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Last Updated     October 19 2019
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       Prep


An Unexpected Bill

     Mikah had called Leeta Leyba, to ask her back to the ship to answer questions on the job she'd talked up earlier.  Most of the crew were all for taking up the mission in one form or another.  Some were more interested than Mikah wanted them to be, like Terin.  Mikah didn't consider him the combat asset he thought himself to be, and had made it clear he would not be part of the smash and grab.  On the other hand, Fesic didn't care to be involved at all, and was certain the job would go sideways at some point.  And then, they'd be caught in the middle.  So, he'd said his piece and been voted down by everyone else, and turned back to the broker and the ship's trade deals.  Outside that, the only "jobs" which had to get done were Fesic's cargo work and Aali's work in engineering.

Aali was communing with the ship's androids from the lounge, because she wanted to be part of the coming question and answer session.  Working in that way, Aali immediately saw when she got a network alert from the IISS saying she'd gotten an x-mail!  That was unusual, because she only expected x-mail from her family on Regina, and anyone else who would reach out to her was in the crew and there on the ship.  Moving to a terminal, Aali found the notice, activated the link and opened the IISS access page before working to identify herself and have the message transferred to the ship's computer so she could read it.  That done, Aali was concerned when she found it was an official notice and warning from her cloning insurance company!  The company had notified her that she was late in her payment on the cloning insurance, and her policy was in danger of closure.  She relaxed a small bit when she read a paragraph recognizing the crew's misjump challenges and extending her payment timeframe.

Recognizing she could make the deadline, Aali sparked up a connection to an in-system bank and ordered the funds sent.  The banking system assured her the payment would go out on one of that day's x-boats, and be in Rhylanor in six weeks.  There was also a boiler plate message in the x-mail which explained that notification had reached the before the cut-off date following her mis-jump "Presumed dead" announcement, so work on a clone had not been started.  Aali mentioned this to Zimzod and Rol while working on her payment message and Zimzod logged into a terminal to set up an automatic payment from his account.  That would insure a payment was made on the 304th day of each year until he used the insurance or ran out of cash.  Both Aali and Zimzod got done minutes before Leeta got back to the berth and buzzed for permission to enter.

Questions, Answers And Plans

     Things aboard settled down as Mikah let Leeta into the berth and escorted her into the ship's lounge.  As with her earlier visit, Leeta scanned the compartment, and ID'd the cameras Rol and Emkir had set up to cover the lounge.  Looking to Mikah, Leeta pointed out her discoveries and asked for the cameras to be turned off.  Mikah agreed to that, and ordered Fesic to leave the ship until recalled.  As a joked, he asked, "Can I have some money to spend?" and Mikah gave him Cr 20 while most of the others in the compartment chuckled.  Handing the cash over, she said, "Here.  Go get some ice cream."  Fesic, who was closing up his station and didn't expect the cash, thanked her and left the ship and actually went looking for an ice cream shop.  After that, he took a port cab to the nearest agro-dome to walk in the park.

In the ship's lounge, Leeta asked, "So, you have questions?"  Mikah first asked, "Yes, what are we walking into here?" and Leeta asked her to be more specific."  When Mikah asked about the opposition forces they might expect, Leeta reminded them she'd said the criminals expected a cutter to come downwell once a month to drop off more cash they couldn't put in any banks and pick up the latest load of drugs.  Those in the lounge nodded as she also reminded them her plan was based on making them think the cutter she could get was actually the boat they expect.  So, there shouldn't be any shooting until they opened their hatch and started the battle themselves.  Still, she said the ring usually had one team out on the landing platforms, and another team active inside.  She said there was likely a third team on "down time" inside the penthouse if they didn't bunk somewhere else.

Terin asked how large the teams were and how much backup they'd have, and was told each team was four or five troopers.  She went further, describing them as the 'usual gang thugs' who were on their home turf.  They knew no one came down-well and were comfortable they were safe, so the odds were low they'd be ready for what was coming at them.  Terin asked about a protocol they'd need to land the cutter and Leeta told them she'd tracked them repeatedly and the cutter crew only called, in the clear, to say they were coming.  That meant they checked faces when the cutter landed, and when their team landed, they'd come to check faces and be taken down by the crew.  Then, it would be too late to worry about not being recognized

Zimzod was bothered a bit, since Leeta arrived, and had not felt the buzzing in his head since his "special training" on Regina.  Still, he continued, 'half-asking' about the atmospheric taint.  And Leeta said she was going down in a vacc suit, and anyone in a sealed suit wouldn't have to worry about it.  She then told them that anyone who's suit was breached wouldn't have to worry about any serious reactions unless they breathed it for a couple of hours, and they'd be able to be treated and cured.  Mikah nodded and said she could check into that to confirm.  Leeta also told them they only needed to use a breather mask because conditions wouldn't be dangerous enough to even require a vacc suit.  Her tone was light, meant to help the crew get comfortable with an issue she was sure was nothing important.

Beating a dead horse, because her answers had already covered the territory, Terin then asked if she had a plan to incapacitate the outside team so that the inside teams wouldn't be alerted to their arrival and she pointedly reminded him this was a smash and grab.  That meant there was no finesse.  They would storm in with guns blazing, kill anyone in front of them, destroy all the drugs they saw and grab any currency they could carry before running away.  From her seat, Jocelynn muttered, "Oh.  We're destroying the drugs?  That's a bummer."  Leeta took that as a joke while Mikah assured her, "We just want the money."  Terin asked if Leeta knew the names of the drugs being made and was told they included "Crystal Blue Persuasion", also called "Blue Ice", "Glow Bug", "Felicity" or CBP.  That was a highly addictive drug strictly prohibited on most worlds.  It was a bluish-white, tasteless, crystalline drug that is taken orally and dissolves easily in water, so it can be added to drinks or food.

Leeta also told them there were often two or three other "side" drugs, which could be made with the remaining and left over components of CBP.  Terin and Mikah had both heard of the drugs, and Zimzod recognized CBP.  Zimzod asked, "What are we going to use to destroy the drugs?  Incendiaries?  What do we plan to do?"  Leeta told him she could bring some incendiary grenades if they wanted her to, but invited them to bring something else if they preferred.  Rol asked if collateral damage was an issue and Leeta said she wasn't concerned because the hotel was colluding with them to smuggle goods and cash in and out of the port so they were due their share of losses.  Leeta also pointed out that after they cleared the deck, port security would arrive and find the remains of a huge amount of drugs and investigate.  So, the bonus was that many involved with the ring's port operations would be caught up in that investigation.

With that, she reminded them, it would look like an action between drug cartels and no one would be looking for outsiders to be involved.  Especially not Knights of the Imperium with otherwise legitimate business in-system.  When Mikah asked about security surveillance in the suite, Leeta admitted she couldn't speak to that because she'd never been able to get close enough to investigate.  Mikah nodded as Leeta's tone suggested she was very annoyed at that failure.  Zimzod shrugged and said, "OK.  Just make your face unrecognizable." and Mikah said, "I'm gonna wear my combat armor." as if that was so obvious that being worried about being visually identified was stupid.

Having been told, by Mikah, that he wasn't a combat asset and wouldn't be coming, Terin asked what the split was and Leeta repeated that those who came with her would grab their share from the cash in the suite.  The tone was brutally honest and the message was, 'If you're not coming down, you get nothing' as far as she was concerned.  Still, she said the currency should be in storage cases which were easy to grab.  Having heard the 'family stories' of things like the Risek looting, Aali happily called out, "Hey!  We don't have to bring pillow cases!" and Jocelynn asked, "What about tents?"  They both got laughs from the rest of the crew.

Rol asked about the expected response time from port security and was told they should probably be off that deck in five minutes if they wanted to be safely away.  Jocelynn snorted and laughed at the term "should be" as they started speculating about how to move larger amounts of currency.  Soon, they were talking about using the grav-belt, which had a remote control unit.  They started talking about using it to hold up a platform onto which they could throw cash containers.  Shifting from that, they thought of using it to support backpacks, then to support duffel bags from the ship's locker.  They could empty out the survival supplies normally in them when they were needed.  That meant they had to decide how much they wanted to load down the hover-belt?  Especially when Jocelynn suggested they only bring two duffel bags.

Getting back to Leeta, Zimzod asked who she was working for and she said she was completely independent.  Aali nodded and said that was similar to what their crew did too.  Bothered by the buzz in his head, Zimzod pushed, "Do you work for any specific entities?" and she answered, "No.  I work for myself." in a comfortable tone.  When Jocelynn said, "She's Robin Hood" Leeta nodded and said, "Something like that."  Leeta reminded them she didn't give out cash she stole, but she did spend it in ways that benefit Imperial projects.  When Mikah asked how she became a knight, Leeta said, "I did something spectacular and stupid, and somebody recognized me for it."  Her tone said she'd not been impressed by the results of her actions.

When Jocelynn said, "Kind of like you guys." and Aali agreed, Mikah pointed out to Jocelynn that she was "one of us now." and got laughs.  When Jocelynn protested that she wasn't a knight, Mikah said she would be because someone would find some reason to punish her with her own elevation.  Getting back to the questions, Rol asked if the ring had any rivals on-world and Leeta said, "Not any I could find while I searched."  Looking at the group, Leeta asked, "So, who's going?"  Zimzod was the first to say, "I am", followed by Mikah, Rol, Jocelynn and Aali.  Emkir volunteered to run communications on the ship when Mikah made it clear he was not a combat asset, much less medically cleared for the operation.

When Zimzod asked about the timing of the cutter launch, Leeta told them the drug ring didn't vary their schedule much at all.  Once a month, at 11am, the ring members on-station launched a cutter downwell.  Sometimes, Leeta saw the launch time vary plus or minus ten or twenty minutes, but that seemed more a question of crew arriving late or getting set up to go early.  When Zimzod asked about letting the drug ring's cutter land and taking down their crew too, he was reminded they were pretending to be that cutter.  So, if their cutter began its descent and spotted them in place, they would know something was wrong and vector off.  or, call for backup help from somewhere else.  While Leeta was not aware if they could call for help, it was obvious they had the hotel and some members of port security in their pay, so something "could" happen.

Leeta also said the drug runners could have weapons on the cutter, "just in case" and come down hot.  That was something else she admitted she'd never been able to find out.  Stepping back in, Terin pointed out it would be best to go as early as possible, before the other cutter got moving.  Aiden pointed out they didn't want to go too early, because that could set off alarms too.  The others agreed because the longer they had in the penthouse, the more cash they'd be able to grab.  Nodding, Terin asked Mikah if she wanted them to have the ship's cutter ready, in case something went wrong?  Mikah enthusiastically agreed to doing that, just in case the plan went sideways.  With the idea rolling, Mikah said Aiden would be the pilot for that cutter, if needed.

Mikah also told Aali she preferred the engineer stand by with their cutter, because she didn't want to risk her chief engineer.  Aali nodded and said she'd stay behind as others joked that Fesic was expendable.  Zimzod joked that they could strap Fesic to the front of the cutter so they could safely fly into criminal space without him running off.  Aiden suggested they bring Fesic as their pilot but secure him to the flight seat so he couldn't escape.  That way, he could keep the cutter engines hot and ready so they could get out fast.  That reminded Mikah their entire five-man team would leave the cutter unmanned while they carried out the smash and grab.  Reconsidering that, Mikah decided Aiden would be the pilot for Leeta's cutter and Emkir would pilot the backup team.  After those decisions were made, Leeta decided she'd seen enough to accept that they were "in" on the job.

Deciding that, she pulled a data chip from her carry pouch, held it up and asked, "May I?" while pointing to a data slot near where she sat.  Popping that in, Leeta activated a holo-projector and began explaining the operation while using a full holographic layout of the job.  The plan was almost as simple as it had seemed when she'd laid it out before.  They'd drive the cutter down into the atmosphere to approach the landing pads directly serving the penthouse itself.  As soon as they were down solid, Leeta and the others would make their assault, taking down anyone in their way because Leeta's data said they were all criminals.  They would destroy the drugs and grab whatever currency they could before getting back on the cutter and getting out.

By that time, alarms would already have been triggered and "crazy would be happening".  Because of that, Leeta explained that the last thing they wanted to do was fly directly back up to the port, because security would be aware a crime had been committed and be waiting to capture them.  Leeta explained that the answer to that was to fly out-system into deep space on a random vector she'd plotted and would load into the cutter's nav system.  That way, the pilot would have the data ready to hand along with three alternate vectors, "just in case".  While burning out-system, they'd do their best to lose any tracking or pursuit.  After they were far enough out with a large enough vector, they could shut down their systems and drift.  Then, they could use their OMS thrusters to modify their vector and "slide off" the search field system authorities would expect them to be on.

After they did that, they'd have to drift for a few days to a week, to be sure they were off the port's scans before altering the cutter's transponder and powering up to return as a completely different vessel.  Some of the crew were amused how casually Leeta suggested changing the cutter's transponder, and even fewer wondered how much skill and background that casual comment had behind it?  Mikah pointed out that meant everyone on the Upgrade would have to maintain communications silence and pretend Mikah and the others were still aboard the ship.  She pressed them they would not be able to contact her for help, guidance or any other reason.  Interrupting Mikah, Leeta said she could jack the crew into the personal repeater system she'd set up to avoid the system authorities.  While they were all impressed with the offer, Mikah sad they still shouldn't use it during the operation to keep the cutter undetected.

Rol joked they could record a random sampling of Mikah's orders and answers, and program it into a sphere they could roll until it came up with a randomly selected recording.  The marines recommended developing click codes, which could be sent in micro-bursts taking less than a hundredth of a second.  That way, they would know the meaning of the codes and be able to communicate.  Terin pointed out there were three marines on their attack team and they'd already know the Imperial codes.  But Aiden pointed out the non-marines involved didn't know the code, and there would be the danger some other Imperial trooper or veteran might recognize it.  Agreeing, Zimzod said they should set up a ship-wide code after this mission was done.  Emkir agreed the crew needed a code of their own. Looking for an easier path, Mikah suggested using the Imperial system but changing the meanings.

When Rol asked Leeta about the timing of the strike, she made it clear the drug runners would be doing things "out in the open" and in the clear light of day because it would reduce any suspicion anyone might have.  Like the lesser liveried servants in a wealthy family's home, the regular traffic of cutters was tracked by the many system traffic control computers, but was effectively invisible in a port busy enough.  By the time the shooting, and perhaps some explosions, started and the alarms were being raised, they'd be grabbing cash and fleeing the scene.  And, if they couldn't slip the tracking or pursuit, they could always program the cutter to burn a hard vector after they'd abandoned it and tether themselves into a cluster.  Then, once the authorities had moved on, they could call for pick up.  The only risk they faced there would be coming up with a valid reason to give the searching authorities for flying through that space to pick them up.  Mikah and several of the others laughed about having done that before.  Since there were no more questions, Leeta told them she was leaving.

Shooting And Shopping

     Leeta said she'd call them in three and a half days with the location of the cutter so they could meet her.  Left to their own interests after she left, Aali wondered out loud if there was an Instell-Arms on the station?  When asked what she was interested in, Aali said she felt like some target practice on a range.  With a smile on her face, Mikah told the others they should call Fesic back from the park, because they needed him for target practice.  The others laughed at the play on words as Mikah grabbed the comms and made the call.  But Zimzod got his comms first and called the gunner.  When he answered, Zimzod said, "Fesic!  We need you for target practice." with an evil grin on his face.  Fesic couldn't miss the laughter of the others from off screen.

Over an hour after he left the crew, Fesic had been wandering a park-like setting in one of the station's agro-domes.  He saw the port module had been built somewhere else and shipped into the system because of the higher-tech structures and fittings.  Still, he'd been enjoying his wandering and the collection of nature curated in the dome.  The contrast of a daylit park below the diamond-speckled velvet night of space made for a very comforting space.  When Zimzod's call came, he told Fesic to meet them at Instell-Arms and Fesic said he'd make his way there to meet them and asked them to bring his snub pistol.  With Zimzod calling Fesic, Mikah called Instell-Arms, and found they had ranges to rent time on.  They could bring their own ammo and weapons, or have it brought for them, and take target practice for Cr 100 an hour.  And then, they could buy replacement ammo if desired.

The range was a basic facility, which had lanes shooters could rent to fire on.  They also had two spinning swordsman's pells, that were semi-automated.  That meant the arms holding blunt weapons could adjust position and "swing back" at the swordsman renting time on it.  While laser blades couldn't be used on the pells, the firing lanes could be shielded so shooters could use laser weapons.  Because of the sheer number of weapons the crew were bringing to the range, Mikah had the ship pay to haul the weapons to and from the range for Cr 50.  At the range, Mikah, Zimzod, Aiden and Fesic bought an hour each, to split their weapons.  And there was no extra charge when Aiden and Mikah switched from fire arms to blades on the pell.  There was a good deal of snickering when Mikah took her combat knife up against the pell, though.

Mikah also got a fairly large audience when she began practicing with her laser pistol, because that shop advertised the "pack-less" magazine-fed pistol for Cr 150,000.  On top of that, they didn't have one in-system and anyone ordering the weapon would have to have to pay shipping to receive it too!  Mikah's audience was shared with Zimzod when he produced a Tech level 16 Darrian gauss pistol!  That meant the weapon, which didn't look more than a decade or two old, had to be at least 1,700 years old!  And despite that, it ate the standard gauss pistol ammo made for Imperial markets.  Aiden also got a crowd of people to look at his snub pistol too, but Mikah was quick to make sure he knew they didn't want to make enemies in this port.  So he was to be careful about giving the weapon to anyone to examine.

Mikah split her time between firing her laser pistol, Auto-pistol, gauss pistol and snub pistol.  Then, she spent time working to dodge and strike with her combat knife, against one of the spinning pells.  She eventually burned off two magazines of laser charges before storing them to recharge.  She also burned off the twelve rounds of ball snub pistol ammo she had, thirty rounds of auto-pistol ammo and ninety rounds of gauss pistol ammo.  Zimzod fired off 200 rounds of gauss rifle ammo along with twenty four rounds of .45 ammo and sixty rounds of gauss pistol ammo.  Aiden spent a lot of time talking but did burn off twenty rounds of both ball snub rounds and LAG rounds.  Aiden also bought a submachine gun for Cr 750, because he had ammo for it, and burned off ninety rounds of ammo using that.  Aiden spent the rest of his time hacking at the pell with his sword.  Fesic spent his hour of shooting practice burning off six clips of ammo using his snub pistol while talking with the others on the range.

Rol, Jocelynn, Terin, Aali and Emkir rented two hours on the range, with Aali and Emkir covering half Terin's costs for reasons they didn't explain to the others.  Aali split her two hours on the range firing her gauss rifle, combat shotgun and gauss pistol.  She worked her way through four clips of gauss rifle ammo and another forty rounds of ball shells with the shotgun.  She fired two clips of the "mild steel" flechette ammo for the gauss pistol she'd "inherited" from Munarshu with his gauss pistol.  Emkir burned off forty five rounds of 9mm ammo and two clips with his gauss pistol.  Terin and Jocelynn had also brought their swords, to play with the pells as they burned off ammo on the range.  Terin burned through two clips each with his gauss rifle and gauss pistol while also getting more time in with his relatively new Gauss Shotgun Pistol.  He only burned through one clip of "tight cluster" ammo from that because he had very little ammo for that weapon to start.  Terin also spent some time sniffing around Zimzod's gauss pistol until Zimzod offered to show him how it worked by using Terin as a target.

Jocelynn drained her laser pistol backpack both for the practice, and to test its recharge endurance because of the time spent in mis-jump and adrift.  She also fired off three clips of gauss rifle ammo and fifty 2.5 inch shells with the shotgun she'd taken from the ship's locker.  Rol worked through two clips each of gauss rifle and snub pistol ammo.  After everyone was done shooting, they either shopped or simply ordered a refresh of their ammo.  That cost Mikah Cr 200, Zimzod paid Cr 379, Aiden spent Cr 195, Fesic spent Cr 78, Aali spent Cr 1,020 but found she could not replace the "mild steel" flechette ammo and bought standard ammo to reload into the clips.  Emkir spent Cr 95, Terin spent Cr 170 and was able to replace the "tight cluster" ammo he’d used, Jocelynn spent Cr 735 and Rol spent Cr 180.

While shopping, they saw what this location of Instell-Arms had to offer was more anemic compared to other locations they'd been in.  That wasn't surprising, because there wouldn't be a lot of sales beyond "actual need" in the Dinomn system.  What they did see was not only generic, but also noticeably more pricey than most of the systems they'd visited.  Knowing they were ultimately going to D'Ganzio, the focus was on what they thought they might need in the Sonthert system after their visit to the highport in the Ghandi system.  While there was concern Jocelynn only had one set of executive armor, the pricing was three to four hundred percent higher for that alone.  Mikah did look at duffle bags, with the smash and grab coming up, and then considered the duffels they had on the ship.  Since they only had to empty out the survival kits to use a number of bags, Mikah decided to think about that.

While shopping, Terin looked to see if they carried any Zero-G training programs for weapons or just in-space operations that he could buy and use on the ship?  He was disappointed to see the only classes they had on that were instructor-led and expensive.  That was because the bulk of the system's population had no interest in leaving the world's surface and the rest were split between the military and civilians.  And the military had their own training programs, so the very small remainder of the population just didn't spend money on programs such as those in a tech level 9 system.  The shop did offer a "Zero-G Experience", which let the infrequent visitor from down-well or inexperienced passenger visiting on layover pay cash to suit up and do a spacewalk or even in-space "adventures".  Sadly, those were both very tame compared to what the crew had been involved in and hyper-expensive.  Terin shrugged those off because he could suit up and tether himself to the ship any time for free.

More Plans And Preparation : Late Afternoon

     Despite wanting to keep together, there wasn't enough in the Instell-Arms shop to keep Mikah, Zimzod, Fesic and Aiden busy so they went back to the ship before the others were done shooting.  Back there, Fesic checked his accounts to find he'd gotten a message.  Fesic checked that to see it was from their broker, and he had a possible buyer for the crew's one ton of industrial isotopes.  The firm the broker was dealing with was the Khadilish Uukhirmu Corporation, and Fesic found they were one of the maintenance companies supporting the highport.  Listening to the message, the broker told Fesic he'd explained the seller's limits, including a "minimum" sales price of MCr 1, and they still wanted to proceed.  Because of that, he needed Fesic's permission to enter into negotiations for the cargo.  After making sure he'd gotten the details right, Fesic sent permission to proceed to the broker.

That done, Fesic had two more missions now he was back at the ship.  First, he wanted to post ads to sell the gear they'd tried to sell on Wypoc.
Those were:
    Cr 1,000 - TL 13 Comm Unit earbud comm unit with a 50km range - Terin
    Cr 3,500 - TL B Multi-Channel Scramble capable Long range Comm Unit - Zimzod
    Cr 14,000 - Munarshu's vacc suit, with its hard bubble helmet and HUD
    Cr 3,000 - 5,000 km range TL E Ear piece comm unit
    Cr 7,000 or best offer - Hand computer
    Cr 800 - Atmospheric tester ( TL 7, 1104 )
    Cr 400 - Radiation counter
    Cr 800 - 500 km range video communicator
    Cr 1,000 or best offer -Zach's silver "accessories kit"

After he had those ads posted, Fesic wanted to start researching the Ghandi system, to start looking into cargo to buy for speculation there.  While he'd been doing that, Zimzod considered the time they had with nothing else to do and shot Mikah a suggestive look.  When Mikah rolled her eyes, Zimzod said, "Why not?  We have almost an hour."  Sitting close by, preparing to read, Aiden heard the exchange and asked Zimzod, "Why an hour?  You only need five seconds."  Despite themselves, both Zimzod and Mikah broke out laughing.  Recovering, Zimzod smiled and said, "No, dude.  Sometimes it goes, and goes and goes." in a very satisfied tone.  Overhearing that, Fesic added, "So?  Forty five seconds?"  Blindsided by Fesic's sudden intrusion, there were even more laughs before anyone could recover.

Eventually, Zimzod recovered enough to look at Fesic and say, "That wasn't what you said last time." and got an approving groan from the others.  Without missing a beat, Fesic answered, "Wait.  I was the big spoon" and the room again fell to laughter.  All Zimzod could answer that with was, "Yeah  And you still got a shiner from that one."  When Aiden jumped in again, he asked Zimzod if that was his only answer, because it was a lack luster answer.  When Zimzod admitted it was the truth, and he couldn't come up with zingers every time, Aiden played Captain Obvious, and announced Zimzod was gonna let Fesic win this time.  Fesic said, "Sometimes you get owned" and Mikah said, "Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don't."  Aiden turned to her and asked, "Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you're the little spoon?"  Eventually, those exchanges faded and Zimzod dragged Mikah into their stateroom for some lechery in private.

With that, Aiden got into gear maintenance, putting up his ammo and further cleaning his weapons and Fesic went back to his work.  After the others got done shooting, Rol bought ten duffel bags for Cr 200.  He figured it would be best to have crisp clean and unmarked duffel bags to bring with them on the smash and grab just in case.  When Rol got back to the ship, he gave Mikah the duffel bags and Mikah thanked him.  They joked about using the backpack with the embroidered legend, "Hunting World - Regina" but they knew that any accidental image caught could be connected to the "Hunting World - Regina" gear on their ship if suspicion somehow led to a search of the vessel.  When Fesic heard that, he told them he was selling some of that gear too, and Mikah snapped, "You're not trying to sell his hookah again, are you?"  Fesic caught his lower lip in his teeth before saying "Maybe" in a sheepish voice while attempting an innocent look.

Snorting from where he sat, Aiden scoffed, "Because that worked out so well for you the last time" in a tone that said exactly how stupid a move he felt it was.  Turning to Aiden, Fesic firmly and happily said, "I'm actually pleased how that all worked out!"  The others in the space demanded things like "Really?!" in voices of incredulousness.  When Mikah asked if he hadn't learned anything from the experience, Aiden snarked, "Yeah, he learned Jocelynn had a very limited flight capability."  Despite everything else, that got a laugh from everyone there.  Laughing, Jocelynn returned, "I learned Fesic is soft to land on."  When Rol led into a rhyme so old its origins were forgotten to time, Jocelynn followed his, "Their tops are made out of rubber" with the response phrase, "Their bottoms are made out of springs!"  Hearing that pair of comments, Aiden was completely horrified at how much of a matched set Rol and Jocelynn seemed to be.

Things settled down as people stowed or settled into cleaning their gear until dinner was cooked and eaten.  During the meal, Jocelynn started planning out her idea to hunt for underworld contacts.  She kept it to herself as she ate and planned to act after they were all done eating.  While they ate, Rol told them he'd bought the duffle bags not only to stuff with currency, but also to use humping their armor and weapons from the ship to where Leeta would have the cutter they'd use, since they couldn't just snap into their armor and walk through the station carrying their weapons.  Mikah agreed that was a god idea and thanked Rol.

Despite Jocelynn planning to spend time wandering the station's seedier sections, Rol wanted to continue working on her battledress with Zimzod.  As they worked, Zimzod saw Jocelynn's battledress was a more recent design than his, and had new functions built into it.  Rol worked to remove the mag-lock ID data and other insignia that were on the armor.  While Rol function tested the battle computer on Jocelynn's armor, he had Zimzod bring his battledress out so they could integrate the two systems.  As they did that, the two men discussed using their comm dots to create an integrated network with the others.  That would mean one comm dot would have to be assigned to each battle computer.  Then, all the others would have to have a comm dot on their HUDs so they could share sensor and situational data.  After that, others could put comm dots on their weapons sights, to add those points to their "sensor net".

Pulling out his ten comm dots, Rol connected one each to Zimzod and Jocelynn's combat computers.  He then connected one to each of their comms as well as his own.  And he connected one to his HUD, so the three were now in a network and could share all their data for his six dots with four to spare for the moment.  He could use those to interconnect to the MUXs of other networks so they could use their comm dots to extend the network to Mikah and Aiden's HUDs and their weapons sights.  That way, Aiden would see what they did even while guarding the cutter.  Since Terin would be on the "backup" cutter, he was able to use his comm dots to integrate himself and the others on his cutter into a second network.  Then, they could use dots connected to others MUXs to connect the two networks once the cutters were close enough to each other.

Terin also used one of his dots to connect the sights on his gauss rifle.  Zimzod had two sets of dots and two MUXs, so he gave Jocelynn one to wear so range would not be too big an issue, though they'd have to work on spacing to not lose connections.  Aali decided to integrate her HUD and comms with her dots, and recommended they double their links when they daisy chained MUXs by taking a dot from one set and connecting it to the MUX of another set.  She did that by sharing out one of her dots each to connect to Terin and Emkir's MUXs.  As the crew started scrambling for electronics to add to their gear, Zimzod found his old comms unit, from before they upgraded.  Realizing that was useless, Zimzod realized he could sell it rather than hauling it from star to star.

They also realized Jocelynn didn't have a comms encoded to the crew's settings, and Mikah gave her one of the spares.  That left Mikah with five spares and meant Jocelynn could sell her own Long range comms.  As Mikah gave Jocelynn a new comms, Zimzod gave his old comms to Fesic to sell and the gunner listed it for Cr 3,500.  Fesic also offered to list anything else the crew had that they wanted to sell.  Terin had a earbud comm unit with a 50 km range which he wanted to sell for Cr 1,000, but he wanted it on an auction site rather than on a static sales site.  Terin created a local account and posted his item as Fesic added Zimzod's gear to his previous sales ads.  They did that while Rol had cooked dinner and Jocelynn worked with him and Zimzod on her armor, putting off her planned "walk on the dark side" because reassembling the armor was more important.

Mikah sat with the three and helped assemble where she could as they all talked about Leeta's job and planned ideas out.  Having free time, Aali dragged a completely un-resisting Emkir into their stateroom to burn some calories as well as time.  She called behind them, "We're doing calisthenics" as the door closed.  Aiden had read until dinner, then did gear maintenance and prep-work after dinner, before reading some more.  Taking some time away from the idea of Leeta's job and considered directing more of his stent-use experiments on connecting with and using the ship's computer.  That was in addition to group work with the other stent-users in the crew.  Eventually, the crew worked at their projects or relaxed and there were comments and laughs.  The loudest came when Zimzod asked, "Rol!  Why do you keep sniffing at the crotch of her armor?"  And Rol answered, in an accusing tone, "Because you have the arm pits!"


Good Morning Universe

     Before racking out the night before, Rol set his clock for six in the morning, to make breakfast.  Terin wasn't sure what time Sir Vekaraste Rete wanted to meet with him, but wanted to be ready, so he set his clock for seven.  Aali wanted to get going early on engineering work so she and Emkir agreed to wake at eight.  Mikah hadn't planned to wake early but found herself the first one awake.  Leaving Zimzod in bed, she went through her morning routine and made her way into the ship's lounge to make a pot of caff.  She was well into the process when Rol made his way into the lounge too.  Terin was the next to wake, stepping through his daily routine and stepping into the lounge as Mikah had just started eating.  After he'd eaten, Rol got working on his own gear maintenance.  Mikah had turned on the news, and was watching that with Rol and Terin when Zimzod joined them, having woken and worked through his own morning routine.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)                            Date: 250-1113
    Ministers from the Domain administration have not commented on news that
    suit has been brought in Rhylanor Subsector Senate on behalf of the LSP
    megacorporation and the "Current" Baron of the Heroni system.  This suit
    was opened by the Baron's Seneschal, as Baron Anirladi Kishike is active
    in LSP operations outside the Spinward Marches, and was not able to reach
    the Arch Duke during his imposed meeting requirements.  While Seneschal
    Nishu Khirsiirkum and Lord Mikar Sharmaal Agkhir were dismissive of the
    chances Baron Kishike's enfeoffment would be vacated, the law suit was
    opened to prove just how valuable the Baron's relationship with LSP
    corporation was to the world.  Still, that suit did ask the Subsector
    Senate to sponsor a similar suit preventing moves by the Arch Duke in the
    Sector Senate.

    Lord Mikar Sharmaal Agkhir serves as the interim Chairman of the system
    government, Heroni MinCorp.  Despite those claims, a Domain official who
    spoke on condition of anonymity pointed to the nearly non-existent public
    port facilities or investment in the world.  That official scoffed at the
    private docking and management system for LSP vessels and speculated that
    the government of that system were doing no more than looting what remained
    of a system where the mining had trailed off, leading to abandonment by
    interstellar trade.  Many criticized the existence of Heroni and other
    solar systems as "Ghost worlds", which have been abandoned by the Imperial
    economy.  Such criticism, public and private, cannot help the case of Baron
    Kishike.

    There has been no comment on-record from the Domain government or those
    close to the Arch Duke.  Despite that, it is recognized the Arch Duke can
    set aside any decision made by the Rhylanor Subsector Court.  Additionally,
    those close to the Court of Duke Leonard of Rhylanor state that His Grace
    supports the move by the Arch Duke to review enfeoffment in the regions,
    including within his own Duchy, and it is suspected Duke Leonard may have
    helped Arch Duke Norris focus on such worlds as Heroni.  Heroni is held
    by the County of Cipatwe, which is sept to the Duchy of Rhylanor.
   

    Skull (C2237C7-9  2  Green  Po NA  601  M1 V)                            Date: ???-1113
    Reports continue to flow from Skull on that system's on going normalizing
    conditions after fighting down a significant coup attempt.  Working
    on a more broad recovery, the system government reports it is finally
    intact and moving forward to help their citizens even as they stand by
    on the decision of the Arch Duke on a new Noble appointment to the vacant
    fief.  While there is not currently a lot of chatter about who might be
    appointed, there is discussion just who might be the authority which
    makes the appointment?  This is because Arch Duke Norris can appoint a
    Noble representative himself or delegate that action to either the
    Grand Duchess Delphine or even to Duke Rakaa Kiraarri of the Lanth
    Subsector.  Some even suggest the appointment might be delegated to
    the County of Ivendo, though that appears extremely unlikely.
                

    Dinomn (B674632-9  S  Ag Ni  204  Im  K2 V)                            Date: 291-1113
    The upcoming renegotiation of rights between the downport government
    and those orbital and interstellar communities that support it has
    been firmly scheduled with the resolution of all remaining conditions.
    The various government ministers will meet on Monday, the 291th day of
    the year.  They will then begin a week-long review of rights granted
    by the world government for access to the system and management of
    interstellar affairs.  This confirmation follows the final agreements
    put in place and the last preparations which were set to be finished
    in time for the resumption of talks.  As always, one of the major
    tripping points between the parties were those decisions on technology
    at all levels, from simple actions such as recording the sessions to
    the eventual plans for payment on agreement of orbital leasing and
    resources.

    While the in-system authorities prepare for the conference, teams of
    supporting officials have gathered, funneling interests and action items
    from the port, trade organizations and the office of the Count.  In
    a statement from Count Morea, His Excellency has insured that there
    will not be any interruptions of through-system traffic regardless
    of the outcome of the in-system talks.  As a hedge, Count Zade has
    succeeded in adding a member of his Seneschalate to the on-site
    staff during negotiations.  His Excellency also reached out to the
    governments and nobility of the neighboring systems to gather and
    provide additional trade and financial data.
                

    Regina (A788899-C  A  Ri Cp  703  Im  F7 V  M6 V  M8 D)               Date: 284-1113
    A statement has been released from the SuSAG corporate offices formally
    stating all operations in the Gougeste system have been normalized after
    relief forces rescued the population from Sword World invaders.  The system
    is now said to be stepping back from Martial law under the control of
    former mercenary forces now deputized for law enforcement during the
    recovery which is on-going.  Executive elements who accompanied the relief
    force are moving to establish an interim corporate management government
    as they identify and re-organize the surviving civil servants.

    A further statement from the interim government stated that trials for
    the captured Sword Worlds spacers and marines have begun.  These are
    based on evidence said to have been captured with the CSS Sjisnopsen,
    in that ship's computer.  SuSAG management have stated they will provide
    the government of the Colada system with that data, which provides that
    much of the ship's crew had either abandoned their posts or refused orders
    to work towards making the ship jump-capable again.  As such, documentation
    from the ship's computer will provide convicting evidence for those tried
    as raiders, deserters and marauders.  Needless to say, conviction under
    those charges carries a sentence of death by firing squad.

    SuSAG have also announced they will communicate with the Colada system to
    repatriate all members of the Sjisnopsen's crew who remained at their
    stations or true to their oaths, if those crew were only involved in minor
    infractions of the rules of war.  Experts in interstellar law still
    stress the ship and her commander and crew did take part in actions to
    cow and control the system populace and those who rose up to defend
    against invasion.  The real question will be how tight a line is drawn
    between "looting and marauding" or taking those actions needed to raid
    for the supplies required to return the ship home again?  These cases
    are further complicated by the fact atrocities were committed and will be
    investigated and documented completely.  These data will be turned over
    to Imperial authorities even though the system is not within Imperial
    borders.
                

    Regina (A788899-C  A  Ri Cp  703  Im  F7 V  M6 V  M8 D)               Date: 284-1113
    In a release following the previous update on conditions and events
    in the Gougeste system, it was released today that SuSAG management
    in the Regina system have formally requested Gougeste be considered
    for membership in the Imperium.  The move caused quite a large amount
    of reaction as surprise was registered across the spectrum.  Imperial
    authorities have frequently suspected the corporate operations in that
    system to be dedicated to the development and manufacture of products
    illegal in the Imperium, but legally salable in other systems, be they
    Independent, Arden-based, Sword Worlds allied or even Zhodani.

    Much less of a surprise was the strongly worded response delivered
    by the Zhodani Ambassador in-system.  This though the Ambassador
    has not had the time to communicate with the local Council in Cronor,
    much less the Zhodani home government on Zhodane.  Of course,
    communications with their homeworld would take a significant time, as
    does communications with the Iridium Throne.  Still, it is expected the
    Ambassador's words will be endorsed in that system.  With the actions
    taken in the Thanber and Dekalb systems, this move would fortify the
    heavily armed Quar and Retinea systems and form an essential Imperial
    shell of worlds surrounding Zhodani space in the Spinward Marches.
    Within three parsecs of Zhodani bases in the Ninjar and Sheyou systems,
    massed forces in Gougeste and Quar would constitute a direct threat to
    travel and support between the Zhodani holdings in the Cronor and
    Querion subsectors!

    While the Admiralty in Regina have stated there is no real basis of
    concern at the moment, it is clear the Zhodani Ambassador fears this
    move is a clear and obvious threat to militarize their border with the
    Imperium and deny legitimate Zhodani travel and commerce access to the
    greater space of the sector.  The Ambassador took the unusual step of
    addressing his concerns openly in the media, claiming moves to contract
    space around the Zhodani border would be the waving of flaming fire-brands
    in the dark as a beacon to draw forces together for a Sixth Frontier War!
    An act which the Ambassador reminds Imperial citizens that the Imperial
    government constantly claims they are against, but which they seem bent
    on racing towards.

    Stating she is not ignoring or brushing aside the Ambassador's words,
    Duchess Seldrian Aledon has said she is not concerned about the dangers
    raised by the Ambassador.  On the contrary, she has stated she feels this
    growing border discussion will force the two governments to come to terms
    with the ever-narrowing gaps between their territories.  In a statement,
    Her Grace assured the populace that the Imperium's interests are peaceful
    and the actions underway are not meant to threaten their neighbors or
    constitute any threat of war or invasion in the future.  While not a barb
    or negative response, Her Grace did seek to gently remind the Ambassador
    that the events currently being discussed were not in any part an Imperial
    stratagem, and are entirely the results of the demands of the various
    system populations.  She even reminded all that the Imperium was working
    hard to slow demands from the Dekalb and Thanber systems, and the request
    raised by the SuSAG Corporation was literally still slick with drying
    toner.
                

Getting The Morning Going

     By eight in the morning, Emkir and Aali were also done with their morning routines and had come out to get chow and talk with the others.  Rol was still doing gear maintenance while Aiden and Jocelynn were both waking up in their separate staterooms.  After she had chow, Jocelynn jumped back into reassembling her battledress.  Eventually, as the morning moved closer to nine, Terin called the hostelry to see when would be a good time to go there and sit with Sir Vekaraste?  He was told he could either go in the mid-morning and spend the entire middle of the day with the Knight or he could arrive after lunch and spent the whole afternoon there.  That was up to Terin.

Accepting that, Terin told them to tell the Knight he was on his way, and told the others he was going to the hostelry.  Still, Terin stepped into his stateroom to clean himself up.  And, as he stepped back out to the lounge to leave, it seemed to Terin that Fesic was looking past him to see in the opened door to his stateroom!  Terin first turned back to look into his door and see if he could track whatever had Fesic's interest?  Turning back to face Fesic, Terin asked, "You looking for something in my room?" in a challenging tone.  Fesic did his best to seem confused and surprised by Terin's attention as he asked, "Huh?"  Not having any of that, Terin snapped, "Do you need to get knocked out a third time?" as his outburst started to get everyone else's attention.

Sitting back in his seat, Fesic asked, "Paranoid much?  I was just glancing your way because I noticed some movement over in your direction."  His tone was both defensive and insulted.  Terin grunted an "OK" in a tone that suggested he wasn't entirely convinced the answer was honest, and Mikah said, "I wouldn't trust him."  Her tone was measured and flat enough that no one could guess if she was serious, egging Terin on or just taking the chance to prank both men.  Nodding to Mikah first, Terin turned back to Fesic saying, "You've had some shortcomings in the past about this."  This time, his tone added a hint of both confidence and threat.  Fesic just shook his head and said, "Some people can't take a joke" as Jocelynn tauntingly asked if she needed to get the gauze?

Standing straighter in place, Terin said, "I can take a joke fine.  Just don't fuck with my stuff.  You see how that works?"  Spreading his hands in innocence, Fesic said, "All I was doing was sitting here and I looked in your direction." in a tone of innocence and perhaps a hint of suggestion Terin was being delusional.  Nodding slowly, Terin told Fesic, "OK.  I'll take that as...a compliment." and that got laughs from the others in the compartment.  Terin then made sure his door was locked and then asked Mikah if Fesic should have bridge access rights to override the locks on the ship from there?  Laughing, Zimzod asked, "Paranoid much?"

Terin smiled at Zimzod and answered, "Yes!  Being that I had my shit stolen."  Still, Mikah told him she'd take his suggestion under advisement and Terin said he was going to the hostelry.  Still, they each stopped and Terin pointed a pair of fingers at his own eyes and then at Fesic's in a sign-language threat that he was watching the Fesic while the rest of the crew laughed.  And Fesic just gave his best "evil mug" look and waved back at Terin.  About that time, Rol realized they had not turned back on the cameras covering the lounge after Leeta left and did it then.  Getting that done, Rol joined Jocelynn and Zimzod who returned to reassembling battledress after breakfast.

After eating, Aali checked in with the androids and began her morning work in engineering while Emkir collected her and his combat armor to have it checked over.  Just in case.  Busy with Jocelynn's armor, Rol encouraged both Emkir and Aali to sit close by and learn to check the suits over themselves.  This was not a complex job, since "checking" the armor was nothing more than checking wear on the seals, function-testing the joints and then activating and testing the HUD and device links.  This also gave them a chance to look at what connected to their HUD and what didn't, so they could decide where to use comm dots.  Of course, Emkir had the time to do that while Aali had other work to do, so Rol helped as much as he could.

Mikah saw the others dragging out their armor and decided that was a good idea too.  Zimzod took breaks from his work on the battledress to work on his own gear too.  Not involved in the operation, Fesic connected up with the broker to get an update on his work.  When he got on the line, the broker told Fesic he wanted to have a meeting between himself, Fesic and three buyers for the lot of isotopes!  In addition to the Khadilish Uukhirmu Corporation, two other buyers had come forward and the broker said the odds were easily approaching one hundred percent they'd sell the cargo in Dinomn if they "only" wanted a MCr 1 payment.  Still, he assured Fesic he was certain he could do better for the crew.  Of course, that left unstated that he earned more if he pushed the sales price up too.  So, this was more a case of enlightened self-interest.

Fesic said he felt that was good news and the broker told him there were two possible buyers sniffing at their ton of Ruthinium too.  He asked Fesic for guidance on what the ship wanted for that and Fesic said they'd paid Cr 28,000 for it and were comfortable with the best profit the broker could get.  The broker nodded and told Fesic they'd gotten a great price when they had bought the lot of precious metals.  When Fesic asked for his opinion, the broker recommended aiming for sixty to seventy thousand for it if they can push the market that high.  Accepting that, Fesic finished his conversation with the broker and then dove deeper into his research of the Ghandi system.

       Ghandi:
           What passes for a main world in the Ghandi system is a 2,000 mile diameter rock
           The rock has a trace atmosphere, and a spotty one percent of the surface is ice covered
           The system has a citizen population under 10,000 in stations and no one lives on the rock

The system has a population only because it is a stepping stone between the Lanth and Regina systems along with Dinomn, and because the Imperial Navy built a significant defensive naval base there as part of the "Shield Worlds" strategy.  That meant most of the population were transient and non-citizens.  The result of this is a large and robust transient population living on the B Class starport and other civilian stations and service facilities who need almost everything imported for use or sale in-system.  The rock which is the system's mainworld is the site of speculative and transient attempts to mine for valuable ores, but no one stays on the rock.

Adding to the allure of the system, the local government is a feudal technocracy.  That meant the "upper crust" of the system all had their own petty titles.  Their ruler sat over local Duchies and Counties which control economic sectors of the economy through the control and development of technology.  This meant those forces owing fealty to each faction had their orders to protect and benefit their liege, and might not miss any chance to advance their faction if a door was opened to do just that.  Legally or not.  It also meant troops and servants in livery everywhere, and badges worn by every citizen which created sociologic and economic borders that were no less points of friction for their fluidity.  Each company from the smallest to the most powerful were owned by a citizen of rank.  Smaller firms might be owned by a squire or armsman where larger firms were owned by Knights, Lords and so forth with greater titles holding conglomerates of firms.  And every worker, a serf, though not legally a slave due to Imperial limits.

Despite the possible pitfalls of such a world, the law level was moderate, meaning the threat of any unexpected legal interaction was not that likely.  While every residence was technically the "personal castle" of that owner, and each compartment secured according to the laws of the realm, the system existed at the whim of the Imperial Navy, and that meant a moderate outlook toward Imperial visitors and travelers passing through.  Weapons laws restricted military and assault style weapons as well as personal concealable firearms but rifles and shotguns could be legally carried as could physical blades.  Just not energy or vibro blades.  Another reason for the openness of the "Kingdom" was their "just over the edge of Interstellar" tech level.  Able to build Jump-1 starships on their own, there was a hunger for the higher tech goods that arrived only aboard starships and with trade.

That meant the local shipyards could fully build or repair lower-tech starships, and could patch more capable ships so they had an intact jump-grid and basic systems, allowing them to possibly jump to systems with more significant repair facilities.  To Fesic, that screamed "Food"!  With the upper classes titled and heir to company board rooms and income, the lower classes would be desperate for affordable food.  While lower price curious and novelties would also likely sell well, food would sell so long as you could offer it at a price that could be afforded.  High priced luxuries would normally be of value in a system like Ghandi, but in this case, the place was a "truck stop in space" and even the most wealthy were not that wealthy.  So any kind of luxury was a risk.  Considering that, Fesic decided he would find the ship a cargo for Ghandi without hiring a broker to help that work.  His rational was that the prices in Ghandi would be low enough that he did not want to raise the costs in Dinomn if he didn't have to.

Taking a break from the work on her armor, Jocelynn looked up the contact code for the TAS presence in-system and connected with a concierge.  After the worker asked what they could do for her, Jocelynn asked to have a high passage voucher sent to her, and was told it would be delivered in a timely fashion.  As with each time this was done, the worker asked if they could help Jocelynn find a vessel bound for where she wanted to travel, but Jocelynn was able to explain she just needed to keep her options open at the moment.  After finishing with that call, Jocelynn posted the high passage she already had to an auction site with a starting bid of Cr 5,000.  Expecting to sell the passage for a price above her minimum, at least, Jocelynn paid Zimzod another Cr 1,000 towards her debt.

While she did that, Fesic got a message from the broker saying the meeting he mentioned earlier would happen at three that afternoon.  Fesic accepted that and was making sure he had everything he'd need for that meeting when he got a buzz from a "Synergy Transport and Logistics Service Line".  After he introduced himself, the agent said they'd seen the items listed by the crew and wondered if the Vargr translators were still for sale?  Fesic said they were and the agent asked a few questions about function and condition before offering Cr 500 each for the lot of seven.  While Fesic worked with the agent, Aali overheard parts of his side of the conversation and asked Emkir about "pig-Gvegh"?  Emkir only looked her in the eyes and said, "Rf-aye, Rf-aye! Rf-aye Ark-bay, Ark-bay. Rf-aye".  Ignoring the rising chorus of impromptu pig-gvegh happening around him, Fesic worked with the buyer and eventually agreed with his offer.  After that, the agent sent Cr 3,500 to the ship's account and Fesic told him the company could set up an appointment to pick them up whenever their schedules matched the crew's.

When it came time for Rol to cook lunch, he, Zimzod and Jocelynn took a break.  After eating and cleaning up, Rol pitched the idea of a work out with Zimzod and Jocelynn.  Since they didn't have plans past relaxing for a bit before going back to the battledress, they considered the idea.  Zimzod joked that they do an "Eiffel tower" and, without missing a beat, Jocelynn said, "OK, Get on your knees then."  Everyone who heard that broke out in laughter.  After that, they suggested a zero-g challenge in the cargo bay and invited the rest of the crew to join in.  Mikah was all for it and said she thought Fesic needed to be involved too.  Emkir made it clear he wasn't going to participate because he was still recovering but Aali joined in.  While the rest of the crew except Terin moved to the cargo bay, Emkir did move to the cargo bay to continue his physical therapy to try his physical therapy in zero-G.

Playing "Dodge Person"

     Each of the crew moved into the bay while Mikah had Jocelynn lock down the cargo pods and other gear there.  Then, she had Zimzod kill the gravity so they could get started.  With most of the crew unskilled in zero-g combat, this was more of 'ducks in a shoot', but it made sure they'd be less surprised when they got caught in those conditions.  Just as the grav was killed, Mikah had squatted down and she pushed off hard as soon as she could.  "Flying" a banking move by starting at an angle to the floor and spinning to kick/rebound from the ceiling and one wall, Mikah came roaring in towards where Emkir was working his back muscles.  Seeing her coming in like a kinetic energy bomb, Emkir felt the need to dodge as quickly as he could.  As Emkir did his best to get out of the way, Mikah realized her "strike point" to bounce behind someone else was coming in much closer to Emkir than she planned!

Mikah was barely able to shout, "Sorry Emkir!" as she bounced off the wall space Emkir had been holding on to while the Admiral managed to both get out of the way and maintain a handhold on the wall so he didn't end up adrift in the compartment.  After she flew on, Emkir decided it was perhaps better to do his PT in a compartment with gravity and no flying crew members, so he slowly made his way to the hatch leading aft, into the passage out of the bay.  As he went, Zimzod yelled, "Run Emkir!  There are terrifying space monkeys in here!"  Sadly for Zimzod, he'd been paying more attention to Jocelynn, who he'd been preparing to square off against, than Mikah.  So Mikah came shooting up behind him after banking off yet another wall, spinning and slamming into him feet-first!  The move let Mikah kick out at Zimzod's back, zeroing much of her vector while the hit sent Zimzod unexpectedly accelerating until he kissed a cargo bay wall!

As he hit, a drifting Mikah yelled, "Screw ball in the side pocket!" and Aiden tracked and cheered, "Off the floor, off the ceiling, off three walls, nothing but Zimzod!"  Rol called out, "That's what I call hard love!"  That broke the ice as the rest of the crew started moving or attacking as they were able to, with the zero-g unskilled desperately seeking out positions they could gain without losing hold of something because no one wanted to be a floating and out of control target for someone else's pleasure.   

The crew had been going at it for nearly twenty minutes, and Emkir was in the ship's lounge after he'd done his PT, when Terin got back from visiting with Sir Vekaraste.  When he asked where everyone was, Emkir told Terin, "They're all bouncing off walls." as he pointed forward and down towards the cargo bay.  When Terin complained he'd missed the session, Emkir told him it was dangerous in there, and told Terin about Mikah's unintentional dive bomb attack.  When Terin said he wanted to go down to the bay and join in, Emkir offered him virtual reality biplane combat instead, because it had been nearly half an hour and the crew were likely played out.  But, when Terin got down there, the cry "fresh meat" went up and he was invited to die...join in.

Thanks to the distraction as Terin arrived, Zimzod was able to strike a wall, glide in and grab Aiden.  Spinning as he did, Zimzod caught the on-coming wall with his feet and flexed his legs as he also threw Aiden at a neighboring wall to help zero out his own vector.  As he let fly, he shouted at Aiden, "Think fast!" because the pilot really didn't have much space to react, and he certainly didn't have the skills to save himself.  Even worse, Terin had just come into the bay with the hatch closing behind him as he heard Zimzod's yell and looked up in the direction of the sound.  What he saw was a screaming squirming flying Aiden coming right at him!  Reacting out of surprise, Terin tried to grab the handhold he had and push himself out of the way.  Sadly, while he was able to push himself away from Aiden's impact point, Terin also lost hold of his handhold and was now drifting uncontrolled in the bay.

Terin now saw he was drifting toward an on-coming wall which, sadly, had no visible hand holds as he heard Aiden cry out.  The pilot impacted the wall behind Terin left shoulder first, and started scrabbling for a grip on anything before his bounce sent him too far from the wall to get a hold.  Terin hoped he'd get to the wall before someone else came for him, so he could push off and try to vector towards something he could grab and hold.  Sadly for Terin, he was drifting into Jocelynn's "grab space" and that made it very unlikely he would reach that far wall.  When he was close enough, Jocelynn used her skill and brace point to catch and stabilize Terin, who looked to her and said, "Thank you."  But even as the words got past his lips, she flexed against her brace again, twisted and threw him, yelling, "Rol!  Catch!" and Terin was flying again.

Terin got the great idea to try grabbing Jocelynn's arm as she threw him, and do some fancy spin move he didn't have the skill to try, much less complete.  But he only got that great idea after she'd thrown him and he was, again, an out-of-control missile.  At the same time, Mikah had grabbed hold of Fesic and was offering him a flying lesson.  A lesson that would end in a cargo bay wall if Fesic didn't learn to mitigate the collision in this stage of 'Auntie Mikah's Zero-G and Taxidermy' training class.  As Jocelynn watched Terin start to move away from her, he suddenly started to squirm and flail his arms as if he could make them do what he wanted while he was not braced against anything or managing his force vectors.  So Terin managed to add partial roll and yaw forces to his vector to leave him in an irrational spin that guaranteed he'd have zero control at all until he could grab hold of anything.  On top of that, he could not watch where he was going long enough to plan effectively.

As Mikah called after Fesic, "Learn to not hit with your face!" Terin's new spin changed his vector enough to fly into Mikah's grab zone.  Smiling as she saw him coming, Mikah reached out to grab Terin, swing him and throw him at Rol.  At the same time, Terin could tell Mikah was coming for him, but he was still spinning and floating as she grabbed.  In that moment of contact when she grabbed hold of his torso, Terin again tried his fancy 'spin and grab' move without training, a firm grasp on Mikah or enough time to plan out his move.  While she had him by the torso, Terin had to:
    1) Turn towards her with no brace point he controlled
    2) Alter the position of his arms toward her
    3) Deal with the vector those moves created by either bleed, fade or "block" using her body
    4) Grab hold of a trained combat veteran who had full control of her situation and his
And then hope he could get "something" effective done.

And sadly, Terin had none of the skills needed, nor any of the basics he'd need, like a brace point or any control of his situation.  Seeing him prepare to react, Mikah used some of the momentum she'd have to bleed off to back slap Terin in the throat with her free hand to interrupt his breathing for a moment.  Still, she had the skills to interrupt his breathing without shattering his voice box.  That interrupted anything Terin had planned to try as he choked and she grabbed him with both hands to spin him and throw him to Rol.  Because Mikah had added speed to Terin's flight as she'd spun and thrown him, Rol realized it would take quite some force and a "Really" good brace to change his direction.  Since he had the training to realize he didn't have that, Rol took the best option available to him and stepped out of the way to let Terin hit the wall behind him.  Ironically, as Mikah let Terin fly, Fesic had failed to moderate his landing and hit hard against the wall he'd been aimed at.

Despite his flight, Mikah had stabilized Terin enough he could see Rol gently push off his brace and hold his arm out in a welcoming gesture that invited Terin to fly past and hit the wall.  Desperate to stop himself, Terin again tried to re-position his arms and legs to try and catch himself against the wall rather than crashing into it.  And, again, with no skill or understanding of 3-D dynamics, and no point against which to brace, Terin's moves were "flings" which were not even a hope towards counter-balancing(A very advanced Zero-G maneuver skill) and managed to put himself into another irrational spin.  Thanks to that, Terin splatted into the wall ass-first with a thump hard enough he barely drifted back away from the wall.  Sadly for Terin, he was close enough for Rol to grab him and throw him back towards Mikah while yelling, "Ball!"

Terin had hit the wall and was breathing a sigh of relief when Rol's grab brought him back to the moment.  Trying to desperately grab Rol this time, his efforts were too little and too late as Rol avoided Terin's grab and sent him flying.  The lessons Terin wasn't learning during the session were:
    1) He did not have enough skill to figure out how to stabilize himself
    2) He had no idea how to brace himself
    3) He had even less of a clue how to achieve either of those things
    4) And he was never going to grab anyone with actual skills who didn't want to be grabbed.
    5) And almost every time he got an idea, it was usually too late for him to act on it because              he had to recover from his last fail

The worst part was he was delusional enough to not get that he couldn't compete against the skilled without any skill of his own.  That happened while Zimzod pushed off the wall nearest him and boosted towards Fesic, who'd hit the wall, bounced and was drifting as he tried to work out a way to get control of his situation.  As Zimzod came gliding in, Fesic blurted out the only thing he could think of, saying, "I have an appointment at three."  Catching himself against the wall as he arrived, Zimzod used that momentum to "ball up" and roll so he could grab Fesic's torso while still "scrunched" almost against the wall.  Then, with his legs between him and the wall, Zimzod "sprang" in the direction of a grab while using that force to also launch Fesic at the hatch while yelling, "Hatch!  Go Long!"  In an accident of applied force, Fesic had let his arms drift ahead of him as Zimzod had thrown him and still had them out in front of him as he hit the door, so he was able to grab hold to the fittings and keep himself from bouncing clear.

Taking his chance when it came, Fesic opened the hatch and got out of the cargo bay, making good his escape.  Before going into the lounge to prepare for his meeting, Fesic went to the bridge and changed some settings.  While he did that, Mikah decided to take a page from Rol's book and let the inbound Terin hit the wall rather than try to catch him.  Realizing that was her plan, Terin again failed to learn the lessons provided by his close pass beyond Rol.  So, rather than trying something else foolish and inadvisable, he tried exactly the same thing again and only managed to put himself into an additional irrational spin again before he crashed.  This time, he did the "right shoulder into a wall" rush of a terrestrial linebacker.  Sadly, the wall was much tougher an opponent than he could hope for and Terin bounced back and away as he enjoyed the pleasure of the pain in his shoulder.

Recovering as quickly as he could, Terin's attention was entirely for the wall and the railing he'd spotted and started trying to grab.  Seeing that, even as she was preparing to move in on him again, Mikah said, "You take all the fun out of things."  As she said that, she launched herself at the ceiling in a roll which spent half her force to launch her and the other half to spin her so she was upside down, hitting the bay's ceiling feet-first.  Having just heard that, Terin was just turning his eyes from his hold on the rail back towards where Mikah had been as he started saying, "I've gotta catch my..."  That was all he got out as two things happened at the same time.  First, he realized she was not where she had been.  Second, Mikah's flying body came shooting down on him from above, at an angle that sheered him away from the wall!  Grabbing his torso in order to halt her motion a bit along with dragging her knees against the wall, she came to a near-stop perpendicular to the floor with her body scrunched between Terin and the wall.

Then, she sprung.  Still holding him, she led with her right shoulder as she launched from the wall and let her arms fold back while still holding Terin until they were moving.  Desperate for anything other than being thrown, Terin again tried to grab hold of Mikah and actually got hold of her arm, but so weakly that he wasn't going to resist any force at all.  Before Mikah could flex her arms forward to launch Terin forward, which would have had the effect of reversing her energy and slowing her to a drift as she sent Terin flying, his moves had added torque to their flight and they were now heading into the join between the bay's wall and floor!  And neither had a brace or purchase against which to act to change that.

The result was that Terin found himself pile-driven into the crease as Mikah managed to take the hit lightly and use it to propel her up towards the compartment's ceiling.  Terin hit hard and was crushed into the crotch of wall and floor before bouncing and coming to a drift at least three feet from any surface.  Adding to that, the hit had knocked the breath out of him again, so he was literally hanging in space unaware of his surroundings and trying to recover because nothing else mattered but air.

While all that happened, Aali had been doing her best to learn how to bounce from wall to wall while trying to manage her angles.  Sadly, when Aiden had hit the wall earlier and Zimzod decided to close on him and send him flying again, Aali had "landed" right between them!  Seeing this, Zimzod decided to try and throw Aali at Jocelynn, despite Aali's fairly harsh vector in another direction.  Having enough control to see he was coming, Aali did manage to hit the wall while facing Zimzod.  While Zimzod reached out to grab her, she managed to grab his wrist and pull, then thrust from the wall.  This led to Aali flying out from the wall on a completely different vector than either she or Zimzod had intended, while dragging him along by one hand.  With nothing else to use as a brace, Aali decided to try and climb Zimzod's arms and get him in a clinch.

Having the better skill, Zimzod did his best to slow Aali through the motion of his arm while also using her as a brace point so he could spin his legs between her and him.  Then, he used his feet together to catch her and push the two apart from each other, sailing in opposite directions across the cargo bay.  All Aali saw was that Zimzod collapsed into a 'human ball', then he tugged on her to orient himself before exploding out of that ball to catch her in the chest with his feet hard enough to break the grip between them as she went flying back away from him and the broken grip put Zimzod into a slight spin with an irrational roll of his own.  Not close enough to be grabbed by anyone else, Aali hit the wall before she could do anything else.  With her arms spread from her grabs at Zimzod, she was able to strike with her forearm first, and eat momentum before she shouldered into the wall.

The "games" continued in the cargo bay for almost a full hour until the crew wound down and decided they needed to relax and recover.  Outside of some new bruises and aches, there were no real injuries.  At the same time, Fesic had just under two hours to continue his trade research before joining an on-network meeting with the broker and the three firms currently interested in buying their load of isotopes.  Those were the Khadilish Uukhirmu Corporation as well as the firms Hmfh Stellar Habitats and Ost Xpress Logistics.  The time he had before the meeting let Fesic organize and validate all the documents related to the ton of cargo.  When the conference finally did start, it was first just Fesic and the broker, and the man explained what to expect and told Fesic to restrict himself to nodding in agreement whenever possible.  Fesic was told there would be times where he had to answer questions, but it should mostly be left to the broker.

When the basics were done, two firms each made an offer with Khadilish Uukhirmu at MCr 1.008 , Hmfh Stellar Habitats offered MCr 1 even and Ost Xpress Logistics decided not to pursue the cargo further.  With that round done, the broker asked the firm representatives to hold while he talked with his client and put them on mute.  He then assured Fesic he could get the crew a better deal and advised Fesic to agree to thank the two companies for their offers but state the cargo would remain on the market.  Fesic agreed and the broker told the reps from Khadilish and Hmfh he looked forward to their further consideration on the isotopes.  The others had cleaned up, relaxed and rubbed sore spots with balms as Fesic had prepared for his meeting, and were relaxing or handling personal tasks.

After the meeting, Fesic checked his messages and saw they were being asked about their interest in a cargo of raw marble stone.  The lot was thirty eight tons of marble for sale as a speculative cargo.  Their ask was Cr 13,000 per ton, which meant Cr 494,000 as a total.  It would also fill all but one ton of their cargo bay if they sold off both the isotopes and Ruthinium.  When he read the offer, Fesic was concerned it would limit their ability to take on passengers, but he remembered they could only sell high passage to one party, because they only had one spare stateroom.  So, that meant they only had to have one ton in reserve and the load of marble would do that.  Fesic considered their options and decided to research the market details on marble in-system for two hours.

Emkir had relaxed after his physical therapy, and sat close by as Fesic came out of the cargo bay to start preparing for his meeting.  Soon enough, they'd been joined by the rest of the crew as the others cleaned up, dressed and treated bruises with salves before relaxing.  Zimzod, Aali, Aiden and Rol all came out with some shiny new bruises to show for their efforts.  As they sat, Mikah called, "So, Terin.  Did you learn anything in there?" and Terin glumly answered, "Hopefully."  With more energy, he joked, "Keep away from you and Zimzod?" and Mikah snarled, "Wrong answer." in an annoyed tone.  Nodding to Jocelynn, Mikah said, "Jocelynn, you can fix him." and she gave a fist pump as she exclaimed, "Yeah!" and most of the others laughed.  Those laughs got harder as she asked, "Where are the peas?  The frozen peas?"

When Rol held up a 'hand of air' and said, "All I have are these frozen artichokes." Aiden asked, "Aren’t those 'Terin-chokes'?"  Everyone laughed a bit more at that.  Zimzod joined in, saying, "Swallow them whole and frozen.  It will help your throat."  Aiden recommended, "First, freeze them in liquid nitrogen." with an evil grin on his face.  Emkir changed that topic when he offered Aali "special attention" in their stateroom to heal her bruises, but Mikah offered medical support and derailed Emkir's advances.  When Terin went to his stateroom, after that, to clean up, he found his stateroom door was unlocked!  Stopping right at that point, Terin called out, "Mikah?!" and she demanded, "What?" in a tone that suggested he was bothering her.

Terin said, "My stateroom is unlocked." in a flat tone of voice that made it clear there was something wrong with that.  Overhearing and not catching that, Zimzod asked, "Did you lock it?" and Terin said he had in a tone that suggested Zimzod should remember he'd been locking the door for some weeks now.  When Mikah did not immediately act, Terin went into his stateroom and checked to make sure nothing had been disturbed, checking the hookah first.  He could not see that anything was missing as Mikah stepped up to his open door and said, "I'd check your underwear drawer.  Just saying."  After checking for ten minutes, Terin saw nothing missing or added he finished cleaning up and locked the room before rejoining the others.  As he did that, Aiden asked, "Did you find anything ticking?" in a mock-helpful tone.

While Terin checked his room and cleaned up, Mikah asked Rol to check their installed security cameras to see if anyone had disturbed the door or done anything else of concern?  Rol agreed and asked who he should tell about his results and Mikah said, "Well, Me!" in a tone of 'Duh!'  When he asked what she wanted him to check, she said to check if anyone messed with the doors or the computer?  At that point, Fesic stepped up and said, "Well, you might see me on that."  Turning to him, Mikah asked, "What exactly were you doing?" as laughs started up in the rest of the lounge.  As if he were saying he'd gone for a walk, Fesic said, "Oh, I was just unlocking Terin's stateroom door."  Not pleased with a half-answer, Mikah asked "Why?" and Fesic said, "Just to mess with him" with a smile on his face.

Mikah nodded at that as Fesic continued, "You can check the video, I didn't open the door or go in and I didn't touch any of his stuff."  Nodding, Mikah said, "Because you've been causing so much trouble, I'm taking your bridge access rights away."  Rol jumped in, saying, "You'll get more of that lock pick training you've been after." and everyone laughed at that.  Aali just snickered, "Good luck with that." and Rol answered her, "I never said it would be easy." with a smile on his face.  After that, Mikah treated the crew and they relaxed.  Fesic had his meeting and gave a report on the results to the others.

Following that, Rol cooked chow and they ate dinner before talking and deciding what to do with their Saturday night?  When Jocelynn asked if they planned to keep working on her armor, there was some indecision at first.  But, they decided they should push forward now rather than have to rush later.  Rol suggested they do another hour of that work before taking a break for the evening.  Mikah said she wanted to check into the news item about negotiations with the Dinomn government to make sure the talks were not happening in or near the hotel Leeta had targeted for their strike.  Before she could get into that, Emkir suggested they do a pub crawl and Terin said he wanted to go to a club and go dancing.

Hearing that, Jocelynn liked the idea of dancing very much and said it sounded like fun.  Sarcastically, Aiden suggested they go to one of the zero-g dancing clubs and was horrified at the cheers of support the idea got!  Still, that idea played through its course quickly as those with new bruises considered the possible outcomes thanks to their lack of skill in zero-g.  Terin led the charge "not" to go to a zero-g club as Aiden recovered from his initial terror they might actually take him up on his suggestion.  Still holding onto the idea, Zimzod suggested they go to a zero-g mosh pit though no one was really sure how that could even work?  Still, they focused more on the idea of a club even as Jocelynn considered she might have to time to look for and wander the darker sides of the station in hopes of finding and making contacts.

When the bulk of the crew checked the station directory for a club nearby, a number of people half-joked and half-harassed that Aiden wouldn't join them but he surprised them by saying he'd come along but he wasn't going to drink.  Reacting to that, Zimzod pulled himself up ram-rod straight and did his best impression of a tight assed prick saying, "I'm going to the club but I'm not gonna enjoy it." and they all laughed.  Rol said he wasn't going to the club, he wanted to go find a comedy vid to watch.  So, after an hour of work on Jocelynn's battledress, the bulk of the crew went off to a club while Jocelynn went off on her own and Rol went in hunt of a comedy show.

Rol was surprised to find the vid he had signed up for had a large enough crowd to actually be shown in a larger venue.  The production was based around disparate characters drawn together through a comedy of errors.  The storyline was obviously a bit contrived and some of the events were easily seen before they came, but the production was, on the whole, satisfying and the laughs were real.  The schtick was decently written and the roles were well acted.  On top of that, the crowd was a good one and he could fit in, in the dark, without being noticed or a fuss being made beyond showing the proof of payment for his entry fee when he got to the auditorium.  In the end, Rol's evening cost him Cr 15 for a short ride and the show.

Over the evening at the club, Mikah and Zimzod had a very good time dancing and enjoying.  Terin arrived at the club ready to dance and his bruises apparently gave him character.  That and the fact he was obviously a spacer added to his appeal as he found himself the target of a groupie.  When she greeted him, Terin introduced himself as Sir Terin, and the woman said, "You're mine for the evening." with an alluring smile.  Terin looked at the others and said, "How about that!  Her name is Remora."  They paired off as the others danced through the evening.  Emkir and Aali had intended to enjoy dancing with each other.  But it seemed Emkir was still not quite up to that plan, and slowed things down more than Aali had hoped.  In the end, he sat nursing drinks and watched her during the more energetic dances while they shared the slow ones.  So, while they did enjoy the evening, they didn't get "full value" from it.  And Mikah and Zimzod slipped back to the ship early, to share a different kind of dancing.  The dancers ended up being able to take free people-movers to the hall and only paid Cr 10 for entry.  Everyone but Mikah and Zimzod paid Cr 35 for drinks even if Aiden's were non-alcoholic.

The Evening's Outcomes, Expected And Not

     While Rol left for his vid and the others went dancing, Jocelynn again checked the port and TAS advisories for the station.  Taking careful note of the warnings and those sections where they applied, she called for a port cab to get her into the "wrong" section of town.  In the notices, Jocelynn had noticed specific warnings for both stationers and regular spacers to give the local belters a wider margin.  Jocelynn knew that the term "Belter" meant those people who, as loners or in small ships, hunted asteroid and orbital debris belts in search of ore or mineral strikes that would pay out.  Those who adopted that life tended to be those who valued and enjoyed their solitude and the freedom to allow their "Personalities" to develop in ways not usually welcomed by the larger civilized societies.

That meant that when they did adopt any part of a station or inhabited section of a system, interactions between the belters and anyone else could lead to unpredictable outcomes.  For that reason, those bars, berths and docking stations the belters frequented could be dangerous.  And not just because of the belters.  Jocelynn knew that, as such places became less patrolled and frequented by the less daring, other dangerous elements tended to enjoy slipping into the shadows created, to do things out of sight of the more regulated system inhabitants.  Even in-system security proceeded in those spaces with either caution or through the operations of specially trained and highly experienced officers who knew the art of infiltration.  Not to mentioned being well versed in the factions and personalities believed to be working in the station's shadows.

Jocelynn only had a gut feeling those shadows might be a good place to start looking.  And she hadn't a clue where to even start on the road to seeking someone who could suggest what or who were operating in that dark.  Still, she was confident in her skills and abilities to deal with the scrapes she felt she might expect.  Just like many who'd gone in before her, until some piece of solid deck turned out to be glass and they found themselves in situations they hadn't even dreamed of.  Or, had nightmares of.  For that reason, Jocelynn hadn't chosen the deeper parts of a belter zone to explore but figured she'd 'dip her toe into' an edge.  Figuring that would set the 'heat warning' on her adventure firmly to 'Medium', Jocelynn went to a string of bars just off an arm of low end small craft docking hatches.  These were places where the docking ships literally connected to, and hung off, the station by their air-lock seals.  The berths were very small, and served very low end starships when they didn't serve service spacecraft.

She chose the belters because she knew they worked on margins which all too often ran too deep into the red.  They were spacers who had to know how to get docked with a station and get services or even just downtime even though they couldn't pay for it.  And while their interests were often low threat and non-hostile, the existence of the services that helped them do what they needed also worked for other factions too.  So, as she deconstructed her need to smuggle her armor down to a goal shared with belters, she knew she shared it with smugglers, criminals and even hostiles of many types.  And she used that as a guide where to look.  And since such communities operated on gear, supplies and access itself, she knew that any such community would have some form of black market served by agents from many different angles and factions.

Jocelynn's plan, after the Cr 20 cab ride, was to hit multiple bars where she'd buy and nurse drinks she would mostly ignore while she sat in the most shadow-enshrouded seat she could find and faded into each location.  She would spend the time she felt needed, waiting to see if the others in the space got comfortable enough with her presence to be less on-guard, offering her the chance to catch any leads.  It was a plan that was tried and true, but also a plan that, as Jocelynn knew, demanded time.  And with a week or so on station, and the jobs she and the crew had planned, time was something she had little of.  Over the evening, she spent Cr 55 on drinks as she wandered from bar to bar.

As expected, Jocelynn was hit on more than once, simply because she was female and some of the male spacers had just been in space long enough they'd ask anyone.  Not that she was "just anyone" but the 'hard-core ex-military' style of dress she'd adopted was off-putting to those who would think twice about such things.  Jocelynn also had to endure a number of rants about the failure of the military to protect the belters during the recent war, because the Zhodani had rammed a fleet straight through the Ghandi system and both bombed and eventually occupied the local naval base.  So, despite, her having not fought in those battles, she was ex-military and held to blame.

While nothing got violent, Jocelynn had to check her own reactions to not trigger something she'd later regret for the doors it might close in her face as well as legal reasons.  Of course, there was the opposite response from belters who'd been "on the verge of the big strike" when some 'Uncle LEO' type had come swinging in from the station to enforce safety regs or serve up some legal charge while 'the asteroid I'd finally found disappeared into the belt to be lost!"  And, again, Jocelynn was dressed the right way to be blamed.  Added to those were the kind that came sniffing around with claims of being ex-military themselves, in hopes of finding someone to sop money off of, and who Jocelynn didn't mind because she could ask a question or two and maybe get information.  Or, by throwing a credit or two down, buy herself even the slightest bit of shade from the shadows she hoped to slip into.

The one breed she hoped to avoid the most was that species that knew she had a reason for being where she was, and the only "reason" for being where she didn't fit smelled like the law.  Because many of those type would get in her face and even try to pick a fight, just so long as they were disagreeable enough that she threw the first punch.  Because then, it was the investigator's fault and the bar fly wouldn't be charged after the fight ended and there was nothing left but endorphins and the pleasure of breaking up another of station security's plans.  And, while she wasn't station security, those type could still make it impossible to sit and fade into the seat covers and really look for what she wanted.

Eventually, it was just one of those sorts that accosted her while Jocelynn sat with a beer.  He demanded, "Is there a reason for you being here?  Or do I have to throw you out for being uncommunicative and being an asshole?"  Looking the man up and down, Jocelynn answered as evenly as she could, "There's no reason to be impolite.  Here, have a seat" as she waved at the other side of the booth she sat in.  Giving her a more accessing look, the man just turned and stalked away.  Not much longer after that, another person who seemed more like he was just low life scum scuttled over to the booth Jocelynn was just getting tired of sitting in and sat down without asking first.  It turned out he was a dealer, and had decided Jocelynn must be a buyer who was new enough to the stuff she didn't have a regular connection.  Yet.

Letting him have the first word, the scum asked, "Whatcha buying?" with an expectant tone that also hid almost the smallest hint of smug because he knew he had what she needed.  When Jocelynn answered, "Shopping for information, mostly." the man sat back and realized he'd slipped into something he hadn't planned on.  Glancing around to be sure he had more than one exit if it was needed, the man side-eyed Jocelynn and asked "So, what part of the store are we shopping in?"  Deciding to just be blunt and up front, Jocelynn said, "ID's" and left it at that.  Looking her up and down again more frankly this time, the man said, "That's an odd ask.  You don't live here so you got an ID..."  Jocelynn interrupted him, saying, "Not really, that...kind of ID."  After a pause where he played her out the rope in time, to see how she tried to use it, Jocelynn continued.  "I won't be staying in this system very long, but...  Let's just say I'm trying to break into the network for other nearby systems.  Someone who could, maybe, change a few numbers for me."

Considering that for a moment, Jocelynn's "partner" tried to add the numbers in front of him together.  Those who end up washing up where he was were not clean and precise.  They'd usually been beaten, battered and a bit broken up by the time he met them and it was the rare one who looked like Jocelynn who were lost and not aware how deep a hole they were digging into by trying to buy drugs more directly.  But Jocelynn was being very precise and was very very clean.  And, 'changing numbers'?  That could be spacer lingo for fixing a ship's transponder or changing ownership papers, but she didn't look like that kind of a spacer.  She didn't seem some rogue captain flying a ship with an altered flag.  That meant she "felt" wrong.  He just wasn't sure if she felt "LEO wrong".

Still, he ventured there was value sitting in front of him.  He wasn't sure how much there was under the clothing she wore, or if he could take her down and sell her somewhere, but he figured he could poke her a bit and see how she reacted.  Perhaps learn a bit and spend some more time looking at her up close to see if he knew friends who would help, or pay a finder's fee?  So he said, "Now, I ain't real educated, but I've heard tell of a creature I've never seen called a hermit crab.  And they tend to be hermits.  And the networks you seem to be interested in tend to live that way too.  So, my recommendation to you is that maybe you don't know as much about these networks as you might think, and maybe you should go home and do more research on them before you try to play with them."  He watched as he spoke, looking at her eyes and face to gauge her reaction to his words.  Watched her shift so he could better guess at what her physical reactions might be like?

After a pause while he watched her, and while Jocelynn considered what to say, Jocelynn answered, "So noted.  These, hermits, I'm assuming, don't like to be found?"  the man shrugged and answered "It depends who's doing the finding" as he decided she was fishing.  That meant she wasn't trained and didn't know exactly what she was looking for, which meant she could easily become 'lost' and it wouldn't be a surprise to others.  That was good news for him.  After the pause stretched out, he added, "And they don't know who you are."  Jocelynn then shrugged and said, "Just a traveler like you."  Sad to say, the term "Traveler" had gained many meanings over time, and some of them were very specific to a species of wanderer who weaves a path in and out of the law.  In some spaces, it could even be used as a code word if used correctly.  Unaware of this, Jocelynn found herself accidentally using it just on the edge of both correct and incorrect without a clue what she'd done.

The man opposite her decided this one was not to be sold or worth the finder's fee someone else might pay him if he fingered her down the line.  That sort of mistake comes with a debt which was only paid in blood.  She was either free for the taking, like her actions suggested, or she belonged to someone who would want her back and know how to find her if her words spoke truths she was not aware of in her family.  And they'd put paid to any harm or misadventure that came to her.  Paid in the most prized blood of all.  The very fact he couldn't answer that question bothered him enough the man stood and started to take his leave of the bar.  His last words before he turned away were, "What makes you think I'm a Traveler?"  Hoping to get him back, Jocelynn answered him back, now loud enough so those near her booth could hear, "We're all travelers at some point, aren’t we?"  She was so focused on his retreating back that Jocelynn didn't notice the reactions from some others who looked up at her speaking then turned away, putting a cold shoulder up as they heard her words.

The man kept moving as Jocelynn realized this interview was over.  Before she did anything else, Jocelynn told herself that had not gone well.  Still, she'd made contact if nothing else, and considered what she could do to play that even further.  So, as the man was mostly out of the bar, Jocelynn decided to try and follow him.  Tapping her Ident against the pay-bar sensor to square her tab, Jocelynn made sure she was done there and started to go after the man.  She got to the exit leading back into the concourse just as she saw her man, who'd turned right, enter another door down the row.  Moving quickly to that entry, Jocelynn looked in to see it was a similar, if more packed pub, and her man must have plunged into the crowd there.  Still, she figured she could lead with the offer of a free drink if she managed to find him again and, if not...at least she'd tried.

No sooner had she gotten into the new bar when she was suddenly grabbed from the front and behind by men who's strength proved that a good weapon still needed a good battle plan, and Jocelynn hadn't bothered to come up with one of those.  Then, one of them put a small (and very illegal on this station) revolver to her head and a voice said, "Hi!  We're gonna check you out."  Hands then ran up and down her body very intimately as Jocelynn's concerns suddenly stepped beyond robbery to the chance of a gang rape while they emptied her pockets of everything she'd been carrying, which was no more than her Ident, because she had to pay for things somehow.  As they held her, and thankfully stopped exploring her body, the guy holding her Ident jacked into it some sort of stubby plug like a thumb-computer and started scrolling through the various screens in her Ident.  And, from what Jocelynn could see, they even appeared to have access to the Law-enforcement and government locked screens on the Ident!

As she watched, Jocelynn realized they had the sort of "God-Key" she'd only ever heard rumors about.  Forcing herself to relax a bit and even smile, Jocelynn tried for a friendly and inviting tone as she said, "You guys seem to be just the kind of people I need."  but the question wasn't what Jocelynn needed.  It was what they needed, and one of the people Jocelynn couldn't see responded to the half-statements and murmurs Jocelynn could make no sense of and took the Ident from the man holding it.  Removing the key, the person Jocelynn could now see was a woman took the Ident and stepped up to Jocelynn where they held her.  And she took the Ident and shoved it down into Jocelynn's cleavage, driving it deep under her bra and between her breasts.

Jocelynn figured the woman was of a height with her, and was hard and compact and as serious as a heart attack.  After shoving her Ident into her bra, the woman leaned close to Jocelynn and said, "Sweetheart?  You're gonna leave here and you're not gonna come back.  Otherwise, you're not goin' home." in that tone of voice that said this was the last and only warning coming.  And there was no smile of satisfaction or ownership under the glare coming from the two eyes locked with hers.  Letting Jocelynn loose, the small knot of people turned and left through the crowd and out a door in the back that had to lead to the service corridors just as the rest of the crowd in the pub closed up behind them in an unspoken statement of 'you're not gonna follow anyone this time.'  Even worse, the person she'd first met was not one of those who grabbed her so Jocelynn had no idea where that person had gone either?  Or if that person and these were related, or she'd just walked into the wrong bar?

Standing in the only empty space in the pub, and with the expectation she would be forced out of the place any second, Jocelynn could only curse to herself and complain in her own mind that those people had been so interesting and so exactly who she'd wanted to meet.  Of course, the echo of that was a rule of the universe that your interest in something didn't mean that object had to return or respond to your interest and trying to force the situation usually led to bad things.  Jocelynn also knew they were armed, so with no information on her first contact, she realized if she tried to push things now, she risked getting shot.  And they were not the type of crowd who aimed to wound the first time, as a warning.  They aimed to kill, if only so they could disappear that much faster.

Considering going back to the first bar, Jocelynn turned to retrace her steps.  But, when she got to the door of the other place, there were bouncers out in the concourse who told her there was no more room in the bar and no one was coming in.  This was despite the fact Jocelynn could see through the front display to where there were at least a few seats and one full table that sat empty.  Protesting she hadn’t done anything wrong, she knew it didn't matter and she also realized word not only spread here, it spread fast.  That meant not only moving on to another bar, but moving on to another neighborhood.  That burned more of her time, and suggested the next bar might be the last of the evening based on her original plans to go back to the ship by 2 in the morning.

So, she found a table at another bar after shifting well down the docking arm, and was just as much listening to see what she heard as she was reviewing her earlier encounters when someone sat down in her booth opposite her.  Leaning across the table, the person whispered conspiratorially, "What are you in the market for?"  Jocelynn reflected to herself she'd certainly identified the "Drug pusher shift" on this docking arm of the station if she'd done nothing else.  She could tell from the man's eyes that he was under the influence of "something", if nothing else.  So, she had to reason that the only vibes she was giving off, or, at least the loudest, were "drug buyer".  Trying her gambit again, Jocelynn told him, "Information.  I need someone who's good with numbers."

Smiling and sitting back as if he were relaxing, the man said, "I can deal in numbers if you like.  What are you in the market for?" and she realized he thought she meant buying drugs in quantity, not paying for smuggling or forgery.  Jocelynn also realized that the terms she was using easily led to that kind of mistake.  She wasn't being specific and the drug dealer filled in the blanks she'd left with the kinds of answers he understood.  Even if that wasn't what she meant.  At that point, Jocelynn wondered if it was worth it to buy something from him if only to make a real contact she could build on later?

Problems she had to face with this decision were several.  The dealer was obviously a user, so was he dealing only to earn his next hit, and if so, how long would he be out of action after he sold?  Because the crew were not on this station for a long period of time.  Second, if he had any clue at all, he would know that Junior Investigators usually start out making small buys to gain trust before asking questions and trying to get to suppliers.  So, if this guy were actually on the ball enough to know that, would she burn any trust she earned now when she tried to ask questions later, if she could actually find him later.  And that was because drug sales were a random thing, and you only had a steady supplier if you had their comms data or knew where they lived, and Jocelynn was not close enough to ask this guy for either of those items.  So, there was no promise she'd find him again if she went looking.

Making her decision, Jocelynn then had to decide "what she was looking for"?  She wanted something that was essentially harmless, but the only thing that she could think of at the moment was a drug called "Borloi".  While it was a low-key depressant, the one thing she knew was an issue with that was it was highly addictive.  Jocelynn also realized it would make sense a neophyte was down lost in the docks looking for a supply, because she could have been your average stationer or even spacer who'd been given a hit at a party and was only now realizing she had to find for herself or go cold turkey.  She knew Borloi because it was used in dopesticks, which had often been a problem with young marines causing them to fall out of formation.  She also knew unscrupulous drug dealers sometimes mixed the euphoric "cat-nip" in and that was very powerful on its own.  But, it "sweetened" the Borloi trip.

Leaning in close to the man, Jocelynn asked, "Do you have any Borloi?"  Nodding back to her, the man asked how many hits she wanted, because he was still thinking about selling to her in "numbers".  At first, Jocelynn said "Nine", but then changed her mind and said, "Make it an even ten."  He said he could do that but told her the price was Cr 1,000 which pulled at her most internal purse strings.  Finally, pushing herself because she had a need, Jocelynn pushed back, "Eight hundred" and the dealer agreed.  The dealer then demanded her Ident and pressed it up against a portable paypod so he could run the transaction through.  That done, he slid her Ident and a bag back across the table to her and got up to get moving and out even as Jocelynn said, "Thank you."  While he didn't respond to her thanks, Jocelynn could see the huge grin on his face that said he'd taken her for a load of cash.

Deciding she was done for the evening, Jocelynn stuffed the hits of Borloi in a pocket and went out to the concourse while using her comms to call a port cab for the ride back to her ship.  She planned to talk to Mikah about the drugs before making any other decisions what to do with them, and consider her failures and what passed for her successes that night before going out again.  In the cab, Jocelynn only tapped the paybar to pay for her ride back, so she wouldn't check her actual accounts until the next morning, after waking.  And then, she'd find the drug dealer ran the transaction for Cr 2,000 instead of the Cr 800 they'd agreed on.  That would certainly change her perspective on if she'd succeeded or not the night before?


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Mikah, Zimzod, Aiden and Fesic: Asleep after getting back from the dance club
     Aali and Emkir: Asleep after getting back from the dance club with alarm set for 7am
     Rol: Asleep after getting back from the dance club with alarm set for 6am
     Terin: In a small apartment, in bed with the "spacer groupie" he'd met at the club
     Jocelynn: In bed after returning early in the morning from her walk on "the dark side"

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Next: Pending the November Session