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Having A Blast In
    Lunion


Getting Moving The Day After Arriving

     Having moored to the high port, the crew woke up for their first day in the Lunion system. Terin, Emkir and Fesic were still asleep in their staterooms. Zimzod was awake in his stateroom, having been woken when Mikah got her call from Duke Luis' Seneschal. Mikah decided to get up and was beginning her morning routine. Aali was also doing her morning routine while Munarshu, as was his peculiar schedule, was already working in the engineering spaces. Rol was cooking. Their passenger, Bhreker Kraiowa, heading to the D'Ganzio system, was connecting with Instel-Arms to transmit his orders and reports as well as pulling his availability data and commission report. Bhreker was pleased to see things toted up to nearly KCr 16 for him, but he also received a message telling him to come to the Instel-Arms facility in person too.

Before the jump from the Resten system, Bhreker had been permitted to canvass the crew of the INS Amshirzar Uummirir for their personal needs. Bhreker was pleased, as the orders he totted up there would net him Cr 1,462 in commission. In addition, it gave him fuel for an old salesman's trick. Going over his orders in the presence of the crew insured they'd hear him talking about the ordered weapons and gear. That led to comments from the crew, which then put them in a mind to consider their own needs. Because of that clever plot, Bhreker's order books were filled with more than the needs of the cruiser. Surprised, the needs of the California's crew dwarfed those of the cruiser! And thanks to the shootout in Skull's Dome 30, all of the crew were reconsidering their stocks of executive armor.

Initially, they had one or two sets each, figuring they'd change into the armor if they were doing something dangerous. Now, they realized they needed to consider more frequent usage "just in case." That would certainly have helped some of them on Skull. So Zimzod, Mikah, Aali and Emkir ordered more sets of those. Mikah ordered various taser designs including a very modern pistol-like unit that fired disabling bolts. Fesic and Rol ordered grenades and were two of the crew who also ordered electronics for uses from "weapons to HUD" integration to surveillance. And, of course, Zimzod ordered a replacement vibro-cutlass with the fittings of an Imperial Marine Grunt. He also planned to return to Dome 28 someday and teach them about messing with the weapons of an Imperial Marine. Sir Terin managed to stymie Bhreker's plans a bit.

Asking Mikah about the weapons in the ship's locker, Terin asked if he could have the gauss pistol which used to belong to the late Sir Zachariah. When Mikah said he could have it, Terin took ownership of the pistol, twelve magazines of ammunition and a holster. Still, he did order a wrist integration kit to connect the HUD attached to his combat armor. Another interesting idea had been brought up by Zimzod. Considering the need to sometimes bring his targets back alive, Zimzod had heard of a neurotoxin-based slow-fired round called a "Freezer". The challenge was that they were highly illegal in most systems as they were listed as military bio-weapons. Eventually the idea was cancelled when it was pointed out Tranq rounds were easier to get and use.

In addition to the snub pistol and "Freezer" ammo, Bhreker canvassed the crew and built up a healthy list of items to order. Emkir and Aali ordered taser pistols, executive armor, a shotgun, HUD interlocks, a gauss pistol, and ammo. Emkir also ordered a set of magnets to have Rol attach to his armor with manual controls. That way, he felt he could operate as a sniper in zero-g operations even with his rifle. Emkir also ordered a Self-training "teaching suit", which would help him master the physical part of certain skills. To go with it, he ordered software to get him "better than" basically trained in Zero-G combat. Considering his plastic blade, Emkir ordered a second scabbard which would appear to be part of his boot and pant leg. Fesic also ordered HUD integration kits to connect up weapons and some more ammo along with executive armor and grenades.

In addition, Fesic ordered a walking stick designed with an integral blade hidden inside. Mikah did the same, and both she and Fesic bought pulse taser pistols. Rol bought a Sonic Probe, a Gauss Shotgun Pistol and a Survival Watch. thinking tactically, Rol also bought a HUD for his combat armor, and more executive armor. He also ordered a variety of grenades and ammo. The Marine also got a holographic projector he could toss as a distraction. He also ordered ten micro cameras to set up surveillance outside the ship like they'd had aboard the original Hotel California. Considering the encounters they'd had since Inthe, Rol also ordered a single very high end surveillance grav-drone and four lower end drones which could be slaved to the high end one. Rol also ordered integration kits for some of his weapons. Terin ordered an integration kit. Zimzod ordered executive armor and a replacement vibro-cutlass.

Planning A Downwell Visit

     Once Mikah and Zimzod were done with their morning routines and out to breakfast, Mikah told the other Knights of the required visit to the court of Duke Luis. Aali checked the ship's library data on Lunion and saw the atmosphere had a "high CO2" taint. So the Knights would all need OxyMasks or breathers. Hearing that, Rol sparked up a terminal and shopped for breather masks. Eventually, he hit on a site that would sell the units and deliver them for a cost of Cr 500 each. So he paid the Cr 3,000, one each for the six Knights, and asked to have the devices delivered to the ship as soon as possible.

Still, especially near Startown and the port, many facilities were built to provide a filtered atmosphere but that faded the further you got from the port. The locals had long since adapted to the taint. the Duke's Court was filtered, so they would not have to appear in masks. As they ate and chatted, with no real pressure on the crew to do anything that day, Aali said they should check to see if the Knight Defenders had an Order House in system? When that was checked and they found there was, it was suggested by her and Zimzod they should pay their respects there too. As the crew ate and chatted, eventually Fesic, Terin and finally Emkir joined them. Conversation, as some ate and some relaxed, turned to their Instel-Arms orders. After a quick breakfast, Bhreker left for Instel-Arms Highport.

Emkir made sure to discuss his "Teaching Suit" with Mikah, as he'd have to use it in her classes. As he explained what the suit would do for him, injecting drugs to relax him and make him more mentally receptive to learning, the crew started making jokes about how they could reprogram the unit to force him into strange and silly actions. On a more serious note, Mikah reminded Zimzod, Aali, Emkir and Rol that Duke Luis of Lunion was Grand Duchess Delphine's Second cousin and brother-in-law to Count Lord Admiral Santanocheev of Fosey. The Admiral, Mikah reminded, was humiliated when then Duke Norris used the Imperial Warrant to dismiss him and take control of the Fifth Frontier War. There were many who still felt Norris only arrived and took control of the master stroke Admiral Santanocheev had designed. And the Fosey system was only a three parsec jump away. So things "could" get bad fast. Mikah kept quiet about the events in the Hrunting system, which resulted in her Knighting, along with Sirs Brian and Zimzod.

Once that settled in and they turned to other subjects, Zimzod suggested they all "put on their Knight-gowns"(referring to their Order uniforms) and visit the Order House for the Knight Defenders. Mikah said the Order house was downwell and said she'd planned to do that after having done the Court thing. She pointed out that they'd be downwell anyway. Zimzod pushed that it would be better to visit the Order before going to Court. He pointed out, they might have allies if any issues came up that they needed help with. Terin muttered that the Order might also quickly bury them to save the Order embarrassment. Getting on board, Emkir suggested they rent rooms downwell if they were to visit the Order that day, rather than making multiple trips.

As Mikah admitted it would be good to square things away with the Order, Zimzod started looking into lodgings in the area of the Order house and found they had rental rooms for visiting members. Zimzod was pleased, as he had pleasant memories of the Order house in the Rhylanor system. As he checked prices, Zimzod saw they had pricing starting at Cr 250 per night. He also saw that TAS members could rent rooms at the TAS Hostel. Seeing she was not going to be working on the ship's systems as planned, Aali started setting up a work schedule for Munarshu and the 'droids. Mikah also left Fesic in charge of handling their passenger's needs as Munarshu was needed in engineering. Once the plan was set, the Knights set about packing. Everyone was told to dress in their uniforms for the trip to the Order, and pack an over-night kit so they could dress up for Court.

As they did that, Fesic went to the cargo bay saying he would work on learning the cargo sealing system. In her stateroom, Aali packed her coral necklace, given to her by Duchess Delphine. She hoped such items as that would help with their impression on Duke Luis. For court, she packed her "Business-proper" gown and Emkir packed his Solemn Vilani suit. Aali packed a datapad and her snub pistol as a ceremonial weapon. She loaded the pistol with Tranq rounds but had a belt pack with a magazine of ball ammo too. Like all the others who had them, Aali made sure she had her Lanthanum/Tellona diamond ring. Aali made sure to wear her Scout Belt buckle with the Order uniform, though she'd pack it for the Court appearance.

Emkir packed his Vilani styled suit for the Court appearance. For a ceremonial weapon, Emkir brought his 9mm revolver. He also had his watch, handcomp, lanthanum ring and ball and chain pin. In addition, Emkir would wear his interactive sun glasses and wear his Scout belt buckle outside the Court appearance. Emkir also reminded Aali to pack and wear executive armor. Mikah started grabbing for her trusted "party stand byes". Planning to start with her executive armor, Mikah would go to court in her blue tea length gown, with her ear rings displaying the heraldry of the Domain of Deneb. She packed her small med-kit, her ear comms unit as well as her "woven" Lanthanum and gold and platinum Sylea braided bracelets. Mikah chose her laser pistol as her side arm. Terin would have his Scout buckle and sunglasses outside the Court appearance. He'd bring his hand-comp, comms and his snub pistol, with tranq rounds and a pack with ball ammo. Terin wore a belt utility knife too. He planned to wear his best suit into Court.

Zimzod planned to wear executive armor and Order uniform both for the Order visit and in Court. He'd bring his vibro-cutlass as a ceremonial weapon, as well as his snub pistol, loaded with Tranq like the others. Zimzod had a belt pack with ball ammo and also packed his .45 in his luggage "just in case". Rol planned on going to Court in his Order uniform, as Zimzod had chosen, with his cutlass and Ear piece comms. He'd wear his lanthanum ring, executive armor. As well as his cutlass, Rol chose to wear his snub pistol, loaded with Tranq and with a pouch containing ball ammo. As they were getting ready to board, Rol received his masks and handed them out, joking that one of them might not work correctly but he forgot which.

Once they were packed and ready, Emkir settled into the cutter's command chair and contacted highport flight control for permission to file a flight plan and depart for the planet below. Emkir was challenged with a request for their destination and reason to land on-world? He explained they had been summoned to the Duke's Court the next day and were renting housing from their Chivalric Order to prepare today and spend the night. In the back of his mind, Emkir considered waiting until just before atmospheric entry to declare an emergency, request his cutter be redesignated as "Meteorite One" and have his descent profile changed to "Ballistic". Despite the smile it brought to his face, Emkir kept the joke to himself as he worked with flight control.

With the additional data, Highport control brought in downport control in the region of the Palace, who were not pleased to be fielding a "Now" request without warning. As the objections, regulations and suggested delays began to well up from downwell, Admiral Sir Emkir Meshrumiikiim waded into the battle of bureaucratic wits. Lucky for himself and the crew, this was a battle Emkir was quite well trained and prepared for. Arguing regulations from his comp and his own memory, Emkir gave as good as he got and comm'd the other Knights in the cutter's crew section to say there's be a slight delay. Then, Emkir leaned on his rank as an Admiral and a Knight as well as waving the Seneschal's schedule at the port workers. After just more than half an hour, Emkir received clearance and a flight path to stick to. Just before re-entry, he was told the down port would take control of the cutter and bring it in to a landing.


Playing Pandora In Space

     As the Knights packed and prepared, Fesic was pleased he'd have the chance to put his own personal plan into action. He watched carefully, to make sure he knew when he and Munarshu would be alone on the ship. With the engineer working at his own tasks, Fesic would finally be able to find out just what they were smuggling into the D'Ganzio system? He'd been uncomfortable with the idea from the moment he'd been told about it by Lady Mikah. He was especially disturbed that they didn't even know what was in the cargo pod! They had no idea how bad the punishment could be because they had no idea how significant a crime they were committing. Fesic certainly was not worried about the concerns the criminals had in keeping the contents from the crew, no matter how foolish Mikah and the others had been in agreeing to do the job.

Fesic worked on testing the sealing system and setting up test configurations as the Knights prepared for their trip. Once the Knights left the ship, he began making sure he could duplicate the Customs seal on the pod before doing anything else. Taking the time to make sure he had it right, it was almost an hour before he was ready for his next step. Getting some basic tools from his kit, Fesic cut away the seal on the pod and opened it. Within, he could see transport padding apparently filling the space. Pulling that away, he uncovered a metal skinned trunk standing up-right on one end. With curved corners, the four-foot wide by three-foot deep by six-foot tall container looked like a shiny aluminum coffin without the normal pall bearer's handles.

Stepping forward to open the trunk, Fesic was surprised to see an actual key-operated lock securing it closed. Fesic first examined the lock and checked his available tools to see if there was something he had to help remove the lock. Remembering that it could not be cut off, because he needed it to appear unopened, Fesic realized he could not remove the lock without destroying it. So he decided to talk to Munarshu and see if he could get some help and fine tools to open the lock and the trunk. Rather than comm'ing Munarshu, Fesic headed into the engineering section to ask personally. When Munarshu asked why Fesic wanted the tools, the gunner told him bluntly, "I'm going to find out what's in the tattooed man's cargo pod."

Knowing that was off limits and having a really good idea how angry Mikah would get if he did what he said, Munarshu began trying to talk Fesic out of the idea. But Fesic plowed forward, telling Munarshu he had already opened the cargo pod and found a locked trunk inside! He only needed the tools to unlock the trunk. At first, Munarshu desperately wanted to stop hearing more as he lamented inside his head that he could not un-hear what he'd already been told. As Fesic tried to elaborate, Munarshu made it clear he did not want to know, in the hopes of some shred of plausible deniability. That course decided on, Munarshu told Fesic to take the tools and get out because he was going to hit the head and take a shower. Happy enough with the outcome, Fesic returned to the cargo bay.

Not skilled in picking locks, Fesic was skilled in mechanical work. He knew that, if worst came to worst, he could scan the lock in the ship's fabricator and print a 3D replacement. But he tried working at it with his mechanical skill and the borrowed tools, and eventually got the lock open. Once he had the trunk open, Fesic saw a large pad of "filling foam" covering the entire opening. Pulling that away, Fesic stopped cold and could only stare at what he saw. Inside was a thin, five foot seven, short haired brunette woman in a plastic dress covering most of her body. As he looked closer, Fesic saw that she appeared as if she were simply sleeping but was not breathing at all. Her skin tone matched what he would expect from a healthy human woman, her visible hair, eyelashes and other body coverings looked normal. She was just sleeping without breathing.

Fesic's first thought had him remembering Terin and Munarshu's wild tales of a fully Human-replicant grade android. Sure an actual Human woman could not survive in that condition and storage for as long as she had been there, he was sure she had to be some sort of replicant. This included anything from a very real looking but largely decorative sex toy up to another Human-replicant android. At that point, he could figure out only one way to be sure. So Fesic went to the comms to interrupt Munarshu again, only this time, he wanted the ship's portable densometer. Before he was ready for his shower, Munarshu heard the comms and "did not want to know" what Fesic needed this time.

Fesic ruined his day by telling him he had to come to the cargo bay to help. Disgusted, but unable to say "no", Munarshu got dressed again and went to the bay. As he arrived, he saw the trunk was opened and saw the woman Fesic had found. That shocked Munarshu to his core, but he was certain this could not be another android. Already owning Sir Brian's blow up sex doll, inherited from the crew as a joke, he thought someone rich wanted this realistic looking sex doll and would be embarrassed if anyone knew he ordered it. Or maybe She. But any deniability was gone, so he grabbed the densometer and went to take a look. When they arrived, Munarshu realized that hearing about her was certainly not the same as seeing her. Hooking up the densometer, Munarshu scanned the body and then did his best to interpret the results. What they could see from that data was what looked like the innards of your average Human female.

When Fesic asked if there was not more to the densometer's capabilities, Munarshu pointed out the instrument was not that detailed. When Fesic complained that they needed to confirm if this was a living woman in suspension or an android, Munarshu said they could not do that with the densometer, pointing out they'd need something that scanned at the cellular level. Still, they did the "touch test", caressing the woman's face and running their hands through her hair. No reaction and nothing out of the normal compared to what a woman's skin and hair would feel like. Disappointed he could not say definitively the figure was a woman or 'droid, Fesic was ready to pack her up and seal the pod again.

At that point, Munarshu stopped him, saying he couldn't seal her up again. When Fesic asked why not, Munarshu, worried she could be a Human woman, said they were not sure if exposing her to the ship's air had countered the suspension. When Fesic asked him to explain, Munarshu theorized that those who "packed" her could have injected chemicals to place her into suspension. Once in suspension, she could have been packed into the trunk and it could have been filled with an inert gas to keep the oxygen levels near zero percent. That way, once the trunk was opened and the woman exposed to a normal atmosphere, the presence of regular oxygen levels could interact with the chemicals in her blood to revive her.

As Fesic denied it, Munarshu argued that she could be very slowly beginning to wake up even as they stood there arguing over it. When Fesic challenged him to prove it, Munarshu pointed out that neither of them had any medical training. When Fesic asked how they could figure out if she were real or not and coming out of suspension or not, Munarshu grimaced and said, "We need Lady Mikah". Checking the time, they saw it was well after noon and figured the Knights would have checked into their digs and be eating or done by then. So they went to the ship's comms and called Mikah.

Riding The Short Bus

          Once Emkir turned over control of his craft to the downport control, he began mapping the team's arrival needs. Using the entered flight path to find the port where they'd land, he mapped how far the Duke's palace and Order house were from there. Realizing they'd need transport, Emkir began looking up driver services. This was interrupted briefly as the port notified him the cost to land for a week (or part there-of) was Cr 500. Emkir deftly comm'd Mikah in the back and got the OK from her to bill the landing to ship's funds. After he mapped their need for a ride, Emkir went looking for a news brief.

It was easy for Emkir to find a number of news pod-casts, and he played one while piping the sound into the rear for the others. As the cast began playing, the Knights found the news was a familiar format for a Subsector capital. In addition to the financial, industrial, agricultural and local news, there were extra helpings of military and governmental details. the Knights were mostly surprised by the agricultural news on a world noted for its industrial output. Of course, that was partly a result of the atmospheric taint. Old news included the shuffling of fleets throughout the sector. Those who'd been part of the crew during their time in the Risek system truly remembered learning about that by surprise.

Of somewhat more interest were the new releases covering the Arch-Duke's grand tour of the Domain. While the trip would never take him more than a sector and a half away, he would spend the first leg heading to the Trin's Veil subsector to start. Then he'd tour the riftward worlds of the Spinward Marches before moving into the Deneb sector from the Aramis subsector. After that, he'd be moving steadily away from the Spinward Marches for some time while the Grand Duchess Delphine continued to run the Marches beyond his close-by review. Aali muttered that they'd better be sure to not get in any trouble. No one made the obvious comments. The news continued as they covered a brief retrospective of the Lunion front in the recent war.

Following that, there were dispatches from fleets in the Border Worlds and occupying the Sword Worlds. This was followed by updates on the annexation of several parsecs of space allowing a contiguous Imperial border to encompass Imperial systems along the rimward Sword Worlds border. This largely concerned the annexation of the empty space between the Smoug and Grote systems and the Gunn, Caliburn and Caladbolg systems. Rumors persisted that those talks also included the unclaimed Dawnworld system, despite the bizarre bio-effects of its environment. Additional talks to connect the Iderati and Flammarion systems faced more significant issues as the Ralhe, Debarre and Asteltine systems occupied some of that space. While that bridge seemed less likely, experts point out the Debarre system was an Imperial Client State.

When the podcast finally came around to the Duke's calendar, they listened to what sounded like a fairly light list of events. Mikah was sure that would change with her crew in the area. Still, they listened as the news described current expectations the Duke would be meeting those candidates he planned to consider for the Baronet post managing the next phase of atmospheric terraforming of the Sharrip system. Having spent the last eighty years undergoing "phase one" of the process, the next phase was ready to start with the planting of land vegetation. Not a very exciting story, the crew chatted and joked about the three candidates. Still, the post was a prize as the heirs of the selected Baronet had a good chance, with good system management, to be created the system's Baronial rulers in time. So there were actions of self-promotion as possible candidates took part in political jockeying.

The Knights considered that the biggest events they might become involved in were the meeting of candidates as there were parties and meetings where the current Nobility could get to know them. As a result, there were a large number of the local landed Nobility from the subsector in-system. Mikah considered it the perfect place for her crew to live down to their ability and establish a reputation they'd be dealing with for the rest of their lives. Short lives if she had to punish them for their failings. As Emkir saw the port nearing and they prepared to land, he was told by port control there was a motorpool on-port. He was asked if they needed transport, and where they needed to be delivered?

Emkir confirmed they'd need transport to the Order house of the 'Knight Defenders of the Marches'. Once at the Order house, they'd check their options for housing on-premises before renting rooms. The port said they'd have a transport ready for the Knights after they'd secured their cutter. After they landed, sealed up and had their masks on and bags in hand, a "short bus like" ground limo moved to the cutter so the crew could make the brief move between craft and limo. Once inside the limo, the door closed and sealed as air pumps blasted the interior until the driver assured them the air inside was clean and filtered. Referring to the sudden air blast, Terin muttered something about getting a blow job in the short bus and got a few laughs.

It was not until they were settled and were asked if they wanted a scenic or non-scenic route to their destination that they realized the entire cab was an android and the driver a computer. Still, when they asked they were told there was no extra charge so they chose the scenic route. Once they made their choice, it confirmed they knew the direct route was a fifteen-minute ride and the scenic an hour and a half. Since the Knights had nowhere to be immediately, they OK'd the ride and relaxed. As they traveled through the city looking up through transplex side and roof windows, the crew enjoyed the architecture of the city. First settled with a ground port and grove management pre-fabs to establish an agro-combine, the city grew with an eye to preserving the vegetation.

So small footprint buildings were accessible by raised platform roadways. This became traditional as sub-roadway venues and facilities for growing fungus and other dark house produce filled in some under-road spaces while parks filled others. Buildings in all the world's cities grew larger footprints as they grew up, but the drive in the city was to use tech to grow up rather than spread out. So Lunion's cities had grown organically as clusters of towers rising from forests. Lower profile buildings were lost in a jungle floor passed over by grav-traffic and through by ground vehicles. The factories and industry that were noted in the world's interstellar profile took up sections of work-zoned towers. And above and beyond all, the eyes of first time visitors were drawn to the Capital city's "Lunion Spire".

Beyond the noted sites, museums and monuments, the "Lunion Spire" dwarfed all other towers. But that was not what made it special. That was because the entire spire hovered over an "entry center" thanks to gravitic technology. Anchored in place by gravitic forces, the tower rose above all other spires in the city as grav-trams provided access from the ground center while floors above were dedicated to parking for air-rafts and other grav-vehicles. As the Knights looked up at the tower from various points in the city, they saw the outer walls were built to mimic faceted faces which changed in appearance and prominence as the direction of light striking it changed. And as the prominence of the facets changed, the building seemed to shift shapes as one moved.

As they rode, Emkir made sure to download a map of the city to his computer even though maps were universally available, either wirelessly to personal devices or from public kiosks. South of the city, a significant area was detailed off for amusement parks and sports reserves. Thanks to the in-system tech, this included grav-sled racing, grav-ball arenas and other sports requiring more or less tech. One of the fields which caught Emkir's eye was designated as a "dropzone" for competitions promoted by the Inter-Sector Re-entry Association! These were enthusiasts who used personal re-entry kits to make parachute jumps from beyond the atmosphere! Competitions even included jumpers being "fired" from orbital stations towards a re-entry window, in vacc suits, where they'd activate their PREKits and compete to "hit closest to the mark."

Checking on the city's network advertisements, the Knights were surprised to find rental gear for that was not as expensive as they expected. And a lift to the upper atmosphere or even into orbit could be fairly cheap if they went with a large group of jumpers. In addition to jumping packages, they saw advertisement for 'virtual jump' training simulators and instruction. In addition to that, there were rentals and offers for all the sports including the grav-based ones, including gravCar racing, etc... Emkir was certain there would be gambling somewhere in the city if there were that many sports. But he earmarked that for after the meeting with the Duke was done. Finally, the tour wound down and they were delivered to the large and sweeping building that housed the Knight Defender's Order house. A stylish tower whose lines morphed into curves as if a massive branchless tree rising up from its roots to a point in the sky.


Hopes of Tourism Lost

          Like the Order house on Rhylanor, the building was designed to host not only the local Knight members of the order but also provide services to those members visiting the system. They were certain there were a number of visitors given the gathering of subsector nobles to meet the Sharrip Baronet candidates. Still, the facility was not as 'well stocked' as the Rhylanor house because Rhylanor was much easier to get to than the Lunion system. As they arrived, the Knights were asked how they could help and Mikah said they came to pay their respects before going to the Duke's Court the next day. So, she confirmed, they'd need rooms.

Without any concern, the concierge displayed holographic models of the rooms available, from Cr 250 a night to the "Penthouse suites", which showed a panorama of the city, allowed for all amenities and ran Cr 10,000. Rooms varied in price not only based on size but on in-room tech level of amenities, including TL F rooms where you used a datapad to design the furniture, layout and environment and gravity of the room on arrival and furniture "assembled out of the floor." Zimzod figured he and Mikah could split a room for Cr 500 where Emkir and Aali went for a Cr350 room. Terin asked if there was anything costing less than Cr 250 and found there was not. Rol said he was going to check on the rooms at the TAS Hostel before deciding.

Terin took a room for Cr 250 and they listened to the concierge as he explained there would be a 'happy hour' later that day, before dinner, during which they could mingle and meet other order members and their guests. There was a tour of the facility for first time visitors as well as digitally directed self-guided maps. There were selected luxury sales offices brought in from the most reputable of on-world and in-city sellers from Lunion and some of the near systems. This included everything from local delicacies to locally available experiences and entertainments, plays, concerts and more. Their in-facility sales venues also essentially represented a "Duty-free" shop of immense size as they ordered luxuries in bulk and provided them for sale at prices that under-cut the native sellers.

As he heard this, Zimzod perked up as he asked if they had any coffee in stock? When asked, "What kind of coffee?" Zimzod said "Real coffee", knowing the costs he could be looking at would be steep. Without a pause, the man asked, "Real, 'from Terra' coffee?" with a look that reminded Zimzod he had not wavered to see if that was 'in stock'! Those paying enough attention to the exchange realized that meant it was in stock. Not just a variant of the breed, not a near-Terran variety geneeered to grow outside the environment of Humaniti's homeworld. But the actual stuff, grown on Terra itself, and shipped out here to the fringe of the empire. As Mikah mumbled, "We don't need it from Terra, Zimzod asked about the qualities of their more locally grown varieties? He was told they had a number of growers who had worked very hard to maintain a genetic purity as close to the Terran parent as possible.

When Zimzod asked if he could try some samples, the Concierge reminded him a simple cup of many brews would be an expensive proposition alone. So, sampling any premium brands would be a 'paid for' experience. When Zimzod asked for pricing, he was told he'd pay a cool KCr 100 for a single pound of "Terran grown" coffee and between Cr 5,000 and 10,000 per pound of the best locally grown bean. Zimzod ultimately bought Cr 15,000 worth of the best locally grown coffee he could get. As they started shopping, and Rol went with the concierge to call a grav-car from TAS, Terin was all for keeping a low spending profile. With just under Cr 5,000 after paying for his room, Terin was all for food when lunch was mentioned, but was also all for low cost food.

Rol was excited about visiting the higher priced eateries where they used technology to prepare "special creations". As the rest of the crew discussed "group or singles". When Terin suggested they consider a reasonable place, Mikah suggested he hit the local Astroburgers. That got a laugh as Mikah, with an evil grin, suggested the ship could cover his costs in exchange for some additional month's indenture. Terin shot that down as he began considering his options until Mikah gave in. Saying, "All right, we'll treat the poor little puppy", Mikah confirmed they'd feed Terin this time. With that, the crew prepared to head off and have lunch with Rol planning to check out the TAS hotel after. Aali also dropped a note with the concierge to set up a scan for herself for her cloning insurance. As they were about to see what was close and tasty, Mikah's comms went off.

Asking for It

     Answering her comms, Mikah was told by Munarshu, "I didn't do it." Sighing at the idiot's penchant to lead with the least important item first, she asked, "What happened?" Munarshu Asked, "You know that secret package we're supposed to be shipping to D'Ganzio?" When Mikah cautiously asked, "Yeah?", Munarshu answered, "Fesic opened it." After a pause to consider, she asked, "He opened it?" and Munarshu answered, "Yes." Mikah asked, "what happened?" and Munarshu simply said, "We need you." Mikah angrily snapped, "Me?" and Munarshu confirmed, "You" in a tone that suggested that was the last thing he wanted. After a pause while Mikah considered that, Munarshu added, "And any other medically trained members of the crew."

Looking up from her comms, Mikah said, "Zimzod, you and I are heading back up to the ship." As Zimzod asked, "OK, what's up?" Terin asked if she wanted him to come along? Mikah said no to Terin as Zimzod remembered the gas from the safe and asked if they'd need vacc suits? Mikah said they had the breather masks before saying to Munarshu, "Well, you're still alive so it can't be that bad." The dismissive tone she used got a laugh despite the sudden tension the call had caused. After another pause where she could tell Munarshu was very reluctant to say anything more, Mikah said, "OK, We'll be there as soon as we can." As this happened, Fesic remained with the woman to see if her condition changed at all.

One Cr 15 cab ride back to the port, Mikah explained to the port that they'd be returning to their landing spot after a trip back to their ship. After that, she took the controls and lifted back into orbit, calling for flight clearance from the port as Zimzod went to make a snack from the food stores in the cutter. When challenged by the port, Mikah said she'd been made aware of a medical emergency aboard her ship. Downwell, the rest of the Knights went to lunch for Cr 30 a person. Emkir and Aali covered Terin's food. After a quick flight back to the ship, Mikah docked the cutter and she and Zimzod returned to the ship and comm'd Munarshu and Fesic to see where they were and why all the doors were locked?


From The Outside To The Center

          As Bhreker arrived at the high port Instel-Arms facility, he was put in a cart and brought into the employee only section, where he was delivered to a conference room. Those waiting for him within had their datapads at the ready as Bhreker entered and sat. Breaking the silence, the senior order completion tech looked up and asked, "a teaching suit? Really? How weird are these people." in a disbelieving tone. He was referring to a wearable suit which injected the user with drugs to relax them slightly and make them more open to learning. Then, the purchased software would help teach the wearer the movements and postures involved in a skill. It could be used to speed up learning martial arts or, in Emkir's case, how to move, or how to not move, in zero-g. So, while Emkir would still need to learn from Mikah's zero-g classes, the suit would help him master the physical parts of the skill.

Bhreker simply let it wash past him as he answered the "weird" question saying the list didn't fit on his datapad. After the laughs, the gathered team asked Bhreker about the crew's 'behind the scenes' life. To the limits of his signed agreement with the crew, he answered their questions and helped assemble what was hoped to be a more "sales promoting" profile of each of the crew's members. Bhreker did tell them about Zimzod's interest in an FGMP, which got more laughs before Bhreker said he wasn't joking. At least once during the meeting, Bhreker said they should go to somewhere that accepts bizarre bets and bet on someone in the crew being accused of murder in-system. This, of course, required explanation, which did not violate any agreements as the charges were all public.

That also brought up questions about the events in the Skull system, including the asteroid. And that led to questions about the real reasons why the crew were bound for D'Ganzio? As Instel-Arms essentially owned that system, there were questions about their intentions. Especially with the trail of legal charges they left behind them, not to mention the bodies they eventually were not responsible for. That did not hide the fact that people died where they went. Bhreker could not argue that, as they were even involved in the death of Imperial Naval crews in the Rhylanor system. Bhreker could only add to what was known that the crew had two cargo pods in their hold which were to be delivered in the D'Ganzio system.

When he was asked about the cargos, he admitted he knew nothing about them. Non-crew were not permitted in the cargo bay unescorted and the only times he had been in those spaces were those times he and the crew entered or left the ship through them. Once the debriefing was done, Bhreker worked with the teams filling his orders and helped confirm everything. They even had a teaching suit in Emkir's size, as tested by a sizing mannequin. In addition, Bhreker asked about a stent wafer with Zero-gravity combat skills which he could mount in his prosthetic arm. When he was told they could provide him one on loan, they asked what type he wanted?

The types available were of two versions. First, there was the type that allowed him to draw off the chip and use the skills once his brain acclimated to the presences of the skill chip. But that skill was also lost as soon as the chip was disabled or removed. That version carried much less risks than the more flexible version. The second version literally imprinted temporary memories in the user's brain, which would persist for a month's time while over-writing the natural memories. Normally, those older memories returned and a user's original skills were not affected by the chip. But side effects were known to exist, such as permanent loss of memories and loss of the chip-based skill, strokes, loss of all memories and even death.

Either way, Bhreker would have to work to gain the physical acumen to go along with the skill. Those, no wafer could confer. Bhreker chose the first type, especially as the risks of the second were very usage-based. And increased as the user repeatedly used it again and again in short periods of time. As for returning the chip, the ship's itinerary led from Lunion to the Rabwhar system and then to D'Ganzio. Instel-Arms had only the most basic installation in that system, so Bhreker could return the chip at D'Ganzio. He was, of course, reminded that damage or loss of the wafer meant he would buy the wafer, which was worth the commission he'd built up since he boarded the Hotel California.

As the orders for the ship had to be delivered, due to the military nature, Bhreker finished his work and then went to lunch before returning to the ship. He eventually got back to the ship by 12:45 pm. Announcing himself in the ship's lounge, Fesic got on the comms and said he was working on something in the cargo bay. When he asked if Bhreker needed anything, the salesman said he just wanted to check in. He then updated Fesic on his order and Munarshu, once he learned the engineer was there too. Better safe than sorry, Munarshu moved to the bridge intending to lock down the cargo and engineering sections. But once he got there, Munarshu could not log into any of the consoles.

Without bridge rights, Munarshu could not do anything from there. So he returned to the engineering spaces and manually locked the sections down passage by passage. As he did, he passed Bhreker in the lounge several times offering no explanation of his actions. What Bhreker did see was that each panel the engineer worked on went red, indicating that portal was locked. Bhreker relaxed and assumed it was a combination of ship-board security with most of the crew gone and the crewman's paranoia. Eventually adding to the mystery, "something" docked with the ship and Bhreker guessed it was the cutter. So when Mikah and Zimzod stepped back into the ship from the cutter bay, Bhreker was there waiting to greet them.

Lucky they were expecting Fesic or Munarshu, Mikah did not instantly take out the figure standing at the valve when it opened. Lucky for Munarshu, Mikah's codes as Captain, and Zimzod's as First Officer, over-rode Munarshu's lock-out codes. When Bhreker greeted them and asked if he could help, Mikah said no but did ask where Munarshu and Fesic were? Bhreker guessed they were still in the cargo bay and Mikah told Bhreker to relax and make himself comfortable. Bhreker did update them on their orders and ask if they knew why Emkir ordered the teaching suit. Zimzod said, "Because he's kind of stupid. Have you ever looked at him? His expressions are always dopey." After the laughs, they then went to Zimzod's stateroom so he could stow his coffee before heading aft.

Tell Them What's In The Box Johnny

     As they moved, Mikah considered the difficulty of hiding homicides from the salesman. She knew the port was the largest body in the area, so shoving bodies out the air lock would mean they'd hover in the area of the port until discovered. And then the investigation and forensics would begin. And while they did not need the gunner, killing the engineer would cause Aali some issues. Soon enough, they arrived in the cargo bay to see the two crewmen standing near the obviously opened cargo pod. As they got close enough, they saw the woman in the aluminum case. As soon as Munarshu knew they'd seen it, he said to Mikah, "And this is why we called. Or, why I called you."

Before Mikah could respond, Munarshu began making it clear he had nothing to do with Fesic's actions and was unaware of what the gunner had been doing. Getting words in edgewise, Fesic stood straight and made it clear his actions were entirely his fault and Munarshu was not to blame. When Zimzod demanded, "Why did you open this..." he was cut off as Fesic said, "I had to know what was inside because I was asked to do something illegal and I, if I'm going to cooperate in any way, in such an endeavor, I need to know what's involved." Nodding, Zimzod answered, "OK. Obviously there's nothing illegal here."

When Fesic said, "No, that's not true", Zimzod asked, "Really?" in a tone that demanded Fesic explain himself. Fesic continued, "It's not obvious at all to me. I don't know what the situation is. But we were concerned this, person, might be waking out of a stasis situation. So Munarshu called to get someone with medical training to check into the situation." As she listened, that last part was the only thing Fesic had said that did not make her want to kill him more. Looking at Mikah, Zimzod asked, "Is this woman waking up from stasis?" Mikah reached into her med-kit for a hand scanner because there were no visible signs of the woman waking up.

As she did this, Mikah also mentally cataloged those drugs and conditions which could keep a person in suspension for such a long time. Especially as the idiots had exposed her to breathable ship's air before they called her and the woman had not woken up even as she and Zimzod returned to the ship from downwell. It was certainly a mystery, but one Mikah could not ignore while still re-securing the cargo pod with the woman inside. As Mikah began to scan and normal levels for a basic examination, she could see all the organs appeared to be there and correct. No one had borrowed a kidney or other organ for the black market. As Mikah scanned, Zimzod watched over her shoulder.

Turning up the scanner to do a tissue scan, things still looked normal so she pushed it to the deepest levels. As the readings started coming back from that, Mikah and Zimzod were very happy the data was specialized and they were the only persons in the compartment who could read it. Because, at a cellular level, the cells were nanotech Bio-machines! With the super straight laced Fesic doing his best to peer at her results, Mikah just realized she was in a situation where Imperial forces shoot first. Then, they question the survivors before executing them. The couple saw this was a more advanced version of the android Munarshu and Terin had encountered on Equus! And she certainly could not risk Fesic finding that out and getting them all killed. The good news was the device showed no signs of activating.

Not able to make heads or tails of the data on Mikah's scanner screen, Fesic began, "I can re-pack her and re-seal the pod..." and Mikah interrupted him saying, "You will reseal it." stressing the word 'Will' hard enough they all heard the capital "W". Zimzod picked up there, saying, "And you will never even think of this box again, until we need you to. If you feel kind of anxious, there is a rubber fuck-doll here somewhere if you don't mind sharing with Munarshu." In the meantime, Mikah did her best to pretend to finish a health check on the "woman" before deleting her results and closing up her scanner.

Mikah then told Fesic, in a tone that brooked no disagreement, that the woman was Human, she was perfectly fine and she was not coming out of stasis. With that, she ordered Fesic to re-seal the woman in the pod as if it had never been opened or it was his hide. Fesic accepted her order and warning and began going through the process of repacking the woman. First, he made sure she was still in the position and posture she'd been in when he'd pulled away the facing. he replaced the facing and closed the box up, making sure to test the air and figure out what noble gas had filled the container before. When he could not find a raised level of any gas in the compartment, Fesic realized there had been no inert gas filling the container before he opened it. Closing the case and locking it, Fesic began to close the cargo pod and prepare to recreate the seal.

As he had begun to work, Mikah and Zimzod said there would be consequences before they left. Mikah also instructed that Fesic was to have no contact with Bhreker any longer, making Munarshu the "temp" steward until Terin got back to the ship. She also gave Munarshu access to Cr 40 to buy dinner for Bhreker that night. As they went back to the cutter to leave, Mikah and Zimzod told Bhreker he'd be dealing with Munarshu as stand in steward. When Bhreker asked if there was a problem, Mikah said Fesic seemed to be dealing with some anxiety issues and needed some time to relax. Bhreker accepted that despite the fact it made no sense. After that, Mikah and Zimzod returned down-well and grabbed some food before meeting up with the rest of the Knights.

Odds And Ends

     Once Mikah and Zimzod said they had to return to the ship, the rest of the Knights went out for lunch. Because Mikah had said so, Aali and Emkir paid for Terin. During the meal they speculated on who was dying aboard the ship and how Mikah was going to finish them off. The theories covered both how she'd prolong their final moments to how she'd use that time to entertain herself as they died. After lunch, Rol had a car pick him up from the TAS hotel so he could check out the facility. At the same time, Aali contacted the TAS concierge to ask about getting a scan update for her cloning insurance. Once she let it be known she was in system and had the insurance, TAS checked their records and called both Rol and Zimzod too. Zimzod said he was busy, as he and Mikah were lifting to orbit at the time, but the rep said they'd update the three on a facility within the hour.

After a hover-ride to the hotel, Rol received a tour of the facility. As TAS facilities go, it did not disappoint. It was well appointed and decorated in a style of classic though understated wealth. The walls and floors were a complex mix of natural woods, stone and crystals from the world of Lunion. But it eventually came down to the costs. And when Rol checked out what he could get, the more luxurious room topped out lower than they did at the Order house but more or less ran Cr 50 less for similar digs than the Order house. Once he knew that, Rol had to wonder if the saving of Cr 50 would answer for separating the team and adding time getting organized the next day. having hoped for some time alone, the answers started to show that it would be better to stay at the Order house.

After his tour and conversations, Rol visited the service desk and drew a high passage, as he said he was going to the Duke's court the next day and might need it for a mission if assigned. He then returned to the Order house to rent a Cr 350 room for the night and re-join the rest of the Knights. As he arrived at the order house, the TAS concierge called and offered a number of facilities in the city where they could get a new scan. Ultimately, wherever they chose to be scanned, it would cost Cr 1,000 and be sent directly to their insurer and those local facilities for cloning. As a standard process, the facilities shared files so the scans were not held in only one place. So they'd be replicated out to every Imperial facility regionally.

The only real hitch in the plan came when they asked when they could set up the scans? They were told to call the facility of their choice and set up appointments. But once the calls were made, they were told appointments could be set up for the next morning at 10am. That was a problem because they had to be in the Duke's Court the next day and were not sure of the timing of that. Even if it was scheduled early, there could be other events connected to the appearance which might keep them from making their appointments. When they started considering the day after, it was realized they'd have to stay on-world longer. Not liking that, Rol asked about facilities on the high port and was told those were available too. That made things easier, as they could set their appointments for the day after the court appearance and have the scans done in orbit once they returned to the ship.

Once that was decided, the three set their appointments up with a lab on the highport and went back to the Order house to meet up. Since Rol was already there, he waited for Mikah and Zimzod to return as well as the other Knights. Once they were together, the balance of the crew wanted to get some drinks but Mikah did not want them getting drunk. Since it was too early for dinner, they asked the concierge what there was to do for tourism? The first option they were offered was that the Duke was having a ball at the palace that night to begin honoring some of the early arriving Baronet candidates for the Sharrip system.

Since the Knights were not really involved in the political structure locally, they weren't up for dressing up and watching every P and Q of their actions hoping to not commit a faux pas. From there, the concierge listed item after item, eventually winding up mentioning the "Lunion High Point". When Mikah asked what that was, they were told it was the top of the floating spire they'd seen during their tour. While the observation deck was obviously an attraction, there was also a spire-top restaurant and an "adventure ride". That was, as the concierge pulled out a brochure, a grav-cannon from which adventurous thrill seekers were fired up above the tower! Equipped with a computer-controlled gravBelt, they'd reach 500 feet up above the tower top! Then, when they began to fall, the belt activated and lowered them back down to a 'landing zone".

As soon as he heard that, Rol enthusiastically said he had to try it as Mikah laughed! Mikah agreed that Rol had to try it and said nothing about the setting changes on the gravbelt she was imagining. Looking into the adventure, they saw it was Cr 25 to get to the observation deck and an additional Cr 50 to "ride the cannon". Emkir was enthusiastic about spending the afternoon on top of the spire and having dinner at the restaurant up there. Only Terin was not happy with the idea, given the costs he could see checking out their e-menu. As Aali announced she wanted to get fired from the cannon too, Terin said he was going to stay in his hotel room and study. He was also going to look for an inexpensive place to eat.


Relaxation At Last

     As the Knights left Terin behind and went off to have fun, they talked about how much it would cost to get video of the adventures? Emkir hit on the idea of getting sports bands to keep his eGlasses on and then teaching Aali to use them. That way, they'd all get to see what it was like from her point of view! As they hired a cab and rode off, Terin moved over to the concierge and asked about spices and herbs. He was mostly concerned with finding out if there were stocks of the specific herbs he used in his teas. The concierge took Terin's list and said they would contact him when they had more data on what was available.

The hedge bothered Terin, as the world was an agricultural treasure trove. But still, while millions of species grew there, no guarantees the specific species he needed were included. As he studied, the Knights had paid Cr 30 for their ride, at Mikah's expense as Aali and Emkir paid for Terin's lunch. Once they got to the top of the spire, Aali and Rol paid their Cr 50 each to ride the ride. Since Aali was using the glasses, Rol decided not to rent recording gear for himself. Once they were geared up and prepared, the reactions were more of a surprise to everyone involved.

Aali's reactions were screams of extreme pleasure as the others watched her fired into the sky. Her most uncertain moment was when she achieved null gravity just before the belt began to kick in. Counter to that was Rol, who was a veteran of several actual combat drops from orbit onto battle fields. Rol's reactions were more based on not having control or even access to the gear into which he'd volunteered to have himself strapped. So this was suddenly more like an unrehearsed mission with gear that could be questionable. So he was less comfortable on the way up than he was once the belt activated and he descended back to the building top. Of course, regardless of how Rol would explain himself and his reactions, there would be lots of comedy at his expense.

Eventually, Aali rode the cannon twice as everyone also sat around and drank expensive drinks while building up tabs. The Knights relaxed and enjoyed the view as well as people watching while they passed the remains of the afternoon. An additional attraction was the chance to watch a parade of riders get shot from the cannon. And while Rol and Aali came back "clean", not everyone returned with unsoiled clothing. Those spectacular failures were often the best laughs of the afternoon. One of the other things Emkir took away from the experience was a personal goal of getting Aali to squeal in bed as she had when being shot out of the cannon.

Finally, showing up at the post of the maître d' at the time of their reservation, the Knights went for dinner. The food was top notch, which made the prices they'd expected acceptable, as the "price of the experience." They paid the Cr 200 each while throwing in a Cr 50 tip each too. By the end of dinner, at nearly 7 pm, the Knights returned to the Order house to share after dinner drinks in the lounges there, meeting and chatting with the other members of the Order who happened to be there. When they called Terin, the other Knight chose to remain in his room studying. On the ship, Munarshu chose not to touch the funds left by Mikah and prove he could cook, having the barest minimal training in being a ship's Steward.

And while it was not "Rol-Quality" it was not bad. After he'd served Bhreker, Munarshu made sure to deliver a platter to Fesic, who was restricted to his cabin while Bhreker was around. Munarshu also delivered Fesic his blow up sex doll, to help him find "something to do" while stuck in his stateroom. Fesic thanked Munarshu, but deferred on the doll. So he relaxed in his cabin while Bhreker and Munarshu enjoyed their evening in the ship's lounge. The Knights, aside from Terin, spent time with those Knights in the Order House's lounge. This was a small mix of those who didn't get invited to the Duke's ball, didn't want an invitation or were taking breaks from business they had which kept them away from the politics.

Surprisingly, some of the Knights that came to the Order house lived locally and used the site as an office outside the home or place to relax and break up the usual. Some were travelers who did not have the gear or need to do the local political thing. After an evening of inexpensive drinks, introductions and conversations, the Knights learned nothing of note. Emkir did make sure to ask about gambling and was directed to any number of betting sites to log into. When Emkir did check a site on one of the lounge terminals, he found a huge slate of activities and "events of chance" on which he could bet. There were even massive amounts of vehicle-based betting as well as athletic and augmented competitor events.

While Emkir also saw advertisement for full-out casinos, Mikah said he could not go as they likely had chairs. This, a reference to his murder of a spacer on Skull. For other reasons, and preferring an earlier night, Aali also agreed with the Captain and used her authority as 'The Wife' to bring pressure to bear. On the ship, Fesic had deferred when offered Munarshu's doll, and the engineer had protested "she" was clean. Not wanting to deal with Munarshu's brand of sad mental illness, he'd accepted the doll but later got a pin out and found a discrete place to puncture the doll. He also did so in a way to make it hard to patch the sex toy.

After chow, Bhreker checked into galleries, displays and crafting venues specializing in the handicraft movements in-system. Once he was done with his research and set a few places to visit the next day, when the Knights were paying their respects to the Duke, Bhreker surprised Munarshu by breaking out a needlepoint project he'd been working on! This was certainly an unexpected side of the Instel-Arms man's personality. In the Order House, Terin also fielded a call from the concierge, who reported a number of items the Knight needed to help restock his kit. While it would not replace everything, he was getting nearly 70% of what he hoped for.

Only two of the items were 'stand ins' but they matched chemically and biologically. So Terin paid the Cr 750 for a decent stockpile. A six-month supply when it was just him and a couple of subjects, Terin bought what he did because he knew it would last much less time than he was used to. Eventually, the Knights started fading off to bed. Mikah called the Seneschalate to ask when they should expect to appear. She was told they were "Scheduled" for 'as early after the lunch break as possible'. But she was reminded that some items of business could resolve quicker, moving them to an earlier slot and others could run long, pushing them to later.

She was cautioned there would be several actual legal issues the Duke would preside over and those were often unpredictable. When Mikah pushed for specifics, she was told to be there by 12:30, when the Duke would still be at lunch, and be prepared to find other pastimes while in the Court. This meant mingling with the others attending Court, visiting the palace gardens, making contacts and learning about the Duke. As Zimzod put it, Hob nob with the goober smoochers. After dotting the I's and crossing the T's, the crew settled in for the night in their various locations.


A Morning Aboard

          For once, Munarshu's penchant for waking at 5am served him well, as he was dressed, ready and deployed well before Bhreker woke. So breakfast was ready and waiting when the Instel-Arms man made his appearance. A plate was also delivered to Fesic, waking the gunner up despite his plans to sleep just a bit more. Still, Munarshu did get to check the system status data and 'droid activities in the engineering spaces before cooking. So he was well on his way to managing his jobs.

Bhreker was pleased with what he knew of how this voyage was going and the two men shared an enjoyable meal, discussing the likely next steps once the Knights did their thing in the Duke's court. After the meal was done, Bhreker sparked up his datapad, reviewed his plans for the day and headed out to enjoy the museums he'd tagged the night before. Munarshu cleaned the galley before notifying Fesic when Bhreker left the ship and went down to work in engineering. As Bhreker went through the venues on the way to, or between museums, he enjoyed seeing all sorts of interesting tech toys and devices for completing kits or original personal works.

Bhreker enjoyed that every system had so many original ways to face the same challenges. And he enjoyed the many displays and ideas he saw from modern works of art to centuries old items recovered from archeologic digs which scientists still argued over. Bhreker also got a laugh in the souvenir shops, where he'd see the "Recreate this item which took centuries to make in only minutes with..." craft kits. Still, there were some tools he found he needed and spent a bit of his recently gained commission even as he got an alert the product shipments were being sent to the ship. Bhreker knew Munarshu and Fesic would enjoy handling that.

Knowing how rare green worlds were in the sector, Bhreker thought it might be interesting to pick up some selections of wood and a carving set. At the least, he could carry it to places like Jae Tellona and sell the wood for a profit if he made the mistake of visiting the world's surface. Bhreker also smiled as he wondered how the crew of the Hotel California would react to him whittling in the lounge. Still, he spent some credits on transit, admission, lunch and souvenirs before returning to the ship in the late afternoon.

Munarshu locked the air lock once Bhreker left, so he could be sure to have Fesic back in his stateroom when the passenger returned. Once he was free, Fesic went back to the cargo bay having had most of the day before and over-night to consider recreating the cargo box seal. One issue he'd noticed was that the seal had a hidden vein of lanthanum running through it! That made sure no one could fake the seal quickly, so Fesic saw he was lucky he'd cut the seal open earlier than later. The vein spiraled through the middle of the seal in a way Fesic would have to experiment to match. But he could test and re-try since he had a full scan of the lanthanum strand. Of course, lanthanum was the very rare metal starships needed for their jump grids.

Once Fesic was ready to start trying to re-make the seal, he called Munarshu to ask for a spare rod of the metal. Not known for his low key reactions, Munarshu asked, "Say What?!" in shock. Fesic repeated that he needed the metal to create a new seal for the cargo pod. He said he'd would give Munarshu what was left of the bar as well as the metal from the original seal too. As the metal stock changed hands, Munarshu made up a reasonable excuse to enter into the engineering log. He also logged a message for Aali, saying he'd made minor repairs on the hull, after noting deficient energy readings.

Once he had the lanthanum, Fesic planned to make his settings and run a simulation or two before activating the cargo sealer. Then he'd create a new seal with the same time, date and customs settings the first seal had. But he was interrupted as the comms in the ship went off. When Munarshu answered, they learned the Instel-Arms crew were there with the crew's deliveries. So both men took some time receiving the gear, which had to be brought in through the docking tube. After that, they piled items up by the name tags on each, so the individual Knights could move their gear to their rooms. Once that was done, Fesic began the hours working on the seal, planning to hand Munarshu the old seal's parts, so the engineer could run the materials through the ship's maker systems to recover the lanthanum and other spare materials. In the end, Munarshu logged that with another excuse and there was only a very small loss of lanthanum. When he did that, Munarshu checked in on Fesic's tests to confirm the seal would pass inspection as Bhreker enjoyed his day on the port.

Moments In The Spotlight

     With alarms and wake up calls set for early, the Knights woke, cleaned up and got dressed in their finery as they prepared to go to court. After breakfast, they packed their over-night kits and had the luggage stored at the Order house, rather than carry the bags throughout the visit to the palace. As a service, the Order house would hold the baggage for the Knights, and deliver it to their cutter or return it to them as requested later. The house motorpool also provided them a shuttle ride to the palace, after those with clone insurance had their brain scans done. At Cr 1,000 a pop, Aali, Rol and Zimzod had their scans updated while the rest of the Knights waited. Once they were done, it was off to the palace.

As they arrived, protocol workers with androids in support collected all the data from the Knights and had them stand by as the data was transferred to the Duke's Heralds to prepare for the appearance in court. Like the court of the Duchess Delphine, there were gardens, art work, historic data on the Duke and his family and interesting landscaping and architecture. One surprise the Knights saw was a miniature representation of the Imperial palace and moot spire. The Moot Spire, on Capital, rose 1.75 kilometers into the sky and hosted the meetings which formed the laws and policy of the empire under Emperor Strephon. And while that tower rose from the surface of Capital, the massive floating Grand Palace of Arbelatra drifted through the world's atmosphere, reminding those on-world of the many achievements of the Third Imperium.

While the real Palace may hover over any part of Capital, the miniature Palace drifted about in an area near the miniature version of the Spire, giving the people visiting the Court an idea of the technologic glories of Capital and the Imperium. While some were impressed, Mikah was not one of those, and she was largely annoyed by the humidity when outside. Emkir and Aali took pictures. Other sections of the gardens were devoted to showing off the plant-life of the worlds of the Lunion subsector. Emkir was particularly interested in the representations of water worlds of the subsector. But the closest to a water world in the subsector was the Olympia system, eighty percent covered in oceans.

Finally, as the Knights wandered and mingled, several protocol team members or 'droids came to round them up and deliver them to a member of the Duke's Heraldic staff. They were told their point of appearance was approaching and given a brief explanation of how their actions in the presence should proceed. As they were simply paying their respects, the process would be simple. As Knights of the Realm and members of the Defenders of the Marches, they would greet His Grace and offer their swords in defense of his domain. In return, the Duke would welcome them to his fief, ceremonially award them extension of their Imperial rights in his lands and promise to defend them if such is within his power.

As a result, they would wait until called by the Court's senior Herald. The Knights would then be called in, by order of precedence, by all the titles held by the specific "Sir" or "Sirs". A "Sir" would be one Knight. A "Sirs" would be a couple. Each person or couple will be called by their name, and begin walking as the Herald elaborates with that person or couple's titles. So they would 'string out', entering in succession as they were called and eventually coalescing as a team in the presence. They were then told Lady Mikah would be first called as the highest in the order of precedence. Then would be called Sir Rol as a War Hero and Awardee of two chivalric orders. He would be followed by Sir Terin, who was Knighted during the war. Then, Sir Zimzod, who would be followed by Sir Emkir and Dame Aali.

Once they arrived in the presence, and did honor to the Duke, it would be announced by the Herald that, "The Duke greets you and welcomes you to his domain, both as servants of the Imperium and keepers of the trust in honor that is held on behalf of Sir Aiden Radetsky." As the staffer said the last, Mikah and the others did their best to school their reactions with varying success. A proper professional, the staffer ignored the reactions and continued as the Knights recalled Aiden had been the one singled out for honors by Grand Duchess Delphine. So this was a very significant indicator of the solar winds in this court.

Once the welcomes and other platitudes were completed, Mikah, as spokesperson for the crew, would be permitted to deliver their greetings and regards. After things played out to that point, the Duke personally thanked Lady Mikah and her crew, and happily welcomed them to his home. The Duke further hoped they would enjoy and be entertained during the time spent on Lunion and in his Duchy. He further told them to feel free to consult with his officers and administrators to learn about, or make any suggestions which would improve the lives of all Imperial Citizens in the Duchy. While the words were largely traditional and ceremonial, Mikah would have cause to reflect on them in the days to come.

Following his welcome, he looked to the Knights and thanked them again, and they were free to bow in recognition they had been dismissed, and leave the court. Mikah was certain, as she led her team out, that the best suggestion box for improvements could be found in the powder room, so long as one remembered to flush it before they left. Quickly out of the presence, and moving to leave the Court-proper, Mikah was intercepted by a protocol android which requested she and the other Knights follow it. Seeing this request was more of an informal command, Mikah sighed as Emkir made a non-committal sound and they followed the 'droid to a conference room in the offices of the Palace.

But Wait! There's More!

     As they arrived in the conference room, one of the Duke's Heralds who had been waiting for them greeted them on the Duke's behalf. He said Duke Luis would ask the Knights to wait for him to complete court business, as he would have a private discussion with them. Mikah's first thought were defensive. 'What did we do? We didn't do anything!' Emkir simply settled into a chair and asked, "I'd like a double whiskey, please?" That actually broke the tension and got some laughs. Calling in members of the Duke's protocol team, the Herald made sure the Knight's needs were taken care of and they were kept comfortable 'to the level of responsibility'. They were also given access to terminals to watch the remaining court business or watch entertainment vids, and comms to call the ship to explain their delayed return.

Mikah made the call as Aali suggested they watch the rest of the court and Emkir agreed. After that, Mikah and Emkir accepted some lubricant to relax while the others abstained. In addition to drinks, hors d'oeuvres and other snacks were served. And as time passed, Court eventually was closed. A protocol representative explained it would take the Duke half an hour to finish up post-court details and such before he could arrive to join them. The Knights were certain the details likely had some bearing on the actual cases the Duke had needed to preside over, as well as dealing with the various contentious sides in the forms of teams of lawyers rather than actual litigating parties.

Finally, roughly half an hour later and about mid-afternoon, the Duke arrived. Luis arrived in a more casual version of his court garb, and trailing a small team of assistants. As protocol dictated, the Knights rose if they were sitting when the Duke arrived, and he waved them to relax in the mode of a busy nobleman who knew the ropes. Saying "Sit, Sit Sit", the Duke apologized before continuing. "I have something I need your help with." he said in a casual tone. "It's perfect that you arrived when you did." As he stressed the word and finished his sentence, Emkir muttered, "We seem to have a knack for that." After muttered agreements, the Duke asked them how much they knew about the on-going politics in the subsector?

Knowing this could be a very dangerous question to answer, the crew said they knew very little. That was fairly honest, as they had no dogs in any local issues and only knew what they'd heard on the podcast they'd listened to while arriving in-system. And few of them really remembered that, though no one was going to say so. Accepting that, Duke Luis asked what they'd heard of the Sharrip system? This roused memories in some and Aali was ready to do a fairly good dissertation on the news cast they'd heard, but didn't want to make Mikah and the others look bad. There were admissions from everyone that they'd heard the news. The Duke smiled and reminded them the Imperium had been terraforming the atmosphere, or lack of one, with algae for nearly the last hundred years. Now the project was ready for "Phase 2".

Phase 2 for Sharrip meant planting real forests and fields. As the project moved from "Seeding algae populations and feeding in nutrients", there would be a lot more money poured in and management needed. So the project needed to have someone appointed to run it. And that person would be created a Baronet. And that not only gave them control over a great deal of money and projects, but likely also planted the seed for that person's family to eventually receive the system's first full Baronial patent if the project panned out after the expected 150 to 250 years. So there was quite a bit of behind the scenes campaigning and maneuvering by a number of noble families and Duke Luis needed to determine who to pick.

Duke Luis said that Lord Kagirii Maar Shaagmu, a favorite of Luis' Seneschal, was arriving in-system fairly soon and the Duke wanted to test the man and his family to see how they handled something outside the hothouse. Being completely honest, Duke Luis said Lord Shaagmu was a scientist and botanist with a specialty in forestry management. Also in his favor, the Lord inherited the Phase one project twenty years before and handled the final parts of that phase very well. "But", Luis continued, "If he is going to become the first Baronet of the system, I want to take a measure of the man. And not just his scientific chops. I want to see what happens to him outside the lab when he's stuck in something really sticky."

After a few questions from Emkir about setting up social faux pas situations, the Duke said he'd sent Baroness Dame Simlia Aamkhiish, Baroness of Shirene, to pick up Lord Shaagmu in her yacht, the IMM Shidaarshaap and bring him to Lunion. Before dispatching the Baroness, Duke Luis said he'd briefed Baroness Simlia and her crew on his intentions. What he wanted was for the Knights to gather their crew and pretend to be pirates attacking the Shidaarshaap when it arrived in-system. He said he'd provide a battered and combat-captured Sword Worlder raider, uniforms and the gear needed to look the part. The ship was in bad shape, but it could play the role because the Baroness' crew knew what was going on, and would play along.

Both the ship they were loaned and the Baroness's ship had their weapons disabled. Everyone would have non-lethal weapons and weapons that fired blood squibs to make it look real. But after some fake ship to ship fire to force the yacht to submit there would be an apparent gun battle at the air lock where the Baroness' crew would be overwhelmed. Following that, the crew would force their way into the holdout room where the Noblemen were hiding and force them to give up their valuables and information on ransoming them. The ship would be completely rigged with cameras to capture the actions of Lord Shaagmu and his team. Mikah asked if they could get the entire thing written out in print and the Duke said he already had the documents for them all to read and keep.

When Mikah asked about the 'loaner ship", she was told it had been captured from sword worlds raiders and was a 400 ton design. Excited, Mikah asked if they could keep the ship once the mission was done and the Duke laughed. Past the idea of giving away a combat-capable vessel worth hundreds of millions of credits, he pointed out it had been captured in combat. Most of its fittings were badly damaged and the remains of the jump system were not even worth anything as salvage. He made it clear the ship would work for an in-system operation like this but not much more. So they'd be escorted out to the expected emergence point for the Baroness' ship and wait for the vessel to arrive.

Once they emerged from jump, Mikah's crew would engage in a fake battle with "for show only" weapons and force the yacht to submit to boarding. Then the rest of the charade would play out as cameras caught every reaction of the Lord and his team. Duke Luis did repeatedly hammer home the point that none of the Nobility aboard the ship could be hurt. Even accidentally. Should someone be injured, the crew would pay a heavy price. Duke Luis did remind them the Baroness would be a safety for them, but she was not told "who" would be acting as the pirates. So she would not know "them". When Emkir asked if they could get a copy of the vid shot during their "raid", Duke Luis said that would be highly inappropriate. He pointed out the tape could be very embarrassing for a Noble family he is considering further ennobling. He did say that, in addition to being owed a favor from the Duke, they'd each get paid Cr 20,000 so long as none of the nobles got hurt.

Mikah confirmed that meant her whole crew, not just the Knights. When Rol asked if the Imperial Navy was aware, they were told the "Sword Worlds" ship they'd be loaned would be escorted to the emergence point by two naval vessels to make sure no one attacked them, on the assumption they were real. Then, the ships would clear the area so the Baroness' ship could not call on them for help. Additionally, the systems entry beacons would be set to announce the exercise because the Baroness' bridge crew would be the only ones on her ship to hear that. When Mikah asked if flying entirely unarmed was a smart idea, she was assured that raids of any kind had subsided and the Duke felt the situation was safe enough.

To help them plan, the Duke even provided deckplans of the Shidaarshaap. Mikah marveled at all the space available in the ship until she learned the ship had vastly reduced capabilities. The Baroness' ship could only reach the Lunion system thanks to Imperial Naval operations with tanker ships because it was a Jump-1 vessel. So they'd made jumps to deep space on the trip. That, too, was part of the Duke's tests. They were told the Baroness' yacht had a crew of four people and the Knights received a basic profile on each of them. The Knights were also reminded that, in the 'shootout', the crew would make it easy to "shoot them." Two were to be shot during the boarding and the other too to be "executed" using the blood squibs to put pressure on the Lord and his team.

Setting The Final Plan

     Once the Knights accepted the job, they were sent back to the ship to set things up with the remaining members of the crew. They also had to let Bhreker know they were closing the ship up for a few days' time before preparing to leave. Since passage did not include lay-overs, Bhreker was not surprised or annoyed and called Instel-Arms to set up a room with their employee housing. It certainly cleared many of his remaining doubts about the crew that the Duke trusted them enough with a mission. Especially since Skull and Equus. Once Bhreker was off the ship, they held a crew meeting to discuss the job. Though Mikah had wanted to not tell Fesic that this was a job for the Duke, they had to be up front on the job because of all the moving parts.

Since they needed to appear as Sword Worlders, because the nobles aboard would certainly hear the challenges and demands, they needed people who sounded like Sword Worlders. Most of the crew knew Emkir spoke the Sword Worlds' common tongue and had some experience with their accents as they spoke Galanglic. But Fesic was raised on the edge of the Sword Worlds, and had a lot more experience with their accent and "sounding like" one of them. So Mikah made him the "Sword Worlds Pirate Captain", and figured he'd get his chance to lead and see how many problems "his crew" caused him. But he would play the speaking role.

Fesic questioned if the Duke was possibly setting up the crew, Mikah provided the data given them by the Duke, including a vid of the entire meeting they'd had with Duke Luis. As they looked at the schedule for the mission, which would start the next day, they called to reschedule their scans. Calling the Duke's office to let them know they were setting up their schedule, the Seneschals told Rol they could make sure the appointments were re-set to be handled before they left on their mission. That pleased Rol as he updated Zimzod and Aali. After that, knowing that all their gear would be provided by the Duke's people, the crew realized they had nothing to do. So they relaxed and had a film festival of piratic vids where the bad guys were Sword Worlders, to bone up on their acting. Fesic also gave some explanations of the slang and other mannerisms he'd gotten to know, being raised in the Flammarion system.


Lights, Show, Action...CRAP!

          Waking at six that morning, Munarshu knew there would be no work other than checking on the ship's status and the 'droid work schedules to report to Aali. That done in time for breakfast, he joined the others as Rol cooked. The entire crew dressed down, with just ship's suit and comms because they'd get everything they needed from the Duke's people. Those who had it wore executive armor. At the meal, they reviewed their preparations, including the brags earned by Aali and Terin. In the class the night before, they had figured out how to pronounce "Anfertirkåsmokt" correctly, though Rol got close.

Once they were ready, the crew took the cutter down-well and landed, with permission, at the Duke's own port. Once there, the crew set themselves in the hands of the Duke's people to arm up and prepare. Then they were taken to see their ship, the 400 ton raider Stellar Scimitar. Sadly, the word "ship" only technically described her, as she could fly through space and atmosphere. While her maneuvering drives and power systems worked fine enough, the jump drive and much of the ship's engineering were scrap. Her hull had been repaired, as had her weapons, in the event of a Sword Worlder push during the war, but that never came. There were, sadly, no comfortable fittings outside the bridge, which was in complete repair.

The real "treasure trove" was the Duke's supply of captured Sword world gear. There were basic armor suits, such as mesh and cloth as well as the modified weapons. As promised, they either stunned or fired tranq or squib rounds. Once they geared up, the crew moved into the Scimitar to familiarize themselves with the craft. The first thing everyone became certain of was that being on this ship was not going to be comfortable. At least, most of them would be able to return to the planet aboard the Baroness' ship while one of them would have to pilot the Scimitar back to port. Munarshu quickly volunteered for that job. Soon enough, they were all as ready as they could get and Emkir took the controls as the ship lifted.

Once in orbit, they formed up a formation with two Imperial Naval escorts to burn out to the planned emergence point. That trip took several hours, during which the crew familiarized themselves with the air lock and the part of their ship from which they would launch the "boarding". After that, they relaxed as they could because there was just nothing to do. Four hours later, they took up station-keeping to wait for the emergence of the yacht. Twelve hours later, the sensors started to indicate the signs of an impending emergence in the area of space close by. Only Terin really had anything to actually do, as he could continue some of his studies on his hand-comp. Fesic also confirmed the ship's weapons were not firing lethal or even damaging firepower. That inspired everyone to confirm their selected personal weapons were non-lethal.

Checking the vis-light sensors or looking out the transplex, those watching saw the emergence of the familiar rectangular grid which Imperial ships gave off when they emerged from or entered jump. Once the yacht arrived, it was time for Emkir to fly them in as Fesic opened up on the ship from the weapons control on the bridge. Mikah and Zimzod stayed on the bridge to oversee "Captain Fesic's performance" as he opened the comms and threatened the yacht, demanding its surrender. The rest of the crew organized for the assault by the air lock with Rol assigned to lead them. Mikah and the others would join the boarding action as soon as they could, from the bridge.

As they started receiving transmissions from the ship, they confirmed it was a "Lady of Shallot" class yacht, as expected. The transmissions were standard on entering a system and included the ship name, registry data, owner of record, etc. Emkir began to move their ship in as Fesic began to target the yacht. Everyone near the air lock buttoned up and got ready for their "assault". Suddenly, Zimzod demanded control of the guns, reminding them all Fesic had to play the role of pirate captain. So he should first broadcast his demands for surrender, then lead his boarding hordes. Mikah agreed, because the guns would not work anyway and would just be part of the show.

So, as the yacht emerged from the sensor shadow of jump emergence, they were treated to Fesic's bold and threatening demands to stand down and prepare for boarding! As Zimzod "fired" the ship's weapons, their computer feedback indicated the yacht actually seemed to fire SMS engines to simulate being hit by weapons fire. The pantomime continued for twenty minutes, until the crew of the Shidaarshaap called over begging them to stop firing and agreeing to power down their engines and weapons. As this happened, everyone except for Emkir moved to the air lock as Emkir guided them in. Once close enough, Rol extended the boarding tunnel and connected it to the Shidaarshaap's air lock.

At each stage of the action, Fesic's threats and orders were broadcast to the yacht as he demanded they prepare to surrender when boarded. As the yacht's locks opened, the crew saw darts flying blindly by in the opening gap, and bouncing off the top of the air lock. Roaring over his audible comms, Fesic commanded, "Return fire! Kill anyone resisting!" At Fesic's urging, the crew rushed across with weapons blazing as one and then another of the yacht's crew made ill-advised stands and ate flying tranq darts. Once two of the crew were down, the other two, including the Captain (command pilot) surrendered their weapons. Securing them in a convincing manner, Fesic stepped up to them and demanded to know where the passengers were.

Everything was for show, in case the Baroness, Lord and others were watching remotely. The captain made a play at resistance until Fesic took one of his squib-loaded weapons and fired at the other prisoner. Saying he'd kill the captain the same way and execute all the passengers if he resisted, the captain gave up the passenger's hiding space. Then, Fesic had "his crew" drag the man along as they moved into the upper deck passenger lounge. As they entered the lounge, the Lord and his people appeared to be cowering as the Baroness sat resigned to events. As Fesic made it clear he intended to ransom them and demanded who would pay for their return, the Lord appeared to grow a spine and refused any answers for any of the prisoners.

The Knights and their crew had to wonder if he really had suddenly found heart or had been pretending to cower in order to be underestimated. Emkir, who had arrived and joined the group, snarled "shoot 'em". Fesic simply threatened them with "this fate" as he pointed to the last remaining yacht crewman. He then bellowed "Fire!" and the Knights opened up with squibs as the man appeared to go down in a bloody mass. Fesic then said he's start with who he thought was lowest in value if they did not give him the information he wanted. Still, the Lord was defiant, so Fesic moved up to grab him by his shirt and put the muzzle of his pistol at the man's throat. With that, he demanded, "Is there anyone who will pay a ransom for you?"

Snarling back, the Lord taunted, "Put my face on TAS news and see if you get a response!" and some of the Knights had to bite back 'ooooh's' at his audacity. With this, Terin moved up and grabbed a woman Terin assumed was the Lord's wife, given their observed behavior. Putting his weapon to her head, Terin demanded "how about now?" The Lord held tight, saying "I'm useless. You might as well let us go." In the back, Munarshu could be heard muttering "Ooh, slaves!" in a happy tone. Fesic demanded to know who else was aboard and was told he had everyone as Terin decided to up the ante. He suggested that, since the woman he had was 'useless', the crew of pirates could have some fun with her before killing her. To put an exclamation point on his words, he started to drag her as he said "Let's go find a stateroom."

In response, the Lord swung a punch at Fesic, trying to break away and rescue the woman they figured was his wife. As the punch connected and he pushed away from Fesic, the Lord began to rush Terin. Zimzod decided the test was done enough and shot the Lord in the ass with a tranq round. As he was hit and the drugs started to take effect, the other passengers, except the Baroness, froze in confusion. They knew, or believed they knew, what a gunshot wound looked like and that was 'not it'. Even the Lord turned to look back at Fesic in confusion before he dropped. To add to the surreal situation, the Baroness said in a firm voice, "OK, we've got what we need. We're done." Then, the pilot, who had been shot with a number of squibs and not tranq rounds, stood up and started cleaning the fake blood from himself.


Preparing To Play Piñata

          As Terin released the woman who, with the others, tried to figure out what had just happened, the Baroness began congratulating the Knights and their crew. Mikah and her crew began to relax and holster or safe their weapons as the situation settled down and they looked for seats. But just as things were finally settling down and the second squib-shot crewman joined them, the yacht's alert klaxons began to sound! Rushing to the bridge, they saw another ship had emerged from jump and turned in their direction. A basic check of the data told them the other vessel was only forty minutes out! Checking the scan, the ship appeared to be a 200 ton fast-attack boat and her transponder was silent. But she did show Sword worlds colors!

As Mikah and Terin told Fesic to get on the comms and claim the haul as his, Zimzod said they should call the navy ships back in. But he was reminded those ships had cleared out and moved everything they could back to make the test valid. Fesic asked which ship would be better armed and was reminded both their ships were disarmed so the intruder had the advantage there. Over everything, Mikah said they should get the hell out of the way at the best speed they could. That meant abandoning the yacht, which was spacious but slow. Fesic brought up trying to find the parts needed to reactivate their guns. Pre-empting anything, Mikah ordered everyone onto their wreck, as it was the fastest ship they had.

The Baroness said she was fine abandoning the ship so long as they brought with them the bodies of the tranq'd crew. Mikah agreed with that and sent someone for the unconscious Lord and his wife, who remained to care for him. Then, they got moving. As they got to the bridge of the Scimitar, Fesic was demanding a search for the needed parts to get the gun working as Terin demanded why he was not calling to order off the other Sword World ship. Fesic decided he would make the call with Emkir playing his first officer, given Emkir could speak Sword Worlder languages. The bad news was that they were warning the other captain off while they were also beginning to flee in the direction of the Imperial Navy! That didn't make sense, and the only sane guess he could make was that the Scimitar had been damaged in the battle to take the smaller ship.

That theory was also supported as Emkir pushed the throttle to the wall, but could only make a maneuver rating between levels two and three. So the Scimitar was slower than she should have been and that meant 'damaged'. As a result, he was betting he could kill the larger ship and take some of the valuables before they had to flee the system. So he ordered his pilot to burn hard and told Fesic to fork off. The pirate captain's only question was, was the bigger ship the real prize or was it the abandoned smaller ship? Still, the faster they moved, the less they could change their maneuver profile from pursuit to 'stop and investigate'. And that took more time anyway so the chase was on. And not much later, two things were made clear.

First, Emkir could tell they would be caught and brought under fire well before they could get help. The other was that a search of the ship showed that they did not have the tools and parts aboard the Scimitar to bring her guns to life. So when the other pirate got close, they'd be under fire and defenseless. They started to consider where the most armored section of the ship was, so they could survive the ship to ship fire and then find a way to use their non-lethals at the air lock, the only bottleneck the attackers would face, so they could get some real guns and fight back. All the same, until they had to hole up, those not on the comms or flying the ship were told to search for either a place to remain safe or look for something they could use to jury-rig the guns. And everyone was given the grim order to get into their vacc suits.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

    Mikah: Searching for a safe hiding place aboard the Stellar Scimitar
    Munarshu: Searching for gunnery parts aboard the Stellar Scimitar
    Terin: Searching for a safe hiding place aboard the Stellar Scimitar
    Aali: Searching for gunnery parts aboard the Stellar Scimitar
    Emkir: Piloting the Stellar Scimitar
    Fesic: In command of the fleeing Stellar Scimitar
    Rol: Searching for a safe hiding place aboard the Stellar Scimitar
    Zimzod: Searching for gunnery parts aboard the Stellar Scimitar
    Bhreker Kraiowa: Working at Instel-Arms until the crew returns to port
    Aiden's Clone: 3 weeks several days into the cloning process ( 15 to go)

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Next: Valor And Discretion