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Last Updated     Dec 20 2020
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Risks And Divided

The Nights News And Morning Plans

Regina     With half the team in the ship and the other half in the suite, most planned to wake up and go about their planned work or chosen entertainment.  For Emkir and Aali, that was until they started hearing tales of the adventures had by Rol, Jocelynn and Fesic the night before.  Despite his late night and adventures, Rol had been up first, with his alarm at six, to cook breakfast.  The next to wake, in their various locations, were Mikah and Zimzod, Terin and, on the ship, Fesic.  They would be done with their morning routines and out to eat before Aiden woke to his alarm and Emkir and Aali to theirs.

Coming to breakfast, Emkir and Aali found Fesic and Rol talking about the Fiasco in the bar the night before.  Overhearing just a snippet of the conversation, Aali leaned in and asked, "Ok?  Do tell more?"  Agreeing with Aali, Emkir asked, "Yeah.  What happened after we left?"  Turning to them with a smile, Rol enthusiastically said, "You missed a great time!  I told you we would have a great time there."  When Rol said they should have stayed around, Emkir answered, "I didn't want to stay around until someone felt up my wife and I had to hit them with a chair.  It's nasty paperwork."  Rol joked, "Funny you should mention that..."

Interrupting Rol, Fesic told Emkir, "Forget the chair, you should try a table!" in a proud voice.  From there, Rol went into a full description of what happened in "glorious detail" while Fesic made editorial comments.  One got laughs was when Rol explained the man "catching the table".  Fesic shrugged and joked, "Who knew he was that good at grav-ball?"  Still, as the description went on, Emkir and Aali could only shake their heads or laugh as called for by the story.  When all was done, Emkir said he was glad he and Aali had left before that, and they were both glad Jocelynn was OK.  Despite that, Jocelynn was not there and had not come out of her stateroom yet.  Rol did suggest they might have to watch for and steer clear of any crew from the IMV Tupema Ualepo while in port and the others nodded.

With that, things settled down and they had breakfast.  As he ate, Emkir asked about finding a way to restart their zero-g training sessions.  They reminded him that would be hard because Mikah had been teaching, for various values of "teaching", and she was an hour away in the suite.  Also, they didn't have space to training in with the cargo bay full of marble, so they'd have to find that.  No one supported the idea of moving the cargo into the ship's berth to make space for security reasons but Emkir very much wanted to start using his training suit more regularly.  Making that decision, Emkir grabbed his comms to call Mikah and talk about his idea before he and Fesic went to work on the gunnery training software and Aali went to engineering.

The recent talk of Sonthert and hostile environments reminded Aiden they had visited, and would be visiting, worlds with thin atmospheres not to mention tainted or polluted atmo's or hostile environments.  Because of that, he'd reviewed his own gear and wanted to talk to Mikah about things the crew might need.  But first, he pulled a copy of the recent inventory Jocelynn had made of the gear in their ship's locker.  In vacuum or very thin atmo's, Aiden had a vacc suit where he could not use his sealed combat armor.  But in places and situations where those were not appropriate, he wanted to know what he needed for himself?

Aiden was caught by the fact the crew had, in the ship's locker, eight each of face masks, Filter masks and combination respirator/filtration units.  That meant, with nine crew members, that someone would be drawing the short straw if they didn't buy at least one more set of masks.  He also saw no sign anyone had bought emergency refill tubes for the masks.  So, in an emergency, their gear would only help them for a limited amount of time.  In addition to that, there was not a compressor to recharge the gasses in the tubes or a battery to charge the electronics of the various masks if they were off or away from the ship.  Armed with that information, Aiden went to talk to Mikah while he had breakfast.

Just as Aiden was ready to talk to Mikah about the masks, her comms went off and Mikah looked to see it was Emkir calling.  When Mikah answered, Emkir asked about finding some way to restart the crew's zero-g training?  Mikah was all for that, and put the call on 'speaker' as she looked at Terin and told him to start looking for a place where they could do the training.  Giving her some push back, Terin asked, "Well, are you actually going to train us or are you just going to throw us into walls and stuff?"  His tone was accusatory as complained that what Mikah called zero-g training sessions were really no more than excuses for those who had training to slam the less trained into walls and such.  Terin pointed out that none of those who didn't have the skills really had a chance to learn anything except limping and treating bruises.

Mikah sweetly promised to make sure to train everyone except him.  She promised Terin he'd keep getting bruised.  Still, she made it an order for Terin to look for a place to have the training.  When Terin persisted, complaining they'd had the abusive sessions for nearly a year and not learned anything, Mikah responded, "That's because you don't learn from your mistakes."  When Terin groused that all he'd learned was how to bounce, Jocelynn joked, "I'll hold your hand."  Despite agreeing with Terin, Fesic chimed in, "We'll give you a thruster pack so you can have guidance." and got some groans from those talking.  Jocelynn again said, "I'll hold your hand." and then added, "And give you first aid", which got lots of laughs.

When Aiden acerbically said, "So much for Terin's hand, Jocelynn smiled and quipped, "I said I'd hold his hand.  I didn't say it would still be attached to his body."  Finally backing down, Terin agreed to look for places to have the so-called zero-g training.  Mikah also told Terin to try Instell Arms and the War House too, just in case they regularly had dojos and such for rent.  Calling Instell and the War Room first, Terin learned those firms had smaller weapons testing ranges but nothing regularly large enough for full-out zero-g training.  The agents he spoke to suggested sports training places, for grav-ball and other zero-g based sports.  Terin remembered the recent news items about the Regina Rottweilers some months back.

Before Terin could break the line with the War Room, the agent on the line with him did say he had an update for Terin's captain on the bid they'd put out for combat gear.  Nodding and saying he could take the information, the agent told Terin they could provide everything in the bid for Cr 7,496.  Terin's first thought was that was a lot of money.  But then remembered there were several vacc suit HUD's included on the sheet, one of which was for him.  Thanking the agent, Terin said they'd review the bid and get back to them and cut the line before telling Mikah about the pricing.  Still, they had bids out to two other firms and when he'd spoken to Instell Arms, they had not given him their bid.  That meant they were still waiting.

Plans And Data Mining

     That conversation over, and the calls done, Terin dove into looking for spaces to train in.  Fesic and Emkir went back to work on the gunnery training software while Aali headed to engineering.  She planned to make checks and double checks on the work done by the androids, and carry out a schedule of tests and maintenance she wouldn't trust to the 'droids.  After saving the leftovers for Jocelynn, Rol cleaned up the lounge and galley.  Done with that, he then decided to go and knock on Jocelynn's stateroom door to wake her up.

Jocelynn had been relaxing on a nice clear beach, enjoying the tinted pink-red light from the system's blazing red star.  She enjoyed the heat despite the extra salves and other protections against radiation from the star.  But still, it was a relaxing and calm day until she heard an odd "thumping".  The new sound seemed to be coming from "everywhere" all at once.  But it wasn't until she started trying to concentrate on it that Jocelynn realized she was dreaming and someone was trying to wake her up.  Moaning, "Whut?" as she slowly moved back to the real world, Jocelynn heard Rol say, "You're missing chow." from the comm-pad at her door.  Answering back, Jocelynn said she'd be right there and then went about the task of slowly dragging herself towards the shower.

In the suite, Aiden waited until Mikah was done on the comms with the folks on the ship before telling her he wanted to talk.  Getting her attention, he told Mikah he'd looked through their supplies for alternate atmospheres, and saw they didn't have some of what they should.  Especially since they were one crew member short on filter and respirator masks, and they didn't have spare recharge tubes for those masks in case they were caught out.  Aiden said he planned to buy himself a mask, which would solve the numbers issue.  Past that, he wanted to know if she wanted him to buy spare portable recharge tubes and a portable compressor to refill them with?  Since Aiden had come up with the plan all on his own, Mikah smiled and said "Sure!"

The next question was interconnectivity.  Mikah asked if what he bought here on Regina would match what they'd bought in other systems, or even several years before on Regina?  Aiden wasn't sure, and they talked about that before Aiden decided to take one of the ship's existing masks and test whatever he bought against that.  That would let him be certain anything new would work with the stuff they already had.  After Mikah agreed to that, and said Aiden should call and ask if the shops had masks that match the brand and model the ship already owned, Aiden said he wanted to talk to Rol first.  So, he asked to use the rented gravCar and go to the ship.  Mikah agreed to that too.

Still, before Aiden left, he called Rol.  Comfortable answering the line with the joke, "Hello, who do you want me to kill?" Rol saw the ID from Aiden and figured no one else would be using his comms.  Aiden jumped right in, explaining he was going to a weapon shop and wanted Rol's recommendation on a type and brand of shotgun to buy which would be legal and useable in most situations.  Aiden expected his question to imply legality, which meant a sportsman's shotgun instead of a combat-optimized weapon.  Rol recommended a lever-action bullpup shotgun which wasn't optimized for combat and knew of a specific model with an in-built five-round magazine.  After Rol said that, Aiden said he was coming to the ship to pick up one of the masks and asked Rol if he wanted to come shopping with him?

When he got off the comms, Mikah told Aiden to check out hostile environment suits to see what they had and get prices.  Aiden also wanted to get two ten-round magazines for his shot rifle where the normal magazines for that weapon were 20-round items.  He also planned to get a shoulder holster for his snub pistol.  Those things were on top of the mask, recharge tubes, recharging compressor, Hostile Environment suits and shotgun.  With everything set, Aiden left the suite for the gravCar and drove down to the ship to snag a mask from the ship's locker and go shopping with Rol.

Shortly after Aiden left, Jocelynn made it out of her stateroom and targeted the food and caff available in the ship's lounge.  As she sat down and started eating, Rol told her about the morning chat with Emkir and Aali, and that they were up to date on the events in the bar the night before.  Rol then told Jocelynn Aiden was coming down to the ship and they would then be going to Instell Arms.  When Jocelynn nodded, Rol asked if she wanted to come along with and Jocelynn said she did.  Knowing it would take less than half an hour for Aiden to arrive, Jocelynn quickly finished her meal and went to dress since she'd already showered.  Both Jocelynn and Rol were pleased Aiden had come up with the idea for the outing and wanted to encourage him coming out of his shell.

After Aiden left, Mikah told Zimzod she wanted to have a number of pocket books made for her.  They should each match one of her key social outfits and let her to carry the gear she planned to have with her under any given circumstances.  When Zimzod nodded and asked what that meant, Mikah said she first needed pictures of her in her various outfits.  With those, and the images of the gown she was still waiting for, Mikah then wanted to go to a higher-end fashion house and have them design the bags.  Because Mikah was still in the gravChair, Zimzod was good going with her wherever she planned, and helping her get things done.  Of course, Zimzod enjoyed the fact that meant helping her change into and out of each outfit, though Mikah still couldn't do anything too amorous.  After getting the images done, Mikah decided they should have lunch when the chef served it and then leave for the shops.

After breakfast, Terin started hunting facilities the crew could rent out to restart zero-g training.  While it might have been intelligent to consider a point close to either the suite or the port, so one group did not have to haul out to the location, Terin never thought of that.  He simply mapped out the area between Atora and Credo cities for a spot equidistant to both sites.  That meant that while those coming from the suite would have a drive of less than ten minutes, Aali would have to drive those from the port half an hour there and half an hour back, wasting an hour of their time.  What Terin had also found was that there were not many facilities that would work for zero-g training.

Something that might be found on military facilities or the high port, where one could simply rent cargo space, that wasn't something the dirtside businesses of Regina catered to.  Terin did find a large number of sports-based firms who had grav-ball and grav-gymnastics training facilities for competition sports.  When he checked, Terin found a number of them had pricing and availability for teams and organizations to rent out there grav-floors.  But, thanks to the sport-enthusiast-driven availability, the prices were not inexpensive.  Terin found the lowest costs advertised at Cr 1,000 per night(3-4 hours) and the highest pricing was Cr 5,000, and included instructors.  Terin took notes as he worked, and prepared his data after speaking with a list of location he'd found.

With his notes organized, Terin took the data and went to knock on the door of the bedroom Mikah and Zimzod shared.  In the process of changing outfits so she could finish taking the pictures she needed, Mikah and Zimzod had Terin stand by until she could finish re-dressing.  Then, they called him in.  When he came in, Terin told them what he'd found and Mikah said they wouldn't be spending Cr 5,000 a night!  Mikah wasn't sure how much of a deal that was for them, and wasn't pleased.  Still, she told Terin to try booking three nights at one facility for Cr 1,000 a night starting the next night.  After that, Terin agreed and went back to work after she told him to take the cash from ship's funds.

After Terin booked the place, he bounced the information to Mikah and she sent an order to all the crew to gather at the rented place the next night by 8pm for training.  When Aiden was able, he responded to the message asking if he could bring his laser-tag gear and Mikah sent back that he shouldn't.  Aiden also called Mikah a bit later when he had pricing from Instell Arms for the mask, tubes and recharger.  Transitioning, Terin finished the dojo work and started digging back into the White Star Order data for any new bits of information.  He did stop to share lunch with Mikah and Zimzod before going back to his work while the couple called for a cab and left to have her fashionable pocketbooks made.

The Shopping Before The Storm

     At the ship, Aiden arrived and talked things over with Rol while Jocelynn finished dressing.  Grabbing one of the filter/respirator masks from the ship's locker, the three headed off to Instell Arms.  Arriving there, Jocelynn was again treated to a surreal moment where the crew's reputation and history took her so far out of her experiences that she was just weirded out.  On arrival, they were met by staffers prepared to act as much like the concierges Aiden and Rol had enjoyed working with in the Rhylanor system.  While a staffer was also assigned to Jocelynn, this was an "all new" experience for her.

Also new, was the apparent and disturbing amount of information the mega-corp had seemed to have collected on her as they prepared to empty as much of her accounts into their coffers as possible.  Like any number of venues, the shop was a mix of secured display cases, wall displays, shelves stocked with goods, high-mounted end caps, in-store electronic signage and displays actively showing off vids and casting holographic advertising.  Advertising everywhere!  Still, the store was geared more towards the sports weapon enthusiast given the laws in-system and general demands of traffic visiting the world.

Checking the make and model of the face mask Aiden had brought from the ship, they said they didn't have a matching mask in stock and sending out orders could take a number of weeks or months.  They did tell Aiden he could test recharge tube connectors with both that mask and any new mask he might be considering buying and Aiden accepted that.  He and Rol accompanied their staffers back to that section of the venue.  At the same time, Jocelynn had a staffer following her and keeping up general chatter as Jocelynn wandered about but generally moved in on open and wall mounted weapon displays.  She eventually headed for the shop's hand gun section to check out the toys.  Not big on wanting any of them, she did enjoy looking.

After viewing the specs of various masks they had on offer, and checking manufacturer data on performance and testing, Aiden and Rol turned their attention to recharge tubes.  Those came in varieties from 1, 2, 4, 8, 12 and 24 hour varieties.  As expected, the longer the time frame, the larger the tube, with some being large enough they would need to be carried in a backpack.  Choosing a brand based on the manufacturer data, Aiden spent much of a half hour testing them against both the new mask he was interested in and the older mask from the ship.  Aiden and Rol also checked out field rechargers and were most impressed by a brick-shaped device that filtered for oxygen and nitrogen and then pumped that into the pressurized tube.

Eventually asking prices, Aiden was told the 24-hour tubes cost Cr 150 each and the "brick" would cost Cr 4,000.  That would be Cr 1,350 for a single tube each and a total of Cr 5,350 for all of that plus the brick.  Aiden was also told that he should buy filter system replacements for the concentrator if he bought that and they also gave him the basic disclaimers that the filter system wouldn't work in exotic, corrosive or insidious atmospheres.  Calling Mikah, for approval for the air filter/concentrator, Aiden made his buy and moved on to the next section he was interested in.  The mask cost him Cr 200.  From there, Aiden wanted to shop for a shotgun.

They then moved into an area with a large selection of sports shotguns and accessories.  Thanks to Rol's advice, Aiden had been most interested in a bullpup, lever-action sportsman's shotgun without any combat augmentations.  There, based on both Rol and Aiden's comments, the sales agent narrowed down to one shotgun which had a tubular magazine built into the weapon.  That was able to load five rounds at a time.  As a quiet aside, the agent suggested one could load the weapon, charge it with the lever, and then add another round for six in the weapon if you didn't mind operating with one in the chamber...

In the hand gun section, Jocelynn looked for higher tech weapons but was given an object lesson in the differing values of "high tech".  Where weapons from Regina would be considered "high tech" to many worlds of lower tech capabilities, the fire arms Jocelynn had were higher tech than much of what was on display there.  And what was close to, or even with the tech she owned was priced very high, because it had been made and imported from elsewhere.  So, nothing there impressed her very much and nothing begged her to trade her cash for it.  Disappointed, Jocelynn moved on to look at knives.

Finally happy with a shotgun, Aiden was told the cost was Cr 2,000 and agreed to buy that before asking about ammo.  One box of 100 shells was priced at Cr 200 and, when he asked about non-lethals, a box of 100 salt-charges was priced at Cr 100.  Nodding, Aiden bought a box of each.  While he was at it, Aiden also spent Cr 20 for two 20-round magazines for his Snub Rifle, because they didn't have special made 10-round magazines.  he also spent Cr 50 for a shoulder holster for his snub pistol.  From there, it was off to check out, price and ask questions about hostile environment suits.  And that without giving away any information on exactly what the crew planned in the Sonthert system.

one of the knives In the blades section of the store, Jocelynn went looking for interesting blades and eventually saw a good number of specialty or even fantasy blades.  Looking from display to display, Jocelynn loved the many blades even if she'd never try to use some of them in combat.  Ever.  But still, there were some very sweet and sleek blades in the shop's display cases.  Finally, Jocelynn turned her eyes toward useful and combat-capable weapons that could be handled easily and without concern for strange protrusions or gaudy inset items.  Checking the working blades out, Jocelynn set her eyes on a single-edge, straight-backed high-grav-pressed steel knife that she was certain could be used for anything from cutting tie downs to prizing open clam-shells.  "That" was a working knife!  Asking the price and being told Cr 75.  Jocelynn was pleased and bought two of them.

As the agents led Aiden and Rol to the store section showing hostile environment suits, they said there was truly little call for them in the Regina system.  That meant there were few models and options available outside of ordering and, ironically, the ordered suits mostly came from the Wypoc system.  The good news for Aiden and Rol was that they assumed the pair wanted the suits for something on Wypoc, and that meant they had to answer few "what do you plan or need" questions.  The agents also told both men that while the hostile environment suits would last longer than either vacc suits or battle armor, they too would fail.  They explained expedition planning based on multiple suits per field technician.  That way, surviving parts from the first suit to fail could be used as spares for the second, and third and so on.

Reaching the three suits on display, two were from Wypoc and one was from Rhylanor.  The Rhylanor suit was the least expensive and lowest in rated quality, and it started at Cr 20,000.  The mid-level and high-level suits were both Wypoc brands and they started at Cr 35,000 and Cr 60,000 each.  As expected, each was rated better than the previous.  Another thing learned was that the suits, just like armor and vacc suits, were made to fit sizes.  If they didn't have the sizes needed, that would force a special order.  From Regina, that would likely be to Wypoc.  Aiden did the work of checking all the details available from the sales models along with manufacturer data.  He then packed that into an email and sent it off to Mikah. 

As Aiden worked with his agent, Rol showed his "concierge" his comms unit and asked about making it more subdued or less noticeable.  The agent looked over Rol's unit and then suggested an interface which would wirelessly connect to the unit and interface with bone-induction pads that would affix with Human skin repeatedly, but peel away without losing connectability.  They would be planted in specific locations where their emanations would react with bone barely covered by skin and allow the user to sub-vocalize and be heard as well as hearing transmissions which were not broadcast through a traditional audio speaker.  When Rol said that was what he was looking for, he was able to buy a set for Cr 500.  Rol also bought the four flash-bangs they had at Cr 100 each.

After the knives, Jocelynn went looking for any demolitions displays the store had.  Sadly, the Regina system was largely not geared for combat sales, and so their "displays" were anemic as hell.  Jocelynn was looking for small but powerful explosives and much of that was too battle specific for this venue to spend money on even to display items.  She saw computer interfaces showing off videos and advertised goods which could be ordered.  But there was little available for purchase that couldn't be gotten at a land and groundkeeper's management store.  Disappointed, Jocelynn went to look at the cutlasses.  After that, she went back to meet the others looking at the hostile environment suits.

T-Class Cruiser In the suite, working up until lunch time, Terin had been digging into the White Star order data.  As he left the work to eat lunch, Terin was uncertain if he could be certain but he'd identified four or five ships which may have been based at or visited the Order base in the Sonthert system.  The names of the vessels were the Major Arlo Koorvna, Lion of Camelot, Sword of Arbellatra, El-ahrairah and Lincus.  All the ships appeared to mass either 400 to 600 tons or 2,000 to 4,000 tons.  There was also some suggestion that some of the ships were a much older version of the 400 dTon T-Class patrol cruiser.  Newer versions of the same warship continue to be ordered and deployed by the Imperial Navy, though no one on the crew had served aboard one as far as Terin knew.  During lunch, Terin asked Mikah and Zimzod and neither had served on that ship class.  With his interest peaked, Terin decided to do more research.

After eating, Mikah and Zimzod had left for a high-end clothier to sit with them and order carry bags to be made which would be comfortable, would match or fit in with her outfits and would contain things like her med-kit while providing secure pockets or access for her handgun of choice and combat knife.  The good news was that the clothiers were used to dealing with professionals including doctors.  Because of this, they had base-models already on offer from which to modify for Mikah's needs.  What she wanted were a "Fast-open" stash-pocket for her handgun and a velcro-covered slit for her combat knife.  Spare magazines for the weapon could be held in the bag.  After discussing the options, the clothier agreed they could make each of the five bags within the next several days for Cr 1,500 each.

Mikah was happy with that and signed the agreement.  Asked to pay half up front, Mikah handed over her Ident and made the Cr 3,750 payment.  Before she and Zimzod left, Mikah confirmed the bag would be delivered to the suite once they were completed.  In the suite, Terin had returned to his research when he was interrupted by the butler.  It seemed there was a delivery which needed to be signed for, for the ladies and Aiden.  When Terin went to the door, to handle that.  The delivery turned out to be the ordered gowns and suits, so Terin decided to call everyone and tell them their clothes had arrived.  He put all the outfits in a closet off the hall, with no idea which was whose?  As he made those calls, each of the four got text messages saying their accounts had been billed for the clothes.

Surprises Past Several Corners

     Done shopping, Aiden, Jocelynn and Rol set up to have their new gear delivered to the ship, which happened within the next hour while Fesic, Aali and Emkir were eating lunch there.  After that, they decided to go somewhere and have lunch themselves, figuring those on the ship had supplies.  On the ship, Fesic said he'd called one of the cargo brokers whose data he'd gotten from the concierge during a break from the code-work, and discussed the marble with the woman.  He let her know the ship didn't have to sell the lot, and had a definite "floor" below which they wouldn't consider even talking.  Past that, he'd not given her actual figures, so she had to shoot for the stars because she didn't have a figure to low ball.  The woman told Fesic she'd get back to him the next day.  He also said he'd checked the market for marble and it looked to be floating around KCr 13 a ton, which was just a bit more than they'd paid on Dinomn.  After eating, they all returned to work.

Grabbing bar food for lunch, Aiden, Rol and Jocelynn paid Cr 10 each for their meal and talked about what to do next?  When Rol said they were free to go anywhere, because they had the gravCar, they sat for a bit.  Soon, Rol suggested they hit the amusement park connected to the startown.  With spacers who may have been aboard ship for months, and "family ships" granting crew liberties at ports, each had as many amusements as they could afford set up to separate spacers from their pay.  Regina's port was affluent enough to provide venues like the amusement park for the younger members and children of ship crews while the older crew sought more adult venues.  One benefit of the park was that they'd be rubbing shoulders with spacers and could mix and meet with other crews out enjoying their afternoons.  Thinking about it that way, Jocelynn and Aiden agreed.

Getting back to the gravCar, the three jumped in and they flew over to a vehicle park within walking distance of people movers moving toward the near port building.  Gathering in with other people, they had to show Idents as they entered the port proper, then separated off with the traffic bound specifically for startown.  As they continued to move, with the crowd thinning out heading to their own destinations, the three found themselves in a section of clusters of shops, stores and other entertainment venues.  Ignoring those as they moved, the three suddenly heard what sounded like a man's shout or scream from the opening of an alley close by.  The first off the mark was Jocelynn, who quickly moved away from the others, to the alley's opening to investigate.  Seeing that, Rol went after her and was followed by Aiden after he shrugged and decided not to get left behind.

Stepping into the opening, Jocelynn first noticed a figure slumped on the ground ten feet into the alley.  A hint of movement then caught her eyes as she looked up to see just the shadow of another figure slipping past the corner of the alley's far end.  Making an assumption, Jocelynn half-turned to Rol, who just reached her, and said "Stay with her.  I'm going after the attacker."  As she spoke, Jocelynn quickly pointed to the figure on the ground and then took off at her fastest sprint for the far end of the alley.  When Aiden came up behind Rol, he said he'd check the victim as Rol decided he'd be damned if he was gonna let Jocelynn sprint into combat unsupported and alone.  Giving Aiden the briefest of nods, Rol then took off at his best sprint following Jocelynn.  Aiden stepped up to the figure on the ground and saw it was a man dressed in casual clothes and in the midst of an apparent seizure.  And just past his out-stretched right arm, a small pistol seemed to have fallen from the man's hand.

Following Jocelynn, Rol caught up to her as she stood in the far mouth of the alley surveying the startown crowd.  Sadly for her plans, whoever had slipped from the alley had hidden or blended into the crowd so well there was no sign she could see or even look for a sign of the figure.  Worst of all, she didn't even have the scrap of a description to report to port security.  Back with the victim, Aiden first hit his comms and called port security.  As he did that, Aiden stepped over to kick the pistol further from the man's hand before kneeling down to get more details to give the dispatcher who took his call.  Realizing the man could have been choking or having issues breathing that led to his seizures, Aiden tried to turn the man onto his side to ease his breathing.  Doing this, he realized the man was trying to speak.

Leaning in closer, Aiden heard as the man choked out, "Irklan", then "ship", "45" and "evidence" before finally getting out "unfettered".  After that, he seemed to fall silent and stopped his struggles.  As Aiden looked closer, he realized the man hadn't just stopped his struggles...he had died.  Rolling the man entirely over, Aiden put his ear to the man's mouth to try and see if he was still breathing and heard nothing.  Aiden also did not notice any obvious injuries, blood or other bodily fluids.  Both Rol and Jocelynn were already on their way back to Aiden when he looked up to call them back because he needed them.

At the same time, the dispatcher on Aiden's comms was asking about the victim and situation as Aiden reported the man had stopped breathing.  The dispatcher did tell him responding officers would be there very quickly.  Jocelynn and Rol arrived as Aiden said, "I think he's dead."  When the dispatcher asked if he could feel a pulse, Aiden tried, though he wasn't sure exactly what to feel for?  Still, he tried and felt nothing before reporting, "This man is an ex-spacer."  After Aiden added that he'd kicked away a pistol which he felt had dropped from the dead man's hand, the dispatcher told him to back away from the scene and wait for the responding officers to arrive and not further touch anything.  Aiden had just finished bringing the others up to speed on what happened before the first uniformed port officers arrived.

Scanning the situation and seeing the holsters both Rol and Aiden wore, the officers ordered them to drop anything they held, show their hands and lean by their hands against the wall.  Having been warned there was a body and weapon on-scene, they'd had their weapons out too, so the three obeyed.  When Aiden noticed the officers eyeing his hip, he tried to explain about his right to bear arms and was told to lean against the wall in a tone that said, 'It is not yet time to try and explain things'.  Aiden then followed Rol and Jocelynn's examples and followed instructions before the men with raised weapons decided they were not cooperative.  After they were sure the three were ready to comply and follow instructions, it was time to do some "not ready to be friendly" investigation.

So, one of the officers said, "We notice two of you are wearing holsters containing handguns.  Care to explain that?"  It was one of the more frequent events on any popular port that someone who had just arrived decided they either were more important than the laws or could talk their way around the rules.  Port offices confiscated a large number of weapons every year because of that.  Aiden once more began yammering about the right to bear arms, etc and was only briefly interrupted by Rol's matter of fact statement, "Knight of the Imperium.  I do have the right to carry."  Rol's comments finished as Aiden was more specifically trying to explain why his snub pistol was legal for him to carry.  Aiden was then cut off as the officer asked, "OK.  Then I assume you gentlemen have identification that indicates that?"  His tone suggested this wasn't the first time he'd heard that, and the claim had too often been just a claim.

At that point, Aiden caught a clue and asked permission to remove one of his hands from the wall in order to retrieve and present his Ident from his chest pocket.  Given that permission, he carefully made sure his movements were visible, just as Rol did, to grab their Idents and hold them where an officer could easily collect them.  Jocelynn did that too.  Largely because of the holstered weapons, the officers only took Rol and Aiden's Idents at the moment, because they were the only real dangers at the moment.  Confirming Rol an Aiden were actually Knights and did have the right to bear arms, the two suddenly became a lot friendlier as they asked if Jocelynn was with them?  Both Rol and Aiden said she was as they were told they could stand easy and received back their Idents.

One of the officers then asked them to explain what had happened as his glance appeared to sweep the entire scene for the first time.  Aiden was the first to start spewing words as he explained about hearing the cry.  Both Jocelynn and Rol had to fight hard not to bust out laughing as he continued, "Our medic then went into the alley to see if she could help." because Jocelynn was the furthest thing from a medic in perhaps ten parsecs.  Aiden continued, "As we investigated, we saw him on the ground", pointing to the body, "and someone running out the far end of the alley.  And while those two gave chase, I called security and tried to help the man on the ground."  Aiden then explained about the man's whispered words and finished up with any other details he could give.

Jocelynn then picked up the story explaining how she and Rol had run to the far end of the alley but identified no one who could've been the fleeting shadow she'd seen.  Half-seen if she was really being honest.  Rol said he arrived too late to even see the form, and just followed Jocelynn's charge.  Returning to Aiden, they asked if the three had searched the body or investigated at all, and Aiden admitted to having rolled the body over while trying to keep the man alive.  But he said the man was already dead before he'd finished.  Slowly stepping in separate circles around the body to get better vantage points, one of the officers leaned down and pointed to a spot on the dead man's neck.  As he did, he asked, "Did you happen to notice this at all?"

Looking where the man was pointing, the three saw an oddly colored and shaped object "stuck" to the skin of the man's neck just below his left jawline.  Aiden was the first to get words out and his surprise, as the one who had dealt with the man, was obvious in his tone as he said he hadn't noticed what appeared to be some kind of dart!  Still not sure what they were dealing with, one of the officers asked them to step forward and take a closer look to tell him if it was anything they'd ever seen?  Or similar to anything they'd seen?  Studying the very short dart more closely, Aiden was not the only one to realize the man's "spasms" might likely have been caused by some kind of poison on the thing.  The officers also played the, "I've never seen this, have you?" game in hopes the egos of those they were dealing with might get them to out themselves.  Sadly for the officers, neither of the three had seen that sort of dart at all.

Stepping back, Jocelynn was the first to say out loud, "I'm guessing that's what caused the seizure." in a tone that said, 'Well, that wraps this up.'  Rol knew of darts which had been made and used by various organizations but never seen anything like that dart.  Keeping most of that to himself, Rol only said he'd never seen anything like it.  Jocelynn had heard about various religious orders in the riftward Spinward Marches who studied martial arts and might use darts and other odd weapons.  While she, like Rol, had never seen that kind of dart, she did consider that it might have been made and used by that kind of group.  Also like Rol, she kept that to herself in front of the officers, who had backup showing up as they spoke.

Trying another gambit to draw the three into slipping and offering an incriminating lead, the officers asked the three if they had any questions and Rol asked, "Do those words have any meaning for you?"  The officers only shook their heads and said they'd leave it to the assigned investigators.  Deciding not to hold back, Jocelynn considered the first word Aiden said the man gasped had been "Irklan", and she mentioned they had recently been to the palace of the Marquis.  There, they'd read about the 623 invasion of Menorb and fighting against the Irklan religious sect on that desert world.  Jocelynn then wondered if that was what the dying man meant when he got the word out?  The officers immediately took note of that and said that would be interesting given the history between the two systems.

Shifting Locations And Activities

     After a pause, and thanks to the arrival of other officers, the two men had them step back as they knelt and began a closer inspection of the body.  Part of that process was locating the man's ID and pulling it out of a pocket.  The ID/credit chip showed the name of "Jack Calimar", and suggested he was a local business owner.  Still, the officers had readers which could access sub-screens of the ID, and they slotted the card into their readers to see what "official only" data they could find?  This was often a set of data encoded by law enforcement and might show a record of past legal infractions.  In this case, the sub-screen that came up surprised both officers.  It identified the dead man as "Calmar Singh", an investigator for an Imperial security organization!

Stepping back over to the Knights and lady, one of the officers showed them the ID and asked, "Are you certain you were not working with or involved with this man?"  An armed shop keeper being ambushed and poisoned and then found by Imperial Knights made no sense.  But, the Knights working with, or at cross purposes to an Imperial Security investigator was an easier puzzle to work out by far.  Still, the three were both shocked and clueless as more officers arrived and the scene was officially blocked off from the now curious and gathering public.  Once the death was officially listed as "Murder", and because they had reportedly found the body, Rol and the others had to be searched and had to go to the station to give statements and deal with other forensics procedures.

Told that, Rol asked if they could call their captain and update her on the events?  When Jocelynn joked they wouldn't be back at the ship for dinner, Rol reminded her they wouldn't be back in time to serve dinner.  Jocelynn laughed as she remembered Rol would be expected to cook for them.  The image of Emkir and Aali sitting with utensils at a table with no food was funny.  With that, Aiden already had his comms ready and called for Mikah.  When she answered, Aiden started out, "Well, it's a funny thing happened to us on the way to..."  Annoyed, Mikah cut him off demanding, "Aww, what the hell did you guys do?"  Aiden very emphatically answered, "I can honestly say, this time we did NOTHING!"  in a mix of earnestness and desperation.  Mikah just shook her head and sighed as Aiden again bleated, "I can honestly say this!  Without lying what so ever!

When she let him talk, Aiden gave Mikah the basic read down on what had happened and said that since the dead man was ImpSec, they had to go in and deal with the bureaucracy.  After that, Mikah told Aiden to have the ranking officer of whatever precinct they ended up at call her to let her know where to bail them out from.  While Aiden called Mikah, Rol called the ship to update Emkir, Aali and Fesic.  Being less direct, as was his habit, Rol told them, "We've had a slight altercation with the law here and we're going to be a little late getting in.  So you're gonna have to find yourselves some meals."  Emkir's only question was, "Who'd you shoot and why?"  Rol quickly and defensively answered, "My gun never left my holster."  Overhearing, Fesic asked what caliber chair Rol had used and got laughs.

As they talked, Emkir wanted to know if they should order food for everyone and keep it for the three?  Rol said they'd be able to feed themselves when they were done so those on the ship should only worry about themselves.  Rol also suggested they look on the ship for pre-made baggie meals or MRE's and said he'd call them when they were coming back.  Before they cut the call, the last word came when Emkir said, "Let us know if you need bail money."  After the call was cut, Emkir decided to call Mikah because Rol hadn't mentioned calling her.  So, shortly after she ended her call with Aiden, Mikah's comms started going off again.  When she answered, Mikah asked, "What did you do?" in a tone of disbelief.  When Emkir explained about the call from Rol, Mikah cut him off saying, "Yes.  I know." in a dead-pan tone.

At the cop-shop, after investigators took over the alley, the three gave their statements and were questioned in a manner that was designed to shake loose bits of memory.  Jocelynn's comment about the Irklan cult were taken seriously but not further discussed with the three.  No one could make sense of the word "unfettered" or how it matched up with the number and mention of a ship or any kind of evidence?  Things did briefly tense up when they investigated Jocelynn's package and found the two combat knives she'd bought.  Still, they were wrapped as if they were just off the sales floor and Jocelynn was able to show them the receipt, so that defrosted quickly.  They still did fine Jocelynn Cr 10 and instructed her to take the blades directly back to her ship and leave them there for the rest of her stay on-world.  The three were finally cut loose around dinner time.

Having finished Mikah's shopping, Zimzod said he wanted to go to Instel Arms and asked if Mikah wanted to come along?  When she said, "Sure!" they called another cab and went off to the venue in Atora.  When met the agents that came to help him, Zimzod said he was interested in a new blade.  Zimzod spent some time looking through a collection which was geared to sports and fantasy collectors more than combat weapons.  Still, he did tell the agent he wanted something that was combat ready, and they showed him blades that were "Gravity-press welded", where the makers used gravitics to compress the metal layers to create microlayers humans could not match.  Still, it allowed them to make the most spectacular demask patterns as they worked.

Zimzod's new blade What Zimzod eventually picked out was a blade that would be against the rules of war for many worlds, if not the Imperium.  It was certainly a fantasy blade in style, and could best be described as a "drop-point" short sword with what had been a two-handed grip.  That was except the fact the maker had created a D-guard for the forward hand.  The D-guard connected to both the cross-guard in the front and the grip in the space between a forward and rear hand grips.  Four three-inch punch spikes drove out from the D-guard and a pommel-spike sprouted from the end of the grip.  The blade itself was advertised as "hyper-damask, Grav-forged steel" and was guaranteed proof against any other hand to hand weapon including another of the same brand.  The advertising tag line told the buyer this weapon would take "weapon quality" out of the fight leaving only skill.

The more they told Zimzod about the blade the more he liked it even if it had many projecting spikes that could catch on things.  When he finally asked how much for the weapon, they told him it would cost Cr 2,500!  That price was enough to knock him back, especially because this was from a "fantasy weapons" collection and not a named combat weapons specialty company.  Taking the measure of the weapon, Zimzod told the agent he wouldn't buy it unless it was combat-capable and he was told the weapon was perfectly usable in that environment.  When they offered to set up a pell and let him test it out, Zimzod said he wanted that.  So, he and Mikah stood by until the pell was set up and he went at it with the blade.

They set up the pell so a number of the swinging arms had firm ceramic surfaces and there were even a number of combat-hardened blades to counter-strike as he tested the weapon.  But after a ten-minute workout with the weapon, it came away with no rolls, scratches or other marks.  Stepping up to a number of fabric and rope "slash and cut stations after the pell, Zimzod was able to see there had been no edge-rolls or dulling of the cutting edge and he was able to cut easily through the various straps, ropes and fabrics while other shoppers looked on.  In the end, Zimzod bought the blade.

While Zimzod worked out with the blade, Mikah either watched him or wandered the shop but she really didn't need anything so she did not bother looking too hard.  After he bought the sword, Mikah and Zimzod agreed to head back to the suite for dinner.  At the same time, Aali, Emkir and Fesic were also scrounging around on the ship to make food while Rol, Aiden and Jocelynn had been released from security and were heading for a restaurant.  In the suite, Terin had been digging even further into the White Star data and had found a lead he thought he could follow.  Having found ship names earlier, Terin tried to trace those ships and seemed to find a suggestion that one, a 400 ton patrol cruiser named the Sword of Arbellatra, had been lost in combat somewhere in the Lanth subsector.  And while there were twenty five charted systems in that region of space, it was not lost on Terin that the Sonthert system was one of them.

Even more interesting, he found notes in the Upgrade's ship's library listing the ship as "destroyed in combat - not recovered".  While Terin admitted to himself that a whole subsector was a lot of space to search, he also recalled that a combat-battered hulk could still be of significant value if it could be found.  On top of that, history seemed to have either forgotten or buried the Order of the White Star.  Terin marked that in his notes with an air of excitement he hadn't felt when he earlier tracked the 2,000 ton Lincus through the data to its recovery after being destroyed in battle.  Annoyingly, the other ship names led nowhere, with no apparent records he could locate in the data or in the ship's library.  And he dared not try a search on the global web of Regina.  Eventually Mikah and Zimzod got back and they had dinner.

After dinner, Mikah drifted the gravChair over to watch vids and play video games.  Within that, Mikah decided to check the news too.  As Zimzod joined her, the regular flow of news commentary which didn't yet have anything about their crew covered news from the Credo-downport startown, where there had been a significant fight the night before.  Reports said most of the crew of a freight hauler named IMV Tupema Ualepo had been arrested along with a number of other combatants for engaging in a riot.  The report continued that port security were still looking for people matching a certain description, which was generic enough that Mikah laughed as she yelled, "You just had them in custody this afternoon!".  That story was suddenly interrupted by the attention-grabbing tones of a breaking news flash!  As the scene on the vid changed to a commentor, Mikah cringed as she thought to herself, 'Wow!  That didn't take long.  I wonder what they did so badly they were caught so fast?'  Still, the backdrop image behind the commenter suggested an Imperial story of interstellar nature.

    Icetina (B5245A9-7  N  Ni   A  301  Im  M9 V  M8 D)                            Date: 277-1113
    The administrative aide to Icetina Imperial Naval Base commander
    Admiral Sir Rhakhihan announced a sudden and brief press conference
    this evening.  During what was really a glorified briefing, the Admiral
    announced that a scout vessel arrived in-system and reported in before
    being immediately sequestered, with its crew placed into a communications
    blackout late this evening!  The information provided by the crew of this
    ship which has been cleared for public release said that an ad hoc fleet
    designated "7A-SM" had been engaged in combat actions fighting heavy
    battle assets controlled by an unstated power while under the command of
    Admiral Khimuru Uuela.

    Following this news, the Imperial Navy has announced the following systems
    will be considered Amber travel zones for the duration of the situation:
          Equus, La'Belle, Pannet, Ivendo, Cogri and Garrincski.
    The following further systems have been designated as Red Travel zones
    with a blind 'Shoot to disable' order.  That meant any vessel arriving in
    the system could be fired on without warning, and included the Natoko and
    Rhise systems.

    While further details have not yet been released on the action, TAS News
    speculates the Admiral's fleet had somehow engaged part of a shadow fleet
    the Imperial Navy had been hunting.  This was related to events in the
    Natoko system as well as covert attacks in the Rhylanor system and others.
    Further secondary stories will trace the possibility that some or all of
    this mysterious interstellar fleet had been traced down or had decided to
    strike before that happened.

    Still, at this time, the only confirmed details said there had been a
    naval action, led by the Admiral, and there were no reports on damage
    or casualties yet.  Beyond this statement, there has been no further
    official confirmation of any data related to the battle or the location
    of the engagement.  As always, TAS reporters are standing by to provide
    the public with all data as it becomes available.

Completely surprised, Mikah could only say, "Wow!  Shit's hitting the fan!"  Looking up the general region of space containing the listed systems, Mikah saw the "center of action" was five jumps away if they followed the xboat routes and three if they made a direct path to the affected systems at their ship's best jump.  That told Mikah they were in no real danger of the action reaching Regina.  The news had also taken some time to reach Regina from on Icetina.  43 days before, they'd been a day out from their landing on Wypoc and had yet to meet Sir Brian's family much less go to Dinomn.  Terin, who'd found no further information in the data, had also joined the couple and seen the news, and he could only shake his head and be glad they'd missed the action.  Terin told Zimzod and Mikah about tracking ships in the data and Mikah said it'd be nice to find the wreck, even if was blasted in battle, Terin said they could strip it for some parts and the lanthanum hull of a drifting hulk was worth a lot by itself.  Of course, neither Mikah nor Zimzod commented on the last time they'd gone looking for a drifting hulk...

Burgers And Break Ins

     After providing as much information to security as they could, the officers took comms data from the three in case they would be needed again and then let them go.  On the loose again, Aiden played 'captain obvious' and said they had to recover the gravCar while they considered what to do next.  Rol suggested they grab dinner because Aiden was going to be dropping them back at the port so they could go back to the ship and then he had to fly back to Atora before he could eat if they didn't stop first.  Eventually, the consensus was to stop at an Astroburgers and eat while they talked about their odd adventure that afternoon.

Getting to the burger joint, ordering food and sitting down, conversation turned to the words the dying man had gasped out while fighting the spasms.  Irklan, ship, 45, evidence and unfettered.  The words just didn't make any sense even if some of them seemed they might fit together.  Were the Irklan on a ship?  Were there 45 of them?  Was there evidence?  Did he need evidence?  Did he think he'd been about to find some evidence before he died?  There were too many questions and not enough answers in that handful of words.  All of them looked at the table-top computer, there for their entertainment, and decided any research they'd do would be on the ship and not a public rent-a-terminal.

Finishing their burgers, they trooped over to board the gravCar and head back to the ship.  Along the way, Aiden let himself be talked into coming back to the ship with Rol and Jocelynn to help in researching the words a bit.  Just to see what they could find?  When they did get back to the ship, they found Fesic in the lounge by himself and he told them that Emkir and Aali were in their stateroom and likely "not to be disturbed".  Nodding in understanding, the three told Fesic about their adventures and strange set of words.  Making it clear they wanted to research the words, Jocelynn put her new combat knives in her stateroom then jumped on a computer terminal and started researching the Irklan to better understand why the man would have mentioned them?

From what she could find, Menorb was a mostly desert world and the Irklan cult were religious aesthetics who shunned technology and studied martial arts.  From what she read, they seemed to grade themselves on personal prowess in their chosen combat art and survival ability in the desert.  One thing she learned was that the Irklan Order did hire out their members as "assassins".  Even more interesting, Jocelynn found some images of their weapons and there, on the screen, was a twin of the dart that killed the agent!  When she called the others over, they said that suggested either someone from that Order had killed the man or the killer wanted investigators to believe the Order was responsible.

That left them with the words, "ship", "evidence" and "unfettered" as well as the number.  Aiden had looked for a ship with the registry number "45" and come up empty checking it against tail fin numbers, etc...  Fesic had been researching "Calmar Singh" for anything he could find on the agent himself, but also came up empty.  Rol had taken the word "ship" and started scanning through the listing of ships in port in case there was anything related.  So, when he came on the listing of a ship named "Cal's Dream", that seemed related to the name "Calmar Singh"!  Stirring up even more excitement, Rol had checked the ship's information and seen she was located in berth 45!  So, that connected "ship", 45 and the man's name!  So, if the Assassin was involved and the ship belonged to Agent Singh, then they only had the words "evidence" and "unfettered" left to figure out.

Trying to decide what to do, Jocelynn first asked, "Should we call this in to security?" and Aiden was ready to call straight off.  Fesic then asked if they wanted to bring in security, because they were still only guessing.  He also mentioned it wouldn't be nice to SWAT someone's starship on a guess.  Aiden said they should call security while Rol suggested calling the Imperial Security offices instead, and Jocelynn said, "I kinda want to break into the berth" with a laugh at herself.  After a pause, Jocelynn asked Rol if the berth he'd found was in a separate port and he said it was.  They had berthed the Upgrade in a high-security private port not far from the main port, Credo-down.  The berth Rol had found was in Credo-down.

Hearing that, Jocelynn pointed out, "There is less security there." in a speculative tone.  While Emkir and Aiden were silent on that comment, Rol agreed.  Jocelynn then asked, "What do you think, guys?  You wanna go over there and, at least, look around?"  Aiden snapped, "No!" so quickly it could have been the crack of a whip as Rol followed, saying, "Yeah.  We could do that."  In a tone that was almost coddling a baby, Jocelynn said, "Aiden...come on!"  Rol continued, "I figure, if this guy gave us this information, he must have had a reason."  When Fesic said he was up for it, Rol joked that meant they should seal all the hatches and hide there for the next two years.  After he, Jocelynn and Fesic stopped laughing at the joke, Jocelynn repeated Rol's comment.  Saying, "He either wanted us to go find something or he wanted us to tell someone." and Aiden jumped on that saying, "Yeah.  Tell it to the cops!"

Jocelynn said they could always go look and see what they could and then call it in to security.  Fesic reminded Aiden he could use the gravCar to drop them off at the downport and then go back to the suite without getting involved.  The joke was made, "And call the cops while you're flying back to the suite", which suggested he'd call security in on his own crew breaking into the berth.  They all laughed despite the tension, because they knew Aiden wouldn't do that to them.  Trying to get Aiden in on things, Jocelynn said, "I'm not saying we break in.  I'm just saying we at least get over there and look at the ship or something.  I don't know..."  When Aiden said, "That's breaking in", Jocelynn defensively said, "Not into the ship.  Into the berth", which she knew was still breaking in but she didn't say that.

When Jocelynn said she was willing to abide by majority rules, Rol said yes and she'd been leading the charge with only Aiden saying no because Fesic was also on board.  Fesic even added to the pot, telling Aiden, "We might as well because she's gonna do it anyway."  Aiden then changed his course to complain about doing this without telling Mikah and Rol demanded, "And that is different than what we normally do?"  His tone was questioning, because they often did things without Mikah being asked first.  The tone also taunted a bit, because they were adults and could choose what risks to take or not.  Jocelynn pointed out it gave Mikah plausible deniability of they kept her out of the loop.  She then firmly told them, "It's much better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission!"

After another pause, Jocelynn added the comment, "Besides, I have a gut feeling we're not going to be the only one's sniffing around that ship."  When Fesic asked, "So, are we going?" Jocelynn firmly said, "I'm going."  When Rol then made it three, Aiden agreed to drop them off at the downport, but nothing more.  With that agreed, Fesic, Jocelynn and Rol started to gear up.  Aiden continued to protest as they did, saying "you do realize we just spent all that time telling security we weren't involved?"  Rol only smiled and answered, "We weren't.  Now, we are."  Jocelynn was more insulted as she demanded, "Say we do tell them what we found out.  Do you really think they're gonna do anything with it or just say thank you and sit on it."  Aiden argued that the dead man being Imperial Security meant they would.

Rol turned on him again, saying, "Look.  They've got all the information we do and more research resources than we do.  They may already have this."  With that, Rol pointed to a datapad on which they'd listed all their notes.  At the same time, Jocelynn unwrapped and hung the combat knifes from her belt.  Fesic grabbed his periscope, a pocket-sized bag of metal marbles, his IR goggles and his walking stick with concealed sword inside.  Fesic also dug through the gear that came with his lock pick order and grabbed an electronic device that was over a foot in diameter and irregularly shaped.  He then grabbed the instruction manual which had come with the whole kit despite not having had the chance to read it at all.  Off his hip, Fesic hung his blade in its scabbard and his holstered snub pistol.  Loaded in the weapon was a clip of tranq along with the clip of high explosive he slipped into a pocket.  The rest of the gear, he put in his duffle bag and slung that over his left shoulder.

Rol went into his stateroom to slip into a set of executive armor under casual clothes before grabbing his semi-automatic snub pistol.  He loaded two clips of ball ammo and slipped it into a hip holster that wasn't hidden at all by the pilot's jacket he slipped on along with fingerless gloves.  Then he snapped on his comms and used a carabiner to snap his rechargeable flashlight to his belt.  Rol was now the height of fashion in the 'break and entry' field as he went back out into the lounge to join the others.  Jocelynn looked Rol and Fesic up and down and saw Fesic's IR goggles, deciding they were a good idea.  Saying she'd be right back, Jocelynn went to get her own pair of combo-IR/LI goggles.

Before they left, Rol wrote a quick note to Aali and Emkir saying they were out to investigate something, then decided to give Mikah a call and heads up.  When her comms buzzed, Mikah sighed but answered it as Rol said, "Hey captain.  Just wanted to let you know that we'll be following up a lead on the dead guy we were questions by security about.  We're gonna take a look and see..."  At that point, Mikah suddenly cut him off, saying, "I don't want to hear this!  Goodbye!" and she cut the line.  Shrugging, Rol deactivated his comms, looked at the others and said, "We're off."  From there, they made their way out of the ship and their port facility before heading to the enclosed vehicle park for the gravCar.

The ride to one of Credo-downport's general business concourses and entries was a short one.  There, Aiden set them down more politely than the others expected before burning electrons for the sky and a return-course to the suite.  Watching him leave, Jocelynn, Rol and Fesic were surprised Aiden had politely landed to let them off instead of pushing them out at altitude.  Despite their look, they actually fit in outside of the obvious blades, holsters and firearms.  Still, Either Fesic or Rol flashed their Idents and the port's "outer perimeter" security backed off and let them pass.  Checking at a terminal, they found that the berth they were after was out in the harbor and not just a simple walk to reach.

As they came closer to the first real line of security, Rol knew they couldn't just walk past the officers and would need a strategy.  While Rol considered that, Jocelynn suddenly said, "I got this.  Follow me", and went directly toward one of the more heavily armed teams in their path.  Walking up to a team who obviously saw her coming, noted their weapons and were tensing up, Jocelynn flashed her most friendly smile and said, "Hi!  We've been invited to dinner by Calmar Singh, aboard the ship "Cal's Dream", which is berthed here.  Berth 45?"  Rol was so surprised, it was all he could do to not let out a whoop and "Nice job!"  Jocelynn continued, "We're here to head over and meet him."  Ready to capitalize on her actions, Rol quickly flashed his Ident as the other two followed suit.

Regardless of the first impressions and possible legal infractions, the Idents said "Two Knights and guest".  So, the Seargent shrugged and his team let them through, signaling to open the secure door closest to them which led to the harbor.  From there, the large open passage pared down to a number of smaller halls with signage telling which berths could be reached by going which ways.  Soon, the had to take people movers to a point where they stepped over to an escalator that brought them to a lower level.  From there, they had to hit a call button to get one of the tube-cabins to come to the gate.  The "tube-cabin" was nothing more than a cylindrical car that moved electromagnetically through the tunnels to the parkbay in which the ship was berthed.

Basic Parkbay Layout The tunnel to the parkbay structure was an underground structure which led to a bay underneath the surface building itself.  There would be an exit station with doors leading to an open space beneath the building.  There might have been people there while leaving one of the other ships berthed there, who worked there or who were loitering for other reasons.  The space would also have seats, snack machines and other comfort items.  Past that would be lifts and stairs leading to the central open space of the upper parkbay.  Again, there could be a small commercial counter and worker, members of crews from the ships berthed there or others in the space.  Around the outer orbit of the circular space would be secure hatches leading to the ship berths, or perhaps connecting to a ship's airlock directly.  Each of the open spaces also had rentable offices so there could be crew persons working in those too.

The ride to the parkbay took them half an hour and they considered what they might find at the far end when they arrived.  Getting out of the tube-car, they saw the lower level of the parkbay was abandoned.  Not wasting time, they grabbed a lift up to the berth level and again waited to see what they'd run into.  What they saw as the sliding doors opened were two bipedal androids with the standard two-arm, two-leg and metal head configuration with which Humans seemed most comfortable as service 'droids.  The 'droids were both standing but hunched over in the classic stance of androids which had been powered down.  As soon as any of them stepped past the lift's opening doors, the 'droids woke up and turned towards them greeting them and one asked, "How may I be of service?" in an electronic voice.

Addressing the 'droid, Rol said, "We're guests of Calimar Singh of the Cal's Dream in berth 45.  Can you direct us?"  When the 'droid gestured in the direction of a hatch, Rol led the way over to a basic hatch with a data/comms pad to the right of the portal.  There was no hand-grip, knob or other manual opening mechanism on the hatch.  Small bright red and dull green lights on the top left and right corners of the pad showed the door was locked.  The control pad had a small numeric keypad for entering in codes.  Above that were call and service buttons.

They tried the call button when Rol suggested it, and got a buzz back, which may have indicated they should speak.  Going with that, Rol said, "Hello.  We've been sent by Calimar.  Is anyone aboard the ship?"  Waiting two minutes after that, they stood in silence and got no answer.  Trying again, they waited again and got no answer, which could have meant he had been alone or everyone else was off-ship or asleep.  Or, they just didn't want visitors.  At that point, they started considering the words the man had gasped out before dying.  "Ship" had become obvious, as had "45".  They were fairly certain they knew what "evidence" and "Irklan" meant, which left "unfettered".  That didn't sound like it would fit this situation to Rol.

Before trying anything out of line, Rol checked to see if they were in the scan range of the androids?  It was obvious that the one 'droid had turned and appeared to be waiting for a chance to be of service.  So, he was within the machine's sensor range and he couldn't be certain what range of non-obvious sensors the device had?  It could be programmed to raise an alarm or even move itself between a person and their target in the event that person did something unlawful.  Turning to the others, Rol said, "Well, it looks like we've hit a barrier here.  Do we want to keep going or do we want to call it at this point?"  With an edge of determination in her voice, Jocelynn shook her head and said, "We've gotten this far.  We're not stopping yet."

Meanwhile, Fesic had pulled out the tablet with instructions from his lock-picking course and was slowly looking through the index to see if there were any "quick start" listings?  Examining the code panel, Jocelynn realized they could hit the call button and give an audio code word just as easily as using the small key-pad to punch in a numeric code.  When she pointed that out to the others, Fesic suggested they try "unfettered" before just giving up.  The tone of his voice didn't suggest he had a lot of confidence in the idea, but it was at least something to try before walking away and he was betting it would help satisfy Jocelynn.  Shrugging, Rol reached down to hit the audio key button and then leaned closer to the speaker to say "unfettered" as clearly as he could.

And the green light on the panel lit up!

When Rol pushed on the hatch, it swung open to reveal an extended passage to the outer air-lock of a ship of some kind.  Not certain how the craft was positioned in the berth, there were no view ports to look through and see the ship from the funnel-like docking bridge extended from the hatch to the lock.  Accepting that, Rol led the others over to the outer air-lock hatch to examine it.  It was a standard lock as far as Rol knew, and he wasn't an expert on air-locks.  But as he looked it over, Rol could see the external lock control panel and saw the reading on it that said the air-lock was not secured!  When he told the others that, they had to decide if this was an invitation or a trap?

the entry passage Activating the lock, they waited until the outer lock cycled and then stepped into the empty space inside it.  Again, Rol examined the controls for the inner lock hatch and saw that too was not secured!  Apparently, this agent had great faith in his verbal code word to keep people from doing what these three were.  When Rol hit the control to cycle the inner hatch, the outer hatch sealed first, and the space went through the steps of normalizing the air pressure from "outside the ship" to "inside the ship", which was very minimal.  When the inner hatch had opened, they could see there was a passage leading twelve meters away from the air-lock to end in a wall dominated by an iris valve.

They moved forward to the iris valve and found it unlocked, just like the air-lock.  The iris valve opened into what turned out to be the wall of a passage running from their right to their left.  Directly across the passage, there was another iris valve so they could continue the way they were going if that was not secured.  To the left, the passage ran five feet from their iris valve and to the right it ran ten feet.  Each end of the passage ended in a wall dominated with more iris valves.  Not sure what class of ship this was or how it was aligned in the berth, they had no idea where they were in the craft or how it was laid out.  Stopping for a short conference, they turned right first to see what they found??

Passing through the next iris valve, when they came to it, brought them into a trapezoidal-shaped compartment.  The valve they came through was in the center of the long wall.  Again, opposite them, was another valve but the space was larger than the passages they'd been in.  This space was obviously a crew lounge of some sort with an oval table in the center of the compartment.  They also noticed that the wall to their right was covered with images and written notes as if the space were an idea board.  Looking around, everything they could see suggested only one person had had access to the space.  On the table, they could see a portable recorder next to a small number of data crystals.  Beside that lay an image, a headshot of a very darkly-tanned man with an angry expression on his face.

Fesic looked across the space and saw a far iris valve before moving over to it.  There, he saw that valve, unlike every other portal aboard, was locked!  That suggested to him that it might lead to something actually valuable.  So, he rooted into his duffel bag for the electronic lock pick he brought and the instruction tablet.  He ignored Jocelynn, who rushed to the wall, and started looking at the mass of items, some with connecting links to other images or notes, and looked for patterns.  The first thing to draw her attention was the label at the top which read, "Plot???"  That slowed her down as Jocelynn wondered at that and let her view-point drop to fall on a flimsy tacked to the wall.  It was a half a beat more before she realized that had scribbled on it, "Murder!"  Jocelynn considered that and decided he was either planning or tracking someone planning a murder.  It was after that when Jocelynn noticed the image that flimsy had been tacked to.  An image of Seldrian, Duchess of Regina and daughter of Arch Duke Norris!

Comedically, Jocelynn's first thought was how to capture a picture of the whole mass if they needed to call the authorities?  It took her mind a few beats to get past that and realize they could call in the authorities and "give them the whole thing".  Meanwhile, Rol was looking at the items on the table checked out the image of the man and didn't have a clue who he was or where he was from?  when he looked, Fesic noticed the 'darkness' came from a very deep and dark tan and joked, "Someone left him in the oven too long!"  Having stepped over to see the image, Jocelynn reached out carefully after catching some fabric between her fingers and turned the image over.  On the back of the image, they saw a printed label reading, "Grand Master Inkula".  Seeing her move with the fabric, Rol told her that starship had launched long before.

The image suggested the tanned man might be in his 50's but the tan may have confused this.  Looking from that to the crystals and recorder/player, Jocelynn asked, "Should we try to listen to these?"  Rol suggested they turn on the player and see if there was anything recorded on the crystal that was in it at the moment.  After Jocelynn agreed, they figured the player might have been left at the moment after the last recording was made so they scrolled the play prompt back before hitting the "play" stud.  As they then listened to the voice of a man now dead, they heard him lay out the theory for an entire plot.  He finished by stating he was leaving to get what he considered final confirmation his theory was correct.

The terror group named Ine Givar had been growing in strength and presence before the Fifth Frontier War, thanks to funding and support from the Zhodani Consulate.  In fact, the investigator admitted he had felt they had already been prosecuting the first steps of a then undeclared war.  While they were nearly completely shattered in many systems during the war, the investigator said he'd found evidence that groups on Regina had not been so completely destroyed as the government and Imperial Navy believed or advertised.  His data suggested that a local cell had re-grouped and hired the Irklan Cult on Menorb to send them an assassin from their order.  And he believed that assassin was Grand Master Inkula.

He further believed he information he'd found suggested Inkula was to assassinate the Duchess of Regina during ceremonies celebrating the "Official" transition of power from her father to herself in the coming days.  While it wasn't mentioned in the man's comments, that did mean that the Arch Duke and Prince Lucan himself would likely be with, or close to, Seldrian when the hammer came down!  As the man continued, he said what he'd learned suggested the assassination would trigger a more prepared set of secondary attacks that would more have a better chance to succeed in the confusion of the assassination.

Paying The Piper

     Rol was the first to break the silence after they turned the machine off by saying, "Okay."  It was the grim and determined tone of the syllables that conveyed his thoughts more than the word itself.  The others grunted agreements as they also mentally restarted themselves to get moving again.  Rol continued, "I think we've got enough here.  I think we need to go tell security about this."  Rounding on Rol, Jocelynn demanded, "How are we gonna tell them we broke into the ship?"  Rol simply answered, "We didn't break into the ship.  We were given the access information.  We did nothing illegal."  The tone he used was so 'matter of fact' that she and Fesic were convinced Rol had lost his mind!

Stepping in, Fesic said, "Well, you bunch are always saying you're best buddies with the Arch Duke, aren't you?"  Before Rol could get his brain into gear to answer all the mistakes in that, Fesic went on, "Why not call security and say you were following his orders?"  That stopped Rol hard as he considered the idea.  While Jocelynn wasn't sure how far a crack pot idea like that would get them, Rol figured there was no one in the system who could say they were lying.  Yet."  So, Rol sparked up his comms and called security to say, "Hi, my name is Sir Rol Kaihvos.  My crewmates and I are troubleshooters for the Arch Duke and we have some very important information for you."

After Rol got done telling the dispatcher where to send the troops, Jocelynn asked if they could look around a bit more because she didn't want to just hand the situation over to security and walk away.  Rol first said they should leave before security got there and Fesic reminded him they'd opened the ship and now had to secure the site.  When Rol was uncomfortable being found aboard a ship that wasn't theirs and was filled with possibly incriminating evidence, Fesic asked, "Why?  You are the Arch Duke's troubleshooter, aren't you?"  Realizing that made them the Arch Duke's investigators too, Rol realized that meant they not only did not have to leave, but had a responsibility to stay there until security arrived and received their report.

Grabbing his comms again, Rol called the Imperial authorities this time and said he needed a "heavy security team" and needed the seneschalate to send in Imperial Marines and investigators now, on my authority as a Knight of the Imperium and a troubleshooter for the Arch Duke."  With Rol owning the role completely, this dispatcher accepted the orders immediately, noted the information and posted it to all Credo-based security and law enforcement boards with the highest priority available to his level. The data was also bounced to Atora-based commands.  With that, the die was cast.  As he finished talking while Jocelynn turned back to the wall and Fesic worked with the lockpick, they all heard a sound.

Fesic barely caught a hint of it and stood up straight to ask "Huh?" because he thought someone might have whispered something.  As he stood, the duffel bag he'd again hung from his shoulder fell into place along his left side.  Jocelynn started to turn as she realized the sound meant the iris valve they'd come into the compartment through was cycling.  Rol not only realized the valve was cycling, but turned to face the opening portal.  In the instant available to him, Rol saw a very dark male figure in some kind of robes standing in the opening was putting some kind of tube to his lips with his cheeks puffed out!  the instant broke as Rol's reflexes push him to dodge to his right and jerk himself out of the man's aim.

Of course, in a direct line from that iris valve, over the central table to the other wall was Fesic, who'd been trying out his electronic lockpick for the first time.  And with Rol out of the way, the dart flew true, and struck Fesic right in...the duffel bag, even before Fesic realized there was any danger at all.  Reacting to the sudden sensation, Fesic looked down and saw the spot where his duffel bag heroically gave it's life for its owner as the dart fell away from where it had struck the canvas.  Fesic then looked up searching for a source for the unexplained dart.  Having suddenly shifted to the side, Rol saw the man drop the tube as he gave off a war cry that filled the compartment and charged Rol while drawing a dagger from within his robes.

By the wall, Jocelynn was more facing Fesic as she heard the sudden "thunk" of the dart hitting the duffel and looked to see what this new sound was?  That was interrupted by the blood-curdling war cry of the robed man she did not yet know was charging Rol.  Fesic's mind was still catching up with a scene that just would not made sense as Rol's mind snapped through the simple math...
        Man not afraid of or worried about being able to kill me.
        Man not afraid of taking on two more strangers "after" killing him.
        Man with a ready weapon too close to me for me to draw anything.
So Rol figured he was gonna die and prepared to do as much damage to this guy as possible because he was deadly and committed.  Rol wasn't going to go down without weakening him enough to give Jocelynn and Fesic a chance to take him out.

Fesic was too far away and it was too late for Jocelynn to act as the man struck at Rol.  With no thought at all for personal defense, Rol saw him coming and ignored the blade as he tried to do a low sweep and kick to try and break the man's knee.  The man struck as Rol had crouched and spun, and that meant the knife stab caught him in the upper left shoulder.  The good news was that while it hurt like hell, the blade skated along the bone for a bit before cutting muscle, so it didn't penetrate his chest or risk puncturing the thorax.  At the same time, Rol had put all his effort into a side-on kick to the man's right knee and his attacker had also not planned to defend himself at all.  Because of that, Rol heard a satisfying crack when his kick hit the knee.  While the man didn't cry out or flinch from the pain, he did suddenly drop to the deck.

Across the room, Fesic saw Rol and his attacker were much to close to risk using his snub pistol so he drew the sword from within his cane and moved up to get involved.  Much closer, Jocelynn was ring-side as she saw Rol straighten up as he flinched from the pain of the cut while his attacker rolled into what looked like a "ready crouch" with the dagger still in his hand.  So she knew she had to act with no time to think before that.  Jocelynn decided to dive for the man and try to grab him and pull him down.  At the same time, Rol didn't dare risking a punch with his shoulder in pain and went with a kick targeting the man's neck.  At the same time, the man had decided to spring up and forward in a direct strike attack to bury the dagger in Rol's chest.  As with the first strikes, neither Rol nor the man or Jocelynn gave any consideration to personal defense as each planned to leave it all on the floor with the body of their opponent.

How these many ideas worked out was that Rol's kick, aimed at where the man's face had been, connected with his attacker's chest...dead center.  From the other side, the man showed no sign his knee had actually been damaged as he came up in a spring-lunge and plunged his dagger into Rol's gut, because Rol's movement had spoiled the assassin's aim too.  Still, they were fixated on each other and neither noticed the freight train named Jocelynn as it plowed into the station and struck the robed man completely unaware and unprepared.  And that was the last willful thing the robed man did for some moments because, by a quirk of fate, Rol's kick had struck the man in his solar plexus!  As Jocelynn hit the man, knocked him down and pile drove him to the deck, losing hold of the dagger still in Rol's gut as it came free from his suddenly limp hand!

As Rol went down with the dagger in his stomach, he took small comfort in the memory of his attacker's eyes.  The sudden concern that filled them just as Jocelynn swept him away and down.  Rol had no idea what he'd done when his kick connected, but he knew the beginning of panic when he saw it and he'd done something!  As he sunk to the deck, that was enough.  He'd paved the way.  When she hit the man, Jocelynn's speed and angle were such that she knocked him back against the wall to the right of the iris valve before slamming him there and then pile driving him down to the deck.  Landing on top of the man, Jocelynn pushed herself up from him and then ratchet-kneed him three times in the crotch.

At the same time, Fesic stepped up over the two of them and drove the blade of his sword down into the man just past below and to the left of his right shoulder.  He was no doctor but he was pretty sure that penetrated his thorax.  He'd wanted to kill the man but couldn't get at the man's heart because Jocelynn was in the way and could not hit the man's head because of how it bounced as she kneed him.  Still, the blade made a satisfying 'chink' as it struck the deck coming out of the other side of the man's body.  At the same time, Rol was ignoring his pain as he drew his snub pistol just in case the man managed to get up again, or kept fighting from the ground.  Or, did anything but DIE!  Taking the risk now, to look back at Rol, Fesic asked, "Dude.  Are you OK?"  Rol gasped out, "No!  I've got a knife in my gut.  Call a medic."

Under Jocelynn, the assassin had mostly been limp and unable to respond to two of her assaults before he began starting to flinch at the edge of being able to respond.  With reserves none of the crew in the space could guess at, the assassin was even beginning to try and struggle again!  It was then that the avenging blade of Fesic had struck down and increased the man's pain and problems.  As he had with Rol, Fesic asked Jocelynn if she was OK?  Jocelynn spared half a glance at the blade before locking eyes with Fesic and saying, "NICE!"  The 'thumbs up' was implied by her happy tone.  Looking down, the assassin was hurt more but still struggling even as he had to be concentrating on maintaining control of his "now endangered" breathing.

Still, the assassin had a good arm and at least one good leg, because his actions suggested Rol's kick hadn't done the damage they thought it had.  It took a few more seconds for Rol pull himself together and lift his snub, with a magazine of tranq he'd loaded into the weapon before leaving the ship.  Once he had a round in the chamber, he told Jocelynn to roll off the man.  Starting to struggle as the man appeared to be reaching for some other weapon in his robes, Jocelynn had to wonder if Rol had lost too much blood when she heard that.  Her reaction was to demand, "WHAT??"

Rol switched to 'Angry CO Mode' and commanded, "ROLL AWAY MARINE!"  Nearly half her life in the Marines had trained Jocelynn well and she rolled like a rock on a ninety degree slope.  And as soon as she was clear, Rol fired.  Realizing what Rol was doing, Jocelynn pulled back as the round hit the man.  And he kept on propping himself up!  And Rol fired again...and the man kept rising "and" reached into his robes.  And Rol fired again as the man seemed to be reaching into his robes to draw something else from within...  And then he sagged and dropped.  The fight was done.  Reaching into his robes where the man had his hand, Jocelynn withdrew another short blade by its pommel.

Settling down and gritting his teeth against the pain, it was all Rol could do to lean back against the table and try to keep his pistol aimed at the open iris valve in case there were more assassins.  Jocelynn stood up to look for something to tie the man up with, "just in case".  As a matter of course, she also checked the image on the table and confirmed that was the man who they had just fought.  She guessed he must have been somehow tracking them since they'd run into the alley earlier.  That or he'd known about the ship and where it was.  Getting the feeling he might not be ready to do more than lay down, Rol gasped and asked Jocelynn if she was cleared with snub pistols.  Something he would have known if he was thinking with a clear head.

When Jocelynn said she was, Rol gave her his pistol and told her to keep the door covered.  That was followed by a moment of post-fight hilarity when Jocelynn first started to react to Rol being wounded.  With her own adrenaline coming down, she was suddenly very concerned - almost in a panic - as she suddenly and urgently demanded of Fesic, "Do we have a med-kit or something?!"  Remembering how Jocelynn had defined first aid when she had tried to "treat" Fesic, Rol panicked for the first time in the encounter, as his eyes went wide and he desperately tried to convince Jocelynn that he was OK and did not need first aid!!  As Jocelynn tried to reassure him, Rol was gasping against the pain and desperately trying to tell Jocelynn, "No!  I'm fine!  I'm fine!"  Rol only finally calmed down when Jocelynn raised her hands, backed away and said "OK, OK."

Despite Rol's protests, Jocelynn started searching the compartment to see if she could find a first aid or med-kit of any kind?  After drawing his sword out of the downed assassin, Fesic had cleaned the blade on the man's robes and resheathed it before getting on his comms to call and see where the responding security forces were?  As if waiting for that specific moment, the three suddenly heard a broadcast booming through all compartments of the ship say, "This is port security.  We are responding to an alarm raised by an agent aboard this ship.  Please send someone to open the air-lock or entry will be forced."

As Jocelynn said she'd go to the lock and let them in, Fesic said not to bother and called them back to tell them the lock was not secure and they should simply board the ship.  He also told them they were all in the ship's lounge and in need of immediate medical support.  While they could now hear the sounds of entry happening, the trooper on the other end took their report that they had an assailant in custody and an investigator down with multiple stab wounds.  Following their weapon barrels in, in case this was all an elaborate ambush, the first teams from port security secured the ship fore and aft.  It would later turn out the ship had been a simple and very common 100-ton Beowulf-Class free trader.  That meant there wasn't much to secure.

Port officers entering the lounge had actually received the name "Sir Rol Kaihvos" from their superiors and been made aware there might be members of his crew with him.  That meant they needed to see faces, not Idents, and they were quickly able to separate the assassin from the others and secure the scene.  It also meant a couple of troopers with basic first aid skills could get to work on both Rol and the assassin.  Seeing the state the assassin was in, his wounds were treated and then protected.  Other members of the port team then sprayed him down with an aerosol fluid that reacted with air to expand and harden.  By the time they were done, the man was stuck to the deck and immobilized with only his basically-treated wounds and face still exposed.  He was going nowhere until they sprayed on the counter-agent.  Watching as they worked, and as she gave her statement and answered questions, Jocelynn said, "I want some of that stuff!"

Despite knowing who they were, the port teams disarmed everyone aboard, which turned out to be just Jocelynn, Rol and Fesic.  They didn't disarm the assassin because he was covered in glue.  His weapons would be scanned for and removed before he was systematically freed from the goo and restrained.  A sonographic security device did confirm that the man's right knee had been damaged but not completely incapacitated.  Still, they guessed he had only been walking after being kicked due to extreme training and force of will.  They also cleared the table so they could move Rol onto it for immediate treatment.

Soon after that, more officers arrived and the first medical response team was right behind.  Getting a report that the assailant was believed to be stabilized of over-sedated, they got to work treating Rol.  Things continued to settle down as the medics worked until the first Imperial officers started to arrive.  About that time, one of the medics working on Rol got everyone's attention and said, "We need to get this man to an advanced treatment center Now!"  The tone of his words left no doubt he'd found something that was immediately life threatening!  When both the arriving Imperial officer and the port security lead asked why, they were told the knife with which Sir Rol had been stabbed had been coated with some kind of poison!

As if on cue, the words were barely out of the paramedic's mouth when Rol fainted away.  Shifting into extreme motion, one of the Imperials told them there was a gravCarrier on the roof of the parkbay and they only had to get him on a gurney and up to the carrier and they could evac Rol to a military facility very close by.  Because they'd claimed to be operating under the authority of the Arch Duke, Jocelynn and Fesic had choices on what they would do next.  While they had been giving statements and answering questions up to that point, there was still work to do on that score.  While they could have gone with Rol, they would have just been in the way and chose to continue working with the officers.

A Separate Shoe Dropping

     After watching the news and the call from Rol that Mikah had hung up on, Mikah, Zimzod and Terin had been relaxing in the suite.  Aiden had also gotten back and was watching vids with the other while trying to bleed off his anger at the risks Rol and the others decided to wade into.  Aiden finally decided to tell Mikah what they were up to.  When he did explain it to her, Mikah accepted it with the attitude that they'd get away with it or spend some time locked up because she wasn't gonna bail them out.  With that, she just got comfortable in the gravChair and continued watching vids with Zimzod and Terin.  Aiden did some light reading now his conscience was clear.

Continuing to relax, they were all interrupted when Mikah's comms began to buzz.  Answering, Mikah was told the caller was from the seneschalate, and they were tracking an incident at Credo-down starport which was apparently related to the Domain.  And, it also appeared to involve some of her crew.  Mikah's heart dropped until the man continued to say that they'd identified Mikah as the highest ranking "Domain" nobleperson in-system.  He didn't go into explaining why Duchess Seldrian was not considered, as she certainly out-ranked Mikah.  But it also quickly became apparent her involved crew were not seen to be the issue.  Or the reason for the call!  It turned out they were asking her to come in and play a role in managing the situation on behalf of the Domain!

After Mikah agreed to come in, she was told that one of the members of her crew involved in the situation was injured.  As she accepted that, she was then told he was critically and potentially fatally injured.  Hearing that, Mikah let a pause stretch for a few beats as she considered a situation too far away for her to intervene in.  Accepting that, Mikah said she would be right over to the seneschalate and cut the line.  When everyone else was willing to go with her, Mikah said Terin would come with her while Zimzod and Aiden "held down" the suite, just in case anything happened there.

On the scene, security wanted to move Jocelynn and Fesic elsewhere, and off the ship, to sit and more calmly and completely give their statements.  Before that happened, Jocelynn wanted to call Emkir and Aali on their own ship and let them know what was happening.  Basking in the afterglow of an enjoyable evening, Emkir and Aali were jolted when Aali's comms started to go off instead of Emkir.  Aali answered to hear, "Hello, it's Jocelynn."  When Aali asked, "What's up?" in a pleasant tone, Jocelynn actually caught herself and laughed at the absurdity of the situation before she unloaded.  Aali listened as Jocelynn said, "We're going to the hospital because Rol's just been poisoned because we just killed a crazy ninja assassin."  Aali said "OK" just to get a reaction out of her mouth and that was followed by a pause.

Filling the pause, Jocelynn suggested, "I know.  A normal Saturday for us." as she rolled her eyes.  Not sure how to move forward with the current topic, Aali asked, "Hey, did you ever come back to the ship?"  Not hearing the question correctly, Jocelynn said she had to go give statements with Fesic.  She didn't add that she really wanted to go to the hospital with Rol instead.  When Aali repeated the question and was told they had, Aali speculated they had found the stateroom door locked.  While Jocelynn never said so, the fact was they never saw the two so they didn't even try to get the couple to come along.  Moving on, Aali asked, "I assume our Lady Captain already knows about this?"

Jocelynn admitted she didn't know, because neither she or Fesic had called the suite.  When Aali suggested Jocelynn should call Mikah next, Emkir started calling out, "We'll call her" even though he wasn't on the comms and had little idea what the call was about.  Aali agreed and told Jocelynn they would call Mikah.  Making sure they had all the news, Jocelynn told them security were moving Rol to a hospital and the couple asked how Rol was?  Jocelynn was honest, telling them, "He was poisoned and stabbed twice.  It's not looking good."  Aali glowered, "Oh, wonderful" while Emkir groaned.

Gliding to the seneschalate, Terin and Mikah talked more about what he'd found in the White Star database because neither of them wanted to talk about the current situation just yet.  That was interrupted by Mikah's comms when Emkir called her to tell her what he and Aali had learned.  When Mikah answered, Emkir greeted her and said, "It looks like Rol has taken on a few new injuries and gotten himself poisoned."  Mikah joked, "Wow!  That takes talent." and even managed a mock-impressed tone.  Emkir continued, "Jocelynn and Fesic are going to give statements and they're talking Rol to the hospital.  We'll stay here, hold down the fort and run comms for you."  Mikah nodded at the screen and told him, "OK.  Stay on the ship.  Zimzod and Aiden are in the suite.  They're staying there.  I'm heading to the seneschalate and we'll just keep in touch."

Arriving at the seneschalate office tower, Mikah was expected and they quickly moved her and Terin inside to a room with a conference table, seats and comms/vid equipment.  Soon after they arrived, the room filled with support techs and other government agents and things got moving.  Starting off, they completely briefed Mikah on what they had from reports delivered from the field.  Mikah relaxed as things moved past the opening information when it became obvious her people were not the problem, even if they had used what would normally be considered 'less than legal' means.  This was happily swept under the rub because they'd uncovered a more significant plot, had stopped and captured the assassin and had been working under the authority of the Arch Duke.  So, all was good.

What was new to Mikah was the data now coming in from the field as investigators there scanned in each of the items of evidence.  While that happened, a handful of the workers started receiving chunks of audio files from the data crystals.  As soon as they had whole files, those workers began running them through transcription software to create printable text.  Mikah learned that that would later be validated by the same workers, who would need to listen to each file completely while also reading the transcribed copies to make any corrections needed.  Eventually, the explanations wound down and Mikah was able to relax and wait for the next event to happen, because the recordings were not being played out loud.

Mikah wasn't surprised when the first reports came from the naval medical center.  She was told Rol had first been heavily sedated at the scene by the paramedics to slow the poison.  When they got him to the hospital, they ran more tests to see just how much more sedation they could give, to slow the poison further.  Then, they moved him into an operating room which had been cooled down as much as they felt they safely could to work until the waiting toxicology specialists told them what they were dealing with?  Still, while in surgery for the stab wounds, the idea of freezing Rol to stop the poison was still on the table.  In a lone spot of light, Mikah was told Rol would be moved to Her Grace's medical unit in Atora for further treatment if he was likely to live.  If not, there'd be no need because he wouldn't last that long outside of a freezer.  To say the least, the situation was grim.

Another piece of good news was that they had the blade with the poison still on some parts of it, so the tox people had pure samples to work with.  Another bit of good news was that it was not the same poison which had been on the darts.  Jocelynn and Fesic had both reported that Agent Calimar had only screamed something like half a minute before they were at his side.  If they guessed that his shout or scream, which they reacted to, was a reaction to being hit with the dart, that meant the poison in that had only needed forty seconds to drop him, incapacitate him and force him into spasms.  And less than a minute after that, he had reportedly died.  The symptoms Rol had suffered were different.  If it had acted as fast, Rol would have died before reaching the medical center.

From there, Mikah was allowed to ask any questions she felt needed to be asked as the team around her processed the information and provided reports, both short-term and "comprehensive to the moment".  She was also consulted on determinations where they touched on the Domain, though the crime was largely directed at the Duchess.  Still, this seemed to target her "during" the ceremony, when she would be standing in a large hall filled with onlookers with her father the Arch Duke and Prince Lucan.  The more events progressed, the more Mikah got the feeling she was being primed to become the "incident liaison" to the Domain, and so Arch Duke Norris, once he arrived in-system.  That was not a problem for Mikah because it would guarantee she got to talk to Norris.

Other things Mikah learned as she listened were the actions of the government of Regina to discreetly harden security around many high-profile or high-value facilities and put out word to the security teams for other potential targets, updating them on what was known.  Even more happened as the team connected to military liaisons to spread data recovered from the files being scanned and investigated.  Every mention or even suggestion of the Ine Givar was collated into reports which were being farmed out to high-level military commands for further action from surveillance to "search and destroy".  The morning news in Atora and around the world would certainly be very exciting for some and unsettling for others.

All the reports were also fed, raw, to a newly set up working group Mikah had heard about but not seen.  They would act as a second set of eyes, pouring through all the data just in case something of value had not been correctly interpreted and kept it from being accidentally missed or lost.  Like those she was sitting with, Mikah felt bad for that team because she was only just starting to realize how much data the dead Imp-Sec man had collected.  Despite the stated theory that the Ine Givar had hired the Irklan Cult of Menorb to send this man as an assassin, the evidence had to be found in the dead man's notes.  Any record of theorized assassinations carried out by members of the group ended with the assassin's ritual suicide.  Reports suggested it might be a necessary step forward in their incarnation, but there was no firm evidence of that.  Either way, they laughed when anyone even suggested they'd get information from the captured assassin.

Throughout the entire time they sat in the room, Terin was treated as Lady Mikah's aid and gofer.  At one point, Terin did say he'd had some past training in poisons and antidotes.  When it was clear his training was basic, Terin was firmly told the doctors investigating the poison were top experts in their field on-world and had spent decades training in medicine and poisons.  On top of that, they had pure samples of the actual poison, so they could work backwards from a bio-engineering stand point.  So, Rol was in the best hands possible and they didn't need someone running through a catalog of basic agents that came from his homeworld and not one of the systems connected with the principles.  The leading theory was that the assassin would have brought his materials with him from Menorb and not wasted time looking for new materials on Regina after arriving.

Additionally, he would likely have transported the materials fresh, so the poison could be made on-world.  That meant it would be at its most potent when it was to be used.  A report from the field said the assassin had been carrying a number of weapons, some other tools of varied uses and hard currency.  That meant he did not have an Ident or a usable credit account they could track, and that would slow down or prevent them finding where he had been living since arriving on-world.  Indeed, he could have found and been living in a shanty town somewhere in Atora for all they knew and have been hidden in a dark spot between the lines of the very grid he planned to attack.  Another negative came in when public statements announced new restrictions on the port harbor, enforced movement of other ships berthed in the parkbay and a general news blackout.  That meant the media were now involved an swarming.

After their time in port offices with both local and Imperial investigators, Jocelynn and Fesic had been drained dry.  For the time being, the weapons they carried, including the fact Jocelynn still had Rol's snub pistol, were blessed by Regina authorities.  That was de facto permission to carry blades and a snub pistol for the duration of the crisis.  Still, after they were done, Jocelynn wanted to be taken to the hospital to see how Rol was doing?  The shuttle ride to the medical center was quick and an admin geek met them at the lobby to lead them in.  As they walked, they were told the surgeries were just ended and had gone as well as could be expected.  They were also told Rol was in a medically-induced coma and there was consideration of using extreme hypothermic treatment to slow the work of the poison even more.  And there was no ID yet on the poison.

Somewhat later in the night, a Seneschalate officer of some rank came in and told Mikah that they had managed to reach a person of higher rank in the Domain than her and that person was coming in, and Mikah could return to her crew if she chose.  Knowing there was nothing she could do for Rol, and that everyone else was in good hands or secure locations, Mikah chose to stay on and listen to see what else happened.  She wasn't surprised when she was told the new person was arriving but she was surprised to see it was Countess Josephine of Efate!  Named 'Regent of Regina' until Seldrian was of age, she had still served as head of government for the world in the interface between Norris' departure and the unofficial elevation of Seldrian herself.  It was no surprise she would be present for the official ceremony, but the timing of her arrival surprised Mikah.

Looking her up and down as Josephine regarded her back, Mikah could tell the Countess had to have just landed at the port and been rushed into the city and seneschalate.  As Mikah said, "Hello Your Excellency", the Countess said, "Well, they'd told me there was a noblewoman from the Domain here, but I didn't expect it to be you."  Her tone was one of mild surprise and just a hint of having spent the last week plus in transit and jump.  Josephine continued, "I didn't expect to see you back on Regina so soon, but welcome!"  That comment had been driven by Mikah's last visit in-system, which had been a mixed bag of "good" and "disaster" followed by the recommendation of a long delay before returning.  After Mikah thanked her, the Countess said she'd been briefed and then said, "I understand your crew were involved."

That had been a statement and Mikah just answered, "yes" before Josephine continued, "And, I understand we are still not out of the woods because there are still cells of terrorists at large."  Mikah agreed with that and speculated they had likely gone to ground, or would, once word got out their assassin had been stopped.  Looking back at Mikah, Josephine said, "I realize you were trying to make me feel at home, but this is going overboard."  It took a beat or two before Mikah realized the Countess was joking with her.  At that, Mikah broke out laughing before saying, "My apologies.  I try to keep my crew under control but..."  Josephine waved that away saying, "You've been in-system longer than I have and I'm just in from jump.  So, I had my people bring something."

Looking up as Josephine motioned, Mikah saw some of Josephine's servants wheeling in a rolling cart on top of which was some kind of urn or other beverage storage.  Another cart came in with spoons and various condiments as another servant took the first mug and started decanting actual Terran coffee!  As the mugs were filled and served, even to Terin, Mikah asked where Josephine's supply was, hoping to get a contact for Zimzod.  Josephine explained that one of her ancestors had been so taken with the drink that they had used a small amount of the power and funds of the County at the time to have a large enough amount of actual Terran soil brought to Efate, along with pure Terran coffee plant seeds.  Since that time, there has been a sealed botany lab where a very small and expert staff made certain the soil remained Terra-consistent.  Because of that, and proper gardening, they could grow a supply of actual coffee.  Addiction to the drink, and the secret of the small lab, had been uncovered in the centuries since and was often a minor aggravation in a system where the major and minor governments on-world were often at each other's throats.

Mikah sipped the drink and politely listened while a small amount of her awareness was laughing and thinking 'poor Zimzod!'  Despite the value of the gift before then, coffee was an acquired taste and a number of those in the room refused mugs.  Having managed to develop that taste form the very few samples she'd ever had, Mikah could only think to herself, "More for me!"  At some point before Mikah was ready to head back to the suite, Countess Josephine turned to Mikah and quietly asked, "So, do you and your crew actually have a writ of authority from Norris to act in his name or were you just assuming it?"  Mentally cringing, Mikah admitted they didn't and Josephine nodded and waved her reaction away saying, "OK.  That'll be an interesting thing for you to explain in a few days."  When Mikah pointed out it was Rol who made the claim, Josephine said, "That's OK.  I know Norris has a sense of humor.  He would never have asked you for help if he didn't."

All Mikah could after that comment to was to nod and say, "That's true", and get ready to leave.  Before Mikah finally went back to the suite, she got word that the doctors had done what they could for Rol in the OR and decided to put him into a "cooled hibernation" until word came from those working to ID the poison.  This was not told to Jocelynn and Fesic as they'd decided to stay the night and been provided places to sleep.  At first, Jocelynn had held out to be in the same room as Rol, but was told that would not be possible.  At the very least, he'd be in an ICU or specialty care setting once out of the operating room.  So, there would be no visitors at all and only the required medical staff and technicians.  So, they had been told that Rol's surgery was still on-going and been moved to places where there were cots, and they had fallen asleep.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Mikah, Zimzod, Terin and Aiden: in the suite asleep
     Jocelynn and Fesic: Asleep on cots in the Ankehshock Military Medical Center
     Rol: undergoing critical treatment in the Ankehshock Military Medical Center
     Emkir and Aali: Asleep aboard the Upgrade

Next: Foolish Actions And Questionable Rewards