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Last Updated     October 19 2019
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Drinking And Dealing

Dinomn System      As they ate lunch, Fesic got the go-ahead to spend two days looking for a cargo to Dinomn.  Chatting up ideas with Emkir, the Admiral suggested they call the port for help, trying to use the good relationship they had thanks to the rescues.  Nodding, Fesic agreed to check that option out.  When he did call the port and ask for any help they could give, the administration was friendly to the idea.  They reminded him the port didn't actually buy or sell cargoes, but did manage everything passing through.  So, they were ok with helping get Fesic in contact with sellers who might want to sell speculative cargoes to the crew.  That begged the question if the ship simply wanted to connect with people moving cargo to haul tonnage for the standard Cr 1,000 per ton, or to buy cargoes to speculate with?

Talking it over, Fesic said they were looking for speculative cargo, and the port got Fesic in touch with a producer of polymer goods.  They'd over-produced in the last quarter, filling their allotted space in the outgoing freighters they'd booked carriage on, and had left over stock to sell.  The extra stock was costing them storage space and not paying them back for the resources and time used to make them.  So, the port thought they'd likely be interested in selling off what they could to the ship.  When Fesic managed to get in touch with that company, he learned they had sixty five tons of stock to sell, which was more than the thirty none tons the ship could haul.

Talking about that with Mikah and the others, they asked what the cargo would cost them?  Having permission to go forward with price negotiations, Fesic got an offer to sell them what they could carry at a cost of Cr 5,040 a ton.  That would come to Cr 206,640 total.  Checking with the port and doing some other checks, it seemed this was an excellent buy price, but Fesic wondered if he could do better with other cargoes?  With all the help Fesic had at this port, Fesic knew he'd still only looked at one cargo so far, and wondered if there were other cargoes which could sell for better yields?  Fesic also accepted that the port "said" he'd been offered a good deal on the polymers, but wanted to check prices himself.  He worried this could be a case of a friend in the port helping out a friend in manufacturing to pump their own illicit profits?

Fesic tucked himself into his work while the others looked around, to decide what they wanted to do with the sudden free time?  Sadly, they all knew the port well enough because there just wasn't much of it to know.  The only distractions, unless they wanted to risk death by acid or monster, were the venues in Spacer's Row.  Instead of choosing just one bar to hit, since they had done that with all the bars, they decided to do a "bar crawl" and hit all three!  During talk before the crawl, Aiden said he'd drink lightly and made the ridiculous claim someone would have to carry Jocelynn back to the ship, with no evidence she would pass out.  Jocelynn protested that as Emkir pointed out that carrying her would be Rol's job because, he was the last person she'd slept with.  With a satisfied tone, Aiden said Rol might plan to do that, until he passed out.  And he couldn't carry both Rol and Jocelynn.  That got lots of laughs.

When Fesic pointed out he'd be staying on the ship working, Jocelynn felt sympathy for him and said, "Aww.  Maybe I'll stay here."  Sitting next to Fesic, she looked at him and asked, "Would you like some company?"  In mock shock, Mikah pointed at Rol and demanded, "Oh stars!  Right in front of him?"  In a horrified and defensive voice, Jocelynn leaned back to look at Mikah and said, "Not like that!"  Zimzod added to the laughter, looking at Jocelynn and saying, "You little slut!" in a mock disapproving tone.  That got even more laughter and it took some time for the crew to get their plan going and wander to the first bar.  Still, they did finally get moving.  After the short walk, the crew ignored the glances and other attention they were getting as they sat down and ordered drinks.

People largely started drinking according to their plans, but that went a bit off the rails for Zimzod while he nursed his first order.  Checking out the bar's "display bottles", Zimzod saw one bottle that looked visually interesting and advertised a slightly more expensive beer with citrus flavoring overtones.  Curious, Zimzod also assumed the drink would be a lower proof than regular beers because that was the usual.  When it came time for him to order a second round, Zimzod asked for a glass of that and got a huge surprise.  He thought the beer couldn't really be that potent, because it was so fruity and sweet and that covered the alcohol content until it hit his gut.  When he finished that glass, Zimzod was much more relaxed and much less concerned about keeping to moderate drinking that evening.

After the crew left the ship, Fesic started putting his evil plot into motion.  Earlier in the week, he and Terin had taken out ads to sell off spare gear in their ship's locker.  Gear they never did sell and still had.  While they had been much too busy to check the ads much of the time, one ad had sparked quite a response.  Fesic had snuck an ad into the stream to sell Terin's hookah for Cr 1,000, and he'd put Terin's comms code in the ad.  That prank had gotten a quick call back, and Terin had tried to ignore it.  But when the buyer proved persistent, Terin decided to "punish" Fesic by sticking him with the caller.  He also started locking his stateroom door to safeguard the hookah.  Terin hadn't counted on Fesic continuing the prank to break in and steal it.

When everyone else left the ship, Fesic put his cargo hunting on hold and moved to the bridge.  There, he accessed the ship's master controls for internal security and disabled the lock on Terin's stateroom.  Moving in, a search quickly found the hookah and he replaced the device with an unsigned note reading, "I owe you one hookah."  Fesic then secured everything so Terin wouldn't notice anything was wrong, then went to the bridge to re-enable the locks on the door.  Fesic then went to the ship's locker and dug into one of the emergency survival duffle bags.  Making more room in the duffel, Fesic was able to hide the hookah there and make sure the device's presence wouldn't be obvious.  Fesic then went back to his work.

When they left the first bar, Zimzod and Rol were both a bit more wobbly than the others, and Emkir joked they should for a circle around the two to keep them bouncing into each other to keep them standing.  The others laughed as they found a table in the second bar and ordered a new round.  The second drink Terin ordered there sounded normal enough and went down easily, but then came back up with all its new friends from the man's stomach.  People all scattered away from the eruption as Zimzod also cut loose in a sympathy barf.  Terin recovered quickly and held up the glass, demanding, "What the fuck is this stuff?!"  Surprised by his own reaction, Zimzod looked down at his sick and joked, "Wow!  That don't look like what I ate."  Mikah complained that Zimzod had splattered a bit on her and had to clean up before finishing her own drink.  The others also sat at other places and finished up as the bar staff moved quickly to clean up, but they left there for the third bar sooner than planned.

At the third bar, things continued until Emkir became wobbly and it became clear they were going to have to carry Zimzod back to the ship.  With Emkir and Rol too wobbly to help, Mikah, Aali, Terin and Jocelynn all had to grab one of Zimzod's limbs to bring him home.  They did carry him face down, in case he cut loose again.  In the end, the crew moved back to the ship where Fesic had been working to find cargoes.  Finding a number of cargoes, Fesic saw some were raw ores, and passed them up because the Dinomn system was non-industrial, and he could see no reason for them to want those lots.  He did see a listing for petrochemical lubricants and tagged that for investigation.  When the seller with the polymers called to ask if Fesic wanted the shipment, Fesic tried to get him to wait, missing the chance the seller might have gotten another offer, possibly lower, and was giving the Upgrade one more chance because he wanted the profit.

After that, Fesic checked what he could find on polymers, despite the assurances of the person helping him from the port, and it seemed to him the pricing was "decent".  Fesic also checked into the news he could find on the company selling the polymers, to see if he could find a reason they wanted to sell so badly.  He found nothing outstanding.  That didn't mean there was nothing in the background, but it was nothing Fesic could find on his own.  Checking into the lubricants, Fesic saw they were asking just under Cr 300 per each of the thirty three tons in that lot.  The low price fit, but bothered Fesic because it meant they couldn't jack the price up much, to leverage their sales earnings.  Even getting a fifty percent increase on sales would only net them Cr 4,950, which wouldn't even buy them a ton of most other cargo lots.  So, Fesic decided to keep that on his list but wasn't jumping for it.

Still, Fesic did want to do the work to be sure, so he checked the price with other venders, and most agreed the price was good.  One even asked Fesic who had offered him the price?  When Fesic realized the man was trying to get the information from him, Fesic suggested the man offer him something for the name, to see what it was worth?  The man refused to offer Fesic anything for the information but didn't come right out and say anything about paying for data or even paying anything.  Fesic decided to be up front about his position and set a price, asking for a payment to see if the man would come back with a counter offer.  What Fesic got was a surprise, because the man was now insulted and cut the connection.  It seemed that what he could do with the innuendo of a wink or nod could not be done outright and obvious.

The Great Hookah Hunt!

     Things came to dinner time and the rest of the crew got back from their bar crawl.  As they did, saw that all of them, wobbly or not, were helping to carry Zimzod.  And that was because Zimzod was out cold.  Fesic watched as Terin asked if Mikah wanted him put in the stateroom they shared.  Mikah said he should be put in his own stateroom to sleep it off.  While he didn't watch them as Mikah joked about "not" slamming Zimzod into things, he heard Aiden leading a count up to three as they swung Zimzod by his limbs and "threw him" onto the bed.  Fesic did ask what had happened, and learned Rol had "had a great time!" and Jocelynn told him Terin had barfed all over the table.

Things settled down as Jocelynn sat down in the lounge and asked if they were going to advertise for passengers?  She said she was certain there would be people who wanted to get off Wypoc.  Rol cooked the crew dinner as Jocelynn's question led to a report from Fesic on his day and findings.  When Fesic finished up his report, saying he had his fingers in some pies, Jocelynn answered him, "I'll bet you do." in a taunting voice with a tone suggesting sexual innuendo.  Emkir killed that joke, saying, "No he didn't!  Terin wasn't here with him." and everyone in the lounge laughed at that.  After that died down, Jocelynn asked about low passage passengers and Emkir asked about passengers of any kind, because they did have a spare stateroom.  Two if Zimzod or Mikah wanted to clean out one of theirs.

Mikah made it clear she and Zimzod wouldn't be moving in together, but told Fesic to start advertising passengers.  She did make it clear they would be leaving the next day, so it would have to happen fast.  When Fesic asked if they wanted to book someone in the spare stateroom, Mikah admitted she didn't and asked Fesic if he really wanted to take care of a passenger?  Fesic reminded her Terin had been named the ship's Steward if they had passengers.  Mikah said, "You, Terin.  You both look the same to me now." and officially gave them the "Couple name" Tesic.  That got lots of laughs as Fesic defended his recent sexual past and Emkir pointed out that many men into men dated women when their homeworld culture opposed same-sex relationships.

Aiden then joked how Jocelynn was going to end up lamenting in the shower and she demanded why everyone was saying she was sleeping with Fesic all of a sudden?  While no one had actually suggested she was dating him, Fesic showed he was taking the jibes in good stride as he turned to her and said, "Because you know you want to" in his most feminine manner.  He even drew out the word "to" at the end, and fluttered his eyelids as he finished and made a kissy face.  Everyone laughed at that, and Emkir taunted her, saying, "You know you've thought about it."  Jocelynn just gave in and waved her hand saying, "Whatever." as the others laughed where they sat around the ship's lounge.  As she thought she was almost out of it, Emkir suggested she get Rol and Fesic together so they could do an "Eiffel tower".  The laughs picked up again as Jocelynn loudly protested, "No!" and waved that idea off emphatically.

Things settled down again and Mikah had Fesic update their advertising to invite passengers to book passage for departure the next evening.  That meant they could take one high passage party or two unrelated middle passage parties, and as many as nine low passengers.  Fesic turned back to his terminal and started updating their advertising.  As they settled into evening, Aali and Emkir relaxed since he was feeling no pain.  Rol, who had cooked dinner for them, wanted to do some calisthenics and said he had the space for it now their cargo bay was empty.  Jocelynn admitted she'd been thinking the same thing and said so before coming up with the idea of doing some sparring.  Rol said that wasn't a bad idea since they could still see each other, and Jocelynn was reminded of the drunken brawling they'd done weeks before.

When Jocelynn enthusiastically called out, "Hey!  Brawling contest!  Let's brawl", Terin flatly said, "Outside."  Emkir, who had only recently stopped using the grav belt due to injuries from the last time, said, "Out in the bay." in a disapproving tone.  Aiden furthered that, saying, "Outside the city." and peopled laughed at the idea of the drunks beating themselves down as they melted in the acid rains.  Terin suggested he was gonna get his hookah out for people who wanted to relax.  This was cheered as Jocelynn's idea was ignored by everyone except Rol.  When Aiden was not enthusiastic about the hookah either, Fesic said, "Do some acid", which got lots of laughs.  Aiden only tartly told him, If I wanna do some acid I'll go for a walk outside without a breather mask."

Aiden just broke out a reader and Mikah considered heading aft to check on the status of the low berths as Terin went into his stateroom to get the hookah.  After unlocking his stateroom door, Terin made his way to where he secured the hookah and opened the box it was stowed in to see nothing but a note.  Picking that up and reading it, the note read:

         "I owe you 1 Hookah"

The note was unsigned.  Of all the regrets Fesic would have over his lifespan, one minor regret he would carry was his inability to set up a camera to capture the look on Terin's face at that moment.  But, if he had, it would have been something to submit to the sector-wide still-life image contests.  And, it would have won its category.  Sadly, Terin's expression was lost to the shadows of time as he first considered the lock on his stateroom and how someone would have gotten around that?

When he'd gone to his stateroom, Terin remembered having to thumb it open because it was thumbprint-locked.  Next, he leaned back on his heels and considered who in the crew had an interest in picking locks?  That brought Fesic to his mind, because he'd famously had his last lock pick training set and software confiscated on Inthe.  And, he recalled, Fesic had setup a deal to sell the hookah, which was why he'd been locking his stateroom in the first place.  Turning on his heel, Terin stalked out into the lounge and called out, "Oh, Fesic..." in a conversational tone.  Having finished with the update to the ship's advertising, Fesic turned to see Terin standing close to him holding out a note on flimsy material.

As Fesic recognized the note he'd left, Terin just as conversationally asked, "Where's my hookah?"  With a sudden smile and eyes glittering, Fesic stood and said, "Oh.  I sold it." in a firm and self-satisfied voice.  There was a sudden silence in the space as everyone heard that, which was only ended when Terin's snap upper cut caught Fesic just under the chin and the gunner went down like a sack of potatos.  With Fesic not prepared for the strike, Terin managed to find his nearly non-existent glass jaw and the gunner was out cold.  Seeing that, Jocelynn nodded and said, "That was impressive" with an appraising look on her face and Mikah got up and asked, "What's going on here?" 

Before anyone else could say anything, Aiden managed to ask, "So, Terin.  Lover's spat?" as he played on their recent so-called alibi, after running down the thief on Inthe's highport.  Despite the situation, everyone in the compartment laughed.  Terin looked down his nose at Aiden and simply said, "No." in an annoyed and disapproving tone that said he was more than tired of those jokes.  Mikah got the focus back by demanding to everyone, "Who wanted live passengers?" in a tone which said, 'This is why THAT is a stupid idea!'  Terin ignored that and stepped over to try the door to Fesic's stateroom.  Seeing him move that way, Mikah called the others to help move Fesic into his stateroom to "sleep it off".

The others helped grab hold of one leg or the other as Terin found Fesic's stateroom door was locked.  Seeing that, Mikah told him to go to the bridge and use the overrides there to unlock the door.  Terin did that as he quite accidentally got the answer to his unasked question from earlier.  Fesic was flight-qualified and had access to the bridge, so he'd have gotten past Terin's locked door the same way.  As Mikah and the others waited for the lock's red-glowing discrete to go out, Mikah decided she needed to restrict access to that bridge control when this was all over.  Soon enough, the door was open and they dragged Fesic in and dumped him on his bed.

After celebrating the "Festival of the Dragging of the Fesic", the others went back into the lounge while Terin arrived to search the space.  While he didn't damage any of Fesic's gear, he did completely toss the place, leaving no item untouched.  When Fesic woke, he'd do so to a space which had been completely ripped apart and likely spend an hour setting it right again at the least.  When Terin didn't find the hookah there, he went to the bridge and overrode the lock on Fesic's weapon locker, in the cargo bay.  The hookah wasn't there so Terin went to the ship's locker, with a suddenly alert and annoyed Jocelynn following him.

After all the time she'd spent organizing the compartment, Jocelynn threatened, "If you mess up the ship's locker, I'm gonna kill you!"  Not concerned with her threats, Terin stepped in and toured the space.  Doing that, he gave everything a visual inspection and looked for anything that seemed out of place or recently moved.  Unfortunately for him, Terin didn't spend much time in the locker and, fortunately for Fesic, he'd been careful about his work and left no obvious signs of what he'd done.  And, when he asked Jocelynn, it had been some time since she'd spent her time there and it looked OK.  So, while Jocelynn saw that Terin never opened anything the hookah could've been stowed in to search intensively, Terin did not find the hookah.

While Terin spent his time searching, Rol followed along for the entertainment value since it was better than going out to the bars again.  Having ignored him at first, Jocelynn jumped on the bandwagon when Terin searched the ship's locker, but had been relaxing before.  Next, Terin went to search his own stateroom in case Fesic had just moved it somewhere in that compartment.  Not tossing the place, Terin was still as through as he could be, and didn't find the hookah there either.  As the evening and excitement faded, so did Rol and Emkir and they went to sleep while Aali got herself a drink from the galley.

Feeling frustrated and annoyed, Terin sat in the lounge and wondered where else Fesic could have hidden the hookah and was reminded there were a lot of places to hide it on a starship.  Tired of his grousing, Jocelynn offered, "You know, you really didn't search that hard in the ship's locker." and Terin asked what she meant?  Jocelynn started to tell him he could have opened containers so long as he properly closed them and didn't make a mess, and see if it had been put inside anything?  Agreeing with that, Terin got up to head back to the ship's locker with Jocelynn following him as Aiden got up and made himself some popcorn to go with the show.

Following Jocelynn's idea of sectioning off each part of the ship's locker, they checked each section for any container which "could" hold the hookah, then open each item up.  After ten more minutes, Terin finally found where Fesic had opened one of the survival gear duffel bags and re-arranged or tamped things down until he could fit the hookah in.  Finally relieved, Terin turned and thanked Jocelynn before pulling the hookah out and inspecting it.  From there, Terin's thoughts turned to punishing Fesic for what had obviously been his prank, and his mind cast back to the prank Rol had said Zimzod had played on Rol and Ms. Vik when she was in the crew.

When Terin suggested to the others that they drag Fesic into Zimzod's stateroom and put him in bed with Zimzod, the others laughed.  Talking the idea up, Aiden suggested they put some kind of priest's collar on Fesic first and Jocelynn suggested they pose them in a "spooning position".  When the others agreed with Jocelynn, she happily announced, "Zimzod's the little spoon!" as she and Terin moved back to Fesic's stateroom.  Aiden trailed behind after grabbing his Ident, to use as a video camera.  Mikah saw this and washed her hands of what would come next as she went to bed.

It took some time for the two to move Fesic and get him posed in the way they'd planned.  Terin came up with the idea to pull their tops off, but Jocelynn wasn't up for that.  Despite that, Terin did try to get Fesic's shirt off but that proved to be too difficult while trying not to damage the shirt, so Terin gave up.  Terin did drape Fesic's arm around Zimzod as they set the "final touches" before leaving the stateroom to wait for a later explosion.  That done, Terin set up the hookah and he, Jocelynn and Aali settled down to enjoy a smoke as Aiden finally went to bed.

The Saga Of The Flying Drop Ninja First Aider!

     Later that evening, having had an hour or two to sleep it off, Fesic slowly started coming to again.  Despite the ache in his jaw, he felt nice and warm and comfortable as he started to take stock, but had not yet noticed the unusual sensations or opened his eyes.  Sadly for Fesic, Zimzod had woken up just that bit sooner, just before he did.  And, he'd realized there was something wrong with this picture!  Zimzod had noticed the arm draped around his torso.  The hairy arm, which was certainly not Mikah's and wouldn't belong to anyone else he invited to take Mikah's place.

To add to the "wrong", just as Zimzod noticed the arm, as Fesic was waking up, Fesic "felt" the closeness of a body and "snuggled" closer.  Reaching his left arm forward and clenching a fist, Zimzod brought the arm back to elbow the person behind him as hard as he could.  Just before he actually opened his eyes, Fesic received Zimzod's elbow to the point in his left torso just under where the ribcage ended, so that actually reduced the effectiveness of the attack but still caught him by surprise and forced him to catch his breath.

While Fesic was trying to get his breath back, Zimzod went to grab his arm and try to flip him off the bed.  Still, Zimzod wasn't nearly in a position that made that easy.  His position meant Zimzod would have to grab the arm and "roll" himself in order to put any power into the move.  If he did the move just right, he'd fall off the bed but the power gained might let him throw the other person.  Unfortunately for Zimzod, Fesic had moved to lean back, so he could push himself up to a sitting position and Zimzod only got part of his arm before he rolled forward.  That meant Zimzod flopped over the edge of the bed to fall on the floor as Fesic was pulled to the bed's edge.  Both ended up surprised to see the other as Zimzod lay on his back on the stateroom's floor while Fesic looked down on him from the top of the bed.

Getting his voice back first, Fesic looked down at Zimzod and asked, "So, was it good for you?"  And Zimzod elbowed his left arm down and then dropped that lift as he struck out with his right and punched Fesic in the face, popping him in the left eye.  Caught with barely a chance to try any defense at all, Fesic rolled back onto the bed and reflected that Zimzod, like Terin, had anger management issues.  Zimzod heard Fesic call out, "Son of a bitch!" as he rolled back and out of sight, and then had a chance to reflect on what had actually happened.  Zimzod then carefully got himself up to stand even though the stateroom was still "wobbly".  Zimzod's wobbliness gave Fesic the time he needed to scramble to the foot of the bed, hop onto the floor between Zimzod and the stateroom door and scramble out into the ship's lounge.

In the lounge, Terin, Jocelynn and Aali had been enjoying the hookah as Fesic came scrambling out of Zimzod's stateroom crying out like a little girl.  Seeing Fesic get off the bed, Zimzod had tried to do a leg sweep in his unstable condition and the limited space.  Sadly, as he tried the move, his foot caught the nearby chair under the writing desk and he was dragged so that he face planted against the side of the armoire next to the writing table.  Lucky for Zimzod, he didn't have much speed in the move so he didn't get any bruising from the impact.  Seeing Fesic had escaped out the stateroom door, Zimzod said to himself, "Well, that's not good."

In the lounge, the three at the hookah looked up at the escaping Fesic and Terin asked, "Want to take a hit?" as he held up a stem.  Looking back to the door of Zimzod's stateroom, Fesic realized Zimzod wasn't 'right' behind him and moved to the galley to grab something cold and press it against his left eye, certain there would be some bruising.  The three watching him were not sure what exactly was happening, though they could guess.  And they considered it might not have been as bad as they thought since Fesic had moved to the place they store all their knives.  Non-combat knives, but knives none the less.  As they watched the unfolding entertainment, Jocelynn was the only one who showed any kind of remorse for their actions.

When Zimzod did finally pull himself together better and step out the door, Terin offered him a stem as he had offered Fesic one before.  Shrugging, Zimzod stepped over and took a hit before handing the stem back and walking over to the galley, following Fesic.  Having grabbed a packet of something frozen and pressed it against his left eye, Fesic heard the footsteps coming up behind him and turned.  As Zimzod stepped closer, Fesic held up the frozen packet of vegetable greens and asked, "Starch?" as if he were taking an order.  Zimzod just looked him in the eyes and asked, "What the fuck were you doing in my stateroom spooning me?"

Fesic was surprised by the honest curiosity in Zimzod's question without a hint of hostility as he started trying to stutter out an answer and the three in the lounge exploded in laughter.  Giving up making any claim to an explanation, Fesic only pointed at the three laughing hilariously.  As Zimzod turned to look where Fesic was pointing, Aali was gasping through her laughter and managed to stutter out, "Jocelynn, I think you owe him a mercy fuck."  That only caused even more laughing.  Catching that, Zimzod looked at Jocelynn and said, "That or, at least, let him sniff your panties."  Defensively, Jocelynn snapped out, "It was Aiden."  Despite that desperate claim, Jocelynn remembered Aiden had filmed much of the prank and realized she and Terin were "fucked".

Looking at the door to Aiden's stateroom, Zimzod said, "You know?  I could go in there and beat his ass but...  Aali interrupted him, lifting a stem and saying, "have a hit." and Zimzod agreed and sat to join the three others.  Jocelynn said, "Fesic, come sit down.  I feel bad now." which unintentionally incriminated her.  Ignoring her, Fesic said, "I think I need medical attention" as he turned toward the door to Mikah's stateroom.  Not wanting him to wake up Mikah and get them all in trouble, Jocelynn quickly said, "I can take care of this.  Come sit.  Come Sit." as she waved at the seat next to her.

Seeing Fesic was not responding as she'd hoped, Jocelynn quickly got up and went to grab the ship's first aid kit.  Not moving further just yet, Fesic said, "I don't know if this is a good idea."  Hearing him as she moved, Jocelynn rushed to assure Fesic, "Wait!  Wait!  We don't need to involve Mikah."  Deciding to give up on Mikah and go to his own stateroom, Fesic started moving, but his stateroom was right next to hers so the others had no way of knowing what was in his mind.  Having gotten the aid kit, and really not wanting Fesic to wake Mikah, Jocelynn took on the role of 'flying drop ninja nurse' and tackled Fesic.  She did that by rushing up behind Fesic and jumping onto his back, to grab hold and knock Fesic down.  Fesic fell forward to land face down with Jocelynn landing on his back.

Shocked, Aali said, "I don't think that's the way it's done." as Terin asked, "Is this the way you give first aid to everyone?" in a horrified but fascinated tone.  Despite falling on top of Fesic, Jocelynn managed to get her feet off the gunner and onto the floor in time to not fall over herself, which quickly took the pressure off Fesic and even softened her impact against him.  Still, Fesic did take a glancing blow to the side his head as he was turning to look at the person attacking him when he went down.  This was followed as Jocelynn tried to better right herself and staggered before again falling on top of Fesic's back.  At that point, Terin just demanded, "Get a room people."

Fesic wasn't getting up anytime soon because of...Ow.  And he had Jocelynn pinning her chest against his aching back.  Desperately, Fesic called out, "Please!  Please!  No more first aid!" and Jocelynn cried out, "But I can fix it!"  Seeing Jocelynn pinning Fesic down and trying to hold him there, Aali said, "Damn girl!  I didn't think you'd act on my advice that quickly!"  Deciding things had become too confused and the two needed to get some distance to clear things up, Terin got up to help Jocelynn get up off Fesic.  Sadly, one does not come up behind a woman by surprise and reach around her from the back.  Especially not a combat decorated marine commando!

Fesic lay there prostrate and praying for this to end as he went full-bore linguini, while Jocelynn wanted to get off him and roll Fesic over.  Before she could put her plan into action, an arm came from behind her, to wrap around just above the waist!  Not knowing what the hell this was, Jocelynn started flailing and trying to strike the person coming from behind her, as Fesic became the floor of a personal combat situation!  Jocelynn first struck out wildly in an attempt to scare back an attacker and clear the area.  Sadly, Terin was too close and bent down to back out quickly enough, and got the back of her head in his face for her troubles.  Hoping to stand back and sort himself out Jocelynn got hold of his arm and pulled him down against and past her shoulder and he fell and half rolled.

Sliding almost chest first, with his head turned, Terin hit the floor to Fesic's side, slamming the side of his head against the carpeted floor while Jocelynn struggled, even while she straddled Fesic.  Completing a surprise move to hit the deck, Terin thought, 'But I was just trying to help you up' while his mind was saying, 'Oh!  What pretty stars!  They don't look like the normal kind.'  That meant he lay there for a bit recovering from his attempt at carpet burn.  For reasons she could not guess as she calmed down, Jocelynn watched as Fesic levered himself up a bit with his left arm and, not asking her to move, dropped himself in an effort to build inertia for his right fist, with which he punched Terin in the back of the head.

Hoping to escape after the punch brought him back to the present, Terin rolled away from Jocelynn and Fesic while crying out that he was just trying to help her.  Finally, looking up at Jocelynn, Terin asked what that was for and Jocelynn said she didn't hit him.  Looking at Fesic, the gunner told Terin, "What goes around, comes around" with as much satisfaction on his face as a man being sat on by an attack nurse with a slowly darkening black eye and other bruises could.  Into the sudden moment of quiet, Jocelynn assured them both, "I can fix this!  I can fix you too," as she pointed at Terin.  Terin just looked up at Jocelynn and flatly said, "This is not the way first aid is supposed to work."  Everyone else laughed at that as much as each was able to.

Nodding at Terin, Zimzod said, "She has an aggressive first aid style."  And then told Jocelynn, "You might want to check them both for concussions."  Shrugging, Jocelynn said, "Well, I don't know if I can do that but I can wrap their heads in bandages."  Realizing just how far this had sunken, Aali got up and went to knock on Mikah's stateroom door.  As the others sorted themselves out, Mikah finally threw on a robe and came to the door asking "What?"  Aali said, "I think you need to see this."  In the meantime, Jocelynn had finally given up trying to manage the situation and had "actually" helped both Terin and Fesic into chairs.

When Mikah looked them over, Fesic had a new black eye and a bruise on his left forehead and Terin was holding his head as if he had a significant headache.  Jocelynn was just sitting down with a sheepish look on her face.  Aside from them, Zimzod sat, sucking on a stem from the hookah as if everything was entirely normal, with a smirk on his face.  To add to the serendipity, Jocelynn had a roll of gauze in her hands and the rest of the first aid kit's contents were spread across the table.  As Mikah watched, Fesic lifted a packet of frozen vegetable greens and put it against his black eye.  Seeing her looking, Zimzod smiled and said, "I don't know babe.  Looks like a pedestrian accident to me" and the others laughed.

When Mikah asked, "What happened", Terin shrugged and said, "Oh, nothing." as casually as he could.  After that, Jocelynn semi-grumbled "Ask Zimzod" as if the whole thing were his fault.  Turning to Zimzod, Mikah asked again and Zimzod said, "Well, it's like this." and Terin handed him a stem saying, "You might need a hit of this first."  Then, Mikah suddenly stopped him and demanded Aali get her a shot of "something".  With her drink, Mikah turned back to Zimzod, who started again.  "Well, it's like this.  we were doing a bar crawl."  Mikah nodded, saying, "I remember." in a tone that suggested he get on with it.  Zimzod continued, "And I woke up in my stateroom..."  Mikah nodded and said, "Yeah, you got a little plastered."  Zimzod went on again, "...and Fesic was spooning me."  Mikah didn't know exactly what to do with that so she figured she'd see how bad it had gotten?

Looking at Zimzod, Mikah asked, "Clothes on or clothes off?"  At first, Zimzod didn't get the question but she asked again and Zimzod said, "Clothes on, but I saw the hairy arm and came to the conclusion it wasn't you."  Hearing that, Mikah happily said, "Thank you!" for recognizing her femininity.  Zimzod continued, "Well, waking up in that state, I was feeling very violated.  Especially being how I wasn't the guy in the back."  At that, the whole room broke up in laughter again.  Terin then incriminated himself as he looked at Jocelynn and said, "I told you we should have put him in the back."  Continuing, Zimzod said, "So, I threw an elbow into the gut and went to flip him out of bed but I guess, with my wobbliness, I fell out of the bed."  Mikah nodded and agreed he did that a lot, getting more laughs from those around them.

When Zimzod continued, "And I was laying on my back there..." Mikah interjected, "Like you do" before Zimzod continued, "...still trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, and Fesic looked over the edge of the bed, smiled and asked me if it was good for me?"  With that, everyone else broke out in laughter, including Fesic who laughed despite his injuries.  As the laughing died down, Zimzod continued, "Naturally, I hit him in the eye." as if that was the most natural progression he could think of.  Mikah nodded and said, "Self-inflicted wound.  OK.  Got it."  Zimzod finished up, "Then he ran out of my stateroom screaming like a bitch.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it."  Zimzod's words were regularly interrupted by roars of laughter.

Pointing at Terin, Mikah asked, "You!  What happened?"  Terin first asked, "Me?" and then continued, "Well, we're just, ah...  Sitting around the table enjoying the hookah when Fesic comes running out screaming like a little girl, and ran into the galley.  Then Zimzod came out and he and Fesic went into the galley.  They came out again and Jocelynn tried to perform some weird kung-fu first aid style..."  He was interrupted by laughter at that, and continued once the laughs died down.  "I'm not sure what she was doing?  She tackled...  I mean she just like, jumped on Fesic's back and..."  Zimzod interrupted, firmly saying, "She was very dedicated!" with a nod for emphasis.  When Terin agreed, "Very dedicated!" Zimzod added, "She should have been committed."  Aali just shook her head and looked at Jocelynn saying, "You know, there's a right way to jump on a guy's back when he's injured his head and a wrong way."

Picking up his story again, Terin said, "I went to help her up and she threw me, face first, into the floor, and then someone punched me in the back of the head, and then you came out.  That's pretty much what happened."  The others at the table couldn't help the regular giggles as Terin spoke.  Nodding, Mikah pointed at Fesic and asked, "You, what happened?"  Fesic looked up and said, "I don't remember", which got huge laughs.  When Mikah sharply asked if she should get her medical kit and examine him with an evil expression on her face, Fesic admitted, "No.  I tried to sell Terin's hookah and, as a joke, I hid it and told him I sold it.  And he punched me in the face."  Before he could continue, Mikah said, "Yeah?" in a disapproving tone.  Continuing, Fesic said, "And, he has anger management issues." which got a lot of laughs.

Terin jumped in then, defensively saying, "Yeah.  Don't mess with my stuff."  Turning to Terin, Fesic complained, "Yes, but you don't hit somebody for..." and Terin cut him off to say, "You don't mess with my stuff, you don't get hit."  Fesic tried to protest that and Terin cut him off, saying, "Don't steal my stuff, you don't get punched in the face and go unconscious.  See how easy that is?" in an exasperated tone.  Mikah interrupted them to point at Terin and tell Fesic, "He does have a point there, but continue."  Fesic continued, "So, after being punched in the face, I woke up in Zimzod's room, as Zimzod described, and I was in a position where I was set up spooning him.  by...Somebody."  As Fesic spoke, there was a constant stream of sniggering and giggles.

Fesic pointed at Zimzod and continued, "He woke me up by elbowing me in the gut, and he, ah, rolled off the bed and I asked him if it was good for him?  And he hit me too, and then I ran from the room screaming like a little girl."  As laughter and comments rose in the background, Terin told Fesic, "In hindsight, it might have been best to keep your mouth shut at that point.  You know?  Asking how it was?  You know you know you were gonna get hit for that."  Mikah jumped in, agreeing with Terin and saying, "Yeah, I have to agree that was a self-inflicted wound."  Nodding, Fesic admitted, "I have to admit I knew there was some risk in that."  Moving on, Fesic continued, "So, I went to grab something for my eye, having been struck, and I think Jocelynn was feeling badly for the wounds I had been...that had been inflicted on me and started to do her ninja nursing."

Continuing, Fesic said, "At that point, I think she tackled me and I hit my head again."  Fesic was interrupted by the laughter before continuing, "Then, she landed on top of me and hit me again."  Then, he was interrupted by Aali who said, "In Jocelynn's defense, I did think she owed him a mercy fuck.  But, as the stars are my witness, I didn't think she'd act on it so quickly."  Everyone burst out laughing again as Jocelynn tried to innocently protest, "I was just trying to help."  Looking back at Jocelynn, Fesic told her, "Terin just got jealous and decided he wanted to join in, and, um...Jocelynn decided she was not up for the threesome, and um..."  Terin broke in there, and told Fesic he was about to get punched by Jocelynn if he didn't shut up.  Announcing he'd decided not to go over the line this time, and being told he'd already gone over the line, Fesic finished, "So, Jocelynn flipped Terin onto the floor and I punched him in the back of the head.  Because I owed him."

That finished, Mikah turned her head and asked, "Jocelynn, what's your story?"  Jocelynn first innocently looked at Mikah and said, "I was just trying to help." in a penitent tone.  Mikah nodded that Jocelynn should continue and she said, "Um, well..." and Fesic cut her off to say, "We're all grounded." and everyone laughed again.  They laughed and Mikah looked at Jocelynn, who said, "Sorry mom."  She then continued, "I was sitting here at the table with Terin and Aali, enjoying the hookah, and, just as they said, Fesic came out of Zimzod's room crying like a little girl, and goes to the galley, gets some frozen peas to put on his face, and I said, 'Oh!  Wait!  No!'  I mean I didn't want to involve you, because...you know...it could be fixed, it's fine.  So, I went for the med-kit and said I could fix it."

Pointing at Fesic, she said, "But, he decided he was gonna run away on me and I stopped him."  An understatement which got a good laugh.  Continuing, Jocelynn said, "Because I didn't want to involve you in this, because I figured we could handle it ourselves.  But, that didn't exactly happen."  Jocelynn said the last part in a disappointed and somewhat guilty tone of voice.  And then Terin...he surprised me.  He grabbed me from behind and surprised me.  So I...I kind of reacted.  Nodding, Terin said, "Like a marine does." and Jocelynn added, "So, I flipped him over."  After a pause, Jocelynn repeated, "I was only trying to help." and there were jokes about her understanding of the word "Help".  Getting past that again, Jocelynn said, "I only wanted to help with their bruises and I guess I made it worse." in a disappointed tone.

As Jocelynn apologized, and others said they were not hurt, Fesic said he could use some medical treatment.  Others agreed and Jocelynn pointed out she had the first aid kit out and ready for Mikah.  Mikah pointed to the roll of gauze Jocelynn was holding and asked what she planned to do with that?  Jocelynn told her, "I was gonna wrap their heads up."  Biting back any negative response she would have let loose, Mikah pointed out no one was bleeding.  Jocelynn could only suggest it would have offered protection, and the others burst out laughing again.  Finally, Mikah got herself together enough to say, "That would be bubble wrap." and there was even more laughing.

Pulling things together, Mikah pointed at Jocelynn and ordered her to put the ship's first aid kit back together.  As Jocelynn nodded, Mikah added, "And, from now on, you will not!  Not help anyone, ever again.  You will not attempt to help anyone ever again."  Jocelynn tried to answer her, saying, "I really didn't get a chance to." but Mikah had spoken.  Pointing at Fesic, Mikah said, "You!  Head to med-bay."  When Zimzod tried to get her attention, Mikah said, "I'll deal with you in a bit" but Zimzod pushed.  When Mikah asked him, Zimzod suggested she check Terin for a concussion too, but Mikah doubted Terin could be damaged that way.  Mikah still agreed to check Terin out but planned to check Fesic first.  As the two started moving off to the medbay, Mikah caught them all with her voice and said, "Annnnd...  You are all grounded."

When Jocelynn pointed out that they were leaving Wypoc the next day, Mikah said it didn't matter, they were still grounded.  Someone snickered Mikah could leave the behind and Mikah said she liked the sound of that, and even suggested she might put them in a low berth.  At that, Jocelynn literally paled and cried out that she didn't want to go back into a berth again!  Zimzod said he didn't have any wounds but could use some saline for his alcohol recovery, so Mikah agreed he should come to medbay too.  While they left, Jocelynn put her mind to the task of reassembling the first aid kit.  In the medbay, Mikah checked Terin and Fesic and found they had no serious injuries.  While dealing with the others, Mikah hooked Zimzod up to a saline drip and he had fallen asleep so she left him there to sleep it off and returned to her stateroom.

All The Morning News

     Despite the late night, Mikah knew Fesic had to wake early the next day, to hunt their cargo.  So, she decided she would set his alarm clock for 6 am.  Rol had already set his alarm for 6 am, to be up early enough to cook the others breakfast.  Just to punish them, Mikah set Terin and Jocelynn's alarms for 6 am too.  So, alarms went off as Rol and the others were woken.  Rol went through his morning routine and went into the ship's common spaces to get his day rolling.  In his stateroom, Fesic was woken by his alarm clock and took pain killers and drank more water as he went through his morning routine before heading into the lounge.  Terin's head didn't hurt but he certainly felt he could use more sleep.  Still, he was on punishment detail so he did what was needed and moved into the lounge.  And, as they did that, Jocelynn woke to her alarm, turned off the alarm and went back to sleep.

The three men came into the lounge to the lingering scent of Aiden's salted popcorn.  Terin and Rol saw the dark and vibrant coloring of Fesic's bruises and black eye.  Rol considered making a comment but gave it up as a useless venture.  When Terin asked Rol if he needed help in the kitchen Rol said no much faster and more emphatically than he'd refused almost everything in his life!  Rol went to start cooking as Fesic made himself some caff and Terin sparked up the news.  Catching it early in the cycle, the news they started with was local, and involved the rescues and early updates from the Baron's hunting expedition.  Fesic told the others the news was covering them but the other two men were not impressed.  When Terin said they'd at least made the news in a good way, Rol reminded them the day was young.  That played out as Terin relaxed, saying he had to plot their jump later and wanted to be fully coherent.  Fesic looked up at Terin and asked, "Are you ever fully coherent?"  Rol laughed at that.

    Sacnoth (A775956-C  M  Hi In  801  Bw  F9 V M8 D)                            Date: 220-1113
    In reports from the Sacnoth system, initial elements of the first
    "diplomatically permitted" Imperial fleet have begun arriving in-system as
    Ambassadorial escort forces.  These early flotillas will secure an orbital
    space designated to be used by the diplomatic station from which Ambassador
    Dame Vik will operate her mission after her arrival.  The historic stationing
    arrival of the fleet element commanded by Fleet Admiral Danshur was executed
    under the watchful eyes, and inactive weapons ports, of the Sacnoth System
    Navy, one of the Third Imperium's most consistent military opponents.
    Only history will tell if this is the opening of an entirely new era in
    relations between the remaining members of the Sword Worlds Confederation
    and the Imperium.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                   Date: 241-1113
    Officers of the Seneschalate of the Arch Duchy have announced Arch-Duke
    Norris will no longer be meeting with those landed nobility who had not
    made the appropriate efforts to comply with His Grace's mandate.  This
    refusal will be set aside by special request, when warranted by His Grace's
    Seneschal, and consideration will be made for those enfeoffed Nobility who
    were judged to have made the appropriate efforts to communicate with the
    staff of His Grace during the period stated by His Grace initially.
    Splintered reports have been rumored from the Sector and Subsector Senates,
    where some initial disputes have been engaged.  Such reports are always
    tempered by the reminder the Arch-Duke can over-ride the decisions of the
    various Senates, with that action only reviewable by The Emperor himself.
    Realistic observers expect that such an action might only be called into play
    if the Arch Duke takes the extraordinary action of dismissing a sitting
    Subsector or Sector Senate, however even that might not be the case
    depending on the legitimacy of the reasoning and the needs of the

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)                   Date: 240-1113
    In a ceremony held on Rhylanor today, the Domain of Deneb celebrated the
    selection of Lord Sir Kuudiikam Shidaklir by the Arch Duke, for ascension
    to the post of Seneschal to His Grace, Arch-Duke Norris.  A most poignant
    moment included in the ceremony was the official surrendering of fealty
    between His Grace and Branj Dilgaadin, had been his Seneschal since they
    left service in the Imperial Navy together.  Since Branj Dilgaadin will
    continue his post in Regina, in service of Duchess Seldrian Aledon, a
    similar ceremony will be held in the Regina system on the 330th day of
    the year.  Reports from Rhylanor state that Lord Kuudiikam had arrived on
    Rhylanor after travelling directly from Capital, having served, and
    received direction, directly from the Emperor himself to deliver to the

    Skull (C2237C7-9  N  Na Po  601  Im  M1 V M0 VI)                   Date: 234-1113
    An announcement was released by the local provisional government of the
    Skull system that they have achieved a cessation of combat operations in-
    system.  It was reported that all known and suspected agents of the coup
    forces are believed to have been detained for imprisonment or further
    investigation.  Significant investigation continues, to confirm that all
    possible suspects and incidental actors had been identified and detained.
    Support for these actions currently remains in the hands of the local
    Imperial Admiralty, commanded by Admiral Lord Edward Montcroix, and
    General Sir Akuegvarr, of the Imperial Army, because a new Barony has
    not been established by the offices of the Grand Duchess or Arch Duke.
    In addition to military commands in-system, Rakaa Kiraarri of Lanth has
    maintained a Seneschalate team in-system to assure ongoing support from
    the Lanth Subsector Senate.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)               Date: 241-1113
    The Imperial Ministry of Trade and Imperial Interstellar Scout Service
    have announced joint updates on port upgrade efforts in the
    following systems:
          Tureded (C465540-9  Ag Ni  614  Im  M3 V)
          Gothe (E22159B-6  Ni Po  310  Im  F5 IV)
    Consolidated reports from upgrade operations in both systems indicate that
    constructor fleets have reached full strength, and are prepared to bring port
    upgrade work to full programmed levels.  Due to transport and other delays,
    the Gothe system upgrade has fallen significantly behind the original schedule
    however new project leadership are expected to push back against these issues.
    Results of the work in these two systems are expected to increase trade and
    access to the worlds of the Spinward Main in the Lanth Subsector and the
    Darrian Confederation alternatively.  As work in the Tureded system continues
    apace, this effort is believed to be the first step in a new X-trade route
    from Rhylanor directly to the Regina system.  The next steps in planning are
    rumored to center around investment in either the Rech or K'Kirka systems,
    but have not been discussed in releases or rumors from the offices of the
    Grand Duchess or Arch-Duke nor has there been any hint from the Spinward
    Marches Senate or that body's sitting President, Duchess Miraii Abani
    Arahailli of the Trin's Veil subsector.

    Frenzie (A200436-A  N  Ni Va Cp  110  Im  M2 III M3 D)               Date: 270-1113
    The senior Admiralty of the Spinward Marches have announced they have
    forwarded requests to both Deneb Sector and Capital for permission to
    build out additional Imperial naval squadrons in light of the newly
    established Client State status of the Thanber and Dekalb systems.  This
    request has been seconded by the Office of the Arch-Duke in light of the ever
    closing gap between sections of the Imperial and Zhodani Consulate borders.
    This issue is significant because it rolls back centuries-old agreements
    between the Imperium and Zhodani Consulate following the first three
    frontier wars.  Establishing presences in these systems once more places
    Imperial forces more significantly in the Querion subsector of the Spinward
    Marches.  The planned fleets will also protect transport and strategic
    activities between worlds inside the Imperial border and the Imperial bases
    in the Client State system of Retinae.  Viewers will be reminded the
    Retinae system and its Imperial military facilities and fleets have ever
    been a check against Zhodani over-reach in cooperation with Darrian Naval
    assets on-loan to the Imperium in that system.

    Diplomatic representatives of the Zhodani Consulate have released a
    statement regretting this activity.  The Consulate, in their statement,
    suggest the action very directly projects Imperial power within the borders
    of Zhodani space in the Querion subsector for the first time in more than
    two hundred generations.  The statement further stated that such actions
    certainly call into question the proclaimed hope for peace espoused by
    Imperial Diplomats as they advance and project Imperial military power into
    regions of their neighbors home space.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)               Date: 241-1113
    The Imperial Ministry of Colonization have announced initiation of surveys
    within the populace of the Bevey system in consideration of colonial
    efforts to the under-populated worlds of the Spinward Marches sector.
    This effort is in concert with a continuing effort to recruit citizens
    with specific skills and from targeted career fields to emigrate to the
    Podesta nation in the Risek system following unfortunate events in that
    nation's recent history.  The activities have further been expedited by
    the order of Leonard, Duke of Rhylanor, in the hopes of preventing
    additional bloodshed in the Bevey and Kegina systems.  Rumor has been
    suggested that His Grace has reached out to the Rhylanor Subsector Senate
    in hopes of raising funds to establish a new line of 1,200 displacement
    ton Subsidized Transport Freighters.  While there are even fewer details
    or data on this rumored new class of ships, this particular part of the
    rumor has triggered the most excitement, in the shadow of the 400 dTon R
    Class Subsidized Merchanter program of the late 1000's.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Hi Cp   810  Im  M2 VI)               Date: 241-1113
    Reports cleared for public release, from the headquarters of Admiral Uuela,
    in the Natoko system, state that months of naval activity in-system have
    finished effectively establishing a blockade of that system's worlds and
    facilities.  This confirms all goods and passengers passing in or out
    of the system are being inspected and interrogated with the goal
    of placing pressure on that system's government to submit to on-world
    investigation of violation accusations of the Imperial edict restricting
    that system from operating armed interstellar vessels.  Unless things
    between the Sector and local governments improve, the Admiral has stated
    he does not see a lessening of activity in-system and can only hope
    increasing Imperial hold on the system's extra-atmospheric space will
    reduce tensions locally.  When asked if an increase in actions against
    the system government were possible, the Admiral was much less willing to
    speculate.  Despite that, out-system news is now driving an increasing part
    of this story, given encounters between Imperial military forces and small
    fleet elements elsewhere.

    Reports released by Imperial Naval command in the Macene system have
    stated that three engagements with small flotillas of ships seem to be
    related to the phantom forces which previously attacked the Rhylanor
    system.  While there has been a continuing dissatisfaction with
    evidence and forensic investigation to determine where these ships were
    based, received support and from what system(s) they were flagged, an
    anonymous source suggested ships from the latest engagement were taken
    largely intact.  Some very tenuous rumors also derived from that incident
    suggest data from ships taken in that action provide a smoking gun, tying
    the actions of these craft to the Natoko system in the Rhylanor subsector.

    While the Admiralty have not commented on these unconfirmed reports, this
    reporter has tracked evidence of an increase in small flotilla
    sorties carried out by the Imperial Navy between bases, which have not been
    mentioned in reports released to the public.  This suggests a great many
    "heavy but small" patrols are being undertaken as quietly as possible, in
    order to seek out the homes and hideouts of these rogue flotillas.  This
    would hopefully drive these mystery ships into making an error leading to
    the main fleets suggested in some of the evidence believed to have been
    collected by Senator Kudilas.  With that report still classified, and with
    very few details having been leaked, it is difficult to confirm or deny Naval
    activities and their relationship to events sector-wide which seem to be
    related to the Natoko investigation.

    Dinomn (B674632-9  S  Ag Ni  204  Im  M8 VI)               Date: 276-1113
    The Dinomn system government have announced a renegotiation between downport
    farming leadership, who are the effective system government, and civilian
    authorities from the highport community, who connect them to their interstellar
    markets.  These negotiations will cover contracts for surface to space
    transport contracts, crop and resource pricing, etc..  While these kinds of
    negotiations are regularly held between the different communities in-system
    every decade, this particular announcement is being more intensively watched
    because it is the first following the Fifth Frontier War.  Of particular note
    will be discussions surrounding permission of Zhodani merchant shipping to
    transit the world after their occupation of the system's orbital plane.

    While Zhodani forces only made limited landings on-world, there were limited
    orbital strikes which largely employed remote use of Kinetic Energy
    weapons(KEWs) to enforce submission.  Those KEW impact sites which impacted
    the outer fields of active farms have since become sites of both tourism or
    continued investigation.  It is thought the on-world leadership may investigate
    the purchase of equipment or contracting of interstellar services to both
    mitigate those strike sites and to begin filtering the atmosphere for dust
    and particles which were blown up into, and remain suspended in, the upper
    atmosphere, causing unusual health effects.

    Trade and commerce experts are expecting a sizable demand in up-front support
    through hard currency deliveries as well as a continued rise in fees and costs
    to be pushed by the system government.  They are less confident of the outcome
    of open trade restrictions regarding the Zhodani, and the system government
    have refused the Consulate permission to have a delegation participate in
    or even observing the talks.

The core stories were covered in more detail with in-depth reporting and side data, but the crew were really interested in only a few of them.  And, since they were bound next for the Dinomn system, they did pay more attention to the story regarding negotiations there because it would likely affect pricing in that system.  Still, they knew government deal making rarely happened over the space of a week or two, so they watched to see what they could learn while not fearing a major change in pricing that could hurt their hopes to earn cash.  While they watched the news and Rol cooked, Emkir woke up and decided to see if he could get Aali interested in a little morning pleasure?  Sadly for him, Aali was more annoyed and being woken up than he'd hoped because of late-night events, so she gave Emkir a heads up that things had happened, but told him to get Mikah to tell him what happened and went back to sleep.  Mystified, Emkir went through his morning routine and went out into the lounge.

At the same time, Zimzod woke up in the medbay, and saw where Mikah had injected a shunt in his left arm to pump fluids into him the night before.  He vaguely remembered events along those lines from the night before, but things were fuzzy.  Still, he was the only person in medbay and Mikah was not there watching him so she didn't find anything he hadn't guessed at that would need treatment.  Getting off the gurney and removing the shunt himself, Zimzod made his way into the lounge in the clothes he'd been wearing the day before.  He joined the others just as Rol was about to serve breakfast.  Zimzod had sat with the others and they were chatting when Emkir came out of his stateroom too.  After Aali had brushed him off, Emkir looked around the space hoping to get 'the story' and asked, "Hmm, Mikah's not up yet?"

Looking up at Emkir, Terin congratulated him on being very observant that morning.  Shrugging as he moved over to the seats, Emkir said, "Aali told me Mikah would tell me what happened last night, before she went back to sleep."  Not aware anything had happened beyond what he'd seen the night before, Rol asked, "Really?"  Misunderstanding his reaction, Emkir looked at Rol and asked, "Do tell?" and Rol turned that back on him, saying, "I don't know.  You tell me" with an expression that made it clear he didn't have any information.  Looking around and finding only expectant faces, Emkir got up and said, "OK.  If you people aren't gonna talk, fuck you, I'm gonna get some caff."  And with that, he went to the galley to heat himself up some caff.

Noticing Fesic's black eye and bruises as he sat down with his caff, Emkir asked, "Have a problem with a door?" and Fesic smiled and said, "Three times."  Giving Fesic an even more direct look, Emkir asked, "Care to elaborate?" and Tern answered for him, saying "Not right now."  Breakfast was served, eaten and getting cold as the men went about their various interests or watched the news.  After he'd finished eating, Fesic went to a terminal and checked on the ship's advertisements.  He didn't completely remember everything so he was pleased when he confirmed he'd gotten the updates done that they were looking for passengers.  Emkir also found they had gotten a response overnight!  Checking that, it was an inquiry to confirm the ship had the space and requirements to transport a High Passage passenger.

Planning to discuss that with Mikah before answering the query, Fesic did recognize the name of the sender.  It was Brian's brother Perry, who they had rescued along with the rest of the surviving family.  Seeing that, Fesic remembered the Wypoc government was sending him to Dinomn on a contract to work in that system and bring back valuable learned skills.  That also meant Perry Montgomery's expenses would all be paid by the Wypoc government so long as he honored his part of the contract.  While Fesic checked on the datafeeds from his cargo searches, Jocelynn eventually came staggering out of her stateroom.

After grabbing herself some caff, Jocelynn looked around and saw how nicely Fesic's bruises had colored in.  Going over to sit next to Fesic for the moment, Jocelynn apologized and said she owed him a big favor.  Seeing that, but not knowing the story behind it, Emkir told Jocelynn, "Wow!  You are a social butterfly."  Not that he cared much but Jocelynn was showing a tendency not to get pinned down to one partner at all and Fesic could potentially be the second member of the crew she played with.  That was, if you didn't count her kneeing Terin as "playing", and she was a Marine so there was no guessing there.  To Fesic's credit, he didn't flinch when she came over to talk to him even as it seemed to the others she was sharing a quiet private conversation with him.

Still, Jocelynn and Fesic weren't "that" quiet and the others heard words like, "I'm sorry" and "fistfight" as they didn't necessarily eavesdrop.  Finally, Emkir called over to the couple loudly saying, "Excuse me!" When they turned and Jocelynn snapped, "What?" Emkir demanded, "Details?" and the others in the compartment laughed.  Not wanting to tell the story more than once, and realizing it would be told and re-told if everyone was not present the first time, Jocelynn looked around the compartment and realized everyone wasn't there.  When she considered explaining things anyway, Terin complained they should wait for the others.  That led to a discussion of who knew everything and they realized that only Aiden had not been awake for "everything".

Annoyed at Terin, Jocelynn accepted his point and demanded someone go wake Aiden up.  When no one else moved to act on her demands, Jocelynn got up and did it herself.  So Aiden was comfortably warm and asleep in his bed when Jocelynn came striding into the space to grab him by the shoulders and wake him up, demanding he get dressed and out into the ship's lounge.  Behind her, the men in the lounge were laughing hysterically.  As he woke to see Jocelynn standing over him with her hair all frazzled, the first thing that came to his mind was, "Come on ma!  Five more minutes?"  Resisting the urge to kick Aiden for that, she grunted, "Come on.  I'm only telling this story once.  Come on." and Aiden could only think to ask, "There's more?" as he wondered what she was talking about?  Unaware he was clueless, Jocelynn nodded, "There's a lot more."

Hearing Terin calling for the video outside, Jocelynn quietly said to the slowly recovering Aiden, "Don't bring the video."  When Aiden finally did sit up, apparently resigned to following orders, Jocelynn said, "Everyone's asking and I only want to tell this story once."  Going with it, Aiden nodded and said, "Right." and asked for a few minutes to dress.  Shortly after that, Jocelynn came stalking out of Aiden's stateroom to reclaim her seat and even more minutes passed before Aiden came out too.  Stopping to grab both chow and re-heated caff, Aiden was finally seated and ready for 'Story time with Jocelynn'.  During that time, Jocelynn had mentally reviewed the crew to make sure the few who were not there knew the whole story.

Story Time With Ms. Jocelynn

     After Aiden took a seat, Jocelynn launched into the tale of the day before.  As Aiden considered getting the crystal chip with the video on it from his stateroom, Terin protested that they had to go back to when it "first" started.  While most there were confused, Jocelynn only asked, "Oh.  When your hookah got stolen?" with relief.  She only really cared about keeping Zimzod from figuring out it was her and Terin that put Fesic in his bed and posed them.  Stepping to a table in the lounge, Terin grabbed and held up the note which was still there from the night before, reading "I owe you one hookah".  Passing it around, he said, "This is what started it off, this one note." and continued to explain how he found the hookah missing and found only the note.

Continuing, Terin explained that the note was in Fesic's handwriting and was interrupted by Aiden who demanded, "You're analyzing handwriting now?  How long have you two been dating?!"  That nearly killed the compartment with laughter.  Terin then described the scene where he confronted Fesic and the gunner had said, 'I sold it'.  Aiden again interrupted, saying, "So, he hocked your hookah."  Terin continued, "So we knocked Fesic out.  Or, "I" knocked Fesic out..." to a chorus of "We?" and a demand of "What's this 'We' shit?" from Jocelynn.  Continuing Terin said, "And we threw him in his room." and was challenged by those not involved, "We?"  Terin pointed out all the people who'd helped drag Fesic into his stateroom and took back control of the floor.

"After that, Me and Jocelynn thought it would be funny to put Fesic in Zimzod's stateroom."  At that point, Jocelynn giggled nervously and hoped for no explosion from Zimzod, who was listening with a lopsided smirk on his face.  Terin was ready to continue when Rol pointed out how he was lucky he was on the other side of the table from Zimzod.  Terin waved that away, saying, "Nah.  He's done that to other people before." and Rol, who had been one of the victims, said, "Yeah.  And how did that work out?"  Ignoring the peanut gallery, Terin continued, "So, we threw him in Zimzod's room, and then we set up the hookah, toked it up and were having a good time in the lounge when..." before turning to Jocelynn to ask, "Do you wanna take it from here?"  Jocelynn started, "Now, I don't know what happened in Zimzod's stateroom, All I saw was Fesic come running out with the beginnings of a black eye and running to the galley screaming like a little girl."

After the laughs proved that wasn't getting old yet, she continued with Terin's coaching comments, "Then Zimzod came out, took a hit of the hookah and he went to go in the galley too.  And I realized that this was gonna look really bad because of the black eye and rather than get in trouble with Mikah, I thought, I'll fix it!  So, I went for the first aid kit and came back, but Fesic decided he didn't want my help."  All the while, as Jocelynn spoke, there was a rising background of giggles as the story headed steadily to its crescendo.  Speaking slowly, and separating some of the syllables, Jocelynn then said, "So...I...persuaded him."  Then, more firmly as others sniggered that she'd tackled him, Jocelynn said, "He needed medical attention!"  Taking the floor back, Terin cut her off and said, "So then, I got up and went to help pick her up off the top of Fesic." and Jocelynn pointed to Fesic and said, "He fell down."

When Rol asked, "How'd she get on top of him?", Terin said, "She tackled him." with her admitting "I tackled him" a bit less enthusiastically than Terin had.  Jocelynn continued, "He was walking away and I tried to stop him, and he fell, and I fell on top of him."  Starting again, Tern said, "So, I went to pick her up off the top of Fesic, and she flipped out and flipped me face-first onto the floor net to Fesic."  Rol asked Jocelynn, "You didn't knock him out?" in a disappointed tone and Terin said, "No, she didn't knock Fesic out."  At that point, Jocelynn was laughing as she pointed at Fesic and said, "And, he hit him on the back of the head." as she shifted her finger to point at Terin.  Nodding, Terin said, "And then Fesic hit me in the back of the head and Aali went and got Mikah."

Suddenly defensive, Jocelynn complained, "I mean, come on!  If somebody grabbed you without you knowing, wouldn't you freak out too?"  Zimzod nodded and added, "Especially if they're grabbing for your titties."  And while Jocelynn admitted Terin had reached around her waist, Fesic missed the chance to ask if that's how he should have reacted when someone jumped on his back without him knowing?  Interrupting, the others laughed when Aiden said, "When she signed up as a combat medic, I think she misunderstood the sign."  Terin stepped back in to say, "So, that's basically the whole story."  In a mock hurt tone, Rol asked, "And you didn't call me?" and Jocelynn missed the joke, answering, "It all happened so fast I didn't know what to do."  Then, she rethought his words and asked, "Call you, why?  Do you wanna hit Fesic too?"  Terin had to ask if there was anyone on the crew who "Didn't" want to hit Fesic?

Looking at Jocelynn, Rol said, I do have one question for you."  When Jocelynn nodded, he asked, "Why did you think that was OK?" and Jocelynn told him, "Well, I didn't want to get in trouble with Mikah."  After a pause, she continued, "But it turned out we all got in trouble with Mikah anyway, so it didn't really help.  And then, I spent half the night putting the first aid kit back together."  Nodding, Terin added, "But that shit was funny."  Shaking his head, Aiden plaintively asked, "Were you in a low berth...through your teenage years?"  That helped Jocelynn grab onto an excuse as she said, "That's it!  I have freezer brain."  After a pause, Jocelynn said, "So that's what happened.  Aiden has video of some of it." and the others nodded or chuckled.

When Fesic asked, "So, what are we doing today?" Aiden jumped in with, "Yeah, what are we doing for an encore?"  Terin said, "Well, hopefully, Fesic got a line on some good cargo because we're getting the fuck out of this world."  Aiden then commented, "Before we accidentally kill somebody.  Right?" and Terin pointed out, "So far, we've only been a danger to ourselves." and Aiden growled, "Tell me something I don't know" as he emphasized the fact he felt he was the only one to suffer seriously from the crew's mistakes.  Of course, this ignored the fact Munarshu had shot both Rol and Emkir, but Aiden had a habit of forgetting facts where they didn't center on his suffering or risk.  As Zimzod interrupted and started to say, "OK, so this is just a typical day on the..."

Jocelynn interrupted him saying, "You're taking this amazingly well, by the way."  Zimzod shrugged and said, "I punched him in the eye." in a tone that asked, 'What do you expect?'  He then went on to say, "I've been pranked before."  Still having the other's attention, Zimzod explained, "When I came to, I had no idea what was going on.  And after he ran out of the room screaming like a little bitch, I realized that we probably got pranked.  Terin sparked up to say, "See, I wanted you to be the big spoon."  After that, the group sat back and joked about the night before and talked about what to do while Fesic was finding cargo until Mikah and Aali woke up.

Things You Saw Coming

     By the time they finished their morning routines and came out into the lounge, the food had grown cold and the rest of the crew had obviously gathered around for a big discussion.  Looking around, Mikah asked, "So, we had story time this morning?" and Rol heartily answered, "Oh yeah."  Playing "mock hurt", Mikah asked, "We missed it?" before bringing back her evil smile and asking, "What'd you guys think?"  Aiden smirked, "We'd like to answer you but we were laughing too hard." and Mikah asked if he needed oxygen in a tone that left which opening she'd use to administer it up to her greater demons and his tortured screams.  Nodding furiously, Aiden told her, "Not from this crew.  And definitely not from Jocelynn!" which got huge laughs.  Zimzod mimed holding up a hose and sniffed it before joking, "Laughing gas.  My bad!  Who put the nitrogen oxide in the oxygen bottle?"

Things settled down and Fesic went back to his terminal and his cargo hunt.  Mikah told Terin to start collecting data for his nav plot later, but he reminded her he needed to have a jump "time" to make it easier to dial in his data.  She told him to target eight that night as a good guess.  When Jocelynn moaned, "Can I go back to bed?" Mikah snapped "No!" in a much less harsh tone than she'd have used if she knew Jocelynn had ignored the alarm at 6am and gone back to bed...  Seeing his notes and reminding himself, Fesic got Mikah's attention and told her about Perry Montgomery's message about their high passage berth.  Mikah nodded as she remembered the man from the rescue and after.  Mikah decided they'd take him as a passenger and told Rol Perry was to have access to the lounge and his stateroom only.  Mikah told Fesic to let Perry know he had a ride as soon as he filed his payment, and had to be ready to leave by 6pm.

Rol worked with Emkir to set up the passenger permissions and restrictions while Aali went to engineering to work on pre-launch and pre-jump settings.  When Jocelynn asked what Mikah needed her to do, Mikah said, "Stay away from all medical kits." and Jocelynn giggled.  After that, Jocelynn went to take a hot shower, because she really wanted a bath but there were no bath tubs on ships due to space requirements.  Zimzod decided to run the ship's weapons systems through diagnostics.  Half an hour after Fesic sent the acceptance, Perry Montgomery sent a request for permission to bring a ton of cargo with him, which confused them because a passenger paying for high passage got that as part of the passage contract.  When Fesic contacted the man, he admitted he just wanted to ask and be sure.

Mikah told him he'd have to submit his "cargo" to scans, to be safe, and Perry was OK with that and said he'd be on their deck on time.  That done, the crew went around their tasks until finishing them.  After that, Zimzod did stent training, Aiden did physical therapy, Rol jumped into his comms training and Mikah went to engineering to offer Aali any help she might need.  Jocelynn wanted to go to a shooting range but found there were no ranges in the city.  When Jocelynn figured she'd look for someone with a warehouse who's walls would not be damaged by her weapons, she was reminded she was grounded.  When Jocelynn asked Mikah if she could go into town, Mikah said "No." and reminded Jocelynn she still hadn't inspected the first aid kit either.  Terin got done gathering the data he could early enough to approach Zimzod and ask if he wanted to do stent work in a group rather than as individuals and Zimzod said they could team up.

With Jocelynn stuck on the ship kicking around, Aali said, "There's always more to check if anyone's actually bored."  Hearing that, Jocelynn jumped at the chance to be extra hands and eyes even though Aali had the 'droids and was well ahead of her scheduled work.  At his terminal, Fesic got a ping asking if the ship was booking carriage of private and personal cargoes?  Not sure what the contact meant by the question, Fesic asked for details.  The answer he got back was small lots of biochemicals in two single-ton containers.  When Fesic asked if it was legal in all systems, the shipper said he couldn't say it would be legal in all systems and thought that expectation unrealistic.  Pushing for more details, Fesic was told the shipment were pheromone extracts.  Still really uncertain, Fesic asked if he were looking to sell the cargo and how much he'd sell the lot for?  He was told the man would sell the cargo for Cr 75,000 a ton.

Putting the shipper on hold, Fesic brought the information to Mikah to see if she wanted to take on the cargo and she said she didn't.  Moving forward from there, Fesic found an energy lab looking to sell radioactive industrial isotopes and Mikah said no to that because she didn't like the idea of shipping that kind of cargo.  This despite the fact that radioactives were a chief export of Wypoc.  The next cargo he found was a ton of the precious metal, "Ruthinium".  When he asked about the lot price, Fesic was told they wanted Cr 30,000 and decided to spent ten minutes checking to see if that was a good price or not?  When Mikah was skeptical that they'd be able to get rid of it in Dinomn, Fesic assured her that there were precious metals markets in every system.

When Fesic asked where the cargo had come from and any other details they could give him, he was dryly told the lot was a byproduct of primary mining in-system and the only thing they'd done to the lot locally was to refine it.  The tone used said this was obvious and the dealer thought Fesic's question was a stupid one.  Deciding he liked that, Fesic worked with the seller until he was told they'd give him Cr 2,000 off.  Liking that more, he told the seller he'd check with his captain and contact them once he had her answer.  After disconnecting with the seller, Fesic dove into more research to make sure the price was a good one.  An hour later, he could only say it still looked like a good price so he decided to call the seller and buy the cargo.  With permission to use ship's funds, Fesic agreed to receive the cargo before 6pm.

When the rest of the cargoes he'd checked during the day proved to be lots he didn't think would sell well, like raw materials or items that would be needed by industrialized worlds, Fesic decided to call the shipper selling the polymers.  When the seller got on the comms, he said another buyer had been interested but was under-cutting Fesic's offer, so he'd called Fesic to see if he was serious?  But, when Fesic only put him off, he decided not to waste time with the ship and sold the polymers off to the buyer he had.  Before Fesic could react, he said, "Next time, don't pretend yours is the only schedule to consider, asshole."  With that, the man cut the connection.

Turning back to the hunt, Fesic got a call asking if the ship had cargoes to sell?  When he said he had a lot of Ruthinium he was waiting on delivery of, the caller told him anyone could get raw metal lots on Wypoc.  They asked if the Upgrade might be coming back though that region of space again and Fesic made sure "not" to make friends by saying they wouldn't be.  Still, to not end things on a dead-end, the caller suggested the ship consider cargoes like wasabi and other foodstuff spices.  When Fesic was confused and surprised, they mentioned that extruding protein paste as a foodstuff was easy but eating a steady diet of it without spices wasn't.  With that, they wished the ship luck and cut the line.

Fesic worked up to 6pm, when Perry arrived and Mikah went with Terin to introduce him "officially" as the ship's steward.  With the hour left, Fesic called the seller with the lubricants and found they'd sold too, because the universe didn't stop just because Fesic wanted to check every option.  With the cargo bay looking very empty, Mikah reconsidered her position on the isotopes and told Fesic to call the seller and ask how they were packed.  The man he got on comms was able to send the ship the stats on their state-of-the-art containment shipping system.  Fesic asked what the seller wanted for the lot and was told Cr 575,000, which gave Mikah sticker shock!  Mikah's first thought was..."Ummm, NO!" because it was too rich for her sense of risk.

After talking with her while Fesic had the seller on hold, Zimzod suggested he call his port connection and ask them about the price, since the ship was now stuck for time.  Fesic made the call and asked about both the isotopes, and the port official said it was a "good price" but he might well be able to bring that price down a bit too.  Still, they did not have a problem with the deal as it was offered.  Getting back on the line with the seller, Fesic negotiated with them and managed to get the pricing down to Cr 550,000 before asking Mikah if she were more comfortable with that?  She wasn't really, but Mikah gave him the go ahead if they could have the cargo on her deck within the hour because she wanted to lift soon.  They agreed and the deal was done.

While Fesic had been working to get a cargo deal, the port had called Mikah to remind her she had legal documents posted in the encrypted data packet waiting for shipment out-system.  They asked if the ship had enough computer space to carry an encrypted packet out to Dinomn, since that system was on a major trade and x-boat route.  They also sweetened the ask by telling her there was a standard payment for such services.  Mikah checked with Emkir and had him confirm with the port that they "could" handle the data load before she accepted the carriage and the Cr 10,000 payment.  That done, Mikah checked with Emkir again for the amount of data they could store.

Getting her answer, she reminded him of the "data sales" trade they'd played at between Risek, Jae Tellona and Rhylanor.  In those systems, they'd been one of many ships passing and the data wasn't very valuable.  But, they stood a decent chance of being one of a very few ships coming from Wypoc so Mikah had him work with Aiden to scan the system and take a download of the system's news feeds such as they were.  So, they'd be carrying data from Wypoc to sell, free and clear, in the Dinomn system if they were the first ship in a while.  Mikah accepted that the mega-food freighters were in and out of Wypoc trading cargoes of food and tech goods for bulk cargoes going through Dinomn to other more industrial systems.  But it only took a few hours of work for the crew to do the scan and upload, so it was cheap at any price and earn them some coin.

Over the next hour, as much of the crew were securing their gear, stations and the ship, Perry Montgomery was bought aboard with his gear scanned and was settled in.  The shippers got their cargo to the ship and that was secured too.  Finally, they had Perry settled in the lounge with Rol and Jocelynn to watch him as Terin excused himself to create the jump plot for the trip.  At last, as Mikah had planned, at eight that evening, the ship lifted and burned for space.  Just over an hour later, the ship was slowing to zero-vee as they closed on the selected jump point and Terin shunted his plot to Aiden.  Loading the plot into the jump computer, Aiden and Aali checked the fuel feed logs and the capacitor loads and agreed all was good before Aiden hit the button and the ship tumbled into jump.

Another Week In Passage

     Just after nine in the evening on the 283rd day of the year, the IMS Upgrade jumped out of the Wypoc system en route to Dinomn.  All systems read normal as they slipped into jump and Aali and the flight crew began securing all their normal-space systems.  Over the next week, a good part of Terin's time would be spent managing the experience of their passenger, Perry Montgomery, because he'd paid for "high" passage and had to be tended to.  Aali would spend a good part of the week resetting and maintaining the engineering systems and her free time reading.  Emkir would spend some time managing the ship's computer systems.  Beyond that, the couple were more frisky thanks to Emkir's continued recovery.  In addition, she organized stent practice with the others, which had to be explained to Perry when it "seemed" they were forming a psychic circle and "doing things just with their minds".

Aali also pushed for physical exercise too, which Emkir was still limited in doing.  Emkir did more work, as he had time, on the book from Brian's collection which he'd been working at on and off over the months.  When she also mentioned organized unarmed combat training too, Mikah said she'd run daily training for the crew too.  And again, Emkir was excused.  Especially when he started sitting in to watch and satirically score the crew with less than complimentary numbers as a prank.  They also discussed zero-g training, though most of the crew were not really up to the constant effort that continued schedule would demand of them.  In the end, the "classes" were set for one each day with them alternating between unarmed combat on odd days and zero-g on even days.  While interested, Terin had to bow out where he was needed to deal with Perry.

Rol took part in all the training sessions, and linked in to the stent classes.  Aiden did much the same, and also spent time vid-watching.  Mikah also asked Rol to take the laser carbine she'd taken from the ship's locker, along with the integration kit that came with it, and connect it to her combat armor HUD.  Zimzod planned to have fun "instructing" in the various trainings, and do gunnery training, mixing into that some "Mikah-lestation" whenever he got her to agree, in bed or not.  In addition to that and ever-present gear maintenance, Zimzod relaxed and watched vids.  On top of taking care of Perry, Terin made an extra effort to get in on the stent and zero-g training.  Terin also worked to practice what he could of his programming training.  Added to that, he did gear maintenance, watched vids and relaxed where he could.

Fesic took part in the zero-g training and scheduled gunnery training for himself and Zimzod.  He also did personal physical workouts.  Jocelynn enjoyed the zero-g training and did physical workouts.  When she asked about doing any shooting, she was told they had the space in the cargo bay to set up a "short range" firing range for ammo that wouldn't damage the bulkheads.  Talking about it, they also realized they had to protect the cargo pods too.  Especially the isotopes.  Jocelynn also made sure to make her regret obvious to Fesic for how bad the prank had worked out.  She did spend three nights during the jump with Rol in his stateroom.  Beyond that, she enjoyed videos and reading, and asked about checking out Aiden's handgun collection.  Jocelynn was surprised at the artistry of the handguns Aiden collected, even if there were so few of them.  Aiden had managed to collect weapons which were also pieces of art.

After they got past the "issue" with Perry understanding the stent training, it turned out he had his own training to get through.  Perry had been sent to Dinomn to work assembling electronics under contract.  During those six months, he would receive more in-depth training on the work and be able to bring those skills back to Wypoc, where he would have a chance at a job in a shop there if he learned well.  Getting to know Perry, they again asked why he would ever go back to Wypoc?  He pointed out that the trip cost a huge amount compared to what his family had, and that would come down on them if he "ran off".  They also learned the family still felt very angry with Brian for striking out on his own instead of working with, and for, the family to help them all get out of the acid.

As Perry talked about the past, it gave Mikah and Zimzod a window into Brian's behavior and why his reactions were often based on "What's in it for me?"  It didn't explain everything about Brian, but it did explain some things.  Back to the present, Perry admitted that the "job" he would have on Dinomn was relatively low paying and common, so his living expenses there couldn't be covered by that pay if he struck out on his own.  So, even if he didn't care about his family, he'd be in a society he didn't understand, on a world he would have to learn from the bottom up and wouldn't be able to pay for his own needs, so that would likely end badly for him.  Along with fun chats like that, Perry watched vids, relaxed and hung out with the crew where it was allowed and learned from them where possible about the worlds and places they'd been.  They also learned more about Perry, including the nature of much of the "outside work" done on Wypoc.

Hours, days and weeks of body wracking, mind blasting conditions in an environment which would kill you for any slip, mistake or accident, be it a failure of your own, someone else's or the failure of some critical piece of gear.  And, which would kill you in ways too horrifying and painful to consider in the safety of the crew's starship lounge.  That explained why Perry had not only gone on this contracted assignment, but had gone on previous assignments and not taking "inside jobs" for himself alone.  Because, no matter how much he and his parents elevated themselves, the rest of the family would have to do outside work until they could afford to get them all inside.  Perry only hoped the family could raise the funds to make another try at the site they'd been reaching for when the crew had to rescue them.  When he was asked, Perry very seriously assured them all the site was very much real and wished the crew had spent the extra tens of minutes to use their ship's scanners to validate it.

Because those conditions were so harsh and continuous, outside workers rarely had any leisure time, hitting their racks to get sleep before they had to be back up and "at it" again so quickly.  In that light, the six-month assignment was something of a vacation for Perry, and he could hope the family left behind would find the site while he was off-world.  Smiling at that thought, Perry said they wouldn't have to share the finder's fee with the crew like they would have if the ship had taken part in the discovery.  Ignoring the shots at them for not taking on more acid-damage, Zimzod did realize Wypoc was much worse than his homeworld in many ways.  Shaking his head, Zimzod said, "Wow!  We thought we had shitty homeworlds?  He has a real butthole of a world."  The others nodded and agreed.  Still, even Zimzod's homeworld had advantages Wypoc didn't, so it was all proof of how things changed with perspective.

The week burn off as they went about their work, training and recreation during the jump.  Slowly, they all noticed that Jocelynn was spending more time following and being overly courteous to Fesic.  Eventually, Zimzod walked over to her and asked, "Why are you puppy dogging Fesic?" in a voice split between demanding and disbelieving.  Self-consciously, Jocelynn said, "A lot of it's my fault he got beat up."  Shaking his head, Zimzod said, "Umm, no.  I think I had a lot to do with it."  Nodding, Jocelynn answered him, "Well, it was my fault that he was in your stateroom."  Nodding, Zimzod said, "OK..."  then asked, "Do you really wanna make it up to him?"  Guessing what was coming, Jocelynn smiled and said, "Not with any of your suggestions."  Everyone close by who heard that answer broke out in laughter as the others turned to ask what they'd missed?

Raising his hands as he laughed, Zimzod promised, "No sexual contact at all." and Jocelynn told him to go ahead.  Smiling even wider, Zimzod said, "After Zero-g training, let him sniff your panties."  Rolling her eyes at him, Jocelynn didn't really want to know but had to ask, "Why, after zero-g training?"  Stating the obvious, Zimzod said, "Because you work out a lot."  Jocelynn first answered, "Oh." and then said Eww!" and Zimzod laughed.  Shaking her head, Jocelynn told Zimzod, "I'll take that under advisement."  Zimzod just continued, "It would really do him wonders.  You could even let him keep them."  Overhearing, Terin suggested, "I think, just not performing medicine on him would help." and the others laughed.  In the room himself, Fesic said, "You leave the medical stuff to Mikah and we'll call it even.  How's that?"  In a mock mope, Jocelynn nodded and said, "All right." in a subdued voice.  Still, she looked at Fesic and said, "But I really am sorry."

Fesic waved that off saying, "It was really all Terin's fault" even as Jocelynn joked about pulling him in front of Fesic and making him apologize.  Zimzod only continued, Telling Fesic, "See that Fesic?  You could have had a sniffable pair of panties.  But, no."  At the same time that Jocelynn taunted, "Who says I wear any?" Fesic asked, "How do you know I don't have a pair to sniff?"  Mikah shot Jocelynn's joke back saying, "We know you wear them", referring the obvious evidence seen the night of the power failure in deep space.  Jocelynn nodded as she had to admit the crew had the goods on that one.  Zimzod shot back at Fesic, "We're not talking about your own pair of sniffable panties." and they all laughed.

Over the week, Zimzod and Jocelynn decided to add workouts to their morning routines.  When Zimzod suggested he could help her and Rol, saying he could punch them out, Fesic suggested they stock up on frozen peas.  That got a laugh from Jocelynn and some of the others..  Aali said they had to be careful to mark them as 'Not for human consumption' and Zimzod said they should just get black eyed peas and everyone laughed.  Rol and Jocelynn had also spent three of the nights in jump sleeping together.  Aali managed to not only get her work done, thanks to the help of the androids, but also run an "Engineering day care" for bored spacers.  And lucky for them all, none of them broke anything they weren't supposed to touch.

Arrival In System

     In the middle of the afternoon on the 290th day of the year, the ship's computer chimed to warn them the power stream from the jump system was running down and they were about to emerge from jump.  Everyone else manned their stations or gathered in the lounge as the flight crew hit the bridge and started working to manage the return to normal space and track their location in space.  It was not long after the ship made transition that Aiden was able to announce they were in the Dinomn system, as intended.  Thanks to the world's jump shadow, they were nearly a day away from reching orbit as they started to burn in-system and receive broadcasts from the world's outer beacons.  That meant they wouldn't be ready to approach the world's high port until about 5 am the next morning.

It also meant they wouldn't be in close comms contact with the port for hours and they'd need to man the bridge in shifts.  Following the pattern set while in deep space after the jump, Terin and Fesic took the swing shift and Emkir took the alterday shift, with the job of contacting the port.  He was the one who would have to make initial "real" contact with the port authorities and make the agreements they would follow through with after he woke everyone else and they came in to dock.  Advertisements said the port had four classes of berths for ships visiting the port.  The outer "berths" were the far and near orbital positions, which were positions in space, marked by parking-orbit transponders.

These were android spacecraft which held positions with relation to the port and attached to the ship renting that position, holding it in place and warding the ship against intruding craft.  The outer orbital slips were an hours flight out and the closer ones fifteen minutes out depending on drive strength.  Inside the station, there were surface bays and internal berths.  Surface bays were just that, bays with a hatch which opened to the void of space so ships were able to simply fly in and land.  The internal berths were spaces where a ship was brought and placed after flying into an entry bay and passing control over to the station's officers, to land it on a crawler or other motive device.  Mikah told Emkir they would rent a surface bay and he would have to use the ship's funds to pay for it when the time came.

Aiden also told Emkir he'd relieve the Admiral early so Emkir could grab some sleep before they were free to head out on the station and start having fun.  Ultimately, they were able to listen, if they cared to, to a steady stream of advertisement for all manner of goods and services the station could supply.  Every service announcement also served as some kind of advertisement and Emkir joked that they really just wanted ship crews to fly by, throwing their money and cargo out into the port's bays as they passed and then left the system without bothering the locals with being taken care of at all.  Hearing that, Fesic asked, "Should we do it?" and Rol flatly rejected him saying, "Survey says...No!"  The long flight in also let them get a good idea of the system's inner facilities as they flew in.  Once they were close enough for intermittent comms, they asked if the port were interested in buying their data from the Wypoc system?

When the port operator responded, they asked for a read on the data packet and Emkir set that up.  The initial packet he sent included the record-date of the data, for jump data accuracy, and the content labels for the rest of the subpackets included in the data.  They also started beaming the posted data to the Scout Base with a single-use code given them for the purpose so that data could start riding the X-boats out.  That meant it would be another seven weeks before the word got to Rhylanor about their book deal.  From there, it'd be months before the auctions were set up and held, and the cash was parted out and credit slips shipped to them wherever they ended up when word caught up with them.  Emkir was happy to get word back when they said they'd pay Cr 5,000 for the data and began beaming that to the port.  That meant the data would mostly be done being sent by the time they docked and he could report a small "arrival bonus" to Mikah.

The port and scout base were four hours flight apart, in separate orbits.  The main starport was also separate from multiple shipyard arcologies which produced low-tech starships and low to mid-tech spacecraft.  They also provided repair and service venues for lower tech starships and the lower tech fittings of all other craft.  On higher tech starships, the yards could repair lanthanum grid and hull damage, to let damaged ships move on to systems with higher tech repair yards.  The orbital stations supported a population above 100,000 sophonts not including the Scout base.  When the ship finally had regular contact with the port, around 11 pm, Emkir was told a surface bay would cost the Cr 500 for the first week, with an escalating price if the crew chose to extend that.  According to Mikah's prior instruction, Emkir used ship's funds to pay the fee and fine-tuned their approach so he could decide when to wake everyone else up once they hit the rack for naps.

As he closed with the port over the hours, there were questions about their intent in-system, their planned length of stay, their passenger and cargo and other basic pieces of information.  They'd seen, when they emerged from jump space, that the system's gas giants were too far off to refuel from without making an in-system jump to get there.  And that somewhat defeated the purpose of refueling the ship.  The closest was just over a week away in normal space.  On top of that, they had only jumped one parsec from Wypoc, so they only needed to refill a quarter of their jump fuel.  After Emkir woke those who had to be up for the approach, the port asked if the ship wanted to hire a trade broker and Mikah said they did, and setup an agreement with the port's broker/trader department.  Finally, as they got close enough, the port lit up a beacon frequency they could follow in directly to their bay to land and they woke up all the people napping except Emkir, who they'd let sleep until it was just about landing time.

Checking Out Trouble Making

     Aiden was the main pilot as the ship cleared the bay doors and settled onto the berth flooring.  Internal sensors detected when the ship was completely inside the bay and started closing the bay doors.  Computers tied to the sensors moderated the in-bay gravity to assist the pilot in making as soft a landing as possible.  And, once the doors were closed and sealed, the bay began pressurizing even as the ship was still settling down on its pad inside the berth.  On arrival and unbuttoning, the bay chief welcomed them to Dinomn highport.  The man was a surprise because he was a big-ass gnarly vargr.  Still, he was friendly enough and handed over the data ship with their service and support agreements and contracts.  The chip also had the standard station regulations and documents on it too, for the crew's later reference.  This happened as a crew of Humans, Vargr and even a Newt started moving in to attach connections and cabling.

When the Bay chief asked if they would be buying fuel, Terin mentioned they could do a slow cruise out to the gas giant to refuel and jump from there to save money.  Mikah didn't feel like spending an extra week cruising around and burning time if she didn't have to but also didn't want to waste money.  So she asked how much it would cost to refuel and they took readings from the ship's systems before she was told it could cost them Cr 21,384.  With a price that low, Mikah brushed off the idea of hitting the gas giant and paid the port to gas them up.  On top of that, refreshing their consumables would cost them another Cr 25,000, and that was something they couldn't get at any gas giant.  Mikah paid the costs from the ship's funds and they were then free to enjoy the station at 6:30 am.

With their arrival on-station and in-system, Fesic now had multiple jobs to do.  He first had to register with the port, which was much larger and a lot more busy than Wypoc, to represent the ship in mercantile dealings.  Then, he had to look into working with the broker they'd hired from the port to sell or "not sell" their cargoes to make any profit they could.  Fesic also had to start advertising the ship for outgoing cargoes and passengers, which also meant he needed an estimate from Mikah on when they'd be jumping for the Ghandi system?  Not able to start on any of that until they were all set and connected, Fesic figured he'd start the advertising first, and then register.  Sadly, as soon as he posted the first ad, it was frozen by the port along with his account!  When he called the port to ask why that happened, he was told he needed to register first, and pay all the fees, before he could act as a broker for his ship.

Checking the notice for an address on the network, Fesic jumped right into filling out the registrations and, after an hour, paid the Cr 500 fee.  While he did that, Aali was down working in engineering.  Rol grabbed a terminal and started working through the station grid to see if there were any facilities in-system to have his brain scan updated for his clone insurance?  After a good half hour of searching, Rol found the local tech level didn't come near supporting that.  He found that much of the system "was the planet", and those were tech level three farming communities which did trade for that tech they found "not enslaving".  This culture had developed because from tales that continued to be told of how the world nearly died off during the long night, when tech became unavailable.  The only reason the world had an orbital economy was because the system was a needed stepping stone to Regina and the Jewell cluster.

That had changed only a little until after the Third Frontier War, when Imperial Admiralty developed the layered defensive strategy of the Lanth and Lunion "shield worlds".  In these systems, they built either Naval or Scout bases in order to create layers of military bases and defenses.  As a result, the orbital economy was almost its own separate system and the interaction between the two was almost on an "as needed" basis.  The two societies had also developed specific personalities, and the dirtside culture had been most affected by it's past.  Having developed as a frontier world supporting colonization of the local stars, there had been no reason for the original people of Dinomn to pursue industrialization, tech-upgrades or self-sufficiency as products from the settled Imperium flowed into and through the system.  So, when the crash came and the cities began to die, there was no longer an interstellar option.

Many different answers were tried, and those led to tech and resource wars of their own.  And the more they fought and died, the more their culture focused on survival beyond all other interests, turning their back on the arts and recreational pursuits.  The dirtside culture of modern Dinomn were a hard-working culture driven to teach each succeeding generation to achieve survival all over again.  They did celebrate their harvests and had ceremonies that acknowledged when a member of society proved self-sufficiency, but they ignored anything that didn't directly support their social interests.  That didn't mean they did not buy tech from the universe around them, but that the tech they chose were gear they could control, repair or replace with older methods if needed.

The atmospheric taint was yet another reason to allow the dirtsiders to separate themselves from the universe.  While there were downports in many locations allowing the lower tech farmers to bring their crops to interstellar markets to feed the local cluster, almost all off worlders never went into the atmosphere at all.  They used computer networks to carry out business and counted on the vacc suited surface to orbit workers to move things back and forth.  There were even sealed and filtered facilities down-well for those visits which could not be avoided.  So, an interest in investment in the Dinomn system never grew, which would have brought in out-system tech like brain scan supporting organizations or even educational campuses.  There was a University of Regina campus in system, which did support sending students to live down-well and study or spread biosciences education related to farming and animal husbandry, but that was the current limit of tech intrusion.

With no facilities in-system for his brain scan, Rol decided to go wander the station and see what there was to do there on top of seeking out unique sites for tourism?  On-ship, Emkir worked with the ship's computer, supporting Aali's work in engineering where he could.  When they had free time, he and Aali planned to see the station while shopping and exploring.  Aiden wanted to check into the availability of TAS facilities and knew the Scout base was a flight away.  He also wanted to check to see if Instell-Arms had a venue in-system because he wanted to get in some shooting practice.  Aiden also checked to see if there was a public or fee-accessed pool on the station, but the world below was too dry to consider spending that much to loft water simply for recreation.  Mikah wanted to look and see what vids were showing and Zimzod wanted to check out the shops.

Terin first looked to see if there was any University campus where he could re-download his computer classes, but found no such venue.  Not an interstellar system if just barely, that was only because of the tech brought in by the Scouts, so there was no attraction for major universities in nearby clusters.  Not finding that, he planned to look for clubs and museums to visit.  Like Fesic, he also planned to see what the others came up with that he might join in on.  Fesic did want to look into getting his hands on a replacement lock-picking training rig and software if he could, but wanted to look at the pricing first.  Fesic also wanted to look into the prices to replace the modules in the cargo sealer and to pick up a ship's weapons training system.  He planned to do that along with cargo hunting.

Jocelynn planned to see what she could do about making contacts and possibly connecting with anyone from the underground in-system.  And while she planned to do it on her own, Jocelynn would let Mikah know what she was doing, just in case.  It would take Fesic very little time to find out about getting the software training system for the ship.  With a tech level that was just edging out of the era of the "silicon data chip", the system was not either a marketplace for high-tech software or a place where such software would be created.  So, they were not getting any training upgrades in Dinomn.  And when he started looking into the cargo sealer, he could see it was not likely they would find a replacement.  Still, Fesic put out feelers to find a replacement or replacement parts just in case.  Where it came to the lock pick set, Fesic had to admit the "officially" advertised law levels of the system were not really as all-covering as a visitor might expect.

Down-well, the "Law" was official in the town and city centers but it became more "individual" as the density of people dropped and what happened down on the farm was rumor at best where local law enforcement cared more about protecting the law abiding that the rights of the dead criminals.  On the civilian station, the station's rules and regulations were the law.  And while the staff and security of the station could be welcoming and easy going, they knew how deadly life in space was, so they could lock down hard when it came to any infraction which opened the station and its population to dangers.  And, of course, the Scout Base was covered by military law.  So, the system was a mosaic of legal codes more than a low-law agro-system.  That meant Fesic would have to be careful, make contacts and see if he could find what was essentially a burglary "self-teaching" tool if he pursued it at all.  And the more Fesic thought about it, the less he wanted to try it under the local conditions.

Terin wanted to go clubbing some nights in the week they'd spend on-station and talked that up with the crew.  After they were done with the arrival details and all, he looked for a facility for the Knight Defenders of the Marches.  He found the Order had a small hostelry on-station and told the others, since everyone but Fesic and Jocelynn were members of the Order.  When the others said they should go and pay their respects, Fesic shrugged and figured he'd keep setting up possible connections while they went because he wasn't a member of the Order.  Also not in the order, Jocelynn went for a walk to see if she could find shadows in the stations lights.  The trip cost those who went Cr 5 each for public trams and the facility was small, as advertised.  Able to house up to 100 parties at any given time, they also served as a news sharing point and mail or package drop site for the Knights and provided other in-system services.  They also had several small common rooms where Knights could relax and spend time, be it waiting for their booked ship to be ready for boarding or just burning time.

Because the economy was what it was, the hostelry also opened up space, when they could, renting rooms to random traveling parties at a premium, and without a number of the concierge and other services a Knight of the Order would expect.  They also had a "mid-range" service they provided to Knights of other Orders, as a Chivalric courtesy.  As they signed the visitor's registry and were greeted, the group were introduced to a Sir Vekaraste Rete, who personally greeted all the members and seemed to be accorded a bit more respect than any others who worked for the hostelry.  This got the group's attention even as they had his attention.  And after the introductions were done, Sir Vekaraste proved he was at least well informed.  He told them all his personal avocation was to document those Knights who visited the Order house and had been present during spectacular events, in hopes that his small amount of work would help document the notable Knights of the Order.

That in mind, he'd heard of Sir Aiden and his role in the Battle of Caladbolg.  He asked Aiden if they could sit for a few hours on a day while their ship was in port, so he could document Aiden's experiences and add them to his collected stories of the Order.  Turning to Terin, he greeted the Knight and spoke of a spectacular battle against Zhodani forces in the Quopist system during the Fifth Frontier War so he also wanted to sit and talk to Terin.  And finally, Sir Vekaraste turned to Rol, as if that was a surprise to anyone in the room.  The three said they would do their best to make time for the Knight, so he could interview them as they sat together.  That done, the man had to excuse himself because he did have to get back to his work for the Order.

After that, the seven of them were allowed to wander into the various common rooms and meet and greet others using the Order-exclusive space.  While they started as a cluster of spacers, the group soon scattered and wandered alone or in small groups.  During a space of time where she was wandering about on her own, Mikah noticed a person who really didn't seem to fit in from her "raggy" outfit to her unkempt appearance.  The blonde's long hair draped loosely over her frame but could not cover the fact she was a taller woman who seemed to have folded herself into the shadows of a corner in the room.  As Mikah noticed her, she seemed to have a very serious expression while she worked intently at something on a hand computer and referencing a datapad.  She was so seriously into her work she didn't notice Mikah watching her.

Wandering over, Mikah got the woman's attention and said, "Hey" as the blonde worked.  In fact, it took a few comments to get her to look up.  Introducing herself by her last name, Leyba( Lay-Bah), she asked what brought Mikah to the system and hostelry?  Making a joke, Mikah said "Twenty years" as if she'd been commenting on a prison sentence though her smile showed it was a joke.  When the woman answered, "I understand that" with a smile of her own, Mikah introduced herself and said she was just passing through on the way to other things.  Mikah did see the spark of recognition her name caused and was not surprised when the blonde said, "You're one of those people who came back from the dead." as her expression shifted from 'polite' to 'interested'.  Used to being recognized, the woman's focus on their return from the dead was unusual and Mikah liked that.  Still, Mikah waved it off and said, "We didn't actually die but we do get that."

Nodding, the blonde said she understood that as the ladies shared a smile.  She said she'd been in the Scouts Exploration branch, and had 'jumped off the map to where there be monsters here' several times in her career, making air quotes with her fingers as she stressed words.  Nodding, Mikah said, "Yeah, it was an experience" in a tone that clearly showed it was one she could've done without."  Nodding, she told Mikah, "Well, you're still here fighting the good fight." and Mikah admitted, "That's true."  After a brief pause, the blonde gave Mikah a more speculative look and asked, "Are you fighting any good fights right now?"  Mikah shrugged and said, "Well, we do stuff every so often now, but we're kind of trying to become more...  Somewhat respectable.  And merchants."  Appearing to hold back a laugh, the blonde said, "Respect is over-rated."

Mikah nodded and said, "I know, but we have to keep our hands clean at least some of the time."  With an evil look in her eyes, she told Mikah, "I'd rather help keep other people's hands clean" with a smile of almost complete satisfaction.  Nodding, Mikah said, "Yeah, we do that too." and was asked, "Do you?" in a tone of understated surprise.  After a moment of silence where Mikah was not sure what she wanted to answer with and the blonde didn't seem to expect one while she appraised Mikah, the woman said, "Maybe you'd like to know what I'm doing here."  The last was said in a voice that mixed an almost 'come hither' tone and a taunting hint of 'Do you really dare?'  The woman then asked, "Is there someplace we can go that, uh...  Is less public?"  During the pause, she looked around at those milling through the space to accentuate her point.

Caught flat footed by the offer, Mikah offered, "Well.  We can go to my ship if you want?"  Without doing more than giving the others a comms to say she was leaving the hostelry and might be back, Mikah led the woman off to their berth and the ship.  Eventually, they arrived at the ship and greeted Fesic as they came into the lounge.  From there, Mikah took the woman into her stateroom and closed the door.  There, the woman pulled out a hand device and seemed to survey the compartment before nodding and saying the space was clear of bugs.  Sitting near the terminal at her writing desk, the blonde asked, "May I?" and held up a data crystal chip.

Penthouse Floorplan When Mikah said she could, the woman jacked the chip into the system and brought up a set of schematics.  Looking closer, Mikah realized they were a suite of rooms in a hotel and the woman told her this was a penthouse suite.  With Mikah's full attention, the woman said, "One of the reasons this system is so popular with is because nobody goes down to the surface unless they have to.  That means there's enough traffic that no one looks too hard at it while they make assumptions on the legality of it all.  So, it's the perfect place to set up a front for small 'under cover criminal operations to flourish.  As she said the last, she held up her fingers in air quotes.  Pointing to the screen, she continued, "This is the penthouse of a two hundred floor hotel which was built on the edge of the downport."

Letting the location on the edge of the port's perimeter sink in for a second, she continued, "And the people operating the luxury hotel...", again holding up air quotes, "...pay good money to those running customs so that some passages go back and forth, crossing the extrality line while not passing through customs inspections."  "That helps them keep rooms in a two hundred floor hotel more filled than not in a port without a heavy amount of traffic, tourism or even business conferences.  The reason I'm interested in this penthouse is because I've been tracking a drug distribution ring and learned they've been renting it for some time.  Thanks to my research, I've learned they employ a number of farming communities in double blind operations where none knew what the others are doing.  But, when all the pieces came together, they mix the deliveries and cook drugs to sell on other worlds."  When she finished that part of her speech, the woman's face looked extremely annoyed.

After letting Mikah think that over for a few beats, she went on.  "As I said, they've been renting the penthouse for some time and once a month, they have a cutter come down and land on the air-raft pads, from the station, to pick up their product and add to the cash stored there.  They then lift and take the product out to ships waiting to transport the stuff to systems to sell.  Because none of this passes through the port, none of it is inspected and the drugs kill tens of thousands of sophonts a year.  And, since the money is illegal, it is stored in the penthouse until it can be laundered.  But I've learned there is always a large amount of hard currency stored in the suite."  After letting Mikah consider that for a beat or two, she brought it around to why this was so interesting...  "I've been working on a plan to...interrupt...one of their regular shipments and not only destroy the drugs but take some of the hard currency for use in other programs to benefit the Imperium."

She then closed the sales offer, asking, "Do you think you and your crew would like to come along for the ride?"  Mikah nodded and said, "I can definitely bring it up.  We have combat-qualified people.  Some, not many.  But we, us..  I'll bring it up to them and see what they think about it.  And, as you can tell, we work for the Duke, so there are no questions about confidentiality here."  While Mikah did not define just how the woman could tell they worked for a Duke, or even which Duke, she didn't worry about the blonde's "No questions asked" policy.  Nodding and smiling, the woman gave Mikah her comms data which she said would bounce off the port's repeaters and eventually make their way off the government network and eventually reach her own devices.  As she spoke, Mikah had to admire the woman's tech and security.

After getting that, Mikah asked what the timeline was, since the woman said there was a delivery scheduled.  She told Mikah the next delivery was scheduled to happen in four days.  She also told Mikah she could get them a cutter, to use for the descent to hit the hotel.  The plan was to do their best to imitate the cutter the ring would expect to be coming in and hit the penthouse as hard as needed before making the smash and grab and getting out.  Aside from a combat ready team with weapons, she said they may need a breaching charge or two and Mikah said they had those.  And the "prize" at the end of the mission would be the pile of hard currency stored in the penthouse.  Nodding, Mikah said she'd get back to the woman by the end of the day.  After that, the woman took her data chip and returned to the station, leaving Mikah to consider the offer until the others got back.

When Mikah had left the Order hostelry with Leyba, Rol joked, "I didn't know she swung that way." and Emkir responded, "Zimzod drives her to it."  That got laughs from the others over the comms.  While there were other introductions and meetings, there were no other events beyond setting up to interview with Sir Vekaraste.  Terin agreed to meet with the Knight the next day, with Aiden interviewing on the next day and Rol on the third day.  Elsewhere on the station, Jocelynn had told Mikah she was going to look for less than savory contacts before the Knights had left the ship.  She had started by looking into the port advisories and the TAS notices and warnings, for places that were not considered safe or recommended for tourists.  She had then gone looking for rumors about places less than legal or safe parts on the station, or places it was said good spacers could go bad.  Before Mikah had brought Leyba back to the ship, Fesic had gotten authorized to trade in the system.

With all his accounts unfrozen again, the authorities did recommend he read all the laws, regulations and restrictions they had before making other mistakes.  He was doing that when Mikah returned with her guest, and pushed forward with his work while Mikah listened to the proposed "field trip".  Fesic had started listing and advertising the ship's cargo and itinerary when Mikah escorted the blonde back off the ship.  When Fesic asked who that was, Mikah said she'd tell him later.  Having things to consider, Mikah made herself a drink and sat to watch the news until the others got back from the Order hostelry.  Being in the Dinomn system, news of the negotiations between Dinomn's down-well government and the leadership of the orbital communities was "up front".

The stakes were pricing and profit distribution in-system with wider implications for the many systems which imported food, water and other natural consumables from the system, including representatives from Wypoc.  As a County seat, the Seneschal for the Count and Countess of Dinomn attended the talks as did a representative for the Duchy of Regina.  That was because, while the Dinomn system was in Lanth space, it was part of the Regina cluster and owed fealty to the Duchess of Regina rather than the Duke of Lanth.  As she watched the news, Mikah sparked up a comms and told Jocelynn she needed her to come back to the ship as soon as she could.  Jocelynn was still on her way when the others got back.

Because any descent sized trade station is a huge place, Jocelynn had spent her morning wander getting an idea of the lay of the land.  One of the guides she used to look for targets was the station's own "traveler advisory".  Being a member, Jocelynn also linked to a TAS advisory system to get even better guidance to where to look.  Annoyingly, she was just getting into one of the areas to "take a look around" when she got the call to turn around and come back to the ship.  By the time she did get back to the ship, Fesic had managed to list all their cargoes for sale on the station's merchant-net.  Fesic did get a call back on the ton of isotopes, asking what price the crew were looking for on that lot?  Where Fesic wanted at least MCr 1 for the cargo, he asked the contact to stand by while he and his crew settled in and they'd get back to them when his Captain was ready to negotiate.  Especially since he could refer the deal to the broker the ship had hired.

Before Fesic could call the broker, Jocelynn got back to the ship and Mikah called a crew meeting.  Setting his work aside for the time, Fesic joined everyone in giving Mikah their attention.  Scanning them before she started speaking, Mikah said she'd met a Knight at the Order hostelry named Leeta Leyba, who told her about a plan to take out some drug dealers and make a lot of money at the same time.  With everyone's complete attention, Mikah explained that Leeta had investigated the ring, which paid people to make addictive drugs on-world before shipping them directly to cargo haulers to avoid customs inspections.  Leeta had made it clear most of the people on-world didn't know what was being done with the crops they grew or chemicals they collected.  It was only once the goods were delivered to warehouses near the port that the drugs were cooked and slipped onto the port for transport.

Mikah explained that Leeta's information pointed to a penthouse suite in a hotel on the edge of the starport, where they stored large amounts of hard currency.  They apparently paid off port security to let them smuggle the drugs into the penthouse, so a cutter could land on the personal air-raft pad, which was bulked up to receive many air-rafts for parties, and load the cargo.  Because Leeta had uncovered the schedule, she figured she could use a cutter she had access to and "impersonate" the regular cutter to get close.  Then, with some extra muscle, she could execute a classic smash and grab by surprising the ring's security and getting the first, and hopefully final, shot in.  Then, they could destroy the drugs in the penthouse and grab as much hard currency as they could carry before getting out.

Mikah said she had promised she had access to a cutter, so they just had to provide the "extra muscle".  When Aiden asked if the currency was delivered by the cutter, Mikah pointed out that she'd said the cutter brought in "additional" currency, but they used the penthouse to store large amounts of currency.  Mikah then reminded Aiden that you could not bring large amounts of illegally gained cash into banks quietly.  When Aiden asked if they knew what the opposition would be like, Mikah said they didn't because Leeta only asked if they'd be interested.  If they were, she left them her contact data so they could get together and ask those questions.

When Zimzod enthusiastically said, "I'm down with it!" Fesic said, "I think this is a terrible idea."  As he tried to shout down the jokes and critiques from the others, Fesic explained, "Because you're talking about a group that generates a lot of illicit cash and when it comes to that kind of thing, there's lots of times there are double crosses going on and you don't want to get caught in between them."  Disagreeing with Fesic, Terin incorrectly said, "Umm, we're gonna be the double cross."  That wasn't true because they were not being hired by one partner to take out or rob another partner as far as they knew.  They were coming in from outside, to execute a smash and grab, and had nothing to do with any of the parties, so there was no "double cross" and it was more of a right cross.

Fesic nodded as he said, "Yeah.  Until the shooting starts and one side turns on the other and that becomes a bloodbath."  Zimzod told Fesic, "It'll just be us working with that one woman." because he thought Fesic was worried about half their team turning on them.  Again, Fesic nodded and said, "Yes.  A woman you don't know.  And shouldn't trust."  Emkir disagreed, saying, "Well, she is a Knight or she wouldn't have been in that part of the hostelry." and Mikah and Zimzod agreed with that.  Zimzod doubled down on that, saying, "Typically, Knights don't double cross each other."  Mikah held up one finger, saying "She's a Knight" and a second finger, saying, "In the same Order."  Then she continued, "So, we can call her and ask all the questions we have" and Zimzod jumped in to say, "Or we can ask her over, because we don't wanna talk about this on comms."

Mikah also made it clear Fesic wouldn't be involved because he wasn't a combat asset.  When Terin enthusiastically supported the idea, Mikah said he wasn't a combat asset either.  When Terin argued, "I can shoot" Aali joked, "Your ass doesn’t count" and Emkir howled, "Oh!!!"  Zimzod said, "yeah, you can shoot at one of us."  After a brief pause, Emkir asked Mikah and Rol, "Does that mean you want to start re-assembling her armor?" as he pointed at Jocelynn.  Mikah nodded and said, "We'd better do it now" as Rol asked, "What's the timeframe on this?" and proved he'd not been listening when she said the delivery was in four days earlier.  After those questions were dealt with, they agreed to call and invite Leeta over and ask more questions.  Mikah comm'd Leeta and the woman said she could be at the ship in half an hour.

Fesic turned back to his terminal, because he would not be involved in the job, and called the broker.  Once connected, Fesic explained the actions he'd taken so far and the fact they'd gotten a call on one of their cargoes.  Fesic also said he was looking for MCr 1 for the lot of isotopes, which the broker took with a grain of salt since he took a commission and wanted more than MCr 1 might get him.  Still, he only told Fesic that was not unreasonable and was possible in a confident voice.  When Aiden stuck his nose in Fesic's job and asked if the broker was going to look into cargoes for the jump to Ghandi, Fesic considered that.  The broker was willing to take that on because it meant more cash for him.  Still, that meant the ship would pay the broker ten percent of the buy price to push their "buy price" down, without knowing what kind of market they might fly into on the other end, so it was done but had its risks.  Still on the line with the broker, Fesic said they could discuss that after his call.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     The crew were all in the lounge of the ship in the Dinomn starport waiting for Leeta

Next: Bruises And Battle Prep