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Killing The Deal

Organizing Ways To Waste Time

     From 10pm the night before, those still awake faded to sleep.  With weeks to go before the ship had to be moved to dry dock, Aali decided she'd spend her time in the coming week working on getting the resets and other post-jump work done.  That way, once the repairs were done, the ship would be ready to take on the new cargo and move out.  This would leave Emkir largely in charge of researching the hits which came from the fob, and finding any correlations which led to systems near their planned path of travel.  In her spare time, Aali planned to hit the gym and get some workouts given the increased amount of restaurant food they were getting.

Aali also planned to catch up on some of her personal reading.  When Emkir asked Rol to start up morning hand to hand classes again, she planned to take part in those.  Mikah and Zimzod also agreed they'd do zero-g training every other weekday and they all decided they'd go to the shooting range on the alternate days.  When Terin asked, Mikah agreed to cover his ammo for that.  Emkir would lead the process of following up on hits the scan program identified.  This meant largely checking the data to see if they could find more information about the sites identified.  He also led the search for listed Order sites which were near their path of travel.

When Emkir pushed Rol to restart the hand to hand classes, the rest of the crew said they'd join in though Fesic first joked, "Mikah and Zimzod are too mean."  Outside of that, Emkir figured he'd work more on the various language projects he had.  Even the Risek glyphs, even though both Zach and Brian had died.  Emkir planned to open new territory by logging into the station network to see if there were interested people?  He admitted to himself that, by starting fresh threads, he was literally giving his work away.  But the languages were mostly dead ones, where he didn't expect to make a break through.  So any help he could find would be a good thing.  Outside of the work, Emkir figured he'd hit the bars with Aali as her time and work let her, thanks to the extreme price cuts.

In his other spare time, Emkir also worked on getting used to using his glasses.  He also began looking into applications he could use and upload onto them.  In his investigations, Emkir was disappointed there were not link packages to tie into the ship's piloting systems and sensors to augment his work.  Emkir also checked out the libraries of free Application Development Kits allowing him to possibly write his own applications.  Emkir planned to do this as Aali worked on her stent practice.

Rol agreed to teach after cooking in the morning, but said he'd start off slowly as he and others were still recovering from combat wounds.  Rol also decided to tell Mikah about the cybertek package he'd bought to enhance his vision as the morning passed.  When he explained the kit to her, Mikah checked the data on the procedures needed to mate the electronics with Rol's stent.  She also looked up the medical work needed to run the sub-dural wiring and mate the sensor ends to the roots of his optic nerves where they met the backs of his eyes.  When Rol asked if this was something she could do, Mikah said she could do it in the ship's medbay.  They decided to do the implantation on the next day, Tuesday the 329th.

Rol also planned to set an hour aside to be available for armor and weapon work and started the week-long maintenance routine on Zimzod's battledress.  In addition to that, Terin came to Rol mid-week with a module he'd bought to add to his combat armor.  It was an upgrade which would give his HUD telescopic capabilities as well as IR and light intensifier.  Since he already had a module that gave him IR and LI, the upgrade would be easy and Rol had that work done for Terin before the end of the week.  When asked what he wanted done with the old IR/LI module, Terin said Rol should hold onto it in case someone else wanted it.  Overhearing that, Munarshu asked for Rol to install it in his armor.  And while Rol was able to install the module in Munarshu's armor, he did have to cut spaces for the module internally.

Early in the week, Rol also installed the combat simulation grid software on the ship's computer but accepted that he would have to wait until they could secure everything before actually doing on-ship laser tag style combat training.  Besides that, Rol planned to spend his spare time being a tourist in a system where he was not one of a band of notorious nobles.  He enjoyed the fact he could wander the station and see the sights and even hope to hook up with a station-side lady looking for intimate adventures or a spacer girl looking for fun on layover.  Rol did make a point of getting in on the shooting practice the crew did every other weekday.

As with Rol, Aiden set some time aside each day for stent work and got involved in the morning and afternoon crew trainings.  Aiden also decided to go searching on-station for magnetic soles to clamp onto his vacc suit.  Over the week, he found a couple of sets he liked for Cr 1,000 for two sets.  Other than that, Aiden figured he'd sight see, check out museums and gun shops.  Mikah also was interested in the museums on station as well as on-world tourism too.  But she also found a hospital near the berth which would accept her as a visiting physician.  This way, while she was not getting paid, she could keep up her medical skills.  She also got some specialization practice when Rol asked about his visual implant.  Of course, the hospital work was largely walk-in clinic type stuff.

Zimzod was good with most of what Mikah found, except for the hospital work.  While she was doing med-work, he worked on his stent.  He also made sure he and Mikah got out to the bars after dinner.  Terin was the one crew member for whom the week did not allow him more spare time.  Between his own computer and stent training work and the work on the fob data with Rol and Emkir on top of the shooting range and hand to hand training, he barely had the time for anything else most days.  He didn't take part in the zero-g combat.  He did take the chance to briefly hit a museum or two and also went out in the evenings, to see if he could find a loose woman looking for adventure.

Munarshu had work to do in the engineering section as Aali wanted that done by the end of the week.  Still, with the androids in the section too, he had the time to take part in the various practice sessions.  That left him time for his robotics reading and intelligence games.  As he was still "grounded", Munarshu didn't really ask about doing anything off ship.  Fesic planned to add the zero-g, hand to hand and shooting to his five-hour a-day work on the cargo sealer.  He also asked Mikah for a day off, to go down to the world and check out those regions where there would be some open wilderness.  When Fesic suggested the idea, Mikah decided she liked it and she'd go downwell too.  But rather than wandering and communing with nature, she wanted to take a tour.

Once she'd said she'd go downwell and agreed to handle Rol's implant surgery, Mikah had to decide when she would do all this?  Since Rol had to take a day off after the implant surgery, they decided she'd do the implant on tuesday and then take the tour on wednesday while Rol recovered.  As a general rule, Fesic did get to the gym when he could and made sure to take advantage of as many restaurants as he could because they were free.  Fesic also made sure to tag along on any general bar crawls the crew set up as a group.

Rol's Operation

     Planning for the implantation of Rol's cyberware, Mikah spent some time reading the datafile that came with it, and researched the medical steps for the procedure.  It seemed fairly cut and dry, especially because she'd taken part in implanting the stent in the first place.  Mikah found she needed to expose the stent and connect the electronic package first.  Once that was done, she'd run the micro-wire connection to a point just above the hypodermis.  After that, Mikah consulted with Rol on how he wanted the wiring run to where it would connect with the point where the optic nerves connected with his eye?

Rol's first option was to run both wires up the right side of his head with one running along the top of his right cheekbone.  Then, it would pass through the orbit to reach the optic nerve while the other ran along his hairline to the left side of his face before running down to his left eye.  The second option had the left eye wire running around behind his head to run up the left side as the right eye wires ran.  Rol asked about the surgery and Mikah explained it would be done with micro-probes and automated tools so that she would only have to make small cuts and punctures.  With that, Rol chose the second option.

As they talked about what she could do for Rol, Mikah asked if Rol could integrate the rest of her weapons to her HUD.  When Rol asked, Mikah told him she had two laser carbines, a submachine-gun, an auto-pistol, a gauss pistol and a snub pistol too.  Rol asked if she'd bought the integration kits for those weapons and Mikah said she hadn't, so Rol gave her a shopping list.  As a result, Mikah spent some time on line, shopping for kits in-system over the week but didn't find anything she thought worth paying for.

Getting Into The Data

     Over the week, along with other things, those with stents worked on their classes.  Aali was still furthest along because she'd already connected to her stent.  By the end of the week, she was actually able to connect to other devices though her stent!  The others were just making a more complete contact with their stents.  The trick Aali had realized was the immense amount of visualization needed.  She decided to help the others with that bit in the next week.  She'd have more time as the ship's engineering work was largely done before they left port.

By Thursday, 334-1112, Emkir's data-search finally ground through all the data and finished.  As they had been all week, Emkir, Rol and Terin continued digging into each data point, to see if it led to anything when a Human mind connected it to data in the ship's library.  As from the start, the limited nature of the ship's library data led to frustrations.  But they didn't dare connect to an outside reference yet.  Still, Rol eventually pointed to his screen and said, "I think I found something here."  As the others gathered, they saw the listing for a former base of the Order located in the Sonthert system.  While it was important because the system was only two parsecs from the D'Ganzio and Lanth systems, it was troubling because the system was also interdicted.  So while it was one easy jump from either system after they'd dropped off all their cargos, that space was controlled by an Imperial Navy Interdiction Fleet.

Still, If they could get access, they had time to correlate more data as they traveled their itinerary and then investigate the Sonthert site directly before deciding to bring in outsiders.  As the three focused on the report, it said the base wasn't on the system's main world, but one of the outer worlds in the binary system.  Terin was glad about that, because the main world was well inside the primary star's jump shadow, meaning days burning in to the world.  The interdiction data also said the fleet was required both to protect the developing society from the Imperium and to protect the Imperium from the megalomaniacal ruler of the world.  Pausing, they had to wonder what the Imperium had to fear from the leader of a society last known to be discovering the art of rifling weapon barrels?

The system's outermost orbit contained a red dwarf star which wouldn't interfere with approaching the two outer-most planets.  The base, itself, appeared to be the home for enough naval forces to form up a cruiser and destroyer squadron once the forces in the region were mustered.  To Emkir's more expert eyes, that meant an understrength CruRon with ships which could be called destroyers filling in.  And his best bet was that the vessels were likely older military or civilian ships.  But he was curious about the facilities they'd have left behind.

As an interdicted system, an appointed Baron represented the interests of the protected society, so those issues were not seen as important at all.  The main world's "D-class" starport showed there wasn't a great deal of sanctioned traffic.  Off the spinward main, the closest neighbor to the system was the Victoria system, and that was interdicted too.  The generically available technology of the system was at an era where muskets and sails gave way to rifles and steaming ironclads.  At best, they couldn't support more than hot air balloons.  While that meant the crew didn't have to worry about the local government, there were Imperial-sanctioned outer-world settlements.  This was because the system's economy partly depended on minor corporate holdings on some of the outer planets.

The three knew that could mean trouble because they didn't know the exact location of the base yet.  Checking the supplementary data on the interdiction zone, they found the warning was based on a "capricious enforcement of laws."  Terin joked that it only mattered where the local authorities "were".  And since they were tech level 3, they wouldn't likely even inhabit a large part of the world.  Of course, this didn't count any tech the government had bought in through sanctioned trade from out-system, or received from smugglers.  So they could have advanced tech toys.  Rol pointed out that it didn't much matter because they weren't heading to the main world anyway.  Still, they did consider getting permits to act as a trade mission and carrying gear, especially mining gear, the locals might want.  As Terin offered, Emkir decided the navigator should research the Sonthert system while Emkir considered bringing this data to Mikah.

Visiting The Planet

     On Wednesday, Fesic and Mikah made their plans to go down to the planet.  Zimzod had no interest in plants, so he passed on the trip.  Originally thinking she'd go with Fesic, when Mikah asked about tours the gunner said he just wanted to wander alone for a bit in the wilderness.  Accepting that, Mikah decided to book a "plantation tour" that would take her to several sites where the local governments were working to try and grow some of the crops they were importing.  Mikah geared up with a knife as well as her casual and cold weather gear.  Fesic wore his heavy coat and hiking boots along with his heated battery-powered gloves and ski cap.  Fesic also brought his binoculars, a day's emergency rations, some bottled water and a signal mirror.

While the shuttle rides down-well were free, thanks to the deal with the port, Fesic had to find someone to give him a ride out into "the wilderness".  As was his custom, Fesic brought the wrench he'd had re-engineered to be a switchblade.  Unfortunately, for the second time in two days, the improvised weapon was spotted in downport scans he didn't have to deal with in the military.  Fesic realized the formerly secret weapon wouldn't work out.  He decided he wouldn't replace it after it was confiscated.  Annoyed, Fesic found a ride costing him Cr 100 for a 1 hour trip and was also given a frequency to call, in case he ran into any trouble and needed help.  His "driver" agreed to come pick him up in the same spot six hours later for another Cr 100.

Mikah's tour cost her Cr 250, which was a steep discount from the original Cr 750.  Once past downport security, Mikah's small tour group boarded a sealed ground vehicle and rode in comfort to various sites.  While the vehicle was not a "luxury" craft, it was comfortable and spacious enough.  And it negotiated all the routes they took with a minimum of jostling.  Each of the farms the tour visited were efforts to locally grow items the local city governments found themselves importing heavily.  There was also a global initiative to grow forestland.  The sites were both show cases of cooperation and bio-science work done by the on-world universities.

Unlike Fesic, who got to sit and much rations and dig holes in the dirt, Mikah's group visited restaurants which had bathrooms.  As well, the small size of the tour Mikah was on allowed her to ask more questions and allowed extra flexibility, so those on the tour could choose alternative sites to explore instead of the programmed visits.  As he wandered, Fesic saw the plant life he'd done some basic research on.  Trees were wide spread with root systems which spread out to get at the nutrients of a large area.  So the trees were widely spread between scrub and grasslands.  All the wildlife Fesic saw had grown wary of Humans and avoided him, which was fine with Fesic.  Eventually, both Mikah and Fesic made their ways back to the station and the ship.

Hitting the Museums

     As was her interest, it didn't take Mikah long to find a gem and mineral display she hadn't visited yet.  When she and Zimzod got there, Mikah was disappointed but not surprised that they didn't give out free samples.  Mikah had already seen the sea-based displays and looked at the land based gems, which were beryl-based stones such as aquamarines and emeralds.  There were also peridot and other crystal-based stones to shop for.  Mikah spent Cr 50 on some stones from Equus to add to her collection.

As Rol wandered, he found a museum of militaria, consisting of those items which former soldiers had brought back to the Equus system over the frontier wars.  This was added to with disused and sold off military equipment from the forces in-system.  Figuring it was of interest, Rol went in.  As he wandered the displays, Rol enjoyed the collection.  He also enjoyed the humor, which included what he estimated was a short-barreled Tech level 7 howitzer artillery piece posed in a mock air-lock as an "anti-boarding weapon".  While he had to laugh, Rol had to wonder if the tactic had actually been tried and some survivor of that crew reported back to result in such a display.

More of a surprise to Rol was happening on several members of the crew of the Shoshama Iigee wandering the museum!  He and the rest of the Hotel California's crew knew they'd arrived days before but figured they'd be at work preparing to leave the system riftward towards Rhylanor.  As he walked into hearing, Rol could hear the crew making jokes about various old weapons systems in the museum.  When someone joked about mounting the old howitzer in their ship's air-lock, Rol cracked a joke about mounting one on the hull with a vacc suited crew and got no laughs.  Rol asked about other museums and the crew reminded him they'd only arrived when Rol's crew went shooting.  They said they'd found the place by mistake in a computer search and came to check it out for a laugh.

After the small talk, Rol hung out with the crew as they moved through the museum.  They all shared war stories and Rol realized these guys had been on both sides of the lines when it came to Imperial forces.  True warriors of the coin, they went where the pay was and had fought units of the Imperial Army and Marines.  When Rol asked, he was told there were more than a few worlds out there willing to hire guns to dispute the line between a World's rights and those of The Imperium.  And they'd been the muscle behind some of those fights.  Of course, Rol had to answer for his time in the Marines and it soon became a game of one up's man-ship bragging about battle honors.  Still, Rol didn't resort to lines like, "Really?  They wrote a book about me!"

Eventually, the crew invited Rol to come drinking with them after the museum.  And as they shared drinks and snacks, it also turned out to be Rol's night to get lucky.  A stationer-girl out for adventure proved to be a very interested groupie.  As she made her interest more and more transparent, the guys from the Iigee faded to let him have his fun.  Soon enough, she made it clear the two should go somewhere private and Rol took her to a dock-side layover.  Rol had spent a total of Cr 30 for all the incidentals and alcohol before they settled in to have fun.


Sharing The Secret

     As the weekend dawned and the crew started looking at handing the ship over to the repair crews, Terin suggested they all move into the staterooms in the berth.  Mikah agreed so she gave the order and began packing what was wanted and securing what was not with the others.  Fesic brought up moving the cargo sealing device off the ship, so he could continue his self-appointed training.  Emkir agreed to help Fesic with the gravLifters and Aali supervised, to prevent any collisions.  Jokes were also made about Munarshu losing his exclusive digs as he'd been living in a berth stateroom since shortly after being returned to the ship from Ulir city.  During a morning of moving gear and machinery out of the ship, Emkir spoke to Mikah about the team's findings on the Sonthert system and Mikah called a lunchtime crew meeting.

As everyone got organized, Mikah reminded the crew they were not just wandering the sector hoping to make a profit from cargo?  For those not in on it, Mikah began with a bit of history for those new to the crew on how Aali had bought her fob back in the Mora system.  With details from Aali and Emkir, Mikah told them about discovering the dataport in the fob's design and then discovering the details of a chivalric order which seemed to have vanished from history.  When asked, Mikah was up front that the "disappearance" happened during the years 800 to 840.  She also agreed with those who said that matched the time period of the Psionic Suppression War.  Mikah even paused to let that thought sink in with the crew.  Then, Mikah told them about the work Aali, Emkir, Rol and Terin had been doing.

Mikah said they didn't know about the disappearance at first, and had Aali explain how they first found it odd neither of them had heard of an entire chivalric order.  How they had started some basic searches and come up with dead ends in the 820's.  Mikah said Emkir had set up routines to strip all the names, locations and item types from the data on the fob.  He then set up a search of all the historic data they had on-ship to find coordinations with historic events.  But while they couldn't track nearly even half the items, each item they could track disappeared from history between the years 800 and 830.  So now they had a better grip on what they knew.  And they also had a place to start investigating.

Next, Mikah told the crew about the Sonthert system, and the former base there.  It had, according to the fob, housed several thousand order members and families while supporting what were described as several cruiser and destroyer squadrons.  This made it clear the system had not been interdicted at that point, or that the order had special permissions to operate in that system. Then, Mikah had Emkir stand up and give a more realistic briefing of what the ships really might have been like.  Old-tech cast offs from the navy, or ageing vessels well beyond their designated annual repair budgets.  These would likely be filled out by armed civilian ships and all the vessels would have been staffed by crews of varying quality.  Emkir speculated that they would have fallen rather quickly if whatever came for them were forces of even a moderate quality staffing more-modern vessels.  Beyond that, they knew the base had been in one of the outer worlds of the Sonthert system.

As soon as Mikah was done briefing them, Terin said he felt they should go to Sonthert and investigate because, "I did all the research on it."  There were frowns as the navigator appeared to claim credit for all the work done in the investigation.  Just as quickly, Zimzod snapped at him, "Shut up slave." and got laughs from most of the crew.  Confused, Fesic asked, "And why do we care about this?"  Rol said he wanted the others to know these people may or may not have been rich so they could be barking up the wrong tree or they could find abandoned gear worth millions of credits.  All Munarshu heard was "millions of credits" and he was ready to go.  When Fesic still had questions, Rol said the order had disappeared and no one knew why?  So, if they had gone into hiding, they may have buried caches of their best gear.  Or they might find nothing.

Terin asked more details about how Aali got the fob and they explained how it was simply a casual purchase in an army/navy shop on Mora.  Even the shop people thought it was of little value outside of its gold casing.  When she was asked about the origins of the fob, Aali said it looked like a family genealogy for a "Sir Kaleo Dechomai", and documented seven generations of his family.  Terin asked about using off-ship resources and Aali and Emkir were firm that they didn't want to risk that.  Terin was certain theyre would be ways of doing that surreptitiously, poising his lesser computer skills against the advice of Emkir's more accomplished skills.  And, Mikah, Zimzod and some of the others recalled when Sir Zachariah had said similar things.  So they were wary of the comment.

Rol said he had reservations about Terin's suggestions and preferred to have someone who knew what they were doing comment.  Terin joked "I didn't say to let Aiden do it."  Despite the situation, most of the crew laughed at the remark based on the results of the pilot's research on Equus military hardware.  Terin then volunteered Emkir, certain that just knowing computers would allow the Admiral to find a way around the security that would be present "somewhere" when he tried this.  As they came to a bit of a dead-end there, the crew started discussing the Order and its disappearance around the time of the Psionic Suppression War.

As Zimzod thought back on his collection of legends and other long stories, something tugged at his memory.  But try as he might, Zimzod couldn't remember it and he said he might have something but had to do some research on it.  Munarshu followed that up with a suggestion they look for a psi-friendly system in the independent District 268.  This immediately got a negative reaction from the crew and particularly Zimzod and Aiden.  Part of this was due to their anti-Psionic views.  The rest was due to the fact that most pro-Psionic systems were systems like the Trexalon system, which had been a Sword Worlds ally in the war.  Many were also known to have some diplomatic ties to the Zhodani, who still held worlds just over a subsector spinward in the Foreven sector.

Letting that drop, Zimzod asked how they would get to the Sonthert system?  Especially since it was interdicted?  Mikah pulled up a map of the sector and they saw that the system was two parsecs from either the D'Ganzio or Lanth systems.  They had the tattooed man's cargo and Dame Ashlee's for the D'Ganzio system and the Baron's cargo as well as the data load for the Lanth system.  And where they'd been paid in advance for Dame Ashlee's cargo, they had a letter of credit for the Baron's cargo and would be paid on delivery for the data.  The tattooed man's cargo was a crap shoot, as they were told they were "doing a favor for someone in the government."  They could only hope that person had any power to do anything for them, because Zimzod saw that as his path to an FGMP-15 permit.  Either way, Sonthert was only a single jump for their ship.

So they had to find a way to get a permit to travel to and operate in the system.  As that sunk in, Emkir suggested they might want to ask for the assistance of the Instel-Arms Corp?  Especially if they did find the base and it had large amounts of equipment.  Mikah and others in the crew shot that down, saying the corporation would as soon leave them drifting in space without vacc suits and claim the site for the profit than treat the crew as partners.  When Aali asked what the odds might be that they'd already checked out the system for a lost base, she was reminded they might not know there was a base to look for.  The crew only knew about the entire order because of Aali's fob.

Rol also reminded them all that the system was interdicted, so there was very little traffic bound there to start, and most of it regulated.  A "D" class port and millions in population would usually suggest ten to twenty ships per month on average without the interdiction.  Especially since the system was not on the spinward main.  In the end, everyone in the crew had a lot to think about, but no one was against looking for the base if they could get into the system.  Still, Mikah said they had time to consider, research and plan before they had to make a decision on doing it, or how to do it.  As the week ended, Terin was tasked with further researching the Sonthert system.

Getting On With The Weekend

     Once the meeting ended, everyone considered their options.  Weapons practice had cost each of the crew except Terin and Mikah Cr 400.  As agreed, Mikah paid Cr 800 to cover Terin.  Those who'd had booze at the bars and restaurants had also spent between Cr 100 and 300 in tabs over the week.  Aali and Emkir hatched a nefarious plan to wander the port, sight see, hit the restaurants and bars and see what rumors they could scare up?  Rol also wanted to go sight seeing but also wanted to catch a show or performance.  As he checked the listings nearby on the port, he decided to visit a restaurant, then catch a live performance and then see a vid.  Aiden wanted to relax and do some reading as well as checking for weapons conventions and shows on station.

While the others were looking for things to do, Munarshu quietly suggested to Mikah that they "really" should report in to IRIS regarding the android.  In a flat voice, Mikah definitively said, "They already know."  Not sure how, Munarshu tried to push the issue and Mikah said, "The Imperial Navy knows.  If the Navy knows, IRIS knows." in a tone that ended the subject.  As Aiden searched the listings, he found the same militaria museum Rol had visited and told the others about it.  When he heard Aiden, Rol said he'd visited the museum and joked about their air-lock defense system display.  Without details on the display, Munarshu admitted he was interested in seeing that.  Aiden asked the others in the crew if they wanted to see the museum and the crew were all interested.  As he and Rol had been checking listings, Mikah had also been looking for museums of interest and she had found a medical oddities museum.

Interested in that, she suggested they do the militaria museum and then have lunch before visiting the medical oddities displays.  Terin wanted to take a break and looked for some form of natural museum that was more than the display of the seas they had seen when they all went down-well.  When he found one and suggested that, they said they could do that museum on Sunday.  Eventually, the crew's schedule for the weekend firmed up and all of them except Munarshu prepared to go out sight-seeing.  Munarshu played the martyr, causing his own suffering by failing to ask for his restrictions to be lifted and pretending this earned him some sort of credit with the captain and crew.

During the weekend, the crew also hit the bars and Rol checked to make sure there wasn't a way an enemy could use their stents against them in combat.  While there were various warnings about interrogation, there was nothing to suggest a wireless connection could be made unless they connected a wireless device to the stent.  In that case, as with Aali's router set up, prevention was a simple case of firewalls and defensive software.  When he looked into such software, Rol did not find much that was of any quality nor did he find a wide selection.

The Sonthert system

The Sonthert System

     Through the coming week, in addition to his other work, Terin researched the Sonthert system to see if he could get a better feel for the worlds.  This could help him figure out where the White Star base could have been.  The main world, in addition to another rocky world, three gas giants and the system's planetoid belt were all closer to the star, Je-whlier ( Pronounced: Jeh-Whi-Leer ), under 5 AU's.  Another gas giant orbited the system's primary star at 10 AU's.  Between 15 and 100 AU's, three more rocky worlds orbited the primary of which one was a frozen over water world and another barren and airless( Mynbou [ Translation: Mining ] ).  Further out, the system was orbited by a red dwarf star, the system's binary, Klip.

From the data in the ship's library, the names of the system's bodies had come from an antique Terran language from the continent named "Africa".  Each was said to be inspired by some noted item encountered or based on the world's appearance during the initial system exploration.  Sonthert, meaning Song Deer, had apparently been named for herds of running antelope observed during a brief early landing.  The gas giants had all been named for gemstones ( Bloeding, Rhodochroa, Hobhouse and Ajoit ).  From Aali's fob, they knew the base had been on one of three outer planets or a moon of one of those worlds.  Those were the worlds of Oseaan (a water-world), Mynbou (a barren rock) and Laurasia.  Laurasia was just smaller than Terran with a standard atmo and 70% covered in oceans.

If the base was on Oseaan, it was either on an island or underwater.  That world had no moons.  the small world of Mynbou had three rings and was a barren airless rock.  Laurasia was an Earth-like world just a bit smaller.  It had a standard atmosphere and 70% ocean coverage like Humanitii's homeworld.  If the base was on that world, all the ships would have had to have been atmospherically streamlined.  That, or there was an orbital base.  But there was no moon around that world.  If Terin had to bet, he'd bet on Mynbou or her moons.

Off To The Museums

     Once they got to the militaria museum, Rol acted almost as a docent, since he'd seen the displays before.  As they went through the venue, section by section, they all got a laugh at Aiden's expense as they came on a full and fairly detailed display and breakdown of the hover-submersibles he had been researching when the planetary authorities had gotten upset.  Eventually, they made their way to the howitzer and Rol got to enjoy their reactions to the joke, which fell flat for a number of the crew.  Emkir even had Aali straddle the gun's barrel and pose for a picture.  As they joked about the "cheese cake" nature of the shot, Emkir joked about having her pose topless.  They laughed about getting a miniature figure of the gun while Terin took a number of images with his comms.  He said he could feed them into the ship's maker-shop computer to print a toy-sized copy.

In the gift shop, to the laughs of others in the crew Aiden bought a book detailing the hover-submersibles AFV's and even civilian versions of the craft.  Aiden also found a semi-automatic 9mm pistol built to look like a laser "blaster" from popular tri-vid shows.  Eying it, Aiden saw the "scope" actually housed a laser-designator, so the impression was just for show and he'd have to use the iron sights.  They were selling it for Cr 750.  Aiden suffered more jokes as he briefly thought about it before buying the weapon, planning to replace his existing auto-pistol with the new pistol.  After that, the crew headed for lunch before going to the medical oddities museum.  While they walked, they stopped in some shops and Aiden quietly picked up an atomizer which fired jets of lemon scent. Blaster

After lunch, and much to Aiden's dismay at having eaten first, the crew went to the museum of medical oddities.  As expected, it was a collection of preserved or recreated samples of the strangest mutations and diseases in sophont races.  While Mikah was interested from a medical point of view, the others in the crew learned a fair bit more about the weird diseases that afflicted the intelligent races.  A section of display halls also were devoted to the strange devices and treatment methods developed as well as quackery and folk lore.  As well as the physical samples, the museum had a large number of holographic and digital displays.  One of the most spectacular of displays was the cold-sleep stored body of a spacer who had died of jump-space disease.

As they looked at the grey and somewhat shriveled form, Terin asked how jump sickness affected someone?  Mikah explained that it causes the body to start failing to absorb minerals and vitamins.  The disease first manifests itself in several ways.  A patient might exhibit nausea, diarrhea, migraines, and/or balance disorders.  Progression of the loss of digested intake results in major psychosis, delusions, and anxiety disorders before death.  The sample corpse before them had been passed from med school to med school before being given to the Imperial Navy as a training aide.  When the Fifth Frontier War broke out, the ship carrying it had donated it to the museum as they wanted to free the space for munitions and supplies.

One mystery they encountered wasn't explained at all.  As they toured the displays, Emkir could be relied upon to make off color remarks about the genitalia of the various ehibits.  This included the microscopically silicon-coated and preserved bodies of many species including all the sophont races.  But each time he and Aali shared a joke, the crew would catch the scent of lemon soon after.  As they looked around and discussed the phenomenon, they were unable to figure out why it was happening.

Eventually, most of the crew just shrugged and moved on.  Terin did try to figure it out and eventually noticed the atomizer in Aiden's hand.  The crew spent the entire afternoon having fun there before leaving when it was time to go for dinner.  Once again, they went to a large restaurant and fully enjoyed their free pass, eating as much as the place could not bill them for.  After returning to the ship to relax, some of the crew went out to bars but the day eventually faded into sleep.


Planning the Coming Week

     After going through their various morning routines, the crew eventually were ready to head off to the space station's natural history of Equus museum.  When they arrived at the institution, everyone was surprised to see the size of the installation.  On even a space station the size of a large city, space on-station was at a premium.  All compartments needed to be part of the station-wide environmental systems and the massive life support systems needed to be paid for.  So devoting so much space to an educational purpose was quite respectable.

Of course, a great deal of the displays were brought up from the surface.  And some of what they saw duplicated what they had seen down-well.  Once again, the crew spent a large amount of time touring the museum and had lunch in the facility's cafeteria.  After they were done there, the crew returned to the ship to find Munarshu working with the androids on ship's systems.  As Aali spent some time reviewing the work done, she saw they could finish all needed maintenance by Wednesday.  That pleased Mikah, because she wanted to leave the system quickly after the hull and sensor work was done, so the engineering resets needed to have been handled.

Seeing she'd have more free time, Aali planned to relax a bit more in the coming week.  Emkir had spent the rest of the weekend continuing to look for better candidates to research than the Sonthert system.  He'd found nothing so far.  Emkir also planned to spend more time playing with his digital glasses.  He wanted to research a number of things, but the easiest app to find would be a telescopic enhancement app.  He would also look into apps to enhance his combat piloting and other shipboard work.  But much of that would need interfaces to the ship's computer software and other very specialized software.  Especially where he hoped to connect the glasses to the ship's sensors and targeting.  In addition to the glasses, Emkir began sharing his language work files on the local network to see what he could learn from anyone locally.

Rol planned to work on getting used to his new visual spectra and planned to use it in the crew's weekday combat practices.  Rol wanted to get used to how he could use the different settings to his advantage in combat as well as target practice.  One thing Rol noticed straight away was the reduction of detailed vision in the infra-red spectrum.  It was not like on the vids, where one saw heat-related auras within the details of normal vision.  Everything he saw was turned into blobs and obstructions of varying colors.

As well as bringing his new pistol to the range, Aiden wanted to shop for an integration kit to mate his new snub pistol to his HUD.  But after a week's searching, Aiden would come up with few items that would do it, and all were both unsatisfying and overpriced.  Since his new auto-pistol could use the same ammo and magazines as his old one, Aiden put the more standard automatic pistol in the ship's locker for others to use.  Mikah planned on spending as much of her spare time outside her training and hospital volunteer work in the cargo bay with a sun lamp, sun glasses, tequila, lime and salt.  Her plan was simply to take some time and relax and look for entertainment opportunities on the port.

In addition to enjoying beating up the crew in the various classes they would continue, Zimzod planned to go through his notes on the White Star Order and hang out with Mikah.  In the exercises, Zimzod especially enjoyed targeting Aiden, who decided to test his gravLock boot attachments.  While they gave Aiden much more control, they limited his speed and maneuverability.  The result was that those who were skilled in zero-g fighting could out maneuver him and strike in ways he only had limited defense from.  Still, Aiden didn't have to fear every move throwing him wildly out of control and could fire at will from prepared stances.  So it was a minor positive.

Terin kept up with his studies into the new week.  While he would spend less time researching the leads located by Emkir's search, Terin devoted more of that time to researching the Sonthert system.  He also concentrated on going through the ship's legal library looking for ways to get access to the worlds in an interdicted system.  In addition to trying to pull any details about the outer system from the ship's library, Terin looked for navigational data he could use.  Because of the interdiction, the Sonthert system was not highly travelled or documented.  The destinations in-system were limited to the interdiction fleet facilities and the gas giants.  The outer worlds would more likely be patrolled by the navy looking for criminal vessels looking for a safe place to frontier refuel or operate a smuggler's base.

Munarshu worked with Aali through Wednesday to finish off the prep-work in engineering.  Still, he was able to get up a bit later in the morning thanks to shifting his exercise into the morning hand to hand combat practices.  During his free time, Munarshu also decided to ask permission to inspect the gear left over by former crew members.  As he went through the stuff in the ship's locker, he happened on a set of web gear which had belonged to Zach Wood before he was killed. Of all the other things he saw, Munarshu found what looked like a deformed bushing encased in glass as if it were a keepsake.  Shrugging at the encased item, Munarshu decided the item had to have had a personal sentiment.  Asking Mikah, Munarshu was given permission to take the web gear for himself.

Fesic continued working on learning the cargo sealer.  During the week, he also wandered the port checking out pawn shops for items of interest.  Included in with the many weapons, musical instruments, personal electronics and general paraphernalia, Fesic found an odd-looking case of slug weapon cleaning oil.  Looking closer, he saw the case was from the Gram system, in the Sword Worlds.  This meant this was not just cleaning oil, but was actually "loot" stolen from the surviving supplies aboard a downed or captured ship from the Gram system during the Fifth Frontier War.  Whoever had stolen it originally must have given up on the cache of carrying it and sold it to the pawn shop.  When he looked, Fesic saw the shop was asking Cr 500 for the case compared to Cr 50 for a case of generic oil.  Despite the obvious "Spoils of war". Fesic left the case behind.


Drinking And Dying

     As the week began to progress, members of the crew also went out to relax and enjoy.  On Tuesday night, Aali and Emkir were in a bar which they found had a nice mix of spacers, stationers and techs sharing stories.  And other stationers out for adventure.  Unfortunately, as they sat enjoying and listening in to the conversations around them, an argument suddenly flared at a table near them.  The involved spacer, with his back to Emkir and Aali, suddenly grabbed a pitcher of beer and swung it up before swinging it at his target.  The unintended result was that the beer from the pitcher was splashed all over Emkir, Aali and those beyond them.  Emkir's first impulse was to grab the chair he was sitting in and hit the man across the back with it.

Aali raised her hands, demanding "What the fuck?" as Emkir reached for his chair.  With his attention on his actions, Emkir didn't see the next person further from him react to being splashed too.  Turning to Emkir and seeing him grabbing a chair, the spacer assumed Emkir was both in the fight and had flung the beer, so he swung a fist of his own!  Unprepared, Emkir took the blow to the side of his head standing and was not knocked down but was made aware the party was in full swing!  Leaping from her chair, Aali went after the guy who hit Emkir.  As he saw that guy sorted by Aali, Emkir went back to 'Plan A' and grabbed his chair to give it a wild and hard swing.  And with that man fending off attacks from two others in the original fight, there was no defense as the chair came swinging in.

As Emkir connected, he realized his aim had been off as he connected with the guy's skull.  In the same action, Emkir lost control of the chair and it flew into those who had been attacking the spacer he hit.  So Emkir had no time for battlefield assessment as he was engulfed by the fight.  In her part of the fight, the man Aali attacked certainly did not expect to have a kitten thrown in his face for hitting another spacer.  But it quickly became apparent to Aali that the man knew how to handle himself well in a fight and he was more amused by her attack than anything else.  Attempting to dodge out of the rush, Emkir relied on his tactical experience to guide him as he reacted.

If he had been in a 'man to man' fight, Emkir would have held his own at least.  But as he fought the one, still recovering a bit from 'chairus flyigus', another flanked Emkir and went wailing in.  That allowed the first man to more fully recover and press the attack.  After that, Emkir was quickly controlled, knocked down and had vicious kicks and punches delivered to him in unkind places.  Aali was also quickly controlled, though less offensively, and she soon started hearing unfortunate grunts, groans and moans from Emkir.  Realizing she could do nothing to help Emkir, Aali also realized the man holding her had other thoughts in mind as he was now leering at her and examining her curves.  Lucky for both her and Emkir, Station security arrived at that point.

Hitting like a wave, security knew what they were doing as they quickly separated and settled everyone while a sergeant demanded the security tapes from the bar keep.  The fight settled quickly, having not gone on long enough for people to become completely committed to their internal views.  As things settled, the most obvious complication became the fact the man Emkir hit neither got up or even moved.  He simply lay there bleeding from obvious and ominous wounds on the back of his skull.  In fact, as the security men checked, it was quickly determined the man was dead!  The news caused Emkir to shrug and say to himself that he didn't mean to 'kill' the man.  His reactions didn't change until security took him into custody for murder!

Charges And Reactions

     Aali was detained and put in holding for minor charges until the captain of her ship came to claim her.  Emkir had to surrender his possessions, was made to change into paper prisoner's clothes and was put in holding, in a six by ten cell, pending the proper filing of charges and processing.  As Mikah relaxed under her sunlamp with her margarita and her eye shades, the ship's comms began to buzz.  When Terin answered, he was told the callers were from station security and they needed to speak to the captain.  Seeing the caller's no nonsense mood, Terin quickly routed the call to Mikah.  When Mikah answered, she was greeted and told, "We are holding two of your crew pursuant to a bar fight in which they were involved.  We are ready to release your ship's engineer with minor charges which we'll file and we're holding your ship's number two pilot on charges of murder."

Mikah was slowly collecting her senses as the man started talking but became fully alert, demanding "What?!" as he said 'murder'.  After her outburst, the man resumed, "Would you like to come to station central to discuss these charges?"  Recovering herself, Mikah said she would and got the particulars so she could head to central offices.  After that, as Mikah started getting herself moving, she called Zimzod and told him to get prepared to go to station security.  After that, Mikah called Terin back and told him to start looking for a lawyer.  Surprised, Terin asked, "A lawyer?  For what?"  When Mikah said, "for Emkir", Terin asked "OK..  What kind of lawyer am I looking for?"  When Mikah said, "Somebody who can defend against murder charges." Terin scowled and asked, "Are you fucking kidding me?"  Mikah just cut the line and continued preparing.

At his workstation, Terin connected to the station network and started looking for criminal defense lawyers specializing in assault and murder.  As he worked, Terin first wished whatever had happened had been in the Rhylanor system where the crew had very important friends.  But then he recalled the situation under which they'd been told to leave that system and realized there were no 'good old days' in Rhylanor.  Once she and Zimzod were ready, and with Terin looking for a lawyer, Mikah called for a port car and they got moving.  At the security office, they sat down and went over the particulars, the security officer got right to it and showed Mikah the vid from the bar, which was highly incriminating by itself.

In the vid, Emkir and Aali were splashed with beer and Emkir immediately went for his chair in a legally defined "act of passion".  After Emkir received an attack from another uninvolved bar patron and Aali attacked that man, Emkir could be seen to put all of his effort into swinging his chair.  He clearly attacked the man and hit the man on the head and neck with the chair while that man's back was turned as he fought two others.  As the security chief stepped in and they talked, the man admitted there were mitigating factors to the case.  The one that was giving the chief a headache was the fact they were honored guests of the station.  And none of them could really mitigate murder.

When Zimzod asked if there was any way to make the case go away, he was told 'yes and no'.  The chief then explained the victim was crew on a ship and they called in that ship's captain too.  They were hoping they could explain things as an accident during a drunken fight that the victim incited.  The vid 'did' support that.  If the other captain allowed it, they could talk the charges down to heavy fines and other lesser punishments.  No matter what happened, the other captain would demand Emkir be kicked off station and the crew would need some place to put him.  Mikah didn't worry about that because she knew the Hotel California would be in dry dock soon for repairs and upgrades.  So Emkir just volunteered to be on-board security during that work if they could get him out of jail.

At the same time, Mikah was told the deal between the port and ship was done and the port would appreciate it if the rest of her crew laid low until they were ready to leave system.  Mikah was already planning to tell the crew to stay close to the berth once this was dealt with.  They were also told they no longer had the right to bear arms aboard the station, though it was appreciated Emkir had not drawn his weapon in the fight.  After discussing Emkir, Aali was bailed out after paying Cr 100 in fines for attempted assault and public brawling.  At the same time, in the berth, Terin was having a time of it finding a lawyer.

Because the station legal system was well integrated, word had gotten out fairly quickly and most lawyers were simply refusing to take the case.  When Terin did find a lawyer willing to say yes, it was on the demand of a Cr 10,000 retainer up front.  Taking down the man's information, Terin then called Mikah to let her know about the offer.  When Zimzod heard that, he suggested they might not need a lawyer if the security chief came through but Mikah said they couldn't count on that.  Mikah told Terin to call the lawyer back and tell the man they were seeing how the case would work out at the moment and they'd call back once they had solid information.  Terin got the attorney's secretary who said "OK" in a tone that said 'you'll be back and be sorry too.'

After the call, they were done with security until they heard from the other ship's captain.  So Mikah, Zimzod and Aali returned to the berth in the last free ride they'd score while on-station.  Mikah also put out the word that everyone off ship should return to the berth.  When they got back, Terin asked what the hell happened and Mikah told him it was a bar fight.  When it was clear Terin had asked Aali, she explained things in more detail.  Terin just nodded and mournfully said, "Swinging chairs around in bar fights is a really bad idea."  Zimzod nodded and said, "Getting involved in a bar fight at all is a bad idea."  In his cell for almost an hour now, Emkir was getting used to the very small space and was happy he was alone.  Even if it was because he was considered a violent criminal.

Having been booked in, Emkir was allowed to give a statement but got the impression they didn't care if a murder was intentional or not?  As the spacer populations were so transient, intent was not considered material except where a prosecutor needed to prove motive to prove charges.  So when he was given a chance to have his say, Emkir said, "I felt threatened.  I picked up the closest thing to hand and I did not mean to kill anyone."  He felt like saying more in hopes to mitigate his actions but shut up tight as he knew anything else he said might be twisted into some statement of motive to use against him.  Emkir's entered plea was "Not guilty by reason of self defense."

After a few hours on pins and needles, the call finally came in from station security and it was not the news they'd hoped for.  It turned out the victim had been on a family ship, where everyone aboard were blood or married-into members of a single family.  On such ships, you were born to the parents, aunts and uncles who ran the ship and you grew up being trained from birth to carry on the family business with your siblings and cousins.  You found significant others dockside when the ship was in station and blood backed up blood.  In this case, blood demanded blood.  To make matters worse, the victim had been the ship's Chief Engineer.  So not only was he family, he was senior family and had spent a lifetime honing his skills and leading his relatives.

In another bar, Rol had been making very good time with a lady who was obviously interested when his comms began to buzz.  Answering it, Rol was told by Mikah that everyone had to return to the berth.  When he asked why in a somewhat annoyed tone, Mikah told him Emkir had been charged with murder.  Completely surprised, Rol asked, "Emkir?" as if he had misheard.  Into the pause, and more surprised, he repeated, "Emkir??"  When he asked, "With what?" Mikah told him Emkir had used a chair.  Nodding, Rol said, "I guess my lessons are paying off.  OK.  I'll head back."  Still, when he said he had to return to the ship, the possible girlfriend was excited to get onto an actual starship and Rol figured "what the hell".

Lawyering Up

     In a bout of gallows humor, Terin said they could give the ship a new engineer if a replacement was the only issue with a glance towards Munarshu.  Zimzod said he was calling the Order to see what they could do and they recommended a lawyer who would honestly handle the case.  When Zimzod thanked them and called that lawyer, he was obviously a much more legitimate officer of the courts.  However, that lawyer still wanted a Cr 5,000 retainer up front.  Much happier with that offer, Aali sent the Cr 5,000 over and signed the deal.  Once that was done, the attorney explained the road map forward.

No matter what the situation, until a statement of disposition was made, Emkir was going to remain in custody.  The lawyer then said that the legal community on-station was a small and enclosed community, so he had already been approached to be the prosecutor in this matter and seen the basic evidence.  He made no bones about the fact that the video of the fight was fairly damning.  His honest opinion was that they were not looking at a good outcome but he would do his best.  Zimzod said that was the best they could hope for and they'd work the issue from another angle.  The lawyer asked, "Is this a legal angle or should I not hear about it?"  The warning tone was unmistakable.

Zimzod said it was a very legal angle and, when the lawyer asked, continued to say he was going to try to reach out to the other captain and try to negotiate things out.  But the lawyer said that would not work now that the captain had demanded a trial.  At this point, there will be a trial in which your crewman will be found guilty or not guilty and receive punishment if found guilty.  When Fesic suggested the crew could all be character witnesses, Mikah joked that they could try to get to the Inthe system and gather up some of Emkir's cultists.  But Fesic had no idea what that meant.  Mikah did speculate on visiting the Arch Duke's offices on-station if any existed, and sending a message to Rhylanor.  But the lawyer said there was not yet such an office and the best they could do was visit the Duchy of Rhylanor's office.

The lawyer speculated that it would take a week to travel each way plus the time it would take for the Duchy to decide to help or not.  He guessed it would take three months at best.  And that gave Mikah and the others reason to consider what actions Duke Leonard would take after ordering them to leave the system?  Despite the bad possibilities, Mikah decided to see what the office could do for them locally, and Zimzod asked about IRIS too?  As they discussed who else might be of help, Aali picked up a comms and called TAS for help.  After taking the details briefly, the TAS Concierge asked if they had retained counsel yet?  Aali said she had and gave the rep the lawyer's name.  Because Aali was not the accused, what TAS could do was limited.  Once they reviewed the data, the Concierge said they could not do better with their recommended lawyer, but the costs would be the same either way.

They did say they would send the lawyer two paralegals to support the case, free of charge.  TAS would also contact the in-system nobility to see what could be done to reduce the impact on the crew and what help could be gathered from that direction.  As those in the berth continued to consider the issue, Rol arrived with his walking sex toy.  Looking up, Zimzod said "Right on dude!  I gotta admit, I thought you were gay."  Looking at the grim faces, Rol asked, "Bad time?" and Zimzod said, "No." as he eyed Rol's date.  Terin joined in saying "On our way, On your way." while gesturing towards Rol's selected stateroom.  As Rol led the girl toward the ship's lock, Zimzod said to Rol's retreating form, "Dude.  Glad you're not gay." with a thumbs up sign.  Aiden could not believe that, with Emkir accused of murder, the important thing was that Rol was not gay.  After that small bit of entertainment, the evening passed and the crew faded off to sleep.


New Days, New Offers

     As he expected Rol to not be available, Munarshu resumed setting his alarm for 5am.  Once he was up and in the lounge, Munarshu made some caff and started watching the news and hoping Rol would be awake to cook breakfast despite the girl.  However, by six in the morning, his spirits were flagging.  Munarshu watched the news and they eventually came around to the arrest of Emkir.  Watching the coverage, which showed the video of the attack with slow motion replays and "up close" details of the skull damage, all Munarshu could think was that Emkir was fucked.  The video seemed to make the case open and shut.

By six thirty, Munarshu decided Rol wasn't cooking and decided to attempt not to poison the entire crew for breakfast.  His chosen form of "non-poison" were pancakes.  As he cooked, Aali and Fesic arrived in the lounge.  When Munarshu announced he was making pancakes, Aali murmured "Oh joy."  Fesic just eyed the finished pancakes suspiciously to see if they "looked" safe.  Since it looked and smelled right, and the ones Munarshu had been eating had not killed him, Fesic decided to try the engineer's cooking.  As Aali decided to cook her own breakfast, Zimzod was waking up in bed with Mikah.  Checking, he saw it was much earlier than he'd hoped.  But having morning wood, Zimzod decided to get on top of Mikah and enjoy it.  Fast asleep, Mikah was in the middle of a dream when she experienced what could only be described as the beginning of a sexual assault!

Reacting automatically, she started taking swings and kicking.  As she caught Zimzod in the face hard, he fell back saying, "Baby, I likes it rough!".  Feeling her fist connect with "someone", Mikah continued to rise striking and caught him in the face again.  But Mikah was seriously fighting while Zimzod thought she was playing, and caught the blow hard as it knocked him off her and off the bed!  Rising up, Mikah looked to the floor at the side of the bed to see Zimzod.  Realizing what had likely happened, Mikah tried to hold back her laughter as she said "Sorry dear."  Zimzod said, "That's OK!  I kinda found it sexy" as Mikah noticed the beginnings of a black left eye forming.  As Zimzod climbed back on the bed, Mikah said, "You might want to try and wake me first."  And since Zimzod was still interested, Mikah relaxed and pulled Zimzod closer as he finally got what he wanted.

Once done eating, Munarshu cleaned the galley space and was surprised to find himself with nothing he had to do.  At that point, Terin arrived and glanced at the news as he saw some item of port news.  He then checked out the pancakes and grabbed a stack.  Fesic finished eating and went to his cargo sealer studies.  Aali called the lawyer's office to ask for any updates.  She got his answering service and the conversant intelligent system asked her some questions before identifying the case.  It then gave her the docket number, which was new data and would allow her to look up some basic details on-line.

The system also said the attorney or one of his representatives would call her later in the day to update her on the issue.  Additionally, Aali got data on where Emkir was being held and basic facts about his incarceration.  These included the fact that Emkir could not be visited yet.  The system also provided the known court data and listed those court items which had not yet been set, such as how the trial would proceed and under which adjudicator.  After that, she showered, dressed and prepared for the calls when they started.  In the lounge, Terin was finishing eating as Aiden came out for breakfast.

As Aiden saw Terin and the pancakes, Munarshu had gone to do system checks in engineering.  Aiden first stepped up and made sure the pancakes were actually dead.  Seeing this, Terin said, "They're good pancakes.  Nice and crunchy." with a smile.  With that sterling recommendation, Aiden decided to make his own meal.  As he did this, Mikah and Zimzod were getting sweaty when their comms started buzzing...both of them.  Despite the situation with Emkir, Zimzod's needs were still driving him as he grunted "voice mail" and continued plowing.  But after the comms both stopped buzzing, they soon both started buzzing again.  And this time, they realized they had to answer the calls.

Answering in 'audio only' mode and out of breath, they both heard a gruff male voice say, "Stand by.  You are being connected to a conference call."  As the call connected, the data screen on each comms was replaced by a static picture of the caller, who was the captain of the IMS Shoshama Iigee!  As they tried to figure out what was happening, the other captain happily said "Hi!  I hear you guys have a problem." as if this were something to celebrate.  Mikah answered, "Yeah, we do."  Shifting to a more conversational tone, the captain said, "Yeah.  So do we."  After a pause, the man continued, "Maybe you can help us and we can help you."  Not sure what that meant or how the mercenaries could affect the situation, Mikah was willing to listen and said, "All right." in a questioning tone.

Without preamble, the captain confidently said, "I'm gonna get your man off." and Mikah said "OK, what do you need from us?"  As chatty as ever, the mercenary captain said "A favor."  When Mikah asked, "What kind of favor, he said "We need you to back us up on an op."  After a pause, Mikah said, "We can do that." and the other captain said, "coool!"  As Zimzod happily said, "OK!" the captain said, "It should just be a week out and a week back.  We can even cut you in for a slice of the combat pay." as casually as if he were describing how to walk along a port causeway.  Mikah said, "As long as we can ride along on your ship, because ours is going into dry dock." and the other captain said "Not a problem." as confident as ever.

Once that was agreed, the captain said they'd hear more from his people in a little bit and they signed off.  And with less on their minds, Zimzod got back on top of Mikah.  As they went at it in their stateroom, Rol's girlfriend woke him up in a way that made sure Rol would unknowingly be following in the example of his executive officer.  As both couples went at it happily, Mikah's comms again began to buzz!  Mikah, at first, tried to reach to her comms but Zimzod was not ready to stop and kept her pinned in place.  Again, the comms went to voice mail before starting to buzz again and Mikah pushed Zimzod back again to grab the comms.  This time, it was Emkir's lawyer.

Delivery Before Payment

     When Mikah asked what the status of the case was, the lawyer smiled a bit as he said, "A new witness has come forward claiming he heard the victim say he was going to kill Admiral Meshrumiikiim before he swung the chair.  This is now a viable self defense case."  Getting more serious, the lawyer continued, "once this witness came forward, everyone rushed to review the video from the bar, but it seems there was an issue with the file which propagated with each copy made.  Looking at each other, Mikah and Zimzod wondered what that meant as the lawyer said that was the only way to explain how every copy became corrupted at the same time this morning.  Not a single copy of the video was viewable!  As the couple took this in, the lawyer said, "So now the prosecution has an evidence issue and there is a witness for the defense.  The case is now a "He said - they said" with a witness on the Admiral's side."

He told them they needed to gather in his office at 9:30 that morning, and Mikah and Zimzod saw it was nearly 8am.  Once the call was done, Mikah tried to tell Zimzod to get dressed as she tried to get up.  But he pinned her down and said, "I'm finishing first" as he drove into her and pumped hard.  Soon enough, he was done and Mikah grabbed the comms to let the others know who had to get ready to meet the lawyer.  When she told Aali there had been a development, the engineer asked if Mikah cared to elaborate?  Mikah said "In a minute."  As Aali said she'd dressed and called the lawyers office, and started describing the data she had, Mikah interrupted her and said, "We've got it covered.  Don't worry." and broke the call as a confused Aali said "OK"

Once dressed, they grabbed Aali and told the others they were headed to the lawyer's office and to all stay in the berth.  This time, they were delayed as the three of them had to sign up for Oxy-Accounts, which annoyed Mikah greatly.  With great restraint, she held her comments in until they were in an automated taxi and had given the robot brain their destination data.  Then, they filled Aali in on what they'd been told by the lawyer and the captain of the Shoshama Iigee.

Once at the lawyer's office, the three were told that there was a large investigation into the corruption of the video evidence in the case.  The good news there was that there were so few copies on a few shared but not writable and very secure locations, the station officials didn't believe it was Likely for it to be an intentional act of sabotage.  So they were investigating everything from the bar's systems to the station security systems to determine what had happened.  However, the case had become more of an open forum.  Especially with the new witness.  When Zimzod asked, the lawyer confirmed that station security were reporting there was not a single viable copy of the attack video on any station computer.

When Mikah asked about the new witness, it turned out he was some mercenary from a ship that station security had confirmed the Hotel California crew had never dealt with.  The station's sensor and oxy-account trackers confirm he was in the area and his testimony seemed to stand up under inspection with moment to moment and on the scene details which matched dead on, no pun intended.  When he mentioned the name of the ship the man was connected to, the three knew exactly what had happened and kept their mouths shut.  The only thing he testified to which was new was that he heard the victim threaten to kill the Admiral before he swung the chair.  And without the video evidence, his claim could only be cross examined, not countered by electronic data.  As a result, unless something pointed to a hack of the system and traced back to the crew, this was a plus for the defense.

When Mikah asked, the lawyer said there were witnesses for the prosecution too, however they were all related to the victim where this new witness was clean.  So he speculated that there could even be a summary judgment in the case.  He was certainly making motions for that to happen.  But he did warn there were still investigations regarding a possible hack on a massive scale, so the crew should expect investigators and examinations of everything electronic that they had.  The captain of the other ship had been reported to be livid when the situation was discovered, and was demanding blood.  Aali chuckled a bit and explained that the Admiral was the crew's IT expert.  If anyone aboard could have done it, that would have been Emkir, but he was in a cell the whole night.

As the lawyer told his assistant to notify the security chief the crew had been warned and the investigators could move in, Mikah called the berth to let the crew know the police were coming.  When Mikah called Terin, he asked about copying the data regarding the Order of the White Star and deleting the drive data.  Mikah asked the lawyer about trade data they were number crunching on a port-side computer and the attorney said that would not be a problem.  He explained that they would load port sniffers to determine data traffic patterns and trace those programs and activities.  Mikah knew they had been studiously "not" connecting to anything else so the data was fine where it was so long as it was not actively on the screen to be casually read.

So Mikah told Terin they were good.  Terin did say he would make a copy as he grabbed a data chip and moved to act on his words.  And true to the lawyer's words, security arrived twenty minutes later and started plugging devices into every port in the berth and on the ship.  In fact, not having thought to warn Rol, there were a few comedic moments of confusion as security burst into Rol's stateroom on the otherwise abandoned ship to find Rol energetically inserting his cable into her port while cries of lust became screams of panic.  Lucky for the security detail, they were already close enough to Rol's weapons that it would have been bad for him to even try to grab a weapon.

Rol and his lust interest were made to quickly dress while the teams plugged in their gear and continued their search.  The data tests looked for any systems connecting to the outside universe, and flagged for search any files updated since midnight the night before.  Those files identified were subjected to pattern searches to see if there were any port or transmission or "functional code" sections that could be part of a major hacking project?  As his sex toy uncomfortably and quickly dressed, Rol wasn't the only one who spent more than a glance enjoying the view.  So she went home after more of an adventure than she expected.

As Rol joined the crew in the berth and his, friend made the walk of shame, all was filmed by a growing core of media who had shown up in response to the new news story.  As the crew saw this, their spirits failed and Mikah and Zimzod were actually glad they'd be off-station with the mercenary crew.  Four hours of testing later, the investigators came up completely blank.  The most they could prove was that the crew had watched the news.  Mikah, Zimzod and Aali had returned to the bay by that time, and been told the lawyer would call them when there was anything to report.  But the search team finally provided their bosses their report and left the berth.

Shortly after that the captain of the Iigee arrived, to pay a social call.  Playing for the media as he arrived, the man said he wanted to meet the people he was saving by letting his gunner testify in the case.  Once he was let into the berth, he handed Mikah a chip with a wink as he said, "I figured I'd drop this off to you."  After Mikah thanked him the captain asked, "So..  You got any booze?" and Mikah enthusiastically said "Sure!" as Aali went to get some of the "good stuff."  Looking around at the mess they made, the man said, "My, but those boys were thorough.  It's always nice to see public servants doing their best to serve a good cause.

The crew and the captain relaxed for a bit and chatted as they drank until the media calmed down and he had a good chance to eyeball the berth.  Then the captain of the Iigee stood and pulled something electronic from his pocket.  Holding that, he seemed to casually wander around while moving his hand even more casually, to not draw attention to it as he checked the place for listening devices.  Finally, he folded the device and put it back in his pocket as he happily said, "Good!  No listening devices!  Let's talk."  As Mikah said "OK!" and they sat down, the man started to say, "Now here's the deal."  At that point, Rol arrived, having grabbed a very quick shower once his stateroom was emptied again.

Continuing, the captain said, "So, we have a friend and our friend has a problem."  When Zimzod said "OK", the captain asked, "Are you familiar with the Leviathan class of frontier cruiser?"  Those in the crew who had heard of it remembered it as a fairly large and unsuccessful design which had been built in limited numbers and sold off by the Imperial Navy.  The most famous ship of the class was infamous because the Imperial Navy had claimed to have mistakenly sold it to Oberlindes Lines without removing the weapons systems, including the spinal mount!  That ship now served that corporation in the Vargr extents coreward of the Spinward Marches.  Some in the crew recalled a friend of Zach's trying to get Zach to sign on to a mission aboard one to District 268 and further rimward.  In that case, it was an old ship whose weapons had mostly been removed including converting the spinal mount into cargo space and other systems.

The captain, whose name was Mathias Voulge, continued, "There happens to be a Leviathan cargo hauler in orbit of a planet further out in this system.  And, um, the crew have mutinied.  And as we were going about our business to move on out of system, we were contacted by an interest in-system that would really like the ship back."  After a pause, he continued, "They're not really highly concerned with the crew."  Everyone knew the tone meant, 'Kill them all and let the bodies drift forgotten.'  Then Voulge got to the heart of the matter, saying "So, Leviathans are fairly large vessels.  And they could have..."  Here Terin jumped in suggesting there could be thousands of crew on board and Voulge shut that down.

Showing a mandatory crew manifest of fifty six positions, Voulge said there would be a lot of space to hunt in and lots of places to hide.  Then he said his crew was good but still a small number of people.  He continued, "Lucky for us, you folks became available." with a smile.  When Zimzod asked what their plan was, Voulge said, "We're still in the planning stages, but we still knew we'd need extra people.  Now that we know we've got extra people, our plans are changing.  So give us a few days to finish getting your man out of jail and we'll sit and talk and come up with a full out plan."  When Mikah asked for the details on the crew, Voulge said they were getting that.

As they continued to talk about the job, Mathias made it clear their only rules were "Save the ship" and "none of the crew get out alive."  Zimzod made it clear he had no issue with that but asked if they were certain they didn't want anyone interrogated before they expired?  Mathias said that was a contract item that was still being determined.  They also didn't have word on the cargo or lack of cargo aboard either, and that could make moving through and around containers a pain.  Having some qualms, Fesic asked, "Wait.  Is this work that knights should be performing?"  Zimzod cut him short and said, "You're not a knight", making it clear he was not qualified to decide what a knight should or should not be doing.

As they talked nuts and bolts, Mathias said he was looking at dividing the crews into fire teams.  So they would be the Charlie and Delta teams in his plan while his crew would be the Alpha and Bravo teams.  He planned on working out with their crew to find their strengths and weaknesses and plug that into a plan.  Then, they'd move in, blow the crew out and recover the ship.  When Mathias said that, Terin asked, if they should hire hookers to blow the crew and Zimzod said, "If Rol was still gay, we could have sent him in." and got a lot of laughs from the crew.  As they talked more, Mathias said they'd at least have the standard deck plans for the ship class.  He could not speak for in-service modifications though.  So there could be surprises.  But this was not a question because the crew were saving Emkir's life.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

    Most of the crew: In the berth, talking with the captain of the IMS Shoshama Iigee

    Emkir: In his cell on-station awaiting trial

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Next: The Cost of Emkir's Ass