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Last Updated     Feb 1 2020
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A Brief Pause In The Aftermath

A Twist In Treatment

     Beyond Mikah's treatment, everyone except Fesic expected to give statements to station security at some time in the coming days.  Jocelynn, Fesic and Terin could also look forward to working with security about the mugging if needed.  And Rol was expected to meet and talk with Sir Vekaraste Rete at the order's hostelry.  With three days in port already, the crew had been looking forward to scoring a huge pay day and then leaving the system on Thursday, the 297th day of the year.  With Mikah in treatment, it looked like they might not make that schedule.

While everyone else was back at the ship, Zimzod was in Mikah's room in the hospital after her surgery.  Despite being hit in the chest and nearly in the heart itself, the wound did much less damage thanks to luck and her executive armor.  The fabric of that armor served to keep the round from fragmenting into bits that would tear up more tissue.  Still, the doctors had her doped and kept her out cold while they treated her.  And she was still out as she began her recovery.  At the ship, Terin and Fesic were recovering from their own physical wounds after the mugging attempt and everyone was waiting for word from Zimzod on Mikah's condition.

Not long after Mikah was wheeled into the room, Zimzod was surprised when another medical team arrived.  This group all wore Imperial Navy uniforms.  While Zimzod rose and watched, they moved to where Mikah lay and started using a medical scanner to check her condition.  After that, the senior member of the team turned to Zimzod and said, "Sir, we're going to need you to return to your ship."  Zimzod started to say, "I need to stay with..." and the man, who was a doctor, cut him off while he nodded and said, "I understand how you feel, but we've reviewed the information we received from the attending on Lady Mikah's wounds and there are hazards the locals didn't really recognize.  So, we're going to move her to the Imperial Naval base medical center, where we can better treat her, and we're going to need you to return to your ship."  The last part of that was said politely but firmly enough that it was an order.

When Zimzod held out, asking, "OK.  I can't go to the naval base with her?" he was firmly told, "No, you cannot."  Standing firm and asking, in an obstinate tone, "Really?" the doctor asked, "Would you like us to arrest you?"  A bit under his breath, Zimzod swore, "Dick!" though he made sure it was still loud enough to be heard.  Zimzod then demanded, "You do realize that I'm a Knight.  Right?"  Nodding again, the doctor answered, "We know exactly who you are Sir Zimzod." in a tone that showed complete confidence.  Nodding finally, and accepting he had no authority in the situation, Zimzod agreed to return to the ship.  Before he left, they told Zimzod Mikah's treatment would likely be a week to a week and a half long.  Behind him, the Imperial team got Mikah moving.

Back at the ship, those who'd dealt with Leeta and those who'd been mugged were comparing how the other team's evening was.  After leaving the hospital, Zimzod got on his comms to call the ship and update them.  When he got them on the line, Zimzod first asked if everyone at the ship was OK?  Told they were, he told them they'd moved Mikah to the hospital on the naval base.  Caught by surprise, Terin asked if Mikah was that bad off and Zimzod told them, "Apparently.  That's what they're saying." in a tone that let them know Zimzod wasn't that convinced.

Rol asked if they'd call with updates and Zimzod had to admit was wasn't sure they would.  Zimzod did say, "I'm gonna reach out to some of my own contacts and find out."  Rol then asked how Zimzod was, just to be sure.  Zimzod dismissively said, "I'll be fine." but the way things had gone down still bothered him.  Checking his surroundings to make sure he wouldn't be overheard, Zimzod pulled up the contact string to dial in and call IRIS, but wasn't sure what answer he'd get?  After his comms finally connected to a device, it simply asked for a message to be left in an electronic voice.  Knowing that was the way they rolled, Zimzod left a message asking to be called back and continued his way back to the port and the ship.

Different Mornings And Situations

     Terin was the first to wake, getting through his morning routine and turned the lights on in the ship's lounge at 5:50 am.  He then started some caff cooking and turned on the news.  While there was little new news from the interstellar sources, Terin worried more about the local news.  But the only impact the crew made on the news cycle from the night before had been a note that three tourists had been involved in an attempted mugging in the legal notices.  While that story backed up station notices of hazards, it didn't even dig into the fact the "victims" had been responsible for capturing two of the criminals.  Terin was happy with that because the news had nothing at all about Leeta and the shooting.

The only new story, reported out of the Rhylanor system, was an expectation there would soon be reports on Prince Lucan's fleet and flagship arriving in the Spinward Marches.  While no reason was given for that expectation in the report, it was known the Prince would be on Regina on the 330th day of the year, to participate in ascension ceremonies there.  Watching commentary on that story, Terin could only think to himself that having Lucan, Norris and other powerful nobility in the Regina system was a very good reason why the crew would be as far away from the events as possible.

While Rol and Zimzod went right into their morning routines, Fesic tried a light stretch or two and found that created enough pain that any exercise was out of the question.  Even deep breaths were painful for now so he just took pain killers and moved on with his morning.  Before either of those three emerged from their staterooms, Emkir woke and rolled over on his side to see if Aali was stirring at all.  Finding she wasn't, Emkir did his best to get her stirring so he could begin his day in the best way possible.  When Aali didn't say no, it was clear they wouldn't be leaving their stateroom anytime soon.

First Fesic, then Rol and Zimzod came out of their staterooms to find Terin watching the news as he completed a cycle.  When Zimzod asked, Terin said there had been nothing in the news about Leeta or the shooting and only a small note about the mugging.  When he left his stateroom, Zimzod asked if there might be any messages on the comms and Terin reminded him they all would have heard the comms.  Sitting down, Zimzod decided to answer Terin's attitude by staring at him and Rol menacingly.  Terin and Rol, who'd started cooking breakfast, had seen Zimzod's stare before and were not impressed.  After telling Zimzod he needed to work on his glare, Terin searched the tri-d offerings for a comedy movie.

With nothing better to do, because he couldn't visit her, Zimzod called the naval base looking for information on Mikah.  When he connected, Zimzod was told they would update him with any information they had when it was appropriate to update him.  Despite not being pleased about that, Zimzod recognized there was nothing he could do about it.  In the room where they'd moved her, Mikah had come back to awareness with the realization this was not a "waking up from drugs".  There also wasn't the pain she would have expected either.  She felt nice, warm and comfortable...which was nothing like she expected.  And when she opened her eyes, her attention was entirely captured by the woman she could tell had been bending over her as that woman drew back her hand from Mikah's chest, just below her neck.

Mikah's attention was directed to the others in the room as the woman said to them, "She's awake now." as if answering a request.  Like the first woman, Mikah realized the three others in the room were wearing Imperial Navy uniforms.  For half a second, Mikah tensed, and then realized she couldn't see a single person in a grey suit, so she relaxed.  Testing, Mikah asked, "Can I talk?" and the older of the men in the group nodded and said "Sure" with a half-smile on his face.  Half nodding, Mikah said, "I hope I'm not dead.  Because this cannot possibly be heaven."

The man who'd spoken, a full Commander, stepped forward as Mikah noticed he wore a caduceus, so he was a doctor.  Shaking his head, the doctors said, "No, you're not dead.  And you still need significant treatment, but we think you're pretty much into the recovery stage of things.  Still, there are other elements of your situation which we have to deal with."  Accepting that, Mikah asked, "Where's my crew?" and the doctor said, "This is the Imperial Naval base medical section.  Your crew is back on your ship."  Nodding as best she could, Mikah asked, "OK.  Where's the bitch?" with some venom in her tone.  Without missing a beat, the doctor told Mikah, "Don't worry about her.  She's not your problem anymore."  While speaking, he waved his hand from side to side as if wiping a window clean.

Fixing the man with a glare, because she really wasn't getting answers, Mikah asked, "Are you my problem now?" using emphasis of the word to make her meaning crystal clear.  Canting his head a bit to the left, the doctor told Mikah, "That depends on how this week goes."  Gesturing to the others in the room, he kept up the half-smile as he said, "We are your treatment team."  Giving her a minute to scan over them all, the doctor continued, "We got called in because there are extenuating circumstances to your condition which must be dealt with."  Figuring she had the man there, Mikah demanded, "OK, such as?  I am a doctor, you know."  Nodding, the doctor pulled no punches while describing the nature of her wound and Mikah had to agree that she'd want to hold and isolate anyone with an infection risk like she'd become.  So, she had to admit, if even just to herself, that he had some points and she was willing to listen.

The doctor continued to describe the collapsing of her lungs and other crisis-level issues she'd faced, and Mikah looked down to her chest for the first time, to assess the situation herself.  What she saw was "not" what she expected.  There were the healing remains of a wound, but the healing looked much more advanced than she expected before she had to admit she had no idea how long she was out?  Mikah could tell the entry wound had been very small and also very clean, which suggested "an answer or two".  But there was no suture line above and below it, where they cut her open to do what had to be done.  Mikah knew that even with the most advanced tools she could get the team would have had to cut her chest open to get at the bullet, close up her pericardium and clean her chest out.

The whole time they would have had to pressure-bag her lungs to keep them inflated and working so she could be kept breathing during the operation.  That or re-route her blood out of her body and through a machine to re-oxygenate it.  After that, they would have to have spent time "cleaning out" her thorax thanks to the contaminants blasted into Mikah's body and washed about by the released blood filling the cavity.  Between dislodged tissue, released and dying blood and other contaminants from both the gunshot and the opening of her chest, that had to have been a major operation in itself.  It would have demanded more stitching than the small healing puncture wound she could see.

After a pause to let that sink in, and to perhaps assure himself he'd gotten Mikah past any actual medical protest, the doctor continued.  "Beyond that, there are other things which we will need to discuss with you more correctly when the time comes."  Having said that, the doctor turned and nodded to the other three, and the two women left the room.  The other, younger man who'd kept to the back of the pack until then, stepped forward.  Seeing him more clearly, Mikah realized just how young he was and his rank was Lieutenant.  What Mikah also noticed for the first time, was that he was flight rated but had no brass on his uniform indicating any medical training or responsibility.

The younger man stepped forward while the doctor gestured with a hand to a treatment table.  On that were various small items like vials and such.  the doctor said, "If you would."  Mikah watched as the lieutenant nodded and took a stance, appearing to start concentrating while the doctor pointed at a med-scanner on the table.  Suddenly, as if on a string, the med-scanner raised up into the air above the table and moved sideways and back as the doctor directed with his finger.  It was clear to Mikah the doctor was only directing the action and it was Very Clear to Mikah lieutenant was telekinetic!  Mikah instantly reached for her hip, wanting to grab a pistol that was not there.

Flustered and angry, Mikah demanded, "OK, what kind of...  What are you, going to brain wash me and tell me that psions are good now?"  Nodding in acceptance of her reaction, the doctor admitted, "Obviously, you figured out he is psionic..."  Mikah interrupted him, saying, "Well, it doesn't take a brain surgeon!" in a nasty and sarcastic tone.  Not wanting to start any more fights than he had to, the doctor just agreed with her.  Dismissing the lieutenant, the doctor pulled a chair over and sat before continuing, "Part of the work we are going to do with you will be classified.  So no one outside this room can know it happened at all, including your crew and even Sir Zimzod.  And that will be enforced by the Imperial government."

The look he gave Mikah at that point made it clear that was said in complete seriousness, and only served to increase her anger.  He then explained they would first work with Mikah to increase her security clearance where Imperial Psionic Activities were concerned.  When Mikah asked, "Why me?" she was told that would become apparent over the week or two they worked with her.  Disgusted with the situation, Mikah waved a hand at the door and said, "Whatever.  I need to get some sleep."  Nodding, the doctor said he'd be back when she'd had some rest and left her alone in her room.

Morning Projects

     Finally having satisfied each other, Emkir and Aali went through their morning routine and made it out into the ship's lounge.  By that time, Fesic had woken again and he arrived at the same time as Aali and Emkir.  Rol had cooked breakfast and he, Terin and Zimzod were watching some vid that seemed to have a few laughs.  Seeing that, Aali asked, "The news is that bad?" figuring that had to be where they'd started.  Terin shrugged from where he sat and said, "No.  It's just that uneventful."  Nodding at the good news, Aali joined her husband and Fesic grabbing food.  While everyone agreed that was good for them, Zimzod said he was sure they hadn't heard the last of things.  Rol just said, "The news comes back on at five." in a grim tone.

With the ship's cargo situation dealt with, the only things they had to worry about were ship's engineering checks and supplies.  Outside of Mikah's treatment, it was Wednesday and they had plans to lift for the Ghandi system on Monday.  So, they had four and a half days left in system if Mikah could get out of the hospital by then.  Settling down, Aali looked at Zimzod and asked, "So, you're back.  How's Mikah?"  In just better than a growl, Zimzod said, "They took her over to the naval base."  Nodding, Aali asked, "Wow.  Did they say anything about what's going on?"

Zimzod shook his head as he complained, "They ain't telling me shit." in an angry tone.  Aali nodded, saying, "OK.  That's weird." in a less than pleased tone.  Curious about the rest of them, Rol asked if they'd been restricted to the ship and he was reminded they were the victims of the attack.  They were not restricted except that station security would be by to take statements in the case.  They were also reminded there would be questions about the mugging too.  Other than that, they were free to do what they wanted.  When Terin went so far as to say, "We are the heroes." he was reminded he wasn't even there and was getting beat up somewhere else.

In her room, Mikah had gone back to sleep but wasn't really that tired so she woke again soon enough.  Knowing it was important to get up and get moving as soon as she could, Mikah tried to stand and found she could, though it hurt.  Starting to move around hurt even more and she soon realized she had to get back in bed.  Sometime after she got back in bed, her doctor arrived and asked if she was ready to talk?  With no real options, Mikah spread her hands out as she shrugged and said, "I guess."  Nodding while taking a chair, he said, "As we discussed earlier, this is about psionics.  How do you feel about that?"

Marshalling her thoughts, Mikah said, "I don't understand why the Imperium has made it so much of a big deal to make sure everyone knows that psions are bad.  And now, all of a sudden, you're trying to tell me that psions are good.  Especially when we just saw, or I just saw, what psions do."  It is against everything that I've been taught."  Nodding again, the doctor said he completely understood how she felt and he intended to explain it to her over the coming week.  But until he could do that, he asked her how she would fight people who could read her mind?  Mikah quickly answered, "You get psi-shields."

When he asked, "What if you can't get everyone psi-shields?" Mikah said, "You can find them."  But, even she knew how weak that answer was.  Moving past that, the doctor continued, "Ultimately, if someone is shooting at you, you have to shoot them back."  Mikah nodded and added, "If you have a gun.  Yeah."  Nodding at Mikah's comment, he said she was exactly right, and if she didn't have a gun she would be screwed.  Making the point, the doctor said, "If someone has telepaths and teleporters, you need your own telepaths and teleporters.  Mikah said, "OK.  That logically makes sense, however, if this is such an important thing to the Imperium, why it is all covered in secrecy?  And why have we been indoctrinated with the fact that psions are bad?"  With a sigh, the doctor repeated that he planned to explain that in the coming week.

Before they could do that, the man then said, they had to raise Mikah's security clearance.  Surprising her, the doctor asked if Mikah was willing to go through the paperwork to get that done?  Sarcastically, Mikah said, "Well, if you're psions, I shouldn't have to go through any paperwork.  Should I?"  The doctor only pointed out that the 'entire government' was not psionic, saying, "We are not the Zhodani Consulate.  We do need to go through the paperwork."  He also admitted, "If anything happens and we can't raise your clearance for any reason, we can always redact the knowledge."  And despite her feelings, Mikah agreed to cooperate.

The next half of the day was spent in administrative work to raise her clearance where Imperial psionic activities were concerned.  Throughout the work, they repeatedly reminded Mikah the information she would learn over the coming week was heavily classified and she couldn't tell anyone.  Not her crew and not even Sir Zimzod.  When Mikah pushed that Zimzod already knew about it they denied any knowledge of Zimzod having been involved.  From time to time, during the work, the one woman Mikah had woken up to would come forward to put a hand against Mikah's chest and close her eyes to concentrate.  Each time she did that, Mikah found her pain easing.

On the ship, Jocelynn emerged into the lounge after going through her morning routine.  Walking right over to Zimzod, Jocelynn sat next to him, put her arm around his shoulder and said, "Zimzod!  Hold up your Ident." in a very happy voice.  When he asked, "What?" she repeated, "Hold up your Ident."  When he asked, "Why?" in a confused tone, she said "Because I'm gonna make you a rich man."  And then admitted, "Well, richer than you currently are."  Zimzod just held his Ident out away from her, looked at Jocelynn and said, "Um.  No." while the others laughed.  Despite that, she was able to bump him KCr 12.  Seeing that, Rol told Zimzod, "Now she can shoot you in good conscience."

Of course, while that paid off the loan for her armor charging station, it reminded them they had re-assembled Jocelynn's armor.  Now, if Mikah got out of the hospital soon enough, they planned to launch for the Ghandi system in four days.  They would have to risk an outward-bound inspection on top of the guaranteed customs inspection when they arrived.  Looking at each other, they agreed they had to start disassembling the suit again.  Jocelynn said they'd at least get more practice working on the suit.  Hearing that, Rol pointed out they could again take videos, step by step.

Considering the visits they'd likely get from security, they decided to do the work in Jocelynn's stateroom.  Before she went down to work in engineering, Aali said they should ask her if they thought they'd need an android to help them get the work done.  Emkir grabbed his translation work while Aali worked.  Terin checked on the TL 13 Comm Unit he'd put up for auction.  Unfortunately, there were no bids on it yet so he decided to log into the auction and give it an "end date".  Not having any information on when Mikah might get out of the hospital, Terin hedged and set the end date for four days from then.  After that, Terin looked up a gym he could easily get to, paid Cr 10 for access and went to work out.

Aiden looked for a public swimming facility but couldn't find one for various reasons.  First, space on a station was expensive, and a very small part of the local interstellar community actually took up swimming.  So, the space was put to more effective or profitable use.  Second, it cost money to lift water into orbit, so water for recreational use was even more expensive.  Enough water for one or more public pools was more than the locals wanted to spend.  Moving on from that, Aiden decided to spend his morning seeing how good a jump plot he could create for the jump from Dinomn to Ghandi.  With Terin off the ship, he figured he'd ask the scout to check it later.

Fesic checked the items he'd posted for sale and saw there had been a question posted to the hand computer they were selling.  Checking the question, he saw the poster had asked for more information on the capabilities and details of the computer?  Grabbing the unit so he could get even more details than he'd already posted on the sale, Fesic answered the question and updated the sale information.  The others sales had views but no posts or offers.  Finished with the sales items, Fesic relaxed and watched vids for the rest of the morning.

Projects And Lessons

      Terin got back in time for lunch, and Aiden asked him if they could go over his plot and check his numbers?  Terin agreed and that would take them much of the rest of the day, since they would be breaking down his maths and testing his data.  Aali was able to take a break from engineering and read while Emkir continued his work to break the unknown language from the book he'd been working on from time to time.  Fesic was relaxing and watching vids until he saw a message come in asking if they'd take Cr 6,000 for the computer?  After he read the message, Fesic replied that they would, and asked the buyer of they could come to the ship to pay for and pick it up?  Eventually, the buyer said she would come to the ship but it would take her some time and she'd get there in the afternoon.

In Mikah's hospital room, they had finally gotten done with the paperwork after hours getting the best information she could remember.  After that, the doctor had readers brought in for them all and they started telling Mikah about the history of Empress Paula II and the events that happened between the years 750 to 820.  The years between when use of psionics in the Imperium peaked and the end of the psionics suppression wars.  Mikah had learned the basics as a child, but not paid the greatest of attention.  That meant some of this was news to her.  She remembered psionics had once been common in the empire, but been taught it had grown into a corrupt force.  So, the Empress had to act against all psions.  That should have been a flag because "all" of a group never goes bad "all" at a once.

What Mikah had never seen were the documents she was now given access too, and she saw that a great many were internal government orders and reports.  They brought her through a hidden history of actions taken by the highest powers in the empire at the time to actually create that wave of corruption, or the perception of it.  From the information they covered with her, Mikah saw the program was intended to frighten the population of the empire into demanding action.  With that, the government could move to survey the population and identify all psions.  If things worked out well, the architects of the project envisioned a society where all psions in the Imperium would be driven into government service for their own safety.

According to the documents Mikah was seeing, the program had been going extremely well up to a point.  And while Mikah could claim that some of the data might be false, there was just too much of it for it "all" to be false.  So they moved on.  More documents, some of which reminded Mikah of her childhood schooling, covered the discovery that the Zhodani Consulate was ruled by a Psionic Elite.  With the rising tide of investigations and attention, the many psionic institutes in the Imperium had come under intense scrutiny.  Those investigations found that all of the institutes had been getting some funding from the Consulate!  A wave of sudden panic was driven by extreme claims the institutes were nothing more than tools to develop a fifth column inside the Imperium.

It would take a year after the panic for government agencies to figure out that the money was nothing more than an attempt at promoting 'Cultural awareness' since psionics was one of the few things the Zhodani and Imperials shared an acceptance of.  One of the most condemning of the documents Mikah saw was the decision, signed by ministers of Empress Paula, to not reveal that discovery to the populous.  Still, this was one of a number of key turning points which transformed the Imperial population into a panicked anti-psionic mob!  More and more, government forces found themselves moving in to rescue those psions they'd hoped to drive into government service.  By the time Paula and her ministers realized they had to change their plans, the pendulum had swung so far against psions there was no way to stop it.

Mikah was then shown documents including the cancellation of orders to cancel the Imperial charters of the last two embattled psionic institutes.  Orders had been cut to move Imperial forces in to pack up the two institutes and move them to new systems where they would be able to operate covertly from underground facilities.  It was explained to Mikah that the need to keep the moves secret, and save as many psions as possible, forced the secrets to be kept at higher and higher levels of government.  Responsibility for all the efforts were eventually placed with a small number of organizations under extreme secrecy, and it remained so, even to the present day.  When a psion is identified or a person is suspected of being a psion, it's hoped that someone from one of those organizations will hear about it and be able to act before the person is killed or lobotomized.

Towards the end of the afternoon, those working with Mikah started bringing in reports of operations in the Jewell cluster during the Fifth Frontier War.  Familiar with how the siege of Jewell pulled forces away from other Zhodani fleets, Mikah knew that the holdout of Jewell prevented more and larger Zhodani fleets from attacking Imperial forces.  And with these reports, Mikah learned how teams of Imperial psions worked to disrupt and confuse Zhodani communications and help Jewell's defenders without their work even becoming public.

While Zimzod and Jocelynn kept working on breaking down her battledress, Rol had to dress up and go to the Order hostelry and do his "sit down and be interviewed" by Sir Vekaraste Rete.  That would take enough of the day that Zimzod and Jocelynn would have to take it slow until dinner.  During the work, Jocelynn asked Zimzod about his neural stent to learn about it.  What he told her was that they were on Rhylanor, which was one of the highest tech worlds in the sector.  Because of that, prices on the hardware itself were cheaper than they would have been elsewhere.  Even in other systems nearby to Rhylanor.

Answering her questions, Zimzod told Jocelynn about how he and the others had Mikah stand in as an assisting surgeon during the operation to connect the hardware to each of their brains.  Outside of the brain surgery, Jocelynn asked questions about his process of learning to use the device.  That was where she learned the learning curve was surprisingly long.  Of course, the main reason Zimzod had gotten the stent was to be able to be cloned, and that led Jocelynn to other questions too.  In the end, she learned how the first group from the crew had gotten cloning insurance at an extremely low rate, which Aiden had to go and ruin by dying.  That led the insurance market to re-evaluate the dangers the crew took on regularly and raise the rates for any future policies.

Putting her reader down regularly, Aali returned to work with or check on the androids through-out the day.  As the day moved on, Aali decided to see who else wanted to get together and do a group stent work session?  Aiden was working with Terin on his nav-plot so both of them said they were busy.  When Aali suggested doing it after dinner, Terin agreed with her that after dinner would be good because they had nothing else to do.  When she saw that Zimzod was also busy with Jocelynn, breaking down her battledress, Aali decided to do stent work on her own.

Expected And Not

     Eventually, Fesic met with his buyer and after she confirmed the computer worked and she had the passwords to log onto it, she handed over the cash.  Aiden and Terin finished going through the numbers on Aiden's nav-plot, it turned out the plot would work but Terin could refine it a good bit.  If they'd used that at the moment, they would have arrived quite a distance from the system's mainworld and Terin could get them much closer in.  Soon after that, Rol got back from his visit to the hostelry and started getting ready to cook dinner.  When that was done, the crew set aside their projects and everyone gathered for the meal and hoped Mikah was recovering well.

Like he'd been known to do, Emkir brought a research tablet with him to the dinner table and, when jokes were made, joked they could use it as a private ship's language if he ever cracked it.  When Rol asked, "How close are you to figuring it out?" Emkir admitted he wasn't at all.  Terin jumped in, saying, "Well, we talked about this code thing before.  So, maybe if there was something else we could implement a lot sooner than you crack that, it could help."  Zimzod reminded him he'd been talking about using a variant of existing Imperial Marine and Army codes for a while.  When everyone was interested, Zimzod said it would be a good time to do it now, because they weren't doing anything else.  When they all agreed, it was decided they'd spend two hours each night after dinner in a code class.

Following the code class, Aali suggested those with stents have a regular hour-long class, practicing with each other.  After they agreed on that, Rol, Jocelynn and Zimzod taught the class on codes, using the basic Imperial codes but shifting the meanings.  That meant that any Imperial operators who cracked their comms would be confused until they could get a code cracker on the line.  Since they were using the same codes with different meanings, it would only take a moderate effort to crack their work if an opponent could coordinate video of the their actions and comms recordings.  After that, Aali led the shared stent class.

When the stent class started, Jocelynn was happy because the first officer was too busy to see what she was doing and Mikah was in the hospital.  So, despite Mikah's comments on keeping Jocelynn from looking for revenge and getting others beat up, no one was paying attention to her plans.  Before she got changed, Jocelynn went over to Fesic, who was also not part of the stent group.  Quietly, Jocelynn asked him, "Hey Fesic.  I know you got your ass kicked last night, but, do you wanna go out again?"  After sarcastically saying, "Well, Yes!  Of course" in thanks for her comments about him being beat up, Fesic said he would go out with her.  After that, Jocelynn changed up how she was dressed, to wear a top, short skirt and her leather jacket instead of hard-ball war veteran, and got ready to slip off the ship.  Fesic took his old comms, and dressed casually.

Leaving the ship, Jocelynn and Fesic decided they'd go to the same docking arm on the station, but wouldn't go to the same row of bars.  Jocelynn wanted to stay close to what she thought of as that dealer's 'turf'.  Jocelynn also put some effort into researching the station's regulations and found she could actually carry her shotgun strapped over her shoulder!  When she told Fesic about the rules, he decided he'd bring his walking stick.  Armed and out for revenge, the couple arrived in the area of the bars about the time the stent practice broke up.  Zimzod noticed they'd gone and wondered how bad they'd be beaten when security brought them back to the ship this time?

Aali looked for a note, then said whatever happened was on them when she couldn't find anything like that.  Giving up on looking for Jocelynn and Fesic, they squared everything away from the classes.  Then, Terin suggested they hit a bar near the berth and get a drink.  At first, they talked about other things because some of them felt like going to sleep.  But, eventually Zimzod and Rol said they'd go drinking with Terin.  Then, the rest of the people on the ship joined in.  Over the evening at the bar, those there spent Cr 30 on drinks.  The bar also had a few virtual reality and grav-based games and Zimzod noticed one in specific.

In a space off to the side, above a dais, was a 3-D space where those who pay could try to guide a spacecraft through a maze.  The 3D models representing the ships shone brightly so players and viewers could guide their ship's movements even when it moved behind objects.  When Zimzod said, "Wow!  Space Commander!"  He was about to walk away from the console saying, "Well, I'm no pilot." and one of the bar workers said, "Then this is as close as you can get to wrecking your own starship!"  That hit Zimzod's sense of humor and he turned back to check the game out again.  When Rol then said, "go for it" Terin said, "I bet Aiden can kick his ass in that game." and attention turned to Aiden.

Aiden said he'd play, and Zimzod said, "It's your only chance to beat me at anything buddy!"  That got a lot of laughs.  Saying, "Oh, I can't turn that down." they paid to play and set the game to a competitive session.  That meant that players could affect the other player's ship in different ways.  Despite his best efforts, Aiden was hard pressed to cause Zimzod to wreck because Zimzod was correct, saying that he was no pilot.  While the others drank and called out encouragements, Zimzod eventually got a handle on the basic controls of his ship but wrecked it more often than successfully maneuvering between obstacles.  Still, the crew had fun drinking and relaxing.

At the same time, Mikah was in her room with half of her team and a fifth person who'd come in to join them.  They were there to help her and to answer any questions she had or talk about any issues she wanted to discuss.  The one common thread linking each of the people she worked with was that they were all Imperial Navy officers and senior ratings.  When Mikah said it was better for her medically if she was able to get up and walk around, they were willing to help her and walk with her.

Letting them help her up, Mikah felt quite a bit of pain but realized it was a lot less after whatever the psion woman was doing.  She also admitted, if only to herself, that she shouldn't have been able to get up and move at all if her healing had been "normal".  Despite the fact no one had mentioned it, Mikah was sure that was a large part of their "Psionics is a good thing" advertising campaign.  One of the problems she had with that was that she couldn't really argue against it.  Her healing was real, not a mind trick that had been played on her.  Still, Mikah wanted to know where they'd been during the fifth Frontier War, while she was sometimes hip deep in combat, misery or both?

Each of the three with her had their own experiences to talk about.  One of the woman, a Chief Petty Officer, had been trapped on Jewell at the beginning of the war.  She had originally been sent there to hunt Zhodani agents and dangerous elements in the system.  Because the Zho had placed forward agents, and didn't believe the Imperials had highly trained psions, Zhodani officers were open to the thoughts being broadcast at them.  When the Zhodani attacked, her unit was reassigned to spread disinformation and create confusion among the Zhodani officer corps aboard their ships.  She also supported or took part in teams hunting down Zhodani landings.

Mikah nodded, knowing how important the holdout of the Jewell system had been in the war.  Many Zhodani assault squadrons had been tied up in the effort to conquer that system.  If the system hadn't held out, those forces would have been available to reinforce fleets pushing deeper into Imperial space.  Mikah couldn't prove what she was being told was real but she recognized the look in the woman's eyes and shared it as a veteran of the war.  Jewell or not, this woman had been in the war somehow, and she seemed completely honest about her history.  And her stories would have explained how world-based defensive positions hadn't been bombed out of operation much sooner, or at all in some cases.

When Mikah asked if the Zhodani might have been suspicious of Darrian psions working with Imperial forces, they reminded her the attacks had been a surprise.  Getting Darrians in place to carry out combined defensive operations would have taken time.  And, the woman reminded her, the Darrians had their own problems.  One of the reasons the full might of the Sword worlds was not thrown at the Lanth system was that they had also thrown fleets at the Darrian Confederation, both to capture more systems and to better secure the entropic worlds.  In the end, of course, the Darrians not only defended themselves well but liberated the entropic worlds by the end of the war.

A second member of her group had been assigned as crew on various dreadnaughts, as part of the ship's security.  Working with the ship's troops, his work was to try and detect any attacks on the ship made by jump commandos.  Because of his talent, he was assigned to various command ships, to protect the command Admirals aboard.  When they asked, Mikah told them about her experiences in the war and they mentioned a number of points when psionic help would have made the work safer or easier.  When Mikah nodded and said, "Of course, so you could take credit for everything." they pointed out they were not only not taking credit.  But, because they were psionic, it was all being kept completely classified and they got no credit at all.  In two cases, they cold point out the number of missions they'd been involved in and where they "should have been" in their careers with that level of successful activity.

Another Hunt

     While Jocelynn's main mission was to get a pound of flesh from the dealer who robbed her, she also explained her 'ultimate goal' to Fesic.  She told him she really wanted to make connections with anyone who could lead her to forged documents, or some other way to make her battledress seem legal for inspections.  While she knew Dinomn wasn't the best system to find that person, she wanted to try to start developing the skills to find that person in another system.  When Fesic asked if she'd done any research on the idea, Jocelynn laughed and happily said, "Of course not!" with a smile on her face.  As she waved his idea away and laughingly said, "Research sme-search" Fesic offered to look into it when they got back to the ship.

In the concourse, Jocelynn led Fesic while searching for a bar with the credo, "the darker, the better".  Picking a bar, the people they could see as they looked for a booth looked like locals, down and outers or loners.  With Jocelynn looking like a party girl with a gun and Fesic obviously from a ship with spending cash, they didn't really fit in.  But most of those in the bar really didn't care about or notice them, and wouldn't so long as they kept to their own business.  One person who took note of them was a bar staffer, who pointed out the drink ordering consoles on the edge of their booth table in a tone that said, 'order drinks or leave'.  Fesic ordered scotch on the rocks and Jocelynn planned to order something "fruity" she could nurse.  She ended up ordering an "Orange Sun" which she was assured had some real fruit juice in it with the alcohol.

When the waitress came for their drink orders, she took them down before nodding and commenting, "Uh-ha" with a sarcastic tone.  The good news for Jocelynn was that this was the kind of bar where shady deals "could" go down.  But the booths were far enough apart, and the lights low enough, she couldn't really tell if anything was happening while they sat sipping their drinks?  And the bar staff made it clear this wasn't the sort of place for 'one-drink wonders' or light-weights.  That message was certainly delivered when the waitress swung by, scanned their two-thirds finished drinks and hinted, "Can I freshen those up for you?"  Nodding, Jocelynn asked for a shot of whiskey instead of another sun, and Fesic ordered the same.

When the waitress came back with the drinks, Jocelynn figured she'd try something and asked, "Hey, Honey.  Let me ask you a question."  After a disinterested "Yeah" that was more 'get on with it' than anything else, Jocelynn asked, "Between you and me, would you happen to know anyone who frequents this establishment who might deal with documentation?"  The woman fixed Jocelynn with a look and sarcastically asked, "Establishment, huh?"  When Jocelynn nodded and said, "Yeah", the waitress asked, "Are you an inspector or something?"  Now it was Jocelynn's turn to be sarcastic as she challenged, "Do I look like an inspector?"  Rolling her eyes, the waitress answered, "Sweetie, we get all kinds of inspectors in here.  Some of them even take some of the girls into the back room to do their inspecting."

Jocelynn quickly said she wasn't planning on taking any of the girls anywhere in a tone of disgust while she missed the fact she wasn't being accused of that.  Trying to get back on track, Jocelynn finished by saying, "And no, I'm not an inspector."  Nodding, the waitress asked, "Just what kind of documents are we talkin' about?" and Jocelynn floated, "Fake cargo certifications?" in a less than hopeful tone.  Shaking her head and turning away from the table, the waitress said, "No, we're a legitimate place.  We're legitimate here." and she left them while Jocelynn still tried to keep the conversation going.  While Jocelynn went down in flames, Fesic kept his eyes open for anything else happening in the bar or, against all odds, anyone who matched Jocelynn's description of the drug dealer she was after.

Realizing they were getting nowhere fast, Jocelynn suggested they find a bar that matched how they were dressed, if they could, in that area.  Jocelynn dropped Cr 25 on the table and Fesic Cr 20 and they moved on while the waitress moved over to check the tips and gave them a sour look.  Looking for someplace at least better lit and with a more "conversational" atmosphere, they also did their best to take in the environment as they wandered the causeway.  And, they made sure to maintain a better situational awareness than in their earlier wandering.  Finally, they found a bar more to their liking.

Taking a booth there, they saw the drink ordering console light up as soon as they hit the seats.  Jocelynn ordered a vodka martini while Fesic ordered a beer.  Not long after that, an android rolled over to deliver their drinks.  The unit was based on a one-foot square motive unit atop treaded rollers.  From that, several stalks which looked mostly like pipes rose to support more motors, from which the "pipe and actuator" arms extended. On top of that stalk-like construction was a sensor stalk that allowed for sight, hearing and speech-broadcast.

Jocelynn figured she could ask the 'droid about the dealer, but bet she'd get an answer that told her a huge number of patrons matched those parameters before being asked to be more specific.  Looking around the place, Jocelynn saw the other customers, but she focused on the bouncer, figuring the pusher might have made himself known by getting thrown out of the place.  Like any good bouncer would, the man saw Jocelynn coming before she arrived, and waited to hear what sob story this one had for him?  Getting close, Jocelynn asked, "Can I ask you if you happen to have seen a certain person who fits a certain description?"

Without any real interest, the bouncer said, "Lady, I've seen a lot of people." in a tone that didn't encourage her to continue.  Since he didn't say "No", Jocelynn gave him the description, saying he was supposed to meet her some time back and she was worried.  With a glance at the stock of the shotgun rising from her back strap, the man had some doubts and asked, "Is there something special about this guy?"  Jocelynn waved that away, saying he wasn't special and she just needed to see the guy.  Shaking his head, the man said, he hadn't seen anyone who specifically matched the description she gave.

Annoyed at the bulkheads she kept running into, Jocelynn decided to slip the bouncer Cr 20 to see if it helped his memory?  Thinking a bit harder, the bouncer told her there might have been someone like that around the bar, but his answer was still vague.  After a pause, the man asked, "Are you just talking about a regular drinker or someone who might have business around here?"  That sparked Jocelynn's hope, because a drug dealer would be 'someone who had business' around the bar.  When she held up her fingers to add air quotes and said, "Someone who's got business around here." the bouncer said he actually might know the guy after all.  Jocelynn slipped the man another Cr 20 and asked, "Do you know where he might be?"  Shrugging, and with an expression she couldn't read, the bouncer gave her an address.

Jocelynn was so surprised, she leaned up on her toes to give the man a big kiss on the cheek and he took the opportunity to grope her right breast and squeeze her nipple!  Caught by surprise, Jocelynn got angry and went to grab and twist the man's balls, but the bouncer was a professional and knew what might come his way so he blocked her attack.  As she pulled back he smiled at her and said, "You put your lips on someone, you pay the price sweetheart." with a smile on his face that told her she had no recourse.  Nodding, Jocelynn agreed, "Alright, I deserved that." and went back to join Fesic at the booth.

Deeper Into The Hole

     Getting back to their table, Jocelynn smiled and said, "I got an address."  Proving he'd been watching, just in case, Fesic nodded and said that had not been all she'd gotten and Jocelynn waved that away.  Sparking up the computer screen built into the booth table top, Jocelynn started looking to see where this address was?  At the same time, Fesic became concerned that knocking on strange doors might upset a hive of criminals, which was a lot different that encountering one lone drug dealer in a bar.  In the tone of someone offering advice, Fesic said, "Jocelynn, I think you're gonna need better backup than an injured me.  Especially if you're going to an address, sight unseen."

When Jocelynn pulled up the address on a schematic of the deck, she saw it was much closer to the bar where she'd bought her drugs.  Nodding, Jocelynn thought to herself that made sense given what she thought was his turf.  Looking at Fesic, who was waiting for an answer to his comments, Jocelynn told him, "I do want to go scope the place out.  I don't wanna go in their guns blazing, yelling 'Hey!  Give me my money'.  I just wanna check the place out."  When she said Fesic didn't have to come with her, he said he wasn't opposed to giving the place a look over as they passed, but pointed out they'd make themselves a target if they set up in a spot where they obviously didn't belong and waited there.

When Fesic pushed the idea they should get a scope of the layout and then come back later, when they had more information and could better prepare.  Jocelynn agreed that was a better plan.  Nodding and accepting the plan, the two paid their Cr 10 tabs and got moving.  It took more than a few minutes to make their way into the neighborhood, and they noticed maintenance was suffering the deeper into the grid they went.  Soon enough, they came to an intersection which seemed to have raggedy people sitting with their backs against the wall.  What caught Jocelynn's attention was that a handful of them, two each, were leaning against opposite corners, so they could see all the approaches.  To Jocelynn's mind, they struck her as possible look outs.

Of course, if this was the dealer's turf, they could be drug users or even homeless.  Stopping before they got to the intersection, Fesic made sure Jocelynn only planned to wander by and take a look at the address.  After she agreed, they moved into the four-way intersection and were just moving through when they heard the sizzle of an energy weapon activating and one of those leaning against a corner asked, "You looking for something?"  While Fesic tried to make out which of the four had the weapon, Jocelynn attempted to start fidgeting and said, "I, I need my fix.  He's my....  I need something."  Sadly, her performance would only have won an award for 'worst actor of the year'.  Especially how her "symptoms" suddenly came on her only after something was said.

Still, she gave them the description of the guy she was looking for and said she was looking for borloi.  Nodding, one of them said they were looking for someone using a name Jocelynn had never heard and they saw another of them start whispering into his jacket hem.  The guy talking to Jocelynn said, "You can drop the act now." in a flat tone.  After an uncomfortable pause where neither Jocelynn or Fesic knew what they'd walked into, a door opened down one of the passages.  Out of that, a larger, beefy man came and he was dragging a smaller more wiry man behind him by the collar.

Jocelynn recognized the smaller man right off as the dealer who'd robbed her.  without comment, the larger man 'hop-marched' the dealer forward and demanded, "Is this who you're looking for?"  Jocelynn leaned back, smiled and said, "Why, yes it is." in a tone that was meant to tell the dealer he'd be very sorry that she'd finally found him again.  "The man looked at the dealer and demanded, "Is this who you do business with?"  Then, still holding the dealer by his collar, the larger man leaned toward Jocelynn and demanded, "Are you one of his?  Are you his partner?"  Pushed back, Jocelynn was confused as she reacted, "His?  No!" while those around her and Fesic started bringing up small weapons!

At a loss for words and then getting control of herself back, Jocelynn answered, "His partner, no.  I was robbed by him."  Handing the dealer off to another of the men there, the big man demanded, "Oh really?  Can you prove that?"  The look on the man's face was smug and certain because no criminal kept records of their crimes unless they were idiots.  Not being a criminal herself, Jocelynn was shocked by the question, and then told him, "Yes I can!" in a tone that suggested she was as surprised as he was to be able to do it.  While speaking, Jocelynn pulled out her Ident and activated to show the time and date of the KCr 2 deal.  She then told him he could check the dealer's unit to confirm the deal was made.

Realizing this person was too stupid to actually be using the drug dealer "because" she willingly held out her Ident for them, one of the guys checked the transactions and nodded to the bigger man.  The bigger man looked and asked, "So, what am I looking at here?"  Jocelynn then told them about meeting the guy in the bar and agreeing to buy the borloi from hum for Cr 800, and that he'd run the deal for Cr 2,000 instead.  When they asked her how much of the borloi she'd agreed to pay Cr 800 for, Jocelynn told them it had been ten hits and all the other men laughed.  Jocelynn nodded and accepted the humiliation, and the big man told her that was Cr 200 worth of borloi.  They then shared a laugh and the big man joked, "You're new at this, aren't you?"

The big man then grabbed the dealer again, dragging him closer to Jocelynn and demanded, "Do you recognize this woman?"  Between the shotgun Jocelynn still had on her back and the big man who had him prisoner, Jocelynn couldn't tell who the dealer was really afraid of but he was more scared after he got his first look at her up close.  One of the men in the small cluster said, "Oh!  Look!  He recognizes her." with a pleased tone.  Handing the dealer back to one of his people, the big man's attitude changed and he turned back to Jocelynn to ask, "So, who told you to come here?"  Jocelynn considered that, aware the answer to this question could decide if she and Fesic left there on their feet or in parts?

Coming to a decision, Jocelynn told him, "A mutual friend." and kept her face in what she hoped was a mask of calm.  Skeptical, the man asked, "A mutual friend just happened to know where we are?" in a doubting tone.  Holding her hands up and out, Jocelynn said, "I...  I asked for help where I could find this, lovely gentleman, and this is where I was told to go."  Again, Jocelynn hoped the look in her eyes would tell the man this was a 'hard stop' and she wasn't giving any more information on who directed her.  Nodding, the man said, "Well, we're in the process of re-educating this, lovely gentleman..."

Quickly putting a smile on her face, Jocelynn wasn't aware she interrupted the man as she said, "I will let you have him!" in a voice that said she was pleased to do so.  Nodding, the man said, "Your association with this man is done and my advice to you is to go back to our mutual friend and tell them to forget this place exists if they don't want something bad to happen to them.  Nodding, Jocelynn did say, "But, we do want something bad to happen to him." while pointing at the dealer.  After that got a look from the man, Jocelynn thanked him and said she'd come back if she needed "their services" again.  He shook his head and said, "No.  You won't." in a tone that warned her how that would end.

Jocelynn brightened up and said, "Right!  This place doesn't exist." as if she'd just had an epiphany...because she had.  With that, it was time to leave.  Jocelynn accepted that she wouldn't get her cash back but she was happy justice would be served.  When she said as much to Fesic, he said he was sure the man was gonna face karma.  Beyond that, the two made the hour-long trip back to the ship's berth and could celebrate the fact that no one was beaten up this time, and they weren't being brought back to the ship by station security.

Grinding Forward

     At 6am, alarms went off in most of the crew's staterooms, and everyone except Aiden, Aali and Emkir made it out to the ship's lounge after finishing their daily routines.  Comparing notes, Rol asked Jocelynn what she and Fesic did, saying "We went to a bar and had a great time."  Jocelynn answered him that she and Fesic had also gone to a bar and had a great time too.  Of course, Aiden assumed Jocelynn was lying simply because his imagination had no connection to reality and disaster "had to have happened".  When Aiden made his comment, suggesting Fesic should be reacting physically to Jocelynn's lie, Fesic admitted, "I have to say I was worried when those four people were around us and I was like, 'Is she gonna go ballistic on them?', because I'm in deep doo doo."

Giving Jocelynn the eye, Rol asked, "Four guys, huh?" as the others laughed at Fesic's description of the situation.  Jocelynn shrugged and said, "Well, Fesic wanted to go out so..." and Rol nodded saying, "Uh huh" in a tone suggesting he didn't believe a word of that.  Coming clean, Jocelynn told them "We went looking for that guy who robbed me and we found him and others who were..."  When Rol gave a grunt that suggested she should continue and then asked, "Did you finish him off?" Jocelynn answered, "I didn't but the other four people did."  When Rol grimaced and said, "That takes all the fun out of it." Jocelynn agreed but said it had been handled.

After morning chow, Zimzod, Jocelynn and Rol went back to disassembling Jocelynn's battledress.  While they did that, Terin did his best to try and recall some of the computer exercises he'd been working on seven months before.  Fesic planned to relax and take things easy while checking on the sales he'd posted.  He was setting up at a terminal to do that when a comms came in.  Hoping to get a laugh, Fesic answered, "Terin's hookah shop." and the caller disconnected.  A few minutes later, another call came in and Fesic answered normally.  Still, the caller was confused enough to ask if they were reaching a hookah shop before Fesic reassured them.  The caller said he was from a ship called the "Minerva's Fate" and they were calling about the vacc suit the ship had posted for sale.

When they asked for details on the suit, Fesic said it had belonged to a former crew member and wasn't being used much so it was kept in storage.  They asked if they could have a crew member try it on and Fesic said they could so they asked what time would be good for them to visit the ship?  Fesic told them to show up at 2pm and they exchanged docking information.  While this happened, Aiden had woken in his stateroom and went through his daily routine.  After that was done, Aiden dove into practicing with his stent before moving out into the ship's lounge and greeting the others.  While he finished working on that, Aali and Emkir woke to their alarm.

Aali took the lead that morning and logged into a terminal to check the engineering system reports and look at the updates from the androids.  After that, she and Emkir practiced the click codes they'd been taught the night before.  Because of Emkir's language talents, he did better learning the code talk.  After working at that for some time, Emkir and Aali finally emerged from their stateroom well into mid-morning, not long after Aiden had come out of his stateroom.  When they did, Terin was working on his computer work while Rol, Zimzod and Jocelynn were not visible and Fesic was relaxing.  In the lounge, Emkir returned to his translation work while Aali went down to engineering.

Questions And Challenges

     At 6:30 am, Mikah had been woken by the same psion, who she'd learned was a Lieutenant Commander.  Mikah knew that was a rank where the woman should have been commanding a medical division of her own aboard a ship if not being assigned as the chief medical officer aboard a capital ship.  If she considered it, that could have been yet another indication about how being a psion limited a person's military career.  Even when no one knew she was one.  After she ordered and had breakfast, Mikah was joined by the rest of her team.  They had brought more readers, and they introduced Mikah to the histories they had brought of publicized events.  The doctor explained to her that they also had the actual mission reports from teams involved and were going to compare the reality of the events with what was made public.

Of course, Mikah knew, as any military veteran did, that what was reported often had nothing to do with how an event really played out?  So she wasn't surprised there was what history said, there was what really happened.  In this case, the most significant suppressed factors were the involvement of psions, either covertly or much more rarely in the open.  They then spent the day stepping through incident after incident where the intervention of Imperium-serving psionic teams either helped bring the situation to a successful conclusion or actually saved the day.  In the end, Mikah was faced with the simple fact they could have faked "some" of the data, but there was far too much for them to fake all of it.

Eventually, Mikah asked those with her, "So tell me.  Was Miss Bitch Imperial or Zhodani?"  It took them a second or two to realize she was asking about Leeta.  Catching up with Mikah, they admitted that Leeta had actually been a Zhodani as far as they currently knew.  The doctor reminded Mikah that Dinomn had been over-run by the Zhodani 40th Fleet during its drive towards Rhylanor.  After that, Imperial liberation fleets had cut in behind the 40th to cut Zhodani supply lines and eventually trap the invading fleet.  Because of that, numbers of Zhodani troops and agents were caught in Imperial space and not all of them had been tracked down.  And that was another secret job for Imperial psions.

The expectation was, until they could question Leeta, that the woman had been a Zhodani jump commando.  During the later part of 1109 and early 1110, the Imperial 193rd fleet liberated the Dinomn system.  Leeta had likely used her talents to teleport to the station and hide as the ship she was assigned to came under attack and was crippled or destroyed.  They believed she hoped to find a way to escape back to the Consulate.  While she hide within the population, Leeta likely used her psi-talents to "haze" the minds of those around her to protect herself.  That suggested she was almost constantly using some her psi-energy and had to find safe bolt-holes in which to collapse and recover.

If they had to guess, the doctor told Mikah that Leeta likely didn't have a ship of her own, nor could she fly a ship if she did.  They guessed she was both a teleporter and a telepath, so she was very dangerous even on her own.  They weren't sure how the theft of the money from the negotiations would have helped her plan?  They expected she would try to use that money to get back to Zhodani space.  That meant she was hoping to use Mikah and her crew as patsies and escape the system before the hard currency she was using could be traced back to her locally.  Then, they guessed, she'd use that cash and her psi-talents to get home again.  Mikah asked why they hadn't found her and was told that, like anything else, psions were limited by range.

There were those trained to scan whole sections of solar systems, but you had to know where to look for psions to scan for them?  And Zhodani psions were also well trained in hiding.  Knowing she was trapped behind enemy lines, Leeta would have known to hide and then would have been very careful in scouting out the system, to figure out where she could safely operate.  That meant she would have done her best to keep from being spotted by those Imperial psions in the system.  Mikah was also told the team working with her were not actually stationed in Dinomn.  When Mikah asked why they were in-system, the doctor admitted they'd been assigned to Dinomn because Mikah's crew had travelled there.  Surprised, Mikah asked why that was and was told they didn't know why.  All they could say was they'd been shifted to Dinomn from Regina and told to be ready for anything.

Accepting that, Mikah asked what their orders would be when her crew left for Ghandi, as planned?  The doctor reminded her his team were still active duty, and would would be given orders then.  Mikah asked how many other places her crew had been followed to, and was annoyed when he said they had no information on the crew's travels.  And, no information on any over-all orders for or about Mikah's crew.  They could only talk about their orders from Regina, limited as they were.  When Mikah was honestly skeptical of their answers, the doctor asked if Mikah thought it would be helpful for her to actually "see" the honesty of his answers for herself?

Not sure what the hell that meant, Mikah asked, "What do you mean by that?" in a cautious tone.  The doctor told her they could bring in a telepath who could help her do that, suggesting they could help her see inside the doctor's mind!  Mikah realized that meant the telepath would reach into her mind and his to connect them, Mikah refused, firmly saying "Nobody's getting inside my head!"  The doctor raised his hands in an open gesture as he said, "It's just an offer." and Mikah answered by pointing to her head and saying, "State secrets." with a glare that said, 'You're not getting anything from me.'  Leaning back and nodding, the doctor answered Mikah, "You mean, like the Quasar Viper."

Mikah had to hide her reaction while wondering just how many people actually knew about this devastating secret she and the crew had worked so hard to hide?  Mikah hid her surprise from the doctor with a quick, "Yes!" and he said, "We've been briefed on you."  Mikah then asked, "IRIS??  Or, them?"?  When that didn't get answer, Mikah continued making the one mistake she continually made when faced with intelligence agencies.  She assumed they were all the same, or all shared everything completely.  So, she asked, "OK, so tell me why, when IRIS brought me into that little thing, and they took Sir Zimzod, and they took him for, like, a week.  But, they didn't take me for a week?"

The doctor told Mikah they had no information on Sir Zimzod or his involvement in any Imperial psionic activities at all.  The doctor did tell Mikah they could request additional orders and see if they wanted Zimzod brought in too, but also made it clear any such orders would take two weeks to travel back and forth too.  Mikah told them, "He told me he could sense when someone who was a psion was in the room."  From their reactions and glance between each other, Mikah could tell that was a surprise to them.  Mikah simply continued, "That's what he told me.  I didn't have a gun on me so I didn't shoot him.  That's why he's still alive."  And as Mikah shot off her mouth, she had no idea that the team around her were certainly preparing to ask for further orders!

Outwardly, the doctor continued to tell Mikah they had no information on Zimzod at all.  Mikah continued to dump extra information, saying, "Well, I know...  Well, I assume we were scanned when we were back on Rhylanor."  When the team around her didn't respond or react to that, Mikah continued to talk.  "We were brought into a meeting, and two guys in grey suits..."  At that, she stopped and looked the doctor in the eyes and pointedly said, "You really should change your uniforms.  Just saying."  Accepting that, the doctor told her the only thing they could do, if Mikah was willing to concentrate on that memory, was to bring in a telepath to determine what they could learn?

When Mikah wasn't willing to go with that she was reminded there was no "open network" where they shared everything known.  He reminded her there were multiple and separate intelligence agencies and they didn't share often or much.  Part of that was a caution, because Mikah had obviously assumed their naval intelligence organization was connected to IRIS.  Something IRIS wouldn't be pleased about it if they learned how much Mikah was spreading about.  He did say they were willing to help her dig into and explain any event they could help her with, but she'd have to open up and cooperate with them if they were to offer her any explanations of what she remembered.

Finally, Mikah made a decision and said, "OK.  You know what?  Yeah.  I want to know what they did then, and I wanna know what they did when they brought me to the little IRIS factory."  With Mikah's acceptance, the team shifted gears.  A telepath was brought in and some of the members of the team actually left, to not potentially be included in any information releases they didn't need to be part of.  After they were settled in, they had Mikah relax as the telepath began to concentrate.  Mikah was told to concentrate on the first of the memories she would like to have explained.

For the first memory, Mikah concentrated on a point she remembered dealing with figures in grey suits, Inger and Lord William.  As the telepath concentrated, and they discussed the memory, Mikah realized she'd misremembered and thought she and Inger had been brought in to speak with William while men in grey suits watched.  What she was remembering happened after Inger first met with members of the crew of the Cursed Bastards of Sol.  Working with Mikah, she remembered how a man in grey had come to their berth, asked for Inger, and introduced himself as from the "Rhylanor System Security Investigative Division".  When the man made it clear he wanted to talk to Inger about her activities that day, Mikah had gotten aggressive about being included, and he called in back up and arrested Inger!  When Mikah called Lord William to protest, he said they were not IRIS and IRIS had not been involved.  Eventually, they asked Inger the questions they wanted and released her with the suggestion she stop dealing with the crew of the Solomani ship.

When more memories were explored, the telepath did identify some of the grey suited men as members of the Arch Duke's security team.  She apologized for not being able to determine what questions they were trying to ask since the agents never came out and said what they were looking for?  The doctor did tell Mikah they would be on Regina in a month's time, which Mikah already knew because she knew of the ceremonies to be held there.  The doctor said that, after they were done with their work, Mikah and her crew could come back to Regina along with them, and ask the security team herself.  Mikah only answered that by saying, "I'll think about it."

When they turned to the memory of IRIS pulling her into the factory, they were able to pull up a second related memory in which Mikah had talked with Mr. Dilgaadin on Regina.  While he certainly knew of IRIS, she had brought up Lord William's name and only realized Mr. Dilgaadin hadn't known about Lord William after that.  The also brought up a small number of memories where Mikah was dealing with various intelligence agencies and mentioned IRIS while assuming they knew of it or were IRIS agents.  So, when IRIS had pulled her in to talk to her, they were upset about how often she'd exposed their name.  that showed there was nothing more to that meeting than IRIS wanting her to be more closed mouthed about them.

When the doctor pointed out this might be a reason IRIS would have issues with Mikah, she said she was glad, because she didn't see them helping her crew at all, while demanding the crew jumped through hoops themselves.  Nodding as he listened to Mikah, the doctor asked her to hold her comments for a moment and then called in another person.  This was a mousey-looking smaller woman and the doctor asked her to sit.  He then asked, "Are you willing to learn from a telepath?"  Annoyed, Mikah asked, "What the hell can I learn from a telepath?"  The doctor shrugged and said, "She's a telepath and has the information I want you to learn.  It would take us about three weeks to show you the regular way."

Mikah said, "Why not." and they had the woman and Mikah relax as best they could and then the woman established a telepathic link.  After that, in the space of four hours, Mikah was brought though three weeks of operations infiltrating and assassinating people while data was gathered.  It turned out, as Mikah watched, that this small woman had been one of the "hit people" assigned to hunt down and break the rumor cells on Regina.  So, while Mikah and the crew had not been told this was happening, there had still been a lot going on behind the scenes.  One of the most important details Mikah learned was that the information she was being guided by came from a team of combined IRIS and Regina Intelligence agents.

This woman had been brought in from an Imperial Navy reserve unit in the Regina Navy.  While Mikah wasn't happy with IRIS or the doctor at that point, the memories she'd been shown made the point that a number of agencies, including IRIS, were working behind the scenes.  They were just being covert about it, because they were secret organizations.  Aside from that, Mikah could take some satisfaction from having learned that five of those "eliminated" had been off-worlders and possibly either Stepozhevaci or Natokan.  For that, she thanked the young assassin, who nodded and asked the doctor if it was likely she could get back to her vacation?  The doctor laughed and told Mikah the woman had been traveling to a vacation destination when they called her up.

When Mikah apologized but made it clear that wasn't her fault, the woman said, "No worries."  She did then say Mikah and the crew could now return to Regina any time she wanted.  That suggested the "rumors issue" had been cleared up.  Mikah just took that under advisement, saying, "We'll think about it."  The woman asked if she was needed anymore or if Mikah had any more questions?  When no one else had any questions for her, the woman left.  After that, the doctor asked Mikah how she would feel if they gave her the pistol she'd dropped when she was shot?

Mikah was surprised and told him she didn't know they had the weapon.  Nodding, the doctor told her they'd found it where She'd dropped it, and thought it might have been some advanced tech weapon Leeta had brought with her from the Consulate.  Then, they'd investigated and found out the correct origin of the pistol.  So, they had it stored in the hospital.  Considering that, Mikah asked if she could contact the ship and tell her crew she was OK?  The doctor told her she couldn't yet do that but said they'd been told she was improving.  When the doctor then asked if she would use the weapon if they gave it back to her, Mikah said, "Not unless I have to."  Satisfied with that, they gave Mikah her laser pistol.

Compensation And Prayers

     Having practiced with his stent and then relaxed before lunch, Aiden decided to spent the afternoon reading.  Rol, Zimzod and Jocelynn had to get back to the work on her battledress.  During lunch, Emkir asked Jocelynn what happened when she and Fesic went out the night before, and Jocelynn shut that conversation down.  So, after lunch, Aali and Emkir were talking about getting out and getting to a gym or something.  When Aali pushed that, Emkir complained they'd both been doing too much 'brain-work' and they should just go out and do something fun or touristy for a change, so they talked about that.  Fesic was also up for just hanging out and recovering from his mugging injuries and waiting for the other crew to come check out the vacc suit.

While everyone else was talking about or relaxing into what they planned, Terin suggested they go out and do something as a crew that afternoon.  Fesic asked, "Like what?" and reminded them all he was waiting on the people who called about Munarshu's vacc suit.  Rol joked about going to an amusement park and got some laughs.  Terin suggested museums or Tri-d films or a show.  While they talked about that, Zimzod got on the comms and called the navy base to see if he could visit Mikah?  The person he spoke to said Mikah's condition was improving but she was not able to have visitors.

In the conversation about what to do, Fesic had joked about the crew getting matching tattoos and Jocelynn realized she was the only member of the crew who actually had a tattoo.  Conversation about that died down quickly when Jocelynn, Rol and Zimzod said they wouldn't be going out with the others and had to work on her armor.  When they brought up hitting a shooting range, Terin said that was a bad idea because Fesic was still recovering from his bruised ribs.  Fesic pointed out he could fire weapons without a kick, like his zero-gee guns but he still had to wait for the vacc suit buyers to show up.  Emkir said he'd been thinking more about taking Aali for a nice walk in the park or something else no-brain but Aali said shooting used a different part of the brain and was relaxing too.

So, without Fesic and the others, Aiden, Terin, Emkir and Aali planned to go to a range and Emkir came up with the idea of hiring an instructor to help him.  Because he could afford to hire the best instructors, he and Aali wanted to know which range might have the best instructors, so Aali called TAS.  When they got the concierge, the range recommended was called, "The Dead Marines".  That shop was started by survivors of a ship crash landing on Dinomn where the conscripted troop transport was wrecked and the survivors salvaged what they could and did what they could to survive.  Despite an "inspection" by the Imperial Navy, they were given the blessing to sell what they had.

Getting the contact data for the range, they called and made sure it had zero-g facilities for practice and Aali called a weapons transport.  That cost her Cr 50 for her weapons and Emkir's, and there was a Cr 10 side fee for Terin and Aiden each.  Because they had zero-gee firing stalls, Aali brought her gauss and snub pistols.  Terin brought his gauss rifle, gauss pistol and gauss shotgun pistol.  Emkir choose to focus on his gauss pistol because he was weakest with that.  Aiden started with his snub pistol, snub rifle and his LAG.  Terin was stuck with the Cr 40 cab fee because it was his idea.

When they arrived, the range was in a docking and industrial arm of the station and was called "the Dead Marines".  Inside, it was decked out with war trophies and had racks of weapons on display for sale.  Taking some time to check the place out, they saw there were both standard and customized weapons for sale.  The shop also had a tech on staff to customize or do what they called "stylizing".  That was purely changing the physical look of a weapon but they were told it could mean adding spikes to the barrel of a long weapon to make it a melee weapon too.

Both Aali and Emkir each chose to hire Cr 500 an hour instructors to help them improve with their shooting.  Following their lead, Terin also hired a Cr 500 instructor.  Because they hadn't brought ammo, the four agreed to pay as they went for ammo.  Terin ended up paying Cr 1,380 for ammo, Emkir and Aali spent Cr 800 each and Aiden spent Cr 720.  While Aali and Emkir were happy to play 'follow the leader' with what the instructor noticed or discussed, Terin directed some of the conversation into breath control while firing and bio-mechanics.  Having planned to fire less ammo and not having hired an instructor, Aiden took breaks to chat with the staff and asked about odd or most unique weapons they'd seen.  Reacting to that, Aiden was surprised when they had images to show off.  These were both what they'd customized and what had walked in through the door.

Because Emkir was so used to firing his standard slug throwers, his instructor was having quite a time of it trying to help the man.  Soon, he hit on the one thing he could offer to help Emkir if he were ever caught in combat with the gauss pistol.  That was an electronic add on.  The device he recommended connected to the end of the weapon's barrel and extended about half a centimeter to either side.  It had a set of "back-casting" optics in the back of each side and stereoscopically captured an image of the person firing the weapon.  Then, the micro-computer brain of the device created and broadcast a generic-grade holographic image of the shooter to a point in front of the shooter.  The device had a setting that allowed the shooter to set the "forward point" ether ten yards or ten feet ahead of the shooter.

As the instructor explained it, the device was all about confusion and mis-direction, and the more fog or smoke there was on the battlefield, the more confusing its effect to a point.  Told it would cost Cr 3,000, Emkir was interested and he was told he'd have to leave the weapon over-night for them to modify it.  Emkir was happy to do that and signed off on the work as they explained this was not just installation but proper balancing and other requirements.  While they discussed that, Aali shopped and found a bullpup version of a standard shotgun she liked and asked for a price on it.  Because this was a weapon that would be stocked locally, and even used by the down-worlders, it only cost Cr 250 so Aali bought one.

Terin asked about having his gauss rifle customized and was told they could but was warned that would take hours working with him and testing alterations with weights and sensors.  For that, they recommended he come back the next day and be prepared to spend all day working with their technician.  The price they offered was Cr 2,000 for that.  Accepting that, Terin made plans to leave his gauss rifle over-night, so he could return the next day to work with their tech.  When they finished up the shopping, Emkir also asked about having his pistol delivered after the projector was mounted and was told that would be an extra Cr 50 fee.  Emkir was happy to pay that because he had no idea what their plans would be the next day.

While the others were off shooting or working on Jocelynn's battledress, Fesic had been relaxing and waiting for the people interested in Munarshu's vacc suit.  When they showed up, it was the ship's purser and several crewmen.  The purser told Fesic they were hiring on a stationer as a new crewman, and he didn't have his own vacc suit.  When they checked, it turned out the Upgrade was selling a suit which just might fit the man so they wanted to come check it out.  If the suit fit, the stationer was prepared to cover all the costs, so he'd pay if things worked out.  Fesic understood that because stationers rarely signed on to become merchanters and even more rarely had the skills a ship needed.  Understanding that, they put the man into the suit and stood back while the purser checked out the fit and quality.

While he said the suit was a bit loose on the man, the purser said it would work out well enough and told the man to buy it if he were serious about signing on.  Nodding, the man asked how much Fesic was asking for the suit and Fesic told him Cr 14,000.  Nodding, the man agreed and paid the cost while the purser asked about the other things the ship was selling?  Checking that gear out, they decided to buy the radiation counter, the ear-piece comms unit and the stationer turned merchant wanted the collection of Zach's silver accessories.  On top of that, they were willing to pay the ship's asking prices on everything.  After the sale was done and the others left, Fesic updated the sales listings.  Eventually the others got done with the armor or returned from the range in time for Rol to cook dinner.

During dinner, Emkir again suggested to Aali that they take that walk in the park he'd suggested the day before.  But he was reminded the crew had agreed to hold two-hour classes on click codes followed by an hour of stent classes that Aali was to lead.  Accepting that they'd have to wait until the next day for the park, Emkir took part in the code class for that two hours.  Then, he sparked up a version of "Hivers vs K'Kree Wars" and spent the time watching ships blast each other in space until the stent class was done.  After that, he planned on getting Aali into a video game or two.  After the stent class, Zimzod hit the rack.  As he'd planned, Aali picked up a controller as Emkir sparked up the bi-plane combat video game.  Terin asked who was up to go to a club and both Aiden and Rol said they were interested.

Mining Without Asteroids

     After code class, Jocelynn and Fesic again left the ship after she'd changed to black slacks and coat with a light top and keeping her shotgun.  They made their way back to the bar where Jocelynn got the address the night before.  This time, they planned to just hang out.  Getting to the bar, Jocelynn saw the same bouncer and caught a surprised look on his face when he saw them coming.  Playing things casual, Jocelynn tossed the man a Cr 20 chit and said "Thanks" when they passed into the bar.  Wisely, he just pocketed the chit and nodded as they took a booth and ordered beers.  After entering their orders on the console, Fesic caught a glimpse of the bouncer excitedly whispering into a comms on his right arm cuff.

Ten minutes later, another man showed up to talk to the bouncer.  While they didn't catch any of what was said, the man took the bouncer's post and the first man left.  Agreeing that was strange, Jocelynn guessed he was either reporting back to someone or making himself scarce.  Either way, she was sure it was about them.  That was followed by some moments of paranoid conversation as they agreed they were not told not to come back to the bar, just that address.  Fesic said he was still certain the bouncer was off reporting to someone about them.  Still, after an hour and two drinks each, nothing had happened except that the android patrolled the tables encouraging people to order drinks.

After an hour of waiting for nothing, the two decided to go looking for a bar where they might overhear something because that bar was too subdued.  After a bit of wandering down the companionway, they came on a bar that was lit up and rocking!  It was such an odd change from what they expected they felt they had to go in.  Looking over the people in the bar, half of them were "happily drinking" and the other half looked happy to have something to drink.  It didn't take them long to find out that one of the local belters had made a strike worth a chunk of change and was celebrating.  The others were happy he was encouraging people to party with him, and sometimes that meant he paid for drinks!

Still, people were mostly buying their own drinks while they were warned to be prepared for surprises.  When Jocelynn asked the man what he was drinking to, the belter said he hit a vein of iridium in a rock!  Jocelynn asked, "What about Iran?" and got a blank look back before the man went back to his drink.  Jocelynn ordered a whiskey to toast him with, and Fesic ordered a scotch on the rocks.  Hearing this, the belter, who was more than a bit drunk, called Fesic a wimp because he was watering down perfectly good alcohol.  Jocelynn suggested the man take things easy and not spend his gains in one shot.  The man chided her that it was a big strike.  He said with certainty that he wouldn't burn all his cash out "this time".

After saying he'd already been paid, he sidled a bit closer to Jocelynn and said, "I'd like to get laid too." in a suggestive tone.  Jocelynn just called out, "Fesic?"  Jocelynn reached for Fesic while the belter asked, "What's that supposed to mean?  What's a fesic?"  Meanwhile, Jocelynn was busy reaching for the gunner and trying to pull his body between herself and the belter.  When he started moving into position, Jocelynn pointed and said, "This is Fesic." as the belter shook his head and said, "I don't go that way."  Trying for a laugh, Jocelynn pointed to Fesic's face and said, "But look at those lips.  Come on!" the belter just turned away mumbling that he'd find another girl.

Jocelynn suggested to Fesic that they hang out with the party for a while and see what happened.  They watched as most people partied with the belter and some few asked leading questions about where "his rock" was in the belt?  Those few, he was happy to say should go down to the station's claim office and look up the paperwork 'cause he was too drunk to navigate.  Fesic started mingling and started asking what people knew of the belter?  What Fesic learned over a half hour was that the belter was known as a "High low hitter".  That meant he sometimes hit a strike and rode the high but was mostly a low-end belter rarely having luck or cash.  The "worst" dirt Fesic could find was that the belter could get ornery when followed so he mostly worked the outer edge of a belt where the odds were there was little anyway.

So, he mostly made his own bad luck.  Ultimately, the biggest opinion Fesic found was that someone would "inherit" his ship one day when they found it floating with his dead body in it.  Not because he was killed, but because he took one risk too many, or pushed his luck too far.  Fesic wandered, but didn't hear anything really negative or suggestive there was anything criminal about the belter.  Of course, with everyone hoping he'd buy them their next drink, that wasn't really likely.  While Fesic listened, Jocelynn asked one of the random people sharing smiles what he did for work?  The man said he was a docking arm worker.  Jocelynn nodded but, as a marine, had no real idea what that meant.

Turning back to the belter, Jocelynn asked, "So, do you have any partners?"  The man snapped, "No!  Don't want 'em.  Don't Need 'em!" in a firm voice.  Then running an eye over her curves, he changed his tone and almost crooned, "Unless you wanna get laid?"  When the belter looked into her face and said, "You got a pretty mouth", Fesic wasn't far away.  Hearing that said, Fesic answered, "I do." before he looked up and realized who'd said what?  Then, he pointed to Jocelynn and said, "Oh, were you talking to her?"  Everyone close enough to hear the exchange burst out laughing while the belter moved away from Fesic like a number of the others.

Eventually, things settled down and Fesic wandered to hang out with another part of the crowd and Jocelynn asked the belter, "What happens when something breaks on your ship and you can't afford the parts?  The belter shrugged and said, "Steal it.  Borrow some money and fergit it.  Maybe pretend you got money and get it."  Jocelynn asked, "Do you steal a lot of things?" and he told her, "When I have to." in a tone that told her he had no regrets at all.  While Jocelynn considered that, the belter smiled and said, "Gotta keep the ship flying." as if that covered everything.  Jocelynn only nodded and said, "Yeah.  I know how that goes."

About that time, another young lady came into the bar and Jocelynn suddenly found herself "less attractive", because she'd already said 'No'.  He unapologetically started moving towards the new arrival and Jocelynn realized she was loosing her chance to learn...anything.  When he started moving off, Jocelynn suddenly said, "Well, now.  Hold on there just a second."  Jocelynn said that while reaching over to gently take the belter's shoulder, to get him to turn back towards her.  Trying to figure out just how to get out of this corner she'd painted herself into, Jocelynn smiled and said, "I didn't say 'no' so much as I said, 'not yet'."  Looking at her with suddenly widening and pleased eyes, the belter first gave a drawn out "Aaahhhhhh" before he very happily said, "Cool!  Let's get us a room!" and reached out to drag Jocelynn along with him.

Realizing what she'd just done, Jocelynn suddenly walked that back, saying, "Not...right now."  Hearing that, the belter accused her of playing with him and Jocelynn said she wasn't.  When Jocelynn tried the excuse, "I just got here!  I need more drinks." he waved her off saying, "Yer just playing with me.  I'm going over to her."  Jocelynn wanted to keep trying to get him to talk but realized she couldn't force it so she watched as he moved on.  The belter got closer to the new girl and spent some time chatting and getting close.  It took fifteen minutes or so before it was obvious to those watching that he asked her, and just as obvious she said no.  And while no one was surprised, he was disappointed again.

No one was also surprised when the first "No" didn't change his interest.  Like when he continued to sniff at Jocelynn's skirt while she said no, he would keep at the new girl until another walked in.  Jocelynn decided to have a beer and wait ten minutes to see if he'd forgotten she said no, and give her another chance to mine for information.  Finally, hoping he'd forgotten their last conversation, Jocelynn wandered back across the belters path as she "put some english" on the swing of her curves and waited for his attention to follow.

With the man's attention, Jocelynn smiled and said, "Before you go broke, let me buy you a drink."  That was new enough a twist the belter was happy to let her buy him a glass.  Still, he happily told Jocelynn, "There's no way I'm goin' broke this time!"  Jocelynn considered the words, 'this time' against his 'happy but certain' attitude.  Waiting for the barman to hand the drinks over, Jocelynn asked, "What's the name of your ship?" and he told her, "The Beschermer." with more than a small mix of pride, command and straight-out offensive and possessive "MINE!" in his voice.

When the drinks were arriving, Jocelynn asked, "Are you in the market for any parts right now?"  A bit more directly, the belter said, "No.  Are you sellin'?"  Jocelynn said she wasn't but continued, "I was just wondering where and how you find parts when you need them?" and he answered, "It depends on what part I need."  And while the need could be deadly serious at the time, he made the comment without the slightest care in the world before he took a pull on his new drink.  He then continued, "It depends on who's got it.  Are you shoppin' for parts?"  Asking that question, Jocelynn felt he might have fixed her with a more calculating look.  When Jocelynn said, "Not exactly", the belter said, "well, you go where the parts are and you see who's got 'em."

Leaning closer, Fesic asked, "What do you do then?"  Turning to look at Fesic, the belter said, "You cut a deal."  Hoping to start a line of conversation leading where he wanted to go, Fesic started saying, "So, you must be in a lot of debt..."  And was cut off by the belter's happy exclamation, "Not Now!"  Fesic tried to get things back on track, saying, "People will be after you to pay your debts now."  The belter answered, "I paid off all my debts" in a voice proud at the achievement.  Not sure how to say what he wanted to convey, Fesic asked, "So, you cut a deal like that when you need a part?" and the belter said, "Yep!  That's the way it's done, son."

Not sure how to move the conversation in the direction she wanted, Jocelynn was thinking it was time to back off and come back again after thinking out a strategy.  Still, she asked the belter if he'd be in the bar the next night and he said he might.  She nodded and said, "Ok.  I'll look for you." and he told her, "Wear something sexy."  Smiling as she moved away, Jocelynn said, "You got it" and winked at the man.  Nodding to Fesic, the two got moving and headed back to the ship for the night.  Back at the ship, Jocelynn cleaned off the "ick" of her evening and got into a loose, soft top and comfy slacks.  Then, she waited until she hoped Fesic was asleep.  Then, she snuck into his stateroom and gently slipped into bed behind him, making him the "small spoon" as she cuddled next to him and slipped off to sleep.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Mikah: In the Imperial Navy base hospital under treatment
     Terin: Asleep on the ship before a day at "The Dead Marines" to customize his gauss rifle
     Jocelynn: Asleep, having snuck into Fesic's stateroom to make him "the small spoon"
     Everyone else: Asleep aboard the ship with no specific plans

Next: Straight Plans And Strange Bedfellows