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The Difference Of A
     Couple Of Days


Seeing And Being Seen

Regina     The jokes about the welcome Aali's sister faced when she reported back to her captain started soon after everyone was off the comms.  Aali could only hope the moves made by the Duchy Seneschal would cool things down with her sister.  And, without her red-hot anger fueling her parent's doubts, Aali hoped she could identify their issues and work them out.  For the rest of the team, this was one tine out of the unknown number of possible accusations stacked against them.  The good news was that this showed things "could be" worked on.  But no one knew how likely beliefs and minds would be changed even once the damage was treated?

Everyone knew that solid beliefs had been formed, and no matter the actual facts, many would not change, ever.  In those cases, the team could only hope to deal with unfortunate mind sets.  They would have to hope those who had accepted their guilt wouldn't get in the way too.  One thing they could assume was that Mr. Dilgaadin was working on their behalf with Countess Josephine.  That would give them cover in the Regina system, at the least.  On Rhylanor, Aiden's Clone had just more than eight days cooking to go before being decanted on 110-1113.  The team only hoped that he could rejoin them quickly, and that the issues with Rol would be solved to the point they could leave the system.  Quickly.

Until then, they knew they couldn't remain hidden away in their suite without creating more rumors.  And, they also had to be ready to "appear casual" and be delivered to solve any possible crises in ways which would make them public heroes.  Given the situation, Mikah decided to look into the museums on-world.  She remembered some from the last time they were in-system, including the "Spinward Marches Towers".  They maintained displays containing a huge amount of information and graphic data on all the worlds in the sector!  Eventually, Mikah decided to visit a museum devoted to the history of the Duchy of Regina.

When Mikah announced her decision, Zimzod said he'd go with her and they asked who else wanted to come along?  Munarshu, Aali, Emkir, Rol and Terin.  Only Fesic decided to stay at the suite and continue his recovery.  Since Munarshu was technically still grounded, Mikah said he could come if he paid for the grav car.  When Munarshu agreed, they called the motorpool and ordered an aircar that could carry that group and left.  Once they left, Fesic cracked his class work.

At the museum, the team were each told the entry was Cr 5 and began presenting their Idents.  But, just as quickly, the staff realized Mikah was a Lady of the Deneb Domain.  This meant she was actually the first Nobleperson of the Domain government to visit the museum since the Arch-Duke's elevation and the creation of the actual Domain government.  So, her attendance became a very special occasion, and they were told they would not need to pay as guests of the museum.  In addition, Mikah's group were assigned a senior curator, who would give them a personally guided tour.

The tour took most of the rest of the afternoon, and the group enjoyed being led through the displays as photographers documented the visit.  Even local media suddenly had the chance to cover the first visit of Domain nobility to the museum covering the Duchy of Regina.  Well organized, the museum was in flux, because many of the displays had to be updated and changed to reflect the events of the Elevation of the Arch-Duke and the coming ascension of the Duchess-Designate.  But the changes underway were being handled, as far as the team could see, with taste and efficiency.

As they enjoyed the museum, each of the crew were very aware they were being filmed and tried to behave up to the level expected.  In Aali's case, this meant relying on her public behavior training as an Imperial Naval officer.  She also embraced her role as a crewmember for Lady Mikah, and mostly came off as an administrative assistant for Mikah.  Emkir, of course, was in his element as he was used to dealing with the media and behaving properly while being filmed.  The result was a media estimation that the Admiral was connected to Lady Mikah's crew as a military liaison and ranking officer expected to take over the crew's operations if they found themselves in a military situation.

Mikah, herself, fit into her role as a hosted VIP, behaving friendly, welcoming and supportive of the museum's mission.  Munarshu, on the other hand, displayed the "straight-backed" and rigid demeanor of a junior crew member who worried over every detail, signaling he was no more than a lower level toady serving Mikah's crew.  Like Aali, Rol also slipped comfortably into his past roles as a military liaison officer who did not have a media support role.  Terin came across as being bored with the media and their presence, as if the media did no more than get in the way of his business.  Still, he was courteous in his ignorance of any value exhibited by gathered reporters.

Outside the successes and flunkies, Zimzod was his own brand of "out of place".  Raised to a station far below knighthood, Zimzod was relaxed and friendly even if his behavior was rough and roguish.  The result was that reports were split on him with some positive and some negative.  But, at least, there were no face-palm moments.  The most forgiving reports focused on the fact he was her intended and was likely under her direction of not social control.  As for what the crew experienced, most of them had a good amount of knowledge about the Duchy of Regina.  Because of that, only a few learned a great deal out of the experience as their celebrity made them hostage to a "VIP curator-led" tour.

Munarshu had heard, during his childhood in the Five Sisters Subsector, of distant worlds such as Regina.  As an adult, and Imperial Scout, he'd also heard of then Duke Norris' use of the Imperial Warrant to take control of the Imperial military and respond to the Zhodani invasions of the Fifth Frontier war.  The popular sentiment was that these actions saved Imperial systems in the Marches and won the war.  Of course, this view was less supported by enemies of the Duke, with that opposition now forced underground due to the elevation of Norris to the Arch Ducal rank and Domain leadership.  While Munarshu had been born at a distance, so had Zimzod.  But Zimzod had learned a fair bit about Norris and the Duchy the last time he'd been in-system.  Still, he learned a good amount more.

One of the items which had most interested the whole crew was the creation of the Duchy.  In the years following the end of the First Frontier War, then Grand Admiral Olav had gathered the fleets of the Spinward Marches together, organized a home guard, and then drove on Capital and the fleets protecting Empress Jaqueline I due to the lack of support the Marches had received during the war.  After killing the Empress, Olav became "Olav the First" by right of assassination and the acclaim of the Imperial moot.  Sadly, Emperor Olov was killed three years later, when a senior fleet admiral named Ramon managed to turn significant elements of the Imperial fleet against Olav.  And after Olav died in battle, Ramon declared himself Ramon I, becoming the first of the Barracks Emperors.

This series of assassinations, deaths in battles and other replacements of Emperors led to periods where the empire had as many as three Emperors in a single year.  And, it led to the Imperial Civil War.  That weakness led to the invasions of the Second Frontier War, forcing Grand Admiral Arbellatra Alkhalikoi to lead a desperate defense of the Marches like Olav before her.  And, like Olav before her, Grand Admiral Alkhalikoi left the Marches with her fleet to end the Civil war in 620 TI.  Behind her, the Admiral left trusted military officers and organizations as well as specific trusted nobility.

Grand Admiral Alkhalikoi left Baron Caranda Aledon of Regina with assigned Imperial Marine units to support her in the Marches.  Once she was the Imperial Regent, Arbellatra sent orders to elevate Baron Caranda Aledon of Regina to the rank Marquis, in thanks for his support.  Along with the successes, there had been threats, like the refusal of the Menorb system to fall in line.  In 623, Marquis Caranda Aledon used two battalions of the Imperial Marines given to him to restore order on Menorb and bring the system back into line.  In thanks, Marquis Caranda Aledon of Regina personally received patent as Grand and Noble Duke of the Imperium from Empress Arbellatra, in 629 TI, becoming the first "Duke of Regina".

Beyond the learning, they spent all afternoon being cared for as they toured the museum.  Drinks and other comforts were brought and the crew were all treated as honored guests.  Those who looked for it noticed that there were "tiers" of treatment, and saw the pattern fit "the celebrity and her entourage" with Mikah getting the best of everything and gifts scaling down from her.  Still, none of the crew had any complaints being considered Mikah's people.  Other notable events were things like when Duke Caranda Aledon converted the Imperial marine units under his command to his personal bodyguard.  This was the formation of the 4518th Lift Infantry Regiment in 635 TI.

As they prepared to leave, the museum director asked them to sign the facilities' guest book.  First, Mikah, and then the others started signing the book.  As she waited her turn, Aali's comms began to buzz.  Answering, Aali found her mother was calling because she'd seen Aali on the news vids and was worried.  When her mother asked what had happened in a concerned tone, Aali had to stop and think before she realized it was coverage of the museum visit.  Saying they had been visiting the Duchy museum, Aali said she didn't really think it was something the news needed to cover.

When Aali admitted the coverage must be human interest, her mom calmed down and actually started watching the story rather than assuming the worst.  Aali's mom was still a bit nonplussed with the idea of Aali being on-vid and treated like a celebrity.  But, she did admit the fear was more because of the surprise of seeing Aali "live" in news coverage.  As Aali talked her mom down, Aali made sure to remind her that they were invited to dinner at Sir Zimzod's suite along with her brother Karkuzam around 8pm.  Once her mom said they'd be there, Mikah said they should get back to the suite so she could start calling the cook and working on plans for dinner.


Answers And Orders

     As Mikah's group made their way out to the aircar Munarshu had paid for, jokes were made and Munarshu reminded Mikah that costs like that were why they should have their own air/rafts.  Aali and Emkir asked to be dropped off at their building on the way, so they could bring Aali's family to dinner with them.  As they talked about the capacity of the ship's grav rafts, Rol remembered his thoughts about gravbelts after the fall from he'd taken from an air/raft back in the Skull system.  Riding back to the suite, Rol used the in-car computer tablet to browse prices on gravbelts.  Sadly, the tech for those were beyond the local tech in the Regina system so most units were either bulky and lower tech for belts or very expensive imports.  Setting that aside, he figured he'd do some better searches later.

Once back at the suite, Mikah immediately called the chef they'd hired to discuss the menu for the evening's meal.  With Aali's parents and brother coming, she wanted something which was based on common Regina fare and not "too showy" or fancy.  At the other building, Aali and Emkir knocked at her parent's suite and joined them and her brother there to talk until it was time to change and head to dinner.  The good news was that Her parent's opinions were shifting, but that meant they were also uncertain.  Emkir played it very light because he knew any attempt to "push" their attitudes could play very badly while their positions were so fragile.

Better than the shifting positions of her parents, Aali's sister Irgiga had left the suite following her orders.  And her brother Karkuzam, who was between orders, was not bothered by the situation.  That meant no one really wanted to poke the monsters outside and things were pretty relaxed until the suite's comms buzzed.  When Aali's mother answered, they heard her go from a happy, "Hello dear!" to a stuttered, "No.  I don't know.  They're here. " before finishing with, "OK.  I'll let you talk to her."  Holding out the comms to Aali, her mom said, "Your sister would like to talk to you and she sounds a bit upset."

Once Aali got on the line, her sister angrily demanded, "What, the fuck?"  Assuming this was about her likely first meeting with her captain, Aali joked, "Welcome to my world."  "No", snarled her sister.  Who then continued, "I just got new orders!  What the fuck?"  Now surprised and confused, Aali could only juggle words for a second before asking, "Besides the ones reinstating you in your old post on the cruiser?"  With a disbelieving tone, Irgiga demanded, "So you don't know what the new orders are?"  When Aali said she didn't Irgiga told her the cruiser had been assigned to some kind of IT project for the Countess Josephine!  And Irgiga had been ordered to report to the Countess as her direct liaison with the ship!

Aali knew her sister was junior enough to be nervous working in a hive of high ranking officers and officials, but also knew this was a plum assignment and a chance to shine.  So, she simply and happily told Irgiga, "You're welcome."  In an even more annoyed and tart tone, Irgiga snapped back, "So, you did know about this and were just not willing to admit it!"  Aali rejected that but also bluntly said it didn't sound like a bad assignment either in a tone which begged to know what her sister's problem was?  Still fuming, it was becoming clear to Aali that Irgiga wanted control of her own career without her sister's meddling hands or her "boss's political games" using her as a puppet.  With no other apparent reply, Irgiga said, "Fine!  Lieutenant Commander Eikusdi signing off Ma'am!" and cut the comms.

As Aali stood at the now disconnected comms, a small voice in her head asked, 'Lieutenant Commander'?  When she had met her family days earlier, her sister had very clearly been a Lieutenant.  Now, she appeared to have received a promotion, which was common when one was assigned to a high level liaison post.  So, the gift given seems to have been a large one even if Aali herself had no idea what was happening.  Still, she knew what the Countess' "IT project" was, and realized Irgiga was being stuck right in the middle of the effort to prove the truth about Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod.  As angry as she might be, she was about to be dumped into a flood of truth which countered the rumors her sister seemed to desperately want to believe.

That left Aali with having to explain to her parents what she'd learned.  With that before her, Aali hit the highlights hard, saying she and the cruiser crew were to be working with Countess Josephine directly and Irgiga as a direct report.  Aali could tell that was a positive in her parent's eyes as they seemed to hold the Countess in high regard.  Aali then said that the assignment had also come with a one grade promotion to O-4!  That was not only something that pleased her parents but also caught her brother's attention and interest.  When Aali admitted Irgiga was still angry, they all accepted there was not much Aali could do but could all finally agree the anger was not reasonable.

Aali was less specific about what the project was.  Still, Aali knew this was going to put 'paid' to her sister's opinions of Mikah and the crew.  And, this would also infuriate her even more as she realized there were actual threats to the Duchy out there and she had to stand on the sidelines as a messenger to the nobility while others grabbed the guns and went to hunt the criminals.  And, she'd be watching the whole thing from the post she'd been assigned to.  But, all Aali could do was shrug because she couldn't do anything to fix her sister's attitudes.  From there until it was time to change and head to dinner, they sat, chatted and watched the news.

After Mikah got done with the chef, she and Zimzod relaxed until it was time to clean up and get ready for dinner.  Munarshu studied his robotics while Terin decided he'd been pounding the books so hard it was time for a break.  Considering he had about two hours before he had to get ready for dinner, Terin decided to look for a movie to watch.  Rol decided to sit down and consider how he wanted to integrate his new comm dots with his gear?  The idea was to consider and test configurations to see which devices he wanted to have permanently connected and how many dots he wanted to keep spare?  Rol also realized he'd need some electronic sights to connect some of his weapons and wanted to do some serious searches on the local network for gravbelts to see what he might find?

Sadly, Rol's more detailed searches for gravbelts did not show anything better than his quick searches earlier.  The system's common tech capabilities were just too low for economical manufacture and sale of grav-devices.  So, the only belts he could find were more, body-harnesses which were bulky and klugey.  Switching to sighting systems for his weapons, Rol wanted to get something for his gauss pistol at the least.  After he finished that research, Rol connected to the network link for the War House and checked their sales of electronic weapon sights.

As he shopped, Rol hoped to find electronic sights which gave him both telescopic and light intensifying capability because he already had the cybernetic infrared kit surgically installed.  Looking specifically to upgrade the Gauss rifle and improve the gauss pistol, he paid Cr 3,000 for the rifle and Cr 2,000 for the pistol.  As Rol finished up that buy, he did get an offer to sell a really decent quality gravbelt for Cr 30,000.  Rol looked over the unit and really did like it but worried at the cost and decided he'd wait until they were in a system where he could possibly get the same quality unit for lee if not much less.

A Side Of Humility

     Eventually, it was time for dinner and Aali and Emkir had escorted her parents and brother to Zimzod's suite.  While those in the suite did not dress "to the nines", they did dress in "nice-casual".  As they gathered, the chef served a course of drinks to allow introductions and settling in.  Once they were seated, he followed with a dinner of more or less traditional Reginan dishes and sides.  With things still settling during the early part of the meal, Zimzod's butler announced he'd had a call from the building lobby and there was "a Lieutenant Commander" who "wondered if she was invited"?  Realizing this was likely Aali's sister Irgiga, Mikah and the others said she could certainly come up and join them as another setting was placed.

After Irgiga arrived, she explained her duty station would be co-located either in Naval offices in the Duke's palace or aboard the cruiser.  So, for the moment, she had received her briefing and been freed for the evening, until her report by time the next morning.  While her appearance and stance were still 'ram-rod straight' and rigid, she no longer appeared as angry or combative as she had.  Something Aali and Emkir took as a definite improvement.  Introductions again went around the table as Irgiga was offered a drink and shown to her place at the table.

Eventually, as they ate, Irgiga leaned close to Aali and asked, "Can we speak?"  When Aali said they could, Irgiga asked, "Alone?" and Aali rose to lead her sister to a private room as some sets of eyes followed them.  Once the door was closed, Irgiga told Aali she had been read in on the Countess' "project", and had been educated on a number of things surrounding the rumors she'd been hearing.  As Aali nodded in understanding, Irgiga said she wanted to apologize for her behavior and Aali accepted that.  After that, Irgiga grilled Aali about how much she knew of the rumors and Aali had to admit she and the crew had been blindsided by the rumors when they arrived in-system.  Aali also admitted she was not sure how many she and the crew had heard of?

Aali did speculate that the only people who were really targeted to be brought down were Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod.  To her relief, that was something Irgiga was now ready to agree with.  Aali also admitted the crew had made some enemies in their travels, which didn't surprise Irgiga.  Neither did it phase her when Aali admitted there might even be a whole planet of sword worlders that wanted their heads on platters.  Irgiga just accepted that.  Once the two returned to dinner, the evening was much less uncertain.  Aali's parents also could relax more because Irgiga's acceptance cleared away a number of issues and emotions they'd picked up from her.

After dinner drinks were served as Aali got to better introduce her family to the crew and they got to know each other.  As the evening progressed Emkir, Munarshu and Fesic spent some time with Karkuzam, Aali's brother.  As they talked, he admitted he'd been given transfer travel orders which had not indicated his final duty post.  Those had separated him from his unit in the Efate system, helping with post-war security and recovery there.  All the men recalled the horror stories which had emerged from that system after the war had ended and knew that could not have been easy duty.  With his orders temporarily on hold, Karkuzam wanted to know about their plans?  He was also curious what they knew about the Domain and the Arch Duke's plans?

As they talked of what they knew of Arch Duke Norris' plans, they spoke of restoring trade and the disenfiefments which were so high profile in recent news broadcasts out of Rhylanor.  Still, Karkuzam was slightly disappointed they had no rumors of military movements, which might affect his future.  He was still thankful for the extended vacation that seemed to be related to Aali's visit.  So, he was thankful for that.  Of course, the conversation eventually wound back to Efate with Rol asking if anything had been resolved there after the war?  Rol had, in fact, been part of a unit posted to that system in 1105, as local forces and large organizations from the Imperial Army tried to de-escalate building tensions in the system.  Tensions which had been largely blamed on Zhodani spies but also had a good deal to do with the local government ordering military "hits" on political opponents.

In the end, Rol's unit was pulled out in early 1106, as the situation shifted to an outright, near world war!  Other than that conversation, and Rol's intentional effort to get to know Aali's family, things were more relaxed.  Commander Irgiga was especially deferential any time she dealt with Mikah or Zimzod, and Mikah decided to be helpful and friendly regarding the rumors, since Irgiga was newly assigned to that rat's nest.  She also minded her behavior with the entire crew, aware they were all Knights of one flavor or another.  And while people like Terin tried to get her to relax, she was still a Naval officer and acted that way.

Eventually, Aali and Emkir escorted her family back to the tower in which they had suites and everyone was able to relax.  During the chatter of dinner, Rol mentioned his ideas with comm dots and integrating equipment.  Those comments gave Aali ideas.  When she finally got a chance to sit and look for some drones, Aali found a wide range of civilian-based devices.  The range from large to small also covered a wide range of capabilities.  The "top range" units were electronics-hardened devices promising absolute control through a range of interfaces.  Of course, beyond that were military and government-quality units which she could read about but would have to go to military outlets to buy.

Pricing a higher-end palm-sized unit, she found a brand that looked like it had the features she wanted for about KCr 10.  Seeing the pricing was more than she expected, but also deciding the drones were worth it at that cost, Aali decided to buy one palm-sized unit.  She also looked around for another set of comm dots, but could not see anything worth the pricing in-system.  In the crew's suite, Munarshu wasted no time at wrapping up his day and hitting the sack.  The rest of the crew relaxed and went about the remains of their evenings before dropping off themselves.


A Nice Calm Morning

     As the members of the crew awoke, there were few real plans.  Aali was waiting on her drone to arrive and Rol, his ordered gun sight kits.  Fesic decided it was time to look into prices they could get for the ton of precious metals they'd speculated on in the D'Ganzio system.  They'd spent KCr 70 on the ton of cargo and he wondered if they might be able to make a profit in Regina?  Hoping to get an easy answer, Fesic decided to call a brokerage.  To his annoyance, Fesic was told they were not a library which could be called up and asked for free data.  Since they all worked for a living, it would cost Cr 500 for a week's service and basic data.  Angry he could not simply ask for what he wanted and get a free handout without work or the need to pay someone, Fesic cut the connection.

After that, Fesic decided to spend the day researching the commodities market to see what he could learn?  As he did that, Mikah and Zimzod decided to go to the "Spinward Marches Towers" and visit the displays on their homeworlds.  An hour after Mikah and Zimzod left for the Towers, Fesic got frustrated and decided to take a shortcut.  He simply averaged the prices of precious metals closes over the week and guessed at the values.  With that, Fesic estimated they could possibly break even selling the ton of metals in the Regina system.  That decided, Fesic called the port to check on the steps needed to get a trading license.  He was told he'd have to apply and pay Cr 750.

After that, they estimated it would take a week to get the permit.  Once he had credentials, they'd have to pay a Cr 50 "renewal fee" each time they left the system after an absence of two months.  Once he was done with that, Fesic went looking for Mikah to talk about borrowing the Cr 750, but she and Zimzod had left for a museum.  So, he decided to get back to his college degree class work.  At the same time, Mikah and Zimzod had reached the Mora floors and suites and headed to the displays for the Pimane system.  And Zimzod was not surprised how minimal the displays and space devoted to that system were.  Pimane was a played-out mining post on a poor excuse for a planet.  The few passing ships made for the system's gas giants rather than the main world.

Most of the population had moved away.  Formerly crowded spaces mined from the planet had been joined creating larger, if empty, living spaces.  Port activity had ground mostly to a halt with spaces fitted for starship servicing mostly not functional.  External landing bays, limited to those with still working air-lock and support gear supported the trickle of free traders calling there.  Life was tough and people hard.  They are supported by expensively contracted off-worlders and periodic IISS check teams.  But even that had fallen with the world's inability to gain high-grade goods to improve the lifestyle of those specialists.

Aside from the odd trader or scout survey, rare anti-pirate runs by Imperial Navy and Marine forces were harsher and resented by those who are stepped on.  And, sometimes admired by those who believed in authority.  Where pirates were concerned, locals didn't ask many questions when a "generous" captain pulled into port.  A ship could often lay low, making repairs, in exchange for goods they could use but never afford.  Still, Pimanians would not protect pirates and will make the claim that any pirates caught there forced their way in.  This was often because any ship with a single weapons mount could void every sealed habitat on a world with no atmosphere.

Along with Fesic, Munarshu was in the suite researching too.  In this case, he was following his orders to see if he could locate one Kyle van Ryddoth.  His earlier research pointed to Ryddoth having been headed to the Gvurrdon sector and Vargr space.  Armed with the fact he'd been dispatched on a detached IISS Cruiser, Munarshu settled in to spend the entire day searching through news items and dispatches to see if he could locate any information on Ryddoth.  With things more settled after the day before, Aali and Emkir decided to hang out with her parents for the day and see what they could enjoy as the cameras followed them around?  Ironically, that led them to the Spinward Marches Towers too, and they ran into Zimzod and Mikah in the Trin's Veil subsector displays.

Surprised, Mikah asked what they were doing there and Emkir explained he'd come up with the idea of teaching Aali's parents about the crew by visiting the displays covering each crew member's home world.  So, they'd met up outside the Hammermium system, Mikah's homeworld.  With the timing, Mikah decided to step up and play tour guide and system ambassador to show Aali's family the best parts of her home system.  Mikah especially told them about her friend Countess Ursara, who held the fiefdom with her husband.  One thing Mikah didn't speak on was the current unrest, due to a growth of popular wealth which out-paced the growth of entertainment and shopping in that system.

Aali's parents were impressed with Mikah's presentation and thanked both knights as Zimzod recommended they skip the Pimane displays as 'not really worth it'.  To reinforce that, Mikah decided to offer to take them to lunch!  Trying not to overdo it, Mikah and Zimzod located a nice 'just above average' place which seemed to be popular enough.  The meal ended up costing her Cr 140.  More and more, as they moved about, there were media photographers trailing them.  Happily, those crowds were smaller and more respectful than the media had been in Rhylanor.  They happily found a place, were greeted and seated and ordered without issue.  But, as they started to eat, Emkir's comms began to buzz.

Answering, Emkir found it was a comms tech from the Seneschalate.  As Emkir asked how he could help the man, he was told the call was a professional courtesy notification that a ship had entered system and was bound for Credo downport with his parents aboard!  Hearing that, Mikah, gave a hum of expected entertainment as she said, "This is gonna be fun!  I can't wait for this!" in an excited tone.  As Emkir reacted to that, faces brightened up around the table because Emkir's father was a well-known toy maker to the wealthy.  Thanks to his philanthropy to children's charities, he was also well known and respected.  Of course, that good favor was shared by everyone except Emkir...  His childhood had not been a pleasant one as he had largely been an "accessory" to his parent's lives.

Emkir grumbled, "Wonderful.  There will likely be a reception." in a droll-voiced self-monolog.  As Mikah suggested they could turn the tables on him if he wanted?  But Emkir warned them, his father was a favorite of the rich and powerful and held a Baronial patent himself.  That was a surprise to Mikah and Zimzod as they reconsidered.  Zimzod got a laugh from Mikah as he said, "We're gonna need some more vargr juice."  With no clue what that meant, Aali's parents were thrilled they'd get to meet a legitimate celebrity!  After they finished eating, Aali's family went off to continue sightseeing while Mikah and Zimzod went back to the suite to spread the word and get ready for Emkir's parents to arrive! 

Set Ups Before Take Downs

     After breakfast, Rol had called the seneschalate to follow up with them on meeting with Sir Jeremy Lewis.  When Rol was connected to someone properly briefed on his situation, he asked where a meeting with Sir Jeremy could happen?  Rol was reminded Sir Jeremy was under house arrest and the meeting would have to happen at the residence he was being held in.  Rol then asked when a meeting could be set up and was told he'd have to call Sir Jeremy's people.  While the Knight was under house arrest, he was still free to manage his own social schedule.

Accepting that, Rol told the agent he worked with that he planned to set up a meeting with Sir Jeremy and asked for the contact data he'd need to do that?  After he got the contact link and ended that call, Rol called his legal team to tell them he was going to set up the meeting.  Hearing that, the lawyer Rol spoke to was pleased, because that would elevate Rol's image publicly.  While he was on the line, the team got on the comms with him and they went over general pointers and gave him talking points.  They also talked about the "social engineering" that would follow the meeting, with Rol appearing to be the "better man" for calling on Sir Jeremey after that knight had made unproven accusations specifically against Rol.

In the end, Rol was told "keep things light" and "don't get into significant detail or discuss the actual accusations".  Rol nodded, though he had to wonder how to ignore that elephant in the room as it was the only thing that linked the two men.  Those things said, they were perfectly fine with Rol meeting Sir Jeremy without a lawyer present but offered to accompany him if he wanted?  When he asked if they recommended someone come with him, they said no.  But, they wanted him to know it was on offer if he felt it needed.  Accepting that, Rol said he didn't think it would be needed and they ended the call.

Rol then called Sir Jeremy's people at the link he'd been given and spoke with Jeremy's social secretary.  After some discussion, they said they were fine with Rol visiting Sir Jeremy that afternoon.  Rol thanked them and asked for the address, so he knew where he was going.  After that call, Rol decided he would call a cab after lunch and go visiting, leaving the others behind.  Terin spent his time after breakfast diving into his computer studies until lunch.  After lunch, he planned to find and visit a local Darrien community and enjoy the culture. 

Passing Time And Weapons Fire

     After lunch with Aali and her family, Mikah and Zimzod went back to the suite again to talk about dinner plans for that night.  Especially, as they'd be having Emkir's parents to dinner with Aali's family too.  Mikah also told those in the suite Emkir's family were coming to dinner.  Rol had already left to meet Sir Jeremy.  After that call, Mikah decided to start searching for replacement ingredients to make more vargr juice.  What she found was that most of the ingredients she wanted to get were locally considered controlled substances because they were very powerful narcotics.  Even worse, she would need her medical credentials to get some but would even need official permits to get a few.  It was certainly going to take longer than an afternoon to do.

Arriving at Sir Jeremy's, Rol had worn his best vilani suit over a set of executive armor.  On his hip, Rol had his holstered gauss pistol as his honor weapon.  The row of townhouse-like buildings looked similar to other rows in town except for the cluster of guards in the livery of the Duchy working the area around the home he'd arrived in front of.  Beginning the process, Rol stepped up to what appeared to be the senior guard and presented his Ident.  As the guard greeted him, the man asked Rol what his purpose was and Rol explained his appointment.  Once they confirmed his ID, the man said they'd been notified Rol would be arriving and directed him in the residence door, to meet with an agent from the Seneschal's office.

As with the detail outside, the agent was aware Rol was coming and gotten a message from outside when Rol had arrived.  So, he was ready as Rol stepped in through the door and up to his desk in the hall.  The sight was an odd one, as the hall was an obvious entry hall for the home, which divided into a right-hand hallway leading back into the building, the wide mouth of a staircase leading up to the next level and an opening to a leisure space to the left.  The setup was very common except for the impromptu office created around the desk placed in the center of the entrance space.

As Rol checked in, another man stood by in the livery of another household Rol did not recognize.  The agent first did his work before telling Rol he would, from that point forward, be interacting with the household of Sir Jeremy and the knight himself.  Then, he introduced Rol to Sir Jeremy's valet.  That man led Rol up the stairs and along a hall to turn into a room where Sir Jeremy had been reading.  Rol noticed the place was well furnished and both comfortable and clean.  But many surfaces were stacked with labeled dedicated data tablets containing a significant library of books.  This made sense, since Jeremy was an author and billed himself as an Historian.  What did catch Rol's eyes were the very few bound leather books of actual paper pages.  Knowing about Brian's collection, Rol knew those had value.

The space in which Jeremy stood appeared to be a drawing room of sorts, which seemed to serve as the knight's office.  As Rol entered, Jeremey extended both his hands in greeting.  Rol took one of the knight's hands and shook in a Solomani-style greeting as Jeremey asked him to sit.  Rol sat and accepted when Jeremey offered him a drink.  As Jeremey waived to a servant who brought the drinks, Jeremey said he was glad Rol had come to visit.  He continued, saying he understood there may have been some misunderstandings and he hoped they'd be able to clear things up.  So, he'd wanted to meet and speak with Rol, to work things out.  He also admitted he had wanted to get to know Rol.

Rol nodded, answering, "I understand that.  And, I'm sure you can understand that, the way things have proceeded here, there are limits to how far I can speak on some issues because of the legal matters involved."  Sir Jeremy waved the legal restrictions aside and said, "Oh!  Don't worry about that. " and continued, "Getting to know you does not necessarily mean discussing the issues we're crossing over."  As they continued to talk, Jeremy asked about Rol's life before the military?  He continued to get to know Rol and was open about himself as well, since Sir Jeremy's position was that knights should get to know each other.  And despite their differences, he certainly seemed honest about being friends.

Eventually, as they talked, Rol needed to use the fresher.  Excusing himself and asking directions, Rol stepped out into the corridor and moved to the fresher door.  As he opened the door and reached in to turn on the lights, Rol was surprised by what he saw.  There, on the floor of the fresher, he saw blood.  A lot of blood and a man's body crumpled down, dead.  The death was as obvious as the single shot to the brain, which was the clear cause of death.  Hitting the comms panel next to the door, Rol wanted to call for security but only got white noise.  He tried his comms and got the same!  Turning away from the fresher, Rol returned to the desk in the entry.

The news was worse, as he reached the landing above the stairs and looked down on two more bodies.  Both appeared to have been caught at unawares and both had been hit in the skull.  A single shot each, to the brain.  Rol recognized this was the work of a professional.  Or, more than one.  Rol decided he needed reinforcements and descended the stairs, stepping to the front door and opening it to call for the guard contingent.  But, he saw the small contingent in front of the townhouse had been taken out too.  There had been a frontal assault, which told Rol this could not have happened too much more than minutes before.  So, those forces had likely come into the building and taken out the two at the door.

But, Rol realized, they could not have been responsible for the body in the upstairs fresher.  That told Rol there was more than one team operating, with one on the lower floor and another clearing off the floor on which Sir Jeremy was!  Closing and locking the door as he turned back inside, Rol checked the building's comms and only got white noise.  the bad news was that the building's system was hard wired.  That meant the jamming system had to be hard wired into the comms system too!  That meant an infrastructure team as well as the kill teams, so this was getting better and better.  Given the holes appearing in this box, Rol decided the only prize they could have planned for was Sir Jeremy himself!  It was too well planned to have been launched off the cuff to catch him in the same net.

As Rol quietly moved, carefully but quickly, he suddenly started to hear the "dry spit" sound of dart or needle throwers!  Rol paused where he was and drew his gauss pistol.  As he carefully turned into the passage which linked to the door of the room Jeremy had been in, he saw someone scoping down the hall with a handgun!  Reflexively, Rol pulled back just as a spitting sound accompanied the strike of a needle and flight of shattered and splintered wood off the wall corner where his head had been.  Results of a single fired shot!  Rol's memory of the corridor and a quick snap glimpse to refresh his memory told him there was no cover at all down the run.  Accepting that, Rol decided to lean in and out a few times, taking snap shots to force the gunner back.

After three single bursts, Rol pulled back to listen.  While Rol couldn't hear anything out in the hall, he could still here the subdued sound of weapons fire from the other room.  It seemed obvious the battle for Sir Jeremy was still going on.  Deciding he had to move, Rol figured he'd throw off any possible gunner by changing his attack profile.  So, he dove for the passage's carpeted deck and a prone landing with his armed advanced, holding his pistol in a double grip.  Rol fired two shots down the hall, shifting his first shot to head level and the second to knee height.  The hall appeared empty.

Now, Rol was certain the continued fire came from the drawing room where he'd sat with Sir Jeremy.  Carefully rising to a crouched advancing position, Rol now followed the aim of his weapon as he moved to the door to the drawing room.  Drawing his weapon back again as he edged to the molding surrounding the door, Rol risked a quick snap glance into the room.  What he saw was a gun battle going on, using hand weapons.  Rol did see two 'clusters' of combatants.  The one, closer to the door and firing at those to Rol's left, had turned over furniture to take cover behind because needle weapons did not penetrate soft cloth barricades or their solid structure well.  The others, taking cover as they could, wore the livery of the Duchy or Sir Jeremy.

The good news, for Rol, was that the apparent assassins had not counted on reinforcements from the hall.  So, they were not covering the point from which Rol now attacked, firing three-round bursts.  As he attacked, Rol fired three strokes of the trigger as he rained fire down on the assassins.  Rol's fire enfiladed the cluster of five beings, causing them to panic and break their position.  Rol's fire ripped into those closest to Rol and the door as the others jumped up in their panic, and became targets for the other defenders.  Rising as an organized force, the defenders let loose a continuous stream of fire until the remaining assassins fell or surrendered.

Covering the scene in the room now that things were settled down, Rol suddenly heard a noise to his left!  In reaction, Rol pivoted so that he could duck and take cover from the doorway itself.  From his former left, Rol saw two assassins in black.  But, as he looked up at them, Rol caught a round in the thigh of his right leg!  Despite the pain, Rol didn't go down as he returned fire at the pair.  As he laced them with fire, Rol was suddenly bowled over as someone came from his left, from inside the drawing room, and forced him out of the way.  And as he fell, Rol heard the sound of a hand cannon going off! 

Sadly, for Rol, the "new" shooter tripped over, and fell on top of, him.  Despite the fall, the newcomer with the hand cannon fired again even as the assassins seemed to recover and return fire.  After a few louder booms, Rol heard no more weapons fire before someone yelled, "Secure!"  As the gunfight ended, Rol tried to get the person on top of him clear so he could move and, for a moment or two only managed to confuse that person's movements.  Soon, the woman with the hand cannon got herself off Rol as he heard a voice say, "We've got comms back."  In the corridor, the bodies of the two assassins lay twisted by fire while Rol could see he was bleeding fairly heavily from his leg.

Hearing the calls for response, backup and medical teams in the background, Rol wanted to help but knew he needed to Be helped.  At the same time, the woman holstered her pistol and went to rip the cloth off his right leg so she could bind the limb above the thigh wound.  That would slow the bleeding at least.  As she did that, someone else moved up and applied a pressure bandage.  Looking into the room, Rol tried to see if Sir Jeremy was hurt and realized he could not see the Knight!  Not in any condition to really search the room to see if the man was down due to fire or just taking cover, Rol let those working his wound treat him.  Since they, and the other defenders in the room seemed to be calm and not panicking, Rol assumed Jeremy had been protected.  Minutes after the shooting ended, reinforcements flooded into the building.


Another Day Shot to Hell

     The afternoon passed as Aali and Emkir were out doing the tourism thing with her family and Emkir had even received a level of additional acceptance because of his arriving father.  Terin was also out, relaxing and enjoying a bit of "home" in a Darrian enclave within Atora city.  Munarshu had been researching the travels of van Ryddoth while Fesic studied his college classes.  As this happened, Mikah and Zimzod had finished talking to the chef, who was quite impressed who he'd be cooking for that night, and were watching the news.  As that was happening, the suite's comms began to buzz.

Mikah answered the comms and was told by a seneschal's agent that there was a situation at Sir Jeremy's location.  She then asked Mikah where her people were, in a voice which remained firm and urgent.  Surprised, Mikah recovered quickly as she said, "Actually, Rol is at Sir Jeremey's."  As Mikah paused to further gather her thoughts, the agent said, "Yes, we're tracking that.  Where are the rest of your people?"  Realizing she didn't know exactly where the others were, Mikah said, "Well, four of us are in the suite and the others are out on walk-about."  Accepting that, the agent said, "Well, see if you can call them back." as she entered data into her comp.  Mikah asked, "Do you want us to meet at Sir Jeremey's place or here at the suite?"  After Mikah was told to get them all back to the suite as soon as possible, Mikah agreed and they cut the line.  Everyone else there prepared for action and readied what weapons they had.

Across town a bit, Terin was relaxing at a café and enjoying the ambiance.  Terin had ordered some snacks he'd grown up with and a nice wine as he relaxed.  But, suddenly, the setting was broken as an armored car with markings from the Regina Navy came darting out of the sky to slow, and then settled into the square near the café!  Doubting this was an every day event, Terin thought to himself that this just might be his ride!  Barely had he had the chance to think that, when a hatch opened and two officers in Regina naval uniforms emerged, approached Terin and asked him to come with them.  The tone was both calm and urgent, as they reached to help him collect his goods and move.

Since this was a case of 'two plus two', Terin had already been moving quickly and answering the men in a friendly tone as he worked to keep things calm.  That was a show for those who were now staring bug-eyed at events in the street as some even pulled out devices to video the event.  Terin was sure that would show up on social media sites in the next minutes even as he had to wonder what the next step was?  Unaware of events at Sir Jeremy's place, Terin considered that he just might be heading for a situation he was going to be thrust into.  Of course, once he was secured in the car and they were moving, Terin realized there might be a hole in the Countess' 'Hero-Building' program.

If the navy was going to zoom around, picking up the crew all over the city, there would be many clips like this appearing on social media.  And, if those clips appeared shortly before the crew were highlighted in the news as the heroes 'luckily being in the right place' to save the day just after that wave of armored car clips, the cat would be out of the bag.  So, As Terin waited to be told what was happening, he hoped Countess Josephine had planned better than it seemed she had.  But Terin's immediate concerns were handled as he was told this was a "Secure recovery" as there was an attack on Sir Jeremy, and they were retuning Terin back to Sir Zimzod's suite.

While they continued to sight see, both Aali and Emkir's comms went off at the same time.  Surprisingly, so did the comms of Aali's brother.  As Aali and Emkir received a warning to take extra care and find a place to possibly 'shelter in place' while a recovery vehicle was coming to get them, Karkuzam was being ordered to assist Emkir and Aali until on-coming military assets could recover them.  Confused, but following orders, Karkuzam did as he was told while Emkir and Aali were told there had been an incident at Sir Jeremy's location and Sir Rol was involved.  That news pleased neither as they had to worry about the reaction of Aali's mother and father while trying to figure out who was calling Karkuzam and how what he was learning might spin things?

As the calls got cut and Aali started preparing her parents for the bad news, she was surprised at how helpful her brother was suddenly being.  At the same time, Emkir was looking for a place that might be substantial enough to be a defensive position if there was a secondary attack.  Especially since they'd have to protect and cover Aali's parents, who were true civilians.  As he searched, Emkir was grateful Karkuzam had combat experience, if not a weapon.  With her parent's attention as things obviously turned tense, Aali started, "There's been a situation with one of the members of our crew.  So, we're going to have to go to ground somewhere."

At Aali's use of that term, Aali's father was much less than pleased.  'Go to ground' was something a chased animal or criminal did, not a citizen.  Still, Aali continued, "We want to go someplace open but protected."  As her mother's eyes widened with the edge of panic, her father demanded, "Go to ground?"  Ignoring her unfortunate use of words, Aali simply answered, "Yes.  We may be in danger."  When her father petulantly asked, "why can't we call the police", Aali said, "The police already know about it."  As Emkir was spotting a location they could move to, and Karkuzam was beginning to shepherd his mother, Aali's father asked, "So?  Why aren't the police coming to protect us."  Aali told him, "This is happening at a higher level than the police.  I anticipate there is someone coming to protect us but they haven't gotten here yet."

As Aali, Emkir and Karkuzam herded the parents to a building Emkir liked for a defensive position, Zimzod had put on his duster and loaded the pockets with hand guns and ammo clips.  Just in case.  Everyone who had a set clean changed into executive armor and they all had their hand guns ready.  Establishing an "observer's defensive position", Aali and Emkir readied their weapons, just in case.  In Aali's case, that was her pulse taser and laser sword.  Emkir had his cutlass and 9mm.  Karkuzam watched the sky for the dust-off car.

To be sure, Aali called Mikah and asked if they were expecting pick up or should grab their own ride and Mikah ordered "Wait there."  As she did that, Emkir sparked up the local news on his hand-comp.  In the armored car he was riding in, Terin was told he was being brought back to Sir Zimzod's suite.  When he agreed, "OK!" and asked, "What's going on?" Terin was told there had been a shooting incident at Sir Jeremy's residence and Sir Rol was present.  Terin nodded and said, "Yeah, I know he was planning to go there."  When they said they had no further details, Terin speculated, "I hope it wasn't him that was shooting", and they agreed, "So do we."

It didn't take long for the news to break on the public networks that there had been a shooting.  It was reported by the Seneschal's office that the shooting did happen at the residence where Sir Jeremy Lewis was under house arrest, and that the situation remained fluid at the time of report.  Further reports state it was believed Sir Rol Kaihvos had been visiting Sir Jeremy at the time, at the invitation of Sir Jeremy.  It was also stated that certain sectors of the city would remain locked down due to law enforcement activities related to the event.  That state was to continue until further notice.

As an official grav car arrived to collect Emkir and Aali, the armored car carrying Terin docked with a balcony at the building where Zimzod's suite was and Terin was returned home.  The arriving police reassured Aali's parents that this action was for their own protection because of miscreants who apparently had decided to act on the false rumors circulating.  Emkir, Aali and her family were brought to a safe facility where they were provided every comfort and the most up to date information on the situation.  To that point, the only new information released was that there were confirmed casualties, but no names had been released.  When Aali asked if Rol had been involved, she was told they did not know that yet.

The Long Silent Pause

     It was almost thirty more minutes before substantive information was released.  It was reported that Sir Rol Kaihvos had been visiting in a case of complete serendipity when teams of as-yet unidentified assassins attempted to kill Sir Jeremy Lewis.  Heavy reporting documented the fact Sir Rol had been invited earlier in the week.  It was also well documented that Sir Rol had called and asked Sir Jeremy's social secretary to set a time when they could meet.  The result was that no one could have blamed Sir Rol for involvement in what was a very complex and obviously pre-planned attack.  Experts state, based on the information released so far, that the attack had to have been planned long before Sir Rol had arrived in-system.

The new data reported Sir Jeremy was not injured in the attack, but Sir Rol had been wounded.  Additional, but as yet unconfirmed data, suggested Sir Rol might have been instrumental in saving the life of Sir Jeremy Lewis.  That stunned everyone in the team, although they basked in the hope the news would benefit them, while there was no doubt it would benefit Rol.  As that news was released, Mikah's comms went off and she answered to find herself talking to Countess Josephine.  After Mikah greeted her, the Countess asked how the crew were doing at the moment?  Mikah answered, "We're all fine.  We know everybody's safe, though we're worried about Rol's condition."  At that, Josephine chuckled and said, "When I said I wanted to help you become heroes, this was not what I meant."

Mikah laughed as she nodded and agreed this could not have been planned but said, when it came down to it, that Rol was her patient.  Countess Josephine nodded and said she would have a car sent to bring Mikah to the hospital to consult on Rol's treatment.  The Countess did tell Mikah that Rol had not been critically wounded in the fight, which was not released to the media.  When Mikah nodded, the Countess told her Rol had been significantly wounded.  Josephine said, "The doctors figure they can save his leg."  After Mikah absorbed that, the Countess said Rol's being there was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the right time, though she admitted it turned out to be the right time for everyone but Rol.

Mikah nodded as she agreed with the assessment, thanked the Countess for the information and said she would be ready when the transport got to the building.  Mikah did not count on the speed the Countess' people were moving at because she was grabbing some final items when word came her ride had arrived at one of the buildings entry balconies.  An officer soon arrived to escort her to the balcony where Mikah boarded a Regina Navy armored car.  Once aboard, the car flew off to the hospital where Rol and the other wounded were being treated.  Mikah learned the captured assassins were being held in secure conditions and under heavy guard.

Sins From Differing Perspectives

     After they'd placed a pressure bandage and tied off Rol's leg, he'd been hit with mild pain killers from a medikit.  That didn't remove the pain but reduced it to something Rol could manage.  With that done, and once the building was confirmed secure, reinforcements arrived and they opened a panic room to remove Sir Jeremy from it.  It appeared the last act the man at the desk had carried out before being shot was to hit a panic button.  So, Sir Jeremy had been pushed into the panic room before any of the assassins could hope to get a shot at him.

In addition to that button push, it turned out the drawing room had a sensor suite and operator station discretely placed in a corner.  While Rol had seen that, and assumed it was to keep Sir Jeremy in, it turned out that was to keep him alive in case of this kind of attack.  A piece of knowledge Rol stored in the back of his mind signaling someone really valued Sir Jeremy and wanted him kept alive.  Rol was told it was ironic that he'd left the drawing room as the attack was beginning, otherwise he'd have been pushed into the panic room with Sir Jeremy.

When it came down to on-site evaluation without further investigation, the team commander figured it had been a three-factor assault.  Team one had crashed the front door and secured the building against simple reinforcement.  A second team did a "top down" from the roof, so that those two teams could sandwich and crush any and all resistance.  And finally, the third team came in from the side and hit all the building's electronics and services.  Their only failure was to miss the self-enclosed systems in the drawing room.  Rol did confirm they had prisoners, some of whom were wounded and being treated.  But, it appeared for the moment they were not suicidal.

Quickly, medics moved in and began treating Rol's wound, including removing the tourniquet because the wound was not serious enough it would cost him the limb.  They also hit him with more significant drugs to deal with the pain.  Done with the evaluation, the led paramedic decided to slow the blood loss by hitting Rol with medical fast drug.  This made everything around him seem to slow down as the drug slowed down his personal metabolism to a ratio of 60 to 1.  That reduced the amount of blood Rol was losing as they treated him.  So, they could treat him and get him to a hospital alive.  Of course, it would take a day to burn and wash the drug from his system.

By the time Rol was received and moved into treatment at a hospital, he was out of it and remained out when Mikah arrived.  When she got there, Mikah was told Rol had been moved into surgery to deal with the traumatic damage to his right thigh and some light damage done to the femoral artery.  Treatment for that was a multi-step process where the damaged section of artery was exposed, the damage sealed with heat, the artery reinforced with bio-safe pressure bands and encasing the damaged artery section in growth medium mixed with Rol's stem cells and tissue growth enhancer.  They felt that the artery section would be as good as new after two month's healing.

That said, they also wanted to treat Rol with medical slow drug, after they'd flushed his body of the fast drug the paramedic had injected.  They felt they could administer two doses, which would allow Rol to heal those two months' worth over the two days after they washed out the fast drug.  That meant they needed to hit Rol with a number of transfusions after the surgeries were done, as well as tissue cleansers, to get the fast drug out of his system quickly.  Reducing the healing delay to hours instead of waiting an entire day.  Mikah nodded, as she completely understood the process and would have done things similarly if she were the lead surgeon.  So, once the brief was done, Mikah signed off on the treatment as Rol's doctor and his captain.

That done, they told Mikah she was welcomed to consult on Rol's treatment 100%, and they'd turn the keys to his case over to her after the two days of treatment.  Mikah was given a secure log in which would allow her to remotely oversee Rol's treatment and check in on the team who would be watching Rol 24/7 to manage his intake and output.  As for the treatment costs, Mikah was told Sir Jeremy had volunteered to pay all the costs for Rol's treatment.  Misunderstanding slightly, Mikah said, "Oh, Yeah he will!" with a bit of an edge to her voice.  About that time, ironically, Sir Jeremy had made a statement from the front steps of his townhouse as viewers could see crews removing body bags on stretchers behind him!

When Mikah asked if they needed medical help to treat the other wounded, they said they had everything in hand for the Duchy and household staff.  And, the captured criminals were not going to be any civilian's problem.  The tone in his voice showed a level of venom which matched the sudden glare in his eyes.  Then, he told Mikah the bodies, wounded and captured prisoners had been moved to a military facility for processing.  When Mikah made it clear she meant the wounded from the Duchy or even Sir Jeremy's staff, Mikah was told there had been few wounded survivors.  The unspoken remainder was that the assassins had been trained to fire for lethal effect, not to wound.  The fact was not surprising, but it was painful where innocents were involved.

After that, they offered Mikah permission to scrub in and observe the on-going surgery and she accepted.  By the time the surgery was done and Rol in the recovery room, Mikah had time to watch Sir Jeremy on the news, as he praised Rol's selfless acts.  How Rol threw himself into the battle, fighting to save Sir Jeremy even though he was in a panic room and in no danger!  Sir Jeremy made it clear he regretted not having been able to get Sir Rol into the panic room because Rol had stepped to the fresher just at the moment of the attack.  From there, Sir Jeremy was very expressive about Rol's bravery and the belief his actions certainly saved lives.  Outside of everything else, Sir Jeremy was certainly doing his level best to rehabilitate Rol's reputation in-system and Mikah had the satisfaction of imagining the reactions of those trying to drag them down.

And, while the authorities were working on gathering all the data they could on the assassins from their gear and the prisoners, the media were hitting the known team comms data as hard as they could.  In that case, the suite's butler and the building's communications office were of great help, filtering out a huge amount of the traffic aimed at the crew.  Aali and her family were offered a police security detail and transport, to keep them safe while they continued to visit the city.  Despite the offer, Aali's parents were all for heading back to the suite and sure safety.  They also seemed a bit too embarrassed by the amount of effort it would take to escort them around for the rest of their visit.

Still, the police did deferentially get them back to their suites so they could relax, clean up and get to Sir Zimzod's suite for dinner.  During the ride, Aali's parents asked if this was what the crew's life was normally like?   That included the bit of whiplash they'd experienced when Sir Jeremy had announced Sir Rol had turned out to be the hero of the day!  The past days had been a whirl wind of shifting truths and facts which gave Aali and Emkir a window into how the rest of the population might see them.  Only, the rest of the population were not being exposed to all the truths her parents had been.  So, Sir Jeremy's praise aside, they could not expect much if any real forgiveness.

For the time being, the police also offered to put additional security details around the building and neighborhood.  Since no one really knew how many teams of assassins there were out there, or where they came from, Aali and Emkir admitted that was a good idea.  As the family sat and detoxified from the afternoon's events, discussing the coming dinner with Emkir's family became a safe topic.  As they talked about the man, Emkir periodically threw in sometimes acerbic comments about the 'man behind the man'.  And Aali's father didn't have any issues with that, as this was simply truth separated from media hype because Emkir was the man's son. 

The family eventually planned to make their way to Zimzod's suite, where the dinner was well into the "set up" phase and they were already aware Mikah might arrive late.  During all the transit jaunts, there were still sectors of the city under lock-down and there was a massive amount of aerial observation by circling law enforcement grav vehicles.  As they started to prepare, Emkir got a call saying that the ship with his parents aboard was preparing to transit orbit and re-enter the atmosphere.  The port wanted to know if Emkir wanted to be present when the ship settled in and his parents debarked?  Not really wanting to but knowing the social expectations, Emkir said he did and spread the word they had to prepare a bit faster, because the port has said they'd send a car for the family.

  This excited Aali's family more as they did not expect to be part of the welcoming committee for the famous toymaker.  Still, there was a rush in the suites as they made ready and got out to board the gravCar sent to collect them.  Once at the port, they found that they were joined by fully liveried members of the Duchy, sent to welcome this VIP to the system.  While this was a bit of a surprised to Aali's family, it was old hat to Emkir.  He'd attended many "welcoming ceremonies" for his father in his teens, when he could be sent ahead sometimes, to settle in before the family chaos began.  While there were security and some guards in livery, the media were well behaved and controlled and the public were behind hastily erected barricades.

Still, Emkir's small group saw their social status elevated as they were recognized as the toy maker's son and extended family.  Because of that, they were also afforded a space of honor where they would join Emkir's parents before all but the highest rank of dignitaries exchanged their greetings.  Added to everything else was the pageantry, dutifully recorded by the media, of Emkir introducing the toy maker and his wife to their new daughter in law and her parents!  This played especially large as Aali was a local girl and the daughter of factory workers.  A 'rags to riches' wonder story, played out to entice every reader into wanting more details.

Adding to Emkir's annoyance, the Duchy had seen fit to grant Emkir's parents a suite of their own on the same floor in the same building as their suites.  So, the entire extended family could be in one place and spend more time together.  As events proceeded, Emkir was able to tell his folks Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod were presenting a dinner for them at their suite, so they could meet all Emkir's shipmates too.  Hearing about the dinner, Emkir's father turned to the livery-dressed team from the duchy and 'issued instructions' to have their luggage delivered to their suite and their key cards and other material held for them at the building because they 'had a dinner to attend'.

The attitude displayed showed Emkir's parents were well used to being catered to and no longer seriously considered the rank of those they saw as toadies to be a reason to be polite.  To Aali's parents, the toy maker said, "You can call me 'Niiali' as we are family", allowing them to use his personal name instead of the professional "Shiaangi" the rest of the delegation had been using.  Emkir's mom said they should call her "Uirlim".  Looking expectantly at Emkir after that, it was clear Niiali expected the "transport" to be ready for them.  That was, after all, what 'the little people' did as it was their job.  Turning to the people who'd gotten them to the port, Emkir asked if there was an aircar to take them to Sir Zimzod's suite?

Not surprisingly, there was, and the families were soon on their way.  Zimzod happily greeted them when they knocked at the door.  They then spent the evening in a relaxed dinner and spent time with everyone getting to know each other.  And, in private, Niiali turned out to be a very nice and likable guy.  Only a few people, like Emkir noticed it was because he was trying.  In the end, Rol's surgery only went another forty to fifty minutes after Mikah scrubbed in and the additional treatment steps she was needed for resolved quickly.  So, while she had to rush a bit, she did get to the suite not too long after things had gotten started.  Under the circumstances, Mikah was introduced around and everyone was gracious as she was allowed to clean up and change.

As everyone got used to each other and personal conversations started, Niiali was clear in his opinions.  He felt society had failed those he most worked to raise up.  He did, during the evening make it clear he blamed the government, nobility and military, with a nod of inclusion at Emkir, for those failures.  It was easy to see his juxtaposition of egalitarian care for the poor and bitter expectation from the elite come from his experience, pulling himself out of the sewers of his childhood.  And, if he could do it, so could anyone else.  So Niiali was willing to lend a hand to anyone who was willing to work to pull themselves up.  And, he happily treated those who had the tools and failed to use them with outright disregard if not distaste.

At one point, someone muttered about bringing the man on their next job, to see how well he pulled himself out of the situations they often faced.  When Niiali included Emkir and his crew in that, Mikah pointed out that Rol was not there because he'd been shot protecting the life of one of his chief accusers.  Her point was that one sometimes needed to pay in blood and lives to pull themselves and others out of the sewers.  Looking down his nose at Mikah, Niiali told her, "Violence is always the final resort of the incompetent."  When Mikah and some others pointed out Rol was fighting assassins, Niiali pointed out, "If they were assassins and Rol is still alive, they must have been incompetent."

The crew had to agree with that.  Mikah admitted as much, especially since they were fighting with Rol.  Her opinion of Rol was fairly low and everyone on the crew knew it.  Zimzod disagreed, and said Rol was just a failure for having gotten shot.  Despite his logic, Aali still turned to her husband and asked, "Emkir, dear.  How did you end up so normal?"  without missing a beat, Emkir answered, "Excessive drinking, my love!" and got laughs from most of the room.  Emkir joined in on that as he ignored his father's disapproving look.  Raising his glass, Emkir continued, "I recommend it to everyone."

With that, Terin suggested it was time to break out the scotch, and they started grabbing from the small supply of booze bottles they'd brought from the ship.  While there was none of the "good" scotch left, there were certainly some good bottles of mid-range hooch.  When Munarshu asked Mikah if she'd had the chance to make their special drink, she said she'd had to go to the hospital for Rol.  Still, they relaxed and chatted until they were told by the butler that an agent had arrived from the office of the seneschal.  When the agent arrived, he sat everyone down and told them they had traced back the assassins and felt the threat had been resolved.

That was a comfort to Aali's parents, who were still worried about more teams of assassins coming for them, Aali and Emkir and Mikah's crew.  The agent told them law enforcement had confirmed the teams had specifically targeted Sir Jeremy and they had even learned valuable information on who was behind the attack.  High level Regina law enforcement agencies and the Duchy were taking actions to be sure no further attacks would come from that quarter.  The man confirmed, again, that Sir Rol had only been an accidentally involved combatant.  When Aali asked if the agent could tell them who was behind the attack, she was told the agent could not reveal that.

He did say that the Countess was pleased at Rol's accidental role as the hero of the moment, while not pleased with the events that created the situation.  As they laughed about Rol's inability to dodge weapons fire, Fesic interrupted to ask Mikah about getting trading credentials with the port?  Coming at her from left field, Mikah could only shrug and say, "That's fine."  Turning back to the Seneschal agent, Mikah asked if there was anything else he could tell them?  He admitted she already knew more about Sir Rol's treatment, so that was all they had.  After the agent left, the family relaxed until Aali, Emkir and the families were returned to their building in a police-provided ride, everyone settled in.


A Day Of Diversions

     Throughout the night, the hospital medical team kept up on Rol's treatment under medical slow drug.  He'd been injected after the rounds of bio-washes to remove the medical fast the paramedic had hit him with.  But, once he'd stabilized after the surgery, it was time for some healing.  The cocktail they hit him with included induced tissue regeneration with a constant flow of nutrients.  As the morning burned away toward day, the staff updated his file for Mikah to review.

By 5am, Munarshu woke and did his morning routine before going back to his research on Kyle van Ryddoth.  The day before, Munarshu had learned Ryddoth had shipped out in command of the detached IISS Donosev-class cruiser Aansan Gakam.  He'd also learned the ship planned to travel to the Gvurrdon sector through the Roup, Feri, Boughene, Pixie and Dentus systems.  If that happened, it would put their entry into vargr space near the "40th Squadron", a small group of worlds controlled by a remnant vargr fleet element which survived the Fifth Frontier War.  Certainly, an odd place for an Imperial ship filled with Imperial military veterans.  Beyond that, Munarshu had to look for news of disturbances or other odd stories suggesting the cruiser's presence to prove Ryddoth had even followed that course.  So, despite all the work he'd done, Munarshu had actually "learned" nothing.

Hoping to get anything to bring to Mikah, Munarshu called both the local scout base and civilian port asking for any help they could give.  But, having no standing with either organization, they shut him down and cut the lines.  When Mikah woke up, she connected over the network to check the files uploaded to the hospital server overnight and through the morning.  Those reports said Rol was progressing as they expected and should be prepared for his second dose of drugs early that afternoon.  The schedule of treatment going forward was to treat him overnight again, monitor the cleansing of his system and stabilization before turning him over to Mikah.  After that, Mikah decided to crawl back into bed so she and Zimzod could sleep in.

Still, after spending some time playing around, Mikah and Zimzod realized they were not going to be able to sleep.  As they talked about the coming day, Zimzod suggested one of them needed to stay in the suite, to control things if anything happened.  Mikah relaxed in his arms and said, "Fine.  You go visit Rol in the hospital then.  After a pause to change from what he was thinking to what Mikah had said, Zimzod suddenly smiled so wide his face almost split.  After getting dressed and preparing to head out, Zimzod knew he'd be making one stop on the way to the hospital.

As Zimzod left, Fesic had gotten up, done his morning routine and then sat down to complete his registration as a trader with the port.  The Cr 750 payment came from the ship's account after Mikah gave him permission the night before.  Thanks to the bureaucratic paperwork, that took Fesic all morning.  But, after he was done, Fesic was told it would take twenty four hours before the certification would come in.  Terin started his morning doing his computer work until lunch.  In their suite, Emkir and Aali woke, did their morning routines and decided to visit with Emkir's parents.

When they were let into Niiali and Uirlim's suite, they found the couple relaxing as three servants took care of their space and served their needs.  And, from what it seemed, these were household servants, so the couple had paid to bring the staff along with them from the Roup system, or where ever they'd come to Regina from?  In fact, everything in the space spoke of the wealth the toy maker had amassed and not shared with Emkir.  Their son had been expected to dig himself out of the world he was born to and create his own fortune.  And Emkir's mother was always willing to talk about her pet causes.  It was an ironic mix of their egalitarian views and willing abandonment.

With Zimzod out at the hospital, Mikah decided to read and relax.  Things were surprisingly quiet until Zimzod got back from the hospital.  As he walked into the suite, Mikah couldn't help but notice the huge goofy smile on his face.  Asking, "What did you do?" in a tone both interested and suggestive, Zimzod simply held up his Ident to show her a picture.  As Mikah looked at the Ident, she realized Zimzod must have stopped at a sex toys store because he'd obviously bought a large Human negroid dildo.  In the picture, Rol lay in his bed, out cold, with the dildo stuck to his head like a pornographic unicorn.  As Mikah laughed, she said to Zimzod, "I think we have a new screen saver!"  When Mikah asked what he did with the dildo, Zimzod said he'd left it there to give the nurses a laugh.  After that, Mikah returned to reading while Zimzod started on gear maintenance.

After Fesic finished lunch, he decided to test his leg and found he was ready to walk on the leg and start working it out.  Considering that Rol had been shot in the leg, that was just in time too!  Thanks to that, he was going to be needing the hoverChair now.  In the hospital, Rol was awoken briefly during his treatment as they checked his body and strength.  After they confirmed he was strong enough and medically stable enough, they hit him with the second dose of drug and he was out again, having had no understanding of the things he was trying to see, or what was happening to him?  Emkir and Aali had gotten up that morning and decided to just stay in bed, like Mikah and Zimzod.

Unlike Mikah and Zimzod, Emkir was happy to call the various family members and tell them they were on their own before debauching the morning away with Aali.  After lunchtime had passed, they got up, cleaned up and again checked in with the family members.  After checking and finding out they were about on their business, Aali told Emkir it was time for her to get back to her stent work.  Emkir suggested they go back to Zimzod's suite if she was going to do that.  Calling the motorpool for an aircar, they arrived at Zimzod's place in time to eat late since they had not eaten at their suite.

During lunch, Munarshu had told Mikah he'd found a possible report that said van Ryddoth's cruiser had entered the area of space which he'd seen, called the "40th Squadron".  But, given the fluidity of vargr space, and the fact the small pocket community had been named for a fleet element which had been intact and locally dominant a year ago, the name of the interstellar community may have changed, or even not exist anymore.  After he made his report, Mikah thanked Munarshu and told him he no longer had to research Ryddoth's whereabouts.  From there, Munarshu returned to his robotic studies.

Mikah returned to reading after lunch and Zimzod planned to return to gear maintenance.  But, with Aali planning to work on her stent work, Terin suggested they team up as they had aboard the Kugar Akemudir.  So, he, Zimzod and Aali worked on their stents together.  As they did, Fesic returned to his studies.  As this all happened, Mikah told Emkir, "You know, your father really is a pompous ass." and Emkir agreed, "He is self-important."  Emkir was not surprised they were now seeing this side of "the famous and wonderful toy maker".  As if to punctuate the thought, the news vid switched to a report of the man himself, visiting some location to deliver gifts and good will.  The hero, projected large for all to see.  A shadow cast large while the blackened and twisted original was lost in the glare of the projecting spotlight.

Eventually, it was dinner time and as they ate, Mikah asked, "So, how long are your parents going to be here Aali?"  And Aali had not considered that question.  She knew they were factory workers, so they had to get back to their jobs soon enough, and likely would not have that much vacation time stacked up.  And it had been nearly a week's time since they arrived in the city.  After considering that for a short period of time, Aali decided to call them and ask their plans?  And once she had them on the line and had asked how long more they could stay in Atora, Aali learned the next day was their last before returning home.  They also told Aali that her brother had received orders updates late the night before, so he was moving on too.  When Aali asked if he said what those orders read, she was told he had not said but did say he would be leaving the system.

Getting on the comms with Karkuzam, Aali said she'd heard he had new orders and he said he would be shipping out the next day.  Karkuzam also said the unit rank and file were meeting with his new CO and the NCO's to have a meet and greet that night, before they all had to report.  When Aali joked, "Don't commit any war crimes", Karkuzam shot back, "Isn't that your job?" and got a laugh from his sister.  Before they cut the line, she told him to keep in touch, as much as he could.  He told her to have fun and try not to get killed, to which Aali said, "I'll try".  Not sure if he'd seen the vid of her performance in the jewelry store on Rhylanor, Aali sent that file to him so he could see she could defend herself.

After dinner, Emkir had checked with his parents and they were having meetings with important people who might become wealthy customers.  So the presence of Emkir and Aali were not required.  With the free evening, they decided to return to their suite, get dressed up and go out dancing.  When they asked if Mikah and Zimzod wanted to come along, Mikah said, "Nah" and said she wanted to see a play.  When Zimzod asked her what kind of play she wanted to see, Mikah said she wanted to see a comedy.  Zimzod was good with that, and so they started to get dressed as Mikah dove into the network to find tickets and performance information.

Munarshu, who had planned to study his robotics until an early bed time, due to his injuries, changed his mind and watched the news and vids for a few hours.  Fesic joined Munarshu to watch vids.  Terin wanted to wander a bit but was not sure "where" he wanted to go or what he wanted to do?  Eventually, he decided to return to the Darrian neighborhood he'd visited before Rol got himself shot.  From there, things went quietly for the rest of the night and people eventually got back to their suites and bedded down for the night.


Shots, Medical, Comedic And Other

     As the morning got going, Aali's parents began checking out and preparing to leave for home, which was not very far away.  Especially by aircar.  Still, they invited Aali and Emkir to visit if they could?  Considering the time, Aali decided they could get an aircar from the motorpool and escort her parents back home.  Then, she could show Emkir around the neighborhood where she grew up.  Still, that took the whole day, and Emkir and Aali would not return until after dinner unless they were recalled.

As they toured her childhood, what was nostalgic for Aali was "OK" for Emkir.  Especially the visits by former friends and less close relations who Aali clearly had not been very connected to for decades.  Still, Aali's childhood was much more different than Emkir's and so, he did get insights into her upbringing and background.  At the suite, Munarshu was studying his robotics while Fesic had woken to feel his leg seemed much better!  So much better that he decided to go out and take a light jog on a local park track if he could find one.  After an hour and a half finding a track, getting there and taking his test jog, Fesic was pleased to see his leg was almost 100%.  When Terin had seen Fesic was going for a jog, he joined the gunner.

After Fesic was done, Terin decided to do some street running while Fesic went home.  When he got back to the suite, Fesic pushed the gravChair into Rol's room to be ready for him when he returned.  After Fesic dumped the gravChair in Rol's room, he worked on his school classes.  When Mikah woke up, she called the hospital again, to check on Rol.  Once Mikah talked to the senior attending on shift, she was told the chart said they were looking to discharge Rol after lunch, so long as everything proceeded as expected for the rest of that day.  That included continued deep tissue scans to verify the healing on the femoral artery.  Mikah accepted that and then continued on with her morning.

Zimzod spent the morning relaxing and watching vids and news as the others went about their activities and Mikah sat with him and read.  As she did, it seemed Zimzod was "waiting" for something.  When Mikah asked, "What's up", Zimzod would only say, "You'll see" with an evil gleam in his eyes.  Eventually, Terin got back from his run and cleaned up as it started getting close to lunch time.  Finally, they all sat at the table as lunch was served and everyone dug in.  But, as they ate, the butler stepped up and told Zimzod there had been a delivery for him.  Getting up from the table with an evil grin on his face as the others shuddered in fear, Zimzod happily told the butler, "Cool!  Bring it up!"

After a few minutes passed, a trio of building staffers came into the suite with two carrying a thin and rectangular, almost poster-sized package which was wrapped and which they treated gingerly.  The other carried an easel!  As the crew watched, with some in confusion and some starting to figure it out, Zimzod let the staffers set up the "package" before ripping the wrapping off.  And they all saw Zimzod had paid to have a poster-sized blow up made of the picture of Rol with the dildo stuck to his forehead!  Everyone in the suite lost it at that point and spent some time laughing and joking before getting back to the meal.  Seeing that, Fesic asked Zimzod if he'd paid for unbreakable glass to cover the portrait and got more laughs.

Mikah recommended Zimzod set it up on the gravchair in the suite's living room "for now".  After the meal, and into the afternoon, Rol started waking up and the medical staff went about injecting systemic cleansers and stabilizing him as his metabolism came back to "normal".  As he woke, Rol was very confused and started asking where he was, how he got there and other questions.  Looking down at Rol, a male nurse smiled and joked, "Well, you're back.  That's good because your lungs alone will get us about Cr 10,000 each.  Of course, the nurse quickly smiled and called the doctor over as he assured Rol everything was fine and he'd been treated for his gauss pistol wound.  As the attending stepped up, he explained to Rol the wound he'd received and the treatment they'd carried out.

He also said that Lady Mikah had consulted on and approved of the treatment provided and they hoped to turn him over to her care that afternoon.  Rol joked, "Do you have to?" and the doctor said, "No.  But we'd probably enjoy it more than keeping you here."  When Rol asked, he was told he'd been under the effects of drugs for the last two and a half days since the shooting.  He also assured Rol that Sir Jeremy had been in a panic room and had never been in any danger.  After that, Rol watched the news and got a loaner tablet which he could use to trace back the news stories.

As the crew relaxed in the suite, the War Room delivery arrived, with all the sets of executive armor and ballistic cloth shipsuits, so Mikah supervised sorting those out to the crew.  She put Rol's sets in his room and wrapped Aiden's sets to give him when he joined them in-system.  Mikah also called Aali and Emkir to see what they were up to?  When she learned they had escorted her parents home and his parents were still hobbing with nobbs, Mikah checked with the butler before suggesting they move the couple into Zimzod's suite.  When Aali and Emkir agreed, they planned that for the couple's return, which would likely be after dinner.  Still, the butler and building staff took all the steps needed and prepared one of the spare rooms for the couple.  They also contacted the Office of the Seneschal to move their possessions and check them out of the other suite.

During lunch, Munarshu came up with the idea of going to a shooting range.  Mikah said she couldn't, because she had to be ready for when the hospital released Rol.  Terin said he'd go with Munarshu.  Fesic said he wanted to continue his school work.  Zimzod was doing gear maintenance.  At the range, Munarshu spent Cr 200 in ammo, firing one of his .50 caliber pistols.  He also asked about an "active range" and was told they had a dynamic challenge target course. So Munarshu paid Cr 50 to take his practice on that range.  Terin fired Cr 150 of ammo with his gauss pistol and then asked to borrow a recoilless auto-shotgun.  When they rented Terin a shotgun, he fired off a 50 round drum(Cr 80) for the pleasure of playing with the weapon.  Terin also spent the Cr 50 to fire the shotgun on the dynamic range.

Once the hospital called, Mikah and Zimzod called for an aircar from the motorpool and headed out.  When they arrived, Rol was in the process of filling out the discharge admin-work with some admin workers.  As they said their hellos, Zimzod was smiling ear to ear and looking forward to Rol's reactions.  After the admin-work was done, Rol waited in his room until they brought a chair to bring him out in.  Rol sat in the top half of his, now ruined vilani suit and in paper pants, because his suit pants had been cut away.  That, alone, was too much for Mikah and she broke out in giggles as Zimzod stepped up. Looking down on Rol, he said, "So, since you can't duck, this is your new duty picture."

Zimzod then showed Rol the picture he'd taken on his Ident.  Zimzod got a laugh as Rol reacted to the image, and that sent Mikah into a brief spasm of hysterics.  Rol first put his forehead in his hands as he tried to hide his own muted chuckles.  But, as Mikah lost her control, Rol could not hold back his own laughter and they were all soon laughing it out.  Eventually, Rol was rolled out to the aircar where Mikah rans some tests as Zimzod drove back to the suite.  On the way, Zimzod told Rol, in glorious description, of the poster-sized portrait he'd had made.  And, once they were back at the suite, Rol got to see the image printed large and framed, sitting on the gravChair Fesic no longer needed.

Where everyone was at the end of the session:

    Emkir and Aali: Having escorted her family home, Aali was giving Emkir a tour of her childhood
    Fesic: In the suite, at his college studies
    Terin and Munarshu: Finishing up shooting at a shooting range
    Mikah, Zimzod and Rol: Just returned to the suite from the hospital
    Aiden's Clone: Just more than five days remaining in his cloning process ( Decant on 110-1113)

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Next: Wounds Healed And Shots Fired