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Last Updated     December 24 2017
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Clawing Out Of
       The Dark


After The meeting

Regina     While Aali was still with her family, Mr. Dilgaadin and Countess Josephine had dropped some very heavy data bombs on the rest of the crew.  Rol now had the contact data for his legal team and Mikah had a stranger looking set of contact links with the warning, "Wait an hour before calling"!  So, Mikah sat knowing she had to wait until Mr. Dilgaadin called on the one hand and until the hands of the clock advanced on the other.  Beyond that, the crew were 'on call' for situations the Countess and her people could commit them to so they could "be heroes".  And Munarshu and Fesic both had two weeks of "light duty" and doctor-ordered recovery.

On a lesser note, Zimzod and Rol were waiting for their comm dot orders to arrive and Munarshu was waiting for the police to return his snub pistol.  They were also all curious what the police would turn up in their investigation and even more curious about the last three tiers on the chart Countess Josephine had shown them.  Further out, Aiden would not be decanted in the Rhylanor system for another ten days and then would spend the next three to six weeks travelling to meet them in the Regina system depending on the ships available to him.

As things hit a slow patch, now that they were not asked to work with the team Duke Vilis had organized, they had to sit on their hands and wait without getting in trouble.  Not something the crew were noted for.  Still, they had ordered food to be delivered for the next six weeks into the future and even hired a cook from the building's staff.  That meant that even Rol would be available for front line duty at need, which was a good thing since his reputation most needed repair.  And, elsewhere in the city, Aali was trying to figure out how to get things back on track with her family...

Still fairly sore despite the drugs, Munarshu decided he needed replacement sets of executive armor and more ballistic cloth-based shipsuits.  Still, he did not just want to "dive in" and spend cash so Munarshu decided to spend the next hours until dinner time researching sources and prices.  As he turned toward a terminal in the suite to shop the web, Rol grabbed the contact data given him and called his legal team.  When he identified himself, Rol was told the team hired had been made aware of his case well before the crew arrived in-system and had been reviewing the data given them on his case.

The lawyers said they also had a lead member of the team who had an elevated clearance with the Regina and Imperial military.  He been advised of issues related to Rol's case with were classified but may have effect on the outcome.  Hearing that, Rol had to wonder just how high that man's clearance went and what he really knew?  The man was also a partner in the firm and held a position in the Regina reserve military, so he had been designated Rol's "Immediate Council".  When Rol asked if he could speak to the man, they changed the question, asking if they could meet with Rol, at their offices or at the suite?

Rol first asked Mikah if it were OK to have his legal team visit them, because he didn't feel up to the idea of going out in public with possible assassins about.  When Mikah said that was fine, Rol gave the lawyers the OK and the address of their suite.  After that, the lawyers said they'd arrive in a half hour or so and the call ended.  As this had happened, Mikah had decided to sit and watch the news until the hour burned off and she could call the odd contact she'd been given.  She'd checked the address connected to the number and saw it was located in a warehouse district in the interface region between Atora and Credo cities.  A very odd place for what should be an important legal firm.

Zimzod decided to do stent work while they waited and Terin decided to study his computer classes.  Fesic also decided to hit his college classes.  As they did that, Emkir called Aali to see if she could talk for a bit, and then updated her on what they'd learned from the police, Seneschal and Countess.  While they spoke, much of the news Mikah saw was centered around the gravCar crash.  As with events in the Risek system, the thing Mikah most noticed was the "changed facts" being told to the public.  In the interest of soothing public fears.

In this case, the "Official line" was that the driver had been "under the influence" and over-ridden some of the car's in-build safety systems.  That had allowed the vehicle to hit the building after he lost control.  That handed to the public, the story had moved on to political speeches about saving lives, making Regina safer, etc...  It was all the theater of the absurd for Mikah.  As Mikah watched, a buzz soon had the butler coming to Rol to tell him his legal team had arrived.

A Spot Of Legal Information

     The team that arrived to meet with Rol included his primary and secondary advocates, along with three paralegals who were each loaded down with everything from electronic devices to sealed packets containing sheaves of flimsies.  Rol greeted them and said they should find a place to sit and talk.  One of the lawyers asked if Rol wanted to talk in private or in the open suite and Rol said he preferred privacy.  They asked Rol if he first wanted to speak to his Primary Advocate, who had the clearance and a briefing on some of the classified background of Rol's case?

When Rol said he wanted to talk to the primary first, they sent two of the paralegals in first to set up the room.  Once the Rol and the lawyer were in his room, and the door closed, Rol sat as the lawyer began, "Now, before we begin, I would like to tell you what I've been briefed on."  Rol nodded and relaxed as the man explained what he knew.  Largely, his knowledge was limited to lower level facts and the promise the Duchy had very classified data which cleared Rol of all wrong-doing outside the events in the Jesedipere system. 

The lawyer said that cleared Rol of anything to do with the rumors or outside the Jesediperei charges.  The lawyer also made it clear he'd been told the entire Domain government was indebted to Rol and his whole crew for some effort he had not been briefed on.  On the 'bad news' side of things, the man said he had seen everything the Duchy had on the charges from Jesedipere and that suggested Rol was not as innocent as was claimed.  The lawyer even suggested Rol was going to have to learn to 'tap dance' some.

When Rol asked about advice, the man put that on hold as he said the others could come into the room, now they were concentrating on the Jesedipere charges.  As the others came into the room, the lawyer asked about the manuscript Rol was writing?  When Rol admitted he'd been working on one, the lawyer asked for a copy and Rol logged into the ship's system and sent him a copy.  Copies of Rol's manuscript were sent to all the team members and they detailed one of the paralegals to start scanning the work for names, dates and other structures to highlight for attention as the rest worked on the business at hand.

A Different "Legal Authority"

     Outside the room, Mikah waited out the clock before calling the number she'd been given.  The call was answered by a female receptionist who appeared to be, from what Mikah could see, in a non-descript office.  the young lady answered with the same firm name Mikah had been given and asked how she could help?  Mikah explained she'd been given the number by Mr. Dilgaadin and the receptionist asked Mikah to link in her Ident and confirm who she was?

After Mikah did that, the receptionist said, "OK, Lady Mikah.  We just had to make sure who you were.  Is Sir Zimzod with you?"  Mikah said he was as she walked over and prodded Zimzod from his stent work.  Once the two were on line, the receptionist asked how soon the couple could be on their premises?  Before answering, Mikah checked the address and map.  Estimating, Mikah said that they'd be there half an hour after they could get a car.  The receptionist accepted that and said they'd be waiting and the call ended.

Needing a ride now, Mikah and Zimzod turned to the suite's butler.  He told them the building maintained a rental motorpool.  Their options were to hire a car and drive themselves or hire a vehicle with a driver.  As Mikah and Zimzod considered that, Rol, who had stepped out of his room, joked, "A driver is an extra meat shield."  Mikah reminded Zimzod they'd be armed and decided they should have a driver along with them.  Calling the motorpool, they were told that would cost them Cr 100.  Forty five minutes later Mikah and Zimzod were arriving at their destination.

As Zimzod and Mikah arrived, the area they were in seemed to be semi-industrial and the building itself seemed to be half warehouse and half office space.  All Mikah could think was, 'Oh God!  I hope there're no androids in here.'  As they rang at the door, the couple were surprised when the door simply opened for them by itself.  Stepping in, they saw a twenty foot long by fifteen foot wide room containing nothing more than the reception desk and receptionist.  The space also had some chairs, which appeared to be available for those waiting, and accent tables with tablets containing reading material.  A door, which was secured, led out of the office through the far wall and, presumably, deeper into the building.

Leading the driver into the office, the receptionist looked up and greeted them.  When she asked for the ID of the man with them, Mikah said he was their hired driver.  Nodding, the receptionist told them the driver would need to sit and wait in the reception office while they carried out their business.  Mikah nodded as the driver took one of the open seats in the space and the receptionist led the couple to the door in the far wall.  That door also opened by itself and Mikah and Zimzod could see the space beyond was no more than a five-foot wide, seven-foot long corridor ending at another door.  As they looked through the door, the receptionist told them to go on in.

Once they stepped into the passage, the outer door closed and they had no other option but to advance to the inner door.  When they reached the next door, it also opened on its own, but they saw standing before them a man in the full duty uniform of an Admiral in the Regina Planetary navy.  The expression on his face suggested he had been happy to calmly wait for them to complete the entry process.  As they reached the man, he invited, "Follow me" without introduction or other action.  As they left the now obviously decorative hallway, they saw it was literally a decorative fiction.  It let out into the vast open space of an open warehouse.  Surrounding that open space filled with desks were tiered levels of people working at all manner or tasks.  And all of them in some form of Regina military uniform.

As they walked, the Admiral told them this was one of a number of Reginal Naval Military Intelligence centers.  He further told them he was this center's commanding officer.  The officer continued that the office of the Seneschal had told them Mikah and Zimzod's crew might be working with some of his people so he wanted to sit down with them and discuss their crew's situation and get to know them a bit.  As he spoke, he eventually led them to his private office, which seemed a great luxury in a space where almost everyone worked in an open area in view of most others.  As they arrived and settled in, the Admiral's yoeman came in to make sure everyone had drinks or other comforts.

Once they were settled and the yoeman had left, the Admiral hit a stud on his desk and the door locked while shudders came down to "secure" the office for privacy.  After that, the Admiral said, "So.  I was not exactly in this position last year when you arrived with regard to the Quasar Viper."  And that single sentence told them volumes about where this officer lived in the hierarchy of secrets.  Playing his hands over some controls on his desk, the Admiral activated a screen and the same pyramid of social media data the Countess had came up on it.

As Mikah and Zimzod looked at the screen, they noticed there were icons connected by links to the three question marks at the top of the image.  And there were a LOT of icons.  So, the Admiral was showing them his office was at least well in the middle of the investigation.  At an estimate, there were easily forty to fifty icons linked to the three question marks, showing there was still significant work to be done.  Giving them a minute to take that in, the Admiral said he had some questions about their past associations.  He then asked them, "Do you recognize this gentleman?" and handed them each a tablet with an image on it.  On each tablet, they could see an image of their old friend Mr. Mattin from Porozlo.

In the admiral's image, Mr. Mattin did not seem very happy, and appeared to have been 'mussed up' a bit when the picture had been taken.  In fact, the best description of the image was that Mattin looked like he was in custody.  Mikah was so pleased let loose a cry of "Lookin' good!"  When the Admiral asked, for confirmation, "Do you know this man?" Mikah and Zimzod both said "Yes!" at the same time.  After that, he asked, "What can you tell me about him?"  Zimzod went with his 'go to' comedic answer and said, "He doesn't look happy.  He must be using Brand X!" getting a laugh from Mikah.

Telling him everything they could about Mattin, both edited out any mention of IRIS, using the term 'Intelligence organization on Rhylanor'.  Once they were done talking, the Admiral nodded and said what they'd told him squared with what they'd learned from the Duchy and Imperial Navy.  The Admiral also let them know the Imperial Naval Intelligence had positively tied him to an effort to build an armed starship fleet for the Natoko system.  They were also told Mattin had played the role of "ambassador" to a number of governments in the region which Natoko felt might have been sympathetic or even friendly to their cause.

As that part of the conversation wound down, Mikah mentioned that the Stepsevici were certainly involved in that.  Picking up past that, the Admiral said, "We ask because we've identified these people as potential associates of Mr. Mattin's."  As he spoke, the Admiral hit some controls on his desk and the image was replaced by a six-box split screen showing six men and women.  Continuing, the Admiral said, "These have all gathered, over the last four months, here in the Regina system.  And we haven't arrested them yet.  But we keep them under significant observation and we're fairly certain they can answer all the questions about at least one of the question marks on that Social media pyramid."

Unfortunately, none of them were familiar to Mikah or Zimzod.  What the Admiral knew of the people was also limited, because intelligence had not moved in to determine what they were up to in-system?  The Admiral made it clear that they entirely understood what the government of Natoko were up to.  Still, they had no idea how those six people fit into that, or what their objectives were in-system?  Despite that, the Admiral still felt the odds they were involved in the rumors were too high to ignore.

On To Other Topics

     That said, the Admiral also told them he was aware the Countess wanted their crew to be "deployable" to sites where they could possibly get involved in publicly positive roles.  He told them part of that Admiral's staff were tasked with monitoring events and advising the Countess when there was time to make it seem the crew of the Hotel California could have been casually wandering by.  As the Admiral began saying, "So, we'd appreciate it", he pulled a packet from a desk drawer and handed it to Mikah and Zimzod.  The couple found inside the bag a set of eight tags with peel-off adhesive backing.  The Admiral continued, "...if each of your people would take one and stick it to the back of their hand so that we know where you are at all times.  That way, In the event we need to collect you all and deliver everyone to play hero, we know where to collect you."

Mikah said OK as she and Zimzod examined what appeared to be a comm dot attached to each of the adhesive tags.  The Admiral did reassure them they would never be 'in too deep'.  If a situation was too heavy for them to "be the heroes who saved the day", they could always be "the heroes who stepped in and saved lives before the authorities arrived".  They would always have backup.  Interrupting the idea, Mikah brought up broadcasting vids from the various elevation and award ceremonies in which the Arch Duke awarded members of the crew to counter the rumors.  As Mikah finished, the Admiral told her they had been doing that for some time.  Sadly, large populations had mentalities which too often did not perform at the levels individual intellect did.  So, large groups of people believed what they did despite the actual facts and too often created "alternate facts".

Rather than going in circles on the frustrating topic, Zimzod decided to ask about the weapons they'd be allowed to carry?  He was reminded by the Admiral that they had limits on the weapons they could carry set by the Duchy and could not carry overtly military weapons or equipment except for their single honor weapon.  So, a gauss pistol would be overtly military but that single weapon would be allowed as an honor weapon.  Other than that, decisions would have to be made if a situation occurred where charges were placed.  When Zimzod reflected on how many alternate weapons he could hide in the pockets of his duster, he considered talking about taking Mikah and the crew shopping after returning to the others at the suite.

Taking a brief swing back to Mikah's concerns, the Admiral said he had a piece to show the couple which would show how the local government are trying to use the crew's activities to combat the rumors.  As he spoke, he hit some controls and one of the vid screens he had operating suddenly cut to what appeared to be a pop-news segment from the local vid-news.  As Mikah and Zimzod started to watch, the piece appeared to cover the activities of a local celebrity until they realized it was Aali and her family!  They realized the Countess had ordered them followed in public to film positive "slice of life" moments and provide them to the media.  And they also realized it would not be long before the media started filming on their own accord!

On that disturbing thought, they considered how the piece presented Aali as an "average citizen" who had been raised to the nobility and was no more than any other Citizen of Regina.  The talk turned to other discussions and the Admiral did his best to understand the couple, their crew and their plans.  While Mikah and Zimzod had to admit their future travel plans were not as completely formed as they'd like, there were meaty bits like the invitation from the Duke of Vilis to visit his court.  Especially since that was on the path to return the cremated remains of a fallen crew member and Knight to his family and homeworld.  These were the kinds of facts that almost never got out to the public, and perhaps should.  If presented correctly.

When the Admiral asked if they had any questions for him, Mikah asked what his assessment was of their safety out on the street, considering the effects of the rumors.  The Admiral admitted they could not know from person to person who had or had not bought into the rumors or which rumors they had bought into?  It was obvious the crew couldn't stay holed up and hidden away because that would look bad and spawn even more rumors on its own.  Also, the crew being out and about allowed for vid-crews to capture positive news notes to broadcast.  Of course, that meant everyone was always "on" and had to keep everything positive because no one knew when a camera was rolling.

Mikah followed that up by asking how much they believed the rumors had affected the attitudes and possible actions of the Regina Armed Forces?  The Admiral reminded Mikah that everyone kept their own mind regarding their beliefs.  So, there was no real way to measure the broad opinion of the troops.  He did say the "official line" was that they were honored and respected but a great deal of what they'd actually done could not be discussed or published for the public to know.  That void could set the stage for accusations that their most important work was fake.  Or, it could be twisted by rumors because no one knew the facts.  So, any and every military honor can be offered and still not help the situation, as was happening with Sir Rol's situation.

Of course, the Admiral pointed out Rol had an advantage because a large part of his reputation issues were being caused by people spreading rumors about him.  And if the Admiral and his people could find and shut them down, Rol's allies could take control of the rumors from then on.  Accepting that, Mikah asked if the Admiral had any idea why Sir Jeremy wanted to meet with Rol?  The officer could only guess, "Stupid people do stupid things."  Due to Mikah and Zimzod's expressions, he continued, "Our assessment of Sir Jeremy, to be very very blunt, is that he is a very very honest and very very stupid man. 

Not what either of them expected, Mikah and Zimzod listened as the Admiral said, "He's entirely convinced he is providing a service to the Imperium and a service to history.  Add to that, he is also entirely certain he's done nothing wrong.  And, he still completely believes, despite what he's written, based on our understanding of his position, that Sir Rol did nothing wrong.  But he does believe that people make mistakes and it is through understanding these historical mistakes that the future is improved.  Unfortunately, Sir Jeremy has other mental issues we won't discuss here.  In our opinion.  But, at the intersection of events and stupidity, things like this happen.

When Zimzod asked about defensive armor the Admiral's people might be able to give them, it was pointed out any visible armor they wore would counter their mission.  If it seemed they were armored and prepared during largely civil disturbances, they'd seem like thuggish vigilantes in a society that was already well civilized.  When Zimzod asked about items like the duster he was wearing, the Admiral asked about it and where Zimzod had gotten it?  And that turned out to lead to their answer, because had been bought from Instel-Arms in mid-1112 with several added options to boot.  Such things might not be available in the Regina system, or would be so at a much higher cost than the KCr 8 cost Zimzod paid.

The Admiral admired the duster and noted it had "add-on options" and wasn't off the rack or in his armories.  He also pointed out that the batteries for the electronic subsystem were of a generally higher tech than Regina's.  So, they would be expensive to buy in-system.  And they were nothing compared to the chameleon system.  Thanking the Admiral for the information he'd given them and the items to consider, the couple returned to the outer office, got their driver and returned to the airCar as something tickled at Mikah's memory.

As they got to the aircar, Mikah remembered and reminded Zimzod about the "arms warehouse" Aiden had introduced them to the year before.  So, before they went back to the ship, they had the driver circle over an area on the edge of Atora city where it bled into Credo City.  As they circled, Mikah and Zimzod did their best to look for anything familiar or which reminded them where the warehouse was located.  Sadly, after thirty minutes or so, the pair had to admit they couldn't remember where the place was and figured they should head back to the suite.  Both Rol and Emkir had been with the crew when they'd visited before and might be able to help.


Getting Legal Advice

     After Mikah and Zimzod left for their legal office, Terin went back to his computer studies.  Fesic continued both his studies and his leg exercises.  As that happened in the common spaces, Rol was still behind closed doors with his legal team.  On the positive side of things, the Duchy of Regina had been forced to evaluate the case the Jesediperei delegation had brought before allowing them to lodge any charges.  And while that process was still on-going, that meant the delegation had to turn over "everything" that comprised their case.  At the same time, Rol's lawyers were under no such rules and the Duchy had turned over the Jesediperei data in support of the Imperial stamp of approval on Rol's past actions.

Rol's lead advocate was also a bit smug as he said that gave them an advantage over the delegation.  While they had their facts, so did his team.  But they also had all the facts that followed those events, and Rol.  The Jesediperei could only collect what had been made public of the rest of the facts.  That meant his lawyers could "work with" the facts the Jesedipere delegation brought to the table while they had to guess at the data Rol's defenders could present.  So, they had to dig through Sir Jeremy's book, Rol's interviews and what else had been published for their 'table scraps' without the full facts and depth Rol could give his team.

That said, the lawyer told Rol the team had been studying the data they had since they'd been told he was coming to the system and they'd be representing Rol.  The bad news was that they had found Rol had been a glory hound, had been careless and had over-committed his unit.  And that meant he was both guilty of the charges and a war criminal.  But, it was in the best interests of the Imperium and those who had supported Rol that he not turn out to be a war criminal.  And so, it was their job to make sure Rol was not found to be a war criminal.  And their advantages gave them most of the cards.

The lawyers also recommended Rol hold back on his book because it was likely he'd made mistakes which could cause issues.  Along with the events the Duchy had planned to rehabilitate his past, he was ordered to "Shut the fuck up" about his military past.  Any questions about that were to be referred to his legal counsel for the moment because, "..while you've done nothing wrong, there are a great many rumors flying around and you would not want to inappropriately say something that would further confuse the situation."  In fact, they offered to write that down for him so he could remember.  Finally, done with their other advice, they addressed the "big question" and advised Rol to actually visit Sir Jeremy.

When Rol was both surprised and confused by that, they explained.  The meeting would be behind closed doors, unrecorded and would make Rol appear to be the good guy.  When Rol was uncertain of that, they pointed out that he had accused Rol of many crimes and he was the one under arrest.  While they did not expect Rol to convince Jeremy that he was wrong, he could show Sir Jeremy how much harm he had done to Rol with his book.  And little would be better for Rol than for Sir Jeremy to make a public statement apologizing for the harm done even while maintaining the accuracy of his work.  After finishing that explanation and covering other small items, the lawyers wrapped up and left.


Updates And Memories

     As Rol escorted his legal team out of the suite, the others were waiting for their newly hired cook to arrive.  When he did arrive, it was with an assistant and a sous-chef!  After settling his people, the cook spoke to those present and asked how many people lived there and where those outside the suite were?  He then set about a meal plan which would not only feed those in the suite but would save meals for those who would return.  Ironically, it was as they were boxing up the spare meals that Mikah and Zimzod got back.  As they enjoyed the luxury of the meal and the cook's people cleaned the kitchen, Fesic decided this was a great way to live and suggested they hire a masseuse.

While they ate, Zimzod handed out the tracking tags and they explained why the Admiral from Regina Naval Intelligence wanted them all to wear one.  Emkir grabbed a tag for Aali, figuring he'd get it to her soon enough.  Mikah was firm that they should all be wearing theirs at all times.  As they eyed the tags, Zimzod demanded, "Any questions?  Any questions?" looking left and right.  Munarshu said, "Yeah.  Why?"  Zimzod leaned towards him menacingly and said, "So, when the Countess wants you dead, they'll know where to find you.  Bitch!"  Zimzod then busted out laughing.  Realizing it was a joke, they all laughed with him.

Mikah also told them they were "encouraged" to go out into public places and sternly told them all they were to be on their best behavior.  As they considered that, Mikah asked Rol and Emkir if they remembered the warehouse they'd visited the year before?  When both men remembered the place, Mikah asked if either of them remembered where it was?  While Emkir wasn't really sure of anything, Rol said he thought he had a pretty good memory where the place was.  They all remembered the discreet but obviously legitimate looking "shop" which appeared to open like a tesseract when one entered.

What seemed to be a small part of one warehouse from outside was a huge department store of linked warehouse-sized sections.  Each was attached from the rear center and sides to the front of additional buildings.  And once inside, it was obviously well protected.  The "department store" catered to every merc or combat-minded customer entering and seemed to rival some Instel-Arms they'd visited.  Personal weapons weren't demanded at the door but the "internal security" made it clear that wasn't needed.  When Rol asked why she asked, Mikah said she wanted them to go there and see if they could pick up some discreet body armor.

Nodding, Terin asked Rol how the meeting with his lawyers went?  Rol answered, "It went very well.  Beyond that, I can't say more", Terin nodded and joked, "It must have.  You're hardly limping at all."  That got laughs all around the table.  Zimzod added, "I thought there'd be gerbils involved with that." When Rol said, "Nope.  No gerbils", Zimzod asked, "Gag balls?"  Going with it, Rol said, "Not really, but..." and was cut off by Zimzod as he joked, "Rusty nipple clamps?"  Zimzod got even more laughs each time he raised the bar.  When Terin asked Mikah, "Do you use those on him? She cheerily said, "Sure!  He loves them!" and everyone around the table laughed hard.

Curious, Emkir asked Mikah why it was more important for them to be on their best behavior now, when they went out?  Mikah started to tap dance around the true answer, saying, "Because you never know who's going to be watching you or filming you..."  Emkir interrupted to asked, "Filming?" in a concerned tone.  Mikah answered, "Yes!  Filming.  Paparazzi, remember?" in an annoyed tone.  When Terin jumped in, asking, "Haven't you seen the news?  How we're the hot topic?" Emkir correctly pointed out that they were not the hot topic.  The gravCar crash was, and it was not linked to them.

Mikah responded, "Well, you never know when something's gonna jump out at us." and Zimzod added, "Something always does."  Mikah doubled down, saying, "And if you see a little old lady who needs help?  You help her!"  Munarshu threw in, "If you see a pregnant lady standing and you're sitting, offer her your seat."  Fesic jumped in, saying, "I'll just ram my gravChair right under her!" suggesting he'd give her a ride.  Despite the situation, that got laughs around the table.  After a pause as people ate, Zimzod reminded them they were being tracked so they could be picked to "be heroes"

Chatting about that, they realized they had no idea how to tell which "strange vehicles" they should and should not get into?  And, they realized they'd forgotten to ask the Admiral how they'd recognize a pick up as opposed to a kidnapping?  Terin suggested they might want to call the Admiral and set up some sort of code word or something.  Mikah agreed it should be something everyone would remember. 

After Dinner Scavenging

     After dinner, Zimzod looked over his non-military gear to see where he could set up covert holsters?  His duster offered a number of pockets to hide weapons in.  Zimzod then considered how to get more of his concealable hand weapons from the ship under the ever-watchful eyes of the seneschalate.  He decided the best way was to wear the duster and have a number of other people with him to provide distractions.  And if he was seen, he would accept their "recommendation" he not take the weapon and arm up anyway.  So, Zimzod called the Seneschal's office and asked who wanted to go with him?

Munarshu said he wanted to go, even though he'd need someone to carry his gear if he tried to bring back much.  Mikah also decided to go.  Terin also decide to go and Fesic asked them to bring back his walking cane.  Hearing that request, Mikah joked that Fesic needed a stun stick disguised as a cane and Fesic said it was a weapon already.  Accepting that, the next thing they needed was another ride.  When they called the motorpool, having four people, they saw they'd have to pay more for a larger vehicle if they had a driver along.  That was both less expensive and would bring less prying eyes.

After paying Cr 30 for the rental of a gravCar for the evening, they boarded and headed out to meet with the appointed Seneschalate officer at the ship.  Once they were at the ship, and despite the admonishments of the official, Zimzod pocketed his semi-automatic .45's, his Darrian gauss pistol and magazines of ammo for both.  When the seneschalate representative started advising them against bring out hard combat weapons, Zimzod said they were for "just in case".  That was not an answer that made the rep happy.  Zimzod just shrugged and said he wanted to keep his options open.  When the representative did not accept that, Zimzod said, "Talk to your boss about it."

Mikah reminded the rep there had already been an attempt on their lives as she grabbed her auto-pistol with ten clips and her pulse taser.  The taser was, at least, a weapon the seneschal approved of.  Mikah also pack one of her ballistic cloth shipsuits.  Munarshu grabbed "Patty", one of his .50 cal auto-pistols and a magazine-fed snub pistol.  Munarshu grabbed four clips which he loaded with tranq rounds, which pleased the observer more than the twelve clips of ball ammo for his .45's and 5 clips gauss ammo that Zimzod grabbed.  Munarshu also grabbed five clips of .50 cal ammo too.

Terin grabbed his snub pistol with five clips ball ammo, and his special ammo for the weapon (1 clip each of HE, HEAP, HEAT and Tranq).  Terin also grabbed the sword customized for him and the scabbard from the utility knife he had to replace.  As Terin also planned to buy more sets of executive armor, he collected all his suits, in case the crew were called out for events.  Zimzod also grabbed some dress clothes as Terin grabbed more casual stuff too.  In addition to personal items, Emkir had also asked them to pick up his cutlass and large fighting knife.  And Aali had asked for someone to grab a set of PRISS goggles.  Terin also grabbed Fesic's cane.

Terin also grabbed his herb bag, hookah and its accessories, without comment from anyone else.  Terin also grabbed his first aid kit.  While they were off getting gear from the ship, Fesic continued studying.  Rol did stent-work.  Emkir figured he could call Aali and talk things over if she had the free time?  Emkir knew Aali had only one mission from getting up that morning.  That was trying to figure out what had happened with her family, why and how to fix things?  So, he dialed up his wife so he could ask her how the day had gone?

Not Ozzy And Harriette

     After Aali had finished her morning routine and gone to have breakfast with her family, her first question was if her sister would be there?  When Aali joined the rest of her family, she was told her sister would not be with them.  When Aali again tried to find out what her issue was, Aali's mom continued to say she didn't know.  When her father joined them, he also said he had no clue but suggested it had something to do with her reassignment?  He was sure it was something military.  When Aali asked her parents if her sister was unhappy about her assignment, they said she was.  She had, apparently, been assigned to a cruiser until a month or two back.  And then, she wasn't.

Considering that for a moment, Aali decided she needed to have a good old fashioned 'Heart to Heart' with her sister.  And since her sister was not likely to come if she called and asked nicely, Aali decided to 'pitch a bitch' until her mother gave in and made the call.  Aali pushed at her family until she called and twisting her sister's arm verbally until she agreed to show up.  And while that performance was less fun than it was anything else, Aali finally got her sister to promise to show.

That meant having breakfast and sitting and chatting with her parents about how things were going at home for an hour.  But, the time wasted was worth it as her sister finally arrived, even dressed in civilian clothing.  Despite that slight concession, Aali could see by the expression on her sister's face was NOT happy.  Entering in with an expression like she was chewing steel nails, her sister demanded to know what Aali's problem was?  Aali let her know the feeling was mutual in no uncertain terms.  And as the storm seemed ready to break, Aali pointed to a side room and snarled, "You and me." in her best Senior Officer tone.

Once the door was closed, Aali saw that her sister was happy to sit silently and angrily pout so she demanded to know what her problem was with her and her crew?  What followed was about an hour of shouting, screaming and arguing before Aali finally pieced together that she felt Aali and her crew got her removed from her post as a ship's officer!  Aali stood there shocked for a moment as her sister's eyes seemed to fire lasers back.  When Aali could only sputter, "What?  How?"  her sister coldly said she didn't know how but she'd been removed from her post without explanation about the same time news about them and Rol had started.

Asking for details, Aali learned her sister had gotten a great berth aboard a famous cruiser serving a respected captain.  And, somehow, Aali and her crew had caused her to be reassigned.  And not just her, but the entire ship's officer corps!  That last detail stopped Aali cold because that just didn't happen.  Ever.  Without a path forward from that, Aali could only say she did not know what had happened but she wasn't happy about it either.  the sentiment did nothing to the ice shell her sister wore.  After another pause, Aali asked which cruiser her sister had been assigned to?

And the next news almost knocked her for another loop.  The ship had been the INS Tamesha Kargaa!  Aali knew the Tamesha Kargaa from their greeting as they entered the Regina system.  Aali also remembered that Mikah knew the ship's captain and had been aboard that ship at some time in the past, before Aali had joined the crew.  She also remembered that Emkir had been aboard with Mikah too.  They'd arrived at Regina aboard that cruiser at the start of their last visit a year before.  Curiouser and curiouser.  And all the officers "except" the captain had been removed...

Aali's first thought was that the captain wouldn't have stayed unless she wanted all her officers off the ship herself.  But Aali knew such an order would mark a captain as incompetent and "she" would have been removed instead.  So, this did not compute!  Looking back at her sister, Aali pointed out, "If it were just you, it could be the Hotel California, but what link did the rest of the officers have to our crew?  It doesn't make sense."  Sadly, Aali's logic was just more noise to her sister.  She did not know.  She did not want to know.  She did not care.  She blamed Aali and her crew.

Aali saw that she would have to find another way to get her answers if her sister wouldn't even try.  Shrugging, she talked her sister into at least sharing lunch with the family and keeping their issues off to the side for the time being.  Then, she'd return to the crew and see what resources or connections she could find there to try to figure this mess out with?  Eventually, Aali spent the afternoon with her parents, brother and sister because, without her sister's poison tongue striking, Aali could get some read on her parent's issues.  Aali stayed and had dinner before getting ready to visit the crew's suite.  Shortly after dinner, Emkir called see what she'd learned and she told him she was on the way to the suite.

Delighted because Aali was joining him but concerned about what she'd learned, Emkir told the others she was coming over.  And once she was there, everyone she saw greeted her and Rol asked, "What are you doing here so soon?  Aali shrugged at him and said, "Well, it looks like things are getting weird."  Not surprised with that turn, Rol simply asked, "And?"  Answering his as the others moved in and Emkir gave her a hug and nuzzle, Aali said, "Remember the cruiser Tamesha Kargaa that Mikah, Zimzod and their crew arrived her on last year?  All of them remembered that cruiser from their welcome to the system this time.  When people said they did, including Emkir mentioning he'd been with them, Aali continued, "My sister was assigned to that cruiser."

After a moment for them to absorb that coincidence, Aali continued, "And then, suddenly, the entire ship's officer corps were removed from the ship except the captain."  Rol said, "Interesting."  Then asked, "With no reason given?" and Aali answered, "She says it was our fault."  Into the silence, Rol joked, "I didn't know we had so many relatives aboard that ship."  Aali nodded and said, "I'm thinking we need to talk to someone who can connect us up with someone in the Navy who can tell us what's going on?"  With that, Rol turned to Emkir and asked, "What do you think?  Do you think you can possibly get the word?"  Emkir considered and said this was the sort of thing you needed connections for and he had no connections in the upper ranks of the Regina Navy.

When it was pointed out he was an Admiral, Emkir remind them he was a Retired Admiral and Scout.  Emkir suggested they look at all their contacts and see if there's anyone connected to the navy.  He also admitted with an evil grin that, whenever he wanted someone from the navy to show up, all he had to do was wear tight pants and bend over.  Rol shrugged and said, "Sounds like something to bring up with the captain and get everyone in on this.  Maybe, we'll find somebody with a lead in?"  Emkir considered and said, "Perhaps someone we met last year." but did not sound certain of that. 

When Fesic mentioned that Mikah had seemed to know that captain from when they arrived in-system, Rol wondered how they knew each other?  When no one else seemed to have heard the story, Emkir explained how things had worked in the Rech system the year before.  After that was shared, Aali admitted she had little luck beyond finding out what was bothering her sister.  So, that was gonna remain an issue for her and Emkir.  Joking, because issues surrounded this crew, Rol said, "Well, aren't you glad you're back with us?"  After the brief chuckles that got, everyone sat and chatted until Mikah, Zimzod and the others arrived.  Before they had left the ship, Munarshu had suggested they use one of their own air/rafts, but Mikah shot that down.

As they returned to the suite, they saw Aali and Mikah welcomed her, saying, "Aali!  How was the visit?  in a tone which was somewhat knowing.  Based on the tone of Mikah's voice, Aali just shot the captain a look.  Still, Aali answered Mikah saying, "I think I have some answers and more questions."  Mikah's "OK, what's up?" only prompted Aali to continue.  Aali said she'd had 'a talk' with her sister and the tone used told everyone just exactly how fun that was?  After a brief pause, Aali asked Mikah, "Do you remember the cruiser Tamesha Kargaa?"  Mikah quickly said, "Yeah." in a tone which begged what that had to do with anything?

Aali continued, "Apparently, my sister was assigned aboard the cruiser as a junior officer."  Mikah again said, "OK" and waited as Aali explained that her sister and "All" the officers were reassigned off the ship except for the captain."  This time, Mikah's "OK" had a tone of 'where is this going?' and Aali drove right there asking, "Do you know anybody we might be able to talk to and perhaps find out why that happened?  Because that seems to be my sister's problem."  Mikah was cautious, saying, "Well, we can make inquiries."  Aali nodded and admitted, "I don't know if that is my sister's only problem but it's the big one.  And she blames us for it."

Accepting that, Mikah decided it was time to call Regina military intelligence and see if she could reach the admiral again?  When the call came through, Mikah was facing a different non-descript receptionist in the same non-descript office.  When he asked Mikah how he could help, Mikah asked him to connect her to the admiral?  Without a blink, and very politely, the receptionist said, "I'm sorry ma'am, this is a law firm.  I'm sure we have no military officer here, retired or not."  When he could see Mikah wasn't pleased with that, he asked her if she was certain she'd contacted the correct comms code?  Certain she had, Mikah answered, "Yes Sir.  I can send you my Ident if it helps?" in an annoyed tone.

Without waiting for the man to comment, Mikah connected her Ident to the system so the man could see she was who she claimed to be.  But then, he apologized again because they didn't have any admirals in that office.  He did say they could set up an appointment for her to come out and meet with their late-night legal staff and see if they can't help resolve the confusion?  Mikah just said, "Never mind.  I must have dialed wrong."  As she cut the line, the receptionist wished her luck.  When Terin asked, "You're friends with the captain on the ship, aren't you?" Mikah said, "Yeah.  I have to figure out how to get in contact with her because the ship is still in-system."

Mikah was considering the routes she could take which included calling a naval liaison officer or even calling the naval base's public affairs office to see if she could get a call routed to the ship's captain?  Giving up on a military path, Mikah decided the next best resource she had was to call the seneschalate.  When that call was answered by a representative, Mikah identified herself and said she had an inquiry for the Seneschal.  Mikah also explained that she had some questions regarding the cruiser Tamesha Kargaa and hoped to be called back.  The woman she was talking to entered her data into the system and said, "Hold on."

Mikah waited as the image on her screen froze for a bit.  But, after a few minutes, Mr. Dilgaadin's face appeared on the screen.  As he joined the call, Mr. Dilgaadin said, "Good evening Lady Mikah.  Sorry for not getting back to you earlier."  Mikah waived that off, saying, "Oh, that's fine.  We've been a little bit busy."  Before he could speak, Mikah continued, "Umm.  We've got an inquiry that's a little...  Somewhat related, but somehow not.  I was just wondering if you could shed some light on it?"  When Mr. Dilgaadin cautiously said "OK", Mikah continued.

Mikah said, "Dame Piirirshu-Meshrumiikiim's sister was assigned to the Cruiser IMS Tamesha Kargaa and was recently removed from her post along with the whole ship's officer corps except the captain.  She seems to be blaming Aali for this, or us in general.  And I was wondering if you knew anything about it?  Or could shed some light?"  As she finished, the look on Mr. Dilgaadin's face was entirely surprised and confused.  He then admitted that, of all the things they might have sent to him, this came out of deep space.  Mikah shrugged and admitted, "This just came up to me."

Mr. Dilgaadin said, "The Seneschalate has nothing to do with the day to day operations of the planetary navy but, now that you've notified us of this, it is strange enough I can look into it."  After accepting that, Mikah said, "And I tried calling that number you gave us and got a law firm.  And I did not want to push it with them, so I just wanted to confirm this was a one-time only number or..."  Mr. Dilgaadin interrupted her asking, "Really?"  When Mikah confirmed that, he asked, "When you called the number, what did you say?" and Mikah said she'd asked for the admiral.  Mr. Dilgaadin suddenly looked like he understood and even had a slight smile curling his lips.

Mr. Dilgaadin asked, "On this comm link?  On this open comm link?"  Mikah first said "Yes" and then said "Oh" as she realized what he meant and remembered she had been calling a covert operation.  To Mr. Dilgaadin, she said she'd call them back later and then recapped the issue with the cruiser.  Mr. Dilgaadin said he'd have his people investigate and get back to Mikah if there was anything of note to their issues.  Done with that issue, he said, "With regard to the meeting with the Countess, it seems that..."  Mr. Dilgaadin stopped, organized his thoughts and restarted.

"I don't know what the Navy discussed with you in your meeting with them.  But it appears one of the question marks at the top of the tier on the Countess' chart may be filled by an organization related to your friends the Stepsevici.  Mikah answered, "Yes, from what the Navy told us, we believe it's the Natokans?"  "Um, no, actually," Dilgaadin said, "we believe the Natokans may have placed members in the Stepsevici delegation but we think this may be the Stepsevici themselves."  Mikah answered, "Oh.  That's not a surprise."  As the seneschal started to respond, Mikah reversed herself saying, "Well, it's kind of a surprise because they're not really that intelligent."

Dilgaadin withheld a statement on her comment but did say, "Either way, at least one of the factions in play appears to potentially be the Stepsevici.  Thanking the seneschal, Mikah said, "You tell us what our course should be and we'll follow your recommendations."  Mr. Dilgaadin said they were building files on the Stepsevici and said they'd call with any advice.  Then he asked Mikah if they had any additional information the crew could provide on the Porozlan nation?  Mikah thought about that as she said, "We might", then to herself, "Do we?"  Then, she suddenly brightened and said, "Yes, we do!  I'll bring it over in the morning."  As Dilgaadin raised an eyebrow at her comments, Mikah changed her mind and said, "Or maybe, now."

Dilgaadin asked, "Is this something we need to discuss on a secure line?"  When Mikah agreed, "Probably", he said he'd call her back and that call ended.  When her personal comms started to buzz a few minutes later and Mikah saw it was Dilgaadin calling her on one of their secret secure channels, Mikah didn't even waste the time being surprised as she answered the call.  When Mikah answered him, Dilgaadin asked for the details on this new information?  But he did seem to be that bit more relaxed.  Mikah then explained she had a back-up copy of a hand-computer she'd stolen from a Stepsevici "Councilor Helmik" aboard the critically damaged Enlightened Measure while treating him for wounds after an explosion aboard that ship.

When Dilgaadin asked, Mikah told him the original hand computer had been given to intelligence assets in the Rhylanor system.  Mikah continued to say, "There is a load of data on the back up and we'll be glad to give you a copy." as Fesic wondered why this was the first he was hearing of this?  For clarification, Dilgaadin asked, "How would you characterize the data you have on this back-up?  Mikah answered a bit uncertainly, "Well, it's pretty extensive.  There are a lot of government related files and bank account data and secret stuff and..."  Dilgaadin interrupted her, honestly curious, and asked, "And, who did you turn this over to in the Rhylanor system?"

Mikah soft shoed it, innocently saying, "Oh.  The intelligence agency."  Less casually, Dilgaadin asked, "Can you tell me which intelligence agency?  Because there are quite a few there?"  Mikah said, "Well, we gave it to Lord William." in a statement which could have been a question.  After a notable pause, Dilgaadin had ripped through his memory of notable Lords in the Rhylanor system with the first name "William".  He then, uncertainly, asked "Duke Leonard's brother?" in an almost confused tone because the man had nothing to do with intelligence work.  As far as Dilgaadin knew.

Revelations And Handovers

     When Mikah said, "Yes", Dilgaadin said, "He works for a university, you know?" in a doubtful tone.  He was also trying furiously but couldn't remember which university the man worked for.  Mikah only answered, "Yeah, that's the story", which suggested it was a cover even as she realized she'd likely just outed Lord William.  Also in the room, Rol just planted his face in his hands.  After a pause during which Mr. Dilgaadin considered that new data, he said, "Well, I look forward to getting a copy of this file system.  In fact," he continued, "You can give me the only copy of the information" as his tone turned commanding.  Mikah began, "We'll deliver it..." then reset, "Will you be in your office later tonight or would you rather wait until morning?"

Mr. Dilgaadin said he could send people for it "now" and Mikah brightened, "Oh!  That'll work.  "Have them meet us at our ship." since Brian's hand computer was there.  With that, they ended the call and Mikah realized she'd need to tell Emkir he had to give up his copy of the lock picking software.  Of course, she did not know he'd not only copied that software from Zimzod's copy but had given a copy of the software to Aali too.  Mikah also explained to the rest of the crew what they were handing over so everyone else understood the situation.  When she did, and for reasons only he understood, Rol asked, "Is there anything in there that can help with my trial?"  This struck Mikah odd because Rol was not yet charged, much less on trial.  And the data was about the Stepsevici, not the Jesediperei.  So, she had to wonder what was wrong with him that he'd ask that?

When Rol said, "since this is all new to me, I had to ask", Zimzod said, "Well, there's nothing on there that can help your case."  then ordered, "So now that you know about it, shut up about it."  that got laughs from everyone else in the compartment except Rol.  Re-thinking himself, Zimzod then said, "Actually, you didn't even need to know about this.  You just happened to be in the compartment when it came out."  Rol just shrugged and said, "I guess ComSec is blown anyway, right?" considering Mikah had blown Lord William's cover and they'd spilled what seemed like an important secret to the whole crew by mistake.  As this conversation continued, Mikah was trying to figure out if they "could" turn over the only copy?

She was thinking "not" even as she concentrated on the copy Zimzod and she had.  That had been made from the original copy, made by Brian onto his hand computer.  And she knew Zimzod had let Emkir copy the lock picking software too.  They realized they'd have to do an electronic GI party "if" they wanted to be able to prove they only had the one copy they were turning over.  Zimzod preferred just telling the person or persons picking up the data they only had the one copy and hoping there was not an invasive testing of their computers as had happened in the Equus system looking for signs they'd hacked the video of Emkir's crimes.

Mikah decided to try going with that as she and Zimzod repeated the story and tried to convince each other of it.  Not long after the conversation, Seneschalate agents arrived to collect the hand computer they were turning over and Mikah and Zimzod rode with them to the ship.  Once there, she told them that was Sir Brian's hand computer and the only place they had the data since it had been copied from the original, turned over in Rhylanor.

Once they handed over the computer, they accepted that as one of the agents literally stared into Mikah's eyes.  As he did, he intently asked Mikah, "Are you sure this is the only copy?" Mikah answered, "Yes.  Other than the copy we left on Rhylanor."  The agent appeared to accept her word for it but did not look pleased.  After that, they brought Mikah and Zimzod back to the suite and left.  Finally done with that, Mikah decided it was time to get Rol in the air-raft and see if he could find the weapons warehouse?

Up to that point, Munarshu had intended to spend an hour each studying his mind games and robotics.  Rol had spent the time after Mikah and Zimzod went to the ship looking up the Stepsevici, but did not find much.  Terin called Instel-Arms to price five suits of executive body armor.  They quoted him Cr 2,500 each.  Terin was shocked at the costs in Regina as they had paid much less in Rhylanor, but Rhylanor was closer to the main source of trade in the sector, not to mention a higher tech level system.  After that, he returned to his computer studies.  And Fesic also studied his classes while Aali and Emkir stepped into a spare room to discuss the issues they faced.


Off For Some Shopping

     Mikah and Zimzod finally returned to the suite to pick up Rol and anyone else who wanted to go to the warehouse.  At about that time, Munarshu had shut his studies down and gone to sleep, not finishing his scheduled studies for the evening.  Not seeing Rol in the suite's common spaces, Mikah asked where Rol was?  Terin didn't even look up from his terminal as he said, "In his room.  Tossing off."  The three of them there laughed at the joke.

After she went to bang on his room door and get his attention, Rol asked "Yes?" and Mikah said, "Let's go find that warehouse."  Rol said "OK" and grabbed his gear as he decided to spend the time asking about the Stepsevici?  When he asked who they were, Mikah said she'd explain along the way.  As they prepared to leave, Terin said he wanted to come along, as did Emkir and Aali.  And that meant they needed a larger air-raft.  They then paid Cr 60 for just the car and no driver, and headed out into the night.  Once they had air under them, Rol remembered the place was closer to Credo-down port than Mikah and Zimzod had remembered.

Because it was night time, it was more difficult for Rol to remember anything.  But, at the third warehouse they visited, they saw a sign reading "Sales".  And when they knocked and the door was cracked open so they could be asked if they could be helped, Mikah saw they were in the right place.  It turned out the place was called "the War House", which the owner likely thought was a clever play on "the warehouse.  Mikah didn't care as she told the door security, "Hi, we were here a year ago and we're back to replace some stuff that got destroyed on us."  Checking her Ident, they confirmed she had been "Dame" Mikah before and welcomed the crew back as verified customers.  They then asked if the crew had a shopping list?

Mikah tried to remember what they needed to replace and the big-ticket item was the gunner training system.  But they'd already replaced that.  So, Mikah said it was more individual stuff and they'd each be shopping for their needs.  Once that was done, they looked around at a cavernous space they'd need a cart or other vehicle to completely cover.  So, each person needed to know what they needed?  Knowing what she wanted her crew to have and not willing to deal with the whining she knew she'd get if she ordered everyone to buy their own, Mikah decided to be altruistic.  That meant ordering five sets each of executive armor as well as two shipsuits made of ballistic cloth each.  As Zimzod asked for options in casual defensive headwear, Mikah asked the sales folks to check out Zimzod's duster and see how much it would cost to duplicate them?

Zimzod was told there was no such thing as a ballistic fedora.  He'd have to go with standard styles of combat helmets if he wanted anything functional.  As for the dusters, Zimzod had to give the sales team a guided tour of the ballistic-defensive qualities, the power subsystem and the chameleon surface system.  Mikah said they had six weeks if the dusters could be made.  As they evaluated the duster's power system, a fiber-optic power distribution network to docks in all the coat's pockets leading back to a distributed set of batteries, they mentioned the batteries were higher tech than local.  That meant they'd be fairly expensive and the high-tech cabling was not cheap either.  They were also doubtful they could reproduce the chameleon system locally at all.

Mikah remembered she had cans of nanite spray-on which provided short-term chameleon properties.  She figured she could use those until they got better upgrades to any dusters they had made.  Of course, she'd had the cans so long, she wasn't even sure if they were any good anymore?  Mikah's thoughts were cut off as Terin suggested, "I don't think we need the powered ones.  Right?"  When Mikah looked up at him, Terin repeated, "I don't think we need powered ones.  Just, just protection.  We don't need to be all fancy."  Mikah said, "Well, we don't need the chameleon system, or the power for that."  Zimzod pointed out that the power system covered more than just that.

Mikah did say they wanted some part of the power system so they could use some devices with it.  That meant they could give up the chameleon but wanted the pockets and storage as well as a reduced power subsystem.  And, they wanted the dusters to be made of a flat, "Grey fades into shadows" fabric which had ballistic armor properties.  And Mikah wanted one for each of the crew except Zimzod, who already had one, and Aiden, who wouldn't be in-system for weeks.  As the sales person said he'd have his people look at what they wanted and come up with a price, Emkir made a crack about them all looking like any ill-fated team from any "Loser-Hunter team" from any action adventure vid.

Ignoring Emkir, Mikah knew executive armor and non-tailored shipsuits came in standard sizes, small, medium, large, etc, so she could order in advance for Aiden.  So, the only thing they'd have to have tailored was a possible duster.  That would have to be done after Aiden arrived.  That decided, Mikah asked about ordering the forty five executive armor suits and eighteen ballistic shipsuits.  As she worked with one salesperson on that, Terin turned to another and said, "I need a survival knife" as he held up the empty sheath he'd brought.

The salesman held up a stock-scanning stylus and scanned the sheath as the sales person joked, "You lost it?  That was careless of you."  Terin nodded, saying, "Yeah, the situation was complicated."  As the results of his stock query came back, the sales person said, "We do have one of these." with the "I'm getting something out of this" smile of a commission worker.  After Terin placed the order, he was told the new blade would come with all the fittings including a new sheath, so he'd end up with two of those.  But he needed the knife so he spent the Cr 10.  After that, everyone shopped as the workers examined Zimzod's duster and everyone was measured out.

In the end, they offered Mikah executive armor at a discount of Cr 2,200 each (Cr 300 off each) for a total of KCr 99 for the 45 suits.  For the shipsuits, they said the cost would be %50 over the cost of a standard shipsuit, which was Cr 45, so that would cost Mikah Cr 1,215.  The dusters would have to be priced once the designers figured out what they could do?  Still, without the dusters, she was in for Cr 100,215.  The only details left were the decisions on the design of the dusters, measuring the crew for them if they were ordered and the final price on them.  With all the other business done, they left and went back to the suite.

By their return to the suite around 10pm, Fesic had racked out as well as had Munarshu at 9.  Rol was just relaxing and watching the news until he decided to sleep.  When the rest of the crew arrived, Mikah decided to wait until the next morning to tell the others they had to come with her back to the warehouse to be measured for a potential duster order.  Mikah planned to get Rol, Munarshu and Fesic to the warehouse to get their measurements.  Zimzod planned to spend that time, the next morning, doing some stent work with Terin, using Terin's comm dots.


Filling In More Gaps

     After breakfast, and Mikah had left with the others, the butler let them know they had a visitor from the local police force.  When Zimzod had the butler allow the man up to the suite from the building lobby, the man returned Munarshu's pistol to them, since the engineer had been "rudely woken and forced to go to the warehouse."  As he made the delivery, the officer told Zimzod there were no additional updates to their case.  Zimzod thanked the man and set Munarshu's pistol safely in a lockbox for the moment as the man left.

At the warehouse, Rol asked about pricing on the largest vibro-knife they had in stock?  When they showed him a limited line of Vibro-fighting blades, Rol saw the longest one cost Cr 750.  After handling the display unit a bit, and trying its feel in his hands, Rol bought the weapon, which came with belt scabbard.  As he paid for the blade, Rol was told it was not charged and he would need to do that once he received the delivery.  But when Rol showed his Ident, the salesperson said Rol could take it with him if it were wrapped for transport.

Also shopping around, Fesic bought an additional set of executive armor for Cr 2,200.  Fesic also wanted boxed ammo to refill magazines if needed.  For his accelerator rifle, he wanted ball, flechette and for his snub, he wanted ball, Tranq and HEAP.  When asked, Fesic wanted a box of 100 ball rounds for the rifle.  That would cost him Cr 150 and another hundred round box of flechette ammo for the rifle cost Cr 500.  The box of 100 ball rounds for his snub pistol cost Cr 150.  Finally, he bought 25 rounds of Tranq and 5 rounds HEAP for Cr 100 and 100, so he spent a total of Cr 1,203 on Ammo.  That left him with Cr 119, so he was going to have to be careful with his few remaining credits until he was paid again.

At the same time, Munarshu was looking for the most deadly and capable dagger or blade he could find.  The closest blade he could get to that was to order a hand-made weapon rather than one made by the ultra-high tech industries which would be found in the Rhylanor or Glisten systems.  While he would wait nearly a month of not more to get the weapon, a craftsman skilled in working carbon steel alloys would make him a very fine edged blade crafted to the highest standards of blade flexibility and edge hardness.  Because gravitics were available in the craftsman's shop, the weapon could also be made using compressed-metals technology.  The result would be a hand-made, high-tensile steel blade.

Munarshu was reminded, this blade would not defeat significant armor unless he targeted and struck interface points, like unshielded joint seams, etc...  When Munarshu went over what he could get, he was impressed and asked for pricing.  He was told it would cost him Cr 15,000 and promptly handed over his Ident to pay the cost.  That also meant he had to fill out a number of documents, to insure the blade could be delivered.  He also had to agree to set up delivery if his ship had to leave the system before the blade was done, something Munarshu was not worried about.  As Emkir and Aali shopped, Mikah called after them, "No custom combat Chairs!" and got laughs from the crew.

Aali eventually bought a thigh holster for her pulse taser.  That cost her Cr 40.  Mikah also got a belt holster for her pulse taser for Cr 50, and Munarshu got shoulder holsters for the .50 cal pistols he'd named "Liz" and "Patty" for Cr 80.  As the others shopped, and they worked on their stent-work, Terin mentioned sonic weapons to Zimzod.  Zimzod first asked about what kind of sonics Terin was interested in and the navigator reminded him about the weapons he and Munarshu had used against the android on Equus.  Zimzod pointed out those had been rifles and Terin said he was sure they came as hand weapons and would be more legal.  Zimzod shrugged and said they could use tranqs instead of sonics.

When Terin pointed out that sonic weapons were area effect and could take down more enemies per pull of the trigger, and cheaper, than tranqs, Zimzod got interested.  When Zimzod called Mikah, she asked "Yes?" and Zimzod asked if the warehouse had sonic weapons?  Mikah asked about sonic weapons and was told they had everything from man-portable pistols and rifles to vehicle-mounted cannons.  When Mikah settled on models she liked, with a good "hard" wave-front, she was quoted Cr 1,500 for the handgun and Cr 3,500 for the rifle.  Nodding, Mikah ordered four of the pistols with holsters for Cr 6,000, to be added to the ship's locker.  As Mikah did that, Rol asked about a palm-based contact stunner?

The sales staff did tell Rol they could fit him with a contact fingerless glove stun weapon which would have to have a wire harness run down the arm to a small battery pack worn elsewhere.  But they warned results could vary where larger foes might not be taken down while smaller targets could suffer significant burns or tissue damage.  Also, the devices were prone to mishaps and other issues.  In addition, the size made them less powerful.  And everyone knew there were many who were not taken down by even the full-strength combat stunners.  So, such weapons were always a risk.  Rol said he was hoping for a last resort weapon which was inconspicuous and available when he needed to improvise.  But this weapon was neither.  Rol did buy a concealed-carry shoulder holster for Cr 40 for his gauss pistol.


Answers and Mind Games

     By lunch time, the shopping party got back to the suite and were settling in while Mikah returned the air/raft.  As she did, Mikah noticed a quiet conversation going on in one of the offices just off the motorpool rooms.  When she paused to listen in, she could hear one of the men insisting, "I don't know who gets it.  You find out who gets it." in a defensive tone.  As he said that, he seemed to push some paperwork back into the hands of the man he was speaking to.  Choosing to lean back and listen in, Mikah realized they were arguing over a pair of packages.  And both of the staffers really appear to not want to even consider dealing with them.

Deciding to get involved, Mikah stepped up to them and asked, "What's the problem?"  Surprised, and a bit annoyed, both men recognized Mikah from recent events and realized she held enough rank that they couldn't brush her off.  Shrugging, the man said they'd received deliveries with invalid information and he'd said they should go to the building manager.  The second man said the boxes might be suspicious and should go to the head of housekeeping, to investigate.  As they spoke, Mikah looked down at the wrapped boxes and actually saw Zimzod's name on one of them!

Telling them to hold on, Mikah called Zimzod and satirically said, "Dearest.."  When Zimzod asked what was up, Mikah asked if he was waiting for a package?  Zimzod said he'd been waiting for his comm dots order to arrive.  When Mikah asked for the name of the place he'd ordered them from, Zimzod told her and she checked the sender's address.  The issue with the package was that it was addressed to their first suite, which had been wrecked in the gravCar attack.  And since they'd moved, the address was invalid and might be another attempt to attack the crew.  Especially since they had been delivered to the motorpool.  So, they hadn't been sure what to do with them?

Being sure these were the comm dots Zimzod was waiting for, she told him, "I've got a package down here for you."  When she told the motorpool workers, they were surprised.  That dealt with, Mikah checked the other package and saw it was addressed to Rol!  And since it was from the same shipper, Mikah had Zimzod ask Rol if he was waiting for anything and he said he was too.  When Mikah asked why the packages were being held in the motorpool, she was told the mis-addressed packages had been delivered there.  Adding the incorrect addresses to that, they could be hazardous and the motorpool was as safe a place to hold them until more could be learned.

When the men said that they waited until "nothing unexpected happened", Mikah snarked, "You mean they didn't explode?"  Agreeing with that, they told Mikah they were deciding who would make decisions about the packages now?  Nodding, Mikah said, "Oh.  Well, I would always go with the building manager, not housekeeping.  For future reference."  As they thanked her, Mikah said, "or, the building concierge.  For the best bet."  Thanking Mikah again, they had her sign for the two boxes before handing them over to her.  Once that was done, she thanked them and took the boxes.  After Mikah delivered them, Zimzod got some laughs when he suggested Rol open his first...in another room.  Just in case.  Munarshu added, "In another room.  In another building."

As the cook and his staff arrived, Emkir And Aali told the others they had discussed their situation and said they were blocked with Aali's sister until they found out what had happened with her posting to the cruiser.  And, they felt they needed to solve that to try and get her sister to stop poisoning her parent's opinions.  Once that was done, they might be able to deal with the issues Aali's mom and dad had.  Because of that, they planned to spend the afternoon relaxing and detoxifying, at least from her family's issues.  Still, they did ask Mikah if there were any updates from any of her connections and Mikah remembered she'd not tried to call the Naval Intelligence Admiral on a secured line to see if she could get through.

Saying she was going to check with one of her contacts, Mikah pulled her comms and set up a secure line before trying to call the admiral.  As each time before, Mikah was greeted by an apparent receptionist who asked how she could help?  But, in this case, the receptionist was the woman Mikah and Zimzod had actually met when they visited.  When Mikah opened with, "Hello Darling, I need to speak to the admiral", the woman asked Mikah to hold while she checked to see if the officer was available?

After the woman confirmed the call was on a secure line, she checked with someone using a device in-built to her desk before asking Mikah to hold.  After a brief pause while the screen froze, the screen unlocked and the admiral came on the line.  Once she was talking to the man, Mikah explained the issue with Aali's sister and the cruiser before asking if he could shed any light on the events?  Like everyone before him, the admiral admitted that sort of action was extremely odd.  He also said that, in his experience, when the entire officer corps of a vessel were removed from service, the captain was usually the reason why.  So, the captain was also removed from service with their junior officers.  Beyond his impressions, he had no information on this situation, but was disturbed enough to promise Mikah he would look into the situation.

When he asked if there was anything else he could help with, Mikah said they were good and were just waiting to be 'called into action' to be heroes.  The admiral nodded but warned against sitting around waiting until cabin fever set in.  Mikah smiled and told him she'd make sure that didn't happen.  She also told him they were going to see a show that evening.  The admiral nodded and confirmed they were tracking the crew so they could act as needed.  The admiral did take the moment to remind Mikah they had huge amounts of back up.  So, if a situation came up where they could not win, they were to hold out.

As lunch was almost done, Mikah's comms began to buzz and she noted it was coming in on one of the team's scrambled lines.  When she answered it, expecting the admiral, she was surprised to find it was the Seneschal.  Mr. Dilgaadin had acted on her question about the cruiser and said he'd found out what happened.  As everyone settled in to get some answers, Mr. Dilgaadin told them the captain of the Tamesha Kargaa was also caught in the rumors surrounding them.  In this case, she had received her promotion to captain under the very mysterious circumstances related to then Dame Mikah and Sir Zimzod.  Everyone knew she'd been promoted after the death of her former captain, and for events in the Rech system, but also knew how they got there and what they'd been doing were all classified data.

That had led to rumors the captain had gotten her promotion only because she'd supported the plan to depose the Duke or was a highly valued pawn who had been rewarded.  Mikah confirmed the circumstances of the promotion, and the seneschal confirmed what she understood.  Mr. Dilgaadin then explained that they had traced the actions to a surprisingly high-ranking officer who had gotten caught up in believing the rumors, and chose to act on them.  In this case, unfortunate and singularly inappropriate orders were issued to remove the captain's existing officer corps and isolate the woman until an investigation could be completed into the matter of her promotion.  An investigation which, despite its lack of credentialed initial data, was attempting to open some highly classified files and examine the data in them!

Mikah and almost everyone in the crew shivered as they considered what data was in "those" files.  And it got worse.  Mr. Dilgaadin explained that this officer created an operation where he pulled the most qualified officers for ship's positions from all the various intelligence operations in his reach to fill all the needed positions.  An operation, Mr. Dilgaadin stressed, which had not been vetted and approved by the offending officer's command or the Navy.  After uncovering that, the Navy started reassigning the former officers of the Tamesha Kargaa back to the ship as quickly as possible and recalling the intelligence officers.

As soon as Mikah heard that, she interrupted, saying, "Oh!  That's wonderful!  Thank you very much for that information."  Sitting at the table, Aali and Emkir were also pleased.  Then, Mikah turned to Aali and said, "Aali, get on the fucking comms and call your fucking sister and tell her we got her job back."  Already acting before the command came, Aali had called her sister's comms id but there was no answer.  After leaving a 'please call me' message, Aali then called her mother.  From her mom, Aali learned that things were going a bit crazy because officers from the Regina Navy had called and commanded that her sister return immediately to her former post aboard the cruiser!

Before Aali could answer, Munarshu quipped, "Tell her 'you're welcomed'." with a smirk on his face.  And Mikah added, "Yeah".  Aali simply told her mother to let her sister know this was a result of the work of the Arch Duke's people and the Court of the Deneb Domain."  After a moment's silence as Aali's mother started taking in what had just happened, Mikah continued, "Why don't you invite your mother and father for dinner tonight?"  When Aali thanked Mikah, Mikah added her brother to the invitation, saying her sister might be a bit busy.

As Aali continued talking to her mother, Mikah decided it was time to call the naval base and see if she could have a call patched through to Captain Gadagush aboard either the base or the cruiser.  Once she connected to a tech on the base, Mikah identified herself using all her titles in a tone designed to impress from the line down her nose to the lesser human on her screen.  The technician, who was used to most high-ranking figures was not prepared for a member of the Arch Duke's personal staff!  Still, maintaining a level of professionalism, the man alerted his CO and then bounced Mikah to him on the man's order.

Connected to the officer, Mikah relaxed as the man got the first word in, asking how he could help Her Ladyship?  Mikah greeted the man and said she was calling to speak with the captain of the INS Tamesha Kargaa.  Accepting Mikah's request, the man asked if he could tell Captain Gadagush what the call was about and Mikah said, "It's personal."  Accepting that, the officer simply said, "Yes Ma'am" and froze the screen.  Mikah waited a surprisingly long time before the screen shifted to a view of the very angry Captain Gadagush, who was also very busy.

Before even looking up at the screen, Gadagush demanded, "You people are driving me crazy.  What do you need now?"  Of course, the captain looked up as she finished her complaint and realized she was not talking to the party she thought she'd be and her face reddened just slightly from embarrassment rather than anger.  Apologizing, Captain Gadagush asked how she could help Mikah?  Mikah just waived it off saying, "No apologies necessary.  I just wanted to let you know that we understand that there has been some drama because of rumors of our activities.  And we've heard that those rumors had an effect on your officers.  And while the rumors are all untrue, we wanted to let you know we apologize."

Taking that in, Captain Gadagush could only stare back at Mikah through the comms screen with a look of complete surprise on her face.  All she knew was that she was presented orders to submit to having her officers removed and replaced with Idiots.  And then, after dealing with that mess for weeks, she'd been as suddenly presented with orders returning her original officers and removing the replacements she had not managed to kill.  So, all of the data Mikah spilled on her comms circuit was completely new and even more upsetting, as she learned this had all been some political game!

As the pause threatened to become uncomfortable, and Mikah realized she'd just spilled the beans on stuff the captain hadn't been told, Mikah said, "Well.  You're welcome.  We got you your crew back and I hope it doesn't happen again.  We're really sorry even though it wasn't our fault.  Courtesy of His Grace, The Arch Duke."  Realizing she was rambling, Mikah smiled and said, "Well, good bye." and cut the comms connection, leaving the surprised look on the captain's face to fade from her screen before the officer had a chance to get a word out.  As Mikah was finishing that call, Aali was also calling the naval base.

Aali also officially identified herself with all her titles and then identified her sister.  She explained that she'd learned her sister was en route to the Cruiser INS Tamesha Kargaa to assume her post and wanted a message left for the officer.  So, she requested a senior officer aboard and below the level of the captain, to receive and deliver the message.  Given the chatter about Mikah's call, and the general confusion about which officers were aboard the cruiser itself, they simply transferred the comms call to a comms tech aboard the cruiser to let the bridge comms officer sort it out.  However, since all the officers aboard were in flux, the comms tech simply handed the "Official and Important" call over to the captain.

Seeing someone she did not recognize at all, in civilian clothes, Captain Gadagush bit off the end of the nasty demand she had started, reigned in her anger and asked, "Can I help you?" on the assumption Naval communications would not be randomly routing in calls from every fool who called in.  But, eyeing the civilian after the last call, she was not as sure of that as she had been.  Knowing Gadagush had no reason to know her at all, Aali introduced herself with her full titles and pomp before explaining her relationship to the returning Lieutenant Piirirshu and said she'd hoped to have a more junior officer deliver a personal message to the Lieutenant.  As the captain listened, Aali apologized for interrupting the captain and simply asked that she deliver Dame Aalikiir's compliments and those of Arch Duke Norris on the restoration of her position.

Aali then thanked the captain very much and, before the officer could reply, cut the connection.  Aboard the cruiser, the ship's captain was getting very annoyed at minor nobility as well as the apparent impunity with which these small people felt they could speak for the Arch Duke, not to mention wreaking havoc aboard the ships of Regina's Imperial Navy!  As Aali cut the line, the crew were certain of only one thing, which was that Lieutenant Piirirshu was going to have a LOT to explain to her captain once she returned to her post.  Rol simply suggested they make sure to give the cruiser a very wide berth during future operations. 

Where everyone was at the end of the session:

    Having just been updated by the Duchy Seneschal, and several calls to the INS Tamesha Kargaa,

    Everyone except Aiden: In the suite's living room after lunch
    Aiden's Clone: 8.5 days remaining in his cloning process ( Decant on 110-1113)

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Next: The Difference Of A Couple Of Days