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Last Updated     February 24 2018
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          And Shots Fired

An Evening Settling In

Regina     Having escorted her parents back home, Aali had spent the day giving Emkir a tour of her childhood.  They planned to spend the evening meal with her parents before returning to Zimzod's suite, where the rest of the crew had their gear moved earlier that day.  While Terin and Munarshu had gone to a shooting range where Munarshu was "taking it light", Fesic was in the suite working at his college studies.  As this happened, Mikah and Zimzod had returned from the hospital with Rol, and Zimzod enjoyed showing off the portrait-sized blow up of Zimzod's picture of Rol.  And, despite himself, Rol could not help laughing at the prank, though he wasn't sure what he'd do with the image long term?  In the Rhylanor system, ten parsecs away, Aiden's clone was just more than five days short of completing the cloning process.  After the planned decant on 110-1113, Aiden would face a brief period of rehabilitation before some shopping to gear up and leave that system, to join the crew in the Regina system.

As Mikah sat with Rol to go through his medications and discuss his continuing treatment, Rol opened the bag containing both his meds and personal effects.  With a surprise, he found the nurses had put the dildo Zimzod had left stuck to his forehead in with Rol's personal effects after the XO had left it on Rol's head after his visit.  So, Mikah and the rest of the crew got a big laugh when Rol had to dump the bag and reveal the sex toy.  Surprised, Zimzod said Rol could cement the dong onto the seat of the gravChair, so it would keep him in place during high-gee maneuvers.  Mikah just laughed more and said she'd get Rol some lube to help.  Rol just shook his head and figured he'd find a way to use the toy in some future prank.

After they had Rol settled in, Mikah decided to relax and read.  Zimzod decided to watch a vid.  This continued for about an hour before a call came in and was answered by their butler.  He then came to Mikah and told her the call was from the War House, about their quote request.  When Mikah got on the comms, the representative reminded her she'd asked for a quote to make duplicates of Zimzod's duster.  Nodding, Mikah listened as she was told they had come up with a waterproof cloth, colored with a shade of grey which would fade into a large number of dark backgrounds.  She was reminded this was not a chameleon surface treatment, and would not change color in other backgrounds, so the dusters would stand out in those situations.

The man also explained the reduced capabilities of the batteries as compared to Zimzod's coat.  But, the wiring harness would be similar for the cost they could provide.  Mikah was also told the design they had provided similar ballistic defensive properties.  Once they went over the rough description of the design, the agent quoted a price of Cr 3,500 for each coat.  That meant, for eight crew members because Zimzod had the original coat, it would cost them Cr 28,000 if Mikah paid or each of the crew paid for their own.  Not a happy thought given Mikah had just paid over Cr 100,000 for their order of ballistic shipsuits and executive armor.

The Warhouse said they could send her a 3D model-based computerized demonstration of the projected product if she wanted?  When Mikah asked if he thought it was worth checking out, Zimzod said they might as well.  And she liked the computer model better than travelling to the Warhouse, so Mikah had them send the files over.  After that, they waited for the files to arrive so they could look the offer over.  When the message arrived, Mikah checked out the presentation.  She could see the dusters could, like Zimzod's, be worn over other low-profile armor like Aiden's cloth ballistic armor body suit.  But it wouldn't be able to be worn over the combat armor or Battledress suits, favored by the crew.

Zimzod said the dusters were similar, but if they all wore them, it would make them stand out as a group more than providing protection.  Mikah agreed with him that the dusters were not worth the cost and decided not to even tell the crew about the offer.  That decided, everyone relaxed until dinner time came.  For Aali and Emkir, it was a last family dinner in their apartment before coming back to the suite.  During dinner, Emkir did get a call from one of his parent's servants.  He told Emkir the Duchy was planning a state dinner, based on Countess Josephine's decisions, to welcome Emkir's father and he and Aali were expected to attend.

At the same time, Mikah received a call from the Seneschalate, informing her of the state dinner welcoming Emkir's father on Wednesday, and asking if she or members of her crew wanted to attend?  Putting her hand over the comms, Mikah asked, "Anybody want to get dressed up and attend a state dinner?" in a less than enthusiastic tone.  When Terin asked, "For who?" Mikah said it was Emkir's father.  Munarshu simply asked who would be paying for the dinner and was told it was a state dinner, in a tone that suggested he needed to prove he'd gotten a basic elementary education.  As people considered, Mikah said, "I guess we should" in a tone that really showed she didn't want to.  That committed her and Zimzod, so the rest soon agreed to go too.  Mikah told the caller they would all be attending.  Thanking Mikah, they were told the dinner would be in three days' time, on Wednesday the 107th day of the year.

Before ending the call, the Seneschalate representative reminded Lady Mikah there would likely be a number of events celebrating the arrival of the Duchess Delegate, Lady Seldrian Aledon in-system on the 112th day of the year.  As Mikah announced that, they all considered their ceremonial and dress clothes and Rol realized he needed to go shopping, thanks to having been shot in his best suit.  While the pants had been shot through and cut away, blood had spattered over the robes themselves and those stains would not come out easily.  So, the whole suit needed to be replaced before the state dinner.  When he asked who else wanted to go shopping, Fesic said he didn't but would play body guard for his recovering crewmate.

As they geared up to go out, Zimzod asked if they planned to walk so that Fesic's left leg limp complimented Rol's right leg limp and got a laugh from Mikah.  Fesic said he was bringing his cane with him while he also wore his snub pistol and Rol his gauss pistol.  After taking a Cr 10 cab to a group of shops, Rol selected a Vilani-style suit in dark blue to replace his destroyed suit as well as a second suit in a rust color.  He also got a spare set of slacks to swap with either suit for a total of Cr 650.  After he made payment, Rol was told the tailoring would be done and the suites delivered to him the next day.

While none of the tailors made moves to attack or kill Rol, they did spend some time, early on, trying to get Fesic's interest.  The gunner only waved them off and eventually said they were barking up the wrong tree, because he had no money.  Still, Fesic did consider what he had to wear.  The most stylish outfit he had was the one tailored for him as a gift from Duke Luis on Lunion.  That was a simple, stylish but elegant Solomani suit.  While he had two similar, "less formal" or appropriate subordinate copies of that outfit, the next outfit he had was a dress outfit he'd owned since his discharge from the Scouts.  And that was certainly dated, though not truly out of date enough to be considered retro.

While they were out, Mikah started to seriously catalog what she'd brought to the suite from the ship, with an eye toward what she might need for the various parties?  She made sure she had both the Domain and Imperial Starburst earrings.  As she did that, Zimzod made his way through the rest of the crew reminding them they'd need both something to wear for the state dinner and for the celebrations when the Duchess Designate arrived on the 12th.  He then went to make sure he had what he needed.

After dinner, Terin considered that none of the crew had yet tried to check on, or check in with their Chivalric Order in-system.  As everyone else relaxed or went about personal chores, he looked up the Order's presence in the city and found there was a local comms code.  Calling, Terin found the location was not far though not in walking distance and decided to visit.  Taking a cab there for Cr 15, Terin found the facility was a modest one.  After signing in, they asked how they could help Terin and he said the crew were being cared for.

Deciding to hang out and get to know other members of the Order, Terin found the facility had some support and assist functions.  The staff also provided concierge services at need.  Mostly, they tied those who needed them with directions to venues or services the Order recommended or had vetted.  Outside that, he shared tales of their travels as he learned a bit more about post-war recovery and growth in the region.  Eventually, he got back to the suite after Aali and Emkir had returned, and after Munarshu had racked out.  As they got back, they were warned of the needs to dress up and said they'd been told of the state dinner already.

Joining those watching the news at first, Emkir and Aali relaxed and caught up before they moved into their bedroom to break in the bed.  Having Emkir in the suite, Mikah decided to ask, "So, Emkir?  Why is your father such a dick?"  Shrugging, Emkir simply answered, "Because, he's a dick." with no interest in disputing the truth he'd been raised with.  He added, "Now, you know what I had to deal with growing up."  Aali added, "Now, I know a whole lot more about why Emkir is the way he is." and others nodded.

When Fesic, who had returned with Rol earlier, asked if Emkir had at least been able to play with the toys, Emkir plaintively said, "No!  Especially if they were prototypes." After a pause, Emkir added, "It was about then I started learning to play with dice instead" which explained his interest in gambling from an early age.  As enthusiasm fizzled to keep talking about Emkir and his family, the crew paid some attention to the news, but soon realized they knew more about the top local stories than the news outlets knew or could broadcast.  The only really new information was a growing wave of back stories about the preparations for the arrival of the Duchess Designate.  And, little had come in on any of the interstellar fronts, so they eventually faded to bed with Terin returning and hitting the rack too.

Red Tape And Missed Chances

     As the team woke the next morning, Mikah spent some time checking her commitments and expectations.  Doing that, she saw Aiden's birthday was coming up on the 135th day of the year.  With his clone scheduled to be decanted on the 110th day of the year, she knew he'd spend a few days in some sort of rehab.  Once he was free to travel, he'd have to book passage to make at least four interstellar jumps to get to the Regina system.  That would take him a minimum of four weeks only if he could string passage on four separate ships one after the other to make continuous consecutive jumps.  If not, there would be extra weeks of layover in intermediate systems.

That meant the soonest she expected Aiden to arrive would be after the 141st day of the year.  That meant Mikah had to decide if she would send Aiden anything congratulating him or not?  She eventually searched for an appropriate picture of a pastry with a lit candle atop it to send with a "Happy Birthday" card image via xmail.  Creating the image and editing to add the crew's names and personalizing it to Aiden, Mikah contacted the XMail service and paid the Cr 4 to send a one-page picture the two jumps to the Inthe system.  She was certain he'd get there in time to get the card in time for his birthday.

Of course, as she did that, the rest of those at the table were planning the blow out they'd have without Aiden being present.  Some jokes were made about taking pictures of the crater left behind afterward with the tag line, 'you missed a blast of a party'.  When Emkir brought up the idea of getting cargo for the ship, Fesic pointed out they planned to be in port more than a month, so they had weeks before they had to worry about contracting for cargo.  He admitted he'd started the process to get trading certification to try and sell the ton of precious metals they'd bought in D'Ganzio.  But, that application would take a week to resolve so they had six days before they had to worry about even that.

Facing that, Emkir suggested he get into business clothes and go to the office handling the application, to cut down the approval time.  As he started to dress for the trip, Fesic and Aali decided to go along with him and also dressed in business style.  While they were out working the system, Terin checked into his in-system social media accounts to catch up on in-system herbology events and news.  Munarshu came up with the bright idea to go hunting until he asked Mikah permission.  When she heard that, she pointed out he'd been shot in the chest days before and was on light duty as she shot that down.

When he asked about going fishing, Mikah told him she'd get a tub of guppies for the ship if he wanted to fish.  When Munarshu wasn't excited about that, she suggested they get piranha and see if he could swim in the tub?  Giving up on going and accepting staying in and continuing his recovery, Munarshu decided to spend the morning studying his robotics.  Mikah decided to spend her morning reading while Zimzod and Rol did gear maintenance.

At the port offices, Aali and Fesic trailed Emkir as he led them from office to office spinning his administrative magic.  On the way to the offices, he had downloaded a publicly available port master's datablock for ship's masters and had leafed through it skimming some sections for familiarity.  Once actually in the offices, he stopped to ask questions at information kiosks, to learn where their application might be being handled and in what step of the processes?  Once he had that, he'd target the documented rules and laws regarding that step before getting on a line to meet with a worker.  Using that process, Emkir managed to spend the morning cutting the remaining six days wait down to 'tomorrow or the next day'.

The only questionable problem they ran into wasn't so much a problem as much as an odd coincidence.  Over the time spent moving from office to office, Aali was fairly sure she'd seen the same person lurking in the halls and he may have been observing them.  Then again, she thought, it may just have been that they had been in the news and so people were noticing them more.  When she finally did decide to mention it to, Emkir and Fesic, the three agreed they could have developed a tail.  Considering how to test that tail, Emkir mentioned that they could head over to the local Instel-Arms venue when they left for lunch, to see if the man appeared again?  Emkir was also up for buying some ammo and shooting targets dead for a bit, but Fesic was low on cash and preferred a moderately priced restaurant.

After the last visit of the morning, Emkir was told of the expedite and thanked the worker, asking if he could join them for lunch?  This showed the cluelessness of an officer, not seeing an office worker with a constant and continued in-feed of new work to do wouldn't have spare time to join a customer for a long lunch his supervisors might notice, the man thanked Emkir but said no.  Emkir took note of the man's name, anyway, in case he changed his mind, or another opportunity came up.  The three of them then set out for one of the moderately priced restaurants in the area as Emkir invited Fesic, his treat.  And each time they chatted, they casually checked for their tail but failed to see him.

Ironically, they were not far out the doors of the building when alarms and klaxons began to go off in and around the building they'd just left.  Stopping to try and figure anything out, the most they could tell was that it appeared to be a general emergency alarm intending to get the workers out of the building.  As they stood and talked, that became more apparent as ground security staffers moved to prop the building's doors open and started guiding the first of a growing stream of workers and visitors out of the building.  Seeing this, Emkir was entirely up for continuing on to a restaurant as Fesic brought up their need to be heroes.  His point was that this could be the perfect point to rush in and rescue people in an emergency.

Eventually, Emkir turned to Aali, saying "He says we should go back and I think we should leave.  What's your vote?"  When Aali supported trying to be a hero, Emkir gave in and they moved back towards the building security guards at the doors.  Making their way through the fastest wave of 'most panicked' workers and visitors, the three got to the first guard and Aali asked, "Any idea what this alarm is?"  Emkir added to that, "May we be of some assistance?" without identifying who they were or why they might actually be of any special help?  Given no specific incentive for considering their help, the bottom-rung guard assured the three he was certain his management had the emergency in hand.  He did thank them for their offer in a dismissive tone.

When Aali accepted, "There might actually be nothing here for us to do", Emkir pushed, "I think we should just go to lunch." instead of actually presenting a case why they might be helpful to have around.  Emkir did suggest that they could connect to a local news feed once they'd gotten a seat and ordered food, to find out what was actually happening?  After Emkir and Aali agreed, Fesic held out just a bit to at least try to be helpful until the couple said they'd meet up with him later.  Fesic then agreed and left with them to find a restaurant and get chow.  Walking a short distance as crowds grew around the square they'd left, they found a place that served lunch and spend Cr 15 each.

Settled and having ordered food, Emkir connected his comms into the local news feed and they learned there had, in fact, been a fire.  Continued news from the scene said that some administrative offices had been damaged, and that damage also seemed to have damaged some of the building's data network.  the information was light on comments about casualties, but it was mentioned some people had been rushed off to medical services by first responders.  As they listened, Emkir wondered out loud if the fire had been accidental or a 'set fire' while no one pointed out the irony of him wanting the details "now" before any real investigation could have been started after refusing to be a first responder himself.

They decided to keep an ear canted towards the news feed as they ate and Fesic asked Aali if the guy she'd seen had the appearance of a pyromaniac?  Laughing, Aali was honest she had just gotten glimpses of the man and could not really describe him more than generally, though she was sure she could pick out his face from a profile.  Her best description was 'generic functionary who might or might not be working in the building, generically dressed as a functionary'.  That description bothered Emkir as the intelligence assets he'd been aware of tended to fall into that 'non-descript' appearance as a rule.  And while they kept an ear on the news, Aali also kept an eye on the door to see if their tail appeared, but he did not.

After lunch in the suite, which was cooked by the hired staff, Terin sparked up his computer classes to study for the afternoon.  Munarshu floated the idea of going out during the afternoon but Mikah told him he had to have another crewmember go with him.  With Emkir, Fesic and Aali off ship and Terin studying, that left her, Zimzod or Rol.  And Rol felt it would be best to do some stent work and recover instead of going out, even with the gravChair.  When he asked Zimzod, the marine asked what Munarshu wanted to do?  But when Munarshu suggested they go to a club, Zimzod asked, "You want me to beat you with a club?" in a tone that said he would be very happy to do just that! 

Munarshu corrected, "No.  Go, to a club." and Zimzod responded with less enthusiasm, "But, that's less fun."  Terin decided to butt into the conversation, saying, "Isn't going to a club a night-time activity?"  That, of course, ignored the fact they were close to the 24/7/365 activity of Credo-down port and the startown clubs.  Those, were always open and only had to have special offers to get people into the bars during Zhodani attacks.  Mid-afternoon was the perfect time to drink anywhere spacers had a free shift and liberty in port.  Especially the Regina and Imperial Navy types, not to mention the Marines.  In the capital, they could certainly find lounges and such catering to those who drank their lunches or started happy hour early.

Beyond the time of day, Zimzod was not highly excited to go to a club with Munarshu.  And Terin, who'd already said 'no' found he could not stop words spilling needlessly out of his face as he complained about going to a bar with Munarshu and becoming stuck on a planet.  Deciding he was not going off ship and not asking Mikah to join him for reasons he didn't mention, Munarshu figured it was time to clean the weapons and do gear maintenance as he continued his recovery.  And Mikah simply relaxed and read and hoped she would get no emergency calls from the authorities.

A Surprise Visit

     By the time they finished their lunches, Emkir, Aali and Fesic learned, from the news, that there had been several fatal casualties in the fire at the port offices.  When they heard that, Fesic quietly said they could have had the chances to be heroes and saw that comment ignored by the others.  It had also been said that the authorities had opened an investigation.  As they'd listened, the fire itself had not been characterized, nor were the fatalities or other injuries suffered described, which was a bit odd to the three.

Done with lunch, Emkir asked Aali what she wanted to do because he did not feel like returning to the suite just yet.  They all agreed that going back to the offices to try and confirm their permit status had not changed would not be a good thing to do.  Emkir did suggest a movie, museum or even a shopping run but Fesic pushed for them to go back to the suite because of his light funds.  So, they headed back to the suite.  Before they returned, everyone in the suite had finished lunch and were going about their past times when Mikah was told by the butler that they had a visitor from the Seneschalate in the lobby.  When they had him let up to the suite, the man was greeted and introduced himself before asking if Sirs Anfertirkåsmokt, Meshrumiikiim and Dame Eikusdi returned to the suite yet?

Folks glossed over the fact that the man had arrived knowing the three had left the suite, and done so together, and just told the man they had not yet returned.  In a pleasant tone, the man settled himself in the suite's living room as he said, "That's fine.  I can wait."  After a brief and startled pause, Mikah asked if perhaps they should call and were happily told, "No.  I'll wait."  So, when the three actually did return, they found themselves the center of round-eyed attention from everyone except the Seneschalate representative.  He pleasantly rose from where he'd been sitting and welcomed them back.

Getting over their shock, Emkir asked, "How can we help you good sir?"  The man pulled a tablet out of his briefcase and held it up, asking the three to confirm they'd been in the port office building that morning.  The question was academic, as the tablet he held showed a still picture of them in one of the building corridors at some point during their short adventure.  As they nodded, he asked, "Would you care to explain to me what you were doing in the offices and what your total business there was?  Emkir agreed, and as they sat, he said, "Today, we went over there to expedite our permit process to trade her on Regina."

Emkir continued, "We talked to a few people, we invited one worker to lunch and he declined, we were told that our permit would be showing up in two days instead of five, so we decided to go out to lunch and then come back to the suite.  As the man nodded, Emkir continued, "We went back when we heard the alarm go off, and offered assistance.  But, apparently, none was needed so we left."  After that, the man asked Emkir who they offered assistance to?  When Emkir said it had been the security guard at the nearest door, he asked if Emkir had gotten the guard's name, which Emkir had to admit he hadn't.  Emkir did not go to mentioning that he just wanted to go to lunch and had not really wanted to help, or get anyone's name.

The man then asked Emkir who they'd invited to lunch, which was a better question for Emkir, because he had gotten the worker's name.  When Emkir did spout off the name, the Seneschalate rep nodded and checked some data on his tablet before asking more questions about the permit it turned out Fesic had applied for?  Fesic and Emkir both answered questions until the man said that was all the data he needed and that they were just following up with everyone they'd identified as having been in the building during the incident.  As he thanked them and prepared to leave, Emkir said he was sorry they could not be of more help as Fesic kept quiet about the ironic turn of events given Emkir's desire to turn his back earlier.

After the representative left, Munarshu swept Emkir, Aali and Fesic with a glance and said, "You guys started a fire." because he was willing to go with 'baseless assumption' before even asking any questions.  Emkir denied that accusation and pointed out he had told the agent they were outside when the fire alarm had gone off.  When, as further defensive chatter, Emkir said, "If we were arsonists, we wouldn't be going back and offering our help." he was reminded there was an entire psychological diagnosis for those who set fires in hopes that they could use the event to make themselves into heroes.  Zimzod took over the conversation, saying that they had the three in a still from the security system, so they likely already traced their actions back through the whole time they'd been in the building.  The suggestion was that they'd already be under arrest if they'd been involved.  Zimzod's tone was, "Umm, DUH!"

When it came to what to do for the rest of the afternoon, now that everyone was in the suite, Emkir half-joked, "Want, To, Play, A, Game?" in a mock low-tech computer-generated voice.  After getting giggles, Emkir asked Aali, "Do you want to be the biplane or the three-wing?"  When Aali had no idea what he was on about, Emkir said, "We'll flip a coin", which they did as he pulled up a low-tech aviation combat game.  While the Seneschalate representative had been waiting, Mikah had decided to start shopping for the supplies for a new batch of vargr juice.  Starting on a terminal in the suite, Mikah found she would have to go to some offices and fill out forms because a number of the ingredients were fairly potent pharmacologic and psychoactive drugs.  The only chance she had to actually get everything she needed was because she was a credentialed medical doctor.

With Zimzod escorting her, given some of the things she'd be carrying as they moved, they spent the rest of the afternoon both filling out electronic forms and visiting offices.  The trip eventually cost them Cr 40 for the vehicle from the motor pool and Cr 100 for the orders as far as she got before interrupted.  Some of the ingredients would not arrive for another day or two.  Fesic changed into more casual clothes and went back to his lock picking studies for the rest of the afternoon.  Munarshu continued his gear maintenance.  This continued until just after 3pm, when a call came to the suite from the local police.

The Surprises Which Keep On Giving

     When Emkir answered the comms and asked how he could help them, they asked if Sirs Anfertirkåsmokt, Meshrumiikiim and Dame Eikusdi could come visit them?  While the tone was polite, it was obviously an official summons and Emkir did not make the mistake of assuming they could say 'No, thank you.'  Saying they could pay the police a visit and getting the address information, Emkir then cut the line with the officer and called Mikah and Zimzod to update them on the situation.  Mikah said they had an aircar from the motor pool and they'd come back to the building and pick up the three and go with them to the police.  At the same time, Zimzod said he should stay at the suite while Mikah went, in case anything happened.  Mikah agreed with that.

By the time Mikah and Zimzod got back, the local police had called and said they were sending a car to pick them up and give them a free ride.  While Emkir was, at first, pleased at not being treated like criminals, he was reminded by Zimzod they were being treated exactly like criminals, who all got free rides to the police stations...along with shiny chromed jewelry.  One instant surprise they faced as they were moved into an interview room was that the Seneschalate representative they'd spoken to earlier in the suite was also there with the police, and waiting on the three.  Once everyone was settled, the police detective in charge of the questions said they had told the Seneschalate they had been in the port office building to check on a permit they'd applied for.

When Emkir said, "That is, in fact, what we were doing", the detective said, "It may not surprise you, as I'm sure you heard on the news there was some network damage to the building, but we find no evidence of a permit application from your ship."  Emkir first said, "We went in person" meaning the visit that morning, but Fesic said, "No.  I applied on line." as the detective sat back and gave the two men a chance to get their stories straight.  To him, it seemed likely to come down to a classic case of criminals who had not gotten their lies organized beforehand.

As Emkir realized his mistake, Fesic continued, "I did that two days ago and paid Cr 750.  More confidently, Fesic continued, "Since you obviously back up your data nightly, you will have that in your backups."  Fesic's tone as he said the last was a mix of the absolute confidence he had made the application and talking somewhat down his nose at people who should have checked their backups before making stupid accusations.  Aali doubled down on that, asking, "You do back up your data, don't you?" in a tone that said, 'if you don't, you're idiots and deserve to be prosecuted yourself.'  The investigator shook his head in a dismissive manner as he said, "Well, the IT is not my department and I'm only investigating the facts as we've found them and we're waiting for updates from other teams.  But, at this time, we find no records of a permit request for trading from your ship or crew.  So, can you explain that?"

This would not be the first time the computer jockeys had screwed up the data in the detective's memory, but these 'knights' had already slipped a few times so he was waiting to see which side fell on its face first.  When Fesic simply said, "I just did, and it should be in your backups", which was an unspoken request to be held in lock up overnight until the backups could be run, Mikah asked, "Didn't we get a receipt or something?"  When Fesic said he'd used the ship's funds with her permission, Mikah grabbed Emkir's hand comp and connected to the ship's port account.  There, in glowing pixels was a ledger payment for Cr 750 and an 'additional information' icon which was a hyperlink to further data.

Clicking on that, Mikah was able to pull up the full data both from her side of the transaction but including the confirmation and code data from the port on the entire request.  Capturing that data and sending it to the detective's system, the police spent a few minutes confirming the screen with the Seneschalate man before admitting this did prove the payment seemed to have been made.  This was because they could have faked the data from their side, but could not fake the confirmation data from the port.  while they Seneschalate man could not pull up the transaction using his official port connections, he could confirm those codes and transactions numbers were used or created and were involved in the damaged data affected by events that morning.

Deciding the port appeared to have screwed up as far as the electronics, the detective moved on, saying, "As to the matter of the worker you invited to lunch, it turns out that he was, in fact, one of the fatal casualties during the event.  Aali acerbically said, "Isn't that special" as Emkir inappropriately joked, "Well!  He should have come to lunch with us!" in a tone of triumph.  Despite the very dark humor, everyone in the room actually laughed at that except the Seneschalate agent.  He did not say anything as the detective laughed with the knights.  But both the agent and detective noted that no one had asked about his use of the phrase "during the event" rather than saying, "in the fire."

Emkir did pick back up after the laughs, saying, "Sorry.  I had to say it.  I don't know if the man thought he was being offered a bribe or what?  But, we were trying to be nice.  And, if he had come with us, he would probably still be around."  Despite the dark humor, the detective had to agree it was more and more looking like that would be true, if the knight was telling the truth about everything?  Once Emkir was done, the detective asked, "Are there any other considerations that you might have with regard to this gentleman and how he might have ended up dead?"  After the most brief of pauses, Aali started with, "I don't know."  Obviously a bit uncomfortable and uncertain, she then continued, "Well.  I did notice there was one person.  Very non-descript.  Perhaps, I can sit with your sketch artist and give a description?  But, there was a person I saw three or four times in various places and I had the distinct feeling we were being trailed.  Nothing I could put my finger on, but that was just my hinky feeling.  My sixth sense."

Of course, mentioning one's sixth sense was not so great an idea when dealing with officials in a system which had been so badly treated by the Zhodani over the centuries, but the detective brushed that off.  Nodding, the detective said it was of interest and also said it was new information as he turned his eyes on the Seneschalate agent.  Looking back at Aali, he asked if she could identify anywhere in the port offices where she remembered encountering the person?  Aali admitted each encounter had been in one corridor or another, and not in any rooms.  Saying, "Excuse us for a moment if you don't mind", the detective turned to the Seneschalate man.

As they worked together, the Seneschalate agent connected to the data records and security vids from the port office building over a secure interface.  From that connection, they did their best to question the knights and track their steps through the building from start to finish and everyone got an idea why they had fallen under suspicion.  It seemed a great deal of their activities had been in security video which seemed to have been damaged by the events of that morning and could not be reviewed at all!  After reviewing some video frame by frame, they got lucky and caught sight of a frame in which the man Aali remembered had turned away from them and was almost rounding a corner!

As the detective and agent worked, they could only firm up the back half of the man's body and no part of his face.  But the agent was certain they had biometrics which they could use on other footage to see if they could find more data on the man from other cameras.  Of course, that would take more time and not be done in the police interview room.  Emkir piped up and repeated that they had offered to help, and watched for the tail when they went to the restaurant, in case his repeating the data helped?  The detective nodded that away as he said they had a new person to investigate and some biometrics they could work with.

He also said he was sure the IT people would certainly restore the backup data and the permit application would proceed as normal.  Mikah then interrupted, saying, "Since this affected the data specifically regarding our permit request, you might want to contact the office of the Countess and see if there is some kind of inquiry they can make?  And see if it may relate to another investigation they're working on?"  Not able to just come out and say what was happening, this was Mikah's hopeful intent to accidentally push them in that direction.  Realizing Lady Mikah and the knights might actually be innocent here, the detective was also used to the nobility trying to make an Imperial case out of the smallest issues.

And, since they had gathered a great deal of data to investigate, he was fairly certain he didn't need to try and get the Countess to send someone down to ignore it.  The detective did ask, if Mikah could perhaps give him any details on this, 'other investigation'?  But, Mikah only said he should call the office of the Seneschal or the office of the Countess, ignoring that there was a Seneschalate agent there with them.  The detective did nod to the agent as he reminded them the Seneschal's office was already involved.  Picking up after that, Aali said, "Well, this may involve us in particular, and might be of relevance to another investigation they've got going."  Nodding, the detective asked, "OK, then.  Again, can you give me specifics that I can use in my data request?" and Aali admitted, "Not really..."  She would have said more except that Emkir interrupted formally, saying "We are not at liberty to say." in his most 'stuffed shirtyness'.

Mikah jumped into that, saying, "They will tell you what you need to know."  Giving them a knowing look, the detective decided he'd get nothing real on this so it was over and said, "Thank you, My Lords and Ladies.  Is there anything else you can give me that would be helpful?"  When they had nothing else to add, the police released them but did not offer them an "all-expense paid" trip back to the suite.  And Mikah did not feel like just going back either.  She called Zimzod to update those left behind before she decided they should go to see a flick.  Eventually, they took a cab to see a science fiction tri-vid.

The four did enjoy the movie and soon made it back to the suite for dinner.  By then, the Seneschalate had called to say they had recovered the computer files and Fesic's permit request was back on the books and would be resolved, as expected, in five or six days.  When they heard that, a number of the crew had to laugh as all of Emkir's work to speed the request along had been erased.  Frustrated, Emkir was happy to simply leave the permit process alone to move forward.  Fesic joked about going back to the offices the next day to try and speed things up again.  The Seneschalate did say they'd like the three to potentially be available the next day, for possible additional questions.  Sitting to watch the news at they ate, the story on the fire didn't specify the damage done nor were the names of those who died released or the causes of the deaths.

When they listened to the news of the deaths, Mikah and Aali immediately realized those who'd died may not have done so because of the fire.  Mikah even suggested the fire may have been a cover and Aali agreed.  In response to that, Aali joked they should go back to the ship and get bigger weapons, but made it clear she was joking.  After that, Aali settled in to do some stent practice.  Emkir decided to spend the evening watching the news.  When Terin floated the idea of "doing something tonight", Mikah joked about hitting a club.  Terin shrugged and said, "Sure, Mikah!  Let's go to a club."  When Munarshu asked if he could come, Mikah snapped "not allowed" as a joke, and everyone laughed.  But, she quickly said he could come rather than having to listen to even a second of the engineer whining.

As the ball started rolling, Rol, Zimzod and Fesic also joined in, though Fesic swapped out his comms unit for his cheaper unit.  Fesic did plan to drink and dance a little and possibly find a girl.  Aali and Emkir decided to stay in while the others left.  In case something happened, Terin decided to bring his survival knife in a belt scabbard, do some dancing and perhaps find a lady to hang with.  Out to relax, do some dancing and have fun, Mikah brought her laser pistol and Zimzod his .45.  Fesic brought both his snub pistol and his blade-core walking cane.  Munarshu brought the pistol he'd named "The Duke" and Rol decided to bring his gauss pistol.  Munarshu specifically wanted to find female companionship and Rol just planned to sit, drink a bit and relax.

While everyone who went to the bar had a decent time, no one managed to make any special friends.  Fesic particularly had fun laughing at Munarshu, who plunked down credit after credit on potential partners who only seemed to want to stay for the free drinks.  While they had their fun, the comms in the suite buzzed around 9:30 that evening.  After the butler answered it, he got the attention of both Emkir and Aali before saying, "The building management would like you to stay here in the suite and not wander out of the apartment for the time being."  As Aali looked at him and muttered, "Okay" in a tone which begged for more information, he continued.  "And you might consider the desire to arm yourselves as well."  That firmly grabbed the attention of both!

When Emkir asked if the butler thought it wise to armor up, to the extent they could, or just arm themselves, he considered the question before suggesting having their handguns ready would be sufficient.  At the same time, the man surprised them both as he produced what looked like a body pistol from an inner pocket of his jacket!  They were surprised because body pistols were highly illegal weapons classified as assassin's weapons because they were made of carbonized polymers and composite materials which did not show up on any scanners.  The warning to arm up lasted just over forty minutes, after which the comms buzzed and the butler told them the emergency had been handled and they could relax.

As the butler spoke, he very obviously pulled the magazine from his body pistol and then quite professionally cleared the weapon of all rounds.  After that, he placed the magazine and weapon in separate pockets.  Emkir and Aali also geared down, though Emkir did put the handful of speed loaders from his pistol on the seat of a chair in the suite's living room.  They also thanked the butler for having their backs, which he said was all part of his job.  After securing from the emergency, the couple returned to the news and stent work until the rest of the group returned from the club later that evening.

A Surprise With The Returns

     Surprisingly, the only odd thing those returning from the club would notice were the speed loaders from Emkir's revolver, which he'd left on a chair's seat.  Zimzod, Terin and Munarshu saw those and Munarshu joked, "I think they were getting their guns off."  Zimzod pointed as people looked up and asked, "Did someone forget something?" in a tone which showed he wasn't especially happy people were leaving live ammo lying around.  Aali looked and said, "Those would be Emkir's" as he answered, "Just another day in the jungle, guys."  Aali followed that up, saying, "We had a little bit of a security alert while you were gone."  Zimzod looked up at the couple and asked, "Really?" in a tone both surprised and a bit annoyed this was the first they were hearing of it.

Speaking as if she was coiling to strike, Mikah asked, "What kind of security alert?"  Terin chose to fail at making a joke and asked, "You didn't use all those bullets?"  Missing the joke entirely, Emkir answered, "Nope.  The alert went away before we got a chance to shoot at any bogeys so we just decided not to even bother telling you guys.  It wasn't important."  Unimpressed, because that could have left them open to walking into some kind of armed situation, Zimzod asked, "You had a security alert and you didn't tell us?" for confirmation.  Emkir tried to shrug it off as a "Wait and see thing where they waited and didn't see anything so they didn't want to ruin the other's evening.  This ignored the odds that something happening there could also mean there were thugs out looking for the rest of the crew and a warning would have been a very good idea.

When Emkir and Aali both said they waited and then got the all clear, Terin asked what would have happened if they didn't get the all clear?  Emkir said he would have called for help at that point, missing the fact that calling for help when it's too late meant the help would likely arrive well after it was too late too.  When Terin started to say, "At that point, you're getting dead and..." Emkir interrupted him and said the next time something like that happened, he'd ruin their evening out and raise the alarms and spoil their night out.  When Emkir angrily demanded, "How's that?" Mikah and others said, "Fine" because they could easily have walked into a surprise battle without the warning.  Or, someone could also have been looking for them and surprised them at the club.

Terin moved the conversation into the next phase as he asked if they should call the building management and ask what had happened?  Emkir said he and Aali hadn't bothered but said they should if they really wanted to.  After Mikah said, "We could", Terin called the building's offices and was told the incident had been marked in the building's log as an "Attempted armed incursion into the building".  He was told the purpose of the attempt was unknown however the building's staff had managed to deal with the event and they should not be concerned.  That was delivered in the professional and polished tone of a worker who was certain the residents should not have to worry their work-a-day heads over the issue.

After Terin thanked the office worker and cut the connection, Mikah suggested they consider boobie trapping the suite's front entrance.  Emkir shot that down, pointing out that someone would eventually get drunk and forget to disarm the door and everyone agreed without pointing out that would likely be Emkir himself.  Emkir did think it would be smart to redirect the video feed from the suite's front door into the hall to their in-suite screens.  When he asked the butler about that, the man said they could even have the feed redirected to their mobile devices, so they could see what was happening outside their front door while on the go.  Eager for that, Emkir called down to the building offices and asked to have that set up the next day.

Terin decided to spend some time doing a dry fire test of his weapons while Emkir decided to tell the butler he could have the feed redirected to one of his devices if he wanted?  Being employed with the building, the butler said he was comfortable with the facilities available to him.  After Terin checked his weapons, he made sure they were loaded and in reach, in case something happened overnight.  When Terin also suggested Emkir keep his speed loaders close instead of leaving them on random chairs, Aali said she could throw them into her pockets.  That led to ribald jokes about her putting them in her pajama pockets and Emkir discovering the speed loaders uncomfortably in the dark during an attempt at passion.  But, soon enough, the chatter and personal preparation were done and everyone settled down to sleep.

Blood Stains Behind The Curtains

     As was his wont, Munarshu woke at 5am and went through his daily routine before finding the butler up and ready for him with a cup of stim.  After having his caff, Munarshu decided to carefully see what kinds of exercises he could still do despite his wound.  The next person to wake up was Aali, who found herself wrapped in her still-sleeping Emkir.  After disentangling herself from her husband and hitting the fresher to pee, she quietly did her morning routine and got out into the suite's living spaces to see Munarshu sitting at a terminal studying something, which he'd done after he finished his "workout".

Shortly after Aali received a cup of stim from the butler and sat to relax into her morning, Fesic showed up, having completed his morning routine.  When Aali started speculating about food, the butler commed the hired cook and his staff to get that rolling since people seemed to be waking early that morning.  Inside their bedroom, Emkir woke up and found he was missing an Aali.  Ignoring his morning routine, Emkir threw on a ship's suit and tried to wake himself a bit as he stumbled out into the suite's living spaces to see Fesic, Munarshu and Aali relaxing there.  Seeing her, Emkir exclaimed, "Ah!  You got up early." and she nodded that she had.  Turning to the butler, Emkir asked, "Is there caff?"

Delivered a cup of stim, Emkir worshipped that and a second cup before he worried about the food being prepared.  At the time, Mikah was waking up to find herself wrapped in a Zimzod, and began disentangling herself from him and going about her morning routine.  One of the things she enjoyed completely was a full and luxurious shower, which was far from what was possible on a starship.  After that, she finally made her appearance in the lounge to greet those studying, relaxing or eating.  She sat down and joined in with the munching as the butler offered Mikah a choice of caff or tea.

After eating, Aali decided to relax and do some reading because she did not get much of a chance to do that.  As this continued, Terin and then Zimzod and Rol eventually made their way into the lounge to sit and eat.  Once everyone was awake and ready to consider the day, Mikah suggested they call the Seneschalate and see if they were aware of the "supposed attack that didn't happen last night"?  When she called and asked, they asked Mikah what she and her people knew of the attack?  Not knowing very much at all, Mikah explained they had mostly gone out while two of their number had stayed in and gotten a call and alert they should arm themselves and be prepared for an attack.  But, once the all clear had come, they'd just ignored it.

So, Mikah said she had just learned about it and wanted to know what the Seneschalate had known about it and what else had happened?  Nodding, the representative asked Mikah if she, Zimzod, Emkir and Aali could come to their office to discuss the event in private?  When Emkir asked if they could send a car for them, the agent agreed to that.  As Emkir went to take a shower and dress, and before Mikah left to dress up, Terin made another play to suggest they rent a vehicle for the remaining weeks they were planning to be in-system rather than continuously spending cash on taxis.  This ignored the fact he could have rented a vehicle for his own use and saved his cash regardless of what everyone else chose to do.

Ignoring Terin, the four got dressed and were ready when a car came to pick them up.  The first indication this was not just another meeting was when Branj Dilgaadin himself joined them in the meeting room they were led to.  The next surprise was when Countess Josephine and a small entourage joined them too.  It was no surprise when the investigator from the Seneschalate who'd visited Zimzod's suite the day before also joined them.  The local police were also represented by a fairly high ranking local law enforcement official.  Once everyone was seated and ready, the Seneschalate investigator went over what Mikah and her people knew.

Getting into it directly after that, Mr. Dilgaadin decided to let Mikah and her people know directly what was being investigated.  So, as they sat and watched, a number of vid-captures were played of events in the building lobby.  What they saw was a team of civilian dressed people who were delivered from a vehicle and moved to the lobby entry.  Arriving at the locked building doors, most of the team assumed poses suggesting they were ready to provide cover fire as two of the team moved forward to stick palm-sized items to the door and back off.

Those were obviously compact shaped charges, which blew open the lobby entry.  What impressed Mikah and Zimzod most was that they saw no evidence of this damage when they'd returned less than two hours later.  Neither did they see any signs of the attack when they left the building that morning.  Realizing that it was luck alone that prevented the team walking into the attack that followed, Zimzod glared at Emkir and said, "Huh, this looks like something it would have been good to know about."  Emkir nodded.  Especially since he and Aali had not been given the all clear for forty minutes.  Once the doors were blown, the team moved in while opening fire with small arms on the staff in the lobby.

As the attack began, it appeared the lobby staff were no more than window-dressing as they ducked for cover.  At the same time, they could see disk-shaped panels extend from the wall and drop down from the lobby ceiling.  As those panels turned and locked into positions, very obviously sensor-driven systems exposed weapons which then opened up with defensive fire to turn the lobby into a kill zone!  In the storm of fire from both the attackers and defensive systems, several of the building's lobby staff were still hit and one apparently died.  At the same time, the attackers were stopped and beat back with a number of significant wounds and several of them dragging their own dead back out of the entrance.

Once the video clips were played through a first time, the investigator replayed them at varying speeds and enhanced different sections of the vid.  They again saw that the event began with a vehicle approaching out of the shadows from which the attacking team had moved to try their assault.  It was during one of those replays that Aali saw and recognized the face of the vehicle's driver.  This happened when the investigator fixed on the car and driver, who would now be the team's get away.  At one brief point, the driver had turned to the retreating team to say something and Aali recognized him as the "tail" they had developed the day before in the port offices!

When Aali announced that, Mr. Dilgaadin said, "It looks like you have friends who are not willing to wait for you to come out and play."  Entering the conversation, Mikah asked, "So, did you arrest any of these guys?  Or, find out where they came from?"  The police official admitted, "We have the biometric data on the team including your friend, the driver, there.  But, they were not known subjects who we have in our database.  We also found the vehicle they used, but that was stolen and of no help."  When Aali commented that meant they were not the 'third string' team, the police official pointed out they were not very bright just opening up with a straight assault right at the doors and Aali admitted they might have been second string.

After some further talk, and decisions on the precautions Lady Mikah's team would take moving forward, the meeting ended and the police provided them a ride back to the suite.  On arrival, their level of respect rose even more as they actively looked for signs of the assault they knew had happened and saw nothing at all showing the event happened.  Passing back into the building, the four found the rest of the crew sitting, watching the news and waiting for them to return.  They sat and relaxed as Mikah told the others there had been a fire fight down in the building's lobby and described what they'd seen and learned.

Once Mikah was done, she said the Seneschalate, police and intelligence were all aware and looking for the gunmen.  Munarshu sarcastically joked, "They're not after us" in a faux calm and unconcerned tone.  When Fesic asked if this could possibly be the family of the engineer Emkir had killed in the Equus system, Zimzod shot that down.  He said an attack from that crew would most likely come in a situation where they happened to be in the same place as targets of opportunity.  In that situation, they would use the crew and friends they had to try and set up an attack which would have been less like a military-style assault and more like a sudden brawl or swarm attack.  And it would have been much more "in person".

This attack had been planned, with the team tracking the crew to their building.  Adding the attack at the port offices, this looked like they attacked those computers to get the crew's address and information.  That said they had some level of back organization and intelligence support.  and that meant they had more resources than a starship crew who'd just happened to find them in-system.  When Zimzod suggested it might be someone with some high level or governmental support, Munarshu asked which governments might be after them?  Terin just laughed and said he could think of a few given what they'd been told of the crew's history.

Hanging Out The Targets

     Emkir mentioned the Stepozhevaci, from Porozlo, and Zimzod mentioned Natoko.  That brought up the shadow fleet attack in the Rhylanor system in which Sir Brian had been killed.  As they discussed what governments they had and had not pissed off, Fesic floated the idea of using Emkir and Aali as bait for an ambush.  Not at all impressed, Emkir snidely said, "Well, thank you very much." as the others laughed.  When Zimzod asked what kind of ambush they should set up, Mikah suggested putting Emkir in the middle of an empty room surrounded by chairs.  As the laughing died down, Emkir did say he'd spoken to Aali about going to Instel-Arms.  He then suggested the others could follow Aali and him at a distance and see what happened?

Always ready to pour water on any fire if it enhanced his own safety, Terin interrupted.  He asked if, while they were at the Seneschalate offices, they were told if they should alter their program?  If they should start staying inside or not, suggesting they may have said the crew act to enhance their own safety.  Zimzod told him they still had to go out or things would get worse and called Terin a panty waist.  Trying to find a way to turn things back around, Terin pointed out Fesic had a chance to be heroes at the port offices and ran away.  Emkir simply answered in a proud and bold voice, "I am Emkir!  I have no guilt for my own cowardice!"  That pronouncement nearly killed several of the crew from the laughter.

Terin did say that, if they were going to keep going out in public, no one should go out alone.  Emkir brought that back to why he was recommending they try to draw the bad guys out with a trip to Instel-Arms.  When others, mainly Terin, argued the idea, Emkir said they could either try to draw the bad guys out or they'd have to sit and wait for another attack, and he did not like that idea.  When Munarshu suggested they go on a hunting trip in the woods to see if they could set up a trap, Mikah reminded him that he was the one who got himself shot the last time he did that.  Munarshu did try to defend himself by pointing out they'd gotten a lot of fresh meat from that trip.

After they decided that trying to draw someone out was a good idea, Emkir suggested they leave someone back at the suite, just in case.  Terin also decided it was again time to push for the idea of renting vehicles on a long-term basis, so they were not relying on taxis.  Once he had the floor, Terin pushed for two vehicles which would be rented for the duration of their stay.  When Munarshu jumped in and suggested they get their own air/rafts from the ship, Mikah shot that down because those were open topped vehicles.  So, they'd be easy targets for snipers.  Emkir also opposed that because he didn't want to get their air/rafts shot up.

Eventually, Mikah had Terin call the building services office to see about renting two enclosed gravVehicles, where one would hold the entire crew and the other would hold half of them.  When they priced out a month's use, which would get them the vehicles until the 135th day of the year, they were quoted a price of Cr 600.  In addition to the rentals, they were told there were various parking tiers which were parking levels above ground where gravVehicles could park closer to the floors where residents had suites.  And, because the gravCars were building owned, they had sensors which allowed drivers to approach the building and land.  Emkir also speculated the grav-cars would have tracking integral to their systems, so the building could track them.

Emkir saw this as a good thing, because the building could provide records to the police while missing the fact that any tracking could also be abused.  Especially if they worried that someone in the building staff were being paid to provide their enemies information on them?  Once the rental was paid for, it was not long before the control tabs for the vehicles were delivered to the suite and the use explained.  All they needed to do was have the tab for the specific vehicle in the possession of one of the passengers and the vehicle would unlock and allow users to make use of the vehicle systems.  They were also told the vehicles were located on the +2 level, which meant two floors up from the floor they were on.  they were also given a map of the five parking tiers the building had in addition to the ground level decks.

Once they had the vehicles, Emkir made sure Aali was up for the idea before they changed for the run.  The couple planned to appear "as civilian as possible" so they could wear executive armor under business dress.  Hoping it would help identify them as targets, Emkir also suggested they wear lapel pins indicating their chivalric order.  For weapons, Emkir brought the engraved revolver that Duke Luis gave him on Lunion, because he also wanted it to be modified for a belt ammo-feed.  Aali decided to bring her pulse taser and laser sword.  As the others dressed, Fesic said he would stay at the suite, since he was on light duty.

Fesic still got into a set of executive armor and had his snub pistol ready.  He figured he'd work on lock picking for a bit before doing his college work until the others returned. Munarshu also volunteered to stay with Fesic, because they had decided to go with a buddy system and he was on light duty too.   Rol figured he could move pretty well after the two days of medical slow drug, but promised he would not push things.  Munarshu dressed in executive armor under a ballistic shipsuit and had the pistol he'd named "The Duke" ready.  Other than Fesic and Munarshu, who stayed at the suite, and Emkir and Aali in the "lead car", everyone else would follow in the second gravCar.

Like Munarshu, Terin put on executive armor and a ballistic shipsuit.  For a weapon, Terin brought his snub pistol with a clip each of Tranq and ball ammo.  Mikah had executive armor under a regular shipsuit and armed herself with her laser pistol.  She also grabbed her snub pistol.  Zimzod wore executive armor and a ballistic shipsuit under his duster, and loaded his .45 in one pocket, a snub pistol in a second pocket and his gauss pistol on his hip and he strapped his vibro-cutlass across his back.  When Aali saw the whole effect, she asked Zimzod where his bull whip was and got some laughs.  Terin saw Zimzod's duster and asked if they'd ordered dusters for the whole crew?  Zimzod, who'd seen the Cr 3,500 each quote, said, "No.  They were too fucking expensive.  You want to buy one on your own?"

When Terin said he might, Zimzod told him the quote was Cr 3,500 and Terin said that was expensive for just a bullet proof duster.  He ignored the fact that Zimzod's duster was not bullet proof but just bullet resistant.  Zimzod nodded and said, "Like I just said, too fucking expensive.  Do you need me to clean your ears out?" in a menacing tone.  When Terin suggested he could cut a deal, Zimzod said he'd give Terin the comms data for the war house and he could call when they got back.  Rol dressed in executive armor under a regular shipsuit and planned to use the hoverChair because he might be able to provide overwatch or high guard.  He armed himself with his gauss pistol.

Since neither Aali or Emkir knew how to drive a gravCar, they relied on Emkir's computer skills to manage the lead car.  It was decided Mikah would drive the SUV because she had skill with that class of vehicle.  Since they were not going to be travelling at ground level, they decided to leave a three-kilometer gap between them.  Because they were relying on Emkir's computer skill, they had to connect to the local traffic systems and fly under municipal control after programming in their destination.  After they got moving, it took them less than twenty minutes to arrive, one after the other, at the Instel-arms location.

Leather And Lead

     Once Emkir and Aali arrived and secured the car, the Instel-Arms staff very quickly noticed they had arrived armed.  Greeting them while being aware of the weapons, they asked how they could help the couple?  Emkir showed them his revolver and explained he wanted a kit to replace the six-shot cylinder with a belt-feed adaptor so he could buy and use 100-shot ammo belts.  He also wanted an ammo housing, which would contain the ammo belt so it did not swing around wildly in combat and pose its own risks.  Emkir also said he'd like a set of comm dots.

Aali was interested in two new battery packs for her pulse taser and another set of comm dots to add to her existing set.  After talking with the couple, the sales staffer checked stocks and said he could get them Tech level D sets of comm dots for Cr 5,000 each.  Emkir also bought the belt feed for Cr 250 and the housing to hold the belt for Cr 30.  Finally, he paid Cr 150 for a 100-round ammo belt for the revolver.  Emkir also ordered three magazines of ammunition for his 9mm pistol for Cr 45.  Aali also picked up three more batteries for her pulse taser for Cr 300.

The couple shopped and were soon joined by the rest of the team.  Not especially pleased with the influx of another larger group of well-armed arrivals, the staff moved in to make sure these were customers and not security risks...or both.  And, the crew saw Emkir and Aali working with sales reps and pointing, describing and murmuring, "Mine!  Mine!  Mine!"  Since the couple had made it to Instel-Arms without being attacked, Mikah decided they should join them and do some shopping.  Terin bought himself a pair of holsters for his gauss pistol.  One, a single holster for under the arm and another double holster under-arm.

Terin started buying leather while Mikah considered her own needs and also recommended Rol get a holster for his brand new dildo.  When he shot her a look, she reminded him it was larger than the weapons he'd had until now.  Mikah eventually spend Cr 270 on holsters and Zimzod Cr 200.  after ordering his holsters, Terin asked about Flak jackets.  As the agent he was working with started offering him options, Terin complained they were not "civilian" and he was told, "Flak jackets don't come in office tones, Sir."  When Terin changed directions completely and said he was hoping for something more civilian suitable, she asked more questions, to learn more of what he actually wanted?

When it turned out, he wanted something like Zimzod's duster, he found the best he could hope for was a mesh-reinforced coat which would only very moderately protect him while it would also hamper his movement somewhat too.  Despite the minimal benefits and obvious pitfall, Terin bought a distressed brown leather colored duster for Cr 350.  After that last buy, the crew were done at Instel-Arms and they headed out to the vehicles to return to the suite.  Hoping to draw someone out, they followed the same pattern they had when they rode to the venue, observing the three-click distance.

On the ride back, the crew were a bit more relaxed and Terin had the time to decide the seats in the gravCar were lumpy.  When Terin said so, and checked the seat cushions and structure, Terin could find nothing much.  All he could find was that the seat was lumpy.  In a condescending tone, Zimzod asked him what he expected from a fleet vehicle they were renting?  As he checked the seat, they returned to the suite without incident and locked down the vehicles before heading inside.

When they returned, and the butler greeted them, Emkir asked the man what his name was.  Thanking Emkir for his interest, the man said it was not important, but Emkir insisted.  Seeing it was important to the Admiral, the butler accepted and told Emkir his name was Ergakii, which only suggested to them the man was raised by Vilani parents.  Once they were all back and ready to relax into the evening, Terin checked his social media boards for anything interesting locally in herbology.  Munarshu went to bed as the rest settled their purchases before themselves going to bed.

The Relaxing Day Before

     With Munarshu's habitual early rise, the day began as expected.  For a consecutive morning, Aali woke to find her self Emkir-wrapped, and extracted herself from her husband to continue with her morning.  This time, however, Emkir woke up while Aali was taking a shower and staggered into the fresher to ask, "Honey.  What are you doing up?" in a querulous voice.  Without missing a beat, Aali snapped back at Emkir, "Morning sickness." and went back to cleaning herself.  To his credit, Emkir did not drop right then and there as a victim of a coronary incident.

Emkir could only say, "Aali, this mornings' about you.  Don't worry about it." and Aali answered, "That was a joke, by the way."  Relieved, Emkir could only get out, "I hope so!" as he started breathing again.  The two finally got out into the living room and started having breakfast about thirty to forty minutes before the rest of the crew started leaving their bedrooms for food.  After he'd eaten, Munarshu got into his robotics studies.  Terin checked with the butler and found there were in-building gym facilities so he went for a run.  He was eventually followed by Emkir and Aali who wanted to take advantage of being in a gravity well for some time and getting a good workout.

When Mikah and Zimzod left their bedroom to see Munarshu studying, Mikah asked, "What did you do with them, Munarshu?"  Confused, Munarshu asked, "What?" and she repeated, "What did you do with them?" the engineer said, "They're out running."  Without missing a beat, Mikah asked, "From what?" with a deadpan look.  Munarshu told her, "They said something about exercise, so they went running."  In the buildings closest exercise space, the three ran or worked out as they watched a nice clear Atora morning happen outside, watching hordes of people moving on the ground to computer controlled traffic lanes of grav-vehicles in the local skies.  As they worked out, the rest in the suite ate breakfast and relaxed.

After those working out came back to the suite and cleaned up, and Terin, who'd grabbed a quick caff, had brunch, the crew were gathering in the late morning.  With everyone gathered, the topic of conversation turned toward the state dinner, that night, to honor Emkir's father.  As the conversation moved directly into griping for having to honor Emkir's father, Mikah joked about missing the party to laughs.  She even quipped, "Sorry!  We forgot all about it with all the stuff we have to do."  Despite that, they all knew missing the party was not an option and would trigger a reaction from the highest levels. 

From there, Zimzod pointed out they had solid evidence "someone" was after them and they'd so far tried amateurish methods to draw them out.  When Terin commented, "to no avail", Zimzod agreed but pointed out it had been the bad guy's game plan so far and they were still making the rules.  Terin asked if they could call the Seneschalate or police and get a copy of the face picture of the man Aali had identified?  He pointed out, while Aali, Emkir, Mikah and Zimzod had seen the picture, the rest of the crew hadn't.  Despite the seriousness of the situation, Fesic joked they should make masks with pictures of the man's face so they could all wear them and confuse those hunting them and got laughs.

After the laughs, Emkir did call the Seneschalate and got them to send an image over which they could all share digitally.  In fact, they not only shared the image of the driver, but the faces of the others which had been captured in the attack on the building lobby too.  Emkir also learned that none of the biometrics for these people were on file in-system.  That not only meant they were from off-world, but also suggested they'd been smuggled on-world, to avoid the sensors at the various port facilities during Health, Immigration and Customs evaluation.  That last bit was a grim add-on to the situation the crew knew they faced.

After the brunch and lounging had turned to lunch and that ended, the crew began to consider what they'd wear to the state dinner that night?  Considering her wardrobe, Aali planned to start with executive armor under her Silver-grey Vilani gown.  She decided that because Emkir had his matching Silver-grey Vilani suit.  As they planned their wardrobe, Emkir realized nothing had been cleaned and pressed since being packed and they needed to get that done!  He also realized that they needed to pull their clothes for the Duchess' arrival in five days too.  So, Emkir called in the butler and asked if there was a way to get everything cleaned and pressed before they had to get dressed for the party that night?  The butler told them he would do his best after everyone laid out their clothes.

For the Duchess' arrival, they both planned to wear their Order uniforms early and then change into dress clothing for the evening.  For that, Emkir planned to wear his solemn, Vilani-style suit made from ballistic cloth and Aali chose her light green and brown ceremonial gown.  Terin got out both his Dark Green and Maroon Darrian styled suit for when the Duchess arrived, along with his Order uniform, and got out one of the lesser copies of the Darrian suit to wear that night.  Terin planned to wear his most fancy and polished gift gauss pistol on his hip for both occasions.  Mikah told everyone to wear executive armor when they could, however many of the gowns would not accommodate that for the women.  Mikah planned to wear the classic cut black gown with a spray of sparkles that night along with her Starburst earrings and the lanthanum bracelets. 

She would save her sheer royal blue tea-length gown for the Duchess' arrival.  For that occasion, she'd wear her Deneb Domain earrings and start that evening in her Order uniform.  Zimzod also got out his Order uniform and his cranberry-colored civilian suit when the Duchess arrived and his 'classic style' Formal Suit that night.  Rol got out his Order Uniform and his new rust-colored Vilani-style suit for the 12th and planned to wear his new dark blue Vilani-style suit that night.  Fesic planned to wear executive armor under his lone suit for both occasions.  Munarshu planned to wear his Teal Vilani Formal wear that night and his "Burnt Umber" Vilani-style suit and jacket for the arrival of the Duchess.

Once everyone had their intended outfits laid out, the butler said he would have the best efforts put forward.  Then, he made the last of a series of calls he'd already started to get the people and facilities that would be needed in the loop.  As a result, there was a quick visit from a small team of building employees who tagged and took each clothing item.  As this happened, Emkir and Aali turned their attention to getting out their Tellona diamond chip rings, to wear as well.  The followed that up with a nap, and Mikah rested too, figuring she'd need the sleep later.  Zimzod broke out the weapons he was considering bringing with him and started a round of gear maintenance.

Rather than relying on wearing his Order uniform that night, Terin said he was going to wear the Order pin which came off the uniform, and started a trend.  After that, he decided to work on his stent work.  Terin followed that up with computer training.  Rol also decided it would be a good idea to do gear maintenance, especially as he was less mobile than the others.  Fesic did more of his studies while Munarshu sat down in the living room to re-organize his planned ammo load for the evening.  But, when he started lining up HEAP rounds, Rol and Zimzod got involved.  Zimzod demanded to know why Munarshu was planning to bring high explosive armor piercing rounds to a party?

Rol's comment, on the tail of Zimzod's question was a flat and nearly toneless, "Really?"  Zimzod then pointed out the friendly system authorities had requested they operate with non-military grade weapons and HEAP rounds were the exact definition of a military ammo load.  Again, Rol followed that up with the same tone as he asked, "To a party?  Filled with high nobility?"  Reconsidering his choices, Munarshu then said he'd switch the six HEAP clips of ball ammo and bring five clips of Tranq with one of the Tranq clips in the weapon for starters.  Zimzod just sat and shook his head as he said, "You're gonna look real stupid with all those magazines filling your pockets."

Overhearing the conversation and deciding to take it over, Terin asked why Munarshu was planning to go to the party wearing an ammo bag?  When that caught Munarshu beyond what he'd thought out, which was appearing to be basically "nothing", Terin pointed out that many clips would actually have to be stored in several ammo bags.  Rol joked, "you'll look like the Imperium's most incompetent assassin.  And that counts the gravCar gunman who shot you in the first place."  Eventually, they talked Munarshu down to two clips of ammo including the clip in his weapon and a spare in the slot on his holster and said both would be loaded with Tranq rounds.

When Munarshu grumbled about the issue afterward, many of the people there said they were sure Mikah would use him as a meat-shield so he could be the first to fight anyone.  Zimzod promised Munarshu he would be allowed to fight anyone 'mano a idiot'.  That got some laughs from those in the room.  Terin pointed out there would be so many honor weapons in the room and armed guards that any attack won't matter.  When Munarshu suggested he'd use Zimzod as a meat shield, that got even more laughs and a number of "good luck with that" razzes.  As that chat wound down, Terin moved from his computer work to his stent, varying his efforts.

Odd Encounters From The Past

     Despite their intent, Emkir and Aali got very little sleep out of their nap and ended up playing a bit before cleaning up and returning to the others to burn off time before they had to dress up for the party.  After that, Aali did some stent work and then relaxed with some reading.  Emkir spent the hours watching reports on the coming party and those reported to likely be in attendance.  Seeing the reports as an opportunity, Emkir spent the remaining hours watching the reports to learn faces and names.  Of course, Emkir was not surprised to see his name brought up repeatedly, as the link between his revered father and controversial crew.  Salaries were also paid so Fesic would have some spending cash in case he wanted to leave early.

One thing Emkir learned was that Duke Norris had assigned off the Marquisate to another family!  So, there was a separate Marquis of Regina as well as the County and Duchy based from that system.  As Emkir did that, Terin continued with his stent studies and both Rol and Zimzod joined in.  When Aali came out of her bedroom with Emkir, she joined the men in team-stent work.  When Mikah eventually woke, she just moved into the living room with the others and continued to relax until it was time to change.  Fesic worked on his college class.  Munarshu spent the rare free day taking a very nice, long leisurely shower and use the time to clean himself up proper.  Then, he spent the rest of his free time in his bedroom contemplating his belly button.

Finally, as the time to get ready was getting closer, some workers from the building arrived with a rolling rack of clothing items the crew had wanted cleaned and pressed.  This turned out to be one of the built-in services of the building, for all residents and over-night visitors.  As they all got ready, there was a discussion if they would all go in the same gravCar or split up, as they had for the trip to Instel-Arms.  Despite jokes about forcing the assassins to use two missiles instead of one, they decided to all ride in one car.  Once they'd all gotten ready, the entire crew hopped into the larger car and lifted for the party site.

As they asked for clearance to enter the traffic pattern, they were notified they needed to set their navigational system to a specific frequency.  That would automatically lock them into a nav-path to the building where the party was being held and even guide them in to parking.  This also included a priority level because Emkir was the Toymaker's son.  Once they arrived, the crew found that parking was layered depending on attendee priority, so they didn't have far to go to get into the party proper.  Still, there were ushers who operated grav-flats with handrails and a control stalk and glided out to each arriving party to offer them a ride to the hall entrance.

They were pleased to have been offered a ride not only to the hall entrance, but into the hall itself through a VIP entrance.  As they arrived, the saw the very full and still filling hall had many very important and very famous people already.  And more were streaming in as they were greeted and the organizers had a word or two with Emkir and Aali even as they met for the first time.  The important people were a mix of political titles, nobility, wealth, business people, celebrities or a combination of those classes.  Packing them in even more were the servants and support staff of those many famous and important people as well as the event and hall staffs.  And adding that one special touch were the many posted members of the Duke's Own Huscarles, who were armored and armed to the teeth as event security.

Rol and Zimzod were both well aware how well those troops were tied into everything that could be scanned and inferred about everyone and anything in and around the hall for a distance of ten clicks.  And, equipped with hoverbelts, how quickly they could react and respond to anything with microscopic precision if called on.  The good news, if there was any, was that Emkir's father had to be on his best behavior as "The Honoree".  Well versed with these kinds of parties, Emkir was fast off the blocks and made every attempt to use the party to meet and greet with everyone he could, using his father's fame to get his foot in doors.  Even Mikah found the "lifting effect" valuable when she was able to say, "Yes, the Toymaker's son is my command pilot."  She didn't mention Emkir's impending demotion once Aiden got in-system.

Of course, Mikah also got to ride the waves of notoriety as she mentioned Sir Rol was her ship's cook.  Mikah still refused to mention that Rol was also the ship's security officer because he'd still failed to impress her much in that role.  Once the party got rolling, it was essentially a standard party format.  The attendees were allowed an amount of time to mix, chat and converse as they did everything from settle around tables to crowd-surf, and the late stragglers continued to arrive.  Eventually, people were asked to settle down to tables, or seats for the many servants and assistants, and cocktails and finger foods gave way to a dinner.  During that period, there were welcoming and thankful speeches before Shiaangi Meshrumiikiim was called up before the welcoming crowd.

After that, Emkir's father gave his speech.  One could see who expected the man's political views and who were new to this level of access, and were seeing the man's views on display for the first time.  Finally, after the "sit down and listen" part of the evening, a band started up, some space for dancing was opened and the bars and conversation knots became the order of the evening.  Each of the crew had at least a generically acceptable time as the evening passed and knew exactly what to expect from Emkir's father.  Eventually, as the party began to relax and some of those who "had to be there" even left early, Terin was wandering the crowd when a tall, pale-skinned man wearing what looked like the uniform of the Zhodani Embassy's Diplomatic corps seemed to be making a bee line straight for him!

The "Tall", "Thin" and "Pale skinned" were really hallmarks of the genetically pure Zhodani citizen, who, as a population, averaged some inches taller than the average Imperial.  Of course, the Imperial counter of that was that the Zho were so thin you could usually easily break them with a single good hard punch.  Terin knew well that the Imperial counter joke was usually only really believed by that class of idiot who'd never faced Zhodani troops in combat.  Especially the teleport commandos he'd faced.  But now, as this man approached, Terin regretted he didn't have a psi-shield, especially since it was still some part of the local fashions, since the Fifth Frontier War was not far in the past.  Terin was also annoyed, as he cataloged his knowledge of Zhodani words and phrases that any greeting he knew how to give in the man's native tongue would not be considered social, polite or even likely civilized in the current setting.

Deciding that he would meet the man rather than turning away and becoming lost in the crowd, Terin was even more surprised when the diplomat met him saying, "Greetings, Sir Terin Yundis Geryen.  I was hoping to meet you here tonight.  How is your health?"  Terin greeted the man in a non-committal tone, saying, "I'm alright though I'm at a slight disadvantage because I don't know your name."  The diplomat bowed as if Terin had scored a point of some sort as he introduced himself as Assistant Attaché Ezheqlafl Yentiiavr (Ezz-Hek-La-Ful Yen-Tee-af-er), serving as an assistant to the Ambassador, working from the Zhodani Consulate on-world.  This ranked the man above almost all of the regular staffers in the Regina mission simply because of who he reported to.

Of course, his position also meant he was not Zhodani nobility, which meant he was not psionic.  After the pleasantries were done, the diplomat said he was pleased that Sir Terin and his crew had come to the Regina system, as it was an unexpected move for his ship.  But, since he had come to the system, the Ambassador would like to meet with him.  When Terin asked why the Ambassador would be surprised he would come to Regina, Minister Ezheqlafl answered, "It is so unusual for those who have had illustrious interactions with our military forces to choose to travel in the same circles we travel."  Considering that, and after a pause, Terin said, "Sure.  I'll meet him."  Thanking Terin, the Minister asked Terin for the comms link to where he was staying so an invitation could be sent.

After that, the minister bowed in respect, thanked Terin, turned and walked back into the crowd as Terin responded, "It was a pleasure."  Mikah was in her own conversation with an assistant to Mr. Dilgaadin when she noticed someone in a Zhodani diplomatic uniform moving through the crowd.  Even more surprising, as she watched, the man stopped to talk to Terin!  She then watched as the men exchanged comments briefly and it seemed Terin even gave the man a comms link.  Finally, the man in diplomatic uniform actually bowed to Terin, turned and walked away.  Mikah wanted to excuse herself and go directly over to Terin to ask what the hell that was when the Seneschalate aide asked, "Any idea what that was all about?"  Mikah bit her lip before letting her annoyance slip that he'd seen the exchange and said she had no idea.

When Mikah said she planned to find out, in a tone that said she wanted to do so immediately, he asked if he could come with her?  Mikah actually smiled as she happily said, "Absolutely."  As Mikah was followed and very directly made her way over, Terin was considering the events which had just happened and wondered what it could have meant?  As they walked up, Mikah cut right to it, asking "What the fuck?"  In a very careful and measured response, Terin said, "Apparently, the Ambassador knows me, and, would like to meet with me."  In an 'OK, let's see where this might go' tone, Mikah asked, "How do you know the Zhodani Ambassador?"

Completely stumped, Terin said, "I don't know.  but, I did fight the Zhodani and he made a reference to me being in the warrior's circle, because I did fight some of them."  Pointing to Mikah, he said, "And I did fight some of them during the war.  I've told you that story.  So, I'm thinking it has something to do with that."  When Terin pointed out they had psi shields, Mikah said "Yes, we do." and Terin said, "And, I'm gonna be wearing one when I meet them."  Mikah then made it clear the Seneschalate was aware of the meeting as she pointed out the man who'd followed her over.

Surprised by that, Terin greeted the man and asked who he was.  Ishgiidku Arkamki introduced himself as a Deputy Seneschal and it turned out he was an aide to Mr. Dilgaadin's direct reports and inner circle.  Mikah said, "We will have them involved in setting up this meeting, to see what goes down with it?  As that happened, in another part of the party, Fesic was wandering about and enjoying himself and scanning the crowd to any of the actors they been made aware of when he heard someone call out, "Anfertirkåsmokt?  Anfertirkåsmokt, is that you?"  Turning, Fesic said, "Yes, it's me." as he turned to see who was calling to him?  The man he saw as he turned was the former captain of the cruiser INS Khada Imirkii.  That had been the last ship Fesic had served on, from the years 1111 to 1112.

As Fesic looked the man up and down, he could see the officer now wore the uniform of an Imperial Navy Admiral, so life had been good to him.  As Fesic greeted his former commander, the man asked Fesic how he was doing?  Fesic just indicated the crowd with his hands as he said, "Just hobbing with the nobs here."  Nodding, the officer asked Fesic how he'd ended up with an invitation to the party, in a subtle reach for more information about his former battery commander.  At first, Fesic joked, "I was abducted."  When that got Fesic a look and the confused request, "Explain?" Fesic continued, "Well, I seem to have fallen in with a group of, ah..."  Then, after a pause, Fesic continued, "With a bad crowd."  Shrugging and trying to keep his own face straight, Fesic suggested it must be a case of Stockholm syndrome.

The Admiral, with a look of confusion on his face, said, "We're going to have to sit down so you can explain this to me in a bit more detail."  Putting words to actions, he led Fesic to a set of seats by the elbow and signaled a waiter over to grab a couple of drinks from the man's tray as they sat.  Then, the officer said, "Ok.  Explain." which was more of a command.  Fesic then explained he'd signed on as a member of the crew of the Hotel California, which ship the Admiral had heard of, thanks to the news about Rol.  Still, it took the man a moment to connect the two data points.  That was helped as Fesic continued, "And that connects me to some fairly important people around here, apparently."

When the officer tried to drill for more information thanks to the confusing way Fesic explained things, Fesic just said, "Why don't I introduce you to them?  They're all here.  Never one to refuse adding contacts to his known list, the Admiral followed Fesic as the gunner went looking for all of the various members of his crew.  As Mikah, Zimzod and Deputy Seneschal Ishgiidku Arkamki spoke to Terin about the encounter with the Zhodani diplomat, Fesic led the Admiral up to join them.  Seeing them arrive, Mikah cringed a bit and asked, "Sir?  What did he do?" indicating Fesic.  Ignoring that, Fesic began introducing the suddenly even more attentive Admiral to his crew mates.

Using all Mikah's titles, Fesic formally introduced the Admiral to her and then also as formally introduced Terin.  The Seneschalate man backed off from the forming conversation and listened as events unfolded.  Mikah turned to the Admiral, saying, "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."  As she continued, "You know Sir Fesic has been..." the officer interrupted her as he turned to Fesic asking "Sir Fesic?" in a surprised voice as his eyes also went wide.  The Admiral asked, "Is there something you neglected to tell me?"  Fesic just shrugged and looked sheepish as he said, "Yeah.  Apparently, I've become minor nobility of some sort."

Mikah snorted as she said, "Ah!  So modest." and the Admiral's expression suggested he wanted to know more.  Fesic continued, "It happened in the Lunion system.  We had some nice adventures and after one of them, they promoted me to a knighthood."  After that, the Admiral shook Fesic's hand again as he congratulated the gunner.  Turning to Mikah, the officer said, "My Lady, I hope he is serving your ship as well as he served mine."  Mikah said, "I'm sure he is.  He's teaching our XO, Sir Zimzod, more about gunnery and his skills have come in handy."  Zimzod added in, "Yeah, he's been real good on the guns."  After a pause, Mikah turned her head on an angle as she said, "Have you been shot yet?" and Fesic happily answered, "Twice."  Continuing on in her answer to the now even more surprised officer, Mikah said, "And he's been shot twice, so he's keeping up with the others."

That only got a nod of acceptance from the Admiral.  Zimzod said, "He comes in handy when there are missiles in-bound." and Mikah added in a somewhat disturbed tone, "Which happens a lot."  Fesic jumped in then, saying, "Not often enough.  I feel like I need to blow something up."  Saying Fesic had not yet joined their crew at the time, Mikah then gave a thumb nail description of using nukes just more than half a year before in the Rhylanor system.  As he listened, the Admiral made a mental note to do a lot more research on the Hotel California.  Especially when Fesic talked a bit more about Terin and Zimzod joked, "And, he's friends with the Zhodani ambassador, apparently." When Terin said, "Who knew?" the Admiral joked, "I've heard that sometimes the Zhodani know before you do."

Fesic then asked the Admiral how he'd gotten his promotion?  The admiral said he'd simply survived the war and kept on commanding ships.  Eventually, there was a need for a field grade officer and he had the time in grade and service as well as the background needed.  So, he got the promotion.  With that, Fesic drew the Admiral on and took him looking for Rol.  After quite a bit of searching, during which Fesic was OK with meeting other members of the crew if he found them first, Fesic did see Rol drifting around in the hoverChair.  Of course, thanks to the rumors and news, Rol needed no introduction at all.  But, as Fesic was introducing Rol to the Admiral, a man in a grey suit walked up to Mikah and Zimzod.

A Party With Nothing To Celebrate

     Looking over the group to see Mikah, Zimzod and Terin, the man interrupted the three and said, "OK.  Can you all come with me?"  He made sure they knew his comment included the Deputy Seneschal too.  As they began to talk about generic topics and edged around the conversational land mines, a non-descript man in a grey suit walked up to Fesic, Rol and the Admiral.  Smiling, the man interrupted as he said, "Excuse me, Sir Fesic.  Could you and Sir Rol come with me please?"  Despite the odd situation, everyone realized the invitation was not optional.  As Fesic said "Excuse me Admiral." and they turned to follow the man, non-descript men in grey suits were locating the entire crew and asking them to follow them.

Eventually, each member of the crew found the whole team gathered in a room off the dance floor where they also saw Countess Josephine and Branj Dilgaadin talking with some senior military officers in a room filled with techs and personnel working data screens, monitors and surveillance.  As they entered, each of the crew noticed the Countess and Mr. Dilgaadin were frowning while watching something on a live feed in a full holographic tank.  As the men in grey suits gathered and led the crew in, the Countess looked up and saw they'd arrived.

Saying "Oh, good.  They're here" in a grim tone, the Countess waved them over saying, "Lady Mikah, Sir Zimzod, can you take a look at this?"  As she finished, she nodded to the holotank's operator and said, "Can you play it again?"  As they watched, the crew watched the news banner of 'breaking news' reading "SPY CABAL IDENTIFIED IN HIGH RANKING POSITION!"  Over that banner, they saw quick, seconds-long vid-clips captured from a distance through the crowd of Terin speaking with a high-ranking diplomat of the Zhodani mission!  As the commenters started breaking the story, another clip showed Terin, obviously shortly after he'd met with the Zho diplomat, meeting with Lady Mikah, Sir Zimzod and Deputy Seneschal Ishgiidku Arkamki of the Regina Seneschalate!

As they watched, the vid-clips were shown aside "documents just uncovered" which proved a plot to bring down the Duchy was happening even as they were reporting it!  Mikah's initial reaction, to make fun of it by complaining how difficult Terin made things was squashed as they listened to the new accusations.  The report worked to finger "Lady Mikah and her crew" for trying to subvert the Duchy Seneschalate by implanting her agents.  As the report continued, documents purportedly from the end of the Fifth Frontier War were shown.  The documents were advertised as excerpts from Terin's wartime military records.  As the camera closed on the commenters who'd began discussing specifics from the offered document, they said those records discussed Terin's encounter with Zhodani Teleport Commandos!

As the video fixed on the document, it seemed to be a high-ranking evaluation of the claimed events of that combat and Terin's actions.  As the document was read, it appeared that unnamed members of the Admiralty had raised question after question about the veracity of the claimed events.  Ultimately, the final determination of the document was that Terin could never have won out as claimed against such forces.  So, the supposed determination in the documents was that Terin's reported fight, wounds and survival had been staged, with the hopes that he would be commissioned, awarded a high-level decoration and be appointed to a position which the Zhodani could benefit from with "Sir" Terin working as a mole.

All Mikah could do was stand there nodding her head and ruefully saying, "They don't know "Sir" Terin well, do they?  With the initial accusations made, the report started to dig deep into the accusations Sir Terin was nothing more than a Zhodani mole who had been added to Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod's crew to bring down the Duchy and weaken the overall Imperial border in the Spinward Marches.  As they all considered the situation, Munarshu joked, "Damn, Terin!  I didn't know you had it in you."  Terin simply and tartly said, "I'm glad they staged that las-carbine shot through my middle."  Missing the obvious, Mikah asked, "OK?  Is this a whole set up by the Zhodani or is this just someone playing off.."  She was cut off as the Zhodani diplomatic team at the party also arrived in the room, having been asked in.

As the Zhodani watched the evolving coverage, they went from unhappy to angry to some flavors of livid!  The ranking diplomat, to whom Terin had spoken, angrily said he was certain that the Ambassador will be extremely angry and will officially demand a complete explanation how this was even possible in so secure a setting as this party?  Turning to the Countess and Seneschal, Mikah said, "That's actually a good question", surprising herself as she made common cause with the mind rapers!  Continuing in anger, the Zhodani diplomat said, "Given that I cannot be certain of the safety of my delegation at this party at this time, we will be returning to the embassy."  With that, he turned on his heel and left, followed by the rest of his team.

Into that sudden void, Mikah asked, "So, who's in charge of this feed and are they looking for the camera man?"  Mikah was told the "feed" had been released to a large number of news outlets and appeared to have been sent anonymously.  Fesic asked if the angle of the shots suggested it was feed from the facility's security camera system and was told it was obviously shot on the floor, catching gaps in the crowd.  When Terin growled, "Somebody has a recorder" Zimzod got in his face and demanded, "SOMEBODY has a recording device?  EVERYONE has a recording device." as he held up his Ident.  The point made was that even the team had suddenly whipped out their Idents to record events at various times, and everyone in that room had an Ident.  So, the comment was a very stupid one.

When Mikah said there had to be a trace suggesting where the recording came from, she was told that a clean recording unit with no credentials could use any number of the building's routers to broadcast out through without standing out from all the rest of the traffic flowing through the local networks.  That was the way the local communications network worked, so they'd have to literally stop every person in the building to test their electronics to see if there was a trace of the recording on that device or if they'd been scrubbed?  And, that assumed the person who'd used the device did not have someplace to hide it or had not simply dropped the "burner" device on the ground and stepped on it, smashing it beyond reconstruction or recognition.

Aali suggested they use the clips they had to see if they could figure out where the person with the camera had been and then call up the building's security cameras to see if they could not identify the agent who'd captured the action and transmitted it?  She and the others were told that, given the size of the crowd packed into the hall, they could guestimate the location the clips were captured from but would not be able to lock that down to a block of 50 or 60 people.  When Aali pushed that the person filming had to have been holding up the recording device because of the packed floor, one of the officers had the tech play back the clips from the news feed.

As they watched, it was clear the person filming had done so between the shifting gaps in the crowd, capturing clips under two seconds long.  So, there had been no up-raised device.  This could suggest the "filmer" had accomplices in the crowd playing the role of "blockers" to force gaps through which to film when desired.  When Fesic again tried to blame the Zhodani, because they did come over to Terin, he was asked by one of the officers why they would out one of their intelligence successes in subverting the Seneschalate?  Blaming the Zhodani simply did not make any sense at all.  Terin agreed and said he felt the Zhodani were as caught out as he was.

Still, Fesic pushed that someone appeared to know quite a lot about Sir Terin and even Terin pointed out parts of his record had been made public.  Not at the time of the battle, but during the award ceremony.  And, one of the officers pointed out, that helped the conspiracy theorists make their attack.  When everyone turned to the woman, she explained that no one really knew what happened in the battle except those who had survived it and had some role in the events surrounding Sir Terin.  That, or those who had reviewed the documentation, which was locked in some military archive not in the Regina system now.

That meant, the public only knew what they had been told, and those attacking the truth only needed to convince people they were being lied to.  Since the local government could not produce the evidence the Imperial Navy had, somewhere it was propaganda against government claims.  So, the louder the propaganda, the more likely percentages of the population would believe the lies and convict Sir Terin in their own judgements.  At that, Fesic said he was confused.  He then asked how "whoever" was behind this could have produced all the documents they had so quickly after they'd gotten some chance vids of Terin at the party?

The same naval officer stepped up and asked, "Why do you think they suddenly created the documents now?"  She pointed out, "These people have been creating these rumors for months.  So, once you arrived in system, why would they not plan for a chance like this and prepare the documents in advance?"  As she looked around at the crew, she then hammered the point home, saying, "It's my bet they got a crew list from the news as soon as we received word you were coming to Regina.  And, after that, they sat down and asked what weak points they could find to use against each of you.  And, for Sir Terin, the weakness was this gap in the records where they could shove in the knife of public doubt.  So, it's my bet they started making these documents before you even arrived in-system, just in case they "could" use it.

As they all digested that, she hit them with the stunner and said, "It's my bet they have at least one thing, if not more, like this that they can use against each of you."  As they considered that, flat screens and holographic projections in the holotube continued as the reporters and outlets were even now beginning to theorize and spin the accusations.  And each of the crew figured that whoever had captured the filmed segments had already destroyed the equipment they'd used because, 'that's what I'd do'.  Still not taking the situation as seriously as it deserved, Terin said, "Wow!  I wish I knew I was this talented." and got a frown from Mr. Dilgaadin and the Countess.

As if things could not get worse, the Countess then turned to Terin and said, "Sir Terin.  Time to confess.  Just how do you know the Zhodani Diplomatic staff?"  Shrugging, Terin said, "I have no idea.  Apparently, the Ambassador knows me..."  He then paused as he tried to remember before continuing, "He said something about warriors, that warriors were hob nobbing here.  Something to that effect." as he completely misremembered and misreported the conversation.  Terin then admitted, "I was kind of shocked that he came up to me, so I can't remember word for word what was said."  As Terin continued to ramble, trying to come up with an answer and constantly shifting his answer, those listening made mental notes to not bother to consider Terin a reliable eyewitness if the need ever rose.

Still, the unimpressed Countess looked Terin up and down and said, "You realize we're going to have to take this under investigation.  You're going to have to sit down with some of our people and discuss this for the rest of the evening."  As Terin answered, "Yeah, I figured", the Countess turned and said "Lady Mikah.  Under the circumstances, I think that we have a larger problem on our hands at the moment than we had planned on.  So, at this point, we continue with the same plan even though half your people have turned up wounded.  I appreciate that they were all able to be in attendance tonight and just keep yourself ready to act per our prior conversations."

The Evening's Second Act

     Mikah nodded and said, "OK.  You give us the guidelines and we'll follow them."  Nodding, the Countess said, "Well, go out and continue with the party.  I'm sure you'll understand I have things I need to attend to."  Still, the Countess nodded to the officers and it was then Terin was disarmed and taken into custody, to discuss his potential Zhodani connections.  Happily, Terin was not bound, and was taken somewhere in the building using passages where no one would get a view of those events.  So, there would not be a covert "confirmation" video sent to the news outlets of Terin's potential walk of shame.  As that happened, Mikah did tell Terin, "We'll bring you some grilled cheese." and got laughs despite the situation.

From where they took him, they transferred him to a vehicle with shadowed windows and moved him to the Seneschalate building.  Once he was settled into an interview room, Terin found himself joined by a number of non-descript men in grey suits.  Those men started drilling Terin with question after question as they dug into his interstellar associations.  Resigned to the situation, Terin simply did his best to answer each question as honestly and completely as he could.  While Terin enjoyed his evening's activities into night, Mikah and the others had returned to the party, more aware there might be a viper or two in the hall still.

As they had walked back into the hall, Mikah only regretted she could not find some way of turning some part of this on Emkir's father, to suck some of the thrust out from his ship.  In her daydream of the moment, they found a way to both get the crew out from under these waves of rumors while also teaching the big toymaker Baron Meshrumiikiim a lesson.  Still, her orders to the team were to sniff out any agents they could find, despite the good chance any of the agents had left after they'd gotten what they wanted.  Before he left the presence of the Countess, Emkir did make it a point to mention the shadow fleet attack in Rhylanor that seemed to target their ship while it was being modified, and resulted in the death of Sir Brian Montgomery.

When the Countess had her doubts an attack nearly two thirds of a year before and half a sector away would be related.  Emkir simply suggested that any entity who could muster a shadow fleet and make an attack in the Rhylanor system might also be able to field agents on the ground in Regina.  When he put it that way, the Countess called Branj Dilgaadin over as well as several of the officers in the room.  Once he repeated his theory, they added it to the list of possible investigation threads and agreed it was a possibly serious lead.  Mr. Dilgaadin also said he would look to see if he could provide the Duchy officials with any further information on events in Rhylanor from any Domain records.  Given the levels of classification on many events Duke Leonard had placed them under, Emkir doubted that would be much, and he returned to the party to find Aali and follow Mikah's orders.

When Fesic started asking about security video which could be pulled and scanned, he was told the Duchy was already doing that.  Fesic then asked if the crew could get copies of the data and see what they could find and was told there were intelligence experts in this field working on the video and the crew of the Hotel California would only get in the way.  Fesic pushed, asking if they could share the results of their research with the crew and was reminded they had no legal standing in-system and would only be advised of the results if anything were considered absolutely needed.

The evening, already middlin' to getting late, was moving along when Munarshu noticed a man in the uniform of an Imperial Navy Combat Captain, having specialized "tiger stripe" patches sewn along the outer sleeve of his uniform jacket.  But what caught the engineer's attention was the man's face, which he thought he'd recognized from the picture Mikah had handed out!  Immediately, Munarshu got on his comms and said, "I think we got one of them!"  Not far from where Munarshu was, Emkir had been in the crowd and noticed the engineer was surprisingly close.  But, as he looked in Munarshu's direction, the engineer suddenly seemed to go rigid and then grabbed for his comms as he seemed to be staring off in another direction.

As Emkir heard Munarshu call out, he could see the man was looking into the crowd along a direction but could not see what Munarshu could or was trying to see.  As people started reacting to what Munarshu was saying, the engineer clarified, "It's one of the guys in the photos!"  After that, Munarshu did his best to describe the officer and his location in the hall so others could orient on him and respond.  The only easy thing that could be done is that Emkir was able to call over to Aali, who was near him.  As he raised the alarm, Fesic started trying to figure out from Munarshu's descriptions where the engineer was so he could get into the same area of the hall.

Munarshu could see the target had started moving into the crowd while he'd been raising the alarm.  Not wanting to lose track of the man, Munarshu not only began following him as he moved but also began trying to close the distance between them.  Unfortunately, Munarshu was none to subtle and the man realized the engineer was moving towards him.  Incriminating himself by his actions, the officer suddenly started moving to get away and used clusters of people to give him cover from Munarshu as he appeared to try and escape pursuit.  As the man tried to escape, Munarshu decided it was time to try and charge the man while drawing his pistol and calling out, "HALT!  STOP!"

The result was what anyone would expect from a crowded room of people when an apparently crazy man started rushing through the crowd waving a pistol and screaming for someone to stop.  There were sudden screams, confusion and groups of people who either cleared his path or even got in his way in the confusion of the moment while the fleeing officer tried to use that to his benefit.  Seeing this, Fesic gave up on joining Munarshu in likely getting himself arrested and looked for the closest exit in the direction Munarshu had been moving.  His idea was that whoever Munarshu might be chasing would want to get out of the hall and would likely use the closest exit to do that.

Mikah had started moving to try and link up with Munarshu as soon as he opened up on the comms, in hopes of figuring out where the target was?  His stunt with the pistol only made it easier to know where he was as she made a bee-line directly for her engineer.  She only hoped that once she got close to where Munarshu was, she could spot and then catch the rat.  This became more difficult quickly, as troopers in full battle armor with gauss weapons and grav belts moved into and over the area surrounding the crazy man waving the firearm around.  As she moved, the confusion created by Munarshu had created a maelstrom of confusion which made trying to find the target nearly impossible.  And Munarshu was surrounded, targeted and ordered to carefully set his weapon down and stand with hands raised.  Everyone who could see him realized Terin would not be the only crew member interrogated that night...

Munarshu found himself looking up and around at members of the 4518th Lift Infantry who had in-build spotlights from their armored chests beaming down on him from all angles which also indicated their angles of fire.  Nearby, Emkir was loudly trying to call to the troopers that they were engaging the wrong target even as Munarshu complied with their orders.  Emkir then pushed his way around the perimeter the troopers had formed and, as were Mikah and then Zimzod, started looking for any sign of the officer Munarshu had seen.  Emkir then went to move in the direction he guessed Munarshu had tried to move, though the wild circus the engineer had turned the crowd into made any guess as good as another.  Following Emkir, Aali started calling out, "Close the exits!" hoping someone with any authority was not paying attention to the crazy man with the gun, or could see her in the screaming confused and milling crowd.

When Fesic got to the exit he'd aimed for, he saw the team there had reacted to something but were only just closing the portal after some people had obviously left already.  Since the team at the door were closing the portal, Fesic decided to move into the crowd and see if he could find the person he was hunting in the growing sea of faces as more and more people pushed into the area trying to escape the confusion and madness.  As he did, he realized just what a challenge he was up against, not even knowing if the person Munarshu had seen was someone they were looking for or if that person had managed to get out of the hall?  But, as Fesic moved and scanned, he suddenly found himself looking into a face that just might be the driver from the building assault!

Before he even had the time to realize he didn't really know if the man's face really matched any of the pictures, Fesic brought up his snub pistol and fired!  At that short range, there was gonna be some thoracic damage no matter what, but he had the weapon loaded with Tranq rounds so they'd have a prisoner even if he needed medical treatment.  As that happened, there was even more screaming and horror as the crowded space around the exit became opposing waves of people now trying to get away from the exit as well as get out of the hall.  Fesic also became the focal point of another responding squad of battle-armored troopers from the 4518th.

But, as the security response began, the officer Fesic had shot grabbed his chest and crashed directly to the deck.  Fesic could only hope his presumptions had been correct as the troops moved in.  Expecting their reaction, Fesic also set his pistol down and raised his hands.  The only good news, as those around him screamed less and pulled away from the shooting scene to give the troopers space, was that Fesic was able to look down and confirm, that officer's face was the same as the driver during the assault on the building lobby.  As Fesic checked his handiwork, the marines moved in and began sectioning off the milling party-goers and moving the groups out of the way.

Seeing this, Fesic made his first attempt to explain himself and found the marines were neither ready for his answers or interested.  They simply ordered Fesic to stand quietly and be ready for further orders.  Munarshu had the same orders as they continued to clear the area around the two men while guard officers move in to take Munarshu and Fesic's Idents to begin their investigations.  This proceeded as the respective officers told Munarshu and Fesic, "Get on your knees with your hands on your head."  Fesic said "Yes, Sir" as both men complied.  It was shortly after that the officers discovered both their prisoners were crew from the Hotel California.

After that, orders were given to detain all members of the ship's crew.  And while the guard continued moving people out of the hall through alternate exits, each member of the crew was located, disarmed and detained.  Order was slowly being restored as medical responders more quickly responded and began providing support to all those who needed it.  A specific team was detailed off to begin treatment on the officer Fesic had shot.  While not moving him out of the building, they did put the man on a backboard and then moved him onto a gurney they'd brought in.  Eventually, after all the material details of the scene were recorded and the medical team said the shot man had only suffered minor wounds from a Tranq round, a guard captain came to Fesic and asked, "OK.  Why'd you shoot him?"

Fesic looked the officer directly into the faceplate and said, "He's an assassin."  Leaning back on his heels, the captain asked, "And your evidence is, what?"  Fesic answered, "He was part of the team which attacked the building we are housed in and killed a number of the building's staff.  And, he was identified in security tapes from the port offices building.  And, his picture is on file with the Office of the Seneschal."  Stepping back, the officer asked, "Did you get all that?" and there was a pause.  After that pause, the officer asked, "And, does any of it make any sense at all?"  After another pause, the officer called in two of his troopers and had them secure Fesic.  While the gunner was restricted, the officer then pulled a device from a pouch in his armor and scanned the face of the man on the gurney. 

After that, the officer said to the air, "Done.  Please advise?"  After another pause, the officer said, "Yes, Sir.  Yes, Sir.  Yes Ma'am.  Understood."  Then, waving his guards away from Fesic, the Captain picked up Fesic's pistol from where it had been set down, pointed at Fesic and said, "You.  Come with me."  Fesic simply said, "Yes, Sir." and followed the officer as they walked over to where Munarshu was kneeling.  His weapon had been secured.  Taking Munarshu's pistol from one of the troopers, he pointed at the kneeling engineer and said, "You, come with me."  He then led the two over to where the rest of the California's crew were being held and said, "All of you.  Come with me."

With that, the officer led them back into the operations room and once back inside, they could see where the scan taken of the officer's face had been compared with the other images of him.  There were also some images they had not been made aware of which were captured in the port office building before the fire was started.  The pictures were semi-obscured by data points and coordinating lines matching data to specific features on the face in each picture.  Aside those, pictures were data analysis estimates saying the computer biometrics had matched the faces 100%.  As they saw that, Emkir commented, "One down, three to go."  Aali corrected him, "One down, an unknown number to go."

Now in the operations office again, but still nominally under guard, they only noticed the Countess and Seneschal were not in the room when they both arrived with a team of troopers for their own security.  As they arrived, the Seneschal spoke to the officer, saying, "Captain, if you will."  With that, the Captain returned their weapons to Munarshu and Fesic.  Then, the Captain got his faceplate right in Fesic's face, nose to plate, and said, "You've got a flair for the dramatic.  That could get you killed one of these days."  Then, the Captain turned on his heels and walked out. 

Unhappy Awakenings

     When Terin woke that morning, he remembered thinking his bed had suddenly become incredibly uncomfortable.  Then, as he felt around him and opened his eyes while memories returned, Terin recalled exactly why he'd eventually climbed on the table in the room and fallen asleep.  Still, he was the only person in the interview room and knew he did not have to bother testing the door to know he was locked in.  He wasn't leaving until someone told him directly that he was leaving, one way or another.  Eventually, another man in a grey suit came and showed Terin where he could shower and clean up.

Once Terin was as clean and recovered as he could be in day-old party clothes, he reviewed his situation before leaving the bathroom.  for whatever reason, Terin felt amazingly tired, even beyond what he could blame on the late night and table-top bedding.  After he left the bathroom, the man, who'd waited for him, brought him into an office where he had his property and weapon returned to him and offered him a ride back to the suite.  Terin was very grateful for the ride. 

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Everyone except Terin and Aiden are still at the party hall after the very
         exciting end of the event

     Aiden: Just more than three days remaining in his cloning process ( Decant on 110-1113)

     Terin is on his way back to the suite after a hard nights' interrogation at the
         Seneschalate offices

Next: Rebirth And Near-Death