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Repairs And Repercussions

Naval Shipyard     At the beginning of their fifth week in-system, the crew were told the Upgrade was to be moved to the naval shipyard earlier than expected because the civilian shipyard found more significant damage to the ship's higher tech systems.  And that was on top of having to replace the ship's fried sensor systems.  The Navy was replacing those with a sensor suite which had been salvaged from a decommissioned destroyer.  Navy engineers guessed the ship would be ready for her post-repairs flight tests in sixteen days.

Even after the week spent at the resort, the extra time would help those who still needed to buy supplies.  Despite her loan from Zimzod, Jocelynn knew she had to replace the vacc suit she'd lost in the wreck of the Regina's Storm.  Especially since they would have to smuggle her battledress from port to port until they could find a way to legitimize it.  And, they were not finding any inexpensive repair parts for the damaged cargo sealing unit in the local port because those devices needed to be imported to the Inthe system.

As the week began, Aali had to decide what to do in addition to her stent work and exercise.  Considering what she could do, with the shipyard working on the Upgrade, Aali remembered she'd not gotten to repair their androids.  She'd bought all the parts she could on Regina, and had planned to do the repairs in the jump to Wypoc.  But the misjump scrapped her plans and she never got back to the work.  With two more weeks before the ship would be ready, Aali couldn't get the rest of the parts she'd need in the Inthe system, but she could spend the coming week doing the repairs she'd planned.

So, Aali decided to make the transit to the naval yard and work on the 'droids.  After that decision, Aali sent a request to the Navy for permission to return to the yard and work on the 'droids there.  She was asked how she would do the repairs, since she'd said their engineers could use their 'droids working on the ship?  Aali said she'd work on one of the androids at a time, while the others continued supporting the repairs.  When she told Emkir that, he decided to join her and spend the week working with those cleaning out the computer and restoring its operating system.

Once on the Navy yard station, Aali and Emkir were assigned quarters and settled in.  While they had access to parts of the station's recreation spaces, they were reminded access to the rest of the station was limited.  This news came with an app that could direct them to locations they were allowed to be in and a pair of bracelets which alerted them if they entered an area they weren't cleared for.  They were also both pleased their access let them get to the stations base exchange and other sales venues.  Aali was even more happy when the technical manager for that sector of the base told her he could lend her some robotics technicians to help her with her work.

On top of the work they planned to do, Emkir asked for a space where he could continue his zero-g training with his smart suit.  The base operations staff had no problems with that if Emkir didn't mind sharing the space with Imperial Marines on-station?  Hearing that, Emkir suggested he could use a sparring partner, which confused everyone else because he'd said he was learning zero-g maneuverability.  But Emkir said he took it as a challenge to also learn some personal combat work too, and they allowed him to ask the Marines if they were game?

The gunny leading the marine workout area was more than pleased to let the retired Admiral try his hand, but warned Emkir the boys wouldn't be gentle.  Emkir waved that away if they'd also help him with his zero-g work, and the gunny agreed.  When he was introduced to "the boys", all they saw was an older former Scout college boy who they were sure must be having a mid-life crisis.  The only thing that bothered them was, they didn't want to accidentally make it an "end of life crisis" instead.

The marines jumped right into it and Emkir suddenly found himself desperately trying to keep himself from getting slammed.  While he didn't know it, they were taking it easy on him despite the alarming number of bruises he was steadily developing.  Still, easy or not, Emkir was at his wit's ends trying to control himself and block attack after attack, even with the systems of the teaching suit.  Then, the suit started going into alarm states!  Seeing that, Emkir tried to get out of the training space but was stopped when the suit locked up and the marines had to hit the emergency release to keep him from suffocating.

Things slowed down as a number of the jarheads gathered around the officer to make sure they hadn't accidentally broken him.  Still, they gave Emkir some pain tabs and topical treatments for the bruises they could see forming on his arms and legs.  And despite the pain he was feeling at the moment, Emkir recognized the bruises for the short-term annoyances they were.  That, and he had a higher calling.  So, while they made sure he was OK and called a medic just in case, Emkir started talking up a poker game with his newly bonded "workout buddies".

Leery of taking the man's money after beating him up, they refused only until Emkir made it clear he'd be back to play again in two days after a game that afternoon.  Seeing he wasn't giving up, they accepted a "pre-training" card game in two days.  Emkir counted that as a victory as planned to count their cash when he had a chance to get even for the pounding.  This despite the knowledge of how Aali would react to his bruised return and the care and healing she'd have to help him get when she saw him next.  And that meant he risked her giving him even more bruises!  An entirely male effort she couldn't understand because his ego's need to ride the winning poker trend seemed to be the only thing which made the pounding worth anything to Emkir.

If nothing else, Emkir finished the week with a firm understanding that he was completely clueless in a disorganized melee.  He tended to fall into the trap of becoming encapsulated in his personal situation and loosing situational awareness.  Still, by the end of the week, Emkir finished out the poker games up Cr 6,000 because the Marines brought wads of cash to "ambush him" with.  And while the marines had increasingly taken out their frustrations on his increasingly bruised and battered (but not broken because that would violate regs) body.  All that while Aali enjoyed the morphing "artwork" of bruises on his body.  And, at the end of the week, Emkir bought two Cr 50 bottles of whiskey.  One to share and one to bring back to the suite.

When Aali did finally ask him, mid-week, in a dry and unimpressed tone, how much he'd won so far, Emkir joked, "Shut up and blow me, Bitch."  The tone he used, the glow in his eyes and the taunting smile on his face were likely all that saved him from sleeping on the corridor deck outside their navy-assigned quarters that night.  Still, joke or no, Aali took that opportunity to teach Emkir a lesson by applying a form of "acupressure" to the sites of some of his more prominent bruises.  And Emkir wasn't shy about loudly crying out in pain as she did.  Looking down on her incapacitated husband after "poking him" down onto the bed, Aali said, "Consider yourself blown."

Fesic's Bad Day out

     In the suite on the civilian port, Fesic made sure to do physical exercise daily and sat down to consider his needs with sixteen days left in port.  One thing that bothered Fesic was that he'd lost his college coursework, which was too large to download from the California's computer.  While he had the proof of purchase data, he couldn't find an outlet in the system.  After spending parts of the week searching, Fesic saw he'd have to wait until they were in a system with a campus of the college to re-download the class again.

Still, he had his lock picking class and decided he'd devote more time to that.  Especially since he'd been so limited in the locks he'd been able to practice on in the past.  Fesic considered what he could do to make attempts on many of the hotel's locks outside their suite and spent much less time considering how to go about it.  Fesic brilliant plan about how to go about doing that was that no one would pay attention to a hired locksmith.  And the hotel had to have issues where they would be needed.  So, he put on his workman's coveralls, grabbed his kit and went out to expand his skills without thinking over the flaws in his plan.

Specifically, Fesic didn't consider that the hotel might have one or more locksmiths on staff.  And, like the rest of their staff, those locksmiths would wear the hotel's defined uniforms, to fade into the background of their other workers.  That way, no guests would notice if something were happening.  And it also meant Fesic stuck out like a sore thumb in his coveralls.  Despite that, Fesic was able to wander around for the first few hours and try his skills at lock after lock, going for the hotel's service closets and storage spaces.  On balance, Fesic was able to open a lock or two but many more defeated his attempts.

At the same time, Fesic's outfit made him stand out because he was neither dressed as hotel staff or as a guest or tourist.  And, he was noticeably paying attention to the doors to 'staff only' sections of the floors he was on.  It wasn't long before he'd heard a solicitous voice ask, "Can we help you?" while he worked on one of the floor's storage closets.  Turning from what he was doing, Fesic saw he was being watched by two members of the hotel's security staff, and they stood comfortably, watching him while obviously appearing to be firmly in control.

As Fesic realized they were there, watching him consulting his electronic class with lockpick tools in hand and, at moments, in use, he just shrugged and said, "Oh well.  Busted." with a whisper of embarrassment in the half smile on his face.  Fesic's reaction certainly showed he hadn't realized just how serious a situation he could be in, having been caught in the act of attempting to burglarize the hotel's spaces while in the jurisdiction of local laws.  Especially given how very little he'd considered his actions beforehand.

Nodding at the comment, the man who had not asked if they could help asked Fesic if he'd like to elaborate on his words?  Knowing he was truly caught, Fesic help up his lockpicking rig and said, "Well, I was just practicing with this." in a defeated tone.  Fesic handed the device over as one of the men held out his hand expectedly and asked, "Can we see this?"  After handing that over, they had Fesic hand over everything he had and had him empty his pockets.  Fesic was even more surprised to find himself dropping each item directly into a collection of evidence bags the men seemed to have arrived prepared with.

Once they had his gear, the men patted Fesic down to make sure they'd gotten it all before quietly escorting him to the hotel's security office.  The office was low down in the bottom levels of the hotel and once they had Fesic settled there, they asked, "Perhaps you can give us a better idea of what you were doing?"  Being completely up front, Fesic plainly told them that he was trying to practice with his tools and make certain he'd been using them correctly.  During the explanation, Fesic certainly gave them no sign he knew that simply owning such tools was breaking the laws enforced on the station.

As well as having worn his work coveralls, Fesic's gear had been spread out on a desktop just outside his reach.  His Ident, flashlight, pocket tool kit, comms, lockpick set and the hand computer which they'd seen him consulting as he'd worked with the picks.  Obviously checking some software which might have been helping his criminal activities.  While talking with Fesic, they reminded the gunner the station was not under Imperial jurisdiction.  They then reminded Fesic that local governments and stations had laws of their own, which often differed from Imperial laws.  There was some suggestion they may have thought that Fesic had, perhaps, been relying on his title to rescue him from Imperial law...

They did admit they understood his "misplaced enthusiasm" when it came to practicing to be a burglar, but pointed out that behavior wasn't the legal ideal striven for in the Inthe system.  The lead officer then acquainted Fesic with the specific legal codes covering lock pick and other criminal equipment, documentation and paraphernalia, which they said included the software Fesic had on his hand computer.  After having gone through his gear, they told Fesic the pick set was being turned over to the local authorities for "disposal.

The news for Fesic was both good and bad where it came to his hand computer.  These officers lived and worked on the space station, and understood how the compact device worked.  That meant they didn't simply confiscate the computer too.  Still, they did call in a software specialist and stood over Fesic supervising as he was forced to completely delete every scrap of data, video or audio related to the class or lock picking at all.  A specialist who caught Fesic when he tried to fake removing the software.  Fesic was also lucky the system was not advanced enough technologically that they could have forcibly installed software which would have inhibited access to any subject considered illegal in the Inthe system.

Fesic's pocket tool kit was found to be usable to support the types of illegal actions which also required a lock pick set.  That meant the pocket tool kit was also taken away for "disposal".  Following that, they returned to Fesic his Ident and flashlight and said there appeared to have been no real harm done.  That was "almost" a snide commentary on Fesic's lack of skill in both lockpicking and being smart about his illicit activities.  Wrapping things up, they said they would return him to his suite and companions so long as he promised to restrict his activities to those legal and socially accepted while he remained on station.

On the walk back to the suite, the officers did remind Fesic that he could easily have been prosecuted legally for his actions and jailed.  And even if the hotel declined to press charges, they could remove him from the hotel and hand him over to station security.  Fesic wasn't sure where that might lead because the Upgrade wasn't yet repaired and he couldn't move onto the ship any time soon.  So Fesic didn't like the idea of spending his remaining weeks on-station living in a security holding cell and he certainly didn't want to be the crew's next Munarshu.

Fesic's Humiliation

     The two security officers were just stepping up to the suite door with Fesic when it opened and Jocelynn began to step out into the hallway.  Despite the fact the officers were not wearing a "uniform", the suits they wore said it all.  Not only of a conservative and locally professional cut, the suit fabric matched that of the uniforms of all the hotel workers.  On top of that, Jocelynn had seen enough people "being escorted" by some kind of security including herself and her marines to have mistaken what was happening here for anything else.

Looking them all up and down, Jocelynn nodded and said, "Gentlemen" as she very quickly tried to move on and not be caught up in whatever was happening.  Fesic gave her a brief smile and said, "Oh, hay Jocelynn" as he also waved.  Jocelynn, who realized their approach to the suite's door blocked her movement, weakly answered, "Oh, hi." in an uncertain voice which also made it clear she was suppressing a nervous laugh.  Continuing, after she was sure she could in a straight voice, Jocelynn asked, "Who are your new friends?" in a tone which failed to mask her 'read' of the situation.  Waving his hand dismissively at the officers, Fesic said, "Oh, they're just escorting me back to the suite." as if that was a normal thing to be expected.

Nodding, but with a knowing smile, Jocelynn said, "That was very nice of them.  Were you lost?"  Fesic shook his head as he said, "Nope.  Just getting in trouble." in a conversational tone that suggested he was completely comfortable with the situation.  Nodding in acceptance, Jocelynn said, "Oh good." in a 'not-my-problem' tone and then said, "Carry on" as she slipped between the men and left on her own.  Nodding towards the door as Jocelynn left, the two men waited until Fesic entered the suite before returning to their work.

At last on his own again, Fesic sat and thought about what to do with the coming time between then and getting the ship back?  He accepted that he couldn't continue any of the self-training he'd been concerned with except his physical workouts.  Soon, he checked on the station's computer network and found there were a good-sized number of arboretum and agro-compartments which were used as parks while also supporting the station's life support systems.  Figuring any wooded or natural-appearing spaces were better than living wrapped in tin, Fesic chose to spend a good amount of time in those spaces.

Fesic also spent some time over the following week looking for any deals he could find on replacement or repair parts for the ship's cargo sealer.  Especially now they needed the system working so they could smuggle Jocelynn's battledress and weapons.  What he found, thanks to import costs and tech up-pricing was an older unit advertised for MCr 1.5!  On the site the sellers had listed it, Fesic saw it would "do the job", but had less features than the unit Ms. Vik had gotten them.  Fesic was not impressed, but the final say was Mikah's so he brought it up to her with the rest of his results for the week's searching.  Mikah also brought Emkir in, as their computer tech, and he suggested they could always wait for a system with lower prices because of a better base tech-level. 

Rol's Relaxing Week

     After awaking up, Rol checked the station-web to find any TAS presence on-station.  With that, Rol contacted the concierge to ask about upgrading his brain scan.  The concierge was apologetic when he said there wasn't such an organization in-system.  Done with that, the concierge was able to shift Rol's call to a financial advisor.  When he was connected with that person, Rol asked about his investment in New Stars, LLC?  Rol had bought a 10% share of the offering at Cr 99,940 and was told it had grown in value to over KCr 105!

Still, Rol was told the stock had actually crashed to just under forty percent of its IPO value.  That had been when the Imperial courts had announced it would rule on the status of the Cursed Bastards of Sol as Solomani spies.  On the positive side, not only had the stock recovered and grown in value, but the crew and company had been cleared of all suspicion.  That meant the company's first ship, the Far Trader Cursed Bastards of Sol could once more use its jump drives and the company could start expanding to serve interstellar markets.  Sadly, the company had sold off the jump systems from the larger freighter they'd bought in addition to the far trader, and converted it into an in-system hauler.

The silver lining there was that the funds made from that had paid off almost all of the company's debts.   Still, the data packet delivered with the news showed the stock had taken quite some time to recover, which suggested there were other forces in place that weighed on the company's profits.  Those were not touched on in the data Rol was provided and meant he'd have to investigate further when he had the chance.  He certainly would not learn much from what news had been delivered to the Inthe system.

After that check, Rol decided he'd spend his week working on his stent, doing more physical exercise and exploring the station and its bars.  Before he asked the others about bars, Rol did some research on what he could learn about the station's dark and murky entertainment venues.  Aside from standards like 'The Drive Core', there was one bar that was notable.  And that, for all the wrong reasons.  Named 'Swisher Unlimited', it was well known as a hole serving drinks often described as a mixture of raw alcohol and sewage, just like its customers.  But it was also whispered loud enough to have found its way onto the web-net rumors that one could find a great many things there one shouldn't look for.

Even more, this bar was located in one of the stations docking modules rather than in the port proper.  Any 'residents' in this sort of neighborhood would be heavily blue collar, and working ship support, cargo management, station support, docking or station maintenance or any of a myriad of other jobs seen as 'lower class'.  Reading about the unsavory, shadowy and generally risky environment of that docking module, Rol considered going there once, just for the experience.

Setting a time limit of two hours, to see what he might overhear in the brief visit, Rol figured he could see how long he could nurse a few drinks?  After the nearly hour-long trip on public trams and other station-provided people movers, Rol grabbed a glass of something he hoped had been bottled as it had been delivered and settled into a booth in the 'not entirely private' section.  On his way to his seat, Rol couldn't miss the fact that enough of those already seated knew he "didn't belong".  Trying to be casual, Rol did his best to 'watch back' those obviously watching him.

Still, the lighting of the place acted to both his benefit and annoyance.  The place seemed well designed so the brief spit of light mounted near each table faded quickly into darkness despite the brighter lights around the bar, entrance and exits.  Especially the emergency exits, not to mention the restroom doors.  While that shade hid him from enough of the watchers, it also kept him from better gauging the reaction his continued presence might provoke in some of the regulars.  And it also forced him to rely more on his infra-red visual enhancements and his 'not-at-all enhanced' hearing to get a better feel of the place.

Add some defensive or white-noise generating tech and this place was the perfect stop for any spy not wanting to risk the more well-lit or patrolled and observed sections of the station.  Especially if you were picking up a cargo someone had in their bay but didn't want to move it through customs to get it to your own ship...docked in the same module...  Added to that, Rol had noticed one booth towards the rear of the place more by sound than sight at first.  It was that which had forced him to switch to IR-view just to confirm the booth was there.  From the sounds he heard, Rol was certain there was some kind of less than legal gambling going on there too.

Given what Rol knew about concession licensing, that game, and any others, alone would be enough to turn the bar into an empty space where one could possibly scavenge for bits dropped as security emptied it out completely.  That meant there was a reason the bar still existed which included someone with enough power to both treat with the casino concession owners, one "Makhidkarun"( Ma-Kee-Hic-De-Car-ah-Run ) Entertainments, and keep station central off their deck plates.  Possibly even one of the casino managers, as Makhidkarun was a chain, or station admins.  And That possible item might even be enough of a rumor to also keep away most of the "non-approved" criminals.

Staying there several hours to "get the vibe of the place", Rol was soon certain that if he wanted to meet anyone dirty, slimy or underhanded, this place would be the first one to spend time.  The only questions was how many days or even week's he'd have to spend lurking there before someone decided to take a risk that he wasn't the law, since he certainly didn't look like he could be trusted.  Of course, if he could get anyone there to trust him, the information market likely started in those booths and ended in places no one could likely limit if they got the right contact.  Still, Rol filed that away in case they passed through the port again and wandered off to the Core Dump.  He eventually spent Cr 45 that evening.

Through the rest of the week, Rol, Zimzod, Terin and Aiden worked on their stents without Aali, who'd been their impromptu leader.  Despite that, they'd all made dramatic progress including Aiden, while the pilot was still working on accessing and reading his flight boards through his stent, the others were able to "read" the data from their systems with some work.  That let them to act a bit faster than not and even kept Zimzod's gunnery scores in simulation closer to Fesic's despite the gunner's better training.  They were also getting much better at using their commdots to access their combat gear.

A tactic which the entire team were working on was using their commdot links to their sights, to see around corners when they reach the weapon around corners.  They continued to lag behind Aali in her skills, and with commdots connected to her comms, she'd be able to connect to all the engineering systems and get status updates when the Upgrade was handed back to them.  And, her skills would let her do her job anywhere on the ship unless the work required 'hands on'.  Spending some time thinking, Rol considered his commdots and what he wanted to set up with them, and made sure he didn't need more supplies for armor work.  Rol also made sure he was available to help the others with their weapons if they needed it.

Relaxation For The Rest Of The Crew

     Mikah planned to look into volunteer work with the local hospitals and started off on that by looking into what facilities were there?  She found that the main provider of medical services on-station were the station medical offices and clinics themselves.  She could also see they represented the best available service people could expect on the orbital plane.  Still, like all station services, Mikah found they were expensive.  Especially for civilians and even in emergency situations.  Mikah wondered briefly if that meant she could hang out her own shingle and charge for her work, but found the station's certification process was both long and annoying.

Mikah also saw information on a civilian and commercial facility, run by the Flesner LIC, which seemed to be a "less than preferred" answer to one's medical needs.  Still, when someone had a need and could not afford the station's services...  When she mentioned it to Zimzod, he suggested she might actually save some lives just by being qualified if she volunteered there.  But Mikah said she wasn't ready to volunteer in a pit where she might be faced with not being able to offer some process the hospital couldn't support.  If the local tech could provide it, she'd rather be able to do what was needed despite the gouging that would take place.

Zimzod also reminded Mikah there were people in-system who wanted them dead.  So, working with the station's under-privileged might also bring her into contact with criminals looking for covert care.  And that might bring them close enough to try for a "target of opportunity" and a big payday.  Mikah knew he had a point because the Navy had announced she and her crew were in system in their news release.  Not that it was the Navy's fault, but their enemies knew roughly where they were.  Even more disturbing, they still had nothing on what had been behind the many well trained and funded agents observing the crew during their stay on-world the week before?

At the same time, Zimzod spent some time evaluating his weapons and considering what he wanted to do with his commdots?  Zimzod had electronic sights and a laser designator on his gauss rifle and laser sights on his submachinegun.  Beyond that, he didn't have any targeting aides on any other of his weapons, so he considered shopping.  Zimzod also realized he'd bought a kit to integrate the gauss rifle with his battledress HUD, but never had it installed.  Deciding that was something he could act on right away, Zimzod went looking for Rol.

Finding the armorer relaxing in the suite's living room watching vids before he'd left for a bar on the first day of the week, Zimzod asked Rol to hook up the kit.  Rol looked over the kit and reminded Zimzod he'd need access to both the gauss rifle and Zimzod's battledress.  Zimzod didn't have a problem with that.  Rol also made a play for Zimzod to add to the "Rol Kaihvos Legal Assistance Fund", and Zimzod said he'd make Rol a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, stepping into the suite's kitchen to start on that right away.  The joke eventually fell flat, especially when it became clear Zimzod left the small mess in the kitchen for Rol to clean up.

When Rol jokingly complained in a disbelieving voice, "Seriously?  You used the blender?" Zimzod answered, "It was chunky peanut butter and I know you like it creamy so..." in a tone that suggested an innuendo.  In addition to working on his gear and Mikah working on hers, Zimzod worked on his stent with the others.  On top of those activities, the couple looked into plays, concerts and any other entertainment opportunities on-station.  Still, before 'going out on the town', Mikah made sure to have Terin deliver the images they'd captured from the resort to station security and explain what happened downwell to make them aware an issue may come up.  Station security sat with Terin and eventually promised to connect with the hotel security to get all the data needed.

Still, Terin didn't know that the resort had connected with the police force in New Port Dunslade, because the crew had been off-worlders and that was where the starport was.  That meant that Chief Wyss had been read in on what was happening and lent the reaction some serious legitimacy.  Because of that, the port police were taking it seriously before Terin showed up.  Still, the officer taking Terin's report was burning time before his lunch break and letting the Knight talk made for easy work.  Once Terin was done, the man did make sure Terin knew the port were taking the situation seriously and were concerned about the crew's safety.

Mikah was satisfied when Terin reported back one what he'd learned from station security.  While Mikah volunteered with the Station medical services, Zimzod volunteered with their medical rescue services to keep up his paramedical skills.  Because they were volunteers, both had a choice of shifts to work and chose daytime shifts rather than 'going out of their way' with their support.  On top of that, they also caught up on their sleep over the week after getting back from the resort and devoted Cr 500 each to plays, concerts and other entertainment.

During one of the medical ride alongs, Zimzod had taken the place of someone who'd called out that day.  The ride started out normal enough, but their unit received a code call Zimzod hadn't heard of before.  Zimzod was even more surprised by the speed the crew's lieutenant showed in grabbing the radio mike to ID their unit call numbers and say they'd be responding.  After that, the man started hitting keys on the rescue unit's computer and activating options Zimzod had not seen over the days before.  Zimzod later learned those options activated the station's positive controls to sideline all traffic and clear the path for them as they rocketed to the site of the emergency.

When they arrived on-site, the location looked like one of those shops which had been born a "drugs and sundries" shop but had tried and failed to grow into a department store.  Zimzod could see all sorts of emergency and law enforcement response vehicles and personnel in the area of the shop, Cogley, Inc.  The situation turned out to have been a failed armed robbery that turned into a shootout.  And it left a number of victims on both sides to be processed and treated.  Getting to work on victims and crooks alike, Zimzod's vehicle eventually delivered two dead slabs of stupidity which had been shooters to the hospital where Mikah was volunteering.  And that was Zimzod's excitement for the week.

Mikah also found herself in a core of high-tech medical personnel who'd mostly been trained in the military.  For whatever reasons, they had been stationed or ended up on Inthe and decided they liked it.  Those there liked it so much, they settled there.  Still, Mikah was recognized as having skills and tech training that was very much in demand locally.  So, she was treated well for the time she spent volunteering.  When Zimzod arrived moving a few bodies, Mikah joked, "What'd ya do?"  Feigning an innocence Zimzod had not known since kindergarten, Zimzod told her he'd only been a bystander in that situation.

After that call, as they cleaned out the rescue van, Zimzod happened on a data crystal which must have fallen from one of the crook's pockets.  Looking at it more closely, Zimzod saw that it must have been in someone's pocket for some time because that person seemed to have leaned against it while it was there.  That pressure seemed to have cracked the crystal.  Realizing just how little he knew about dealing with cracked data crystals, Zimzod decided to secure it more safely than the crook had and save it until he could show it to Emkir.  And, Emkir and Aali were on the naval station for the week dealing with the repairs on the Upgrade.

Terin and Aiden's Not So Exciting Week

     When not dealing with security, Terin spent time digging into the on-station networks forums on herbal and related chatter.  He also took part in the stent practices with others.  Making sure to work out at a gym through the week, Terin also budgeted Cr 100 for "entertainment" over the week, not including bar visits.  Terin also kept up with the other members of the crew and relaxed.  The navigator also spent part of his week looking for a mesh-reinforced duster despite the very moderate protection and issues it would cause to his movement.  Finding a distressed brown leather colored duster similar to his old one, Terin bought it for Cr 550.  While Terin did his thing, Aiden had planned to spend Cr 100 on entertainment but mostly spent his time reading when not working on his stent-work with the others and keeping up on PT.  Aiden also continued his SCUBA classes.

Jocelynn's Shopping Trip

     First, Jocelynn looked for a chance to sit with Zimzod and told him how grateful she was for his help getting the battledress recharge station.  Jocelynn gave Zimzod her most sincere promise to pay him back for the money he'd laid out to buy it.  With a smirk on his face, Zimzod asked if she was sucking up to him, but his tone told her he was joking.  Still, Jocelynn felt the need to say "no" and assure him she was grateful and would pay him back.  What she missed was that each time she stood with the crew in heavy combat, that would be more than a payback.

After repeating her promise more than once, Zimzod had to wonder why Jocelynn was so emphatic about her promise?  Still, she explained that she would likely have other needs and need to shop for them before she paid him back.  So, she worried he might get annoyed if he saw her spending money on other things before making an effort to pay him.  When Zimzod misunderstood and asked if she needed more money, Jocelynn made sure he knew she'd be spending her own money, but it would take her time to pay him back.  Still, she'd need other things before then, and didn't want him wondering if he'd get paid back.

One of the key things Jocelynn needed was her own vacc suit.  And while the ship had some spare PLSS units, they didn't have spare vacc suits she could use until she could buy one.  They did still have Munarshu's vacc suit, but she was taller and had more mass in muscles than the former engineer.  So, she couldn't use his suit.  That meant Jocelynn had to shop for a vacc suit as well as some other things and was concerned because Inthe was not high enough tech to make the kind of suit she'd prefer.  And, any suits made in other systems would be sold at a premium for shipping and because higher tech items commanded more money than anything locally made.

When Jocelynn said she had Cr 6,000 to spend, Zimzod told her she wasn't going to get much in the Inthe system.  He went as far as to say, "What you're going to find on this planet is over-priced and under-teched."  Aiden added to that, that Inthe tech was gonna be bulkier and less ergonomic too.  That, and they all knew that a standard, unimproved vacc suit usually started at Cr 10,000 where it was locally made.  Nodding at that, Jocelynn then asked Mikah if she had a moment to speak too?

Showing all the respect of a lowly born Marine NCO for someone who, to her, was a high-ranking noblewoman, Jocelynn steeled herself to offer a suggestion.  Jocelynn launched into her thoughts carefully, starting off topic to be safe, saying, "There's something I've been thinking about, lying in my brand new bed...which I love...  I've been trying to figure out ways to make smuggling my gear easier on the crew.  Because, the last thing I need to be is an endangerment or a burden..."  Mikah waved that off as she interrupted Jocelynn and said, "Don't worry about it."

Pressing on despite that, Jocelynn continued, "Well, I've been thinking.  In my years of service and deployment, while I may not have rubbed elbows with a lot of nobility I have been able to observe them.  And I've noticed that many of them have body guards.  And, again, I don't know the in's and out's of nobility like you would, but, if you were to take me on as your personal security, I'm wondering if that would be an easier way to get my gear legitimized?  Or, if you have any pull in any systems?"

Mikah considered that and answered, "Well.  When we're in a system with..." and Zimzod added, "Actual nobility" with a smirk on his face and finishing Mikah's sentence for her.  Mikah continued, saying, "We might be able to talk to them about it."  Mikah also recalled that she had the "Right of Escort", but that only allowed her to hire those who came with, or could equip themselves with already legitimate gear.  To legalize Jocelynn's gear, Mikah would have to lean on one of her patrons who actually had that power.  That started speculation and the others mentioned Countess Ursara or Duke Leonard.  Mikah said, "Our best bet is Duke Vilis if he even has the authority to do that.  I don't know if he does but he's definitely on our side."

Hearing that, Aiden growled, "Great!  And we've even been invited to visit him." in a tone which suggested he expected that to lead them each to a personal doom.  Nodding at Aiden's comment if not his attitude, Mikah said, "Yes we do.  And we can go that route, and if he doesn't have the authority we can go to Arch-Duke Norris."  The way Mikah rattled off the rank of Duke and casually suggested chasing down the Arch-Duke nearly made Jocelynn's head swim.  Where Mikah and the others behaved like they were at the bottom of the pile, she seemed well able to treat with the most powerful people in the Imperium.  Arch-Duke Norris spoke directly for the Emperor in this sector of space and stood seventh in the line of power in the Imperium even if he wasn't in line for the throne.

Nodding, Jocelynn simply told Mikah that she would, as suggested, willingly serve as her bodyguard if they could get the paperwork done to make her gear legal.  Mikah agreed and repeated that the Duke of Vilis was their best friend and primary patron even though the Arch-Duke had made Mikah a Lady of the Court of the Domain.  Jocelynn heard that and thought to herself, 'Don't let me get on your bad side!'  Still, Mikah mused out loud, "The Duke of Vilis is definitely on our side and he'd do it in a heartbeat.  The Arch-Duke, we might have to cajole him some.

Outside that, Jocelynn had gotten help from Emkir transferring the files from her holocube to her hand computer.  The only things she felt she needed were a shadow box into which she could mount and display her medals, a formal dress and a duster coat that fit well for casual operations.  When she mentioned the coat, Aiden snickered a bit and Jocelynn had to ask what that was about?  That led to a quick and somewhat comedic history of the crew's experiences with dusters.  After that history lesson, Jocelynn joked, "Well, I just wanna be one of the cool kids." with an almost sarcastic smile.

That soon led to discussions of shopping and Mikah said they could go out shopping.  Jocelynn suggested the make it a 'girl's day out' shopping and Mikah decided to call Aali to see if she could return to the port to join them?  After that, they decided the girl's day out would be the next day when Aali had come back to the port station from the naval yard and Jocelynn looked up putting medals in a shadowbox.  She found that there were a great many veteran-oriented businesses which did the work professionally.  So, Jocelynn hired a shop to do the work for Cr 150, and was told it would be ready in two days.


A Girl's Day Out

     The next day, Mikah flew the crew's cutter over to the naval shipyard to pickup Aali.  Emkir chose to stay on the station to continue his "zero-gee" training and poker game victories.  Eventually, the women got back to the port after Aali enjoyed having her ship's captain play chauffeur for her.  After docking and securing the cutter, Mikah and Aali met up with Jocelynn and they were ready to go shopping.  While hitting the stores, Jocelynn looked specifically for a nice dress, to wear to parties and other functions.

She wanted it to be "Silver metallic", sleeveless and found a vee-necked dress with a plunging back and a slit on the left side, from the floor to 'mid-thigh' that she liked.  That would both give her the look she wanted and let her reach for the thigh holster she planned to buy for her laser pistol.  The dress could also be altered to 'disguise' the power pack and cable from her laser pistol.  When she told Mikah and Aali that, they recommended she get a snub pistol instead.  Snub pistols were generally more legal than laser weapons and easier to conceal.  Jocelynn accepted that and bought the ensemble and matching shoes for Cr 250.

Jocelynn also planned to get a snub pistol, and Aali suggested she get Tranq rounds along with anything else she bought.  Mikah suggested Jocelynn get some ball ammo, because that was the most frequently legal ammo allowed with those weapons.  Mikah also suggested Jocelynn buy, for Cr 500, two tailored pant suits, one black and the other navy blue.  Each with a fitting for her dagger's scabbard.  She also had the suits tailored with an "under-arm hide", for the snub pistol she planned to pick up.  Jocelynn also got matching footwear with the suits.  And Jocelynn made sure all the footwear she got was "sensible", so she could run and fight wearing them.

After the clothing shopping, Mikah brought them to Instel-Arms and bought Jocelynn a set of executive armor for Cr 4,000.  She was mildly annoyed that the pricing for the advanced-tech underwear was inflated so much in-system.  Still, one set was better than none and Jocelynn would just have to do a lot of laundry if she wanted to wear it often.  They could get her more when they got to a system where the armor was less expensive.  Mikah also bought the other two lunch during their shopping at Robal Cultured Meats, spending Cr 120.  Aali did volunteer to pay, but Mikah made it clear she was buying Aali lunch for having saved all their asses during and after the misjump.

Mikah brought them to Robal because she was certainly not going to the Interstellar House Of Pancakes, thanks to childhood memories.  Robal Cultured Meats were a famous sector-wide chain of restaurants where all the meat was grown in vats.  Even more, they were known for growing meats with custom flavors and textures, including or excluding vitamins, minerals and the specifically needed or prohibited trace chemicals required by the diets of different worlds.  Indeed, they also had a side menu of "fantasy" meats which included something called "Spoo".  That fantasy meat was reputed to be one of the original driving menu items that led to establishing the chain.  Rumor was that this "meat" was inspired back in the Terra system itself, though what inspired it has been lost to history.

After the lunch, Jocelynn had one more thing on her shopping list and that was a black duster.  The ladies hit a small number of shops while Jocelynn looked for a coat which had interior pockets where she could carry hand guns, her dagger and ammo in a less than visible way.  Jocelynn knew this would not fool any sensors or advanced security but it would get her past casual glances and inspections unless they had specialized detectors or did a pat down.  Eventually, she found a duster, in black, which she liked and paid Cr 90 for it.

Beyond lunch and shopping, the ladies also spent Cr 20 each on drinks and incidentals.  And while Aali did want to go shopping, she never fixed her eyes on anything she wanted to buy.  She and Mikah had been there mostly for the relaxation and fun, though Mikah had also been there to help guide Jocelynn to what she might need.  Despite the visit to Instel-arms, Aali planned to see if Rol could take her to the marine base, as a retiree, to buy weapons and see if there was an inexpensive vacc suit for sale in the thrift shop.  That evening, they talked about visiting the base and Jocelynn agreed that would be a good thing.  When Mikah said she could fly them there in the Probe, Zimzod joined in on the shopping trip.

With that decided, Mikah called a crew meeting to discuss ship shares and ownership.  Thanks to the decision of the Admiralty court after the inquest of the Hotel California, Coronal Flare and Regina's Storm, all nine of the crew now found themselves equal share owners in the IMV Coronal Flare, now renamed the IMV Upgrade.  Debts from the old ship were transferred over to the new, so the ship still owed Cr 164,426 to Mikah from the initial outfitting of the Hotel California when she was named the IMV Pilot Error.

Beyond that, Mikah announced she felt it inappropriate to pay anyone a monthly salary when they were ship's share owners.  So, she announced that all salaries would be ended because they'd paid up the outstanding debts when they made it to Inthe.  They also went over the costs for the new ship, which would be quite a bit higher than the smaller Hotel California.  Given that, they decided the new "Pay out" formula would be cut fifty/fifty between the crew and the ship.  After the ship's funds were paid, the crew would get one ninth of the fifty percent left with any additional small cash also going to ship's funds.


Hunting The Good Stuff

     The next morning, as they all assembled, Jocelynn got her first look at a crudely dyed tee shirt Zimzod decided to wear.  It was red, and the slogan on it read, 'Rol couldn't kill his attacker and all I got was this lousy shirt'.  Jocelynn shrugged and guessed the shirt was some kind of inside joke the crew had.  Rolling her eyes and asking if she wanted to know, Jocelynn watched as Mikah pointed to Rol and said, "War Criminal?" in a tone which asked, 'Didn't you know that?'  Jocelynn gave a nervous laugh and admitted she only knew Rol as a war hero.  The group laughed as Mikah promised to give Jocelynn a copy of Sir Jeremy's book.  Shaking his head, Rol told Zimzod, "At least, I never got cut out of my battledress." with a smirk.

After the laughing ended, they told Jocelynn about the tech fair on Rhylanor where Rol had been attacked by a man wielding a pole.  A tradeshow, they added where Mikah had been accompanied by a Countess and directly helped out Duke Leonard.  The result of that was that Jocelynn was pretty certain her "crew" had more weight than they were letting on or willing to admit even to themselves, but this ship was heading for heavy shit no matter what they said.  And while the depth of that shit might give her reason to pause, she was certain they'd find some connection that could legalize her armor.  And if they could get that done, she wasn't worried about her weapons at all.

Still, there was the trip to the naval base so they could visit the connected marine base.  That part was almost all Mikah until it was time to get signed into the base.  That was all Rol, and went pretty much as Jocelynn expected no matter how many jokes the crew made at Rol's expense.  Rol was not only a war decorated retiree, he was also a SEH awardee and Knight of the Imperium.  Everywhere they went, Rol was saluted by those in uniform who came to attention at his approach or was shown similar unofficial respect by those in civilian clothing.  Everyone in his party was certain the word of his arrival on base had shot out ahead of them on the whisper-net.

On the base, Rol played guide and wasn't looking for anything to buy.  Mikah was also there to play guide for Jocelynn, and perhaps use her title if it looked like some extra pull might help?  Zimzod didn't need anything so bad he'd pay the local markups for it but wasn't averse to looking to see what there was?  Jocelynn was the only one who arrived with a shopping list, so they moved in the directions most likely to find what she needed.  Still, the base thrift shop was a primary target for 'gear outside my weight limit' mark downs.  And, there was always the PX.

The first thing Jocelynn looked at were any vacc suits left on consignment.  Sadly, the closest thing to what she wanted was tagged at Cr 15,000 and was not "exactly" what she wanted.  Not tailored, the general purpose vacc suit had a "roll over" style helmet instead of a goldfish bowl and came with a twenty four hour PLSS.  That, she'd been told the crew could replace with some of the spare PLSS rigs the ship had.  Jocelynn knew she preferred a forty eight hour PLSS if she could get one.  On the positive side, the suit had a backup battery power supply and a manual control pad on the left write to activate or deactivate the suit's built in magnetic soles.

Jocelynn knew that magnetic soles sucked for walking but if you had to jump for something, they could be very valuable for helping you stick the landing.  Seeing she was eyeing the suit, Rol said they could come back if that was what she wanted but reminded her they could look in other places too.  Still, they all knew the thrift shop was the best place on-base for prices.  Better gear might be had in the PX, but it would be at full list price minus any military discount.  When Jocelynn asked for opinions, Zimzod was right up front in saying he'd wait until they got to the next system.

Of course, the crew had not decided what system they'd go to next, but Zimzod was sure they'd find something better along the trail.  Mikah was considering making a run to the Mirriam system, where Duke a'Plena had his Subsector seat of power, and which also happened to be a major border base for both the Imperial Navy and Marines.  To get there, they'd jump from Inthe to Wypoc and deal with Sir Brian's family if they found them.  That would let them put to rest the issue with Brian's book collection.  After that would be jumps to the Plume and Denotam systems before arriving in the Mirriam system.

The questions were if any of those systems would be better for tech shopping and how far they could get smuggling Jocelynn's gear?  Not sure what those answers would be, Jocelynn took a look at the incomplete vacc suits and saw one generic suit which would fit her.  It was priced at Cr 7,000.  That suit was standard enough it would likely work with all the spare PLSS units they had in storage.  Mikah also eyed that suit and suggested they could buy it and let Jocelynn use it until she got her own suit.  Then, the ship could keep it as a spare aboard afterward. When they all agreed with that idea, Mikah used the ship's account to buy the suit.

Mikah also checked her computer and saw they still had two PLSS units in the ship's locker.  While one was a twenty four hour job, the other, from Munarshu's vacc suit, was a forty eight hour unit with air recycling.  That meant it was smaller than the standard forty eight hour units and more maneuverable.  Which was ironic since Munarshu had been mostly useless in zero-gee.  While Mikah and Jocelynn dealt with the suit, Zimzod was looking around when he noticed what looked like a personal data chip on a shelf inside one of the shop's cabinets.  While the shelf itself seemed to contain small gag-gift items, Zimzod noticed the label on the chip read, "The Ancient Site"!

In Zimzod's experience, many things were often labeled 'ancient" with a lower case "a".  But only one class of items were labeled with a Capital "A", and those were things related to "The Ancients".  The mysterious race which had existed more than 400,000 years before and wiped themselves out in some kind of final war.  The race that were also now proven to have been responsible for visiting ancient Terra and spreading Humanitii to the stars, for geneering the Darrian and Zhodani races and believed to have geneered the Vargr and Aslan races too.  (though saying so to any Vargr was likely to start a vicious fight)

Immediately interested, Zimzod looked at the chip's label to see it was priced at Cr 200.  That number didn't even require a half of a second thought as Zimzod called the counter man over and bought the chip.  in the back of Zimzod's mind, he knew information on anything to do with the Ancients was "Shoot first, and question survivors before executing them" policy in the Imperium, so he had to wonder how that chip came to be there and accepted it could well be a gag gift or hoax.  But the chance it could be real was enough to waste Cr 200 on.  Keeping quiet on it from that point, Zimzod was planning to rip into it once he got back to his bedroom in the suite.

After getting the suit, Jocelynn went to the base PX to look at snub pistols.  As a guest of Rol's, and without the right to bear arms, Jocelynn could "buy" a weapon.  But, if she did that, she'd have to give them the data for the hotel where the crew were living in-system.  Any weapons and ammunition bought would be shipped there, and held in their secure safe until Jocelynn gave the hotel proof she was leaving the system aboard a ship.  The hotel would then transfer her weapons and ammo to that ship for her.  Mikah interrupted that quickly, telling them their ship was in the naval shipyard and the sealed packages could be shipped there.

Checking the selection of snub pistols at the base's PX, Jocelynn saw they had both six-shooters and semi-automatics.  Mikah advised her on the varying legalities of the weapons they ran into in their travels.  Most important, Mikah mentioned that semi-automatic weapons were considered "military" weapons and were often illegal in places where six-shooters would be allowed.  Jocelynn also recalled the day before when Aali had told her about her collection of six shooter and semi-auto snubs, as well as Tranq rounds.  As they talked, Rol realized he'd foolishly sold off his two six-shooters and might want to buy a replacement too.

Rol bought one six-shooter, but didn't need ammo or speed loaders because he already had the ammo left from the weapons he'd sold.  That cost him Cr 200.  Rol also bought a hip-holster and carrying case for Cr 20 each.  Seeing how inexpensive the snub pistol was surprised Jocelynn, who expected the vastly inflated pricing she'd seen elsewhere.  But standard firearms were well within the local tech and shopping on base further protected prices.  Checking with another salesperson, she found the price of ammunition was largely just as reasonable.

knowing she could get a six-shooter snub pistol for Cr 200, Jocelynn also wanted a belt holster as well as a thigh holster to hide under a skirt.  Jocelynn also bought a semi-automatic snub pistol too.  She got five clips for the semi and four speed loaders too.  of course, she got the needed carry cases and cleaning kit along with ammunition.  For ammo, she took Rol's advice and ordered boxes with 200 ball and 100 Tranq rounds.  After the deal was cut, Jocelynn paid Cr 1,350 for that on top of a Cr 10 lunch they all had on base.  After that, Mikah gave the shop the ship's data to ship Jocelynn's gear while Rol was able to carry his weapon home.

A Surprise And Many Questions

     When he was finally back at the suite, and alone with the chip, Zimzod sparked up the chip and opened the top folders to find the data on it was compiled about a supposed Ancient site located on the world of Inthe!  This was news to Zimzod, who's hobby was studying everything he could about them.  Given the legal restrictions on anything to do with the Ancients, this was a very dangerous hobby.  Digging deeper into the files, Zimzod found the data looked like it was collected by someone stationed "on the site"!

The trooper's work appeared to have been in technical support for units doing actual research work on the site.  While he never had access to the internal sites which were under "active investigation", he had lots of vids and details about the general access parts of the site.  The brief history of the site the trooper included said all the civilians in the region had been moved away from the area and the site and its approaches were then classified.  Approach was allowed by coded access only.

Aside from that, the crystal seemed to contain a random selection of videos and other data he'd collected during his deployment there with no indication "why" he'd violated orders and done it?  The more he checked into the files, the more Zimzod had to wonder not only why the trooper did what he did, but why he put it on consignment in the thrift shop?  Or, why the shop workers had not checked the crystal...with a label as provocative as that...and left it visible out on a shelf??  Zimzod did know he could get in trouble even for having Mikah fly him out of the station on the cutter to use the Probe's sensors to see if the site was even real?

Spending more time digging into what each file or recording had, Zimzod could see quite a bit of data about the site's exterior and the buildings constructed by the Navy to cover over the site's important locations.  He also saw a good deal of information on the units assigned to the site, including both High-level elite security units and a number of technical support units.  There were also investigative and administrative units there who's missions Zimzod was not familiar with.  Other admin and support units were actually more familiar to Zimzod.  Another thing that was clear were the risks the trooper had taken to collect and record everything!

After the time he spent viewing the file alone, Zimzod shut down the files long enough to bring it out into the suite's lounge.  There, he sparked them up again and called the others together to show them what he'd found.  So, everyone except Aali and Emkir, who were on the naval shipyard, learned about the site and what that lone trooper had recorded.  Examining the data intently, Jocelynn half murmured, "You know we have to go break in." and Aiden was so horrified by the comment that he briefly broke out in hysterical laughter.  The crew reminded her, and anyone else who'd forgotten that the Imperial protocol for Ancient artifacts was, 'Shoot first, then question the survivors before executing them all on-site.'

Still, there were jokes about how they could break in and Zimzod did ask if he hadn't seen someone playing with lock picking in the crew.  Mikah turned to Fesic saying, "Yeah, where's your lock pick set?" with a smile on her face.  Fesic shrugged and said it was gone and Mikah asked how that happened?  Sheepishly, Fesic admitted, "It was confiscated."  Suddenly, to everyone else's surprise, Jocelynn busted out with, "Oh!  is that what happened?"  Looking back and forth between her and Fesic, the rest of the crew were obviously waiting for some more details from the story.

When Fesic said, "Yeah.  It got confiscated."  Mikah asked, "By whom?"  Fesic said, "Hotel security" and when Mikah pushed, "What hotel?" Fesic answered, "This one."  Turning to Jocelynn, Mikah asked, "What did you mean?" and Jocelynn answered, "Well, the other day, when I was heading out to check out the station, I went to the door and opened it.  There was Fesic with two armed men in suits with colors matching the hotel uniforms.  And, they said they were just dropping him off.  Turning back to Fesic while some of the others tried to stifle giggles, or didn't, she saw the gunner give her an innocent smile and brief wave.

With a sharp tone, Mikah's comment, "Do tell" came out as a demand.  Fesic began, "Umm, I was practicing with my lockpick gear here in the hotel..."  In a firm tone, Zimzod demanded, "Where?"  Where in the hotel, and on what?" and Fesic answered, "Would you like me to show you where?  There were various doors where I would, umm..."  Mikah interrupted him then, asking, "To what, exactly?  To rooms?" and Fesic answered, "Yes."  There was a pause during which the temperature in the room dropped noticeably before Fesic realized what he'd just said and corrected, "No!  No, not guest rooms.  You know, but like, umm, supply closets and stuff like that."

People relaxed as the temperature in the room rose again and Mikah asked, "In broad daylight?"  Fesic answered, "In the middle of a hotel?  It's hotel light." as if he were explaining to a slow child.  Remembering the day, Jocelynn spoke through giggles as she said, "Tell them what you were wearing."  Before Fesic could answer, he had to wait for the chorus of laughs to die down.  Meekly, this time, Fesic admitted, "I was wearing my maintenance overalls." and got fresh laughs.  When Zimzod asked, "Why?"  Fesic said, "I thought I could pretend I was a locksmith if anyone asked me what I was doing.

Zimzod considered that less than a second before saying, "Umm..." before he was cut off by Jocelynn asking, "What'd ya learn?" and Rol asking, "Have you been learning about the espionage industry?"  Fesic answered Rol, "I don't know anything about the espionage industry."  Terin followed that quickly with, "Obviously." in a tone which suggested what he thought of the gunner's intelligence level.  As the conversation took that turn, Jocelynn decided she was stepping back and not saying anything more.  Rol asked, "Do you want to take up a career in espionage" and Mikah snickered, "I wouldn't recommend it."  That wasn't helped when Aiden chimed in, "No.  He wants to take up a career as an Espionage Crash Test Dummy."

Continuing to be 'better than the other guy' because someone else had screwed up, Terin chided, "So you got caught and got your toys taken away and were sent home to mommy."  Mikah jumped on that, saying, "Pretty much.  Only he never told mommy." in an aggravated tone.  Terin then got laughs as he admitted, "I wouldn't have told you if it was me, either."  Still, Mikah was annoyed now that she had the whole story, and demanded, "Do you know how stupid that was?" and Fesic admitted, "I do now.  I've known for about a week how stupid that was."

After a silent pause, Fesic told Mikah, "There's no way of improving your skills without testing them." and Mikah snapped back, "There are better ways."  Fesic defended, "I've done those better ways in the past, and I was pushing myself a little bit further this time.  And I went a little too far."  Aiden added in "A lot too far." on that as visions of the entire crew being blamed ran through his head.  The discussion wound down to Fesic claiming he needed something to push his skills outside the suites and off their ship.

Mikah accepted that, but pointed out that the hotel didn't know he wouldn't steal anything the way the crew did.  So, he was at risk of being arrested and facing serious charges like Munarshu had.  when Terin threw in, "Well, you're not in jail", Mikah angrily threw back, "You got lucky."  Rol added, "At least, you didn't have a pillow case in your hand while you were doing it" and half the crew broke out in laughter.  Not understanding the comment of the laughter, Fesic answered, "Yes, I could have put it over my head to pretend I was a marshmallow."

After the laughing, Terin tried to reset the conversation by saying, "Getting back to this video..."  Aiden turned on him, saying, "No.  There was no video of Fesic."  Mikah told Aiden, "He's talking about Zimzod's video and just trying to deflect from Fesic.  Though, I don't know why.  Usually, he just joins in and enjoys it."  Pointing to Terin, she said, "because it's usually you!" and Zimzod added, "Yeah!  So, join in on the heckling." between laughs.  Terin denied that, saying, "It was usually Munarshu and I happened to be with Munarshu."  Aali capped that by snarking, "Well, that's what you get for deciding to be with Munarshu."

Zimzod pointed out that Fesic didn't get in trouble for being with Munarshu when he went to record the hunt.  Shifting back to current events, Terin said, "Like I said, he fucked up.  He got his toys taken away and he got sent home to mommy.  There's not really a whole lot more to it."  Fesic re-cast events, saying, "No.  I knew there was a risk and I accepted that risk when I went out and did it."  Mikah asked, more calmly, "And what if they'd arrested you?"  Fesic admitted he would have been in trouble but said he didn't think it would have been a big deal.

Terin pointed out that they didn't know the local laws of the system, or even how the courts worked.  When Aiden pointed out it would likely be the Port Executive director, Terin asked which country and was reminded this was a Starport Authority port.  Grabbing onto that, given what had happened with Ms. Vik, Mikah snapped, "Yeah.  And they don't like us very much, you know."  When Terin tried to minimize the threat, saying, "Well, one member may not." Aiden reminded him, "You screw with one of them and it spreads." in a grim tone.  Zimzod stepped up their and said, "OK guys, I know this is a tall order.  But, don't do anything stupid."  And he wasn't encouraged by the giggles he got back.

Still laughing, Jocelynn asked, "Define stupid" and Aali added, "Don't fuck up, or in any other direction."  Terin only answered, "You've met us, haven't you?" to which Aiden whole-heartedly agreed.  Switching topics suddenly, Jocelynn asked, "Does anyone know if we have any duct tape?  Aiden immediately asked if she planned to use that to keep Fesic from fucking up again, and got laughs.  Looking at the pilot, and making her voice a bit more serious, she told Aiden, "I could.  For a credit." and got a roar of approval from the crew.  Stepping in, Zimzod, said, "In Fesic's defense, he is the least 'screwy uppish' of the screw ups on this ship."  Mikah countered that, saying, "But, when he fucks up, he fucks up big time!"

That brought up the episode with the android, and Zimzod argued with Mikah that the android was going to come out of the box eventually anyway.  Mikah still blamed him for having opened the box at all.  They did agree he risked activating the android before it was meant to be.  And that would have risked huge amounts of damage in an entirely different system and to innocent civilians instead of the 'droid's target.  Fesic admitted to having a trace of Pandora in him and Terin used that to say, "Speaking of Pandora, let's get back to this data on this Ancient site."  And, to be accurate, the video was a 'Pandora's box' of data which could put all the crew under a prison rather than in one.

Reacting to Terin's request, Mikah firmly said, "Let's not!"  When Zimzod asked why not, Mikah said, "Because he wants to do it!" with a thumb pointed at Terin.  At that, everyone laughed.  Defensively, Terin said, "I think most people want to do it."  Aiden, Aali, Rol and Jocelynn said, "No!" and Mikah said "See?" as she made the fifth of the nine crew members and proved her point.  Aiden took a different tack and told Terin, "Most people have a significant other to do it with instead of a hand."  That was followed by another chorus of laughter from the crew.

Zimzod answered that by standing proudly and saying, "My Soap, my shower, my dick.  I'll wash it just as long as I want." and got even more laughs.  Persisting, Terin suggested talking to the Marquis to see if they could get access to the site and Mikah answered, "it's in the hands of the Imperial Navy.  the Marquis has no power over it at all."  Aiden followed that up by saying, "Let's just keep quiet about this."  Rol also commented on the dangers of going to any Imperial authority to ask for a tour of a site no one was supposed to even know about...

Aiden disagreed, and suggested they all look into buying personal re-entry kits and move the ship so they could deploy to make a night-time drop on the site.  Then, covertly and under cover of night, they could make a surprise landing and assault to try and take out all the security from the inside out and take control of the site.  Fesic wasn't the only one amazed at what he was hearing.  Then, Aiden continued, when they all died, he'd be left sole owner of the ship and could hire a sane crew to serve him.  Most everyone who listened to him wondered who kidnapped Aiden and left behind this criminal mastermind until the twist at the end.

Much to his horror, Aiden noticed a few people including Jocelynn and Rol(who were trained in such assaults) actually liked the plan.  On top of that, Terin and a few others were voluntelling Aiden he'd be leading the assault!  Missing Rol's point entirely, Terin persisted, "The way I see it is, we could always ask whoever's in charge of the site if we can get a tour.  I mean, the worst they could say is "no".  Aiden jumped on that and demanded, "And if they ask us how we found out about the site?"

When Zimzod tested the theory, "We were flying by and noticed it and...", Aiden interrupted, "And didn't get shot down?"  Aiden urged, "Just hang onto the data now and relax."  Fesic suggested, "There might be general information that the site exists.  I mean, you can check that."  Mikah then said, "You can check for it on the station-web here."  When someone asked what would happen when the web search was tracked back Mikah joked, "you can have Aiden do it."  That got laughs from everyone except Aiden and Jocelynn because she had no idea what had happened and Aiden's memory re-implants stopped before they'd gotten to Equus.

Fesic decided to take the bull by the horns and asked, "Mikah, can I do a search on the station-net determine what...  he was interrupted by Zimzod, who said, "Absolutely".  Just for questions loosely, not specifically based on the site or Ancients."  Aiden then jumped in, suggesting Fesic talk to Emkir about doing computer searches without having those searches traced back to him.  But, since Emkir and Aali were on the naval shipyard, that would not happen right away unless they wanted to talk to the Admiral on an open comms link.

As they talked about the ideas of doing web searches, Terin pointed out Fesic would likely get millions of random hits no matter how efficient his search phrase, because of the very nature of web search algorithms.  After discussing that for a bit, Fesic decided searching the network was not the way to go.  When they asked Zimzod what he wanted to do, he said, "Nothing now, but..."  When Jocelynn asked Mikah what she thought about it, she said she didn't really care.  Her answer got Zimzod's back up for a second, because this had been a passion of his since he'd understood what Ancient artifacts were.  Outside the Rhylanor site, the only other artifacts the Imperium even admitted to were the so-called 'Black globe generators' which were the only known "ship's shields" in explored space.

And those were very limited, and highly imperfect in use.  The Imperial Navy were, so far, the only known force to use the technology and develop tactics for it.  Still, the strikes allowed by such ships in-squadron were rare and the Zhodani understood how to defeat a ship using it if they could locate one.  Moving on, Terin still ignored the warnings of asking about a site they could be arrested for knowing about by asking if they knew who the ranking Imperial Naval officer in-system was or if they could identify them?  Mikah simply answered, "Nope" in an unencouraging tone that recognized Terin was too stupid to understand plain speech.

Aware there were people present, like Jocelynn, who were not aware of IRIS, Zimzod mused out loud if they might have friends in-system who "shouldn't be spoken of" that might know about the site?  Zimzod was told they'd have to try and find out if there was a presence in-system and how to contact them if he wanted to.  Terin suggested that might be abusing their services if they could be found, but Zimzod said he was not abusing their service.  Only asking if they could help?  Zimzod was also reminded that secure data sharing keyed both on their clearance and their need to know the data.  And where their clearance was so low they'd never heard of the system, they certainly couldn't provide any "need to know" to go with their clearances.

That meant that even their friends may not have a "need to know" and would not know of the site even if they wanted to help.  In addition, asking them could backfire just as badly as asking the Imperial Navy or being caught in a web search.  During the entire conversation regarding their friends, Rol had been trying to catch the attention of those discussing the group and rolling his eyes in the direction of Jocelynn, as if to silently ask if they should be talking about IRIS at all in her presence?  And while Jocelynn noticed Rol rolling his eyes on occasion, she did not relate it to what he intended or to herself.

Terin still stood on his belief that using the system's Marquis as a liaison would shield them from any back-blast despite the high level of Imperial legal jeopardy sticking one's nose into an Ancient site risked.  And, when Zimzod asked, he was told the only friend they had in high places in-system was the Marquis.  Technically, they had the President of the Republic of Inthe too, however he likely had no Imperial powers at all.  Jocelynn was more concerned with who dumped the data in the base's thrift shop and why?  She wondered if the chip was a drop, or if the person selling it had been caught and dumped it before fleeing or what?

Aiden joined in on that, asking how the base's own security forces missed the chip?  He wondered why it was left out to be bought with the obvious label?  If there was somehow a tracker or other covert observation?  From those comments, the crew spent a few minutes spinning conspiracy theories of their own.  While Aiden was all for spacing the chip out the nearest air/lock, Terin once more grandstanded his idea to ask the Marquis about who they could connect with?  Zimzod finally took control of the conversation back by saying they should put a pin in it and wait.  Terin also suggested he copy it, in case he was somehow forced to turn over the original, ignoring the chance they all would not get shot or arrested for having it.


Starting The Last Nine Days

     The crew's last full week began with a very pleased Aali because she'd gotten the ship's androids as close to spec as she could with the parts she had.  Sadly, she'd only been able to get "most" of the parts needed in the Regina system and wasn't getting the rest in Inthe.  Still, that meant she could relax much more in the remaining nine days that she had been able to before.  And, she could spend more time with her husband, which made him a very happy Emkir.

Of course, she still planned to take part in the stent practice and physical workouts as well as some light reading.  Aali also wanted to hit the shows, vids and other entertainment on a station the size of a small city.  That would be on top of being available for the unavoidable meetings about the ship, but she could do those by vid from the suite.  Having had fun getting beat up and winning cash, Emkir came away from the poker games up Cr 6,000.  With less on his plate in this new week, Emkir wanted to get something more done on his translation work.

When he considered the projects, Emkir had already realized the sample of glyphs he had from the Risek station was too small to move forward with.  That meant the only way to advance at all was to see if anyone else had more?  Deciding not to give away the whole farm, Emkir started posting small notes in translation-based forums in the station's networks submitting a few samples and asking if anyone else had any more data on them?  While Emkir did get some responses which had some of the glyphs he'd not made public, most of the contacts were from people who wanted everything he had so they could advance or even start their own work.

Emkir also considered making some of the book scans public but Aiden asked if that wouldn't bother the guy they'd bribed for the sensor suite?  When Emkir considered that he'd laid it on heavy and thick how the actual books could be sold to a private owner and that would make even any of the scans themselves very rare, Emkir decided making them public now could earn him an enemy while the Navy still had their ship in that enemy's shop.  Zimzod said it would be a dick move.  So, Emkir backed off on that idea.  Outside of that, Emkir did have some conversations about Gvegh since this system was close enough to Vargr space to make that topical.

Adding to that, more time with Aali meant more time to party and he wanted to hit the official casino on-station more as well as going out drinking and seeing what entertainment the station offered?  Chatting about that with Aali, the eventually visited the casino three times over the week.  In their down time, while relaxing together and with the crew, both Emkir and Aali also played vids and invited the crew to do fun things together on the station when they could.  Over the week, they spent Cr 500 each on shows, vids and other entertainment over the week.

When Aali and Emkir got back to the suite, Mikah noticed Emkir's markings, and that he was moving "gingerly", and asked, "What happened to you?"  Emkir tried to laugh it off and said, "I was playing with some bad boys at the navy base."  with a smirk, Mikah asked, "Did you learn anything" with a doubtful tone.  When Emkir said, "I think so," Aiden chimed in, "Yeah.  How stupid he was playing with the bad boys at the naval station." and laughed at his own little joke.  During her comments and the others, Mikah had been accessing Emkir's condition before she stepped up and slapped Emkir across the back, emphatically saying. "Good Job!"  Everyone watching laughed as Emkir flinched from the pain.  Still, he answered, "Thank you, Captain."

Fesic continued spending time in the station's green spaces, which surprised hm with their size.  This was because a great deal of greenery was easy to bring up from downwell and the public parks were subsidized by those corporations that made their money shipping Inthe's greenery and the natural resources out-system to worlds and stations with no natural greenery of their own.  Fesic pushed his workouts into a maintenance program to keep his body healthy.  Fesic also took part in any bar crawls and other chances to join the crew in entertainments over the week.

Having spent weeks visiting the same green spaces on the station, Fesic decided to look into junkets downwell to visit natural settings on-world.  Admittedly, he would have to wear a breather outside filtered facilities, but he felt it might be worth it.  Being a member of TAS, Fesic checked with the local concierge and found they not only had pre-organized packages, but could streamline the local issues which other firms might not have been able to clear out beforehand.  Fesic also saw Private vehicle rentals with pricing based on the tech of the vehicle.  So wheeled ground cars were cheaper and GEV or antigrav vehicles were very expensive.

Widening his initial research from TAS to other organizations, he saw packages anywhere from Cr 600 "short term visits" to specific sites, to Cr 3,000 for a five-day package traveling between natural vistas with each night spent in a different hotel which even offered underwater and undersea vistas where some days of the vacation were spent both traveling between and enjoying the sites.  Despite the fact the underwater stuff would be aboard a submarine, Fesic was OK with that and decided to ask Mikah's permission to go off on vacation.  When Mikah said OK, he paid the Cr 3,000 and packed for his pickup.  After that, Fesic was gone until the coming Saturday evening.

Rol spent a brief period of time deciding how to organize his comm dots.  While he didn't have a complete network diagram, he did want four of them to interlink his stent, multiplexor, gauss rifle and gauss pistol.  Rol also wanted to get better sights for some of his weapons but knew he wouldn't get anything worthwhile in the Inthe system without overpaying.  He also spent some time that weekend integrating his new snub pistol using one of the integration kits he'd removed from the two pistols he'd sold off.

Over the coming week Rol planned to keep up his calisthenics.  When he considered their food needs after they got the ship back, Rol realized they only had twenty of the ration bars they'd been eating left.  After the way those bars had saved their asses, Rol thought he'd better try to get replacements for them.  He also realized that the food stores would have to be completely replaced.  Anything they'd had on the California were gone and what wasn't taking from the Flare had rotted and been lost too.  When he brought that up with the crew, Terin volunteered to the naval base to try and buy more ration bars.  Rol also figured he'd check to see if they had a gauntlet firing range on the station?  He hoped to rent time on a course if he found one.

Beyond the trip to buy ration bars, Rol also brought up the idea of unarmed combat training again and everyone was excited to join in on that.  Even Emkir, who'd somehow become multi-colored during his week on the naval shipyard.  The deep blues, purples and greens seemed to bring out his inner "target".  Once Jocelynn asked about the classes Rol had given before, she happily said, "I was gonna go to the gym but this sounds much more fun!"  When Rol suggested they have a session every day, Aiden said he certainly wasn't going to take part "Every" day and Rol was reminded he'd be spending a good amount of time on the naval station looking to buy ration bars the next day.

Rol said he didn't expect to be at the base the whole day, and then asked Mikah if the captain couldn't make attendance mandatory with a glance at Aiden.  When Mikah said she thought it would do everyone good to have daily sessions, Aiden straightened up, gave them both a glare and said, "If I must."  When Zimzod said he was looking forward to the sessions because he'd get to beat on Rol, Mikah said she was looking forward to beating on Zimzod.  That got a laugh from everyone including Zimzod.

For her week, Mikah planned to take part in Rol's "classes" and continue her medical volunteer work.  She also made time every other day to evaluate Emkir's "condition" with 'Mikah's diagnostic Process #1', which meant sitting him down on the couch and roughly poking a number of his bruises while asking, "Does that hurt?"  She figured she would use pain to teach him not to be stupid, because common sense seemed to have failed.  on top of that, Mikah and Zimzod kept hitting shows, plays, concerts and whatever they found interesting.

On other matters, Zimzod had been waiting for Emkir to get back to the suite so he could show the Admiral the cracked crystal he'd found during the ride along.  When Emkir asked if it went through the laundry, Zimzod said, "Sort of" and avoided telling Emkir it had been sat on.  Looking at Zimzod, Emkir asked, "Am I, by this gesture, fathoming that you want to see what's in here?"  Zimzod said "yeah" and when Emkir asked if he'd tried to read it, Zimzod said he'd not tried yet.  Zimzod then explained how he'd gotten it and saved it to talk to Emkir.  Almost forgetting he'd had it.

Emkir also commented on remembering a time when Mikah was taking care of a particular councilor during a rescue and stole his pocket computer.  Emkir accepted the chip from Zimzod and said he'd check it to see what he could recover from it?  The bad news was that Emkir had no way of knowing what he would see once he connected up the crystal to a reader?  Based on what he knew of the logical structure of most crystals, the crack "should not" have affected the data listing of what was on the crystal.  Beyond that, the three-dimensional mapping of the crystal was certainly going to be affected.

Where most crystals were read based on the values created from lasers shot at it from multiple directions and read on optical receivers, the "through-cast" of a laser passing through either a part of the crack or even stressed crystalline structure near it would alter the output of the refracted beam.  Not to mention fissures or sections of stressed matrix which re-directed that beam.  As a result, most labs had specialized "one beam" or "two beam" reader systems which would measure the beams once shot to remove data from beams hitting damaged crystal.  And while Emkir did not have that gear to use, he did have Aali to work with.

They could even buy a commercial reader and some specialized tools and "make" it work based on manually selected settings.  Still, there was no guarantee they would get anything of value and data stored in the damaged crystal segments was certainly lost with no bets on the stressed crystal segments.  The most difficult data to deal with would be segments of data which lost their terminators.  Those would still exist, but would not have the pointer data needed to connect it to the next segment of the file and would not register as readable by anything except a manually directed off-set position reader.  And, before that, they'd still have to get the 3D coordinates where that segment would exist, so they could try to read what was left.

Hits and Missed While Shooting

     Once Emkir had the crystal, he made that his primary 'on-duty' project for the week while he and Aali weren't relaxing or exploring the station.  As the crowd around the reader started breaking up and Zimzod began securing the chip, Jocelynn stepped up to talk to Mikah and Zimzod.  With their attention, Jocelynn said, "I don't know how often we get paid for doing things for people, but from now until my debt is repaid to Zimzod, twenty five percent of my shares of anything goes to him.  Beyond that, any other money I figure out how to make somehow, I'll figure out to deal with that myself.  Is that acceptable to you?"

Zimzod said, "That's fine.  You act like I worry about money." with a smile, and did his best to project an air of relaxation because he knew she honestly meant to pay him back.  While they were discussing that, Rol made a comms call to the retiree office on the marine base to check on getting access to their shooting range.  He specifically wanted to know if they had a rigged gauntlet-style course he could book time on?  They said they did not rent to civilians but he could both book time, as a retiree, and sign in guests too.  The pricing they gave was Cr 50 per person, allowing one run through the gauntlet and half a day on the general shooting range.

Thanking them, Rol realized he needed someone to fly him over, and mentioned that to those in the suite's living room.  Terin sparked up and reminded Rol he'd said he would fly them to the base to shop for ration bars.  Remembering that, Rol asked Terin if he wanted to go shooting on the range and Terin said he did.  Rol then asked Mikah for permission to take the cutter and when she said they could, Rol asked if she wanted to come too?  Thinking it sounded fun, Mikah said yes and asked Zimzod, who also joined the group.  Rol did remind them they had to stop at the base commissary to try to buy rations.

The rest of the day, and the week after spending the next day on the Marine base, Rol planned to continue his activities from the week before and relax.  So, the next day, they gathered up early and called the base to schedule time just after a lunch on the base.  The rest of the morning, the three extras would be hangers on while Rol tried to get his hands on rations.  The flight over was easy with Terin at the controls and they spent the required time signing in and having a short lecture on where they could and could not be on base.  This also included base transit systems they could and could not use.

After that, they made their way to the commissary to find someone in position to sell the rations.  After a search, Terin managed to find someone who wasn't in that position but could direct them.  When asked for details on what they needed, Rol said they wanted to buy surplus MRE or ration meals.  When asked how many they needed, Rol considered the meal bars which came individually wrapped 350 bars to a case.  he said they'd prefer three cases but could settled for two.  Even though the man they spoke with said he didn't have the authority, he stood on the spot and did the math out loud because it seemed to them he wasn't smart enough to do it in his head.

The man stood quietly for a bit before telling them he could get them the cases of bars, which usually retail for Cr 100 a case when they were sold locally.  He also said he was aware of some very old cases which had not yet been listed for sale.  For some unknown reason, he also muttered that the facility's video surveillance "wigged out" around noon each day.  Despite that, he suggested that if they could get to the Commissary's loading dock around noon, he could get them three crates from that lot for Cr 200 each.  It didn't take someone much more intelligent than the man they were dealing with to realize he was stealing the cases and pocketing the money.

After agreeing to the deal, they talked among themselves and Rol said he was bothered because he didn't know if there were cases legitimately available for sale?  But they hadn't found the person, or people who were authorized to discuss that with them, so they only knew the bars were sold individually for a vastly over-priced per-bar cost.  So, they could keep searching for the right person, over-spend heavily buying individual bars or see if this deal worked out?  After discussing the deal and the many things they didn't like about it, they finally decided to back out and let the kid know they were killing the deal.  After that, they left for the shooting range.

In his general shooting, as well as the gauntlet course, Rol planned on burning through Cr 300 in ammo.  Terin, Mikah and Zimzod also planned on burning through about the same amount of ammo.  After signing in and paying the Cr 70 fee to use the range, they completed the paperwork and signed up for the gauntlet course.  They were told the course would take a short bit of time to set up, so they were invited to assume a stall and practice while they waited.  During that time, they brought their weapons to the armorer's counter and were provided with ammo as they ran a tab for the time they were on the range.

Still, they were not on the range long when a pair of Marine MP's arrived and asked to speak with Sir Rol Kaihvos.  After Rol was called from his shooting stall, the MP's pulled out a data tablet and pulled up an image before asking Rol if he recognized the man in the image.  Looking at the image, Rol recognized the "not to bright" thief from the commissary.  Nodding, Rol said, "I might have seen him.  Yeah." and waited for the other shoe to drop.  After a pause, the senior of the MP's asked, "Can you give us a more detailed explanation of your answer?" in a tone which suggested he could consider Rol's taciturn answer as resistance to cooperate.  Something Rol may not have considered.

Rol added to his answer, saying, "We did meet him at the commissary and, ah.."  Ready for some sort of evasion when Rol's answer faded into the "ah" which usually meant someone was trying to come up with a lie, the MP interrupted Rol and asked, "And what was the nature of that meeting?"  Rol began to answer, "We were looking for possible supplies for our ship but..." and the MP realized this was going to be pulling teeth.  Still, Sir Rol was a Knight and an SEH awardee so he'd continue to play it soft until he was forced to become "more stern".  Interrupting Rol again, the MP asked, "And which supplies would this be?" while hoping the man found his ability to provide actual details before they had to place him under arrest.

Rol answered, "We were looking for food." which any idiot could have guessed since they'd met the thief in the commissary.  Still, the MP bit his lip rather than thanking Rol for stating the blindingly obvious and further asked, "What kind of food." in a tone which showed his patience was not eternal.  Rol simply answered, "MRE supplies." as he showed he had no clue he, himself had become entangle in the investigation and stood a risk of being held under arrest until the details were sorted out.  To nail down the details, the MP asked, "Emergency rations?" and Rol confirmed, "Yes."

Nodding, the MP asked, "And what was the substance of your conversation with the gentleman?"  Rol answered, "We wanted to know if he had any spare supplies that were possibly available for sale."  Again, the MP was disappointed when Sir Rol slipped back into generalities.  And, if Sir Rol had bothered to have engaged 'brain cell one', he would have seen he could have simply said, 'We were looking for someone who could sell us cases of MRE's and he offered us three cases at Cr 200 each if we met him at the commissary loading dock at noon.  We decided it was a shady deal, said no thanks and walked away.'  Instead, Rol apparently had decided to pretend he was as stupid as the crook from the commissary.

Leaning even harder on his patience, the MP decided they could lock down the exact meanings of "if he had any spare supplies" and "that were possibly available for sale" at the police station as that was appearing to be more and more likely to be needed.  Still, he asked, "And what was his response?"  Considering for a brief pause, Rol answered, "I believe he said that he would get...he would look into the situation and, ah, we could come to an arrangement and nothing came of it.  Now finding the heart of the matter, and realizing he still had to dig into it, the MP asked, "And what were the details of this 'arrangement' that he offered?"

Rol answered, "I think he said that there might be some supplies that were not yet made available for service and, or, purchase, But I felt the arrangement seemed to be out of his range as far as his authority goes.  So, we decided not to take him up on it.  Because that bit of information seemed to pull this to a point that may have jived with the details he'd been given by his sergeant, the MP decided to move on rather than push harder on the larger crime and asked about the lesser.  So he asked Rol, "And, can I ask you why you chose not to report that offer?"  Rol stupidly answered, "I wasn't aware that was a matter that I needed to report."

Nodding, the MP said, "To review, Sir, you said that he offered you items that, by your own statement, in your opinion you thought he didn't have the authority to offer.  And that were not available for sale.  Does that not indicate to you something inappropriate?"  Nodding, Rol answered, "When you put it that way, yeah."  Nodding to Rol, the MP asked, "Then, again, why did you choose not to report it, Sir?"  Parsing out the word 'Because' into its syllables, Rol admitted, "Because I was concerned with other things and I'm afraid I slipped in my duties."

Relaxing a bit now he had Rol on the defensive and possibly actually thinking for the first time in the interview, the MP said, "We would like you and anyone else involved in this incident to make an official statement."  After saying "Very well", Rol had to get Terin, since he'd actually been part of the meeting with the man.  He also had to explain the situation to Mikah and Zimzod.  Getting Mikah and Zimzod's attention, Rol pointed to the MP's the they and Terin had already noticed and said, "We have to make an official statement about the transaction that didn't happen." as he indicated himself and Terin.  All Terin could do was wonder how Rol had turned into Munarshu all of a sudden?

Mikah shrugged and said, "OK.  Go make it."  After a brief pause, she added, "Don't whine."  Rol shrugged and said he wasn't going to whine as he and Terin left to join the MP's.  After that, they went on a short ride to the cop shop where they were questioned for an hour or more until the details were organized and all the answers lined up.  Then, they were thanked for their time and told they had in fact admitted guilt in a crime due to not reporting the attempt to receive goods they believed would be stolen.  And, that the base commander had decided to decline to place charges at this time.

Still, they would be allowed to close out their business at the shooting range but should not ask to avail themselves of any services on the base in the future, including future visits to the system.  When they got back to the range, Mikah and Zimzod had both taken the gauntlet course and were still burning off ammo as they waited for Terin and Rol.  Seeing them, the pair secured their weapons and Zimzod asked, "what'd you do?  It's about that book, isn't it?" and Rol explained the details, saying they could still finish out their time shooting.  In the end, Rol and Terin had only managed to burn through Cr 200 of ammo, so Terin could at least smile because he saved cash and didn't get arrested.

Different Ways Of Getting Smashed

     On the way back to the highport and suite, they talked about the situation and Zimzod said they should be glad Rol and Terin didn't agree to the deal.  If they had, they'd have all been there with the Probe when the MP's swarmed in.  After Mikah said she'd have paid to see that, she was reminded she would have ended up arrested because she was in the cutter.  When she protested she wasn't part of the deal, it was pointed out she'd have been held on Conspiracy to commit because she was part of the "crew" who came to pick up and pay for the stolen goods and could be charged and held for trial.  Especially since they'd have been paying with ship's funds based on her authorization.

Rol decided he was done negotiating for food from then on when it was more correct he should be done not thinking about what he was doing and where it could lead.  But it appeared that was a lesson that would arrive at some future date.  Continuing, he said, "I think we need someone who knows what he's doing" which, for the current crew, suggested they needed to hire brokers moving forward.  Zimzod said they should just try to buy the stuff legitimately while no one mentioned the truth, that they didn't push to find the right person and ended up talking to the very wrong person.

And instead of saying 'no thanks' and reporting the thief so they could come back and ask again, they ended up not making a report and were restricted from the base.  The most ironic item of all was that they likely could have gotten a referral to the person they needed to speak to if they'd reported the thief in the first place.  Not only would they have likely been able to get in contact with the people they needed to meet, but would likely have been cut a very good deal in thanks for their honesty and helping catch a thief.

Back at the suite and back into their other plans for the rest of the week, Mikah got a certain increased joy in beating the crap out of Rol at any offered opportunity.  This made the others very happy since she was even concentrating on Rol more than Zimzod, which was unusual.  Still, Mikah did target Emkir to teach him any lessons through pain which common sense failed to teach.  Beyond that, both Mikah and Zimzod did the entertainment thing and did their medical volunteering.

Like the others, Terin didn't much change his activities for the new week.  Jocelynn started a workout routine in the hotel's gym and decided to check out the grunt bars a bit, spending Cr 60 over the week beyond the first night, which went a bit sideways.  That first night, before she went out, she invited the others along and everyone joined in, so they decide to go to one of the bars serving adventurous stationers near the hotel, which were more "upper class" than any grunt bars.  The big surprise that night was that Jocelynn challenged Emkir to a drinking contest once they arrived at the bar.  When Emkir challenged back, "Are you buying?" Jocelynn said, "Sure" rather than saying that the looser would pay, so Emkir dove in.

While that happened, Rol decided he'd do some hard drinking too and only hoped he'd not wake up in bed with Jocelynn thanks to Zimzod, this time if they both passed out.  Mikah planned to take it easy, as did Zimzod, Aali, Aiden and Terin.  The bar staff were pleased when the heavily armed team, (per their usual standards) walked in and kept things light.  Sitting down, Jocelynn explained to Emkir that they would get four drinks each per round, and take each double shot one by one, turning each spent glass upside down.  Once each round of four was gone, they'd get four more glasses filled.  Then she asked Emkir what his drink of choice was?

Emkir said he preferred whiskey, and that he thought they'd each start with an entire bottle.  Jocelynn said this kind of contest was more fun as Rol cut back on his planned drinking so he could be sure to watch the contest.  As things started getting real, Terin announced he was filming the contest.  While Emkir and Jocelynn got set up, Zimzod told Rol he was covering the armorer's drinks as payment for the work done on his weapons and armor. 

Finally, the drinking contest got started and the first round of four drinks went down without a challenge.  The second round was set up and followed the first.  Half an hour after things got started, the fourth set of drinks were set up and ready to go.  Everyone watched as they went drink by drink through the fourth line and at one point it looked like Jocelynn was gonna drop out.  But she recovered to cheers from everyone watching the contest.  Especially the "cute and sexy" contestant who'd won the interest of many male drinkers in the bar.  One thing Mikah and the other crew kept an eye on were some of the side conversations between the "unsavories", who argued about who got to drag off the girl once she was out cold...

Well into the fifth round of drinks, Jocelynn's willpower finally failed and she face-planted the table as Emkir roared his victory with his current glass raised.  He even surprised those watching when Aali went to high five him and he showed enough remaining coordination to connect with her hand and high five her back!  Still, pride goeth before the fall and when Emkir decided to finish off all the drinks he and Jocelynn had left on the table, that was a hurtle he could not jump.  So, soon enough, Emkir was head down and out on the table himself.  Meanwhile, cheers and groans filled the bar as bets were settled and money changed hands.

Then, some of the more adventurous male patrons who had been eyeing Jocelynn moved forward and asked those around the table if Emkir was her husband?  Told no, they asked if anyone was her husband and Mikah started to make it clear that no one was her husband and that fact didn't mean anyone could take her home with them just because she wasn't married.  backed up by the rest of the crew, Mikah made it clear the crew would get both Jocelynn and Emkir back to their quarters.  Once they woke the next day, Emkir would continue to crow his victory while Jocelynn would blame freezer burn from her long period in a low berth.

After the excitement ended, the rest of the crew had the drunks carted back to the suite and settled in their beds.  They joked about taking compromising pictures as they worked, and then Aali, Rol and Aiden decided to spend the rest of the evening relaxing while Terin, Mikah and Zimzod went back out to continue drinking.  The three even got cheers from those in the bar when they went back to the same place, though they did turn down requests by some to pass messages to the redhead inviting her to more parties later in the week.  Mikah also got her own level of attention until she made it very clear Zimzod was her Fiancé.

In the suite, Aali relaxed and read for the rest of the evening, as did Aiden too.  Rol watched vids and periodically checked on Jocelynn to make sure she was OK because Emkir had Aali to check on him.  And, they made sure the sleeping drunks would wake up to pain killers and lots of water the next morning.  Despite that care and comfort, Mikah made sure breakfast was an aromatic dish with cooked onions and lots of garlic and poked fun at the hangovers!

And, once the recovering drinkers were in the suite's living room, Terin regaled everyone with his video documentation of the contest.  Zimzod laughed as he said, "Wow!  I'm embarrassed for you!"  As Aiden said Jocelynn would never live down her loss, Rol simply leaned over next to her and said, "Welcome to the club."  When Jocelynn asked what that meant, she was told about the time Rol challenged Emkir to a drinking contest and ended up waking up on top of Ms. Vik, thanks to someone he still hadn't identified.  And, despite his investigation, this was the first time Rol actually found out how those events had happened.  The only thing which had not been mentioned was the Vargr juice.

After the morning meal and the story telling, Mikah got an evil look on her face and announced a mandatory hand to hand training session.  When more than the recovering drunks complained, Mikah reminded them any enemies they had wouldn't wait until they were ready to fight!  So they all got dressed and went to the building's gym where they spent the morning trading bruises and a number of the crew learned the only thing worse than a trained Jocelynn was an angry and hung over Jocelynn.  And after the morning's battles, they went back to the suite to have lunch and spend the rest of the day recovering.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

   Fesic: On a packet tour of the grand vistas of Inthe ending in two days
   Everyone Else: In the suite's living room just after lunch with six more days until they got
       the ship back for fitting out test flights.

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Next: Pending