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Pranks And Planning

Regina      The crew returned to the suite from the port by 1:30pm, after shutting down the ship.  Ironically, Mikah was the only one wounded, but also the only one rested when they arrived.  Each of the others had been awake since the morning before.  Mikah had spent six hours out cold in the ship's autodoc.  While that didn't nearly all count as sleep, she didn't need rest as badly as they did.  She would need to spend the rest of that day and the next two using the gravChair for mobility.  After that, she had to spend the following week on light duty.  So, she sat down to a late lunch from the food prepared by the hired chef while the others cleaned up and went to sleep.

Mikah relaxed for a while, watching vids after eating the food the chef prepared for her.  An hour after the others went to sleep, Mikah called the butler and asked him for help with a roll of thin and transparent polyethylene.  In the gravChair, Mikah then had the butler spread a one-foot length of the wrap at "head level" across all the bedroom doors as a prank.  She then parked the gravChair in the living room to relax and enjoy vids and the news until people started waking up.

It was twenty after three in the afternoon when Terin woke.  Hitting the fresher, Terin cleaned up and then dressed and opened the door to his room to step out into the living room.  Not noticing the clear wrap outside his door, Terin walked into it face first and was forced to stop.  Despite smacking into it, he didn't fall over while stopping to look at what blocked him?  Stopping to examine the barrier, Terin realized what had happened and that he'd been pranked.

Ducking under the wrap, Terin checked the way it was attached to the door frame.  Seeing it had just been taped in place, Terin removed the wrap from his door before looking up and down the passage his room was on.  He could see that all the doors to occupied bedrooms had been rigged like his was.  That meant Emkir and Aali, Fesic and Aiden.  Moving into the function room, which was set as a dining room, Terin looked into the living room to see Mikah watching vids.  He then went back into the passage and used the tape and wrap he'd taken from his door to rig Fesic's door at foot level as well as the wrap already at head level.

In the bedroom he shared with Mikah, Zimzod had woken at nearly the same time Terin had.  After cleaning up and dressing, Zimzod went to leave the bedroom and noticed a reflective sheen across the opening after opening the door.  Looking closer, Zimzod saw the shimmer came from polyethylene wrap stretched across the door at head height.  Ripping down the wrap, Zimzod was disappointed at the prank's "light" nature compared to the other pranks pulled.

After their reactions to the prank, Zimzod and Terin moved into the suite's living room to join Mikah.  Zimzod got their first as Terin spent extra time rigging Fesic's door.  When he walked into the room, Zimzod snarked, "Pretty light prank." with a smile on his face.  Mikah looked at him and said, "Yeah, I'm injured, remember?  You got me shot again."  Acting offended, Zimzod asked, "How'd I do that?" and Mikah just waved his tone off and said, "I'm blaming all of you."

Zimzod let the words drop and sat to watch vids with Mikah as Terin walked into the room.  Checking the time, Terin saw it was about 4pm and he decided to make himself a snack because dinner wouldn't be til after six.  As he did, Mikah asked him to grab her a beer.  While much of this happened, Rol had woken in his bedroom and cleaned up before dressing and heading for the door to go out to the living room.  In their room, Emkir woke while Aali still slept and decided to "snuffle" her ear and wake her.  When that woke Aali, she muttered, "That better be Emkir."

While the comment didn't put off Emkir, it also didn't suggest the disturbing dream she'd been having.  In it, Aali had awoken in a bed in the center of an auditorium-sized room.  Off to one side of the room was a large box-like machine labeled "Acme Clone Generator" chugging as it worked to fill the room with clones of Emkir!  Checking the clock to see it was a quarter to four in the afternoon, Aali decided to push Emkir to just get up and get about the rest of their day.  So, they cleaned up, dressed and headed for the door.  As they stepped to the door, Emkir slipped his hand down the back of Aali's slacks to caress her ass and both were distracted.

Because of that, Aali was caught completely by surprise when she turned to face the hallway outside the door and face-planted into the wrap.  Even more surprised by being "caught" in it, Aali pulled back against Emkir, who was in no position to catch or steady her.  So, they both fell back and down onto the floor with Aali landing on top of Emkir.  Recovering quickly, Aali demanded, "OK.  What the fuck?" and they both looked up at the doorway.  Because of the angle, they could now see a sheen from the wrap.  Important things first, Aali checked with Emkir to make sure neither of them had been injured.  Nodding when Emkir said he was OK, Aali told him, "Anything involving a physical injury requires revenge.  Now, it's just optional."

Despite that, Emkir found his hand, which had been caressing the area of her "crack" had now become "more firmly implanted" in her rear and they realized they both had some more cleaning to do before they joined the others awake in the suite.  Done cleaning up in their fresher, Aali moved to the door and let her anger be visible as she ripped down the wrap and removed the tape from the door frame.  Moving down the hall after that, they saw Aiden's door was "rigged" the same way theirs was.  For some reason, Fesic's door was rigged both at head and foot level.  Seeing Terin's door wasn't rigged, they decided that Terin had added the wrap to Fesic's door and removed that.  Still, they left the wrap at head-level and moved on into the suite's living room.

Leaving his bedroom, Rol spotted the wrap just as his nose made contact with it.  Stepping back, Rol ducked under the wrap and through the door before ripping the wrap from his door frame and balling it in his hand.  As he'd moved, Rol had seen there was no wrap on Mikah and Zimzod's door but saw wrap on Jocelynn's door and removed it.  He then moved in to join the others in the living room.  Seeing the people there, Rol dryly joked, "Someone wanted me well preserved" as he threw the balled wrap into a trash bin.  Seeing Mikah had a beer and Terin had obviously had a snack of some kind, Rol decided to make snacks for everyone.

Hearing the comment, Terin called after Rol, "I think you're too old to be preserved at this point."  Glancing back at Terin, Rol quipped, "We're all getting a bit younger here, I see." as he also quirked his eyes toward the trash bin indicating the childish prank.  Hearing the end of the comments as they arrived from their bedroom, Aali quipped, "There's always pickling and fermentation."  When Emkir made his need for caff clear, Rol grabbed leftover caff which had been put in the cooling unit from lunch, earlier in the day.  Aali also grabbed a cup of the cooled liquid to suck on as they joined the others.

As the morning went on, Fesic was next to wake up, clean up, dress and head for his bedroom door.  Opening the door, Fesic noticed a weird "translucent sheen" crossing the space of the top of the opening.  Curious, he poked the sheen and realized it was a food wrapping.  Figuring out what it was, Fesic pulled the wrap down from his door frame and stepped out into the hall.  Looking at the other doors, Fesic saw Aiden's door was rigged with the wrap too.  Moving on to the living room, Fesic saw Terin there and complained, "Terin, this is a really lame prank you're pulling here.  I mean, this is really grade school."

Looking up at Fesic, Terin answered, "Well, it wasn't my prank.  So, you're gonna have to call someone else out on it."  When Fesic's only answer was, "Oh" Terin continued, "I had the same thing outside my door when I left it too."  Fesic could only answer "Oh" before shrugging and saying, "Well.  What can you do?" in a resigned voice.  Hearing the exchange, Emkir suddenly asked, "Who pissed off the butler?" and laughed at his own joke.  Mikah just sat and quietly smiled at the byplay.  Having balled up the wrap from his door, Fesic threw the wad at Terin.

Almost like a cat in reaction, and certainly like a cat in attention span, Emkir saw the wad fly and only then decided to intercept it.  Unfortunately for him, he'd been somewhat entwined with Aali at the time and could not disentangle himself and move with any speed and was unable to do anything but get mocked for his "smooth moves".  Also suddenly seeing the wad in flight, Terin tried to bat it back at Fesic.  Only helped by the fact the wad was coming right at him, Terin still couldn't coordinate his actions quickly and only managed to bat it off into another part of the room where it hit no one.

In her bedroom, Jocelynn woke, cleaned up and dressed at a similar time to Aiden waking and doing the same in his bedroom.  While Rol had pulled the wrap from Jocelynn's door, Aiden opened his door and noticed a sheen from the material stretched across his door frame.  Like Fesic had, Aiden poked the material and then ripped and pulled it down.  Wadding the ball in his hand, Aiden moved into the living room to very visibly throw the wad into a trash bin as he said, "Well.  It's a wrap."  That got a number of groans from most in the room.  Jocelynn came into the living room shortly after that, so the entire crew were in the living room before 5pm.

Looking around to the others, Jocelynn decided to deal with one mystery from the day before and asked, "Hey Mikah, can I talk to you?"  After a very dramatic sigh, Mikah said, "Yeah, alright."  When Jocelynn asked what the sigh was all about, Mikah again dramatically said, "You know I've been shot.  Right?" as if she expected Jocelynn to asked for something taxing.  Jocelynn nodded, saying, "Yes, I was there."  Glaring around the room, Mikah told them all, "I just wanted to say that.  In case anyone forgot."

After they all let Mikah's attitude drop, Mikah asked, "Yes Jocelynn, what can I do for you?"  Somewhat uncomfortably at first, Jocelynn said, "We were talking, yesterday, about Sonthert, and I kept asking how we were just going to waltz into the system?  And they kept telling me to shut up and ask you about it.  So, I'm asking you about it."  Realizing it was perhaps time, Mikah decided to cover the whole subject for Jocelynn.  She first explained the fob Aali bought and how it led them to discover what they could of the history of the Chivalric Order of the White Star.  That had been an Order created for psionic Imperial citizens to serve in.

As they'd checked the data hidden in the fob, they realized there had been ships, bases and other facilities devoted to and owned by the Order.  Because of that, the crew decided to look for any bases or abandoned facilities from when the Order had its charter pulled and had been hunted and destroyed in the psionic suppression wars.  The one facility they could locate in the Spinward Marches had been in the Sonthert system.  And because they'd be hunting a psionic Order, and hunting potential lost technology and equipment, they didn't want others to know about it and kept it one of the crew's closest secrets.

As Jocelynn listened, Mikah explained while others commented on what was obviously an evolving plan.  Each time they talked about it, there were new things to add, what Terin had just learned going through the data again.  The big news was the expanding amount of time they would likely have to spend in the system given the possible worlds and moons they would have to check.  And the difficulty they'd have using their sensors.  It became more obvious this wouldn't just be a visit to the system.  They'd have to plan for and mount an expedition.  And that meant planning for and collecting all the supplies and gear needed for it.

When Jocelynn had been told everything, she turned to Mikah and asked, "Now that you've told me, are you gonna have to kill me?"  Mikah got laughs when she simply said, "Yep!" in a cheery tone.  Aiden chimed in, saying they'd have to get tin foil hats to protect them because the Order of knights had been psions.  Mikah corrected that the ship already had a stock of tin foil hats so they didn't need to buy more.  Aali jumped in, saying they'd also need to wear polyethylene wrap on their faces and use it to keep the tin foil from getting wet.  That got even more laughs.

Continuing to talk about the expedition, Jocelynn was told they were not sure when they'd go to Sonthert, but it was in their plans when they could go.  It was even mentioned they had planned to go there after leaving Wypoc, but making Jocelynn's battledress "legal" meant meeting with the Arch Duke and hoping he agreed.  That reminded Jocelynn they'd said they had permission from the Arch Duke to visit "any one" interdicted system.  Still, no one said how the Arch Duke knew to give them that permission?  And no one else seemed to want to mention it much less dig into that.

The talk moved from the trip itself to specialized environmental encounter suits.  As they talked about that, Jocelynn was reminded of how 'out of the loop' everyone had been while on the station engaging the team there.  She also remembered them talking about using the crew's comm dots to create an integrated network to keep everyone more up to date on what was happening.  Interrupting the discussion, Jocelynn asked Rol and Zimzod if they could spend some time that evening setting up the network on their armor and weapons?  Especially after the events on the gas mining station.  Rol and Zimzod were up for it, but reminded Jocelynn all their armor and much of their gear were back on the ship.

Realizing there was nothing they could do until they went back to the ship, they also reminded Mikah that half the crew wanted to move to the ship for work and other plans.  When Mikah agreed, the others relaxed while those who planned to make the move packed their things.  They finished that up before the chef arrived to cook dinner and after they ate, they all planned to go to the ship and set up their comm dot networks.  Because they'd need the ground car, Aali decided she'd drive it to the port while the others went in the gravCar.  Emkir also announced that he'd ride with Aali.

The gravCar ride took under twenty minutes while it took Aali an hour or so to drive the ground car.  That meant the rest of the crew got their earlier and started laying out their armor and weapons to evaluate.  The first thing the crew had to consider were what they had and what they'd need for the network they planned to have?  They also had to figure out what the network they were designing could do?  The mux's could connect in a 'daisy chain' of devices so they could talk to each other.

Still, the range they could do that to was roughly 100 to 150 meters without obstruction.  If they were separated by walls or bulkheads or natural obstructions, that would be reduced and any battlefield conditions like jamming would make it even worse.  that led to a conversation about how close people would have to keep to each other to stay in the network.  Because Aiden, Jocelynn and Mikah didn't have their own sets of comm dots, they'd have to stay much closer to the person their comm dots were tied to or lose the network.  Not wanting to be limited like that, the three sparked up a terminal and connected to the world's shopping network.

Others started looking at their gear and weapons loadouts to figure out what they'd need to integrate all their devices into their network?  Soon, everyone was on a terminal looking for what they could get to integrate the system and what it would cost.  Part way into the work, as the pile of devices they wanted grew larger, they decided to organize all the devices into a single order and then put that on a bid sheet.  They'd then send the bid sheet to a number of sellers and ask how low a price each could give them on the list of gear?

While everyone was happy about paying less to get what they wanted, they also knew they'd have to check the device types and models.  They'd need to make certain they weren't being offered garbage with a generic brand name to lower the price.  Planning ahead, Jocelynn wanted two sets so she'd be ready to dot both her Battledress and her combat armor.  But when they went over everything she needed to dot, it turned out she only needed one set.  At the same time, it was suggested Jocelynn would need to order a personal set of combat armor eventually, but she didn't want to spend the cash on that just yet.  Mikah and Aiden wanted a personal comm dot set each.

As a feeding frenzy threatened to begin, they decided to go through the gear of each member of the crew and figure out what was needed before completing the bid sheet.  First up was Aiden, who had weapons and electronics to consider.  For a start, he wanted his own set of dots and a mux.  He would have to connect one dot to his comms to be able to communicate and interlink.  Aiden also had a HUD on his combat armor, but not on his vacc suit, so the one HUD needed a second dot.  Beyond that he had his weapons and, eventually, his stent.

Aiden's custom LAG didn't have electronic sights, but had been integrated into his combat armor HUD.  So that weapon had a gun cam shooting over its iron sights.  Aiden's custom snub pistol had a laser sight designator, so it also had a gun cam shooting over iron sights.  Of the other weapons he had, Aiden wanted a HUD integration kit for his snub rifle too.  And that weapon had no electronic sights so the integration kit would provide a gun cam.  Doing the math after that, integrating the gun cams on his three weapons along with his comms, and his combat armor HUD meant he only needed one mux and ten total dots.

Emkir and Aali also only needed one set of comm dots too, but needed to order integration kits, gun cams and a HUD for Aali's vacc suit.  Likely adding to the order complexity and cost, Aali wanted her new HUD to also include PRIS goggle and Inertial locator tech.  Jocelynn found she needed a HUD for her vacc suit too, along with a light intensifier/IR/telescopic sights for her gauss rifle.  She also would need a HUD integration kit for the sights along with a gun cam to see the unmodified view from the rifle.

Fesic had his three weapons integrated to his combat armor HUD using generic gun cameras.  Looking for something better, Fesic hunted down cameras which had switchable modes, to IR, LI and more.  When he brought that up, everyone agreed additional modes would be better and they decided to update the bid sheet.  Fesic also said he'd be interested in replacing the cameras he had in his current kits with the newer versions if they were not too expensive.  Fesic also considered the idea of getting a HUD for his vacc suit but that would be more costly and he had to consider it.

Mikah liked the idea of upgrading her gun cams and realized she needed to order a HUD for her vacc suit, as well as integration kits to connect her weapons to that if needed.  She also planned to go hunting for better sights for her weapons, even though that would force her to spend more on integration.  From a base line, Zimzod wanted to dot his comms, Battledress and Combat armor HUDs, Battle computer and all his weapons.  He also wanted one dot in "reserve" for his stent as others with stents also agreed they did.  For his Gauss Rifle with electronic sights, he had an integration set for his battledress but not his combat armor.

That meant that, along with gun cams and comm dots for the rest of his weapons, he'd have to buy a HUD for his vacc suit, multiple integration kits for his Battledress and combat armor, and 13 gun cameras.  Terin also decided to buy a HUD for his vacc suit, and also needed an integration kit for his gauss rifle to connect to his vacc suit.  Along with that, he needed three gun cams to connect up his gauss rifle, gauss pistol and snub pistol.  Terin decided to also look into getting a HUD for his vacc suit too, even if it meant ordering three more integration kits so he could connect his weapons to either HUD.  Terin also wanted three gun cams to replace the basic level cams he already had on his weapons.

When Aiden brought up the idea of purchasing drones for use in scouting, Rol reminded them he'd bought four generic drones already, with that idea in mind.  Aali also said she had a palm-top drone of her own.  As they talked about what drones could do for them, it was also mentioned that filming what they did when it could be considered illegal might not be the best idea.  Especially for this team.  If it didn't end up getting them charged with something, it would most likely embarrass them at the least.

Once they had the basic data for their order, they talked about seeing how far down they could push the price?  The best method they could come up with was to send out a bid sheet liked they'd decided earlier.  Next, they had to decide who they'd send the bid sheet to, and the first two obvious choices were Instel Arms and the War House.  The crew were well known to both as customers with cash.  For the third, they spent some time researching the various other on-world suppliers.

For each firm, their network presence often proudly announced what major groups and firms they were able to publicly claim as clients.  On Regina, gun clubs were a major presence as were adventure, shooting and hunting firms like "Hunting World: Regina".  Mikah was firm that they could look for suppliers, but they would not communicate with anyone who advertised that they did business with "Hunting World: Regina".  A second thread of research was started to look into the apparent prestige of the firms and clubs supplied by the different providers.  After they finally had a third firm they liked, the crew set out the following Bid sheet for pricing:
Item.....................................................# Wanted....Notes not included on the sheet
Mux/Com dot set(Mux w/10 Dots).............3.........For Aiden, Mikah and Fesic
Individual Comm Dots..................................5..........which would be for Rol
HUD Integration Kit....................................13..........For Aiden, Aali, Fesic, Jocelynn, Mikah
.......................................................................................... Rol and Zimzod
HUD FOR Vacc Suit........................................6..........For Aali, Fesic, Mikah, Terin, Rol and Zimzod
...............NOTE: 1 Unit with PRIS and Inertial locator gear integrated
Gun Cam......................................................22..........For Aali, Emkir, Fesic, Jocelynn, Rol
.......................................................................................... and Zimzod
Weapon sights(Telescopic/IR/LI)................1..........For Jocelynn

After sending the sheet to the three contacts, they knew it would take a few days to hear back from them.  Before the two teams broke up and Mikah's group returned to the suite, Aiden said he had a question.  Since Jocelynn had now been read in on the Sonthert plan, he wanted to confirm who would be responsible for figuring out what was needed for the coming expedition?  He was told there'd be several people involved.  Rol would handle food and drink.  Aali would have to spec out their needs for atmo, system and hydraulic consumables.  And while those numbers rose, they would be translated into cubic tonnage which Fesic would have to manage in the cargo bay.


Distant News

     Finally, at 10pm, Mikah, Zimzod, Terin and Aiden got back in the now-very-roomy gravCar and went back to the suite.  Behind them, Rol decided to pull out his armor and weapons from the day before to clean and reset properly.  Jocelynn saw that and pulled her own gear out to work on too.  As they did that, Fesic asked Jocelynn if she wouldn't prefer to go to the downport startown and try to make contacts?  Jocelynn shrugged and said, "Not tonight."  With that, Fesic sparked up a view screen in the lounge and went hunting for news.  After a few moments, Jocelynn offered to ride back to the suite with Fesic to get his lock picking shipment, sitting a box in his bedroom.  Fesic was about to answer her when he tuned to TAS and happened on the announcement of breaking news!

      FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH --- FLASH ---
    Porozlo (A867A74-B  Hi  201  Im  M1 V M9 D)                            Date: 261-1113
    Imperial naval and customs patrols in-system reported intercepting and
    engaging the merchanter IMS Shiikuam Mearx.  Her crew were taken into
    custody after that vessel was disabled.  Following the engagement, and
    two days further investigation, Imperial Marine forces engaged in a sudden
    Imperial Intervention on-world, taking all governments on-world by
    surprise.  Imperial forces maintained in-system as an emergency reserve
    were released in the sudden action, and assaulted the national government
    and military command structures of Ko Qiquiang!  In concert with the
    action, Imperial Naval units began a "broadcast and advise" operation to
    order units of both the New Jindabyn and Sertao Forros militaries to
    disengage and withdraw from Ko Qiquiang units and facilities.  Ko
    Qiquiang military units in the field were further ordered to disarm
    and return to their bases.

    In a terse explanation for these events, General Velig Khesomsas
    provided to the office of the Marquis documents covering the cargo
    of the IMS Shiikuam Mearx.  Evidence provided indicated the Captain
    and crew of that vessel did:
       1) Knowingly and intentionally attempt to avoid customs inspection
           on system arrival.
       2) Knowingly and intentionally accept payment to deliver restricted
           cargoes to elements of the Ko Qiquiang military.
       3) Knowingly and intentionally accept payment to deliver a number
           of thermonuclear devices for use in the current military
           conflict in contravention of the Imperial Rules of War.

    Following these events, there had been a small number of unintended
    engagements between Imperial Marine units and those of either New
    Jindabyn or Sertao Forros.  Both combatant governments reacted by
    ordering a halt to combat operations raising a faint hope that the
    office of the Marquis might be able to step in and negotiate a full
    cease fire, or even a complete end of hostilities.  Over the protest
    of many governments on Porozlo, the Marquis has officially declared
    the nation of Ko Qiquiang as an "Imperial Reservation".

    The Admiralty stated this state would exist until such time as
    the situation is investigated more completely by Imperial authorities.
    Still, there can be no doubt the now-former government of Ko Qiquiang
    and its officials had violated the Imperial Rules of War.  Senior
    Imperial officers in-system have sent a request to Rhylanor asking for
    a deployment of significant Imperial Army ground forces to manage the
    occupation of Ko Qiquiang for the period of the investigation and until
    a new and legitimate government can be established.

    Postscript: There has been no validation of claims a small number of
    Imperial vessels supporting the intervention from orbit engaged New
    Jindabyn surface facilities with kinetic energy weapons(KEWs) during the
    period of action.  Erroneous suggestions such an event had happened
    were investigated and corrected.  All vessels in orbit of Porozlo,
    regardless of taking part in orbital operations or not, were ordered
    to turn over to Imperial Naval Command all system and sensor records
    for review.

    In a public statement to his nation, the Prime Minister of New
    Jindabyn suggested his people should be pleased at the actions taken
    by Imperial forces and hoped this would usher in a new period of peace
    locally if not globally.
                

    Natoko (B582211-8  N  Lo Ni  801  Im  M2 VI M6 D)                    Date: 269-1113
    TAS Feed Update: With no further update from the offices of Admiral
    Uuela or Senator Kudilas, observations from reporters on the scene
    indicate a number of changes in-system.  The previously mentioned
    build-up of forces which can best be described as "Surface Assault
    units" continues.  In a move which has yet to be explained, the
    Tukera 'Ultra-liner' Mora's Queen arrived in-system and remains in
    communications blackout.  Those who may not recall are reminded this
    liner had been retired twenty years ago, after two hundred fifty years
    in service.  While many explanations can be assumed, the best assumption
    would be that the vessel had been pressed back into service as a
    troop carrier.

    Compounding circumstances in-system, news briefings have been handed off
    to Fleet Captain Adunruusha Kiga Diikuda, apparently due to the seeming
    absence of Admiral Uuela and Senator Kudilas.  Captain Diikuda reports
    to Admiral Sakdev Izdiivse, Commander of the Imperial 210th Battle
    Squadron.  That squadron had been a component of the 212th Imperial
    Fleet, responsible for defense of the entire Rhylanor subsector.  What
    the presence of that unit in-system means, in addition to the lack of
    media contact with mission commander Admiral Uuela or the Senator, is
    not something which can be easily answered.

    Anecdotal data received from other staffers also suggested a number
    of heavy interstellar battle units may have actually left local space.
    Any facts on that impression, or reasons why this might be the case,
    are questions Captain Diikuda has said she is unwilling to answer.
    This can only suggest the Imperial Navy feels, for unspecified reasons,
    that a space battle in the system is not likely.  Given that, readers
    are advised to keep an ear to TAS news services.
                

When they got back to the suite by 10:30, Terin asked the others who wanted to go to a bar and get a drink?  Mikah gave him a look and then told him, "As long as it's local."  Terin said that was fine and Zimzod said, "Let's do that then." with a smile on his face.  When Mikah turned a look on him which said, "You Are Coming" Aiden realized he didn't really have a choice and joined them.

After they'd settled in and ordered drinks, the four were relaxing when Mikah's comms began to buzz.  Mikah answered the call, which was from the seneschalate.  The officer calling her told Mikah they wanted to debrief her the next day.  When Mikah said, "OK", the officer said, "I'd also like to let you know that your actions resulted in the rescue of two kidnap victims.  Mikah had been told that before, in hearing a brief report from the cruiser, but this reminded her.

Not knowing the details, Mikah could only say, "Cool!  That's good."  Continuing, the officer said, "It turns out the ship's chief engineer and owner had been kidnapped.  And that one of those who'd been shot and hospitalized had been the ship's first officer."  Mikah made sure she understood that the man who was shot was in a hospital, and they hadn't shot him, because everyone they'd shot had been killed.  The officer confirmed that he'd been one of the three shot on Regina, and she remembered them being brought to the hospital where she was volunteering.  Hearing that, Mikah said, "So long as we didn't shoot him..."  Taking another breath to consider the information, Mikah remembered "the ship's owner" had been Baron Zander.

Recovering from that bit of recall, Mikah asked what time the next day they should arrive at the offices and was told it would be at their convenience and asked Mikah what time was best for her?  Surprised at that, Mikah suggested eleven in the morning and that was scheduled.  They thanked her and the call then ended.  After that, Mikah told the others at the table and then called the ship to tell the others they had to come back to Atora 'yet again', for the debrief.  Outside of that, the trip to the bar cost each of them Cr 20 and was uneventful, and they returned to the suite for sleep.  At the ship, people ended their projects early knowing they had to be up early enough to drive back to Atora.


New Information And Friends

     As was his habit, Rol's alarm woke him at 6am and he went about his morning routine.  After that, he went into the ship's common area and started cooking for the group of people on the ship.  It was a quarter after six when Zimzod woke in the bedroom he shared with Mikah.  Looking at the clock, it was earlier than he and Mikah had set their alarms for, which annoyed him, but he shrugged and figured he'd go about his morning routine.  Before he got out of the bed, he leaned over to kiss Mikah, which didn't wake her up.  Still, it wasn't long before Mikah also woke on her own.

Mikah realized it was earlier than she'd wanted to wake, and could tell Zimzod was cleaning up in the fresher.  Still, for a moment, Mikah listened for some kind of alarm or warning until she remembered she was in a suite in a building.  Laying back on the bed, Mikah figured she'd either relax until Zimzod was done or fall back asleep until the alarm went off.  She did glance over to where the hoverChair was set to charge because this would be the second day of three that Mikah would spend in the chair recovering from her wound.  Eventually, they would leave the bedroom to relax in the living room until the chef arrived.

In his stateroom on the ship, Fesic also realized he'd woken earlier than he'd planned.  It was just 6:20 in the morning as he got up and got himself moving.  Eventually, he would join Rol while the other man cooked.  Back in the suite, Aiden and Terin both woke at nearly seven in the morning in each of their bedrooms.  By the time they each got done with their morning routines, the chef was cooking breakfast and Mikah and Zimzod had been out of their bedrooms already.

Not able to create a tea that would satisfy his research parameters, Terin still had enough of the materials in his kit to make Mikah a soothing tea that he suggested would help her heal.  As he prepared and seeped the tea, Mikah and Zimzod were amused to watch the bits and pieces of assorted desiccated plant life that he sorted and prepared.  When Mikah realized what he was doing, she asked, "Are you making tea?" and Terin said, "Yeah, I'm making it for you."  After that, Mikah joked with Terin about the likely content of poisons in the tea.  Mikah made it clear in a firm voice that, tea or no, she was gonna need caff.

Almost as if on command, the chef put out a set of mugs and carafe of caff.  After food was served, eaten and cleaned up, Terin sparked up a terminal and started doing the work needed to figure out what kinds of, and amounts of supplies they would eventually need for their Sonthert "expedition".  Sadly for him, neither he or Aiden had ever been assigned to a long-run system survey.  While Aiden had been in the exploration branch, he'd never been assigned to that kind of mission.  And Terin had been assigned to the communications branch, so he never even had training in that direction.  Still, there were enough firms that specialized in exploratory jaunts in the Gvurrdon sector.  So, he could get help.

While Terin did that, Mikah and Zimzod relaxed and watched the news and vids until they had to get ready to get debriefed.  As they sparked up the news, Mikah was surprised how muted the news coverage of the shootings had become and was certain "someone" had stepped on that story.  It also took a back seat, for her and Zimzod, to the new interstellar news from Porozlo and Natoko.  Mikah was particularly put out that Imperial forces making their strike had not spent any effort striking the Stepozhevaci nation, even if they were not involved or in the same region of the planet.  Aiden came to eat later than the others because his morning routine included hitting the pool for a swim.  After eating, he sat and read until it was time to prepare and go.

After Rol served breakfast, Fesic went right to working on reading out the files of the gunnery training software.  He wanted to get as much as he could done before they had to leave for Atora even though Emkir was still asleep.  And Emkir and Aali slept until their alarm went off at 8:30.  Knowing they had both work to do and a trip to Atora to make, they then went about their morning routines and eventually got out into the lounge to eat.  Talking about their appointment and time, they knew they had to hit the road by ten to get where they were going on time.

As it got just past 9am, people noticed they'd not seen Jocelynn come out of her stateroom yet.  If she was going to have time to clean up, dress and eat before they left, she would have to make her appearance soon.  Deciding to act, Rol went aft to the door to her stateroom and knocked.  The sound of knocking did make an impact on Jocelynn's senses, but didn't wake her up.  And any sounds she made as she tossed a bit were not heard outside her stateroom.  Waiting for a response, Rol finally knocked harder and called out, "Time to get up Marine!  Time to see the Duke!"  It was that last bit that hit home.

Jocelynn didn't actually remember hearing the words but she did come suddenly awake as if a combat alarm had rung out as she heard the last of Rol's knocking.  The good news was that Rol woke her in time to let her clean up and get out of her stateroom dressed properly to be able to get into the car for the ride to Atora.  The bad news was that she had so little time for anything more than that so she had to grab what she could carry to eat.  And that had to be something she could eat which wouldn't make a mess of her clothes.  Still, she made it into the car for the trip to be debriefed.

Both groups organized at their own speeds and met up after parking their vehicles and making their way to the seneschalate office building.  All but Mikah walking and her in the gravChair.  After being met in the entry hall of the building, they were told to follow a protocol android which led them into the building.  They were eventually settled in a meeting room much like meeting rooms all across the empire differing only by the technology of the lighting, comms units and other amenities.

The crew didn't have to wait long until a woman entered the room with a pair of assistants carrying recorders and other light gear.  Having everyone sit, the woman thanked them for coming in and for their service to the Empire and Duchy.  From her tone and wording, they could take that to mean the adventures of the days before and not their general military or service records.  And there was no evidence the woman might be aware of other more deeply held bits of information from their past.  As she started, the air of the meeting was relaxed and informal.  Past the pleasantries, they got into asking for and digging into the details of what happened?

During the debrief, the crew were treated to data which had obviously been provided by the cruiser that came to their rescue.  At first, it was curious that they had done the work to get the sensor and system data from that ship but had not asked for the same from them.  That was until they started seeing data which had to have come from the yacht they'd been chasing.  So, they had better and more complete data from that source because the yacht had been able to at least track the Upgrade much more of the time than the crew had been able see them.

As they talked, the officers showed their concern and annoyance that Mikah was wounded and wanted to make certain there were no other losses or combat damage to the crew?  Rol also complained about the deck plans they'd been given of the station, which hadn't had ID tags for the compartments.  He pointed out that had made it harder to plan and carry out their assault on the station.  He got an apology, but only so far as the deck plans they'd been given were still considered "Sensitive" and releasing more secure information was not in the cards.  Still, they were apologetic, so Rol took what he knew was all he was gonna get.

On top of being debriefed, the crew also learned more about the whole event and what had actually happened.  The string of events appeared to be a complex series of actions carried out by a group from out-system to kidnap Baron Zander.  It further appeared that it was part of the plan to also steal the Baron's yacht too, as a getaway ship.  When Mikah asked about why they attacked the gas mining station, they were told that Zander had jumped in-system and not yet refueled his ship.  Not knowing if he would refuel or not before they acted, the "attackers" had planned to use the station as a staging area before the attack and a refueling source after.

Because the fuel status of his yacht couldn't be known until the time of the attack, they had planned to take the station from the start, and actually carried that out the day before they went after Zander.  After that, they'd stop at the station to refuel and go on with the rest of the plan.  When Zimzod asked if they knew what the rest of the plan was, the woman in charge admitted they didn't.  She told them they had recovered Zander, one of his officers and his crew but the only thing they learned from him was that they appeared to be making for the Arden system.  That surprised Mikah and the crew because Arden was outside the Imperium.

In fact, Arden was the center of a newly formed and apparently growing "Federation" which contained three systems and was likely to incorporate at least two more in the coming months.  Events with the Zircon and Pequan systems joining the Federation of Arden had been significant news over the past two years.  There were also rumors of Arden's influence in the Tremous Dex system, which had the reputation of a free port at best and a tortuga port at worst.  It was suggested by some that any pirates who raided the Vilis trace were likely supported if not homed in the ports of the Tremous Dex system.  And those rumors carried enough weight that the Imperial Navy often carried out "cleansing strikes" in the system.

After they finished up the session, the woman asked Mikah if she and her crew would like to go to the hospital and meet with Baron Zander?  When Mikah said, "Sure!" they set up a field trip to get the crew and their vehicles moved with ease.  The first surprise they got was when they were led into the Baron's hospital room.  Walking in, they saw Zander's was one of three beds in the room, so it wasn't a private room.  The Baron himself was not hooked up to any machines or IV medications at all and seemed to have been generally battered and beaten.  It turned out he was just being held for observation at the moment and was not seriously hurt.

Still, he'd used his money to have his other wounded crewmen moved into a room with him, so Mikah recognized the one wounded knight from her shift volunteering in the hospital.  And it wasn't so much a coincidence he ended up in "that" hospital as much as he wanted himself and his people treated in the same place, so he and his chief engineer had been brought where his other crewman was being treated for the gunshot wound.  And that man turned out to be Zander's first officer.  While he hadn't been the Knight Mikah treated that night, she had seen him and now recognized him, as well as his records saying he'd been crew on the yacht.  If it had not been for his records, Mikah never would have known to look for Zander or his yacht.

When the crew walked into the room, Zander was awake, alert and talking with his other officers.  Looking up, he recognized Terin right off and knew he'd seen Zimzod before.  Even if he had to work to remember when and under what circumstances.  When Zimzod snarked, "Not so snooty now, are you?" Zander apologized for his behavior at the time but told them he'd been told the people he'd been working with could help him take down a criminal he'd been looking to capture for some time.  Zimzod showing up as a complete unknown and out of the black was a complication they wanted to do without.  Especially when he started trying to actively push himself into the situation.  For all they knew, he could have been a spy or ally of the person Zander was after.

After greeting Terin more warmly, he introduced himself and his other officers to the crew.  It also helped that he and his people had heard of Lady Mikah and her crew and their exploits.  They'd even heard of Jocelynn and her amazing story of survival.  When Terin asked, "So, how are you feeling your Excellency?" Zander answered, "A lot better now my hands are not bound."  As he said that, he rubbed his wrists where they could still see the bruises and indicators left by the now missing restraints.  Looking at them, he said, "I want to thank you folks for coming to our rescue."

As they nodded and took his thanks with grace, Zander continued, "So, I have to ask what brought you after us?"  At that, Mikah told him she'd been volunteering with the hospital's emergency department to keep her skills up when the three gunshot victims came in.  Including his officer.  That was the first curious event because gun shots on Regina were rare due to the laws.  When Mikah pointed to the one man in the room hooked to machines and IV lines, Zander said, "Yes, that's my first officer, Sir Dahl".  the name was most likely short for something else but they didn't need to know and didn't ask.

When a silence followed the introduction, Zander continued to say, "It was apparently important to their plan to separate me from Dahl.  And the best way they could come up with was to shoot him and leave him to die if the shot didn't kill him right off."  Mikah nodded and said, "Well, it was pretty effective." as she recalled how bad he'd been when he came into the E.D. that night.  She hadn't treated him but she'd been there treating another of the wounded knights at the same time and saw all their charts.  Dahl had been stabilized in the E.D. and then quickly moved for surgery.

Mikah stepped over to check his charts and look him over and approved of how he had come through the events while everyone else agreed, including Dahl himself.  Continuing her answer, Mikah told how she'd called back to her crew to see if anyone was at their Order's Order House on Regina and had heard about what was going on.  That was when she learned about Zimzod's encounter with the Baron and other Knights.  And his report on the comment about 'someone being in the right place in four hours'.  Mikah then told how Dahl's medical records matched up with the Order House's when they called and checked.  And the final straw had been when they decided to come visit Zander himself and learned the ship was leaving port and abandoning a crew member.  Something not done by most ships.

Zander smiled, nodded and admitted he'd not been in control of those events and Mikah admitted, "Well, we know that now."  Zander then said, "Because of your involvement, you are due a better explanation of what happened from what I can tell you."  He then explained that there was a group which wanted to bring him to another system and didn't want to risk asking him to agree to go with them.  He continued, "So, they planned to kidnap me.  Apparently, they carried out some actions you are better aware of than I am as they prepared their plan."

"Eventually", Zander continued, "they came to the port here on Regina and broke into teams.  From there, each team tried to find a way to get in contact with me and offer the lure of information on someone I had been pursuing for the better part of two years.  When one team made contact, I swallowed the bait and they set up the eventual shootout.  Befriending other members of the Knight Defenders of the Marches, they formed a second group hunting a criminal.  From there, it was easy enough to carry out the next step of their plan.  Next, they had to convince the crew of my yacht they were both friends and authority figures they could trust and obey."

"For that to work, they convinced me that waiting aboard my yacht would be the safest way to make sure the criminal I was after didn't spot me accidentally and turn the situation into a dangerous chase.  Or, give him the chance to escape.  After I'd brought them to my ship, they were introduced to the crew as Knights and allies of mine, as well as people who had authority in-system, and with the Imperial government.  That meant that they could expect the crew to react to orders that seemed to be in my best interests if they got rid of my first officer and incapacitated me."

"From there, it was easy enough to get Sir Dahl and me to come with them to the location where they were certain our prey would be able to be caught.  And it was also simple for their other people to lead the second group of Knights into that location to "run into us".  And, once the shooting started, there would be too much confusion to know who started it or exactly what was going on.  Especially since they'd have some of their people causing confusion and making sure there were civilians in the mix too.  So, they made sure to shoot Dahl, and they hit me with some kind of tranq dart and ran for the tram back to the yacht."

"Getting to the yacht, they radioed ahead that Dahl had been shot and I had been wounded.  Of course, the crew opened the ship up and took us aboard as our doctor was called.  Some of the team went to the bridge, ordering the ship to lift and leave port before an attack could be made against the ship itself and the crew responded as expected.  Others of their team "helped the doctor" get me to our medical bay and then incapacitated and restrained everyone in the med-bay.  From there, they slowly isolated and incapacitated my crew while the rest of them came aboard using a small craft they'd gotten hold of."

In the end, that was all Zander knew except that he'd managed to learn they'd planned to take him to the Arden system.  When he'd talked to Dahl and Miresh, his chief engineer, they each knew a bit of that story but neither had realized as much as Zander himself had.  So, while he was frustrated at having to leave so many questions unanswered, he was grateful to Mikah and her people for coming to rescue them.  Zander did confirm that most of his crew had simply been tranq'd and were back working on the ship.

Terin was the first to comment, saying, "Well, it's a good thing you didn't get blown up then.  Because that was a real possibility."  With a big smile and the glint of mischief in his eye, Zander admitted, "That certainly would have reflected badly on my future." in a tone that completely agreed with Terin's comment.  Terin only nodded and agreed.  Terin then continued, "I'm actually surprised they surrendered the ship, though they really didn't have any choice when the navy started dropping nukes into the gas giant's atmosphere."  Zander shot Terin a look and corrected him that the missiles had not been nuclear, but a specialized ordinance that reacted with the local gas giant's atmosphere.  A "specialty" round.

That comment told the entire crew that Zander had either been briefed already or knew more than they did about Regina's defenses.  When Mikah joked about trying to get some of those missiles, she was reminded they would only be effective in the atmosphere of gas giants with the same chemical make up as Assiniboia.  No one mentioned that they'd also have to get rid of at least one laser barrel from a turret and give up cargo space for a missile magazine on their ship.  Certainly not a worth while exchange.  Zander only joked, "Join the Regina Planetary Navy." with the smile still on his face.

Zimzod joked back, "Aren't we dangerous enough without that shit?" and Mikah instantly answered, "No!"  That got laughs all around as she followed that up with, "Aren't we dangerous enough without FGMP's?" and fixed Zimzod with a glare.  When Zimzod started to answer, "No..." she cut him off, saying, "See?  There you go!"  When Zimzod countered, "That's just dumb." Fesic shook his head and said, "We're gonna need a bigger ship" with a mournful tone.  Others in the room were laughing at the byplay.

Aiden then chimed up, asking, "So, Zimzod.  You're saying we're not dangerous without FGMP-15's, we're just annoying?"  Zimzod cheerfully answered, "Yeah!" and everyone was a bit surprised when Aali agreed, saying, "Yeah, pretty much."  Zimzod continued, pointing at Aiden and said, "Especially you dude."  As the jokes died down and things got serious again, Zander told Mikah he owed her and her crew for them saving him and his.  Realizing she might have a prize here, Mikah asked him if he had a confirmed meeting with the Arch Duke once he and the Prince arrived in-system?

Zander laughed and reminded Mikah no one had a confirmed meeting with the Arch Duke and was ready to bet that included his daughter, except where the ceremonies required it.  Accepting that, Mikah then asked, "If we both request an audience with his Grace, and you get one, you will let me come along and plead my case?  And if we get an audience, we'll let you come with us on ours?"  Zander's answer was, "Absolutely", after which he admitted he had not planned to request an audience with the Arch Duke...making him a very rare person indeed, considering almost every nobleman arriving in-system wanted to meet with Norris or Prince Lucan.

Things in the room relaxed as Zander said he could contact his seneschal on the ship that afternoon and have him transmit the data needed to file a request.  Terin then joked, "Along with the many thousands of other requests from people here."  Mikah shot Terin a look for his attitude and said, "Don't forget.  We just did a good favor for the Duchy."  Zander reminded Mikah that, technically, Arch Duke Norris was no longer concerned with "just" the Duchy of Regina.  He has an entire Domain to worry about and was likely bogged down with those nobility who are fighting to keep their fiefs.

When Mikah said, "Well, the seneschalate should.  And they could move us up on the list", Terin answered, "Maybe they will.  Move us up like five places." and one of Zander's officers added, "...on the list of millions."  They all got a grim laugh at that.  Dahl then stepped in saying, "There are already people paying mega-credit bribes to try and guarantee an audience because they are fighting for their fiefdoms."  Mikah nodded at that as she remembered the one law suit raised by the Baron of Heroni.  Mikah realized there was so much politics influencing the situation that, for the first time, she worried they might not get to meet with Norris despite their relationship.

Zimzod was certain Norris would meet with them, saying, "He usually finds us." and Mikah answered, "Yes.  When he finds us necessary.  He doesn't find us necessary all the time."  That too caused a silence in which the crew considered their chances and Zander and his people considered what they'd heard and learned.  Breaking that silence, Mikah invited, "So, how about, when you and your people get out of the hospital, you buy us a drink?"  Zander laugh at that and said, "Why wait?  We can have drinks delivered?"  That caught Mikah by surprise as a doctor, and she asked, "Here?" in surprise.

After nodding, Zander grabbed his comms and called his ship to ask for his seneschal.  With the officer on the line, Zander ordered a lunch to be delivered for not only his people and Mikah's, but for the doctors and nurses on that ward too.  As they talked, the crew learned that Zander had been born to a long line of industrialists.  Back in the ancient days of his family, it had started with one small group of makers, which had grown into a factory.  Next, the family bought more "maker groups" and then more factories and service teams.

Somewhere along the line, the holdings became a conglomerate and they then started buying larger firms to add to their portfolio.  Also, at some point, the family had become important to the machinery of life in the system they called home, and the local cluster of stars.  That left the family titles, which had also been old enough that the awards were buried deep in Zander's family history.  So, Zander had inherited a family corporation he had zero taste in running along with the hereditary titles that came with them.  But he'd had more of a taste for adventure including his enlistment in the military.

So, when he was approached by a very large corporation within the sector who offered a huge amount of money, he only had one question.  That was what percent he would get of continuing profits as part of the deal?  When they offered him enough of a percentage that he was assured of what he felt was a decent annual income, Zander signed the offer.  And not only that, but that deal had made the corporation that bought him out valuable to LSP, Inc.  One of the Imperium-wide mega corporations.  When LSP bought them out, that buried his annuity deal in the books and made it that much less likely it would be found in any audit and revisited.  So, Zander was not hurting for money at all.

Choosing Relaxation

     The crew had a good time eating and talking with Zander and his two officers.  As they ate, Mikah reminded herself that while she'd not likely used much of the supplies in the autodoc, she should consider connecting with a firm to top it off.  There was no sense in leaving the system without having the device at 100%.  Still, lunch was eventually over and they said their goodbyes and went back to the suite.  There, Mikah considered what she could do while stuck in the chair for that day and the next.  Remembering she'd planned to visit an art museum and not gotten to do that, Mikah told the others she'd be doing that and asked who else wanted to come?

Zimzod, Terin and Aiden said they'd come with her.  Mikah was surprised that Aiden volunteered to come without being "pushed" to do so.  When Emkir asked Aali if she wanted to museum or just go back to the ship to work, they considered the hour-drive back and realized they'd get no real work done that day.  So, Aali said she'd rather do the museum first, and that meant everyone else had to join in or find other things to do since Aali was the only driver they had for the ground car.  So, they went out to grab the gravCar and go to the museum.

As they left, Jocelynn asked about waiting for an answer from the bid sheets and was told those would come by email, and would likely take a day or two for all three of the firms to send answers.  So Jocelynn relaxed on that score as they got in the gravCar and lifted for the museum.  After parking, Mikah led the way to the entrance riding in the gravChair.  Because of that, and the fact a gravChair was still fairly expensive, and because of that - rare, the museum management saw them coming.  And, thanks to the facial recognition software the museum used, they knew who was coming before Mikah and the crew arrived.

So, they were greeted by a small group of docents and an assistant curator.  When the two groups met, each of the crew were welcomed to the museum by name, including Jocelynn.  From there, they were offered an escorted and "Curator Narrated" tour of the museum.  Thanks to that, they were largely kept separate from the rest of the visiting public even though one or two did step up and ask for pictures or autographs.  While Mikah thought it might be clever to rely on her 'obvious condition' to beg off those, her clever scheme had its own down side.

Thanks to their technical skills and interest, both Emkir and Terin had set up apps to check the news on a regular cycle for anything about their crew on their hand computers.  Because the events of two nights before had not been "major news", Mikah's "condition" was a significant surprise to many news outlets when word started reaching them of her claims.  That began a cycle of reporting which also launched a second wave of interested reporters who now knew exactly where Mikah and her crew were, to ask for interviews.  Once speculation of her "condition" ventured into the realm of combat injuries, that met the still spinning new cycles of the shoot out several nights before and the speculation became a primary news story.

As they watched the frenzy grow, it was reported that calls to the ship were going un-answered, suggesting the entire crew were off ship.  Calls and questions to the Imperial Navy and seneschalate were not being responded to.  At first, those updates got a laugh from the crew, until reporters actually started showing up at the museum.  When the reporters started showing up, so did the museum security team.  Still, Mikah told the assistant curator who had been their guide that she felt it was time to leave.

Mikah waived his offered apologies off and told the man it wasn't the museum's fault.  When the man said, "I'm sure our security can keep the reporters out." Mikah waived that off as well and accepted their offer to have museum security escort them to the gravCar.  Of course, as soon as they left the building they were mobbed by reporters shouting questions and asking for interviews.  When one reporter called out, "How were you shot?" someone in the crew yelled back, "Very well!"  Despite the situation, that got some in the crew laughing.  At one point, Terin called out, "Lady Mikah is feeling much better now.  Thank you for your concern." for all the good it did, which was none at all.

The walk ended as the security force got them to the gravCar and they lifted for the building.  Getting there, they saw crowds of press waiting for them to return to the suite.  As they came in to land, Mikah laughed at Aali and said, "You guys in the ground car?  You're on your own." with a chuckle.  Still, for all the gathered crowds, the press were kept back behind cordons as the crew landed and made their way from the gravCar into the building.  From there, the building was secure and they were able to relax.

In the suite, their butler let them know he'd fielded multiple requests for interviews with Her Ladyship and the crew.  Mikah just waved those off.  The butler then asked, "Would Her Ladyship like the building management to take extended measures to remove the media from the property?"  Mikah smiled and said, "That would be wonderful." with a glint in her eyes.  Giving Mikah a slight bow, the butler moved to his pantry where he called the building offices and said, "Have them removed."

Despite that order, reporters could remain on public land around the building so long as they were not on managed property.  When it became clear that Aali and her crew would be leaving in the ground car on the roadways, it was mentioned they'd have to be careful as they pushed through that "cordon" of reporters.  Still, before they mounted up, Fesic said he wanted to open up the box containing his lock pick order and load it into the car.  Sadly, the box itself was too large for them to get into the car and even opened and broken up, they wouldn't fit more than half into the vehicle's trunk.

That meant trips up and down the building's lift moving gear into the car from the box.  When Fesic came up with the idea, he knew it would cost him even more time if he tried to sit and go through the box to find just the bits needed to start making use of the lock picking course.  And if he didn't do that, there was no guarantee he'd be able to start making use of the course material until he'd moved everything to the ship after multiple trips.  Biting the bullet, Fesic just had people grab and move what they could fit regardless of order.  An hour later, when the trunk was loaded, it was time to get moving.

When they hit the suite, Aiden had helped with the unloading and then had dinner before relaxing to watch vids.  Zimzod and Mikah relaxed and watched the news until dinner.  Terin also helped Fesic move his "box of crap" down to the car before using the time continue his research from earlier until it was dinner time.  Eventually, they all sat for dinner served by the chef.  When they were finishing, Aiden asked Zimzod and Terin if they wanted to do stent practice together?  While they did that, Mikah watched vids and continued healing.  When the stent session ended, Mikah told Zimzod he could get her a beer with every plan of continuing to relax and recover.  Zimzod agreed and grabbed her, and himself, a beer from the cooler.  When Terin saw that, he offered to break out the hookah and the others cheered.  After that, they all relaxed and partied the evening away.

The Other Road Traveled

     When they left the building, Emkir requested the building have a group of security clear the ground-level garage exit for them to leave.  As expected, there was a thin line of reporters which building security forced apart as Aali drove them out onto the roads of Atora and turned south towards Credo and Credo-down starport.  They all heard shouted questions and requests as they passed through the line and were gone.  Of more concern to Aali, all of the reporters had some data communications device so she knew they were updating their offices and other crews.

An hour later, after happily not being harassed on the drive down, they got to the ground hauler entrance to the port facilities the ship was berthed in.  Like the building they'd left, there was a thin line of reporters hoping to get something from the arriving crew.  Thanks to the high security nature of that facility, there had never been a chance for the reporters to even try and block the entrance and the reporters had to settle for shouting their questions and offers.

After Aali brought the car to a spot in the enclosed vehicle lot, the group got out and started grabbing their baggage before moving to the back of the car and popping the trunk.  Seeing this, the security detail in the garage called one of the motor pool people to the car and he offered them a cart to use to move their gear in.  After Fesic accepted, they were escorted to the ship after loading the gear and the worker recovered the cart as Fesic had to decide what to do with all the stuff?

Sadly for Fesic, a ship's stateroom, even at single-occupancy, was not designed for the storage of a large amount of personal gear.  Not only was there no real room for the stuff, but there was little storage, and that meant for his clothing and small personal effects.  And there was little he could do to keep items left in piles from flying about if the ship did something "dynamic".  The best he could hope to do was to buy webbing and "trap" loose gear against the wall and other surfaces.

As he quickly filled up space with gear that would get in the way of everything else he did in the stateroom, Fesic saw he had two options.  Both depended on him quickly figuring out what he would actually need for the classes included in the gear.  In the first, he got himself a storage box and moved all the crap he didn't need into the cargo bay once they had space and the other depended on him quickly selling off the spare gear or trashing it.  After everyone but Fesic got their gear stowed, it was time for Rol to start cooking dinner.  Jocelynn decided to help Fesic try to organize the gear until he could get webbing or come up with another idea.  Emkir and Aali watched vids until dinner time.

After eating, Rol and Aali had a stent session of their own while Emkir worked on the software project.  Jocelynn asked Fesic if he still had work to do organizing his lock pick gear, which he did.  Still, Fesic offered to go out to the startown with Jocelynn and hunt contacts if she wanted.  Thinking things over, Jocelynn suggested they stay in and get things done.  As Fesic went back to organizing his gear, Jocelynn went into her stateroom and realized she had to pick up on the maintenance for her terrarium.  While it would eventually only need a tweak or so every six months to a year, it was still new and needed some management.

As Fesic continued working on his lock gear, Jocelynn got done working on the terrarium and moved on to work on her weapons and gear.  After Aali and Rol finished with their stents, Aali and Emkir decided to watch vids and relax.  When Rol saw no one else was planning anything interesting, he sat in the lounge watching vids too.  Eventually, Jocelynn got tired of working on her gear and asked Fesic if he wanted to go scouting in the startown?  When Fesic said he did, Jocelynn asked Rol, Emkir and Aali if they wanted to come along?

One nice thing they found as they pulled out of the garage was that the reporters had all been cleared away.  That meant they didn't have to worry about being followed or harassed wherever they went.  Not realizing exactly what Fesic and Jocelynn had in mind, Aali still happily drove where Fesic directed because it seemed he had an objective in mind.  Soon enough, they parked the car in one of the many lots provided for ground cars and took a tram onto the port campus.  There, Fesic led them across the extrality line and into startown.  From there, he started looking for the darkest and most broken-down bar he could see.  Still, he had Rol, Emkir and Aali in tow so they pulled against his ideas as much as Jocelynn supported him.

The mix of carts, huts, ramshackle booths and the odd number of purpose-built structures that was Credo-down startown was crammed with drifters, criminals, homeless, crooked venders, sellers of drugs, flesh and every other vice mixed with the intoxicated and those who longed to be lawless.  Despite being heavily patrolled, the space was easily the one place on Regina where most laws were not enforced.  Closer to the anarchy of 'a new set of laws inside each set of doors' than any other spot on the planet.  And while Fesic and Jocelynn were up for that, and Rol had an idea they'd be diving into that kind of cesspool, Aali and Emkir thought they were out for a fun evening.  And everything around them was there for the sole reason of separating them from their money, legally or not.

The crowd were a mix of residents, business owners, workers, suppliers, criminals, homeless, tourists, military or civilian spacers and those drawn to the darker spaces on the planet.  And with the ship crews, they were very often either drunk or out to "get rowdy" or both.  The racial mix was mostly Human with a "larger than normal for Regina" mix of Vargr and even a layer of repaired or half-working service robots and androids.  The homeless could range from people who'd lost their lives to some event or crime to those who'd been planted by a ship's crew or just incapable of surviving in the civilized parts of the world.  And no one was more dangerous than the desperate.

Throw in the odd set of clueless tourists and things could certainly get more fun than the usual fights and murder.  Be they off a ship or across the extrality line from the dirtsiders.  On top of the certainty you could find bars named "the reactor core" and "the fusion leak", those in the know could also find some of the best drinking and drugs to be had on the planet.  And those even more in the know could hope to find any number of connections that could lead them to activities beyond Regina's legal code.

Eventually, Fesic spotted a place that looked right despite the fact it seemed to be in an actual purpose-built structure.  When he pointed and said, "That place doesn't look like it's on fire yet." Aali hedged and said, "Maybe we should wait for one that is on fire."  Rol only said, "That looks like fun" and Jocelynn joked, "We can start one."  When Fesic held out for that bar, Aali finally accepted and they went in to find a place to sit.  Looking the place over, it was run down, dark and close to broken, filled with drinking ship crew, workers, half-dead losers and bar flies.  And they were all being "entertained" by what could be the worst house band in the charted galaxy.

Now, it was Emkir's turn to rebel, thanks to a lesson he'd learned about not staying in any bar where the band sucked because that would lead to bad things.  It was as if the bar had an open mic night and the group on the stage were all strangers who had no idea how to really use the instruments they had.  When Emkir started pushing to move on, Aali was happy to go along and so was Rol.  Still, Fesic and Jocelynn were happy with the place and the discussion continued until a large man who looked like he lifted starship power plants for fun came over and mentioned there was a two-drink cover charge for the bar.

As they looked at each other and the bouncer, Fesic joked, "Have a couple of drinks and you won't even know the band sucks."  Emkir protested, "It doesn't work that way" while Aali reminded them she was their designated driver.  So, she couldn't get drunk enough not to notice "that", as she pointed to the band.  Still, they sat down at a table and both Emkir and Aali ordered soft drinks.  It was the best thing about the bar that Aali could enjoy a soft drink that tasted just like her childhood...because it all came from a bottling/canning plant nearby and was chemically sealed.

Still, there were faults in the group because Emkir and Aali still wanted to leave and go somewhere else.  While Fesic and Jocelynn wanted to stay, they were reminded that Aali had the car.  So, they felt they had to stay with her and Emkir no matter what they wanted.  When Emkir started talking about going to a casino, he even managed to 'almost' sway Jocelynn from her plans.  Still, Fesic held firm and said, "I think you are all starting to forget that the mission was to make some contacts." and even Jocelynn remembered this had been her idea to start with.  Despite that, Emkir was still up for leaving and going to a casino.

Countering the soft drinks, Fesic ordered a whiskey, Jocelynn asked for a spice-flavored mix of vodka and beer and Rol was bold enough to order "whatever is the house specialty".  While they waited, and as the soft drinks disappeared, Emkir kept pushing the idea of a casino until Jocelynn and Fesic said they could take a taxi home if the couple left them.  And the thing Rol had ordered made it likely he would not be "polite casino crowd" capable anyway.  And while the drinks were nothing to write about, the music hadn't gotten any better.  When Aali's enthusiasm for the place faded with Emkir's they decided to leave.  Jocelynn and Fesic said they were staying and Rol said he was drinking!

The Forked Road

     Having finished two soft drinks each, the bouncers only glared at Emkir and Aali as they left, and were written off as tourists.  Of course, that suggested the other three from their group were also tourists.  And, every bouncer knew tourists couldn't hold their booze and were too often trouble waiting to happen because they didn't know how to behave right.  At the same time, free of the bar, Emkir and Aali made their way out of the startown and off the starport to get back to the car.  Paying for the parking, they sparked up the in-car nav system looking for a casino nearby.

Because Credo-Down tended to be a busy port, there were several "entertainment and hotel" clusters and a number of casinos considered "general quality" and open to all.  And since they weren't dressed up and looking for something special, Emkir chose one close enough and gave Aali directions.  Soon, they'd pulled up, parked the car and were in the casino looking for a table.  Emkir planned to play cards while Aali watched, and set a "lose no more than" limit of Cr 50.  The crowd there were a mix of interstellar tourists, working and middle class locals and the like.

Finding a Cr 5 blackjack table, Emkir ordered Aali a soft drink and himself something sweet and bubbly and spiked with rum.  Over the next half hour, Emkir couldn't complain about the other players but was having issues with the cards dealt him.  The next half hour was worse because even though the cards improved a bit, he had a moron sit on his right and start pulling his cards.  At one point, the man had hit three times on his cards before pulling the face card Emkir needed.  And when he busted, Emkir ended up with a crap card that trapped him, forcing him to stand on a thirteen when the dealer had a seven showing instead of getting a face card that would have given him a nineteen.  Of course, the dealer's hole card and been a face card for seventeen, and Emkir lost that hand along with others.

Having lost the Cr 50 he'd set as his limit and another Cr 10, Emkir was done after the first hour and they agreed to go back to the ship and get a good night's sleep in before work the next day.  Again, paying the Cr 20 for parking, the drive back to the port facility was uneventful and even the reporters were gone.  With the ship empty, they stepped into their stateroom, cleaned up a bit, set an alarm for eight the next morning and settled in to enjoy each other's company, and perhaps a bit from the private bar.

Having invested in the bar they were in, Rol, Fesic and Jocelynn relaxed now that the stuck up noses had left.  With a less spectacular drink than his first in his hand, Rol was enjoying the "ambiance" and it might have been the drinks or the company or something else, but Fesic and Jocelynn decided they liked the place.  They were about three drinks down and had not been rushing so they were relaxed but not drunk when a group of four spacers approached their table.  The four different heights and builds were unified by their tanned complexions and the brown to black shipsuits they wore and a common ship's insignia on each chest.

They quickly realized it wasn't the "buddies" that were the problem so much as it was man who thought he was the Universe's gift to women.  The man leaned down, almost getting into Jocelynn's face, as he said, "Hey gorgeous.  You wanna come dancing with us, don't you?"  Giving the man a dismissive look, even as she could smell the alcohol coming from him, Jocelynn said, "I'm fine.  Thank you." and hoping he'd get the clue and move on.  Seeing he and Fesic were being ignored, Rol lifted his drink to Fesic, smiled and said, "Go for it." before taking a sip.

Leaning even a bit closer, the leering man said, "Come on.  You know you want to." in a tone that was almost taunting. leaning back a bit, Jocelynn answered, "No.  Really.  You guys go dance and I'll watch.  How about that?"  Surprising Jocelynn, who had been sure the guy leaning over her was the real problem, the man on his right, also close to her, said, "Come on!  We'll give you a better outfit than that."  Then, thinking her attention was split the man leaning over her reached out to try and grope her breast!  Not even thinking, Jocelynn swung hard and slammed an upper cut into his jaw and the man went down, with his head bouncing against the table along the way.

Still, in order to strike, Jocelynn had left her chest undefended and the man got a hand full of breast to grope for a split second, if he remembered he'd done it when he woke up?  Already expecting it and catching her movement, Rol was less than a second behind her as he reached up to grab the man closest to him by his shipsuit and slam him down to the table before slamming the man's head down hard, several times.  Catching up to the others, Fesic tried to quickly kick his feet out to push the table towards the one man standing across it from him and ended up mashing his right foot into the table instead.  It also didn't help that Rol was using a man's head to hold the table down.

When Rol let go the man he was holding, he wasn't out cold but he dropped to the floor dazed and out of it anyway.  Fesic's right foot was in pain and his grand plan to kick the 'table out and stand up' had completely failed leaving him sitting and working to swallow the pain.  Adding injury to injury, Fesic had risen slightly, as had the table, only to be forced down as Rol rammed the man he grabbed against it.  So, Fesic took a light jab in the gut from the table as it was pushed back into him!  The man Jocelynn hit appeared to have a glass jaw and dropped like a rock.  The best news was that the two men still standing had not yet figured out a fight had started.

Standing to lean forward over the table toward the two men, Jocelynn said, "He chose poorly." in her most menacing tone.  Also now standing, Rol gave the men his most innocent look, shrugged and said, "I guess they stumbled."  Fesic was still working to deal with his pain at first and slowly mastered his pain as an actual moment of silence settled on the table.  Heads had come up at the nearby tables and there might have been a chance to end things there except that Fesic finally realized there were two men still standing opposite them.

Deliberately, Fesic put "both" his feet on the legs of the table and put all his energy into feeding the table to the man across from him.  And that man   Caught   the table.  To his side, the second man still standing actually did get slammed in the gut by the table before his friend caught it, and he went down, more from surprise.  The bad news was that the man who'd "caught the table" had a glint in his eye which suggested his brain was catching up with the situation.

Now standing and with a body between him and the man, Rol had several choices.  He could try to jump or step over the body to attack the man "still" holding an edge of the table.  He could step "on" the body to attack, though that would make his balance questionable.  Or he could make moves or take steps preparing to make another attack depending on how the circumstances changed.  Instead of that, Rol leaned in towards the man and, in his most menacing voice, said, "Time to leave, I think."

While on the balls of her feet and ready to act, Jocelynn decided to let the tense moment play out to see whose nerve broke first.  To her left, Fesic stood up even though he knew he'd be limping due to the pain if he had to move.  Standing in the glare of the three, the look in the eyes of the lone crewman standing crystalized and he did the one thing they'd seen in any number of bar fights across space.  He roared out the words, "Tupema Ualepo!"  In the split second before the three realized what he'd done, heads came up and a number of figures also wearing brown shipsuits stood up across the bar.

In a time-honored tradition of spacers and bar fights, he'd called to his side all his brothers and sisters who'd been drinking in that bar.  And there'd be no chance to stop them and explain as they came to his rescue with a full head of steam.  The odds had just gone from "2.25 to 1" to "paste vs an oncoming bulkhead".  Finishing his roar, the man then tried to leap across the round table trying to attack Fesic.  Seeing that sudden move, Fesic decided to step closer to Rol in order to avoid the attack.  As the man leapt, Jocelynn knew she could do nothing to block the attack on Fesic and waited to see how the man's leap played out before making a move.

Rol planned to act after the man landed, so he set his feet to let him move firmly when that happened.  Into this, the man landed on flat on the table and short of where Fesic had been because he'd not been able to put the needed power into his leap.  As soon as he struck the table, Rol shouldered Fesic back in place as be moved in to try and get the man in a head lock.  Grabbing the man around the throat and getting him in a head lock, Rol also heard a handful of voices shouting out things like, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" from around the bar.

Looking out at the bar to see some of those voices approaching, Jocelynn could see some of the crew coming at them and could tell some of them were even more drunk than their friends had been.  It did not take long for Jocelynn's view of the situation to go from "this is not even gonna be fair to them" to "Wait.  That's a tidal wave coming at us!  Oh crap!!"  That quickly changed to, "This is an ambush."  And the only way to survive an ambush is to counter attack it and win through.

Realizing Rol would know that but Fesic wouldn't, Jocelynn turned to Fesic and said, "Keep Up!" before she darted in the direction of the on-coming spacers.  Her plan was to take one down hard with a strike like a punch to the trachea.  That would get them through the "first line".  Already accepting that would happen, she had also targeted a second spacer behind the first, to engage.  She figured he'd see her coming and put up more of a fight but it would get them through most of the spacers with a chance to win free of the crowd and the bar before the crowd collapsed on them.  From Fesic's point of view, the situation was going downhill like it was powered by rockets, and it was going to "spit them up and chew them out".

Suddenly, Jocelynn shouted "keep up!" and then she actually attacked the on-coming line of spacers!  Getting his senses back in control, Fesic did his best to keep up despite the pain from his right foot and disbelief this was what they were doing.  Seeing what Jocelynn had done, Rol was stuck with a man's neck in his arm and couldn't move immediately.  So he did his best to take control of the man's head and slam it against the table before sprinting to follow Jocelynn.  He may have left the man able to react behind him, but not moving could have let them swarm him.  Lucky for Rol, his actions did stagger the man and kept him from pursuing while Rol could see the people in the bar had closed in on him too.

Because her first target had his hands up, the trachea was not an option and Jocelynn shifted her footing even as she ran and swung a kick for the man's crotch.  Faster than she'd hoped, the man realized what was happening and swung his hands down to protect himself, catching some of the blow's force.  So, still hurting, the man was not "down and out of the fight".  Despite his bending double, he didn't go down and was in her way, keeping her from moving past him to the next target.  That meant the time she'd have to take to finish this man off would give the other man and his friends time to come and get in her face.  Behind her, Fesic was coming up quickly without any understanding why she wasn't moving and without a target to fight himself.

Around them, the bar staff had certainly realized something was happening as many of those in the bar rose either to see what was going on or to defend themselves if needed.  There were also one or two other minor arguments starting where members of the ship crew had been trying to push their way toward the shouting.  Still, there were easily five other members of that ship's crew who had made it into Jocelynn and Rol's view.  Because of all the reactions, there was an essential wall of people blocking the three from getting out of the bar without a fight.

On top of the five in front of them, one of the first men to be knocked down had not been knocked out and was back on his feet and regaining his wits and situational awareness.  And the man Rol had just head slammed was shaking it off too.  That meant they also had "two behind".  The only good news, if it could be called that, was that the three were still in a shrinking pocket of open space even if Jocelynn and Fesic were not near Rol.  And Jocelynn had the "current advantage" over the man she had hit.  If she didn't act soon, that wouldn't stay that way.

As she had before, Jocelynn made a snap decision and yelled, "Follow me" before bolting to the back of the bar.  Her hope was to find an exit in that direction which didn't have as many combatants between it and them.  The man she'd kicked in the crotch had still not recovered enough to give chase and the two men they had left standing behind them were not ready to re-engage either.  Leading the charge again, Jocelynn ran for the back wall of the bar, expecting some access to kitchens, cleaning rooms or offices.  And she was rewarded by the sight of a double-wide door painted in dark colors in the darkly-painted wall.

Angling in towards that door, Jocelynn arrived just in time to run into a server coming out of the doors with a tray.  Thanks to her velocity, Jocelynn was slowed but not stopped and server, tray and contents went flying all over, to the sound of the server's cry.  Jocelynn did slow enough to call back, "Sorry!" as she looked through the door to see she was moving directly into a sort of cleaning and prep area.  Coming into the space, her path was blocked by the sort of bare stainless steel kind of prep table with a shelf between the legs under the main surface.  And to her left, Jocelynn realized there was a man with a heavy cutting knife hacking meat into sections.

Coming to a quick stop to not run into the table, Jocelynn heard the man say, "You're not supposed to be here" in an annoyed tone.  In a cheery voice, she answered, "And that's why I'm leaving!" with a smile on her face as she quickly scanned the space.  On the other side of the table, Jocelynn saw a door opposite her and figured she had to either go around or over the table.  And without a second thought, it was up and over for her as the man with the knife sputtered protests!  Landing on the far side, she said to the man, "Pardon me." and reached for the door grip.

At the same time Jocelynn was reaching for the far door, the man with the knife had turned toward where she'd been standing before jumping the table.  The man was then completely surprised as Fesic charged into the space following Jocelynn.  As Fesic arrived, the man with the knife had been saying to Jocelynn, "You're gonna have to..."  That changed as Fesic appeared suddenly through the door and he recovered from his surprise enough to face Fesic and say, "You need to stop!"

Shocked himself, at the immediate presence of a man with a very large chopping knife, Fesic retreated to the right, toward a gap between the table in front of him and the next table along in the room.  His only thought then was to get the table between him and the man with the knife, and the door Jocelynn was opening was a distant pleasant dream.  As he moved, Fesic very loudly asked, "Is the bathroom this way?" in hopes that would slow the man a bit.  Following as Fesic backed around the table, the man with the knife moved firmly into the space next to the open door in time for events to pile up literally.

Pumping hard and hearing the sounds of foot falls almost on his heels, Rol charged for the door Jocelynn had disappeared into, followed by Fesic.  Now, he could see there was a lit area beyond that door and he'd had some sense of Jocelynn jumping for some reason.  Sadly, his effort to keep from getting nabbed by the attacking ship crew kept his attention wandering to "other things" and Rol wasn't sure what the snippets he saw meant?  So, it was a complete surprise when Rol suddenly found his path blocked not only by a metal serving/prep table but by a man with a large cleaver!

And, as the man stepped in front of the door, Rol charged into him with his left shoulder leading the way.  In fact, Rol had been moving so fast he nearly bowled the larger man onto the table when they collided.  Sadly, for Rol, the impact didn't knock the cleaver from the large man's grip.  While both Rol and the man struggled to stay upright, Rol could vaguely hear Fesic's voice trailing off something about a bathroom.  That happened as Jocelynn had pulled the next door open and turned back to see where Rol and Fesic were behind her?

Rol's encounter with the man gave Fesic the chance to scoot all the way around the table and get to the door where Jocelynn was standing.  Not wanting to hurt the man, Rol decided to give him a shove away, hoping to create the space to leap over the table.  Seeing this, Jocelynn watched as Rol put his hands against the larger man's chest and pushed.  And only succeeded in pushing his own feet backwards!  The larger man started to raise his chopping arm as a threat and the knife while he told Rol, "Your gonna stay here until the police come."  Adding to his situation, the foot falls of those coming after him were also starting to sound through the door and into the room as the pursuing ship crew closed in.

As Rol was realizing he might need to use more stern measures, instead of the soft cushions or comfy chair, Fesic pointed at Rol and told Jocelynn, "Help him and I'll lead the way!"  Hearing that, Jocelynn said, "No!" because the last thing she wanted was to have Fesic trying to lead her in trying to rescue Rol.  Now it was Fesic's turn to be confused, when Jocelynn said, "You wait in the hall and I'll help Rol." as she pointed through the door they were standing at.

What Jocelynn didn't know was that Fesic "MEANT" to say, 'I'll lead the way out of here'.  Sadly, he must have thought she was a telepath to understand what he meant instead of what he'd said.  And that was costing them seconds they couldn't afford.  Breaking the moment, Jocelynn decided to jump back on the table and help Rol and let Fesic do whatever he wanted to.  Meanwhile, Rol reached up to grab the knife arm the man was swinging at him while leaning slightly to his right to launch his left knee into the man's groin.

Catching the man's arm and letting that ride him down to the right, he was able to add that momentum to his knee-strike.  Concentrating on hitting Rol with his knife, the man hadn't even thought of being attacked so Rol's knee rammed delivered all that force to his crotch.  As the pain registered, Rol could read from the man's eyes the memories of the deaths he suffered in his previous five lives!  After Jocelynn jumped onto the table, Fesic moved into the passage through the open door.

The new passage was nearly twenty feet long and Fesic could see two doors, one after the other, on the passage's left side and one on the right.  A last door was on the far end of the passage.  The closest door to Fesic's left was open and he could see it was an office in which a man who was doing paperwork was now shouting, "What the hell is going on out there?"  Clearly, he thought the issue was something among his employees because it was happening in the private spaces of the bar.  That was until he looked up and saw a stranger standing in the hall outside his office.

Standing up, with a look of "Who the fuck are you" on his face, the man was trying to figure out what was going on?  To Fesic's annoyance, none of the doors he could see had an exit sign on it.  Still, with the prep room sounding like it was becoming a battle zone, Fesic made his choice and moved for the door at the end of the passage.  In the prep room, Jocelynn had gotten on top of the table, which was clean flat metal and hard to get a firm purchase on, just as Rol delivered the mother of all crotch-crushing knee attacks.  The bad news was that she could see two members of the ship crew coming right for Rol through the door just beyond Rol!

Seeing she had almost no time to get Rol up on the table and get both of them out the far door, Jocelynn and waited for just the correct second as the men moved up.  The she yelled for Rol to duck!  Not expecting Jocelynn to get back on the table, Rol had kneed the man with the knife so he could leap over the table himself.  As he dove for the table, Jocelynn surprised him by trying to attack the leading crewman through the door with a jump kick!  Comedically, if anyone had been watching, Rol barely got enough thrust to send himself body surfing across the table.

The same slippery surface that let him slide prevented Jocelynn from getting the footing needed for all the power she had to have for her attack.  That meant she didn't have the velocity to let her prepare a flying kick.  Because of that, she had only ended up propelling her body at the first of the on-coming men!  At the same time, the charging man had seen one of the people he wanted to pound fighting with someone else through the door.  It wasn't until he reached the door that his target suddenly disappeared to be replaced by a woman's body flying right into him!

Hitting the man "torso to face", Jocelynn's attack drove the man's shoulders and upper body back while his feet and hips were 'technically' still moving forward, turning him into a table without legs.  And the man coming behind him was close enough that he charged into the 'levitating body' in front of him, 'gut to head'.  Added to the second man's problems, Jocelynn had not lost all her velocity, and continued to plow along the first man's chest and face and into the second man's upper torso as she began her own plummet.  That meant the first man "dominoed" down onto the second man and Jocelynn "dropped" on the second man's chest while the first man was lying on his legs.

The first man had been stunned by the surprise of Jocelynn's attack as well as her strike, though she hadn't knocked the wind out of him.  But she had landed on the second man's chest, and knocked all the air out of his lungs.  While the first man had to get over his shock and surprise, the second man was gonna need some time to get air back in his lungs before he could deal with being on the floor.  Sadly for Jocelynn, who didn't know how badly or not her targets had been hurt, there were more of their crew coming.

Getting herself up, Jocelynn started moving back into the prep room only pausing once as the sprawled legs of the first man offered her a perfect target.  With the second man still trying to wheeze air back into his lungs, Jocelynn delivered a stomp to the crotch of the first man to insure he would not be getting up any time soon either.  As this happened, Rol had gotten across the prep room and through the door Fesic had fled through.  Only he ran into the man from the office, who had come out and was screaming, "What's going on here?"

Ignoring the man from the office as unimportant, Rol then looked back to see what Jocelynn was doing despite the fact the man was a potential assailant!  After delivering her stomp, Jocelynn said, "Later for you!" and fled back onto and across the prep table to jump down towards the door where Rol was standing.  As she did that, the man from the office proved he could be every inch an assailant as he grabbed Rol by the shirt and spun him around so they were nose to nose as he angrily demanded, "What the fuck is going on here?"

Seeing the man's apoplectic expression in his face and feeling the spittle of his angry demands on his face, Rol decided that his left knee had already been to the dance and it was time to invite the right knee.  Just so no one would get jealous.  With his hands grabbing Rol's shirt, there was no way the man from the office was even going to think of defending himself.  So, just as Jocelynn arrived at Rol's side, the office man collapsed in pain after Rol kneed him in the crotch.  Sparing only a split second to demand, "Why are we not moving?" she wanted Rol to move on.

Ahead of them, Fesic had made it to the far door and pushed through it into a large central atrium where the building had services, storage and other facilities to support not only the bar but four other businesses.  The full structure had been built as a star with five "arms" each of which squared off at the public end and supported a separate business.  The sixth "arm" provided space for the driveway and some storage sheds.  The center of the star was the atrium into which Fesic fled.

Looking around in the atrium, Fesic saw two very important things right off.  First, there was no one in the space.  Second, there were multiple doors marked "Exit", with the closest one also next to a closed garage door that let vehicles come into the atrium.  Figuring the others would follow him out, Fesic ran for the exit planning to get away from the building before turning to watch for the others so they could regroup.

After Jocelynn asked Rol why they weren't moving without even a glance at the writhing man who'd fallen back onto the office floor, Rol snapped, "Enough Ty Quan Leap.  Run!"  As he said this, Rol himself took off for the door Fesic had disappeared through.  Needing no more invitations, Jocelynn chased after him.  Bursting out into the service atrium, Rol and Jocelynn could see Fesic charging toward the exit closest to the door they'd just come out of.  Seeing that, they turned to chase after him.

As Fesic arrived at the door and reached for the grip, the door opened without his help.  Chasing behind him, Rol and Jocelynn suddenly saw the door open in front of Fesic to reveal a man in workman's clothes standing in front of Fesic and blocking his way!  The look on the workman's face was one of confusion.  Realizing this might all be for nothing if this last road block stopped them, or even slowed them down enough for those behind them to see where they went, Fesic balled his fist and punched the man in the face!

As the man arrived at work, the last thing he expected was to come face to face with a maniacal lunatic at the door to his work place.  He was so surprised, he didn't even notice Rol and Jocelynn charging toward them as his attention was focused entirely on the lunatic in front of him.  And then, the lunie Hit him!  Hit him!  The work man had the feeling he'd surprised the lunatic and had no idea if the man was armed, nor did he want to know.  Given that, he just fled and went looking for port security officers for help!

After Fesic swung his punch, he was greatly gratified when the work man simply turned tail and ran.  Having looked back to see Rol and Jocelynn coming up behind him, Fesic "led the way" as he fled through the door out into the open drive between the walls of two of the building's arms.  Following the service drive out onto the open startown campus, Fesic was in the crowd and looking for a place to pause and regroup.  Following him out of the building, there was a moment of confusion when both Rol and Jocelynn turned to close the door.

While they couldn't be completely certain, they felt the door was closed before anyone following them could see which door they'd used to leave.  Done with that, the two chased after Fesic and soon got out into the crowd themselves.  After being waived over by Fesic, the three regrouped and then decided to get off the port and get a taxi back to where the ship was berthed.  They then moved quickly, but not so quickly that would be noticed, for an exit back across the extrality line and back onto Regina territory.

Back on Credo city pavement, they found someone who could call them a cab quickly enough and the ride back to the berth was a Cr 50 ride.  They decided Jocelynn should pay this time, because she had pulled the most crazy stunts.  When they finally got back to the ship, everything that wasn't needed had been shut down and the door to Emkir and Aali's stateroom had been secured.  After settling down from their flight while in the taxi, Fesic, Rol and Jocelynn set what alarm clocks they wanted and settled in to sleep.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Mikah, Zimzod, Aiden and Terin: Asleep in the suite 
     Emkir, Aali, Rol, Jocelynn and Fesic: Asleep aboard the ship.

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Next: Pending the November Session