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Last Updated    October 12 2017
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       Shake A Station At

Another Last Evening In-System

Entering Jump     With the sex ad issue finally fixed, the crew were glad to again, just relax.  Mikah made it clear everyone was restricted to the ship until the InstellArms delivery arrived the next morning.  After that, they would lift for the jump to the Rabwhar system.  Not nearly an appealing system, the only reason to target the mainworld would be so the scouts could pick up on their tin hemorrhoids.  For a few hundred credits, Mikah wasn't interested.  So she told Terin to plot a jump for one of the system's gas giants.  Accepting that, Terin started looking for the newest data available on ships from that system.  Since Rabwhar was well off the travel routes, Terin had to count on computer extended projections of the most recent reports from arriving ships.

When Terin mentioned that, Mikah brought up another topic, and called the crew together.  Mikah said she'd considered their future plans but realized they had to send a message to Rhylanor for Aiden.  His clone would be decanted on 110-1113, and would be ready to travel by 112-1113.  If their planned travels worked out, they'd arrive in the Lanth system by 58-1113.  Then, they'd possibly spend some time before jumping to the Sonthert system, if they got permission from the Duke of Lanth.  Traveling to and from there, along with spending upto two weeks there, would get them back to either the Lanth or D'Ganzio systems by 86-1113.  Then, they'd have to consider how to link up with Aiden before turning back towards the Five Sisters subsector and the Gothe system.

If they returned to Rhylanor from D'Ganzio, they'd spend 11 weeks in jump and resets to arrive.  That would put them in-system by 183-1113 if all went as expected.  They'd have to pass through many of the system's they'd had such fun in, like Skull and Equus.  So, Aiden would have to spend money on lodgings for at least more than seventy days under the best conditions.  Those would be seventy days he could spend moving to meet them someplace if they could decide where they planned to go?  So, the crew talked about what they planned next?  They all agreed they still wanted to go to the Gothe system to drop off Zach's ashes.  But they had to talk about "how" they'd get there?

Looking at charts of the sector, to decide on a path of travel, Mikah refused to travel through the Darrian Confederation.  After the encounters dealing with the cybernetic parts, the crew agreed.  Next, they checked other possible paths and also agreed to steer clear of both Sword Worlds and Border Worlds space.  That left them two paths, both of which started in the D'Ganzio system.  Mikah set the two paths down for consideration, and sparked up a terminal connecting to the x-Mail system.  She paid Cr 4 to send an x-message to Aiden's account on Rhylanor.  In that, she told him to plan to meet the ship in the Lunion system unless he received an update from them.  Considering the ship couldn't get to Lunion before 100-1113 if everything went to plan.

    The road to Gothe Mikah liked that plan because she was certain something would add delays at some point.  Mikah also commed her Head of House directly.  She told him that, barring further word from her, a Sir Aiden Radetsky might arrive after 130-1113 with instructions to stay at the estate until she and her crew returned to the system.  When the man understood the situation, he agreed the staff would care for the Knight as required.  From there, the ship could continue on one of two courses to the Gothe system, after jumping from Lunion to the Adabicci system.  One path admittedly considered passage through the occupied systems of the Border and Sword Worlds.  The other would take them through at least one independent system outside the Imperium.
See the general paths of travel in the image to the right.

After that discussion, Munarshu asked Mikah for permission to call the Duke's Seneschalate?  When she asked why, he said he'd decided on a favor to ask the Duke.  Mikah agreed and Munarshu sparked up a comms and called the Seneschal's office.  When the call was answered, and after Munarshu introduced himself and explained the reason for his call, he was asked to make his request.  Munarshu asked if it were possible that the Duke might guarantee the availability of a 400 dTon ship, to replace the Hotel California if their ship became unavailable?  Not speaking the thought "greedy much" out loud, as the Hotel California was only 250 dTons, the officer on the line said they would check and be right back.

While Munarshu waited on hold, Aali, who'd overheard his ask, considered the idea a good one.  Of course, she didn't like the request for a 400 dTon ship and would be happy with a ship of matching size.  So she decided that, if the answer was in any way favorable, she would add the weight of her favor to his request, while also making it clear a ship of matching size would do.  Eventually, the officer returned to the line and told Munarshu the Duke would consider his request and answer them before they left port.  As that was happening, Aali asked if she could speak to the officer too?  Allowed to join in, Aali said she'd like to use her favor to reinforce the idea of a replacement ship, but pointed out she didn't hope for anything more than they had.  Her request was noted and the call ended.  Emkir still felt he'd like to wait on his favor.

Back To The Usual

     After the decisions were settled, Zimzod and Mikah decided to watch vids in Zimzod's stateroom.  Settling in, Terin began setting up a schedule to catch up on his now even more complex schedule.  Along with his stent training and computer classes, Terin was part of Sonthert project.  Thanks to Terin's request for permission to visit the system, the crew knew why they were planning to visit the system.  But they also knew the issue hung on the thin thread of approval from Lanth's Duke.  Terin was annoyed he was losing so much more time, but would have to answer more detailed questions when they asked the Duke of Lanth for actual permission to enter the system and land.

So, while he carried on his other studies and took part in the zero-g classes Mikah taught, Terin had to carry on with the White Star Order project.  And now, he had to carry on with the idea to bio-survey the Sonthert system's flora.  Because his proposed survey work had been accepted by Duke Luis and might be accepted by Rakaa Kiraarri of Lanth, Terin might eventually have to provide two "actual" future studies.  First, he would have to add to and update his work done on Lunion, so he could present that to Duke Rakaa Kiraarri.  That would continue to prove the honest interest to a second Duke and hopefully get the final permission grant to land in the Sonthert system.

Next, Terin would actually have to commit himself to carrying out a full research project while the rest of the crew would search for signs of any White Star facility.  Because the Dukes would expect to receive the results of an actual research project.  They would first expect their advisors to receive the raw data as it was available.  Then, they would expect a completed research project within two years of the end of the field work.  So, while Terin's idea got the crew a foot in the door, his success made his life much more complex.  Not to mention his daily schedule.  The resule was that the rest of the crew had much more time for personal interests than Terin would for the next two years, at the least.

Terin started pulling together the threads of his personal hell while Rol logged into a terminal and looked for news regarding crew of the Cursed Bastards of Sol and their new firm, "New Stars, LLC".  The last they'd heard of the firm was in the days before they left Rhylanor, after most of the crew of the California had bought shares in the company.  Eventually, as Rol searched, the math said the most recent news from Rhylanor would have been from four jumps away.  So it would be no newer than a month ago.  That said, they had last been in the system on 311-1112, which was seventy-six days before.  Anything would be an update.  What he found was a cursory notation in the reported system economic news that the firm "New Stars, LLC" was a recently formed in-system hauling firm.  Beyond that, Rol found a notation the firm management were working aggressively to reduce their existing debt to allow an improvement in services.

Given the system date out of Rhylanor, Rol knew he could expect a delayed Forth Quarterly Report from the LLC "soon", as the LLC had sold shares.  Such a report would have been released just after the turn of the year.  Guessing it might have been released between 007-1113 and 014-1113, Rol figured the latest it would get to Lunion would be by 042-1113.  Based on their path of travel, he figured the news would get to D'Ganzio by 035-1113.  With the Rabwhar system being off the beaten path for news, Rol figured they'd see the report in news delivered in either in the D'Ganzio or Lanth systems if at all, before leaving for Sonthert.  Considering that, Rol thought about sending an x-Mail to Aiden to check out the status of New Stars, LLC before leaving the system to meet up with the ship.  Beyond that, the crew worked at personal interests until they all faded to sleep with a planned launch of noon the next day.

Getting Up And Heading Out

     Mikah had been told InstellArms would deliver their comms order by 11am, and told everyone to plan for a twelve noon launch.  So after people woke, worked through their morning routines and ate, they began working towards that mark.  Munarshu couldn't help the feeling of Déjà vu as he started the morning of pre-launch settings and tests again.  People worked at their tasks until the ship received a message from the Duke's Seneschalate for Aali and Munarshu.  It read:

        "To the esteemed Sir Munarshu and Dame Aali.
            Whereas it either benefits or does not benefit the Imperium, based on the
            performance of your crew, and in service to the same, the Duke will review
            your situation at any such time as you request the use of a ship.

The letter was signed and affixed with all the seals and sigils of Duke Luis of Lunion.  Aali said she was satisfied because that was the best she felt they could hope for.  Still, it made the very clear statement that such a grant might only be considered "if" they continued to perform well in the eyes of Duke Luis.  Those who read the words carefully saw that it ominously promised "use" of a ship, without mention of ownership.  Still, Munarshu agreed that the answer was the best they could hope for.

During the early morning after chow, they also had a message from InstellArms, saying the package of ordered comms units would be delivered at 10am that day.  Hearing this, Mikah chose not to revise their lift time, and left it at noon.  Checking on the ship's turrets, Zimzod began to realize he could actually "feel" the systems, and almost command them with his thoughts thanks to his heavy use of both the stent training and his attendance of gunnery classes.  He had finally made a mental break through when he linked to the ship's systems in a way he wouldn't have tried to on the school's computers.  Pleased, Zimzod figured he'd save that happy surprise for when he got the chance to show the ability off.

As the time hit mid-morning, a call came in from port security.  In response to a question posted the night before, Mikah was updated that the investigation of Sir Fesic's stolen gear and weapon was on-going, but had no new action or leads to report.  The reporting officer admitted they were still looking to locate the primary suspect and any of her accomplices.  The subtext of the report was, 'Don't stay here hoping for a break in the case'.  If they had to be honest with themselves, the most anyone had hoped for in early results would have been the recovery of the belt buckle, after removing it from the corpse of someone who'd tried it on.  Since that hadn't happened overnight, it could be assumed those who stole the device knew what it did to the wrong person.

Reminded by that report, Mikah told all the former scouts aboard that the buckles were considered weapons in most systems.  So they shouldn't be worn as general clothing.  Especially when going out to bars or casual entertainment.  After this warning was delivered, it wasn't much later before InstellArms made their delivery.  Mikah handed out the individual new comms units to each of the crew and locked the five extra units away for safe keeping, unless someone needed one.  After that, and testing the units, the crew got seriously into the business of preparing for launch.  Finally, at noon that day, the California lifted into the Lunion sky and burned for the 100-diameter limit.  There, and with Terin's plot loaded, Emkir dimmed the lights, hit the button and the ship rolled into jump space heading for one of the Rabwhar system's gas giants.

The Jump To Rabwhar

     The crew settled back into the routine of jump with Aali and Munarshu handling the regular engineering work.  They shut down and started maintenance on the normal-space systems they could, while also managing and servicing the jump systems.  Of course, some parts of that could be relegated to the androids.  Outside of that, Aali continued to do her stent-work.  Also taking part in Mikah's zero-g classes, Aali relaxed and enjoyed what free time she could find.  Especially with Emkir.  While she worked on her stent or in engineering, Emkir spent the time working on the Risek glyphs or the book translations.  Rol reminded the crew he was available to work on any armor or weapons they wanted help with.  Along with that, he kept up his regular calisthenics and worked on learning the systems for the drones he'd bought.  Rol also took part in Mikah's classes.

In his free time outside engineering, Munarshu continued his studies on robotics.  Outside , he relaxed when he had the spare time.  Mikah announced her zero-g classes would pick up and Emkir told her he'd now get to use his teaching suit for that.  Mikah just laughed and suggested she'd throw in some thing's the teaching suit might need to learn.  Bhreker also said he'd take part, using his stent wafer skills for the first time.  So while he would know what to do, he would still have to train his body to correctly follow the orders his brain was now giving.  Mikah also planned to catch up on her medical reading, relaxed and hung out as she could.  Zimzod worked on his stent and also took part in the zero-g games.  He also kept up his physical training and gear maintenance.

Terin was the only one for whom the week wouldn't allow more spare time.  Between his own computer and stent training, and the work on the fob data with Aali, Rol and Emkir on top of the Zero-g classes, Terin had a full load.  But now, he had to add to that expanding on his Sonthert research.  That was because he now had to not only work the project the crew was concerned with, but also had to continue preparing for the plant, herb and medicinal study he'd proposed to Duke Luis.  That was because he had to be prepared in case they got permission to land in the system.  If they did, both Duke's Luis and Rakaa Kiraarri of Lanth would expect an actual legitimate research project to result from the work.  That meant presenting the raw data after the field work was done, and presenting a more complete report within two years of the end of the field research.  So Terin had painted himself into a schedule which didn't even consider spare time enough to fart!

Bhreker got in some exercise and relaxed while looking at three more weeks aboard.  With the week in jump to Rabwhar and then D'Ganzio bookending a week orbiting a gas giant, there would be no off-ship time.  He also continued working on his craftwork projects.  Bhreker also made sure to stop and check with each of the crew, to see if there was anything else he could order for them?  Making his rounds, Bhreker was certain he was ready for any request from this crew until he got to Fesic.  The gunner sat down with Bhreker and asked if it would be possible to engineer a type of gun which would fire inflatable sex dolls?  He gave some other basic descriptive ideas in the pause until Bhreker was able to pick his slack jaw back up from where it had fallen in amazement.  Ultimately, after making sure Fesic was actually serious, they sat and talked a bit, to figure out what InstellArms might be able to do?

They eventually sketched an idea where the inflatable sex dolls could be compacted into self-fragmenting plastic "shells" so they could be safely fired.  Then, a compressed-air capsule would be designed which communicated with a sister-chip on the weapon.  That set of chips would measure distance from the weapon before releasing the compressed air.  The suddenly inflating doll would then slow its flight to a stop, resulting in a rain of inflated dolls over a specific range.  Bhreker assumed his people could modify a shirt-firing crowd-pumping gun to do what Fesic wanted even as he tried to figure out why Fesic would want it at all?

Other than placing his order, Fesic checked the schedule on the ship's gunnery systems and carried out any needed maintenance.  He also took the time he could, over the week, to work out physically and use the minimal-level simulator to practice with the ship's weapons.  Fesic also took part in the zero-g classes and put in eight hours daily on the cargo sealing device.  More conventionally, if unsettling considering this crew, Rol asked Bhreker about a flame thrower?  Rol was told InstellArms could provide one for Cr 1,500, with an initial charge of fuel.  Munarshu asked Aali about the maintenance records for the Probe as the week progressed?  Aali had to admit the shuttle had seen much less attention, including a lack of maintenance, since they'd left Rhylanor.

On Friday the 26th, the crew had a 'weapons and gear' GI party in the lounge.  That was sparked by Terin, when he hauled his gear out to clean in a space where he had more room than his stateroom.  By the end of the week in jump, Aali and Munarshu had managed to get their work done and even do a survey of the Probe.  The report on that craft wasn't bad at all.  A number of parts needed recycling and a few replacing, but the cutter was in no danger of a critical failure.  Aali made a procurement list of the parts needed and estimated they'd come to Cr 5,000 to 7,000 in an average system with the needed tech level and shipyards.  The bad news was that the Rabwhar system was certainly not the kind of system they would be able to find the parts in.  Apart from the IISS facilities in-system, any provider that would have the correct parts would be charging a huge mark-up.

Stopping For Fuel

Rabwhar      Nearly twenty minutes before they expected it, the ship's computer began to alert that they were emerging from jump.  Emkir took control of the flight systems while Terin also strapped in.  He got ready to start verifying their position.  Taking what had become standard precautions, everyone aboard donned their vacc suits.  After the ship slipped back into real space, Terin and Emkir confirmed they arrived relatively close to their targeted coordinates.  The two spread the word nothing unexpected happened and they began to receive beacon broadcasts directing them to contact Scout patrols of the gas giant.  The time to arrival from their emergence point was expected to be three hours, and the IISS had ships in position to control refueling traffic.

When Emkir contacted the Scouts, he was told to contact one of the traffic control picket ships and request priority for the Hotel California to refuel.  Emkir echoed that back to Mikah, and she told him to ask for 'advanced refueling priority' to jump the line and get refueled faster.  When Emkir made the request, the scout he was questioned under what basis the ship was requesting advanced priority?  Mikah first pulled the rank card and said they were a ship full of Imperial Knights who needed to speed up their passage through the system.  Hearing that, the Scout said, "Welcome to the club." in an unimpressed tone.

With a sigh, Mikah asked how long the waiting queue was, and was told it was about a day.  Deciding jumping the line wasn't worth the fight, she backed off her request and the ship was given permission to start their refueling runs in twenty-six hours.  When Mikah grumbled that twenty-six hours was longer than a standard day, there were jokes made.  When someone said the man hadn't said 'which planet's day' he was referring to, Aali said they were lucky he wasn't using the calendar of a tidally locked world.  Mikah accepted the designation and then worked with Emkir and the other pilots to setup a schedule to man the bridge until they started their runs.

Over the delay, Zimzod planned to spend time working at his stent.  Rol did gear maintenance.  Munarshu and Aali worked in engineering while Emkir worked at his translations.  Mikah saw Bhreker working at a crochet piece and asked him to show her how to do that?  So Bhreker spent some time teaching Mikah how to crochet.  Terin returned to his studies as did Fesic with the cargo sealer system.  Eventually, they all racked out and got a good night's sleep before the next day's planned excitement.  Those who hadn't been through a frontier refueling were given an explanation of how dynamic the process would be.

Making The Runs

     After an early dinner, and as the clock closed on their clearance, Emkir began charting and plotting their runs.  Emkir prepared the ship to make each run where they would dive into the upper atmosphere of the gas giant.  During each pass, they would burn a line through the gas giant's thermosphere crossing the face of the gas giant.  They would then have to rise out of the world's atmo and manuver to return for more passes, until they had filled their fuel tanks.  Then, they would have to pull off and drift or carry out other business while their fuel purification plant did its work.  Preparing to make their first run, Zimzod asked Mikah if she'd like to try riding out the runs in bed.  She suggested that might not be the best idea, given the violent shaking that could throw them around the stateroom as the ship was buffeted.

Admitting she was right, Zimzod had no station for the passes, so he strapped in with some of the others in the lounge.  Aali and Munarshu were strapped into stations in engineering while Emkir and Terin manned the bridge.  After they were ready, the runs eventually took more than five hours to complete as they filled the ship's fuel tanks through the purification plant.  After finishing and pulling into an outer orbit of the planet, the crew secured stations, manned the bridge and took the rest of the day off, to recover from the wild ride.  They now had the rest of the week to reset the ship's systems and prepare for the jump to the D'Ganzio system.  As the crew fell back into the same projects they'd been working on while in jump, there were all sorts of offers for entertainment.

Mobile StarportAdvertisements ran the gamut, with offers to dock with the California or for the ship to dock with others.  The most significant offers came from a mobile port, which was a truly monstrous starship built in the shape of a small starport!  Operated by a gaming and hospitality firm, the port was large enough to offer berths to many ships under 1,000 dTons.  The most attention the crew paid to the offers were to spend some time gawking at the mobile station and its massive interstellar drive sections.  While some speculated on operating such a massive vessel, Mikah remained loyal to her dream of one day commanding her own personal dreadnaught.  Of course, she dreamed of a Tigress-class ship, because her dreams were nothing but the best.  Still, Mikah made it clear that everyone was restricted to the ship.  No one was docking, much less coming aboard, and no one cared to argue the position.

After the week's resets were done, Emkir filed his flight plan and Terin started plotting the jump.  Outside everything else, Mikah had been contacted with requests to take on cargo waiting for a ship with bay space for some time.  Mikah had to say no, becauseS they had no space in the cargo bay to take on cargo.  Soon enough, they were at the 100d limit and Terin loaded his jump plot before Emkir activated the jump drives.  That quickly, they had left the Rabwhar system, jumping three parsecs coreward to D'Ganzio.  Delivering cargo, Terin had targeted the system's mainworld.  Everyone aboard except Bhreker looked forward to getting rid of the tattooed man's cargo, while Zimzod looked forward to seeing how much closer this would get him to his FGMP-15?

The Jump To D'Ganzio

D'Ganzio      Over the week in jump, Mikah paid Fesic and Munarshu their monthly salaries while updating Terin's debt.  Beyond that, the week in jump passed largely the same way the last jump had, with the crew not much varying their work while passing the time.  Eventually, the ship signaled their emergence and the crew got into their vacc suits and prepared to return to real space.  When the jump's sensor shadow faded, Terin and Emkir confirmed they'd arrived in the D'Ganzio system.  On arrival, the crew began getting broadcasts from the outer beacons telling them to follow a specific course in-system and expect to stop for a customs inspection by InstellArms security.

Making his settings and piloting the ship in, Emkir sent his confirmations to InstellArms control, knowing they'd not get a response for some hours.  Looking up the system data again, Mikah found the planet was an itty bitty rock barely more than an asteroid, which had a small ice cap.  The system was entirely controlled, by InstellArms, granted ownership by the Imperial government.  The rock of the mainworld was so dense the place had the tainted trace of an atmosphere too.  Still, the B class starport provided many services including ship repair, maintenance and fueling.  The official population of citizens was below 10,000, augmented by a high level of automation.  That didn't include non-citizens, who upped the count significantly given InstellArms hired contractors and those assigned to the in-system Imperial Navy and Scout bases.

Contacted, at a distance by the on-coming customs patrol, the crew were asked why they were entering the D'Ganzio system?  Mikah had Emkir broadcast that they were delivering cargo and hired passage for an InstellArms employee.  The cutter acknowledged that, and the officer in charge ordered Emkir to bring the ship to a specific vector and cut all engines until otherwise instructed.  He did that while Bhreker finished getting his gear ready to depart the ship and made sure his paperwork was ready.  Mikah and Zimzod were more concerned with the coming inspection of the "Lanth-bound container" Fesic had opened and re-sealed.

Docking began, and the crew were told to have the InstellArms employee available with their paperwork when the ship was tied up.  Next, they wanted the ship's Captain with the ship's papers and the data on their carried cargos.  Proceeding to the air-lock, Bhreker also sent off what he expected to be a very entertaining order file, including the ridiculous "sex toy-firing" weapon.  Finishing that and moving forward to the lock, he found Mikah inspecting the paperwork on the cargo.  Knowing the documents prepared by Fesic said the one cargo box was headed to Lanth, she hoped that was in order, and would keep the inspectors from checking the actual seal too closely.

When the customs team boarded, they first checked Bhreker's papers.  After confirming his data, the inspection team seemed to relax, as if that proved the crew were InstellArms friendlies.  After that, Mikah and some others got the impression the inspectors went light on them, including the cargo paperwork.  The inspection of seals on the cargo for Rafehi Thana were heavy, since he was the CEO of all InstellArms operations in-system.  But after confirming it with Mr. Thana's office, the rest of the cargo wasn't heavily inspected at all.  So, Fesic's work passed the first test by either its quality or the inspector's inattention.  Either way, the ship passed inspection and was given a vector to travel to one of the many highports maintained by the corporation.  Regardless of any business they had in-system, they were told they had to berth in that port, at least to start.

Separating from the cutter, Emkir set his course and began the four-hour burn to the station.  He also created settings on the ship's comms for the communications data given him by the cutter for the station control.  Able to settle down again, Terin turned on the news, which was, not surprisingly, all corporate.  Still, they learned InstellArms was willing to admit they didn't do everything better than everyone else.  That was shown by the presences of LSP, General Products and Naasirka craft and small stations, among others.  But those were only present with the permission of InstellArms.  So it was as close to a non-predative company store environment as it could be.

Travelino in-system, those who were on the bridge were treated to formations in space of mothballed warships, transports and military logistics vessels.  These were the 'for sale' fleet of stored vessels held in system to provide to customers.  Rumors any of them had heard did seeing it in real life no justice at all, but spoke for why the system was so well secured?  They finally closed on the station and presented their codes and paperwork.  After that, Emkir was told to release his controls and the station staff flew him into their receiving bays remotely.

After being settled on a cradle, the ship was moved in-station to a berth in which it was secured.  Unlike the ports they had been used to, the crew had rights to their ship while a permanent crew worked the berth.  The real surprise was that this berth was manned entirely by a living crew, with no androids or robots.  This meant they were being afforded a high-end berth, likely due to their perceived service for the corporation.  That process took nearly thirty minutes and was followed by fifteen more minutes resolving the paperwork and payment.  This included a Cr 2,000 berth fee and removal of the cargo for Mr. Thana.  While that happened, the berth workers told Mikah they'd send an x-message to Dame Ashlee that her cargo had been properly delivered.  Apparently, that was part of the deal.

A Shaky Start In D'Ganzio

     After that first hour of activity, which included Bhreker's departure from the ship, Mikah was asked what further business the crew had in-system and how they could help?  When she asked about fuel and the system's gas giants, they were told it would take a week or more to transit to the system's gas giants.  She was told they could also buy unrefined fuel and process it themselves.  When Mikah asked for a price on that, she was quoted Cr 10,000.  Mikah quickly agreed to that and Cr 5,000 for consumables.  The senior berth team-leader said they'd have the restocking started within the hour.  After that, Mikah was asked if they needed additional food stores, but she'd noticed prices seemed to be a bit higher for everything in this port.

Turning to Zimzod and Rol, Mikah asked about their food stores while also admitting they'd just spent three weeks burning through their stockpiles after leaving Lunion.  The one thing they still had a good supply of was the antelope meat Zimzod and Munarshu had hunted on Lunion.  Agreeing they should stock up, Mikah put Rol in charge.  She was going to let him see if he could work up a deal instead of buying the first offer right off the deck.  Still, Mikah needed a way of getting access to a comms system which was both internal to InstellArms and less traceable to the ship.  And since they were now dealing with the berth crew, Mikah had an idea.

Telling the man to hold on while checking their food stocks, Mikah went aft with Emkir.  She then quickly explained what she wanted while checking the amount of left over antelope they had?  When they returned to the bridge and the conversation, Emkir said that, while they wanted to check further on the food issue, they did have something to offer the man himself.  For a price.  Checking to make sure he wasn't being overheard, the man leaned closer to the camera and asked what they had to offer?  Emkir offered 50 kilos of antelope meat.  The bay worker's face instantly showed he was interested.  Marshalling himself, the man asked, "We're talking meat, not offal, right?"  Emkir confirmed, saying it was freshly hunted antelope, meat off the bone, no organs.  And frozen aboard the ship since it was butchered, not dried and leathery.  After that, it came down to what the ship was interested in for the meat?

From Mikah's instructions, Emkir said they needed unmonitored access the InstellArms corporate network, to reach a contact, with a window of time to be named later, in which to conduct some business with visitors.  Considering it, the berth boss got a wary look in his eyes.  When he asked if anything that was "taken by the visitors" would be dangerous or illegal, Emkir assured him it wouldn't.  He even suggested it might be more meat.  They waited while the man thought about the odds his boss might walk in on anything?  The supervisor managed all the berth crews on that concourse, so there might be a visit on the man's schedule or an unscheduled inspection.  But still, he considered 50 kilos of meat and figured he could share more than a slice or two with the man to keep things on track.

Considering that would be a better quality on 450 astroburgers, the man was sold!  When he agreed, Rol was sent to go to the galley to hack off a hunk of frozen antelope for the happy customer.  Eventually, they had to use Zimzod's vibro-cutlass, because frozen meat isn't easy to slice.  When they had the meat cut and wrapped, the berth supervisor made up a likely excuse to clear the berth and office.  Those listening in could tell some sort of personal codes were used by the boss, suggesting they'd get something for their impromptu work break.  And when they were gone, the man showed Mikah how to work the system and left them with the comms active.

As soon as they had the comms, Zimzod pulled the data they'd been given by the tattooed man and sent the code they were given to the system.  At the same time, Mikah went aft with the rest of the crew, to remove the tattooed man's container from the fake one and prepare it to be picked up.  Zimzod's code opened a connection, and a man's voice came from the comms in non-visual mode.  Without need for an explanation, the man said, "I assume you have a delivery for me?"  Zimzod said he did and the man asked where they were berthed, then told Zimzod they'd pick up the shipment in twelve hours.  That meant mid-morning the next day.  Zimzod thanked the man even as the connection was suddenly cut from the other end of the call.

With that call done, Zimzod updated Mikah, who was armed and watching while Fesic and Emkir worked on the cargo container.  Opening the box was the easy part, and Fesic made sure to recover as much of the seal as he could.  Then, they moved in with the cargo loaders.  Lifting the inner container and shifting it out, they set up the bay so that the "new" box" was hiding behind the dummy container.  When they had that set and Fesic was considering resealing the box, he asked Mikah if they were putting anything into the box to make it appear still loaded?  Mikah told him they were not as Zimzod arrived.  With Mikah and Zimzod both watching his every move, Fesic pulled up the settings he had saved from the last time he'd created a seal.

Fesic also considered the things he'd learned since, and saw there may have been some items he'd missed the first time.  Not happy he was essentially still learning the system, and may have thought he'd done a better job than he'd actually done, Fesic considered creating a new and better seal from the scan of the original.  But those were not necessarily complete, and he remembered that work had taken hours.  Hours they didn't have there and then.  He also knew he could just use the settings he had used before to create the new seal.  So he asked for a piece of lanthanum and fed it to the machine even as he sent the removed seal materials to Munarshu to strip down in the ship's maker shop.

When Fesic called engineering for the lanthanum, he got Aali this time.  When she asked Fesic asked how much lanthanum he needed, Munarshu stepped over.  Having overheard the conversation, Munarshu checked his notes and said, "This is how much he needs" while pointing to the data.  Nodding as she realized this had happened before, Aali figured she'd get briefed later.  So the lanthanum exchange was made and Fesic created the seal, with a new document set.  That set of steps took less than ten minutes until Fesic was able to scan the new seal and show Mikah and Zimzod comparisons.  Mikah loaded the documents into the ship's data in a separate file, just in case.

After doing the work, everyone realized they had the rest of the week to handle the engineering work and relax, except the deliveries from their last order and the cargo pickup.  Zimzod suddenly hit the 'all ship' and announced that everyone was restricted to the ship for the duration of their stay.  That was followed quickly by Mikah saying, "Thank you" to Zimzod when he released the comms stud.  Mikah then pointed to Fesic and said, "You are confined to quarters until this box is picked up!"  Accepting that, Fesic squared away his tools and moved to his stateroom.  With everything they needed done "for now", the ship settled back into the daily routine until dinner.  Fesic's chow was delivered to him as the crew ate.  That was followed by a fairly typical and relaxed evening until everyone settled in to sleep.

A Shake With Their Order

     In Emkir and Aali's stateroom, Aali woke to what she thought was an alert or alarm from the computer.  Stepping out of bed as she pushed through the cobwebs, Aali grabbed for a shipsuit.  Stepping into it, and pulling the seal shut, she then grabbed her gunbelt from the weapon rack and loaded and holstered a snub pistol.  Her choices were generic while she directed all her thought to attempt a mental link to the ship's systems.  What she got back was a concept that she translated to suggest there was movement in the cargo bay.  But, since the entire crew was supposed to be asleep, this would have to be an intruder.  Dropping her mental link to think faster, Aali hit the 'all ship' and announced they had an intruder in the cargo bay!  Of course, the all ship would be heard in the cargo bay too, but that ship sailed faster than her thoughts could catch.

While raising the alarm, Aali tried to quickly wake Emkir, but saw that was going to be a longer road than she liked.  In Zimzod's stateroom, Zimzod woke just a bit sooner than Mikah, and both woke to that combat-honed sudden sharpness as they heard Aali's alarm.  Mikah grabbed a quick body cover and her weapons while Zimzod suggested they set the ship to zero-g.  Mikah agreed, but they had to get to either the bridge or main environmental controls in the engineering section to do that.  In agreement, Zimzod got on all ship to order Aali to set the ship to zero-g.  Dialing in, Aali comm'd Zimzod's stateroom and told him she would as soon as she got Emkir up.  Mikah and Zimzod ordered her to "Leave him".  Following orders, Aali evaluated her options and realized her fastest route of action was to make it to the bridge.

Aali left the stateroom while Emkir was fighting his way through the fog and trying to figure out what the fuck was going on?  Now on comms, Aali got the call while Zimzod was asking where the intruder was?  Aali told them the alert she saw was in the cargo bay.  Hearing that, Zimzod grabbed his two .45's and, in the sudden moment naming them 'Pain' and 'Misery'.  Mikah said there were three ways down to the engineering section and Zimzod said two of them were in the same place, by the lift from the lounge.  They commed Aali and told her to meet them in the cargo bay after getting done on the bridge.  Zimzod then stepped out of the stateroom and turned right, heading past Mikah's stateroom door into the lounge, then to the hatch leading down into the ship's jump drive systems space.  That would drop him right next to an iris valve that opened into the cargo bay, so he could ready his weapons before opening the portal.

Mikah stepped out and turned left, facing an iris valve further aft to upper starboard engineering.  Just before that, in the floor, was a hatch which opened directly to the cargo bay.  A hatch she'd reach long before Zimzod got where he was going, and which she had to open before she could ready a weapon.  Mikah decided the best move would be to undog the hatch and then grab it with her off hand while holding her gauss pistol ready to swing in and fire if need be.  They both moved while Aali was still reaching the correct control systems on the bridge, to zero the ship's internal gravity.  In their stateroom, Emkir was certain something had happened but wasn't sure what, so he threw on a ship's suit.

Terin woke to hear Aali's alarm, but more slowly than Mikah and Zimzod.  Stepping into a shipsuit, he grabbed his snub pistol in one hand and sword in the other.  Ready to act, he opened his stateroom door and looked out into the passage to see what he could.  But the passage back to Fesic's stateroom was empty and dark, and so was the lounge.  He thought the bridge iris valve might have been opened but wasn't sure.  Not seeing anything with his Mark-I eyeballs, Terin got on comms and asked what was going on over an all-crew frequency.  Just before Terin's call, Fesic had woken and responded to the alarm by grabbing his comms and asking if he was still confined to quarters. Mikah just grunted "Yes" and cut that call.

That happened while Emkir checked a computer screen he saw was activated and shouldn't have been.  There, he saw the activity alarm stemming from the cargo bay and said "Oh shit!" as he realized someone had boarded the ship!  With a sense of urgency, he grabbed his comms and said, "There are intruders in the cargo bay!  Is anyone aware of this?"  His outburst just missed the traffic from Terin and Mikah.  As they chattered, Fesic listened and decided to snap into his combat armor and grab his laser rifle, just in case.  Rol managed to get on comms and called out "Status report" as he grabbed for his snub pistol and began snapping into his combat armor.  Just after his request, everyone heard Emkir's question.  They also heard Rol answer, "No.  Be quiet" in the voice of an officer in command.  Given the unreality of the situation, almost everyone on the comms had to fight back laughter.

Cutting through everything, Mikah ordered, "Rol!  Cargo bay!  Now!"  Rol responded "On my way" as he finished snapping in and began moving.  His fastest path to the bay was out of his stateroom to the left, moving around the corner of Zimzod's stateroom to enter the corridor Mikah was at the end of.  But she'd be in the bay well before he got there unless she waited.  While Aali was on the bridge, Mikah undogged the hatch and brought her gauss pistol around as she swung the hatch with her off hand.  Looking down, Mikah was able to sight down into the darkened bay.  Scanning what she could see of the space around the cargo containers, Mikah couldn't see anything obvious.  With the gravity still on, Mikah decided she'd do a bit of parkour while using the rungs and hatch rim to swing and drop down into the space.

Still just about to get to the hatch he'd use, Zimzod asked Aali to flood the lower decks with lights?  Aali said she could as she was close enough to the controls.  She hit the switches before going back to reaching the gravity controls.  As the lights came on, Mikah hit as hard as she'd expected, and drove all the excess speed into assuming a squat.  Mikah then brought her weapon up and did a visual sweep of the space over her sights.  On the other side of the ship, Zimzod had just gotten to the hatch at the rear of the lounge and opened it to look down into the jump drive systems compartment.  Preparing to drop down his hatch, Zimzod heard Aali over the all ship saying, "Going to zero-g."

In his stateroom, Fesic thought, "Oh!  Great" as he grabbed something to secure himself and prepared himself for whatever.  Emkir and Terin also braced themselves.  Munarshu was still asleep.  Spinning himself up and over the open hatch, Zimzod pushed off the compartment's ceiling and floated down to the lower deck in the sudden null gravity.  Touching down next to the iris valve which opened into the cargo bay, he readied his pistol and opened the valve while calling out his actions on the comms to warn Mikah.  What he saw wasn't a pleasing sight at all.

Realizing The Fertilizer Has Hit The Fan

     The first thing Zimzod saw as the valve opened was a run of space behind all the cargo containers in the bay.  What grabbed his attention first was the tattooed man's container, which had been stored as far back as possible, behind the other containers.  Zimzod's concern was that the panel of the container facing him had a hole in it where the contents seemed to have kicked and punched its way out of the container!  Trying to guess a next move, Zimzod called out "Hold" on the comms and Mikah continued scanning what she could of the space.

Deciding on a course of action, Zimzod set his comms to speak to Mikah before saying, "OK.  We may or may not have a problem."  When she asked, "What?" he said, "Um, it seems our cargo has escaped."  Mikah facepalmed and sighed at the sudden turn of events while Zimzod checked the time to see how far off the 12-hour deadline was?  He did that as Mikah got on the all crew frequency and ordered everyone except Aali and Rol off the comms.  Zimzod scanned for anything obviously floating and then checked the exit points, seeing the cargo bay door open.  That wasn't a surprise, though, because they had left that portal open in the secured berth.  When Zimzod said to Mikah, "I think it's gone." she unhappily answered, "Great!  We better call those people and tell them to get here because their thing has activated."

Considering what Mikah said, Zimzod pointed out that they were not supposed to know what was in the cargo pod.  Mikah agreed but said they somehow had to tell the client that whatever they'd had shipped had gotten out and was in their berth somewhere.  Unfortunately, Mikah also realized that the crew they'd bribed had likely changed shifts, so they wouldn't have the comms access they needed.  Mikah assumed the device would only have gotten out to the berth, and Zimzod said, "OK.  So we keep this under wraps until our contact gets here."

While moving to the hatch to the cargo bay, Rol asked on the comms, "Mind filling me in on what's going on?"  Zimzod simply and bluntly answered, "No."  Rol then asked, "Do I need to go back and get my heavy stuff?" and Mikah said, "Probably."  When Rol said he was returing to his stateroom to get his gauss rifle, Zimzod told Mikah he was going to go back to his stateroom and get into his battledress.  Zimzod also asked Aali to turn the gravity back on.  Aali agreed and said she planned to get into her combat armor too.  Aali then grabbed her anchor point and maneuvered herself to a standing position before throwing the switch and re-activating the gravity.

Unfortunately for Munarshu, he hadn't been webbed down to his bed as he slept.  His unconscious movements in sleep had pushed him off his bed, to float above some of the other furniture in his stateroom.  When the gravity came back, he crashed down onto his desk chair before then crashing down to the floor.  While he was suddenly awake, he was also very confused and more than a bit bruised while in some pain.  Outside his stateroom, maintaining a watch on the lounge, Terin felt the gravity return as he scrambled to get his feet beneath him.  Because he'd been floating in an upright posture, he managed to land standing.  Still, he was off comms, per Mikah's orders, and had no idea what was going on?  In his stateroom, Fesic was in his combat armor and floating over his bed until the gravity came back, so he came down hard on the cushions.

As Fesic got up and started adding his entire combat kit to his armor, Terin saw Emkir come wandering from his stateroom to see who else was awake and reacting to the situation?  Terin asked Emkir, "Do you have any idea what's going on?  Just then, Aali came out of the bridge in a ships suit and armed with her snub pistol.  As Aali walked back towards her stateroom and husband she told them both to get ready for combat!  Responding to that, Terin asked Aali, "Can we turn our comms back on?" and she echoed that question to Mikah and Zimzod.  When she did, Zimzod said they could turn their comms on again and Aali told Terin and Emkir.

Sorting himself out, Munarshu also grabbed his comms and asked, "What's going on?"  Zimzod responded to him, saying, "Keep the chatter to a minimum!"  Accepting that, Munarshu listened for a short bit before stepping out of his stateroom.  When he did, Munarshu saw the hatch on the deck just aft of his stateroom door had been opened, exposing the cargo bay below.  And the lights in the compartment were on!  Looking further, he noticed Lady Mikah was in the cargo bay and she was both armed and in a combat stance!  She seemed to be looking for something or someone.  Without any more information, he quickly stepped back into his stateroom and closed the door.

Before he left the compartment, Zimzod suggested they close the cargo bay door and Mikah answered, "Well, we've already let the cat out."  Zimzod continued, saying, "That doesn't mean that it's not still on the ship." and Mikah agreed that was true.  So she agreed and closed the cargo bay door.  After doing that, Mikah told Zimzod to come back down to the bay so she could go put her combat armor on.  In the meantime, Rol had returned to his stateroom and gotten his entire combat kit, except his alice pack, along with his gauss rifle.  Rol then returned to the cargo bay.  As he moved, Rol had to wonder if there were somehow more bears here?

Seeing Rol arrive in the bay, Mikah told him, "OK.  The thing that was in the container we were delivering escaped."  Looking at Mikah, Rol flatly asked, "Thing?"  When she answered, "Yeah", Rol asked, "What sort of thing?"  Biting the bullet, Mikah finally came clean and bluntly said, "An android."  When Rol confirmed back, "An android", Mikah said "yes" and Rol asked, "What kind of android?  Like, warbot android?"  Mikah first said, "No." then said, "Well.  We don't know.  But not a Zhodani warbot, I can tell you that much."  Mikah let that sink in for a moment, before suddenly telling him, "It's a human replicant android, only a female model.  But you don't know that."  Confused, Rol answered her, "No.  I don't know anything.  That's why I'm asking you."  More confused at her unexplained remark, Mikah told Rol, "Just wait for Zimzod.  As soon as he's back, you guys go check the berth.  I'm gonna go up and put on my combat armor."

Rol asked if they were on a shoot and kill mission and was told they were not.  Mikah said they were in a "corral mission".  When it seemed Rol had been satisfied, Mikah went back to her stateroom to get her gear on.  All this was happening while Aali and Emkir finished gearing up in their stateroom.  Aali had her gauss rifle and Emkir his 9mm and rifle.  While gearing up, Aali commed Mikah to ask where they were needed?  Munarshu had returned to his stateroom because his gear was all stored in the ship's locker and he was unarmed.  Still, he'd gotten more completely dressed.  Tired of being completely out of the loop, Fesic obeyed orders but did open his stateroom door to see what was happening outside?  Down the passage from him, Terin had returned to his stateroom and was putting on his combat armor.

Now on the upper deck, Zimzod made his way through the lounge.  Fesic saw him moving and carrying his gauss pistol but not in armor.  Since Zimzod appeared to be rushing, Fesic didn't call out and Zimzod, who saw Fesic standing in his stateroom doorway, didn't offer any comment as he passed.  After he started snapping into his battledress, Zimzod also grabbed his cutlass and maintained his .45's.  When she got to her stateroom, Mikah got into her combat armor.  She then also grabbed her pulse taser.  While she geared up, Aali commed her to ask where they were needed and Mikah said, "Cargo bay and berth".

Accepting their orders, Aali told Emkir they were moving to the cargo bay and they started off.  Ironically, just as they were about to reach the hatch to the bay, Munarshu stepped out of his stateroom right into their path!  Moving quickly himself, and with his mind on his own plans, Munarshu didn't expect to meet anyone.  He ended up walking smack into Emkir in his armor!  Thrown off balance, this threw Munarshu back just as Mikah was stepping out of her stateroom.  She and the couple watched as the already bruised Munarshu desperately tried to grab for his balance and fell backwards...into the open hatch!  Again grabbing for a hand hold, the inertia of the fall and gravity turned Munarshu into a folding stick as he was bent at the waist and fell through the hatch, down to the cargo deck below.  To add injury to injury, Munarshu hit his head on the rim of the hatch as he passed through!

Rushing forward, Emkir looked down on the prone form of Munarshu on the deck below and looked for signs of pooling blood from a serious external injury as Rol spun with his weapon ready, and spotted the engineer's body on the deck.  For the moment, Munarshu wasn't moving because he'd landed spot on his tailbone.  He was in enough pain that he wasn't even making any sounds as he lay there and simply suffered.  Looking up at the hatch above, Rol said, "We should close that when it is not in use.  It's dangerous to leave it open."  Looking down to examine Munarshu's body, Rol realized the engineer was alive and seemed to be in some pain so he advised, "Next time, you should use the ladder." in a friendly tone.  Munarshu could only manage a number of moans in reply.

Trying To Appear Organized

     With all the fun happening on the other side of the ship, Fesic could only hear some very mild thumps and cries as he listened at his door, so he missed out on all the action.  While he knew people were armed and saw Terin as he left in armor, and knew there had been some sort of alarm, Fesic decided he would stay in his stateroom off comms and follow orders.  Since Terin had heard Mikah tell Aali to move to the cargo bay, he left his stateroom and went directly back to the port side hatch next to the lift from the cargo bay.  Seeing that hatch was open, he looked down and saw the jump drive compartment was lit up too.

After notifying Mikah, Terin closed and dogged the hatch before turning back towards the bridge to secure that space.  In doing so, Terin saw Fesic standing in his stateroom door in armor and apparently watching him.  Ignoring Fesic, Terin found the bridge both unlocked and unmanned.  In the space, Terin checked all the portals to verify they were secure before announcing the bridge was secure and asking what the situation was?  Mikah got out "Intruder..." before she was interrupted by a long moan from Munarshu.  Looking down the hatch at Munarshu, she ordered, "Turn off your comms."  Below, Rol could see as Munarshu moved to comply.  With him off the link, Mikah ordered Terin, "Cargo bay.  Get down here now."  Terin said he would be there after he locked access to the bridge.

Zimzod stepped out of his stateroom to see one of two combat armored figures was starting to climb down through the hatch to the bay below.  The second figure was waiting for the first to clear the hatch.  Recognizing the waiting figure as Aali, Zimzod asked her if there was any way to get on the ship's computer and check for movement through hatches and iris valves?  Aali said she could reach out to surveil the ship's portals and sing out if something was opened which shouldn't be.  But, she also cautioned that everyone opening or closing a portal would have to let her know what they were doing to prevent a false alarm.  She then started reaching out through her stent to connect to the ship's computer, which drew her attention from everything else she'd been doing.

Everyone except Fesic started to gather in the cargo bay and Rol asked if anyone had checked outside the ship?  Emkir and Aali had stepped down the rungs to the deck, were careful not to stomp on Munarshu as he continued to lie there and moan.  When Zimzod stepped down, he looked over Munarshu to assess the man's injuries.  When it seemed the man was in a bit of pain but recovering, Zimzod happily said to him, "Well.  I guess I don't have to torture you today."  As he delivered this announcement, he stood over Munarshu and held out his hand with a firm thumb's up.  By then, Aali could report that all the ship's external portals were closed and locked.  Internally, there were a lot more concepts for her to deal with mentally to make the connections.

Terin arrived, and asked if anyone had checked the ship's engineering compartments?  Mikah said they hadn't and told him to check the engineering compartments.  Still, Mikah reminded him to call out on comms whenever he was opening or closing a door.  Mikah also told Terin to peel Munarshu off the deck since he would know if something in any of the engineering sections had been tampered with?  Terin waited for Munarshu to stand again, and said he was swapping his ball ammo for tranqs.  When he said so, in hopes of capturing someone, Zimzod stopped and surprised him, saying "Bad idea."  When Terin asked for clarification, Rol said, "Hard target" and Zimzod echoed that and added, "Try not to engage if you don't have to."  Nodding, Terin unloaded the newly loaded tranqs and grabbed a magazine of armor-piercing rounds instead.

Now moving, with Munarshu limping along with him, Terin led the way to the port-side iris valve, which Zimzod had left open.  Stepping through that, the men began inspecting the jump drive systems.  Beginning to explore the space, Terin realized that Munarshu wasn't armored but was still moving very slowly.  Doing the math, Terin figured if the engineer went first, he likely wouldn't be able to dodge sudden weapons fire.  So, his death would provide Terin a distraction letting him cut down any bad guys.  Munarshu tried to argue this but Terin simply ordered him to check the nooks and crannies because, as an engineer, he knew where the hiding places were?

Admitting he had a better knowledge of the space, Munarshu began checking while Terin stood overwatch.  Soon enough, they confirmed the compartment was secure.  Next, the pair turned to the iris valve into the power plant compartment.  They searched the compartments while Zimzod mentioned the fact they'd left the cargo bay hatch open when they'd gone to sleep.  When everyone agreed they had, he said they needed to not leave that portal open anymore.  In darkness, Terin could see everything seemed to be either on a low power setting or active to serve the needs of the docked but still inhabited ship.  Feeling secure nothing was obviously moving, Terin looked for and hit the light stud for the compartment.  With the lights on, Terin again checked the general spaces in the compartment and then called, "Mole rat, you're up!"

Soon after that, Terin and Munarshu were able to announce that the lower deck engineering spaces were cleared.  When that happened, Zimzod stepped over to the now empty cargo container and tried to find any indication which way the android went?  In better detail and up close, Zimzod could see the panel had been punched and kicked repeatedly until it had bulged and then broken.  Then the break had been widened and the flanges forced out.  But after that, there was no sign what direction the android went in?  So, with few clues and four hours until the package was to be picked up, Zimzod was thinking the "owners" may have remotely activated the device and set it to meet them at another place.

Mikah admitted that was possible, but the only way to be sure was to contact them.  Zimzod admitted they couldn't reach their contacts.  As Mikah and Zimzod talked, Terin crossed the bay to the starboard side, climbed up through the hatch in the compartment's ceiling and then activated the iris valve to the starboard maneuver drive compartment.  At the same time, due to his injuries and aches, Munarshu took the lift to the upper deck and then stepped over to open the port side maneuver drive compartment iris valve.  Then, both men explored the two compartments until they determined there were no intruders in the spaces.  At the same time, Aali had finally gotten full cognizance of every portal in the ship, so she could better track movements.

After Mikah and Zimzod's conversation moved on to possible blame if the device had escaped the berth, Mikah decided to take the lift to the upper deck and check the cutter.  Terin finished up with his side of the engineering and called the all clear before asking what was next?  Mikah said she was on the lift headed for the cutter and Terin decided to join her.  At the same time, Munarshu was heading for the bridge to get to the ship's locker and finally gear up.  Terin came around the staterooms and saw Munarshu trying to get into the locked bridge.  When Terin asked him what he needed on the bridge, Munarshu said his armor and weapons were in the ship's locker.  Terin suggested he keep his armor in his stateroom for this very reason.  Still, Terin confirmed he could let Munarshu gear up and Mikah OK'd that.  Mikah then asked what Fesic was doing and was told by anyone who saw him that he had armored up and was waiting in his stateroom.

Hearing that, Mikah told them to get Fesic to join the rest of the crew.  After Terin let Munarshu into the bridge, he went to get Fesic.  Calling ahead of himself, Terin told Fesic he could turn his comms on again.  Now on comms, Terin told Fesic he could come out of his stateroom.  Fesic asked what was going on and Terin said, "Intruder.  Something broke out of that box."  When Terin said that, Fesic immediatly guessed what had happened.  Especially when Terin described the damage to the cargo pod.  In the cargo bay, Rol decided to step out the air-lock into the berth and check the ship's perimeter.

Beginning his circuit around the ship, Rol made it more than thirty degrees around before he saw the first body, and the scene was pretty bloody.  Announcing, "We have a casualty out here." Rol continued searching as Zimzod thought, "OK. The package has escaped."  Rol moved further, seeing more bloody bodies and noticing the door to the berth office was left open too.  Fesic got down to the cargo bay and saw the damage to the cargo container, and asked himself how the girl he remembered could possibly have done that damage?  Wondering that, Fesic also checked the container for any documentation or a hint how to shut down an android?

Fesic looked over the box while Zimzod told him to work with someone else to move the container into the cargo space in the cutter.  That was not an easy task because they couldn't move the cutter into the berth and use the craft's cargo door.  So they had to move it up to the ship's upper deck and maneuver it through the cutter's air-lock.  Definitely a two-man job.  Having followed Fesic down, Terin suddenly grew big balls and comm'd Munarshu telling him to help Fesic with the container.  While he waited for Munarshu, Fesic grabbed the cargo lifters and started moving the box to the lift.  Outside the ship, Rol confirmed that all the members of the berth team had been killed by blunt force trauma.  Checking the office, which he'd seen was open, Rol saw the office fully operational and accessible.

While Rol didn't see any cameras, he did see another door opposite the one he was looking through.  That one led into the station proper, and was also open!  When Rol called back, "Looks like the target entered into the station" Terin asked, "What does the target look like?"  Zimzod immediately said, "I have no idea." as Rol asked for instructions?  Shortly after that, Mikah rattled a description of the android over the comms, saying, "She's 5'6, caucasian, short brunette hair and wearing plastic clothing."  Deciding it was time to call in the cavalry, Mikah sparked up her comms and started calling for InstellArms security.

Very quickly, Mikah got a response back giving her a frequency to speak on.  After setting her comms, Mikah connected with port security who asked how they could help?  Mikah said they had been alerted to an intruder on the ship.  And, she continued, it looked like the berth security had been compromised.  Mikah finished up by saying the crew didn't know what was going on but needed a response team.  When the security man asked what made Mikah think their security had been compromised, Mikah answered, "Because they all appear to be, dead."  The man probed, "They being?" and Mikah confirmed, "Your berth crew."  Nodding at that, the man promised they'd have a response team sent immediately.

Hearing Mikah start talking, since she was on a general channel, Rol began returning to the ship.  Almost back to the ship's air-lock, Rol could hear all the berth portals locking down.  Back aboard and after securing the air-lock, Rol began to recommend the crew not be in combat mode when the security began to arrive.  Mikah confirmed Aali had the alarm data and could provide that on demand.  Rol also noticed the damaged cargo container had been moved.  Fesic and Munarshu were in the progress of getting the case through the cutter air-lock.  They planned on placing it with the damaged face down and sitting on it until the bent-out flanges were forced back flat.

Rol said, "I've got a bad feeling about this" and Zimzod hoped out loud that they didn't have cameras in the berth.  If they did, the video would only show the killer coming off of their ship.  So the crew waited until station security arrived.  Mikah deliberately got out of her armor and prepared herself in a ships suit with her gauss pistol holstered at her hip.  Mikah ordered the rest of them to get out of their armor but remain armed too, though they were not to come out with her.  As the station said, a team arrived quickly and secured the cargo bay.  After they started their forensic work, they called to the ship saying they'd secured the space and wanted the crew to unbutton the ship and send out a representative.  Mikah went out through the air-lock to meet with the team.

The team leader asked her about the report they had an intruder on their ship?  Mikah confirmed their chief engineer woke to an alarm that said they'd had an intruder in their cargo bay.  Noting that, the trooper asked if they had any pictures or other data on the intruder, and Mikah said no.  When she was asked if they'd left the ship at all, Mikah confirmed they had sent one crewman out into the bay.  But she stressed they had only done that after searching all of the ship and not finding anything.  Next, they asked if the ship had any internal security cameras and Mikah said they didn't.  The team leader than thanked her for the information, said they would continue their investigation and the crew were to secure their ship and stand by for an update.

Mikah thanked the team leader and started to return as more orders were given to the investigating team.  But, just as she got to the air-lock, Mikah had to grab something to support herself as the entire station seemed to shake!  Mikah looked back at the investigators as she asked, "What the hell was that?"  Inside the ship, everyone was also grabbing for something to hold onto as Rol muttered, "Uh oh!"  Mikah looked for an answer to her question as the team leader got on the comms and asked, "We're getting some instability.  Is there any information?"  ust after that was said, the station's emergency alert lights began to flash!  Mikah grabbed her comms and ordered, "Everyone in vacc suits immediately!  If you don't have a vacc suit, get in your sealed armor!"  With that, she went into the ship and got into her armor.

As soon as they felt the shaking, the crew began to move.  Most of the crew ignored their vacc suits and started to get back into their armor.  Fesic planned to move to the bridge and man the lasers after he armored up.  The station shuddered a few more times as Mikah got back into the ship and secured the air-lock.  She then moved as quickly as she could to get back into her armor and get to the bridge.  Joining the crew gathering on the bridge, Zimzod said, "Smells like a set up Mikah!"  She agreed, saying they hadn't taken out an entire station in some time.  Still, the mood on the ship's bridge was grim.  Especially since they were well enough inside the station with no way of getting out without station support.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

    Everyone: In the ship's bridge
    The ship is in an internal berth aboard an InstellArms highport which has suddenly become
    The cargo the crew had promised to smuggle in-system had "escaped" after killing all the berth

Next: Strange Friends And Even Stranger Enemies