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Welcome to the

Last Updated     March 4 2021
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Revenge And Reflection

Plans And Preparations
     After a day of entertainment, surprises and even a delivery, the crew settled down to eat dinner as the staff of the dining room took their orders.  While they did, Mikah considered the fact they'd been told the Prince and Arch-Duke would arrive on Regina in five days.  And, that they were now expected to be part of the "welcoming party".  Talking about that, Mikah wondered if there would be rehearsals for what they had to do, but they guessed they'd be told since there was no current notice either way.  Fesic pointed out they'd not been told much at all, including what they'd be doing in when things happened.  He was just happy Aiden did not come up with something joy-filled like being assigned the role of 'ceremonial sacrifice', as was his habit.

Another topic Mikah mentioned was her handbag project.  Aali had heard little of the idea before then, and was curious how it would work?  Still, she was patient and since Mikah had ordered some bags already, the engineer could wait and see how they turned out?  After that, Aali could consider ordering some herself if she liked how they worked in reality after they were delivered.  When she did ask questions, Mikah promised to call all the girls together when she bought shoes or purses.  Other than that, Mikah could relax and spend the coming four days of her light duty recovering.

When Mikah joked, "I'm just sitting here waiting for deliveries", Jocelynn decided it was her chance to mention something she'd been considering and asked Mikah if they could talk for a moment?  With nothing but dinner planned, Mikah asked Jocelynn what was up?  Jocelynn said, "Since we're going to be here for a bit and we have access to this wonderful medical facility, I was wondering how much it would cost and if we could petition the Duchess to use the facility to implant a stent into me?  And, if you could do the operation?"  Mikah agreed they could ask, and when it came to petitioning the Duchess, Mikah said that would be better if she did it herself instead of Jocelynn.  When Jocelynn worried how much the process would cost, Mikah said they'd have to ask about using the very secret clinic for that first, while not knowing exactly who they could call?

During the meal, Aali also said she'd have to decide what to do about her invitation to have her parents have a dinner with the crew.  Now, having been moved onto the Ducal estates, Aali was concerned she'd have to meet her family off-site or beg permission to bring her parents onto the estate.  When she mentioned that, she felt it was best to "not ask for too much" since the Duchess had been so gracious to them so far.  One of the household servants stepped up and solved that by telling her the crew were honored guests and could have visitors if they desired.  There would just be the standard security checks when they arrived if they were on the visitor's list.  The woman also offered to have Aali's parents put on the list depending on when they were expected?

Aali decided to call her parents and set up a "when" for the meal and ask if any of her siblings were also on-world or would be available for the dinner?  While she did that, Fesic asked, "What are we going to do about the zero-g training?" and the others remembered they'd rented a space for three nights.  Starting that night.  Since Mikah was on light duty, she couldn't teach the class.  Considering things, Mikah looked over to Zimzod and told him he'd have to take over for her because Rol was in the midst of his religious conversion into an icicle.  The others laughed at the dark humor while Zimzod leaned back in his seat with a wide smile and said, "Good times!"  Knowing what he meant by that, a few in the crew cringed.  Mikah said Aiden could drive them to the space they'd rented.

That decided, Aali had finished with her parents and decided they would come to dinner in two nights, so her mother could get her hair done before that.  Both her parents were very excited to be allowed onto the private grounds of the estate, though her brother and sisters were not in-system.  That set, Aali was asked if they should send a car for her parents and Emkir encouraged her to say "yes", because it was being offered.  After she agreed to that, the woman helping her asked if it should be marked or unmarked, and Aali realized the car could be bearing the seal of the estate!  Aali realized her parents would be 'over the gas giant' with that and said it should, but they would let that car surprise her folks.  Accepting that, the woman set to her task of setting the details up.

While that happened, Mikah noticed no helpful staff had stepped in to help with the Duchess' clinic and decided it was secret enough she would have to make the call herself.  Calling the seneschalate, Mikah also had to decide just what she would say to bring up a topic so secure the person answering her call might not be aware it existed?  When she got an answer, Mikah finally asked to speak to someone about an issue that was highly secured and classified.  Nodding, the operator who took Mikah's call checked to verify they had her information in the caller data before telling Mikah they would have someone re-contact her.  That done, Mikah decided she could keep her comms with her and go out to watch Zimzod "teach" zero-g while she shouted out instructions.

Creating And Treating Bruises
     With all the calls done and plans made for the moment, Mikah told the others she would come with them to watch as they practiced zero-g.  As mentioned earlier, Aiden drive the gravCar with the others packed in while they flew to the gym.  When they arrived, the staff were relieved because the crew were a few minutes late.  Still, they had rented the entire facility, which very rarely happened, so they showed the crew about.  Mikah was pleased there were designated spaces for observers and guests to sit which were outside the grav-controlled spaces.  Zimzod was less thrilled as they were shown the safety systems installed in the arena.

Given the full tour, they were told there were specialized grav-barriers that would prevent any participant from hitting either the ceiling, floor or walls too hard.  The same systems would prevent a participant or piece of equipment from being thrown out of the grav-controlled "activity space".  Those persons or objects thrown from the space at any speed would be caught in a field that would slow them to a stop and allow them to gently drift down to the floor again.  While most of the crew were thrilled to learn this, Zimzod just grumbled it took the fun out of things.  After the introductions and tour were done, Mikah took a seat and watched as things proceeded.

At multiple times during the event, Emkir was flashed a red warning screen suggesting his teaching suit was working to resolve issues outside the deign parameters of the suit.  But things continued to work, and he had a better sense of self-confidence with the aid of the suit.  Later in the session, Aiden had to pull out and Mikah checked on him to determine he had likely pulled a muscle in his chest.  Terin also came off the floor sore but a check of his condition showed he was just suffering from sore muscles unused to this kind of exercise.  Later, the crew would be happy, feeling that things had gone well and the session wasn't just a bruise-fest.

As she watched, late in the session, Mikah got a call on her comms.  Checking, she found herself talking to a man in Regina military uniform who said he was calling from the office of intelligence for the Duchy of Regina.  After introducing himself, the man calling said, "We understand you have some intelligence or a secure piece of data you wanted to discuss."  Surprised to be speaking to someone in that office, Mikah admitted, "Well, it's not really information.  We have a request..."  After a pause, Mikah continued, "While I'm not really certain if this is in your purview, I will ask you anyway..."  At that point, the man interrupted Mikah and he asked, "May I ask you what level of security this issue falls into, Maám?"

That questions stopped Mikah.  While she had been briefed in on a number of intelligence operations, a number of those assumed Mikah had appropriate training in such things.  And while she'd been told a great deal about the secrets she was expected to protect, any training she'd had didn't prepare her for the proper words to use answering the man's question.  So, she fell back by saying, "Ummm, really really high." in a flat and serious tone.  She followed up in staccato fashion, saying, "Very high.  Extremely high."  When Mikah continued, "Super top secret." the man asked, "Are we talking 'Duchess' ears only'?" Mikah wasn't sure.  She finally answered, "Not necessarily, but not far beneath."  Nodding, the man asked Mikah to please hold the line as he professionally froze her screen.

It was then that Mikah noticed the call had somehow been made secure and she had no idea if the whole call had been locked down?  Mikah was even more surprised when the screen unfroze and she found herself talking to an officer of the Regina military who had two stars on each epaulet!  The general introduced himself and told Mikah he was commander of the office's current shift.  He said he'd been told of Mikah's call and assured her he was cleared to handle any data which should be handled directly with the Duchess or her immediate circle.  The man asked, "What is this call related to?" in a tone that said he expected a clear and direct answer.

Mikah again started by saying, "It's really just a request.  We do not have information and I don't know how this was routed to your office.  But we were requesting medical privileges for me on the medical facility here on the estate so I can insert a sent into one of my crew members."  Considering that, the general asked, "Are you referring to the general medical clinic on the estate?  Because you can request a meeting with the senior administrative doctor there at any time and request credentials through them.  Is that what you are talking about?"  As he spoke, Mikah realized the man was talking about the open and obvious medical facilities on the estate for anyone.  Not the one reserved in secret for the Duchess herself.

Smiling and hoping she was not about to make a mistake, Mikah answered, "No.  Not that facility.  The Duchess brought us to a special facility where one of our crew are currently..."  At that point, the general cut Mikah off and said, "Yes.  You were sent to the incorrect office." while he nodded and gave Mikah a look that told her he knew what she was talking about.  He then admitted, "I am, perhaps, the one person in this entire shift who understands what facility you are talking about.  I will notify the correct office and they will contact you."  Mikah thanked the man and apologized for the confusion and the call was ended.  After that, Mikah advised Aiden on his options before she piloted the gravCar back to the suite.

Aiden was told he'd pulled a muscle or two and could get a massage with ointments or seek sonic-therapy treatment.  Mikah could also hit him with a muscle-relaxer or pain meds.  There were any number of options for him to follow, including the option to simply ignore the pain and let the muscles heal.  Overhearing, Aali did joke about hitting him with some vargr juice and that got laughs.  Outside of Mikah's recommendations, Aiden chose to see if the estate had a facility he could access that had a hot tub?  Hearing Aiden's decision, Fesic suggested Mikah give him some muscle relaxants "while" he was in the hot tub.  That way, he might slide into the tub and become Aiden soup.  Mikah smiled and told Fesic she wanted Aiden alive until he had the proper scars.

Back at the suite, Aiden's search didn't take long and he learned the estate maintained a number of combination gym/spa-like facilities for varying social levels.  Those at or near the top of the social structure had their own personal facilities.  But most guests had access to locations they shared with the staffers from the estate.  That meant they might be sharing the space with maids and butlers, but the staffers had been trained to be "always on" when in the presences of guests.  Hearing about Aiden's discovery, Emkir asked if the spa had a swimming pool and Aiden checked to see they did.  When he told the others that, Emkir, Aali and Mikah also said they'd be going to swim too.  For the time being, Aiden and Mikah left the subject of pain or sleeping meds for later.

Reacting the chatter, Jocelynn said she'd go hot tubbing too.  Her experience from her homeworld had been that hot tubs were only for medical treatment or recovery from exposure.  She'd only learned about their recreational side while in the military and hot tubs were "not common" in marine barracks aboard ship.  She'd learned even more during leaves she'd had, and shared with team mates from more comfortable worlds.  Since Zimzod was joining in to watch Mikah in her bikini, Terin and Fesic decided to join and make it an activity for the whole crew.

Despite the hour, the estate was a 24-7 operation and there were people in the spa around the clock as they prepared for or were recovering from their shifts or activities.  As people relaxed or changed into bathing suits where they had them, Mikah's bikini did a good job of showing off her visible scars.  Well trained and experienced at "not seeing" things, the staffers working or relaxing there were excellent at making Mikah not feel like she was 'under observation'.  Emkir also had quite a noticeable scar on his torso while the others had less noticeable scars or not, or didn't have bathing gear and were dressed casually.

While they were swimming or relaxing, the crew took the chance to look around and people watch as much as those around them would notice them.  As he swam, Emkir soon noticed a woman and child not far from him and saw the floatie the child was using looked exactly like a cartoon version of a "Liine"{pronounced "Lee-n-ah"}, a large sea creature from his homeworld.  Swimming closer, Emkir smiled at the child and asked if she was from Roup?  Not familiar with the strange man coming towards her, her mother moved in protectively.  As the mother also swam closer, she asked Emkir, "Can I help you?"  Still smiling, Emkir said, "I was wondering if your family was from the Roup system?"  As a pause started to open, Emkir gestured at the child and her floatie and said, "Because I remember learning about and seeing schools of liine in the oceans while I was growing up."

Realizing what Emkir was interested in, the woman suddenly smiled and answered, "Oh no.  But it's funny you would ask that because the man who made this was from Roup."  Emkir's said, "Oh.  That explains it." and his smile crystalized into a pleasant mask as he understood why the creature was familiar.  Not noticing the change in his smile, the woman was confused by Emkir's answer and asked, "Does it?"  Emkir explained, "It explains why I recognized the liine."  Without considering what the answer might be, Emkir then asked, "Who's the gentleman who made it?"  And Emkir's smile remained a show smile as the woman gushed that it had been the toymaker of Roup and Emkir's father.  Of course, she'd had no clue of the relationship until Emkir let out an 'almost annoyed' "Dear old dada again.  There you go."

It took that to snap the pieces together in her memory as the woman recalled news she'd heard from the Baron's last visit to Regina, and seeing Emkir on vid with his father.  Suddenly, the situation became so bizarre that she was running into the Baron's son in a pool on the estate, but she knew VIP's did visit regularly enough that she snapped into 'Proper though a fan'-mode automatically.  Still, she enthusiastically welcomed Emkir while thanking him for his father's man works and gushed about his father, also showing appropriate sadness at his recent passing.  It was all Emkir could do to nod and smile appropriately as he detached himself from the woman and braced himself for word of his relationship to 'the toymaker' to spread across the spa quickly.

Emkir did his best to keep to a bubble of himself and Aali as much as possible after that.  When he had started swimming away from the woman, she had called out, "Let me know if you need anything" but he had no idea who she had been or what her role was on the Estate?  At first, he wasn't sure he wanted to know what "anything" meant, but later saw it could have meant anything in her role on the Estate.  She could have been with housekeeping or something where he could score them bathrobes and other fancy nick-nacks.  But, at the moment, he just wanted to get away from that version of fandom.

For the rest of the crew, the spa was what they expected, as they mixed with a cross section of those who lived and worked within the estate.  And while most of them didn't know why it happened, the measure of responses they got became even more friendly at some point.  They chatted and relaxed and Aiden's aches and pains were soothed a bit even if they didn't go away.  It would take some days before the ache was resolved if he did no more than relax.  Eventually, Jocelynn asked Mikah if she knew if they could visit Rol, and Mikah said she didn't know but doubted it would be worth doing.  When Jocelynn said people visited coma patients, Mikah pointed out Rol's condition was very different from that and there would be no consciousness.

Mikah also pointed out that visiting Rol depended on being able to get to the clinic itself.  As Jocelynn agreed to that, Emkir and Aali walked up and overheard part of the conversation.  Emkir said it would be boring as hell to visit because Rol was frozen solid.  Mikah agreed with that as the others nodded.  With a smile, Fesic suggested, "If you want to have a conversation with Rol, just get a glass and put a couple of ice cubes in it."  The others laughed at that.   Still, by 11:30pm, it was time for everyone to go back to the suite and get sleep.

Challenges And Invitations
     As dawn broke on Regina, the "book deal" x-mail Mikah had sent from Wypoc had reached the IISS waystation in the Ivendo system.  From there, it would be carried to the Equus system before being delivered in the Rhylanor system.  So, it was two weeks before the University of Rhylanor might be notified the deal had been done and start working on setting up the book auction.  Fesic's x-mail to the University of D'Ganzio had left the Dinomn system on its way to Ghandi.  From Ghandi, it would be carried to Lanth and then to D'Ganzio.  So, the reply he expected would not even possibly start its trip back to him for another 14 to 16 days, and no one knew where the crew would be at that point.

That was also the morning of Mikah's fourth day of light duty, and a day when Aiden should relax if he took Mikah's advice.  His shoulder was still sore and that would affect everything he did.  Still, it was Zimzod who woke first and got up to go through his morning routine.  He then stepped out of the bedroom to do his morning workout before going for breakfast?  While he ate, Jocelynn and Emkir woke and Emkir checked to see if Aali was waking up too?  Seeing she was still asleep and it was ~7:30am, Emkir did his morning routine and made it to the dining room shortly after Jocelynn did.  That was, in part, because he went back into the bedroom to see if Aali was waking up again when he finished.  Seeing she was coming around, Emkir said he'd go get caff and wait for her at the table.  As Jocelynn went over the standard list of food they could have, Emkir only cared about caffeine.

When he asked about caff, the server attending him asked what kind of caffeine he wanted?  At Emkir's blank look, she said they could serve caffeinated beverages which were chilled, like fruit drinks, or hot.  The drinks could be sweetened, tart, or bitter.  And there were a range of beverages from pure fluid to mixes with chunks of fruit or veg to cream, gel or fiber-mixed offerings.  It first, Emkir was nearly overwhelmed by the surprise.  In the end, he asked for a mug of a bitter, creamed caff drink.  It was some time before Aali joined them, and then was followed even later by Aiden.

When Jocelynn and Emkir had joined him, Zimzod had looked at Emkir and said, "You guys suck at zero-G."  As Emkir admitted that was true but said he was now using his training suit, Jocelynn took the comment as a personal affront because she was quite skilled at zero-g activities.  Zimzod nodded at Emkir and said the training suit was a good idea and would be perfect for the rest of the crew.  Emkir nodded and suggested the ship would have to buy suits for the others because he remembered ordering it from the Instell-Arms rep Bhreker for Cr 100,000 while they were in the Lunion system.  That order had to be delivered later in the voyage, and would likely have to be ordered from the D'Ganzio system if they didn't get very lucky on Regina.

When Zimzod heard that, he was less enthusiastic about getting everyone a suit, not to mention buying the software to train a specific skill.  By the time Aali and Aiden joined in, the topic had moved into better ways to get the crew trained up, which did cover not slamming them into things despite the gleam in Zimzod's eyes.  When Emkir suggested it would be interesting to see how well Jocelynn and Zimzod could do against each other.  Aiden nodded and said, "Show us how it's done!" in a voice that was gleeful because he thought there was no way he could get hurt.  Emkir emphatically nodded and agreed to that and suggested the crew could take bets on the side.  Eventually, Mikah woke, did her morning routine and came out to find the others still at the dining room table talking about a competition zero-g fight between Jocelynn and Zimzod.  Added to that, Emkir was leading others in the idea of betting on the fights too.

As Mikah said they'd done that, Jocelynn admitted Zimzod had won the drunken 'King of the Hill' competition where Emkir had gotten bent like a pretzel.  Mikah dismissed that, saying, "Zimzod only won because of luck." and the others laughed.  By the time the rest of the crew had joined them at the table, the conversation was all speculation based on the fight and discussion of bets.  In the end, Aiden was willing to bet Cr 10 on Jocelynn while Aali and Terin bet Cr 15 each on her.  Emkir was willing to bet Cr 15 on Zimzod along with Fesic who bet Cr 10 and Mikah with Cr 15.  While Jocelynn didn't think it would be proper to bet, Zimzod wanted to bet Cr 100 on himself.

After that, they needed to find out who would cover each of the bets?  They talked about that because some were willing to cover the bets of others but no one was willing to cover Zimzod's bet.  They also had to decide who would play the bank because there was no one who was a disinterested party.  As that conversation went back and forth, Mikah said everyone would be betting against the ship, so they would either pay or get paid by the ship's funds.  That put a total of Cr 40 for Jocelynn and Cr 140 for Zimzod.  Emkir thanked Mikah for that decision and asked where the fight would happen?  He was told it would happen at the zero-g gym they had rented, the next evening.

There was talk about having the fight before or after the training session, but Jocelynn said they'd be too tired afterward so it would happen before the training.  When Terin asked if it would be one fight or the best of three, the crew pushed for a 'best of three'.  Zimzod didn't care how many fights they had and Jocelynn agreed to do the best two out of three, so the fight card and bets were set.  That decided, Emkir asked Aali about the dinner planned the next night with her parents, and Jocelynn asked who was involved.  Emkir reminded them all this had been planned as a 'Family and crew' gathering so everyone was expected to be there.  That was followed by jokes about having Rol attend or why he would not be able to.

After that, Emkir and Aali said they were going for haircuts and styling.  Mikah agreed it had been some time since she or anyone in the crew had their hair done and suggested they all make appointments.  Asking the staff how that would be done, it was easy for them all to make appointments to get cuts or styling later that day.  While Emkir was working with a staffer on his comms to set up the hair appointments, Mikah got a call on her comms.  Answering, Mikah found the caller was from the Seneschalate and they wanted Mikah and the crew to come for a briefing.  When Mikah asked when, she was told "now" and that a car would be sent if they could attend.  Mikah agreed they'd be ready for the car in fifteen minutes while Emkir called back the salon to put their hair appointments on hold.

Revenge...Part II
     Ufflete hault-Hucknall Mansion After being brought to the seneschalate, the crew found themselves in a small boardroom-style briefing with members of the Regina government, the military and some intelligence members.  When they were all settled, the crew were told they were to be briefed on the situation at that moment.  With everyone's attention, the speaker asked, "Does anyone recognize this?" as he projected an image to each of them.  Some recognized the image as the one Aali had seen in the coin shop.  Since Aali seemed to know the most about the estate in the image, she was asked to explain it to the others.

Aali told them about the old noble estates and how many of them had come to be abandoned.  How the government had setup a maintenance program to manage them and how that program had faltered with the help of the Fourth and Fifth frontier wars.  How she'd been most interested in that one estate as a child and had imagined one day raising up enough of a stake to buy the place.  But that had never happened.  Eventually, she finished by saying, "Imagine the coincidence seeing that image in the coin shop.  As she finished up, one of the intelligence people echoed her words, saying, "Yes.  Imagine the coincidence." in a tone which cooled the temperature of the room several degrees at once.

In a more conversational tone, the man continued, "However, we worked through the night and have confirmed 100% that there is no connection between your family and that estate.  Including you."  Despite being completely cleared of a crime she could never have considered, everyone else was certain that remark left a slimy feeling.  Still, the intelligence man continued, "Especially since we believe the team that fled the coin shop are hiding there and the mansion was being used as their safe house.   The man let that sink in for a beat or two before turning to Mikah and asking her, "Is your crew up for a bit more revenge?"  It took Mikah a beat herself to react, and she simply said, "Oh.  I guess so."

After that, the crew were briefed that Regina Intelligence expected the terror team from the coin shop had used the mansion as a safe house from which to prepare, train and store supplies.  They also believed that the team may have moved most of their supplies from the mansion to the coin shop, based on the wreckage left behind after the explosions.  Going through that with a fine tooth comb, the man admitted there were no other potential links to other cells or sites, but they were hopeful a quick hard strike against the mansion would possibly prevent evidence there from being destroyed, if it hadn't been already.

Again, it was possible that 'large unit' tactics could tip the terrorists to any action so a small fast team was needed, which is why they were coming to Mikah and her crew.  When Terin asked if they wanted the terrorists taken alive or dead, the answer was, "Alive if possible.  Though dead would not be an issue either."  Emkir asked when they wanted the crew to carry out the operation and they were told it should be later in the same day, but they had time to fly down to the port and gear up from the equipment on their ship if they wanted to."  As Mikah actually cheered, others in the crew nodded as the man continued, "It will all be officially cleared by the Regina military."

When Aiden asked who was providing transport, they were told they would be allowed to use an armored APC from the Unified Army of Regina.  They would also make sure the APC was armed with a heavy machinegun too.  When Terin asked if they would have backup on the operation he was told there would be backup if needed.  But, he was reminded that their team was being asked in because they needed a quick-strike team that could get in and stop evidence being destroyed.  What wasn't discussed was the shifting opinion of a crew that said they were troubleshooters.  If they continued to ask for help even before planning or acting, then how useful were they?  One of the military officers did say they hoped this site wasn't rigged to blow like the last one was.

Mikah looked at Aali and said, "Well, if it does blow up then your family can probably buy it for a song."  As the others laughed, Aiden snickered that it would be a hell of a fixer upper.  Following that, people started planning what they would gear up with for this assault.  In addition to her regular combat kit, Jocelynn planned to wear her one set of executive armor and she also added a handful of zip-ties because she had no idea if they'd be able to take prisoners?  Zimzod planned to snap into his battledress and arm up with his gauss rifle, gauss pistol, submachinegun, automatic rifle and shotgun with most of those strapped to his back where he could grab for them.  Zimzod also grabbed three frag-grenades and his new short sword.

When Aali said she'd be bringing HEAT rounds for her shotgun, Fesic joked, "I guess you're planning to shoot people through the walls!  I thought you said you're family wanted to buy the place?"  Aali laughed but did decide to use buckshot shells instead.  Zimzod stocked up his armor storage with spare clips and then looked around to ask who was trained as a rifleman?  Emkir said he was, and had his own custom rifle.  Aiden also said he was and that he'd mastered some trick shots with the rifle.  That said, Zimzod told them he'd bought a sniper rifle and ammo, and wanted Aiden to use it to provide overwatch during the attack.  Zimzod then went to his stateroom and recovered the rifle and five 10-round clips for Aiden.

Mikah removed the suit seals from her combat kit, because this operation wouldn't be in space.  She then swapped in her submachinegun and four clips for that weapon.  As others geared up, Aiden familiarized himself with the weapon.  He'd expected to have to clean it but he found it very well cleaned, oiled and maintained.  After everyone geared up, the crew hit the gravCar to get back to the estate.  There, they would have lunch a bit late and get down to the serious business of planning the operation.  of course, after they stopped for a security inspection.

At the Ducal estates, the crew had to land and allow everything to be inspected by a security team that had been told what was happening.  So, while they didn't bat an eye at things like Zimzod's battledress, they did scan and tag "everything" so they had records on all of it.  From there, it was time for lunch, which could well be a last meal for some of the team.  On the ride north, Zimzod told Aiden he would move in first to find some high ground with a clear view of the mansion.  There, he'd setup his position.  From the maps and other data supplied, that looked like he'd have to climb a tree near the edge of the forest which verged up to within 100 meters of the building on all sides.  Just before they were to sit down to eat, they got word that a few visitors wanted to join them if possible?

The Plot Thickens
     Those were a Colonel and Captain from the Regina Unified Army along with several NCO's.  They were joined by three people from the Seneschalate, one of whom was a direct deputy of Mr. Dilgaadin himself.  the final person was a man who was dressed in civilian clothing with no insignia or indication of affiliation at all.  As they sat with the crew, the Colonel asked who was going to be leading the operation?  Zimzod leaned back and raised his hand with a smile as he said, "Zimzod!"  Nodding, the Colonel said, "OK.  Sir Zimzod.  We have some items we would like to share with you."  The first thing he did after that was to nod to one of the NCO's, who unrolled a portable holographic map display and activated it.

Mansion Main Floor floor plan

Mansion Upper Floor floor plan

With the floorplans laid out, the Colonel handed the briefing off to the Captain.  He explained the basic layout of the lower and upper floors, as well as pointing out the solid-black mapping of original fireplace brickwork.  The officer pointed out the lower-level section to the rear and left of the building and explained that was the mansion's 'utilities and services' adjunct wing.  The original residence had actually been the two clusters on the right and left, not including the utilities wing.  The two-story breezeway was built when the two homes were united and the floorplan first modified, but the current floor plan was represented on the map being shown.

Despite the fact the home was old and historic, a single stairwell up and down, and no obvious escape routes made the place a fire death trap.  Lucky for the owners, much of the walls were made of stone.  Strategically, that meant that incendiary attacks had to blow through the stone if that was planned.  The captain also briefed them on the chief doorway access route connecting the right, center and left clusters.  When Zimzod asked, he was told most of the windows came down to hip-height and rose up several feet.  The large picture windows were nearly floor to ceiling.  The mansion sat in the center of a clear-cut patch of land surrounded by forest.

When Zimzod asked, they confirmed no innocents were expected to be in the building, and that there would be multiple hostiles.  At least four were expected to have fled there from the coin shop.  After that, the Colonel asked Zimzod what the plan was and waited.  Before Zimzod could speak, Mikah suggested "taking out" the utilities and services wing to crash power and other services to the mansion.  When Zimzod agreed with Mikah, one of the NCO's mentioned there might be fuel storage there and Zimzod shrugged that off despite the risk of a major blaze spreading to the main structure to destroy abandoned evidence or data.  Still, when Jocelynn suggested they might have a backup generator, the same NCO suggested that would be just outside the facilities wing and could be taken out with the same attack.

Considering that, Zimzod said their crew didn't have a rocket launcher and asked the colonel if his people could provide them one?  While Terin joked, "If only someone had an FGMP-15", the colonel considered the request and his orders and came up with a counter offer.  He asked Zimzod if it would be acceptable for him to have a heavy weapons team move in with two launchers and four missiles each to bombard that part of the structure?  When Zimzod was good with that, they widened out the map to spec out where the team would position itself so they could do the math on the timings of the attack.  After that, the team would withdraw to the cordon the military will put in place around the region.

When Zimzod was asked what the next phase would be, he forgot about the armored car on loan and suggested he would break his crew into three teams of two and Aiden as sniper.  Aiden would be inserted in advance and it appeared from the maps his only "high ground" would be climbing a tree.  Because she was on light duty, Mikah would be 'in reserve' for the moment.  He expected to dispatch the first team early, to pass through the woods to the right of the mansion and get behind it.  When all hell broke loose, all three teams would be expected to charge across the hundred meters of clear space on foot while the explosions to the building's rear provided a diversion.  The NCO's held their tongues rather than suggest those standing security watch points in the front might just prepare for action on their front because "the game" was beginning, instead of investigating explosions which were not affecting them.

It was at that point that Terin reminded Zimzod they were being loaned an armored personnel carrier, and that might help them with crossing the open field.  As Terin said, "I'd rather cover that hundred yards inside an APC than on foot", Emkir suggested running it right up into the center space by the front door and Mikah suggested ramming it through the picture windows and "into" that cluster of the building.  Once inside, there would only be an interior wall separating them from the rooms that served as the kitchen and storage spaces.  As he listened, Fesic turned to Aali and said, "I don't really think your family will want this place after we finish redecorating it."  That even got laughs from the Regina professionals.

Getting past setting the pieces on the board, Zimzod asked if the APC would have a rear-only exit or side exits?  When there were desires for both, they got offered a car with both.  Zimzod told Mikah she could work the heavy machinegun as they drove in while Aiden provided sniper support.  At first, Zimzod had the idea of rolling the APC up and making a u-turn to back the vehicle through the windows but Mikah and the others didn't like the idea of having to fight their way through that front area to get to the rest of the building.  Zimzod then suggested backing through the windows and then pulling forward before opening the back door.

Ignoring the talk of ramming, Emkir suggested they time the ram to happen at the same time as the bombing of the facilities wing.  Zimzod told him he already planned to use the bombing as a diversion for the ram and deployment.  When one of the NCO's pointed out the loss of speed from the drive up as they slowed and stopped to turn and back in, Mikah repeated that they should just run straight in.  As the others agreed, Terin asked if there were vehicles in the mansion's garage, and the captain said they expected to find the ground car used to flee the coin shop, at the very least.

Nodding, Terin suggested they'd have to do something to prevent any of the terrorists from fleeing in the ground car.  No one considered them using it or any other vehicle in the garage as a weapon or technical vehicle.  More to Terin's point, the colonel told them the military would be moving in to prevent any escapes if that was tried.  Despite not seeing one on the floor plan, Zimzod confirmed there was no basement to surprise them from.  When she heard that, Jocelynn groused, "Not even a wine cellar?  I'm leaving!" in mock disgust.  Fesic leaned closer to her and said, " get the drinks after the assault."

When Zimzod was asked what came after they rammed the building, he suggested the facilities wing would be ablaze and they'd have lots of distractions for cover.  The captain said that wasn't necessarily correct because many kinds of explosives sucked the oxygen from the area, and the weapon team wouldn't use incendiaries because the objective was to save the building for any evidence found.  When it came to assigning people jobs, Mikah had already been told she would man the heavy machinegun.  So, because she was on light duty, she was expected to stay with the APC.  Because she and Zimzod were the only people who'd been trained in driving tracked vehicles, Jocelynn was told she could drive the APC while Mikah put as many rounds as possible in as many locations as she could.

When it came to teams and missions, Zimzod paired up Jocelynn and Fesic as 'Team 1', and ordered them to deal with the rooms and spaces in the right cluster.  On the ground floor, that would include the front room they were crashing into, the kitchen and storage spaces on the other side of the interior wall from that space.  After that, they would return to the central hall to take the stairs up and start clearing the upper floor rooms of that cluster, which were largely recreational.  While the plan might have done better to include two teams with one climbing up the APC to reach a front window and clear the cluster at the same time, that would need more people than they had.

Aali and Emkir were paired as 'Team 2' and Zimzod put himself into 'Team 3' with Terin.  Zimzod initially planned for both those teams to take the front hall and then work together to clear out the lower floor rooms in the breezeway before clearing the downstairs rooms of the left cluster.  Only then did he consider bringing them back to the main hall and up the stairs to do the same with the upstairs rooms.  Most of the crew didn't like the idea of possibly letting any terrorists hiding upstairs slip behind them and Mikah led the objections.  Faced with that, Zimzod said that team 2 would handle the downstairs and he'd lead team 3 in clearing the upstairs rooms.  When Emkir worried about some of the terrorists fleeing out the back doors, he was reminded they had been told the Regina military would set up a cordon around the area.  So, they'd only flee into waiting troops.

At that point, one of the NCO's reminded Zimzod that the downstairs space in the main hall by the entrance was open to fire from a space along the gallery that had no lower-floor ceiling.  As a result, those coming out of the right-most part of the building could look down from a three-foot wide walk way and fire or duck into rooms along that overhang.  The opening also provided fire channels down from both upstairs doors leading from the breezeway into that cluster.  Nodding at that, Zimzod said he planned to be the first person into the hall because his battledress would let him take down or expose anyone using that as an ambush point.  Terin also pointed out the windows that could show parts of that space and suggested Aiden keep an eye on the space to see if he could help clear it before anyone arrived.

When the conversation shifted to what Aiden might or might not be able to see, Emkir became concerned with what he could see.  Especially if Aiden was using an infrared filter through his HUD, he would see "figures".  But, he'd have no way of knowing if those figures were friend or foe?  Given the crew's past, Emkir worried about friendly fire and brought that up.  Mikah said that would be easily solved, because they were all in communications with each other and they would have to call out to Aiden what they were doing and where they were.  Aiden only joked, "Look at all those unprotected behinds!"  If they didn't, then getting shot by Aiden would be their own fault.  Fesic also suggested they use a code of calls to keep from shooting someone they accidentally ran into.

When the others agreed to that, the question became what to call out and what to respond with?  Fesic recommended they call out "Hotel" and answer with "California".  That way, they'd not only get the right answer but hear the voice, so any terrorist who'd figured out what to say would "sound wrong", and get shot anyway.  The others agreed, and there was some more chatter before they decided the plan was set.  With that done, the captain cleared his throat to get their attention and said, "Now that that's done, we have some gifts for you."  Mikah simply said, "Cool!" while Terin said, "We like gifts." and the others looked on curiously.

Sweeping them with his eyes, he said, "We've gone through our records on this crew and we understand two of you were trained in demolitions."  After a pause, he continued as some curious looks turned to wolfish smiles, "We will be giving you several blocks of explosives with remote detonators, which you can use to blow holes in interior walls.  They won't make man-sized holes so they are not breaching charges.  But you can use them to make holes to fire through and take down people hiding in some rooms."  He also clarified, "They will not be effective against the thicker stone walls."  When they offered Zimzod and Jocelynn four each, Zimzod said he could do that kind of damage with his battledress.  Hearing that, Jocelynn very quickly and enthusiastically volunteered to take his four explosives too.

After checking with the organizing military forces, they decided to "arrive" and set things up at 2:30 that afternoon with the bombs dropping at 3.  With that, they were told a gravCarrier could get them there just in time and the Regina military were already setting up.  Mikah called out, "Anyone need to go to the bathroom?" and got laughs.  Aali joked, "Anyone need to update their will?" and got more.  Then they got into the gravCarrier and went to the site to take control of the APC there.  While they got organized, checking out the APC and getting themselves and their gear into the vehicle, Aiden began his hump through the forest to set up a hide.

While he did that to the south-east of the mansion, a team was moving in on from north-west.  The lieutenant checked his beacon as his people moved in and prepared for the rocket assault the colonel had ordered.  Somewhere in the brush, there were supposedly sappers who were deployed to make sure his team were not even seen much less contacted by the terrorists.  But he could neither see or hear any sign of them and part of that disturbed him deeply.  Especially when he considered them 'so very quietly' killing patrolling terrorists before they could make a sound.

Finding a spot that gave them enough of a view to see and scope in through the windows on the wall of the target structure, everyone on the team thanked the movement for "naturalistic" settings.  It was for that reason that what was essentially a boiler room and machinery shop with the same sort of graceful windows the rest of the building had.  The LT watched as his gunners got out their launchers and the ordinance men laid out the missiles.  Four each, they had eight "TAC-missiles" tipped with high explosive and armor-piercing heads.  The colonel did say he didn't want a fire.  The hard part was going to be the targeting.

As they had planned this op, there were three layers of machinery they had to target.  The stuff on the structure's far side would be difficult to do but simple to plan.  Find windows and use telescopic sighting to set your laser designators on the machinery that was furthest past the window.  The hard part was angling the rockets so they would fly past intervening equipment and hit the systems farthest away.  Next, they'd have to hit the machinery "in the middle", so easier to do because there was less in the way.  Those would be hit with simple high-explosive rounds.

The hardest of all would be the machinery closest to, and protected by, the stone walls.  Those would be two-rocket jobs.  the first rockets would be armor-piercing, and would be fired in hopes of blowing through the walls.  The second round would be armor-piercing too, as insurance.  They would hopefully punch through any remaining stonework and into the machinery on the other side.  If there already was a hole, they could hope to punch into the midst of the machinery to destroy as much as possible.  Then, he and his could grab up their gear and do the hump back to the lighter while the sappers cover their withdrawal.

By the time the first explosions started, Aiden had gotten to the far side of the forest and done some scouting.  He'd quickly found his thoughts during the planning had been correct, and the only "high ground" he would find would be up a tree.  So, he spent some time climbing to the point he was twelve to fifteen feet up.  He then settled the closest thing to a saddle that he could find between two large branches and considered tying himself off.  When he realized he didn't have anything to do that with, he regretted making fun of all the gear Fesic had brought, including that 50 feet of cord.  He then settled the rifle into the crux between some smaller branches.  Re-examining the weapon, Aiden sparked up the scope and started checking for targets down-range.

Dialing in the scope on the rifle, Aiden was impressed by the combined functions of the range finder and targeting calculator along with the targeting dot the scope made visible.  Getting used to those add-ons, Aiden used the telescopic lenses to zoom in so he could look for any targets or details.  The bad news was that no one was visibly outside the structure and none of the windows or doors were open, so there were no easy targets.  Considering that, Aiden narrowed his view aperture before switching the mode on his in-helmet HUD to IR.  That stopped him from being blinded by the light lowering in the sky behind the mansion.  Still, that was for the best because the light, from the star or reflecting from the gas giant, was not shining down on the window panes he'd be trying to target through and heating those up.

Taking care to not let his viewpoint slide off the building and into the sky, Aiden started scanning the windows for any hint of an infrared signature behind them.  While he got possible hints behind a number of windows, the only really solid hit he got was from someone who had to be truly careless.  A heat-form in the general shape of a biped appeared to be standing near the right-most sill of the right-most picture window at the front of the building's right cluster.  Whoever it was would likely be a lookout, stationed at the window to call out an alarm if an attack came from that direction.  Since that figure was the only obvious target, and too easy to ignore, Aiden relaxed and practiced the pre-shot routine he hoped would steady his aim.  After that, he let his aim wander from window to window along the gallery Terin had been worried about until he heard a massive boom!

Hoping his first target hadn't taken a dive for cover, Aiden moved his sights back and could almost swear the figure had turned to face the door.  It was as if they were trying to see any attackers that might be coming.  That gave him a mass-on aim point which made targeting center mass that much easier as the scope detected the range and raised the aim-point to compensate.  Having pulled the point-of-view back to watch the entire compound, Aiden slowly dialed in on the target figure in the window.  With the first two explosions going off, Aiden's scope beeped and he saw the designator appear right where he wanted it.

Show Time!
     As the clock had burned slowly down, the crew had all prepared themselves in the APC and Jocelynn had gotten the vehicle moving.  Starting before the explosions to get them moved up, Jocelynn had carefully woven her path through the forest.  She was a bit short of her goal when the first explosions started, so she slammed her foot to the metal floor.  Fesic called out, "You get an extra ten points if you hit the idiot in the tree!" as they burst through and out of the remaining forest some ten yards to Aiden's left.  From there, it was full bore and speed for the picture windows.  Still, they were laughing as Jocelynn held the pedal down to build speed.  At the same time, having heard the APC coming up behind and to his left, Aiden exhaled, steadied himself and his aim, and pulled the trigger.

While he never saw the figure drop, Aiden kept watching through his scope as it jerked back against the wall-sill and briefly disappeared from view.  Still, as he watched, Aiden felt the figure might have been hit but he could still see a hint of the figure standing.  Deciding that was enough, Aiden steadied his aim again and took a second shot at the figure while hearing the sound of Mikah opening up with the machinegun.  He imagined he could almost hear her laughing maniacally.  Not waiting to see the results of the second shot, Aiden raised his aim to scan the facing windows on the upper floor and began traversing his aim left, making sure to aim above the APC when it mattered.

As his aim traversed, Aiden suddenly got a "window full of IR" as if someone had rushed to look out and see what was happening outside?  Trying to take advantage, he snapped his aim into place and dragged back the trigger almost before the sights beeped range acquisition.  And just as quickly, the IR signature disappeared from an upper floor window near where he estimated the stair case ended, where he'd bet himself they'd find a body later.  Meanwhile, Zimzod called out for the others to "brace forward", meaning they should lean against something in front of them to not get thrown in the impact.  Jocelynn had the APC up to nearly fifty miles per hour as they hit the front of the wall.

Jocelynn had done her best to hit a window square, but could not get the APC entirely between wall supports.  What she didn't know was that each of those stanchions were rock-faced steel I-beams!  So the APC not only hit the beams but stopped dead after making it just inside the structure!  Even worse, she'd knocked out a center-support of the cross-supports letting the weight of the upper floor come down on the APC to pin it in place.  Even more, the collapsing structure came down to crush and scrape the machinegun off the APC and seal shut the hatch Mikah had closed after she'd ducked into the APC to brace for impact.  When Zimzod ordered Jocelynn to move forward, she couldn't.  And she had the same result when she tried to back out.

With the APC stuck, they realized it was time to deploy and get on with things.  Still, Jocelynn called out to Aiden and asked if there was any kind of greeting party out there for them?  Aiden lowered his scope to scan the area and reported he saw nothing at first.  Then, as he told them to hold up, Aiden watched as a figure burst out through the mansion's front door into the front courtyard.  Reporting the figure, Aiden raised the rifle and scoped in on the man who was literally standing and gawking at the APC in shock.  As Aiden sighted in on him, the man raised the gauss rifle he'd been holding and appeared to be looking for anything to shoot with it.  About that time, the sights beeped and the range finder did its work as Aiden pulled the trigger.

Aiden could tell he hit the target because the hit spun the man around.  Still, he didn't go down, which was a testament to the man's body armor and training.  What happened next showed the training had to have all been physical as the target then dropped his rifle and fled in apparent terror for the cover of the door he'd come out of.  Aiden didn't let him win that race as he followed the man with his sights and fired again.  The second round dropped the man across the threshold of the doorway as Aiden cursed, "Shit!" he said.  He continued with a grimace, "It's a tie."

Aiden then gave the courtyard the 'all clear' and went back to scanning the windows from the left cluster of the mansion's rooms.  Hearing that, the crew started boiling out of the APC.  Because she was in the driver's seat, Jocelynn had to exit left so Fesic did too.  The other two teams followed them out the left, because their initial objective, the main entrance, was also to their left.  With the heavy machinegun gone, Mikah scrambled and got to the right-side with her submachinegun and got out to start putting bursts of fire into the shattered window before her and hoping to hose down the interior wall beyond that.

While Mikah was moving more slowly, due to being on "light duty", and stopping to fire bursts into the building, Jocelynn told Fesic to follow her and moved quickly up to the shattered opening around the front of the APC.  Stopping in the cover of the vehicle's nose, Jocelynn scanned the room beyond through her sights.  Not seeing anyone on the left side of the room, Jocelynn told Fesic to cover the door to their left which opened into the breezeway.  As Fesic took a position short of the doorway, ready to shoot anyone entering, Jocelynn took a look back at the top of the APC to see hints of the steel I-Beams and realized that APC was going nowhere without a crane.

Looking about, Jocelynn could see many small holes in the interior wall where Mikah's fifty-cal fire had ripped through the windows and peppered the back area.  After Fesic signaled he had the door, and hearing the staccato of Mikah's submachinegun, Jocelynn peeked around the nose of the APC to see the space to the right was clear.  She then moved to the far side to take a barricade position with her rifle to scan the area to the right of the crash.  Outside, Mikah was swapping magazines as Jocelynn came around the nose of the APC to see a man slumped in the forward corner of the room where the window had been blown in.  And he was bleeding from a nasty wound.  Still, he was aware enough to begin raising his rifle as Jocelynn shot and killed him.

Finishing the magazine swap, Mikah suddenly heard the shots inside the building and crouched with her machinegun raised as she called out "Hotel!".  Hearing that call, Jocelynn called out, "California!" and peeked around the right side of the APC.  There, she saw Mikah rising from her crouch and waved her forward.  Inside the front room, Mikah braced her feet and then opened up on the interior wall with her fresh magazine.  In his tree, Aiden tried to see if the facilities wing was burning but it had always been a single-story wing and was hidden behind the rest of the mansion.  So, all he saw was the rising smoke and that told him nothing.

Checking the man she'd shot, Jocelynn noticed the body was slumped against a box in the corner behind where he'd sat.  Moving closer, to check it out, Jocelynn noticed the box was about three feet long and a foot or more wide by the same deep.  Moving the body out of the way to better see the box, Jocelynn noticed the box had printing on it and tried to read it.  The type read "TAC-10-RL-2" in military block style characters.  It was then Jocelynn realized she was looking at an ordinance box which should contain a Tech Level A Tac-missile launcher!  Opening the box, Jocelynn was rewarded with the view of the factory-packed shoulder-carry launcher and two missiles!

Charging Into Action
     Across the courtyard, Zimzod led the three others followed by Terin then Aali and then Emkir.  Three of them held their rifles while Emkir had his revolver.  Halfway across the yard, they started drawing fire as they charged the door.  Rounds hit the cobblestones at his feet and gave Terin a scare but didn't trip him up as he ran.  Another round creased the belly of Emkir's chest plate.  Back at the treeline, Aiden had been scanning for exactly that sort of attack and quickly selected a window as he adjusted his aim.  Aiden never heard the sensor beep as he pulled the trigger.  And he didn't even realize there had been an IR shadow behind the window until it was gone.

In armor which limited their peripheral senses, and charging for the door, only Zimzod had any information where the fire was coming from.  Still, that didn't stop Terin from lifting his gauss rifle back over his head to randomly scatter ten rounds off to their left.  Despite that, more fire rang out from the other window and scattered around Aali's feet but she took no damage.  Aiden shifted his aim to the second window as Zimzod hit the door which was held open by the body of a dead terrorist.  Aiden opened fire on the window as Zimzod drew fire from four directions!  Having expected the ambush, Zimzod turned into fire from his left side and attacked the target there.

As Zimzod opened fire on the figure at the top of the stairs, his battle computer told him there were two combatants above him and now behind him.  One would have been visible in the left-hand ground floor door if Zimzod were facing him, and the other was "detected", just hidden to the further right of the right-hand door.  Zimzod also felt pain in his right leg and realized he'd been hit as the armor locked his leg joints and stabilized him to keep him from falling over if his leg gave out.  Zimzod also knew he'd be getting hit with meds and pain killers too, so he didn't worry about the wound.

Behind him, Fesic had been hiding just inside the right door "covering it" and had not seen the terrorist who was just on the other side of the wall from him.  Still, when that one opened fire, Fesic simply started shooting into the wall where he figured the terrorist was.  Registering the action and behavior, Zimzod's battle computer changed the designation which was Fesic to "Friendly" and updated Zimzod's HUD.  Spinning now that his leg "felt better" and was supported by the armor, Zimzod darted to the right of the main entrance and charged the terrorist who had danced out of Fesic's fire pattern and was trying not to dance into the fire Mikah was pumping through the wall.  Sadly, they were firing blind and had no way to target the man.

Charging into the space cleared by Zimzod, and turning left because Zimzod turned right after shooting the man at the top of the stairs.  Lucky for Zimzod, the man saw Terin because Zimzod's hit had not been a killing shot.  Terin and the wounded man both brought up their weapons and Terin fired first...because he wasn't distracted by wounds.  Terin also stepped onto the first steps of the staircase as he fired, to clear the door for those behind him.  It was only after he fired that Terin had the clarity to notice the man was in cloth armor and armed with an old carbine.  The thought flashed through his mind that these people were nowhere near an "advanced fighting force".  But then, terrorists rarely were.

Despite being hit, the man did fire his weapon even as he was folding.  The round hit the step of a stair and blasted through the wood as the man fell into a roll down the staircase.  His weapon flew wide as the body came to rest.  At that, Terin decided to make sure by shooting the body in the head.  Hitting the door, Aali saw Terin stepping around a body and heading up the stairs and heard Zimzod's war cry to their right.  Looking in his direction, they saw a lone terrorist in the upstairs left-hand door and Aali heard Emkir say, "Kneecaps!" as he raised his pistol.  She agreed and raised her gauss rifle as they both fired.  Their target had been concentrating on Zimzod's charge.

Sadly for Emkir, a pistol wasn't the best "ranged weapon", so his aim was off enough that he hit the man in the chest while Aali actually did manage to hit the man's left kneecap.  As the man went down, Aali made sure Emkir knew it was 'One for Aali, Zero for Emkir'.  That happened while Zimzod fired at and charged the man in the ground floor door with rounds bouncing off his armor.  While they didn't hit him, Zimzod's own fire only served to loosen up the tissue of his target's body before he slammed into the man!  With the absolute control given him by the battledress, Zimzod didn't carry through as the body of the man he hit went flying back into the kitchen area with a few extremities flying loose.  That man was not just dead, he was spare parts.

From his position, Fesic suddenly saw Zimzod charging into the kitchen area and called for Mikah to stop firing through the wall.  Seeing all resistance fade on the right, Aali and Emkir continued their mission by turning left around the stairs to look for targets in the rooms on the ground floor.  Terin moved from the top of the stairs and continue with his orders to clear the upper floor rooms to the left, even if Zimzod had charged off.  Suddenly, they all started receiving a message broadcast in the clear repeating the words, "We surrender.  We Surrender."  Annoyed, Emkir tried to broadcast back, "Where the fuck are you?  Where the fuck are you?" but gave up after a few iterations.  The other voice continued to surrender.

Emkir and Aali worked the ground floor finding nothing while Terin moved room to room upstairs.  In one room to his left as Terin walked, he saw the dead body of a terrorist who'd obviously been knocked back from the window and thought, 'Score one for Aiden'.  It was then that he heard the faint but now-plaintive sound of a voice from another room.  The voice was repeating, "We surrender" over and over.  Taking care as he did, Terin tracked the voice back to another of the left-side rooms an prepared himself before taking a peek inside.

Checking into the open door before stepping through, Terin saw a man on the floor and bleeding.  Not far away from him was a gauss rifle, which would have a lousy choice for a sniper weapon but good enough to rain down fire into the courtyard below.  Beyond that, the terrorist seemed to have a large hulking device that looked like communications gear.  Terin figured this guy had been the team's communications tech.  Looking up as Terin stepped into the door, the man's eyes went wide with fear as Terin drew the stun pistol from its holster, aimed and yell "Shut Up!" as he fired.  The wounded man simply slumped on the floor and continued bleeding.  When Terin called in the situation, Aiden comm'd back, "You're welcome" in a self-satisfied tone.

In the kitchen entry hallway, Zimzod wanted to make sure who had been shooting through the wall and called out, "Hotel".  Hearing that, Mikah, Jocelynn and Fesic all called out "California" and chuckled.  When Mikah asked him what was happening on that side of the wall, Zimzod said there was nothing but a dead body.  Mikah and Zimzod then had a spat about who killed him before Zimzod said he'd let Mikah have the credit.  Zimzod then moved further into the halls separating the actual kitchen from storage closets and work spaces.  In that hall, he saw another man who'd gotten a bit shot up by Mikah.  His moans said he was still alive.

When they finished checking and clearing the building, the mansion had been large with many rooms, but they were smaller rooms and easily reached.  Aali and Emkir had found the door to the utilities wing and forced it open to see the ruins of that space.  While there were some small fires, they wouldn't likely catch, and there wasn't any danger of a major fire starting.  When the captured and dead were counted out, they saw there had only been eight terrorists in the building at all.  Badly trained and scattered so they couldn't support themselves.  Their most dangerous move had been to set up the ambush at the front door.  Not only was that spoiled by Zimzod's battledress and their failure to use more significant weapons, but it also combined half of their people.

Comparing notes while Aiden was still up his tree and waiting for orders, Emkir called back to the pilot and congratulated him.  It appeared Aiden had certainly killed two terrorists and seemed to have shot three more.  That included the man Jocelynn finished off, the one Zimzod and Terin shot on the stairs and the one Terin "sonicked".  In addition to that, four of the terrorists had older wounds, which had been bandaged and looked to be received while fleeing from whoever shot them.  It was a good guess they were the team from the coin shop, and they'd been shot while getting into the ground car.

Following that, Zimzod firmly called out to Aiden and demanded, "I want that gun broken down and properly cleaned before it's returned!"  Aiden called out, "Sir!  Yes Sir!" before he continued, "Can I get the sights on this wired up to my HUD at some point?"  Zimzod considered that and said, "Yeah.  I can let you do that."  While they talked about the rifle, Fesic called in the Regina military and told them the site was secure.  Moving in security units, they also brought in medics and an intelligence team to debrief the crew.  After that, and after treating Zimzod's leg for minor gauss wounds, they moved Zimzod to a hospital for more complete treatment and started collecting up any evidence.  Angering both Jocelynn and Zimzod, they were told Jocelynn could not keep the rocket launcher.

While Zimzod was treated, he was told he shouldn't put any weight on the leg for a week so everything could heal without tearing.  He was also told he should spend a second week on light duty.  Without any other regrets for how the assault went, Zimzod was only pissed he'd not used his new "spiked" short sword when he slammed into the one terrorist.  Securing the site, the military found that four of the terrorists had either been lightly or significantly wounded but were still alive, so the crew added a 50% capture rate to their achievements.  After Zimzod was taken to hospital, the rest of the crew were taken to the port so they could clean and stow their gear.  Their gravCar was also moved to the ship too.

The Cleanup And Aftermath
     The military also had dinner delivered while they cleaned their gear.  When Mikah asked about the hair appointments, Emkir said he'd called to have them shifted to the next day.  They also realized they'd have to call the zero-Gymnasium and cancel the planned training class.  When that was brought up, Mikah said, "Oh!  That means we're not gonna get to see Zimzod vs Jocelynn" in a voice filled with mock-regret.  The others started to react to that as Aiden disagreed and said they only had to put it on hold.  Aali joked, "Or shoot Jocelynn up a bit."  As the others laughed, Emkir cheered, "She's ruthless.  That's why I love her!"

When Emkir asked, Mikah reminded him they still had the next day's session but Fesic said Zimzod wouldn't be able to participate with that either.  When Mikah said Jocelynn would have to teach the class, Aiden joked, "We can draw straws for who she beats up."  Mikah interrupted Aiden, saying, "No!  She gets to choose who she beats up."  After that, the crew worked to clean and stow all their gear until their piles were complete, except for the armor damage.  Emkir and Zimzod had both taken armor damage that an armorer would have to look at to evaluate and fix.  And still, there was one box which had been moved in with the rest of the gear that no one had claimed or looked at.

When Aiden checked it out, he noticed it was about three feet long by a foot or more wide and deep.  Aiden called out, "Does anyone know what this is?", he also moved closer because it was sitting so there were no markings he could see.  Moving closer and rolling it on its side to see under it, Aiden read the legend "TAC-10-RL-2" on the box.  Calling Jocelynn with an enticing tone, Aiden said, "Jocelynn!  I've got a surprise for you!"  Jocelynn only called back, "Put your pants on!"  Coming over to see what Aiden was talking about, Jocelynn stopped and gave a 'Squee' of joy when she recognized the box.  She then opened it to make sure there was something inside the container.

Within, Jocelynn found a factory-sealed launcher and two high-explosive rounds as she chortled a bit in glee.  On top of those was a note reading, "We found a second one since you opened the first one.  We figured this one's factory sealed."  Letting out a whoop, Jocelynn told the others, "We got a missile launcher!"  next, the crew played 'show and tell' as everyone got their chance to check out the new toy.  In the process, Aiden pulled the launcher's model number off the device so he could be ready to order ordinance for it, since they only had the two missiles.  When things started to quiet down, it was decided to keep the launcher and missiles in the ship's locker.  Then, with everything stowed, they all headed for the gravCar to return to the suite.

At the gravCar, they found the Regina Army had left them a driver so they could relax during the ride.  Since they'd been rousted before lunch and sent to gear up, and then had to prepare and carry out a combat operation before coming back to the ship to clean up, it had been a long day.  Celebrating a chance to kick back and relax, Emkir even surprised them all with a bottle!  While they'd worked, he and gone back into his and Aali's stockpile and grabbed their one bottle of rum to share out.  When he raised the bottle, the crew cheered and he broke out disposable cups and started pouring.

During the ride, and between Emkir's toasts, Jocelynn did ask Mikah if she could have the missile launcher and Mikah firmly said, "You can use it."  Jocelynn accepted that with a disappointed tone.  Still, the toasts and drinks continued until the bottle died, which was inevitable with that many in the crew, and Zimzod got their attention.  Coming in over the Ducal Estates, he'd seen they weren't heading to land near the residence they had been housed in.  When he called that out, everyone in the car looked at each other and around, wondering what was coming next?

Watching out the windows as they came in, Emkir slipped the dead bottle inside a small storage hatch in the gravCar for later disposal.  The others could see there was a party of people waiting outside for them as they landed.  When they were down and the door opened, Mikah led the way out as a woman stepped up and introduced herself as a direct deputy to Mr. Dilgaadin.  The Duchess' Seneschal.  The rest were quite if respectful and seemed to have every feature of either an honor guard or military escort.  After introducing herself, the woman asked Mikah and the crew to "please" come with her in a friendly tone.

Eventually, they were led into a conference room which had been turned into something like a war room.  If their day had been a long one, the people working in that room were having a "long month" that week.  They were told, while being shown where to sit, that several of the isolated terror cells had struck targets while they'd been out and about.  The grim news was quickly softened by the confirmation that their attack hadn't been the trigger.  They knew all the cells had fuses and all those "were burning" or "had burned".  And, because of the crew, the cell they'd hit would not strike.  Adding to that, they said early information from the mansion suggested three additional safe houses which they were now investigating.

On the unfortunate side of the day's ledger, they were told two "high ranking officials" within the Regina government were killed and one cell had acted directly against the Regina population with over one hundred people dying in the bombing.  When Terin growled, "These people need to be put down" he was told that none of the attacks had been carried out with the expectation of survival.  The tone of voice the officer used showed that the little pleasure he'd gotten from his days' work included making sure none from those cells survived.  The crew were told that the bombing was a sequence of suicide bombers in a single market crowd.  The assassinations were bold faced assaults and while they got their targets, they did not survive the attacks.

When Aiden asked, they were told two other teams had tried to strike their targets and been blocked by security forces which led to pitched battles.  None of those terrorists had survived either.  So, the unspoken words as they listened were that the crew had also been responsible for the only capture of live terrorists!  What was discussed was that none of the 'known' teams had yet been traced back to the three newly suggested safe houses.  That meant there were as many as three more teams who were not yet beyond stopping and actions against them would happen before that night was done.  The instant of tension that statement created was immediately relaxed as they were told they would be able rest for a time because they were due a reward for their work.

Those waiting for the other shoe to drop got instant gratification as the speaking officer told them their permission to leave Regina had been rescinded "until such time as Her Grace would be pleased to allow them that permission once more."  Most of the crew simply groaned in understanding while Mikah called over to a confused Jocelynn and said, "Sounds like you're gonna get a Knighthood soon." with a wry grin on her face.  That only confused Jocelynn more because she knew it took a lot more than she'd been doing to earn a noble title.  While she tried to work that out in her head, Emkir agreed in a wistful tone, "Yeah.  They'll punish you with a knighthood just like they did to us."

The officer continued to tell them they were at their leisure but encouraged to remain living in the currently provided residence rather than moving off the estate.  He then told them the obvious as he said, "And we may call on you again because this series of events is not over yet."  Jocelynn was heard saying, "Oh, I'm sure you will." because she didn't lower her voice enough for it to not carry.  Emkir did specifically request the next day off for a party that evening to fete Aali's parents with the day to prepare, and they were told they'd have that time unless it was a complete emergency.  After that, the woman asked to speak to Mikah alone, and led Mikah into a separate room so they could talk.

After closing the door, the woman asked, "I understand there is another request you have for the Duchess?" and looked at Mikah expectantly.  Realizing what the woman meant, Mikah said she hoped for permission to use the Duchess' secret personal clinic to install a stent into one of her crew members.  When Mikah was asked how it would affect Jocelynn's combat effectiveness and abilities, Mikah said the day of the surgery would be light duty and that was it.  Nodding, the woman said she would take up the request with the Duchess and get Mikah an answer.  She then said the seneschalate had become aware of the crew's bid for what she referred to as 'military hardware'.  As Mikah cringed at how that would be reacted to, the woman said the Duchy would pay half the cost of that equipment once it was purchased.

Surprised, Mikah thanked the woman enthusiastically and said it would help with their "communications while they were engaged."  Answering with a wolfish smile, the woman said, "We know."  The woman then told Mikah she could rejoin her party as she led her to the gravcar, where the crew were waiting and said, "All of Regina's government and military thank you for your service."  After that, everyone agreed it was time to get back to the suite and recover from their day.  Grabbing the snacks laid out by their cooking staff, the crew settled in to consider their ammo spent and damaged armor while Mikah checked over Emkir's bruised abdomen and waited for Zimzod to be returned from the hospital.  They also settled in to watch the news.  And while a lot of the news was about the domestic and about the terror attacks, they did see a few important interstellar pieces.

    Rech (D9957AA-6  Ag  G  501  Im  M0 V)                                           Date: 316 - 1113
    After a three-day news blackout, news has been released of the arrival of
    Prince Lucan and Arch-Duke Norris in the Rech system.  While the schedule
    of the Imperial convoy has not been made public, the pair now have fourteen
    days to arrive in the Regina system to participate in the physical transfer
    of authority to Duchess Seldrian.  Of course, the official transfer of
    power has already been carried out and Her Grace Seldrian has been resolving
    any issues faced in taking up the reins of power not only in the Regina
    system, but in the associated Duchy and subsector.

    During their stay in-system, the activities have been divided between such
    events as reviews of the local forces and authorities while also meeting with
    the nobility in-system.  Long bypassed by interstellar traffic, the Rech
    system has been suffering because they are off the X-Boat routes.  Because
    of that, the system has been putting every credit they could into improvements
    to their starport with news from the Tureded system of port upgrades and an
    expected extension of the X-Boat route from the Rhylanor system, authorities
    on Rech hope to draw in more traffic and a possible designation as the next
    step in a 'Rhylanor to Regina' X-boat route.  Rech is an agricultural world
    known for its smoked meats and fine leathers.  Outside of that, Vargr
    traders call there fairly frequently thanks to the lower prices on their
    agricultural produce.  the only downside is that those going dirt-side need
    to use filters in the open atmosphere.


    Icetina (B5245A9-7  N  Ni  A  301  Im  M9 V  M8 D)                                Date: 281-1113
    In an alert release from the base commanding officer, it has been reported
   that the first arrivals have begun arriving after a battle reported to have
    taken place in deep space.  Detached from the command of Fleet Admiral
    Khimuru Uuela, Admiral Muker Agamiirka has reported in, leading those vessels
    damaged in battle and needing repair.  On arrival, Admiral Agamiirka delivered
    a dispatch from Admiral Uuela stating the bulk of his forces were still
    battle-ready and returning to the Natoko system to support operations there.
    In a separate dispatch, Senator Kudilas was said to be proceeding
    directly to the Rhylanor system with significant data regarding his accusations
    against the Natoko system government.

    A brief release of facts regarding the actions taken placed the location
    of the battle as the space around a gas giant orbiting an uncharted brown dwarf.
    This appears to have been located two parsecs coreward-spinward of the Rhylanor
    system and two parsecs trailing of the Icetina system.  The battle was described
    as a "strike" by Admiral Uuela's assembled battle groups against an assembled
    fleet of "low end" combat vessels, armed civilian ships and craft best described
    as 'resurrected hulks'.  The engagement became possible after intelligence led
    scout vessels of the IISS identify a covert base orbiting the gas giant.
    The initial dispatch further stated Admiral Uuela had separated his forces
    after the battle.  The smaller force would remain to secure the battle site and
    maintain oversight while local repairs were to be carried out of those vessels
    which could no longer jump clear of the engagement site.

    The group of secured ships were described as a fleet element of ships captured
    or damaged, and ordered(or towed) into a "line formation" while those ships
    patrolling the area both maintained security and stood ready to defend against
    any ship's trying to return to the base after possibly executing other missions.
    None of the data released have yet suggested what flag or authority the defeated
    fleet and base operated under or reported to?  News of this action certainly
    hearkened back to the destruction of the covert Sword Worlds base named 'Bryn
    Avgrunn Station', during the Fifth Frontier War.  Further details will be made
    public as soon as they are released, however TAS recommends readers be alert for
    data from either the Rhylanor system, here at the Icetina Naval base or at Natoko
    Operations Command.  Certainly, with Admiral Uuela returning to the latter,
    we cannot be far distant from a change of status in that system.

While watching the news, Fesic checked with workers in the suite and learned he'd had a message from the cargo broker he'd contacted.  Despite the hour, he called her back and she picked up quickly enough that he didn't feel he'd woken her.  While Fesic hoped she'd come back with an 'incredibly good' offer on the marble in their cargo bay.  But she only had an offer of KCr 600 for the lot.  When Mikah asked, Fesic reminded her they'd paid KCr 486.4 for the load.  That meant the gross profit would have been KCr 113 . And because of the agreement with the broker, she'd get 20% of the deal off the top.  That was just north of KCr 92, leaving them Cr 16,320.  That was barely a profit at all, and both Fesic and the rest of the crew weren't willing to take the deal so he thanked her and told her to keep trying.

Talking about selling the cargo, Mikah and others reminded Fesic they didn't have to sell the lot on Regina.  And, that they also knew Regina wasn't the best market for the stone either.  When Fesic said he'd actually had a better offer before he'd turned to the broker, he was asked why he hadn't taken that deal?  That would have been worth more than KCr 150 in profit without a broker's fee.  Fesic just shrugged and said he thought they could do better.  When Mikah told him to contact the buyer again, he said he would and made the call.  Surprised to get an answer calling a business code at that hour, Fesic was able to reach the buyer, who said he would now only pay Cr 500 for the cargo.  Ironically, the profit from that offer would have been Cr 13,600 so they had bad deals either way.

After Fesic ended that call, Emkir suggested selling to the Duchy, but Mikah said they could just keep it until they got to a better market.  When Emkir pushed, Mikah reminded him that the marble they had was "general" quality, and might not be up to their standards.  Hearing that, Emkir agreed it wasn't the best idea he'd ever had and let it drop.  Eventually, Zimzod was returned from the hospital and Mikah gave his leg her professional inspection.  He told her they'd need to get the gravChair from the ship because he was told not to put any weight on the leg for the next week.  And then he was to spend the following week on light duty.  That put Mikah, Aiden and Zimzod on light duty for the coming days, as Aiden's chest muscles were still bothering him.  Shortly after Zimzod got back, several members of the Regina Army showed up with their gravChair, having been ordered to recover it from their ship.  Happy that saved them another late night trip, the crew thanked the troopers and went back to relaxing until Mikah got a call on her comms.

Moving back to the news instead of the cargo, Emkir was still shaking his head at the events Uuela had become involved in.  Emkir joked that it seemed his old gambling buddy was doing alright for himself.  They sat and talked of the news, and Emkir called their concierge to re-set their hair appointments while they relaxed.  From a number that came back as unlisted!  Answering it, Mikah found herself talking to the director of the Duchess' very classified clinic.  And the man did not looked pleased to be speaking to her.  After she greeted him, the man told her he was reporting in that they had begun a procedure that they hoped would deal with the poison and current testing suggested they were leeching some of the poison from Sir Rol's body.

That news pleased Mikah and didn't explain the man's attitude, so she nodded and let him continue.  He finished up that part of the conversation by saying he couldn't promise this progress would help. or even save, Sir Rol's life.  Mikah understood that completely.  When Mikah nodded and said he and his people should do what they can and see what happened, the man accepted that and then launched into his main reason for calling.  Looking down his nose at her through the vid-screen, the man said, "I understand you have requested use of my facilities."  Realizing he must have heard about the request for Jocelynn's stent, Mikah said she had and explained what she needed to do to him.  With an expression as frozen as ice, the man answered her, "No.  It is not ok for 'you' to use my facility".

After stressing the word, "you", he continued, "If you can have your crewperson delivered to the seneschalate according to instructions we will send you tomorrow at 1pm, we will handle the procedure ourselves."  Again, stressing the word, the man repeated, "You cannot use my facility."  Getting what she wanted anyway, Mikah simply said OK and thanked the man as he nodded in affirmation of his own power and cut the connection.  Shortly after that, Mikah did get the instructions and they realized they'd have to get Jocelynn from her morning hair appointment to the seneschalate with a meal in-between so everything set up could get done.  After that, they relaxed until it was bed time.  At a point during the evening, Zimzod ordered a replacement set of executive armor and paid the Cr 4,000 charge.  They promised delivery the next day.

Morning Mayhem
     While everyone set alarms for the morning because of the appointments set and other things they needed to get done, Fesic was the first to wake at 8am.  After having breakfast, Fesic turned on the news and relaxed while he waited for the others to wake up.  Eventually, the alarms went off and people started making their way out to the dining room to find Fesic sitting at the table smiling.  Not comfortable with what that meant, Mikah asked, "What did you do Fesic?" and the gunner smirked, "I canceled your hair appointments."  When those in the room demanded, "What?!" he said, "I was doing you a favor.  I figured you needed more sleep so I canceled the appointments."  The smile never left his face.

As Jocelynn lowered her face into her hand and muttered, "Oh, Fesic." despairingly, Mikah turned to her and said, "Jocelynn?  I think Fesic may need first aid."  Jocelynn actually took in a huge breath as her face lit up with glee...even if it was Fesic.  At least, this time it would be Jocelynn beating him up herself.  Pausing, Jocelynn looked back at Mikah and asked, "Is that a direct order?" and Mikah said it was.  Surprised she would attack him, Fesic started calling out "I'm kidding!  I'm kidding!"  before she plowed into him and crashed him down to the floor of the suite.  Despite the hard hit, there were no immediate injuries from the tackle.

Raising her arm to deliver a punch, Jocelynn demanded, "Are you really kidding?" and Fesic said, "Yes!  It was just a joke."  Then he tried to address them all as he said, "You all need to work on your senses of humor." as if the mistake had been on their part.  While Jocelynn then lifted off him and helped Fesic up, Mikah stepped over to one of the servers to get someone to call their concierge and confirm they did still have their appointments.  Especially since they had to have Jocelynn into the salon and out in time to get her to the seneschalate.  After they were told the appointments were still on, things started to settle down until Fesic's comms started to go off.

Not sure if that was yet another prank, everyone watched as Fesic answered to find it was the broker again.  This time, she was the one with a huge smile.  As he greeted her, she told Fesic she had the deal he wanted?  Not sure how likely that was, Fesic asked and she told him she'd found a buyer who needed marble quickly.  That firm had offered MCr 1 for the cargo!  That news stunned everyone who'd heard it.  Asking her to hold on, Fesic did the math in his head.  They'd paid Cr 12,800 per ton for 38 tons of the stuff.  That worked out to KCr 486,400 total.  Her fee would be KCr 200, which left them KCr 800 from the deal.  So, the profit was KCr 313.6, which was KCr 170 short of doubling their money!

After doing the math, Fesic didn't need to stop to ask Mikah because he knew "this" was the deal he'd been waiting on!  While the others watched, Fesic did the paperwork with the broker, including the certification the cash would be in the bank before the crew arrived at the ship to pick up the marble.  That also meant that Fesic had to go down to the ship to meet them and supervise the unloading.  Still, it was something he could shrug off as he finished the call and did the math.  And thanks to the formula they'd agreed to, the ship would get another Cr 156,802 and each member of the crew would get Cr 17,422, including Rol.

Later that day, the staff of the suite would be able to receive Zimzod's Executive Armor delivery.  Zimzod also called Instell-Arms to send an armorer over in the early afternoon to evaluate the armor damage they'd suffered.  The day was Mikah's fifth day of light duty as well as Aiden's first, and Zimzod's first day in grav chair.  Mikah was also expecting the Delivery of her carry bags while she and Aali were waiting for the delivery of their custom necklaces.  Fesic needed a ride down to the ship so he could wait for the cargo pick up.  The rest of the crew would soon be piling into the gravCar to go to the spa for hair appointments.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Fesic: In the suite needing a ride to the ship to be ready for the cargo pick up
     Everyone else: In the suite preparing to go to the salon for a hair appointment

Next: Secrets, Sales And Surprises