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Searching From
      The Shadows


A Sudden Change Of Plans

Regina     Zimzod and Mikah pushed hard to keep climbing the stairs to the floor their suite was on.  Ironically, at the same time, emergency service forces arrived on ground and grav transports and would get to the room sooner.  The grav-Rescue units moved in first, to inspect the site for active flames or "continuing" threats, like releases of gasses or other hazards.  When that was not the case, they started inspecting the impact site for ways to get in, because the suite's balcony had been wrecked.

In the trashed suite, Rol had cleared the debris from Fesic and was helping him explore the damage to his left leg.  While both men thought it was good there was no obvious sign of an injury, that made figuring out what was going on inside Fesic's leg more difficult.  While they did that, Terin had made sure the driver Munarshu tranq'd was still out cold, and would not come up while also treating Munarshu.  He had the engineer laid out and had cut open the man's ballistic shipsuit to expose a small caliber chest wound.  Sadly, while Terin could see the round had been stopped by a combination of ballistic cloth, executive armor and Munarshu's sternum, Terin's medical skills were not up to more beyond working to keep the engineer from slipping into shock.

Terin did that, and kept an eye peeled through the wrecked wall of the suite for any follow-on attacks.  This was needed because, while Grav Vehicle vs building accidents were not unknown, the driver had brought a pistol.  He'd even had it ready to use on impact, making it clear this was an attack.  Rol and Terin had both gotten their handguns and were loaded with ball ammo; able to make more effective holes in anyone else who showed up to play.  Things continued to settle with the dust as the men took stock and called for emergency services they were told were already en route.  Less than three minutes after that, Terin saw another grav-car seeming to be heading right for the suite wall.  Only, he could see this one had flashing lights and official markings.

Looking more directly at the on-coming vehicle, Terin could see it was followed by others.  Terin called out that the police were on the way and Rol got a few laughs as he said, "Oh, great!  They've paid off the police too!"  In the building's stairwell, Mikah and Zimzod were pumping hard, climbing to the suite on the 25th floor, and Zimzod was falling behind.  At the ground level, first response teams had started arriving and used their access to take control of the tower's elevators.  So, they would pass the stair-climbers in anxious comfort as they rode to the scene of what appeared to be a bad accident.

On arrival, the first teams in grav vehicles stood off the wrecked wall to examine the entry crash site.  Other teams lowered crossing planks as they arrived at the balconies of the suites to the right and left of the damaged residence, then using special codes to order the doors opened.  As they did so, every electronic speaker still intact in all the suites broadcast warnings that legal and medical teams were arriving.  The notice warned that anyone resisting or obstructing when the police arrived would be engaged as a possible combatant or deranged citizen.

Finally, the first vehicle drifted closer to the hole in the wall and the crew aboard lowered a crossing platform which one man used to cross into the wrecked kitchenette and dining area.  Once in the building, the man said, "I'm in", into a mike he was wearing.  The insignia on his uniform marked him as a higher ranking medical team member.  Looking to Terin, who had a medical kit and was kneeling over an unconscious man obviously bleeding from a chest wound, he asked what happened?  Short and sweet, Terin pointed to the driver, saying "That guy crashed this gravCar through the balcony", pointing at the downed assassin, "and started shooting.  We put him down with Tranq rounds, he's secure and we have two wounded who need assistance."

Nodding, the man stepped to clear the way for other med-techs who were arriving as he scanned Fesic's situation and started giving orders.  After his initial orders, the man introduced himself as the response site commander.  This happened while Rol got back to Fesic with the pillows he'd collected to make Fesic more comfortable.  He'd told Fesic not to move, but the gunner was concerned they'd cut away his pants and footwear to investigate his wound.  So, Fesic had ignored Rol's advice not to move and struggled to get his left shoe and pants off!  While the man had ordered his team into action and started updating the law enforcement teams already on-site, Rol found the gunner struggling and failing to undress from the waist down.  Standing over Fesic with pillows, Rol just stood there, wondering what the hell Fesic was doing?  The med-techs arrived just after that. 

Terin and Rol had made sure their weapons were holstered and everyone was clear of the pistol the driver had dropped.  Everyone also made sure their hands were visible and empty as the first responders arrived.  Munarshu's abandoned pistol also lay on the floor of the wrecked grav-car, where he'd dropped it.  Fesic's attempts to save his clothes became even more comedic as an arriving med-tech raised a no-contact hand scanner to investigate Fesic's wounds.  Making it obvious they would not cut into his clothes.  After trying to get Fesic to relax and lay back, a second med-tech hit him with a sedative injection and moved to lay him back on the floor.  After a quick scan of the leg, the techs called for a body board and said they'd be moving Fesic to medical facilities.

As others arrived and helped lift Fesic onto the transport board, the gunner was not out cold but was certainly feeling no pain.  One of the med-techs told Rol the injection was simply meant to make the transit easier on the patient and prevent the injured from going into shock.  Where Terin was helping Munarshu, they moved him out of the way and also hit the engineer with an injection while Terin said he'd already injected a basic pain killer.  Another hand-scanner was used as they assessed Munarshu's condition.  As they went to work, the first obvious law enforcement agents arrived in the suite, though Terin was sure they'd secured the building outside the rooms.

As this happened, newly arriving personnel came from the suites to the right and left as well as from the elevator core.  Investigators quickly found Rol standing by where techs were lifting Fesic and Terin watching the team working Munarshu's wounds.  They then separated Rol and Terin and started asking questions to investigate what had happened?  As both men explained, in broad strokes, that "the guy crashed a gravCar through the wall...", they were slowed down and asked to take it step by step.  When one of them said Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod had left to meet with the Duke of Vilis minutes before the attack, the message went out to find them too.  Terin said he'd comm'd Mikah and Zimzod and they were climbing the building's stairs.

As the investigator Terin was talking to started to put out the word to find the knights, Terin offered to call them.  Terin then sparked up a call to both Zimzod and Mikah.  Zimzod was uncertain which floor he'd gotten to as the call came in, because the running climb was seriously getting to him.  Zimzod's attention had been laser focused on the next steps he would climb as he decided to stop as he answered in a ragged breath.  When Zimzod asked, "Dude.  What?" Terin asked, "What floor are you on so far?"  Zimzod answered, "I'm coming up to you.  Is everyone OK up there?"

Terin told Zimzod the authorities had arrived and had control of the elevators so Zimzod should get to the nearest lobby to get picked up.  Asking the investigator if they could pick up Mikah and Zimzod, the man said they should get to the nearest elevator and say what floor they were on.  An officer would get them.  Overhearing the conversation as she'd also answered her comms, Mikah was nearly a floor past Zimzod.  Still humping the stairs as she listened, Mikah got her turn and said she had twelve more floors to go.  She also said she was approaching a landing and would hit the door and move to the elevator.  That done, Zimzod nearly crawled to the next landing and staggered to the elevator lobby.

Once Mikah got to the elevator, she waited for an officer to open the door after picking up Zimzod.  She giggled as Zimzod was still desperately trying to get his breath back.  The two were met at the elevator on their floor, and brought into the suite as Mikah confirmed the wounded had not yet been moved.  Mikah showed her medical credentials as she said she wanted to check on her people, and was let through.  Kneeling down to check on Fesic, Mikah asked to borrow the tech's hand scanner and was disappointed hers was better and still on their ship.  Mikah confirmed Fesic's muscle and tissue damage but saw the device could not confirm if the bone was broken or not?  So, Fesic had to go to the hospital for a complete diagnosis.

Moving on to Munarshu, Mikah confirmed that the sternum had taken what was left of the bullet's impact once it passed through his layers of armor.  So, he was gonna live, which disappointed her a bit but saved her hiring another engineer.  As she finished her work, Zimzod also tried to flash his paramedical credentials and get access to Munarshu, but was told they had more than enough paramedics on-site.  That meant Zimzod's plans with a sharpie pen would have to wait.  After Mikah was done with her examination, and as the wounded were moved out, the law enforcers moved in to get as much as they could from each of the four after separating them again.

With the Dust Settling

     As the four were questioned about any and every detail they could remember since arriving in system, Zimzod asked if they could interrogate the prisoner?  Unfortunately, Zimzod was reminded that he and his people had no legal law enforcement standing in-system, and the city had the systems and resources to handle the investigation.  The officer also told Zimzod he was sure the prisoner would be charged with a number of crimes and could look forward to spending years in prison, if not the rest of his life.  With a smirk coming to his face, the man suggested that could end up being a very brief life depending on the charges faced.  After the investigators had what they could get, the property manager of the building moved in and assured Zimzod they would move him and his people into a new suite...without windows.

Zimzod made sure to request a suite on a much lower floor and was promised that too.  Once that was decided, and as the building staff worked to set up the move, Terin brought up security, asking who was handling their personal protection?  Despite being the ship's security officer, Rol tried to get a laugh by thanking Terin for volunteering.  But that led to discussion of who should be watching out for them, until it was agreed Rol was their "Security officer" while Zimzod was their off-ship "ground Commander".  Beyond that, no one made decisions about what anyone should do to make them more secure.

Getting ready to move, there was little to dig out of the wreckage because the gravCar had only damaged public spaces in the suite.  No one had belongings in the spaces, so they started gathering their stuff and getting ready to move to the new suite.  Staff from the building soon arrived, both with carts to move belongings and begin assessing the repairs needed and plan to stabilize the damaged wall until repairs could begin.  It was obvious they'd need a gravPlatform with a construction enclosure to seal the crashed-in wall from the outside.

While this all happened, further investigations were being carried out by the police, who had taken "all the weapons involved" into custody.  This included the weapon dropped by the accused assassin and the snub pistol Munarshu had dropped when he collapsed.  Because of where the evidence was, that also didn't interfere with the investigation and also got the four out of the hair of the police.  So, thirty minutes later, they had been moved and Mikah, Zimzod, Rol and Terin had been settled.  Fesic and Munarshu's gear were in cartons on the beds in the rooms they'd occupy once they came back from the hospital.  But, this suite had an individual room for each of them.

After they'd moved and settled in, Mikah called Duke Vilis' offices to apologize for missing their meeting.  But, once she was on line with a seneschalate official and started to explain why she was calling, Mikah was told the Duke's offices had been made aware of the situation.  Accepting that, Mikah was told the Duke could meet them later in the afternoon, once they'd dealt with their injured, the investigators and the issue had settled down.  Mikah agreed to call back in as soon as she had additional information, but was told they felt everything would settle down by 2pm.  That said, they suggested setting a new meeting for 2:30pm.

After that call, Mikah called the offices of the Duchy Seneschalate to discuss the assassination attempt.  Once on the line with a deputy, Mikah asked if they had any intelligence or other data on the situation, and was reminded the investigation had only just started.  What little information they had from law enforcement said the gravCar was a rental, bought with a direct funds transfer from an ident chip.  Investigators were tracing the chip ID, which they believe may have been faked or spoofed.  As for the prisoner, he was still out cold at last report.  Thanking the deputy, Mikah said she was going to check with the hospital on their wounded.

Dealing With The Wounded

     As they moved Fesic to medical care, he enjoyed the ride thanks to the drugs they'd hit him with.  When they arrived, the doctors and staff moved him through a number of spaces and ran a variety of tests as time burned some of the drug's effects off.  Finally, they put an inflatable leg splint on his left leg and pushed his gurney into a treatment alcove where he was made comfortable and left to relax.  Thanks to the drug, Fesic really hadn't understood the conversation around him nor cared to, and once in the alcove, Fesic fixated on the scenes on the vid-screen there and relaxed. 

Munarshu had been moved into an enclosed treatment room because he had an open wound.  There, they checked his blood-chem to figure the level of anesthesia in his system before carefully cleaning the wound and examining it.  With the initial data from the paramedics, they knew the round had spent its force against the victim's sternum after violating two layers of body armor.  That seemed to have been one of the two deciding factors in the patient's survival.  The other was blind luck.  It was those very slim odds which had the round strike bone instead of passing through soft tissue.

The main concern of the medical team was that fragments of the round might have been deflected by the bone after it struck.  That, or fragments created as the round passed through the armor had taken a different trajectory.  Either way, they had to confirm there were no missed injuries because the primary wound had been so very obvious.  Carrying out more complete and in-depth scans, the team confirmed that Munarshu's wounds were no more serious than the dermal and sub-dermal damage of the primary wound, including the osteo-damage to the sternum.  The recent healed rib cracks Munarshu had suffered on the Kugar Akemudir were re-aggravated and also had to be treated.

That determined, the team began healing the muscular and sub-dural damage to the best they could.  This included placing pools of stem cells into the wound as well as injecting the rib damage sites.  Then, they began laying layers of growth enhancer and synth-skin over the wound.  They then applied a bio-enriching sealant which would degrade into nutrients as the need to protect the wound reduced.  After that, Munarshu's case was reduced to one requiring regular observation until he could be released to his home and personal doctor.

Done with the things she needed to do, Mikah called for a ride to the hospital to check on her people.  Cr 10 later, Mikah arrived and began her meetings with hospital administration.  They started with Munarshu, as the most seriously wounded, and admitted to surprise that he had not been more seriously injured.  The latest update said the team handling Munarshu had just moved him into a space in the emergency room for continued observation.  When Mikah asked, she was told they wanted to hold him overnight and release him the next day.  They also recommended she keep him on light duty for two weeks or so.  That included remaining reclined, to reduce the amount of stress on his thorax as he regularly changed posture.

Moving to Fesic's case, they explained to Mikah that the left leg was not broken, but his musculature suffered a shock which briefly shut down the lower leg muscles.  This was then exacerbated by an amount of nerve shock.  That had to resolve, and was expected to do so in a week to two weeks' time.  During that time, Fesic should undergo physical therapy and try to work the issue.  As Mikah considered that, she decided Fesic could use Zach's old gravChair and she could call and have the seneschalate's people get that from the ship for them.  In closing, Fesic's team wanted to keep him under observation until the anesthesia wore off and they could do some final tests before releasing him.  Another bit of good news was that the Duchy was covering all medical costs.

Up to date on the case, Mikah provided her credentials and said she wanted to move Fesic back to their suite sooner, so she could make the needed arrangements for his continuing care.  By that time, enough of the sedatives had worn off that Mikah could meet with Fesic and tell him of his condition.  When she was led to his bedside, Mikah leaned over Fesic very carefully, and with exaggerated care and slowness, told Fesic she was very sorry but they'd have to amputate his left leg!  As he was hit by that shock, all Fesic could do was sit in silence as his eyes teared up and water began to flow down his cheeks.  Seeing that, Mikah burst out in laughter and said it was ok, that they'd get him a nice replacement.  Finally, having had her fun, Mikah told Fesic the truth and his doctors gave him some ankle and foot movement exercises which would help wake up the lower leg muscles.

Munching And Media

     Back at the suite, thanks to a ride from the hospital motorpool, billed to the Duchy, the team talked about lunch.  Not willing to go out, just yet, with possible assassins about, and also not ready to trust the random local food delivery services, Mikah checked their options.  She was told, by their butler (who'd been moved with them) that they could use the building's in-house catering service.  Mikah figured that was safe and had them provide menus from which everyone ordered.  Mikah covered the Cr 50 each cost for that.

As they ate, and Fesic further recovered, he went through a wave of memories and panicked a bit about having to lose one of his legs.  Mikah talked him down, as they ate and then discussed physical therapy and his other continuing care needs.  Fesic was so happy he was not going to lose his leg he was good with the rest.  Especially as he'd been through PT for an earlier injury.  As Mikah also told him about the gravChair, Rol joked about what happened to the last guy who'd used the chair.  That opened the door to more jokes as the five spent their meal eating and laughing.

After lunch, Mikah and Zimzod had some time before they had to clean up again and head off to meet with Duke a'Plena at his offices in-system.  Mikah told the others which hospital Munarshu was in, if they cared to visit, but made it clear that was all they could leave the suite to do.  She also told them, they'd be visiting him in a bed in the ER, as he was being held there for observation.  Terin shrugged and turned on the news, to see what was happening.  To no one's surprise, the "crash" was all over the local news, but was being reported as nothing more than an accident.  All mention of any intent, targeting or firearms, were cleansed from what was being presented to the public.

No one was bothered by that because they knew what would happen to media coverage of the event and their presences in-system if the truth were told.  The local civilian and political systems would go into "insanity overdrive" if that came out.  Finally, the news cycle clicked over to regular local and system news before getting to the stories from the interstellar outlets.

    Regina (A788899-C A Ri Cp 703 Im F7V M6 V M8 D)                       Date: 097 - 1113
    Imperial and Zhodani diplomatic teams negotiating a new Demilitarized Zone
    between the two interstellar powers have released a statement regarding the
    underdeveloped Pequan system.  In a surprise move, a joint statement released
    stated the two powers had agreed the system would be best developed as a member
    of the newly declared Federation of Arden.  Comments from Federation diplomats
    were non-committal.  In a further surprise, reactions from the Pequan system
    government were outright hostile.  A statement by one of the lead diplomats
    from the system's delegation bitterly complained that neither his team nor
    his government had been made aware of the discussions regarding their future.

    Unattributed comments from Pequan's diplomatic team were very upset over the
    very high-handed airs assumed by both the Imperium and Zhodani Consulate
    over 'designating the fates of a world without even inviting them to
    the table.'

    There was no response to the diplomats of Pequan or other comment from the
    Imperial or Zhodani diplomatic teams.
                

    Mora (AA99AC7-F 2 Hi In Green 112 M5 V)                                 Date: 040 - 1113
    Announcements regarding the Pequan system were, today, colored by word
    from the Mora system regarding Imperial recognition of the Federation
    of Arden.  Officially recognized as a two-system state, the Federation
    had been quietly growing both during the war and with the end of
    hostilities.  Largely, such support involved the transfer of support to
    systems which had suffered through a battle fought by the main belligerents,
    but some actual military aid had also been shared between systems.

    With the signing of the treaty of Arden, Grand Duchess Delphine felt it
    appropriate to make official the recognition of Federation's borders in
    practice.  Over the protests of the Tukera family, the office of the Grand
    Duchess have accepted the existing business connection with Oberlindes
    Lines as fitting to carry the Imperial Seal.  The Seneschalate of the
    Spinward Marches have dispatched Lord Sir Arkinma Gishidu to
    preside over the presentation of honors.

    Dispatched within an Imperial Naval fleet element, Lord Gishidu will first
    stand for ceremony in the Regina system, before proceeding to the Arden
    system for final ceremonies.  The arrival of Lord Gishidu in the Regina
    system is expected to happen on the 120th day of the year, with the ceremony
    to be scheduled to follow, in the name of Emperor Strephon himself.

Map of the Recognized Federation of Arden(Annotated for recent agreements on Regina)

                  

    Glisten (A000986-F A Hi Na In As Cp 821 Im K9 V)             Date: 057 - 1113
    After causing a large amount of controversy by visiting the Rhylanor system
    in concert with Arch Duke Norris, Grand Duchess Delphine and Duke Leonard,
    Her Grace, Avaraja Astaarte Muktheswana has returned to the Glisten system.
    Grand ceremonies in-system are expected to greet the Duchess for the next
    three days.

    Ironically, these celebrations will include performances by the "Heavenly
    Voices Choir", from the Pavabid system.  Due to their delays in the
    Egypt system, the choir arrived in-system on the 53rd day of the year to
    take up their delayed concert schedule.  Regardless if Her Grace attends,
    security is expected to be very tight indeed.
                

    Regina (A788899-C A Ri Cp 703 Im F7V M6 V M8 D)                Date: 099 - 1113
    The office of the Arch Duke was presented word today, from the Zhodani
    Ambassador, that the High Council of Cronor have accepted Imperial
    administration of the Esalin system, and formally requested repatriation
    of all Zhodani citizens living in that system.  The official statement did
    require permission to meet with any Zhodani citizens who preferred to remain
    in-system, to assure there was no undue pressure in play forcing the
    decision.

    Of the 2 million population in-system before the war, 800,000 were
    living under Zhodani administration when the world was shared.  Reliable
    figures on the current population are not available as yet, though reports
    indicate the world was garrisoned but only saw light local fighting during
    the Zhodani conquest at the beginning of the Fifth Frontier War.  Fighting
    was slightly more intense as Imperial forces struck Zhodani military
    sites during the liberation.

    In addition to those actions, many of the population who had been part
    of the Zhodani administrative force were likely forcibly evacuated after
    the liberation, so those numbers are yet to be quantified.  A reinforced
    squadron of Imperial warships now garrison the world supporting two
    regiments of Imperial Army forces.

    TAS news has also been notified that the terms specified by the High
    Council of Cronor, who are the highest Zhodani authority in the Spinward
    Marches, have recognized Imperial administration of the Quar system.
    That system is one of the most fortified in the Spinward Marches, and had
    been the jumping off points for a number of combat missions which struck
    into Zhodani space during the Frontier Wars.
                

Proposed new Imperial Border in the Jewell and Cronor Subsectors

                  


    Jewell (A777999-C A Hi In Cap 623 Im G7 V)                   Date: 070 - 1113
    With official permission for the SuSAG effort to recruit mercenary forces,
    that work seems to have been kicked into high gear.  SuSAG has released word
    of multiple efforts to recruit a force composed of transports and experienced
    ground forces supported by at least one battle squadron and escort ships.

    Released statements support that corporate executives in the Jewell system hope
    to recruit at least two battleship-class warships.  With that amount of naval
    firepower, it is expected the Sword World personnel in-system will simply
    surrender or fade into the population.

    That is where the ground forces came in, acting as hunters and "sniffers"
    to locate and identify those hiding on-world.  SuSAG is known to be
    offering a premium to the first two major warships to join the effort as
    well as a "Unit Bonus" for the first complete capital squadron.  Readers
    will note a Capital Squadron is any combination of Battleships, Carriers
    and heavy or assault Cruisers along with their logistics components.

    Strategic advisors suggest lesser combat vessels would be expected to
    arrive on the outer-edge of the system and protect the troop carrier and
    logistic vessels of the fleet while the Bat-Ron and its heavy support
    arrive closer to the expected area of operations.  That action
    will, it is believed, minimize combat operations on the orbital plane.
    

    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)                 Date: 049 - 1113
    Following on previous announcements of Disenfiefment, the Office of the Arch
    Duke have added the following vacations to the list of established Fiefs in
    the Spinward Marches:
        Baron Ueshi Gudaiir, of the Pirema system - who had not been in
           the Spinward Marches for decades.

        Marquis Ishdadaak of the Gandr system, who had not been in
           the Spinward Marches for decades.

    In a surprise move, Sir Ekirgu Gammudek has been elevated as the new Marquis
         of the Gandr system, and orders have been sent to deliver the Patent of
         Elevation at the hands of an Imperial Navy Battle Squadron Commanding
         Admiral.  Backed up by his squadron.  While no one expected resistance to
         the change of power, the Arch Duke is eager to assure that the new Marquis
         was immediately invested with his full authority.

    A further announcement confirmed the elevation of Lord Kagirii Maar Shaagmu
         as the First Baronet of the Sharrip system.  This action confirms the
         selection of Duke Luis, of the Lunion system and was a surprise to few
         even then.
           

    Regina (A788899-C A Ri Cp 703 Im F7 V M6 V M8 D)            Date: 095 - 1113
    It was announced, today in Atora city, that the schedule has been published
    for the Sector League Grav Ball Cup competition.  This adds additional
    excitement to the final six weeks of Regina's global Grav ball League as
    foes of the team try to take down the lead of the Regina Rottweilers.

    Representatives of the Rottweilers have said they look forward to booking
    the team's passage to the systems hosting the various competitions in the
    competition for the sector wide cup.  Indeed, there was nothing but hubris
    on display as the team owners said they looked forward to winning it all
    in honor of the elevation of Duke Norris to the Arch Ducal rank.  A
    boast which can result in significant back-blast should the team not perform
    up to the brags.
                

    Lanth (A879533-B A Ni Cp 710 lm F5 IV M9 D)                 Date: 075 - 1113
  GravRacer  All eyes are on Artieriana Carlotez as he prepares to
    compete in the opening competitions of the year's Imperial
    Grav Bike Federation events.  With the schedule having
    been published months back, the winner of the 1112
    Imperial Grav Bike Federation Competition's Marches
    Cup will face racing in the tainted atmosphere of the Lanth system.

    Fans will recall Carlotez had significant issues in last year's Lanth
    race and barely pulled out the win.  A performance improvement in this
    year's race, which will be held on a new course, would indicate if the
    rider could be on track to achieve a never-before done back to back win.

    Members of Carlotez team have only stated their rider is in training and
    has not let up on that schedule as he planned his attack of this year's
    competitions.  Experts and commenters would beg to differ with that, given
    the many vid-segments capturing the 1112 winner celebrating with a wide
    variety of fans on a number of worlds.  Those, in addition into his
    travels to support the many endorsement deals Carlotez has signed.
    Analysts are certainly looking forward to seeing the rider perform in
    the coming weeks as the first tests of the 1113 season begin.
        


      FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH
    Emape (B564500-B N Ag Ni A 503 Im M0 V)                 Date: 022 - 1113
    In a news alert from the Emape naval command, a subdivision of the
    Imperial 208th Fleet, it was announced today that the INS Akhaduk-Iagga,
    a 75,000 dTon Atlantic Class Cruiser, was damaged today during training
    exercises.  The ship was reportedly involved in an accident with a small
    craft during operations described as "shift and strike" exercises.  While
    the size of the small craft, a 90 dTon transport shuttle, was barely able
    to inflict noticeable damage to the ship as a whole, near-hull compartments
    in the impacted section of the ship are said to have been be heavily damaged.

    Heroic efforts were recorded in rescuing crew trapped in compartments cut
    off by the impact and losing atmo.  This was topped off by the heart-rending
    tragedy of Able Spacehand Shurgiu Khurlau, a gunner trapped in her turret.
    Sadly, after being injured and pinned in her turret after the initial accident,
    those trying to rescue her could not reach her just by cutting
    her out of the turret.  After a many-hours effort to reach her from the
    pressurized side of the hull, the team got into the turret only moments
    after she had died of blood loss and the resulting massive bodily
    system failures.
          

    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)       Date: 050 - 1113
    Arch Duke Norris' office have announced that land has been set aside
    to reward Aslan marines who served the Imperium with distinction while
    fighting in an all-Aslan division.  Scions of the Aiiyhui Clan, a minor
    Aslan clan, the former marines were active in a number of major ground
    and space-based battles against the Zhodani.  Dentus is a border
    world between the Third Imperium and Vargr Extents, from which trade
    and military operations can be conducted.  The Dentus system is rather
    unremarkable.  There are two planets, two moons and two asteroid belts
    with no gas giants.

    According to the land grants, a number of the Aslan have been elevated
    as Knights of the Imperium as well.
                

    Motmos (B68468B-5 N Ag Ni Ri 710 Cs M2 V M2 D)       Date: 020 - 1113
    A communique from Fleet Admiral Aisha Laanshaa, commanding elements of
    the 100th fleet based in the Motmos system, raised concerns as she
    described the arrival of an Aslan Ihatei fleet in that system.  Motmos
    is an Imperial Client state at the riftward edge of the District 268
    subsector, and is considered strategically key as it is only one parsec
    away from the Trexalon system.  Motmos is also the headquarters of the
    three system "Agworld Combine", a breadbasket of food-producing systems
    in the subsector.  The Admiral reported that the Aslan fleet had
    originated from space controlled by the Aorlakht, a minor Aslan clan.

    The term "Ihatei" applies to Aslan males from families which hold
    land, but who cannot hope to inherit that land.  Since such males often
    choose a military career as a path to glory and land grants, "Ihatei"
    is also used idiomatically to refer to a clan's troops.  This fleet,
    per the Admiral's report, represents the sons of a minor clan who are
    exploring coreward in search of new lands, offering defensive
    troops for land.

    While the Admiral's authority did not extend to blocking the Aslan
    fleet's further coreward travel, she did raise an alarm and request
    signals be extended to all border systems with Imperial interests.
    Historically, a Loakhtarl Clan Ihatei Colonial fleet had arrived in
    the Glisten system in 1084, seeking supplies and navigational charts
    for the region spinward of the Marches.  Leading the fleet was Akoaft,
    who was the second son of the clan's Ko, and had been hoping to find
    work as mercenaries before the end of the Forth Frontier War.  Still,
    the Ihatei fleet is recognized as a primary method of expansion for
    the Aslan Hierate.
                

As the news droned on, Mikah and Zimzod began cleaning up and preparing again to meet with Duke a'Plena.  While they did that, Fesic contacted the Seneschalate and asked if his snub pistol and gun belt could be brought back from the ship for him, as an honor weapon and precaution.  Eventually, Mikah and Zimzod left for their meeting.  The ride cost them Cr 10, and they arrived at an administrative building which was owned by the Duchy.  While much of the building's office space was in regular use, there was always extra space which could be given to visiting officials to use for office space.  In this case, a section of the available space had been given over to create an Office of the Seneschalate for Duke a'Plena.

Meeting With The Duke

     Led into what seemed like a repurposed dayroom, Mikah and Zimzod saw the meeting space had been stocked with some snack drinks and foods as well as other comforts.  They waited for a short time before the Duke arrived and greeted them.  Saying he was glad they were OK, he then asked about their wounded?  Mikah told the Duke both the men would be fine, saying one had a leg injury and the other was shot in the chest but suffered no major damage.  At first, the Duke had a look of shock on his face, but recovered quickly, asking "He was shot in the chest but is hard-headed, so he'll live?"  That got a laugh from the knights as they sat and relaxed.

Once they were seated, they Duke asked, "So, tell me about this new crew of yours?" because he'd only met those aboard Sir Grift's Spinward Star.  As they started to answer, the two realized the Duke had only met people like Ms. Vik, Aiden and Ryddoth during the meetings after they'd been brought to Regina aboard the INS Tamesha Kargaa.  So, "This" crew was actually the second one in the space of a year.  Mikah started with the obvious as she asked, "You know Sir Brian was killed?" and the Duke nodded as he said he did know.  Mikah continued, "The rest of the crew starts with Sir Kaihvos.  And, I'm sure you've heard of the charges against him."  Again, the Duke nodded and said he was aware of the situation.

Shrugging, Mikah said, "He's a piece of work.  But he's our cook", largely leaving out that he was the ship's security officer too, because of his uninspiring performance so far.  When she was at a loss for what else she could say about Rol, the Duke prompted, "And what about the rest of the crew?"  Zimzod jumped in and joked, "Mindless zombies" with a smile on his face and got laughs as Mikah reclaimed the descriptions.  Mikah pointed out that Aali was very sharp and a very skilled engineer.  Continuing, Mikah said, "Admiral Emkir, who's another piece of work.."  At that point, Bondal surprised Mikah and Zimzod by saying he'd seen Emkir in action as a more junior officer!

When Mikah started to say, "Well, then you know how he acts", Bondal said it was only briefly, during the war.  It turned out Emkir had been one of the various Scout officers who, at various points, reported to the Duke's Strategic council.  That meant the Duke had seen Emkir in an official role, as he made reports.  That, and his testimony the previous year over events in the Rech system.  So, Bondal said he'd not really "Met the man" to understand him personally.  With that, Mikah decided to tell Bondal about the 'Cult of Emkir' in the Inthe system.  Bondal did say that acts like that can be helpful at times, and it appeared what Emkir had done in Inthe did help resolve the situation, which Mikah had to admit.

Having been reminded Bondal had been part of the panel judging the crew on their return to Regina at the end of the Quasar Viper affair, Mikah felt it necessary to tell him a bit about Zach.  In that, she included the crew's adventures in Jae Tellona and highlighted the amazing flying tent episode, getting the laughs she expected.  From there, Mikah moved on to the new crew while concentrating on what she felt were their most colorful traits.  Zimzod jumped in when it came to Munarshu, explaining about the man's interests in vents and inflatable sex dolls.  And when it came to those who had died, Mikah mentioned that Zach was actually still on the ship.

Nodding, Duke Bondal agreed Mikah and Zimzod had an interesting crew, accepting it was not always on the good side of interesting.  Beyond that, he was curious what the crew had planned once they dealt with the issues that had brought them to Regina?  Mikah was caught up by that and answered, "Well.  To be honest, we haven't really made any plans.  We have to wait here for Aiden to meet us."  Mikah had told the Duke about how Aiden had died in the Equus system and was being cloned.  Mikah continued, "We haven't thought past waiting for that."  When Bondal asked if they had no plans at all beyond that, Mikah admitted, "Well, we do have to visit two systems.  First, to return Zach to his homeworld.  Then, to try and find Sir Brian's family."

When Bondal asked where Brian's family might be, they said Rol had possibly tracked them to the Wypoc system.  Duke Bondal said Wypoc was only two parsecs away from Regina, and offered the resources his people could provide to help look for Brian's parents.  Mikah happily said, "That would be great!"  Then, Mikah explained the second system they needed to visit was the Gothe system, in the Five Sisters subsector.  When she said that, the Duke pointed out there were two obvious ways they could travel to go there, and asked which one they planned on taking?

This was familiar ground for Mikah and Zimzod as the crew had discussed this as well as the various issues with each direction.  Still, Mikah admitted they were not sure which way they would travel.  For obvious reasons, Mikah pointed out they were "not real popular" with the sword worlders as she alluded to the destroyer they'd killed in the Rhylanor system.  But the Duke laughed and pointed out that any Imperial nobility were not really very popular in a number of Sword Worlds systems at the moment.  When Mikah made it clear she was referring to the destroyer, Bondal waved that away and reminded them both he'd hired them to invade a Sword Worlds military base to rescue a team of diplomats not to mention his sons.

Still, once the "pile" of charges they could face in some of the Sword Worlds systems was laid out, the Duke waved the list away.  Bondal pointed out that the Sword Worlds were a confederation for a reason.  Mostly, they were independent worlds who cooperated when it was beneficial to do so.  And, as much as they'd fought wars with the Imperium, they had also historically fought wars among themselves even more so.  And a number of former Sword Worlds systems had left the fold.  Even Vilis had first been settled as "Svavasorm" from the Gungnir system, which was named "Morglay" at the time.  Vilis and Garda-Vilis had only become Imperial member states in 552 TI, and that was nearly 150 years after Vilis took over support of Garda-Vilis, then known as "Tanoose".

Both Mikah and Zimzod had heard of the "Tanoose Freedom League", which was a low-level terror organization in the Garda-Vilis system seeking to gain home rule for the system and rename it "Tanoose" again.  Still, Bondal continued to say the systems which had made up the Confederation were more independent than not, and citizens of one system were not likely to take up the causes of a neighboring system.  Especially when they were talking about von Kreden's fleet, which few even supported in the Gungnir system.  So, they only needed to avoid systems like Gungnir and Hrunting to be relatively safe.

After making that point, Bondal leaned forward in an almost conspiratorial way and said, "Not all the Border Worlds systems left the Sword Worlds Confederation because the Imperium ordered it."  When Mikah leaned back and said, "OK", as her tone and expression begged more details?  Bondal told them, "There are systems which took advantage of the chance to secede from the Sword Worlds and join something else because the option they were looking for became available.  At the same time, Bondal recommended they not consider travelling directly spinward, into the cluster of systems which were rapidly forming the "Federation of Arden".  But that was just because, in his opinion, no one really knew what they were planning to do?

As they considered that, Bondal made them an offer, saying, "Should you travel through the Vilis subsector on your way.  You can visit my court in the Frenzie system."  That pleased Mikah and Zimzod.  Especially because the system was a major naval base where they wouldn't have to worry about security.  Smiling, Mikah happily said, "I think we'll do that." and got a smile from Bondal too.  Changing topics, Mikah asked, "Your Grace, what do you know about the rumors we plotted to depose Duke Norris?"  Unfortunately, Duke Bondal had arrived in-system almost as recently as they had, and had only just begun hearing them and trying to track and understand them, and said so.

The Duke told them he had a team working on running the rumors down and admitted he did not have more to say on it yet.  He did say his teams investigating the rumors knew the stories were not only out there but were still being fueled.  That meant there were active forces keeping the stories out there and in the media.  Still, his people had not tracked down any active sources as yet.  Bondal did offer to connect them up if they wanted to work with his people?  Mikah didn't have to think as she said, "Absolutely!"  she could tell from his expression that was what he expected.  Sadly, they all knew why the Seneschalate could not just come out and publicly say why the rumors were false.

From there, Mikah asked if Bondal was going to be involved in judging the issues Rol was facing, since he'd been one of their judges when they'd arrived a year before?  The Duke said he would not be involved in that and told them that would be in the hands of Countess Josephine, who he was meeting next.  That disappointed Mikah, but made sense.  The Duke was responsible for elevating her, Zimzod and Brian, and had arrived in-system shortly after they had.  So, it made sense he'd preside over their actions.  In this case, Rol's actions did not reflect on his decisions.  That meant it would be handled by the highest Imperial and Military judges in-system.

That said, Bondal asked if they'd met Josephine, and Mikah said they had, if only briefly.  Then, the Duke asked what impression Mikah thought they'd left her with?  Mikah admitted she felt they were respectful but she felt Josephine had already formed an opinion of them.  Mikah continued, "We were respectful, we answered her questions, we told her we'd do our best to do anything in the name of the Arch Duke and the Imperium.  And she seemed like she's had a very tough time. But, again.  She seems to have formed an opinion of us before she even met us.  When he asked if she felt Josephine's opinion was positive or negative, Mikah said she felt it was negative in a disappointed tone.

Bondal shrugged and said, "Well, do your best to make sure your actions appear positive.  Until the Duchess Delegate arrives, Josephine's word is law."  Mikah nodded and admitted they'd met Duchess Designate Seldrian already as she nodded.  Nodding back to her, Duke Bondal a'Plena said he'd have his people contact them about running down the rumors.  With that done, the Duke left and Mikah considered it was still mid-afternoon as she and Zimzod considered what to do next?  Aware of the pitfalls that could open like traps before them, Mikah suggested they get a ride to the hospital to check on Munarshu before returning to the suite.

Turning Some Tables

     Cr 10 got them back to the hospital, where Mikah showed her credentials as both a Doctor and Sir Munarshu's Captain.  That got her and Zimzod access to where he lay, out cold but under constant monitoring.  They had kept Munarshu in a treatment alcove in the emergency care area because he'd be most attentively cared for there while they observed him over night.  Mikah gave him a checkup herself, just to be satisfied, before they moved on.  Then, after Cr 10 more, they rode back to the suite.  The first thing Zimzod and Mikah noticed was that the space now had rooms for everyone.  That included Munarshu, after he was returned to them by the hospital.

While there was not any obvious boost in security, they did see a number of people who looked like Estate management types wandering around and "being aware" of things in the space.  To Mikah and Zimzod, they appeared to be pencil-necked 'Future corpses' more than any advance in security.  After Mikah and Zimzod had left to meet the Duke, Terin, Rol and Fesic had worked together to get their own gear and the suite's common spaces set up.  They also had the help of their butler and the building staff.  Especially Fesic, who needed to stay off his feet.  Once his room was set up, though, Fesic sat in the suite's living room and watched vids while working at the ankle exercises he was told to do.

Terin had also called the Seneschalate to get the rest of his gear from the ship because it was obvious they'd be staying in-system a while.  When he called them, Terin was told he could have most of his gear, but they preferred he not receive his purely military equipment and stick with just the one honor weapon he'd gotten already.  When Terin asked for his gauss rifle, they reminded him they did not want purely military equipment brought into the situation.  Terin pointed out they'd already had an assassination attempt made and was reminded a long weapon like a gauss rifle was a nasty negative in someplace like the inside of an apartment.  Recognizing the gauss rifle would only be of real value outside, Terin backed off.

Still, Terin was told he could go with the team to the ship to point out what he wanted brought out.  So Terin did that.  As he accepted that offer, Terin asked Rol if he wanted to go with, and Rol said he did.  Hearing this, Fesic joked, "Have them bring my breaching charge, will you?"  Terin answered that, saying he'd plant it on the bottom of Fesic's hoverChair.  Once they'd gone to the ship, Terin stopped to ask Rol if they should have the carriers move gear for everyone, or if that would be over stepping their bounds?  Terin admitted they didn't know what gear the others wanted?  When Rol said everyone would get their own stuff, Terin accepted that but made sure they got Fesic his snub pistol.

After returning to the suite, and delivering Fesic's snub pistol and gunbelt, they set about settling their gear.  When Mikah and Zimzod got back, they saw some of the team had made themselves at home.  Turning to Rol, she jokingly asked, "So, what do you want us to do with your gear once you're dead?"  He smiled back and said, "Just save it for my clone."  That brought up the possible futures he faced and no one was sure what the law said if he was cloned after being executed for war crimes?  furthering the joke, Rol suggested, "If they only pass one death sentence, then that's taken care of.  It's only if they pass multiple death sentences that things remain."  When he was reminded his clone would come back with a younger body and no scars, Munarshu said, "Chicks dig scars."  Mikah just turned and sneered at him, "Don't worry.  I'll make sure you have scars."

As they laughed at that, Mikah told them all, "As soon as Aiden gets back here, I'm gonna shoot him in the ass", so he'd again have the scar he loved to whine about.  After they laughed some more, everyone settled down to get things done.  Fesic decided he wanted to do some shopping and logged into the port's shopping web to look for some toys.  Mostly, Fesic wanted a good hand computer, but he also wanted some smaller items too.  Fesic quickly found a venue where he could order five stick-strips, two multi-function knives, three carabiners and an inexpensive comms unit.  The last, to wear whenever he went out drinking so he didn't get his expensive unit stolen.

Fesic first went looking for the highest-end hand computer he could get in Atora city.  When he got a line on a unit with a mini-holo-crystal projector, multi-media input port and multi-channel user configurable hardware and wireless connectivity(range-continental), he knew he was on to something.  Fesic was also pleased to see it was a Naasirka unit, no matter what fears the company name had raised when they were dealing with the androids they'd run into.  He checked the unit out online and made certain he could get it delivered to the ship before Fesic spent the KCr 10 to buy it.  After that, he spent Cr 16 for the knives, stick-strips and carabiners.  Finally, Fesic found a single-channel, moderate-ranged comms unit he wouldn't mind seeing destroyed in a bar fight.  While Fesic shopped, Terin and Zimzod settled in to do some stent-work.

Rol also went shopping, searching for a comm-dots set of his own after the classes Aali had led on the freighter.  As he and Fesic shopped, and while the others did stent-work, Mikah first watched a news cycle.  After that, she accessed the local Library Data computer system and looked for the most recent medical journals on the system.  This included more-recent on-world publications and older issues of off-world journals.  She then selected one to read.  As she did that, Rol saw Terin and Zimzod working at their stents and said he was shopping for a set of his own comm dots.  That got Zimzod's attention as Rol worked at his search.  Not sure what a fair cost for the devices was, Rol eventually searched based on what he remembered of how they worked on the freighter.

Rol found a TL-C set for Cr 4,000, and Zimzod also decided to buy a set for himself.  As Zimzod started shopping and Rol filled out his order to be delivered, Mikah's comms began to buzz.  When she went to answer it, Fesic decided to get some laughs and played "pathetic" as he asked her, "Can you get me some juice?" in his best 'helpless voice'.  Mikah looked where he sat in the hoverChair and said, "Yeah, I'll get you some juice" in a tone which suggested she had a weapon that would fire it with deadly force.  After that, she answered her comms and the caller introduced himself as Sir Anthony Gremm.  Mikah accepted that, and Sir Anthony continued, saying he was a personal attaché to Duke Vilis.

As Mikah warmed to him, now knowing he was an ally, Sir Anthony said he was handling the rumor research for the Duke, and been told they wanted to help his team work the research.  Happy to get the call, Mikah said they were interested and asked if she could add Zimzod and Fesic into the call?  Sir Anthony had no problem with that so Mikah looked up from her comms, at Fesic, and said, "Since you're laid up, I have a job for you."  When Fesic asked, "What job", Mikah got him on the call.  Mikah also added Zimzod in, and Sir Anthony started to explain what they'd been doing since they arrived in-system.  which had not been much before the Hotel California arrived.

Sir Anthony said his team first asked for the authority, under the office of the Arch Duke, to use the Arch Duke's authority to demand internal data from the network sites which appeared to be used by those spreading the rumors?  This also included answers to questions of who owned the accounts being used and where any payments came from which covered any costs?  The biggest problem with doing that was figuring out who was actually spreading the rumor, rather than just talking about what a rumor-spreader had said or posted?  And Sir Anthony admitted they were still just getting started at that work.

Sir Anthony explained they had two teams.  One was going after the actual data on who owned what accounts and what financial exchanges had been made by what banks from what accounts?  Sir Anthony quickly admitted they were just starting to gather the huge volume of names and check them to see if each poster was adding something new, spreading something old or just repeating what someone else said.  The key was to see if they could find posters who were either keeping the flame going, spreading it or even adding fuel to the fire intentionally?  When he asked how they'd like to help, Fesic said he'd help dig into the many posts and look for names to investigate.

Mikah said Fesic would work with them and she had another crew member named Munarshu who would also soon be available to help.  Since they'd both been injured and could not do their regular work, they could spend a lot of time helping this project.  Mikah explained that Munarshu would not be available until the next day but said she'd connect Sir Anthony up with him as soon as she could.  Anthony was pleased when Mikah told him the two men were laid up and she'd make them available to the effort for as much time as he needed.  Fesic gave Sir Anthony his contact data and Anthony told Fesic where to connect to find the data sets to use.

That network location had documents suggesting searches for names like "Mikah" and "Zimzod" or mention of then Duke Norris or now Arch Duke Norris.  Once hits were found, he was to dig back along the thread to see what started the conversation?  Then, he would be expected to dig back into the history of the involved users, to see if he could see where the thread first originated and who made the first accusations or suggested the first bit of rumored activity?  Fesic could easily see this could turn from a single hit to a mountain of data very quickly for each instance.  But out of all that data, he'd have to find the first person to spread the rumor.  And look for people stepping in and out of the conversation who might be serving to keep the thread growing?

Fesic was also educated on the tracking matrix they created, which identified hits by ID, relationship to other identifications, relationships with the specific rumors, the date of the comment or action, and tagged the location geographically as well as its location in social media.  Drill down links provided even more data on the hit and how it interacted with other investigated data.  Jumping in, Fesic started by drilling into some of the hits and then used that data to search out the locations where the comment or action was found, to get a better handle on how to go about attacking the raw data?  Fesic was told he'd be assigned a social media vector and dates to search within.  He would then have to create a user ID and dive "in".  That first step took well over an hour as Fesic started working.  Then, he would work from "new" to "old", looking for the roots of the rumors being spread.

They were told another, smaller, group was working the same angle, but had started on the other end.  They'd gone back to when Mikah, Zimzod and Brian had first arrived in the Regina system aboard the INS Tamesha Kargaa.  They were working their way forward, through all the news and the older rumors which had been raised about the team.  They Followed those forward looking for the gulf which ended the original rumors and then searched for new mentions of any members of the crew, their ship or their activities.  Mikah had to admit, she was not just pleased but impressed.

Zimzod wanted to know if they could link the prisoner from the gravCar attack to the project at all, and was told they could not.  Zimzod also asked if Sir Anthony could get him access to question the man and was told he could not.  When Zimzod asked if they could link the attacker to the rumors, Sir Anthony said he could, but did not think that was what the project was aimed for.  He told Zimzod the project was digging to find the roots of the rumors which may have inspired the attack, and may yet inspire more attacks if it was not stopped.  Sir Anthony said that any information the police could get from the man was their job, and might help this project dig deeper.  But, it was not something their resources would work on until the police gave them anything new from the man.

Gathering Resources

     Considering what additional resources she could bring in, Mikah decided to call Emkir and see when his "Meet the parents" thing might be ending?  When he answered the call, Emkir said, "Lady Mikah!  What a surprise!" doing his best to make it seem to Aali'sparents that this was likely a social call.  Keeping the "pump" going, Emkir said "We're having a great time out here in the city.  How are things going with you?"  Sarcastically, Mikah said, "Fantabulously!"  She then continued, "When is your little, uh. family meet n greet thing gonna be over with?"  Reacting to her question, Emkir said they planned to tour the whole city and go to dinner together.  Mikah interrupted him, saying, "Well, I don't mean 'right now'.  I mean, in the next...twenty years, is this gonna be over, or is it gonna go for another.."  Not sure what had Mikah upset, Emkir interrupted her saying, "Well, it's probably going to continue through the day and evening."

Saying that, he wondered if he could get away from the family for a bit and find out what was going on?  As he thought about that, Mikah pushed back saying, "Like I said, I don't care about today.  Is this going to be a week-long get together?  Is this going to be a two-week-long get together?"  Despite the fact Aali had not seen her parents in fourteen years and was introducing her new husband to her family, Mikah's tone was surprisingly critical and plaintive.  In the face of Mikah's unexplained annoyance, Emkir could only say he was not sure how things were going and how long Aali wanted to take with her family?  He did want to remind Mikah that Aali was the ship's chief engineer and one of those who got the least free time.

Finally, Mikah came out with what she should have led with and said, "Alright, well.  We are gonna need your help."  When she said that, Emkir asked what happened and Mikah said they needed help looking into the rumors.  When Mikah suggested they might not have heard and started to explain, Emkir told her he had heard from his new in-laws.  Still, he thought those kinds of rumors were always flying around and no one pays attention to them.  Mikah put that to rest, saying, "Well, we're helping Duke Vilis and his people track them down and see who's been perpetuating them?  So, we are eventually gonna need your help."  Realizing there might be more behind this than he knew, Emkir said, "OK.  We will talk about it after dinner", which Mikah took to mean Emkir would talk to Aali then.  Mikah said, "Ok.  Let me know."

After that, they cut the call and Mikah started considering the approach of dinner time, which was almost an hour away.  With two crew injured and assassins about, she figured they should plan food rather than just deciding what to do on the moment.  As she brought the subject up and they talked about it, Mikah learned from their butler that there were restaurants on the lower floors of the tower and said they should go to one of those.  When the subject of money came up, Mikah said she'd pay, which settled all questions except which place to go?  That was because there were more than one restaurant.  After logging on and looking over the menus, they all agreed on a place and went down to have dinner, which eventually cost Cr 40 per person.

As they ate, Fesic realized the drugs had finally worn off and he was feeling a bit of residual pain in his leg.  When he said the pain was returning, Mikah said she'd check it out as she had him extend his leg.  Once he had his leg in position, Mikah put her hands where she remembered, from the scans, the injury was and squeezed as hard as she could.  As she did, and he grunted in pain, Mikah asked, "Does that hurt?"  When Fesic grunted that it did, Mikah checked a second time to be sure.  Then, she said she was just making sure the injury didn't "travel" and reminded Fesic that his doctors said it would resolve over the next day but there would be some pain.  The others just laughed.  And Fesic had to admit, the pain was not so much he needed to take anything for it.

After they ate, Fesic returned to the social media project while Rol started looking into publishers on-world.  He was looking for a house which handled works that matched his manuscript.  He also looked for publishers with prestige and who provided their authors support services.  Lucky for him, there were many lists on-web that not only presented publishers by genre, but also discussed the pros and cons of many of them.  As he read, Rol saw he could use the same house that published Author Enli Iddukagan's "Lost Treasure Ships of the Abyss Rift".  Seeing what he was doing, Mikah laughed after asking Rol, "So, why don't you call up Sir Jeremy and ask him who he used?"

That reminded Rol that he'd been told Sir Jeremy had wanted to meet with him when they arrived in-system.  Rol again set that to the side as he collected names and contact data for publishers.  Once he was done with that, Rol relaxed and watched the news.  After dinner, Mikah joined Fesic as he worked on the social media work.  Terin shifted from his stent-studies to his computer studies.  After having worked on his stent in the afternoon, Zimzod remembered that Rol had bought a set of comm-dots and went shopping to buy a set for himself.  When Zimzod started his search, Rol offered advice on his search and Zimzod ordered a set from the same venue for Cr 4,000.  After that, Zimzod joined in with Mikah and Fesic.

Through the evening, the three found name after name of people talking about the rumors.  Every so often, they did find user ID's of people who appeared to enter or return to the conversation each time there seemed to be a lull and say something that sparked it back up again.  Each time they found one, they copied the evidence to a file and connected that to the grid, filling in the other required information.  Throughout the evening, Fesic also worked his leg, because he could do that while sitting.  Eventually, everyone in the suite drifted off to sleep.


Increasing Tensions Out On The Town

     After having a nice lunch, Aali and Emkir had continued their tour of Atora and Credo cities with Aali's parents and brother.  But after another hour of exploration, Emkir had begun to notice that Aali's father appeared to be distancing himself from him.  It wasn't the big things that Emkir noticed, but the trend of giving him terse answers to questions or speaking to Aali instead of to Emkir himself.  Confused, Emkir decided not to push it as he dug in deeper to see if he was imagining things or not?  Emkir also did his best to be an open book for the family, hoping to earn their trust by showing his honest interest in Aali.  All the while, he looked for signs he was right and reasons why her father would be doing be pulling away?  By mid-afternoon, Emkir was sure he was right, but had no idea what was wrong?  Aali had also become aware "something" was up, but less aware of it than Emkir.

Finally, about two thirty, Emkir got a call and checked the id to see it was Lady Mikah.  Knowing Mikah knew things were up with the family and she would not be calling if it were not important, Emkir answered the call and did his best to make it seem like a social call.  But Mikah seemed put out and, in a rather petulant tone, asked Emkir how long getting to know the family might take?  In the end, Emkir told Mikah he'd talk to Aali and they'd decide and call her back when he could.  After that, as they wandered Marquis Park and her parents took pictures, Aali and Emkir got a chance to talk quietly on their own.

The two compared notes and Aali realized Emkir had sensed a great deal more than she had.  After hearing what Emkir felt was happening, Aali agreed and said she'd look for ways to find out more as well.  But as the afternoon continued, Aali made no headway.  Finally, Aali said she had to hit the powder room and asked her mom if she needed to go to?  Once she and her mother were in the restroom, Aali asked her mother directly what was going on with her father?  At first, her mother said she wasn't sure what was going on, but after Aali gave her some examples she had noticed, her mother said she thought it might be all the stories Emkir was telling them.

When Aali asked what she meant, her mother explained.  She told Aali there had been so many news stories about her crew and their adventures.  But, as they spent time together with Emkir telling stories of their travels, Emkir would often tell them the truth, or "what the media could not say" or "did not know."  The more he talked, the more it seemed he and Aali were secret agents.  And worse, it seemed the Admiral had no problems telling them all the "secrets" behind what had been publicly said in very public settings.  Aali's mother said she wasn't sure if that was how her father felt but that was what she had been feeling.  Accepting that, Aali asked her mom about her sister and why she had been openly hostile?  Her mother could only say that she'd asked and been told it was classified, so it had to be a military thing.

As the ladies returned to the men, it was clear to Aali this also bothered her mother.  The Military of Regina were not seen as officers who would raise charges incorrectly.  But Aali also didn't know if it came from the military or if that was an excuse used by her sister?  As the ladies had stepped away, Emkir quickly found himself alone as Aali's father went to check his datafeed.  As Emkir reviewed his own thoughts on the day,and tried to put himself into Aali's father's place.  But try as he might, Emkir couldn't really do that.  As the child of a celebrity, he'd always had to be careful with the lower classes and spent most of his time manipulating those who could be a threat.  Being honest with himself, he had to wonder if a bit of what was happening could be because he was trying to manipulate Aali's father into liking him?  It was some time before Aali and Emkir could compare notes after the "bathroom break".

Before that, Emkir did his best, as he could see it, to moderate his own behavior and attitudes and see if that helped at all?  When Aali and Emkir could finally talk, it seemed the issue was a mix of Emkir's "out there and loud" public persona mixed with his habit of telling "the inside dirt" where he knew it.  Where Emkir thought that was a sign of trust, Aali's mother had said it was creating two lives where one could be seen as a 'life of lies'.  Added to that, Aali could confirm Emkir tried to "handle" reactions, and was perhaps trying to manipulate her father.  That said, Emkir tried to get a handle on the issues while Aali tried to help manage the situation as they finished their afternoon, had dinner together and spend the evening at a show.  Once they were back in the suite, they were both tired and suggested waking early enough to talk in the morning before making any decisions.


A Brief Awareness

     At 4am, Munarshu woke to his first conscious awareness since collapsing after having been shot.  The sounds of machines and movement, accented with electronic chirps and beeps, wasn't familiar.  Opening his eyes didn't help much, because light in the space he was in was muted.  What he did notice, and what had woken him, was a person who had moved his left arm and was even then wrapping something around his upper left arm.  As his mind caught up with his situation, Munarshu realized this was a nurse, who appeared to be checking his vital signs.

He watched as the nurse took a blood sample and went through the steps needed to fill out Munarshu's chart before leaving.  More awake for the moment, Munarshu could see he was in an alcove in some kind of treatment room setting in a medical facility.  He could also feel a tightness in his chest as his memory failed to explain exactly what had happened before the lights went out?  But he knew it had been something bad if he was in a hospital.  It was also bad his senses were fuzzy enough he could not focus on the nurse enough to determine "what" he or she was...  Finally, Munarshu gave up trying to find answers that just weren't coming and drifted back off to sleep.


Sharing Updates

     Much too early in the morning, Fesic woke due to very weird sensations from his leg.  In fact, when he explored it further, he realized it was numb!  As he lay there, Fesic explored his leg and the feelings he was getting until he decided he must have slept on it badly.  With that decided, he tried to get back to sleep but soon enough saw he couldn't.  So, Fesic got up and went about the parts of his daily routine he could before getting himself settled into the gravChair and heading out into the suite.

At 7am, Terin woke and went into his morning routine.  Finishing that, Terin went out into the suite to find Fesic had woken earlier and was watching the news and digging into the local stories.  The "accident" was causing its own buzz, as automatic systems in all gravCars on-world were supposed to make collisions with buildings impossible.  Early reactions from officials discussed researching the flight path of that car and all automated transport routes.  Experts cautioned that much would be based on the data in the wrecked gravCar's computer.  This would tell them if the car's system had been tampered with or what else might have happened?  But while the very public investigations were being launched to deal with public fears, Fesic knew the driver would likely never see the light of day again.

When Terin appeared, Fesic tried to play forward the joke from the day before and asked Terin to get him some juice in the most pathetic voice he could.  Shrugging and checking the suite's food storage, Terin saw there was no juice of any kind there.  After considering buzzing for the suite's butler, Terin decided 'the hell with it' and got Fesic a glass of water instead.  As he handed it to Fesic, Terin asked, "You want me to pee into it to give it some extra color?"  Sitting down in the living room, Terin decided to spark up an air combat video game and relax.  Seeing Terin do that, Fesic grabbed a remote and made it a multi-player Air to Air combat competition.  The computer's holographic generator created two aircraft in a patch of sky in which they fought and dodged "toss-in" hazard aircraft.

Comedically, when their butler arrived, Fesic was in the process of making a turn and his aircraft literally flew through the man's head.  Seeing the butler, Fesic sparked up and happily said, "Oh!  I'd like some juice please?" and the butler called the in-building services to have juice delivered.  What would not be comedic was when Fesic saw the Cr 10 bill from the "room service" kitchen for the glass of juice, which seemed to combine the flavors of a number of fruits.  Eventually, as they played, Rol woke and began his morning routine.  When Rol arrived to see the pair playing an air to air engagement, Fesic turned his aircraft toward Rol and started moving to buzz his head.

Of course, this made him an easy target to trail and fire on, so it was some time before Fesic was able to move the projected area of sky to where Rol moved in order to actually play gnat.  And Terin was nowhere near above taking advantage of the easy targets.  Seeing what Fesic was up to, Rol just walked over to the gunner and took the controller from him as Fesic whined, "You're mean!"  As that happened, the holographic aircraft Fesic was no longer controlling suddenly dove to the floor and simulated a crash with a holographic explosion.  Getting laughs, Terin said, "I'll call that a hit!" as he mentally added to his score.

Looking up at Rol, Terin said, "We were just wasting time until everyone woke up and we could order breakfast together."  In a tone which said he was completely unimpressed, Rol answered him, "Yes, you were." as if confirming they were just wasting time.  Trying to throw a barb back, Terin asked, "Speaking of wasting time, how's your book coming along?" and Fesic made sure they all knew Terin scored by calling out, "OH!!!!!" in a tone that said he'd been 'entertained' by the crack.  After a brief silence, Rol asked Terin, "Are you asking to see it?" and Terin said, "Yeah, I'd actually like to read it." in a tone of genuine interest.  When Rol suggested it might take Terin a bit to get used to his writing, Terin joked, "Now, don't put yourself down that far, it might be better."  Rol simply answered, "Well, we'll see what happens."

Moving on, Rol asked why they were waiting for everyone before ordering breakfast and Terin said he was waiting for everyone to sit down and eat together.  Terin continued, "And I figured, people are gonna be getting up fairly soon after me, so...  You know.  I figured we should waste some time, have some fun and see what happens." as he pointed to the controller in Rol's hand.  Rol said he could try it and see how he liked the game and Fesic asked if they had three controllers?  As Terin said, "Probably", the butler showed them where there were a number of controllers for them to use.

When they restarted the game and three aircraft spawned, Terin came up with the idea of a cooperative game rather than a free for all.  Terin suddenly froze the game and randomly selected a scenario where the three players were expected to cooperate when faced with a wall of five hundred similar aircraft!  Looking at new view from his "cockpit", Rol said to Terin, "This was your idea.  You go take care of them." and Terin answered back, "It's a target rich environment.  Let's go!"  When Rol said, "I've got your back", Terin answered, "Yeah.  That's what I'm afraid of."  Still, Terin led the way in with Fesic falling in line behind him and Rol following up."

But as soon as he had Fesic locked in his sights, Rol blew the tail off Fesic's plane before trying to maneuver the stream of fire onto Terin.  When Rol started firing, Terin, who had expected to be stabbed in the back, vectored off and avoided the fire.  And Rol had to stop firing and maneuver with the cloud of "enemy" aircraft closing on him.  Happy with his fate, Rol simply flew into the cloud and tried to get close enough to get a shot off at one of them.  Terin, who had entered a wide arcing evasive turn to get out of Rol's field of fire, was now trying to get on Rol's tail and take him down.  Further away from the pair and closing armada of aircraft, Fesic respawned and turned into the ocean of targets.

Turning and burning hard to catch up on Rol, Terin realized he'd not reach targeting range before the wall of approaching aircraft.  The result of this was a view of Rol's aircraft as it literally disintegrated under the wave front of on-coming fire from the closing wall of attackers.  Terin thought the sight was really cool as he then prepared to auger in on the coming wall of enemies.  But Fesic had also closed his distance on Terin.  The playing space contracted and centered on them because the computer recognized the players as allies.  That also meant it respawned Rol close to Terin, and behind him!  As that happened, Rol happily said, "Hi!" as Terin threw his aircraft into a rapid pattern of evasive maneuvers.

Of course, that close to a wall of five hundred closing fighters, "any" evasive maneuvers worked better as an attempt to catch as many of the widely ranging rounds of in-coming fire as possible.  All Terin could do was start radioing his pretend home-base to say, "Tell momma I..." as his transmission cut to static.  As this was happening in the living room, Mikah and Zimzod woke up wrapped in each other.  Both knew there were things they "should" be doing but both wanted some time to relax."  So Mikah wrapped herself around Zimzod and decided to enjoy his morning wood and the lust that came with it.  As they went at it in their bedroom, the suite's comms started to buzz.  When Terin went to answer the line, Rol shot down Terin's respawned fighter with his before again dying in front of the guns of the swarming enemy.


Sharing Updates

     Having set their alarm, Emkir and Aali talked about the day before as they worked through their morning routines.  Emkir admitted he didn't think he'd fixed anything after they'd talked about the situation.  Realizing it might be 'damage done' which he could not fix himself, they talked about Aali dealing with her parents herself that day and seeing if there was any way she could perhaps get things back on the rails?  Unhappy with that but admitting the idea sounded like the best plan they could try, Emkir also admitted it sounded like Mikah and the others needed them back soon.  And while they both couldn't walk away from her parents, him returning to help the crew would split the difference.

Working their routines, they had the news running in the background, and suddenly, something caught Emkir's attention.  As they stopped talking and scrolled the video back on the program, both Emkir and Aali were captured by video of what appeared to be an impact site on the side of a building with a large number of rescue and law enforcement grav-vehicles clustered around it.  Watching and listening, they heard the address of the tower involved and realized that was the tower the rest of the crew were housed in!  And, as the news cast said there had been no loss of life and few injured, Emkir decided to call the crew's suite and see if they could tell the couple more about what happened?

Terin answered the line as Rol shot his aircraft down, and found it was Emkir.  When Terin said, "Hello Admiral" in a welcoming tone, Emkir said, "Hey, I just heard on the news that there was some excitement over there?"  Terin just answered, "Oh yeah.  It was a real tragic accident", stressing the word accident in a satiric tone of voice.  When Emkir asked what happened, Terin surprised him and said he'd call Emkir back on a secure line.  Finding this odd, Emkir heard the line disconnect and grabbed his comms, which had the team-set encryptions programmed in.  Terin then called Emkir on his personal comms, using an encrypted and scrambled channel.  Once Emkir answered, Terin said, "Ok.  So, it seems someone flew an airCar through the fucking balcony door and the guy then popped up and opened fire on us."

When Emkir asked, "Was anybody killed?" Terin said, "He almost got Munarshu."  Asking "Almost?" Emkir paused as Terin answered, "Almost.  It was close."  Emkir asked if they were taking bets on Munarshu's recovery and Terin said, "He'll be fine.  It was a low-caliber weapon.  Through all his armor and stuff.  It bounced off his sternum." Terin said almost dismissively.  Terin continued, "He didn't take much damage.  And Fesic got his leg hurt by falling debris.  He's gonna be out of action for a week or two hobbling around.  He's in Sir Zach's old hoverChair, you guys bought for him."  In relief, Emkir joked, "I guess we'll have to get him some new bumper stickers."  Terin admitted he'd not looked at the chair's stickers.  The two laughed before Terin asked, "So, how did the family gathering go?"

After a pause, Emkir said he wasn't quite sure because Aali's father seems to have taken an irrational dislike to him.  Terin just asked, "Irrational, huh?" and didn't comment on his thoughts.  Asking if things were going smoothly, Emkir assumed Terin was talking about keeping the family away from the news and said they were.  But, Emkir admitted, they may well have seen the crash on the morning news in their own suite since waking up.  Terin wasn't worried about that, and told Emkir the only people who knew about the actual story behind the airCar were them and the police.  And the media were pretty well blocked out.  So, there was no way to tie the news back to them.  Emkir agreed that was a good thing and would not make more trouble.

Terin also said, "We took the perp alive.  Munarshu put a couple of tranqs in him and the guy fell over after he shot Munarshu."  That pleased Emkir, who joked, "So the shooting lessons are working!"  Terin just shrugged and said, "Apparently.  Yes", before reminding Emkir Munarshu had shot Rol in the chest too.  Terin then asked, "So, are you gonna spend today with the in-laws or what?"  Emkir paused before he said he would be coming to help them today.  He said Aali would stay with her family once they had things set up, and said he'd call them once he was on his way. 


Just What Was the Reg-Number Of that AirCar?

     In the hospital, Munarshu finally woke on his own.  He was visited and checked over by a nurse and, eventually, a doctor came to handle his case.  The doctor explained that he now had a "dent" in his sternum due to the pistol round.  The doctor continued, telling Munarshu how very lucky he was.  As the doctor described the wound, he made it clear how very lucky Munarshu had been.  Had it not been for the layers of armor Munarshu was wearing the round should have shattered its way through the sternum into his heart.  That, or shattered, perforating the lungs, heart and major arteries with fragments of the round.  And if the round had been either to the right or left even a few centimeters, the bone would not even have saved him.

Munarshu nodded as the doctor told him the bone would heal, although there would always be a "divit" which will show in scans of his chest.  The doctor also explained the osteo, dermal and subdermal healing and advised Munarshu he had to be patient and let his body and the medical treatments do their jobs.  After that, the doctor explained that the injuries had also aggravated his recently cracked ribs, so Munarshu was to be on light duty for a couple of weeks.  Once that was done and the doctor started saying they'd send Munarshu back to his crew that day.  Munarshu asked, "Any chance I can get the bullet?"  After a moment's regret there were idiots like Munarshu in the universe, the doctor said the bullet had been disposed of as medical refuse in a safe manner.  After that, they processed his release and sent him home in a taxi.

After Mikah and Zimzod were "played out", the couple cleaned up and came out into the lounge.  Seeing the crew at a game of air to air combat, Mikah saw Fesic was playing rather than working on the social media project.  Walking over and snatching the remote controller from the gunner, Mikah demanded, "What are you doing?  No juice for you!" in a harsh voice.  Surprised by Mikah, Fesic whined, "I haven't had breakfast yet!" and Terin said, "Now that we're all here, let's have breakfast."  Zimzod checked the chrono and asked, "Don't you mean lunch?"  After some chatter about that, they agreed to order lunch from the building's internal kitchens to be delivered.  When asked who would pay, Mikah volun-told Zimzod to pay.  He answered, "OK, but we're here for Rol so he's paying for dinner."

When Mikah agreed to that, Rol announced, "Astroburgers for everybody!"  Mikah said, "No!" in a tone which made it clear rol was not gonna cheap-out.  She continued, "We're going to find the most fancy place.." Rol interrupted her, asking in a surprised tone, "Oh!  We're going out?" and Mikah confirmed, "Yes".  While they waited for the food to arrive, Fesic had started his computer work for Sir Anthony's team.  Despite having Rol, Mikah also decided to spend Cr 1,000 to hire a cook from the vetted staff of the building so her people could work as needed.  Once the food arrived, they ate until Mikah's comms began going off.  Answering the call, Mikah found it was the hospital and was told Munarshu was being delivered to their building in the lobby.  When Mikah said she'd meet them in the lobby, she was told they could come to the suite to drop him off.

When they arrived, with Munarshu on a gravSledge, Mikah worried about renting another gravChair because Fesic was using the one the ship owned.  She was happier when they said he was self-mobile, and only had to be on light duty until fully healed.  Thought he should remain reclined as much as possible, returning the patient to his home on a gravDevice was just med-transport policy.  Munarshu was surprised at the new location, though it made sense as he remembered the destruction in the original suite.  He also noticed, as they moved him in and settled into the suite's living room, that this suite was larger.  He'd even have his own bedroom.  As he was helped off the grav-platform and settled himself, Munarshu realized he could pretty much do whatever he wanted but had to do many things slowly.  As this happened, Emkir also arrived at the suite.

As Munarshu settled in, Mikah started explaining to him and Emkir their 'new job', saying, "Now, you can just sit here and do your research."  That was easier for her because Fesic was working on the project as he waited to eat.  When she asked Munarshu which of the two working teams he preferred, Munarshu said he wanted to be one of those hunting the accounting data on identified accounts.  Emkir said he preferred to read the comments and search for account ID's.  After Munarshu was settled and as they ate, Terin suggested buying food continuously was going to get expensive.  Having everyone's attention, there was a pause while he sorted out which words he wanted to use before Mikah got tired of waiting.  She asked, "So, why don't you go out and shop for food to fill all the pantries?"  Both Rol and Terin said, "I could do that" at nearly the same time.  Zimzod suggested they both do it because Terin shot his mouth off but Rol was the cook.

Terin started spitting out words, but Mikah just warned them to stay out of trouble.  As Terin started suggesting they make a list and getting his steps in order, Fesic asked if it was smart for Rol to go out in public?  Munarshu agreed, suggestively saying "Yeah, if someone's out to kill him..."  Zimzod smiled and said, "That sounds like the perfect way to draw out the assassins.  Munarshu pointed out they already had one assassin but Mikah derided their worries.  She said, "He is a war criminal after all.  Come on!" as if that canceled any reasons to be concerned.  Terin agreed, "And he's actually going to be armed this time." to which Mikah agreed, "Yeah!"  Munarshu offered, "No grenades" and Fesic suggested, "Call them and tell them you're coming."  At that, the butler told them all they could shop on-line from the suite instead of going out.

Realizing they didn't even have to leave the suite left the group silent until Terin joked, "But then, you wouldn't get to shoot people." in an indignant tone.  Munarshu complained that delivered goods could be poisoned and they'd ever know.  Rol joked, "Sure you'd know.  As soon as you die." in a casual tone.  Zimzod joked they could use Terin as a taste tester with a grin on his face.  Then, Mikah pointed out that no one knew who Terin was.  She continued that he could set up his own account and order the goods to be delivered.  Zimzod joked, "There you go!  Our first dummy corporation account!" and got laughs.  After that, Terin started setting up a shopping list.  Mikah realized she needed to set up a pharmacological shopping list too.

After Terin opened his account and the whole crew joined in on setting up a list, they ordered the food to be delivered fresh, on a weekly basis for Cr 3,800.  When the service recognized the building address from the news of the gravCar accident and asked about special access instructions, Terin asked the butler, who said there were none.  Once the order was made, and the meal done, those on the "Rumor project" returned to work.  Rol and Zimzod decided to do some stent work while Terin joined the guys hunting rumors.  Terin decided to post an ad offering his services to create navigation tapes for ships in-port.  Putting himself in direct competition with the port, certain the port wouldn't even notice, Terin posted a price of Cr 900.  After that, Terin picked up his personal computer training.

As the crew worked at their tasks or interests, the suite's visitor buzzer went off and the butler answered.  He was told there was an officer from the local police department in the building's lobby to speak with Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod.  When she was asked if they were available, Mikah said they were and the man was sent to their suite.  When he arrived at the suite, the officer greeted them all and noted both Fesic and Munarshu were present and awake.  After that he told Mikah and Zimzod he had new information and asked if they wanted to discuss that data privately or with the others present?  Mikah said she felt they were all invested in the event and had a right to know the new details.

The detective first said they had identified the would-be assassin and chased back his legal and financial history.  The detective continued that they had identified a Cr 5,000 payment made to the man the morning of the day before.  Well enough before the attack that he could use the funds to rent the gravCar.  Officers had also traced back the hand gun the man used to one which had been stolen several years before, from a hunting club in another city on-world.  When there were some questions asked, the detective explained that civilian-owned weapons on Regina had to be held in gun or hunting clubs, and stored in safes in those clubs.  During that incident, the club had been broken into and all the weapons in a number of the club's safes had been stolen.  Some of those weapons were either 'quite valuable' or 'quite antique' or both.

While this and gun was not valuable or antique, it was traced back to that theft.  When Munarshu griped that meant it would be returned to its original owner, he was corrected that it would be destroyed, with all weapons used in the commission of a crime.  The officer didn't comment on the obvious fact the owner had already been paid his due by his insurance carrier.  The crew then made several comments on the quality of assassin one could hire for only Cr, 5,000.  Of course, that assumed that was not just an "up front payment", with a promise of more on success.  These were the details or options the crew most often missed and the detective didn't feel it was important for him to educate them past their self-serving assumptions.  As they also joked about a better plan or using a better weapon, the officer interrupted.

"Speaking of weapons", he said, "we have a weapon that we recovered from the scene which was not accounted for in any of our records."  When they asked for the basic details of the weapon, the snub pistol and ammo load described sounded very much like Munarshu's snub pistol.  When Munarshu said, "That would be mine." the detective asked if Munarshu could identify the weapon's particulars?  Munarshu first said, "Oh yeah.  It was a gift to me." which prompted the detective to ask, "A gift from who?"  Munarshu told the detective it had been given to him by Duke Luis, forcing the detective to ask, "Duke Luis of?" and Munarshu answered, "of Lunion."  Recognizing this would have been given in Court, the detective asked for Munarshu's Ident, knowing such a gift would have been registered there.

After the detective confirmed his data with what he saw on the Ident, he told Munarshu he'd have someone in the department return the weapon to Munarshu sometime in the coming week.  That dealt with, the officer told them the department had a number of forensic accountants and computer experts working to trace back where the payment came from, but early data had led to dummy accounts.  Making things more difficult, the encryption methods changed at each level.  Missing the fact they were Dummy firms, Munarshu asked for a list of the organizations and was told they couldn't have that list.  He was reminded the crew were the victims but held no standing in the Regina legal system to carry out personal investigations.  The crew then asked about the would-be assassin?

The detective said the accused had been "quite resilient" at not answering any questions.  Despite that, they had his name and past records as well as the man's recent lodging addresses.  They also had his recent log-in codes used on social networks and the specific message he received hiring him for the assassination attempt.  The detective said the accused seemed to be no more than a low-level thug and this might have been his hope of making a big score.  When Mikah snarked, "Five thousand credits?  That's not a big score." in a critical tone, she was reminded that was a big score to many people across known space.  It was certainly more than most starship crew could earn in a single month of normal operation, and sometimes twice or three times more.  To those earning much less regularly, KCr 5 would be huge.

The payment aside, the police were firm the would-be assassin did not have a history as a violent criminal, much less a killer.  Another significant line of investigation was how the man got hold of the hand gun?  If they could solve that, it might help them break weapons theft and trafficking rings on-world.  When the detective summarized his report and asked Mikah if they had any further questions, Mikah just asked him to have his department keep them up to date on the investigations.  Fesic interrupted, saying, "One thing that hasn't been established.  Was he trying to kill Rol?  Or was he trying to kill all of us, or what?"  The detective admitted that they could not know that at the moment because the prisoner wasn't talking, even in the face of "coercion".  Added to that, the electronic addresses on all the data they had was spoofed, so they needed to back track every device used from the end unit they had.

And back-tracking the prisoner's history was also a rough trek.  The best guess was he was a bottom feeder who'd hoped this would lead to bigger and better jobs with bigger and better payoffs.  The most he'd been involved with on record were low-level brawls and nothing that involved real weapons, much less fire-arms.  Rol suggested the theory someone might have had leverage on the guy and forced him into the assassination and Terin agreed that was an idea.  Terin alsosaid the man had to have intel from inside the building, to know what floor they had been on, since someone had paid the man to kill Rol.  Rol said that wouldn't be hard.  Terin disagreed, pointing out they'd been in the suite less than a day, but Zimzod nodded and said there had to be a good-sized staff for a seventy-floor tall tower.  Someone could have talked or been bought.  Rol said the building's management computers could have been hacked too.

Zimzod said it could be just as easy to get information in a low-tech way.  Hit the right bars or restaurants, where the building staff were known to hang out.  Look for tired staff with housing or even arrival management and share some woes, order a few rounds of drinks and you might have anything you want.  Even worse, ears could have been hanging out when someone at a nearby table said something to someone else at their table and it was overheard.  Paying people to listen and report is cheap and even less expensive when you're paying a few waiters here and there a few extra credits.  Finally, the detective asked if there was anything else they had questions about and Mikah again asked him to keep them informed about the investigation.


Pulling Back The Curtains

     Half an hour after the detectives left and the crew had returned to their work or hobbies, the suite's butler got everyone's attention and told them the Seneschal was on his way up to the suite!  When Mikah asked which seneschal, the butler said, "The" Seneschal, leaving no doubt it was Branj Dilgaadin.  Mikah paused before saying, "Wow.  He's coming to see us, huh?"  Her tone said she did not see this as a good thing.  Shrugging and saying "OK", she knew there was nothing they could do but take whatever came.  The next surprise came when Mr. Dilgaadin arrived, and they saw he was not alone.

Mr. Dilgaadin had arrived with Countess Josephine, and Mikah's expectations of anything good coming out of the meeting slipped down more than a few more notches.  The Countess gave each of them a cursory nod of recognition, and everyone who could, stood.  Fesic managed to "sit up straighter".  Once the Countess had seated herself and was followed by Mr. Dilgaadin, the rest of them sat.  With their undivided attention on him, Mr. Dilgaadin said, "This is not exactly the welcome back to the Regina system I had planned."  Mikah kept from saying what she had been thinking, which was, 'Yeah.  You would have preferred to shoot us all if you were able.'  Mikah nodded and answered, "It is what it is.  No one was seriously hurt, so, just a little bit of recovery."

Surprising them, Countess Josephine had an obvious tone of concern in her voice when she said, "I understand two of you were injured and I can see one of you is very obviously injured."  Looking at Fesic, who was the obvious one, she asked, "How are you recovering?"  And she seemed to have real concern in her voice.  Fesic just said he'd be fine in the long run, in as humble a voice as he could muster.  Looking around the table, the Countess asked, "And the other person was..."  As her question trailed off, she was directed to Munarshu and asked how he was doing?  He more bluntly said, "I'll live" in a tone that suggested the wound was no big deal.  He then added, "I'll be fine in the long run."

Nodding and turning to Mikah, the Countess said, "So, your crew is in much better spirits than I expected them to be."  Mikah was actually not sure how to react to that as she said, "Well, you know.  It is what it is, and we've been through worse.  And, no one was killed so...  We're doing alright."  Josephine then asked Mikah, "From what you know, can you tell me what you think is going on here?"  Mikah answered, "Well, we just sat down with a police officer who gave us some information from their leads.  And it seems that the target was Rol.  And, we're gonna keep him under wraps until Sir Jeremy's trial begins.  And, we're also working with Duke Vilis to try and find out where these rumors of our supposed efforts to depose Duke Norris, which is totally untrue, have come from and whose perpetuating them?"

When Mikah was done, the Countess nodded and smiled and it seemed to those watching her the smile was predatory.  Sliding a card to Mikah on the accent table between them, Mikah noticed it was a data card.  Leaning over to a nearby dataport, Mikah slid the card into a card-reader slot and waited.  As data started filling the small screen, the Countess asked her to bounce the data to the suite's main vid-screen so everyone could see and read it.  As words and number strings filled the screen, the Countess asked for the vid-screen remote?  The Countess began changing settings and Fesic was heard to whisper, "I got second player."  Annoyed, Mikah said, "I told you, no juice for you." while the Countess smiled indulgently at the by play.

After the comments, the Countess said, "These sorts of traffic have been increasing since long before I arrived in-system.  I've discussed it with the Seneschalate, and they have assured me that it has absolutely no basis in fact.  And they have evidence of that which is security-locked and they cannot show me."  Mikah had rarely been as thankful in her life as she was to hear the complete trust in the Countess' voice as she said that last bit.  She was taking Mr. Dilgaadin's word on his word alone.  The Countess continued, "So, while you are working with Duke Vilis and his people, who've recently arrived in-system and set up shop, we've been working on this for a lot longer."  Mikah was even more pleased when she heard that.

The Countess then said, "We've notified His Grace that we have been, and we've made more progress than he has, by significant steps.  As Countess Josephine finished her comments, they could see the data on the screen had solidified into the image of a pyramid.  Looking at the top first, they could see there were three spaces with question marks in them.  As they ran their gazes down the rows of data in the broadening sections of the pyramid, those who had been working on the social media project actually recognized a few names, and saw each had numbers aside them.  There were also link-icons next to the names which one could click on to see all the comments attributed to that account.  Still, it was the three question marks at the top which dominated any definition of the data.

They took in the display as the Countess told them the trickles which would become these conversations had started some four months back.  Where posters disagreed with the comments and fights started, other posters were seen to join and support the rumors.  And, slowly, the conversation grew until it exploded socially.  Once that happened, it became part of the fabric of social media all across Regina.  After it was self-sustaining, new commenters were tracked as they joined the conversations to enflame public sentiment among those who had accepted the lies.  Most alarmingly, over the past week, all of the accounts went active and worked to enflame feelings even more.  Because of this work, we know a lot of the people who have been duped into, or sucked into this movement and could act tomorrow with mass arrests if we wanted to, and take them all down."

There was a brief pause before the Countess said, "That is not how we want to do things here on Regina.  Even worse, it would have all the appearances of a government repression and geometrically increase the outcry.  Terin muttered, "So you need three question marks" before the Countess said, "We need to find out who started this, so that we can take out the driving force and then start to counter rumor with rumor.  And it would really help of you people turned out to be the heroes it has been suggested you are."  There was another pause before the Countess said, "We also can't stage something to make you heroes, if it came out it was staged, things would be much much worse, so..."  Mikah interrupted, asking, "Would we be allowed to share this with Duke Vilis' people?"

Mikah intended to ask more, but Josephine interrupted her, saying, "Oh, we've already told Duke a'Plena that this is happening.  the Duke is now turning over his data and unifying his team with ours as we check his data to see if there is anything there we missed?  We've also found funding sources His Grace can't go after even if his people had found them.  We can go after them and are chasing those leads down."  Munarshu suddenly asked, "I wonder if any of these would cross over with his", which had meaning but was confusing to those not used to Munarshu.  When asked, Munarshu clarified, "With the assassination attempt", Mr. Dilgaadin said that link was obvious.

With all eyes on him, the Seneschal continued, "Whereas the rumor had been built that Lady Mikah, Sir Zimzod and their crew had tried to bring down the Duke previous to events with regard to Sir Kaihvos, obviously they couldn't have hero-worship rehabilitating their reputations.  As a result, they had to turn Sir Kaihvos into a larger criminal.  And with the Jesediperei arriving in-system and issues surrounding Sir Jeremy's book, it was the perfect way to drag them further into the mud by association.  And that way, they drag down Sir Kaihvos as well.  Especially where Sir Kaihvos has a questionable record, at best.  And the facts, when viewed in the cold dead of night, may not be as favorable to Sir Kaihvos or those he associates with.  But, the fact is the Imperial government has made its judgement on the events and found him innocent of crimes.  The result was that it was best to start putting out rumors about Sir Rol too, to attack Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod.

After they considered this all bundled into one neat and complete package, Mikah suggested they needed to investigate the possible involvement of the Natokans or Stepozhevaci in the rumors."  As she spoke, Mikah could see the Countess listening carefully to her words.  Mikah also kept her expressions schooled as Branj Dilgaadin held up a datapad behind the Countess which displayed the words, "We'll talk later".  This told Mikah there were layers of information, and the Countess was not aware of everything.  Since both their relationships with both Natokans and Stepozhevaci related to the Quasar Viper, Mikah could make a good guess what was missing here, and how dangerous a knife-edge she was now standing on, having opened this conversation path up with the Countess.

As Mikah paused, Rol looked at the Countess and asked, "Pardon me for saying this but it seems you have something in mind?"  The Countess' gaze shifted to Rol as she answered, "I am just concerned this crew needs to come out as heroes in some situation.  And now, with two of you wounded and down, we will need to keep you on close call, in the event we can send you into something."  After a pause, The Countess asked, "You will be willing to help, will you not?" in an expectant tone.  Mikah immediately answered, "Absolutely."  Following that, Fesic brashly said, "This leg is not going to keep me down for long." in a tone which dismissed the injury.

As they talked, it was apparent the cavalry had not arrived so much as it had been in the field fighting the fire for some time.  And it appeared the Countess was willing to believe they could be actual heroes but they had needed to provide the convincing performances needed to seal the deal.  One thing that was certain was that she had judged Rol and found him wanting.  It was up to the rest of them to convince her they could bring him back to what was needed.  Beyond that, they were asked if there were any services the crew needed from the Duchy?  Mikah said, "Not at the moment.  You've already offered us so much with the attorneys and other things."  Nodding, Mr. Dilgaadin bounced to Mikah the data on their legal team and told them the team had been briefed on everything the situation involved.

He then bounced Rol the data on a separate legal team which would work with him.  Mr. Dilgaadin made it clear the two teams would be separate but cooperative.  Mr. Dilgaadin made it clear that Mikah, Zimzod and everyone except Rol were considered clear thanks to his personal knowledge of the events surrounding Mikah and Zimzod's last visit to the system.  He also made it clear he'd spoken to and worked with everyone at the highest levels of Regina government.  So, unless someone came up with something they could completely and absolutely prove, no actions would be taken regardless of public opinion.  In addition, any attempted actions from attempted law suits to legal charges would be held and communicated up the chain of government.  Surprisingly, the Countess was quite comfortable when he said that, in individual actions, it was not hard to make one or two people disappear until the issue was resolved.

As they made it clear that was the last item of order, the Countess and Seneschal prepared to leave.  Before they did, Munarshu asked if there was a chance he could get to question the would-be assassin who'd shot him?  The look Mr. Dilgaadin gave Munarshu made it clear he'd read the engineer's dossier and knew Munarshu had none of the skills expected or required for the job and told Munarshu that was not going to be possible.  When others in the crew snarked at his question after the visitors were gone, Munarshu said he had to ask, because he would not have known the answer if he didn't try.  As that happened, Mikah checked the data on the legal team working to help the crew keep within the legal lines and out of trouble.  Especially since Mr. Dilgaadin said they had been made aware of "everything".

The data for the legal team was printed on the card with a comm-net number and the instructions "Wait an hour".  That surprised her.  Re-reading the data, Mikah realized the firm name on the card was no name any legal firm might use.  And checking quickly on the terminal nearest her, she saw it was located in an "interesting" part of Credo city near the edges of the port's startown and not in Atora city at all!  None of this made any sense for a "legal team".  Accepting that, Mikah set a timer to remind her to call as soon as she could.  Terin was disappointed the Countess had shut down the data on the vid-screen and retrieved the data card before leaving. 


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Everyone but Aali and Aiden: In the Suite's Living Room after the Countess and Seneschal left
     Aali: With her parents and brother, hoping to be joined by her sister and clearing up issues
     Aiden: Cooking for another 10 days before being decanted( Decant Date: 110-1113 )

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Next: Clawing Out Of The Dark