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Last Updated    May 21 2018
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Cleaning Up And
    Moving On

Casting Off
     Aboard the IMV "Sohturn Behemoth", Mikah commanded from the bridge with Emkir as the command pilot and Terin assisting.  Fesic handled the weapons and operations console with Zimzod's help and Rol relaxed at one of the spare bridge stations rather the wait alone in one of the crew gather spaces.  Aali and Munarshu took up posts in the ship's engineering.  After some final organizational work and storing Aiden's body in a freezer for decisions later, Mikah gave the order to return to Equus Prime with the Shoshama Iigee and her four remaining crew flying alongside.

Captain Voulge's original plans had been different but had to be changed because of his own crew losses.  After the two captains talked about it, the crew of the Hotel California were put aboard the Sohturn Behemoth as a prize crew.  A brief message to the ship's owners and representatives of the system government set their final arrival time and things were squared away for their departure burns.  In the end, if they arrived on the new schedule, the government of Equus would forgive much of the issue with Captain Voulge's employers.  So, while the crew of the Hotel California wouldn't get paid in cash, they were even with Captain Voulge.  And Mikah planned to loot the Behemoth.

With things settled and the initial burns made, the crew were largely free to find ways to pass the time except for the pilots.  Emkir and Fesic were assigned as the duty pilots for the trip.  That let them handle the transit in 12-hour shifts.  As Emkir settled in, Fesic planned to join the crew in exploring the freighter until he needed to get some sleep.  Then he'd catch a nap and be fresh for his shift.  As the others considered what to do to pass the time, Rol suggested exploring the remaining ship's quarters to see what the former crew left behind?  Mikah liked that suggestion and Munarshu, who'd heard comments about the late Sir Zachariah Wood, muttered "I'll get my pillow case".

As the idea settled, Mikah said she had dibs on the staterooms assigned to the senior officers and the hunting team.  Rol said he'd wander through the compartments assigned to the regular crew and Terin said he'd work with Rol.  Munarshu went to the engineering compartments, certain there'd be a treasure trove of personal tools to select from to sell or upgrade his own tools.  Everyone else except Emkir followed Mikah as the pilot joked to Aali, "Find us some good loot." with a laugh.  Going out on their quests, everyone knew that some goods had been lost.  Including the weapons and gear the crew tried to use against the bears, anything left unsecured in the chaos was likely scattered and lost in the ship's tight spaces or sucked out into the void during the various compartment purges.  But they had seen that the crew were well trained and secured everything not "in use", so there were a lot of compartments to explore.

Making A Discreet Profit
     Before the teams parted ways, Mikah made a point of the fact that the ship was being turned over to its owners and could not "look looted".  They could not grab everything they saw or consider prying items off their mountings.  Nor could they strip the walls bare and they had to respect the ship's own gear and equipment.  Getting to the Captain's stateroom, Mikah and her team realized most of the storage in the stateroom were locked with a personal code.  Realizing the electronic codes were not easily hackable, the crew discussed the idea of forcing the compartments open.  But they decided it would be bad to further damage the ship while looting before turning it back over to its owners.

Rol first went looking for the galleys to check on the food situation with Terin following.  In the main galley on C deck, Rol checked the frozen and dry stores as well as the fluid stores.  As with many merchant ships, the food supply was largely a protein-base flavored with spices and other ingredients and fortified with other health-boosts, like vitamins.  After checking those stores, Rol was satisfied there were enough supplies to feed the crew, so Rol said they wouldn't check the other galleys and turned their attention to checking crewmember staterooms for what was left behind.

Moving out, Rol's plan was to spend three hours looking for any valuables and then start setting up for the first meal.  He recognized there would likely not be much of value to find, because these were cargo workers.  But you never knew.  Terin was up for eighteen hours of looting because he had no other duties during the cruise back to Equus.  Independent of Mikah's team and Rol's, Fesic went looting on his own and planned to spend three hours at it before relaxing. 

In the Captain's quarters, Zimzod was disappointed they could not just rip open the locked compartments and storage, but admitted they did not want to rip the ship up and cause damage before giving it back to the owners.  Looking for ways to open the locked compartments, Mikah also had the crew look for the Captain's Safe.  But, after half an hour, they found no signs how to unlock anything nor the safe.  Trying to work out how to open the locks, Aali mentioned that Emkir might have an electronic lock pick and Mikah said she should get the device from Emkir.

After ten minutes exploring those unlocked cabinets and storage spaces, Mikah's team had found basic personal items of no value and still had no sign of the ship's locker as Aali returned with Emkir's hand-comp.  While getting the device, Aali had asked Emkir to check for a network that would connect all the locks in the Captain's stateroom.  Once she was back, Aali made use of the data Emkir could now provide her and connected up the computer before running the software Emkir had identified.  Happily, some of the locked compartments opened, while some others still frustrated Mikah's desires.  The compartments on what was obviously the captain's personal desk remained locked.

Exploring the new compartments, Mikah found the captain's Ident, some personal electronics and other possessions.  Considering the partial success, Aali considered opening some panels and hacking the electronics themselves.  As she did that, Mikah took the man's Ident and looked through the electronics and data crystals.  But after an hour in the stateroom, none of the items they had found were worth any great value, nor did they find anything like a code to unlock anything with.  The only thing of significant value Mikah had found were KCr 60 on the captain's Ident, which would require her to go to a bank to even try to transfer.

Aali's thoughts about disassembling the stateroom panels and locks were interrupted as Mikah asked Aali to try different settings on Emkir's software now that everyone was well aware of it.  She tried that while Fesic was in another stateroom trying the idea of unscrewing panels and hacking electronic locks.  Doing that on his own, Aali comm'd Emkir to get some advice on working with the electronic lock pick software.  Unable to see the datapad screen, Emkir couldn't do more than recommending she try random settings to see what happened.

After checking the galleys, Rol and Terin headed out to find some of the staterooms assigned to the general crew.  Finding some staterooms rigged for four crew to share, Rol was sure he was not stepping on Mikah's toes.  He and Terin found the rooms properly squared away.  The beds folded into the walls as computer terminals and desks folded out.  That meant the room could be a spacious day room while they were not sleeping.  In-wall storage contained personal items while each assigned crew member had a personal locker.  When the two tried them, they found the lockers were secured electronically.

In the unsecured compartments, Terin and Rol found common items including cables for personal electronics, styluses, data crystals, figurines and small decorative items.  When checked, many of the data crystals turned out to be ship's procedures and the like.  At least one crewman was studying for some sort of advancement test.  Rol did find a pair of LSP branded LI goggles and kept those.  Some contained music or other personal files and some contained vid-programs and other entertainment.  Seeing the crystals were a mix of Romantic comedies and action/adventure vid, Rol decided the crew were well trained enough he'd not find anything of value unlocked.  So, he just grabbed a vid and relaxed to watch as Terin went off looking for more loot.

In the various ship's engineering spaces, Munarshu checked on the various systems as he searched for any "personal tools".  But after nearly two hours of searching, he found nothing.  Either the crew were happy to let the ship's officers provide vessel-owned equipment or all personal tools had been stored elsewhere.  That or they'd been in use and sucked out as the ship was repeatedly voided when dealing with the bears.  In the Captain's stateroom, Aali managed to find the settings to get the captain's desk to unlock.  With cheers, Mikah led an exploration of those compartments as Aali saved the settings.

Finding a loaded snub pistol secured in the draw, Mikah took it saying, "Mine."  Next, Mikah also saw a datapad and collection of data-crystals.  These, Mikah gave to Aali and told her to take them to Emkir to investigate.  As other storage locks fell open, they found the captain's personal valuables, including a collection of jeweled accessories, made of precious metal, which a Vilani man would wear.  the items, just over ten in number, appeared to be worth a few thousand credits at the most.  This suggested the man was not vane when it came to his fashions or appearance.  In addition, there was a data crystal which, when checked, had what appeared to be family and personal images.  Mikah ordered them to take it to be melted down and sold for metal-value later.

Separating Wheat From Chaff
     In the captain's stateroom, those assembled there were finding that all the data crystals contained ship's reports and statutes, data on the ship's trade.  They found one of the crystals contained the ship's ledger, which did not have the captain's security codes.  So Mikah dropped it and moved on.  In the bridge, Aali had delivered the datapad to Emkir to unlock and see if he could find the captain's codes on it.  She suggested it might be the captain's 'holy of holy's' and they wanted it cracked with the least chance of data loss.

Emkir checked his boards and saw he was good for a while.  Making sure the sensor alerts were audio, he started to evaluate the datapad.  Aali watched him for a bit but then returned below as Emkir worked.  As Aali rejoined the others, they moved on the First Officer's stateroom, which was shared with the Chief Purser.  Before they moved, Mikah comm'd the rest of the team and said they'd not found the ship's safe, putting a bounty on finding that cincture.  Where he was exploring, Terin decided to start searching likely spaces for the safe.  Rol had settled in with an action/adventure flick and relaxed, figuring a working freighter crew wouldn't have any great wealth to loot.

Munarshu was coming up empty after hours searching section after section of the various engineering spaces.  Sadly, he was not finding anything other than the working tools of the ship's crew.  The only thing Munarshu was finding was that this crew were working class people.  Folks who didn't spend their pay on fancier versions of the tools they already had.  They likely spent their cash on beers and fun off-ship.  Still, Munarshu was convinced, for some reason, there would be hidden panels in some part of the engineering spaces.  He began spending hours visually scanning every removable plate he thought likely, to see if there were any had been removed more frequently than it would need to be.  Since Mikah had the rich cabins, he'd relax for a few hours.  As he watched, Mikah's team found themselves in a locked-down stateroom where they had no access to the storage.  And Aali's return came without the electronic hacking software.

In the bridge, Emkir hacked the datapad and spent an amount of time working his way through it before announcing anything concrete.  He found the ship's core financials, contact lists, data on where the ship had bank accounts and all the data he used to operate the ship's merchant business, including full access data to the bank accounts!  Emkir saw so much promise in the data stored there that he copied the entire drive.  What he didn't find were the codes or passwords Mikah hoped they'd find to loot the ship.  Nor did he find the location of the ship's safe.  Calling Mikah, he let her know what he'd found, or not found.  When Mikah asked about any accounts on the systems they planned to visit, Emkir confirmed they were data on those, and Mikah said to copy the data for the future.

Hearing that, Terin heard Mikah's orders about the ship's safe and went to search the likely compartments.  When Aali arrived, the team realized they couldn't force anything in the First Officer's quarters and moved on to the staterooms assigned to the team of hunters who'd been aboard.  Once there, the crew found the hunters had been less strict about securing compartments.  Happy with some access, they searched and found some ammo, low-value credit chits and personal electronics.  There were some precious metal based personal jewelry.  Nothing to write home about, but Mikah considered that every little bit would help, and they could melt down the precious metal for sales weight.

They also found the clothing the team had aboard.  Nothing specifically combat camouflage, but hard-wearing gear.  As they compared sizes, Mikah even found some items of active-wear that fit her.  Pleased enough, she wrapped those up and took them along.  As the team searched through the hunter's quarters, they found weapons cases for weapons which empty because the guns had been grabbed, and lost, to fight the bears.  As they all searched, Rol's movie finally ended and it was close enough to mid-day that he went to the ship's galley to start cooking something.

A Meal And Some Organization
     After Rol announced he was cooking lunch, Munarshu was into his task.  He'd paused at several locations where it seemed scratches were out of place, but his investigations revealed wiring and other service-spaces.  Clearly, the scratches he'd seen were caused while moving machinery.  Still, he had covered very little of the entire space in the compartment he was in.  As he searched, each cache of tools he'd found were very obviously ship's equipment and generic.

So, when he heard Rol's announcement, Munarshu decided he'd check out a crew-stateroom and see what he could find there.  Then he'd go to the galley for lunch.  In the stateroom he chose, Munarshu could see it was rigged for four crew.  Most of the compartments were properly stowed and unlocked, so he searched through them to find small amounts of personal trinkets.  Each also had a secured locker-style compartment for their use and gear.  Once he'd been through the non-secured compartments, Munarshu pulled out his tools and began removing wall panels to get at the electronic locks and disable them.  Managing to open one locker, Munarshu found the crewperson's Ident and Cr 500 worth of jewelry if he could get fair value on a sale.

As Terin searched for the ship's safe, before Rol's announcement, he considered the issue of the locked compartments and wondered if there might be a routine in the ship's computer which would unlock all compartments?  Hitting on this thought, Terin called Emkir on the bridge and asked him to check the software for such a routine.  Emkir said he'd have to check.  Normally, a ship's portals could be commonly controlled, but the personal locks in a stateroom would have a stateroom-specific security system.  Of course, those should be controllable from the ship's security software suite, but Emkir said he'd search for an over-all control rather than having to hunt down each stateroom one by one.

After the call went out that lunch was ready, everyone except Emkir gathered in the galley.  As they ate and talked, Aali prepared a platter to take to the bridge for her husband.  On the bridge, Emkir was dealing with watching the flight systems while digging into the computer unlock protocols.  Periodically, he checked the glitches on the sensors, all apparently caused by some of the debris trailing them.  The ship's local gravity was dragging that along from the "battle site".  The debris were mostly from the remains of the forward section of the shuttle, though the issue was a "meatsicle" from time to time.

While the crew ate, Munarshu told them about his search in the engineering spaces.  When he discussed breaking into the one locker in a stateroom, the crew fell to comparing what little loot they had gathered so far.  The general consensus was that no one was getting rich today.  After lunch, Fesic planned to relax and grab a nap so he could be ready for his 12-hour shift on the bridge.  Mikah recommended he sleep in the Captain's quarters, because it had to be the most comfortable bed and fittings.  Rol decided he'd do gear maintenance and, since there was something out there, scout for some more stuff to loot before grabbing sleep.

Mikah reassembled her team and discussed taking a page from Munarshu's play book and disassembling panels to get at and disable the electronic locks.  With that, they returned to the First Officer's stateroom to get at the compartments there.  Munarshu decided to check the engineering systems to make sure there were no changes before returning to rummaging staterooms.  Rol also went out on his own and, in his selected stateroom, examined the fittings to the panels he'd need to remove.  Of course, he recalled that would only get him access to electronics he'd need to bypass or spoof.  His electronic skills were not the greatest so he did not think he'd get very far.  But he tried.

On his own but not looting, Terin went looking for the ship's safe.  He visited all the likely places and even found what looked like a Purser's safe in the Purser's office.  Not having the skills to hack it, Terin noted the location for later when he had reinforcements.  But, as the potential targets wound down, Terin was more open on places to look.  Eventually, he found a stateroom which looked like it was rigged as a business office in the forward starboard side of Deck D.  Starting to explore with the basics, to check the compartment off the 'possibles list', Terin was surprised to find the safe hidden under a work-desk!

Making The Job Pay
     In the First Officer's quarters again, Mikah watched as Aali first removed a cover panel and then handed off the tools she used to Zimzod and started working on the electronics.  While she did that, Zimzod started working the next wall panel.  After they popped all the compartments, they found the first officer, like the others, had personal possessions, data crystals and some jewelry, etc.  In addition to that, he also had a lockbox.  Since it did not look like anything special, Mikah glanced at the electronic lock before having Aali pry it open.  Everyone in the compartment was pleased once she did, and the open box exposed physical Imperial currency.

In addition to the currency were what appeared to be two oval-like "hand-sized" semi-translucent gemstones.  As she said, "Mine!" and looked more closely, Mikah saw they were somewhat opalescent in their depths as well as slightly milky.  As the three looked at the stones, they appeared vaguely familiar to Mikah and Aali while Zimzod had no clue.  Counting the cash, they found the twelve "bills", polymer, electronic-imprinted staves seven centimeters long by three wide and one centimeter deep were each Cr 1,000 bills.  Mikah declared, "Everybody gets one and the rest go to ship's funds."

Happy to have gotten something out of the work, Mikah said the three of them should find out what drinks this ship had and relax.  She, Zimzod and Aali headed for a lounge in officer's country to see what survived there?  As they did this, Munarshu had been looting a stateroom shared by two crew and found items he figured he might be able to convert into Cr 500.  In addition, there were the handful of useless personal data crystals and other ignorable items.  He was not surprised not to find weapons because this crew likely stored all weapons in the ship's locker.  After he finished there, Munarshu moved on to the next stateroom with two beds in it.

About this time, Terin came on the ship-wide comms saying, "Guess what I found." in a pleased voice.  Mikah joked, "Your virginity?" in a statement. Rather than just spill the data, Terin said, "Captain.  You need to come to this compartment Now." stressing the last word.  Mikah agreed but still asked, "There's not a bear in there.  Is there?"  Terin joked, "Not anymore."  Curiosity brought everyone but Emkir, who was on the bridge, and Fesic, who was sleeping.  As she arrived, Terin showed Mikah he'd discovered what was obviously the ship's safe.  Before trying anything else locally, they called Emkir to ask how he was going mapping the unlock procedures.  What the Admiral had found was that there was not a "grand" process to simply unlock everything.

So Emkir was mapping the processes specific to each compartment in an attempt to locate a trigger for each lock.  When he said as much, Terin described to Emkir exactly where they were so the pilot could search for a routine tied to something significant there.  As Emkir started digging into the computer programs, Terin suggested they grab chairs and wait.  Mikah joked that they should watch the safe to make sure it did not escape.  Eventually, they rooted through the ship's entertainment library to find an action/adventure vid to watch while they waited.

All except Munarshu, who went back to the stateroom he'd just started on.  When he announced what he had in mind, Rol and Zimzod also went with Munarshu.  When Munarshu happily said, "Ain't nothin' jumping out of those boxes that we can't deal with."  Rol joked, "I don't think you really understand why we're here."  So as Emkir worked and the others watched a vid, Munarshu cracked open lockers while Zimzod and Rol watched and helped evaluate what they found.  Especially when they found one of the crewmen in the room had a collection of small round coins, made of precious metals, with odd patterns on them!  Looking closely at the patterns, some appeared to be scenes with and without buildings.  Others appeared to have portraits.

As Munarshu pocketed them to show the crew later, Zimzod asked, "We're gonna share those.  Right?" with a smirk on his face.  When Munarshu looked up and said, "Of course", Zimzod asked to see them.  Munarshu, unaware of Zimzod's keen interest in legends, handed them over and Zimzod examined the coins.  Eventually, he said he was keeping a few of them, because he liked the images on them.  At that, Rol gave a snort but otherwise was not interested in the exchange.  As the three looted, the others were interrupted when Emkir called down from the bridge.  He said he'd identified the hardware addresses related to that compartment and the programs that controlled them.  He planned to activate each computer process and wait until those in the space reported back what each program did.

Once he warned them, everyone in the room made sure their vacc suits were sealed and they were ready for anything.  Once Emkir started activating and killing processes, the crew noticed affects like the vent fans shutting down, lights shutting down and relighting and more.  Emkir worked while some of the crew commented on visible effects they could identify, in case they needed to use a similar routine in another stateroom.  Also, with each flip of the switch, they tried to open the safe to no effect.  Finally, after fifteen minutes, Emkir had tried all the routines and nothing affected the safe as far as they could detect.

When it was suggested they bring Emkir's handcomp and the cracker software down to the office, Mikah suggested Aali get it.  When Terin asked if she could fly the ship and relieve Emkir, she said she could not.  Zimzod, who was returning with the others at that point, pointed out Terin could fly the ship and relieve Emkir.  Terin pointed out that he had found the safe, as if that gave him the right to be there when it was opened but Zimzod fixed him with a look and said, "Well, that just sucks, don't it.  Sounds like someone's a whiny bitch." before chuckling.  After a brief pause while Terin hoped Zimzod was joking, Terin told Emkir he'd be right up to relieve the Admiral on the bridge.

Once they'd traded places, Emkir began his work as Mikah watched closely with avarice in her eyes.  Less than ten minutes after he started, Emkir was able to open the safe!  As they looked inside, those who could see within noted a number of datapads, data crystals and a cloth bag buried on the bottom.  Once the bag was drawn out and opened, Mikah identified more Imperial hard currency!  As Mikah supervised, Emkir and Aali checked the values on the five bills, and found they were each worth KCr 10!  Mikah took the bills and said they'd divide up the cash later, but promised everyone would get some.  Checking the datapads, Emkir spent 20 minutes going over the very detailed records of the ship officer's transactions and trading.  Importantly, the captain seemed to have tracked trends and needs.  Impressed with the data, Emkir said he was keeping the captains' datapad.

After they finished with the first officer's stateroom, the crew returned to the Captain's stateroom to finish looting the doors they opened.  As they shifted locations, and feeling bad, Emkir confirmed Terin was OK before following them.  The news on the cash cheered Terin quite a bit.  Once they entered the captain's quarters and woke Fesic, with apologies, Emkir was set to work on the remaining compartments.  As the next forty minutes elapsed, Emkir opened lock after lock and they explored.  One compartment was a suit closet, and had inside a number of well decorated outfits which could only be called "Suits of state", meant for diplomatic appearances in various societies.  It became apparent, this captain knew how to dress diplomatically from system to system.

Mikah was impressed, but largely considered the value of the outfits in jewelry weight.  Still, she had someone grab them all, as well as the accessories and jewelry also stored with them.  Moving on, they eventually found the captain's private stash and the ship's funds!  Thinking "Jackpot!", Mikah moved in to find there was a dedicated datapad which had entries and accounting in much more detail than the account listing they'd found earlier.  Setting that aside for later inspection, Mikah checked the cash box to find the ship's funds held MCr 3.5!  When Emkir asked if they should be cautious about taking the cash, Zimzod pointed out that there was no telling what the crew were doing that made them need killing.  With that, Mikah said they were taking the cash.

Ruining their days, Mikah made the decision to devote all MCr 3.5 to their ship's funds.  Despite that downer, Mikah announced it was time for a party, and everyone but Terin, on the bridge, and Fesic, who went back to sleep, went to one of the ship's galleys to see if there was anything on the craft to drink?  When Emkir asked if he should relieve Terin, Mikah told him to leave Terin on the bridge.  As they relaxed, despite the lack of alcohol, Zimzod commented on the other ship, saying they might be expecting a share of any cash found.  That prompted Rol to ask how they were splitting their cash with the other crew, now there were so few of them?

As Mikah thought about it, she asked Zimzod about the Sohturn Behemoth's weapons?  When the others picked up on her thoughts, Zimzod said the Shoshama Iigee was definitely in range but so were they.  When Mikah looked at him, Zimzod reminded her the other crew would see them powering up the weapons and had a lot more weapons on their ship.  He did not have to say that they knew how to use those weapons too.  Emkir threw in, "They're my alibi.  Don't kill them, please?"  Zimzod laughed and said to Emkir, "Dude, your alibi could already be bear food." and Emkir had to admit, with more than half the crew dead, there was a good enough chance of that too.  The thought wasn't a pleasant one.

Mikah laughed as she reconsidered blowing away the other ship and told Emkir, "You can always comm them and ask about your alibi."  Emkir firmly told her, "I don't want to know."  After they relaxed, they eventually faded off to sleep except for Fesic, who relieved Terin.  So, as Fesic settled in and checked his boards and the ship's system's, the others partied until it was time to sleep.  Each person or couple selected a stateroom and set up house-keeping for the night.  No one set alarms as Fesic would wake the crew if needed.

Return To Equus Prime
     While he did not set his usual 5am alarm, Munarshu was ironically the first of the crew to wake up.  After cleaning up and waking up, he went to engineering to check the ship's systems before anything else.  While Zimzod and Mikah woke up pretty much at the same time, Zimzod decided to keep her in bed.  Not having anything to do until they closed with the Equus high-port, Mikah did not resist.  At the same time, Terin woke in the stateroom he selected, cleaned up and headed for the galley.

In the galley, Terin found himself alone and cooked food.  As he started to work, Terin comm'd Fesic to check on how things were and Fesic demanded Terin bring him some caff.  Setting his work aside for the moment, Terin cooked some caff and brought it up to the bridge.  After that, he set a menu with pancakes and set to cooking.  In engineering, Munarshu was finishing up his checks and headed to the galley.  Munarshu arrived there just as Terin finished cooking, so Terin served him a plate.  At the same time, Aali was waking up while Emkir was still fast asleep.  Deciding they might not have that much spare time once they got back to the port, Aali decided to wake Emkir so they could have some fun.

Eventually, Rol woke and he, Terin and Munarshu relaxed after cleaning the galley while Fesic piloted the ship and the couples enjoyed their morning off.  As the couples played, those in the galley talked about what to do for the next hours until they began to make their approach.  When someone commented on the ship's locker, they realized they had not looted that space!  With that idea, they went to investigate what they could find.  They told Fesic what they were up to and he said there was an actual control on the bridge to unlock the ship's locker.  So, they didn't need to wake Emkir.  In the locker, which they made sure to prop open, they found a properly secured and organized space.

There were a number of submachineguns, shotguns and revolvers.  There were also cases of ball ammunition for the weapons as well as some non-lethals for the shotguns.  There were what appeared to be generic vacc suits and even some tubed rescue balls.  Looking at those, the three discussed the equipment aboard the Hotel California and realized they had no rescue balls aboard their own ship.  Terin suggested they should loot the rescue balls as he grabbed a revolver for Aiden.  He also saw two hard-shell containers, stacked in the back of the space with a pair of gravLifters next to them.

Terin said they had gravLifters but should grab that set too, given how much they cost.  As the list of stuff to grab grew, Terin figured they needed to call Mikah and decide what they were going to take or not take?  As he considered waking Mikah up without a pressing need to, Terin said they could wait until Mikah and Zimzod showed up instead of rushing things.  Also, they needed to plan "how" they would move anything looted to their berth.  It wasn't as if they were going to pull the freighter up to their berth and empty out their loot before moving on to meet the ship's owners.

Of course, Terin also reminded the others they had to move a coffin off the ship.  That gave them a reason to use a set of gravLifters when leaving the ship.  They could then plan not to return them, in the confusion of refitting the ship, boarding a new crew and making needed repairs.  Not to mention having to replace those things which had been lost while repeatedly voiding the ship.  With those basic plans laid, Terin turned his attention to the cases at the back of the locker and popped one open.  What he saw were some parts that appeared to assemble into some kind of stand with a device that might sit on top of the stand.

With a "best guess" that it was some kind of surveying gear, Terin asked, "Munarshu, what is this?"  Surprisingly, even though it had nothing to do with ships or interstellar engineering, Munarshu thought he knew right away.  Still, he wanted to be sure and had them move the top case and open the second one.  The second case revealed a bullet-shaped meter-long device with gear-like crawler teeth running down it's sides, at 120 degree off-sets, and a focusing crystal mounted on the tapered end.  Searching the case, they also found batteries which were to be installed into what looked to Terin like a large, crystal-tipped bullet.

And while the others were completely confused, Munarshu knew what he was looking at.  He told the others it was a kit for asteroid mining!  He'd been uncertain, at first, because he hadn't seen one since, as a kid, his father showed him pictures of the kinds of gear he wanted to buy.  The first case was a prospecting scanner, that an asteroid miner would set up to look for veins of ore to pursue.  Then, the second case contained an autonomous drill, fitted with a relatively dumb but highly skilled AI.  There was also a remote in the case, used to interact with the drill as well as some spare heads and the batteries.

When Terin said, "That's cool", Rol asked if he thought they might get into asteroid mining?  Munarshu had suggested the cases would be of the right size for one to be used as Aiden's coffin.  Knowing the drill had value, he said, "I guess we're leaving Aiden's corpse behind."  Terin asked Munarshu if the two devices sync'd up to work together and was told they did.  Munarshu said the surveyor was affixed to the surface of a rock and remotely directed the drill.  The two devices were also able to connect by comms to a remote workstation the miner would have on their ship or in their habitation module, where they could track the ore tailings for recovery later.

The drill also had enough of a brain to optimize its operations.  Munarshu was also willing to bet it could do "seek and sample" work.  It would find potential ore sites and test them for content.  The reports broadcast out would let the miner or mining team sell the report to a corporation more suited to actually opening up mining operations to recover and process the ore.  Miners who worked that method made their money from finder's fees.  Once Munarshu said his piece, they were left to wonder what it was doing in the ship's locker of the Sohturn Behemoth?

Rather than burn their remaining brain cells alone, Terin decided it was time to call Mikah.  Pinned under Zimzod, Mikah was enjoying herself enough to ignore the comms buzz.  When Terin got her voicemail, he left a very brief message and decided Mikah'd get the update once she woke up.  Once he was done trying to reach her, Terin speculated on calling the Shoshama Iigee and transferring some items to them so they could be quietly transferred to the California's berth later.  Of course, he also said they should wait until Mikah decided that.

Asking And Taking
     After checking into everything they could unlock, Terin and Rol returned to the lounge they'd been using to wait for the others to come out of their staterooms.  Munarshu went on to work on opening up some more crew staterooms.  By the time the others emerged from their staterooms, Munarshu had recovered about Cr 300 of additional personal items and some consumer electronics which could sell to the right buyers on low tech worlds.  When the two couples came to the lounge, they found Terin and Rol watching 'several hours old' news as the broadcast carrier waves made their way out to inter-planetary space.  As people settled down, Fesic even put the ship on autopilot and came down to the lounge for chow and chat.

Pawing through the cold remains of breakfast, Terin told Mikah and Zimzod, "I have something to show you in the ship's locker.  I don't know if you want to do that before you eat or after?"  Mikah snapped at him, "I want to eat!" and told him off for jumping like an over-eager puppy.  Zimzod was more direct, saying "She wants to eat, she isn't going anywhere soon and the only reason you might be going somewhere is if she stuffs you in a tube and fires you out."  That set Terin back until the couples had a chance to eat and relax.  As they were finishing up, Emkir asked, "So, what did you find in the ship's locker?"  Terin said, "Something that I think is worth quite a bit of money", they scowled at his need to preserve his mystery and they all went to the locker with him.

Underwhelmed once she had the devices explained to her, Mikah asked, "So you want us to go prospecting?"  Terin answered, "I'm sure someone in this universe wants to go prospecting." stressing the word 'someone'.  He then continued, "And these, we can sell to them."  Terin then came across with the rest of his master plan, saying "And right alongside us is our partner ship, and we can dock with them and move the stuff to their ship..."  Interrupting him, Mikah said, "Yeah, and then they'll keep it." at which Terin reminded her, "They will want a cut.  If this is worth a bunch of money, they can keep this as their cut."  As he continued, Mikah knew they'd have to work out some details with Voulge and his crew.

Mikah told Terin she'd consider his idea.  In the back of her mind, she was also worried about having to deal with the ship's owners if they stripped the vessel clean.  When she said that, Emkir suggested they look through the datapads to see if they could find a ship's manifest.  That way, they'd know what the ship's owners expected to be present.  Terin invited Emkir to find the manifest and Emkir accepted the challenge.  Terin also said they'd have to decide what to tell Captain Voulge?  Mikah immediately and firmly said, "The cash is secret!" and everyone agreed.

Considering that they only had three to four hours before they would be getting ready to dock, Mikah decided it was time to stop looting and do some work setting things to right before they had to hand over the ship.  As she put out the word and recalled Munarshu, they settled down to discuss how to get what they wanted to take off the ship.  Terin suggested not saying anything about the ship's safe and letting anyone assume the crew had emptied it out during whatever events led to the owners hiring of Captain Voulge and giving the kill order.  Emkir spread the datapads from the Captain's stateroom around for help finding the manifest.

As they reviewed what they considered "removable", Terin first mentioned the mining gear.  Zimzod mentioned the weapons in the ship's locker and the rescue balls.  As Munarshu arrived, he pointed to the pile of nick-knacks and personal items, which everyone knew the owners would not care about.  He also produced the coins he had and asked if anyone had any ideas about their origin or value?  As they all took looks at the coins, images and even the writing on the coins, no one could guess at their history or value.  Terin suggested they split the piles of personal items up and offer some of that to the other crew, claiming that was all of worth they found other than the mining gear.  They also had a huge collection of data crystals along with a good number of low end datapads.

As they consolidated their collections, Aali reminded Mikah that they had not gotten to the chief engineer's gear or the chief gunner.  When Zimzod suggested it would be noticeable if all the staterooms for the senior officers were cleaned out, the others joked, "We were cleaning them" or "There was a lot of blood" in innocent tones.  Terin also suggested they could cherry-pick the possessions they found and leave most of it in place.  After listening to the discussion for a bit, Mikah decided to hit the rest of the staterooms assigned to the senior officers before doing a final organization and deciding how to move the loot.

In the chief engineer's goods, they found the same kinds of personal items they'd found everywhere.  The only monetary items would need a bank to transfer funds.  Beyond that, they found the ship's engineering log.  In the chief gunner's quarters, they found evidence of a hasty visit and the empty carrying cases for missing weapons.  These were obviously grabbed by the officer in response to the bears.  They did find, on a datapad, a catalog of military weapons of all types, including high energy weapons like PGMP's and FGMP's.  When Terin went to hand Zimzod the catalog with a snicker that he'd not get any closer to the weapons, Zimzod wondered how well Terin would fit in one of the gun cases?  Other than that, the officers didn't seem to have a lot of personal items to store in their staterooms, which was not surprising as they worked a freighter.

Wrapping Up Work And Deals
     As Fesic headed back to the bridge to begin communicating with the port controllers, Mikah decided it was time to call Voulge.  Once he was on the line, Voulge asked, "What's up" and Mikah led with having found valuable equipment which does not seem to be part of the ship's gear.  When she continued, saying they needed to find a way to get it off the ship before reaching the port, he asked for details on the "gear"?  Mikah explained about the gravLifters and the mining gear, describing the mining gear as best she could.  When he was confused and asked for pictures, Mikah sent Terin to take some images to send.  But the presence of the gear stumped Voulge too.

Either way, Mikah made it clear she thought it was worth money and worth selling off after they'd removed it from the ship.  Voulge accepted that as well as accepting her interest in smuggling them off.  When he asked what other valuables they'd found, Mikah said it was mostly nick-knacks and personal goods.  Some jewelry and low-end valuables.  But she made it clear they'd not found the captain's safe and invited Voulge to tell her where it might be if he knew?  Voulge said he didn't know and shrugged it off, making it clear the low-end stuff was disappointing.  When Mikah again raised the idea of selling the mining gear and raising some money, he responded, "Yeah.  I have to hire a whole new crew."  Mikah acknowledged that as he metaphorically staked a claim on any profits.

After a pause, Voulge asked what she had in mind and she said they should dock and transfer the valuable goods to his ship.  That way, they could divide up the stuff after returning to the port and handing the freighter over.  Voulge was good with the idea of docking and said he'd have his pilot work it out with Fesic.  Of course, in the much larger ship, Fesic had the easy job of just keeping the ship on course while the Shoshama Iigee moved up and positioned herself off one of their airlocks.  They chose the main cargo airlock, amidships on D Deck and both ship's secured ties before extending a docking collar.

With the checks and tests were done, Voulge boarded with one of his newly promoted officers.  After the greetings, Voulge said, "Show me what you found?" and followed them to the ship's locker. Checking the weapons in the compartment, Voulge could not hide his contempt as he said, "Those really are shit."  But face to face with the prospecting gear, all Voulge could say was, "OK, that's weird."  After considering that and the comments around him, Voulge asked them to show him the rest of what they'd found.  Mikah showed him to the boxed up collections of personal gear and the smaller collection of precious and semi-precious metals and other items.  As with the gravLifters, Voulge was unsurprisingly unimpressed.

As for ship's gear, Voulge agreed they could grab a few sets of gravLifters without any likely protests.  After that, they brought him to see the damaged containers holding the remains of the hunter's cargo.  After a bit of time examining that gear, Voulge smiled and said, "Follow me."  With that, he led them to the compartment they'd found the captain's safe in, making it obvious he'd known its location all along.  Standing over the safe, Voulge pulled out a personal datapad and called up a screen before kneeling and opening the safe!  So not only did he know where it was, but he had the combination and everyone had to wonder what other combinations Voulge had?  And how much he knew?

After seeing the safe was empty, he looked up at Mikah with a skeptical look on his face and said, "So you didn't find this safe, huh?"  Putting her most innocent face on, Mikah just said "Nope" and he asked, "Really?  Because this is the ship's safe."  Mikah just kept her face on and claimed, "We didn't see it."  Accepting there was nothing more to be done, Voulge agreed that they should move the prospecting gear and other goods to the Iigee and drive into port.  Overdoing it a bit, to help drive the point, Munarshu put on his "astonished" act and asked how Voulge knew where the safe was, claiming they had "looked all over for it."  Voulge just said, "I have low friends in high places." and left it at that.

As they moved everything except the cash and the Captain and First officer's duty datapads over to the Iigee, Mikah was sure they'd never see any of it again.  On the bridge, Fesic was beginning the contact with Equus system control.  After they moved the loot, they revisited the question of Aiden's body and Mikah asked Voulge what he'd done with the bodies of his crew?  He said the bodies had been dumped with the others.  Zimzod reminded Mikah that this body was not important, because they were getting a re-print.  This led to a number of jokes about what the ladies could do with an eighteen-year-old version of Aiden.

Many Returns
     Once they'd organized the loot and gear they wanted to moved it to the Iigee, they seriously considered the question of Aiden's body.  Eventually, they head a small service for the once and future Aiden before launching his body into what would become a wide but unstable and decaying orbit of Equus prime.  No one did the numbers to figure how long it would take before his body was drawn into the upper atmosphere of the world and burned up.  There were some jokes about small bits of him surviving re-entry to get some kind of final vengeance.  On the bridge, Fesic and the Iigee's pilot were working with Equus approach.  Their other pilot identified the business factors they needed to connect with in order to turn over the Sohturn Behemoth.

Soon enough, Fesic had his approach vector from approach control and followed it in-bound to near-orbital control.  As they closed on their approach, the Behemoth was directed to an area of high orbit where larger corporate vessels were keeping station while smaller service spacecraft provided personnel and cargo shuttle services as well as maintenance operations.  Eventually, Fesic magnetically tied up to a docking drone which provided some small off-ship services and orbital cargo storage facilities.

The offices aboard the drone provided a neutral space for the crew to meet with customs inspectors once the port sent a team to take care of the needed transactions.  Where fees were to be charged, Captain Voulge provided account data from the ship's owners to cover all costs.  Once those matters were dealt with and the inspection about to begin, a priority call came in from the port.  Stopping things cold, the message, from down-well and the Count's office, stated that the ship and its contents were not to be inspected and the team were to sign all needed forms and return to the port.

With the Sohturn Behemoth secured and maintained in an isolated space, the crew of the Hotel California were to be allowed to return to the port.  The Behemoth was to remain isolated until the Count's people could access the vessel.  As the inspectors were getting their orders, Mikah also got a comms, from Voulge who said "his boss" had been working with the Count's people to expedite delivery of the cargo so she and her crew should not worry.  Assured she and her crew had nothing to worry about, Mikah was good with just following instructions as they were shuttled back to the port and their berth.

Back in the berth, they knew they had three more days before they might get early word work on the Hotel California was done.  They also knew they were officially discouraged from spending time in the open and public spaces of the port with additional restrictions placed on Emkir's movements.  And they knew they had to check in with Station central offices, to see what had developed regarding Emkir's Murder trial.  The vacation was certainly over.  As they discussed access to the station, Emkir volunteered to "babysit the berth" if they wanted to go out and do things.

Terin reminded them all that visiting the station was gonna be a lot more expensive, since they now had to comply with Oxy-accounts and other station restrictions.  Mikah just told the crew to relax and recover until it was time, and then they'd order dinner to be delivered.  When Mikah called station central offices about Emkir, she was told they would contact her when they had further updates.  Not happy being in limbo, Mikah let Emkir and Aali know there was "no news".  As well as eating, the crew relaxed, watched vids and caught up on the news as they burned off the evening before drifting off to sleep.

Dropped Charges And Shared Profits
     Keeping with his habits, Munarshu woke at 5am, and went through his morning routine before relaxing and watching the news until the others woke up.  With everyone awake, Rol cooked breakfast.  As they ate, and afterwards, the crew talked about how to waste time until the ship was done with repairs.  This went on until 10am, when the Station Legal Offices called for Mikah, asking for her, her First Officer and the Admiral to meet them.  As they got dressed after the call, Aali also said she was 'going with'.

Leaving the berth, the four went through metering for an oxy-account before taking a Cr 20 ride to the offices.  In the vehicle, Mikah made it clear Emkir was paying for the ride. After meeting the legal affairs officer, the situation was laid out for them.  Since the hack, which was still under investigation, and the emergence of a witness for Emkir, the case had largely collapsed.  While Station authorities worked with the captain of the Dilucca regarding a path forward, they had few legal options.  So, they were now just burning time off their schedule.  Disgusted, their captain left the port and system.  That departure was on the 344th day.

While Emkir and the crew were pleased, the station official made it clear he did not view this as a victory and felt Emkir should have been tried and convicted.  Despite the case having been officially closed and the charges dropped, they were warned Emkir had made an enemy of a "Family ship" and Trader families tended to have many connections.  When he asked, Emkir was told the family name was "Sladek".  Thnking about that bit of data, Mikah and the others realized they could be at the beginning of a long feud as they travelled along their own itinerary.

While all charges against Emkir were being dropped, the station would still prefer Emkir keep a low profile if he were to leave their berth.  Outside that, they made it clear they were not going to order the crew to keep to their berth but they'd really prefer the crew did just that.  If they did come onto the station for any reason, central offices preferred they keep a low profile.  When they were told that, Zimzod smirked and happily said, "Low profile is our middle name."  With little left to discuss, they confirmed Emkir could leave the system as soon as the Hotel California was ready.

Emkir repeated that he regretted how events played out, station security accepted his words.  But the authorities wore expressions that made it clear they didn't care about his regrets or apologies.  It was clear, his actions, intentional or not, made their jobs harder and his apologies wouldn't fix the problems he'd created.  After that, the officers released Emkir and the crew to return to the berth.  Once clear, Mikah ordered them back to the berth, which was another Cr 20 taxi ride and Cr 80 more for the oxy-accounts, which Mikah said Emkir was also paying.

Back at the berth, Mikah called a crew meeting to let them all know what happened.  Everyone was told the charges against Emkir were dropped and they were free to go when the ship was done.  She also said they would share out both the KCr 12 and KCr 50 they found aboard the freighter.  But Mikah made it clear the entire MCr 3.5 they'd gotten from the freighter's funds were being put into the Hotel California's funds, in case they had another system failure.  When there were groans, Mikah reminded the crew about the cost of replacing the fuel purification plant.

When they talked about the accounts data from the Sohturn Behemoth's captain, they agreed those would be kept for extreme desperation.  Emkir said he'd rather rob the Stepozhevaci and Mikah agreed but they both agreed IRIS and perhaps other Imperial intelligence might be looking at all those accounts.  That meant anything they did could set off alarms, or worse.  After that, Mikah said they had two days more before they had their ship back and said they had to decide what to do with the time?

The Play Out And Evening After
     Aali suggested they should go through the data they'd gotten from the freighter and tabulate it.  Rol asked the crew if there were any armor issues they needed to take care of?  The only obvious work he needed to do was order parts and refresh systems for the crew's various armor and vacc suits.  When Emkir suggested they restrict research to their own personal electronics, it was pointed out they only needed to categorize what was on the datapads.  Munarshu wanted to research the coins he found and figure their history and value out.

Zimzod laughed and said they came from a low-level crewman's cabin so they probably came from a backward tech system that still does not understand electronic money.  Mikah said it would be much more valuable to look up what the prospecting gear was worth?  Emkir suggested it'd be good to know, so they could use it as leverage with Voulge.  Terin jumped in, suggesting they give Voulge's people a larger cut of the loot since they lost so many crew.  People started to disagree before Mikah stepped down hard on all the suggestions saying, "look, I have to negotiate this.  And I'm gonna start high on our end, to make it look real."  That made it clear they had to appear to have not found the big cash hauls if nothing else.

Zimzod ended things when he said, "I'm sure Voulge is looking this gear up too."  With that, the discussions ended as Terin took the shots he had of the gear and began an image search on the station-net.  What they found was that the suite was a comparatively dumb android with very specific pre-programmed uses and capabilities.  It was also a common type of unit, with competitive models put out by LSP, General Products and with a higher end version sold by Naasirka Corp.  As a result, a brand new unit set would be worth MCr 1.5 with used units worth...less.  To say the least, the crew were disappointed with the news.  They took solace in the thought they knew they had a set of gravLifters coming too.

Once they had all the data in order, Mikah was ready to call Voulge and negotiate to see what they could get from him.  After half an hour on the comms, Mikah got both sets of gravLifters they'd pulled off the ship.  Voulge wasn't concerned with them.  He was more interested in keeping the mining gear, which surprised Mikah until he said, "You never know what kind of damage you can do to a defensive position with the right mining gear."  They had to respect the fact the man immediately went for a military use.  With that agreed, Voulge said he'd have one set of lifters thrown in a cargo pod and delivered using the second set so it just appeared to be a cargo transfer.  No one spoke about the looted crew possessions.

After that call, the crew relaxed and did their research all day until the evening.  After dinner, Voulge arrived with two of his crew to move the cargo.  Once the delivery was made and they sat down to have drinks, Voulge asked Mikah to tell him what was really in the ship's safe when she opened it?  Mikah held fast, saying, "We never got to the ship's safe.  We couldn't find it."  Voulge shrugged and accepted that, saying "OK".  Still, the crew had broken out the good stuff and they hung out and swapped stories.  And when they returned to the Iigee, Mikah made sure Emkir paid for their oxy-accounts because he owed them too.  Much to Emkir and Aali's relief, that ended up costing Cr 150.

After the visit, Fesic reconsidered his recent stop at a pawn shop and the case of Sword Worlds weapon cleaning oil.  Thanks to his recent adventures, Fesic decided to go back and re-examine the containers to see if there could possibly be something hidden inside?  First, he went back to the station and returned to the shop to see if they still had the case?  When he checked the case up close again, Fesic could see the case was manufactured in the Gram system.  From the case itself, he could not see if the containers inside could hide anything, but the box looked factory sealed.

So Fesic offered the clerk Cr 250 instead of the asking price of Cr 500.  They guy evaluated Fesic and then offered to sell the case for Cr 450.  When Fesic considered the price and then offered Cr 350, the man made it clear Fesic was not in control by bouncing the price back up to Cr 500!  Accepting that he was not in control, Fesic offered Cr 400 only to be told the price was now Cr 600.  The clerk's actions made it clear everyone who walked into a pawn shop for the first time tried this and few won because the shops had to pay bills.  Not feeling it was worth that much, Fesic started to leave and the guy said he'd sell it for Cr 500.  When Fesic offered Cr 400 again, the clerk offered Cr 450 again.  And with that, Fesic just walked out.

Back in the berth, the others were burning through the datapads they'd taken from the captain's and first officer's staterooms.  Normally fine with this kind of work, Mikah just could not deal with the journal data.  She was actually almost as bored with it as Rol was.  When Rol looked at her and asked, "Wanna get some fight practice in", Mikah enthusiastically said, "Sure!" and they left the others to work through the data.  As the others organized the data, it separated into ship's operations, ship's contacts and ship's accounts.  One pad had files on repair facilities, rating them for quality and ship services.

Working through the data, it was clear this was a corporate ship.  Owned by a firm and staffed with an independent employee crew operating free of the corporation.  They paid a share of the profits to the company and also paid all the ship's costs.  That let a crew to work the star lanes without having a potentially massive ship mortgage hanging over their operations.  Because of that, it was clear that only the MCr 3.5 in the ship's funds likely belonged to the corporation.  The rest belonged to the crew.  But it was also clear there was no way the management could know what was actually in the ship's funds at any time, because it was used for maintenance and upkeep at each port.  And Mikah's people had the accounting documents.

In addition, the corporation had no idea what the crew was doing, so they could easily have spent all the ship's funds on the adventure with the hunters.  And since the crew of the Hotel California now had all the records, there was no way to find out.  Especially as they'd had to send mercenaries to recover the ship.  So Mikah was very comfortable keeping the cash.  Especially because there were no bank transactions to worry about.  They knew the corporation could come asking questions someday, but they'd be asking Voulge first, and only come to the California on even less firm ground.

Or, they could also just make an assumption and send guns in.  But that had its own drawbacks, because they had no way to know how much cash was in play or even if there was cash in play?  For an additional layer of safety, Mikah said she'd cash the Imperial bills against funds in their own ship's funds where she was giving out shares.  That kept the bills aboard the ship in their safe until she decided to slowly bring them to banks in other systems to convert them, or even launder them in ship's purchases in other systems.

A Call From On High Below
     After a day and a half working at research and organizing data, Mikah was surprised to get a comms.  When she answered, she found it was from the Count's people.  Surprised, she answered it and was told the Count wanted to speak to her and her crew...Dirtside.  When Mikah asked when, she was told they should present themselves the next morning, "including your criminal."  When he said that, Mikah had to wonder which one he was talking about?  Still, she quickly decided it was Emkir under the circumstances and began to order her crew before they settled in to sleep.

As they set to scheduling their morning, Terin stirred up other emotions when he suggested they use the supply of psi-shields the crew were given.  Some wondered why he thought of the idea while others considered it.  When Mikah agreed that would be a good idea, Zimzod pointed out that the shields would be noticeable.  After talking, they decided the women would wear the shields made to look like jewelry and the men would go without.  With things set, everyone settled in to make sure they all got a good night's sleep because they had no idea what the Count wanted?

Some Answers And New Questions
     Before taking flight, Mikah ordered "minimal sidearms" and told Emkir he was not allowed.  This let those with the right to bear arms go armed, which did not include Munarshu or Fesic.  With everyone aboard the Probe, Emkir flew the ship down-well until he acquired the signal from the large landing pad ship which was the Count's yacht.  When they landed, they met the Count's Seneschal, who surprised them by bringing them to the Count himself, waiting in a below-decks office. 

Backed by the ship's captain as well as the Count's Seneschal, they also saw an older human man dressed in a non-descript grey suit.  Once everyone had arrived, the Count had the crew sit and said, "So, we understand you had some excitement?"  When Mikah grunted in agreement, the Count asked her to tell him about it?  Cautious, Mikah answered, "Well, Captain Voulge, of the Shoshama Iigee brought us on to help recover your cargo.  But there were these armored bears which had gotten loose on the ship, and..."  Aali quipped, "Terminally inconvenienced the freighter's crew", which got giggles from some in the room.  The Count and his people ignored the humor.

Mikah picked up again, saying "Captain Voulge's crew lost four and we lost one."  The Count leaned in and asked, "So, do you want to tell me about the things you found on the ship after you took possession of it?"  Playing innocent, Mikah asked, "Like what?  Personal affects?" and the Count shrugged, "In general."  Mikah continued, "Just personal affects, some jewelry.."  Rol mentioned, "Ground forces equipment", and Mikah recalled, "Oh yeah.  There was all this hunting equipment."  Terin said, "Cages that were broken open." and Mikah agreed.  "These massive cages which were broken open and obviously did not contain the bears."

The Count's Seneschal smiled and asked, "So, no corporate goods or equipment?"  Mikah said, "No.  Any gear we found we left there."  Terin chipped in, "Yeah, we didn't touch any cargo or anything like that."  The Seneschal nodded and said, "OK.  Just so you know..." and was interrupted as several people prompted Mikah to mention the repeated voiding of the ship.  Mikah said, "That's true." and explained that the ship had been voided to space multiple times with some gear either broken loose or unsecured.  She also described the state of the shuttle and pointed out that they recovered and secured the section they could.

Nodding, the Seneschal said, "And we understand you suffered a casualty.  Just so you know, your loss wasn't in vain."  As he looked to the Count and the Count nodded, the Seneschal activated a control and a display screen on the wall lit up.  On the screen, they saw the cargo pods had been opened and a crew of technicians appeared to be carefully unloading a small fusion engine of some kind.  As they watched, the Count explained that there were enough engines to outfit a squadron of vessels.  The crew knew Equus could not produce an engine that small and figured buying them had to be very expensive.

The Count said the power plants had been specially ordered from the Glisten system, and transported on a larger freighter to the Rhylanor system.  They then had to be brought back to Equus, but the freighter had gone rogue.  As the crew nodded and watched the activity on-screen, the Count continued to monologue, saying the plants were for a new, more advanced version of their grav-submersibles.  When Mikah asked if those were the subs Aiden had tried to look up, the Count was confused and asked, "What?"

As other members of the crew could not contain their giggles, the Count asked for an explanation and Mikah told him about the 'sudden inspection' triggered by Aiden's curiosity.  as she spoke, the Count recalled having been briefed on something like what she described, but thought it was entirely a minor issue.  Accepting the issue as a misunderstanding, the Count offered the crew a chance to tour one of the fabrication facilities where the subs were being made.  When everyone agreed that would be exciting, the Count asked when they planned to leave the system.  But Mikah admitted they expected to get their ship back and leave that day, so he shrugged and suggested they do it the next time they were in-system.

After thanks, the Count said that was all they needed to cover and thanked them for coming down-well.  With that, he turned to the man in the grey suit and nodded before the suited man nodded back.  As they were escorted to their cutter, they're movements were paralleled by the suited man, who's smaller spacecraft was moored right near their cutter.  As Mikah checked out the vessel, she saw no identifying marks on it at all.  But as the paths of her crew and his began to diverge, the man called to Mikah, "Excuse me, Captain?"  As Mikah walked to him to see what the man wanted, he handed her what appeared to be a blank card and said, "This is for you."

As Mikah examined it and started to puzzle over the card, the man turned on his heel and left her standing.  When she looked up, he was almost to the entry port for his ship.  Looking up to say, "Ok?  It's blank" as her crew started to notice her confusion, the man ignored her and boarded his craft.  Realizing they would get no answers there, Emkir suggested they board the Probe and return to their berth.  As they moved and Aali started speculating how to identify what might be on the card, Emkir's paranoia started getting at him and he suggested they get out of the system before they even try.  Even suggesting it could be a bill of some kind.

After they were aboard the cutter and in flight, Mikah sat and regarded the card.  As the internal pressure normalized after the lift, and as Emkir vectored into the port's control web and called for clearance to land at their berth, Mikah noticed as the card's surface began to change!  Soon, it read:
         Tilden Repinski, subsector auditor for Delgado Trading
         Port Dome 14 (Delgado Port Offices)
         Primary Downport, Corporate sector
         Skull Prime, Skull System, Lanth Subsector

On the other side, the card simply read "Compliments of Lord William", which cleared some of the mystery up for Mikah and much of the crew.  Of course, that did not make her any happier about the mystery, as she snapped, "That son of a bitch!  One of these days, I'm gonna get back at him.

Back at the station, Emkir activated the controls to open the berth and land.  Instead of opening the portal to the voided bay so they could land, the lock remained closed and the crew received a comm's from a balding, blonde haired, green-eyed man.  He greeted them in a friendly tone, saying "Hi, I'm Mr. Kraiowa, from Instel-Arms.  Let me get my vacc suit on so you can come into the berth."  The surprised reaction from the entire crew was, "Huh?" as they wondered who this guy was and how he got in their berth?

Examining A New Bump On The Road
     As some questioned how he got there and others questioned why Instel-Arms sent him, the man happily said, "Don't worry.  Just let me get my vacc suit on and we can talk in person."  Rolling with the surprise, Mikah took control and told the man to get into his vacc suit while she reserved her future actions until she could actually reach out and wound someone.  Soon, the bay doors opened and they landed.  Mikah led the crew back into the berth once the pressure was back up and, as they disembarked, the 6'1 man stepped up.  Taking the lead before any questions could be asked, he said, "Hi, I'm Bhreker Kraiowa but you can call me Skip."

Mikah snapped, "I was gonna call you Crayola, but.." as the rest of the crew played word games with "Skip".  Jumping back in, Bhreker said, "I understand you are bound for the D'Ganzio system, and I've been assigned to travel there as well.  Since I understand you've got a stateroom free, I'd like to book passage with you and perhaps help you, along the way, with your equipment needs?"  Seeing Mikah's expression darken, he said he was willing to rent the stateroom at high passage and Instel-Arms was willing to pay twice the going rate!  Mikah considered this while he saw the rest of the crew considering him, Skip addressed the rest of the crew.

"Greetings all", he started with a dramatic tone.  "My name is Bhreker Kraiowa."  Terin asked, "So how did you get skip out of Bhreker Kraiowa?"  Drawing himself up with a smile, Bhreker asked, "Did you ever give yourself a nickname?"  Terin admitted he hadn't.  Bhreker happily said, "There you go then", leaving the crew to wonder just how he got saddled with the nickname "Skip" and why he kept up with it?  Admitting it was a military thing, Bhreker said he'd heard they'd had some excitement and now had a stateroom free for the run to D'Ganzio.  Driving into sales-mode, Bhreker said, "And I'm thinking you may also need to equip?  And what could be better than having your own personal representative of Instel-Arms aboard your ship?"

As they listened, Bhreker mentioned that he could prioritize deliveries of any items they ordered when they arrived in a system with an Instel-Arms facility.  Emkir said Bhreker had to understand they might be called on to render assistance at the request of Royalty or high nobility and Zimzod just muttered, "We're just glad to be doing good works."  Bhreker answered, "Instel-Arms is nothing if not loyal to the Imperium."  Those who knew of Instel-Arms wide ranging relationships with many empires and polities were polite enough not to laugh.  Emkir did laugh and Aali said, "So long as their checks don't bounce." 

Mikah asked about his military background and Bhreker told her, "I was in the Imperial Army and served for eight years.  Came through many combat situations and came out a Sergeant."  As he spoke, Bhreker handed Mikah his Ident and she could see a bullet-point history of the man, including a Purple Heart, two MCG's and three CSR's.  Nodding, Mikah asked, "So why is Instel-Arms so eager to get you to D'Ganzio that they're willing to pay twice the rate?"  Bhreker shrugged and said, "We all have our instructions.  I was told to go and had a travel budget up to this amount."  Terin quipped, "And you're a good negotiator.  I can see that", which got a number of laughs.

Still, Mikah was wary and asked, "So, are you going to be reporting to your superiors, as to what goes on aboard the ship or what?"  As Bhreker confirmed that what happened aboard the ship was confidential, others were doing the math.  The path to D'Ganzio was five jumps, which Bhreker was paying double for.  At KCr 20 per jump, that was KCr 100 into the ship's funds!  Considering the new passenger, Mikah asked, "Have any FGMP's in your back pocket?" and Bhreker admitted he was fresh out.  Not to be left out, Emkir asked, "Can we get willie pete rounds for everyone?"  Despite the odd request, Bhreker answered, "Not in this system.  But once we get to Lunion, I can get you what you want."

Still, Bhreker was starting to add the numbers that would attach to his commission for this run if the rest of the voyage followed suit.  Interrupting his thoughts, Mikah said, "Well, if you agree to certain confidentiality rules we are going to write up, we'll take your passage.  Bhreker answered, "Anything that does not compromise my agreements with Instel-Arms, I'll be happy to sign."  Bhreker then asked, "To you happen to have an armorer on hand?" and Mikah introduced him to Rol.  Bhreker told them he could work with Rol as he was a qualified armorer too.

Nodding, Mikah agreed to take Bhreker on as a passenger and invited him to have his gear moved to the berth and relax while they prepared the paperwork and confidentiality statements for him to sign.  but as she was preparing to do that, Mikah's comms went off.  When she answered, she found it was the shipyard and they were ready to turn the Hotel California back over to the crew!  Mikah realized they needed to send both a pilot and a crew to clean out Aiden's stateroom.  Considering that, Mikah detailed Emkir, Rol, Aali and Munarshu to retrieve the ship and pack for Aiden.

As the away team went for the ship and Bhreker relaxed, Mikah and Zimzod worked on the passage and confidentiality agreement for him to sign.  Once they had it ready, Bhreker read the document and saw that it was fairly standard, including clauses to enforce privacy where it could be expected...which included the entire ship while in flight.  Once he signed on the electronic line, he handed his Ident to Mikah and she made the transfer from the bank.  As she did that, Zimzod checked on the foodstuffs and confirmed they had all the food they needed.  When Bhreker asked about ammo and other consumables they might need before leaving the system, Zimzod laughed.

When Bhreker looked for an explanation, Zimzod said he'd understand when he saw the crew's collection of ammunition.  Mikah said, "We could use more grenades." and Bhreker pulled out a datapad and asked, "Ok, what types?"  Mikah said, "Ten High explosives" which Bhreker knew was not difficult.  When Mikah then said, "Two breaching charges", he knew that might be an issue locally.  Checking all avenues, he asked, "Do we need non-lethals?" and Mikah shot him a look as she said, "Hell no!"  Reconsidering a bit, Mikah said, "A couple of tazers would be nice."

As he toted the list, Bhreker told them he'd check what they needed against the local facility and have what they could provide delivered.  Zimzod said he wanted twenty high explosive anti-tank grenades and Mikah asked if Instel-Arms sold any type of double-sided adhesive tape?  Checking on the items, Bhreker confirmed they had the sticky compound and HE grenades but didn't locally have the HEAT grenades of breaching charges.  When Mikah agreed to back-order those, Bhreker said he could deliver the other stuff for Cr 215.  That got them 10 HE grenades and a half pound box of sticky tape sheets.  With that, Bhreker placed the order and they waited.

Eventually, the Instel-Arms delivery arrived and Mikah also spent KCr 5 to update their food stores.  Once the ship arrived and they moved the new gear in and started getting Bhreker settled in his stateroom, Mikah called the port to settle up and get clearance to leave.  There were KCr 5 in outstanding fees to settle up, which Mikah paid, and they were cleared to leave within three hours.  Things did not take that long as Mikah gave the word and Emkir began the run to the jump point.  As he flew, Terin jumped on creating a jump plot to Skull prime and their next stop.  Once they reached their point, Emkir threw the switch and the ship tumbled into jump space for a week's transit.

Where everyone is at the end of the

    After having resolved all bills, the crew have jumped for Skull-Prime.

    Mikah: Commanding the bridge of the Hotel California.
    Munarshu: In the engineering section of the Hotel California.
    Terin: Assigned as stand-by crew on the bridge of the Hotel California.
    Aali: In the engineering section of the Hotel California.
    Emkir: Piloting the Hotel California.
    Fesic: In the lounge of the Hotel California.
    Rol: In the lounge of the Hotel California.
    Zimzod: In the lounge of the Hotel California.
    Bhreker Kraiowa: In the lounge of the Hotel California.
    Aiden: Order 5 days in transit, 18 weeks, 2 days until fully cooked

Next: I'll Raise You Four Charges For One