contact Admiral Sir Kegil Aashishge di-Kagkik?  As the Admiral was said to be unavailable, Mikah said she needed to speak to him as her crew had discovered highly illegal technology on-world.  When Mikah's comments hinted at the type of tech, saying her crewmen "fought it", he raised an eyebrow and asked for clarification.  Mikah explained the reports from Terin and Munarshu, admitting they had taken part in a "somewhat illegal search" with the Ulir city police.  She continued that, during the event, they encountered the illegal tech.

When he asked her to explain the nature of the technology, she said their independent testimony suggested it was a sentient Human-Replicant Android AI.  That caused the Lt. Commander to pause and consider her words a moment.  When the officer spoke again, he asked her to hold on while he locked the screen leaving Mikah waiting.  The screen soon came back and Mikah saw six subdivisions as other officers had joined the call.  Mikah could see the Lt. Commander she'd been speaking to had been joined by Admiral di-Kagkik.  With them was an Admiral whose brass suggested some kind of engineering command.  The rest were lesser line Admirals with combat commands who would likely be Admiral di-Kagkik's junior commanders.  As she took this in, the Lieutenant Commander handled the introductions.

Mikah called Emkir and Rol as this happened, and they stepped up.  After the naval introductions, Mikah introduced Admiral Meshrumiikiim, War Hero Major Rol Kaihvos as well as Sir Terin and Citizen Munarshu.  Mikah said she felt she had been stonewalled by the local police and planetary government.  When the Admiral asked for more details on Lady Mikah's claims, she had Munarshu recount his fifteen-minute-long recitation of the events on-world, warts and all.  Once that recitation was done, and a few questions were answered, the Admiral said they had what they needed and would take it from there.  Mikah thanked him and was happy to let the Imperial Navy handle anything more.  Once they comm'd off, Terin joked about making friends on-world while Mikah agreed they should not go down-well any time soon.  Still, Munarshu asked Mikah to step into the med-bay, for privacy from Fesic, and asked if they contact IRIS?  Mikah shot that down, saying the Navy had things in hand.

Once done with Munarshu, Mikah decided to do some light reading for another half hour before hitting the rack.  Munarshu played his intellect building mind games until he went to sleep.  Terin went back to his stent work while Emkir went to work with Aali until they went to bed.  As they worked, Aali and Emkir continued to confirm that all the names, titles and other data disappeared from any reference they had after the year 820 TI, which Aali had pointed out coincided with the Psionic Suppression wars.  As this got more and more firm, Aali decided to bring the issue up with Mikah, who had been reading and was planning to hit the rack soon.


Yet Another Late Evening Twist

     When Mikah saw Aali approaching with a troubled look on her face and Emkir in tow, she asked "What's the matter?" knowing it could be nothing good.  Aali said, "Well, we've found ourselves a mystery."  Mikah just asked, "Another one?" in a mix of disinterest and annoyance.  Aali then reminded her of the fob she'd bought in Frank's Army and Navy store in the Mora system some months back.  Mikah did not remember the fob but remembered the shopping and they moved on.  Showing Mikah the fob, Aali said, "We've found some hidden files on a chip inside it.  And there's some really strange data in the files."  As she said this, Mikah just chuckled sadly.  As Aali described the assets of an entire chivalric order, she also explained that they all seemed to disappear from history around the period of the psionic suppression wars.

Getting directly to her interests, Mikah asked, "OK, is the money still in the account?"  Aali said she and Emkir had not consulted any off-ship resources in their investigation because of the explosive nature of the period in history.  In fact, she said they would not investigate off-ship without Mikah's permission.  And they weren't asking for that because they weren't sure what they'd be able to handle things if things went badly?  Especially because the Equus world government had reason to be annoyed at them already.  At that, Mikah looked around and noticed Fesic was not paying them any attention at all.

Turning back to Aali, Mikah said, "Well, I know the Psionic Suppression Wars were three hundred years ago..."  Aali simply showed her the names and places as well as their notes on when those people and places were last mentioned in the histories they had.  And Mikah saw not only people, but noble titles, starships, military and civilian bases, ports and facilities, operational formations and companies.  All of them, with links to or part of this "Order of the White Star", which they appeared to be unable to find a trace of.  Mikah first said it was very interesting but it was ancient history and she'd prefer to let sleeping dogs lie until they got back into friendly space.  She was referring to their growing issues in the Equus system.  Mikah said she considered Regina a friendly port, but Rhylanor...not so much.

Emkir said, firmly, that anything involving the Psionic Suppression Wars was something they wanted to investigate themselves before getting any government involved, friendly or not.  He suggested the crew quietly investigate this, and Mikah said "Not the entire crew", with another glance toward Fesic.  She told Aali and Emkir she would let them know who to work with in the morning, but told them to keep it quiet and report back to her.  In any case, Mikah said she wanted to let things sit until the morning and asked, "Why does everyone bring me these things at night?" in an exasperated tone.  She also planned to tell Zimzod about the situation in the morning, because she was tired and wanted to sleep.

That hope was almost shattered when Rol walked up saying, "Captain.  About the menu..."  He stopped as he stepped up and saw the look on her face and said "Never mind" as he moved away.  As he did this, Mikah took her comms off line and went to bed before something new happened.  Fesic also went to bed about that time.  Aali and Emkir went back to their research for some time before going to bed themselves.  The rest of the crew worked at their personal interests until they all went to sleep.


Coffee With A Question

     Once Munarshu got into the lounge in the morning and had a mug of caff, he began researching the Import/Export firm on his own.  He planned to spend a few days working on the research, in addition to looking for more data on their holdings outside the Equus system.  At similar times, Fesic and Rol finished their morning routines and got to the lounge to find Munarshu at his research, which was not yielding very much information at all.  The engineer quickly found basic descriptions of the firm which included listings of their out-system offices, but the data was minimal and mostly Business to Business listings.

As Rol asked if Munarshu had eaten, Munarshu said he had not and apologized again for shooting the Knight.  Rol just shrugged it off and started cooking as Fesic went into his morning meditation.  By the time he finished his meditation, Munarshu and Rol were eating and Terin was joining them.  Terin almost got himself killed by calling out, "Good morning gentlemen!" in a voice much too chipper for the others.  As Munarshu finished and cleaned his plate before returning to his terminal, and Rol began cleaning up the galley, Aali and Emkir arrived.  Emkir asked Terin how the computer class was going as he arrived, and Terin said he'd just started it but planned to do more that day.

Terin pointed out that he already had some of the skill sets to build on, now that they were done with the amusement park.  As they discussed Terin's plans, Aali noticed Munarshu working on a terminal and not on engineering.  Aali said, "I see you're working on a terminal, which is good because it'll be easier for the people we hired to manage the cables when they're doing their work."  She then told him he no longer needed to crawl into the ship's null spaces to detach the cables.  As she did so, Aali checked out what she could see on Munarshu's screen and asked him what he was up to? Munarshu said he was researching the Import / Export company they'd helped the police invesitgate downwell.

He told Aali he was researching their wider network in the event they represented a wider threat than what they had seen locally.  So far, he'd only found offices in the Rhylanor, Lanth and Lunion systems.  Aali chose to take that to mean he was looking out for what hazards they could present to the crew as their planned itinerary passed through two of those systems.  Overhearing the comment, Terin asked, "Since the Imperial Fleet is involved already, why don't you let them handle it?"  His comment showed he hoped to get completely clear of the situation now they were out of it and back in orbit.  Of the opinion Terin was thinking much too locally, Aali commended Munarshu for looking for hazards in the Lanth and Lunion systems.  Munarshu also said the android had captured their faces and his name, and there was no way of knowing where it might have broadcast that data.

Terin was very skeptical of that, saying, "Then it got blasted in the head." as if that meant it could not have sent any data anywhere.  Munarshu reminded him the android had called the police after that, but Terin wasn't convinced and Munarshu let the navigator's opinion lie where it was.  But Aali blessed his efforts and told him to keep at it.  As this went on, Rol was in his stateroom doing stent-work while Fesic had gone to the cargo deck to work on the sealer system.  After his conversations with Emkir, then Munarshu and Aali, Terin decided he'd do three hours of stent studies before switching to his computer class.  Aali and Emkir sat down for breakfast and were eating when Aiden arrived from his stateroom.  As they greeted him, Aiden filled a plate for himself.

After small talk and breakfast, Aali planned to go back to to her research.  She planned to work with her stent but expected Mikah to interrupt her to ask about the research once she woke up.  So, checking more of the hits seemed safe.  Emkir agreed with her and joined her.  Once he finished chow, Aiden went into his stateroom to do stent work.  Around 10am, Mikah woke up on her own and was very pleased to have not been woken by some outside "force".  In bed with her, Zimzod had much the same experience as their bodies reacted to shared subconscious cues and woke them both at the same time and pace.  At about 10:15, they staggered out of the stateroom dressed in each other's robes for coffee.  Those in the lounge, now used to their habits, were amused by the robes.  After grabbing caff from the autoServ, Mikah looked at Aiden, Munarshu, Aali and Emkir and asked, "So where is everyone else?"

Aali said, "Oh, they're off doing their own things, studying courses, doing stent-work.  We're engaged in what we talked to you about last night."  Mikah nodded as Aali continued, "Munarshu is doing research on that company where the unofficial non-raid happened."  She continued to explain how it might be good to know about the company's other locations before arriving in those systems.  Mikah agreed, but told Munarshu not to go "too far", recalling the customs inspection triggered by Aiden's research.  At first, Munarshu was confused, but Mikah clarified that she didn't want him leaving a trail behind himself.  Sadly, Munarshu's computer skills were "user only".  Happily, he had only been able to really access very public networks and data, so there were no footprints to hide.  But, as Munarshu said he'd try, and Aali said they should perhaps have Emkir backing Munarshu up, they all had the sinking feeling they should have done that "before" Munarshu started his research.

After that, Mikah asked if Aali and Emkir would join her in engineering after she and Zimzod made themselves a pot of coffee.  As Emkir begged a cup of coffee, Aali considered if they should go down to engineering and "prepare" before Mikah got there?  Mikah agreed to share the coffee with Emkir, though Zimzod pointed out supplies were getting low and couldn't be replaced in that system.  As Zimzod began the brew and Munarshu began to react, Mikah said, "OK, give the puppy some before he humps somebody's leg."  After the coffee was made and served out, Mikah, Aali, Emkir and Zimzod went to engineering.  While Zimzod had no idea "what" was happening, he followed because he knew "something" was happening.

Talking Without Aluminum Foil Hats

     Once they were alone, Mikah turned to Zimzod and said, "While you were communing with the force last night, these two came to me.  Of course, at the end of the night."  The last part, she said acerbically before she paused dramatically.  Then she continued, "With another mystery!"  And that was said in the tone of a grand announcement.  When Zimzod asked, "What was the mystery?" Mikah said, "I'll let them explain it." as she gave the floor to Aali and Emkir.  With that, Aali explained the whole story over again from where she bought the fob in the Mora system.  As she spoke, Emkir sparked up a terminal and pulled up a massive display of data.  Once they could see it, Zimzod read over the list as Aali finished.

When Zimzod asked, Aali repeated that every name, item or location disappeared from history by the year 820 TI, which coincided with the Imperial Psionic Suppression War.  Talking that over, it was clear they didn't know anything about why the order disappeared at that time?  It could be the order suffered from a battle with the psions, and were hunted down, prompting the Empress to go after them.  It was possible that was covered up as the suppression wars began.  They just didn't have the data needed and Aali made it clear they hadn't connected their research to any off-ship resources.  Zimzod made a few curses about psions then said it appeared to him they'd hit the end of what they could learn from the information they had.  Because of that, he suggested they had to find a resource off the ship to connect to.

Emkir stepped in saying, "We might want to look through the database and see if there is anything near us, on our flight path, and investigate it ourselves.  Before we connect to any outside computer systems and put somebody wise to the fact we're looking for something."  Zimzod agreed with that and Aali asked Emkir if they'd yet found anything on or near their intended flight path.  Emkir said he'd have to set up a search for that, as they hadn't been looking for that correlation in the data before.  Mikah told Emkir and Aali to work with Rol and Terin, and stressed that they should keep this completely under wraps.  They didn't need anyone finding out that they were searching for something, or worse yet "what they were searching for" until they knew more themselves.

When Mikah made it very clear she didn't want the word to get out while they were in the Equus system, Emkir reminded her the system was an Imperial member state.  She reminded him they were not likely to remain very friendly with the crew after her conversation with the in-system admiralty.  She also mentioned that the Imperial authorities might not look too kindly on what they were doing too, if Aali's suspicions worked out to be correct.  After a silence, Zimzod changed the subject, asking "So, what kind of company is this that we checked into, besides an Import/Export company?"  The question caught the others by surprise as they changed mental gears, and Emkir said the company was a completely different situation and had nothing to do with the mystery order.

Zimzod pointedly said he was changing the topic as he said, "It seems to have something to do with that ship we shot the shit out of."  Mikah said, "Well, Munarshu is looking into it right now, and he's looking up where their other locations are.  So, in case we end up in any of those locations, we know to watch our backs."  Beyond that, they knew nothing about the company except that the thief visited them before leaving the city.  Outside that, the only other thing that stood out was the android.  Mikah also said she had notified the Imperial Navy and was betting they were looking into the issue.  Zimzod was good with that and figured they'd all hear what Munarshu found out in time, so he considered looking for Rol.  But then Zimzod suggested that he and Mikah work with Emkir and Aali to find if there were any locations in the identified hits which were near the Equus system, or on their path of travel.

As they gathered around the terminal Emkir had opened, the Admiral began setting up some basic SQL searched of the data they'd already captured form the first search.  Emkir explained he would set up a second search, to comb through the whole Order database later, but he could do the already identified records quickly.  The work was quick and they waited only briefly before they had a result on-screen.  But as they read, none of them was impressed and some were annoyed.  The results indicated there had been a base in the Fulacin system, which was five parsecs away, back in the Rhylanor subsector.  They could approach the system either by jumping back to the Rhylanor system first or by travelling coreward along the spinward main.  Either way, it was not in the direction they planned to go.

Mikah and Aali were annoyed because they recalled an incident happening in that system in 1105.  Two years before the Fifth Frontier War began, the Fulacin system had been fully owned by the MagnetoDynamics corporation.  In 1105, the far trader March Harrier landed on the mainworld after a misjump, seeking shelter in an old Octagon society facility until help from MagnetoDynamics could arrive.  But once they found the shelter, they also found a hidden passage which led to a covert facility!  On investigation, the crew learned that the secret base was a hidden cache of supplies and included two small class starships.  Two small class Zhodani warships!  The base, and ships, were all destroyed in the events that followed and the whole thing hit the news.  After the war broke out, it was thought the leadership of MagnetoDynamics in-system might have planned to open the system to the Zhodani.  That would have let them resupply before striking in towards the Rhylanor system, three parsecs away.

When Zimzod commented that the only thing he knew of the system was the "Twilight Peak" legend, that sounded familiar to Mikah but she was not sure why?  Still, the end of the story was that MagnetoDynamics, while disgraced, was still operating elsewhere under heavy investigation and the Marquis of the system, having been implicated, was arrested and the Marquisate declared vacant under the command of Duke Sir Leonard of Rhylanor.  As Mikah and Aali reminded Emkir and Zimzod of this, they all agreed that any remaining facilities in that system would likely have been found by Imperial forces and may even have been found and used by MagnetoDynamics and the Zhodani.  Either way, it was likely to be too dangerous showing up in the system and just "looking around".  They could bet on the Imperial Navy having a very heavy security presence there.

Following Old Threads And New

     As they talked about the issue, Zimzod told Emkir to keep looking for something close to them or along their itinerary.  When he suggested this "Order" might even have been Zhodani Knights, Aali shot that down directly.  Once they left Aali and Emkir in engineering, Zimzod went to the ship's lounge and asked Munarshu about where Rol was?  Munarshu said he thought Rol had gone into his stateroom.  Figuring he could talk to Rol at lunch, Zimzod planned to do some PT and gear maintenance.  Mikah surprised him by putting a call out ship wide asking who wanted to do zero-g training in the berth?

Aali responded, saying Emkir would finish setting up his searches and they would join in.  Fesic also said he'd take part as he secured the cargo sealer.  Munarshu chose to keep digging, though he hadn't found anything more than simple business to business or local advertising data.  Eventually, everyone but Munarshu joined in on the training, securing their other activities.  During the training, Emkir and Aali were able to quietly let Rol and Terin know they would be working with them on a project to be explained later.  Once the training got under way, existing skill began to tell.  As a result of his inexperience, Terin bowed out early.  Fesic didn't last much longer than Terin, and went back to the cargo sealer.

Aiden went back to his stent work after he bowed out early, as Terin had.  While Aali also bowed out and went back to her research, Emkir held up well as Rol and Mikah enjoyed it and Zimzod received a number of bruises.  Once she'd sat down at the terminal, Aali interrupted Terin and let him know she needed his help.  When he asked what was up, Aali had him come to engineering, where she could show him the research.  As Terin worked with Aali and the others went about their other activities, Rol eventually excused himself from the zero-g practice to prepare lunch for the crew.  When the rest gathered for the meal, Emkir was able to tell Rol he'd been selected to work with Aali, Terin and him on the project.  Now that everyone involved was notified, they set up a security protocol so any of them could call up the data from any ship-board terminal.  That would allow them to work in secure and private spaces.

During lunch, Zimzod asked Rol about repairing his battledress.  Rol said he' been planning for that and needed to do diagnostics in order to find out how extensive the damage was and find any components which might have been damaged.  Zimzod said that wasn't a problem and moved his armor to a place where Rol could test it after cleaning up from lunch.  As they ate, Munarshu reported that his hours of research could be summarized in a few words.  All the publicly available records Munarshu found on the Raseheniwe Import/Export company were the sort of basic file that curious investors or business customers might want.  So he got their addresses, including those offices located in the Rhylanor, Lunion and Lanth systems.  Munarshu also got a basic description of their operations, which were as contract shippers who didn't operate or own their own ships.

In addition to contact data, Munarshu found basic abstracts describing what services they could provide to the prospective customer.  But try as he might, Munarshu could not find any annual reports, lists of corporate officers or other internal data, largely because the firm was privately owned.  Revealing what he'd found, Munarshu also said that his plans to do more research was limited, but he'd keep trying.  But what Munarshu found told them there were offices of this company in the Lunion and Lanth systems.  One, they were just passing through while they had business in the other.  Mikah just nodded and said they'd keep an eye out.

After he ate, Zimzod went back to his stent studies.  Aiden also returned to his stent-work as Mikah decided to read up on the entertainment available in the city that was the port station.  Munarshu went back to his research as Fesic went back to studying the cargo sealer.  Emkir, Aali and Rol went to work on the data from the fob, looking for something along their path of travel.  While they brought Rol and Terin up to speed, Terin recalled the events of the Fulacin system and the March Harrier.  Discussing what they were looking for, Aali described the steps as finding a place to investigate along their path of travel first.  After that, they would try to investigate any sites they could to see if there were any left-behind artifacts or information that would help explain what had happened with this order?

When Rol asked, "If we do find something, what are we going to do about it?"  Aali said that depended on what they found.  With that, the four settled in as Terin tried to help Emkir sharpen the searches they were running on the data.  The size of that was massive as she had all the data she'd gotten from Duke Leonard's library as well as her own collected histories.  With that, the four worked until dinner while Munarshu was finding nothing new.  At 4pm, Mikah got a call from the Lieutenant Commander she'd first spoken to about the Ulir city AI android.  In the quick call, he thanked her for her actions and information but also told her the matter had been declared an internal Imperial Navy matter.  While he thanked her for her help, the call also made it clear the crew would no longer be involved in the issue or hear anything further about it.

After he finished his five hours of study on the cargo sealing system, Fesic found a gym he could work out in.  Like Terin had, Fesic found he could use the gym for free so long as he signed in and out to allow the gym to bill the port.  He returned around dinner time, and by dinner time Munarshu had realized he was done too.  There was nothing more he could find given his skills.  Once Rol cooked and they all gathered, Munarshu asked if they'd been able to salvage any information from the Kakishuu's computer and was told they hadn't.  Mikah commented with a pout that she'd asked for the ship's name plate but the Imperial Navy had not delivered it.  Emkir said he had a copy of the captain's log but had not broken the cypher on it yet.

When Mikah said "Thanks Emkir" in a 'thanks for nothing tone', he said he'd been busy working on other things.  Mikah just shot a glance at him and said, "Well, break the cypher."  And with that, Emkir turned to Aali with a shrug and said, "Well, I guess I'll work on that other thing some other time."  Aali glumly said, "I guess" though moving Emkir to the code would not slow them down.  His searches were already chewing through the data and he would only be needed to update or modify the searches.  As they all ate together, Rol asked who wanted to go out that night?  When a number of people said they were interested or asked what he had in mind, Rol said, "Let's find a bar."  Mikah's first impulse was to plant her face in her palm as she moaned.  Emkir perked up, saying "Yeah.  Aali and I could have fun in a bar."

As Aali and Emkir giggled at that, Aiden quipped, "Yeah, a little too much fun in a bar." in a disapproving tone.  Emkir winked at Aiden and said, "It's not like we're gonna play Munarshu or anything." referring too Munarshu's little nap.  The junior engineer just remained silent.  Still, Aiden wanted to work on his stent a bit and then read until it was time to sleep.  When Rol asked who wanted to come, Mikah, Zimzod, Fesic, Emkir and Aali said they were in.  Terin said he'd stay home and work on his computer classes.  Once he had his list of tag-a-longs, Rol said, "I'm feeling pretty good so the first round's on me".  Mikah immediately started speculating on the most expensive drink she could buy.  Emkir boldly announced he would not order a pan-galactic gargleblaster for his first round as he wanted to remember enjoying Rol's money.

Once the who was decided, Rol asked, "So, do we want to go to a regular bar or something else?"  Mikah said, "Regular bar" in a tone that beg why there was a question before asking, "What else is there?"  Rol started listing from spacer bars to specialized spacer bars and went on with a small list.  In the midst of this, Zimzod asked if there was a chapter house for their Order on station?  Someone checked and said they had an office, Zimzod suggested they pay their respects there.  As Fesic began a brief look for bars on the port-web, Zimzod reached out to call the Order facility and find out where they were?  When he got in contact with the office, Zimzod was greeted and given a basic in-system packet of information.

The agent working the boards logged the Knights as having visited and told Zimzod to contact them if the crew needed help.  When Zimzod asked, "How much coffee do you have?" he was disappointed to learn they had none.  The Equus system was not as well provisioned as the Rhylanor system as it was largely a "pass through" system.  So such specialty supplies as that were not available in-system.  Zimzod realized he'd need to conserve his supplies better, as his public stock was running low.  Still, Zimzod said the crew were heading out to a bar for the evening and invited the man to come along with any other members of the order in-system and the man told them to check in and let them know where they ended up.  Where they ended up was the result of Fesic's quick computer search.  But since what he wanted could have included a "quick lay", they ended up in a bar which was nominally known as a "spacer bar".  But it also catered to the "adventurous" sort and had a bit of a sleazy feel to it.

Since neither of the couples were looking for a threesome, the only one's "looking" were Rol and Fesic.  So while the couples had their fun, Fesic drank Rol's money and Cr 40 of his own cash while chatting up a girl who turned out to be more of a tourist than an adventurer.  And, after she'd had her thrill as the center of a spacer's attention in the bar, she couldn't make the leap to more intimate adventures.  Fesic was left with nothing but hope and anticipation.  Rol also chased a number of likely ladies, but never "achieved target lock".  In the end, he spent Cr 120 on drinks for the team.  By the end of the evening, even though Zimzod called the guys at the order, they never came to the bar.  While he had no idea how far away the office was, Zimzod assumed they'd never want to go to a bar like that.  As this was happening at the bar, Munarshu was finishing up his research on the ship.  He was now 100% certain there was nothing else he could find or learn about the import/export firm.  He gave up and went to sleep at 9pm, as was his schedule.  Terin worked with his stent and Aiden read until they each decided it was time to sleep.  Those who went to the bar got back to the ship around 11pm.


Another Day, Another Field Trip

     After Munarshu woke at 5, and got through his morning routine he found himself sipping a mug of caff in the ship's lounge at about 5:43.  When he was ready to get on with his day, Munarshu went to engineering to continue reading up on robotics until 7:30, when he planned to go to the galley and get some of Rol's cooking.  At 6:45, Rol was in the lounge to cook.  As he was finishing eating, Munarshu arrived.  When Rol greeted him, they settled into the pattern they'd established with Munarshu saying, "Sorry" and Rol replying, Revenge tomorrow."

With that, recriminations and the other recriminations for 'who shot who and why' were done.  As he ate and Rol was cleaning the galley, Aiden staggered in for chow.  In one of their staterooms, Zimzod woke up to see that Mikah was still asleep beside him.  Slipping out of bed, Zimzod went into the other stateroom to do his morning routine before heading into the lounge for chow.  Done cleaning, Rol relaxed and waited for everyone to emerge from their staterooms, to see who had plans before making plans of his own to wander the port.  To burn time, he turned on the news.  While the news was pretty much the same, without an x-boat arriving from any other systems, a story was announced from Ulir City on-world.

The story covered an Imperial diplomatic mission to that city, backed by the Imperial Navy.  According to the story, the planetary government of Equus was working with the Imperial Navy, and turned over some rather large military submarines to them.  While the operations in the area of Ulir city are on-going, all travel to and from the city have been interrupted until further notice.  As this report played on the news, those in the lounge exchanged glances as they made small jokes about the action.  Once Munarshu finished chow, he completed a three-hour block of robotics study started before breakfast.  Then he moved on to intelligence training.  Aiden finished eating and then watched vids for a bit.  Like Rol, he also watched to see what others wanted to do off-ship.  As Aiden left the table after eating, Zimzod joined the group.  Once he looked around at the few people in the room, Zimzod decided to share out some coffee with them.

Zimzod was nearly done with his chow when Aali and Emkir arrived.  While Aali did her best to ignore the scent of coffee, Emkir had no such controls as he all but begged for a mug.  But for all his hopes, Emkir saw his desires crushed because Zimzod had already put away the gear and fixings.  He did tell Emkir things would have been different if he and Aali had arrived twenty minutes earlier.  As the diners started in, Aiden asked if anyone had anything they planned to do that day and Rol said he was thinking about going shooting.  Emkir asked, "Who're you shooting?" and got a few laughs as Rol said "That remains to be seen" with a challenge in his eyes.  Zimzod broke the challenge when he said he wanted to go, and then Aali and Emkir joined in.  When Rol said he thought everyone should go, Emkir happily said, "Sure!  Let's wake up the rest of the ship."  The challenge was that Mikah was not yet awake, and Zimzod punctuated that, saying "Are you sure you want to do that?"  Rol said that it was the executive officer's job to make sure the captain is made aware of crew activities.  Emkir doubled down on that saying, "I'm just making a recommendation.  You're in charge." with an evil grin.  Zimzod growled, "Fuckin boot licker."

Zimzod quietly went into the stateroom and asked sweetly if Mikah wanted to go shooting?  But as he stood there, she was just fast asleep and he decided to poke her a bit.  That got a "Wut?" from her as she began to wake up.  Zimzod asked, "You wanna go shooting?" and Mikah growled back, "Who?"  Zimzod shrugged and said, "I don't know.  Pick a crew member."  Slumping back down in the bed, Mikah said, "OK.  Give me a half hour."  With that, Zimzod stepped over to the comm-pad in the stateroom, hit the all ship and announced that everyone had to prepare for mandatory fire arms practice.  This woke up Terin and Fesic, who were still asleep.  While Fesic was much more recently used to regular naval crew drills and leapt up, Terin groaned as he looked at his clock and realized it was earlier than he wanted it to be when he woke up.  By 9am, everyone was up, dressed and had eaten.  During the last breakfasts, they talked about the fact that Fesic and Munarshu did not have a right to carry.  They also considered that they could not walk the station loaded down with huge amounts of fire arms even if the Knights did have the right to carry.

As Mikah called for a weapons transport, Fesic readied all of his weapons to be moved.  Munarshu pulled all his weapons as well.  Terin slung the weapon carry box with his gauss rifle inside it over his shoulder and carried his snub pistol on his hip.  Zimzod chose to carry his high-tech gauss pistol while having the carrier transport his auto-rifle, gauss rifle, .45 revolver, .45 semi and snub pistol.  Aiden carried his gauss rifle and snub pistol.  Rol chose to holster his two snub pistols and carried his gauss rifle in its carrying case.  Emkir holstered his 9mm and had the transport carry his other weapons so he could mix and match as he practiced.  Aali also had everything transported except her holstered semi-auto snub pistol.  Mikah wore her gauss pistol and had her laser carbine, submachinegun and gauss rifle transported.  As they all prepared, Terin asked if the ship was paying for the ammunition because he was pretty much broke.  When Mikah said "Awww, We can add it to your debt." Terin said he'd just stay at the ship and study his computer class.

But Mikah told him she would pay for his ammo, because she wanted the whole crew to get practice.  She only had the one condition, "Don't shoot Aiden in the ass.  OK?"  Once they were ready, they headed out to a range Rol had identified as offering a multiple-target Field-Fire Training course.  Because this was a premium service, it was not going to be free and would cost the crew Cr 60 per person after the station discount.  Added to that, the shooter could be tested by lasers, to see if they out-drew the target or would have been shot themselves?  So they all prepared until the weapons transport arrived.  After loading up their gear and watching the transport leave, they headed out.  And were almost there when they came around a corner to be faced by what appeared to be another heavily armed starship crew.  As they stood there looking each other over, Mikah noticed they all had patches for a Free trader called "Shoshama Iigee".  After a pause, she asked, "So.  What's up?"

As the person who appeared to be their captain stepped forward, he asked, "Going to the range, huh?"  When Mikah said, "Yup.  You too?" he said "Coming from the range."  Mikah asked, "How was it?" and he said, "We had fun."  Mikah asked, "Have you been to this one before?" and he said, "Nope.  Just got in-system."  As she asked more information and he said the range was better than some and worse than others, Terin looked for any patches indicating they were Knights or members of a Noble Order, but he didn't see anything.  Lacking that, Terin thought they looked motley enough to be part of a mercenary unit, who would have a license to carry weapons.  They would also be expected to wander around heavily armed because it was their job to be a combat unit.  So it was advertising, where the Knights were asked to arm themselves in public sparingly.  Of course, with the crew of the Hotel California doing their best to lower property values, anything was possible.

When Mikah asked where they had come in from and were headed to, he said they'd just arrived from the Lunion system and point's spinward at the beginning of their morning shift rotation.  So, as they entered their mainday rotation arriving in station-night, they figured they'd go shooting.  As Mikah said they were headed for Lunion after leaving Rhylanor, Terin asked about news from the Lunion system?  Fixing Terin with a look, the man said, "Yeah.  It sucks!  Too many important people there."  Mikah agreed with that viewpoint and told them to enjoy their stay as the conversation wound down.  Once the two groups went their ways, the crew arrived at the range and found them waiting, with the weapons sent ahead racked, loaded and ready.  As they planned to spend half the day there, Aali and Emkir figured on spending a couple hundred credits each.  Most of the crew figured on spending Cr 400 while Munarshu planned to spend Cr 500.

As they geared up, the range managers wanted to know who wanted to kill targets and who wanted to do the field training course?  Everyone stepped up for the field course and paid their Cr 60 as they prepared for the range briefing. As they made their way through the course, Emkir mostly shot the bad guys but missed a few.  Aali missed a few bad guys and shot some innocents.  Rol had a bad day on the range too, and shot a few friendlies himself.  Aiden didn't shoot any friendlies but missed a few bad guys.  He also got thrown off his stride a bit when one of the targets that popped up was Rol!  They quickly found out that as each member of the crew made their way through, the cameras were image capturing them and creating virtual crew members as friendlies.  Mikah dialed up the difficulty more near "real world" and only shot a few friendlies, one of whom was Aiden!  Though she didn't get him in the ass.

When Zimzod accepted Mikah's challenge and left the difficulty dialed up, he literally mowed through all the bad guy targets without shooting a single friendly.  When he came off the course, there were even applauds.  Terin quickly had the difficulty turned back down as he entered the range and managed to do well even if he shot Munarshu, to the laughs of his crew as they watched.  Fesic dialed the levels back up for the sake of his personal pride and managed to get most of the bad guys without shooting any friendlies.  Last but not least, Munarshu lowered the settings before mowing down all of the bad guys without hitting any of the innocents.  In between each of the runs on the course, the others in the crew got to spend some time blowing targets away too, and the crew largely had a good time through the morning.  Once they were done, the crew made their way to the locker rooms to clean up after paying Cr 5 each to have their weapons cleaned before they were transported back to the berth.  There, they would either be turned over to the crew at the berth or, if they arrived before the crew, they would be locked in a locker in the berth and the crew given the lock codes.

Diversions, Surprises and Rumors

     Once done at the range, the crew headed to a restaurant nearby for lunch.  When they talked about what kind of restaurant, Terin joked about trying to find a nice seafood place nearby and Mikah asked archly, "You want to sleep with the fishes?"  Aali joked, "Bottomfeeders are us!"  Eventually, they settled on one of the many generic eateries and the crew shared lunch and jokes about seafood fresh or not.  Due to alcohol bought, that cost Cr 50 with tip, which Zimzod paid.  After lunch, Zimzod and Mikah went looking for a museum, looking for a collection of un-natural items.  Emkir and Aali found Mikah and Zimzod's idea interesting and asked if they could tag along.  When everything was OK, the two couples went off together.  Aiden returned to the ship to watch vids and relax.  Fesic went back to the ship to work on his studies with the cargo sealer system.  Munarshu also returned to his studies.  Terin returned to the special project he Rol, Aali and Emkir were working on before doing stent-work until dinner.  After dinner, Terin planned to do computer studies.  When Rol returned to the ship, he checked the diagnostics he had run on Zimzod's battledress.

At the museum, the couples were able to see a collection of preserved specimens of twisted and "un-natural" creatures which had been pulled from the seas of Equus.  In the giftshop afterwards, they saw the most amazing articulated skeleton of an Equus sea monster.  The skeleton was both mood-lit and mounted with artwork to show an artist's representation of what the creature was believed to look like in life, and also suggesting the internal organs and biology using translucent art.  Both Mikah and Emkir were overwhelmed with the display, which was sadly much too large for any compartment in their ship.  Mikah made sure to take pictures and to buy the x-mail image.  As she did, Mikah saw a collection of cards from other places in the galaxy and found something represented as a "Prayer card" for a "St. Expedite", some representative of an ancient Terran religion which still had followers Imperium-wide.  Liking the idea of speeding things up when she was waiting, Mikah bought the prayer card.  The cost of the museum was Cr 5 to get in and Mikah spent Cr 10 on the cards and a small e-book of the collection.

When Rol checked Zimzod's battledress, he found none of the electronics in the suit were damaged.  That meant there were repairs to be made to the composite as well as the interior suit and the armor's pressure suit and "self-sealing" layers.  He also had to top up the medical systems supplies, which were base elements fed to an internal "maker system" that turned the basic chemicals into the needed medical supplies.  Rol also still had yet to run a week-long diagnostic routine on the suit which was part of its over-due annual maintenance.  As a result, he sparked up a comms and called Zimzod, to update him on the planned repairs as well a getting permission to run the week-log diags.  Zimzod was good with that, and gave Rol permission to head into Zimzod's stateroom to set the armor in its charging station to run the week's diagnostics. After that, he did stent work until it was time for him to cook dinner.  As he did this, Aiden watched vids, including the news.  During his brief check or new stories, he saw the Imperial Naval activity near Ulir city had been completed. All reporting of the event said the Navy had declared it an "internal matter".

As the crew made their comments on that development, the news continued to state there had been no comments from the offices of the Marquis, the Imperial Governor, the Imperial Navy, and complete silence on the subject from the municipality of Ulir City.  Aiden said he was willing to bet they were no longer welcomed on the planet's surface.  Terin checked on the output data from Emkir's search.  As Terin checked the locations for a system near their path of travel, he saw there was a former location that had been in the Darrian system of Ektron.  Terin had always wanted to visit the Darrian Confederation and the Ektron system was not only in the Confederation but two parsecs from the Confederation capital in the Mire system.  It was also three parsecs from the Darrian system itself, home of his race.  Knowing he wasn't likely to visit the Confederation after events with the Darrians in Rhylanor, Terin spent an hour going over locations identified by the search before returning to his stent studies until dinner.  Munarshu returned to the ship and concentrated on his mind game training while Fesic hit the cargo sealing system.

After the museum, the couples started talking dinner and Emkir suggested they find a place where they could get both good food and good drink.  Zimzod and Mikah agreed just before Emkir stressed the "drink".  Once Aali agreed, they chose an upscale restaurant but did not return to the ship to dress for it or store their weapons.  Walking in, the Knights made it clear to those dressed up that "dirt can eat here too."  As they were seated, the four were surprised to find they were being sat right next to a set of tables occupied by the crew of the Free trader Shoshama Iigee. As Mikah said, "We meet again!" they noticed the trader crew were dressed up and minimally armed, presenting quite a contrast to the two couples.  During their dinner, the four shared comments and conversation with the crew of the Free trader until that crew finished eating and left.

As they talked, Mikah and Zimzod learned the Shoshama Iigee was a 200 ton ship whose shorter jump legs let her haul a lot more cargo than the California.  That even let them make a small profit simply hauling cargo for straight transport.  Of course, that was their back up earning as they mostly hired out as troubleshooters.  It turned out that half the crew were Imperial Knights of various orders.  One of the benefits of doing what they did as long as they had was that they'd collected a number of owed favors.  That gave them so much high-powered support that they could sometimes bend the laws to their comfort wherever they went.  Hence their "heavily armed" appearance in the corridor earlier.  The ship's captain admitted it sometimes came up as a problem, but had only done so in a couple of systems.  He didn't seem concerned as he said that.

Zimzod reflected to himself that they were just like the crew of the California, except for the huge amount of favors earned.  While they'd said they were coming trailing from Lunion, the four learned the crew were actually returning from a run to the Five Sisters subsector.  When Zimzod asked, "How are the five sisters doing?" their captain said, "They're bangin'."  It seemed the run was 30% cargo hauling and 70% troubleshooting as the places where Imperial law wore thin was good money space for their kind of work.  When they asked what the California was up to, Mikah told them they had a number of chartered cargo deliveries to make as they headed spinward and a bit coreward.  They shared rumors of that area of space, but it was agreed there were a lot more Imperial forces there as it was the riftward edge of the hot war zone and was still heavily occupied.  There was even a light suggestion you did not want to step on toes to avoid high strung Imperial troopers.

But eventually, dinner was done and the crews headed out, one after the other.  Aali said she and Emkir would cover the Cr 30 in drinks they got on discount.  As they headed back to the ship, they chatted about what they'd learned from the other crew.  Those who were Knights had all worn insignia that they'd remember moving forward and all the orders were groups honored for some class of service to the Imperium.  But the orders were so obscure even Aali didn't know them given the large number of very specialized orders that existed.  By the time they made it back to the ship, it was 9pm and Munarshu ready to hit the rack after playing cards with the others.

A Challenge Back At the Ship

     After dinner on the ship, Fesic asked the others who wanted to play cards?  Munarshu said, "Sure" while Terin said he needed to work on his computer class.  Aiden said he' play but set himself a limit if Fesic wanted to play for money.  Fesic assured him it would be low stakes as Rol asked, "What's the game?"  Fesic said, "Dealer's choice" which got Rol into the game.  While Fesic felt lucky, it turned out that he was the big loser, down Cr 40, after an evening playing.  Aiden was the big winner with Cr 30 while Rol won Cr 7 and Munarshu eked out a Cr 3 win.  When he realized he was actually "up", Rol joked that he might invest in stocks with his Cr 7 winnings.  As they wrapped things up and Munarshu hit the rack, the couples returned to the ship.  As soon as Emkir saw the game, he said "Cards!  Neat!  Let's have some real fun." and prepared to play.  But that quickly, Aiden and Munarshu begged off, especially since Munarshu was ready to go to bed.

Still, Rol said he'd play and Fesic didn't back off.  Aali just settled in to watch.  As Zimzod also joined in, Mikah shrugged and turned on the news.  As the men started playing, Mikah saw for herself the wrap up of the events around Ulir City.  As they played into the night, and despite his skill in gambling, luck won out again and Fesic turned out to be the big loser, being down Cr 30.  Emkir also lost, totaling Cr 20 and it was divided between Zimzod, getting Cr 35 and Rol, who got Cr 15.  Once the playing wound down, Aali dragged Emkir off to their stateroom, where she was sure he'd get lucky.  As Mikah and Zimzod also went to sleep, Terin continued working on his computer studies until he went to sleep.  Aiden also hit the rack after watching vids and he and the rest of the crew also went to sleep.


A Lazy Morning Gets Busy

     Per his normal personal schedule, Munarshu was up and at his studies after heating up some caff by 5:50am.  Just more than half an hour later, Rol emerged to cook breakfast.  Once breakfast was served, Munarshu locked his screen and ate.  Slowly, the crew filtered in as others ate and moved on.  Rol finished cleaning up and went out to wander the port.  By 7:30am, everyone except Mikah and Zimzod were awake and eating or finishing chow when the ship's general comms started to buzz.  After a brief silence as everyone in the lounge looked around in a mutual attempt at "not it", Emkir picked it up as the "acting captain".  Giving his traditional, "Hello, Hotel California, can you be helped?" the very official looking civilian on the other end asked for the ship's captain.  Putting the comms on hold, Emkir comm'd Mikah and Zimzod's room saying, "Oh, Captain, my Captain!"

Mikah moaned as she reached for the comm pad by the bed and groaned.  "Whaat?"  Emkir told her there was an official looking and sounding person asking for her.  When Mikah asked, "Who is it?" Emkir admitted he didn't know, but he said again that the caller looked and sounded official.  So Mikah cleaned up her hair and threw a frock on before picking up the conversation as Emkir dropped off.  Once Mikah answered, the caller said, "Your Ladyship, His Excellency Corven Haflore would like to meet with you."  Mikah knew from the system's Library Data that Corven Haflore was not only the Marquis of Equus, but also held the County of Equus which claimed the Equus, Rhise and La'Belle systems.

Straightening up just a bit as she realized this must be a Seneschalate representative, Mikah accepted the request and asked where she needed to go?  The man gave her coordinates, which appeared to be on the surface, and said, "He expects you and your crew to be on his deck by 2pm."  That woke Mikah up even more as she quickly stole a look at a clock to see it was after 7:40.  Then, she said, "OK.  We'll be there.  What's the dress code?"  She was told, to her annoyance, that the dress code was "Formal".  Once that call ended, Mikah pinged the "All ship" to let everyone know they had to dress up and be on the Count's deck by 2pm.  As he heard the announcement, Terin comm'd Rol because he had just left the ship.  Terin told him to return quickly and explained what was up.  When Rol pointedly asked, "And whose fault is this?" Terin shot back, "Yours, last I heard."  Rol just said "Fine" and began his return to the ship.

The "moving parts" were that they had to get dressed up.  Then, they had to get down-well to the coordinates given.  Then, they'd be put on a submarine and transported where the Count wanted them and they had to be there by 2pm.  So they had just over five hours.  Once she had the time to think of it, they were not rushed but this was an annoyance.  And the summons came in a form that suggested the Count was not happy with them.  Goody!  While this was going on, Fesic's first concern was that he was part of a group commanded to meet with "High Imperial Nobility" and he looked pretty ragged.  So he hopped on a terminal and started looking for a place to get his hair cut and cleaned up.  As Terin overheard this, he asked Fesic, "Dude, when you pee, do you stand up?" in a tone that suggested he was dumbfounded.

When Fesic connected to a salon, they offered him an appointment to have his hair done that afternoon.  As they had to meet with the Count at 2pm, Fesic said that would not work.  When they asked why he needed an earlier appointment, Fesic said he had an earlier meeting.  The salon representative asked if the meeting could be re-set or missed and Fesic simply said "no".  Frustrated, the woman asked who the meeting was with and when Fesic said, "None of your business." he was told they could only have him in that afternoon.  Fesic thanked her and hung up.  He then called another shop which offered him a lunchtime appointment.  Realizing this was not going to happen, Fesic thanked that person and gave up the idea.  As he was on the comms to salons, Aiden called the landing platform's comms code.

When Aiden got a response, he learned the platform they would be landing on was a mobile, floating port which was owned by the Count and operated by the County government.  As a result, it was considered Imperial territory.  When Aiden asked about flight times and restrictions, he was told that, based on the data Aiden gave them, the flight itself should take 45 minutes.  Then the deck crew would secure their vessel as they transferred to a submarine for the rest of the trip.  That would take another 40 minutes.  When asked, he said the platform could easily handle their ship or their cutter.  As he shared this information, they discussed leaving between 11:30 and 12 noon.

When Fesic's look suggested he did not understand Terin's question, the Knight said they had to be "..on the Count's deck by two.  So making hair styling appointments was not going to get them there in time."  At the same time, Aiden was looking for the information he needed to call the platform they'd been given coordinates for and figure out how long the transit would take and what authorizations they'd need to land there.  Once they got the word, Emkir and Aali went to get changed.  Aali chose to wear her order uniform and holstered her semi-automatic snub pistol.  Emkir also went with his order uniform and holstered his 9mm.  Rol dressed in his vilani suit and hung his cutlass scabbard from his belt along with his holstered snub pistol.  He pulled on fingerless gloves before putting back on his lanthanum ring and ran an earpiece and lip-mike from his comms.

Aiden had also dressed in his order uniform and holstered his snub pistol with one magazine of ball and a second of tranq.  Mikah accessorized her tea-length sheer, royal blue gown with her laser pistol, Deneb Domain earrings and lanthanum ring and bracelet.  Zimzod wore his order uniform and holstered his gauss pistol and wore his lanthanum ring.  He also slung from his belt his vibro-cutlass.  Terin put on his best suit and slung from his belt his snub pistol and sword.  He also wore his sunglasses. Munarshu wore his burnt umber vilani-style suit with the jacket.  Fesic wore his one dress outfit and moved an item from his work pockets to his suit pocket.  All those who had executive armor were wearing a suit.


Trips Through Distance And Concepts

     Eventually, they did board the cutter as Aiden powered the vessel up and called the port for flight clearance.  Once the highport cleared them and he filed his flight plan, Aiden called the downport platform and notified them the crew's cutter was on its way.  Then the port began the process of depressurizing the berth and opening the outer doors.  Once that was done, Aiden ran his hands over the controls to release the cutter from the ship and they were free and flying.  The descent eventually took a bit short of an hour, as expected, and the platform came into sensor range and then visual range.  As they got close, those on the flight deck were treated to the view of a truly massive vessel.  When they had been told the platform could handle their 250-ton starship, they did not realize the ship could likely host 50 such craft!  In fact, they would learn her maximum load was a 10,000-ton starship!

Once they were down and the deck crew set about securing the cutter, a deck control officer stepped forward and said the platform's captain had requested they meet with him in his office.  When they met with the captain, those who were familiar with heraldry noticed he was wearing both the Count's badge and another.  When Rol asked, the man told them he was a junior son of the Marquis of the Rhise system.  At least Aali was aware this was interesting, as the Rhise system was a non-industrial vacuum world, long divided between warring factions intent on monopolizing the world's scarce water resources.  After an especially nasty world war in the 1080s nearly included the use of weapons of mass destruction, the Grand Duchess Delphine promoted a Marquis from Equus.  Her ministers used the desperate need for water in the Rhise system to forge a trade alliance.  This granted that nobleman power with the warring factions.

That this son of the Marquis commanded a major personal asset of the Count showed a significant link between the two families.  And since the Marquis needed to regularly and repeatedly engage in negotiations from a position of strength, the fief was also granted a military budget from the Grand Duchess' own funds.  So this link between the Count and the Marquis provided the Count with access to powerful military forces at need.  Still, this officer was a junior son of the Marquis and could only expect to be granted the title of Lord and Knight if not created a Baronet.  As they met in his office, the captain did his best to welcome the crew and, since they were running a bit early, asked them about their travels and about their ship?

As they talked, he asked about the people the crew had dealt with.  But it was obvious the Count expected to talk about nobility within the ranks of the Knights, Barons and Marquises.  He had fewer and fewer questions about their associations as the mention the Arch Duke and Sector Dukes and it became clear that these people of a lesser social class than him had been dealing with members of the sector's high nobility when he could barely claim to have even met some of those luminaries.  And then only perfunctorily, as part of ceremonial events.  It became clear that there were some things the captain saw as significant rewards for embarking on the life of a troubleshooter instead of being one of the lynch pins to an alliance between noble families.  These were obviously things many in the California's crew did not see as rewards.

For the crew's part, they asked if the Captain knew what this meeting with the Count was all about?  He admitted he had no information on that.  They asked him to tell them about the Count himself?  The captain said the Count was a middle aged man and described his personality, habits and interests other than political.  He also said they were lucky he was in-system as he was active in travelling his holdings and managing his fief.  Indeed, he was preparing for a trip to Rhylanor at the moment.  When he said that, Terin said the crew were already aware of what was behind that trip.  This even more showed how little the Captain knew about even local political affairs.  From there, as the captain's pasted on smile reflected the fact that he appreciated the display of a relationship he did not have, they shifted their questions to the landing platform.

Rol asked if the platform could submerge and was told it could not.  Rol didn't say that represented a huge risk as the ship was a massive target in the event of an attack.  When Fesic asked how fast the ship could move, he was told that depended on how she was rigged and what she was carrying at the moment.  When even more questions came up, the captain offered them a tour of the vessel once they returned from their meeting with the Count.  The crew were very pleased with the offer and accepted it happily even as some of them wondered how long a tour that would be?  The vessel was truly a massive piece of engineering.  The meeting also gave them a chance to ask about recreation.  Zimzod had spent a brief moment or two gazing out at the vast openness of the ocean once they landed, as he was used to enclosed and often tight spaces.  Terin asked if they fished off the ship and the captain said he didn't, and considered fishermen a class beneath his.

Rol asked if they had to deal with storms and was told that was a frequent issue.  They discussed the increased friction between the atmosphere and the surface water that energized the air currents.  This was because there were not the mountain ranges and other large topographic contours large land masses and continents had.  Of course, the lack of those provided more of a homogenizing affect, as large mountain ranges created discrete weather zones.  So the sub-sea topography of the ocean floors and their effect on the ocean currents created more of an effect on the air currents that formed surface weather.  When Terin asked about rogue waves, the captain explained that the sub-surface topology of the world did not provide those compression points which forced sea currents to create those conditions.

Eventually the meeting wound down as the Captain and crew better understood each other's worlds and their relationships with the political situation.  The crew were mostly aware they'd accidentally stepped on the captain's toes in their casual comments about their relationship to power.  But that was something they could not fix at the moment.  Still, he was a gracious host as he escorted them out to where his officers had supervised the docking of a transport submarine.  Once the spacers boarded the sub and were secured, they cast off and orders were given to hit flank speed as they were told they were bound for the Count's yacht.  Under way, the spacers were allowed to get up and move around the sub, which included an observation deck whose exterior bulkheads were trans-steel with external lighting, so they could watch the undersea environment around them.

When the chance to tour the sub was offered, Terin asked if they could both tour the boat and spend time on the observation deck?  But the trip was just not that long, so Mikah suggested they do the tour on the way back to the platform after the meeting.  Still, there was a tour on the way out and Fesic went for that along with Aiden, Rol, Aali and Emkir.  Zimzod especially enjoyed the observation deck during the trip along with Mikah, Terin and Munarshu.  While Zimzod enjoyed the vastness of the view, the vast and open water reminded Munarshu of his homeworld.  As advertised, they began the docking process forty minutes later.  Most certainly not a flat-top, this vessel was large and imposing and also sported defensive gun and missile emplacements.  The yacht was also shadowed by a small flotilla of defensive escorts. The yacht also maintained its own miniature port, which could handle seven sub-vessels.

As they docked, the captain of the sub called the crew onto the upper deck and explained to them the very precise procedures by which they'd be heralded aboard the yacht.  After the boarding passage was set in place, the individual Knights would be heralded aboard.  The couples would then be heralded aboard next.  Sir Emkir and Lady Piirirshu would precede Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod and her Ladyship will be followed by her two attendants.  Munarshu and Fesic were both told there would be a number of items they'd be expected to help move onto the yacht as they boarded.

After everyone had boarded, there would be the formal greetings before the crew settled in and the Count addressed them.  Once the procedure was explained, they waited for the boarding passage to be secured.  After that was done, Aiden was heralded aboard, followed by Terin.  As each moved aboard, the rest watched as they were checked and processed by the Count's security team and moved to where they were expected to wait.  When Rol was called, he was not only called by his title as a nobleman but by his military rank and with recognition of his award of the Starburst.  Once the reading of his titles and awards was done, a Lady from the Count's court stepped forward to escort him to where he would wait.

As Aali and Emkir were called forward, Fesic and Munarshu were handed the items they would move across to the yacht and hand off to crew there.  Once Aali and Emkir were in place, Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod were called.  As they crossed, Munarshu and Fesic followed, two paces behind as befit attendants.  While the team checked Fesic, they removed from his pocket what looked like a wrench.  Taking that from him, they said he'd get it back when he left.  As they boarded, the Count personally came forward to greet Mikah and Zimzod.  With the greetings done, the team were asked to follow the Count as they went to a circular stairway and descended into the yacht.  When they reached the intended level, they followed the Count into a den where he told them to sit and relax.  This was easy as the room seamed very well appointed, but not so easy in that every exit seemed to be manned by an armed guard!

Once they'd settled, the Count said he was sure they were wondering why he called them downwell?  As everyone waited, he said, "To get very much to the point, I've had a report from the Imperial Navy that your people discovered something very interesting in Ulir city."  When Mikah said "Yes", he started to ask which of the two crew had been involved when she interrupted him to say it had been Terin and Munarshu.  Looking at his datapad, the Count said, "You would be Sir Terin."  Into the pause, Terin said, "Yes, your Excellency."  Then the Count continued, "And you would be Mr. Sidigur?"  Munarshu nodded and said, "Yes".  With them identified, the Count asked them to explain, in their own words, exactly what they encountered?

Terin started, saying, "It was and extremely human looking AI android.  It walked, it talked, it blinked..."  Into the pause, the Count asked, "So you would say it was convincing?"  At that, both Terin and Munarshu emphatically assured him it was "very" convincing.  Terin admitted, "We didn't even know it wasn't human until the lieutenant shot it in the head."  Munarshu said, "Actually, I just thought it was a man who'd had enhancements implanted until we saw its insides."  There was another short pause after which the Count gave a 'well shit' sigh.

After another pause, the Count said, "Well, the thing that you don't know is that, after you notified the navy, they investigated.  But the authorities in Ulir city have made almost every trace of this disappear.  The only indication your story might be true is because the import/export company you reported does exist.  Additionally, the description you gave of the interior of the office matches that of the actual office.  And where you might have looked up the name of an existing company to create a hoax, it is the opinion of my intelligence people that you would not know what the interior of the office looked like to that level of detail."

When Fesic said he didn't believe them either, the Count ignored him and continued.  "While my staff and I feel this is enough to believe you, the Admiral went down personally with his people and forced their way into the indicated locations to investigate without any explanation.  Without knowing anything about what we knew, the locals still had everything cleaned up.  So we have this problem, because we have your testimony that they had this device working in an import/export office.  It wasn't running the office as a computer as far as you know, and you couldn't determine if it was doing anything else.  Nor could we find anything else.  And the only evidence we have that it even existed is your testimony."

As they were all left in the pause of that statement, Munarshu asked, "Would it be possible for your technicians to scan the memory of my digital glasses?"  When the Count looked askance at him, Munarshu explained that the police had used a link from his digital glasses so they could guide him as they explored the offices.  While the police may have removed the files, an IT team might be able to recover the files.  Shrugging, the Count said anything was possible.  He gestured to one of the security men in the room and the trooper took Munarshu's glasses and left the room.

As the guard left, the Count asked, "How familiar are you with Feudal Technocracies?"  Terin said he was not only raised under such a government but his father was a politician too.  The others said they each had varying degrees of experience with that kind of government at some level from bottom to 'less than the bottom'.  So the Count reminded them that any feudal government functions only with the strength derived from the relative power of its feudal levies.  If one of those levies developed the might to topple another one of the levies, it can have, interesting ramifications for the entire structure.  As the Count said this, some in the room recalled that his family had only taken control of the County in 1010, due to an opening created by the Fifth Frontier War.  So it might well be that the County was not yet stable.

Count Corven said that now, as best they understood it, a significant amount of extremely advanced tech has fallen into the hands of a faction who will use it for social advancement.  And not just on-world advancement.  He specified, "If they can't use it but can trade it off-world for something that might gain them control of their sector of the world, or even the entire world, then the traded technology might cause off-world or even out-system problems.  As a result, the Count told them that, based on the word of Sir Terin and Mr. Sidigur, we have sealed off all trade with Ulir city.  All trade goods in and out must pass through Imperial Naval scans and investigations.

When Fesic murmured, "That's a lot of fish." the Count said, "That's a lot of a lot of things.  But we feel it is needed, as we need to make sure this technology does not get off world.  Additionally, we need to see if we can back-trace it to find out where it came from?  Because..."  At this point, it looked as if the Count was literally out of words to describe what he needed to say.  But he continued, "Who the fuck runs an import/export through that kind of an AI?"  Aali jumped in first, saying, "We wondered that too."  Terin asked if they'd talked to the police lieutenant and captain and was told they were in Imperial custody already.  When Munarshu asked, "And what do they have to say about it?" the Count said, "Nothing you need to be concerned with at the moment."  This, again, reminded Munarshu he was a very small wheel in this machine, there to provide data.

When Terin asked about the workshop, to be sure the Count's people found that, the Count said they'd cleaned out the office and taken everyone in the company into custody.  They cleaned every space in the office, top to bottom, and found no sign the android existed.  When he said the closet was empty, Terin guessed the police had cleaned it out and the Count said they figured the municipal government did it.  At that point, Fesic chimed in again saying, "Or, there's the possibility these two are lying." indicating Terin and Munarshu.  The Count's look suggested Fesic wasn't listening and said, "As I said, they certainly could have looked up any company in an address book.  But there's no way they would have known the details of the interior of the office without having been there to explore it.  And I'm fairly certain that this gentleman would not have volunteered his glasses if there wasn't the possibility that something would be recovered."

Getting The Details

     As Fesic still had a skeptical look on his face, the Count also reminded Fesic that Munarshu would also have known that the data storage would have been filled with older data if he had lied.  And that would be a dead giveaway he felt Munarshu would not have risked.  As the gravity of the risk Munarshu took sunk in, Fesic turned to Terin and Munarshu in surprise and said, "Holy shit!  This android is real?" making it clear he really had not believed them until that point.  When the two men answered, "Yes" in a tone that begged where he'd been the whole time, Fesic found himself without any possible answer for the first time.

Terin very pointedly said, "Before this, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it on the floor, and beating the shit out of him" as he pointed to Munarshu.  Ever concerned about his reputation, Munarshu said, "It never touched me." and then admitted, "You saw to that.  Thank you."  As this played out, the Count was somewhat amused as he'd seen various versions of this among his staff and the Admiralty and could admit to some level of it in his own reactions as the situation developed.  Still, the Count explained that under the circumstances, they had to bring Terin and Munarshu in and examine what they knew directly.

Once the two men agreed to tell what they could, the rest of the crew were told to relax and enjoy the lounge as much as they could.  At the same time, Munarshu and Terin were led to another compartment aboard the yacht where they did everything from sitting with an artist and describing the android to intense and repetitive questioning.  There was as little stress as could be controlled and both men were given food and drink and time to recall as they needed.  Of course, at every single phase of the process there were two armed guards present, standing and staring at the wall.  They appeared to be concentrating very much on not intruding on the process as the Count brought every resource to bear in getting to what Terin and Munarshu had experienced.

Because he was not an engineer, Terin's interviews had lasted less time than Munarshu's.  The Count also returned once Munarshu was back with the crew and he thanked them and the crew for their cooperation.  He also made sure they understood that the issue was completely classified.  And since they were part of a very small and completely controlled number of people who knew about it, any leaks would result in a hunt that would certainly take them down.  When Munarshu pointed out that there was the chance the company itself was involved and that they had more offices, the Count happily said, "Oh, we're aware of that." in a tone which suggested they did not want to know what would come next.  And it suggested ships had already been dispatched.

When Terin again said he was glad to help out, the Count stressed that they were the only people involved who were testifying "willingly" on the subject and they needed corroboration of certain facts.  At that point, Munarshu turned to Rol and said, "Sir Rol, perhaps you can get the others to tell what they know?"  The Count asked "What others?" in a suddenly concerned tone and Munarshu told the Count Rol might be able to make the other's detained talk.  When the Count asked what properties Rol had that would make someone surrender information, Munarshu simply said, "He keeps claiming he has ways of making people talk."  The Count just smiled and said, "I have people who can make people talk.  I have people who specialize in making people tap dance while they're singing."

With that, the Count thanked them again and let them know that things might be a bit heated on-world and crew visits to the surface might not be the best course of action for the future.  After that, there was some small talk as the crew said it was a nice world and the Count said it had hidden gems.  Mikah said she'd bought one of those and there were some jokes and more small talk until the crew were dismissed.  Once the Count turned away, members of his staff led them to the berthing area, where they boarded a submarine to return to the platform.  As he boarded, Munarshu was told that they would return his glasses to him once they could.  While bothered by that a bit, Munarshu knew better than to raise an issue when they were not sure on arrival if they'd survive.  On the way back to the platform, those who missed out on the engineering tour and wanted to see it took the walk.  The others either relaxed or watched the ocean during the trip back.

When Terin and Munarshu talked about the questioning, Terin made it very clear his process more or less matched Munarshu's except that he could not answer technical questions.  Once back at the platform, the captain greeted them and offered the tour of his vessel again.  And the crew enthusiastically accepted the offer.  The offered tour would take only two hours because they had access to command level transports and no one got in the way of the captain and his party.  Still, the vessel was large enough that they spent significant amounts of time moving from compartment to compartment as they visited key sections of the ship's engineering, command spaces and select representative compartments to give a better idea of life aboard.  He even offered them dinner in the officer's mess, which they enjoyed as the crew met with the vessel's senior officers.  Finally, they loaded onto the cutter and headed back into orbit.

By 8:30pm, the crew were back aboard the ship and Mikah saw there were messages on the comms.  When she checked, at least one of them was from an Imperial Navy command.  Checking the message, Mikah found it contained encrypted files for both Sir Terin and Munarshu.  They were all thumb-print secured and the two were to receive their individual files in private, unencrypt them, read through them to confirm their veracity, thumb-print sign them, re-encrypt them and send them back to the naval account.  When they went directly into their staterooms and got to work, each of the men found the documents were extremely detailed.  Many of the details they included were things that were amazingly detailed and some things Munarshu didn't even recall having said, but must have as they were recorded.

At a certain point, he assumed they added in details they'd gotten from others they were "questioning".  Even room dimensions were included, showing that the investigators must have measured the crap out of the office space and included that data into the men's descriptions.  As they each spent an hour working on the paperwork, most of the other crew relaxed and watched the news.  Still, when Emkir said, "Let's get out of these glad rags!" everyone agreed and there was a general run to the staterooms to change into more relaxing clothes.  Zimzod, who found his robes comfortable, simply stowed his weapons.  Once he finished and sent his paperwork, Munarshu racked out.  Eventually everyone was sleeping or watching vids in the lounge.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

    Munarshu: Asleep
    Terin: Watching vids in the lounge
    Aiden: Watching vids in the lounge
    Aali: Having fun with Emkir in their stateroom
    Emkir: Having fun with Aali in their stateroom
    Fesic: Asleep
    Mikah: Having fun with Zimzod in their stateroom
    Rol: Asleep
    Zimzod: Having fun with Mikah in their stateroom

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Next: Killing The Deal