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Last Updated     February 3 2019
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Risk And Risqué

Hangovers And Hangouts

     Following lunch, most of the crew were gathered in the living room of the suite they'd rented on the SPA port station while in-system.  Fesic was off on a packet tour of the grand vistas of Inthe, set to end on Saturday.  After weeks of waiting, they had six days left until they got the ship back from the yard for any shakedown flights they wanted.  Still, they could only test the non-jump systems without actually making a jump.  That meant they had to accept the exhaustive testing the ship yards had done, and were continuing to do, to test the jump systems.

Discussing that, it was mentioned they should test the ship with a micro-jump, with just one crew member aboard.  At that, Rol volunteered that Aiden should fly that test, after the ship's systems had been programmed to do an in-system micro-jump.  In the meantime, the rest of the crew would wait out the week aboard an observer spacecraft, waiting to see if the ship emerged safely at the end of the jump?  Shooting Rol an acid-look, Aiden argued that Rol was the ship's security chief, and should be the one aboard the otherwise abandoned starship while it was vulnerable.  Especially, if something went wrong and he had to secure the ship until they found it.

When Rol said he couldn't fly the ship, Aiden reminded them all, with a smirk on his face, that the jump could be pre-set, and the ship could be prep'd for a jump.  So, Rol would only need to hit the button initiating the jump.  Knowing he'd been beaten, Rol just asked if there would be porn on the ship, if it came to that?  Terin stepped in and assured Rol there would be plenty of porn, and Rol sat back and they all laughed.  Still, they all knew there wouldn't be an actual 'one-man' test jump.

For the moment, they were treating their bruises after a hand to hand training session that had been a bit more vicious, thanks to Mikah's annoyance at her crew.  Moaning and half dead thanks to the session, and even after their lunch, Emkir had gotten Aali's attention.  Suggesting she kiss his bruises, she asked him where and he pointed to a pattern, first tapping a visible bruise, then one near his elbow, and finally pointing to his lips.  He hoped Aali would kiss him in sympathy for his injuries.  But she was still annoyed, thanks to his "Blow me, Bitch" comment that morning.  Aali was considering things like 'feeding' him his elbow through his lips and he got no sympathy from her, much less a kiss.

Stepping away as the conversation turned, Emkir just wanted to grab more sleep and recover from both the drinking binge of the night before and the hand to hand session that morning.  Still, before he tried to rack out, Emkir sucked down more water, as he'd been doing all morning.  He hoped to rehydrate as well as get more healing rest.  With Emkir planning to do that, Aali figured she'd just relax and spend the time reading a good book.  So, she grabbed a tablet and connected to the suite's library server to start looking through the selection and see what was available?

With everyone else Mikah was annoyed at, Terin was pleased that he had not been one of Mikah's repeated targets in the hand to hand session.  She'd beat up more on Emkir for his decision to pick fights with marines, and seemed to blame Rol more for the issue with the Naval base.  And, she always spent some time beating up on Zimzod because...she could.  Feeling better than most of the others, Terin started his afternoon working on his stent studies and then figured he'd see how the day shaped up after that?

Mikah was feeling more relaxed thanks to releasing some of her stress in the session.  With nothing planned and no crisis to deal with, she decided to see a tri-vid, and told the others she was looking to see what she could book a seat for?  This meant looking through the listings to see how many seats had been sold for other vids already?  If enough seats were sold, Mikah would order hers and get the address where to go to see it on a large screen.  If not, she'd have to stream it to the screen in the suite's living room.

At first, she looked for a comedy, but changed her mind because it would remind her too much of her crew.  She then thought of tragedy, but that also reminded her of members of the crew.  Mikah finally announced she'd settled on going to see a musical.  Not impressed with that, Zimzod reacted by saying, "OK.  I guess that means I won't be going with Mikah."  Zimzod figured he'd do some physical training and gear maintenance while Mikah was out, and follow that up with stent work.

Jocelynn finished lunch while still hoping she didn't puke.  She was still recovering from the drinking contest the night before.  She'd also made sure to keep drinking water, since waking up that morning.  And Rol had been helpful, making sure to offer her water when he could.  That after staying with her, to make sure she was OK until he was sure she would sleep the night.  Jocelynn was increasingly aware there was an interest the man didn't seem comfortable admitting to her.  She had to wonder, even in her state, how she felt about that?  There were 12 years between her age of 28 and his 40.

Not sure what to do except recover, the only thing Jocelynn had "planned" was to mount the shadowbox with her medals once she'd gotten to her stateroom aboard the repaired Upgrade.  But, she couldn't do that 'until' they got the ship back.  Jocelynn also thought about following up on Fesic's idea of careful search, on the local data nets, for information on Ancient sites.  That would be in hopes of finding anything about Inthe.  But, she realized even as specific a search as she could do would get her so many hits which could be fake that she could spend weeks or months to check.  Time she didn't have.

Along with that, the Inthe system was of a tech level that made paper books more available than the electronic libraries of higher tech systems.  Inthe also was a green world, producing enough wood and fibers to also rely more heavily on paper books than electronic too.  So, Jocelynn realized she'd also face a lot of libraries she couldn't access, because the books listed in her search would be in those libraries while she was aboard the orbital space station.  That meant any published books would be both hard to access and impossible to qualify as "serious" or lunatic fringe quickly.  Costing even more time she didn't have.

Jocelynn saw that idea was a non-starter, gave it up and called out, "Hey Mikah."  When she answered, Jocelynn asked, "Can I go to the movies with you?" figuring she'd be able to relax and recover while sitting in a seat relaxing.  No sooner did Mikah say she could than Jocelynn took it on herself to wonder out loud if Aali also wanted to come along with them, presuming on Mikah's interests to be part of a group.  When Mikah didn't hear her, Jocelynn asked Aali if she wanted to come along and Aali said it sounded like a plan.  When they told Mikah about the change, she happily accepted that too.

Aiden chose to start the afternoon off with some light reading before calling TAS, and asking them to send him a high passage.  Getting that, Aiden set up an auction, setting the 'sale date' for four days from then and a starting price of Cr 6,000.  Rol sat and did a number of searches for food sales, hoping to find another source to buy any cases of ration bars from, after the incident at the naval base.  The bad news was that, with the system being a green world and local breadbasket, there were a massive number of sellers to explore or vet.

Spending a good deal of the afternoon trying to narrow down the hits, Rol noticed the hits were divided between some wholesale firms and mostly firms that handled starship servicing.  Seeing the vast number of sellers and the different types, Rol remembered one more key fact.  He remembered that everything edible they'd had aboard the California had been lost except the bars, and they'd eaten almost all of those during their escape.  That meant they'd have to replace All their food.  It also meant Rol had to decide if he wanted to work out two separate deals for the bars and food or one larger deal?  Given that, Rol decided to wait on his data and talk to Mikah about it later.

After saving the data he'd collected, Rol decided to do some calisthenics for a while.  After that, he did some gear maintenance, so his evening would be free.  while Rol did that and Terin worked with his stent, Emkir had lain down to sleep but his nap ended up being only short lived.  Despite the brief rest he did get, Emkir's head was still pounding and his mouth parched.  Doubling down on trying to get some sleep, he had another glass of water before searching the ship's music library for soothing music.  Putting ear-pods in his ears, Emkir activated the play-back and laid down to see if the music could sooth him back to sleep, giving up if he failed for more than two hours.  Sadly, he mostly ended up lying there with his eyes closed, listening until nearly dinner time.

Different Displays And Perspectives

     As Mikah, Aali and Jocelynn rode to the vid in a Cr 20 cart, Jocelynn hoped the movie would be a quiet one.  She would sadly find that some of the numbers were quite "exciting", stirring or thrilling.  The story came out of the culture of The Kingdom of Osoku.  Being a feudal technocracy, the story invariably boiled down to 'Boy trying to create a tech breakthrough and gain a position meets girl trying to create a tech breakthrough and gain a position and fall into conflict which turned to love'.

More disappointing to Jocelynn was the fact a number of the songs had music backed by the loud clamor of industrial music to match technological themes.  Mikah especially enjoyed the affect the songs were having on Jocelynn and jokingly whispered to her that she needed to study the effects of it on the marine further.  While Jocelynn was suffering and coming to fear Mikah's potential for sadistic glee, and those at the suite were resting or working at tasks, Fesic found himself spending the entire day aboard a submarine.  The tour brought them from one breath-taking deep-sea vista to another.  The fantastic series of views was presented from one port to the next.

This was a trade-off which got the tourists to see as much as they could rather than having spent more time at each of fewer sites, which they'd done on land.  But, the schedule for the tour required them to cross half the circumference of the world and allowed the tour organizers to "squeeze in" the sites.  Some of those were deeper and either required normal or artificial lighting.  Other deep sites were really spectacular thanks to their fluorescent or other chemical nature, flaring to life when targeted by alternate wave lengths of light.  Sites closer to the surface were left to be viewed in the natural shadow of filtered light from the wavetops, where some patterns were even enhanced by the surface currents.

While Fesic appreciated the surface and underwater rock and terrain displays, and took pictures where his gear would, he was really taken by the wide breadth of flora in the world's upper and moderate depths.  The submarines couldn't, sadly, reach the lower depths and the videos played in transit tended to concentrate on the animal life rather than the plant life.  Still, as he enjoyed the tour, the submarine transit would lead to a hotel stay before the last day of the tour.  The next day would bring him to the last two sites on the tour before returning to a spaceport to take a shuttle back into orbit.

Back in orbit, the tri-vid the ladies had gone to see had ended and it was mid-afternoon.  That left them with the need to decide what to do next?  When Mikah and Jocelynn both decided the outing "should" end with a dinner out, they saw they'd have to fill the next hours gap with something else.  After barely a few seconds, Mikah announced, "Shopping!"  Aali accepted that while Jocelynn just laughed, given her financial situation.  Accepting Mikah's direction, Jocelynn did ask Mikah if they should invite the men to join them for dinner later.  Mikah firmly said, "No."

Rather than shopping for anything specific, Mikah led the women to what she called "window shopping."  That meant skimming past shop after shop on the merchant concourses looking at the goods in each shop's windows.  If they saw anything interesting in a window, they'd go in and take a deeper look into what that shop had to offer?  And, of course, Mikah would only want to window shop the best, so they went for the most high-end shopping concourses.  That meant that the shops Mikah and Aali were more drawn to were well past Jocelynn's purse, even when she wasn't reminding herself of things like her debt to Zimzod.  Still, there were kiosk venders and "pop up" sellers on the concourses, who sold odds, ends and curio items.

Jocelynn also found the station interesting because she'd been raised in a much smaller and more enclosed world.  More conservative and smaller sealed environment "cities" and "settlements" had characterized her homeworld.  From there, came the ships and bases of the Imperial Marine corps, and the natural interest of a soldier to stay within the confines of their unit, base and culture.  And, ironically, Jocelynn had spent much of the last four years of her life serving off the Regina's Storm and only visiting various non-military sites with either short term leave passes or on operations in civilian spaces during the war.  But, in 1107, Jocelynn had spent a year in special forces training based in the Inthe system.

Still, her experiences from that time were specialized packet visits to certain tourist sites promoted by the military for leave.  She and her fellow trainees had spent time on the beaches of the Oceanic Federation, relaxing between training evolutions, or partying in the Central Union or Republic of Inthe.  So, while she knew locations on-world, she only knew them through the lense of the limited interests of off duty trainees out for a little fun.  Wandering the station with the two noble ladies was something different from her entire earlier perspective, and she saw parts of the station she'd never visited before, and tried to take in everything she could.

Committing Mental Mayhem

     With her hair 'not quite' done up, and the tale to be read on her face of the drinking binge the night before, Jocelynn was certainly the 'waif along for the ride' as Mikah took them past some of the more stylish and expensive shopping concourses on the station.  But, Inthe was a system of blended contrasts, so it was that Jocelynn noticed a pop-up kiosk where the seller had on offer different accessories for weapons systems.  This incongruity was one of the ever-present reminders.  The Inthe system "was" on the front lines against possible future invasions by the Zhodani or even deep incursions by raiding Vargr.

Inthe had been a system settled by early farming colonies, but had been truly "founded" by the military, after the First Frontier War.  And, it was only now balancing the importance between civilian and military imperatives.  Despite the local laws, weapons and defensive gear were an ever-present concern.  The accessories Jocelynn spotted, as she scanned over the sales table, were familiar to her, though bulkier thanks to the lower technology level of the system.  It wasn't until she'd scanned the gear on the table and widened her gaze to the space around it that she saw a half-opened shipping case displayed on the floor, just under the table itself.

In the open top of the shipping case, Jocelynn saw a box which seemed still unopened, and she half recognized what she thought it was.  Bending to look closer, Jocelynn examined the exposed packaging to read what she could of the boxes advertising, to see if it claimed to be what she thought?  Some sort of anti-grav support unit for a heavy weapon!  Still in the factory-sealed container!  Looking closer, Jocelynn realized the unit was an anti-grav support unit for heavy weapons, also called a "weapon shoe".

Jocelynn recognized it mostly for use with PGMP and FGMP weapons, when not using it for other heavy weapons like heavy machineguns, rocket assisted grenade launchers or other toys.  She also guessed it was most often sold for Cr 10,000 to 15,000.  Asking the seller what he wanted for this unit, she was told he was selling it for Cr 3,000 and had to wonder if it'd fallen out of a cargo hold somewhere?  Especially with the cargo containment still on it.  That meant it had her interest as she got Mikah and Aali's attention too.

The other two women had also stopped to look over the gear the seller had, but saw most was both bulkier and more expensive.  And that better tech versions would be sold in a higher tech system.  Nothing was unique or special, and most of it was generic.  One thing both women had noticed were "Carry pads".  These were actually two-piece pads one side of which was treated with a vacuum-safe adhesive.  This let a spacer stick one side of the pad on their vacc suit and keep the other in a suit pocket.  If they found anything they needed to pickup and bring with them, they could stick the other side of the pad to the item and then connect the two velcro sides to carry it with them hands-free.

The price he had on each of the packs was Cr 10 for each pack of five pads.  Seeing multiple uses for those, Mikah and Aali each bought four packets.  Meanwhile, Jocelynn asked the seller if she could pull the actual box with the grav unit in it out of the shipping container and look it over?  Batting her eyes at him to add that feminine appeal, the man took her at first glance and dismissively asked her if she even knew what it was?  Jocelynn simply answered that by switching to Imperial Marine mode and giving the man a basic 'grunt's technical rundown' of the unit and its expected uses and lifetime.  Re-evaluating Jocelynn, and really looking at Mikah and Aali for the first time, the man said, "Please.  Help yourself." in as friendly and inviting a manner as he could.

With the permission, Jocelynn pulled it clear and started checking it out.  Mikah and Aali started to notice what she was doing as Jocelynn did that, and paid more attention to what she was looking at.  They saw it was a sales box, that looked to have a three-foot long unit in it.  It was eight inches wide and seemed to be electronic.  The box advertised it as a heavy weapons support anti-gravity unit!  Reading that, Mikah suddenly got a lot more interested as Aali leaned in to get a better look, checking the images on the container.

Because the unit was still sealed in the box, as if straight from the factory, they could tell the bottom of the unit bowed out on its lower surface.  That would be the housing for the grav-projector.  They could also see the sealed box was never meant for a sales floor.  That suggested it had started its life being shipped from a factory to an Imperial Army or Marine weapons depot.  It looked old enough it could have been from the Fourth Frontier War, and may have simply been sold off by the Army as non-weaponized salvage.  For that matter, it could have even been old enough to have come from post-Third Frontier War stockpiles, though she wasn't sure if the packaging looked over 150 years old?

Jocelynn had no idea how it ended up at that stand, in what seemed to be its original container and in "As sold" shape?  And, she knew it would not be the first thing that had been re-sealed by someone who'd gotten hold of a commercial container sealer.  That, of course, would be a much smaller device, usually used for sales boxes meant for sales floors.  Making sure she could open the container, Jocelynn got the unit clear enough to switch on the power switch and the unit failed to power up.  Of course, that could just mean the unit's battery had been drained to dead.  With the other issues that "could" have caused it to not start up, Jocelynn realized it would take Aali teaming up with Rol to make entirely certain if it worked or, if not, could be fixed?

Despite not being able to really take it down to its components right there and then, Jocelynn asked Aali to take a closer look at it while giving a thumbnail explanation of what the device was?  Aali, who had spent her career in engineering had heard of the units and likely had 'seen' them without even noticing them at all, because she hadn't worked on man-portable weapons.  When Jocelynn asked her if she could see anything obvious, Aali said there was no way to tell if there was an issue with just a quick look.

Jocelynn leaned back on her heels and tried to decide if it was worth the Cr 3,000 to buy the unit to see if it worked or not?  Aali could only range the odds from the simple issues to larger or more critical failures for Jocelynn to think about.  Aali did say that any other issues aside, it was likely the battery had bled down to dead and may simply have been drained for so long it would have to be replaced anyway.  Aali then turned to Mikah and asked if the ship had any weapons that "needed" the unit and Mikah enthusiastically joked, "Don't worry.  We'll get them." without thinking.

Checking her notes after that, Mikah had to admit they didn't have a need for it at the moment.  She and Aali both started discussing not only if the ship and crew needed it, but what they could do with it if they bought it and got it working?  Neither considered the resale value if there wasn't any other use.  At the same time, Jocelynn had considered the issues and decided to just buy it.  So, while the two Knights were still talking, Jocelynn handed her Ident over to the seller and bought the unit.  That settled that, so Mikah had to think about it and decide if the ship would just buy it from Jocelynn?  Aali joked, "Now, we need to find two FGMP's" without realizing any FGMP usually came with the unit.

After the deal was done, Jocelynn asked Mikah if she could call Zimzod and Mikah said to go for it.  So, Jocelynn called him and said, "Zimzod.  I bought us a toy." in a happy tone.  in a curious tone of his own, Zimzod asked, "Oh.  What'd ya get?" and Jocelynn told him, "You'll see." in an almost taunting voice.  Mikah snarked, "Oh.  He's gonna think it's a sex toy now." in a disapproving tone and Jocelynn started to answer, "No he won't."  Before she paused, thought and said, "Eww!" in a voice that started certain but tapered to uncertainty fast.  Realizing how things looked, Jocelynn quickly told Zimzod, "It's not a sex toy!" with a firm and concerned tone.

As Zimzod reacted with, "Aw!  Dammit!"  Jocelynn muted her comms and looked at Mikah, saying, "Although, you know, he probably could use it as a sex toy." in a more contemplative tone as she considered this crew.  The conversation ended and Jocelynn put her comms up as she started to consider how to carry the box until they returned to the suite?  For Cr 30, the man offered her a strap and web construct that let her catch the box, container and all, over her shoulder as a 'one-strap' backpack.  That way, she could lug it along until they had dinner and then returned to the suite.

They suffered even more "entertainment" as the group were regularly stopped by station security teams until the word was finally put out about Jocelynn and her new buy.  Jocelynn was also made to either stand by the door or check the package in any stores they went into to shop.  That, on top of the strange looks and reactions Jocelynn got walking about in that relatively 'upper crust' part of the station's luxury sales concourses.  Mikah actually got a laugh when she'd overheard the call going out describing them as "committing mental mayhem on the station's population."  That also got her thinking about where they wanted to go to eat?

Proving you can take the girl out of the upbringing but not take the upbringing out of the girl, Mikah enthusiastically told the others they were going to eat at the nearest Astroburgers!  Despite the fact Astroburgers was a fast food joint, there was still a noticeable pause not when the three walked in, but when one of the workers realized what was in the box and asked about it?  Mikah snapped, "Come on!  This is Astroburgers!" and all three women had to wonder what the deal was when the ag-unit wasn't even a weapon?  It was just an accessory.  Accepting that the unit wasn't a weapon, things soon returned to normal as they ordered and ate.  After that, they went back to the suite.

Toy Testing And Cash Getting

     In the suite, Emkir finally got up, had some more water and then got himself cleaned up before dinner, since he couldn't get to sleep even after listening to the soothing music.  He did, then, try to read and recover more until dinner, since he felt better if still exhausted.  After they ate, Emkir decided to just relax in the living room while Rol decided to watch the news.  Terin started trying to get some support for going out on the port.  Zimzod was just hanging out.  When Mikah and the ladies got back to the suite, Mikah took a look around to see what was going on?

Seeing Emkir drooping in his seat as he tried to relax, Mikah asked, "How're those bruises coming along Emkir?"  He only responded with a grunt that made it sound as if he were out of it.  Smiling wickedly, Mikah said, "I've got leeches." which got a grunt of "Eww" from Jocelynn, who was about to rush over to Zimzod and show off her find.  Getting excited when he looked up and noticed the box, Jocelynn rushed over saying, "Zimzod!  Check it out!"  Grinning and giving off a sound that came across as a happy version of a dog's growl before saying, "We can use this to lay down some serious dick-raising Imperial firepower using this!"

As others in the space turned to look at the unit, Jocelynn said, "The only problem is it won't turn on."  Nodding, Zimzod nodded and said, "OK.  Why don't we have someone look at it?"  When he said that, Aali admitted to some curiosity herself as Rol also stepped up.  While Aali had the most pure skill in gravitics, she'd need Rol to guide her through the weapon accessory's functionality so she could test it.  Jocelynn said the obvious, as she said they had to find out if it was a battery issue or something else?  When Terin asked where they got the unit, Jocelynn told him it had been a gypsy pop-up table on one of the station's sales concourses.  She also said was willing to bet it had 'fallen from a starship's cargo bay'.

While people gathered around, and Rol and Aali looked at the box, Jocelynn pointed out that had been the original box and from-factory packaging.  Rol nodded, knowing anything could be re-sealed 'like new' to lure in a buyer.  Still, the unit did look unscratched and mint.  When Jocelynn said she had concerns if it might be "hot", Zimzod waved that away, saying it was likely sold as military surplus because it wasn't a weapon.  Zimzod also said he'd bet they drained the battery before they shipped it off from the factory and Rol agreed.  Still, Rol had brought up his tool kit and was ready to open it up and find out what the problem might be?

While that happened, Aiden told the others he'd started an auction for a High Passage he'd gotten from TAS earlier.  Hearing that, Jocelynn asked how that worked, and said she'd been granted TAS membership near the end of the war.  Surprised by that, Aali asked Jocelynn how that had happened, and what heroics she'd been up to, to cause it?  Jocelynn reminded them all about actions on the Sword World War front.  How the Lanth subsector had been held by the 18th Imperial fleet.  How, due to reports of massing Sword world warships just before the outbreak of the Fifth Frontier War, the 193rd Fleet had been moved from the Vilis subsector to investigate.

When the war broke out, Jocelynn was reassigned from training in the Inthe system to service with the 6079th Imperial Marine Strikers Brigade aboard the Imperial Strike Carrier Regina's Storm.  From that point forward, she served with the 6079th as they slammed the sword worlders as reinforcements, including the 100th Imperial fleet joined the Lanth/Lunion front. It was during those years, which didn't actually end until late in 1109, the ship had been committed to heavy action.  Jocelynn herself was awarded the MCUF in 1109 for her bravery in action.  Following that, she was notified she'd been awarded TAS membership too, though she admitted she'd not really had any chance to try it out.

Nodding, Aiden told her how he managed collecting High passages, which he agreed were not "supposed to be sold".  Aiden also mentioned that TAS could get annoyed if they found someone was using the High Passages for profit too, but he didn't sound too concerned about being caught.  Zimzod said he didn't know that, and had never collected any High passages from TAS, which surprised Mikah because she didn't know he was a member.  Especially since the non-refundable application fee was one Million credits.  So, someone had paid that for Zimzod, Aiden and Jocelynn.  From there, a brief conversation was had of who was and who wasn't a member of TAS among the crew.  It turned out that Aali, Aiden, Jocelynn, Rol and Zimzod were.

Fully, nearly two thirds of the crew was, and that included Fesic, who had boarded the California with a TAS passage.  Getting passed that, Aali and Rol stepped over to start investigating the A-G unit as Mikah, Zimzod, Emkir and Jocelynn watched.  Terin was still trying to drum up some interest in going out to hit the bars or something while Aiden was looking up pricing on magnetic boot accessories despite the performance description of what happened aboard the Sohturn Behemoth.  He'd even been told he himself had abandoned the mag-soles he'd had on that mission, and been reminded he'd have had his legs shattered and likely died from intense and painful internal bleeding if he'd used them when the hatch had opened.

So, he died much faster when his helmet was crushed by Munarshu than the horrific way he could have died.  Still, Aiden was looking for a set of mag-soles, but he could only find mag-boots, which were bulky, had to be separately charged from a power source rather than connecting to his vacc suit or armor, and could fail during use due to power loss.  Even worse, the sellers were looking for Cr 12,250 for the set.  Aiden wasn't gonna pay that much for that crap!  Still, he didn't want to get too close to the work on an unknown device which could be a bomb for all they knew and was working on the far side of the room.

Led by Rol's superior knowledge of weapons and their accessories, the pair were able to carefully disassemble the anti-grav shoe.  As a technician will, either Aali or Rol took pictures of each step as they worked, so they'd have references to reassemble the unit with.  Any pictures might also help if they found there was significant damage.  Finally, they did find a damaged component section and Aali was able to confirm the damage was to a capacitor which likely had not bled off.  That meant the retained power led to heat which burned the cap, and severed the circuit.  Checking, Aali confirmed they'd have to both replace the cap and re-solder the connection.

While Aali could easily take the data on the capacitor and look for it on the merchant web to buy a replacement, she knew she'd need one of the androids to do the actual repair work.  It was much too fine and miniature for an un-augmented Human to do.  And, with all the androids aboard the ship at the naval yard, that meant they'd not get them back until they got the ship back in five more days.  Discussing that with the others, there was no pressing need to get the work done, especially since they still had to find a replacement part.  So, Aali jumped on the merchant web and quickly found a replacement.  Over all, the work took 2.5 hours before they had their answer.

Terin And The Aliens

     Shrugging, Terin finally decided to go out on his own.  Rather than hit a bar, Terin decided he'd go out to a museum, and had looked them up earlier in the day.  Terin considered what he'd learned and settled on the 'Inthe Museum of the Races of the Regina Subsector.'  This museum presented information and education on all the major and Minor races with a presence in the subsector, plus information on some races from neighboring subsectors.  Obviously, the Vargr and Humanitii featured very highly in the display, along with the lesser Human variant races.  The Solomani, Darrian, Vilani and Zhodani were covered, given their known enclaves and worlds where the Zho were concerned.  Aslan enclaves were even mentioned.

Regarding the non-Human races, none were really native to the Regina subsector, though there were rumors where the Droyne were concerned.  Mention of the potentially mythical homeworld of Eskayloyt, said it was to exist "somewhere" in the Spinward Marches.  Displays covering this even had notes on legends suggesting it "should" be somewhere in the Regina subsector.  Though, no evidence supported that.  There were also noted enclaves of the Bwap in the subsector plus some communities of races native to the Aramis subsector, such as the Ebokin(from Yebab) and Llellewyloly(called "Dandelions") from the Junidy system.

The EbokinThe Ebokin are an alien minor race native to Yebab.  Ebokin are eight-legged four-armed beings with low-slung bodies.  They average 0.8 meters tall and 1.5 meters long, with the female of the species coming in slightly smaller.  Ebokin society is a very conservative matriarchy, bound by strict, unchanging laws.  They seldom leave their homeworld.

 

 

The LlellewylolyThe Llellewyloly (pronounced "Chlay-chlew-i-lolly") have five multi-jointed limbs which function as hands and feet interchangeably.  Their main sensory organs are also located on the limbs.  The spherical central body is covered with long, coarse hair.  Many body features are adaptations to the extreme temperature variations of Junidy's day.  Respiration occurs across the entire spherical body surface and is adapted to Junidy's very thin atmosphere.  Consequently, Llellewyloly venture unprotected only into similar very thin atmospheres; in other environments, and even then, they require whole-body protective suits.  "Dandies" or "Dandelions", as they are colloquially known, have a great phobia of non-native environments meaning that Dandies stick to low gravity, low pressure environments with similar atmospheres as Junidy.

Notes for those who did not know explained the definition between "Major" and "Minor" races.  Those races which discovered Interstellar jump drive on their own are considered Major races.  Those who were contacted and "given" jump drive are considered Minor races.  on some displays which discussed this, the controversy was covered which claimed the Aslan may not have discovered Jump on their own, and were listed as "both" a Major and Minor race.

After The Excitement

     Emkir had been dragging all day since he'd woken and not been able to get back to sleep naturally.  So, he asked Mikah for some sleeping tabs and racked out early, leaving Rol and Aali to spend some time re-assembling what they felt they should of the device and securing the rest of it so it would not gather dust or debris internally until it could be repaired and tested.  On top of everything, they were also able to confirm the battery was dead and were not sure if it would hold a charge once the capacitor was replaced?

Happily, it wasn't "restricted military technology" if they did have to buy one.  There were a number of conversations about jury rigging a charging station once they got the replacement and did the repairs.  But they decided not to spend the cash or effort now, because they couldn't replace the part until they had the ship back.  Then, they could completely reassemble the device and plug it into the ship's power systems.  Rol reassembled the device while Aali spent half an hour searching on the station's merchant web for the right capacitor.

Finally, she found some TL C capacitors which fit what they needed, which had been imported into the Inthe system.  Thanks to the import and tech up-pricing, what should have been a Cr 2 part cost them Cr 10 to order, which Aali shrugged away as she paid the cost.  The part was ordered and would likely arrive the next day or in two days.  Rol did admit things looked better than he'd worried, but they still needed to do the repair then test the battery to see if it might hold a charge after they decided not to buy even more spare parts to jury rig a charger before they had replaced the capacitor.

Toys, Websites And Cocoa

     While Aali and Rol worked, Zimzod pulled Mikah to the side to talk about the crystal he'd bought at the base thrift shop.  As she listened, he said, "This thing that I bought at the thrift shop is kind of a hot potato."  She recognized his tone meant there was more to be said, so she simply answered, "OK" and nodded that he should continue.  In a cautious tone, Zimzod asked, "Do you think we should, ah, call the guys in the funny suits?"  Mikah didn't even think as she quietly snapped, "Oh, Hell No!"  No, I've had more than enough of those people."

Despite her tone, Zimzod answered, "Um, I think would probably be in our best interests."  There was a pause before Mikah more calmly said, "If you want to call them, go ahead." in a dismissive tone.  Nodding, Zimzod said he'd make the call later.  Feeling it might be best not to wave flags in front of the whole crew, Zimzod waited for some time before pulling the comms data from their records of the last time they'd been in the Inthe system.  Of course, the response they got then was nothing to celebrate either, so Zimzod wasn't sure how he'd be responded to?

When Zimzod did make the call, he got an answering system of some sort with no data to indicate what organization he'd called?  Zimzod just left a message that he'd bought an item at the Marine base thrift shop, and felt they might be interested in it.  Done with his message, Zimzod broke the connection and went back to watching the work on the anti-grav shoe.  Half an hour later, Zimzod's personal comms began to alert and he answered it to hear a man say he worked for the system government and was returning a call to that number before asking how he could be of service? 

Knowing the balkanized system had no "system government" per se, Zimzod figured this was IRIS, and dove in.  "Yeah, I, uh, found something in the Marine base thrift shop that you might find interesting."  With a neutral tone, the man asked, "Can you tell us why you think we might find it interesting?"  In a more concerned tone, Zimzod firmly said, "Not over the comms." and the man said, "OK" in a voice that showed the slightest edge of surprise.  Silently accepting that with a nod, the man then asked, "Ok, what is your availability for the rest of the week?"

To Zimzod, that meant the next day, which was Friday, and possibly Saturday.  Zimzod decided to be up front and told the man they were in port for the next five days, and would have to handle issues and needs.  But, he did tell the man they could obviously reach the crew at their private comms, so they should reach out to him when an agent was coming and he'd be certain to have everyone ready.  The man agreed to that and said an agent would visit within the next day or two.  With that, Zimzod nodded and they cut the line.

Looking back to the work on the grav-shoe, Zimzod rejoined watching what turned out to be two hours of investigation before re-securing the device and ordering a new capacitor.  During that work, Jocelynn also quietly logged into a TAS network site planning to order a High Passage to be sent to her.  She planned to sell or auction that off, to raise cash to pay back Zimzod with.  Everyone who'd spent their evening watching or taking part in the work decided to just kick back and relax for what was left of the night before bed.

Because this appeared to be the first time Jocelynn was using her membership, she was asked more questions than she expected.  The representative was also very eager to help her, to make sure she found value in his service.  For her part, Jocelynn had expected to get an automated system when she logged into the account, and was told that in larger and more important systems, she would always be greeted by a live representative unless prevented by crisis-level events.  That was the level of service TAS strove to provide.

Very ready to help the Sergeant with her needs, the man asked if Jocelynn had a specific ship in mind to travel on, or a destination system she planned to travel to?  This was also helped, a bit, because TAS did keep up to date on their members activities and her account had just been re-opened after it had been closed assuming her death in military service.  So, there were electronically appended notes connected to the files of her return from a deep space misjump and discharge.  That meant it wouldn't be a surprise of the newly discharged marine wanted to travel somewhere from Inthe.

When Jocelynn declined that, he offered concierge services for her to use so she could examine her options and choose a destination which interested her or better served her purposes.  When he also offered services to get messages to her family that she planned to travel, Jocelynn said she had no surviving family, and the man's eyes widened slightly, realizing he'd missed a key part of her file.  Jocelynn also played down his apologies as the man hoped to redress his mistake, saying apologies weren't needed.  After that, he registered Jocelynn's Ident to her account and she received the electronic voucher soon after.  Counter to Aiden's swift moves, Jocelynn planned to not post it for sale right away.

After asking for the voucher, Jocelynn did ask about the TAS network user interfaces, which could be used where there were computer networks.  These would be limited dirtside on worlds where the tech was low but there should always be some sort of kiosk at the least if there was a highport in system or computerized facilities at the world's downport.  However, the man did warn her, there were many worlds in the Imperium where that was not the case, not to mention worlds outside the Imperium, and also there would be those systems where you could get automated services but the law levels left safety to be desired.

He then explain that the TAS Traveler Safety advisories of Green (for safe worlds), Amber(for worlds with some dangers and hazards) or Red(Just Say No) were in effect, and were used by starship and other insurance companies to void or raise charges for coverage.  He advised Jocelynn to make certain to check the advisories with their office before setting any travel plans in ceramic, so TAS advisors could help her smooth out any possible dangers on any route she chose to follow.  Not to mention TAS-offered and backed insurance policies.

He did all this and more as he gave her a complete guided tour of the public parts of the UI.  Private, password accessible sections, he left to her after mailing an e-pamphlet to her account.  By the time Jocelynn broke the call, she firmly understood the UI and had received the voucher certificate code.  Also, after breaking from the call, she logged into her password only section and started exploring for a bit, to familiarize herself with it.  After that, she looked around and saw the work on the anti-grav shoe had been wrapped up and decided she was gonna see if she could make some hot chocolate.

A Mug Of Old Home Night

     Looking around, Jocelynn called out, "Anyone want hot cocoa?" as she wondered what supplies the suite had to make it with?  Surprised by the entirely unexpected offer, especially because Rol was the one in the crew who cooked, everyone there gave some variant answer of "Sure!"  Rol was also curious what she had in mind as Jocelynn went to the kitchen to see what they had?  What that was was nothing better than commercial powder packets of garbage which tasted too much of water and only hinted at real chocolate.

Shrugging, Jocelynn realized she'd have to order supplies for room service because it was just too late to go out and shop for stuff herself.  As she worked measures out in her mind, Jocelynn realized she'd need to order enough supplies for eight people!  And, that required real milk and real chocolate.  Or, as real as possible.  Not as esoteric as coffee, but still, those were not low-cost goods.  While she did that, Rol gave her a guided tour of the kitchen which surprised her even more.

Jocelynn had heard he was the crew's cook and even had some of his meals, but was still not so sure until that moment.  And, Special Forces trained killer, Starburst Awardee and Knight of the Imperium Rol Kaihvos...wanted to talk about HER recipe!  He wanted to talk to HER about cooking!  For Rol, the surprise was that this post-war special forces rescue not only wanted to cook, but she wanted to make the cocoa old-school Terra Style!  Still, he could tell her she was going to have to settle for genetically modified chocolate and alternates for milk, but he'd tried the ingredients he knew she'd end up with and was sure she'd be pleased enough with the taste.

While they discussed cooking cocoa, Zimzod logged into the station net and began searching for an on-station presence for the Knight Defenders of the Marches.  Locating their facilities on-station, Zimzod saw the location was quite a bit smaller than the presence in Rhylanor, which made sense.  Rhylanor was not only a major system for trade and military responsibilities, but also for government and communications.  Rhylanor was one of the trade "super-highway" systems through which tech goods came to the Marches from the central worlds of the Imperium.  Inthe, had been lightly settled by colonists who were naturalists, and who set up a low-end and nature-based colony.

The system didn't "hit the big time" until the First Frontier War.  After the loss to the Zhodani, Imperial military strategists came up with a strategy which included the build-out of naval and other bases through-out the sector's border regions.  Even the civilian port in-system was a result of workers and merchants moving into the system to support construction of the orbital and dirtside military bases.  Inthe had been a smaller, but divided system with both civilian and military priorities since.  Not a "major" system.  That meant the Order's facilities would be smaller and less prestigious than those in major systems.

Jocelynn had finally called down to room service and got a huge shock when they hit her for a Cr 100 price for the ingredients.  She did have to admit she'd been specific about the quality of ingredients, and it "was" room service too.  Added to that, she planned to make two mugs per person, so she did order a hefty load of items to be delivered later in the evening than usual.  She'd also let Rol talk her into trying an ingredient he said he was used to, so this would be novel for her.  So, she shrugged and paid for her order, which would be delivered shortly.

While they waited, and then as Jocelynn "cooked", she told the others the recipe she used started with her step father when she was a kid.  She also told them about having grown up in the ice-cold climate of the Aster system.  99% of the planet's surface was covered with ice, with just enough temperature variation to allow for isolated melting, especially at the equator.  The occasional rocky mountain-top still poked through, but not often enough to present even 1 percent of the surface area.

The entire human population was clustered in a small enclave at the north pole, where employees of Glisten Mineralogical LIC operated a test mine, deep into the surface.  And the Highport wasn't very impressive either, just a few prefabricated modules strung together with walkway tubes and gantries.  The kind of setup that provided for minimal docking for ships that couldn't land, allowing cargoes personnel transfers to shuttles going dirtside, and is no more than a transfer point.  And, as sad as it sounded, Zimzod had to admit it sounded nicer than where he'd been raised in the Pimane system.  Something Jocelynn had a problem with believing.

One thing the crew had issues with, as Jocelynn talked about her homeworld, was where the milk came from?  Within a domed city so isolated on the Imperial frontier, there could have been no livestock or large spaces for dairy animals.  So, the "dairy farms" of Pimane were cockroach farms!  Like Zimzod, Jocelynn's first real tastes of a broader culinary pallet had come with her emigration from her homeworld to the universe the military introduced her to.  When Terin, having returned from the museum and sticking his nose into things, overheard that and started a snarky comment, Jocelynn threatened him and chased him out of the room.

Finally, the cocoa was made and served and Rol and Jocelynn both waited to see what the others thought while trying the hybrid of her childhood recipe joined with Rol's suggestions.  While Jocelynn was more attached to her childhood, Aali really didn't care for the taste.  She even commented that she'd thought she'd gotten 'a leg caught in her throat', making a joke out of Jocelynn's comment about cockroach milk.  Rol, Emkir, Terin and Zimzod found the drink "OK", but not really their choice of hot cocoa.  Rol, at least, found ways to be encouraging and positive while hiding some of his less impressed reactions.  Aiden found he liked it well enough, but Mikah thought it was much better than any hot chocolate drink she'd ever tried before.

After the first mug, Aali backed out of the offered refill as did a few of the others.  Finishing off the extra, Jocelynn decided to win back the crew's approval by ordering even more ingredients and cooking up her step father's recipe.  Of course, that cost her another Cr 50, which covered the cost of a smaller batch of ingredients, and set aside the bits Rol added in.  Most of those who had said 'no thanks' to a second cup of the first batch said they didn't want to try.  So, under an hour later, the second batch was ready and those willing tried another cup.

With Jocelynn now on a mission to prove the cocoa of her childhood was the best, she served up the new mugs to the others and eventually everyone there had a taste.  This time, Zimzod was the first to put his mug down and say it wasn't for him.  Emkir was the next to speak, saying, "This is definitely chocolate." in a neutral voice.  He had nothing against it, but he felt it was almost the same as the last batch.  Trying to be polite, he did try and excuse his experience, blaming it on his hangover from the night before.  Something that rang more hollow since she'd drank against him.  Without excuse, Aiden agreed with Emkir.

Most of the rest who'd tried it were ready to invest in a hot cocoa kiosk to sell this version.  They all agreed, as did Rol, that the undefinable "edge" they'd tasted in the first batch was gone in this version.  So, whatever that was had come from Rol's added ingredients.  As the praise came in, Jocelynn looked over to Rol and said, "Just wait til I can take you home to Pimane and make it for you properly, with the authentic ingredients.  Including milk right from the cockroaches."  After that, the crew either went to sleep or relaxed and hung out before going to sleep later.


News From Afar

     As he woke in his hotel room, Fesic went through his routine to the best he could while smiling at the memories of a very relaxing week with no real surprises.  That was very different than the routine with the crew he'd joined.  Still, he accepted that he'd been given the chance to travel far more while also having the freedom to see and enjoy the sights with them.  And, it was nice to take a break.  But, this last day of the tour would cover visits to last minute vistas before bringing all the tourists to the downport in the afternoon.

The first stop would be a location where the group would be able to see some of the most wonderous waterfalls in the subsector.  After that, they would all be brought to a wonderful natural venue with outdoor eating and gathering spaces where they would be served lunch and could relax.  Finally, they'd be taken to the downport, to board a shuttle up to the highport.  From there, most of the people riding with Fesic would make other connections off planet or out-system.  But, all of them would find the shuttle was vastly over-sized because it contained a massive amount of souvenir sales!

In the suite, Emkir woke this second morning after the drinking contest and felt much better!  Along with his recovery came his desire and the death of his courtesy as he started to wake Aali so they could get in some morning sex.  After Emkir had gotten Aali to a point where she could reasonably respond to his advances, she shut him down by asking, "How about a cup of caff first?" in a tone which wasn't quite annoyed.

She'd certainly not been ready to wake up.  Not catching the tone, Emkir chided, "You want artificial stimulation first?"  In answer, Aali simply reached out and poked him hard on the most visible and colorful of his remaining bruises.  Emkir just yelped and pulled back, reassessing the situation.  Finally, Emkir asked, "Are you offering to bring back a thermos of the drink when you return?" in an almost conspiratorial tone.  Aali couldn't believe he woke her just for sex and now wanted her to serve him 'breakfast in bed'!  Aali simply looked at Emkir and growled, "I sold your thermos for Cr 50."

Finally getting to the same speed setting as his wife, Emkir nodded and said, "OK.  Let's both get some coffee and then we'll see what comes next."  That was something Aali could accept as she got out of bed and threw on a shipsuit along with Emkir before they stepped out of their bedroom.  In another bedroom, Zimzod woke to see Mikah still out cold next to him.  Snagging a shipsuit himself, Zimzod stepped out into the common spaces of the suite to see the hired chef and his two helpers setting up their breakfast in the dining room.  Just after he took a seat to wait, Aali and Emkir stepped out of their bedroom too.

The couple sat just as the staff were finishing their set up, and they then said their goodbyes and left Aali, Emkir and Zimzod to eat.  Doing his best to ignore the couple as he tucked into the food, Zimzod couldn't help but notice Emkir seemed to be intent on grabbing a 'quick snack' while ogling Aali while she was grabbing a more substantial plate of food.  Still, Emkir was patient as his wife made her point and enjoyed her meal before they both returned to their bedroom.  Zimzod planned to go to the Knight Defenders order house and see what connections he could make and what he could buy there?

Of course, that meant changing into his order uniform, and he'd have to do that quietly if he didn't want to wake up Mikah.  Unfortunately, Zimzod's "quiet mode" wasn't up to his hopes as Mikah woke while he was trying to change.  Leaning up on an arm to look at him as he tried to dress, Mikah said, "Oooh.  Spiffy!"  Zimzod laughed and said he was headed to the order house and asked if she wanted to go?  When she started thinking about that, Zimzod also told her there was food in the dining room and she said she'd go with Zimzod after she dressed and ate.  So, Zimzod waited in the living room watching the news while Mikah showered, dressed and ate.

As he waited, Terin walked out of his bedroom in a shipsuit and saw Zimzod sitting watching the vid.  Nodding at Zimzod as he looked up, Terin said, "My.  Don't you look spiffy today?"  Looking back at Terin, Zimzod answered, "Like it, huh?  Can't be much harder." as he looked Terin's shipsuit up and down.  Just coming into the dining room himself, Aiden asked Zimzod, "Getting ready to clean up?  Don't they have staff here for that?" with an innocent smile on his face.  Terin looked at Aiden and joked, "I see, someone wants to get cloned again." as he shook his head.

Past that, Terin decided to ignore anything else but breakfast, but did say, "Zimzod, don't get blood all over the place."  But Zimzod just waved everything off, saying it wasn't worth responding to.  After that, the two filled their plates and were eating when Mikah came out of the bedroom shared with Zimzod in her order uniform.  When Terin noticed her and asked, "Oh.  Equally as spiffy.  Are you guys going to the order house?" Zimzod said "Yes" while Mikah said "No".  Both of their follow-on answers tripped over each other and it played out they were heading to the Order house.

While Mikah ate, Zimzod checked the data on the house and called for a kart to get them there.  After he ate, Aiden decided to call the scout base to see if they had regular base taxi services to their section of the port, so he could collect the Cr 100 for his Silver Asteroid?  Aiden also checked how much it would cost to get to the Scout offices on-station, if he chose to pay out of his own pocket?  On top of that, he had to make sure they had a pay office which could handle tin hemorrhoid payments at all?

What Aiden learned was that they did have a pay office on-station and it would cost Cr 100 for a kart to get there and back.  Armed with that, he asked Terin if he wanted to ride along and split the fare, 50/50?  Terin suggested they wait and see what developed, and if they could reduce the cost a bit more?  Aiden did say he knew Aali had a tin hemorrhoid too, so they could wait to see if she wanted to join them too?  In the meantime, Terin relaxed and turned on the news.

Eventually, Jocelynn came out of her bedroom in a shipsuit and ate before the food was cleared away.  Thanks to her good night's sleep, Jocelynn felt much better than the morning before too.  Still, Jocelynn planned to eat breakfast and then take a nice long bath.  When she said as much, Rol nodded to her and said, "Might as well.  You're not gonna be able to take one on the ship." and she nodded her agreement. 

    Gougeste (C372510-A Ni A 420 CsIm K2 V)                            Date: 179-1113
    Word has been received from Imperial Naval observer forces in the
    Gougeste system regarding the SuSAG liberation of that system from
    what are now being called irregular Sword World forces from the
    stranded Sjisnopsen, a Heavy Cruiser formerly part of the Colada
    system navy.  During early events in-system, the Sjisnopsen's
    commanding officer appeared to be prepared to fight those light
    forces which first arrived on the outer fringe of the system.  When
    that force was very heavily reinforced by vessels which had followed
    the initial vanguard by four hours, the ship struck its sensors and
    surrendered without firing a shot.

    Dirtside reports from the system indicate that SuSAG has managed to
    secure the system and believe ninety percent of the "Sword Worlder
    interlopers" on the surface have been captured or dealt with.  SuSAG
    management elements included in the assault forces are now said to
    be assessing what will be needed to bring the system back to its
    former operational levels?  As these events played out, a SuSAG
    spokesperson made a statement indicating that nearly half of the
    mercenary ground units brought in to recover the system were being
    offered further contracts to remain on-station as support for law
    enforcement and system stability.

    In a surprise twist announcement, Lt. Commander Zuumgagu of the
    Imperial Navy announced the CNS Sjisnopsen was to be turned over
    to the provisional government of Gougeste as they re-establish
    administration of their solar system.  While the Commander did
    confirm the cruiser would be turned over to the re-established
    government with all arms and battle ready equipment, he also
    confirmed the single restriction on the agreement.  That was the
    requirement that the ship's jump drive, which had failed, and
    stranded the cruiser in the first place, be completely removed,
    turning the cruiser into a system monitor.

The talking heads who followed that story with commentary reminded their viewers that a jump drive failure had stranded the ship in that system to start with.  While some questions were asked about re-engineering the ship once the jump systems were removed, to add more weapon systems, viewers were reminded that the "new free space" was all in the ship's engineering spaces.  That meant the new owners of the ship could not simply order new weapon systems to fill the created void.  Any major attempt to up-arm the ship would require a lot of internal reconstruction before that could be done, and possibly an upgrade of the ship's power systems, to provide new power to the new weapons.  After that, it was asked why that would be undertaken when the ship was ready "now" for its new role.  It was suggested the new space might be used for a "capture bay" to take hold and control of detained ships until their circumstance could be resolved.

    Regina ( A788899-C A Ri Cp 703 Im F7V M6V M8D )             Date: 235 - 1113
    In a move related to SuSAG's announcement from the Gougeste system,
    researchers from the University of Regina have requested permission
    to travel to that system to research the captured cruiser.  Academics
    from the University have supported the Imperial Navy with their
    research.  Examination of the evolution of warships captured, or the
    remains of battered wrecks, helps determine the goals and priorities
    of possibly hostile star nations, providing a consistent method to
    bolster the defense of the Imperium.

    In advance of a decision from SuSAG, The University of Regina have
    announced their intended team of investigators.  Led by Doctor Lord
    Ralkonnel Vavite, Knight of the Order of the Arrow, the team will
    also include esteemed Professor Sir Napidhel Istiar.  Doctor Istiar
    has been on loan from GLIPS, after his petition to study certain
    undisclosed projects in the Regina system had been approved in early
    1112.  Since then, the Doctor had to resolve or pause the work he
    had been carrying out in the Glisten system and had only arrived in
    Regina just over seven months ago.

    A spokesperson for the SuSAG corporation briefly held a press
    conference in the front of their company headquarters in the Regina
    system to state that there appeared to be no issues with allowing the
    team to work in the system, along with forces of the restored system
    government and other academic efforts, but would have to wait for
    confirmation of that permission before recommending the expedition
    begin any but the most basic preparations.

    Regina ( A788899-C A Ri Cp 703 Im F7V M6V M8D )             Date: 240 - 1113
    The office of the Seneschal of the Duchess of Regina has announced
    that recent unrest in that system has been settling down in response
    to actions taken by authorities on every level.  When called forward
    during the statement, a spokesman for the Regina Ministry of Justice
    presented a brief on the roll of arrests which shall be released to
    the public in the coming days and weeks.  Along with this list,
    briefs of the rolls of evidence will be provided as each of the
    arrested are brought to trial.

    In addition to the work of the Regina MoJ, Her Grace's Seneschal made
    it clear that many of these gains came at the suffrage of Lady Mikah
    Kirlim and her crew.  Despite the reaction of some in the crowd, the
    Seneschal was emphatic about the costs to the crew, who've steadily
    been found not only innocent of all accusations, but key in helping
    turn these crimes to arrests.

    Despite the announcement of improving conditions and arrests, the
    Government of Regina and Her Grace's Seneschal have confirmed there
    are still rumors being spun and efforts continue to track down those
    who are behind the threats and accusations being made against Her
    Grace and her administration.  An un-named source has confirmed to
    TAS News Service that a number of those arrested, and significant
    items of the evidence seized were from out-system sources, however
    that source refused to speculate further on that information.

    The Seneschal further stated that Her Grace is pleased with the
    progress against this campaign to destabilize the Regina system,
    however each citizen is reminded to remain aware and to turn over
    any data uncovered to the Ministry of Justice.  While the situation
    is improving and arrests are continuing, the Seneschal estimated
    they would not likely resolve this issue for another calendar
    year.
                  

    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)              Date: 225-1113
    The office of the Duke has announced that the Duchy have removed
    all members of the government of the Kegina system.  This action
    was taken with the backing of leading units of the Duke's Own
    and a force raised from the Rhylanor subsector Colonial Unified
    Army.  While this action is significantly unusual, and nominally
    outside the role of a Subsector Duke, most legal authorities feel
    His Grace will be able to provide a firm position when he speaks
    before the Subsector Senate.

    More significantly, it is not expected that Duke Leonard will
    be required to appear in the Court of Grand Duchess Delphine
    in Mora.  Per Imperial policy when such levels of inter-system
    activities cause the threat of interstellar armed hostilities,
    all actions and activities have been investigated in detail with
    that data provided to the Sector government regularly.  Still,
    with the issues stemming from the Natoko blockade and continual
    issues from the Porozlo system, the Admiralty and offices of
    the Grand Duchess have suggested a review of events in the
    Rhylanor subsector may be warranted.

    Moving forward, for the moment, His Grace has had his Seneschal
    form a council to govern the Kegina system until a new government
    can be assembled.  At the same time, His Grace and other regional
    leaders have met with the Spinward Marches Development Corporation
    to consider Kegina's over-population problems.  It is expected that
    the excess populations from Kegina moved into the Bevey system
    will be emigrated in colonial efforts along with other relief
    efforts.  At the same time, The Duke's, and Colonial ground units
    are on the ground on Bevey to partition the existing populations
    and safe-guard the rights and assets of that system's natives.

    Ruie (C776977-7  Hi  In  A 701 Na M5 V)                     Date: 231 - 1113
    News arrived from the Ruie system, today, of the passing of the
    famed toy maker, His Excellency Shiaangi Meshrumiikiim.  While
    the report stated the famed toy maker had died of natural causes,
    there were no further details on that point.  According to the
    report, Baron Meshrumiikiim had been visiting the system with
    his wife as part of a drive to connect to under-privileged
    populations both outside and inside the Imperium.  According
    to authorities, the trip would have continued from the Ruie
    system to the Rangent and Arden systems.  While there has been
    no word directly from Her Excellency or her team, it is assumed
    the remainder of those travel plans will be canceled.  TAS
    attempts to confirm this with Oberlindes Lines, who have
    provided transport for the visit, have not been responded to.
    Her Excellency is said to be handling all contacts and updates
    to the surviving family.      

While those in the suite had been listening to the news and digesting the important bits, this story silenced everyone.  They sat and listened to the announcement of the death of Emkir's father.  Having met the man, while in the Regina system, neither Terin nor Rol could regret his death.  Aiden was left out of the loop on why they thought the news wouldn't be as crushing to Emkir as he did, but he'd heard something of them meeting the man.  Still, Terin did scroll back and capture the news clip so he could make Emkir aware of it after he and Aali came out of their bedroom.

Ironically, those watching wondered where the Baron and Baroness had been traveling?  Because that would have affected if, and when they had heard that Emkir and Aali had been involved in a misjump and survived.  They also knew Emkir had sent a message to his parents as soon as he could, but if he'd sent it to their home system, they may not have received it, and even known he was alive.  They certainly would have been told about the misjump and failure of any search.  Terin and Rol did spend some time telling Aiden how much of an ass the man was, but gave that up as the next news story came up.

    Junidy (B434ABD-9 S G F7 V M9 D)                           Date: 207-1113
    Word has been received from Admiral Keshemkak, Commander of the
    ISS base in the Junidy system of events in the Gvurrdon sector
    and Vargr space.  Couriers carrying word from the Commonality
    of Kedzudh have brought word that the worlds of Afougae,
    Ganokoulovaenu and Asugunkhodz have left the Commonality!  The
    Scangen and Torrrerz systems, which had been considered client
    states of the Commonality also appeared to have severed all
    connection with them.

    The Admiral's announcement stated that this news was new, and
    Imperial authorities were only just starting to examine the
    meaning of these events.  Scout vessels have been dispatched to
    determine if this is just a slight change of allegiance or a
    signal of the collapse of the Commonality?  Ships have also
    been dispatched to determine the status of Imperial officers and
    ratings who have been serving on loan to the Commonality.

    Beyond the understanding of this news, those systems along the
    Imperial border with the Gvurrdon sector are being warned of
    the possibility of new and increased vargr raiding.  The Admiral
    has also sent news to the Mora and Deneb systems, anticipating
    a possible change of strategy in Imperial border defenses.
          

While they listened, Rol remembered Emkir having introduced a vargr friend of his to the crew in Mora, and inviting the officer to his and Aali's wedding.  Rol recalled that officer had been granted an Admiralty when he'd accepted a position, and Rol believed that had been with the Commonality of Kedzudh.  Shaking his head, Rol hoped Emkir was enjoying his morning because it seemed like the rest of his day was gonna suck.  Terin remembered Mikah had been very concerned with trying to find someone named "Kyle Van Ryddoth".  She even had Munarshu do some research to find out what had become of the man.  And learned he had been given a command and send into the Gvurrdon sector.  He wondered if he was mixed up in events and how Mikah would react?

Beyond that, the news was filled with in-systems stories, which still included commentary on the recovery of the crew and the ship's they reported.  Past the interstellar segment of the news, local stories discussed the relationships between the nations of Inthe, trade and financial market stories and even coverage of the end of a trip the President of Inthe had taken.  Now back in Inthe's capital city, the trip appeared to be a border-bolstering exercise.  The men watching the news recalled that he was perhaps one of their most politically powerful friends on-world.

An Encounter Unexplored

     After their cart ride, Zimzod and Mikah arrived at the Order house.  On a space station, the cubage available for the venue was obviously much smaller than the building on Rhylanor.  The list of items they could sell or have delivered was quite a bit smaller than what Zimzod had seen in the other venue.  Still, the Inthe system was at the end of a trade strand being fed by traffic from both the Rhylanor and Aramis systems.  So there were luxuries, even if they were up-priced due to shipping and the need of merchants to make the distance pay.  So, there was less available and the prices were still a bit higher.

Sadly for Zimzod, they did not have any actual coffee for sale, and the closest thing they had to that was a significant derivative of the bean, grown in a system in the Deneb sector.  That meant it wasn't coffee and it still had a cost to it for the distance it had been carried.  When Zimzod asked if they could have a sample cup, he was told that, for items of this cost, they could order samples at the order's dining facilities, but there were no free samples.  Shrugging, Zimzod figured they'd hang out and see who they could meet?  And, if they stayed for lunch, he could order some of the 'near-coffee' too.

Eventually, Mikah and Zimzod did chat and wander the order house for two hours and did have lunch there.  Two cups of coffee alone cost Zimzod Cr 60 total, because he offered to buy Mikah one too.  And, that was on top of a Cr 20 lunch each.  Unfortunately for Mikah, she tried one sip and then set the cup down.  Pushing it across the table, Mikah said, "Here.  You can have mine."  Both of them had noticed an undefinable "something" which was different, and it was too "off" for Mikah's tastes.  Zimzod noticed it, but he didn't have a real problem where Mikah felt it was like a buzz-saw cutting through the experience.

While the couple ate, they couldn't help noticing they'd been getting glances from a man in an Imperial Marine uniform.  Looking closer, they could see he wore a Major's collar brass and Armored Cav MOS insignia.  When he finally introduced himself, they learned he was a Lord of the local Lord to the Court of the County in the Roup system, Croesus.  That County included the Inthe system, as well as those of Wochiers, Yurst, Rethe, Paya and Dhian.  The county also oversaw the Dryone-held Agine system, which was also a red-zoned system.

Lord Major Kiliar Apkannir had been surprised to find a Lady of the Court of Deneb at the frontier end of the riftward Regina trace, and wondered what she and her crew had planned in the region?  When they'd asked, he had only recently arrived on the highport and had been deep in transition duties, which suggested why he didn't know about their misjump.  He was just burning time, waiting for his ship's lift time, leaving the system for a new assignment.  Misunderstanding, Zimzod thought the man was asking why they'd visited the Order house and said they liked dropping in and meeting with fellow members of the order when they visited a system.

Being more specific, the man asked what business they had in Inthe, they told him about the mis-jump.  Hearing that, the Major listened to their story and had many questions to ask about how they'd survived?  The more the man heard, the more impressed he was with their experiences.  He was also especially appreciative about the rescue of a marine from the wreck of the carrier.  When he asked how she was doing, Mikah and Zimzod said she was doing well.  The man then gave them his contact data, despite the very limited time he'd still be in-system and offered any help he could provide.

When Zimzod asked about knowing where any coffee might be for sale, the Marine laughed and said he wasn't on anyone's General staff.  After that, they asked him some questions, learning he'd been raised in a system in the Deneb sector.  When formations mixed in response to the Fifth Frontier War, he ended up in a Marches unit and ended up staying in the Spinward Marches.  His last hitch had been a very boring security hitch in-system, so he was looking forward to his new assignment.  Since he said it was fleet duty, he hoped it would be "more active".  Neither Zimzod or Mikah had asked about what he had been doing in-system for much of the conversation.

Finally, when Mikah asked about his assignment, he told her, "Well, I've just been assigned to a unit here, handling dirtside security operations.  Nothing big." with a shrug.  Accepting that, Mikah went with current news and asked if he or his unit had any contact with the Vargr?  Major Apkannir emphatically said, "Not at all, thankfully."  Assuming he meant Vargr raiders or troublemakers, Mikah replied, "I can agree with that sentiment.  I wish I could say the same."  The Major then turned the conversation back to them, asking what their plans were once they got their ship back?  Mikah just told him she and the crew planned to try and settle into being merchants for a bit and see how that worked?

Plans And Decisions

     Done in their bedroom, Aali and Emkir cleaned up and eventually rejoined those still in the suite's living room.  Jocelynn had also finished her bath and was dried, clean and completely relaxed as she also joined the others for lunch.  With everyone organized and the chef making lunch, Terin stood as Emkir walked into the room with a grim look on his face.  Then, Terin excused himself, pointed to the vid screen and said, "You might want to know about this."

Emkir wasn't sure 'why', but as he walked Aali into the living room, arm in arm, with the glow of good sex surrounding them...  Emkir wasn't sure why his smile faded as did the glow in his eyes.  Still standing with the warmth of the morning, Emkir turned to the screen as Terin played the news clip and Emkir learned of his father's death.  Emkir watched in silence as the report played out.  When she realized what was being said, Jocelynn gasped, and looked around.  She was surprised by the lack of respect for the dead.

Emkir and Aali stood for a moment as all eyes in the room shifted to him.  Finally, Emkir breathed in a sigh and said, "Father is dead.  Long Live Father."  Seeing the look Jocelynn had on her face, he smiled gently at her and said, "We were a bit estranged", with a sweep of the hand to wave away her concern.  Based on what he'd heard, Aiden snickered, "A little, which is like saying we were a little at war with the Zhodani."  Waving away Aiden's comments too, Emkir moved to a console to log into the network and connect to a service bureau.  Once connected, Emkir set about sending his mother flowers and a note of condolences.

As he did, with Aali moving to stand at his side, the others moved to the dining table and quietly started to eat.  Not able to personally select the details of a request on site, service organizations rose up to provide support to those who needed to make their best effort in a distant solar system without traveling there themselves.  In this case, Emkir could specify which systems should be checked to see if his mother was present.  Then, they would try to fulfil his first option, stepping back through a list of provided options until they could do as he asked and refund any leftover funds.

For the first step, Emkir decided to send his request to the Ruie system, under the assumption there may have been some reason to remain there for a funeral and honors from those he was there to meet or those of the system leadership who wanted to pay homage.  From there, Emkir also considered she might have traveled home to the Roup system.  Even if she stayed in the Ruie system for as long as two weeks after his father's death, the news story was dated 231-1113.  So, it had happened just about three and a half weeks before.  That meant she would even then be in, or have passed through the Hefry system enroute to Roup.  Or, have gone from Ruie to Regina. So, Emkir instructed the service to try his family home in Roup, and the Regina system too.

Either way, the service bureau would transmit the request to all the systems involved.  At each location, the bureau offices in each system would get the work order and work to see if Her Excellency was in-system.  Those who could not would send a notice back to the main office as well as each other involved office, to update the request.  If any office could carry out some or all the instructions, they would do that and send out the notifications required.  Eventually, word from each point would return to Inthe and Emkir would be notified of the outcome if he were still in system.  If not, he said he expected his ship would next travel to the Wypoc system, and he should be reached there.

Emkir knew that his mother's favorite flowers were the 'Pink Clematis', which was also notable for its symbolism of humility.  That fit very well with her work with charities and her efforts to remind the most wealthy of donors that their circumstances were not so far removed from those of the suffering poor.  With a grim smile, he perhaps felt a bit of the irony of sending her a display of those blooms to share his grief while perhaps also reminding her of the child she and her husband had looked down on for so long.  Considering that, Emkir also realized something he'd missed at first.

"Regular" news from the Regina system would take up to eleven weeks to reach the Inthe system because they follow the X-Boat and trade routes. However, many local news bureau's regularly employed "Fast boats" which 'crossed the neck' from Regina to Inthe via the Yori system.  That meant that even if his mother knew he was alive and sent him a message about his father's death, it appears she simply sent it the regular route rather than sending it direct.  Of course, he'd sent his message saying he was alive to their home system, in Roup, because he didn't know they'd been traveling.  So, she may well have learned he was alive, if she did, from the news herself.  And, his condolences would take at least three weeks to get to her if he sent it across the neck.

In the end, Emkir paid Cr 250 to be assured Cr 100 would be spent on the type of display and note he wanted.  He even hand wrote the note on a scan pad, so his handwriting could be captured and imprinted exactly on the note she'd receive with the delivery.  Emkir and Aali then joined the others for lunch at the table.  When he was asked about possibly talking to Mikah and Zimzod about tracking his mother down to have a family funeral, Emkir waved that off.  He told them, "Like I said.  Dad is dead, long live dad."

Rol gave Emkir his most solemn look and said, "I'm sorry about your father."  Then, shifting his expression entirely, he continued, "Now that we've gotten that out of the way..." in a much more contented tone.  And, at that point, Jocelynn looked at him and was horrified by Rol's comments.  But then, Rol joined back with the others in telling Jocelynn how much of a piece of crap Emkir's father had been.  And respect for the dead or no, she couldn't disbelieve what was being said with Emkir and Aali not only nodding along but adding in comments of their own.  In the end, she had to simply shrug and accept that they knew the man and she didn't.  Eventually, the bitch session covered the "Welcome party" thrown for the Baron in Regina, and Terin explained in glorious detail the events and how the Baron blamed Emkir in the end.

Finally, things started to shift and Rol brought up the events in the Commonality of Kedzudh and played that news clip for Emkir too.  Emkir remembered that his friend, Admiral Fhazkoe, had accepted a post in the Commonality and had to wonder what was happening to that man at the moment, or had happened those weeks before the news reached Inthe.  Emkir wasn't surprised that the Commonality may have shattered or collapsed because Vargr states were known for that sort of thing.  In fact, Fhazkoe and even the Arch Duke had said the Imperium was releasing the officers from Imperial service in hopes their presence in the Commonality military would add strength and staying power to the state.  Emkir considered the information he had and really wished he could get a message to Fhazkoe.

Sadly, Emkir also knew the Imperial x-boat network didn't reach into Gvurrdon sector.  And once any message he paid to send would reach the end of that in six weeks' time, in the Marz system, the Pretoria subsector of the Deneb sector, delivery was uncertain at best.  From that port, a private ship would need to cross the eight parsecs to the former border of the Commonality.  And that, by skirting the borders of the hostile vargr star nation of Akhsthti, and then through some of the very systems which had been said to have removed themselves from the Commonality.  There were other routes to take, but none faster and few without entering less stable systems, or without bringing tankers and other logistical vessels.

Looking at the problem from other angles, Emkir decided there might be other ways to get word sent more quickly, but he'd need to get his message on a scout vessel.  And that would need him to make some connections and possibly earn a favor, or owe one.  To do that, of course, he'd have to visit the scout base.  Emkir also saw that he'd have to metaphorically wear his Admiral's hat for this work, and do his best to convince whichever officer he could connect with that the delivery of his message would be in line with Imperial needs.

Having decided that, Emkir did a search on the station-net's news links to see what he could find out about the base's assigned officers and squadrons.  Having an idea who to call, Emkir then opened a comm link and called asking for one of the squadron commanders.  As he expected, Emkir first ran into the standard bureaucratic static.  That kind of static was Emkir's meat, though.  It didn't take him long to cut through it, and when he did, Emkir worked to set up a meeting with one of the officers commanding a number of the squadrons at the base.

That done, Emkir decided to dress up proper.  He also made sure to pin on his allegiances and memberships as an understated message to everyone with the eyes to see and learning to understand would know what they meant.  That would make a statement that none of the uniforms he had worn in the past, or could currently wear, could make.  Emkir also felt it would be best to have Aali with him as well, though he didn't want to spread the word around too much at the moment.  So, before he dressed, he stepped over to Aali and quietly told her to get dressed.

Negotiations And Payments

     While Emkir had been making his plans and researching who to contact, Aali had been talking to the others and Terin had told her he and Aiden were thinking of going to the scout base to pick up payments for their Silver Asteroids.  He asked if she wanted to join them?  Looking back at Terin, Aali said, "You're right.  It is that time of the month." and got a laugh from those at the table.  So, later, when Emkir told her about his plans, Aali mentioned to him Terin and Aiden's plans and they all agreed to go to the scout base together, which would save them each a part of the cart-fare.

Once loaded into the cart, the four talked about their plans.  After Emkir told the others about what he needed to do, they agreed to hit the paymaster's office afterward.  When Terin wondered what he and Aiden should do while Emkir and Aali were meeting with his officer, Emkir suggested they hit a bar.  He reminded Terin that he'd wanted to go to bars the night before.  When he did, Aiden gave a dark chuckle at that and said, "Sure.  Let's get us kicked off another base."

On the base, Emkir and Aali dropped Aiden and Terin off at the shopping complex on base and they headed to the thrift shop.  Especially since they didn't have the credentials to allow them to shop at the PX or commissary.  In the thrift shop, the first thing that drew Aiden's attention were the handguns on consignment.  After half an hour browsing, Terin happened on an infuser!  The device took aromatic material and "infused it" into air, that could be blown into a space to scent it, or into liquids, to create scented oils and the like.

Checking out the unit, Terin realized it had to have been imported into the system because of the tech level needed to make it.  That meant, it would be very expensive to buy new in this system.  Some of the built-in functions of the unit allowed it to take in raw materials and grind or reduce them to a state from which they could be infused.  As Terin looked over the piece, he realized it had to be from a fairly advanced world and he wondered who'd have dumped it in a thrift shop?

Terin was impressed when he realized it had a compressor so it could process raw materials and "filler" to create tablets, that could be stored and used to create scents and oils later without the unit!  The infuser could even create oils and scented fluids to reservoirs to carry those away too.  The last major discovery Terin realized was that the infuser had two modes and could be completely portable or connected to permanent feeds to be used as an "in-place" commercial unit selling scented oils, waters and incents!  The only thing it couldn't do was create smokables.  Checking the price, Terin saw the shop wanted Cr 12,000 for it.

Terin wanted to haggle and see if he could get the price lowered, but had to decide on a tactic to use.  He knew he could try to use his knowledge of his craft and try to brow-beat the clerk with what he knew.  But, he could tell from the labeling on the device that the shop had researched it too.  So, they knew as much as they needed to in support of their price.  Terin also considered using his nobility in a "Do you know who I am" rant, or the threat of a rant.  But that could not only fail, it could backfire and get them kicked off yet another base.

That left trying the ever-popular "charm offensive" to try and talk the clerk down.  To try and get the clerk to agree to lower the price.  The bad news was that the shop had researched the infuser and knew what they had.  So, they also knew they didn't need to lower the price unless they really needed to change their monthly sales profit margin for that month or faced sudden expenses.  Because of that, the so called charm offensive failed.  And, since Terin wasn't particularly skilled in talking people into breaking the rules to help him, he eventually decided he wanted it and was willing to pay the Cr 12,000 to get it.

While Terin drooled over, and bought the infuser, Aiden had seen a very fine target shooting set with one very special gauss pistol.  It used standard magazines, but what was special about it were the mount points on which weights could be adjusted by specialized tools included in the kit.  This let the owner dial in their aim.  Adding to the set's value, it was a special made set, of great collectable value and extremely well engineered for competition shooting.  Indeed, it would even be suitable for someone to use as a 'close range sniper'.  At first, Aiden cringed at the Cr 4,000 price tag, but he still examined the set.  And the more he realized this was a very special set, the more he wanted it.  Finally, he paid the Cr 4,000 to add it to his collection.

Seeking favors To Call In

     While Terin and Aiden shopped, and planned to visit the pay office, Emkir and Aali arrived at one of the base's headquarters sections.  That headquarters section managed the dispersed scout fleets of the spinward-coreward quadrant of the Regina subsector, and was commanded by Scout Leader(Scout Leader is the equivalent of the rank "Admiral") Alakam Udagis.  Still, they were there to meet with Senior Administrator Zasnad Gusurda. (Senior Administrator is the equivalent of the Naval rank of "Captain") That officer served on Scout leader Udagis' staff and might be able to do what Emkir wanted.

On their arrival, once they were settled, the Scout Leader gave them his condolences on the death of Emkir's father.  He also asked, though he hoped it would have been otherwise, if Emkir had learned of his father's passing through the news or had perhaps had a personal message?  Emkir confirmed it had only been from the news.  Emkir also admitted they all knew well that things such as that happened, and they couldn't be avoided.  When Emkir also told them he'd sent condolences back to his mother in those systems where he expected she might be.  That answered the Scout Leader's next question, as he was ready to make a courier ship available if needed?

Emkir nodded at the offer, and carefully didn't smile because the offer would play into his hopes to get a message to Admiral Fhazkoe.  But, since he'd asked for the meeting to discuss reaching Fhazkoe, Emkir was happy to let the meeting move forward at its own speed.  Switching from 'formal' to 'business', Udagis asked how he could help Emkir, speaking Admiral to Admiral.  Emkir explained that he'd learned that his friend had taken a position in the navy of the Commonality of Kedzudh.  And, with news that systems were defecting from that star nation, he was concerned with his friend's safety.

Scout Leader Udagis admitted there was some urgency in the circles of the Imperial high command to get ships into the region both to safeguard Imperial citizens and protect Imperial interests.  It was also a priority of all regional commands to gather any information they could on what was happening in vargr space.  Another problem was the question of events in the Commonality.  Imperial commanders needed to know if the Commonality was collapsing, had collapsed, or not?  Or, if the systems which had left the Commonality were a new star nation or just the bits of one shattered?

That meant sending couriers to all Imperial commands as well as into the Gvurrdon sector to find any information they could.  Udagis confirmed they had files on all Imperial military members who'd gone to serve the Commonality and any ships sent into the region had recovery orders.  What made that more difficult was that any data they had on any of the officers and personnel were easily a handful of months old.  After they had that, it would become a question of what resources they had and how to get them in, to recover anyone located?  Leaning forward after saying that, Udagis asked Emkir, "Would Lady Mikah and your crew be interested in a contract into vargr space?"

Emkir said he could comm Mikah, but couldn't speak for her, but Udagis said he'd rather Emkir talk to Mikah face to face.  He admitted, "We have no idea what might come out of these events, but we know we might find a significant need for more ships and forces in the coming weeks."  When Emkir asked what official designation they would operate under for such a contract, he was told it would most likely be completely covert.  Small, unidentified and unrelated ships without Imperial ties slipping into vargr space to carry out specific missions or mayhem if they can.  Emkir had to admit that his crew were good with mayhem where they were not so good at covert.

Emkir offered to set up a meeting with Mikah and Udagis suggested he speak to Mikah about the offer and let him know if a meeting needed to be set up?  Udagis told him the mission would be paid for by the Imperium through secret accounts.  With that, the discussion of vargr space was done and Udagis asked Emkir if there was anything else he needed?  Aali muttered "Provisioning" and Emkir reminded the Scout Leader of their recent misjump, and explained they'd eaten all but twenty of their emergency meal ration bars.  Emkir then said they'd been looking for a way to restock their new ship, once it was out of the yards, with replacements.

Udagis joked, "That must not have been pleasant." and Emkir admitted, "It wasn't pleasant, but they kept us alive."  Nodding, Udagis looked to the side, to one of his staff members, who had been consulting their note-puters throughout the meeting.  One of the staffers looked up and said the Upgrade was being handled on the Tinatr station, and they could always have a "welcome back to the universe" present delivered.  When Aali and Emkir thanked him, Udagis waved their thanks away and suggested they wait to thank him until they had to suffer through eating them again.

When Udagis reminded them all that Imperial rations could be several decades old, Emkir said, "Well.  If they're tough, then we'll just have to chew harder.  If it gets us through a misjump or an attack, it could be the difference between life and death."  Udagis just laughed and said, "The trick to that is to not misjump.  Or, to shoot the navigator."  With that, they all laughed.  After they thanked the man for his help, Aali also said she needed to collect her payment for her Silver Asteroid, and Udagis said he could have his people make the transfer.

As Aali thanked him, Udagis asked what plans Emkir and she had, and if they could remain on the base until dinner, to share it with him and his officers?  While Emkir and Aali said they'd like that very much, they mentioned they had two shipmates with them.  Nodding, Udagis waived the concern away as he said, "Oh, bring them along."  Nodding, Emkir pulled his comms and called for Terin and Aiden.  Terin answered first, asking, "What's up?"

Emkir answered, "Hi, this is Emkir calling.  We've been invited to dinner with some of the brass here, and they're extending the invitation to you two.  Do you want to come?"  Hearing that, Aiden only wanted to know if the food would be poisoned or not?"  Aali, who had gotten into the conversation by then, said, "Not as far as we know." and got a laugh from Emkir.  Terin reached over to try and turn off Aiden's comms as he said he'd be glad to join them.  Aiden simply slapped away Terin's hand and let silence stand for his acceptance.

Nodding once that was decided, Udagis suggested he take them on a tour of the base.  At the same time, he had someone dispatch a team to locate Terin and Aiden and bring them to the pay office before bringing them to meet with himself, Emkir, Aali and the other officers.  The tour, such as it was, really only covered the base annex on the civilian port station they were on.  This was because the civilian port had many more amenities on it than the main scout base, where most of the real work was done.  But the officers felt it was best to be where the most amenities were available.

Viewed In A Different Light

     After they'd finished lunch, Rol had wanted to do something, but wasn't sure what?  He'd first decided to wait and see what the others wanted to do, and possibly make suggestions or tag along.  But, after the four scouts had gone off to the base for their tin hemorrhoids, it was just him and Jocelynn in the suite.  And he knew he didn't want to treat her the wrong way after the incident with Terin in the passage because he hoped for something more than friendship.  So, Rol considered his options and asked her if she wanted to go see a tri-vid?

Right off, Jocelynn was surprised by the offer, but wasn't against it.  She'd actually been thinking about going to the military museum on station.  Without even thinking past that, Jocelynn said, "Sure.  But, after that, can we go to the military museum?"  Not missing a beat, Rol shrugged and said, "Sure", and turned as he told her he'd check how to get there.  Seeing it wasn't that far, Rol kicked his interests aside and asked if she'd rather go to the museum instead of the movie?  When Jocelynn agreed, they each stepped into their bedrooms to gear up to step out onto the station.

As he did that, Rol called for a cart to ride to the museum.  He did that while Jocelynn suddenly realized that Rol had already had plans and totally dumped them the minute she suggested going to the museum instead.  And that realization brought up other thoughts about what he might be interested in?  Thinking that again forced her to look at him differently than she'd been thinking of him.  Even if part of her was still the twenty four year old newly-minted commando who'd watched the vid of a hero being awarded the Starburst and dreaming of someday serving with him in combat!  And soon, they were in a cart and on their way.

Rol and Jocelynn both agreed allowances had to be made for the museum.  Since they were on a space station, they both understood there wouldn't be a lot of large static displays of war machines which had been lifted from the surface to take up space on a commercial station.  While space had been devoted to a highport campus of the Inthe Museum of War, most of the displays were holographic.  So, it wasn't the most stirring collection of artifacts, but there was quite a bit of video imagery presented which put the visitor into the action.

Added to that, the 'military history of Inthe', was never a history of front-line events.  The system was raided more than once, because it was the location of a major forward Imperial naval base.  But, it had never been besieged, over-run or conquered.  That meant the military history of that system was one of support and of Inthe-based units moving out to other stars to support distant war activities.  That meant the displays were more educational than artifact-based.  Still, they did come on a static display of battle armor suits that both Rol and Jocelynn wanted to stuff in their pockets and run home with.

One of the suits, from the Fourth Frontier War, was the sort of ultimate assault suit which led to the suits Rol's unit used in the Fifth.  Thanks to the display and how it showed off the suit's special modules, Jocelynn got to ogle and lust after functions she'd only heard of.  And Rol got to do some bonding with her as she asked him to explain or give her more details of those modules from his own combat experience.  Still, it was a memorable bit from the museum.

The two had to admit the museum had not been as good as they'd hoped.  Rol looked at Jocelynn, then, and asked if she wanted to go back to the suite, to a bar or to someplace else?  Jocelynn looked at him and said, "Someplace?  I'm not a knight, so I can't go to those cool places you get to go."  But she suddenly and happily said, "Oh, yeah!" when Rol said "I can take you."  Looking Rol in the eyes, she asked, "Can people eat dinner at your order house?  Can we eat dinner there?"  Rol had to smile at the eagerness and almost wonder in her voice and eyes.

Nodding, Rol asked Jocelynn if she wanted to return to the suite and get dressed for dinner and she said yes.  Still, she wondered what she would wear and if her silver dress was appropriate for the Order House?  It was, after all, a sleeveless party dress and not as proper as she thought might be needed.  Realizing she might actually need a different dress, and one she didn't have, Jocelynn asked Rol if they could stop at a dress maker so she could get something proper to wear to the Order House?  Like everything else Jocelynn had asked of him that day, Rol had no problem with that as they boarded a cart and asked for a dressmaker shop.   On the way to the dressmaker's, Jocelynn thought about the dress she wanted.

She wanted a black "Date night" dress that was sleeveless, but both casual and formal at the same time.  A date dress that could be "added to" to make it appear longer and less exposing.  She asked for hems that were knee-length and not low cut around the neck but not high and conservative either.  She also asked the maker to sew the dress close enough to show off her curves but not tight and certainly not "painted on".  In addition, the dress would be worn with a strap-less bra, to enhance the open neck and shoulders appearance of the dress' shoulder straps.  The seamstress offered her a price of Cr 350 on the dress along with a black clutch, shoes and something matching to wear around her neck or wrist.

While Jocelynn tried on designs, Rol was the only person she could ask for opinions.  And Rol's opinions were "more cleavage" and perhaps a skirt that was a bit shorter.  Still, Rol was more conservative about women being able to go out in public too, but Jocelynn did act on some of his opinions.  So, while the neckline of the dress wasn't much lower than she'd planned, the shape of the dress and strap-less bra under it pushed her breasts so they were more "prominent".  And the skirt length stayed knee-length.  While she changed and modeled, Jocelynn even borrowed a brush and let her hair loose to wear down, deciding to keep it that way for the evening.

Between playing critic for Jocelynn, Rol realized he needed something to wear that would match her level of dress.  And, he recalled, he'd not packed anything like his order uniform and didn't want to go back to the suite to change after she'd bought a new dress.  So, Rol decided he needed a new outfit that wasn't a suit, but was perhaps a step between casual and formal himself.  When he asked Jocelynn for her thoughts, she recommended a black suit with a shirt of blue only slightly less dark than the suit because it would set off his hair and coloring well.  Rol did want a maroon stripe to run down the outside of each leg, to honor his Marine past as well as maroon epaulettes.

The suit eventually came with dress shoes and socks, but no neckwear because the outfit was not formal.  And Rol was finally charged Cr 300 for his outfit.  After the outfits were both done, and paid for, Jocelynn and Rol wore them out as they left the shop and got into a summoned cart.  Each had a small bag that held the carefully folded outfits they'd been wearing when they arrived at the shop.  So, they were decked out in their new outfits as they rode to the Order House for dinner.

Including their dinner, the couple planned to spend four hours mixing and seeing what they could find.  And for Jocelynn, the entire experience was a fantasy, because she'd never been in a space that was so up-scale and so specifically designed for the nobility.  Rol even enjoyed bringing her to that world and letting her pretend to be a noblewoman for an evening.  Jocelynn even gasped at some of the luxuries they had for sale in the specialty shops in the vender spaces.  Some things Jocelynn saw, she'd only heard of and not seen.

Added to that, everywhere they went, Rol was treated as a Starburst awardee would be, and covered by security as befitted someone who was still hunted by the local vargr underworld.  So, there was not fawning, but the level of respect showed only enhanced Jocelynn's feeling of fantasy.  Dinner was all cut glass and fine dining, where Rol paid the Cr 30 a plate cost.  Late in their meal, an elderly man approached the table and both saw he wore an insignia which suggested the man had risen to at least the rank of Major General in the Imperial Marines!

Before he stepped up, the officer fixed Rol with a look that was almost calculating in its manner.  The look suggested he wasn't certain if he wanted to step up and talk to Rol.  Finally making his decision, the man stepped up and said to Rol, "You were stationed on Garda-Vilis.  Weren't you?"  Carefully, Rol nodded and said, "Yes." as Jocelynn decided she really would like to know what was happening just then?  Nodding, and leaning back a bit as if he'd decided to stay and relaxed a bit, the man continued, "I remember you.  And I'm going to be honest that I'm really disappointed that your horny desire for combat adventures was finally recognized."

Rol found himself caught between the three faces of a prism as he remembered events ten years before.  In that same instant, he saw the look in Jocelynn's eyes as her jaw nearly fell to the table.  And he juggled that with mentally trying to understand who this man was while also trying to read his expression.  When Rol finally found his voice and asked, "Do I know you, Sir?" the man answered, "You don't.  But, you have me to thank, in a way.  Sad, though that is."  Finally, the man introduced himself as Lieutenant General Nekinm, late of the Emperor's Imperial Marine Corp.  That, again, dropped Jocelynn's jaw as the pieces suddenly started snapping into place in Rol's memory.

A Lieutenant General was the second highest Imperial General rank who still served in the field!  This was a man that was lightyears from the lower level officers Jocelynn had ever dealt with except at an extreme distance and without any chance of personal contact.  Stepping over to their table to talk to Rol.  And, not just stepping over to talk to Rol, but to insult him!  When Rol served with the 1033rd Imperial Marine Logistics Battalion in a police action in the Garda-Vilis system, that battalion was part of the 76th Marine Striker Division.

And, while not the divisional commander, General Nekinm had been a staff officer in the divisional HQ.  And Rol knew he had never met the General, then or since.  The General then told Rol his paperwork had crossed his desk when they were deciding if they should cashier him from the military!  After hearing that, Jocelynn wasn't even sure she wanted to breath, in order to not break the moment until she understood what was happening?  As if he'd heard her thoughts, the General admitted that he and several other members of the headquarters staff had discussed Rol at length, before deciding he and his career could be saved.  Rol could only answer, "Well, I appreciate that you didn't decide to take action against me." in as neutral a tone as he could manage.

Smiling half-heartedly, the General said, "Some of my feelings say that we're glad that we didn't, and some of my feelings are disappointed that we didn't."  Nodding, but still in a neutral tone, Rol admitted, "I can see how that could be."  After a pregnant pause that could have driven Jocelynn mad, the General as much as became a different person as he suddenly seemed to relax.  He then asked, So, what are you doing in this system, other than the news reports that we've heard?"  When Rol started to explain that they were waiting for the repairs on their ship after a misjump.  The General gave him a patient smile that said 'Any idiot could have listened to my question and understood what I was asking' and asked, "Anything other than what we've heard in the news reports?"

Rol nodded and answered, "Actually, nothing at the moment.  We're between jobs."  Still casual, but perhaps a bit more attentive, the officer asked, "What kind of jobs?"  "Since I got out of the service, we've been sort of free lancing.  We do, pretty much odd jobs wherever we go.  Trying to keep ourselves in solvency."  Nodding, the man asked, "What kind of jobs have you handled?" and Rol answered, "We've done a little bit of cargo running, and we've done a bit of contract work as far as security work."  Leaning back on his heels, the General said, "So, you're being modest." while Jocelynn wondered what the hell that meant?

Rol said, "Yes" and the General responded, "I can understand that.  Sometimes, it's a valued personality trait."  The man then handed Rol an electronic card and said, "This contact code is usually valid in any system where I'm present at the time.  Sometimes, it's valid if I have friends in the system.  If you're looking for a job and you don't mind a little bit of risk, we might be able to help you with that."  Taking the card without looking at it, Rol pocketed it and said "I'll certainly keep it in mind and I'll pass it on."  After that, the General lifted a half-filled glass he'd been carrying as if to raise a toast to Rol before taking a sip as he stepped away from their table.

For reasons Rol could not guess, and Jocelynn didn't bother to explain, she stood from her chair and stepped up next to the General to say, "Excuse me, Sir.  I just wanted to introduce myself.  I'm Gunnery Sergeant Jocelynn Guerrek.  I just want to say, you seem to be up to date with the news of our recent misfortunes, and I just wanted to let you know that I'm the marine they just rescued from the Regina's Storm.  The man took a step away from her as he gave her an up and down evaluating look

He then said, "Good to know, Sergeant.  You've become part of a very interesting history and you're a very lucky woman."  When Jocelynn only answered, "Yes I am" he nodded and said, "I guess I'll have to look into your background." in a tone that was not at all designed to settle her stomach.  The General then raised his drink once again, turned and walked away.  As he stepped away, Jocelynn said, "I just wanted to say it was an honor to meet you."

A Party For Two...Or More?

     By the time Mikah and Zimzod got back to the suite, it was empty.  Rol and Jocelynn had gone off to a museum and Emkir, Aali, Aiden and Terin had gone to the scout base.  Fesic was still down-well on his trip and wouldn't return until the evening.  So, they had the place to themselves.  As soon as she realized that, Mikah let out a cheer and said, "Whoo hoo!  The kids are all gone" with a fist-pump into the air.  Zimzod got a look of pure joy on his face as he said, "Let's run around naked!" and Mikah laughed.

Suddenly getting a wicked idea, Mikah quickly turned and locked the suite entry without thinking that everyone who lived there would have an access code...  Zimzod gave her an odd look when she did that, and was about to ask what she'd come up with when she grabbed his right hand with her left and started pulling the blouse of her uniform open with her right hand.  Not knowing what she had in mind, Zimzod started caring less and less as her clothes started coming off.  Her skirt was dropping around her ankles as she paused and Zimzod noticed they'd stopped right in front of the door to Aiden's bedroom.

Then, Mikah looked up at Zimzod in her bra and panties and said, "Let's drive Aiden nuts!"  She then pulled him into Aiden's bedroom and pushed him down on the pilot's bed as she stood over him and undid her bra.  Zimzod was already on the program as he started squirming out of his clothes while Mikah pushed down and stepped out of her panties before climbing on top of Zimzod.  She then grabbed and started massaging him before straddling Zimzod and sliding down on top of him.  Once she ground down hard on his erection, Mikah let out a slight moan and said, "Let's make a huge wet spot on his bed."

For the next thirty minutes, the two not only had sex on his bed but fondled and played with each other to keep aroused as they took turns with different poses on every surface.  Zimzod not only enjoyed the sex, but planned to leave the mess for Aiden to see whenever he returned from wherever he'd gone.  Especially, wiping himself clean on Aiden's sheets after a session of anal sex.  Mikah 'planned' to call in housekeeping after they were done and have them clean the room so completely that Aiden wouldn't be able to miss that "something" had happened, but would not know what?  Still, Mikah would have to remember to do that after they were done fucking, and that assumed they'd get done before he returned.

After spending more than half an hour having sex in Aiden's bedroom, Zimzod led Mikah out into the suite's public spaces and they worked to arouse each other again so they could have sex on the living room couch and "comfy seats" and the dining room table.  In between erections and orgasms, they paused to share a drink or have snacks to keep themselves going and time stretched on as they played. 

The Strangest Welcome Back

     In one of the starport's shuttle bays, Fesic was busy disembarking from the tour's oversized shuttle while being assured his luggage was being retrieved and would be delivered to him.  The other passengers were mostly dispersing to catch their connections or check into hotels until their departure date to return home.  But Fesic only needed his luggage returned so he could hop a cart back to the suite the crew had rented.  To Fesic's surprise, when the crewman stepped up with his luggage, he was followed by another on a cart and they said they were ready to provide him a ride!

After a brief ride, the crewman toting the luggage stepped off the cart as they looked at Fesic, expecting him to open the door.  Trying the door and finding it locked, Fesic shrugged and entered in his access code.  With the door open, Fesic led the way in as the crewman followed him into the entry and towards the common spaces of the suite.  Oddly, as he moved into the suite, Fesic started hearing a sort of animalistic grunting and sounds that were almost a moaning."

Not immediately connecting the sound to anything, Fesic continued into the suite because the sound didn't sound threatening.  Just odd and unexpected.  As his brain sorted the sound through memories, it almost sounded as if someone were struggling to do something athletic, though he could only think someone was trying to force open a bottle or the like.  Perhaps, pushing or pulling something.  Now concerned and wanting to identify just what was making the sound, Fesic stepped into the living room proper and turned towards the dining room.  Where he saw his answer.

"On" the dining room table, Mikah was naked, with her breasts bouncing to the rhythm of Zimzod driving himself into her with passionate abandon as they worked at fucking each other's brains out.  That stopped Fesic cold.  It wasn't until he saw them that the grunting and gasps made sense to him without the sound of a cheesy porn music track to "accentuate" it.  And, if Fesic was surprised, the crewman who'd followed him in with Fesic's luggage was struck dumb with shock as his eyes expanded to nearly twice their normal size while he stared at the naked lady with the bouncing tits on the table!  He was, at least, young enough to hope he'd walked into a porn filming and he'd get a turn on top of her.

Snapping out of his surprise, Fesic simply waved at the couple and said, "Carry on soldiers!"  Grabbing the crewman by the sleeve of his shirt, Fesic just started moving on while Zimzod nodded and said, "Don't think I'm stopping for you." and grabbed Mikah's shoulders to start driving himself inside her harder.  After they made it into Fesic's bedroom, the gunner tipped the crewman Cr 10 and sent him on his way.  To the likely annoyance of the crewman on the cart, the man managed to slow his pace a bit as he crossed back through the living room and decided to not even try to hide his enjoyment of the show.

Lucky for Mikah that Zimzod, even in the process of having sex with her, looked dangerous enough that the crewman didn't pull out anything to use to take pictures.  Or video.  Seeing the man was not moving with a great deal of dispatch, Fesic began speeding the man's departure while "not" turning to watch the action.  Something he'd have to do yet again, as he passed back to the bedroom because Zimzod was obviously not satisfied enough with fucking Mikah on the table to move somewhere else to have sex.  Sadly, as he tried to ignore what was happening, Mikah began experiencing an orgasm, and quite a loud and acute one.

Deciding this might not stop any time soon, and not wanting to stay for any more of the show than he had to, Fesic grabbed his ident and other necessary things and made the pornographic passage one more time.  Luckily for him, the one man had started driving before the other tried to convince him of what he'd seen in the suite.  Turing away from the suite door, Fesic went for the closest string of bars and chose the one that most looked like a spacer bar.  There, he hoped to buy and nurse a drink or two before heading back in hopes Mikah and Zimzod would be done.

Unknown to Fesic, Zimzod decided they should follow up the dining room table by getting Mikah to arouse him again before bending her over Fesic's luggage and fucking her doggy style!  Mikah giggled, given recent events, and followed Zimzod into Fesic's bedroom and started to work Zimzod's soft flesh before defiling Fesic's luggage, Fesic was just about to hit the next hill on the roller coaster ride his evening had become.  That was in the form of a nice looking lady in a ships suit who sat down next to him with her drink and was soon mentioning to him that she had a tube, while blinking her cum-inside-me-hither eyes at him.  Fesic guessed she was on a lay-over from her ship and wanted to bring a child home with her.  That was the only way an unmarried female on a family ship could have a child.

Tubes were the ultimate in inexpensive over-night quarters aboard stations and even on some worlds.  It was a four-foot diameter seven-foot long tube that a person could rent to sleep in.  Restroom facilities were common, and at the end of the corridor from which a renter would enter their pod.  But, Fesic wasn't into small confined spaces even if he was into "getting inside her", even if only for a one night stand.  And when Fesic said he had a room in a suite, the spacer he was with, who'd introduced herself as "Kacali", agreed and Fesic only hoped the Mikah and Zimzod show had moved somewhere private.

Getting to the suite's entrance, Fesic opened the door and listened to see if he could hear any "activity"?  Not hearing anything, Fesic was pleased until he led Kacali into the suite's main public space.  There, the "Scent" not only hit them but hit them hard!  While Fesic was happy to drive right past the smell and into his bedroom, Kacali pulled him to a stop as she had to wonder what exactly she'd gotten herself into?  At the same time, Mikah and Zimzod had actually moved to their bedroom.

With Fesic's full attention on her, she asked if she was his first sex partner of the night or not?  And, her tone left no doubt how unhappy she was to even have to ask the question?  In an embarrassed tone, Fesic told her, "It's a common space and someone's abused it.  Let's go to my bedroom, where it won't hopefully smell as bad."  He looked her in the eyes, and she nodded briefly because this actually did happen even on family ships.  Even married couples sometimes chose to ignore courtesy.  So the two continued to Fesic's bedroom.

The smell of Zimzod and Mikah's sex hit Fesic harder thanks to it being unexpected.  When he stopped and reacted with a frustrated "what?", Fesic's visitor just gave a disgusted grunt.  It didn't take much longer for Fesic to notice the...discolorations... on the outside of his still unpacked luggage.  Turning to the girl, she looked at him and asked, "Care to explain?"  Fesic shrugged and said, "Not mine" while intending to toss the luggage out of the room.  With an expression that suggested he might just loose this chance in the next seconds, Kacali asked, "Are you sure you don't want to go to my tube?" and Fesic broke, saying "Whatever you prefer."

Following her out of the suite, Fesic and Kacali went to her tube.  And, despite her apparent faith in his honesty, Fesic could see a sigh of relief when they undressed and he smelled clean!  During the evening of sex and pillow talk, Kacali did eventually ask about what had been going on in his suite?  Fesic admitted he'd just returned from a week-long trip to the planet's surface, and didn't know what was going on.  He did say, again, that someone had obviously abused the suite's public spaces.  Beyond that, Fesic and Kacali fully enjoyed the tube as much as they could.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Mikah and Zimzod had now moved into their bedroom to continue their sex-tivities.
     Fesic was in a tube, spending the night with a spacer-girl
     Emkir, Aali, Terin and Aiden were having Dinner with Scout Leader Udagis
     Rol and Jocelynn were spending time at the Knight's Order House

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Next: Consequences And Casual Violence