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Last Updated     April 28 2020
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Shopping, Adventure
       And Shootouts

Getting Started, Getting Tested

Dinomn Image      After a night where none of the crew at the ship had gotten more than five hours sleep, Terin was pushing the idea that they should go to an amusement park on-station.  While everyone else in the ship's lounge wasn't refusing, there was definitely a lack of enthusiasm.  Draining interest more, Jocelynn needed Aali to get to work on installing her terrarium, because she had to plant the cacti she'd bought.  Fesic had woken early and gone for a walk in a local agro-dome.  And Mikah was in a hospital room on the local navsal base, where she'd been woken early.  Despite her psi-boosted healing, Mikah was cooperating with the "testing" even though she would have preferred to sleep in.

After days of case histories and work to understand the realities of psionic agents and work in the Imperium, this day was a very different kind of stress for Mikah.  The "evaluation" they'd said she would undergo was almost an understatement of the reality.  The team and others came in to work and test her to near exhaustion.  Despite the effort and constant nature of the testing, Mikah never once got any hint of the results they were seeing from her work.  Nor did they explain anything other than giving a steady stream of instruction.

In the ship's lounge, Aali had heard Terin's excited cheerleading to get the crew to go with him to an on-station amusement park.  Despite that, she knew the parts for Jocelynn's terrarium had been delivered and had to be installed.  While it didn't have to be completed that day, the succulents Jocelynn had bought were in pods which would only keep them alive for seven days.  So, she did have to get moving on the installation.  Especially because Aali would have to cut open the walls of Jocelynn's stateroom and re-route some of the stateroom's power feeds.  On top of that, Jocelynn would have to sleep somewhere else while the work was being done, and Aali wanted to reduce that time as much as she could.

When Aali said she'd be staying on the ship to start the work, Jocelynn said she'd stay and help with the work too.  That annoyed Terin, who wanted the whole crew to go because he felt they needed the stress relief.  The two saying they'd stay behind only turned up the tone on his push to get everyone to join in.  That was only cut short when Terin's comms started to buzz.  When he answered, he was greeted by one of the people at "The Dead Marines" weapons shop.  Terin was reminded he'd left his gauss rifle at the shop, two days before, so he could return to have it customized.  But that was to have happened the day before, and he'd blown off the return trip to the shop to do gear maintenance.

While he'd forgotten them, they'd made sure to have a staffer ready, and materials prepared, for the work.  They'd also reserved a shooting and testing range for the work, and not rented it out.  So, they were charging him Cr 1,000 for that failure to cancel or update them the day before.  When Terin tried to protest, they reminded him they had kept a technician standing by all day, in case he showed up.  Beyond that, the caller asked if he would come in for the work that day, or if they should simply ship the weapon back to him?  Terin was also told shipping it would cost him Cr 50 more.

Realizing his trip to the amusement park was dead, Terin told the others he had to go to the weapons shop and called for a port cab.  Cr 5 later, he was in the shop apologizing and preparing to spend the entire day working with their technician on testing the weapon.  That would be done using a surprisingly high-tech kit of anti-grav lifters and counter-grav repulsors.  By "adding weight" to some parts of the weapon or reducing weight to others with the lifters and repulsors, the techs could map the effect of changes to his aim and use of the weapons.  Also using special stocks and weapon components, they could test his grip points and methods and "body to weapon" contact points to see how changes in the weapon and physical contact would affect his aim.

With "Hurricane Terin" gone for the day, Aali and Jocelynn settled into their work while Emkir decided to work on translating the book images from Brian's collection.  Rol sat down with his new recipe books to decide which recipes he wanted to try, and creating ingredient shopping lists for the supplies he'd need.  After he finished a list of both dishes to cook and the supplies he'd need, Rol planned to go out and shop for them.  With mock-sorrow for Terin's sudden need to go to the gun shop, Aiden suggested they fill Terin's stateroom with helium so he'd have some fun after he got back to the ship.  After they stopped laughing about that, and at other jokes, Aiden decided to get into some gear maintenance.

Having never planned to go to the amusement park, Zimzod called the hospital to ask about Mikah.  In a repeat of the day before, the person who answered the comms checked a screen and said Mikah couldn't have visitors yet.  Like the day before, Zimzod decided to spend part of the morning working with both his stent and his battledress battle computer.  The rest of the morning, he'd spend working with the ship's existing gunnery training system to work on his combat skills.

Getting back to the ship around 10:30, Fesic first checked in with Zimzod and asked what he'd learned about Mikah?  When Zimzod answered, "Don't know.  They wouldn't tell me." Fesic considered his own experience in navy base hospitals, not that he really had much experience there.  He also accepted that Mikah had been shot in the chest and such wounds were very rarely not fatal, though Fesic remembered Zimzod saying she'd not been put in an isolation or critical care ward after her surgery.  What he remembered about checking on friends in naval hospitals was that they didn't much worry about "family connections" when withholding condition information but more concerned with anyone's "need to know".  As they would with classified data.

Still, Fesic asked if they'd given him any word on her condition, or if she'd been moved to an ICU or other critical care ward?  Zimzod admitted he'd called to see if he could visit or talk to Mikah and hadn't asked the other questions.  Shaking his head, Fesic called the hospital himself, to ask if Mikah could be visited and for an update on her condition.  Fesic was told that Mikah was "under treatment and responding" which only meant her doctors were caring for her and getting positive results.  It didn't even say if she were conscious or not.  When Fesic pushed, asking if she were conscious, he was told they could not state more than that she was under treatment and responding.  Trying an end run, Fesic asked, "Responding verbally?" and was told, "We don't have that information sir."

Thanking the operator he'd spoken to, Fesic also asked when she might be able to be visited and was told the doctor's orders said she could not have visitors.  After getting no more data than Zimzod had, Fesic cut the connection and told the others what he'd gotten from the call.  When Jocelynn heard that, she said the hospital's continued lack of any update was suspicious.  Fesic tried to sooth her concerns and Jocelynn demanded, "Doesn't it seem weird to you that they won't even tell us how she's doing?"  Fesic spread his hands as if asking what else he could do and told her, "Well, they did tell me how she's doing."

Despite Fesic's "comfort" with the lack of information, even if he was unhappy about it, Jocelynn was still suspicious of the situation.  So suspicious that she was of a mind that breaking into the hospital might be a good plan of action.  Hoping to pull her mind away from paths like that, Fesic suggested they talk about getting their stories straight if they planned to go out bar hopping for more information.  He suggested they come up with a common cover story to use for answers if they were questioned again.  When he brought up generic comms, Jocelynn said they could go into any basic appliance shop and get generic comms that would connect to the station's network for cheap.  They'd just have to buy it with physical credits to make it anonymous.

After talking with Jocelynn about their cover, and getting some input from Aali, Fesic went back into the ship's lounge and checked on the sales and auctions they had set up.  Having the link for Jocelynn High Passage auction, Fesic checked and saw someone had actually bid the passage up to Cr 5,500.  Still, that voucher was worth Cr 10,000 so there was still value to possibly be gained.  Seeing no other changes to the other items for sale, Fesic started digging into the news for stories from Regina.  He wanted to see if the stories supported the rumors he'd heard in the bar, that things were getting worse?

What Fesic saw was that things appeared to be calming down in that system.  The biggest news coming from Regina were about the preparations for a ceremony to be held on-world on the 330th day of the year.  That would be attended by Arch Duke Norris, Grand Duchess Delphine and Prince Lucan Alkhalikoi Alkhalikoi, nephew of Emperor Strephon Alkhalikoi.  Prince Lucan would stand in during the ceremonies for his Uncle, Emperor Strephon, and his cousin, Grand Princess Ciencia lphegenia Alkhalikoi, the Emperor's Heir Apparent.  So, everything Fesic found said things were improving in the Regina system, not getting worse.

These ceremonies would celebrate the official ascendance of Duchess Seldrian Aledon when her father formally turned the Duchy of Regina over to her.  Fesic considered the stories he read as he went back several weeks and thought to himself that the spacer he'd talked to may have had old news.  This was a very generous view of the man, because he had said he'd been in Regina only two weeks before so the news stories suggested he'd been lying outright.  After an hour or so, Fesic had all the information he felt he needed to find and was ready to finish his search as Rol called the crew to lunch.

Shopping And Mysteries

     By the time he started preparing lunch, Rol had a list of bookmarked recipes and a shopping list of supplies he needed to buy, both for their stay in port and for the dishes he hoped to cook in jump.  While they ate, Rol said he planned to go shopping and asked if anyone else wanted to come along with him?  Emkir first asked what he was going shopping for, and said he'd tag along after Rol told them what he was after.  Rol even joked they could stop off at a bar after buying the ingredients and got a laugh.

Surprising them all, Aiden spoke up and said he'd go with Rol and Emkir on the run.  When Rol joked, "I can't guarantee your safety", Terin joked, "Rol!  Jocelynn hasn't volunteered to go shopping with you so, obviously, he's safe!"  That got a huge laugh from everyone when they started joking about her "first aid" methods.  The chatter went on after that with Jocelynn and Aali agreed they could get the job in her stateroom done in a day or two, so they didn't have to rush and could go shopping too.  There were jokes about where Jocelynn would sleep, and with whom, but Jocelynn firmly said, with a growl, she'd be sleeping in the spare stateroom, and alone.

The shopping expedition took shape while Fesic finished lunch and moved to a terminal to spend part of the afternoon doing research on the sword he'd noticed at the museum the other day.  He planned spend an hour working, and compared the images he'd taken of the sword with those on line.  Working after the others left, Fesic turned up very little.  One note he saw suggested the sword could be attributed to an "Admiral Mĺfkenntek"(Muh-lif-ken-hi-tek), but that didn't look like a Zhodani name to Fesic.  To Fesic, it looked very much like a Sword Worlds name, and that was a culture he knew well.  Sadly, even adding the Admiral's name to his research, Fesic didn't find much information.

Still, the sword worlder name was more in line with the very flashy and ornate style of the weapon.  That agreed with his impressions in the museum, that Zhodani officers wouldn't see owning such a flashy weapon as appropriate.  Zhodani aesthetics were less "ornate and flashy" and would more likely be an understated synergy of curves, surfaces and form.  Presented with even more of a mystery, Fesic decided to keep searching past the first hour he'd planned to work.  Part of that research included the history of invading and occupational forces which had occupied the system in the Third and Fifth Frontier wars.  That included a good deal of the time looking through unit Tables of Organization and the Zhodani orders of battle he could find.

Not surprising, the most data he could find came from the invading and occupational forces from the Fifth Frontier War.  While much had been made of the Zhodani 40th fleet which drove through Imperial lines and reached the Rhylanor system, Fesic found the Dinomn system had actually been assaulted by the Zhodani 15th fleet.  That had happened early in 1108, and the Zho 15th were forced back out of the system by the Imperial Spinward Marches First Fleet by the start of 1109.  The Zhodani 40th had pushed through Imperial lines on the riftward flank of the 15th.  At that time, some forces from the 15th had been detailed off as replacements to the 40th and "back filled" with follow-on replacements.

While the main unit orders of battle were certainly available, both before and after the war, Fesic couldn't find information on operational or logistic changes which may have been made.  And there was even less information on replacement or fill-in forces.  One thing Fesic did find was mention that the allied forces had shared some resources and the Zhodani Consulate and some Sword Worlds governments had shared officers.  A small number of Zhodani admirals led Sword World, or Vargr forces, and Sword World or Vargr admirals led some Zhodani formations.  Sadly, Fesic found no information that had happened with either the Zhodani 40th or 15th.  And, there was no local information on Admiral Mĺfkenntek at all.

After two hours devoted to his research, Fesic had very little "solid" information.  He knew there was a suggestion this Sword Worlds Admiral was "related" to the sword, so he may have been the actual owner.  And that would make sense because some senior Sword Worlds officers were known to "show off" their rank and power with flashy gear and possessions.  But, there was nothing saying that admiral had been in the Dinomn system during the war.  And the presence of the sword suggested the person who'd lost it was captured and surrendered it, or had lost it when they were wounded or died.  Backing off his research, Fesic decided to look around and see who was still on the ship and ask if they wanted to go to the amusement park, despite the pain still present from his bruised ribs.

A Lifetime Supply

     Zimzod had hit a terminal after eating lunch, looking up weapons shops close to the ship's bay.  Checking the listed output, Zimzod saw the obvious hits like InstellArms and some locals.  Zimzod saw "The Dead Marines" listed and had heard how well they'd taken care of Emkir and Aali.  Making a decision, Zimzod kitted up and went off to that shop, to check out what they had of interest?  He was looking for "something big and nasty", and remembered something Aiden told him during the height of his hunt for an FGMP.  Aiden had said that members of his past crews who couldn't get an FGMP or PGMP often ended up with rocket launchers to do the job.  And while those were also restricted weapons, they were less restricted then plasma or fusion weapons.

Along with the advent of more powerful computers and the introduction of hovercraft and general use helicopters to the battlefield, combat-use rockets led to the invention of the first "guided" rockets.  These were the first of the "Tactical Missile", or "Tac-Missile", class of weapons.  Early tac missiles, with a max range of ~3 kilometers and equipped with HEAP warheads, were remotely guided by a gunner.  Advances soon meant the operator only had to track the target, not actually guide the missile.  From there, tech advances increased the range and on-board sensors led to expanded uses, including larger missiles with longer ranges and more powerful warheads.  Along with variable payload warheads.  And even including some very expensive nuclear uses.  Tac missile systems from worlds with mid-interstellar technology were true long-range fire and forget combat tools.  Zimzod was interested in the smaller, more man-portable kind.

When he got to The Dead Marines, Zimzod saw Terin in a blastglas-enclosed shooting range working with a tech to test and modify how his aim worked when he fired the weapon.  When Zimzod asked, he was told that the range was transparent so installed cameras could be placed on the outer walls of the shop and use 'longer sight lines' allowing a "more fine" detection of aim points.  Ignoring Terin for the time, Zimzod was told they had a varied collection of launcher systems and ammunition.  Much of what survived their ship's crash had been of the higher caliber of battlefield "fire and forget" shoulder or armor-mounted launchers, but they had fewer missiles to sell with those launch systems.

Much of the rest of their collection were from lower technology systems, which had been brought in by follow on replacements for the 15th Zhodani fleet.  They told Zimzod the Zho had smashed through the system's defenses and planned to hold the system.  As part of that effort, they'd brought in secondary units that didn't have the "advanced tech" the leading-edge invasion units had.  That meant launchers and missiles from pre-interstellar and 'fission-era' industries.  While the gear they had would track to an operator's guidance, or even self-track some targets, it wasn't powerful enough for front-line units.  Still, it could easily be good enough for Zimzod's needs.

That was the good news.  The bad news was that their supply of missiles was "irregular", and they couldn't supply Zimzod with a "complete ammo kit" for any launcher he bought.  Even more complex, the collection was a squirrelly mix from the mix of weapons and systems brought in for a possible dirtside conquest assault.  So Zimzod could use what they had but he'd have to work with them to figure out what bits and pieces he might want.  Interested but not certain, Zimzod asked if they had a range where he could try the missiles but was told there was not a range on station.  He was offered the option of buying a set of different missiles and taking a trip dirtside to try them before buying a launcher.  But that would be a multi-day trip with him having to buy the test missiles up front.  While he was exploring what the shop had, Zimzod's comms buzzed.

Answering it, he found it was Jocelynn calling to say some of the crew were in a "very well stocked" liquor shop and to ask if Zimzod wanted anything?  Zimzod took a break from the weapons to complete an order with Jocelynn that she would have sent to the ship before he continued shopping.  Zimzod then turned to look at the automatic shotguns they had in stock.  These were more recently built weapons bought new by the shop for resale.  Looking at what they had, Zimzod's interest was caught by an automatic shotgun that came with a sixteen round magazine.  It fired automatic bursts of four rounds and was capable of firing up to 300 rounds per minute.  A fire selector allowed for semi-automatic or single shot fire too.  Zimzod was more interested in twenty round drums for the weapon.

The weapon cost Cr 500, and the shop was happy to upgrade the one drum to 20 standard rounds for an additional Cr 10.  When Zimzod wanted four more empty drums, they sold him those for Cr 75.  Zimzod next asked for a 500-round box each of HE and HEAT rounds, which he bought for Cr 15,000.  Next, Zimzod bought 500 rounds of 12 gauge 00 buck shot for Cr 750.  Zimzod next asked about white phosphorous rounds but thought better of the idea just before they told him they didn't have any.  Zimzod only nodded while remembering what happened to Aiden's lone magazine of those rounds.  Zimzod also bought 100 Armor Piercing incendiary rounds for Cr 5,000.  On the non-lethal side of the weapon, Zimzod bought 100 rubber-projectile rounds for Cr 750.  Finally, he bought 100 rounds of slugs for Cr 200.

Buying More Toys

     On another concourse, Rol had led a "shopping expedition" out onto the station.  While Rol planned to get ingredients to cook with, Emkir said he wanted to stop and buy some liquor.  They talked while walking, and decided that they'd go to a weapons shop after the liquor shop.  Aiden, Aali and Jocelynn turned out to be along for the walk.  On the first part of his hunt, the group followed Rol through a number of shops and saw some very interesting "ingredients."  A display advertised "Black Hole" peppers and "Stellar Core Bonnets" which were said to "out-scoville" anything and everything from the Terra system.  Not that anyone in this group was wealthy enough to import peppers from that far off.

They followed Rol through his search as he joked about cooking dishes like "Zhodani poppers".  Hearing that, Aiden joked about using hotter than expected peppers the next time they met up with any Zhodani, to give them a "real" out of body experience!  That got lots of laughs while they moved from shop to shop.  Eventually, Rol spent Cr 150 on ingredients by the time he was done.  And some of the ingredients were thermally contained so they would "keep" until he could properly store them.  After that, they went looking for alcohol.  It was getting closer to one of those shops that they noticed the station staff had actually started decorating for the coming "Holiday", at the end of the year.

Comedically, and fitting for a green world, the shop they went to was called "Jungle of Bottles", and the shop had a huge selection of alcoholic beverages in all manner of commercial containers.  Emkir announced he was looking for what he considered mid-grade 100 proof rye whiskey and Aali joked, "In a fifty-five gallon drum!"  Emkir quickly found bottles he liked and bought two one-liter bottles for Cr 50 total.  While Emkir was grabbing his booze, Jocelynn called Zimzod to tell him where they were and ask if he wanted them to get anything for him?

When Zimzod answered with a deep and sonorous "Hello?" which he drew out to a longer sound, Jocelynn answered back, in speaker-mode, "Hellew" in a different voice tone and mock-accent.  She then asked, "Who dis" with a smirk on her face and Zimzod said, "I don't know.  You called me." even though he knew it was her.  After some of those listening in started to laugh, Jocelynn kept the comedy up by asking, "Is your cooling cube running?" and Zimzod slammed the joke saying, "No.  It actually has no legs."  That got an even larger laugh while people in both shops turned to look at the sounds and see what was going on?

After Jocelynn complained he ruined the joke, Zimzod asked her to get him two bottles of an 89-proof bourbon called "Feral Bird".  This bourbon was a much better grade than the "wild ride" rock gut they'd bought on Inthe, and which they still had a liter bottle of in the galley.  Along with that, Zimzod wanted a bottle of tequila too.  When Jocelynn asked what size bottles Zimzod wanted, he said he wanted a "Moron-sized" bottle which broke them all out laughing.  Zimzod got even more laughs when he said he wanted a four-ton bottle of tequila.

When Zimzod was asked how many liters were in a 'moron' jokes were made about how much volume Munarshu's body had held, and got groans.  Rol asked if he meant how many liters a moron could hold, or how many liters of bourbon it would take to make someone a moron?  When Aiden suggested a box, Zimzod snapped at him that no one put whiskey in a box as if he was dressing down a stupid child.  They finally saw Zimzod meant three-liter bottles when he used the term "Moron", so he wanted two of those filled with Feral Bird bourbon.  He eventually scaled his tequila order down to a three-liter bottle too.  That came to Cr 400 and Jocelynn asked what else he wanted?  Zimzod said he wanted another three-liter bottle of a brand of tea leaf-infused vodka.  that cost him an additional Cr 100 and he had to pay Cr 20 to have the bottles moved to the ship since no one was gonna carry all that around til they were done shopping.

At the same time, Jocelynn wanted a bottle of honey wine and paid Cr 25 for that.  Not to be out done, Rol considered the displays and said he wanted something he'd never tried before.  Taking the challenge, one of the shop keepers brought out an opaque one-liter bottle for him.  The stuff was called "Kiovya", and was fermented from stuff called "Telge", which could only be described as the equivalent of Human "bile", created in the digestive processes of a native animal called the Keta.  A local beast of burden.  The result was a thick, but drinkable alcoholic beverage.  Just hearing the process described in the most general terms was enough to turn the stomachs of all those listening.

When he was told it would cost Cr 500, Rol bought the one-liter bottle.  Someone in the group loudly called out "Pass!" as he did, and Aali joked, "You wash your fugo down with it." as the others laughed.  Someone was heard actively fighting down their gorge.  Rol looked at them all and said, "Hey.  You can't go to a new world and not try out new stuff.  Especially if you plan to give that stuff to other people."  While he paid for his bottle, the clerk told Rol, "It goes very well with a food item known as 'Spoo'."  Jocelynn and Aali might have remembered the "fantasy meat - Spoo" made by the restaurant chain, "Robal Cultured Meats" from when Mikah had taken them to one of the chain's restaurants in the Inthe system almost two months before.

Done with the groceries and liquor, the rest of the crew moved on to "The Dead Marines" due to the recommendations of Emkir and Aali.  There, they saw Terin working with a tech on a plexiglass range.  Zimzod was also there having an "ammo-gasm", standing with a staffer who was entering data into an electronic pad and adding up his commission on the fly.  As they got closer and some saw the numbers on the pad, they had to wonder what kind of vehicle Zimzod was buying and where he'd put it on the ship?  Rol joked that Zimzod should put his pants on and Jocelynn snarked, "What are you, hitting on him?"  Joking back, Rol said, "Maybe."  As the laughs died down, Rol continued the joke, asking, "Is that a rocket in your pants?" and Zimzod said, "No.  I'm just happy to see you."

After the laughing died again, Zimzod gave them a guided tour of more ammo than the entire ship had used in the past year times ten and the others made jokes asking where he and Mikah would sleep?  When Zimzod asked if he'd get a bulk discount, they told him they'd deliver his ammo to the ship for free.  Aali bought 100 rounds of 12-gauge #4 buck shot for Cr 50.  Aali also asked after 25 rounds of high-explosive anti-tank rounds for her shotgun, and bought them for Cr 2,500 and another ten empty magazines for her bullpup shotgun for Cr 100.  Since no one else wanted anything new, that was the end of the shopping run there.

None of them wanted to leave without at least waving to Terin in his plexiglas shooting range.  Moving up to knock on the glass, some of them waved while Jocelynn gave him one-finger salutes with each hand and both Zimzod and Emkir dropped their pants to moon him.  After the laughs, the group moved on with the promise their purchases would be delivered to the ship and jokes were made that Zimzod would have to start playing tetris to fit all his new boxes of ammo into any storage space they would fit in.  Still, carrying what they were, the group took a port cab back.  Eventually, Terin also got back without his rifle, which had to be modified over-night.  He was very disgruntled because the shop threw him no discounts and he'd paid Cr 4,000 for the service.

Evening Fading To Dark

     When the group got back to the ship, they found Fesic working at some research on a terminal.  Rol asked what he was working on, and Fesic told them about the sword he'd seen.  Fesic also showed them the pictures he'd taken of the sword.  When Rol asked what the gunner had found so far, Fesic told him about the attribution to Admiral Mĺfkenntek, but also said he felt the attribution might be wrong.  He felt that the Zhodani must have picked it up along their path.  When Rol asked what he planned to do with anything he learned, Fesic said he'd likely turn it over to the museum.

Rol started to move off from Fesic and he secured the terminal and told them all he'd had a very interesting last half hour or so.  When they asked what had happened, Fesic told them about the arrival of delivery personnel with very large bottles of booze.  After that, Fesic told them where he'd stowed the bottles in the galley so they could move them to their staterooms.  While the others dealt with their booze, Rol grabbed his mystery bottle and sat down at the dining room table to talk about his cooking plans.

Between the return of the others and dinner, Fesic continued his research on the sword.  From what he had seen, and had in the images he'd taken.  He felt certain the weapon was from one of the Sword Worlds.  But all his research told him no Sword Worlds units or even formations had been in the system.  As it got closer to dinner, he wondered if he could do anything to better understand the blade's manufacture?  Fesic first considered that he'd go to the museum the next day and see if he could ask about the maker's marks and hallmarks on the sword, but then he thought about calling the museum and asking about the curator's availability.

When he called, saying he wanted to get information on the hallmarks on the blade, the operator taking his call asked a number of questions to get any information on his interest and who he was?  The operator then told Fesic they were pleased he and his friend had visited the museum and that he was interested in the blade in their collection.  The operator then thanked Fesic for his information and said they'd get back to him before ending the call.  Accepting that, Fesic saved his notes into a file and then got ready to have dinner when Rol was ready to serve it.

After they returned and stowed their drinkables, Aali and Jocelynn went back to work on her terrarium.  They paused during dinner and went back to the work after.  Aiden watched vids after dinner and Fesic said he'd hang out though he expected he and Jocelynn might go out bar hopping again that evening.  But, as they talked about it during dinner, it became clear Jocelynn would stay and work with Aali that evening.  Jocelynn did say they could go out the next evening if they got enough work done on the stateroom before then.  Finished with her testing, Mikah went to sleep early.  In addition, they told her they'd let her sleep in on the next morning.  When she asked when she could go home, they said they'd discuss that with her the next day.

Later that evening, when the ammunition started to arrive, Fesic saw the mountain of boxes Zimzod ordered and joked, "Awww.  You miss Mikah!" getting a laugh from the others.  Ignoring the laughs, Zimzod said, "Yes I do!  I think I'm gonna stand over my ammunition and rub one off!" in a proud tone of voice.  Most of the crew laughed but Jocelynn just shook her head and told Zimzod, "I don't think you're doing it right."  That got a few more laughs.

With nothing else to do while the others had class or work, Fesic watched vids.  After the classes, he was joined by Zimzod and Aiden.  Before everyone went to work or other pursuits, Rol decided to break out his mystery bottle and share it.  While those who'd been there when he bought the bottle cringed a bit, Fesic happily volunteered to try a shot of it.  Zimzod said he was always up for alcohol, and Terin added his shotglass to the ring too.  Jocelynn said she didn't want any but Zimzod chided her for not acting like a marine!  Rol smiled and held up the bottle, inviting, "Come on!  Let's have some fun.  Drink and throw up all over the place!"  Jocelynn just shrugged and asked, "What could go wrong?"

Eventually, Aiden was the only hold out against trying the drink.  When he said that, he got a huge push back and groans from the rest of the crew.  Despite the responses and reactions, Aiden held firm and the others finally lined up a glass each for Rol to pour out the drink.  With the drinks served, Zimzod raised his glass and told everyone else to do the same, and salute Aiden.  Then, with all the glasses raised, Zimzod called out at Aiden, "PUSSY!" and swallowed his share in a single gulp.  Laughing, the others followed suit.  The fluid was a bit thicker than they were used to and very sweet.  And they found, as it hit their stomachs, that it was more potent than expected.

Zimzod, Fesic, Rol and Aali liked the drink.  Everything about it was either interesting or very tasty.  Jocelynn thought it was OK, but nothing to write home about.  Emkir and Terin did NOT like it!  Emkir nearly barfed but managed to hold it in.  Terin suggested they all burn and melt down their glasses to prevent that ever happing again.  Zimzod noticed Emkir working to keep it down and asked, "You need a chaser with that?"  Emkir finally managed to get out, "Yeah, give me a shot of piss!"  Pushing the joke, Zimzod reached for his pants as he asked, "You want that on tap?" and everyone laughed.  After that, Zimzod got out a bottle of feral bird to share while Aali and Jocelynn went back to working on the terrarium.

Flights, Successes And Failures

     Despite the work she and Aali went back to as the drinking started, Emkir made sure they were kept lubricated until they decided to just set the tools aside and drink.  So, when Jocelynn was the first of the crew to wake up, she felt the drinks from the night before.  What made things worse was that she woke up in a compartment that wasn't her's!  Disoriented, it took her a few beats to remember she was in the ship's spare stateroom, because of the construction work going on in her's.  For a moment, Jocelynn even wondered if she were back aboard the Regina's Storm and the whole trip with the Knights had been a dream.  After she recovered from her confusion, Jocelynn managed to get herself back to sleep.

Because Jocelynn went back to sleep, Rol was the first person out into the lounge that morning.  Rol followed his daily routine making and setting out breakfast, but was even done eating his breakfast and cleaning the cooking area by the time the others started showing up.  Zimzod and Aiden finally emerged from their staterooms for food.  They were out before Aali and Emkir because the couple decided to delay their morning routines for more intimate activities.  Sitting to eat, Zimzod and Rol agreed that mystery bottle Rol had, called Kiovya, was pretty good and Rol even considered getting another bottle.  Aiden withheld comment because he knew anything he'd said would invite comments on his paranoia.

That didn't help Aiden when he saw what Rol had served and called, "FOOD!"  Rol then said, "Not for you." and smiled while Zimzod and Aiden paused.  Rol continued, "You get the special plate."  Aiden suffered a sudden bout of terror remembering Rol's special plate for Munarshu.  Eventually, Rol gave up the joke and let Aiden eat while he watched the morning news and vids.  Zimzod called over to Rol, saying the Kiovya would go well as a topping for pancakes.  Rol agreed, and said they could always thin it out with some of the bourbon Zimzod had opened.  All the while, Aiden suffered morning terrors imagining waking up some day to find Rol had cooked pancakes and replaced the syrup with booze.  Finishing his food, Zimzod called the hospital and was again told Mikah could have no calls or visitors.  When he asked her condition, he was told she was under treatment and responding.

After Aiden and Zimzod finished eating and went on with their mornings, Jocelynn woke again and decided it was time to go about her morning routine.  When Aiden finished eating, he decided to read until he saw what the others came up with for morning fun.  After more time, Terin came out of his stateroom and smiled as he asked those in the compartment, "Who wants to go to the amusement park?"  Aiden actually raised his hand to volunteer and Rol gave a satirical "Sure." with a smirk on his face.  Aali and Jocelynn said they had to work on Jocelynn's terrarium after taking time off the job the day before.  When Terin said they could wait til the next day, Aali firmly reminded him the plants did have a shelf life and they had to get done in time. 

Siding with Aali, Emkir chose to stay with the ship.  Zimzod also didn't want to go either, and had no sympathy for Terin's interests.  Annoyed, Terin decided to relax and wait until Fesic woke up, and it turned out Rol was actually up for the park.  Eventually, Fesic woke and when Terin asked him about the park, he answered, "What, do I look like I'm ten?"  Everyone in the compartment except Terin laughed at that and Terin.  Nodding at the others, Terin said to Rol and Aiden that they should get going.  After a Cr 10 tram ride later they were at the park paying Cr 80 for entry.  After that, Aiden and Rol said they were up for the thrill rides and since it was Terin's idea, he was committed to riding with them.

After Terin left, Zimzod decided to do some more experimentation with his stent and battledress.  Aali and Jocelynn spent the day working on the terrarium and Emkir spent part of the day in Jocelynn's stateroom using the terminal there to do translation work while being close to Aali.  Fesic started his day by checking the auctions, including Terin's comms auction.  Fesic saw the auction Terin had set for four days had ended and not gotten a bid.  Shaking that off, Fesic figured Terin would see it when he got back from the park.  Getting another fun idea, while looking over the other sales, Fesic paused his work and moved over to talk to Zimzod.  Asking what was up, Zimzod listened as Fesic explained his idea and then did some math.

Terin had signed his contract of indentureship on the 300th of 1112.  That meant he had a year and two days left on the contract.  With that information, and Zimzod's permission, Fesic sat down to "create".  He made a screen which looked like he'd posted an auction for the remaining year and two days of Terin's contract.  Which, if sold, would mean he would have to leave the ship to work for the new owner.  Fesic then got the others involved in the project.  They first argued about what value the minimum bit would have started at and Fesic suggested they start at Cr 1.  When someone said they should start it at MCr 20, Fesic said they couldn't let him think he was valuable.

They all laughed but admitted Fesic had a point.  Eventually, they set a basic starting price and then added a few bids.  To make it more realistic, they started making up questions potential bidders had sent to the auction, and then answered them with such lines as, "Because the ship can make more money renting his stateroom for High Passage then feeding him".  Then, they came up with the idea of posting reviews of Terin's performance on the "site" and they laughed hysterically as they worked on those.  Jocelynn had Fesic add her review as, "Great for doing reconnaissance work in alley ways."  Fesic added, "Navigation skills only resulted in ending up in a ship's graveyard once."  Zimzod added, "Makes an excellent meat shield."

Then, Jocelynn added, "Hookah sold separately."  The laughs went on as they worked at their projects and the day passed.  At a point in the day, while Zimzod had been working to fix a concept in his mind for the battledress controls, he suddenly and sharply visualized the mental image of an armor suit control console!  It was so sharp, he could also visualize using it to test the suit in order to activate the controls...and that made the suit react to the controls.  For the rest of the day, he practiced conceptualizing that as a method to mentally control his armor in combat.  After lunch, Jocelynn decided to work on gear maintenance on her bed in the stateroom so she could be available to help Aali when needed.

After the time spent with his battledress and stent, Zimzod took a break before deciding he needed to learn something about the throwing knives he owned.  He'd bought them with the idea of learning how to use them but had never really taken the time to even try that.  And there was no place on the ship or in their bay to set up a board and throw.  Soon, he decided to look for a place where he might rent a space to throw knives and see what natural talent he had?

Eventually, he went to rent a throwing range at InstellArms, which cost Cr 200.  Not long after that, Zimzod realized just how little natural talent he had with the knives.  That was about the time his concierge asked him if he'd be interested in hiring an instructor?  When he said he wanted to, the concierge offered varying levels of instructors from Cr 500 to Cr 1,000 per hour.  Zimzod went for the higher cost and quality and spent two hours getting to the point he was able to stand still and hit the non-moving target a reasonable amount of the time.  The instructor did tell Zimzod he'd have to keep up the practice to get better so he could progress to moving targets.  "Slow" moving targets.

At the same time, Fesic had no calls about the fake site, meaning Terin hadn't taken the time to log into his ship's accounts at the amusement park.  So, Fesic decided to head out to his favorite park for a bit of time spent in the green.  Depending on how he felt after that, he'd decide on taking a port cab back to the ship or not.  He took a port cab there, because it was an hour-long walk.  And by the time he decided to head back to the ship he was up for more walking.  He still got back to the ship before Rol, Terin and Aiden got back from the amusement park as dinner time got close.

At the amusement park, Rol was finding that it wasn't smart to follow up a night of drinking with a day on thrill rides.  To his credit, Rol only barfed once, and it wasn't "on" anyone, luckily for the others.  Terin and Aiden got queasy but no one "lost containment" as they finished the ride and found someplace for Rol to clean up.  Still, it was some time until dinner and they hadn't done all the thrill rides thanks to some very long lines.  They'd also seen advertising for a "specialty attraction" that Rol was certain would wipe the smirks off the faces of his companions after he barfed.

Looking into it, they saw park guests had to pay extra for the experience, but it was still very interesting.  To Rol, at least.  The excursion would pair each paying customer up with a grizzled old marine instructor retiree, and kit them up before putting them on a shuttle.  They'd then be taken out to an atmospheric re-entry point.  From there, the rider and marine would make a "combat drop" down through the atmosphere to do a para-drop to the surface, where they'd be picked up by the shuttle and returned to the park.  Rol hadn't made a combat drop since Jesedipere and his internal voice didn't snark at how well that turned out.

As soon as he'd seen it, Rol knew he wanted to do it because he'd done it while in the military and it had been a long time since thent.  Checking the price, he was told it would cost Cr 2,000 and signed up as soon as he could.  When he asked if the others would come with him, Aiden volunteered to follow them down in the shuttle.  Staring Aiden down, Rol challenging Aiden to man up and, for once, do something that might get himself killed just for the thrill of it.  Terin pointed out that Aiden was in better physical condition to do it then either he or Rol was.  Something Aiden had to admit was true because he'd been cloned.

Aiden and Terin were offered the chance, and paid Cr 100, to sit in a booth and watch a "Rol's Point of view" broadcast of what Rol would experience side by side with a broadcast of Rol's reactions.  When Aiden heard that, he offered Cr 200 more if he could get a recording on crystal too.  That was agreed on and Terin and Aiden were escorted to their seats while Rol was led off to meet his drop instructor.  Of course, when he introduced himself to the instructor, the marine was much more impressed with Rol and his experiences.  Still, he did take the lead in stepping through the prep and safety because he was the instructor.

Rol spent the next twenty or so minutes with the instructor, gearing up, and riding the shuttle to the drop point.  There, the two in their rig had been loaded onto a launcher rail to be ejected into a descent trajectory to begin the drop.  That took another thirty to forty minutes as the pair became a dropping fireball falling into the atmosphere until drogues released to slow them.  Past the most "dynamic" stages of the drop, the kit ejected the spent ablative shield with the drogue and the pair went back into free fall.  All the while, Aiden and Terin sat watching and spending Cr 3 on itty bitty beers and getting a lot fewer laughs than they'd hoped as Rol enjoyed the entire drop.

At the Park, the three had dinner after Rol got back to the station following his jump.  Done eating, they had to decide if they'd go back to the ship or stay into the evening, to finish the thrill rides.  While talking about that, they noticed the park staff actually dimmed the lights so the stars and varied park light schemes glowed brighter.  Deciding to keep hitting the rides, they rode a pair of roller coasters and Rol managed to hold onto his dinner.  Sadly for him, Terin didn't and Rol ended up wearing that!  Eventually getting off the ride, Rol had to clean up and spent Cr 20 on a set of draw pants and a "Star Coaster: Rocket Ride!" sweatshirt before they returned to the ship.

Shots At The Bar

     In the hospital, Mikah had been woken by her regular morning treatment before the Captain came in to talk to her.  He recounted that they'd tested and evaluated her the day before and one of the results of that was that she was now technically an active psion.  This meant that without any training, she would be obvious to any trained psion she came near.  Because of that, they would spend the next two days training her to try shielding herself from notice and to sense when anyone physically close to her was actively using a psi talent.  After that, they would test her and determine if they could send her back to the ship without more training?

The Captain also made it clear that the shield she would learn would not stand up to an active scan, so she would have to become used to keeping it active when in public.  And the sensation she would learn would be a buzzing in her mind, which would warn her active psionics were being used so she could react to protect herself.  Hearing that, Mikah realized this must have been how Zimzod realized Leeta had been a psion.  Mikah also realized Zimzod must have known about Leeta before he said something.  So, he'd waited until the meetings with Leeta had gone tits up before saying something.  Still, when Mikah asked, they said she couldn't let the crew know she might soon get released.  From there on, the training began even during meals.

At the ship, the others realized Rol wouldn't be home to cook them dinner so they started talking about where to order from when Zimzod suggested they go out to a bar.  When Zimzod said they could get bar food, someone joked that Jocelynn probably knew some good bars.  After some laughs, Jocelynn actually gave them a small sales pitch about "going to the dark side".  Of course, part of that was explaining the hour-long trip so people started to say they'd better get going.  Zimzod was actually looking forward to some entertainment.

After the hour's travel the rest of the group followed Fesic and Jocelynn into part of one of the station's docking arms where maintenance and services had definitely slipped.  The locals where certainly working class where they appeared to have a couple of credits to rub together at all, all mixed with service robots and androids going about their programming.  Workers tended to be docking and station support workers or the crew of ships which couldn't or wouldn't pay for higher quality docking facilities.  And they could be sure there were those in the shadows who preferred to remain hidden there, or outside those spaces more regularly patrolled by station security.

The group looked around while moving through corridors peopled by Humans, aliens and androids at the low end of the spectrum.  A place where one might expect even the androids to have tattoos that were not simple bar codes.  While Jocelynn and Fesic were used to the environment, Zimzod, Aali and Emkir were there for 'dinner and a show', and had come as armed as they could be just in case the show got more than personal.  Fesic was the only one who's covert weapon, his sword-cane, was illegal if they got questioned.  Looking to actually eat instead of fighting while hungry, Jocelynn actually looked for a more sedate "bar-staurant" to lead them into.

The public part of the space was roughly rectangular-shaped, with an open space at the entrance dividing into four rows of booths.  Two rows were back to back down the center of the space and two aisles separated another row each to the left and right of the center rows.  The left-most row, as they looked in, was up against the left wall of the space and the right side of the space was taken up by cooking and services spaces in the front and enclosed restroom spaces closing off sections of the rear.  There were also a set of doors heading further back beyond the booths, and those doors were marked "Staff only".

The place wasn't that full but, while they'd have preferred being in a booth against the wall, enough of those booths were taken or butted up against other occupied booths.  They also wanted to eat before having to deal with the "local wild life".  Choosing a booth to sit in, everyone had an idea where on the bench they wanted to sit, but the actual seating ended up being where people fit in.  Jocelynn ended up on one end of the U-shaped bench with Fesic next to her.  Aali was on Fesic's other side, and in the middle with Emkir next to her.  Then, Zimzod was on the other end which curved back around to the aisle.  The table-serv ordering consoles lit up automatically as they settled in.

They punched in their orders with Zimzod ordering a beer and Cr 20 of food.  Jocelynn ordered a whiskey sour and Cr 15 of food.  Fesic also ordered a beer and Cr 20 of food.  Emkir and Aali ordered beers, with Emkir's being a dark beer and Cr 25 in food as a couple.  Not long after they set their orders, an android came to the table with Jocelynn's whiskey sour from the bar and four empty glasses.  Setting the glasses on the table, the android reached a service arm out over each empty glass and served the beers from tanks which it had selected from behind the bar as it moved to fill their order.  In an electronic voice, the 'droid told them their meals would be out soon.  the 'droid then rolled off to its next task.

After a bit of time sitting, sipping at their drinks and chatting, a pair of 'droids came to the table to drop off their food orders.  Thanks to the ordering system, the androids knew exactly where to put each dish to match the orders.  Because they had traveled so far, the crew each dug in and got a good mouthful of food before one of the booths along the left row in the bar erupted in argument.  This caught the attention of the crew, and they turned to look in the direction of the booth and its three occupants.  They were just starting to think, "Dinner and a show" when one of those people fired a shot from a non-automatic weapon.

Three rounds popped off when the shooting started, and one cut through a part of the booth near Zimzod.  Not close enough that he got hit by flying debris, but close enough he knew he was lucky not to have been hit.  The surviving shooters were all in motion too, as they leapt over the sides of their booth hoping the cover they could find would hide their movement while the shooting continued.  Looking for cover themselves, Zimzod and Jocelynn could step out to the aisle and fold sideways away from their booth a step for cover where their booth met the next one along the row.  Still, Zimzod had seen how easily rounds cut through the booths so the cover was minimal at best.

Aali had the worst of it sitting in the middle of the booth.  For her, it was either over or under the table to get out and neither path would be a very fast one.  Making the snap decision, Aali dove for the floor.  Fesic and Emkir could do little more than hit the bench pads getting as low as they could and start crawling towards the aisle.  More weapons fire told them the shooting wasn't done while they moved, and the sounds of different weapons meant more guns had been drawn.

Aali continued crawling towards the aisle as both Emkir and Fesic decided to risk trying to get a look over the back of their booth into the shooting range.  Looking across the space between them, Zimzod asked Jocelynn if she had anything with tranq rounds and she said she didn't because she could only carry her shotgun.  Emkir and Fesic both got a glimpse of a man who'd jumped over the back of his row of booths into a booth that backed it and was aiming what looked like a body pistol in a two-handed grip as he aimed at those he'd left behind.

That explained the "how" of someone having such an illegal weapon.  Body pistols were a class of high-carbon plastic weapon which could be slipped past scanners and were a favorite of assassins and criminals.  There was word that there were plans and components available in some systems so ship's maker systems could print the weapons if you could get them.  But that left persons using the pistols looking for covert sources of ammunition.  Still, that man obviously had smuggled the weapon on station or received it from someone who had.  The gunman was mostly ducking under visibility and popping up to hopefully hit someone with a snap shot.

Fesic ducked back down and started crawling along the cushion towards the aisle as Zimzod drew his two .45's and more shots went off.  Not giving up her cover, Jocelynn readied her shotgun as Aali reached the aisle and paused to draw her snubbie before risking a glance over the table.  Instead of moving, Emkir decided to reach down and draw his 9mm pistol to hold it ready.  That proved a very risky choice, though, as a round from the gunfire came through the back and cushion of the booth and nearly hit Emkir!  Quickly looking down to the floor and seeing Aali had just left it, Emkir rolled down to get deeper under cover.

Emkir hit the floor as Aali chose to pop her head above the table and take a peek into the shooting to get an idea what they were facing?  Fesic made the end of his bench, and saw space on the floor in the aisle was limited, with Aali in the space at the table's end and Jocelynn using the butt end of their booth and the next one as cover.  With nothing else for it, Fesic decided to hit the floor and crawl around Jocelynn to go for the cover of the next booth.  With her shotgun ready and no real targets without popping up and hoping to see someone, Jocelynn decided to let the shooters know they weren't alone.  Still under cover, Jocelynn aimed her shotgun at a point where the restaurant’s wall met its ceiling and fired a blast that would hit above some of the shooters.

The blast hit the wall when Zimzod had poked his head up to see anything he could and ironically caused all the other shooters to dive for the floor or freeze as they fired or hid.  Rounds flew from the other side of the bar as Jocelynn blew a fist-sized hole in the wall and Zimzod got a glimpse of two gunmen but had no chance to fire.  What followed was a "What was that?" silence while Zimzod dropped down before someone spotted and shot at him.  And just as suddenly, the lights in the space came on blindingly bright and station security started arriving.

Zimzod quickly holstered his pistols while Jocelynn let her shotgun drop slightly as she brought one of her hands up to block the lights and cried out against the sudden blinding light.  The others ducked or covered up against the new threat until they realized what was happening, which coincided with them being taken into custody.  From then on, they spent the rest of the evening wishing they'd had a chance to eat more than a mouthful as they repeatedly explained why they were in that part of the station?  Especially Jocelynn, who's description matched that of an armed woman who they'd had reports about over the past days.  Additionally when her name and Fesic's brought up the mugging report from several nights before.

When the fun at the station security booth finally ended, security recommended the crew return to their ship as quickly as they could, and not come back to that part of the station again.  When Jocelynn got a bit annoyed and almost demanded to know how this was their fault, she was reminded of the mugging days before.  And, with the shooting, she was told the evidence suggested they were 'too tourist' to know what was safe and what wasn't?  Let loose to go back to the ship, the group groused about not getting fed until they found another restaurant to stop in for a very late dinner.  Sitting there, they laughed about having not been charged at the bar, and cheered about the free drinks!

Rol, Terin and Aiden were back at the ship and wondering what the others were up to while they were answering questions and looking for a place to eat.  While Aiden let his characteristic paranoia get the best of him, Rol assured the pilot the others could take care of themselves.  Terin just shook his head and said, "Every freaking planet." though the other two couldn't tell if it was in agreement with Aiden or because the pilot couldn't stop acting like the stereotypical paranoid android.  Finally, Rol suggested they go out and get something.

Terin immediately asked why they had to go out again when Rol was the cook and he said he was thinking of a bar or something.  Eventually, Rol agreed to make something for them to eat after he cleaned up a bit better after events at the park.  The three men then relaxed and hung out while they waited for the others to get back.  That lasted until after 1 am, when the rest of the crew finally got back to the ship from their adventures.  When they finally did get back, the five adventurers quickly squared things away and hit the sack.

A Morning With Spring In It

     Around six in the morning, Jocelynn and Fesic woke up with him in his stateroom and her in the spare stateroom.  Annoyed she'd woken early again, Jocelynn decided the hell with it and got into her daily routine.  After both of them had finished their morning habits, they got into the lounge with Fesic arriving first.  Still, by quarter to seven, they found themselves alone in the lounge like they'd been the day Rol walked in on them snuggling.  Instead of suggesting anything cuddly, Jocelynn logged into a terminal to look and see if she had any emails?  The first email she found was a 'thank you' from the shop where she'd bought her terrarium.

The email included requests for her to fill out a satisfaction survey, and send pictures if it was already assembled, which they could add to their displays of satisfied customers.  Filling the survey out, Jocelynn gave them good grades for the sales and delivery process.  And, she took pictures of the assembly process to send them.  While she did that, Fesic cooked up some caff and offered some to Jocelynn.  When she said, "Sure", he asked, "How do you take it?" and she was suddenly confused while interpreting that 'offer'.  Soon enough, she got her head right and told him how she preferred the drink and he fixed a mug for her and handed it over and she thanked him despite the sudden tension.

After that, Fesic settled in to check the sales items, but saw there was no movement on any of them.  Next, Fesic decided to sit and watch the news.  Not long later, Jocelynn finished her survey and decided to do more gear maintenance in her stateroom until Aali was up and ready to continue working on the terrarium.  Eventually, Rol came out of his stateroom, Fesic was watching the news in the lounge alone.  Nodding to Fesic, Rol asked, "How'd things go last night?  You were up pretty late."  Fesic told Rol about the bar and the gunfight that broke out there.  When Rol asked, "Did you start it?" Fesic said they hadn't, and that station security came to end it.

When Rol said, "Sounds like you had a pretty fun time." Fesic complained they hadn't gotten to eat.  Rol smiled and said, "You guys should have come with me.  I had an awesome time."  When Fesic asked what he did, Rol started telling him about the orbital jump.  Remembering the recording, Rol loaded it up and showed Fesic his jump.  Fesic nodded and said it looked cool.  Rol said it was a rush, and that it was the sort of stuff he'd joined the marines to do.  When Fesic asked about the heat of re-entry, Rol pointed out that the gear protected you against that, and Said Fesic really should try it before joking he'd make sure Fesic's "tether was correctly set" with a wink.

Eventually, Jocelynn got tired of hearing the sound of murmuring out in the lounge but not knowing what was going on, so she called out, "What's going on out there?"  Rol had been moving over from Fesic to start cooking and hadn't even realized Jocelynn's stateroom door had been open and she'd been awake.  When he said he was going to make breakfast and asked if she wanted some, she said she'd be out in a bit while getting ready to finish the work she was handling at the minute.  First saying, "OK", Rol continued, "We have some good video too."  Caught in a verbal double take, Jocelynn wasn't sure she wanted to know.  Still, she asked, "Of what?" and was really sure she was less interested when he answered, "I had some fun last night!"

Figuring she was in the conversation now, no matter what she wanted, she asked, "Oh, did you?  That kind of video."  While talking, Jocelynn did her best to quickly set her bits and pieces aside so she could step into the lounge and get it over with.  When she came out of her stateroom, Rol reset the video and Jocelynn had to admit she thought it was really cool.  She also asked where Rol had gotten to do it?  He explained the attraction at the park.  Like when he talked to Fesic, Rol said she should try it, and told her it was a rush too.  He then went to cook as she and Fesic watched the vid play out.

Zimzod was the next person out of his stateroom, followed a bit later by Aiden.  They both saw the others watching the vid and talking about the jump, and what happened at each point.  When Aiden sarcastically asked, "Doesn’t that look fun?" Rol said, "You could have had that fun!"  Aiden glared at him and said, "Moving on."  Rol simply muttered, "Whimp" and the others in the compartment laughed at Aiden.  After that, Aiden grabbed chow while Rol went to do some gear maintenance.  Shifting from the news, Fesic went back to researching the sword from the museum, and Jocelynn went back to gear maintenance.

When Zimzod came into the lounge, he noticed the tail end of Rol's jump vid playing on the main screen in the compartment.  When he started asking questions, Rol explained again as he told Zimzod about the jump.  The more she heard Rol talking about it, the more Jocelynn wanted to try it.  When Zimzod said he would have done it with Rol, Rol said, "You still can."  Hearing that, Jocelynn asked, "You wanna do it?" in an excited tone and Zimzod almost shouted, "Yeah!".  Neither Zimzod or Jocelynn was interested in the amusement park, so they started looking for other companies offering the experience.  Especially if they cost less than the Cr 2,000 the park did.

By the time Zimzod and Jocelynn were searching for a place that sold jumping experiences, Emkir, Aali and Terin had come out of their staterooms for breakfast.  While they searched, Zimzod heard Aiden had bought the vid and asked where the vid of Aiden's jump was?  When Rol said Aiden was too chicken to jump, Zimzod turned to the pilot and sneered, "Whimp!"  That got laughs from Rol and Jocelynn.  Turning back to the search for an adventure tourism firm, Zimzod watched Jocelynn work at that for a bit before grabbing a comms to try and call Mikah at the hospital.  Again, he was turned away by friendly but unhelpful operators.

Hearing that, Emkir suggested, "We should all go over there and say we're not leaving until we see her."  Terin nodded at Emkir and snarked, "That's one good way to get arrested."  They all laughed at the comment but recognized Terin was right.  While Jocelynn, Zimzod and Rol looked for a chance to do orbital drops, Fesic pulled Aiden to the side where Terin wouldn't hear what they were saying.  Fesic then told Aiden about the prank on Terin and Aiden said they should put some "answers to questions" on the site.  Things like, "One body slave, only dropped on his head once."  Fesic said they'd done that but quietly added Aiden's comments to the site while Terin was eating.

Soon though, the newly woken had been caffeinated and, with plates of food, were watching the vid of Rol's jump with varying reactions.  And with each person she could introduce the vid to, Jocelynn's excitement grew that much more.  Along with that, she also pointed to the research being done on finding a tour provider selling the experience.  Emkir was impressed as they watched the vid, and Aali said it looked fun.  When she heard that Zimzod and Jocelynn were looking for someone to take them out to jump, she added her name to the list.  Emkir was surprised by that and, when she asked if he would too, he answered, "Well.  If you're doing it..."  In the meantime, they'd found an adventure tours firm that also advertised orbital jumps and charged half the price Rol had paid at the park, on top of not having to pay the Cr 100 to get into the park.  Rol decided he would jump again as the group of them reserved jump slots for Cr 1,000 each.

While booking the party, they asked Terin if he'd be going too and he disdainfully answered, "What?  Do I look like I'm stupid?"  Someone in the crowd reminded him of pissing off the gun shop and paying Cr 4,000 to have his rifle customized and they all laughed at him as he sat there glaring.  Amongst the comments of "yeah", there'd also been Aiden's confused, "Is this a multiple choice?" and Aali's, "You had to ask?"  Past the cowardice displayed by Aiden, Fesic and Terin, they finished up the reservations and were told they'd get to jump "as a party".  That meant their shuttles would leave the station so they could all jump together.  On top of that, they all wanted vid's shot of their jumps which cost another Cr 100 each.  Having decided who was going, they called a port cab and got moving.

It wasn't long after that when Terin went to check his emails and suddenly and angrily shouted out, "What the fuck is this?!"  Suddenly rising from his seat, Terin looked at Fesic as he pointed to his terminal screen and demanded, "What is this?  Some kind of joke?"  Fesic tried to keep his face straight as he asked what it was Terin was pointing to but he couldn't even keep himself from giggling.  Looking back to read off the screen, Terin demanded, "He's a good meat shield??"  Making a show of stepping forward to read the screen and then laughing at what was still funny, Fesic still didn't convince Terin as he again demanded, "What the hell is this?"  He gestured with his hand at the screen as he glared at Fesic.

When Fesic got through enough of his giggles to say, "I don't know.  I didn't see it until you just showed it to me."  Terin demanded, "You're trying to sell me?"  Pointing toward the screen, Fesic lied and said, "Wait.  You're selling yourself." and Terin snarled, "I didn't sell myself!"  Defensively, Fesic complained, "You did.  You sold yourself into indentured service.  Why would you complain if they sold your contract."  When Terin demanded, "Who's they?" Fesic answered back, "The people who own you."  Then Terin demanded, "Are you saying Zimzod is selling me?"  Fesic answered him, "He must be.  I don't own you." in a tone that was near panic.

Pointing at the screen, Terin demanded, "You telling me you didn't set this auction up?  Look at the site address!  It says...""  With that, he leaned down to read the network address and stopped in the middle of what he'd been saying.  What he saw there was an address which was read off the ship's internal systems and came from a directory named, "PrankingTerinCauseHe-sA-Looser".  Leaning closer to re-read the address, Terin then stood up and shot Fesic a look before staying, "You fucking asshole!"  He stormed off to his stateroom with both Fesic and Aiden finally losing it and laughing behind him.  Still, before he stepped into his stateroom, Terin did turn to Fesic and admit, "That was.  Funny."

After Terin left the compartment, Fesic suddenly got annoyed and snapped, "I forgot to catch that on vid!"  Then, as he stood there, Fesic remembered they had the whole space covered with security cameras so it had been filmed.  Aiden just nodded and suggested he mark the time so they could pull it from the recordings later.  In his stateroom, Terin started doing gear maintenance. 

At the hospital, Mikah was woken with her usual healing, though they told her she was nearly fully healed.  After that, they sat down with her and explained the steps they'd be taking her through in the coming day's training.  They discussed the activities while she had her breakfast and, when she was done, got right into the work continuing to teach her to shield her mind.  The difference with this morning was that they told her they'd test her that evening and might release her back to her ship if she tested out well.  During the day, they also took the steps to point out a sensation that she was getting better at feeling, which most psions knew of as "background noise", but would tell her if others were using psionic powers in her presence.

Various Kinds Of Excitement

     After the others left to go jumping, Aiden planned to start the morning off with some stent practice before switching to gear maintenance.  Eventually, he would switch to watching comedy vids before lunch.  Fesic finished his research on the sword having learned another tantalizing bit of information.  During the Fifth Frontier War, at least, the Vargr provided one Admiral to the Zhodani in exchange for a Zhodani Admiral.  And Both the Gram and Sacnoth systems had also provided Admirals in exchange.  So, there had been some Sword worlds officers working with Zhodani forces.  That meant it was remotely possible that this Admiral Mĺfkenntek had been in-system with Zhodani follow on forces.  But Fesic still had no information suggesting that was the case.  The information Fesic had gathered was far from anything other than the wisps of pointers which he could hope led him to real data.

Still, he had no "real data" if he was called back by the museum curators, which he hadn't been yet.  Deciding on another path, Fesic checked the museum's site for more information on the sword, hoping to find maker's marks or other data on the blade.  Sadly, a sword's hallmarks or maker's marks were generally put on the tang if a weapon was made to be assembled and disassembled.  As was the case with this blade, none of those markings were visible in the images on the site.  By then, it was closing on lunch and Fesic switched to see if he could find something fun for him to drag Aiden and Terin out to do?  He did that while the others had caught a port cab to and were arriving at the adventure tour seller's offices.

Those were not far from the station's main port facilities.  Jocelynn was so excited to make the jump that she agreed to pay for the cab.  As they arrived, they were surprised to see advertisements for a number of adventure experiences.  One of them advertised small single-person "space racer" craft that people could rent and fly just outside the station's immediate space.  The safety data posted with it explained all the craft were tied to computers in the station and any sudden unsafe operation could be countermanded and the craft even brought back into the venue's bay.  So long as those renting the craft were not unsafe, they could use the "highly dumbed down" controls to have fun even if they had no idea how to fly a space craft.

Of course, there were the more mundane "rent a small craft" offers to rent out shuttles, cutters and other small craft for pleasure use.  After signing into the office, the crew were all sat down and made to watch a safety and orientation vid to prepare them.  Following that, they went through the local safety training and were introduced to the instructors who'd be jumping with them.  The marines were very respectful of Rol, as a Starburst awardee, and the Knights in general.  Like Rol, most had done combat drops during the Fifth Frontier War, and they were ready for the crew.

At the same time, the scouts were in for the most jokes about growing a set of balls and doing something only real men did, and Emkir got laughed at most of all because he was an Admiral.  Surprisingly, after everything else, and before they started getting geared up, they were given a small "snack meal".  After that, the crew began getting them all into their gear with their instructors.  That took nearly half an hour, and part of the process included loading them onto shuttles.  They could see there would be two shuttles with three launch rails each, so one would be full and one would be have two filled rails.  The closer they got to being secured in the massive "suits" they'd drop in, they were launched from the station and on their way to the drop point.

As they closed on their drop point, the cabin of each shuttle was depressurized and the cargo doors were opened to the sort of view one only got when doing an EVA.  Not even flight crews got that open view of the planet rotating beneath them.  The next phase of the jump, as explained by the instructors, was to "synch" with the rotation of the planet beneath.  They had to do that to target and "hit" their designated drop zones on the surface.  Then, they were on their way down.  At first, they had nothing but the visual sensation of movement to tell them anything was happening.

Soon, while the space around them brightened, they each could make out the increasing appearance of a halo around their suits.  That soon flared into a fireball while they also experienced "quick chops" of turbulence.  Suddenly, each of them was the center of their own personal fireball while burning into the upper atmosphere.  That part of the ride eventually cleared away as the atmosphere thickened and the "kit" ejected a drogue chute, to stabilize their descents.  Still, it did nothing to really slow them down as they rocketed across the atmosphere at hyper-velocities.  Another "moment of excitement" came when the kit jettisoned the ablative shield that had protected their pods during re-entry.

By this point, the computer indictors on their HUD's had begun tracking their drop zones and they could start focusing on what looked like a rapid increase in the speed of the planet's approach.  That shifted from being "attacked by a continent" to "watching a huge shield of landscape rush up at them".  And then, with details slowly increasing in visibility, targeting computer-indicated icons started lighting up and guiding the actions of the instructors.  The next real thrill began soon after that, when the land beneath them started rushing past at speeds which rivaled those of jet aircraft.  So, the jumpers were rocketing along in small two-person enclosures while falling from the sky.

Wild as the ride was, the instructors worked with the computer following the prompts and tones directing them in.  A second set of drogues were released, that were meant to slow the fall as much as stabilize them.  That allowed some automation-directed navigation by "tugging or trailing" the cables connecting the chutes.  The effect that had on their falls was to throw them forward a bit and jerking them back, significantly slowing them down as the world below slowed down in its passage and became much more detailed.  That was when the more perceptive of them could even spot what looked like an air travel facility ahead of their path of travel.

The last segments of the drop were a combination of quick and decisive movements by each of the instructors as they worked to hit the target.  That set of drogues were released and an initial set of chutes were deployed next.  That jerked all the jumpers back hard again as they caught the air and hauled back.  Rol could tell them this had been the "civilian" model because the military method was to come in "harder and faster", landing with a more lateral approach while letting the pod armor eat some of the final velocity.  So, that set of chutes wouldn't have existed.  In that case, they were still coming up on their zones fast as they released the last set of chutes and deployed the landing chutes.

By then, they could all tell there were aircraft closing on them from the airfield as they settled into a descent profile.  This was the "safe part", as they started drifting downward and the instructors managed the tugs and trails to guide them down.  From then down, it was a case of continuing to burn off the adrenaline they'd been building up during the excitement of the drop.  Then they were down.  There were crews who'd targeted where they'd land and gotten there ahead of them, who were swarming around the newly landed "suits".  Workers cracked the suits and got the jumpers out and into folding chairs set up for them.

They each had breathing filters smacked on them as quickly as possible.  Other workers brought drinks and sliced fruits for them to eat and drink while the rest of the teams started breaking down and cleaning the suits.  The instructors and Rol were the first of them to be up and moving about and Jocelynn was next.  The next period of time was spent with other workers helping the crew get up and moving as a small army of workers handled getting the gear cleaned and moved into lifer shuttles to get back to the high port.  That was followed by a half-hour lift back to the port during which they all gushed, laughed, shared and said they wanted to do it again!

Not a firm to leave money sitting on the table, they offered the group a 25% off deal if they went back up and then did the jumps again.  Starting with Jocelynn and then Rol, the rest of the group all signed on to take another jump for Cr 750.  and they were on the way back up to go back down!  At the station, the group were offered boxed lunches for Cr 30 each which turned out to be pretty good.  After that, things went just like Déjá vu all over again.  And none of them were less thrilled than the first jump as they rocketed through the skies again and came in for their landings.

A Shot In The Dork

     Searching for adventure that didn't include dying while pretending to be a meteorite, Fesic found advertisements for a "space coaster".  What that involved was buying seats aboard a spacecraft with a lot more trans-steel portals than most spaceships.  On a regular schedule, the ship would leave the station to enter into a low planetary orbit.  Periodically during the orbits, the ship would make dives into the atmosphere letting the tourists "enjoy" all the spectacular sights of re-entry before pulling back up into orbit.  After a number of orbits and atmospheric dives, the ship would return to port and the tourists would go on their way.  As Fesic read about the "ride", it was not something he had done in the military but he was sure Aiden would have done things a more dangerous while he was in the service.

When Fesic started joking about trying to bust Mikah out of the hospital, Aiden suggested they go looking for a laser tag game.  Fesic said, "Sure, if you want to do that.  At least, you're not sitting there reading a book."  When they called into Terin's stateroom to suggest the idea to him, Terin was up for it.  Especially since there wouldn't be anyone making it their game to smash the less skilled.  Terin came into the lounge as Fesic and Aiden started looking for a place to go play, and found there were "high end" places with all the bells and whistles and more moderate and low-end places.  One thing they agreed on was to rent a place and challenge each other instead of going to a public space.

The place they decided on cost them Cr 500 each, and provided all the gear so they didn't have to worry about shopping before they played.  Before they went, they also had lunch.  When they hit the arena, the game they set up was to each get their own entry into a common maze.  Once they each made contact with either of the others, it was 'kill or be killed'.  Over the afternoon, they fought multiple engagements.  In the first faceoff, Fesic and Terin were the first to run into each other and that resulted in a heated shootout where neither could get an advantage over the other.  Sadly, as they each focused on the other, they lost situational awareness enough that Aiden was able to find them, line up his shots and take both out with single sniper shots.  And the saddest part was, Aiden was not even a sniper.  He only imagined he could fill that role.

In another match, Fesic was making his way through the maze when he thought he'd heard something.  Turning and opening fire, Fesic was hoping to hose down the person he couldn't see when Aiden popped up behind him and shot Fesic in the ass.  As Aiden sauntered up to where Fesic had dropped and started gloating over his kill, He got shot in the face by Terin.  In the last match, Terin got a fantastic idea, to rush the maze blasting as he went.  Sadly, that only managed to get him trapped in the center space of the maze as he was first cut off from one direction by incoming fire and then found he couldn't back off due to fire from another direction.  His lack of planning and strategy had him trapped between Aiden and Fesic's fire.

They continued to exchange fire with both Fesic and Aiden keeping Terin stuck in the middle and Fesic eventually decided to shift position hoping to get better cover against Aiden with a shot on the pilot too.  Unfortunately for Fesic, he moved just a bit too far and opened himself up to fire from Terin.  As they ended up in a sudden and heated shootout, Fesic finally got the upper hand and shot Terin down.  Only to be shot down by Aiden because Fesic had again become so wrapped up in the fight with Terin that he'd lost track of Aiden.  And with no one looking in his direction, Aiden could pick a place from which to watch the show and gun down the winner.

Eventually, they finished up and went back to the ship where they found the others had come back from their planet jumping adventures.  In her hospital room, the Captain had told Mikah to get dressed and then told her they were taking her on a field trip.  While dressing, Mikah was surprised to see she didn't even have a scar where she'd been shot or operated on.  When she was ready, they took her out to various locations on the base, and told her to make sure to do her best to mask her psi-active energy while trying to sense the tingling feeling of other psions using their talents.

After that, they took her to Port central, where the workers were more and noticeably annoyed at the interruption.  This was because the military had the right to enter and tour the space without notice even though everyone knew they didn't belong there.  While moving from space to space, Mikah was able to pick up enough sensations to identify a number of both military and civilian personnel who were active psions operating in the open, while doing that was a deathly risk to their lives.  And Mikah only noticed a few glances at her which were not at the Captain or other members of her team.

Finally, they went back to the base and the Captain asked, "Do you know what just happened?"  Mikah smiled and said, "You were testing me."  The man nodded and then asked, "Do you know what we were testing?"  Joking, Mikah asked, "To see if my head would explode?"  The Captain laughed and told her they'd had other people in the spaces they'd moved through and were tasked to see who noticed her or were not able to.  And some of the people there had been sent there to try and spot active psions without knowing Mikah or the Captain were anyone special.

After a pause, the Captain told Mikah he and his team felt she passed the test, though he again reminded her that she had no skills which could stand up to a fully trained psion and should flee any trained operatives she met.  That said, he told her they were going to return her to her ship and crew and Mikah joked, "Tell them I'll need the hoverchair."  Chuckling at the joke, he said, "We're just going to drop you off and you can handle those details with your crew."  When the Captain asked if she had any more questions, Mikah said she didn't but asked if she'd get a comms ID to call if she did come up with some?

Shrugging and holding his hands out in a time-worn admission of powerlessness, the Captain reminded her of what they'd said days before.  The Imperium had few enough psionic resources that many worlds did not even have psions or psi-friendly forces on-world.  That meant that where there were psions, they were stretched thin and not able to handle a lot of the "small things".  It was an important reason why Mikah had been trained now that she and the crew she commanded had actively encountered obvious psionic agents.  The Captain did tell Mikah that where there were psions, they would be listening to see if anyone needed help.  But even if they heard about a situation, there was no guarantee they'd be in a position to help at all.

He finished up by making sure Mikah understood there were no promises made except that the Imperium expected its secrets to be kept, and there would be retribution if they were spilled.  He also reminded her that her crew claimed they were troubleshooters, and were expected to live up to that claim.  Not to keep calling others to clean up their messes or help them out of issues.  Mikah defended that they had been forced to advertise that position and didn't do it by choice.  The Captain just shrugged because that is what his intelligence briefing had told him.  With that, the Captain had a port car brought around and took Mikah back to the ship.

Rol was cooking dinner as the others talked about their day when Zimzod got a call on his comms.  When he answered, a technician from the Imperial Naval base greeted him and told him the navy was returning Mikah to the ship and she would arrive momentarily.  The hospital had just wanted to make the crew aware she would be arriving.  The line was cut as Zimzod was thanking the technician.  When Jocelynn asked who that was, Zimzod announced it was the hospital and Mikah was on her way back to the ship.  That got a cheer from the crew.  When Jocelynn started to suggest they have a party, she was interrupted by Zimzod.

Getting everyone's attention, Zimzod said, "Now children.  If Momma shoots Daddy here, don't get too upset."  Some of the crew laughed while Jocelynn only asked, "What?" in a confused tone.  Looking around, Jocelynn asked some of the others, "What is he talking about?"  When she turned to look at Zimzod and nearly demanded, "What are you talking about?" Zimzod said, "I think she's mad at me."  In an 'I'm on her side you bad person' tone of voice, Jocelynn asked, "What did you do?"  Zimzod answered, "I didn't jump in before she got shot." as if it was the most obvious answer in the universe.  Others in the space either nodded or considered their lack of action at the time.  Jocelynn only answered, "Technically, that's my job." in a glum tone.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Mikah: In an Imperial Navy Staff port car on the way back to the ship
     Everyone else: In the ship's lounge getting ready for dinner and Mikah's return

Next: Changes In Direction