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The Captain's Return

Dinomn Image      Over the past week, Mikah had been unavailable and out of contact while the crew went about their work.  With her tolerance training done, and after being psionically tested, Mikah was riding in an Imperial Navy Staff port car taking her back to the ship.  The Navy had even called the ship to warn them she was coming.  The rest of the crew were in the ship's lounge, getting ready for dinner and Mikah's return.  Soon enough, there was eventually a buzz from the ship's comms, which Jocelynn heard.  She called out, "Not it!"

Hearing Jocelynn, Fesic asked aloud to no one in particular, "Shouldn't our security guy handle that?" in a taunting tone.  Returning taunt for taunt, Rol snapped back, "OK.  You wanna cook dinner?"  Realizing his joke hadn't been seen for what he meant, Fesic answered, "Oh!  I'll get it.  You're cooking dinner.  Let me get the hatch."  Leaving the ship, Fesic crossed the bay to the hatch and opened it to see a group of Imperial Naval officers escorting Mikah, standing outside the hatch and next to a small port-car.

Mikah growled "Where's the damn hover chair?" as Fesic happily said, "Welcome back Mikah!"  Caught flat-footed, Fesic had to mentally catch up before he answered, "Uh, let me go grab that."  He then turned and ran back into the ship to get the chair for her.  While Mikah waited, the crew got to watch Fesic scramble across the forward bulkhead of the ship's lounge and into bridge heading for the ship's locker.  There, and out of the other's view, he activated and pushed the gravChair back out to the air-lock.  Seeing him doing that, Jocelynn leapt up from where she sat to follow him.

When she saw Jocelynn following Fesic, Mikah pointed at her and demanded, "Jocelynn!  You need to stay six feet away from me!"  Surprised by that, Jocelynn suddenly stopped in her tracks while Fesic moved up with the chair.  Mikah dropped herself into it and relaxed herself.  Seeing Mikah was safely in the hands of her crew, the naval officers got back in the cart and left.  While Fesic escorted Mikah in and she made sure Jocelynn stayed outside six feet from her, they told Mikah dinner was fresh and just ready for her.

After they all sat down to eat, Jocelynn turned to Mikah and half-asked, half demanded, "Where the hell have you been?  And what has been going on?"  In the pause before anyone else could say anything, Rol asked, "Weren't you shot?"  That was more than half-aimed at Jocelynn's hyper reactions.  And Mikah was dressed so they couldn't see the injury site where she had been shot.  So, no one had seen the wound was "missing".  Taking a breath, Mikah answered, "I was taken to the naval base, mostly in a coma."  Hearing that, Jocelynn could only answer, "Wow."

Nodding after that, Terin said, "She did take one to the chest" in a tone that said they should all know that.  After another pause, Jocelynn told Mikah, "Your honey missed you." and nodded towards Zimzod.  Given her memories of the event, Mikah sharply asked, "Did he now?"  Missing the tone, Jocelynn answered, "Yes.  Very much."  In a dreamy tone, Aiden said, "He called every day." and Jocelynn added, "And he paced the floors every night."  For his part, Zimzod kept very quiet, expecting Mikah's wrath.  Into the pause that started building, Zimzod finally looked up from where he was eating and said, "I guess sex is out of the question" and got a few laughs.

After some giggles around the table, Jocelynn asked, "So?  You were just in a coma that whole time?  Nothing happened?  I mean...  Obviously, they healed you and all but...  They wouldn't let us talk to you.  They wouldn't give us any information.  We've been in the dark for..."  Mikah interrupted the flow of broken sentences saying, "You know the Navy!  Come on!" as if those things should have been expected.  Aali started to say, "Well, if they had her in a coma..." and Mikah told Jocelynn, "Well, I couldn't talk to you if I was in a coma."  Her tone said they all should have thought of how she would have been treated.

Nodding, Jocelynn said, "Well, I know.  But they wouldn't give us any information."  Shrugging, Mikah said, "That's the Navy." in a telling tone.  Rol stepped in, saying, "They wouldn't let us see you.  That's not the Navy."  That only got all the others around the table laughing at him.  The chatter went on like that for the rest of the meal, but nothing changed and Zimzod said little as they ignored the monster in the room.  Done eating, they continued to ignore the other issues as they introduced Mikah to the new clik-code class they'd begun in the crew.

Explaining the class to Mikah, they told her how Rol and Jocelynn, who knew Imperial military clik-codes, decided to train the rest of the crew in using a version of them.  Mikah was surprised to hear they'd started doing two hours a night of code training.  She was impressed they'd come up with the idea to do that all by themselves, without her help.  Jocelynn sat up straighter and joked, "We Smart!"  Aiden took the air out from under her by joking, "Well Rosalyn suggested pig Latin but we shot that down."  Jocelynn lashed out at him saying, "I am not Rosalyn!" while the others laughed.  That left Mikah wondering where the name Rosalyn had come from?

Things settled down as Mikah spent the next two hours working with a crew.  They'd obviously been drilling on the information for some time.  It was both impressive how much they had learned and frustrating how much she didn't as she tried to join in and keep up.  Still, they were able to manage the pace to work with her.  After that class, Mikah was again surprised to learn they'd set up a stent-training class for those with the implants.  Not having one herself, Mikah decided to log into a terminal and check the messages she'd received while she was under treatment.

While Mikah checked her messages, Fesic asked Jocelynn if she wanted to go back to the bars that night or stay at the ship?  Despite her concern for Mikah, Jocelynn told him, "Yeah, we probably should." because she wanted to keep building on the few successes they had.  Looking to Mikah as they prepared to leave, Jocelynn waived and said, "See ya."  Mikah only answered, "Don't get arrested.  I'm not gonna bail you out."  Laughing, they left and Mikah turned back to her terminal.

The first message Mikah spotted looked like it was high-priority and came from port operations.  The message, from a day before, reminded her that the ship had docked a week earlier and paid for a one-week rental of their bay.  Since that period was ending, the port was asking her to contact them to discuss the ship's departure or future rental payments.  Before doing anything else, Mikah checked for more messages from the port, and when she looked, she found two more.  The next was from the port administrator's office and explained that they recognized the crew had been affected by unique circumstances.  Because of that, they were delaying actions to collect any fees or address the continuing rental of the bay.

That explained why they hadn't reached out to Zimzod, as next in command of the ship.  The email did ask for her or her First Officer to contact their office at their first convenience.  The last email was from port operations, and said they'd been discussing the ship's situation with the port administrator's office.  At her or her First Officer's convenience, they wanted to discuss a schedule of costs they were ready to offer the ship for continued rental of the bay.

Not sure if the ship wanted to stay in port or not, they offered flexibility.  The ship could either pay Cr 200 a day, for their continued presence, or Cr 700 for the coming week.  Since they'd been in port nine days so far, the 'Cr 200 per day' plan would already cost them Cr 400.  On top of that, the port offered to forgive them a day if they bought another week's rental.  That meant they could pay the Cr 700 and have six more days in port to settle things and make decisions.  After reviewing the emails, Mikah called the port to pay the week's rental.  That gave them a "home" until the 305th day of the year.

Following that, Mikah found the next set of messages came from station security.  They wanted to set up a time to interview the crew about their involvement with Leeta Leyba.  Reaching out to security, Mikah made a snap decision and told them to come to the ship the next day.  As far as she knew, the crew didn't have plans and she was OK with telling them to cancel anything they did have, because she was out of hospital and didn't want things hanging over the ship.  Especially where they related to "that bitch".  Done with that, Mikah checked the rest of her messages, seeing none were consequential so she relaxed and watched vids until the stent session was done.

An Evening Change Up

     After they'd said goodbye to Mikah and Emkir, Jocelynn and Fesic had gone off on the hour-long trip back to "the bad side of the station".  Along the way, they talked about what they wanted to achieve?  Fesic reminded Jocelynn they'd gotten that one woman's contact information and could call her if they wanted.  They eventually decided to go back to the bar where they'd met the woman, and have drinks while they saw what happened?  When Fesic brought up the celebrating belter from four nights before they both thought it might be good to find him again.  After talking about him, they both realized they had no information on the belter, so they had no way of looking him up to see if he was still even on-station?

When they finally got to the bar, it looked empty from the outside because they could only see the outer-most booths.  But when they went inside, they saw the entire back of the bar had been "occupied" by what looked like a full-out combat unit.  Caught by surprise, Jocelynn scanned the array of gear the unit had, which she was entirely sure station security was unhappy about.  It was surprisingly much more uniform than the gear most mercenary units had.  Most mercenary units tended to get gear "where" or "when" they could, if they could afford to buy or replace gear at all.  So most units had a hodge-podge of pieces from a wide variety of sources and makers.  Only units that were "very new" or "very well supported financially" could afford to keep things that uniform.

Head Knockers Unit Insignia Jocelynn also didn't recognize their insignia, though that was no surprise with the millions of units in known space.  Jocelynn was also sure station security "had" to be watching the bar and unit members covertly.  Not that the mercs were making that hard for them.  It seemed like they'd "claimed" the bar, and set up a base camp there.  They weren't sleeping in the bar, but seemed to be using it as an on-station headquarters and rally point.  From what Jocelynn and Fesic could see, the folks working the bar were doing their best to keep the troopers happy.  They were not pleased at all when Jocelynn and Fesic walked in because they were worried this would lead to some kind of fight.  They were only a bit 'less unhappy' when the couple took a booth a distance from the mercs and quietly ordered a round of drinks.

While they drank, the two took turns looking the mercs over.  All Fesic could tell was that he could've mistaken the group for any Imperial Marine unit who'd been deployed to a lower tech world.  As she looked, Jocelynn noticed the interest was mutual.  She even caught one of the troopers in what could only be a brief evaluation of the shotgun she'd had strapped across her back.  Catching her look and deciding to give what might have been a non-verbal challenge, the man started breaking down his gauss rifle to clean it while Jocelynn watched.

Deciding to make a counter-statement herself, and ratcheting up the concerns of the bar staff, Jocelynn brought her shotgun up to the table top, since she'd unlimbered it from her back.  Not ready to disassemble the weapon there in the bar, Jocelynn shot a look at the man before grabbing some napkins and rubbing the barrel of the weapon in the fashion of "mock-cleaning".  When he saw that, the man started laughing and made jokes about the 'girl giving her shotgun a hand job'.  He laughed about how she was obviously a civilian.  The small team of people he was part of joined in on the jokes and the laughs.

Catching the jokes about her being a civilian, Jocelynn snapped, "I'm a civilian now", while stressing the last word to make her point.  She also sharpened her tone to push the point.  The man with the gauss rifle only shrugged off-handedly and said, "Once a civilian, always a civilian."  His tone suggested he felt that settled the point.  Jocelynn tartly answered, "There's no one alive who hasn't been a civilian at one point or another."  Seeing she'd missed his point entirely, the man snarked, "Yeah, we got smarter." and he and his whole group laughed at her.  Getting more annoyed, Jocelynn blurted out, "I'm an ex-marine.  An ex-special forces Marine." as she sat up straighter in her seat.

Fesic told her, "They don't need to know that." but Jocelynn had already decided her pride was dented.  Still, Jocelynn was also thinking the merc might just "want" to start a fight.  Deciding to try and move closer, Jocelynn stood while leaving her shotgun on the table with Fesic.  As she advanced, she held her hands out, open and visible.  Not moving especially slowly or cautiously, Jocelynn approached the mercenaries.  Seeing that, the team around the man with the gauss rifle stood up around him while he also stood.  They then moved to a line flanking him in either direction as Jocelynn got even closer.  When she got close enough, he acted.

His first move was to fake a cross-cut punch before suddenly dropping into a leg-sweep.  Despite expecting "something", Jocelynn was caught a bit by surprise and knocked on her ass as he swept her legs out from under her.  His crew laughed even harder as she dropped.  Glaring up at them, Jocelynn said, "OK.  I was coming over to talk to you but if you wanna play it this way..."  With that, Jocelynn rolled onto her back as she pulled her body into a tight ball.  Just as quickly, she pushed down with her hands while striking up with her legs, hoping to put all that power into a groin kick.  Back at their table, Fesic could only recognize how bad the night would end while watching Jocelynn start a fight with a bar full of mercenaries.

Because he'd been laughing with his team, the man was late in catching her move, but still dodged enough that her kick caught him in the right thigh.  He also gave her a step's space and didn't strike back as she pulled herself back into a ball.  Jocelynn then arced her back as she thrust out with her arms and then legs to get her feet under herself and get standing again.  Accepting her challenge, none of the mercs stepped in to engage her, letting Jocelynn get herself upright.  The rules of the game had been set.

Raising her hands as she got to her feet, Jocelynn wasn't familiar with their rules and said, "Hey, I was just coming over to make small talk."  Laughing at that, and at Jocelynn's apparent belief she was the one making decisions, they stepped back to their seats.  Disappointed she seemed to be ready to surrender, they continued to chuckle while returning to what they'd been doing.  Apparently ready to ignore her as uninteresting.  Changing tactics, Jocelynn said, "It looked like you guys were itching for a fight.  I was wondering who you wanted to pick on?"

Reacting to that, another of the mercs stood up and she saw he was a big beefy man, easily standing a head and a half or more taller than Jocelynn's 5'7.  Fixing her with a look, the man asked, "Why?  Do you want someone to pick on you?"  His tone made it clear he didn't see her as a challenge.  Not missing a beat, Jocelynn answered, "No.  I was gonna help you pick on someone else."  As she said that, the others mercenaries all started moving again, picking up and moving their gear out from around the space in which she and the man stood.

Jocelynn noticed the forming circle as the man said, "Maybe we want to find out how good you are before we help you pick on someone else."  Waving a hand at the other troopers, Jocelynn answered, "Well, I can't take you all on at once.  But I'm willing to try one on one."  Giving her a look and grinning with a self-satisfied smile, the man answered, "I don't need any help to take you two on."  Fesic only complained that they shouldn't start anything until they could get some bets made, and perhaps make money on any fighting.  Sadly, Fesic couldn't see they were largely ignoring him and everyone was watching Jocelynn and the trooper.  He was currently less than a waste of their time.

Just after Jocelynn asked, "What are the terms?" the trooper took a step forward and swung at her!  Trying to duck the first strike, Jocelynn moved in and the two mixed it up while those working the bar dove for places to hide.  As the fight developed, Jocelynn was certainly on the receiving end of things.  She still managed to hold her own.  She even got in a number of strikes and never got beaten down or sent flying, which had been a real risk with someone so much larger than she was.  When it all came to an end, Jocelynn had done well enough for herself but the trooper had done better.

Early in the fight, Fesic had stood up with his hands open and visibly empty while he tried to call out to stop the fight.  He didn't intend to get involved but his words couldn't be heard over the fight, and a few of the troopers obviously thought he might be thinking about doing just that.  So, when they stood up, their hands were "not" empty and their expressions made it clear Fesic shouldn't think of jumping in at all.  When they finally did hear anything he was saying, Fesic was again trying to stop things.  He was still suggesting they should place bets.  They still ignored his suggestions so Fesic accepted the situation and gave up, going back to just watching.

When the fight finally ended, both Jocelynn and the trooper had a chance to step back, dust themselves off and check out their new bruises.  Looking up at the man, Jocelynn nodded and said, "Not bad", in an approving tone.  He nodded back to her and asked, "What unit were you with?"  When she answered, "Black Sun Commandos" the man admitted he'd never heard of the unit.  Nether had his teammates either.  Shrugging, Jocelynn admitted, "Not many do." and then added, "Actually, technically, we didn't exist."  The man shot her a grin and agreed, "There were a lot of those units."

After a pause, the man asked, "Are you looking for a job?" Jocelynn did her best to casually ask, "What have you got?"  The man answered, "Whatever we get hired for." with a broad smile that promised either hard-fought and to-the-bone exhausting adventure or a bloody death.  It showed Jocelynn misunderstood when she answered, "Absolutely!  There's only so much you can do on this station to keep yourself entertained."  The trooper said, "Oh!  We're not staying here.  We're heading wherever we get hired to go."  The look of anticipation in his eyes showed he was ready to leave the station "now".

Realizing she'd misjudged them, Jocelynn introduced herself and asked who they were?  The man told her they'd started out as a team of squads in an Imperial Marine unit during the war.  But after the war ended and demobilization hit them, they'd all been cut loose in the Efate system at the same time, while they'd been handling mopping up operations.  Since he said they'd never had more fun than when they'd been out killing people in the name of the Imperium, they decided to form up a mercenary unit and keep on doing it!

Getting a charter to work as a mercenary unit while still on Efate, they hired on to take on some outstanding missions for the local governments, so they could afford to buy up a lot of released war materials.  They called themselves "The Head Knockers" and jobs had been well enough they had cash to spend and connections enough to keep them in gear.  Jocelynn nodded and said she agreed that she'd never felt as alive as when she'd been in combat.  She also said the man's offer was tempting.  Nodding, the man asked, "What are you doing now, and what's the story with him?" as he pointed at Fesic.

Before Jocelynn answered, Fesic said, "We're on a merchant ship."  Shooting Fesic a glare, he said, "I didn't ask you." making it clear he had no regard for Fesic.  When Fesic said, "Yes, but you mentioned me." Jocelynn could only giggle and wonder if he was about to get himself into a fight of his own?  Stepping in more quickly, Jocelynn told the man, "Yeah, we're part of a merchant crew.  It's not nearly as exciting as what you guys do but it pays the bills."  Nodding, the trooper asked where they'd been and Jocelynn said they'd been in the Wypoc and Inthe systems.  When she mentioned Wypoc, he made a face and wasn't the only one.

Jocelynn then said they planned to keep moving riftward, through the Ghandi system to D'Ganzio and added that they were going where the jobs were, like the mercs.  Nodding, the trooper said that Ghandi was a boring place.  Laughing, Fesic joked, "Well, we don't plan on taking on two squads of mercenaries when we get there."  The man shot them a look and said, "When you visit Ghandi, it's not about your plans to take on a military unit or not.  It's a question of walking in with high-tech gear and having the local government try to "officially" requisition it from you."  When Jocelynn asked if that happens, he told her they'd had an issue "getting one of their APC's out of a government storage house" it had found its way into.  The expression on his face made it clear the incident wasn't as fun or light-hearted as his tone made it sound.

Jocelynn asked, "How'd you get your APC back?" and he leaned closer with a very nasty smile and said, "By making ourselves unwelcome in the Ghandi system.  I'll tell you that much."  Jocelynn wasn't the only one to laugh as she said, "Rock on!  I like it!"  Another one of the mercenaries piped up, saying, "I doubt the people they hired to repair the storage house will complain too much."

Deciding to take a chance, Jocelynn asked, "Offhand question.  You guys wouldn't happen to know how to...  Make certain governmental items untraceable or get them to let you keep them?"  As she'd said "governmental items", Jocelynn had held up her fingers in air quotes.  One of the troopers shrugged and said, "Shoot their inspectors." as if that was the most logical answer in the universe.  Jocelynn was certain that suggested that was what those people would do if they felt they could get away with it.  Maybe, even if they didn't know if they could get away with it either.

Another of the troopers more suggestively said, "Then again, if it's that hot an item and you don't have the rights to own it, you can always give it to us.  We'll take care of it."  That woman had a more predatory grin on her face.  When Jocelynn very quickly said, "No.  I can't do that." the woman came back, "Sure you can." with a very encouraging tone.  Jocelynn countered, telling her, "No.  I kind of need it for my job."  Pushing further, the woman said, "Yeah, but you obviously don't need the governmental issues that come with it so you should give it to us."  As she said that, Jocelynn got the feeling the woman wasn't ready to stand up to continue the tactic, but might not take much pushing to get her to do that.

Hoping to shut the woman down, Jocelynn gave her a laugh and said, "You're cute." as if the idea were no more than an entertaining joke.  Before the woman could come back with another tack, Jocelynn said, "Let me get you some drinks and we can relax."  With that, she went back to the bar and ordered up three Cr 50 bottles of whiskey and a bunch of shot glasses.  After she shared out the booze, Jocelynn led them all in a toast of "Hoo Rah!"  Done with the drinks, some of the mercs gave Fesic a serious look for the first time and one asked, "So, what's your story?"  When Fesic only repeated that he worked on a merchanter ship, they said they'd already gotten that as they wondered if he was the crew's "slow member"?

One of the mercs figured he was just stupid, and asked, "Does she use you when she's cleaning her weapons?" suggesting he was just a tool.  Missing the point all together, Fesic just answered, "No.  We're just friends and co-workers."  His missing the point even got some laughs from the mercenaries.  Nodding at Fesic, they asked him, "So, what's your job on the ship?" figuring a direct approach might work better.  When he said, "I'm the supernumerary and the ship's gunner", one of the mercs sparked up and said, "Ah!  The cargo master."

Head Knockers Ship Nodding, another trooper asked, "Do you have any decent guns on the ship?"  Fesic played it low key, saying they had a few turrets with lasers.  Nodding, the trooper answered, "So, nothing really dangerous." but his tone wasn't dismissive.  One of the other troopers pulled out a portable computer and said, with a good measure of pride, "This is our ride!"  The image was of an obviously combat-designed vessel with aft-dorsal docked assault shuttles and nasty looking weapons including barbettes.  Those normally mounted particle accelerators or high-energy weapons.

Nodding in appreciation, Fesic asked, "What's her jump capability?" and was told the merc's ship could jump two parsecs on their own.  But they'd also hired a jump shuttle to give them a four-parsec range.  Jocelynn nodded and said, "Very cool.  Nice ride."  The trooper said, "It's expensive to get from place to place, but once we get there, we raise hell!"  Nodding again, Jocelynn said, "I like it." with a smile.  Moving on from the ship, Jocelynn figured it was likely time to move on and leave the mercs behind for the moment, but wanted to give the man she'd fought with her contact data.

When she offered that, he asked what it was she was "trying to move" without getting it noticed?  Trying not to give away too much information, Jocelynn said, "Let's just say some of my old gear."  He gave her a confused look back so Jocelynn gave him a quick rundown on her experience on the Regina's Storm.  Still, she didn't mention the battledress.  What some of the troopers took from that story and started joking about was, "Don't travel with her!"  Fesic jumped in and said, "Don't travel with our navigator.  He's the one who misjumped."  That led to some of the mercs joking, "Don't travel with any of them people."  A couple of the others even moved a bit away from Jocelynn and Fesic because they might be a bit superstitious.

Finishing her story, Jocelynn admitted that she'd not turned in "all" her gear when she mustered out.  When he gave her a drawn out "hmmm", she said, "You know how it is when you get attached to stuff."  The trooper only smiled and said it sounded like this was gear she "should" turn over to them...just for safe keeping.  Jocelynn only reacted by shaking her head and saying she couldn't do that.  As their conversation went back and forth, Jocelynn began to worry she'd said enough that she and Fesic might just get grabbed anyway, if someone in the unit thought they could demand whatever it was she was hiding.  Even worse, she realized she'd said enough the troopers could call in the Navy on her if she didn't play ball, just to get even with her.  And that was an even worse feeling.

Pushing the discussion all the way back to her first comment, Jocelynn admitted she wasn't really free to jump ship and join up with the merc's.  Still, she said she hoped they could work together in the future if they ended up working in the same system.  The man smiled and said they could always reach out if that happened.  And if they needed extra meat-shields, they might call the crew in.  The tone of his comment said it wasn't meant as an insult but was what he thought was an accurate assessment of what her crew could do to help in their line of work.

Settling In And Issues

     After the stent class broke up, Aiden made it a point to try and remember the news item he wanted to tell Mikah about, so he could make her aware of it and see how she reacted?  Because the events of that day had been "so exciting", and the week after been so filled with other events, it took a bit for him to remember enough before approaching her.  Thanks to gaps in his memory, there was some confusion.  When he finally went to talk to her, he found Zimzod also wanted to talk to Mikah. Facing that, she made Zimzod wait until she'd finished with Aiden.

Aiden told her he'd watched some news coverage a week before, and during discussions of the news from Regina about the Quasar Viper, there had been comments made about her and the crew.  Aiden managed to remember the commenter's name and the "general muck raking" slant he used to drag Mikah's name into the news.  How he'd even complained that system authorities should call Mikah and the crew in to be "questioned" about rumors they'd had a role in the history of the famous wreck.  While Mikah wasn't sure if what he claimed was real or a result of Aiden's paranoia, she took note of his fear they'd be "brought in" and forced to answer questions.

When he finished his tale, Mikah asked Aiden if he'd talked to Zimzod about it at the time, and Aiden said he had.  Turning to Zimzod, who'd been waiting to talk to her himself, Mikah asked what he'd done about the issue?  Zimzod smiled and said, "Nothing" in a tone that said he was sure he had no reason to care about it at all.  That annoyed Mikah, who said she was going to send an x-message to Regina, because those researching the rumors should know about what was being said just one parsec away.  Zimzod told Mikah he was sure they already knew, but Mikah didn't feel that way.

In an annoyed tone, Mikah told Zimzod, "We need guidance on this.  You shouldn't have just shoved it under the carpet."  After pumping Aiden for all the data he could remember or look up, Mikah dismissed him and told Zimzod to wait while she wrote up an update to send to Regina.  The message, which was simple text and only being sent two parsecs, only cost Mikah Cr 2 to send.  After she hit the submit button an automatic alert checked the system x-boat status and told her the next x-boat was bound for Regina in several hours.  After she secured the terminal, Mikah announced to Zimzod it was time to change her bandages while starting to drive the gravChair to her stateroom.

After the door was closed, Mikah told Zimzod to have a seat on the bed while she got ready for him to help her change her bandages.  Saying "OK" as he started moving, Zimzod asked, "You don't want to shoot me first?"  When Mikah said she didn't, Zimzod admitted he'd been looking forward to her doing that for a bit.  That tole Mikah he knew she was upset with him and Mikah promised she had something else planned.  When he asked, "Is it unpleasant?" Mikah said, "Just sit down, relax and let's take care of this.  Then, I'll take care of you."

Mikah pretended to gingerly get out of the gravChair as if she could not move normally, and went to where she had her medical supplies.  Grabbing some gauze, Mikah tossed that to him before moving back, close to him, and asking, "Are you ready to change the bandages?"  When he said he was ready, Mikah drew her arm back as if to remove her blouse and then surprised him with a sucker punch to the jaw!  From where she stood, the look on Zimzod's face when she hit him was a precious combination of surprise and understanding.

Knocked back against the bed, Zimzod took the blow and looked up at Mikah before saying, "OK!  You just gave me a major chubby baby!"  Looking down at Zimzod, Mikah snapped, "That was for sitting there on your ass while I was getting shot.  And not doing what you were supposed to be doing while wearing your battledress!"  Trying to defend himself, Zimzod said, "You kinda stepped in before I could clobber the bitch."  Mikah snapped back, "Yeah!  Because you weren't doing anything!"

When Zimzod claimed he'd been waiting for "the right moment" and Mikah had just messed everything up, Mikah snapped, "The moment had come and gone!"  When he answered, "Nah", she just snapped, "Uh huh".  Zimzod changed the topic by pointing to his crotch and complaining, "Well, I've still got a raging boner" Mikah said "Good for you" with her tone telling him she didn't care.  After a pause, Mikah continued, "So, next time, when you decide that something's not right, and you don't tell anybody and just go along with the plan...  And, then, when something else is obviously wrong and you still don't do anything.  Maybe now, you'll remember this."  After Zimzod sat up and admitted he might change the way he did things in the future, Mikah said, "Now you can help me change my bandages."

She then started taking off her blouse.  If Zimzod was surprised when Mikah hit him, that was nothing to his surprise when she opened her blouse and there was no sign of any wound at all, past or present.  The only scarring or sign of anything on her chest, as she stood before him in her bra and slacks, were shrapnel scars she got in the Rech system, and the left shoulder slug scar she'd gotten in Skull.  But those were old wounds and Zimzod expected them.  What he didn't expect was the lack of any healing wound in the center of her chest.  Nodding slowly out of the surprise, Zimzod said, "I saw you shot and bleeding.  So, what's up with this?" as he pointed to her chest.  His confused tone did almost more to please Mikah than having hit him did.

As he waited for her answer, Mikah swung her arm to punch him again.  Still slightly on guard because he knew she was mad, Zimzod was still looking into her face and expecting some kind of answer instead of the punch.  Because of that, he wasn't able to react fast enough to block or dodge and Mikah caught him again in the face, knocking him back down to the bed.  Accepting this was just something he was gonna have to accept and muscle through, Zimzod leaned into her after the hit and pulled her down to kiss her.  Mikah's response was to join in on a mixture of "Angry sex" and Make up sex" with a few knees to the crotch at unexpected moments.

While Mikah dealt with Zimzod in their stateroom, Rol had done an evening workout on his own, and set his alarm before going to sleep.  Aiden had grabbed a reading tablet after his chat with Mikah and read into the evening until he was ready for sleep.  He also set an alarm.  When the stent session ended, Terin announced to everyone in the lounge that he was gonna go to the amusement park for "over-night" fun and asked who else wanted to come?  The others completely ignored him so he left on his own.  A last set of comments came from Aali, who said, "You can sleep when you're dead."  Which was followed by Rol, who said, "That can be arranged."

Emkir had spent the time while Aali was doing stent training watching the news.  Annoyingly, none of the news had really changed since it took a week to get from solar system to solar system.  That and local news on the negotiations between the government and orbital communities were still on-going.  Eventually, Emkir sparked up the biplane aerial combat sim in 'single player' mode and played until Aali got done with her training.  After the stent session ended, they went into their stateroom as Terin was leaving, to have some fun before sleeping.  Still, they had set an alarm for the next morning.

When Fesic and Jocelynn got back to the ship, after having disentangling themselves from the mercenaries, they found the ship's common lounge empty because everyone had gone to sleep or elsewhere.  Seeing there was nothing happening and it being late enough not to start something new, Fesic asked, "Your stateroom or mine?" in an open invitation.  After a pause, Jocelynn answered, "I'm going to the spare stateroom. because there is still construction in mine." and she stressed the word "I'm" to make it clear she was going to be alone.  Nodding, Fesic bid her a good night and they went to their separate rooms.

No Souvenirs

     The ride to the park cost Terin Cr 15, and then he had to pay the Cr 80 for an over-night pass.  The interior of the very large compartment the park occupied was in subdued lighting, "backlit" by the starlight visible through very large(and very well reinforced) glazSteel hull sections.  Within, and throughout the compartment were massive arrays of other strobing, beaming or flashing and colorful lighting clusters and displays turning the compartment into a giant funhouse environment.

The thrill rides ranged from "lower-tech tension-driven mechanical systems" up to "high-tech gravitic systems" with independent cars controlled by tractor and repulsor technology as they hurtled through computer-controlled paths, cris-crossing the park.  Terin's plan was to hit the thrill rides and enjoy while also taking breaks to participate in games of challenge.  Entering each ride through the "single riders" portal, Terin eventually ran into a blonde who was also riding alone.  After enjoying each other's reactions on the first ride, they decided to "pair up" for the rest of the night.  With her at his side, Terin had a fun night on the park.

The two spent the rest of the evening sharing their experiences on the thrill rides until it was early enough in the morning it was time to go home.  Where Terin hoped for a bit more fun in private after, the woman wasn't interested and they ended up in their separate taxis heading to their separate homes.  The worse news for Terin came when he reached into his pocket to grab his Ident and pay for the ride and found the device was missing!!  When Terin realized this and said he had to go back to the amusement park, the driver was none too happy with the situation.  He suggested Terin go into his ship and get one of the crew members to pay the tab before they go anywhere else.

When Terin agreed, he considered his list of victims and decided to pick on Rol because the cook got up early every morning anyway.  Of course, 4:30 in the morning was a lot "more early" than Rol generally planned on, or enjoyed.  Waking up to a pounding on his stateroom door, Rol could only tell himself, 'This is not good' as he got up and moved to open the door.  Seeing Terin standing outside his door in the barely lit compartment beyond, Rol demanded, "What time is it?"

When Terin told him it was around 4:30, Rol demanded, "Why are you here?"  Apparently having lost the ability to give a coherent answer to any question, Terin only answered, "Someone lifted my Ident."  Glaring at Terin, Rol repeated, "Why are you here?" and then added, "At my door" since it appeared Terin couldn't actually give a complete answer without instruction.  This was ironic because Rol often suffered from the same issues.  Terin answered, "Someone lifted my Ident.  Can you pay for the taxi for me?"  When Rol asked how much the bill was Terin admitted he didn't know.  After turning back into his stateroom to grab his Ident, Rol pushed Terin out of the way before going out to pay the cab.  Seeing Rol heading out, Terin followed along.

Not happy with Terin's stagger, Rol stepped against him and knocked him down on the deck!  While Rol dealt with the taxi, Terin got back up and started working through the steps in his mind to call the park and start looking into the blonde woman he'd spent the night with.  When Rol got back into the compartment, Terin saw Rol making a direct line toward him and tried to evade what he knew was coming.  Sadly, he wasn't able to, and Rol caught him with a kick in the stomach.  Leaning down to the level of Terin's head as he bowed down, Rol growled, "You're welcome".  Then Rol went back to what sleep he could get before the rest of the morning.

After straightening up, Terin moved over to the comms and called the Amusement park and the operator who answered was happy to ask how they could help him?  When Terin introduced himself, with all his titles, and said that his Ident had been stolen at the park, the operator said, "That's horrible!  Have you notified station security?"  Terin told the operator, "No, I figured I'd let you guys try to handle it first."  Shrugging, the operator said their jurisdiction ended once attendees left the park and he'd left the park.

Thanking the operator, Terin cut the line with the park and called station security to connect with a very bored night shift dispatcher who asked how he could help?  Terin again rolled out his name and full titles before saying he'd spent the night at the amusement park and his Ident had been pick pocketed.  He then went further to say, "I'm trying to track down the girl I was with because I think she took it."  Duly impressed with Terin's titles (largely because he could see Terin wanted him to be impressed) he spent the time needed to get all the details he could from Terin, including a description of the woman he'd accused of being the likely thief.

The dispatcher completed the report and assured Terin he'd escalate the situation to a daytime squad leader.  Terin was told he should wait for a call from the day shift team on the investigation.  Terin also asked that they put an alert out to prevent anyone using his Ident to get out of the system.  Following that call, Terin called station central to see if he could get his Ident replaced?  He was directed to the Imperial offices, who told him the process, which he could start during business hours, normally took a weeks' time and cost Cr 10,000.  Then, nearing 5 am in the morning, he crawled into his bed and went to sleep.

Finishing Business

     The morning began as most did, with Rol getting up early to cook.  Aiden's alarm went off while Rol had cooked and served flapjacks.  He came out into the lounge to see Rol was, for some reason, very annoyed.  Sitting down and considering if the pancakes might have ground up glass in them for reasons only Aiden could come up with, the pilot was shocked back to the moment when Rol growled, "Do you have a problem with my cooking?"  Looking up into Rol's intense glare, "Aiden answered, "Never!"  He punctuated that by quickly grabbing a syrup without even looking to confirm where the bottle was on the table, then pouring some on his pancakes.

After Rol stepped back away from the table, Aiden snarked, "Did we not get our beauty sleep?"  That caused Rol to execute an expert about face and stride over to grab Aiden by his shirt, pulling the pilot up face to face with him.  Rol then growled, "No!"  Taking a breath even as Rol grabbed and held him like that, Aiden finally got out in a normal tone, "Anything we should know?"  Rol grunted out, "Ask  Terin", biting off each word before he released Aiden and moved back away from the table.

As Rol left Aiden and went back to the galley area, Fesic emerged from his stateroom after doing his morning routine.  Heading for the obvious food, Fesic could feel a tangible hint of tension in the compartment.  When he saw Rol turn to see who arrived with a glare, Fesic joked, "I thought I smelled something."  With forced cheer, Fesic then said, "Oh!  I love pancakes." and Rol simply snarked, "Eat up." as Fesic grabbed some pancakes and reached for the syrup.

When Aiden tried to pantomime a message to Fesic, mouthing 'Don't ask' and pointing at Rol, Fesic understood exactly what Aiden wanted but smiled and loudly asked, "What?  Does a cat have your tongue Aiden?"  Aiden slapped his face in disbelief as Rol snarled, "That was Aiden trying to be subtle."  Rol's comment made it clear Aiden was the only person in the compartment who actually thought he'd had any chance to succeed, or that his paranoia was warranted.  Glowering at Rol then Fesic, Aiden added, "And, I had forgotten who I was talking to."

On the table, in addition to the pancakes, they saw toast, a carafe of caff and a pitcher of some liquid that had the color of washed out yellow sand.  When they asked him about the liquid, Rol said he'd tried a juice recipe from one of his books.  His tone didn't suggest if he did it to test the recipe or to punish the crew?  When they commented on the color of the juice, Rol snarled out a question about their reticence to try it and Fesic was the first to enthusiastically, if badly hiding his sudden fear, claim he was looking forward to trying it.

Rol had tasted it when he made it, and gelt it had not come out exactly as he'd hoped.  Still, he thought it tasted OK.  That meant he had to fiddle with the recipe to make it better next time.  When Aiden tasted it, he thought it was a bit sweeter than it needed to be, but he liked it.  Fesic tasted it and found it horrifyingly sweet.  Much too sweet to actually drink.  Despite his attempts to be polite about it, Rol snarled and sloshed the caff as he moved it closer to Fesic, so the gunner had no question there was something stuck up Rol's ass.

Deciding it was time for some home-spun therapy, Fesic asked, "So, Rol?  You getting tired of making breakfast or something?"  When Rol spat back, "I had a bad night." Fesic shook his head and said, "Oh.  Sorry to hear that." in a matter-of-fact tone.  Fesic hadn't gotten more than those words out of his mouth when Rol spat out, "Courtesy of Terin."  The sound of his tone suggested he hoped the words could reach Terin wherever he was and rip him apart.  When Rol looked around, he noticed for the first time that Terin wasn't there, and asked, "Where is he?"

No one could say what Terin had done, though Aiden remembered him leaving for the amusement park the night before.  While Fesic left before Terin had done anything, and had no idea where Terin was or what he was doing, Rol knew the last part of that story.  Having finished cooking, eating and cleaning up after, Rol decided to go and bang on Terin's stateroom door.  By that time, alarm clocks had woken up Emkir, Aali, Mikah and Zimzod, and they were getting into their morning routines.  While Emkir and Aali got out of bed, Mikah agreed when Zimzod suggested they turn off the alarm clock and spend some more "quality time" in bed with each other.

Rol was only just starting to cross over to Terin's stateroom door when Emkir and Aali came forward, through the aft hatch that led to their stateroom door.  Seeing Rol moving with what appeared to be a full head of steam, across the compartment, they watched as Rol began banging on Terin's door with an angry vehemence.  In a brief pause, Emkir called over, "What?  Is somebody sleeping late again Rol?"  Rol only snarled back, "Not for long." and turned back to continue his pounding.

Inside his stateroom, Terin woke to the realization it felt much too early for him to be waking up.  That led to the realization his hopes of sleeping in after his adventures were not to be reality.  Dragging himself out of his bunk, Terin made his way to the door and hit the control to open it, only to come face to face with Rol's angry glare.  When the door opened, Rol simply growled, "Breakfast time.  Time to get up."  Terin reacted by yawning and trying to be polite as he said, "Good morning Rol.  Thank you.  I'll be out in a couple of minutes."  With that, Terin hit the door stud and closed it.

After closing the door in Rol's face, Terin turned to go back into his stateroom when the pounding started again.  Not long after it restarted, it changed because Emkir had also crossed the compartment and tried to help Rol by attempting the rhythmic tattoo of an old musical piece he recalled.  Sadly, Emkir's attempts only added to the noise level until even Rol stopped to turn on Emkir with a raised eyebrow and ask, "What are you doing?"  That was also when Terin, having turned around and returned to open the door, looked out to see Emkir draw his hands back in reaction as Rol glared at the Admiral with an eyebrow raised.

When he found his voice, Terin said, "Good morning Admiral." in a somewhat confused tone.  Emkir smiled broadly and called out in a loud voice, "Good morning!  How are you?" as if he thought Terin might have a hangover.  Trying to moderate the volume of the conversation by example, Terin said, "I'm fine" in a conversational tone.  He was about to say more when Emkir cut him off, again loudly calling, "That's good to know."  Nodding, Terin asked, "Is there a good reason why you're beating on my door?"  Emkir loudly replied, "It just seemed like a good time to practice wipeout", which meant nothing to Terin.  The Navigator had to assume it was a nickname Emkir had for pranks.  Nodding, Terin simply said "OK" and closed the door again.

Aiden rose as the door closed and moved over to join Emkir and Rol by Terin's door.  During that, Aali moved over to the table and started serving herself while keeping an eye on the childish floor show and desperately trying not to release her own hilarious laughter.  When the door closed, Rol slammed one last hammer-fist of frustration into it and turned off for his stateroom as Emkir burst out laughing.  When Aiden got to the door, he burst into his own solo of pounding fists.  Terin ignored the first large slam and what followed as he surrendered into his morning routine.  Shortly into the pounding, the tempo seemed to shift but it ended after Terin ignored it for most of a minute.

Aiden had gotten tired of pounding after thirty more seconds without a reaction and turned back to the table and his plate there.  Aali and then Emkir had served themselves while Fesic had finished eating and moved over to the couch in the space to turn on the morning news.  After Aiden finished eating, he joined in with Fesic.  Rol was doing gear maintenance in his stateroom as he let elbow-grease burn off anger.  Eventually, Terin got done with his morning routine and emerged from his stateroom at the same time Mikah came out of hers and Jocelynn came forward from the spare stateroom.  The crew were not aware why Zimzod wasn't with Mikah but assumed he was still asleep.  In fact, she had told him to wait in the stateroom until she called him out.

Despite being freshly showered and clean, Terin looked bedraggled and everyone could see he hadn't gotten enough sleep.  Seeing Mikah, while she scanned the compartment and saw everyone but Zimzod and Rol, Terin asked if he could speak with her for a second?  Mikah then listened as Terin said, "I got pick pocketed last night and someone stole my Ident." in a downcast tone.  Mikah shifted her posture, moving weight to her trailing foot as she groaned, "Again?" in a disappointed note.  While Terin complained he had never lost his Ident before, Mikah could be forgiven her reaction because Terin had been with Munarshu when he'd lost his.  So, she really didn't care how Terin felt in the face of his own stupidity.

After a pause, Terin continued, "I contacted the park and station security, and I'm waiting to hear back from them."  When Mikah just answered, "OK", Terin just said, "So."  He let the pause stretch until Mikah said, "Well, have fun with that."  Everyone realized that, without any way to prove his identity, Terin was gonna be the one watching the ship for the time being.  Terin then continued, "I think Rol is a bit miffed at me because I woke him up to pay for the taxi."  When Mikah asked, "Is he?" and followed that up asking where Rol was, Terin said he didn't know but said, "He made breakfast and woke me up specifically so that I would not miss breakfast so..."

Mikah then announced they'd be having a crew meeting in a minute so someone had to find Rol.  Mikah also said Zimzod would be out in a minute too.  When Terin said he wouldn't look for Rol, Fesic volunteered to do that and got up to go over to Rol's stateroom door and knock.  When Rol opened the door, Fesic told him Mikah wanted him in the lounge for a crew meeting.  Agreeing, Fesic went back and told Mikah Rol was coming as Rol settled his gear and cleaned himself off before moving back out to the lounge to join the others.  Mikah waited until Rol had arrived and was seated to get started.

No one asked about Zimzod, who was still missing, as Mikah settled the gravChair and made a show of "being wobbly" when she got up.  She then cautiously started wandering around the group at the table.  Mikah started talking by telling them all that they would be visited that morning by station security.  She told them, "They will be debriefing everyone who met Leeta Leyba."  She said this as she came close to where Rol was sitting and then turned to look at him saying, "By the way, Rol, you didn't seem too surprised about how she arrived."  Few noted the slight accusatory tone in Mikah's voice.

When Rol answered, "I've seen her type before", Mikah asked, "Oh.  You have, have you?"  Rol switched that, saying he'd heard of those types of commandos but had never met or fought one.  Terin piped up, glumly saying, "I have" but Mikah didn't care for either response and didn't really care how either man felt at the moment.  Mikah stepped closer to Rol as she continued, "Well, if you had an idea how they worked and you were not as taken by surprise as the rest of us were, you might have wanted to do something about it.  And that tells me you really really really suck at being a war criminal."

That got laughs around the table, though some were now nervous, uncertain where Mikah was going with her comments?  Rol only allowed, "I had help" and Mikah agreed, "Yeah, you did" with a glance back at her stateroom door.  People noting that didn't have any time to relate that glance to Zimzod's absence as Mikah continued, "So now, in my infirmity, I have to recover and there are gonna be some changes around here."  And one of them is that there is going to be..."  Dropping the sentence Mikah had used to pose herself.  She then pivoted all her skill and power into a cross cut as she sucker punched Rol, knocking him out of his chair.

Rol had barely hit the deck when Mikah snarled, "So!  Did that surprise you?" in a demanding tone.  While everyone else was speechless, Jocelynn let out a loud, "Oh, snap!"  Playing the "idiot card", Rol was rubbing his face where she hit him as he got back up and dared to answer her, "No.  Not really."  Looking down her nose at him, Mikah said, "I would beg to differ, or you really really suck at being a war criminal."  Rol settled himself back in his seat as Mikah sat back in the gravChair and comm'd Zimzod, angrily snapping, "You can come out now."  When Zimzod did come out of their stateroom, he was able to show off two new shiny bruises still forming on his face but came up and gave Mikah a big kiss.

As he did, he said, "Morning baby!  Last night was great!" in an attempt to steal back some of his lost dignity.  Terin took that moment to compliment Zimzod on his "foreplay bruises".  The bruises left little doubt about some of what had happened behind closed doors.  Mikah did ask Zimzod if he wanted ice packs for the bruises but Zimzod said he wanted to savor them.  Seeing Zimzod, Aiden turned to Fesic and asked, "Isn't this novel?  Seeing all this happen and it not happening to you?"  Fesic just chuckled and said, "In a way."  Jocelynn asked for an ice pack for her bruises, but didn't say how she got them.

Things settled down as Mikah said she would call station security in to debrief everyone except Fesic about Leeta after she'd eaten, so if they had any plans, those were cancelled.  With that, everyone who hadn't yet eaten settled in to grab food and those who hadn't decided to try Rol's juice.  Rol did warn them all the juice was a bit sweet.  Emkir found the juice a bit more sweet than he liked while Jocelynn felt the juice wasn't nearly sweet enough.  Aali was horrified because it tasted to her like sugar barely dissolved in water with some kind of tasteless thickener thrown in.

When Terin agreed with Aali's reaction, if only saying it was bad but not as bad as all that, Rol fixed him with a glare and snarled, "Good!"  Mikah surprised them all by announcing she thought it was great and even grabbing a second mug of it to go with the first, and a mug of caff.  Zimzod could get it down but admitted it was a bit too sweet for him too.  Almost everyone cheered when Rol suggested watering it down with some beer.  The only holdout on that was Jocelynn who grimaced and said, "Uhhhg!" in distaste.  The meal was ending when Mikah called security to have the investigators visit.

Shortly after that, the security team arrived and Fesic was excused because he had no contact with the suspect.  Accepting that, Fesic went on the long walk to the agro-dome, to wander in the park until lunch time.  When the officers started setting their priorities, they first wanted to speak to Mikah, Zimzod and Rol.  That was because they wanted to get the best understanding of how Leeta had arrived, and the events that followed.  Mikah was asked more questions about setting up the visit and her contacts with Leeta.  They questioned Mikah intently on all aspects of her dealings with the woman, looking for any hint Leeta had been psionic before the attack.  Mikah was critical of that because she wouldn't have let the bitch ambush her if she knew that was possible!

When Zimzod was questioned, he gave the least detailed of the initial statements.  A key interest of theirs was why Zimzod had gotten into his battledress before she arrived?  Did he have a specific reason for that?  The investigators wanted to know why he'd felt the need to get into the armor?  What did he know or what had he been so concerned about that he geared up for war?  Especially, since Leeta wasn't even supposed to reach the ship without being arrested by station security?  It seemed, to some of them, that Zimzod, and the crew, had possible expected Leeta to be able to evade the ambush somehow, and the crew had expected and prepared for that to happen.

Zimzod repeatedly answered their questions by claiming his armoring up had been nothing more than a precaution, because plans didn't always work the way they should.  After pushing a bit on that, the security team moved on to ask, since he had gotten into the armor as a precaution, why Zimzod hadn't moved immediately to take Leeta down when she appeared?  Zimzod claimed he'd been worried that just rushing her would cause Leeta to fire her weapon before he was able to block her fire.  So, he was worried someone would get shot if he moved too quickly.  When they finished questioning Zimzod, the investigators were still very uncertain of his answers but had come to a point where they had to accept his answers or accuse him of lying.

When the investigators sat down with Rol, they wanted to know how a decorated and well-documented special forces operator like him had been caught so completely by surprise?  And why, after that surprise, Rol hadn't found a way to act to prevent events from ending so badly?  Answering that, Rol said he had wanted to plan his counter-attack when his actions would have a better chance to succeed.  Not asking for him to lay out a complete plan of action, they did ask Rol to explain how his plan might have helped resolve the situation?  Rol tartly pointed out that Leeta would have been within his arm's reach for one thing.

When they did ask how that would have helped, Rol said it would have given him the chance to strike her down before she could pull the trigger.  Having heard too many people claim they thought they could stop someone squeezing their finger with any move, the investigators were doubtful.  And while Rol could resent the fact they had not been in the compartment experiencing the events on the ground, Rol also had to swallow that and admit he'd been wrong.  And Rol couldn't evade the judgement he saw in their eyes.

The rest of the crew were questioned much less significantly, because their actions were much less important to how events played out.  Jocelynn was questioned only briefly, but was asked not to leave the ship until they were done, in case they developed more questions to ask her based on answers from the others.  As the questioning continued, a buzz told them they had a visitor at the bay entrance.  Soon after that, the bay crew chief said they had visitors...from the Imperial Navy.

Hearing that, Mikah unenthusiastically asked, "Again?" and Rol made a joke about her recent hospitalization, saying, "They're back.  They didn't quite get the last implant right."  When Terin went to let the Navy in, he was surprised to see the team were armed, being led by two officers.  Moving into the space, some of the armed troopers took up positions guarding the doors.  That make it clear "the crew" were being guarded as much as the space.  The senior officer asked to speak privately with the leader of the station security team and Lady Mikah.

While Mikah was curious, station security were annoyed at the intrusion on their jurisdiction.  After the senior security man agreed, Mikah ordered everyone from her crew below decks into the engineering space until she called for them to come back.  Waiting until they all moved, the navy officer, a Lieutenant Commander, told the security man the entire incident was being classified and compartmentalized by the Imperial Navy.  That also came with orders that station security hand over all their data and stop investigating the issue.

Suddenly outside the issue for the moment, Mikah got to watch as the navy and security officers argued over jurisdiction and security interference.  During the conversation, the navy man kept himself calm and correct while quoting regulations and citing multiple instances which supported how their actions supported station security.  He also cited a number of points where station security should not interfere with Imperial security and defense.  In the end, the Navy had all the laws and power and the station officer had to sign off on handing over the case to the navy.  The Commander signed off on the station officer's orders and he called his people to leave.

Finally alone with the navy team, Mikah was asked to bring her people back up to the lounge.  Coming back to the lounge, the crew saw all exits from the ship had been manned by an armed navy trooper.  There, they found Mikah standing with the Commander and his aide, and with no station security in sight at all.  Once they were gathered and seated, including Mikah, the Commander apologized for the unusual measures being taken in the situation.  He told them he was sure they understood the situation was unusual and required alternate measures.  The Commander then explained to them that the Navy was going to conduct its own debriefing and investigation.

In the questioning, minor players like Aiden, Jocelynn and Terin were asked things like what their role was supposed to have been in the "job" Leeta offered?  Aiden said his role would have been pilot, and Terin said he was supposed to have been in the back up team, in case things went sideways.  When Rol said he'd been meant to be part of the assault team, they asked him why he'd been selected, other than for his military experience.  Rol mentioned his gear and his role as ship's security.

Hinging on his gear, the team asked him to list what he'd planned to use on the job and Rol went through his weapons and added his combat armor.  When Mikah was asked, she said she was also supposed to be part of the assault team, and had chosen the assault team members.  Hearing that, they asked why she selected herself and the others.  Mikah told them, "Among those with combat experience, they were the most reliable and had proven they could follow orders."  Nodding at that, Mikah was also asked about her gear and said she'd planned on bringing her laser carbine, laser pistol, laser sword and her combat armor.

Turning to Zimzod, as the next member on the assault team list Mikah had given, they asked what gear be had planned to bring?  Along with his gauss rifle and .45's, eyebrows were raised when Zimzod said he'd planned to wear his battledress.  Still, the investigators took their notes and didn't make any statements of opinion.  After they were done with Zimzod, they turned to Jocelynn as the last of the actual "Assault" team members.  She said she'd planned to bring her shotgun and gauss rifle, and planned to have been wearing combat armor.  As with Zimzod, the team didn't make a comment as they continued taking their notes.

After dealing with everyone in the ship at the moment, they brought up Fesic, asking him why he wasn't included?  When Mikah said he'd not been involved from the start, they asked why that was?  Mikah considered that before saying that Fesic wasn't someone she felt could be trusted with secrets, and she didn't want him telling others what they'd been planning while they were still planning it.  Much less, turning the actual job into a mess.  Still not quite certain where Mikah had been going with her comments, they asked her, "Did you feel there might be something wrong with what you were planning?"  Mikah quickly said she hadn't at first, and that Fesic had disobeyed orders before and she didn't want it happening again.

Chiming in on Mikah's comment, Zimzod firmly said, "We can't have that."  Knowing how dangerous an untrustworthy crewman was aboard ship, the junior Naval officer, a Lieutenant, asked, "Why didn't you shoot him?"  The comment was so off hand that Zimzod had to decide if the man was being serious or not?  First asking, "Why didn't I shoot who?  Him?"  Zimzod told them, "We do need a gunner for the ship."  The officer just nodded as the questioning went on.  Eventually, at nearly three in the afternoon, the officers finished their work and the naval detachment left them to the rest of their day.

Having walked the distance to the agro-dome, Fesic spent the rest of the morning and mid-day wandering the area.  He eventually found a small sandwich shop around the border of one of the open spaces and sat down to have food.  He didn't have any notable contacts over that time and spent only Cr 15 for his food.  Enjoying his meal, Fesic relaxed and people watched until his meal had settled and then started wandering back towards the port and ship.  When he arrived, the first odd thing Fesic noticed was that there was an armed marine guarding the entrance to the ship's bay.  He was even challenged to identify himself before he could get back aboard!

Back aboard, Fesic made sure not to interrupt anything that was happening as he moved to a terminal and checked on the goods the crew had listed for sale.  Fesic also checked on the High Passage Jocelynn had posted for sale, seeing the ticket had been bid up to Cr 6,000.  Fesic also noticed Terin's four-day auction selling his TL-13 earbud comm unit had ended a couple of days ago and not sold.  Seeing that, Fesic went to see if Terin was free or being interviewed?

Finding Terin, Fesic mentioned the auction had ended and asked if there was anything he could do to help with the lost Ident.  Terin said there wasn't anything Fesic could do and said he would call station security to see if there were any updates on his situation?  After leaving Terin to his situation, Fesic decided to sit out of the way and handle anything that needed to be done until the navy left.

Working at whatever task presented itself, a comms came to the ship and Fesic answered it, to find someone was calling for Sir Zimzod.  When Fesic looked around and didn't see Zimzod hanging in the lounge, he told the caller Zimzod wasn't available at the moment.  The caller identified himself as a representative of the Traveller's Aid Society and said they had significant but not urgent news for Sir Zimzod, at his convenience.  Fesic said he would let Zimzod know and got the comms code to return the call before cutting the connection.

Sparing No Expense

     Left to whatever activities they wanted to pick up, Rol gave Terin a glare and said, "Let's go to the amusement park."  Fesic told Zimzod about the call he'd taken and Zimzod jumped on the comms.  After he identified himself, Zimzod was told congratulations were in order But TAS was calling Sir Zimzod to tell him the application had been approved.  He was now a full-fledged member of the Society!  That was good news, since the application fee alone was MCr 1!  Non-Refundable.

After getting off the line with TAS, Zimzod asked Mikah if she'd like to go to dinner later that evening to celebrate?  Hearing that, Fesic joked, "Boy!  They'll let anyone in TAS now." and got some laughs.  Still more than a bit interested in teaching Zimzod to act sooner instead of later when there are psions with guns, Mikah agreed because she wanted to make sure she could spend a lot of Zimzod's money.  When she agreed, Zimzod told her they should get "real dolled up" to go out someplace fancy.  Hearing Zimzod talk about a dinner-date, Aali piped up and asked if they wanted to double date with her and Emkir?  Zimzod suggested that Mikah may have other ideas for dinner though he'd not asked her about having others along.  So, it was more likely "he" had other ideas of how the evening would play out.

Getting back on the comms, Zimzod called the TAS Concierge and started asking about making plans to take Mikah out for dinner.  The Concierge asked a number of questions about what kind of food and class of restaurant they were interested in?  What other interests they had in addition to dinner?  Faced with the many options and questions, Zimzod decided to ask Mikah what she'd like, without being aware of her ulterior motive.  When Mikah got on the line, she wasted no time asking about the biggest and most fancy restaurants on the station.  And when she asked about the most expensive, Zimzod joked, "Aw, you see.  Now, you're just breakin' my heart."

After the Concierge made them "very expensive" reservations for a very exclusive specialty restaurant from which one could sit and look out over either the station's core or the space outside, Mikah asked about sight-seeing opportunities?  Hearing Mikah ask about that, Aali called out that Zimzod should take her for an orbital jump experience, because she hadn't done that yet.  Hearing Aali, Mikah agreed and asked about the excursion?  After everything was settled, they were told a port car would pick them up at the bay hatch at 5:30pm.  From there, they would go to the restaurant for dinner.  Miah was sure that would be very expensive, and she asked for a view of the outside universe.  And after eating, they'd be picked up by another port car, and taken to the port for the re-entry jump experience.

Neither Mikah nor Zimzod were interested in suggestions of "in-restaurant entertainment", like wandering musicians or anything else.  Soon enough, the plans were made and Mikah and Zimzod had a few hours to kill before they had to get dressed up.  When Zimzod asked Mikah what she wanted to do to kill time, she couldn't think of anything at the moment, so she agreed to go back into their stateroom and spend the time playing in bed.  As they left, Aali and Jocelynn decided it was time to finished installing the terrarium Jocelynn had bought.

Once he was free, Terin first called the system's primary banking and credit firm to make sure his accounts were frozen against unauthorized access.  He was told that the Ident was a specialized tool and relied on DNA codes provided by the user in order to access accounts.  So, he was safe there.  When he asked about a temporary Ident, he was told the banks couldn't do that and he was directed at the Imperial offices on-station.  Changing direction, he asked about another method of accessing his funds and they talked him through how to connect any computer or advanced comms device to his accounts.  So, that was one major issue solved as Terin connected his accounts to his hand computer.

Next, Terin called Station security to ask about the investigation into his theft and they said they had no updates as yet.  When Terin asked if they'd gotten any video from the park, he was assured they knew their job and had interfaced with the park to get what the park could provide them.  Realizing that was as far as he'd get with them, Terin offered to be available for any help or questions they needed from him before his next question.  When he asked about getting some kind of temporary ID, so he could move around the station, they directed him to central offices and station services for that.  Terin thanked them for that before breaking the circuit and moving on to his next piece of business.  When he called station services, they could begin that work over the network, but it took him all afternoon and cost him Cr 100.  To finish that, he had to come to port offices.

While Aali worked with Jocelynn, Emkir revisited scans of the book he was working on figuring out.  Aiden broke out a tablet for more reading while Fesic realized Jocelynn would be busy working on the terrarium, and just hung out.  Rol dove back into the communications training he'd not dug into in quite some time.  He would continue that until it was time to cook dinner.  After that, Rol was considering a night on the town.  About the time Rol was thinking about getting started cooking, Zimzod and Mikah appeared from their stateroom all showered and dressed up.

Zimzod had gotten into executive armor and his tuxedo and hung his gauss pistol holster from his belt.  Mikah wore her sparkling, classic cut black gown and had her laser pistol in a hand purse so she could complete the surprise for anyone who tried to rob them.  Mikah had considered how to wear her executive armor but the long-johns style armor would have obviously stood out in places where the neck or back dipped...  So, it would ruin the effect, and had to stay behind.  Soon enough, they left the cat calls from the crew behind as a car came to get them and Rol turned toward cooking dinner for the others.

The restaurant had the name "The Core Plug" which only appeared to be unappetizing if you didn't understand the story behind it.  The name came from the fact that the owning financial faction had paid good credits to have a spot made on the hull, at one of the station's hub-ends, which was thin enough the restaurant could have "deck to ceiling" viewing windows showing out on both the core of the station on one side, or the space outside on the other.  And both views were breath-taking.  Mikah and Zimzod had booked an expensive space-side table up against the window, so they could look down on the planet below and watch the play of local traffic.  In addition to that, the space had been built with a combination of lighting and "glowing structures" built into each surface so that someone who let their eyes unfocus could even let it seem to them that they were actually floating in space.

Another amenity that came as something of a surprise were the grav-controls built into the compartment.  That let the compartment be built with access ramps leading to angled floor spaces which were built on every angle.  So the barrel-shape of the restaurant's compartments had flattened "floors" on the ceiling and jutting out from the walls while a specially trained and expert staff would jump into the central space above all the tables to "swim" to and from the kitchen and other service points.  Indeed, the zero-gee performances were part of the "dinner and a show" experience.

And the seats and tables were top of the line for what the owners could afford and import, with comfort as an absolute.  The tables had in-built 3D virtual menu presentation and ordering systems as well as "Per Party" entertainment holo-projectors.  After they were seated, Mikah pointed out the viewport and asked Zimzod if any of the visible stars looked familiar from when she'd hit him?  Zimzod waived that comment off, saying, "You didn't hit me that hard babe" and Mikah took the time to choose a place she could point to and describe to Zimzod as the place his frozen dead body will be floating if he ever made the same mistakes again. 

Checking out what they had on menu, Mikah's search was two-pronged.  First, she wanted something she either knew she liked or sounded interesting.  Next, she wanted Zimzod to pay as much as possible for the most expensive version of that.  She eventually settled for a dish which was advertised as "Fresh Killed" select cuts lightly braised in local wines.  The dish was served with a selection of local vegetable samples and side dishes.  Mikah chose a wine which was becoming harder to acquire as the quality of its vintage became known.  The meal and amenities eventually cost Zimzod Cr 800.

After the meal, Zimzod took Mikah from their table to the dancing, which included both "grav" and "Zero-gee" dancing.  Both Mikah and Zimzod were excited to get out into the 3D-dance space and enjoy something which was a mix of poses and physical moves with parkour-like grabs, bounces and other uses of obstacles in the space.  While Zimzod just wanted to have fun, Mikah enjoyed the presence of obvious nubes and tourists as a means to get away with doing her best to fling Zimzod against or into as many obstructions as possible.  But that only lasted a few times before one of the workers came over and asked her to stop, for the safety of her party as well as others that might be interfered with if she flung Zimzod out of control.

Personal Re-entry Enthusiast Finally done with dinner, Zimzod and Mikah went out to the waiting port car for the ride to the station's space port.  On the way, they were both treated to videos and safety briefings on making atmospheric re-entry jumps.  Even though Zimzod had done this before, he was still required to jump through the same hoops Mikah was.  That was both for the vids on the ride over and once they were paired up with the jumpers.

While re-entry jumping as a sport or military deployment were done with a lot less gear and protection, tourism-based jumping was done from small suits which were essentially two-person spacecraft.  The jumper controlled the drop while paired off with one of the tourists from any group.  That "suit" would then be loaded into a deployment shuttle that would leave the space port with its bay door open, and the suit mounted on rails to be ejected at the correct moment.  Mikah and Zimzod were led through all the steps by the experienced teams working the venue.

Finally, in their separate suits, Mikah and Zimzod slowly began their fall down into Dinomn's atmosphere with a view of the world below as wide open as their faceplates.  For some, such views of worlds are something never to be forgotten, and eagerly sought after.  A number of the very wealthy traveled through space to "catch that view" of every world they could.  The sport had even spawned the more extreme sport of "Drop Capture" re-entry.  In that variation of the sport, jumpers paid to jump into the upper atmospheres of uninhabitable or even unsurvivable worlds, or even gas giants.  These jump expeditions included spacecraft who's crews specialized in diving into the atmospheres on a trajectory designed to capture the jumpers "mid-fall".  Of course, that was classified as an "extreme sport above and beyond extreme sports", and tended to be extremely lethal.  Not to mention, expensive.

Despite the extra gear and safety measures taken, they both enjoyed "being the fireball" as they burned individual paths into the thickening atmosphere.  That eventually faded to the sort of open vistas that even most space craft pilots never got to experience, because craft portals were rarely that wide and open.  And because flight deck crews were usually too busy to relax and take in the view.  The vistas were grand and complete as their descents started to moderate and slow.  The entire drop took just over forty minutes before they were down on the surface and Mikah was going off on how fun the experience was.

Before Zimzod could even think of answering her, one of the jumpers offered, "Wanna do it again?" which both Mikah and Zimzod would later bet they were trained for.  When Zimzod got a word in, and suggested they go shopping, Mikah shot that down and said she wanted to do another jump!  Faced with a force he couldn't stop, Zimzod shrugged and went with it.  So, they were loaded on a waiting transport shuttle as the word was given and new jump suits prepared and ready for their arrival on the station.

An hour after that, they'd been reloaded into new suits with a second pair of jumpers and made their second jumps.  Done with a second jump of the evening, the couple were loaded onto the transport for the ride back to the station again.  By that time, it was nine at night and Zimzod brought up shopping again.  When she asked him what he had in mind, Zimzod suggested getting Mikah some sexy lingerie.  Mikah shrugged and accepted that but said they should stop for ice cream first.  So, Zimzod paid the Cr 3,500 for their jumps and they were off for ice cream.

Not very adventurous when it came to ice cream flavors, Mikah wanted a vanilla cone but did ask what kinds of sprinkles or toppings the shop had?  Of course, those working there, who likely got some part of the til if sales spiked, started with the most expensive of toppings.  That was a sprinkle of truffle shavings cut from truffles harvested and imported from out-system.  When she heard of that, Mikah was very excited and wanted a "double-topping".  That instantly turned a Cr 1 cone into a Cr 20 cone.  Zimzod ordered something he called the "cosmic universe" sundae, and the workers helped him figure out which of their menu items best matched that, ending up with a Cr 5 sundae. 

After the ice cream, they were off to the lingerie shop, where Zimzod did his best to make sure his interests were considered.  That was to get Mikah into a bikini-style piece which was smooth and silky and had a "plain but revealing" bra top which would display what Mikah had instead of hiding it under frills.  When Mikah didn't push back on that description, they started looking at the suits, style, fabrics and materials that were available.  The styles were no big deal, as they all used various tricks to "not hide" the flesh beneath while making the view "seem" obscured.  And they were able to cut out all the filly, fluffy or decoratively covered suits.  That left the fabrics and materials the suits were made of.

Resting Llellewyloly Mikah looked over the catalog until her eye caught on a bikini which was apparently made from "Junidy Silk".  Reading the catalog sidebar information, Mikah saw that a minor race from that system, called the "Llellewyloly" (pronounced "Chlay-chlew-i-lolly") and nicknamed "Dandys", created especially high-end fabrics.  The Llellewyloly had five multi-jointed limbs connected to a spherical central body covered with long, coarse hair.  Their limbs worked as hands or feet interchangeably and held their main sensory organs.  The information said that the Llellewyloly were some of the finest fiber and fabric makers in the Domain, and products made from their fabrics commanded significant prices.

Reading that, Mikah decided that if she was going to let Zimzod buy her pervy silky clothing, then it was gonna be made from Junidy silk.  Digging deeper into the catalog, Mikah found a suit style created by the noted Llellewyloly artist apparently named "ollooyclhhyuo", which no one was gonna try and pronounce.  Still, Mikah chose a bikini of that style because it would cost Zimzod Cr 20,000!  Shrugging off the cost of the bikini, Zimzod said he also wanted to go shopping for a rubber dildo too.  When Mikah heard that, she asked, "Why do you need those?  Are you having some problems I should know about?"

Zimzod laughed at that and answered, "No!"  They are just good for keeping the fun going for hours.  Maybe playing both ends at the same time, I don't know."  When Mikah asked, "Well, why don't you just get a strap on?" Zimzod didn't answer.  Fixing him with a glare, Mikah demanded, "Isn't that what Fesic is for?" and could barely keep her face straight or hold in the laughter.  Finally, Mikah wasn't gonna stop Zimzod because she admitted she had no control over what he wanted to buy for his own interests, but she said she'd be willing to help him out if he bought a strap-on for her to wear.  That forced the salesperson they were with to work to school his expression.

When the salesperson asked how much Zimzod was looking to spend on a dildo, Zimzod sounded a bit crestfallen as he said, "Well, if she don't want it, I don't know if I'm gonna buy one."  Still, he described the unit he'd been thinking of was "realistic looking" and vibrating, and cost wasn't an issue.  Knowing Zimzod had hopes she would be interested in the dildo, Mikah looked over the catalog until she found a silicon, realistic-looking, anima-tronic "live-action simulating" unit that cost Cr 10,000!  It even came with a remote control, and could simulate biological functions like shooting "warm fluid" spurts, to "simulate orgasm".  Not batting an eye, Zimzod bought one of those units before he told Mikah he had one more surprise for her that evening.

Not sure what might come out of his mouth after the whole 'dildo thing', Mikah waited until Zimzod told her he'd booked a night for them in one of the best rooms in a very high-end hotel on-station named "The Pinnacle".  He didn't mention that the room cost travellers Cr 5,000 a night!  The place got its name because it rose in a spire from the main body of the station and the more expensive units had larger windows from which those renting the rooms could look out on space and the busy port traffic.  It was said that one night in one of the most expensive suites had inspired the artist Yewu Cesyti to paint a multi-million credit valued piece named "Fireflies".  A print of that piece was a major part of the art presented in the hotel's reservations lobby.

At first, Mikah was a bit put out she'd not had a say in choosing their reservations, but she soon accepted that when she learned they'd be in one of the hotel's "Spire top" suites.  Those suites had windows which "bubbled outward" in a semi-circular arc so visitors could use grav controls to float in the room's window-spaces, beyond the walls of the room, almost a meter into the void.  So, it was one of the top rooms they could have rented.  As a result, she was open to having as much fun as they could "without the dildo" before they fell asleep.

Live And Virtual

     Aboard the ship, Rol had cooked and served dinner.  After they'd eaten and everything was cleaned up, Rol asked everyone there who wanted to go out with him and "hit the town"?  Emkir, Aali and Aiden signed on right away while Terin said he had to stay with the ship and wait until he had a temporary ID.  When Jocelynn asked Fesic what he thought they should do, Fesic asked her if she wanted to go back to the seedy bars?  Jocelynn asked if Fesic wanted to go there or with Rol's group, and he said he was up for what she wanted to do.  At that point, Rol said, "Or should we come with you?" and Jocelynn dismissively said, "I don't think you want to where we go."  That was reinforced with the memories of the shooting Friday night.

In the end, Jocelynn told Fesic they could go with Rol's group and break off later if they wanted to.  That put the ball in Rol's court as the others asked what his grand idea to go out on the town was?  Rol's ingenious plan turned out to be nothing more than going out to one of the station's major causeways and wandering down it until they found someplace interesting to go into.  And "someplace" turned out to mean "Bar".  Agreeing to that, the group got ready to go out and then headed for the station's people movers.

After some time spent "getting there", they wandered the concourse until they faced the first obvious bar.  This place appeared very sedate based on their experiences.  When he looked, Rol could see they had a performer playing some sort of instrument which put out live, multi-instrumental music.  When Rol asked what they thought, they agreed they wanted a place that was more up-beat.  As they wandered on, Jocelynn and then Fesic talked about the Head Knockers.  Eventually, Rol asked her if she felt they should go to that bar?

Jocelynn admitted it wasn't a nice place, and also described it as "colorful".  She did joke that they should take Aiden to get some more local color.  That got laughs as Aali looked at Aiden, turning various colors, and said she didn't think that was a good idea.  When Jocelynn asked, "I don't know, is it even a good idea?" Rol joked back, "I didn't say that." meaning he had not been looking for "good ideas".  Eventually, Jocelynn decided it would be a bad idea to bring the whole crew there because of how it would look to the mercenaries.  They might just assume this was some sort of escalation in the challenge she'd faced the night before, and could end up much more badly.

While they agreed not to go to that bar as a crew, Rol commented, "Well, if you ever want to go back down there with a little more muscle, there are other marines here."  With that, he held out his hands to include the rest of the crew...of which she and Rol were the only former marines.  And even if Zimzod, Mikah and Terin were there, Zimzod was the only other crew member who had served in the Marines and he'd been kicked out of that service.  So Rol's comment could better be interpreted, 'There are a lot more bodies here to become targets'.

Moving on from the boring bar, they soon came on another bar that was lit up and very active, with some kind of dance party going on.  When Rol decided they should go in, they stepped into a space where it seemed everyone had taken too many amphetamines and they were burning off the energy.  Emkir warned them, as they entered the crowd, to "fail safe" their Idents, in inside or "zipper-secured" pockets if they had them.  The phrase, "Don't be a Terin" was joked at more than once.  There was even a "Don't be Munarshu" muttered darkly though that name had come to mean something completely different.  Rol did follow that up with the comment, "Safe any weapons you got."

Over the evening in the bar, the two who had the most fun were Aali and Aiden.  Despite his resistance to wade in, Aiden got grabbed by a woman at one point who dragged him onto the dance floor to be her partner.  Aiden could attribute his "allure" to his exotic looks and apparent age, even if he was obviously also an experienced spacer.  And, even if he wasn't obvious about it, Aiden never seemed to lack money.  So, after each girl tired of his lack of real interest, another would grab him to dance with.  Aali got to enjoy just cutting loose and enjoying herself.  At the bar or on the dance floor, Aali could relax and have fun and expect that there would be a warning from the group if anything went sideways.

At the end of the evening, the crew made it back from the bar after having their fun and even Aiden was with them.  It turned out he was fun to play with but none of the women at the bar wanted to take it further.  When they got back, the crew were ready to regale Terin with tales of their adventures.  Having stayed behind, Terin had concentrated on stent work and trying to connect with the ship's computers.  Eventually, he wanted to interface most with the ship's navi-computer.  Terin had, for some time now, been reaching the computer's connection port and working to negotiate his mental path through that to reach the computer's external device communications processes.

Most of the others were also connecting to the ship at that level, with Aali having passed into the subsystem processers and others having made specific breakthroughs on certain items.  This meant sensing the different connections and pathways through which a user would access the desired systems.  It also meant sensing the different intellectual "feels" of the pathways and interfaces and developing an internal mental image of the control processes which they would need to have in order to mentally control their travel along the pathways to the system itself.

Terin was specifically working was in the "visualization of the control process", which would let him to better concentrate on searching the interfaces leading to his target processes.  By the end of the evening, as the crew interrupted him, Terin was at a point where he could vaguely visualize the control process as a rectangular spot of fuzzy light seen through shaded glasses.  Still, he had made some progress as it came time to rack out.  Eventually, the crew all faded off to sleep.

Relaxation And Research

     A good bit earlier than he'd planned, Zimzod became the first person in the crew to wake up.  The room was still dark, with the only lights coming in through the open windows from the shining stars, craft lights and the reflected rays of the star off the atmosphere of the planet below.  More completely awake, Zimzod noticed Mikah draped up against him with her bikini tossed to the floor.  Deciding that getting out of bed so early would be too much of a punishment, Zimzod started kissing on Mikah to see how much it would take to wake her up?

Mikah was roused from a very relaxing dream by the sensation of Zimzod and his razor-stubble fringed lips as he began molesting her body with his mouth.  At first, when she came to, Mikah looked about to see if she could find the dildo, to give it to Zimzod and make him happy while she got more sleep.  When she then suggested he find the toy and ride it until she was ready, Zimzod just grunted, "No" in out-right refusal.  She just swatted him with a hand and said, "You're no fun." with a pout on her face.  When Mikah eventually pushed him away and said she wanted more sleep, Zimzod got up to take a shower and begin that part of his morning routine he could do in the hotel.

Aboard the ship, Jocelynn also woke up earlier than she'd meant to.  Annoyed and deciding someone else should also be annoyed too, Jocelynn put on a robe and went staggering out into the lounge.  Acting on the stories she'd heard of the morning before, Jocelynn moved up to Terin's stateroom door and started pounding on it.  Wanting to prank Terin, Jocelynn pounded the door until "she thought" the time was right and then fled for and through the aft hatch, into the passage her stateroom was off of.  Terin woke from a sound sleep to growl to himself, "Again?!"  Still, he dragged himself up from the bed and wrapped his blanket around himself as he went to find out what it was this time??

But, when he opened his stateroom door, the compartment beyond was empty.  Listening, he didn't even hear the sounds of a closing hatch or running feet.  If he'd had Rol's vision modification, he could have switched to the infra-red band and tried to look for heat signatures but he was just a base-line Darrian, bedraggled and wrapped in a blanket.  Terin lingered there in the doorway, looking to see if anyone had ducked behind some of the furniture in the compartment, but there was no one there, nor was there evidence anyone had been there.

Checking his cron, Terin saw the time was about twenty minutes after six in the morning and he felt he could use a bit more sleep.  Shrugging, Terin closed the door and went back to bed.  Despite his interest in sleep, Terin wasn't able to fall back to sleep and gave up after about twenty minutes.  So, he was out of bed just before Rol had finished his morning routine and moved into the lounge to cook breakfast.  In her stateroom, Jocelynn had gotten back from pranking Terin and gone into her morning routine, so she would come into the lounge after Rol had started cooking but before Terin came out for breakfast.

Rol greeted Jocelynn as he cooked and then Terin just as he was serving the early edge of breakfast.  Neither of the two looked like they'd gotten as much sleep as they'd have liked as they each sat and waited to grab food.  Sitting down, Terin said, "The strangest thing happened this morning.  There I was, nice and asleep, and someone started to beat on my stateroom door.  And then, ran away."  As he said that, Terin watched both of the others to see if he got any reaction from them, but saw nothing more than annoyance in Rol's face as he asked Terin, "And you're expecting sympathy?"

Shaking his head, Terin told Rol, "I appreciate you helping me out in my time of need.  You know I'd do the same thing for you."  Not defrosting at all, Rol answered, "You did do the same thing for me."  Terin just looked back at him and asked, "I did, huh?"  Nodding for no real reason, Terin said, "I think I have it narrowed down to who it was though.  It's OK."  While that conversation was happening in the lounge, Emkir was waking up in bed with Aali in their stateroom.  Waking her up in the style he'd prefer she became accustomed to, they were in no hurry to get out of their stateroom and spent some time enjoying each other's company.

When Aiden came out for food, he saw that Rol, Jocelynn and Terin had already been up and had or were eating.  After greetings were exchanged, Jocelynn suddenly asked, "Aiden.  Why were you knocking on Terin's door?" in a confused tone.  Aiden only looked back at her and said he wasn't knocking on Terin's door.  Jocelynn only nodded and said, "OK".  The chat went on until those in the lounge were eventually joined by Aali and Emkir after they'd finished up their fun and morning routines.  They came out of their stateroom about the same time Fesic did, after his morning routine.  In their hotel room, Zimzod and Mikah finished up their routines and had to decide what to do next?

When Mikah and Zimzod could come up with nothing better, he asked her if she wanted to go back to bed and she agreed.  The topic of the dildo came up and Mikah said it was gonna be forgotten unless Zimzod had a problem?  Zimzod denied that again, and suggested how he would use it to please her.  She was firm that wasn't happening and Zimzod began to realize he'd spent all that cash for nothing.  Still, they went back to bed and spent the rest of the morning enjoying the room until they had to check out.

By lunch, Mikah and Zimzod had finished their fun, cleaned up and checked out but Mikah didn't "want" to go back to the ship.  She reminded Zimzod they both knew the crew had done something stupid while they were out and Zimzod said they did have to go back.  At least, for damage control.  Still, Mikah wanted to be taken to lunch, and "lots of drinks".  Still wearing a tux and gown, the two shrugged and went to an upscale restaurant in respect to their clothing.  The place was fairly upscale but not so that it was snobby, and only cost Zimzod Cr 100 a plate.

That was along with nearly Cr 50 in drinks each before they went back to the ship.  When they got there, they found the place empty!  When Zimzod said they could do a repeat of their sexcapaides in the suite in Regina.  Mikah shot that down, because she wanted to relax and recover.  When Zimzod asked what she wanted to do, Mikah said she wanted to watch vids.  Hearing that, Zimzod suggested they watch porn and Mikah wasn't really up for that.  Still, she wasn't up for fighting, so she pushed back for a "porn comedy" vid and Zimzod agreed.  After that ended, when Mikah was still not interested in sex, Zimzod started doing stent-work and Mikah took a nap.

After he was done with breakfast, Rol checked the station's directory for any museums of interest.  He remembered Aiden and Fesic had gone to the system's official war museum the week before.  When he said he was interested in going to the museum, the others all joined in.  Soon, it became a crew field trip except for Terin.  As the group wandered the musium and its displays, one of the earlier displays had holographic reconstructions of the various battles which had happened in system.  More interested in the details than the others, Aali tried to catch and read the data flags for each of ships shown in the various battle representations.

It was during the replay of the main attack on the system during the Fifth Frontier War that Aali noticed one ship represented in the battle didn't have much data at all on its data flag.  Using the controls supplied for visitors, Aali checked the ship's icon for more information, but there wasn't any.  For some reason, the museum hadn't added any data for that ship to the visitor-accessible database.  Not even class name, tonnage or crew stats.  Checking the area for anyone working for the museum, Aali called over a docent who admitted that was a frequent question but no answers had been provided.  Deciding that was even more odd, Aali took down the name of the ship for her own future research, the "Efal Zdevrzdije", presumably "Zhodani Naval Vessel".

An unexpected outcome of Aali's answer was that the docent recognized Rol while he was responding to the group, and as he addressed Aali's question.  "Rol's fame" as a war hero then led them through the museum as people either assumed positions of respect or came to attention if they were in uniform.  Rol did his best to be friendly and respectful while the rest of the group had to deal with waiting for Rol to deal with his 'admiring public'.  When Fesic was happy to keep on walking and leave Rol behind, Emkir asked Fesic followed him to where the sword he'd talked about was?  Fesic was hoping to talk to someone from the museum about the weapon and those of the crew who had any understanding about Zhodani culture agreed with Fesic.

Despite that, Fesic was told none of the museum staff were available to discuss the artifact at the time.  When Emkir suggested taking pictures of the sword, Fesic said he'd done that, and been doing some personal research on the sword, but hadn't found much.  Deciding there wasn't much else for it, Fesic left a message for the docent to give to the curatorial staff asking about the sword.  After they were done at the museum, with time spent after having had lunch there and viewing displays into the afternoon, Rol asked if anyone wanted to do anything else before heading back to the ship?

Solutions And Mysteries

     After the others left for the museum, Terin called Station offices to see about his temporary ID.  They told him, as he'd been told before, that he needed to come there to complete the process.  When he asked how, without the ID, they sent a car at his cost.  Cr 15 later, he had arrived and they took care of the remaining steps, like validating and attaching his image and bio-data.  With that done, Terin asked about replacing his actual Ident, and was told again it would cost Cr 10,000 and take a week.  When he said he wasn't sure his ship would be in port for another full week, they said that would have to be taken up in the Imperial offices on-station.

Paying Cr 10 for a car there, Terin knew he'd be having lunch at a shop somewhere on the station at some point as the day went on.  When Terin got to the Imperial offices, he found zero consideration or anything approaching more than basic business responses to his situation.  They read him as 'irresponsible Noble playboy who loses important items' and were ready to handle his case just like any other caught in the bureaucratic swamp.  Still, there was an office that largely handled issues like Terin's, so he wasn't waiting long before he entered into the process.  It was during that process that Terin got a call from station security.

Security asked Terin to view images they'd gotten from the park and verify pictures of the woman he'd identified as the "Primary Suspect".  After Terin confirmed that was the woman he suspected robbed him, they told him they'd actually tracked her down and questioned her.  They wanted to confirm they'd grabbed the person he'd claimed was the thief because, it turned out, she was not involved.  Except for spending time with him in the park.  She was also angry at the accusations.  Security would've been liable for that if they'd grabbed the wrong person, but they now warned Terin he was liable for any charges that developed, because he'd identified her.  And, Terin was warned, she was seeking legal council.

When Terin said she could retain all the legal counsel she wanted, with little concern for the situation, the security man recommended Terin find a lawyer too.  That was likely the first significant reminder that Terin didn't know the local legal system there well enough to know how serious, or not, the situation was?  When Terin asked if they had reviewed all the video from the park and identified any other possible actors, they pointed out that he had been fairly positive in his accusation.  because of that, they'd pursued those specific clips.  Especially since there were many spots where there would be video from multiple cameras and angles.  Terin was assured they would get to it in due course, but there were also more significant crimes demanding the attention of their manpower.

In a bid for some hope, Terin asked if they'd contacted the checking if anything had been found in any of the rides or returned to lost and found?  The security man told Terin that had been the first thing they did, in a "now, you're going to try and teach me my job?" tone.  When Terin asked if the park could send him the footage, the security man came the closest to losing his composure as he said that would not be possible for obvious reasons.  But he did nearly call Terin an idiot, limiting that accusation to his tone only.  After that, the call ended quickly and Terin was back in the hands of the bureaucrats.

As Terin worked with the staffer he was assigned, it turned out there was a little-used clause which allowed for faster processing of Ident requests for starship crews.  For the first time in "ever", the crew's fame worked in Terin's favor.  Not because the worker had heard of him, but because she'd heard of Lady Mikah.  Because of that, the woman decided to make use of the clause and get Terin his Ident that afternoon.  Still, it took the rest of the afternoon while Terin was again distilled down to his quantifications and bio-data to be added with the full data taken in by station customs when they'd arrived.  Finally, Terin paid the Cr 10,000 and was awarded his new Ident with the warning not to be so careless with this one.

While Terin was working with the Imperials, the crew got back from the museum to find Zimzod communing with his stent.  He roused enough to tell them Mikah was napping in their stateroom and he had no idea where Terin was.  They all said hi as Zimzod left off his stent work and looked at the clock to see how much time they had before Rol had to start cooking dinner?  Jocelynn considered asking others to participate in some practice with the comm-dot network, but realized there would be very little actual data for the network to manage.  Shrugging the idea off, she decided to do gear maintenance.  Zimzod also got out his gear to do maintenance.

Aiden decided to pull out his combat armor and do maintenance on that.  Aali was happy to grab her weapons and join the GI party forming in the lounge while Emkir watched vids.  Fesic signed into a terminal to do more research on the sword.  Happy to have resolved his issues, Terin went back to the ship to secure his Ident in his stateroom, since he could use the temporary station ID for the rest of their stay on-station.  Doing that, he would only be at risk if someone on the ship stole it and sold it as a prank...  Of course, when Terin got back to the ship, he found most of the crew cleaning their weapons and gear in the lounge.

Terin came in and joined Emkir watching vids and they eventually switched over to the news.  Rol eventually got done with what he'd chosen to do to waste time and started preparing to make dinner as Mikah woke from her nap and watched vids with the others.  Eventually, Fesic had found no new information on the sword as Rol announced he was serving dinner.  Sitting to eat, the crew were chatting when Jocelynn's comms started to buzz.  Surprised, Jocelynn answered to find the caller's voice was generic enough to be electronically modified and the caller said they wanted to buy her high passage.

Jocelynn's initial pleasure that she would be selling the passage changed quickly as she asked the caller how they'd gotten her contact information?  The caller deflected, saying, "Well, I had a need for it so I acquired it." in a tone Jocelynn couldn't read.  Not certain what she was being told, Jocelynn asked, "You had a need for my contact info?" and the caller corrected, "No.  I had a need for your passage.  So, I acquired your contact data."  Confused now, Jocelynn asked, "How did you know it was mine?"  When the caller said, "I found that out when I acquired it", Jocelynn wasn't sure if the caller was toying with her or ridiculing her?

When Jocelynn simply demanded, "Who is this?" the caller only asked in monotone if she was willing to sell them the passage?  The others around the table became more confused while hearing only Jocelynn's side of the conversation.  Jocelynn tried another direction and asked, "That depends.  Are you law enforcement?" which really wouldn't have mattered.  The caller only said they were not.  When she asked, "Are you TAS?" the caller said, "No.  But if I were, I wouldn't be telling you that."  After pausing to consider all sides of the situation she could see, Jocelynn admitted she did want to sell the passage and the caller told her, "Well.  I've got Cr 7,000."

Jocelynn knew this "buyer" had to be a hacker because that was likely how they'd gotten her contact data from the private "back-data" on the auction.  She was also certain this was not law enforcement, because they would not have called her in the way the caller had.  Though she wasn't doing anything illegal, just against TAS rules.  Finally, she knew that if she drew things out too long, the caller would disconnect the call and she'd never hear from them again.  That decided, Jocelynn agreed to sell the passage and the caller thanked her and cut the connection.  Within five minutes of that, Jocelynn got dual notifications that she had received Cr 7,000 and that the TAS voucher was no longer in her name!

The second notification caused her more concern than the first, because it said the buyer could have just taken the passage without paying for it.  And, it said they had hacked a highly sophisticated network too!  The cash came from an undisclosed account.  Seeing that, Jocelynn asked Emkir if he could help her and explained the situation.  From that, Emkir knew he had no information at all to use to trace the call, which had been made to Jocelynn's wireless device from a public router.  So that was a bottomless black hole.  He did have information he could "try" to use to hunt down the rabbit hole that was the TAS certificate.

Because "some" of the information on the cypher which controlled access to the certificate lived on Jocelynn's computer, which gave Emkir even more to work with on this side of the transaction.  Considering the job with an expert eye, Emkir said that the job was going to be a late night if not an "all-nighter".  And that was if he could do it at all?  Jocelynn said she'd do her best to help him with the work while Fesic volunteered to help if needed while he also watched to see what he could learn.

While they worked on that, Rol asked how long they were planning to stay in that port?  Mikah admitted that was a good question, and added, "I know everyone's got their hearts set on getting to D'Ganzio eventually.  But I think our best bet is to go back to Regina."  Continuing, Mikah explained, "The Arch Duke will be there soon and he can legitimize Jocelynn's armor.  And, I think we have some unfinished business on Regina."  When someone asked if Norris really could legitimize Jocelynn's armor, Mikah said, "If he can't then no one can."

Terin pointed out that the Arch Duke only "might" help them with Jocelynn's armor, while the government in D'Ganzio owed them a favor and could easily fake the documents on the armor.  When Mikah slammed that down, saying they were gong to Regina, Rol asked, "There's nothing holding us here is there?"  Everyone agreed they were free to leave the port and Aiden asked about their cargo, because it was bought to be sold it in Ghandi.  Rol suggested they start talking about when to undock and jump out-system at the same time Terin asked about their plan to search the Sonthert system.  Mikah just told him they could go back there after visiting Regina, in a tone that said anything that was there after the centuries would still be there in the next year.

After that, they talked about costs and logistics, as well as eventually returning towards Sonthert and D'Ganzio.  When Rol again brought up setting a departure date, Aiden again asked what they should do with the cargo?  Mikah said they could try to sell it on Regina.  But it was pointed out they could quarry their own marble in Regina where the people in the Ghandi system couldn't.  So the odds of finding a good price dropped significantly.  When Fesic asked what the rush was to get to Regina, Mikah said there were things they didn't need to know.  When it was argued they could jump to Ghandi to sell the marble then jump back, Mikah said it made no sense rushing back and forth.  With that, she was eyeing what they knew of the Arch Duke's schedule.

At that moment, Fesic said that he thought the government wanted them out of the Regina system, and Terin agreed with that.  Mikah waved that off saying again, "There are some things you don't need to know."  That only confused the others.  Mikah then told them they'd been told they could return to Regina if they wanted.  That surprised them all including Zimzod.  When Fesic asked when they were told that, Mikah repeated there were things he didn't need to know, since she'd been told that during her tolerance training.

Getting the crew's attention, Mikah told them they had the bay paid up for the next few days so anyone who wanted to do something to get it out of their system now.  She told them what they wanted to do would determine when they wanted to leave, after checking with Aali to make sure the ship was ready.  When Emkir brought up Jocelynn's issue and the hacking job she asked him for, Jocelynn said that didn't matter if they were leaving.  Fesic again asked if Mikah wanted him to try and sell off the marble before they left.  Mikah said they'd keep it until Regina and try to sell it there.  If it didn't sell there, then they'd bring it back when they did head to Ghandi, because they would go back this way eventually.

Aiden then asked about advertising for passengers and Mikah confirmed with Jocelynn that her stateroom was done.  With that, they had up to one high passage and eight low berths to fill if they wanted to.  Hearing that, Rol reminded them all Mikah had said they had time and said they should start advertising.  Mikah agreed with that, and told Fesic to start doing that work.  That also required a launch date, so they could tell prospective travellers when they would be leaving, so Mikah said they'd leave in four days, on the 305th day. 

When they asked what Mikah wanted to do on Regina, she said, "We can hang out there until we can meet the Arch Duke."  Jocelynn enthusiastically threw in, "We can get into a lot of trouble on Regina!"  As Aiden shuddered at that, Fesic said, "And, we have."  Mikah cut off that line of conversation by saying, "Yes, but it's safe for us now."  Still, Jocelynn did comment that they had wanted to get to D'Ganzio because it was a high-tech world with fairly low law levels.  That appealed to a number of their interests.  Mikah did add to that, "And, they owe us a favor."  Mikah also said that meeting the Arch Duke, and asking his help would be easier and faster than waiting to get all the way over to D'Ganzio.

With everything agreed, Fesic logged into a terminal and started updating their information to advertise the low and high berths for passage.  Aiden pointed out they didn't "have to" rent out the passages if they didn't want to.  His hopeful tone started a discussion of how much access to the ship a "High Passenger" would have.  A "High Passage" passenger would be in the spare room, which was in the aft stateroom section.  So the hatch between that passage would have to be unsecure and any mistakes could give them access to either the bridge or engineering.  Not to mention, any electronic hacking.  Ignoring that, Fesic simply said Aiden was talking nonsense.

After dinner and the meeting, Rol got his vacc suit and armor out to do maintenance since they were getting ready to leave port.  Emkir and Jocelynn decided to keep going with the hacking project as long we they were in port, and see if they got anywhere.  Mikah said she would watch the news until she was ready to get some sleep.  When Zimzod said he would do that too, and moved over to snuggle against her, Mikah got up and said, "Stay here.  I'll be right back."  When Aiden asked about doing stent work, Aali said she was interested in that.  Fesic finished working on the berth advertising and then went back to his research of the sword.

To Zimzod's pleasure, Mikah eventually came back to where Zimzod was sitting in her new silky bikini which hid NOTHING, while giving everyone a show!  Mikah came over and sat next to Zimzod while making it very clear he could look but he couldn't touch!  That got laughs from everyone who was watching the latest "floor show".  Terin decided it might be time to look into hiring a lawyer, in hopes he could get the attorney to write a proper letter of apology to the woman he'd accused of theft.  He hoped simply saying 'I'm sorry' would solve the problem.  When Terin reached a service, they took his information and a description of his legal situation, to give it to a team that would decide what the firm could do with it?  After that, he joined in with the stent work. 

As the evening started coming to a close, Mikah and Zimzod had gone to sleep.  Fesic had continued his research but found nothing new on the sword.  While Emkir's work drilled deeper into the night, Aali slipped off to sleep as did Terin, Aiden and Rol.  Emkir spent much of the early work hacking into Jocelynn's hand computer to capture the events which had been triggered on that system.  With that, he traced the actions back to the port from which the processes had been launched.  Following that, he spent more time looking for the event-data stored by that port, to see if he could figure out which wireless router the connection had come from?

While he was able to trace the connection back to a public wireless device, and could make good bets on which port the connection came from, he spent the rest of the hours working on trying to access the device.  That was because they were connected to the port network, and that extended port virtual pathways to routers within the ship.  These could not "take control" of the ports or other internal devices but it would allow 'point to point' instructions to be sent unless the crew turned that off.  And turning those off would have other negative ramifications.

In this case, the virtual pathway was only needed for secrecy, because Emkir would have to hack into the router to read where it came from in order to get to that port.  So, if he could learn that, he could trace the message back to the next router and might even find a base address for the hacker's device itself!  Still, it was actually getting a lot closer to breakfast when he and Jocelynn decided to call off the search for the morning.

Another Day Of Adventure

     At 6 am, Rol's alarm rang and he began his day.  Not long after that, Terin woke on his own and could not get back to sleep.  The rest of the crew were asleep in their staterooms as Rol made his way into the lounge to start cooking.  Breakfast wasn't ready when Terin joined him.  The crew had that day and two more full days in port.  The day after that, they'd be lifting with whatever passengers had booked with them to the Regina system.  Their cargo bay would be filled with 38 tons of raw marble.

Next: Strange Travels