Welcome to the

Last Updated     Nov 3 2018
The Characters
The Ship
Campaign History Page
Granted Rights
The Frontier Wars
The Spinward Marches
About Legends
Artist's Credits
House Rules
Recent Updates
Email Me
Getting A Huge

Last Bits And Fingers Crossed

     Off-ship, Mikah, Aiden, Zimzod and Rol were handling the last fuel flights while Terin had been collecting data to get ready to work out a nav plot.  Since breakfast, Aali had been working on measuring the correct place on the x-mail safe to put a breaching charge.  She had to work that out because the electronic lock on the safe had beaten the cracking software Emkir had!  Aali was taking great care because incorrectly placing the charge could destroy the cargo inside.  After she cracked that, Jocelynn would help them move the contents to the Coronal Flare's cargo bay.  Aiden had bridge watch aboard the Flare to watch for any alarms or failing systems, supported by Fesic in engineering.

As they worked to complete the last items before trying to jump to Inthe, Mikah commed the entire team and asked them all to make sure everything had been moved off the Hotel California.  Zimzod confirmed that the spare parts and equipment they'd had in the cargo bay had been moved.  They'd also moved the air-rafts from the California into the Flare's cargo bay with the pallets of supplies Zimzod had bought on Regina, their cargo lifters, the damaged cargo sealer and the naval cutter. 

During the two hours Aali worked on mapping the x-mail safe with their portable densometer, the four working to move fuel to the Flare finished up and docked with the yacht to get ready to leave.  On the Flare's bridge, Terin had started doing his best to collect data to plot their jump.  Eventually, Aali figured that any try to blow a hole into the safe would destroy the x-mail inside.  She also knew they didn't have the tools needed to cut the safe open either.  That meant they'd have to just get to Inthe and tell the Scouts where the safe was.

Lucky for them, a provision in the contract allowed for a Cr 1,000 payment if they did.  Not that they'd get paid the Cr 25,000 they'd have been paid for making the delivery but better than nothing.  And much better than having to pay a fee and start digging a debt.  Especially because of what it would likely cost to get the Flare running "if" they could get ownership of it.  And they had no idea what they'd do for a ship if they couldn't get the Flare's papers free and clear.  Mikah also had Terin do his best to plot their location and save all the variables they'd need for the jump because they'd only get the Cr 1,000 after the IISS confirmed the drifting hulk's location.

As it came round to lunch time, it was nearing showtime.  Terin was finishing his plot and ready to shunt it to the flight crew.  Aiden and Emkir were in their flight couches preparing to light the ship's jump systems.  For the last few hours, Aali and Aiden had thrown the switches to burn the fuel into the ship's capacitors.  Something which made more than one of the crew nervous considering the failure that put them into danger in the first place.

After releasing the fuel to the power plant, Aali had worked with Jocelynn to hide the marine's battledress and weapons.  Everyone hoped the gear would be missed by inspection crews as they were overwhelmed by the Flare's damage and jury-rigs.  Jocelynn now sat, wearing a "spare" general vacc suit, in the ship's lounge with Rol and Zimzod.  Aali was in engineering, supported by Fesic and Mikah.  Everyone was in a vacc suit or sealed armor in case something went significantly wrong thirty seven days after their misjump from Regina.

In the early days after the Vilani discovered jump drive, power had been drained from every system on a ship as the craft's pilot hit the jump drive release and power began to flow from the ship's capacitors to the lanthanum grid.  Since then, the Vilani taught the Solomani the tradition of dimming every light on the ship, and, at one time, that tradition had spread to every human starship pilot in the Imperium.  As command pilot, Aiden was one of those who still maintained it.  But this time, as Aiden prepared to activate the Flare's drive, dimming the lights was not just a tradition.  Everyone knew some small bit if undiscovered and not repaired damage could throw them into another misjump or even destroy the ship and kill them all.

Facing The Heat

     Aiden and Emkir confirmed a smooth transition into jump space as they started breathing and reminded everyone else aboard to breath too.  Securing from jump entry, they all knew all hands needed to be available if anything went wrong.  Still, Emkir spent some moments after jump entry, configuring a more comfortable flight control console for himself and saving it.  Then, he set up a computer management console and saved it so he could quickly switch roles at need from the cockpit.

Emkir found the interface very intuitive.  Touching on an icon to add a console, he then activated the tools menu with icons for flight and ship management controls on it.  From that, he touched and dragged each icon he wanted into a space on the blank workspace.  When he released each icon, a data readout, touch-switch or display window opened with those windows showing data flowing from an indicator or sub-system.  Finally, once he had the console set up he wanted, he saved the settings as "Emkir-Flight" and "Emkir-Computer".  The good news was that this 'Fly by Wire' system was easy.  The bad news was that a loss of power would take out all bridge controls.  But, if that happened, Emkir knew they'd have much bigger problems to worry about.

Having set his consoles up, Emkir spent some time looking through the ship's systems for any internal camera or surveillance systems.  Not finding any indications of that system quickly, Emkir decided to spend the week digging into the computer to find anything he might have missed.  Working at his interests, Emkir also joined the rest of the crew in discussing what might or might not happen as they rode the ship through jump space.  When Aali reminded everyone their systems could still fail, including life support, Aiden asked how long they could survive if they couldn't restart the system?  Doing some quick math, Aali told them they'd have just about seventeen days if they either relaxed or slept.

Covering their other options, Aali reminded Aiden they had two set of spare boards which might or might not survive long.  That was because they were scrounged from smaller systems which were not rated for the power being fed into them by the existing system.  When Aali was asked if they could save the system by reducing the power, she said that trying to do that would require her to turn off the system, break it down and then rebuild it as a re-engineered system.  And that would take over a week if she could do it with the tools on the ship.  Accepting that, the crew settled into a nervous watch looking for any signs one or more of the ship's systems might be failing.

During that first day, Rol said he wanted to do a complete check of everyone's vacc suits or other sealed armor, to make sure there were no developing issues.  He reminded everyone they'd been relying on the suits a lot in the past month and days, and might have to resort to them if the ship's systems started to fail.  The others agreed and they set up a schedule for him to do the work with Jocelynn lending helping hands.  The next day, the 197th of the year, also went smoothly, and the crew slowly relaxed.

Everyone woke on the third day of the jump, the 198th of the year, to realize temperatures in the ship's compartments had risen unexpectedly.  After making sure they faced the same situation in every compartment, Aali decided this needed an 'engineering poke around'.  After less than an hour, Aali found the ship was not radiating excess heat into space as efficiently as expected.  Not directly familiar with the class of yacht, Aali pulled up the ship's schematics and data on the engineering computer and dove into understanding heat collection and radiation for the class.

Having locked down the likely systems and failures that could interrupt heat transfer, Aali started sparking up diagnostics.  Soon enough, Aali was sure the internal heat management systems were working.  To Aali, that meant there might be a break in the linkage between those systems and the ship's heat radiators.  For starters, Aali sent a list of non-essential systems to the ship's other displays and said people should start turning them off to stop creating any excess heat they could.  Still, she knew that alone wouldn't solve the problem.  In the ship's main computer, Emkir did a quick search of the former crew's logs and found no mention of similar problems.  So, this was something new.

Aali shrugged even though Emkir couldn't see that, and told him she wasn't surprised, given all the ship had been through so far.  Of course, that didn't give her a simple "start here" point in her investigation.  Still, Aali had a set of PRIS goggles to use as she searched for compartments which were obviously hotter than others.  While Aali did that, Rol switched his vision to infra-red mode and started going from compartment to compartment searching for any clues.  As work continued to find the source of the problem, both Zimzod and Rol were starting to react to the heat, with Zimzod being most affected.

The only compartments obviously hotter than the others, after checking each section of the ship, were the engineering spaces.  But, that was to be expected given the type and scale of what went on in that compartment.  As the hours continued into the next day, Zimzod realized he either had to get into his battledress or go into one of the cutters.  Voicing his concerns, Zimzod told the others, "OK.  We've got four or five days left in jump.  At the rate this heat is rising, we are going to fucking cook before we come out of jump."  Turning to Aali, he asked, "Right?"

Aali agreed with that and Jocelynn muttered, "None of our vacc suits or armor will last four days." in a glum tone.  Nodding into the silence that followed, Zimzod came to a decision and said, "I guess I'll go relax in the cutter."  He then made his way to the cutter bay and cycled through the small craft's locks with Mikah.  She powered the cutter's systems up and set everything so Zimzod could relax.  By the evening of the 199th day of the year, Rol had joined Zimzod in the cutter and was devoting all his time to checking the crew's vacc suits and doing any maintenance he could that wouldn't prevent him giving the suit back to its owner so they could suit up immediately.

A Walk Outside And A Sad Tale

     On the morning of the fourth day in jump, everyone was suffering from the heat and most had moved into the cutter except as needed for work.  Continuing to investigate the issues, while hoping the increased heat didn't start baking some of their more damaged electronics, Aali finally discovered a heat buss system which had become disconnected from its link to the conductors which shunted heat to the ship's radiators.  Armed with that discovery, Aali started modeling the system to figure out what she needed to do to fix it.  And the answer she got didn't make her happy.

Aali realized she'd have to take a team out on the ventral hull of the ship, open hull paneling and remove several layers of components in order to fix the connection.  Aali was most concerned about the jump bubble, which could always be expected to be two to three meters away from the hull.  So, anyone who lost their footing with the hull risked loss in jump or even jump sickness.  When she asked for volunteers, Zimzod stepped up to join her and the two 'droids she selected.  Mikah also stepped up, to help with any electronics work.

Those inside the ship watched as the team made their way onto the hull and locked restraint cables to a lock down.  Next, they made their way across the hull one by one, transferring cables as they did.  Finally gathered around the hull plating section they wanted, they opened their mechanical tool kits and Zimzod and Aali pulled out cutters.  Working each side of a rectangle, the two humans and two 'droids with plasma cutters began removing the plate.  There were gasps as a sudden "flare up" came from Zimzod's cutter and he reared back from the small blast.

As he pulled back and spread his arms, Zimzod lost hold of the cutter he'd been using and that tool quickly floated up and passed the skin of the jump bubble to disappear.  Everyone spent a silent moment not even moving as they watched the bubble's surface where the cutter had passed through but there seemed no change.  Happy they did not have to dodge a bubble distortion, the team went back to work as Zimzod grabbed a smaller cutter to continue with them.  Soon enough, they had the plate clear and Aali used some 'space-tak' to hold the hull scrap to the side of the ship until they needed to replace it.

After that one mis-step, things went as hoped and the repair was finally done eight hours after they'd started.  That included simply leaving the hole they'd made exposed, because Aali didn't want to spend yet another hour fusing it back in place.  And, the work had the team totally drained as the others waited to help them back into the air-lock.  After getting that done, and after Aali reset the ship's environmental settings, they all moved back to the cutter because it was still entirely too hot aboard the yacht.  There, they waited, relaxed and recovered from the work until Aali felt the heat should have come down.

Knowing it would take hours, Mikah just had everyone bed down and take a four hour "nap".  Getting up again at 10pm, Aali began checks as Emkir ran some computer diagnostics.  Rol continued his work on the crew's vacc suits, with Zimzod's help, knowing they still might have to resort to them for survival if things went wrong.  Mikah and Fesic followed Aali, waiting for any assignments.  Aiden and Terin moved to the bridge to check and monitor systems and the ship's condition.  Jocelynn stood ready to offer help wherever it was needed.  None of that lasted very long when Aali discovered the life support systems had died again.

Despite the now much cooler air in the ship's compartments after four hours of heat radiation, they knew they'd have to swap the parts out or wait out the rest of the jump in increasingly foul air.  The ship was large enough that if they'd locked open all the internal hatches, valves and doors, they could survive for almost seventeen days.  Aali opened up the panels she'd not closed completely and started running her diagnostics.  Quickly, she found the one board they'd been most concerned about had fried.  Now, they could wait in the fouled air, swap the part for one of the other questionable components they'd scrounged or resort to their vacc suits with Jocelynn using a spare taken from the carrier since they'd 'hidden' her battledress.

Aali chose to replace the board so those not directly involved in the job continued their work.  It took Aali's team three hours to swap the board and clean up.  What worried Aali was that she'd seen a fair bit of electrical arcing striking the metal brackets around the system once she powered it up.  But, it did seem to be functioning for now.  Aali did post a 'droid on 'fire watch' to observe the system until it died or they got to Inthe.  While Aali was certain the board would die, she didn't know how soon or if it would do additional damage when it did.

While Aali's team worked on the life support, Emkir explored the yacht and even found the previous crew's logs.  After skimming through it, Emkir decided everyone aboard needed to hear the ultimate fate of their predecessors.  So, he activated the 'all-ship' and read the logs to the others, explaining how the Nobleman owning the yacht died along with his family, friends and crew.  In the end, the crew of the ship had mis-identified the Inthe system as another star, stripped the yacht of possessions, and set off in the ship's luxury cutter.  A craft that did not have interstellar drives and would eventually take twenty seven years to reach Inthe at the best speed it could reach.

Flying On Hope Alone

     Having gotten the life support going in the middle of the night, Aali and her team finally got to sleep.  Sadly, there was no rest for the over-worked come the morning of the sixth day in jump.  The first signs of trouble came when those who'd set alarms to wake up were not woken on time.  They found themselves in complete blackness with no power at all.  Exploring out from their staterooms, they quickly found the "power failure" only extended to the staterooms and the crew lounge.

This time, it took Aali and her team almost four hours to trace the failure down to a burned out power feed.  The only good news was that the failure covered nothing critical.  Once they understood the problem, Mikah suggested they not even bother to fix this failure.  They had that day and the next left in jump and everyone was happy enough to set up flashlights and other jury-rigs to get by.  When Aiden asked if that meant they'd be moving sleeping quarters to the cutters, Zimzod joked, "Carry a fucking flashlight, you pussy!" and got laughs.

Rol then tried to make a joke about the things that happen to the crews of darkened ships who wandered around with flashlights, but it fell flat.  Zimzod grabbed that and said, "That was the closest you ever got to getting ass ever!" with a smirk.  Rol came back with, "At least, I got to brag about it afterwards." as the rest of the crew settled in to see who's cracks cut the deepest.  Zimzod shrugged and said, "OK.  Have your little triumph, buddy." with a shrug to show just how little Rol's claim actually got him.  After that, things settled down to surviving the last days.

Without power, the day slipped by slowly with folks wandering to other, still powered, sections of the ship to entertain themselves.  During their down time, Jocelynn asked Aali to check out the damaged holo-cube, which had images of her step-father on it.  Aali looked the device over and saw it was a cheap consumer tech toy and the only real value it had were the image files it held.  It certainly wasn't the kind of device meant to be repaired if damaged.  So, she told Jocelynn her best bet was to download the images to another device until she could buy a decent holo-projector.  Another issue that took a decent part of the day was hiding Jocelynn's gear so she wouldn't have to turn it back over to the Navy.

Eventually, that day slipped into the next and last day of the jump.  So long as nothing went wrong before they emerged into normal space.  Aali got into her 'sunday-best' in air-tight wear before taking her post in engineering.  Emkir buttoned up his vacc suit and manned the co-pilot's seat.  Rol put on his vacc suit and manned a post on the bridge, to handle communications.  Zimzod got into his vacc suit and joined Jocelynn in the lounge.  She had to settle for a spare vacc suit because her battledress had been hidden to "smuggle in".  Mikah and Fesic put their vacc suits on and went to work in engineering.  Terin and Aiden also buttoned up their vacc suits and took their bridge posts.

The tension throughout the ship ratcheted up as the computer counted down to the estimated emersion time, when they'd leave jump space.  Work continued at a controlled frenzy as Aali monitored the working processes and detailed work off to her android or human assistants.  Things were worst for Jocelynn and Zimzod, because they had both no role to play in events and no way to know what was happening.  And then, the moment came as the computer gave out a pre-exit alert and those on the bridge could see the beginning signs of transition.  And then...power failed shipwide everything went black!

Sitting on the bridge, all Aiden, Emkir, Terin and Rol could tell was that they had exited into normal space.  And only that, because they could see the starscape of the normal universe through the plassteel canopy of the bridge forward viewports.  Elsewhere in the ship, everyone was plunged into complete blackness as all the ship's power failed entirely.  The only members of the crew who didn't know anything had gone wrong were Jocelynn and Zimzod, because the lounge had had no power since the day before.

Aiden got the first word as he muttered, "Crap."  Terin pointed out, "There're stars out there.  I don't know if we're in the right system but we didn't hit a planet or anything.  Still, they couldn't see a star or any planets on their current heading, so the news wasn't all good.  As Emkir suddenly called out to Rol, "Hit the mayday button!" he was reminded there was NO mayday button because there was no power.  Still, in engineering, the 'droids had their flood lights on so everyone else could scramble for flashlights and start trying to figure out what had happened?

While Aali led the work to figure things out and the ship simply drifted in space, Jocelynn and Zimzod realized something had gone seriously wrong.  Not long after that, they heard there was no power and they had no idea where they were?  Cutting through all the needed answers with the simplicity of a marine's knife, Jocelynn asked, "Why don't we just get in a cutter and call for help?"  The guys on the bridge secured what they could as they moved to the cutter and asked Aali if she'd just as well leave the engineering and relax until rescue came?  But Mikah rather tartly told them she felt they still needed to do what they could in case they were not near enough to help.

With Aali's crew still working in engineering, Aiden decided to stay in the bridge while Emkir powered up the Probe and used the cutter's batteries to get the cutter bay open.  Then, Emkir flew the craft clear of the yacht so Rol could best determine how to orient the cutter's comms systems and call for help.  It was during that work that the pair were able to confirm they had actually arrived in a solar system.  Done taking his readings, Rol started pumping out an urgent omnidirectional GQ signal.

The next piece of good news came when Emkir could read the data downloads coming from the local system's outer beacons.  Those data dumps of navigational, regulational and commercial information confirmed they had arrived in the Inthe system after all.  Emkir could also fix their position as being further out than they'd hoped, but with a near wrecked jump system, even a near hit was good enough.  Still, that didn't stop Mikah from muttering comments about the lack of skill of her navigator.  The fact she chuckled as she muttered took the sting out of it though.

The first "response", if it could be called that, to their calls for help was automated.  The outer picket satellites, massive communications androids in their own right, picked up the calls and answered.  A priority override announced that all the comsat's high-powered comms channels would be devoted to boosting their signal and getting help.  Also, the Comsat began devoting a slice of its sensors to gathering as accurate a picture of the distressed vessel as possible, to guide rescuers.  Still, that just meant inner system control would get the message only after it traveled the several light hours in-system, so rescue wasn't just around the corner.

The first real answer the crew got took two hours to arrive, and came from an outer-system patrol craft acknowledging their signal.  The officer in charge said his craft, which was a fifty ton cutter, was beginning an immediate hard burn to reach them.  The officer also asked if they had medical emergencies aboard while he promised to boost their signal.  The question about medical emergencies encouraged a lot of chatter as Zimzod said, "Our navigator might get a smack" and Aiden added, "Our navigator might be about to get a concussion."  Still, the jokes were stress relief as the crew realized they just might survive the situation.

Without an estimate on the cutter's arrival, Emkir and Rol remained off the side of the Coronal Flare as their communications point.  Eventually, the on-coming cutter told them it had reached out to five Emergency Fast Response vessels, which were now also joining the response.  EFR's were standard in-system emergency response craft that usually displaced one or two hundred tons.  Another response updated the crew that the naval base had been notified of their arrival.  With the time delay between broadcasts shrinking as the distance fell, Rol was asked for more and deeper details on the crew's situation.

Rol's first response was that they were aboard a ship named the Coronal Flare, and that they'd lost all power and had no surviving maneuver system even if they did have power anyway.  Rol did say their crew was continuing emergency repairs but also said they weren't confident of the surviving systems aboard if they could get the power back up?  When they confirmed the ship's name was the Coronal Flare, Rol confirmed that and added they were the survivors of the Hotel California.  After acknowledging they had passed that in-system, they again confirmed the crew were the survivors of the Hotel California aboard the Coronal Flare and Rol could tell there was some new element to the officer's tone.

Eventually, the commander of the initial cutter said they were thirty minutes out.  While the cutter closed, they broadcast to Rol a schematic of other vessels from in-system which joined the response.  The largest of those vessels was a freighter which had recently come out of jump relatively near the Flare and was now altering her in-system burn profile to turn her towards them.  Still, she had come through at no vee, and needed to up-thrust heavily to get her bulk moving.  Finally, the latest message surprised Rol when they asked him to confirm the ship names involved and the crew's circumstances yet again.

After Rol confirmed this new request had been requested by in-system authorities, Rol decided it was time to patch the conversation directly to Mikah.  Once on the comms, Mikah identified herself and her titles before confirming who they were.  For the first time since being contacted, Mikah decided to lay everything out and explained their discovery of the IMS Coronal Flare and INS Regina's Storm and salvaging of parts to get the Flare jump-capable.  After a slightly longer than expected pause, the officer requested, "Say again and confirm, Regina's Storm?" in a new and more firm tone.  As Mikah confirmed that, they had the feeling the officer on the other end was seeing a whole new scenario in front of him.

When the officer asked, "That is an Imperial Naval vessel, correct?" Mikah confirmed it had been an Imperial Strike Carrier.  She also told them they had one survivor of the Regina's Storm aboard, who they'd rescued.  The silence that followed that news continued all the way up until the cutter arrived in the yacht's space.  Once there, the cutter's commander waved off all responding civilian vessels and announced they were ready to take all the survivors aboard the small craft.  The officer then required them to "maintain radio silence from here on out."

A surprisingly small crew deployed in military rigs to board the Flare and recover the entire crew.  After boarding the cutter, they learned the craft had arrived so soon because she had a 6g maneuver rig!  This was a small craft devoted to getting "someone" anywhere in the system as fast as possible, if not as comfortably.  It didn't take long for them to learn that the cutter's speed was designed to allow it to respond to distant points and deliver a small but very powerful team to investigate questionable vessels.  The fittings were not highly comfortable but they were "effective".

The first action once the crew were aboard, was to check idents and confirm identities.  That done, they settled the crew in and handed out foil packs which were not what any of them would consider "real food" but which were billions of times better than the crap they'd survived on for weeks.  Just the fact that it auto-self-cooked once each packet was torn open was glorious!  Eventually, the cutter was secured and the vessel's commanding officer came out to introduce himself.  Lt. Commander Tirleni made it clear there were a large number of questions the survivors presented.

Expected And Unexpected Welcomes

     After covering the basics of returning the survivors in-system, the Commander asked if they had information on the crew and passengers of the Coronal Flare?  Mikah said they'd found that crew's log and that it was available on the Flare's computer.  When Mikah said those on the Flare had misjumped, Jocelynn muttered "Too" in a very glum tone.  Mikah followed that up, saying, "It seems we jumped into a Bermuda triangle in the area around Inthe."  The officer shrugged off the term, which meant nothing to him, as something which had meaning where Lady Mikah came from and nodded for her to continue.

Mikah then went on to explain what they'd learned about that crew's inability to find replacement parts and get the jump-capable again.  She finished up by explaining that the Lord who owned the ship ordered everyone onto their cutter to try and reach the system.  Sadly, Terin added, their bodies would likely not arrive in-system for a few decades at the speed a civilian cutter could reach.  Following that, Emkir explained exactly how to access the yacht's log after power was restored.  The Commander thanked them and said it would be several hours before a larger military vessel arrived to assist in recovery.

The Commander also told them all this matter was under an Imperial Navy Blackout until further notice.  All responding civilian ships had been waved off the rescue and a reasonably placed troop transport was called in.  Another, larger vessel would take the Flare aboard as cargo so it could be inspected and moved in-system.  The survivors were told they would be debriefed and were to answer as completely and honestly as they could any questions put to them by Naval authority.  They were also told the situation had been classified by the Admiralty, and they were to talk to no one else except as presented by the Navy.

While they didn't actively segregate Jocelynn from the others, she was treated differently as she was technically an active duty marine.  Not that they made her work, however they perhaps treated her more as family than the others.  When she was asked about her gear, Jocelynn said her battledress had been in the ship's morgue, which Sir Zimzod could attest was entirely destroyed.  She said the armory had also been blown apart somehow so the rest of her on-duty gear was gone too.  As they evaluated Jocelynn, she didn't miss the chance to play the pathetic shipwreck victim.

After the initial debrief and questions, they were told they and the Flare were being brought to a Naval orbital base initially.  There, Jocelynn's status would be handled and the "debriefings proper" would be handled.  They were also warned the debriefings would likely take two or three days during which time they would be isolated from the media.  The crew were also to have limited access to the base or its personnel for security reasons.  Most of the crew were happy with the idea of hot food and showers while Rol joked about the odds of an actual hot shower.

When they arrived at the outer of a string of larger naval stations which comprised the orbital base, the Flare was moved into a full dry dock and swarmed by naval technicians as Mikah, Jocelynn and Aali worried a bit over the possible discovery of Jocelynn's Battledress and weapons.  Still, there was little they could do at first as the entire crew were given generic gear and told they'd be allowed to get their own posessions after the initial debriefings and investigations were done.  At the same time, the crew and Jocelynn were assigned quarters and given more generic clothing and personal supplies for their stay.

When they'd been settled into what appeared to be an isolated wing of a habitation module on the base, and finally been fed an actually galley-made meal, Mikah was surprised to receive a call!  As a naval rating stepped up with a portable comms rig, and said, "You have a call My Lady", Mikah took the comms and found herself talking to Shiuka Ukhamgar, the Marquis of Inthe.  Mikah was very pleased once she knew who had called, because Marquis Shiuka was one those few noblemen with whom they'd worked who had a positive opinion of Mikah's crew.

Marquis Shiuka welcomed Mikah back and said he was glad they'd made it back to the system.  Mikah happily told him, "We're glad we made it back too!" and they both chuckled.  The Marquis admitted he'd heard they'd had a rough time of it but congratulated Mikah since he'd heard they'd managed to carry out a rescue in the middle of their crisis.  Responding to that, Mikah told him, "Yes.  We have an excellent excellent excellent engineer aboard and, ah..."  As Mikah lost the thread of what to say next, Aiden muttered, "We're keeping her" and Mikah picked that up, telling the nobleman, "And we're keeping her" as if she feared he'd try to hire the crewperson away from the ship.

Into the pause that followed that, Mikah admitted, "You know, I know we have somewhat of a reputation but, when we need to, we get down to brass tacks."  Moving on, Mikah asked, "So, once we get this..."  Settling on a description, she continued, "craziness settled, how's the climate on Inthe these days?"  While that question could have been taken several ways, the Marquis took it to mean weather and started to describe some parts of the world in winter and others in summer.  Mikah accepted that as she mentioned that wasn't what she was actually after and then asked more directly about the safety of her crew if they visited?

Nodding, the Marquis reminded Mikah that they'd stuck the end of a nasty and sharp stick into a number of gangs and some of them had long reach with trucking and transport unions and organizations as well as some that had infiltrated starport "longshoreman" organizations.  He also pointed out the world was balkanized, with five governments of which the Republic of Inthe, where they had last visited, was the only "Real" hot spot for both support and hatred.  Not to mention being the epicenter of the Cult of Emkir.  When he recommended they "Not" plan to spend time in the Republic, Mikah happily agreed they would not.

Nodding, the Marquis said he was certain the President of Inthe, and leaders of the city of New Port Dunslade, would be happy to welcome them back from a distance, but would understand the crew not visiting.  Due to the gangs with connections in cargo movement and port services, he also recommended off-port accommodations if they visited down-well.  For that, he did mention that the other countries on-world had "spaceports", not starports. 

Undergoing Evaluation

     Their first full day on the station began when an Imperial marine officer and several marine NCO's arrived after their breakfast was served.  They asked if Sgt. Guerrek might step away and join them for some important discussions?  After that, small groups with a naval officer and pair of civilians came to the crew and, one by one, called away the crew into small cubical spaces to begin the debriefing.  While the Marines dealt with Sgt. Guerrek's "status situations", the crew began their debrief with questions of what exactly happened and when?

At first, happy with generic levels of details and timing, the questions would get more detailed and push to dig out more complete timing and explanations as the next days unfolded.  During this time, they also became aware of the declaration the Hotel California was overdue given her filed flight plan from Regina to Wypoc.  Mikah wasn't the only person impressed with the effort, which they all knew was standard, put forth to find them before the ship was pronounced likely lost with all hands.  Still, while those questioning the crew were not trying to trip them up with repeated questioning, they did work to get as correct and complete an understanding of what happened from each of them.

And Jocelynn wasn't held out of the questioning once the Marine Corps. were done with her.  But they first had to deal with having her officially listed as 'alive'.  After that, they debriefed her on the last months aboard the Regina's Storm.  Questions about the carrier ranged from ship's operations and ports of call to crew morale and other details pertinent to the loss of the carrier.  Finally, they asked about her personal gear, and Jocelynn answered as she had prepared.  To her surprise, those debriefing her did not push her and accepted what was given.

Finally, they had to deal with her status as "Active Service".  While they were willing to allow her to re-enlist, that was not pushed.  Especially since the war had ended and the Imperial Marines had demobilized many formations.  So, the remaining issue left was to process her discharge and deal with her back pay.  That came to a tidy sum of Cr 6,600, which pleased and surprised Jocelynn.  They also handed her certification of her post-war decorations, including the Imperial War Defense Medal and Fifth Frontier War Service Medal.

After they felt they had as good a feel as they could get on the experiences of Jocelynn and the crew, the debriefers focused on what they'd learned about the crew and passengers of the Coronal Flare and events aboard the Regina's Storm.  During the evening gaps in the debriefing, Jocelynn considered the fact she was both unemployed and homeless.  While she was not tempted to reenlist, Jocelynn knew she had to find something soon enough despite her back pay.  When she muttered about that close enough to be overheard, Emkir suggested she join their ship's crew.  Mikah admitted that would make it easier for her to keep her battledress.

When Mikah made the offer to join them official, Jocelynn had to ask how she would join them?  Meaning, 'what would my job be?', Zimzod joked, "Engineer.  Duh!" and got laughs.  Mikah then said, "Security" and Jocelynn said, "I could do that."  Then, Jocelynn asked, "What's the pay?" because she had been getting Cr 550 a month as a Marine Seargent.  Being honest and direct, Mikah said, "Not much.  Room and board.  And if you want, you can get straight pay or a share of what we get when we do a job."  With a sudden smile on her face, Mikah continued, "Or, we can write you up an agreement of indentured service like we did him." and jabbed a thumb at Terin.

After the laughs from that died down, Jocelynn asked what percentage of the ship's profits she'd get if she took that?  Mikah told her, "One ninth." and Jocelynn asked, "So, if the navy pays us for finding the carrier, would I get a share of that?"  When Mikah said, "Yup", Jocelynn could imagine how much the navy would pay them and how much that might mean for her!  Of course, Mikah quickly qualified that, saying, "After the ship's been fixed."  Nodding, Jocelynn said, "Sure.  I could do that."  Rol joked, "You can go to strange places and shoot people.  You should be used to that."

Jocelynn thought she could live with a share instead of regular pay for the risk of big payoffs, and Mikah reminded her the ship had money in case something was critically needed.  Fesic then joked, "Unless you piss them off, in which case, they shoot you."  Mikah shot him with a sour look but others laughed.  And Emkir commented about their bar, even though their stash was down to twenty odd bottles.  Mikah then took the moment to promise Jocelynn the food service aboard their ship was usually "much" better than what she'd experienced in deep space.

Considering everything, Jocelynn signed on with the crew and then asked if that meant they'd keep helping her smuggle her battledress?  Giving Jocelynn an innocent look, Mikah asked "What battledress?"  Jocelynn smirked and said, "Cool!" and Emkir needlessly jumped on, reminding her, "You lost that in the shipwreck.  Remember?"  With that settled, the crew endured four days of evaluation, medical checkups, some updates on the evaluation of the Coronal Flare and were told the Navy had contacted the insurance firms and in-system legal authority.

Then, they were told there would need to be a board of inquest, as there would be following any misadventure.  They would need to meet with their maritime insurance representative and have the other necessary meetings as well.  Then, they were told there would need to be aboard of inquest, as there would be following any misadventure.  They were also told they'd be allowed to remain on the naval station for the next two days, but would need to find other housing from then on.

After The Debriefings

     When Zimzod finally asked about starting repairs of the Coronal Flare, he was told they'd first need to find a place to store the vessel until the legal status of the ship was resolved?  After that, they could deal with setting up repairs, though the Navy had taken some steps on their behalf.  They had made plans with some of the in-system shipyards to handle the ship's needs on a priority basis once the legal status was settled.  Despite Inthe's tech level, which was pre-interstellar, components were regularly shipped in from higher tech systems to allow them to handle the repairs the Flare would need.

Most difficult to repair would be the computer and jump flight systems.  The Navy was also inclined to lend the shipyards help on those systems given the circumstances.  Still, the work wouldn't be done in a naval shipyard unless that was the only way to complete the repairs.  They were also told the Navy had sent a scout formation out to where they'd said the Regina's Storm and Hotel California drifted.  So, what the crew were due based on the reported discovery of the Regina's Storm wreck would be determined once that was known.  Everyone knew that was largely based on the work Terin had done to lot their jump in-system because the wrecks were adrift in unmapped space.

Over the following two days, the crew were allowed to reach out to the rest of the system and civilian organizations.  They were met by representatives of their insurance companies, which sent out the word to prevent creation of the clones Rol, Zimzod, Aiden and Aali's policies would have spawned.  Lucky for them, the "delay period" on that action would be six months from the data of declaration of death, which had not yet legally happened.  They also met with representatives of the shipping insurance company, who were waiting on word from the naval squadron sent to investigate the wreck of the California

Based on jump speed, it would take the scouts two more days to arrive on-site, and then a courier would return in nine days.  And while that was needed for the "official" settlement, the firm had received, from the Navy, abstracts of the fragmented sensor logs from the Coronal Flare.  The data received in the hours before they had jumped back for Inthe supported the crew's claims regarding the Hotel California and that would allow the firm to expedite payment in expectations of confirmation by the Imperial Navy.  The crew's naval liaison also confirmed the Navy had released the news of the discovery of the missing INS Regina's Storm, IMS Coronal Flare and IMS Hotel California.  Following that, the Naval-imposed news blackout was lifted.

When they were told that, Emkir muttered, "Prepare to be hounded by the media, folks."  His tone was not happy, remembering what had happened in Rhylanor, although perhaps forgetting how much of that media circus was his own fault.  Still, the crew were able to use the two days to deal with other needs.  Jocelynn was able to use the PX spending Cr 200 to buy two weeks' worth of casual clothing and five shipsuits.  Also, the 210th day of the year was Rol's 39th birthday.  But, given they needed to move off the naval station the next day, the crew decided to rent space in the highport first, before having a small party to celebrate.

An Unexpected Call

     Before they could leave the naval station, the crew began receiving calls.  The first was from the insurance firm carrying the Hotel California's policy.  They called for Lady Mikah and told her they'd have their people sitting in on the court of inquiry.  they confirmed that the policy would be closed after the court completed its work.  The next calls came from the Republic of Inthe, including a call from their President and the Mayor of New Port Dunslade.  Congratulating them on returning from the dead and welcoming them back to Inthe, each caller was just a bit nervous until Mikah told them the crew would likely not visit the Republic while in-system.

Mikah understood their relief, but did invite them to meet on-world and outside the nation's borders for a get together if possible?  She was also grateful when they caught the first news announcements, which said the crew had been recovering on the naval orbital base and were not available for questions.  Still, there were fairly high ranking members of the media who did get permission from both the office of Inthe's President and the naval admiralty to call and ask for a statement.  Mikah considered for a moment at first, before framing a statement she could give everyone who asked.

The release Mikah gave was that they had misjumped, which had provided her crew challenges that they faced down as they got back to a settled system.  While they planned to pursue repairs to the Coronal Flare, even as they regretted the eventual fate of Lord Shaushup, Baron Bakeral, the families, their crew and the crew of the INS Regina's Star.  Mikah continued that she and her crew were happy they could at least solve their mysteries and give their survivors some peace.  After that, the crew got serious about getting to the Flare and moving all their gear into cargo pods provided by the Navy.

Despite help from the base personnel, they were able to confirm no one had noticed Jocelynn's battledress and weapons, and slip them into a pod.  Next, they and the pods were transferred to the Inthe Civilian highport where they booked a suite of rooms to use for at least a week.  After that, they'd have decided what they'd do for the weeks they expected to be dealing with the ship repairs if they ended up owning it?  At the same time, gear they would be installing in the ship, like the lockers Zimzod bought on Regina and the cargo sealer would be stored at the shipyard once they had those papers signed.  The cargo gear with their personal stuff was moved to the cutter, so they controlled it.

Mikah also decided to pull out the cutter so they'd have their own transport in-system once they rented a suite to live in.  On the highport, the crew decided to look for a housing package that would be low cost so those in the crew who didn't have cash wouldn't be hurt.  Estimating they'd be on-port for six weeks, at least they started with that.  When they found a Six-week package for an eight-room suite, Zimzod said they'd only need eight rooms if Mikah didn't have a headache.  Laughing, Aali reminded Zimzod it was his job to not give her a headache and they all laughed.  Still, they found a hotel willing to rent the 8-room suite for Cr 1,250 a week.

Mikah asked about services and was told that came with accounts for the station-net, Sales-net and general comms-net.  So, they'd be able to get anything they needed.  The rental also included three service androids which took care of any requests, clean the space and could handle roles such as butler and door greeter.  On top of that, Mikah asked about a food plan and were offered an "intermediate" plan for Cr 750 per person for the six weeks.  Mikah liked that and agreed to the rental, paying the total from the ship's funds.  That all came to Cr 14,250.  After they signed on the tablet, they started moving in.

Before they could settle in, they got a call from a Lord Diamkhim, who asked to meet with them if that could be set up?  Before Mikah could answer, he said he wanted to discuss an injunction against them taking the Coronal Flare as salvage.  Mikah asked the man if he was a lawyer and he told her he was a representative of Lord Shaushup's family.  Caught by surprise, Mikah agreed to meet with the man and he said he'd rent meeting space on the station and be on the port in forty five minutes to an hour.  Shortly after that call was done, Mikah received an electronic notice of the rented meeting space and the group got dressed to meet with Lord Diamkhim.

When they first saw the man, Lord Diamkhim was very well and expensively dressed.  His Lordship was also attended by two assistants, one of whom appeared to be a legal professional.  The other seemed to be some sort of support android.  Sitting down together, Lord Diamkhim opened the meeting by saying, "Obviously, Lord Shaushup's father, Baron Lashmumi Kikshum owned the ship and only loaned it to his son at need to operate in the Spinward Marches.  As a result, there are some legal extenuations we would like to discuss with you.  But first, I would like to understand if you know what happened to Lord Shaushup, his family and those aboard the ship?"

Considering Lord Diamkhim's request, Mikah told him the events and fate of those aboard the Coronal Flare were covered in a log, which was in the ship's computer and that was being transferred from Naval control to a civilian holding slip at the moment, before the ship's status was decided.  After that, Mikah told him she and her crew had reviewed the log and explained what they'd learned about Lord Shaushup's misjump and their abandonment of the ship in its cutter.  To say the least, Mikah's tone was a bit frosty because she wasn't pleased by his intention.  And while she was entirely respectful, Mikah made a point of telling His Lordship the cutter should be arriving in the Inthe system in approximately twenty seven years.

Lord Diamkhim considered Mikah's words and then had his android contact the port and find out what shipyard owned the slip in which the Coronal Flare was being stored?  After that, he said he'd set up with the shipyard to take a tour of the yacht and would download a copy of the log.  That, and what Mikah had told him, seemed to give him all the information he hoped to find about the Lord, his family and their possessions.  Because of that, Lord Diamkhim felt it should be fairly easy to get what he needed and write off the Baron's claim on ownership of the yacht.  Mikah and the others were very relieved when he said that, and realized he simply wanted the best answer of "what happened" to take back to Lord Shaushup's family.  Mikah added their condolences to that data.

Ironically, thanks to their help in discovering and returning the ship as well as finding answers to how those aboard the Coronal Flare died, Mikah was told the crew were in line for a reward!  Lord Diamkhim was one of a number of agents who had been sent to the Spinward Marches to find information about their fate.  It was just luck that the Lord was in the Inthe system when they arrived as he was visiting Imperial Scout and Naval bases in the region.  That was following the four-month trip from the Liiri system to Regina.  He'd then spent some months visiting those military and civilian organizations involved in the search for the yacht.  Having heard nothing until now, the team he was part of were expanding their visits to Naval and Scout bases further from the official search area.

So, he'd been in the Inthe system when they arrived.  And while the local Naval officers did not immediately notify him the Coronal Flare had been recovered, they did notify him they might have further information for him "soon" once they took Mikah and her crew into debriefing.  Lord Diamkhim was then given a courtesy call by the Naval base commander once the crew had been transferred to the civilian highport.  And that had led Lord Diamkhim to them.  Now, the Lord told Mikah that the Baron had offered a Cr 250,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of Lord Shaushup, his family or proof of their fate.  Mikah thanked Lord Diamkhim for that, and said she hoped it would help in the ship's repairs.

Later in the day, Mikah was told the Naval inquest and court of inquiry into the misjump would be held the next day.  The various insurance firms would have people attending as would A lawyer representing the Baron's family.  Mikah now knew that lawyer would be instructed to wave the family's ownership claims on the yacht.  Once the inquiry ended, the Baron's family would be paid any insurance due them for their losses regarding the Coronal Flare as the former owners.  Mikah would be compensated as appropriate for the Hotel California by the firm holding that policy.  The Imperial Navy and Scout Service would also be present and the Navy would essentially run the show.  A representative from the office of the Marquis would also be present.

After that meeting, as the calls died down, the crew watched the news.  They watched as one of the broadcast stories came from the staff of Lord Diamkhim, announcing the culmination of their search for the crew and compliment of the Coronal Flare.  Lord Diamkhim also confirmed they had paid out the offered reward and wished to thank the crew of the Hotel California for their assistance.  Following that item, the news broadcast continued with a brief summary of what was known at the time about the fates of the California, Coronal Flare and Regina's Storm as well as a summary of the events which took place when the Hotel California had been in-system almost a year and a half before.

While much of the broadcast was positive, there were a few laughs in the suite as mention was made of The Cult of Emkir and they even got a few updates on some of the unhappy returns when the ship of Cultists returned from the Risek system.  The rest of the news were updates of the continued stories they'd first heard or been following in the Regina system, though now mixed in with the news of the Inthe system and more significant stories from the dirtside countries downwell.  The most important change in those stories was that the SuSAG-hired mercenary force had taken control of the now surrendered Sword Worlds cruiser and landed heavy forces on-world.

Papers And Possible Payment

     At 10 am, the crew arrived with the other representatives and officers of the court of inquiry.  A good part of the facts before the court were summaries of the technical analysis of the state of the Coronal Flare and an examination of the recorded data from the yacht's sensors of the Hotel California.  The court also considered a summary of the already read testimony derived from the debriefings of the crew of the Hotel California and Imperial Marine Sergeant Jocelynn Guerrek.  Finally, there were the reports submitted by those Imperial crew aboard the ships responding to the arrival of the IMS Coronal Flare in the Inthe system.

After hours of sitting and listening while periodically being called on to confirm their own statements, the court summarized the details before judgement.  Positing from that data, the court found that the misjump was likely due to an undetermined technical failure.  Such an event fell within the statistical norm for jump systems in the Imperium while the gathering of wrecks at a nexus was unexplained.  Further determinations stated that none of the crew appeared at fault for the events which led to the misjump, however the crew of the Hotel California were to be commended for their actions in creating a route to return to inhabited space.  The final judgement was that the misjump was an unfortunate event with no blame.

Where the Coronal Flare was concerned, the release specified by the lawyer for the owner's family satisfied questions of ownership and the yacht was declared legal salvage.  Per Imperial law, the fact that the crew of the Hotel California and Imperial Marine Sergeant Jocelynn Guerrek participated in returning that ship to an Imperial port legally awarded ownership of that yacht to those nine individuals as a class.  Where the matter of the INS Regina's Storm was concerned, the Imperial Navy was quite disappointed at the loss of life but were also quite concerned about the described conditions aboard the ship after the Sergeant was placed in a low berth.  And the Hotel California was also declared salvage.

Failing any unforeseen circumstances, word from that site via courier should be arriving in five days' time.  The Navy was also preparing to charter a mega-freighter large enough to carry back to Inthe both the Regina's Storm and Hotel California, with that action voiding ownership of that vessel by the crew.  At that point, the court spoke on the subject of the X-Mail cargo aboard the California and found the crew of the California had notified the IISS and were due the Cr 1,000 payment for that.

Regarding compensation for the Regina's Storm, the Navy chose to compensate the crew for their discovery with both payment and technical support.  Investigations of the Coronal Flare indicated that eighty percent of the repairs could be handled by the system's civilian shipyards.  The Imperial Navy would pay the crew a finder's fee which would, along with the Baron's reward and the California's insurance, cover the cost.  In addition, the Imperial Navy would complete the remaining twenty percent of repairs to the yacht.

On top of the repairs, the Navy estimated they would end up with Cr 27,000 in remaining cash from all the rewards once the repairs were completed.  Per ship's shares, that meant Cr 3,000 each.  In the end, the Court were empowered to certify the new ship's papers for the yacht and only needed to know what they wanted to call the new ship?  After a discussion, Mikah put her foot down and chose the name IMS Upgrade.  At the same time, Zimzod quietly said events had taken care of having to pay off Ambassador Vik for her share of the ship.

Those who heard remembered that the crew had discussed selling off the Hotel California for seed money to buy a more capable ship.  One of the stumbling blocks had been the need to buy out Ambassador Vik's share of the ship.  Now, with all the funds from the insurance going into repairs of the replacement, and Inger not included as an owner of the Upgrade, the crew were free of anything other than a possible legal claim against the insurance payment.  And, odds were Imperial law would support the crew against that.  Terin commented that Fesic was now a part owner of the new ship, and he suggested they revisit his monthly salary as a result.  Mikah said they could address that later and Fesic kept quiet.

The next two days were spent in meetings with shipyard and engineering firm representatives while trying to settle an agreement to handle the repairs on the ship.  Because of the upfront cash and naval cooperation, most of the yards wanted the contract and the ones that didn't simply didn't have slip-space free or could not provide the systems expected from the civilian-side.  In their spare time, the crew also looked into the countries downwell.  They already knew they would not visit the Republic of Inthe and they didn't like the idea of visiting the Confederation of Mesak because of their high law level.

When they heard that three million of the Oceanic Federation's population were uplifted dolphins, they really wanted to visit there.  They also considered visiting the Kingdom of Osoku because of their almost non-existent law levels.  But they were reminded each feudal fief was personal property and so the laws in each fief were essentially anything the local nobility added to the few national laws which were consistent across the board.  So, going there was not as easy a slam dunk as it might be.

Changing the subject, Terin wondered aloud what class of sensors the Upgrade had aboard? He wasn't certain because he had not used them very much in the brief time before they jumped and they had been so degraded by damage that he couldn't tell their maximum strength.  The others who'd worked the bridge firmly told him they'd been civilian-class sensors, and Terin growled about having to try to find a way to get military grade sensors installed.  As they talked about how they'd go about it Terin suggested bribery.

Zimzod and Mikah laughed at that and joked about how much they'd have to offer someone, but Jocelynn said it wasn't always about the big money.  When she had their attention, Jocelynn said she'd run into many administrators and other mid-level managers and officers who'd all be trying to 'line their personal nest eggs' on the sly.  And, if you found the right person in just the right place, you could get off relatively light and get them to change just one piece of paperwork.  And if that one work order suddenly says 'Navy yard to install a class SJ-00-Z7 sensor package removed from a decommissioned Destroyer' instead of 'Shipyard to install this stock ABC-class civilian from a local supplier', then you get what you want cheap.

They thought about what she'd said and Zimzod nodded, saying, "Uhuh.  We could do that." in a tone which said both "I did not think about that" and "That could really work."  At first, Zimzod thought he could do that but soon stopped and asked, "Who can talk better than me?"  Everyone busted out laughing when Aiden answered, "Everyone."  But then, they agreed that Emkir would be their best con man.  That left Emkir with a bunch of questions to answer about how to find "the right person" to work on.

Where it came to repairing the ship, they were actually dealing with a contractor situation.  The civilian shipyard they'd signed with to handle the repairs knew it would only be handling "most" of the work.  The rest of it was in the hands of the Imperial Navy.  So, they had to find the person managing the paperwork that said who did what and what had been approved?  The person who managed that process was the person they needed to find and work over.  And, Emkir had a time limit because the work was to begin soon, so the change needed to be done before any sensor hardware was bought.

Still, one did not simply spark up a computer and do a net-search to find the name of the one specific person they needed.  They could start with a search of the shipyard's table of organization and list of people to see who might be in the right departments, but that would only be a starting point.  Another tactic would be to consult with both the yard and navy techs on just what was being decided, because Aali would be expected to be doing that anyway.  And, if they were lucky, they could even meet the project manager handling the work control reports while they did that.  Considering that, Emkir figured he'd tag along with Aali on her meetings for the first three weeks.  If he didn't find the right person by then, it would be too late anyway.

Filling In Holes

     In addition to the few hours every few days when Emkir and Aali met with the yard dogs, Mikah started making calls to their friends in New Port Dunslade to set up a get together somewhere.  The best recommendation was the highport itself.  There was also some excitement because they knew the first ships returning from the wreck site "could" arrive on or after the next day.  So, there was a lot happening.  Mikah was very happy when she found out the former Security Administrator Wyss had replaced the Chief of New Port Dunslade after that man had been removed by the city's Mayor.  He was also happy to use his connections to get a free shuttle to the highport for himself and the others joining them.

With that decided, Mikah spent much of the day planning the party and renting a hall on the station to hold it in.  After settling in, Aiden had returned to his physical therapy regimen and restarted his stent training.  Rol started looking for classes in communications technology, but found the tech level of the local system wouldn't offer him what he hoped to find.  Looking to the Naval base, as an Imperial Marine Retiree, Rol was able to find a class sold there, which he'd be able to run on the Upgrade's computer once he had access to the ship's computer.  Told that would cost him Cr 5,000, Rol made the buy and was given a code to broadcast once he had access to the ship, to upload and install it.

The party with the folks from New Port Dunslade eventually cost her Cr 1,000.  Getting together, those from the Republic remembered Mikah, Zimzod, Emkir, Rol and Aiden.  For the first time, they met Terin, Fesic, Jocelynn and were introduced to Aali by Emkir.  Beyond that, they spent the evening catching up on events and changes in the city and Republic.  Also, those new to the crew got to hear stories from one of the crew's past adventures.  They also learned a bit more of the crew's past as those from downwell asked questions and Mikah and Zimzod answered with some information on things they'd done.  A good deal of that was also about the Risek plague because that had been the crew's next stop after having left Inthe eighteen months before.

During the week, Zimzod went looking for an extra charging station, which he claimed would be a backup for his battledress.  Finding one for sale by Instel-Arms for Cr 15,000, Zimzod decided Jocelynn would just have to owe him.  Zimzod also knew this would have to be set up in a cargo container they'd have to buy after they got back the Upgrade.  They'd have to fix the cargo sealer too, so they could store Jocelynn's gear in it to smuggle as they traveled.  Along with that, Zimzod worked on his stent-work, did PT and never-ending gear maintenance.

During his week, Aiden jumped right into sending to replace his lost possessions.  Eventually, Aiden spent Cr 23,835 on replacing much of his gear.  He was not able to get some items, like the Advanced Targeting computer to interface with his HUD and weapons.  While he'd found one in the Regina system, Instel-Arms couldn't offer that in the Inthe system.  Aiden also sat down with Instel-Arms to see if he could get an automatic ammunition loader modified to use with magazines for his custom snub pistol.  They estimated they should be able to provide one for Cr 100, but needed to get a technician who would be able to do the work.

The only thing Zimzod wanted was a small female doll, a few inches tall and dressed scantily like a native of some tropical culture and shook its hips, to stick on the ship's bridge.  He found one in the port for Cr 1.  Aiden also paid Cr 100 for membership in a swimming club and looked into lessons to learn to swim.  When he mentioned it to the others, Mikah, Terin and Zimzod also said they were interested.  The class they found would take place a few hours on alternate weekdays for three weeks, and cost Cr 200 each plus the club membership.  Agreeing, the others paid their memberships and signed up.  During the week, Terin also shopped for prices on items he'd lost or found new or interesting.  Emkir and Aali decided it was time to "spend" the coupon and have their stateroom "redone".

After they found an office of the company, they made an appointment to set up what they wanted and connect them to the shipyard working on the yacht.  Once they'd sat down with a representative, they were told there were some items that would be upcosts.  Some things were higher tech imports which couldn't be made locally and some could not be quickly enough imported to be included.  Aali said she hoped they could get the seats in their stateroom replaced with seats like those aboard because she really did like them.  Something that surprised Emkir but he shrugged and went with it.

The rep made sure to confirm which stateroom belonged to the couple and what options they wanted.  Both Aali and Emkir wanted the king-sized bed.  They were also prepared to change out the room's internal environmental and grav controls.  This would allow them to do things like change the local grav-conditions of the bed, rather than having to get out of bed and changing it from the room controls.  Those controls also allowed "detail changes" affecting only certain parts of the stateroom. A number of up-tech changes were standard despite the system's tech level.

When they were asked about adding holographic projection to the smartwall, the couple decided that would be nice despite the up-charge of Cr 6,000.  Aali wanted the higher tech seats, which would cost them Cr 1,000 each.  Since this was going to be a two-person stateroom, that would be Cr 2,000 more.  When Emkir pushed for it, Aali agreed to have a retractable trapeze bar put in the ceiling, but said she wanted to see Emkir perform on it.  When he told her "That usually works in the opposite direction." in a suggestive tone, Aali admitted she knew that but gave no ground at all.

When Emkir brought up a wine cabinet, they spent some time discussing the couple's needs before the rep told them they could have a 50-bottle unit where each bottle is stored in specified conditions configured from a control panel.  That was able to be added in as part of the service.  After paying Cr 8,000 and signing for that work to be done, the couple went through their gear and sent some of it out for cleaning and mending for Cr 100.  After the decisions were made, Aali and Emkir smiled and plotted all the things they could do to break the room in.

Terin also shopped to replace the things he'd lost in the misjump.  Starting with a snub pistol and ammo for various of his weapons, Terin bought some suits and clothing.  He splurged on sets of silver, copper and brass accessories such as collar stays, cuff links and button covers.  Especially since the shined brass looked very much like a red gold.  He also replaced his lost first aid kit.  Terin also brought up the idea of emergency lighting which was "self-charging" in case the ship lost power again.  After talking to Aali, she agreed to bring up with the yards that idea.

What Aali eventually got an agreement on, for emergency lighting were passage lighting, spaced apart, which worked on rechargeable batteries.  The batteries would be "bleed fed" from the ship's power and routinely depleted to keep the batteries fresh.  Still, they would be replaced in annual overhauls.  Last, they were power-sensitive and only activated in the complete loss of ship's power.  On the 217th day, a flight of couriers returned from the deep space location where they had found the Regina's Storm and Hotel California to report they'd found the wrecks as reported.  That cleared the way for the remaining official paperwork to be resolved.

Work Before Play

     Among other things, the second week of their stay on-station was also Fesic's 36th birthday!  As well as a small party, people went about their interests.  Jocelynn went looking for an inexpensive holo-projector but found "in-expensive" was not really an option given the local tech level.  Still, she did find one unit that was easily portable and stowable for Cr 1,750.  While the device was very expensive, it was the best she could do in a system where tech goods had to be shipped in from outside, and the images on her cube were the one possession she really cared about. 

Over the first and second week, the crew also caught up on the news of the subsector and sector.  Some followed the events on Gougeste with the SuSAG mercenaries.  In that, Mikah was torn because of her suspicions about the mega-corp from events in the Risek system to the possible reward for having passed on the information Aiden overheard in the court of Duchess Seldrian Aledon on Regina.  Rol went hunting for word on how the case against Sir Jeremy had played out?  He learned that the Knight had been convicted, but with punishment deferred.  Because the Emperor was personally his patron, Sir Jeremy was put on a comfortable courier and shipped off to Capital for Emperor Strephon to punish personally.

Another thing that surprised them were the news stories covering the search for the Hotel California once it had been declared missing.  The Imperial Navy had been concerned with the disappearance of Imperial nobility, ironically enhanced by the recent loss of Lord Shaushup's ship and the nobility aboard that yacht.  Certain other coverage suggested there was an actual intrinsic value in the Imperial government knowing the whereabouts or fate of those aboard the California.  Mikah acerbically suggested some of them wanted to make sure the crew were in fact dead and was not ready to cut any of those outlets any slack.

When Mikah joked about sending a message to certain Regina news outlets saying, "We're alive", she was reminded that news was being spread by the Imperial Navy and X-news system.  They were also certain TAS was doing its best to provide that story as a "scoop" in as many systems as possible.  Indeed, they could count on the news of their survival annoying many billions of citizens just because it would be a "FLASH" news update in every system with tech high enough for a global news network when "someone" scooped each market and interrupted their viewing habits.

Still, the search and rescue effort went on for nearly four weeks, with significant efforts and spending put out by the Navy.  Ironically, the search only ended just before they'd settled in and made their jump home.  Of course, it was a matter of basic operations that the word of their return to civilization was being carried in all directions.  While it had sounded dramatic that word of their survival and return had been sent to Regina, Rhylanor, Mora and all other capital systems in the sector, that only meant the news had been a "headliner story" in the regular data packets sent to those systems.  And, as a matter of course, "new news" packets were delivered at every stop those ships made along the trip.

Continuing their swimming lessons, the crew spent their second week keeping busy as Emkir worked on his secret project.  Aiden did talk to Rol about installing the HUD kit and vision enhancers he'd bought, and which survived the warp of the jump bubble.  When he did, Rol joked it would only cost Aiden Cr 3,000.  Emkir wanted to start stepping through the Zero-G classes he'd loaded on his learning suit, but realized he had to rent someplace to do it in null gravity.  Eventually, he found a space he could rent for Cr 100 a week and planned to work at it three times a week for the next five weeks.

Aali joined the others in stent-work, and they used their commdots to augment their workouts.  She and Emkir also set up a regular physical exercise schedule.  Aali was also asked, early on in the week, if the shipyard could use the ship's androids as part of their workforce in making repairs to the ship.  Aali gave those permissions and updated the androids during one of her visits to the yard to oversee the work.  One thing which made Emkir happy, as he looked to see who to try and bribe, was that nothing had been bought to start the work on the ship's sensors yet.

During his free time, Aiden looked for information sources in periodical format.  One thing he wanted to keep on top of were news of sales and new or special items being sold by Instel-Arms.  Aiden saw that any system with any kind of large-scale computer web and a decent economy would be a place he could easily find and download the most recent Instel-Arms catalog for free.  However, actual magazines would cost Cr 1 per page per jump it was shipped across in order to reach him.  That meant he'd be paying hundreds or even thousands of credits just in x-mail charges to receive each issue.

Given the costs involved, Aiden decided he'd look for any free advertisements he could get from places like Instel-Arms when he arrived in systems they had stores.  He also figured he'd check the libraries TAS might have in their facilities, even though those would come with a service charge too.  Just, not charges nearly as onerous as having magazine files shipped to you.  While Aiden went the "commercial information" route, Terin spent time on the local data networks looking for news groups where he could get the information and make the contacts he wanted.  Sadly, he'd only spent a week in the Inthe system before so it took him time to hunt down the boards he wanted.

Still, he had four and a half more weeks in-system to make connections and do research.  And Inthe was a food producing and exporting system, so there were a large number of groups, news boards and interest networks specifically for herbs, spices and their medicinal uses.  The bad news for Terin was that his specific research was based on a genetically specific family of herbs and spices.  That meant Terin could learn something about a great deal of the local botany, but he'd have to hunt for any local analogs of the plants he specifically needed for his main research.

Having lost his medicinal bag thanks to the misjump, Terin was also interested in learning about and stocking up on any local herbs he could find out about.  Even if they were not anything that would benefit his research project.  Terin also considered sending out for the specific things he needed but realized it would take eleven jumps for an x-mail order to be placed.  So, that would be eleven weeks and did not even count the "return flight" of eleven more weeks, where he'd have to pay nearly Cr 300 to transport the one pound of goods.  Since they'd only be in-system four and a half more weeks, that wasn't happening.  That said, he decided to keep his eyes on the news boards and watch for anything interesting coming into the system.

On top of shopping, working on skill building and other activities, each member of the crew also spent about Cr 150 per week on entertainment.  That meant going to shows, museums and other venues as well as going out from time to time for a drink.  Where Fesic and Jocelynn worried about cash, Rol volunteered to cover their charges, for which Fesic was thankful and Jocelynn was very surprised.  Rol did say he was doing it to encourage everyone to be "one crew" but also joked that he could always use it to blackmail the two later.  Jocelynn snorted at that because he'd volunteered his money and she owed him nothing if he was really trying to scheme.  So, she also decided to keep an eye on him just like she was Sir Terin after the incident in the passage.

Into the third week, Mikah was looking into excursions to visit the Oceanic Federation, to interact with the dolphins there.  Emkir said he was also interested in that and Mikah said she was planning for the fourth week in-system.  As they researched that, they learned the Oceanic Federation was involved in a border dispute over the use of some waterways and coastal areas with the Republic of Inthe.  Looking deeper into that, just to know, the dispute didn't appear to be close to, or moving towards an armed conflict but they wanted to play Imperial tourists who were non-citizens of either nation and not involved.

Terin did suggest they could look into becoming an official delegation from the Republic but Mikah was not interested in that.  Especially given all the work it would take to set up meetings with the government of the Republic and pull in favors, etc.  Added to that, the fact a "state visit" as a delegation would be highly controlled and "managed" with the delegates constantly being under the camera's lenses and they'd be up to their noses in press would be no fun at all.  Not the crew's favorite situation of all time, and especially not after making yet another splash in the media with their survival and return.

Mikah was more excited about the shore resorts and hitting the beaches.  Suddenly, Mikah came up with the idea of searching for an "All Inclusive" resort where they paid once and everything was included.  When a quick search brought up any number of packages from the highport, Mikah announced, "That's where we're going!"  Finding a package which cost Cr 1,500 per person per week, she asked who else was coming?  Terin, Zimzod, Rol, Aali and Emkir immediately said they would.  Rol also said he'd pay to bring Jocelynn and Fesic.  They could even save the Cr 100 for shuttles down and up by using their own cutter, though they'd have to pay landing and field fees.

Some Class And Secrets

     Aiden also wanted to go with them and said he planned on starting scuba lessens even though he'd only finished two weeks of a three-week swimming class at that point.  Because this would be something he wanted to be "portable" between the resort and the station, he'd need to pay for some part of the class and ended up paying Cr 200.  While Aiden looked into that, Emkir had been working for weeks on digging into just who would be in control of the repair decisions on the Upgrade.  What he'd learned so far was that the person would likely be a naval NCO who was "higher than mid-level.  So, a Petty officer better than grade E-5 (Petty Officer Second Class).

The fact it was a Petty Officer and not a commissioned officer was a surprise, but the person was certainly a lifer with that rank and job.  That also told Emkir where he had to go in order to dig more data on just who this NCO was?  And that fell on his charm and ability to take advantage of the grey areas of regulations when trying to get something or use those regs as distractions from what he 'really wanted to do'.  Emkir could also guess the NCO earned something near or above Cr 700 a month.  That also said this person had been around and knew the game and how it was played. 

Using this information, Emkir made sure to "not want to be part of all the tech talk" on one of Aali's visits to the Naval yard.  Being on base and in the offices which administered the yard, Emkir was able to be his best charming and distracting self as he chatted.  And, the lower ranks at their desks didn't really feel a generic conversation about PO Kushli was any big secret.  The "Real win" came when Emkir managed to make use of the distracting activities of actual work in the office and some pointed questions about if those forms 'really might fall under a regulation regarding handling' and 'hadn't the buck sergeant handling them better check before shipping them in a simple envelope'.

That opened a gap where no one was watching the hall leading into non-public space.  And while the hall was no big deal in and of itself, the fact it held PO Kushli's office meant a chance to grab some intel.  As Emkir slipped down the hall and found the correct door, he was gratified to find it wasn't locked either.  Of course, this was a low risk shipyard so the unlocked door was no great surprise.  What was a surprise was the special table off to the side of the man's desk with the glass case box covering most of its surface.

Moving in to take a quick glance, Emkir got his second big shock as he saw an actual paper and bindings book stored in the glass case!  Emkir hadn't seen anything like it since they'd dealt with Brian's library, which they still had to meet with Sir Brian's family to resolve the ownership of.  Still, this was an odd possession to find in the office of a Naval shipyard project manager.  Slipping back out to the office proper, it did not take much longer for Emkir to ask some much less than general questions about books to find out PO Kushli was a book collector when he could find and afford them, which seemed, from the comments of the office worker, not to be nearly often enough for the Petty Officer's likes.  And that told Emkir everything he need to know about his mark.

Excusing himself, Emkir stepped out of the office to discreetly grab his comms and call Mikah and Zimzod.  When Zimzod asked, "What kind of books", Emkir said "Old" and both Mikah and Zimzod could hear the smile in his voice.  They knew they had old books, of a sort, and rare books to boot!  When they commented that they could give him a download, Mikah worried he might want the actual books and not scans.  They talked more and decided Emkir would have to happen to rub shoulders with the man and get a good feel for what he wanted and what could possibly sway him?  And, to find out if the Petty Officer's head might be turned by something which might not just be rare but very rare.

From there, Emkir needed to find out if Aali was currently, or planned to soon be, dealing with the Petty Officer.  Calling her and asking her if she could talk quietly, Emkir asked Aali about Kushli and she told him the man was in the area and in and out of her conversations and asked why?  Emkir just told her that was his mark and asked if she could get him back in the room with her and the others?  Aali said she could and less than ten minutes later, an android arrived to lead Emkir to his own personal spider web.

Arriving in the space, Emkir recognized the Petty Officer from pictures which had been in his office.  He also saw the man and several others were over by the caff station, sharing a drink and chat.  Emkir told the 'droid he was thirsty and would get a drink before meeting with his wife and wandered over to the station.  There, he listened for an opening.  And soon enough, he was handed one on a silver platter as one of the rating complained about reading some of the documents shifted through their office.

Emkir snorted, which got the attention of those gathered and he looked up as if in surprise he'd snorted out loud.  Excusing himself, he even said he didn't realize he'd done it but then held up his datapad to show its screen.  He'd had one of the files from Brian's collection on the pad because that was the one he'd been working to translate.  Work that had been shuffled off to the side for some time since the books were put in storage.  Still, he had the file and held his tablet up, showing the image of a page that was very obviously not in any language anyone there would know.  And Emkir said, "Try working on figuring this out." with an air of strained patience.

That was enough to get Kushli's attention as the Petty Officer asked what the file was?  Emkir offhandedly said it was a scan, done by the University of Rhylanor, of a very old book.  Kushli asked how old, and Emkir said he couldn't be sure because it was untranslated but he'd guess it was one of the newer books and only a few centuries old.  That "a few centuries old" was something the Admiral would describe as "one of the newer books" registered with Kushli and Emkir could see he'd scored a direct hit.  Letting the man get a closer look at the screen, Emkir said that book had been just one of a large cache he'd been dealing with and he had scans of all of them in his files.

The book chatter also had the gratifying effect of signaling to the others in the conversation that they'd lost PO Kushli for the duration as they recognized his obsession.  So, Emkir suddenly had the man almost all to himself!  The conversation deepened but the PO had to get back to work soon enough.  Still, he checked his itinerary and mentioned that he had to meet with the ship's engineer in a short while, and asked, "Isn't she your wife?"  Emkir admitted she was and that was largely the reason he was there himself.  So, Kushli suggested he had something to show Emkir and said they could perhaps spend some of the meeting talking about book collections.

Emkir knew what Kushli planned to show him thanks to his slip into the man's office but kept a look of polite interest on his face.  Emkir also played up the ancient nature of the collection and other points of note.  Emkir also played up the connection with the University of Rhylanor which brought up the fact the scans were not public, or accessible from any library except that of UoR.  And Emkir knew the man was certainly hooked.  And that was the way he left the Petty Officer for the moment, with saliva almost dripping from the man's mouth.

Later, in Kushli's office, Emkir got a better look at the book under glass in the man's office and learned it was a book recovered from a failed colony in the Gvurrdon sector.  Several centuries old, it was a chronical of the early days of the colony, who's population was a mix of Vargr and Human.  Sadly, the colony had been heavily raided by vargr corsairs and the survivors had been found by a trading ship hoping to find something special there to sell speculatively.  Lucky for them, the trader could evacuate the survivors and had gotten a number of artifacts like the book in thanks.

Not really interested in antique books, like Brian was, Emkir faked it until Kushli admitted the book wasn't really very valuable, because the content had been re-published in more modern form.  When that led to a question of his interests, PO Kushli admitted he "wanted" real books that were authentically old, but also sadly admitted that was not going to be possible even on a senior NCO's salary.  And, he admitted, that didn't even get close to books which were actually rare.  Emkir nodded in understanding as he remembered the appraised values of Brian's actual books.

That was the point where Emkir finally decided it was time to twist the hook and see if he could land himself a military grade sensor system?  Emkir first commented innocently on the late Sir Brian's collection and casually reminded Kushli that almost all the books in it were rare.  And he repeated that only his crew and the staff of the University of Rhylanor had scans of the books currently.  Fitting the nail in place, Emkir then lamented that the "actual" books might even soon be lost to the public once they were sold, in auction, into private collections.  Then Emkir chuckled on how that had inadvertently made even the scans very valuable as well as increasingly rare.

And that was when they heard the 'ping' of a snapping string as PO Kushli asked Emkir just what he might sell or even trade, nodding at his prize under glass, the scans for?  Sitting back and doing his best not to smile like a cheshire cat as Aali kept her face schooled, Emkir started the dance.  First, Emkir said his needs were more directed at the dangerous places he and his crew traveled to.  Emkir also lamented that while the Upgrade was a much more capable ship than the Hotel California had been, it was short in one area.

When Kushli asked what that was, with sincere curiosity and even an edge of surprise, Emkir told him the Hotel California had had military grade sensors, as if what he'd revealed had been a state secret.  As Kushli considered that, Emkir bemoaned the high-end, and perfectly good sensor suit on the drifting hulk they'd left behind, which now belonged to the Navy.  Neither man intruded on the naval ownership fiction, knowing the ship would never be held by the Navy.  But they could see the wheels spinning in Kushli's mind as he considered the situation.  At the same time, Emkir continued as if he didn't know he'd already scored a critical hit on his mark.

By the time Emkir "finally" admitted it would be "very helpful to have better than average sensors", Kushli confirmed Emkir meant Military grade sensors.  As Emkir nodded, Kushli grabbed his work pad to check it as if he were actually surprised a civilian yacht would not have a military kit.  Taking some time to check into his available data, Kushli finally looked up and said, "You know, we decommissioned a cruiser not too long ago.  We still have their sensor suite crated up in a warehouse and we could probably fit it into your ship."  Emkir and Aali had more than enough experience to keep them from jumping up in the moment to start the celebrations.  But, they knew the party was coming.

Nodding, Emkir first asked how many of the books the PO might want in exchange for the suite, in a tone which suggested he feared he was entering troubled waters and was uncertain if he was not about to get himself arrested?  Nodding quickly, the man smiled and started seriously considering the question as his body language made it clear no one was calling law enforcement in.  Once Emkir knew he'd found a mark he could bribe, Emkir made as if he'd suddenly come to a decision and said, "You know what?  If you can get us the suite, we can give you scans of all the books."  While the sudden shift surprised the NCO, he quickly rolled with it thanks to years of experience dealing with surprises.

After Kushli made the changes in the Upgrade's work orders, they discussed how Emkir would handle giving him the files.  Solving that quickly, Aali reminded the men she and the Petty Officer still had to discuss repairs on the Upgrade and there would be more meetings in the future.  Agreeing that was the perfect situation, Emkir said he could bring his hand computer, which he'd not brought this time, and which had all the book files.  Then, it would just need for them to make sure the meeting took long enough for Emkir to copy to the Petty Officer's computer the very large amount of data.  And, later that week, they did just that as the deal to install military sensors was closed and the couple told the crew it was party time!

Recovery Therapy In A Goldfish Bowl

     As the fourth week began, the crew were ready to party and had packed ready to enjoy themselves!  That suddenly looked like it was going to be put on hold as a Naval Lieutenant showed up at the suite early, looking for Lady Mikah.  The man was apologetic to begin with and even more so as he realized he was interrupting the crew's plans.  But he needed to explain to her what had happened with their ship.  Not sure what that was about, everyone was actually worried as the officer explained his visit.

It seemed that a group of Naval engineers had visited the Upgrade in the civilian shipyard to inspect it.  They needed to more completely inspect the ship to prepare the work lines and personnel assignments for the work they'd need to do.  Not to mention, the supplies and replacement systems.  Even more embarrassed, the officer admitted that some existing systems aboard the ship had to be wired up and powered up for "live wire" tests.  After a pause following that statement, he admitted that no one knew who'd screwed up but a mistake led to them frying the ship's entire sensor suite!

More than half the crew had to fight their own reactions to stop from leaning back and relaxing as they realized exactly what was happening.  He also told them that meant it would take longer to get the ship fixed, because they needed to replace the entire suite.  The lieutenant was quick to say they had a replacement suite in naval stores and would make sure to replace what had been destroyed.  The officer was both surprised and pleased at how well Mikah and the crew took the news. 

After finishing the meeting with the officer, they took their cutter downwell to the landing field closest to the resort.  More used to handling on-world and even mostly "in-nation" tourism, the landing field was just that, and not really used to handling spacecraft.  The landing fees there were Cr 500.  Another thing they'd had to plan for was that the laws in the country restricted firearms to personal non-military and non-concealed weapons and the resort specifically "preferred" their patrons not be armed.  Where Aali and Emkir had six shooters and holsters, and Aali's could handle tranq rounds, many of the crew did not have civilian-rated weapons.

Emkir brought his 9mm revolver and Aali brought a six-shooter Snub pistol.  Still, Mikah could bring her laser sword, and Terin and Aiden brought their physical swords.  On arrival, the crew were welcomed along with the other tourists in a festive ceremony for new arrivals and allowed to settle in before being given a basic tour of the resort and services.  One thing they did notice was that the resort also provided "intimate entertainment" as an up charge, but which was entirely legal.  So, there were several jokes about certain crew members "finally" being able to get laid.

Aiden quickly met with the people managing the scuba class and was surprised to find that all the resort's pools and swimming venues were manned by teams of human and dolphin life guards.  Aiden also spent a bit of time looking over the "gear station" supporting the dolphins, where they could swim into rings that would slip on, to be worn and give them additional capabilities.  This made them much more effective as the rings they could wear would augment them with mechanical arms, legs and all sorts of other augments.  And as the meeting and first class began, Aiden stole enough glances to realize that while dolphins had a reputation as playful, these cetaceans were very serious about their jobs and safety.

With Aiden doing that, Terin decided to take his limited skill with swimming to the and try to pick up a woman for some fun.  Sadly, while he and the others of the crew did have the novelty of being spacers and nobility, this resort more catered to the world-bounds and their morals "mostly" discouraged things like one-nighters.  While he did that, Emkir and Aali made sure to "make use of" their room's bed while also swimming, boating and enjoying the sights.  Rol sent much of his time at the beach or relaxing.  He also made time to see some shows and vids and explore for other entertainment opportunities to have fun.

There were casinos, dance clubs, sign ups for excursions off property which were up-charges.  There were live and holographic shows and events, games the tourists could play in or watch and other special events.  Adding to the comfort of the resort, the entire facility was under a dome.  That meant no one had to wear a filter mask, though there were well marked emergency stations throughout the resort.  Mikah, Zimzod, Terin, Aali and Emkir all wanted to take the submarine trips which docked at the resort and explored the nearby coastal environments and some of the local depths.  Mikah and Zimzod were disappointed with the lack of sea monsters and fights like those they'd seen on Equus, especially since there was an up-charge of Cr 200 each.

The resort had huge dress up and dress down parties every night.  Jocelynn was up for relaxation, but was also willing to try anything that was free with the 'all inclusive' nature of the place.  Fesic relaxed and scouted around the resort looking for wooded stands and the botanical sections of the property.  He also enjoyed as much as he could of the free activities, shows and such.  Like Rol and Jocelynn, Fesic really just wanted to relax but unlike the others, he very much enjoyed being outdoors as much as possible.

Everyone had a good time and some better than others, however one thing did bother them.  After the first day on the property, the crew couldn't help but feel there were people watching them.  When it came up, Mikah told the others to make it a point to see if they were watching the crew, or were staff watching every tourist in the place?  The next day, it took a while to be very clear the people they'd noticed were watching them specifically, and not the other tourists.  Not having any of it, Mikah went full bore walking directly up to the fist one of them she could identify and demanding, "What do you want?"

Having had the time to marshal his face as he saw Mikah move towards him, the man she accosted had an innocent look on his face as he said, "I have no idea what you're talking about." and turned to move away from her as if she'd interrupted his random wandering.  Mikah tried to keep at it as she demanded, "You've been watching us for the last two days.  What do you want?"  As the man tried to walk away, she heard him mutter, "I haven't been staring at anything for the last two days", stressing the word "anything".  Keeping up with the man, Mikah demanded, "Why are you here?" he answered, "I'm on vacation.  Why are you here?"

Mikah angrily snapped back, "I'm on vacation.  But, I'm not watching you all day."  When the man defensively said, "I'm not watching you all day either." Mikah answered, "Well, now we're watching you." in a move to turn the tables.  When Mikah pushed, "You and your cohorts have been watching us", he said he had no idea what she was talking about.  Mikah just gave him an evil smile after that and said, "Don't worry.  We'll just watch you back."  The man shrugged as if she'd said the air was clear and said, "OK.  Have fun", as he finally walked away from her.  At one point, before the man walked away, Zimzod managed to lock eyes with him as he pointed two of his fingers at his own eyes and then at the man.  But the guy ignored that as much as he'd ignored Mikah's anger.

The moment ended and Mikah moved on, but looked for her next chance to go after one of the observers.  When she didn't have too long to look, Mikah repeated her attack, trying to get in the man's face and demand, "Why are you watching us?"  But this man moved faster and started to get away from Mikah.  Speeding up, Mikah tried to catch him but he'd apparently been warned about her and managed to disappear into the crowd.  Seeing this, Zimzod told her to let him get around behind the next person so they could trap them before she went on the attack.  But, when they tried the tactic, the man they chose showed this was not his first rodeo either and he managed to slip away in a direction neither Zimzod nor Mikah could cover.

So, at that point, they knew their harassers were both skilled and aware their cover was gone.  The one question the crew never bothered to ask was, "If they had that skill and experience, why did they let themselves be seen in the first place?  When Zimzod suggested they keep trying the tactic a few more times, Terin asked about going to the resort's security.  That led to Terin sitting down with the resort's security and going through the video coverage of the common areas until they had enough footage to identify some of the harassers.  Especially when augmented by some pictures Terin had managed to take using the in-built camera on his hand computer.

The resort staff were concerned once it was clear this was not just a case of paranoia, and they said they'd do what they could.  But, for the short term, nothing seemed to change after that.  At the same time, Zimzod and Mikah worked to improve their "trap".  Unfortunately, those watching them now seemed ready for what was coming and managed to slip out of the noose each time the couple tried to catch one of them.  Again, this was a screaming sign this group had training and some intelligence on their actions at the least.  Talking about it after the tries failed, Emkir muttered, "They must be per-fessionals or some shit."

Figuring this was a case of tactics, Zimzod brought Rol and Jocelynn into the trapping attempts.  And it was made clear they were not "on the attack" and should only fight defensively because they didn't want to end up seen on the wrong end of the legal stick.  That, because it was again made clear they were not under Imperial law there, but under local law.  With their change in tactics set, the team went out to both have fun and keep an eye out for one of the harassers.  And it was not long before they had their prey and were ready to spring the new trap, if only the other side were not ready to change tactics too.

Mikah spotted and identified a watcher, waiting for the others to confirm they'd spotted the man before acting.  She then turned to walk straight at the man and challenged him.  He first turned away from her to leave, but quickly noticed Jocelynn was in his way.  Turning again, the man was now headed directly for Zimzod, who had plans to be very aggressive if not physically grabbing the man.  But, just as Zimzod was getting ready to confront the man, he heard someone behind him yell, "What the fuck!" and felt someone pushed into him.  Caught by surprise in a loose knot of tourists, Zimzod went down with the man who'd been pushed into him in a tangle as their target side stepped the confusion and made a clean get away.

When Zimzod tried to rise and go after the man, he became tangled in the attempts of the man pushed into him to rise too.  Especially because that man had been quite drunk and was having issues controlling his movements.  So, "he" had been well chosen as a target too.  Reviewing that, the crew agreed the other side had changed their tactics and obviously had enough people in the resort to have a "security team" protect the first string.  This not only said they were trained and professional but that they were operating in depth with available resources and background support.  And the bad news was there were many people who were drunk and enjoying their vacations who couldn't be blamed if they were used as props.

Terin's answer was to go back to resort security and turn up the heat now that vacationers were being physically attacked and someone could well get hurt.  They revealed that they'd spent the time since Terin's last complaint using their in-place survellance to try and learn anything they could about the people Terin had identified and anyone they'd been seen with.  What Terin and the others had not noticed was the changing of faces, because resort security were able to show Terin evidence they had been "encountering" these people as they identified them and "escorting them" from the resort with a 'don't come back ever' restriction.

That added new concerns now that Terin knew the bad guys had steadily been losing and replacing people for the last day!  The only new information that gave him was that they had many more resources than the crew knew, and also had enough of a background support to send new people in fully briefed on the situation.  And Terin had a promise that the resort were not only removing those involved as they were identified but had started turning them over to local outside law enforcement too.  Still, they could not tell Terin what the outside law enforcement were doing with those handed over and was told he'd have to leave the resort property to pursue that.

That sounded ominous enough that questions about the people possibly having support from their outside law enforcement organizations, or even the local government, made staying in the resort the safer option.  Especially since the resort was removing the people as quickly as they could.  And, they even gave Terin vouchers to play in the casinos which he would share with the others.  Returning to the crew, Terin said they'd have to get more pictures of the harassers and keep reporting them while Emkir smiled at the vouchers and said, "Let's go play some games of chance!"  She was sure they wouldn't be the only one's filming there, Mikah said, "Let's all go to the casino!"

After a few hours in the casino, in addition to more pictures of those watching them, Aali lost more than she had in vouchers and was down Cr 40.  Emkir didn't break even but, like Rol and Aiden, he only lost his vouchers and no extra cash.  Mikah won enough to get paid for her vouchers and Cr 10 more!  Terin won Cr 200 total and Jocelynn won Cr 50.  Fesic ended up losing Cr 10.  Of course, those who'd lost money really didn't much care as the drinks were free and they had lots of chances to "photograph the wild life".  Being the crew's designated security snitch, the others went off to their rooms while Terin went to deliver the latest crop of pictures to security.

As they were earlier, the folks in security accepted the pictures while letting Terin know they'd had their own people working the casino cameras all evening.  Terin was more pleased because he hadn't told them the crew had been in the casino.  So, that showed they were actually doing their jobs.  And, they gave Terin "boating excursion" vouchers to share out, that would certainly please Emkir and Aali.  When Terin asked about any names or identity information the resort might have found on the people, he was told they had no data they could give him.

The next day, the crew decided to see how far the harassers would go to watch them so they all went boating.  And most of them went on their own boats, scattering a good bit to force anyone trying to follow them to split up too.  Beyond that, Emkir was the only one who hoped spotting one of them might lead to a high speed boat race where he could count on his maritime skills.  While the others had related skills, they were still uneducated enough that they had to keep speeds down to not be thrown or lose the boat.

In the end, Emkir had a great day driving around with Aali wrapped around him as he found each of the others and drove circles around them, forcing them to deal with his wake-waves while trying not to capsize or worse.  And, eventually, everyone except Emkir and Aali got dunked in the water and had to paddle over in their life vests to recover their boat.  Still, everyone ended up having fun and it seemed their tails did not want to get wet after all.  Still, the crew were notable for their lack of seamanship as almost every local who rented a boat seemed to be able to drive circles around them all except Emkir.  Still, they also gave the crew a wide berth because they didn't want the incompetent spacers crashing into them.

The "bad news" came at the end of the day when the albinoid-skinned Aiden had to go to the resort's medical unit looking like a lobster from spending the day out in the sun and becoming significantly sun burned.  Being used to spending days on the ocean, Emkir and Terin managed to use their sunscreen well enough to avoid any burns and Emkir kept Aali covered and safe.  Something she didn't mind until her bikini top started "falling off" in public places...too.  Fesic and Jocelynn also got a bit burned, and went to be treated with Aiden.  Mikah knew to keep herself and Zimzod covered up and Rol kept himself from getting burned too. 

Recovering And Writing

     The next morning, Aiden, Jocelynn and Fesic felt like staying in and treating their burns while they relaxed.  Lucky for them, modern medicine worked to save and rehydrate what could be saved and to encourage accelerated promotion of lower but newly exposed layers of skin.  Not only did that completely suppress blisters but it suppressed pain too.  Still, it did tighten up the skin so Aiden especially preferred to not move around.  And while modern medicine helped a lot, it didn't stop Zimzod from enjoying coming up behind Aiden and slapping him on the back as they came to breakfast.

After eating, those who were up for it went out to have fun.  As he crossed the resort's central plaza, Terin was met by a member of the concierge team who handed him a data tablet.  Terin was told those were images of the people who had been removed from the property since the last time he'd delivered pictures to their security.  Terin had to admit they were doing their jobs to keep the crew comfortable.  As Terin looked through the faces, he recognized one man he'd encountered the day before while he wasn't on a boat.

As they discussed the situation, the representative admitted people were paying his group a lot of attention but it could just be that they are nobility and spacers.  When Terin said that wasn't the case, she suggested they might be dealing with bit of paranoia.  Terin denied that, saying, "No.  We have people after us." which certainly convinced her she might be more correct.  After that, Terin went about his day and the crew managed to have more fun until the following Sunday morning, when their week at the resort ended.

During and after the ride to the "spaceport", the group admitted they'd all had a good time despite the odd conspiracy.  As they talked, Terin asked Aiden, "How was your vacation lobster-boy?" and got laughs.  Aiden just shot the navigator a glare which made Emkir laugh all the more harder.  As he laughed, Mikah turned and broke out in laughter as she also saw Aiden's glare.  For his part, Aiden wished his new stateroom wasn't right next to Terin's so he could have a slight piloting accident and wreck Terin's stateroom to get even.

Returning after the end of the fourth week, Terin asked Aali if they were ready to move the ship to the navy yard yet and she said she wasn't sure, but thought it wasn't yet time for that.  But, as they returned to the highport and checked in, Mikah found she had xmail!  So did Zimzod and Fesic.  When the three investigated their x-mail, they each found their items were notifications of payment or loss for the bets they'd made in the Lanth system.  At the time, having been summoned to the Regina system, Mikah had bet Rol would not be accused as a war criminal.  Zimzod had bet Rol would be and Fesic locked in the odds on his bet Rol wouldn't be charged.

Mikah was right and her bet paid three to one odds!  So, her bet paid out Cr 4,500.  Zimzod had bet Rol would be charged and so he'd lost his Cr 1,500 bet and Fesic bet Rol would not be accused but he'd also paid a rider to lock in the odds at one to one so he only got a payout of Cr 1,500.  Mikah and Fesic were given codes they could enter at any modern bank and get their payoffs.  And, being on a starport, there were a large number of such banks available to get their cash at.

While they wandered the port, Zimzod wondered if he could x-mail his parents?  While the answer was obviously 'Yes', the question was what he wanted to send and how much it would cost?  It would also take about four months for any letter to arrive from Inthe.  He said he wanted to send pictures and a written message, Zimzod was asked how many pictures and how large a message?  Thinking about it, Zimzod said he'd create a video to send his parents and asked Mikah if she wanted to be in the video with him?  Looking at Zimzod, she asked, "What exactly are we gonna do?" in a doubtful tone.  Hearing that, Emkir laughed and suggested they were considering making a pornographic video.

Zimzod said he just wanted to let his parents know he was still alive, which was a good idea since the news was still spreading that they'd been lost.  And that wave could shock his parents and people who knew him until the wave of news that they'd survived reached people.  He also wanted to "introduce" Mikah as his Fiancé: and even tell them he was a Knight, though Mikah said they'd likely heard that already in the news.  Before he and Mikah made the video, Zimzod decided he should be in his Chivalric uniform and be wearing all his decorations too.

After hitting the suite to get changed, Zimzod said he wanted to send a ten-minute video to his folks.  Zimzod said they should give a bit of a blurb about recent events with what they felt they could say, and ask them how they're doing?  Zimzod was told it would cost him Cr 250 to send the video and he also had Cr 1,000 more attached to the video so they could respond and spend however they wanted.  When the others talked about taking a crew picture, Zimzod and Mikah got in on that and Zimzod added a copy of that in his xmail.

Aali also decided it would be a good idea to send a message to her parents in Regina, since they would have been essentially in ground zero once the Hotel California had been declared missing and likely lost.  She only wanted to send a written message explaining the bones of events during the misjump, the loss of the California and basic notes on the new ship.  She also added a crew picture, so the message cost her Cr 20, since it was no frills.  At the same time, she was sure Emkir didn't want to write his parents because they could learn about the events in the news given their attitudes toward their son.

Emkir did joke about sending a picture of Aali in her silver lamé lingerie and they both laughed.  After making more jokes about it and also sharing the joke with the others, Emkir finally decided they should take a picture and turned it into a meme.  He'd pose in his loudest beach shirt and shorts, and Aali would be in her silver lamé: with the message saying, "Having a great time serving the Empire.  Hope you're OK."  Having met Emkir's father, Fesic was surprised it didn't say, "Glad you're not here."  Once they took the picture and sent it with a very basic write up and a crew picture, that cost Cr 32.

Mikah also decided it would be good to write her family, and wanted to send two pictures and another two pages of text.  That added up to four billable pages traveling over seventeen jumps.  As they talked about it, Terin suggested they take and send crew pictures, and Mikah added one of those into the packet for five total pages.  In the letter, she talked about the misjump and hoped the news was not a bad shock.  She also commented on being elevated to a Lady of the Deneb Domain, though it might have reached them in the news already.  That would cost her Cr 85.

Jocelynn did pose in the crew picture and got a holographic file to save with the images of her step-dad but had no surviving family to write.  Terin decided to send his family a picture of himself along with the crew shot and a letter.  That cost Cr 40 to send.  Rol sent a letter and crew picture to his family and paid the Cr 30.  Aiden wrote a letter explaining his younger appearance and sent it, hoping his parents would be happier he had been cloned and was alive than worried he'd been killed.  That cost him Cr 20.  Fesic wrote a three-page x-mail and included with that the crew picture and a picture of himself to his folks for Cr 65.

While everyone was sending x-mail all over the sector, Zimzod asked why they didn't x-mail Zach's ashes back to his family?  When he was told it would be a lot more expensive than the letters and pictures they'd been sending, Zimzod pointed out it would cost less than travelling all the way down to his homeworld on the other side of the sector.  The others agreed he had a point there and Emkir suggested they could all chip in.  Despite his generosity, some of the crew could not chip in and a third of the crew had never met the man.  Still, Zimzod checked and was told it would cost Cr 7,000!

Still, it was a lot easier and cheaper than flying the ship from port to port out to Zach's homeworld in the Five Sisters Subsector.  So Mikah, Zimzod, Aiden, Emkir, Aali and Rol divided up the cost and Mikah wrote a letter to Zach's family.  The letter also explained that they had planned to personally deliver Zach's ashes but they'd misjumped and found themselves without a ship of their own.  They each chipped in paying Cr 1,166 and Zimzod added the extra Cr 4.  On Friday, 242-1113, when the returned to the suite, they found a number of messages that people from the shipyard were waiting on them.

It seemed both that things had gone faster than they'd thought and that there were more items the navy would have to handle than they'd thought at first.  It turned out the agreement to install the military grade sensor suite was even partly to blame.  As they remembered in Equus, much of the hull had to be opened and a lot of cabling needed to be ripped out and replaced.  For this work, the nose of the ship would also have to be opened to do a grand replacement of avionics and sensor suite electronics using the fastest method possible.  The work also pushed the repairs a few more days longer but everyone agreed it was reasonable.  Especially because they already knew why this had changed.

The naval team told Mikah the investigation, promised by the Lieutenant, into how their original sensors had been fried ended with inconclusive results.  A lead theorie suggested there'd been hidden damage from the misjump, which no one knew about.  Emkir joked, "I told my wife not to put a hairpin in that circuit" and got a cuff from Aali for his efforts.  And that got more laughs than Emkir's joke did.  Zimzod added, "We did have a few power failures while we were in jump."  Sweeping that away with a gesture, the Navy's chief engineer on the project said, "The ship misjumped.  There may be all sorts of ghosts which we'll be finding out about during the job."

Aali just nodded knowingly and, she hoped, sympathetically.  Still, they sat down and went over the replacement drive testing reports and everyone got to appreciate just what could be done in a Starport with all the neat and high-powered toys a shipyard could bring to the party.  Aali and some of the others only wished they'd had some of those toys when they'd been lost in interstellar space.  When Zimzod asked how often they could get those tests run, he was told they were usually only run during a ship's annual overhaul, and do it more often could become very expensive.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     As the Crew's fifth week in-system started, the ship had been shifted to the naval yard for work and the crew were settling in for the last weeks in local space.  They had a suite rented on the highport and had little required of them for the next sixteen days.

Read the Tale of the Coronal Flare or
See the next History page: Things Put Together And Taken Apart