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Laughs But No After-Lunch Mints

The IMS Kugar Akemudir     Following lunch, the entire crew were in the lounge of the Hotel California.  The others in the compartment either ignored or tried to avoid the rising scent of smoke and flavoring as Terin, Emkir and Zimzod enjoyed Terin's hookah.  Munarshu, Rol, Mikah and Aali relaxed in the lounge.  Fesic worked at a terminal, eventually buying a TL-C electronic lock pick set for Cr 4,000 with a basic instructions and warning about the legality of the device in other systems.  They knew that they had the two deliveries the next day, and would then burn to orbit to have the Hotel California loaded into the cargo bay of a long-haul freighter.

As they tracked events, Mikah kept the office of the Duke's seneschal up to date on their plans.  Having tried to hold one freighter in-system to carry the California, that ship's captain complained about his schedule and moved his ship out.  With another ship's captain now complaining, it was important to keep everyone in the loop about their situation.  the crew hoped they'd be able to move on soon enough, even with the legal threat to Rol looming on Regina.  The next day, they had to complete a set of events in sequence.  First, they'd be waiting for the group receiving Baron Sir Kelslundtb's cargo.  They'd told the seneschal's office they'd be leaving on Sunday because this group had agreed to pay an additional Cr 5,000 for them to do that.

As part of that delivery, the crew had to get the letter of credit given them by Baron Kelslundtb signed by the receiver.  After that, they needed to take the endorsed letter to a branch of the Central Bank of Rhylanor or a bank which represented the CBR in the Lanth system.  Lucky for the crew, Lanth was a subsector capital, and that government managed the Central Bank of Lanth.  And subsector banks all represented each other as well as the Imperial Sector Bank of The Spinward Marches.  This was important because the KCr 350 payment for this cargo covered the Cr 175,290 cost of their travels since leaving the Rhylanor system.  So, it put their travels in the financial black.

After making that delivery, Emkir had promised the next cargo recipient the Hotel California would deliver their two tons, shipped from the D'Ganzio system.  That meant the ship had to make a sub-orbital burn from the Lanth port to land on that company's campus on an island nearly halfway around the world!  Lucky for the crew, a sub-orbital burn could be done in under an hours' time.  Then, they'd make the last delivery and burn into orbit at the direction of the office of the Duke's Seneschal to meet the freighter which would carry the ship across the two four-parsec jumps to the Dinomn system.  From there, they'd be able to make the two-parsec jump into the Regina system on their own.

As Aali relaxed, she planned in her mind for the coming weeks.  If the cargo ship carried them to the Ghandi system and "traded them off" to another freighter, the trip to Dinomn would take two weeks plus the time of the transfer.  If not, the ship they were aboard would have to spend an additional week in the Ghandi system while their engineers re-set their jump systems.  So that would get them to Dinomn in three weeks.  During that time, with the Hotel California aboard as cargo, Aali knew she could do a bulk of the work normally reserved for an annual overhaul!  And she'd be able to do that working as much as half a day each day while, thanks to the androids, some days she and Munarshu wouldn't have to work at all.

With that in mind, Aali asked Mikah what she had planned and suggested a 'Girl's afternoon out'.  Mikah agreed, "We can do that." and Emkir leaned over to whisper something in Aali's ear as Mikah snapped, "No boys."  Hearing that, Fesic joked, "Well, that means you guys can take Munarshu.  Right?"  That got a laugh from the entire crew.  Looking up at Fesic, Munarshu flatly asked, "Do you really want to go there?"  But Zimzod and the rest of the crew assured Munarshu that Fesic already had gone there, with obvious support.  Munarshu simply shook his head and said, "I will remember this", which was doubtful given all he had let pass previously.  Munarshu did ask Mikah for permission to leave the ship and see a show?

Mikah said he needed a "responsible crew member" to go with him, and with no one stepping, he might be stuck aboard.  Mikah also made it clear she didn't consider Fesic "Responsible" after some of his actions.  When Mikah turned to Terin, who she expected to refuse because of his studies, Munarshu suddenly announced he wasn't going anywhere alone with Terin!  Now surprised, those in the compartment wanted to know what Munarshu's problem was?  Or, at least, what "this" problem was, as most in the crew felt Munarshu had displayed a lot of issues so far.  Munarshu reminded them that the last time he'd gone out with Terin, he'd gotten mugged and he didn't trust Terin anymore.  Some in the compartment laughed because he very obviously ignored the things he did which made what happened "his" fault without Terin's help at all.

Past Terin, Zimzod wasn't interested because he'd have to bring Munarshu back in working order too.  When they turned to Emkir, he explained that he'd been staying aboard more because he wasn't sure what connections the IMS Danikk Vitraalkent had locally?  Everyone remembered that was the family-merchant ship whose chief engineer Emkir had accidentally killed in the Equus system.  So, Emkir kept from going anywhere that wasn't for ship's business or without a large part of the crew along for the ride.  As Munarshu seemed to be going nowhere, Terin complained to the engineer how he was the one crew member who'd stuck up for him and Munarshu displayed even more examples about how his twisted perception of events defined others in the crew.

Gaming And Shopping

     As the verbal fencing fizzled out, Aali and Mikah decided to do some shopping and go to a spa.  Before they left, Aali checked the port web to find a spa that they liked.  Aali quickly found a spa which not only did basics and all expected add-ons, but also had a tech-relaxation system which triggered a REM-like state in the client while they were relaxing but not asleep.  Mikah and Aali both liked the sound of that and called for an appointment later that afternoon.  Between now and then, they decided to head out shopping.  Especially given the kinky request Emkir had whispered in Aali's ears, involving a pareao, before she suggested going out with Mikah.  Going 'Girly shopping', Aali looked for the pareao Emkir suggested.

She also found a silver lamê one like the naughty panties he'd bought her in Rhylanor.  The pareao was of a sheer fabric so Emkir could enjoy seeing her panties, and more, through it.  As Aali looked for this, Mikah was just shopping for anything that would strike her fancy.  When Aali asked if there might be something Zimzod would like to see Mikah in, Mikah fixed the engineer with a look and said, "Aali.  Zimzod wants an FGMP-15" and both ladies laughed at the joke.  The salon the women were in was something of a high-end shop, because it was close to the spa they were heading to, which was also high-end.  Still, Aali was able to find a fashionable pareao for Cr 150.  After shopping until nearly 3:30pm, the women had an hour before their spa appointment and decided to relax and get some drinks.

With Aali and Mikah off shopping, Emkir decided he'd spend the afternoon continuing to work on the data from the Sohturn Behemoth's captain.  As he prepared for that, Rol considered his wardrobe.  Rol was not sure if he had anything that would qualify as "just a bit more formal than casual"?  Wanting something that could help him vary the use of his clothing, Rol decided that the right sports jacket would allow him to add that role to outfits he already had.  So, Rol went out shopping too.  What Rol found after shopping for the afternoon was a jacket cut to the style of an atmospheric fighter pilot's windbreaker.  Sadly, what he found, Rol liked but the price was a bit much.

Rol's JackeetThe "open front" style jacket he found had ribbed sleeves, trim down center front along with stripes down the front and a fashion insignia on the left-hand breast pocket.  the shop he found it in had the jacket in varying color combinations where the trim was generally a lighter variation of the jacket's main color.  Eventually, while not paying the cost of a jacket made from expensive imported leathers, Rol bought a leathery-brownish colored jacket with trim colored a washed-out red.  Over the afternoon, while Emkir wasn't going off-ship, he asked Munarshu if the engineer wanted to play a game?

Interested, they talked about what game they wanted to play?  Soon, they narrowed it down to something "arcadeish" based on competitive piloting.  After they'd agreed on that, Emkir set his diary preparations aside as the two raided the ship's entertainment system and found a number of games they could play.  After that, they spent the afternoon competing, though Emkir had the obvious advantage both in skill and experience.  Still, the arcade-nature of the games they played added enough 'lack-of-reality' that Munarshu could sometimes negate Emkir's advantages.  As they did that, Terin wanted to continue smoking.  But Emkir had gone off to game and Zimzod eventually went back to cleaning and maintaining his gear.

So, Terin cleaned and stowed the hookah before going back to his studies.  Fesic had been spending the morning after breakfast researching his electronic lock-picker and finally ordered one to be delivered.  After shopping, Fesic started looking into general educational correspondence programs he could download and use while aboard ship.  Even in jump.  Because the Lanth system was a subsector Capital, and a reasonably advanced world on a main travel route, Fesic was first swamped with ads and web-based information on the types of programs he was researching.  So Fesic started narrowing down the offers into well-formatted classes from reputable schools, where he was paying more for the education than for the name.  Fesic also realized the size of the task he had, with a time limit of "launch tomorrow", so he settled in for the long-haul.


Dinner And Evening Plans

     As dinner approached, Mikah and Aali had gotten to the spa and were luxuriating.  They relaxed and were enjoying their treatment as menus arrived.  All the offered meals were one or two-course and of the healthy variety.  And the prices for all of them started at Cr 150 each.  Seeing the costs range up into the Cr 500's, Mikah and Aali bought in at Cr 250 each.  After they ate and the staff cleaned up their stations, the two women relaxed in luxury in an open patio space with others who were likely very well-off.  Eventually, a very pretty man in his mid-30's moves to the lounge on Aali's left, because Mikah was sitting on her right.

Once settled, the pretty boy made an almost obvious display of "security checking" all the space's entrances from his seat.  After that, the man relaxed and flashed Aali a smile meant to be reassuring, comforting and confident.  In fact, if his teeth could have, they would have given off a shining gleam.  Then, he told Aali, "Don't worry.  I've made sure you won't be in any danger."  Biting, even though she knew she shouldn't, Aali asked, "Why would there be any danger?"  The man casually explained his very powerful (in-system) and wealthy parents disapproved of spas like the one they were in.  So, he made sure they would not be surprised or rushed, in a way that would force them to fight.

Mikah had heard some sort of buzz but wasn't paying attention, thinking it was cute someone was chatting up Aali. Unimpressed, Aali turned to Mikah and calmly asked, "Lady Mikah, can you grab your comms and show this aradiste the jewelry store video?  Mikah, whose awareness of the situation was limited to hearing the buzz, agreed and pulled out her comms.  She then shifted through the pictures while the pretty boy waited in confusion until being shown a capture obviously from some kind of security camera.  The image showed Aali with the maw of a shotgun literally in her face, held by some presumed crook on the opposite side of a shop counter.

The ladies then settled back and relaxed as Aali said in a light and relaxed tone, "Now, if you can't do the remedial math, this is in my past and I'm still here.  You figure out the rest so I don't need to describe to you the nutritional benefits the gunman got from eating his own weapon."  The last bit was said in a bit of a smug tone.  They then relaxed and ignored the idiot, leaving him to find a new subject to steal time from, if not more.  Sadly, his absence lasted only ten minutes or so.  When the man came back, he asked, "Would I be mistaken that you ladies work for the same organization?"  Aali said he wouldn't be mistaken and he asked, "Would you ladies be available as a security escort later in the evening?"

Getting the smallest bit annoyed, Mikah grumbled, "Now..  You're harshing my calm here.  Go away." in a tone suggesting the man was annoying but not at all important.  When the fool added, "Even for Cr 3,000 each", she fixed him a look and more firmly said, "Go!  away!"  Shrugging, the man left.  After that bit of annoyance, the two were able to relax and enjoy the spa until returning to the ship about 8:30pm that evening.

After having found and bought his jacket, Rol not only paid for it but it was casual enough to even wear out of the shop.  After that, he returned to the Hotel California and worked on his writing until it was time to cook dinner.  Terin worked at his studies and Zimzod worked on his gear up until Rol was ready to serve them dinner.  Fesic was also working on his search for study material while planning to take a short break during and after dinner.  Emkir finally turned back to preparing to work on the trade data from the Sohturn Behemoth after he had dinner and Munarshu picked up his brain teasers.  Rol got into his stent-work.

As this happened, Terin asked the others if anyone wanted to go out for some drinks?  Rol considered that this was their last night in the Lanth system and he knew the reception he was going to get in the Regina system.  So Rol was game for a short trip to a bar and Zimzod joined in too.  Seeing things piling up, Emkir decided to again ignore the trade data he planned to work on and join in on a growing 'guy's night out'.  While the small group got moving, the others said 'no thanks' and continued their evening's activities.  And Terin's plans to have a short drink and return to the ship were also changed as the trip went longer than intended.

The four men each spent between Cr 50 and 70 depending on the variety of drinks they'd ordered with Emkir spending the most.  As the evening passed, Rol found himself decorated by the shapely arms of a woman who asked, "Haven't I seen you recently somewhere?"  Looking the gal up and down, Rol knew he didn't recognize her at all.  the party-dressed young woman was "not objectional in appearance" to Rol's eyes.  Shrugging, Rol allowed, "Maybe you have." and she made it clear she was interested in getting to know him better.  that led to the two coupling off and eventually leaving the bar together for someplace private.  It would not be until later, during sex, that she would realize she'd recognized him from pictures shown in the news!

In the bar, Emkir and Zimzod eventually went back to the ship while Terin stayed a bit more hoping to score a date.  But that only meant Terin got back to the ship alone later.  When Aali and Mikah got back to the ship, Munarshu had already gone to bed and it was almost empty.  In the bar, Emkir and Zimzod eventually went back to the ship while Terin stayed a bit more hoping to score a date.  Seeing Emkir wasn't home, Aali asked if they left a message?  Fesic said he hadn't but the guys had gone bar hopping and to a whore house.  As that dropped like a lead balloon, Fesic said, "Just kidding about that 'whore house' part."  and Aali flatly answered, "Right."  Accepting that, Aali saw it was nearly 9pm and settled in the ship's lounge to work with her stent.

Shuddering at the concern she might get a call from port security during the evening or night, Mikah poured herself some wine and found a movie to watch as she continued to relax the evening away.  Scanning through the listings, Mikah found some olde-timey science fiction movie to watch.  By the time Emkir and Zimzod returned, Aali was communing with her stent in the lounge.  Seeing his obvious target, Emkir stepped up, reached around from behind her and cupped her breasts with his hands as he said hello.  The two eventually moved to their stateroom.  Zimzod sat and talked with Mikah about the next day's plans.  Fesic had worked through the evening and continued to do so, downloading and comparing data as he compared offerings.  Eventually, he saved his data and went to sleep.

When Terin got back to the ship.  Zimzod looked up, as Terin grumbled about the lack of companionship, and asked "What?  Nobody wanted to smoke your hookah?  The laughs he got were few because of the empty space, but they were deep laughs none the less.  As Mikah and Zimzod talked, he suggested they do their best to film everything that happened during the delivery of the Baron's cargo.  Since the receivers had to sign a letter of credit, Zimzod worried they might try to pull something and get away with the cargo while not signing the letter.  Claiming the cargo was damaged or something?  Mikah reminded him they had the security cameras they'd had installed, so they could set up the cargo pods to be visible to the cameras when opened.  Mikah also said she'd have Emkir in the bay with his recorder glasses too.


News And Contemplation

     Munarshu rose at 5am, as was his regular schedule, the crew faced a number of tasks in the coming day.  They expected the receiver of Baron Sir Kelslundtb's cargo to arrive at their berth and inspect the cargo before accepting it and signing the letter of credit.  That group would also pay the agreed-on Cr 5,000 for the ship staying in port an extra day.  After that happened, they had to get to a bank on-world and local to them which legally represented the Central Bank of Rhylanor.  Lucky for them, the Central Bank of Lanth did that as both systems were subsector capitals within the Spinward Marches.  And, since they were in the capital city of the world and system, there was even a branch in the starport.  Nice! After that, the California had to complete their business and pay their bills with the port before leaving their berth.

Outward-bound, they would be heading for an island named 'Dorcala Gaya', in the far west seas of the largely ocean-covered world.  There, they would drop off the cargo they'd picked up as a charter from the D'Ganzio system and get paid for that job.  Then, they'd lift for orbit and meet up with the freighter waiting to take them on as cargo, en route to the Ghandi system, at least.  So they had a busy day before they could relax.  Once Munarshu was out of his stateroom, he heated up a pot of caff and watched the news.  He planned to wait until 6:30 before knocking on Rol's stateroom door when Rol usually came out to cook breakfast.

===== FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! ======
    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)              Date: 040 - 1113
    In an announcement today from the office of the Arch Duke of the
    Deneb Domain, His Grace has announced the following disenfiefments.
    In the documents supporting these actions, His Grace has confirmed
    consultation and agreement with Her Grace Delphine, Grand Duchess
    of the Spinward Marches.  In all cases, each fiefdom is reclaimed
    in the name of the Iridium Throne and shall be managed by teams
    empowered and dispatched from the County or Duchy to which they
    were subordinate.  All decisions so published have had messengers
    dispatched to arrive well in advance of this public notification.
    The systems so covered are:
       The Natoko system ( Rhylanor ): Vacated due to management performance
       The Kegena system ( Rhylanor ): Vacated due to management performance
       The Bevey system ( Rhylanor ): Vacated due to lack of attendance
       The Skull system ( Lanth ): Vacated due to management performance
       The Esalin system ( Jewell ): Planned retirement and replacement

    Hard on these notifications and papers published, the talking heads
    were at it.  None were surprised to see action taken against those
    holding the fiefs of Kegena and Bevey, especially with the Baron
    holding Bevey known to have never visited his fiefdom.  Indeed, This
    fiefdom, and Kegena, were now in the hands of Leonard, Duke of
    Rhylanor until new nobility are assigned.

    His Grace has already stated a full replacement management team have
    taken their places, along with having carried out a number of arrests
    in both the Bevey and Kegena systems.

    More news would be made over the removal of the Baron of the Skull
    system, who was even now said to be engaged in the effort to re-take
    his world from an attempted coup.  This action in that system is
    largely seen as a rebuke for allowing those seeking to undermine
    the system government to dig in so deeply and move in as much force
    as they had without raising any significant alarms!  Some members
    of the Arch Duke's team, speaking anonymously, have said the
    covert invasion compares badly with the actions of the Magneto-
    Dynamics corporation in Fulacin.  Viewers will be reminded, that
    system's corporate government were found in collusion with the
    Zhodani Consulate in 1105, after a secret base and supply stock-
    piles were accidentally found by the crew of a merchant trading
    ship.

    And there was no surprise at all at the removal of the
    Natokan Marquis as phantom vessels attacked Imperial forces
    in that system.
                

    Mora ( AA99AC7-F 2 Hi In Green 112 M5 V)                            Date: 028 - 1113
    The Mora Office of Sector Technology and Commerce have announced
    a coming series of engineering and economic fairs to be held
    in-system.  Many firms have stepped forward to display and present
    during the scheduled events.  There is said to be heavy anticipation
    for those firms which have submitted bids for the Gothe and Tureded
    system starport upgrades.

    Additional rumors related to this story suggest that the Spinward
    Development Corporation are the leading bidders for the contracts
    to upgrade the Tureded system starport and interstellar facilities.
    Outside these rumors, there have been no comments from the Grand
    Duchess' Court in Mora.

    Technology commenters are digging in deep, to review and recommend
    the key presentations expected.  As always, attendees can expect
    presentations by GLIPS, University of Mora and other major research
    universities on continuing work to extend stable jump technology
    as far as seven or eight parsecs as well as on-going research
    into FTL-communications.

    Where advanced medical technology and research are concerned, the
    most advanced data from the Terra system is expected on the case
    of Commander Ansel Churner and what those medical authorities are
    learning about the Jump sickness from the lone known survivor.
         

    Tureded (B465540-9 Green Ni Ag 514 M3 V)                     Date: 035 - 1112
    Word today was released by the office of the Marquis of Tureded
    regarding on-going work to select a contractor to handle the
    starport and infrastructure upgrades.  As rumors are growing
    thicker that the Spinward Development Corporation were likely to
    be awarded the contract, the system Marquis has publicly stated
    his disapproval of that possible outcome.

    This move is a surprise to all, as the local Fief-holder is
    generally tasked with making sure projects are handled after
    those higher up in the ruling structure complete deals.  Despite
    that, the office of the Marquis has also stated his office will
    establish an office of 'parity management' to track and confirm
    all decisions and allotments of authority granted by any firm which
    receives the upgrade contracts.  While spokespersons for the
    Spinward Development Corporation have uniformly stated the
    Corporation looks forward to working with all the authorities in
    the system, there have been no comments from the office of the
    Grand Duchess and Arch Duke.

    The comments appear to trigger a rift between the corporation
    and the Marquis.  Still, few can miss the corporation's growing
    sway within the sector.  The corporation has built up a large
    amount of influence as well as significant financial reserves
    by moving in to the marches to terraform and manage the colonizing
    of many worlds in the sector.
       

As Munarshu watched the report, he knew Spinward was raking in cash.  The firm was not only making cash getting colonists to come out to the frontier from the Imperial core worlds, but was also earning a percentage of the trade value from those colonies.  Of course, the "winning" colonies were far out-numbered by colonies which went sour.  But they'd already made enough shipping colonists that they could afford to walk away.

===== FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! ======
    Frenzie (A200436·A N Ni Va * 110 lm M2 III M3D)              Date: 037 - 1113
    In a statement from the office of Admiral Kukakhumum-Lisen, it
    was announced that messages from the Thanber system had arrived
    with news of a declaration of Imperial membership from that system.
    This news follows hard on the heels of the arrival of a ship from
    the Dekalb system, which had also declared themselves members of
    the Imperium once again.  Word has not yet been received from the
    offices of the Grand Duchess and Arch Duke on events in the Dekalb
    system.  This new event is likely to add stress to the border.

    Reports indicate the Admiral is working to determine what
    resources he has available as he once more finds himself needing
    to organize some level of response to this event.  Un-named
    sources have suggested the Admiral had already requested
    reinforcements and direction from other local as well as senior
    commands.  All the same, many experts in interstellar affairs are
    watching the Zhodani and Sword Worlds governments for indications
    of their reactions.  Surprisingly, the most noted response has
    been by the Darrians, moving in additional resources to the
    Entropic worlds and appearing to advance the schedule of repairs
    to defensive systems on those worlds.

    Experts in the Lanth system have suggested the events may be
    scaled back with the systems named as Client States.
    However, that is for the Sector authorities and their teams
    to handle.

    Word from the Zhodani Consulate Embassy in the Rhylanor system
    came in the form of a 'statement of fact'.  Recognizing Imperial
    authorities had no role in events in the Dekalb system, they
    "officially deplored the attempt to take advantage of the situation
    following the Fifth Frontier War."  The statement further said it
    was unfortunate the Imperium were potentially willing to sow the
    seeds of future unrest which could destabilize the region in the
    future.  The statement continued to diplomatically fret against the
    possible future damage and loss of life these actions might cause.
   

    Lunion (A995A84-D 2 Hi In Cp 210 Im K3V M7D)                  Date: 035 - 1112
    The office of Duke Luis of Lunion have announced that His Grace
    has reached a decision on the elevation of the first Baronet of
    the Sharrip system.  In consultation with teams from the offices
    of the Grand Duchess and Arch Duke, Duke Luis has selected to
    elevate Lord Kagirii Maar Shaagmu to that post.
                

The news from the Duke's office continued to expand on the new Baronet's qualifications.  As the story continued, Munarshu smiled, knowing he'd shared some role in clearing the way for the elevated Lord.  The story did continue on to say that a number of the gathered nobility in the Lunion system would continue on to meet with the Arch Duke per his orders.  The reporter on the scene speculated Duke Luis would bring Lord Shaagmu to Rhylanor to have him elevated at the hand of the Arch Duke Himself.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)                  Date: 040 - 1112
    Continued reports from the Kegina system state that the blockade
    forces put in place by Duke Leonard continue to impound merchant
    ships and detain crews.  Despite the complaints of the "Trader's
    Union" and "Captain's Council of Rhylanor", the Admiralty have
    made it very clear the orders of Duke Leonard make it entirely
    legal and correct to aggressively enforce the laws.  Those ship's
    masters who chose to ignore very clearly broadcast warnings are
    being treated better than they could be if the laws were fully
    enforced.

    While the would-be colonists have been returned to Bevey, and
    the ship crews are being held for trial, the government of Rhylanor
    has set the date for the first auction of ships.  Those vessels,
    seized under the Duke's forfeiture orders, will be sold off to serve
    the Duchy by enriching its coffers while also returning the ships
    to legal trade supporting the economy of the realm.

    The first of the auctions, for the earliest of seized vessels will
    begin on the 85th day of the year.  Catalogs can be had by those
    planning to attend or those who can reach the system and make
    a request starting on the 80th day of the year.  All sales will be
    binding dependent on the acquisition of financing and all needed
    certifications.
      

As the story droned on, Munarshu's fantasies about attending the auctions were snapped in a harsh cold worse than vacuum as he realized they'd never get back to Rhylanor in time.  It ignored the fact that, even at a fraction of the cost each, the ships to be sold would cost in the tens if not hundreds of millions of Imperial credits.  And travel or not, they simply didn't have the CrImps. 

Following that story, the talking heads rehashed the story about Ambassador Lady Inger's mission to the Sacnoth system.  While there were no new items in the current news cycle, there was plenty of speculation.  One thing the lords of media had in common opinion was that that the situation would turn frosty at best.  Either the Imperium would drive to place military forces in that system to support the diplomatic mission or the government of Sacnoth would push hard to refuse the Imperium the right to any forces securing the new embassy.  Either way, there were very few who did not see it ending ironically in warfare.

On the Natokan front, there continued to be no word from those Imperial forces hunting the rogue ships which attacked the blockade of that system.  While there was no advance on that news front, there were smaller items about lesser merchanter and other private vessels trying to run the Imperial blockade.  However, with new layers of reinforcements, those ships simply managed to add to another growing stockpile of seized vessels awaiting the dispositions defined by the actions of their foolhardy masters.  One item very much expected but not yet mentioned even in consideration was the thought of landing troops on the main world.

Eventually, the news got around to the fashion news Munarshu had wanted to see.  Since the Lanth system was a frontier system, even as a subsector capital, and 90% covered in oceans or ice-caps, fashions tended to be imported from systems with more surface resources to fuel those passions.  High-tech water-proof and submersible gear led frequent trends.  Still, rugged goods and those made of ocean-bioform skins also appeared in trends and specialty skins often trended too.

As Munarshu was getting ready to go knock on Rol's door and see if he was planning to cook, Fesic and Terin came out of their staterooms.  Terin was disgusted at having hoped to sleep in but having woken up far earlier than planned again.  Seeing Munarshu knocking at Rol's stateroom, Terin asked what Munarshu was up to at that time in the morning?  When Munarshu said he wanted to see if Rol "was home", Terin asked "Why?"  When Munarshu repeated, "To see if he's home" again, Terin looked him in the eyes and said, "You know he has guns?  Right?" and got a laugh from Fesic.  When Munarshu challenged Terin to point out who on the ship didn't have guns, Terin reminded Munarshu Rol knew how to use them.

As Munarshu tried to sputter out an answer that might get him a point or two, Terin ignored his efforts and said he'd make pancakes for the crew.  Hearing this, Fesic said he'd help Terin.  About the time Fesic and Terin were serving food, Rol was waking up in a port motel with his lady friend.  After enjoying the morning just a bit while also knowing the ship planned to lift and he had to get back home, the adventure cost Rol Cr 73 overall.  Rol finally got back to the ship around 9:30am.  Finished cooking, eating and cleaning, Terin sat down to plot out the next week's activities as he was facing a trip of between two and three weeks, and he could bet on it being three.  Fesic returned to researching correspondence college programs.

Mikah and Zimzod had woken at 8am and watched the news.  By the time Aali and Emkir were awake and fed, Emkir had to start plotting a flight plan to deliver the third cargo after the baron's cargo was gone and they were paid.  Aali had to head to engineering with Munarshu to manage lighting the ship up and getting her back in space.  Around 9:30am, Fesic asked permission to go to the Lanth campus of the D'Ganzio University?  When she asked why, he explained his college class.  After all his research, Fesic paid Cr 7,500 for a computerized correspondent Liberal Arts degree program from the D'Ganzio University.

He would have to devote time to the course-work and complete not only the immediate work but complete modules and save them to submit via x-mail.  The benefit of buying the package in the Lanth system was that he could go to the campus and request the current downloads and updates, though he'd have to request other updates via x-mail in the future.  Once he paid the fees, Fesic was then able to call the registrar's office and tell them he was coming to get the most up-to-date course data.  After that, Fesic first started the main download then took the monorail and paid a cab for the trip, 30 minutes each way, to the campus.  There, they gave him the updates on a crystal.

This meant once had to buy and download the basic coursework and the crystal was useless without it, keeping people from sharing it freely.  In addition, the data was thumb-printed to Fesic to provide user-limitations.  By the time Fesic got back to the ship, Emkir and Aali had joined the others.  Instead of luxuriating in their stateroom, they had to prepare for flight and cargo operations.  Rol had also returned to the ship.  But, when it was close to lunch time and the people the crew were waiting for had not shown up, Mikah told Emkir to call them and ask what was happening?

When Emkir reached out to the customers, they said they were on their way and reminded him they'd asked the crew to hold in port another day, so they were rushing it.  When Emkir made an attempt to generically explain the ship's obligations, they didn't care and said they were moving as quickly as they could.  Settling down to wait again, the crew had lunch and got a call from the other customers they were scheduled to deliver to.  That firm wanted to have an idea when the ship would be arriving with their cargo?  Emkir was apologetic but made the mistake of saying they could always come pickup the cargo.  Because that had fallen flat days ago when they'd first discussed delivery, these customers were not particularly pleased with the response.

Finally, at 3pm, the port called the ship telling them a party had arrived with a gravTractor to pick up cargo.  Mikah took the call and confirmed they were expected.  After the call, Mikah, Zimzod and Emkir went to the cargo bay to watch as the "convoy" arrived.  That meant a gravTractor flanked by two gravBikes on either side.  Each bike was ridden by a pair of armed and battledress-armored troopers!  Once they'd all arrived and assembled outside the ship's cargo bay, the guy in charge said they needed to check the cargo before signing off on the letter of credit, and the troopers in battledress would move the cargo.

Mikah was good with all that, as she stepped back and simply waited to get paid, and only wanted them to put a rush on.  None of this prepared Mikah and the others for the sight as the man stepped forward with two armored figures and opened the cargo pod.  Inside, still in shipping padding and protective wrap, were two brand new FGMP-15 weapon systems!  And each of the armored troopers reached in to activate and lift up the weapons to make sure they were in full working order!  The laughs Mikah and Emkir got were that much stronger for the look of surprised annoyance on Zimzod's face.  After the weapons were each function tested but not fired, the troopers repacked them, re-sealed the cargo pod and loaded it onto their gravTruck before paying the Cr 5,000 fee and signing the letter of credit.  They then left the berth.

As soon as the customers were out of the berth, Mikah said, "OK!  Let's go to the bank."  Happily, Mikah had examined the letter of credit and saw where it specifically named the Central Bank of Lanth as an associate bank of the Rhylanor bank it had been drawn on.  In the meantime, seeing Zimzod was pissed at having the weapons waved right under his nose, Terin grabbed a rag from the deck to hand Zimzod as if it were a handkerchief to dry his tears with.  Walking up to the XO, Terin said, "Here Zimzod" with a huuugee smile on his face and the rag raised in his hand.  Terin then failed to duck as Zimzod decked him.  As everyone except Terin laughed, Emkir tapped his digital glasses and said, "Got that recorded!"  Terin started to pick himself up from the deck and smiled as he said, "Totally worth it!"

As Mikah got ready to get moving, she announced there was a satellite office of the Central Bank of Lanth in the starport!  So, they only needed to take the monorail to the terminal and get to the branch to swap the letter for cash.  That said, they expected to have the money and be back in fifty minutes to an hour at most.  When Mikah estimated that, Fesic suggested they call the other customer and give them an ETA on the next delivery.  Zimzod suggested they also update the seneschal's office and Mikah agreed and put Emkir in charge of that.  Emkir decided to tell the second customers they'd be lifting soon and arrive within ninety minutes of that.  He also said he give them an update before the ship launched.

In addition to calling the customers, Emkir also had to set up his flight plan.  He called for exclusion zones, but the world was ninety percent covered in ocean so there was a lot of freedom to fly there.  As Emkir went to handle that, Mikah started considering who would go to the bank with her and Zimzod asked if they should armor up a bit?  When Mikah said they couldn't bring heavy armor and weapons, Zimzod reminded her they could ask the port for permission.  He also reminded Mikah that she did have the 'Right of Escort', allowing her to have an armed and armored bodyguard.  Thinking about that, Mikah called the port and worked things out with them as Rol and Zimzod armored up.  And after she got off the comms, Mikah armored up too, happy the port officials even got the bank's people on the line and everyone knew what was happening.

This procession made an interesting impact on all who saw it as the trio boarded the monorail and then moved through the port terminal.  In addition to the three armored figures, there were regular waves of port security officers who were not escorting them but were providing "overwatch".  Adding to the twists were the friendly and open greetings the bank executives provided when three heavily armed and armored figures firmly strode into the bank!  One thing everyone on the crew was certain of was that Mikah, Zimzod and the war Criminal Rol Kaihvos were gonna make the news cycle even before they managed to get paid.  Ironically, this was a great deal of fuss over nothing as this happened often and most usually involved ship's funs in the tens or even hundreds of millions of credits.

At the ship, Emkir was preparing with Fesic as his co-pilot while Aali and Munarshu were getting things set in engineering.  As the bank prepared to pay off the letter of credit, Mikah was asked how she wanted the payment made?  Mikah knew they could end up on worlds where there was no electronic banking or access to accounts, so she preferred to have the payment in physical cash as much as possible.  She also knew she had to pay off the crew using the formula agreed on so long ago.  One thing Mikah was sure of was that Inger was far too busy and too far away to worry about her share.  So Mikah chose to ignore that obligation.  This meant everyone would be getting Cr 14,901, and Mikah figured that would be best to have delivered to their electronic accounts.

The remaining Cr 57,520 profit would be paid as well as the "payback" of Cr 175,290, which refunded everything the ship had spent since leaving Rhylanor.  That would be paid to the ship's funds and be carried back to the ship in secured cases.  Mikah asked for the Cr 232,810 to be dealt out in several KCr 100 certificates, with the remains in KCr 50 and KCr 10 bills tapering down to Cr 50, Cr 20 and Cr 5 bills to finish off.  This raised the ship's funds to Cr 6,853,375, which was just a bit more than one minor failure from bankrupt.  By the time the three got back, the ship was ready, the port umbilicals pulled, the remaining ground issues resolved and all loose gear stowed.  Emkir had contacted the remaining customer and Seneschals, and everything was set for them to go.

A Trip To Fantasy Island

     As the port tractors moved the ship to a lift pad, Emkir called the distant end to give them a firmer time quote on the ship's expected arrival.  Fesic also tightened up the data with the seneschalate.  As expected, the suborbital didn't even take an hour as Emkir and Fesic used the ship's scanners to locate and lock into the itty-bitty island on which this customer had their facilities.  As they started making the approach from the atmosphere's edge, Emkir wondered what in hell these people were doing so far out?  He was willing to bet the island was a volcanic remnant and had provided the owners lots of lava-tubes to turn into underground facilities so the "top side" was likely for show with any possible teeth hidden below the surface.

The one odd thing Emkir couldn't do the math on as they got closer was the "parking lot"?  When he'd set up the delivery, and asked if their facility was large enough to accommodate the Hotel California, the man had specifically said they had a "parking lot" the ship could land on.  And that begged the question, why they needed a parking lot at all, isolated out in the middle of a massive ocean, much less where all these vehicles would be coming from?  Closing in, Emkir and Fesic could track the cone-shaped dormant or extinct volcanic peak with a number of flat shield-plain spaces, on one of which was the facility where they would land.  Being that close, Emkir gave the high sign over the ship's comms that everyone should get ready.

Even closer, Fesic could dial in the sensors and the two flight crew could see a ten mile by twenty mile space on a plain formed over an eastern lava-shield which was built up with many modern structures.  the read was "very" grid-like with a number of "observatory-like" dome-topped structures at certain points around and within the settlement.  What made the two men even happier was being contacted by the settlement and the sudden provision of a landing beacon to home in on.  This made what was going to be an easy landing even easier.  As this happened, Mikah headed for the cargo bay and called for Terin and Munarshu to help.  Munarshu made sure to get his LSP data-goggles, to record the delivery in case of perfidy.

Emkir made the final swing as Fesic handled housekeeping and both started securing systems as the ship settled on its landing pads.  Once they passed the word they were down hard and secure, Mikah slapped the release and opened the cargo bay.  As the door opened, she, Terin and Munarshu looked out over the expense of the open and 'not-so-tropical' parking lot.  Suddenly, in their visible range, it looked like squads of armed and uniformed troops started flooding out of two separate buildings, one to their left and one from their right!  The armed troops were not "rushing" but were marching out in orderly formations and Mikah was happy to watch the show as none of the weapons were being made ready for use.

After the troops appeared, and as they made maneuvers which seemed aimed at surrounding the ship in two lines of troopers, a vehicle left a bay in the building to the left and started to approach.  To their eyes, this "vehicle" looked like a hand-assembled 'Cab on a slab' home vocational-tech project.  the excuse for a flatbed truck had a stanchion just behind the cab which supported a cargo winch, making that vehicle's intent obvious.  Still, looking more closely at the winch made Mikah wonder how likely it was the device could lift the cargo pods?  Looking back at the troops, who'd formed a two-layer enclosing line around the ship, Mikah noticed they were now actually unlimbering their weapons, which was very disturbing!

Reacting to this as carefully as possible, Mikah gave a firm order for Rol and Zimzod to armor up and get to the cargo bay because they might be getting a hostile reception!  As ship's security, and with nothing else to do to begin with, Rol was already half-armored up as a matter of course.  Seeing him doing that as they were reentering and preparing to land, Zimzod figured "why not?" because he also had nothing to do with the delivery.  So, he'd also gotten mostly into his battledress.  So, both men were surprised but well prepared for the order when it came.  Both buttoned up and got moving with Zimzod grabbing Rol and using the enhanced strength of his battledress to carry him as he ran for the bay.  Once at the hatch leading down into the cargo bay, Zimzod called out "Think fast!" and dropped Rol down through the hatch before jumping down himself.

Not sure what Zimzod had in mind when he picked him up, Rol knew Zimzod couldn't carry him down the hatch and wasn't heading for the slower but more spacious lift.  So Rol wasn't very surprised when Zimzod threw him down into the cargo bay, and made the sort of slap-and-roll landing one makes after an airborne drop.  Recovering into a kneeling position as he moved to ready his weapon, Zimzod landed near his position bringing his gauss rifle to bear and growled at Rol, "Get up and move, you panty waste!"  Zimzod then moved up, weapons raised and ready with his fire selector on 4-shot as he took a position between but behind Mikah, Terin and Munarshu.  This allowed them to withdraw behind the cover of his armor if the shooting started, and staying behind his people made it clear the move was defensive.  So it wouldn't trigger some panic fire.

As Rol recovered and moved in, Zimzod was already doing the math and realizing this was not a fight they were gonna win if it came to that.  With a mental shrug, he simply set his selector to "kill 'em all" and commented over the comms to Rol that it was time to be ready to take as many with them as they could.  Zimzod and Rol arrived surprisingly quickly, as Mikah was ordering Terin and Munarshu to get back into the ship and secure the door behind them.  Sizing up the "enemy" in more detail, Rol and Zimzod could see the "enemy" were armored in some sort of reinforced cloth and figured they could do a lot of damage with a spread set of bursts.  Large bursts of fire wouldn't kill most of those hit but would share the love all over the line.  Rol said as much over the comms and Zimzod answered that he finally approved of the way Rol was thinking.

Wounding a lot of the troops fast would take a lot of them out of the fight quickly, and take out those turning to help the wounded.  Aiming at torsos was best as the troops were all wearing helmets with some sort of optical device.  And hitting someone in the chest or gut also added to the odds of hitting something critical and killing a man.  The troops also appeared to be carrying ACR's which didn't have the power against combat armor and battledress that gauss rifles had against what they were wearing.  Thinking of which, Zimzod stepped forward and handed Mikah a gauss pistol which she immediately readied.  After ordering Terin and Munarshu back, Mikah called Emkir and ordered him to contact the seneschalate to tell them the ship was possibly under attack!

This made the flight crew aware something was happening as Emkir ack'd the order and hit the ship's security cameras.  Intentionally not designed to be used while in flight, the cameras came to life as Emkir made the call and started maneuvering controls on his panel to control the surveillance system.  At the same time, Fesic swept the flight controls from his glass-panel control surface and started expertly pulling together a gunner's control panel from years of practice and war experience.  Finding a pause in the conversations after he had his position ready, Fesic told Mikah he could bring the ship's weapons systems to bear on her command.  Despite Mikah's reactions and the response of the crew, the troops held position and the truck rolled up to the cargo ramp through a gap in the troop formation.

As the vehicle closed, it was obviously not armored or even combat survivable.  And the man driving the truck was in nothing but a shipsuit while the guy in the shotgun seat seemed to be in a three-piece suit.  Not taking anything for granted, Mikah said in a voice loud enough for her people to hear, "Weapons hot!"  Because Rol and Zimzod were already prepared for action, the only change was when Fesic activated the ship's weapon systems.  On the call, Emkir was being transferred to another person after the people he'd already reached were not quite sure what he was describing.  So, the next person he got, he went into "Full Admiral reporting a combat situation" mode.  That got the job done as he was transferred to a senior staffer to sort out.

Still lurking in the mostly empty cargo bay after disobeying Mikah's orders, Munarshu was using his goggles to record the situation as Rol scanned the troop formations to see if he could locate any heavy weapons?  When he only saw ACR's and adjusted his estimates for a more accurate recount, Rol decided they might not even be able to take the ship and said things didn't make sense.  Into this, Fesic reported the weapons were hot and he was combat ready.  At the same time, the approaching vehicle pulled into the space left open between the troops and the ship, close to the edge of the cargo ramp.  When the man in the suit stepped out of the vehicle to approach, Mikah firmly called out, "Order your men to stand down!"

Looking up at Mikah as if he was first noticing her or the crew's actions, the man asked, "Huh?" as if her comment made no sense.  In his pause, Mikah again demanded, "Order all those guns down!"  The man turned casually back to the lines of troops before turning back to Mikah and saying, "They're not aiming anything at you." as if that made sense and solved everything.  Not having it, Mikah ordered, "Tell them to stow their weapons."  Shrugging as if Mikah's demands made no sense, the man turned to the troops and addressed one of them.  That appeared to be the unit commander or lead NCO, and he ordered the troops to shoulder their arms, which they all then did.  Quietly, as this happened, Mikah ordered Fesic to bring the ship's weapons down but keep the sensors up and the system ready.  'Trust, but be prepared to make them die.'

By this time, Emkir had also dialed in the security cameras and those all over the ship could tune in and see what was happening in, and just outside, the cargo bay.  In the meantime, Emkir had also reached an assistant seneschal and that person was also tying in the ship's call with the seneschal liaison to the planetary legate's office.  This meant the Imperial civilian representatives were raising this issue with the Imperium's military representative in-system.  And with a full Naval and Marine base in-system, this meant serious muscle was a short set of orders away.  As the additional resources came on-line, Emkir connected to their computer network to show them the ship's camera feeds.

Still surprised by Mikah's attitude, the man in the suit looked to Mikah to be sure she accepted the situation and she snapped, "What the fuck?  This is how you treat people who are making a fucking delivery?"  Looking at Mikah with a cool gaze, the man answered, "This is a secure facility.  We didn't threaten you.  We just.." Mikah cut him off, saying, "You threatened us as soon as they unshouldered their arms and made them ready!"  Shrugging because he was willing to agree to disagree, the man said, "Look, we just want to get the cargo and get this done."  Angrily, Mikah said, "So do we!  But we didn't come out here and threaten you!  We landed and all of a sudden we have guns at the ready!"

The man only shrugged again as he said, "Well, if you can get the cargo off the ship, we can give you money and you can be gone.  As Mikah said, "Ok.  Move the cargo." Terin and Munarshu rushed forward to grab the gravLifters and move the cargo off the ship!  After the pair got the pod off their deck, the man checked something on the cargo pod against something on the datapad he was carrying.  Done doing that, the man handed Mikah the tablet to put her thumb-print on before the funds were released to the ship's account and they were paid.  And with that, and the man's thanks, they were done.  Not quite ready to leave, Mikah angrily suggested, "I would really warn people that you do this when they come here the first time.  Because we had all our ship's guns on your men."

The man shrugged again and said, "Nobody got shot so it's no big deal." in a tone which truly said he didn't care about the implied danger.  Infuriated even more, Mikah turned her back on the man as she said, "Fine!  Let's get out of here."  Seeing what was happening, Emkir updated the Seneschal and Legate of the turn in events.  Surprising Emkir, the Seneschal's office had pulled records and realized the people the ship had been dealing with were known for this kind of behavior.  Once they knew where the Hotel California was it appeared this was far from the first time this group did this to a ship.  As Emkir prepared to lift and head for orbit, one of the officers on the line explained, "These are survivalist nut jobs."

Emkir began to understand what had happened better and started to apologize as he realized it was a false alarm.  But the answer really was, 'Don't stress it, you got paid and no one got shot.'  Everyone on the line agreed to look at the event as a good practice exercise to test readiness in case a real event happened.  Moving on from that, the Seneschal's officer told him their ship was one of two cargos remaining to be loaded onto the IMS Kugar Akemudir.  As the ship was secured and lifted, Emkir made the others aware of the updates and burned for orbit.  After nearly forty minutes, the crew came into visual of the cargo ship during the process of moving the other cargo into place to be loaded.  Emkir also made a mental note to himself to add these nut jobs to his trade diary.

The Kugar Akemudir was one hundred-fifty meters in diameter by three-hundred fifty meters long.  The primary shape of the hauler was a cylinder, rounded off on the front, with a flat-top open-to-space cargo handling and capture deck taking the place of the upper aft decks.  The Hotel California was 45 meters at its widest, and nowhere near as tall.  So, they could fit three Hotel California's in the main cargo bay aligned wing-tip to wing-tip.  To the eye, the freighter was just shorter than one quarter-mile long with six working decks sandwiched between huge cargo bays and fuel tanks, not to mention the ship's drives.  And as they got closer to the ship, it was so large it filled their view screens.  It also gave them a great view of the last stages of moving the other cargo into the ship's bay.

As they approached, Mikah pulled up the ship's statistics on a terminal to familiarize herself with the class.  In the end, there was really a very very small "habitable space" within all that structure.  In this case, the ship was an Imperialines freighter, and that was a megacorporation some of the crew had heard rumors about.  Chief of these was the rumor that Imperialines had a secret fleet of six-parsec jumping cargo ships which looked exactly like their four-parsec jumping craft.  Despite that, no one in the crew thought this ship was from that secret fleet because you don't stop and pick up passengers on your secret ships.  Especially as some of the rumors said the jump-6 ships were mostly rigged as Q-ships, and had a LOT less cargo capacity.

While they waited, a cargo manager called the ship to give them the steps that would be taken to load them aboard.  They were told the freighter's own security craft would escort the California to an off-ship receiving bay.  Before that, each of the crew would have to pack everything they couldn't live without and be prepared to be moved into quarters aboard the freighter.  As they were housed for the trip, their ship would be containerized and then stored in the freighter's cargo bay.  As he heard this, Emkir grumbled, "So much for getting any work done."  Still, he could move a great deal of what he'd wanted to work on onto his hand-computer and continue the work during the transit.

The crew were told they'd have zero access to their ship, except in emergencies.  And, while aboard, they would be required to comply with all ship's rules.  Hearing that, Emkir asked for an e-file containing the rules, which they could share around and that was sent.  the file was very much based on the rules all ships had in space with regard to safety and restrictions about entering any space defined as operational.  That left them with the chance to watch the ballet that was loading the very large container ahead of them.  The operation involved a large flotilla of heavily armed small-craft surrounding a few tugs pushing a huge containerized "something" towards a cargo bay.  Compared to the Hotel California, the container was much larger than the ship.  Compared to the freighter, it was a dot in space.

While this happened, the amount of security was huge as well!  So, huge, Mikah was sure they were moving cages of armored bears.  The only thing that they could see that promised any answers was an unfamiliar insignia or logo.  When Terin snapped a shot of it and looked up the owner, it turned out to be a company logo for an "Understars Royal Metals".  Digging deeper, Terin found the company was a sector-wide materials vending and manufacturing firm.  When he looked at the company's structure, it leapt out at him that URM had a corporate military component!  So, the metals company had its own corporate military force.  That didn't surprise Terin, as a lot of corporations had those kinds of structures, but he had to wonder why a metals manufacturing firm needed one?

Just before Terin shut down his search, his eye caught a set of links at the bottom of the screen for associated businesses and noticed an association with a "Wiggans Atomic Specialists".  When Terin looked them up, they turned out to be purveyors of mercenary forces.  Trying to pull any understanding out of these pieces of data, they looked up the Ghandi system, which was their next "stop".  But the mainworld in that system was a very small rock with a trace atmosphere, trace hydrographics and a permanent population under 10,000.  That did not include the transient naval personnel assigned to the Imperial Naval and Marine bases in that system.  The base was part of the "second line of defense" inside the "Vilis Wall" of front line Imperial naval bases against Zhodani invasion.

While the Ghandi system had been something of a speed bump to Zhodani forces during the frontier wars, each of those times, the defenders in Ghandi destroyed or damaged significant numbers of Zhodani vessels, weakening the massive flow of forces so later fleets could defeat them.  A number of captured hulks had been brought in for forensic naval design research after the war, when fleets under then-Duke Norris' command followed remnants of the Zhodani 40th fleet and destroyed it in detail.  But there was nothing to suggest anything as members of the crew settled in to read the freighter's do's and don'ts.  And those included restrictions against any of the crew being armed while aboard the freighter.  Half-watching the dance outside, they saw all those battledressed figures and security drones and had to wonder if those guys would be disarmed too, if they came aboard?

Finally, it was time to move the ship up to the security point and leave the California behind to be containerized.  This meant dragging everything they couldn't live without in their luggage and securing the ship for the ride.  In addition to packing, Aali had programmed the engineering androids to work under power-conserving settings, to continue all the work she could remotely get done.  Aali would also be able to reach out to them via comms and update or change their programming as needed
Considering that, Aali made sure what she wasn't taking was properly stowed in her stateroom and packed:
    Her vacc suit and PLSS, in its carrying case
    Her comms, Ident and a flashlight
    Her shipsuits
    Her computer with its backup storage pod
    All the data crystals carrying her current "reading data"
    The datapad from Duke Leonard's library and the one with her patent of nobility
    Her digital video/still camera ( Just in case )
    For stent training, Aali packed her commdots
    The leather collars and whip they'd gotten as a wedding gift
    Emkir's silver lamé-wear with heels
    Wearing her Engagement and Wedding rings, the lanthanum/Tellona diamond ring on a ring-holder
    Her personal psi-shield
    Four suits of executive armor
    Her pants suit and dress shoes (in case there was a dinner at the captain's table)
    Two weeks civilian clothes and regular footwear
    Her wearable personal entertainment network

When Aali mentioned her psi-shield, Mikah made sure to break out and distribute the ship's supply of psi-shields, given to them by Duke Leonard's people.  The other shields, she left stored in the ship's locker.  When talk started about bringing booze, Mikah said to bring as much as they can, and they had to get a rolling cart to move the bottles.  Of course, that would raise the eyebrows of the freighter's security when they boarded.

Emkir packed:
    His vacc suit and PLSS, in its carrying case, with all his suit accessories
    His training suit with his zero-g training software
    His LI/IR goggles
    His comms, a watch, wedding ring and his TL-E sunglasses
    His wearable personal entertainment network
    His datapad from Duke Leonard's library
    His hand-computer (has the cracker on it and the data from the "Sohturn Behemoth")
    His two shipsuits as well as his Vilani suit with the 'gold ball and chain' pin
    His "shooting for dummies" book with the toy dart gun and suction-cup darts and a deck of cards
    The tri-holo image of Emkir and Aali at the enclosed amusement park on Lanth at night

As Aali started asking Emkir about booze to bring, Mikah said to load up a cart and take as much as they could, certain that would raise some eyebrows in the freighter's security team.  Emkir and Aali both brought their wearable personal entertainment networks.  Emkir also made sure to bring his training suit, hoping to do some learning during the flights.

Rol packed:
    His three sets of executive armor
    His sealed combat armor
    His two shipsuits, two sets of coveralls, two weeks casual clothes and new jacket
    His ship-issued comms along with his belt-clip and ear-piece units and a rechargeable flashlight
    His data-card reader
    His datapad from Duke Leonard's library
    His dog-tags, lanthanum ring and commemorative coin from his knighting

As he packed, Rol copied his work on his book and ghost writer software to his personal datapad so he could work on it during the trip.  While this wouldn't give him all the writing options the ship's computer gave him, it would let him continue to work on the project while in transit.  once that was done, he packed that too.

Munarshu packed:
    His three sets of executive armor
    One set of executive armor
    His LSP Data goggles
    His Survival watch
    Both his high-end and default datapad
    His hand-computer, to which he shunted his learning software
    His Vilani style suit with dress shoes as well as his hiking boots
    His ship issued and old multi-channel comms
    His sealed combat armor

Mikah packed:
    Her three sets of executive armor
    Her vacc suit and PLSS, in its carrying case
    five shipsuits and ten basic civilian outfits
    one of the Lavender day dress from Duke Luis, with matching shoes and Domain of Deneb earrings
    Her medical kit, pocket med-scanner and drug box
    Her datapad from the Rhylanor museum, Rhylanor Natural Museum encyclopedic books
    Her Holographic Collection book from the Grand Geologic Museum of the Spinward Marches
    Her E-book from the Equus Museum of un-natural history
    Her datapad of data from Duke Leonard's library
    Her prayer card for St. Expedite and her comms

Terin packed:
    His combat armor and all the accessories
    Two weeks of casual clothing and a green Darrian-style suit with shoes
    His hookah and all his herb bags
    His sunglasses
    His First aid kit
    His datapad and hand-computer
    His comms

Fesic first asked if they could off-load the cargo sealing system so he could continue his studies?  He was told they couldn't.  So the gunner packed:
    Two weeks of casual clothing and his Solomani suit
    His vacc suit and PLSS
    a walking stick
    His comms and a flashlight
    His electronic lock pick device
    His personal grooming kit

Zimzod packed:
    His five executive armor suites
    His vacc suit and PLSS
    His Face vacuum guard
    His comms
    Two weeks of civilian clothes
    His cranberry-colored suit with dress shoes
    His red-died tee shirt reading, "Rol couldn't kill his attacker and all I got was this lousy tee shirt"
    His Lanthanum ring
    His med-kit

Zimzod also packed both his datapad with the "legends and mysteries of the four-sector quadrant" and the damaged pad.  He planned to move off the "Tales of the Marches" off the damaged datapad onto the other one during the trip.

No Stars For The New Digs

     Once the California was docked with the freighter's "handling station" on an aft part of the ship's open-to-space cargo deck, the ship extended a boarding corridor and the crew of the California humped it out the air-lock with their gear.  A number of the crew had to help Aali and Emkir with the rolling cart of booze, as the extended corridor skin was ribbed for structural support.  The booze was not the only thing that caused a number of looks and a bit heavier of an inspection from the freighter's somber crew.  Still, they were passed on to a junior purser's mate who had charge of their further boarding and housing.

Among the things questioned, the booze and hookah cause the most concern.  Terin was warned that some spaces in the ship were tight and the scents of anything burned aboard could linger.  In addition to that, intentionally burning anything aboard was frowned upon.  But, after that was done, the Lieutenant led them out of the docking station and brought them aboard the Kugar Akemudir itself.  As they passed through the lock and into the ship proper, the passages became stark and utilitarian.  This was no passenger ship and the bare fittings and thinly elastic-padded companion-ways showed it.  As they walked, the crew were told they were being given two staterooms which each slept four persons.

There were "one over the other" bunk beds to either side, an entertainment viewing screen, two small fold-out desks, and a locker for each person.  Sadly, once they got to the staterooms, they realized they'd have to find ways to secure the bottles of booze and wide items like Terin's hookah.  That alone was visually scrubbed more than once.  The good news was that each stateroom had its own fresher, so they'd not have to walk the halls and share with everyone in their section of the ship.  The crew were told they could decide among themselves how they wanted to organize the sleeping arrangements and their goods.  Considering all of them had served in the militaries of the Imperium, where everything is co-ed, they'd all lived in much closer quarters with members of the opposite sex for months if not years while in uniform.

They were told the deck they were on had a common exercise deck which will be shared with others aboard.  But when the group were shown the "exercise deck" it was little more than a disused companionway.  On the way to their "emergency station" in the event of a ship-threatening event, they passed the laundry and services compartment available to them.  That would also be shared.  Looking around at the "emergency station", the crew couldn't help but notice the lack of access to lifeboats, low berths or any other escape systems.  In fact, it seemed to be yet another little used companionway.  When Zimzod asked if that was where they'd be left to die or save themselves, he was told that location would be where crew would look for them to get them to safety.  Unimpressed, Aali joked, "Well, that's one way to get rid of a war criminal."

Returning to their staterooms, the crew were told food-services would be foil packs and reconstituted protein chunks.  Flavor packs would also be provided as would packets of dried vegetable matter diners could mix with hot water, to mix in with the rest of the food.  Gripes were reduced when the purser said that was what the crew ate too.  They were also told that when they did not have access to the exercise deck, which would be controlled by a regular schedule, they were encouraged to stay within the staterooms assigned to them with the doors closed.  While they could eat outside the rooms outside the exercise hours, they were told all common spaces would be scheduled and shared between the crew and others aboard. 

As they walked, it was decided the couples would share a stateroom and Mikah made it clear to the four others that she wouldn't mind if they accidentally brought their room population down to three with a wink in Munarshu's direction.  When Fesic asked if she had specific instructions on who to axe, Mikah just shrugged at 'captain density' and turned to the path ahead as they walked.  Zimzod just gave the men an evil smile and said, "Yeah.  Just don't forget to invite us to your barbeque." and got huge laughs.  Still, as they got closer to their staterooms, Zimzod and some others glanced around and got an eyeful down one corridor at least. 

Those who peeked saw a number of room hatches being guarded by battledressed figures whose armor bore the same insignia Terin had looked up earlier.  So, it appeared this was part of the corporation's private army and it gave them a look at the benefits of having more muscle or political pull than they did themselves.  When Mikah saw the battledressed figures, she asked the purser, "There aren't bears in there?  Are there?"  The Lt had no idea what Lady Mikah was on about and answered, "I'm sure I don't know and that's their space to use as they please."  Mikah continued, "If the bear gets out, it's going down.  Just telling you." while ignoring the fact they had nothing to take the bear down "with".  Picking up where she left off, Zimzod authoritatively said, "That's right!  We'll stuff Gladys down its throat until it chokes to death!" getting even more laughs.

The computer system in each of the staterooms was fairly basic and couldn't handle tasks like broadcasting holograms and such.  So, there was a fair bit of entertainment they would not be able to use while aboard.  And if Fesic had been able to transfer his college classes onto a computer, he would have only had access to what that personal computer could do.  Still, he did plan to spend his newly received income on one once he was someplace he could go shopping.  At the moment, that was looking to be the Dinomn system or the Regina system after that.  The Ghandi system didn't seem like a mall of anything that was not used for basic survival or vastly overpriced.

After they were welcomed aboard and left on their own for the moment, Emkir commented on how happy he was to have brought his deck of cards.  An announcement over the all ship said the ship would be securing cargo for the next three and a half hours before the half-hour warning the ship was preparing to move.  The ship would then burn for the 100d limit and jump.  After another three hours of burn time, they'd reach the point their navigator planned to jump from and enter jump space.  At that point, there would be twenty minutes to prepare before the ship actually jumped.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Everyone is in the area of their staterooms aboard the IMS Kugar Akemudir
     Aiden: cooking for another 5 weeks and 5 days ( Decant Date: 110-1113 )

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Next: Advancing On Accusations