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Last Updated     July 22 2020
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Next World, New Shadows

Settling In and Shopping Out

Atora Cityscape      Having arrived on Regina, the crew were a bit tired, but had taken their chances to nap and take breaks while flying in-bound.  Mikah planned to shop for supplies for the autodoc and other items.  Zimzod had been welcomed and told about his "accommodations", and they were on their way there.  Before that, Mikah warned them not to pack lots of weapons and to stick to an honor weapon if they had the right.  Beyond that, the laws were strict enough that one couldn't go armed outside their residence.  Zimzod had rented a grav-Van for the coming month and they rode with a small amount of baggage.

Getting to the suite very shortly after, because the grav-vehicle could quickly cross the city, they found their larger luggage was already delivered and they only had to select rooms in the suite and settle in.  The suite's entrance came to a sitting room behind which was the main "function" room, set as a formal dining room at the moment.  To the right were the kitchen and a more comfortable eating space.  To the left of the function room was a more complete and relaxing living room.  And beyond the function room were two passages heading further back.  The right-most passage had entrances for two bedrooms to the right and ended in a master bedroom.  The left passage had two bedrooms to either side, and ended in the door to another master bedroom.  And all the bedrooms had a private bathroom.

Suite Map Mikah and Zimzod took one of the "Master" bedrooms and Emkir and Aali took the other.  Others grabbed rooms as the place filled up.  Without unpacking at all Emkir, Aali, Mikah, Zimzod and Terin set alarms and took a three-hour nap because they'd not slept much on the inbound drive.  Fesic also went to sleep, but set no alarm.  Before she settled in, Mikah called the existing "advance office" for the Domain and asked to set up a chance to meet with Norris.  She made certain to say it wouldn't be long and didn't have to be "in Court".  The person talking to Mikah said, as the Customs Lieutenant had said, that a great many people were asking for that and no guarantees could be made.

Aiden had slept more during the burn in, so he set himself up in the living room and started some individual stent work.  He did that while Rol checked the suite's comms listing and called the butler assigned to them.  After introductions, Rol got into their food needs with the man.  Having talked about how long they'd be on-world this time, Rol knew they planned to be dirtside for thirty or more days so he over-ordered.  He had the butler contact one of the building's regular suppliers and order supplies for three weeks of "normal meals" and three more of "high living".  The butler worked with the supplier and said that would be priced at KCr 30.  Considering his finances, Rol OK'd the order and figured he'd ask Mikah to pay him back from ship's funds after she woke up.

With that done, Jocelynn and Rol didn't feel like sleeping and decided to check out a museum.  Rol suggested the official Regina Planetary War Museum without saying he'd been to that museum before.  The size of the place was massive enough to house displays covering the planet and region's military past.  The displays had been separated between historic periods of Regina since its colonial founding.  It included Regina's development as a regional power, along with military events leading to the elevation of Regina to a Duchy, by then Imperial Regent Arbellatra.  The most famous incident in Regina's history was when the then-Marquis of Regina had occupied the Menorb system, "to insure their loyalty" to the Regent.  The Museum was so large, it still had some of the original weapons systems built into the fort on display.  It was certainly an all-day visit and the two spent Cr 20 each for lunch, returning to the suite before dinner.

Back at the suite, Aiden had finished his stent work and turned on the news.  After watching through a cycle to see there was nothing he wasn't really up to date with, even having just arrived in-system, Aiden turned to reading.  He was doing that when alarms started to go off in people's bedrooms and those that set alarms for three hours woke up, freshened themselves up and considered what to do?  Aali also called her parents but got a voice recorder and left a message because they were out to work for the day.  Newly arrived they hadn't unpacked and they also each felt they could eat.  Chatting about options, they decided to go out to grab chow before coming back to unpack and set up housekeeping.  When they asked Aiden, he said he could eat and he joined them while Fesic was still asleep in his bedroom.

More than an hour later, Fesic woke to find the place empty.  Shrugging and uncertain where the others went, he decided to get to work.  First, he called the port and asked about their trading status?  He was told their permit had been put on hold after they'd been out of the system for sixty days and needed to be re-activated.  When he asked about that, he was told he had to confirm his identity and pay Cr 20.  Connecting his Ident to the terminal, Fesic confirmed who he was and then paid the Cr 20, figuring Mikah would pay that back from ship's funds when he asked.  He then started checking the market for pricing on the marble cargo they had.

He figured he'd work for the next two hours and see what he came up with, and wait for the others to come back.  Fesic started working on trading on his own, and figured he could get a broker later if he thought it would help.  While he worked, most of the other crew, except Jocelynn and Rol, came back.  They'd gone out to have lunch while he slept, and he grabbed a snack when the butler started receiving the supplies Rol ordered.  Mikah was happy it was one thing off her plate so she and the others started unpacking.  They each selected suits and outfits that would have to be pressed and prepared for the coming parties they could bet they'd not be able to avoid.

While unpacking, Terin called the University of Regina to ask about replacing his computer classes but was told they could not replace the class he'd bought from a higher tech institution.  Later in the afternoon, Rol and Jocelynn came back with Jocelynn still talking about the history of Marquis Caranda Aledon, who had become the first Duke of Regina.  She had been fascinated by Marquis Caranda's invasion of the Menorb system to enforce loyalty with Regent Arbellatra's rule.  It had certainly been one of those small factoids of history she'd learned in school as a girl but it was remote and "un-real" back then.  When they got back, Rol decided to set out the suits he wanted to have pressed and do some stent work until he could cook dinner.  Hearing him say he'd press his good clothes, Jocelynn mumbled that she really didn't have "good clothes".

That caught Mikah's attention immediately.  Knowing who she hoped they'd be dealing with, Mikah knew they'd have to make varying positive impressions on the local and visiting nobility.  She also didn't know who and how many nobles would be visiting the city and providing them with exciting encounters?  That decided Mikah as she announced they had to take Jocelynn shopping!  Jocelynn was like a hawk caught in rocket flare.  Frozen in place and not sure what that meant?  Aiden also spoke up since his best suits, bought in the Mora system, were destroyed in a misjump event and wouldn't have fit his cloned body anyway.  So, he needed suits too.  Soon, Mikah Aiden, Jocelynn and Aali were off shopping for clothing.  Before they left, Fesic asked Mikah about the Cr 20 and she repaid that from ship's funds.

With Aali leaving to shop with the others, Emkir decided he'd spend some time relaxing and playing video games.  After that wore thin, Emkir switched to working on his translation work on the lost language book.  He did that while Terin went out to find a space to jog for a bit and stretch his body in an open place.  That also let him get a feel for the local neighborhood.  Zimzod called the port and checked their access to the ship, in case it was needed.  Getting a good explanation there, Zimzod sat and watched the news while he considered what they needed.

Remembering the crap gunnery training sim on the ship, and the deal they'd cut for a better system with "the War House" in a past visit, Zimzod called the place and started asking questions.  Soon enough, the guy he was talking to had enough information on their ship and said he'd check that out and get back to them on anything they could set up.  Happy with that, Zimzod relaxed until dinner.  Leaving the suite with her group, Mikah called the Order and asked about clothiers?  They recommended two firms, and Mikah remembered this wasn't a system where "scan and fabricate" was generally available.  So, they'd be dealing with tailors who worked with needles and fabric.  After selecting and getting to the shop, Jocelynn and Aiden were the 'primary victims'.

Eventually, Jocelynn was fitted for three court dresses.  The first was a midnight blue velvet with gold accents.  A second was emerald-green satin with gold accents and the last was maroon and cream silk with gold accents.  The clothier estimated they'd cost between KCr 2 and Cr 2,300 with shoes.  Jocelynn also bought a set of vintage-looking drop pearl earrings, a gold necklace with a sapphire and another gold necklace with an emerald for Cr 1,800 total.  Aiden ordered three suits from the shop.  The first, an "upper high-class" charcoal gray with lapel pin, shoes and cuff links.  The lapel pin and cuff links would be made by a jeweler with enamel faces showing Aiden's Arms on them.  He then ordered two other "medium" suits.  One black and one navy blue.  The suits were based on tieless tunics and the cost was between Cr 1,000 and 1,500.

Mikah was fitted for a court gown in Deneb Domain colors which the clothier estimated would cost Cr 1,000.  She also asked about having jewelry made special.  She wanted a custom necklace with a platinum chain and a pendant with an enamel rendering of her Coat of Arms.  Engineered into the pendant, Mikah wanted a miniaturized video/audio recording device integrated.  The jeweler the clothier worked with estimated that could be made for Cr 3,000.  Aali was fitted for a formal Gown of a charcoal grey color which the clothier said would cost Cr 700 to 750.  Aali also ordered the jeweler to create a necklace of platinum with her Arms in cloisonné on an appropriately shaped pendant.  Returning to the suite after Rol had unpacked and started cooking dinner.  Jocelynn volunteered to help him and he joked that cooking was not anything like first aid.  That got laughs thanks to her "first aid attempt" with Fesic.

Soon enough, dinner was ready and everyone ate though they were all running down after the long arrival day.  After dinner, the crew were flagging and Aiden, Emkir, Aali and Jocelynn went to sleep.  Rol, Terin and Zimzod still did stent work and Mikah watched the news until Zimzod was done and they did Clik training.  After dinner, Fesic called the concierge and asked about connecting with brokers for their cargo.  Earlier in the day, Fesic had worked with pricing marble and felt he might be able to get at least a quarter more than they'd paid for the cargo.  After the concierge gathered enough information to do the best search they could, Fesic was told they'd call the next day with recommendations.  Fesic thanked them and then cut the line to start looking for lock picking gear.

While he found a number of varied items, Fesic finally settled on a "Locksmith in a box" prepackaged offer that said it came with all the tools needed and training.  Fesic paid Cr 15,000.  While that was expensive, it did promise to create a full business.  That would arrive in three days.  Before he went to sleep, Aiden called the concierge to ask about local pools, laser-tag arenas and shooting ranges.  The concierge provided Aiden a list of those which included a number of pools in the building itself.  Those were at various levels and provided for those staying in the building and their guests.  Hearing that, Aiden decided to get up earlier each day so he could spend half an hour swimming as part of his morning routine.  He also decided right then, to grab his swimming gear and go for a swim.  As he did that, Terin asked who wanted to go to a pub, and was reminded he was exhausted and should sleep instead of acting like Munarshu.

Waving that off, Terin went off to a bar anyway, sticking close to the building, as if the proximity alone could save him from his own stupidity.  Still, when he got there, Terin wasn't prepared for what he saw.  There were the signs of a "usual crowd" you'd expect in any pub, but a number of the locals had their heads turned or had left their tables.  In a knot, off to one side of the bar where the bartender was also hanging out, was a guy in what could best be called Upscale-Urban 'sleek grunge', with a head of short white hair who looked near-thirty.  He was holding court and telling a story.  What he was saying sounded like marine-vernacular and he was describing a down-in-the-trenches "covered in blood and mud" battle-scape which his "look" didn't support.

Not joining the crowd but grabbing a table where he could see and hear, Terin sat and waited until the bartender noticed he had a new customer before ordering a drink.  There was no wait-staff other than the man.  Terin was doubtful the stories the man was telling were personal experience, despite the "first-person" delivery.  But he had to admit it sounded real to him.  And Terin knew there was sometimes someone on the team the rest of them carried because they held a special kind of value.  Terin finally thought he'd zeroed in on a hint when he noticed a beaten, worn and cracked leather pistol holster on the guy's hip!  In a system where laws prevented an offensive steak knife and defensive spoon set in combat outside the owner's home, his openly visible pistol spoke volumes.

Still, Terin listened in a bit before he asked about a weapon he'd learned of because he'd been told he'd been wounded by it while in hospital.  The man waved that off saying he understood that was 'commando gear' and the troops the Zho tried to bury him under had been front-line assault troops.  Not commandos.  Those, he continued on, were reserved for shipboard attacks.  He was about to turn back to his story when Terin answered, "I know.  That's what happened to me." with a grimace and a near-reflexive half-glance down at his own gut.  That got the white-haired man to pause and Terin pointed at the pistol and asked, "Are you a Knight?"

Turning to Terin, the man smiled and said, "No." in the tone a game show host would use to say, "Ohhhhh, wrong answer."  That got the crowd looking at Terin while the man let the silence stretch out and Terin tried to do the math so it came out any other way that made sense to him.  Then, in a tone that said, 'The joke's on you', the man closed the pause of silence by saying, "I'm a Baron."  The delivery also suggested he might be able to see a Knight below him if he looked down from his level of nobility.  From there, Terin was happy to fade back and let the stories resume but the man pointed to his weapon and asked Terin what his story was?  So Terin told him about the events that happened aboard the cruiser Frelimi and resulted in his getting Knighted back in 1109.

The Baron was impressed and bought Terin a drink, and from then on Terin's money was no good in the bar.  The man continued talking to Terin and some of the others as stories were exchanged but eventually things had to end.  The evening had moved on while the Baron launched into a story which would be his last of the night.  This tale was a full-bore blood and guts description of the fighting withdrawal to escape the Zhodani invasion of Efate.  He talked about fading ammunition supplies and growing desperation before suddenly surprising everyone, by raising up a long, tapered "stabbing pik" of a dagger.  With a sneering angry smile, he said, "But, that's how you get the satisfaction of eviscerating your enemy!"  For the briefest moment, there was the glint of true hate in his eyes.

Since no one else in the bar had even noted the scabbard on the man's opposite hip after noting the pistol holster, the shock and surprise were complete and some even jumped.  The man even continued to flourish the blade a bit as the shock faded.  After the Baron finished up, there had been no sign he could see if Terin was fading or not?  But the Knight could tell his internal clock was winding down.  Finishing his story, he suggested there may be a time he could show Terin a few of those moves, but said he had to get back to the real universe and prepared to leave.  Finally, he introduced himself as Baron Zander Marsden, from the Beck's World system in the Regina subsector and bounced Terin his comms data saying they might just cross tracks again.

History And Comedy

     Mikah's morning began much earlier than she'd planned.  Waking up before anyone else, she tried to get back to sleep, failed and went into the kitchen to start a pot of caff brewing.  Slowly, the others of the crew arrived with a few of them getting to watch Aiden leaving the suite.  Taking a towel and suit for his planned morning swim, Aiden had found a pool the evening before.  It was very luxurious and had been lightly used at the time.  He hoped for another relaxing swim today and eventually returned half an hour later, cleaned up and had breakfast.  As Aali and Emkir ate, she found a message from her parents had come in, but after they'd gone to sleep.  So they left a message saying they hadn't the vacation time to visit but wanted to get together.  When Zimzod finally staggered from the bedroom he and Mikah shared, Mikah began to applaud and the others joined in.

When Jocelynn said they should throw eggs at him, Mikah put her foot down and said there would be no throwing of food.  Zimzod smiled and said he was well rested and ready for a war if anyone wanted to start one he could end.  When Rol suggested he could get hurt in any wrestling, Zimzod only snapped back, "Don't threaten me with a good time!"  The others laughed because no one was afraid of Rol and or concerned Zimzod would let his machismo slip.  Finally, Terin and Fesic came out of their bedrooms and Jocelynn first suggested they should applaud Terin's arrival before saying not to, because he didn't deserve it.  Terin was caught and confused by the comments while the others laughed because of the small round of applauds Zimzod had gotten.

While they ate, Rol told Mikah he'd fronted the crew KCr 30 for the food and she agreed to pay him back for that.  They also watched the news during breakfast and everything was more or less "old news".  Aali caught one thing the others missed, because she'd been raised on Regina and in Atora city.  A news item mentioned that the Duchess had granted an audience in her court to discuss an urban management project.  That was unusual because Duchess Seldrian, while the active Head Of Government on Regina, never got involved in low-level government issues like municipal projects.  It also turned out that this particular project would affect the section of Atora city in which Aali's family home was.  For those reasons, Aali wanted to dig into the project and figure out why the Duchess was involved?  Emkir said he'd help her with that.

After breakfast, Fesic called an office of the University of Regina hoping to "buy" a complete download of the course material for a Liberal Arts degree program.  After some conversation where Fesic even backed off and asked for two-year or one-year loads of the course material, the request was refused.  This was for a number of reasons.  Where Fesic could certainly do research to find a syllabus of classes for the degree program, even buying all that material on his own wouldn't guarantee he actually learned the material or comprehended it well enough to correctly interpret it.  Without any interaction with an instructor to test his comprehension and understanding, there was no way the University would connect their reputation to his actions.

Eventually disgusted that he could not get "what he wanted" just because he wanted it, Fesic sent an X-mail message to the University of D'Ganzio on Lanth, requesting they send him a replacement of his lost course material.  That cost him Cr 6 for the X-boat service along the trade routes riftward through Dinomn, Ghandi to Lanth.  Still, what Fesic failed to recognize as he sent his message was that the data he wanted them to return was too large to be portable without a starship's computer.  So, the answer he would not get, best...three months, was "We can provide this data if you bring your ship to D'Ganzio or Lanth.  There, we can upload it.  Or, you can pay for a memory module and shipping.  And a starship-class memory module would cost between Cr 50,000 and 100,000.

After calling the university and the X-mail office, Fesic decided to look into finding replacements for the damaged modules of the cargo sealing system.  If he could find one cheap enough, he'd even consider a replacement because the working modules in the one they had would become spare parts.  Eventually, as the day went on, he found a complete unit for sale that was advertised as outmoded and outdated for the firm using it.  Fesic ignored the ability to just "seal cargo pods" because the unit was described as outdated.  So, in a galaxy where the average ship in space was 100+ years old, Fesic passed on the item and searched on.

While Fesic, Aali and Emkir began their various research programs, Mikah decided to look up museums because she'd been to a number of them in Atora.  Mikah decided on the city's Natural History museum and asked who else wanted to go?  Aiden, Jocelynn, Rol, Terin and Zimzod said they'd go with her and she paid the Cr 15 for the large cab because it had been her idea.  Established as a colonial world, the museum had departments starting with the formation of the local solar systems and stellar cluster.  From there, if one followed the flow of the exhibits, visitors got to see the evolution of the planet based on what was known and what planetology, archeology and paleontology could theorize.  Beyond that, would come the formation of biomes on-world and the development of life-forms.

To the disappointment of all, there had been no "Mega-Fauna" phase in Regina's history as had happened in other systems like Terra.  This did result in a number of odd and even bizarre lifeforms.  Current pests found on, but not necessarily evolved on, Regina included blood suckers called Itankilnata'ak(Himyr Linters) which resembled small tangles of lint and also had a mild chameleon ability.  Duct Spiders(aka Hive Spiders), which could be found in ship and station environmental systems, because they seem to like eating through filters and mesh.  And the Regina Hive Bat.  A flying animal with a hazardous bite living in Regina's forested regions and vaguely resembling Terran Bats.  In Regina's case, the bats are feathered.

Shortly after eating lunch in the museum's cafeteria, the crew were making their way through the exhibits when Jocelynn noticed they seemed to be "dragging" a group of three other tourists.  Trying not to make it obvious, Jocelynn moved over to Mikah and nudged her with an elbow.  With her attention, Jocelynn told Mikah, "Don't be obvious about it but we seem to have someone following us."  A slight tilt to her head suggested the direction and Mikah looked over Jocelynn's shoulders at the three.  When she did, Mikah saw that the eyes of at least one of the tourists went wide with what Mikah recognized was excitement.  So, they were "Fans".

Jocelynn began to protest, because she'd never dealt with this before, but Mikah brushed her aside and reached out a hand to greet the three.  Excited to have been noticed, one of the tourists...a younger woman...was almost paralyzed with a combination of excitement and fear.  Still, Mikah did her best to be gracious while shaking hands with the only person to take her hand, and greeted them all.  She then started making small talk and tried to put the three at their ease because making those connections was what "Then" Duke Norris had said he most wanted from any noble person.  So, she was still doing Norris' work.

Soon enough, the three all started relaxing and asking questions and, of course, asking if they could take selfies with Mikah, Rol and Zimzod?  Rol had, as they'd arrive and moved through the museum, been recognized and acknowledged by many of the military, veterans and military-knowledgeable in the crowds because of his own career and history.  But now, it was the crew's fame and history which was the lure and they were Lady Mikah's crew.  Eventually, Terin offered to take group pictures in which Jocelynn appeared, despite the fact he had a level of fame and she was a complete unknown.

Of course, when such things happened in a public spaces, others paid attention to the small group and started gathering around.  Soon, there was a knot of perhaps fifty people in the area of displays Mikah and the group had been viewing, and museum staff and security moved in too.  The first docent arrived, followed by a junior staffer who was never verbally identified as the first security responder, it was suggested perhaps this could be moved out from the artifact displays.  Mikah agreed, knowing an accident could unintentionally damage something or set off an alarm.  She asked if there was someplace they could go?  By then, an actual junior administrator had arrived, and suggested one of the many on-campus classrooms the museum had.

Mikah agreed to that and the group was then escorted by the increased amount of facility security to a classroom where no less than twenty visitors to the museum joined Mikah and the crew for questions, pictures and a bit of hanging out.  After about ten to fifteen minutes of that, Mikah decided it was time to go back to the suite and they cut things short.  Shaking off a few of the tourists who had the idea of playing "Hanger on", the group grabbed a taxi back which Mikah made Zimzod pay for after both Zimzod and Jocelynn played "Rear-guard" security.  From there, the group returned to the suite and everyone hung out until dinner.

Mysteries In Cards And Minds

     After dinner was cooked and eaten, they talked about continuing the stent and clik classes.  Since Mikah still had to learn the codes, they decided they'd hold the stent class first, for those who had stents and then Zimzod would work with Mikah on the codes.  While the stent class went on, Mikah played video games with Emkir.  While those with stents did their class, Fesic checked in on his order for the lock pick "business" but was reminded this was the first day after the order and he'd been told it would take three days.  Fesic then asked Jocelynn if she wanted to go out and start looking for contacts on Regina?  At first, Jocelynn was concerned because of all she'd heard about the crew's history on-world.  She was also concerned about the high nobility she knew were in-system because she knew the crew actually had history...even with the Duchess!  And, a Prince of the Imperium was not only coming in-system with the Arch-Duke but they were waiting to try and see the Arch-Duke too!

Because of that, Jocelynn was worried about making any mistakes in-system which would hurt the crew's hopes.  At first, Jocelynn said they shouldn't go out hunting contacts, but then considered what she wanted to do and changed her mind.  After first telling Fesic they shouldn't go out contact hunting, Jocelynn told him she'd changed her mind.  After that, she just needed to decide "How" to do it in a better way than they had in Dinomn's high port.  Their first idea, before doing anything, was to decide "where" to do it.  It had taken Jocelynn a fair bit of time to figure out how to choose a "hunting ground" in Dinomn-station, and she wanted to start with that in Regina.  Atora was Regina's capital city and would have a great many well-lit and watched sections.  Still, while that meant the shadowed areas were fewer and more sharply shaped, they would be darker and deeper all the same.  Still, it was the Capital city and that meant any mistake could explode all over the rest of the crew.  Not far from Atora was Credo city and home for Credo-Down mainport, the largest hub for interstellar down-traffic on-world and home to Regina's "Startown".

Sitting at a terminal to explore virtually, Jocelynn and Fesic used mapping apps and news stories to get an idea what areas would be best to try?  They soon tracked an area which was not notable for the number of reported events that happened there.  They noticed it because a number of the reports placed the residents responsible or involved in that neighborhood.  So the "actors" might live there and appeared not to be shitting where they lived.  And that meant it was the perfect place to hunt for contacts!  Now, they needed to set up their hunt so it would be more safe than the one they'd done in Dinomn.  Their first step would be to protect their identities.  That was Fesic's chance to lead as he and Jocelynn went out onto the city's surface streets.

It didn't take long for the pair to find a small consumer electronics shop and go in searching for what he'd hoped to find.  What they found were quik-buy hand-held comm-wave comms.  These could be bought and then configured to any of the local comm-wave networks quickly.  And, if they became an issue, the comms could as easily be dumped quickly.  Buying two for Cr30 each, they then started to think about which network to use with them?  They had the data on the packaging for regular commercial networks.  They could also see instructions for sparking up the devices and "looking for any local networks" the comms could see.  Fesic felt that was very risky.  So, Fesic asked the man they'd bought the comms from who he recommended?

When the man first said to ignore all the networks on the packaging, Fesic thought that was a good sign.  His heart dropped when the man reached under a sales counter and said he had the right network for them to use.  They both figured he just had a placard from some company who was giving him kickbacks.  So, that company could be good or bad and it wouldn't matter to him either way.  Fesic's spirits rose again when the man grabbed an erase marker and turned the placard over to start writing.  The man quickly scribbled a number of codes that Fesic could see fit with the instructions on the comms packaging.  While he wrote, the man asked them how long they'd be using the comms?

Fesic and Jocelynn considered what they'd heard from the rest of the crew and said it was likely forty five days.  The man nodded and said they should load Cr 100 on the comms and that would likely be more than they'd ever need.  He jutted his chin out to the packaging on one of the comms and said, "They'll charge you ten times as much."  Nodding, Fesic thanked the man and both he and Jocelynn pulled the comms out and started setting them up.  Each followed instructions and loaded Cr 100 onto their accounts.  This included registering the comms and they did so using the assumed names, Kane Madigan and Zoey Justeirus.  After doing that, they loaded the comms with Cr 100 directly from their accounts, but they were new at skullduggery.

Still, paying for the comms got them thinking about creating fake accounts or something, and Fesic suggested they should each draw Cr 1,000 in hard currency from their accounts.  That way, they'd not have to hand over their Idents when doing business.  Despite the fact they'd never spent more than a couple hundred credits on any given night out, Jocelynn cut that back to Cr 500 and never considered they could move out with less than three hundred.  But, they pulled Cr 500 each for hard currency in their pockets and then called for a cab to take them to the neighborhood they'd targeted.  Ridinge along their way, the comms were tied to their Idents but nothing else was.

Fesic paid the Cr 20 for the cab and they got out into a darkened street in a cityscape which appeared to verge on the blend between fading residential and warehouse districts.  The area was green, like much of Atora, but was obviously of less "prestige" than the section of the city where they'd been housed.  There were small consumer goods, 'service shack' and convenience stores along the avenue with apartment blocks located above them.  These blocks were separated from each other with miniature versions of "corporate park" like properties serving smaller firms.  That meant they could see the warehouses in the local distance.

The idea was to start out by finding a bar to sit in and look for....'something'.  What that was, they hoped they'd know when they saw it.  So now, they needed to find a likely bar.  Not necessarily 'the very first bar' they saw but a bar they liked the feel of.  Finding that didn't take very long because the location of the neighborhood meant bars were a 24-7 industry and the people coming in at the end of the shift never really had the energy to "rock the place down".  So they looked at a few bars til they saw one where the windows showed some sort of muted "actinic glare out of darkness".  They guessed the glare would keep eyes down in the shadows of their own booths while they chattered.

Stepping into the place, they realized they could not have been more wrong.  At the back of the bar was a large, wall-spanning display on which "the action" was happening while about half those in the bar were cheering, jeering, making bets or bitching and celebrating depending on how other bets had played out.  Caught in the entrance with the eyes of a bartender and at least one of the wait staff on them, they decided they couldn't just turn and leave so they stepped in and tried to figure out what was happening on the screen?  What they saw was a group of humans in a set of "common blazon" outfits which could be called uniforms.  Each was emblazoned with the words, "The Gauntlet!"  That made everything clear.

It was a reality vid!  Out there in the black, there was an old cruiser the Imperial Navy had sold off to a production company.  They had renamed the ship the IMS Golden Gauntlet and burned out to those worlds with poor and desperate populations to issue a challenge and make cash.  Lots of cash.  The show paradigm was to offer a single competitor Cr 1,000 to make it through challenges - some of which could cause wounds or even be fatal.  Competitors could bring in a team of nine other friends to help them get through the challenges.  If the competitor succeeded, they got paid and earned bonus payments for their friends.  Along the way through the challenges, there were sometimes bonuses that add to the overall payouts.  Sometimes the "fatal" events were fake, and those who appeared to have died were captured safe.  Adding to the excitement, for the average viewer, they also had VIP series, where they offered celebrities MCr 1 or even MCr 10 to compete.

Watching the vid, a crew of ten players argued about a situation Jocelynn and Fesic didn't understand because they'd come in late.  It took them a bit of watching to finally figure out that the holographic countdown in the compartment with the competitors was the time left before the walls closed in and trapped them off...if not killing them all?  Those instructions had been given through an announcing screen when the team had entered and the door behind them closed and locked.  Either way, they'd lose if they failed to get out of the compartment.  While those in the bar watched, one of the "helpers", who it would turn out was an engineer, pointed to a wall panel in the compartment and screamed, "That panel is different!"  Rushing over as the holographic clock ticked down close to zero, the competitor hit the panel and it opened a door.

Moving even as the walls started moving, the team rushed through the door, which slammed shut and locked as soon as they passed through.  At the same time, with the competitive team scattered from the locked door halfway across the room.  The floor of that compartment split halfway across the room, from side wall to side wall.  When it split, two of the team members lost their balance and fell into the fluid below, to start screaming and to freeze!  Horrified, everyone realized the "fluid" was liquid nitrogen!  At the same time, a door was suddenly bordered in lights on the far side of the room.  So this "challenge" was to get across the room which meant getting past the Li-Ni barrier.  Seeing the death of two team members, Jocelynn cringed and said, "Harsh!"  Judging by the reactions in the bar, the others mostly agreed.  Some few collected bet winnings.

Neither Fesic nor Jocelynn felt like continuing to watch.  If they had, they would eventually have seen that the episode ended when the team failed to reach the goal.  At that point, they would have seen that those who had "fallen in" had been pulled under while replicant holographic replacements - Really Good holographic replacements - suffered and died.  The solution to the situation was to test the Li-Ni safely and realize it was fake.  Of course, the team members were not returned after one of the "survivors" stuck a finger in and it did not freeze off.  The team would eventually fail another challenge but neither Fesic nor Jocelynn had been watching by then.

Taking a booth in a darker corner of the bar, they ordered drinks and sat nursing and listening.  For the most part, they only got local chatter as people came in or left.  Finally, they saw a couple of obvious spacers come into the bar and exchanged looks.  This was "Not" a spacer bar.  Someone was out of place.  Grabbing a booth and ordering drinks, the first of the couple asked, "What do you think?" in a doubtful voice.  Despite the situation, the two didn't seem to be too worried about being overheard though they did not make their conversation obvious either.  The second person said that the plan all depended on how the lawsuit played out and they then went back and forth talking about a situation they both obviously knew well.

That meant they never suggested what "the plan" was, or mentioned any details of "the lawsuit".  Still, Fesic and Jocelynn got the opinion they were happy the law suit had been lodged and one of the two said it would make life "a lot easier".  So, maybe it was smugglers coming in from the shadows and maybe it wasn't.  The way the two were casually talking didn't make it seem like anything illegal was in the offing.  Even more disappointing, they never mentioned a ship or system related to their "plan" or law suit though they were in shipsuits and did have patches on their garb.  Still, getting close enough to see the patches would have been noticeable and neither tried.  Eventually, that conversation died down and none of those that followed were notable, so they left to head back to the suite.

In the suite, Aiden had gone swimming again after the stent class.  After that he wrapped things up, set his alarm clock and went to bed.  Mikah and Zimzod went to a local pub and had some drinks before they came back and went to sleep.  Right after dinner, Emkir had asked the others if they wanted to go to one of Atora's big casinos and only Rol and Aali had signed on for that trip.  Again, because it was his idea, Emkir paid the cab fare for them to get to the casino, the decorations of which did not disappoint!  While Aali was intent on remaining "Arm candy" for Emkir, both men set firm limits of Cr 1,000 on their losses before they'd go back to the suite.

Wandering through the displays, shopping concourses and gambling floors of the "Marquis' Treasury", for which designation the casino did actually pay the House of Aledon, they eventually settled down to play some poker.  The table they chose had an ante of Cr 50 per hand, which mollified Emkir because he'd wanted to play baccarat.  While Rol lost a bit while getting started, Emkir first held his own and then actually won a hand or two.  A few hands later, Emkir was still above water and Rol had gained some of his losses back when a new player sat down at the table.  This man was dressed to impress with every notable sign of a nobleman out to get noticed while playing.  The thing all three noted about the man was that, while indoors, he was wearing a hat.  Oddly, his hat was a cross between a beret and a collapsed chef's hat which they'd guess only made him look odd while hiding his hair.

The man sat and very smoothly swept his hand over the space on the table in front of him, first left from the right then back again.  In the first sweep, he very skillfully laid out a running course of over-lapped and well-aligned thousand-Credit chips!  He then matched the first arc with another, closer to him, of hundred-Credit chips.  The man easily had nearly thirty five thousand credits sitting on the table in front of him when he completed his grand gesture, and looked up at those sitting at the table and then the table's dealer.  Another thing no one could miss was the very ornate and well painted and decorated pistol holster on his left hip.

When the man threw in a Cr 100 ante, breaking the table's Cr 50 limit, Rol picked up his chips and said things were getting too rich for his blood.  He then moved on to try other games.  Despite not making the move "too obvious" Emkir didn't miss it when the new comer's eyes followed Rol away from the table.  When play started with the dealer passing cards to the players, Emkir continued to note the attention the man paid, from moment to moment, of Rol's actions instead of what was happening at the table.  Skilled at gambling himself, Emkir wasn't going to ask about the man's attention, but he also wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth!  He had no clue where the term came from, but he had a perfect understanding of where the dandy's fancy chips would be going?  Emkir bid the man up repeatedly, and ultimately chased the others at the table from the hand.  Still, when it came time to call, the pot was Cr 2,500!  And it was Emkir's.

In the meantime, Rol hadn't moved far off, to a roulette wheel where he did "OK" on the first spin, then lost that and more in the next four spins.  Down Cr 500 at that point, Rol actually decided to just give his money away and moved to the slot machines!  Again, he started out winning but then slowly sunk deeper into his losses.  During the same time, the man at Emkir's table threw another hundred Credit chip down and the others watched while Emkir played a hand "one on one".  Thanks to the man's continuing disassociation, Emkir bid that hand up too, and won Cr 1,100 more.  Following that hand, Emkir saw some of those around the table were thinking of moving on and put his foot down, saying the table limit was Cr 50 and others should be allowed to play.

Agreeing, the man switched his chip for a Cr 50 chip and others sat back down or joined after coming over for the spectacle, and the game began again.  The other man's attention on Rol continued enough that Emkir was able to make Aali aware of it.  The next hand didn't get bid up because other players were there to call the bet.  Still, Emkir's streak held.  That was because he been able to read the new folks a bit.  The big spender was no competition, being mentally absent from the game, but he did scare a few.  Another hand was played and Emkir finally lost to someone else at the table.  More hands passed, and more chips got swept to Emkir, before Rol finally returned to the table to see how Emkir was doing?  He had certainly been suffering.

Seeing the big money man was still there, Rol couldn't help notice that Emkir's pile of chips had grown and the table had returned to its normal limits.  Shrugging, Rol sat down and threw a Cr 50 chip onto the table.  No sooner had he done that when the big spender surprised them all.  He greeted "Sir Rol" and offered to push all his chips into the ante and then fold his hand undealt if Rol could name all the Imperial ground units the Imperial Navy had to withdraw when the Zhodani had invaded the Efate system in 1107, when the Fifth Frontier War had begun.  Rol was stunned, because there had to still be over KCr 30 in those chips!

In 1105, Rol had been promoted to the rank Captain and assigned to lead commando teams within the 120th Imperial Special Response Battalion in actions against targets identified by the Efatian government and vetted by Imperial authorities.  There had been quite a bit of grumbling the targets had been political and not military but the operation continued until early 1106, when the unit was moved to the Aramanx system to augment starport security on a world in the middle of a full blown world war!  Following that assignment, Rol had been pulled back to the Aramis system and assigned to "Staff Officer's College" as a notable and rising Marine officer.  He had been there, and deep in his studies when the Zhodani invaded and the war started.  So, Rol could guess what entrenched units from 1105 may have stayed there after his unit left, but he had no idea who else may have been moved in?

Admitting he couldn't answer the question, the man nodded and said, "Too bad.  Sir Rol is not going to get rich tonight."  Despite the words, his tone was friendly instead of mocking.  Rol did admit that he regretted his orders after learning of the invasion because he'd wished he had been there.  And if certain officers who had commanded or managed his career had been there at the moment, they would have agreed that the younger Rol Kaihvos would truly have wanted to be in the fight instead of in school!

Still, he did ante a Cr 50 and the game was dealt.  As play went on the pot was bid up again and again, the final call left Rol down a total of Cr 1,100, with all his other losses that night.  That was just a bit more than he planned to risk that night and said his gambling was coming to an end.  Seeing that, Aali suggested they go see a review and Emkir agreed as he collected his chips.  The big spender made no move they saw to follow them but did say he'd bet they'd meet again soon.  Shaking that off, and since Emkir was up Cr 4,500, they told Rol what he had left of his money was no good that evening and they'd cover him as they went off to the review.  After enjoying the show and drinks, they eventually returned back to the suite.

Dark Clouds In The News

     Mikah and Zimzod had been the first to wake that morning and had spent some time "having fun" in their bedroom before getting about their day.  Still, they were out and making caff when Aiden came out of his bedroom.  Rol then followed, and started making breakfast as they ignored the news because it had been old news so far.  They wondered when the next x-boat carrying news would arrive and didn't know they wouldn't have to wait long.

As more of the crew came from their bedrooms, a small red flashing square appeared in the upper left corner of their vid-screen and it read, "Attention all interstellar vessels.  Until further notice, TAS has marked the Excalibur system as a RED travel zone!  That was new, and got everyone's attention.  Turning to the news, the crew spent over an hour watching through the new stories, in on the most recent x-boat, which either updated them on older issues or made them aware of new events.  And the first full story they heard in coverage spoke tangentially to their direct interests because it told them Prince Lucan had entered the Spinward Marches fifty nine days earlier!  That meant he was two months closer in his travels than when that story had been posted.

    Margesi (C575677-6  Ag Ni  A  910  Im  M4 V M7 D)                  Date: 266-1113
    In a surprise release, Prince Lucan instructed Admiral Kaskel Umkhegshii, Commander of
    the Tigress-Class Dreadnaught INS Laakiir Marka to open his sealed orders.  Those
    orders had been received from the hand of the Prince himself, and had been sealed since
    Prince Lucan had received them from his Uncle, the Emperor himself.  So, as the ship
    left her slips on her maiden launch, the words had been sealed and secret entirely from
    Capital itself.  Before the hall and those gathered, including a Zhodani Ambassadorial
    officer traveling with the Prince, the officer stood and read his orders to all present.
          Unto Admiral Umkhegshii, I command the Laakiir Marka to assume the role of
          Ambassador's Flag for Lady Shishana Elalaash, our newly appointed Ambassador
          to the High Council of Chronor in that system."

    Observers in the hall noted a hush from all who had remembered the history of the Fifth
    Frontier War.  For, in 1104, even as the Zhodani Consulate prepared for what would be the
    Fifth Frontier War, then Ambassador Lady Laakiir Marka had been assassinated in the Chronor
    system.  Very few present could miss the fact the present dreadnought was named for the
    fallen Ambassador.

    This reporter will admit to a good amount of surprise how calmly the Zhodani Ambassador
    and his party received the information.  From the obvious use of the Imperial "Chronor"
    over the Zhodani "Cronor" to the specific and targeted use of the late ambassador's name.
    The insult could not be mistaken.  Despitethat it seemed they must have had precognitive
    warning of the event, since there was no chance to read the data in the orders from any
    officer's mind.  Sealed since Capital, there had been no officer present with advanced
   knowledge of the content of those orders.

    Tureded (C465540-9  Ag Ni  614  Im  M3 V)                            Date: 287-1113
    After months in production in the Quopist system, IMS Golden Gauntlet has moved on to the
    Tureded system with intentions to sell episodes and seasons of the game show "The Gauntlet".
    It is expected the ship will proceed along the spinward main from Tureded to Pirema, Echiste,
    K'kirka, Rech, Wypoc, Dinomn, Dinom and Jenghe before turning to Regina or Extolay.

    It is uncertain where the Golden Gauntlet will stop next to film as they offer challenges
    and rewards again?  While that is uncertain, it will certainly be true that their bursars
    will be busy raking in the many credits their sales will capture.  Even now, the names of
    the few new champions are becoming better known.  They will be even more so now the ship
    moves closer.  And few will speak of those who failed the test.

    Kwai Ching (C503758-A  Na Va Ic  320  Na  K3 V)                      Date: 168-1113
    Relief forces from various polities have offered the local government assistance in caring for the survivors
    and managing the destruction wrought on their orbital assets.  A flotilla of Imperial forces, led by Lt.
    Commander Bakash Gamkishagi have been on station both to offer support and to assess the threat raiders in the
    region present to Imperial-friendly systems in the subsector.  On the very edge of the sector, the Kwai Ching
    system is a single parsec away from the war-torn Singer system, and two from the Kaldamar and Walai systems,
    located in the Egyrn subsector of the Trojan Reaches sector.

    Reports from the Lt. Commander's officers suggest a careful and well-executed attack against the local
    station's defensive structures.  That meant the raiders knew not to let exaggerated destruction cheat
    them of booty.  Despite that, the destruction wrought within the station reminded the Imperial
    officers of the rapacious destruction caused by raiding Vargr corsairs.  Signs and scars show explosive
    and destructive force were certainly used in stripping the station and it was only the luck of arriving
    traders that prevented the station falling to the world's barren surface.

    Despite the damage and death, the system still remains known as a market, and ships continue to arrive.
    Local authorities have begun the work of recovery.  Even as the system government continues repairs
    and rebuilding, the station staff have let merchant captains sell their wares directly.  They
    surrender a smaller share of their sales to taxes while the locals also refill their coffers.  The
    offer slyly works to extend the stay of ships in-system and adds to the fees the port can charge.  In
    addition to the rebuilding and re-staffing, some recovery is visible thanks to the funds taken
    in to re-stock shelves.  This makes it possible for the station to return to buying cargoes and raising
    some tax rates, where near-normal services can be supplied to ship captains.

    Bael (E200100-8  Lo Ni Va  812  Na  K2 V)                                   Date: 252-1113
    Following two years of extreme change and uproar in the Bael system, the go ahead has been given to
    execute an agreement by the Imperial and Zhodani corporations Sternmetal Horizons and Priantqlovr as
    financed by Hortalez et Cie and the High Council of Chronor.  This facility, when completed, will
    provide for an organized processing and trade station.  Organization of the authorized "Trade Authority"
    would be to provide ore management and processing skills as directed by Sternmetal Horizons and management
    and sales direction from the Zhodani corporation, Priantqlovr.  The agreement will also provide for
    a small number of imported in-system defensive gunships and training for the belter community.

    In keeping with the anarchist nature of the belter community, each "gunship" will be used to train individual
    crews from single belter families or smaller belter alliances within the community of belters recognized as
    rightful owners of the system's resources.  Despite those promises, and until such defenses are provided,
    there continue to be small level conflicts within the system between those who claim to share a right in
    the lanthanum dealings as well as those who claim rights to search for additional strikes and deposits.

    Other conflicts have risen where transient and opportunistic traffic do their best to acquire any wealth
    or goods from others into their own pockets or banks.  Imperial observers now comment that there may be the
    need to update the Imperial survey for this system to change the population statistic "1" to "2" or even "3".
    This consideration is at a very cautious stage since the change would reference populations which are
    permanent, not transient.  Imperial jurists commenting on the issue suggest any move by the Imperium
    to update its records could be later used to support claims despite their lack of legitimacy.  Such an
    event could be especially damaging should the findings be faulty.

    Jewell (A777999-C  2  Hi In Cp  623  Im  G7 V)                       Date: 287-1113
    In a surprise filing before the Imperial Courts in Jewell, the firm, "Arkesh Spacers" has petitioned
    the Imperial Ministry of Trade and the Zhodani Embassy on that world for permission to trade with a minor
    Sophont race known as "the Sheol".  In their filing, the company revealed for the first time in
    public that they had undertaken trade to the Querion system, which they stated in their filing, was the
    home system of this little-known race.  Despite the location, representatives of Arkesh Spacers firmly
    stated the homeworld of this race is "Sheol", from which the name of the race is derived.&nbs This was
    because, "We have no true understanding how they refer to themselves." in the words of spokesbeing Imulisa
    Lalag.  Adding to the mystery, the world "Sheol" is known to be a large gas giant in the Querion system!
    That raises questions about just what kind of beings this race are?

    When Mr. Lalag was asked about contact with the race and how this trade had developed, the spokesbeing stated,
    "That data largely remains classified by the Imperial Navy and I direct your questions regarding that aspect
    of our filing to the offices of the Admiralty.  Questions directed at the Admiralty were not directly
    answered or responded to at the time.  The same can be said about queries directed to the office of the
    Countess of Jewell.  Mr. Lalag further stated that the trade figures and data speak for the economic sense
    response of re-opening trade with the race.  There was no at all to any questions from the Zhodani Ambassador

    For those unfamiliar with Arkesh Spacers, they are a merchant company based in the rimward area of the
    Spinward Marches sector.  Appearing to show interest in anything that might show a profit, Arkesh's
    competitors suggest the firm is no more than "a predatory outfit, on the thin line between accepted
    commercial practice and downright piracy".  Arkesh Spacers are known to frequently compete with
    the merchant firms Baraccai Technum and McClellan Factors.  Arkesh maintains a nominal headquarters
    on Strouden (Lunion) but they eschew regular bases preferring developing business through contacts
    (often claimed to be criminal by members of competing firms) on many Marcher worlds who hire,
    customize and maintain their vessels.

    Marz (A584985-A  S  A  Im  110  G4 V  G6 V)                            Date: 217-1113
    In a further update from the office of Admiral Keshemkak, Commanding the Junidy system ISS base, the
    Admiral stated that a number of operations are beginning to get under way to get a handle on events in
    the Gvurrdon sector and local Vargr space.  Courier squadrons are being assembled as small and moderate
    flotillas of craft are assembled.  A chief mission will be to make contact with the Commonality of Kedzudh
    or representatives of any successor states which may exist in that stellar cluster.

    A further statement confirmed the Afougae, Ganokoulovaenu and Asugunkhodz systems had left the Commonality
    and that vessels from Ganokoulovaenu have both threatened and fired on Imperial vessels where the odds were
    in their favor.  Sadly, the pace of sudden events meant there were few large Imperial formations in the
    region.  As a result, Imperial vessels are likely to be seen as "Targets of Prestige" to raiding captains
    hoping to secure the loyalty of their crews or grow their prestige.

    The Admiral's office has acknowledged a request from Oberlindes Lines, LIC out or Regina.  Word has been
    minimal from Oberlindes vessels operating to trade worlds in that region of space.  While no such
    vessels have yet been reported over-due, there is a concern for the crews, passengers and assets of that
    line.  Of larger concern is the aging IMS Emissary.

    Readers will be reminded that vessel was formerly the 60,000 dTon Imperial navy "Azanti High Lightning"
    class cruiser INS Sparkling Distress.(FI-6379).  She had been sold to Oberlindes with her combat
    systems intact and "impressed" on the Vargr the benefits of peaceful trade.  Despite that
    history, the aging ship could well be considered a target for Vargr bands looking for a prestigious
    "new" flagship.

    Jenghe (C799663-9  S  Ni  323  Im  M0 V)                            Date: 308-1113
    Recent word has come from the offices of Lord Leaarkh that the newly constructed public port facilities
    have reached thirty percent of operational status!  This project had been supported by then Duke Norris in
    alliance with Duke Leonard of Rhylanor and Lord Leonard Bolden-Tukera, 19th Marquis of Aramis.  In what was
    seen as an uneasy alliance to some, the project was pushed through the Subsector Senate.  Now, almost a
    decade later, the project had reached the point of re-classification.

    The design of the new facilities were on a scale where thirty percent operability will over-shadow the still
    operational older port.  Those numbers allowed the request, made by Lord Leaarkh's office, to schedule a
    reassessment of the port and official upgrade to a Class B designation.  While this request has been
    made directly to the Interstellar Scout Service, who will handle all inspections and determine the
    designation, a request has also been sent to Regina, as a courtesy.  The same requests will be made in
    the Rhylanor and Aramis systems as well.  It is expected by our expert sources that an assessment
    will be scheduled bythe IISS within the coming year.

    Upgrade work in the Jenghe system continues apace while planning remains on-going in the Tureded system.
    In that system, a rift had been opened early in the process of awarding contracts for the work planned.
    Eventually,agents of the office of the Marquis of Tureded managed to sway (and delay) talks until the
    Spinward Development Corporation decided to step aside.  With that decision, the system was granted a
    loan by the banking cartel, Hortalez et Cie.  With that loan backed by the Subsector Senate, the
    corporations General Products, GSbAG and Naasirka have been contracted to create a council to lead the
    project.  Following that, constructor fleets havebeen assembling as work continues through the very
    early stages.

    Mora(A99AC7-F  2  Hi In Cp  112  Im  M5 V)                            Date: 252-1113
    In a long-awaited announcement, the Admiralty Command of the Spinward Marches have followed up orders and
    announcements made months ago in the Rhylanor system regarding the newly redesignated Denuli system.  Bearing
    the seal of the Emperor, the order carries with it new laws regarding operations and activities in the new
    system.  To the surprise of many, the prediction of explorer Lord Sir Kaenkder were born out as the orders
    stated the basis for protection of a new minor race discovered in that system.

    In addition to legal orders and ramifications regarding operations in the system, the order also reinforced
    and codified the ban on collection or ownership of the "Denuli Gemstone".  In another surprise, Imperial
    Law now considered ownership of such goods as a "Capital Offense"!  While the relationship between
    the new race and these gemstones was not mentioned, the order did provide for a period of amnesty during which
    all currently owned Denuli Gemstones could be turned into any Imperial authority without punishment.
    Failure to comply to the orders within that period will be seen as a mitigating factor should any sentient be
    found in possession of the items beyond the amnesty, which will end on 002-1114.

    Iderati (A887798-C  N  Ag Ri Cp  G 201  Im  M9 V)                       Date: 224-1113
    Following announcements at the year's open, the Office of The Arch-Duke have released more information on land
    grants created for those Aslan who have served with distinction within an "All-Aslan" division of the Imperial
    Marines.  This release states that Ihatei of the minor Aslan Aiiyhui Clan who took part in major ground and
    space combat against Zhodani forces were considered for this honor.  The grants have now been documented on
    the Dentus system mainworld.  Dentus is a border world between the Third Imperium and Vargr Extents, and
    this move can only bolster regional defenses in a region where recent destabilization has been seen.  The
    Dentus system contains two planets, two moons and two asteroid belts, with no gas giants.

    Additional information stated a courier was sent to Fleet Admiral Akirman hault-Galir Laanshaa, Commander:
    100th fleet, in the Motmos system.  This missive granted the Admiral limited permission to invite members
    of an Aslan Ihatei fleet to emigrate to join their brothers in Dentus.  That fleet, having spent just more
    than a month in-system resupplying, had moved on spinward.  Following that, speculation had been that the
    fleet would call at the Mewey system(District 268), Wonderay(Five Sisters) or any of the multiple Darrian
    systems with Aslan populations.  The Aslan fleet, which had originated from space controlled by the
    Aorlakht, eventually proceeded spinward to stop first in the Collace system, and then move on to visit Mewey.
    The fleet have currently skirted the Imperial rimward border and are located in the Wonderay system.

    Entrope (E336AAA-B  Hi  110  Da  G6 V M1 D)                            Date: 275-1113
    The University of Zlodh have released a statement from the team of Doctor Klendeit Tellut as the first major
    statement since announcing the completion of initial surveys.  With an organized plan of the ruins site, the
    Doctor and his people have worked to establish the "layers" of settlement.  Doctor Klendeit admits that
    working with those investigations of alleged Sword World atrocities has slowed his work.  Despite that, it
    has also bolstered his pool of personnel as other Universities and governments shared interest on data from
    the world.  Now that initial digs have followed the survey, the first results can be announced.

    The paper, with Doctor Tellut as lead author and including other fellows as co-authors, states that the
    "ruins" are actually remains from three separate eras.  This news is exciting archeologists and academics
    across the sector as it travels because modern history only documented two settlement periods on the world.
    Initial known settlements date from before the Maghiz, when Darrian expansion reached out more than twenty
    parsecs from their homeworld.  History also shows that the colony had survived past the arrival of Solomani
    traders who fled the 'Rule of Man' to settle and found the Sword Worlds.  Indeed, it is recorded that
   the discovery of that colony led the expanding Sword Worlders to not settle system now named "Anselhome",
    to maintain a buffer with the unknown civilization.

    The "second" settlement came as modern Darrians restarted their much more limited colonial efforts after
    recovering from the Maghiz.  That world, as well as Anselhome and Winston, had remained unsettled because the
    Sword Worlds had not wanted to explore spinward to prevent encounters with the Darrians because of their own
    perceived vulnerabilities.  However, the fact those efforts are well documented make the discovery of a third
    settlement much more exciting to historians of every kind.  Despite the excitement of events, no member of
    the Doctor's team, nor any affiliated researchers, were willing to venture any guesses at the history of this
    "third" settlement period.  This includes visiting and accredited members of various Imperial Universities
    invited to participate.

    Hammermium (A5525AB-B  Ni Po  535  Im  M3 III)                       Date: 231-1113
    Two months on, the work carried out by Hammermium Corporation, along with other social organizations, have
    improved the new calm of the system.  Despite this, the rise of social change movements continues to rise,
    sponsoring several now well-known civilians.  Some few are noted for their rise in the arts, as directed to
    protest movements.  Still others have risen to lead social movements which started out demanding change and
    have grown to appeals for access to the reins of government!

    Along with the rise of such groups there have been increased demands both for improved trade to supply the
    world with consumer goods and increased leisure time.  These demands are, of course, easier for the government
    to move on and TAS has tracked efforts on both rails.  First, the Count has announced two additional official
    holidays which effect all citizens by law.  Next, there has been a general amnesty granted to a large number
    of very low-level legal infringements.  These include minor crimes associated with the protesting which
    overtook the system nearly half a year ago.  Finally, TAS has also tracked an increase of tech goods becoming
    available and has found some evidence that prices had been subsidized by the government in order to make them
    more available to the population.

    Still, there remains a significant level of discontent in-system and the Count and his family rarely appear
    openly in public.  Something they used to do with great regularity before the current crisis.  Taking
    the temperature of the protests show the Count has yet to live down his unfortunate statements during the
    escalation of destruction and rioting.  At the same time, the Hammermium Corporation has shown a marked rise
    in public opinion despite the fact His Excellency is the chief operating officer of the firm.  How this
    will play out in the long-run is beyond prediction, but one thing is certain.  Hammermium is a system
    in transition.

    Natoko (B582211-8  N  Lo Ni  801  Im  M2 VI M6 D)                    Date: 266-1113
    Status updates from the Natoko system indicate the shortening of Imperial patience as Senator Kudilas tries
    to work with the world government to find an end to the crisis.  Incidents with starships attempting to run or
    avoid the blockade have been reduced however still do continue to happen.  In a recent event, the crew of the
    IMS Gravity's Exiles attempted to get their ship to live up to her name.  They attempted to enter the
    system using a transient La-Grange point formed between the mainworld, one of its moons and the system's
    primary.  After successfully exiting jump within the transient locus, they were then taken under fire by
    a team of 400-dTon Fury class gunboats which had been transported in-system by the carrier INS Darkened
.  The report, provided by the office of commanding Admiral Uuela, stated that one of the Furys,
    the INS Burning Heart, was lightly damaged when hit by defensive fire from the armed merchanter.

    An investigation of the event proved that the gunship had been hit by pure random chance when the merchant
    gunners struck out randomly at their tormenters.  Even when their ship's engineering section was hulled
    and taking significant damage.  The survivors of the merchant ship were taken into custody by marines
    after the disabled vessel was boarded.  The report further stated the condition of the merchant vessel
    was "non-repairable" while damage to the Burning Heart would take up to ten hours repair time.

    Still, the Natoko planetary government are running short of time.  An official speaking on the condition of
    anonymity said he has been told the Natokans have stretched things as far as they could.  TAS has also
    tracked a significant influx of ground assault assets moving into the system and rumors suggest that General
    Sir Darkirger (Lord Shurshim) has been placed under Admiral Uuela.  It is unknown, at this time, if His
    Lordship will serve as an advisor on reading surface events or if he will possibly lead or engineer a
    surface action.

    Porozlo (A867A74-B  Hi  201  Im  M1 V M9 D)                            Date: 259-1113
    After nearly a year of entrenched warfare on Porozlo, the nations of New Jindabyn, Sertao Forros and Ko
    Qiquiang remain engaged in a smoldering conflict.  With significantly fewer remaining options or resources, Ko
   Qiquiang's leadership had sued for peace early on.  Unfortunately, the failed 'sneak attack' strategy they
    attempted to use on entering the conflict left them few avenues of negotiations.  A further issue was raised
    when the nation became desperate enough to beg for Imperial help.  Formerly an "extreme" example of the
    Private Ownership blok of nation, the move by Ko Qiquiang's leadership was seen as a surrendering of
    philosophy by the free trade nation New Jindabyn.  To the leaders of Sertao Forros, another Private Ownership"
    nation, this act was nothing short of betrayal.

    Having lost actual territory to the other combatants, the population of Ko Qiquiang have suffered from raids
    and other deep strikes against national production.  Imperial response to the request has been limited,
    since it is feared the national leadership have not truly committed to a change of philosophy.  Still,
    Imperial diplomats have done their best to present warnings against unintended civilian damage.  While
    an agreement in principal was reached with the leadership of New Jindabyn, Imperial offices report few
    contacts with ministers from the Sertao Forros government.

    Monitoring of the war has suggested it should have burned itself out over half a year ago.  Analysis have
    suggested that pre-war actions by the New Jindabyn and Sertao Forros governments allowed them to stockpile
    arms and armaments while also building up wartime industrial sites.  Looking into how that was possible,
    it was accepted New Jindabyn, as a Free Trade nation, could easily have gotten agreements from a number of
    "interstellar corporates" to receive supplies in advance.  Sertao Forros could also have signed
    agreements quietly with those interstellar corporates who were willing to accept the many conditions set in
    place by the various Private Ownership nations.  Imperial offices and teams reporting to the Marquis
    are investigating these avenues while also reaching out to all the combatants to stop the killing.

    Regina (A788899-C  2  Ri Cp  703  Im  F7 V M8 D M6 V)             Date: 315-1113
    The office of Regina's Minister of Finance announced today that negotiations to adjust the budget of the Duchy
    have been completed to allow for increased spending on system defense.  This move has been building for some
    time, and received increased attention after a cruiser of the Regina Navy had to rely on civilian traffic to
    successfully engage pirates in the Rech system.  Readers will recall events in 1112 when vessels commanded
    by Kyle van Ryddoth and [then] Dame Mikah Kirlim were lost while assisting a Regina Naval cruiser.

    Using the rally cry that no Regina Naval commander should be sent into battle alone and unsupported, leaders
    in the movement to increase the Duchy's Navy size have been pushing this legislation for months.  At the same
    time, opponents of the measures point to the additional cost to the average family on Regina.  The flagging
    fight to compare the measure with "What it costs to the average citizen's dinner table" has run into counter-
    claims of increased employment at shipyards and raw material recovery operations such as home system
    mining, etc.

    In the end, an alliance including Ministers from the Loyalist and Progressive voting bloks have joined support
    for the measure and come up with an adjustment to Regina's budget which will both achieve the program desires
    and improve life for the people of Regina while adding to the system's defenses.  Military supporters are
    hailing the announcement not only as a step towards better enforcement of interstellar law but also an
    increase in the system's "still on-going" recovery from losses in the Fifth Frontier War.

    Sacnoth (A775956-C  M  Hi In  801  Bw  F9 V M8 D)                   Date: 273-1113
    Reports from the Sacnoth system indicate factions continue to fight for control of the neighboring Excalibur
    system.  Nearly ten months after the collapse of that system's government, formerly a Feudal Technocracy,
    the various noble factions have used their control of industry and arms to strike or defend locations of value
    in a devolving civil war.  Reports coming from in-system sources indicate that the early events were
    small conflicts as power blocks moved to secure sites or take more firm controls of industries.  The first
    signs of the chaos to come were attempts by outside forces to get toe-holds into spheres of influence where
    they were not represented or dominant.

    The nature of the conflict evolved when the fight to intrude across traditional lines of control also
    fractured existing alliances and expectations.  That breakdown of trust and expectations shattered
    existing relationships as the leaders of various factions pulled back from formerly trusted allies.
    This forced factions which had planned to attempt or achieve goals using guile or stealth to shift to
    using strength of arms instead.  It also forced divisions between factions which would have united
    to share a goal and the number of "conflict fronts" exploded.  That situation has only gone down
    hill since and it is recommended interstellar traffic avoid the Excalibur system for the time being.

    Attention all interstellar vessels.  Until further notice, TAS has marked the Excalibur
                  system as a RED travel zone!      

    Denotam (B739573-A  N  Ni  324  Im  M2 V)                                 Date: 300-1113
    With a growing need to observe the growth of the recently re-established "Federation of Arden", the Imperial
    Navy had shifted responsibility for general relations with the Federation to the Denotam Imperial Naval base.
    On that facility, Admiral Nunush Shikasa has established an office and staff along with a small element
    of courier and support craft.  Having been in place for several months, that office has begun to produce
    notable results.  When initially announced, the "Federation" had been seen as little more than the Arden
    itself.  Many observers and experts looked for the announcement Arden would formally adopt her now-
    independent former colonies into the Federation.

    Examining the two worlds, Zircon and Utoland, the best one could say of the Utoland system is that it had
    failed as a colony and resumption of rule from Arden might be a good thing in that case.  Zircon had
    achieved both Home Rule and functional independence but still seemed a logical member of a resurgent
    Federation.  That is why it was so much a surprise when Arden initially selected to formalize a treaty
    with the government of the Zenopit system.  Zenopit is a waterless moon with a thin atmosphere orbiting
    is dead world where the chief industry was mining.  Still, even that industry anemic at best and all the
    system's permanent population live within the lip of an ancient impact crater on-world.

    In the most recent report from Admiral Shikasa's office, the Imperial Navy may have found signs confirming
    recent diplomatic reports about increased Federation interests in the Zircon and Utoland systems.  Some
    reports processed by that office seem to suggest Utoland may, in fact, be considered a de-facto member
    of the Federation already.  Officers serving Admiral Shikasa admitted those suggestions exist but
    place little credence on them.  Still, the Navy is watching closely after the surprise move not only to
    form a Federation with neighboring Zenopit, but to then move forces into that system and secure it while
    toppling that world's former government.  Experts agree the new Navy data suggests an expectation
    Arden's Federation will absorb Zircon and Utoland in the coming months or years.  Still, that data does
    not suggest when that might happen.

    Regina (A788899-C  2  Ri Cp  703  Im  F7 V M8 D M6 V)               Date: 315-1113
    Sector wide news of various events were received in Regina regarding competitions, most local of which were
    the fate of the Regina Raptors.  That team surprised the system with their defeat of the favored
    Rottweilers months ago.  An intense set of play offs then nearly stalled Regina industry on certain
    days for the competition, and were followed by celebrations and fund-raising for their trip to the
    Subsector play-offs.  With their victory in that competition, described somewhat less acceptably by
    some as "like a ship's laser through a Zhodani trooper", the Raptors then moved on to the Sector
    play offs.  Word arrived today that Regina's best met the Glisten Asteroids.  In an amazing best-
    of-five event which will be available on pay-per-view TriVid, the Raptors were defeated "two to three".

    In additional competitions around the marches, reports from the Second Spinward Marches Point-To-Point race
    indicate two more ships have left the field.  The IMS Screw Loose and IMS Lekane Giniluga
    (loosely translated from Vilani as 'Shoot Them Later') had accomplished crossings from Trin to Mertactor,
    from there to Iderati, from there to Persephone by way of Caladbolg and from there to Rhylanor.
    Arriving at Rhylanor well behind the field, the Screw Loose lived up to her name and made port
    with a serious drive room failure.  The ship's withdrawal was both a recognition of the repair
    costs and the odds they would be able to catch up to the rest of the field following repairs.  Also
    in Rhylanor, the officers and team behind the Lekane Giniluga have not given a reason for their
    withdrawal, however experts guess they were in the running if they had continued.

    Finally, word came with little surprise from the Carlotez Grav Bike competitive team regarding champion Biker
    Artieriana.  Noted more recently for his party attitude and participation instead of his training regimen and
    on-track efforts, the team announced they would be cutting ties with the biker.  This came as no surprise
    after Artieriana was faced with a surprise bio-test demand after specific events in the Rhylanor system.
    After rumors of an 'intense grav-party' where Artieriana was apparently the 'Party Marshal', principals of
    the Spinward Marches Grav-Biking Conference presented Artieriana with a demand to test or step down as
    champion.  When those tests came back with significant drug-traces, his release from the Carlotez
    team was a forgone conclusion.  Artieriana is still the league champion due to his victories of last year,
    and still claims he will be the first back-to-back champion in history.  And it is possible a team down
    on their earnings and victories might just hire him to give him that chance.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Everyone is in the suite having just watched the news  

Next: Passing Opportunities