Welcome to the
    Campaign!

Last Updated     Mar 27 2021
Home
The Characters
The Ship
Campaign History Page
Granted Rights
The Frontier Wars
The Spinward Marches
About Legends
Artist's Credits
House Rules
Recent Updates
Email Me
Secrets, Sales And
      Surprises


Plans And Invitations
Regina     Early in the day, most of the crew were preparing to head off to the salon for hair or other personal care appointments.  After the events following his prank played out, Fesic was waiting for an aircar he'd called for to travel back to the ship.  He had to be there to deal with a work crew coming to off-load the marble he'd been very happy to sell.  The deal he'd cut netted everyone aboard over KCr 17 and the ship nearly KCr 157 after paying back the cost of the marble.

While getting ready to go to the salon with Mikah, Zimzod made sure to tell the suite staff he'd ordered stuff from Instell-Arms.  He also hoped to get back in time to meet with an armorer, who would evaluate his battledress and the combat damage to the other's armor.  That was planned for early in the afternoon.  The day was Mikah's fifth day of light duty and Aiden's first, while Zimzod would spend his first day in the grav chair, so he doubted they'd be hitting the town.  And he was certain the ladies wouldn't take their new hair styles into combat.  Mikah and Aali also told the staff about the handbag and possible jewelry deliveries.

The first to leave was Fesic, when the building concierge called to let him know his cab had arrived.  Heading out, Fesic found the car was an automated gravCar.  It asked for his destination information and then invited him to sit back and relax as it began to lift.  Still, he was told the fare would be Cr 30 and confirmed that was OK before the cab lifted from the transit apron on a southern heading toward the facility near Credo-down port.  In the cab, he relaxed for the fifteen to twenty minute ride.  Not long after that, the rest of the crew left for the salon.

At the salon, the staff took Mikah and Jocelynn first despite the ranking of their social status.  Normally, they'd have taken Jocelynn last of the crew but Mikah had made it clear Jocelynn had an appointment with the Seneschalate and Mikah had to get her there.  So they asked Jocelynn if she wanted a clean, highlighted and styled or some other combination?  Jocelynn said she would be OK with just the cleaning and styling so they discussed how Jocelynn wanted her hair styled and they were off.  Hearing that, Aiden called out she should have her hair done like someone named "Pippy Longstocking".

Not sure who or what that was, Jocelynn simply shot back that she would do it if Aiden would do it too.  Aiden protested that he didn't have enough hair to do that and one of the workers suggested they could weave in hair extensions.  As the jokes started flying, it was even suggested they could use the long hair from Aslan fur.  Zimzod called out that they should give Aiden dreadlocks.  The laughter and jokes finally got Aiden to shut up as things moved on.  Mikah wanted her hair left long but cut and styled "back into manageability", because it had been a while since she'd had it cut.  She wanted highlights and for the cut to frame her face.

Terin and Zimzod both had haircuts and Zimzod also got a shave.  Aali consulted with Emkir before asking the stylist to keep the overall motif of her hair style but trim it to be neater and 'sleek'.  For himself, Emkir kept with the shaved sides, upswept top and a "silver hair coloring" which matched Aali's hair color.  As if someone knew they were in chairs at the time, Mikah's comms started to buzz.  Excusing herself because of the people who could be calling her, or the situations they might be calling about, Mikah appreciated it when her stylist stepped back.  Of course, they were also used to this because some of those they cut were significant people and this was nothing new.

And when Mikah answered the call, she found herself talking to Mr. Dilgaadin.  The Seneschal himself.  And his face was set in a grim expression.  After Mikah greeted him and asked how she could help, Mr. Dilgaadin said, "I regret to inform you that Sir Rol Kaihvos has died while procedures were being undertaken to leech the poison from his body.  In as solemn a tone as she could get herself to use, Mikah simply said "Oh."  She then quickly muted the call and turned the comms so Dilgaadin could not see her face as she looked at the others and said, "Party guys!"  Not sure if that was good news or meant they had to dress up for someone else's party, the crew went silent, as did the room except the muted actions of the stylists.

Mikah then turned the comms back and unmuted it as she asked Mr. Dilgaadin if he could help start the paperwork to have Rol cloned?  Dilgaadin said they had to meet with Mikah on that before checking his cron and saying the meeting should be at 2pm that afternoon, since she was busy at the time.  When Mikah agreed, she was told the Duchess would meet with "only" Mikah at that time to discuss the issue.  Mikah accepted since she only had to deliver Jocelynn to the seneschalate by 1pm after the hair appointment.  Then wait for the call that Jocelynn was ready to be picked up after her procedure at the clinic.  When Mikah accepted, she was told that meeting would be at the personal office of the Duchess.

With that call done, Mikah told the others in the crew that Rol had died.  She didn't worry about the staff of the salon because she knew the news would hit the net very soon if it wasn't being released now, after she'd been told.  The salon workers were also used to this sort of event and having to keep quiet about information not yet released to the public.  So the stylists and others worked as Zimzod complained about not having grilled cheese and Jocelynn asked about cloning Rol.  Mikah said she'd have to start the process, but Rol would be cloned and the situation soon turned to jokes about the results of the cloning.

After being dropped outside the secure facility where their ship was berthed, Fesic made his way inside as he showed his credentials or entered passcodes where needed.  Once aboard the mostly powered-down Upgrade, Fesic opened the cargo bay door and made sure the cargo was ready to be picked up, using the cargo lifters to move it into the berth.  Because that didn't take long and the other crew wouldn't show up until "sometime around mid-day", Fesic went into the computer core to do what he could on the training code project.  Logging in with the limited root-access Emkir had set up for him, Fesic first sparked up a monitor showing the security camera view of the cargo in the berth.  He then got to work.

Eventually, while Mikah and Jocelynn watched the time in the salon, Fesic answered a call from the port when they chimed him.  They told him that a team had arrived with a work-order to take delivery of the Upgrade's cargo.  Hearing that, they let the crew into the berth as Fesic moved to the cargo bay to meet them.  The team were four operators and a supervisor managing cargo-transport androids.  After Fesic also checked their datapad to confirm things were in order, he watched as the team had their androids load up the cargo and head back out for the port's exit security checks.

Those steps repeated a number of times as the androids then got to the team's heavy hauler transports.  It would take a couple of hours before the full cargo was moved to the transports and the receipts signed that all the marble had been delivered.  That was also double-confirmed as the port official for the berth provided a time-stamped video of the entire procedure.  While that happened, the others had their hair appointments done in time to get back into the gravCar and grab lunch before Mikah had to drop Jocelynn off at the seneschalate.  After dropping Jocelynn off, Mikah went back to the suite to relax until she had to go to the Duchess' office for her 2pm meeting.

Back at the suite, Mikah changed into a pants suit, and waited to leave for her visit with the Duchess.  Just at the suite's door, Mikah ran into a trio of men coming to buzz the visitor's chime.  One was an older and obviously well-off man and the two behind him were big, burly and each carrying a box.  Surprised to find her standing in the door, the older man said he was looking for Lady Mikah Kirlim and Dame Aalikiir Eikusdi.  His expression showed he hoped she could help him.  Nodding, Mikah introduced herself and he asked if they could step back inside the suite?

Considering, Mikah apologized that she had to meet with the Duchess so their business had to be done quickly.  When the man agreed to that, Mikah said Dame Aalikiir was inside too.  Leading the men into the suite, Mikah called for Aali and said 'their stuff' had arrived as she figured it was their jewelry.  As they gathered inside, the other men helped the older man position and open each of the boxes to show off the necklaces inside.  Which belonged to who was obvious because each had that woman's heraldry worked into a pendant.  Both necklaces were platinum chains from which each had a pendant.

The basic shape of the pendant on Aali's necklace seemed to be a ship's hull silhouette on which a display of her heraldry was crafted in cloisonné enamel.  That had been done in vivid glass colors, contained by white gold jeweler's wire.  The man also said he'd taken the liberty of making the pendant "mountable", so she could remove it from the chain to wear as a brooch.  When Aali said she was pleased, the man had her sign off on it and pay Cr 1,000 for the item.  The same treatment was done with Mikah's necklace, though the enamel-work on hers was 'free-form' and not cloisonné.  The pendant was shaped to suggest the silhouette of a tear drop or drop of blood.  The man took some time to show her where the controls were to the electronics engineered into the pendant.  Those worked a mini-video/audio recording device built in.

The man did tell Mikah he had planned to provide her a full presentation on how to work the devices in the pendant, but understood they had to cut that short because of Mikah's plans.  When Mikah asked if she could visit their offices the next day to cover that, they said she could.  They also said they'd created a full manual and recorded how to videos for her and could give her those.  Mikah was very pleased with that and accepted the crystal on which that was saved for later and paid the Cr 3,000 cost for the piece.  She then put the necklace and crystal in her bedroom before thanking the man and leaving to meet with the Duchess.  That left Aali to conclude their business with the men before they left.

Scattered Interests
     After lunch, Terin decided to wander the estate gardens for a bit.  Zimzod waited for the Instel-Arms armorer to arrive and he did shortly after Mikah left for her appointment.  After Mikah had left, Aali had decided she'd first wear her necklace at dinner that night and set it aside in her bedroom.  Asking Zimzod for an explanation of what had happened, the armorer said Emkir's armor would likely be an easy fix.  But, he'd have to check the internal components of Zimzod's leg armor before he could make an assessment.  When Zimzod nodded, the man got working.  After nearly ten minutes, he said he had his kit with him and could fix Emkir's armor for Cr 30.

Emkir accepted that and the man spent the next half hour shaving out the stressed and damaged composite remaining before filling the cavity with fresh composite and an assimilative bonding agent.  When the man started working to check out Zimzod's calf and upper leg units, the knight watched and chatted with the technician.  While the technician worked with Emkir and Zimzod, Aiden sparked up a terminal and looked into a harness system he could carry, and use to secure himself when he climbed off the ground for a shooting position.

Aiden quickly found out the in-system Instel-Arms offerings were divided into low, medium and high tech solutions with appropriate prices levels.  As he expected, the low tech solutions were manually operated straps, hooks and tension slides which a user worked to secure themselves in position.  Those solutions also had their limits on what materials they could not secure to, so you had to hook yourself to outcroppings rather than seal your harness to a surface.  They could also fail if the user selected the wrong angles too.

The 'medium' tech items used automation to provide some connectivity, as well as tightening and checking tension.  It also checked the support angles to insure there was not a slide vector the operator didn't consider.  Appropriately more expensive, the higher tech gear started using gravitic technology to lift or allow a user to be held in place.  Those would also 'soften the fall' if their chosen support structure fell.  Aiden did his best to pull details and compare items when the technician working on the armor saw he was on an Instel-Arms network screen.

When he asked what Aiden was looking for, the pilot hoped for 'expert help' and showed the man the items he was comparing.  Nodding, the tech said that I-A was good for many things but in this case, Aiden might do better with a used gear site.  He said how to reach that site and Aiden switched to start looking at a used hunting and activity gear auction/sale/trade site.  Aiden then happily started digging into that site to see what was on offer?  New to the site, Aiden dove in to explore and see what he could find.

After the tech finished working on his armor, Emkir suggested going south, to the ship, to continue working on the software project.  But Aali reminded him they had to be at the suite that evening to meet her parents for the party that night.  So, Emkir shrugged and the two hung out and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.  Aali approved of them taking a 'day off' after the steady stream of work, and knowing how much more work Emkir was slated for in the coming weeks.

Dropped off at the seneschalate, Jocelynn followed the instructions she'd been given and waited.  Soon, an android greeted her and asked her to follow it before being led to a vehicle park.  There, she was asked to board a gravCar which had an automated pilot.  Once she was inside and seated, the portal closed and locked before the car lifted off the park.  In the air, the windows of the gravCar quickly went opaque and Jocelynn could only sit back and relax for the rest of her ride.  To add to "the eerie", the voice from the computer told her, "Just sit and relax.  We should be at your destination momentarily.

Eventually, Jocelynn felt the car come to a landing and the door opened to show the interior of another parking facility where another android stood waiting.  As Jocelynn moved to the portal, the android asked, "Follow me." before turning and moving off.  She walked behind the 'droid as the machine led her out of the carpark through a portal and into the clinic.  The place was a madhouse of medical personnel who were all very busy, very annoyed and all working terminals or keyboards.  And none noticed her or the 'droid at all.

Passing through them, Jocelynn was led to another lab and then off that to a smaller room with a "procedure chair" in it.  The android indicated the chair and asked her, "Sit here.  You will be seen soon."  "Soon" ended up being twenty minutes after she'd sat down and the 'droid left her with the room door closing behind it.  That was when a man entered the room accompanied by another android.  Walking in, the man introduced himself as "your doctor" and told her he would be performing the procedure on her.  He then covered the preferences with Jocelynn, and determined the stent would be implanted behind Jocelynn's left ear.  With that, she was told to relax in the chair while the android moved up to anesthetize her before the procedure started.  As they got started, Jocelynn's world went dark.

Tidings And Tasks
     Taking the gravCar, Mikah flew to the checkpoints she'd been directed to before arriving outside the office complex where the Duchess' personal staff worked.  There, an android told her they would move her gravCar while she was led inside by another 'droid.  Following it inside, Mikah walked to, and into, a room that seemed filled with officers from both the Imperial Navy and Regina system Navy.  The room had been laid out with the officers working at sections of a table laid out in a horse shoe shape.  There were also two sets of "desk-like" tables at the open end of the main table.

The door Mikah had entered through was on the "right side" of the U-shaped table and she could check out the officers as she followed the 'droid to one of the empty desks.  She also got to check out the many data screens almost covering each wall from hip-level up, which showed available force statistics, live broadcasts from various locations and more.  The most interesting thing Mikah saw was that the room seemed dominated by a man in an Imperial Navy uniform with four gold stripes on each sleeve and shoulder as well as an Imperial Starburst on each lapel.  That marked him as a Ship's Captain rather than just an officer of the captain's rank.

Of special note, Mikah saw the man's command insignia was topped by the insignia of a Tigress class ship!  Seeing that, Mikah realized there was only one Tigress-class dreadnaught in-system and who that man had to be.  Mikah also noticed that a number of the officers the captain had been commanding as she entered held the rank of lower-level admirals.  So, the man was involved in something very special indeed to be commanding above his grade.  It was a few minutes more after Mikah had been seated that everyone rose as the Duchess and Seneschal arrived.

When Seldrian sat, the others also sat and the room was ready for a briefing.  Standing after a nod from Seldrian, Mr. Dilgaadin stood and said, "I am sure we all know why we are here, but in case anyone has joined at the last minute, the topic at hand is the death of Sir Rol Kaihvos."  After a beat, he continued, "As some of you know, earlier today while our medical staff were working to leech the poisons from his body, they realized the poison had penetrated his body too completely.  There was no way they could save his body."  Dilgaadin's gaze swept the room before he continued.

He told them the medical staff had then let the body "defrost" to a point where it could die according to the natural progress of the poison.  Among other things, this let them study the poison's pathology to better understand it.  Finishing up, he said that would let them proceed to 'the next step' before turning to the Duchess to say, "Your Grace, I understand you have a statement?"  He sat as Seldrian rose and also swept the room with her gaze.

The Duchess began by reminding them all that Sir Rol had served the Imperium and been awarded the Starburst for Extreme Heroism.  Because of that, she said it was their duty to devote all of the resources they could to handling the affairs of 'his late self' and his crew.  After a brief pause, she said, "For that to be done, I need to turn this meeting over to Captain Ouaka Kuasim of the dreadnaught Adzin Ilgimsumaa.  With that, the Duchess sat as the captain rose and gave her a brief bow to recognize her command.

Captain Kuasim then thanked the Duchess and asked how she preferred he proceed?  Seldrian then asked him to read off the report received from a ship which had arrived the night before.  That was news to Mikah, who wasn't the only one that hadn't known any messages had been received the night before.  Nodding, the captain told the group that a courier had arrived the night before and reported in to his flotilla.  The message carried had, in part, detailed the composition of the expected Royal fleet element accompanying Prince Lucan and the Arch Duke.  The flagship of that element was also a Tigress-class dreadnaught and all knew that would be the Prince's ship.

Not confirming what they all knew, the captain simply said that the ship would be "transporting high-level VIP's".  After that, the captain read off the order of battle for the fleet element, which Mikah noted included a battleship-sized medical ship referred to as the med-cruiser INS Selaki Ken.  While he spoke, what details of the ships could be shared were broadcast to the screens around the room and Mikah saw the medical cruiser had been purpose-built near Capital/Core, and had all the bells and whistles the Imperium could possibly supply.

When Seldrian asked about that ship specifically, the captain gave her even more information, including the fact the ship was equipped with the capability to carry out cloning.  Hearing that, Mikah suddenly understood the entire reason for the briefing.  After the captain finished and sat, the Duchess again rose and thanked him for his presentation.  She then turned to Mikah and said, "Given this data, we will be releasing a public statement regarding the death of Sir Rol.  That statement will clearly state that Sir Rol did have a stent and what was needed to clone him in the event of death or illness."

Seldrian continued, "Since he had a cloning insurance policy in force at the time of his death and since there had been a recent image created of his mind, poison-free samples of his DNA will be recovered.  Following that, a clone of Sir Rol will be created aboard the Selaki Ken, before being moved into a gestation chamber."  That pleased Mikah because it would certainly clear a lot of paperwork, though she also bet herself the cloning process would "really" be done in Seldrian's secret clinic and this was a cover.  For the military as well as the public.

Seldrian then continued, "We also realize it would be impossible to detach the medical ship to follow you and the Upgrade about your adventures.  And we cannot expect you and that ship to remain in-system for the next four and a half months.  So, we have created these requests."  As she said that, Seldrian held her hand out and Mr. Dilgaadin placed a datapad into her grip.  Seldrian then continued, "I will discuss these requests with the Prince and Arch-Duke when they arrive, and we will ask for the gestation chamber to be moved from the Selaki Ken to the Upgrade, until Sir Rol's clone was decanted.  That allowed them to manage the gestation and decanting of the clone without tying them to another system or ship.

That offer took Mikah by surprise, and she was very pleased even as Seldrian continued to explain that the cloning systems would be returned to the Imperial Navy once Sir Rol was decanted.  Despite not being able to keep the systems, Mikah was very thankful and said this would be very helpful, to which Seldrian simply said, "Yes.  We know." with a smile.  Then, Seldrian nodded to one of the officers in the room whose rank was below command grade and asked, "Sir, do you have any further information to provide Lady Mikah?"

The man stood after being addressed and Mikah could see he was an Imperial Navy Lieutenant Commander who had to be incredibly uncomfortable in this mix of higher-grade officers.  The specialty badge on his uniform identified him as an engineer and he wore the marker of being assigned to a ship's crew but not which ship?  Casting the data from a pad he raised as he'd stood, the officer said, "I've been provided the design specifications for the Upgrade as she sits currently in port on Regina.  As I am completely aware of the engineering needs to install the systems required, I only need to ask a small number of questions."

When he turned and Mikah nodded, he first asked her where she'd like the chamber to be installed?  He recommended that they consider either placing it in the spare stateroom or in place of one of the low berths, removing that unit to be stored and reinstalled later.  Mikah said she'd prefer to remove one of the low berths.  Nodding, the officer then agreed and said, "That can be easily done.  We can move the low berth into your cargo bay since...", he paused.  After checking his cron, he continued, "...since your ship's cargo bay should be empty by now."  That was news to Mikah, because she'd not gotten a report from Fesic that the marble had been picked up yet!

Rolling with that, Mikah agreed and even said she had a crewman on the ship at the moment, if they needed to get started on the work right away.  The commander waved that off and said all the engineering could be done in a bay aboard the Selaki Ken when the time came.  He then said the ship could be moved into orbit for that after the fleet arrived.  Mikah nodded and said she'd coordinate with him at his convenience.  Obviously finished, the officer bowed to the Duchess and sat down as Seldrian again stood and asked, "Lady Mikah.  Will you please accompany me?" and moved to leave the room.  As this happened, Mikah got a notice on her comms that KCr 90 had been sent from the ship's funds!

Everyone rose and bowed slightly to the Duchess, and Mikah also rose, moving to join Seldrian and Mr. Dilgaadin as they stepped from the room.  Mikah followed the two down the passage and into another room where the door closed behind them.  Mikah took the time, as they moved, to excuse herself and call Zimzod to ask about the money and get an answer.  While that happened, Mr. Dilgaadin drew a device from a pocket in his robes and muttered, "Can't be too sure." as he swept the room and Mikah for listening devices.  While Seldrian took a seat and relaxed, Dilgaadin finished his work and said, "OK.  This is how this will work."  Looking at Mikah, he continued, "As you may have guessed, we've already begun cloning Rol." in an all business tone.  Mikah was not surprised.

Dilgaadin continued, "We simply can't release the fact that has already happened.  So, we will release a statement saying Sir Rol's body will be held in stasis for the next few days until the Prince's fleet arrives.  During the flood of news with the arrival of the Prince and Arch-Duke, a story will be released that it had been possible to harvest enough clean DNA from his body to clone him according to his estate planning.  From there, the story will say that Rol will be cloned aboard the medical ship and the chamber transferred to your ship afterwards."  With a sparkle in his eye, Dilgaadin finished, "The Duchess will then release a statement that Sir Rol is 'not dead but simply unavailable for service at the moment'.

Treasure Hunting
     At the Ducal Estate, Terin had gone out to wander about the gardens.  At the suite, the others were going about their tasks when the visitor's buzzer chimed.  The butler answered the call and then came back to tell Zimzod, "We have a visitor for Lady Mikah, Sir."  Surprised, Zimzod nodded and said he'd handle the visitor before moving to the door.  When he opened the door, Zimzod was certain the visitor was "a person" and that the person was dressed in a bizarre style that Zimzod figured was 'high fashion' in-system.  Zimzod could see the person had a tether which ran from his belt to a package floating next to him using anti-grav which had to be locally very expensive.  So, whoever they were, they could afford to show off.

While Zimzod raised the hoverChair to a level placing his eyes above the visitor's, the person held up a datapad.  He then told Zimzod, "I have a delivery for Lady Mikah." in a tone suggesting he hoped Zimzod could get Mikah or take the delivery.  Nodding, Zimzod answered, "OK.  Cool.  What is is?"  Not sure this was going as planned, the person said, "Um.  It's an order she placed with our firm a few days ago."  The tone of their voice was more uncertain that it had been before.  When Zimzod nodded and said, "OK" they asked, "Would you like me to bring it in?" and Zimzod cheerfully said, "Yeah.  Sure."  Zimzod then led the person into the suite's living room where he had them put the package down before Zimzod signed for the delivery.

As he signed for the package, Zimzod saw the firm name and recognized it as the designers from whom Mikah had ordered her handbags.  After Zimzod signed for the package, the delivery person removed the anti-grav unit and left.  Near Credo-Downport, Fesic had finished working with the cargo team and decided he could call a cab to take him back to Atora.  Then, he'd be at the suite and could eventually clean up and dress for the party that night.  Still, Fesic sent a message to Mikah and Zimzod that the cargo had been moved, and went out spending Cr 10 for lunch before calling a cab.  The ride eventually cost him another Cr 30 and when he arrived he saw a bizarrely dressed person leaving.

By the time Fesic returned, Terin would soon return from his wandering, so he was out as were Mikah and Jocelynn.  He also noticed a package sitting on the floor in the living room which hadn't been there before.  As Fesic looked at the package, Zimzod asked, "Could you guys move that into one of the spare bedrooms in case it goes "Boom"?  While Fesic looked at Zimzod to gauge how serious he was about the thing exploding, Terin volunteered to move the package.  As that happened, Fesic said he was going for a walk in the estate gardens.

Back at his terminal after lunch, Aiden was still combing through the second-hand site looking for anything he might find of value.  Given the culture on Regina, the site catered to hunters, collectors and general 'adventure enthusiasts'.  The first section Aiden had checked advertised weapons but all of those seemed to be personal weapons of a hunting grade.  The few weapons which had been military grade were collectables and not in anywhere near a serviceable condition.  Certainly much worse than the least of the weapons the crew had collected.

Eventually, Aiden made his way through the general sales groupings, where "types of gear" were listed.  After that, he moved into specific sales announcements and had finally come across a harness and "molecular-bonding" system.  Reading more about the unit, the posting said the unit had five umbilicals which could connect in any direction to any material.  Even more impressive, Aiden read that the "bonding units" would sense the material they'd been placed against and measure that material's electromagnetic values.  The bonding units would then "create" a negative value which would create a strong magnetic bond with any solid material at all!

The posting also said the device was of a tech significantly more advanced than the local tech on Regina, so Aiden knew it had been imported.  He did have to chuckle when he read the device had been sold with a life-time guarantee.  Aiden knew that meant that you had to survive the failure to collect, or be related to the person who'd been using it.  Checking the pricing, Aiden was knocked back in surprise when he saw it was being offered for KCr 25.  When Zimzod noticed Aiden's reaction and asked what was going on, Aiden told him, and Zimzod just said, "Thank about what you're buying." in a tone suggesting Aiden was being a moron and he should reconsider his reaction.

Aiden checked the notes he'd taken while searching the I-A site and saw the unit he'd been considering sold for Cr 9,000.  That unit did not have bonding abilities so hooks and straps needed to be manually set.  That meant you didn't just have to climb something.  You had to then climb around on that so that you could set your mounts.  Only then would the micro-computer in the unit tension and test the hold and stabilize the person using it.  There were one or two other bells and whistles but not much compared to the higher tech unit.  Also overhearing the conversation, Emkir added, "Spend the money.  You're worth it", which several in the room questioned to themselves though they didn't mention it.

Figuring it would be worth checking out, Aiden opened the seller's contact data to find the gear was part of a group of items posted by the honorable Xoseh Miahe, who was eldest of a family of planetary nobility and held the local title "Count", with a fief covering the Imarsh region of Regina.  Where a Hexarch actually administered the region, this still made the family important on-world.  That didn't thrill Aiden much either.  Shrugging, Aiden called the contact code in the posting and got an answer.  He first explained what he was calling about and then asked if the unit had been vetted and tested?

The face of the man who'd answered his call suddenly shifted to displeasure as he asked, "What do you mean, 'vetted and tested'?  Are you suggesting His Excellency would sell faulty or dangerous equipment?"  Aiden tried to de-escalate by answering, "I'm only saying that things like that which are being sold 'As is' should be vetted and tested."  Overhearing, Zimzod pointed out the posting did not say "As is" before the agent he was on the comms with made it clear he was offended on behalf of his employer and if the caller was not willing to accept an honest posting, he could shop elsewhere.  It took Aiden a bit of talking to get the man to accept tha the had only been concerned because of the amount he'd be spending.

As Aiden tried to save the conversation, Zimzod was joking to the rest of the room that this was 'standard Aiden' which meant: 'Open Mouth - Insert Foot".  When Aiden finished the call, he had the location to travel to and a contact number and name for the representative of the Count who he'd be dealing with.  Having that, Aiden cut the call and then asked the others if anyone wanted to go with him on the trip to check out the hunting saddle?  Terin had returned by then and was the only one to agree.  That settled, the two looked up the Count to be sure what they were walking into?  It turned out that the County title had been passed down since the current Count's Great Grandfather and this particular holder of the office had been pretty much a 'playboy type' for much of his life.  That philosophy had only been changed, apparently, by the events of the Fifth Frontier War.

Then, it came down to transport and Aiden decided to call for a cab to ride out in.  His two requirements were that the cab would have to stay on site until they completed their business, and it had to be large enough to hold luggage if they bought the hunting saddle.  After he gave them the addresses, he was told it would cost him Cr 30 each way plus the cost of 'wait time' and Aiden accepted that.  The estate they rode to was a large expanse of open and forested space between Atora and the mountains.  It had been used by the Count when he had been living closer to Atora and the ports, before moving back home to "grow up and become responsible".  The size of the place screamed 'Money!'

The cab set down on the spot they were told to hit and they were first met by members of the Count's security team.  After checking them out, checking out their weapons, then checking their Idents and comparing the weapons with the details on the Idents, they cleared the two and passed them on to a representative of the Count's seneschal.  That man led the two into one of the estate's out-buildings.  That building had to have been some kind of construction and industrial storage building at some time simply based on the interior of the structure.  But it was filled with all manner of gear, toys for grown men and even dusty but fairly functional "activity vehicles" such as dirt bikes, hill buggies, etc.

Without a map, they simply followed the 'native guide' until they were brought to a sack in which was the harness, fittings, electronics, etc..  The man also brought two men with him who appeared to be nothing more than work hands.  It was their job to pull the harness and gear out as ordered, and set it out for display.  One of the first things Aiden could tell right off, was that it had been imported at great cost from the Rhylanor system.  That meant it likely cost Cr 14,000 just for shipping tonnage!  It also meant more than half Aiden's cost of KCr 25 would only have covered the original shipping, not to mention the actual cost of the device.

Checking the stats, Aiden saw the saddle was twelve years old, but still appeared in 'barely used' condition.  Over the next thirty minutes, the rep for the seneschal had one of the servants snap into the harness while the two of them secured him to all manner of structures in the building.  At more than one point, they even mounted one or more of the adhesion points to glass surfaces!  After that demonstration, Aiden was sold and offered his Ident to pay then and there. 

DescriptionHunting Saddle:
        Harness with automated self-tensioning system, in-built angle testing and five
        'drone' tethers which provide "molecular-bonding"(can detect the electro-
        magnetic variance of any material as a 'North Pole' and create an opposite
        charge as a 'South Pole' to magnetically adhere to that surface.
            (Note: cannot connect to fluids but can connect to submerged solid surfaces)

While Aiden had been dealing with the harness, Terin had no interest in the saddle and decided to look around.  Still, the building was large and stacked up with a great many things Terin could only call toys.  The load certainly bore out their brief research on the Count.  Because of the massive amount of gear, Terin didn't want to get lost or cause an avalanche.  Still, he did want to explore while not going too far.  The first thing Terin encountered was perhaps one of the most frightening pieces of gear he could ever conceive of.

At the center of the device was a harness.  That was connected to something that appeared, to Terin's untrained eyes, to be a blend between jet engines and water turbines!  Checking what he could see of the documentation for the item, it seemed one could "strap in" and then use the engines thrust to "body glide" across oceans!  That backed Terin off as he wondered about the abrasiveness of salt water and what sort of goop you'd have to slime your body with to prevent sand-blasting your skin (and organs) off?  Terin's mental compass was moving from defining this Count not as an 'adventurer' but as a certifiable nut job!

Next, Terin found an amazingly expensive audio system which was optimized to replicate the calls of the wildlife and birds of the Regina mainworld.  This very costly toy was potentially the hunter's best friend because a user could use an interface to not only select the breed of lifeform desired, but to specify the types of calls made from mating calls to warnings to cries given under certain circumstances.  The system could also vary the call for the different ages of each breed!  So, a hunter could play the plaintive cries of a threatened newborn in hopes of drawing in a potential parent.  Of course, that potential parent would also, without any question, be very angry.

Terin could see high-end off-road vehicles of varying configurations, parked and growing dust farms years old.  One vehicle even had a mannequin next to it which was dressed head to toe in the safety gear which would be used while operating the vehicle.  In the darker light of the building, Terin could see the fabric colors had not even started thinking about fading despite the obvious years of dust.  Shaking his head, Terin moved down a bit as Aiden finally joined him.

What Aiden saw Terin looking at was a kit marked as a personal re-entry kit!  Not considering the recent personal experiences of the crew, they had mostly heard of this sport at some point in their lives.  While many worlds had atmospheres thick enough to jump from aircraft and sky-dive, a number of those worlds had a wealthy enough segment of the population that they could take it to the next logical step.  That was jumping "into" and through the world's atmosphere riding through the fires or re-entry.  As with other extreme sports, what started as a very small number of very rich people grew into a sport which has now spread across charted space where the money and technology could support or transport it.

                AtmoJumper early in the descent                        AtmoJumper late in the descent  

Note: Check the differences in the size of the shell protecting the jumper to understand the
          effects of re-entry burn early(Left side) and late(right side) in the burn.

As recently as the previous month, the entire crew had paid to make assisted atmospheric jumps after Rol had found an amusement venue offering it.  After that, Aali was still looking forward to doing it again.  So, the kit would be of interest to others in the crew if it worked.  When Terin asked, they opened up the kit and showed how it worked.  One would prepare and lay out the device's pieces in a method the representative had the workers show off while he read from the manual.

There would be a user's seat with a shell connected to its back.  The user would then spray that with a foam to create a protective shell for re-entry.  After the shell dried and hardened, the user would checking to make sure the maneuvering thruster fuel had been topped off.  Then, the user would get into a vacc suit and strap themselves into the harness connected to the system.  There would next be a systems and electronics test before the jumper would have the ship or station's bay door open so they could be ejected out towards the atmosphere to be "jumped".

It was very plain to both Aiden and Terin that the kit was complete and functional.  While they didn't waste foam testing the cans, there were even three cans of the stuff included!  Beyond that, cans could be bought where the tech and market supported sales, or could be ordered from a number of higher tech systems listed on the manual!  The only down-side was that Regina wasn't listed there.  But the Count had spent money like water so that hadn't bothered him.  When they tested the electronics, there were even pictures which suggested the entire unit had been used only once before being packed away!

The biggest surprise came when they were packing the unit back into its storage and came across a separate item which had been included.  That turned out to be a 'snap-in' HUD overlay which worked with most vacc suit helmets and existing HUD systems to add the device's control and sensor data to the user's vacc suit!  A marking suggested that was a Cr 10,000 add-on.  To say the least, Aiden and Terin were hooked.  When Terin asked, he was told the unit would cost KCr 90, and the man did not seem willing to budge.

While Aiden thought it was neat, he wasn't interested in using one unless he had to and wasn't ready to pony up that kind of cash for it.  Terin said he wasn't into it for himself but knew it could have been useful to the crew at various points, and he figured someone on the ship might be interested.  So he asked permission to call his ship's XO and then comm'd Zimzod.  While Terin did that, Aiden asked about gravboots and was told the Count had never been that cautious.

Getting Zimzod on the line, Terin explained what they'd been looking at and all the extras and information they'd gotten on the re-entry rig.  As Zimzod considered the jumps they'd made back in the Dinom system, he thought the ship could certainly use the unit.  Making a decision, Zimzod sent Terin the KCr 90 to buy the unit from ship's funds, knowing well that Mikah would get a beep on her Ident telling her the money had been spent.  At the estate, Terin also asked if the rest of his crew could come visit and check out the rest of the gear for sale the next day.  The seneschal's rep completed the deal and said the crew could certainly come out again the next day.

After buying the re-entry kit, Aiden asked about weapons and was shown to several display cases of very flashy and expensive hunting weapons.  Sadly, while they were by 'name dropper' weapons sales firms, and acceptably serviceable weapons, they were not top of the market.  As Aiden checked them over, he was disappointed to find out the man had paid more for the name than for the weapon quality.  And the prices he was told for the weapons said he could go out on the market and get better for less too.  With the massive amount of gear to possibly dig through and plans that evening, Aiden and Terin agreed they could look more if they came with the rest of the crew the next day, and went back to the waiting cab to return to the suite.

Orders And Preparations
     Eventually, the tech finished his examination of Zimzod's armor and said he was a very lucky man.  When Zimzod asked why that was, the man told him that despite his having been shot, the damage to his leg units was superficial.  None of the internal components, systems or wiring had been damaged.  The fix was simply one of composite and the "rubberized" internal liner.  Past that, the medical stocks in the armor had been tapped and should be topped off.  He could top off the meds there, but he said he had to take the armor sections back to his shop to complete the repairs to the leg sections.

In the end, the tech said the repairs would take a day and cost Cr 250, which pleased Zimzod.  The tech then spent a few minutes detaching the leg sections from the armor and packing them for transport.  The case he put the sections in made it seem they were no more than work supplies, so Zimzod was satisfied the tech wouldn't be mugged or robbed of them.  The man gave Zimzod an electronic receipt for the armor and then topped off the suit's meds before leaving.  He had been doing that when Zimzod got the call from Terin.

After Zimzod ended the call and the two closed the deal at the estate, Zimzod's comms began to buzz.  Answering, he found it was Mikah and she was asking about the KCr 90?  Zimzod said it had been him, and he'd sent the cash to Terin to buy something.  Shaking her head, she said she'd finish with the Duchess and then deal with him later, then cut the call.  That done, Zimzod turned to paying the armorer Cr 250 in advance of the repairs before he left.  Zimzod also wanted the tech's help placing an order for some more ammunition and other items:
      1 box: 1,000 needles for his gauss pistols
      1 box: 1,000 needles for his gauss rifle
      1 Needle loader to load magazines for the gauss pistols
      1 Needle loader to load magazines for the gauss rifle
      2 boxes of 100 rnds each, ball ammo for his .50 cal autopistol
      2 speed loaders and a box of 100 rnds ball ammo for his 6-shooter snub pistol
      2 boxes (200 rnds) of ball ammo for his .45 pistols
      1 box (100 rnds) of ball ammo for his 9mm auto pistol
      and 1 box (100 rnds) of ball ammo for his autorifle

Zimzod also said he'd bought armor plates to add them inside his duster and found that wouldn't work, so he asked about selling them to Instel-Arms?  The tech said he couldn't help Zimzod with that item.  When Zimzod accepted that, the man set up his own portable computer and entered in the order.  The total came to Cr 3,120.  When Zimzod agreed to that, he was told the delivery would be the next day.  He was also told his repaired leg armor would also be delivered with that.

Zimzod had not long gotten done placing his order with the tech, who then left, when his comms went off again.  It was Mikah and when he answered the line, she demanded, "What'd ya buy?"  When Zimzod answered, "A personal re-entry kit", Mikah's answer was "OK" in a tone which also said, 'your explanation is going to somehow make sense that of that' with a dash of 'I am remembering what that is and does while I'm listening'.  As her brain caught up to the comment, and before Zimzod could speak, Mikah demanded, "Where the hell did you find that?" in more of a surprised tone.  Then, Zimzod told her about the harness Aiden had found on a used gear site, and explained his finding the re-entry kit too.

They talked about the kit and while Mikah worried about finding the foam needed to use it.  Zimzod told her how having kits like that would've been useful for the job Dame Ashlee'd pitched them.  When Mikah acerbically pointed out they only had one kit, Zimzod said they now knew to look for more of them.  And, they had three cans of foam.  Done telling Mikah what the money was for, Zimzod also told her the handbags she'd ordered were delivered.  Mikah was happy about that.  After finishing the call, Mikah had the androids bring the gravCar back and she headed back to the suite to check out her delivery.

While Mikah was checking out her new handbags, Jocelynn was coming back to her senses in the clinic.  The first thing she noticed was an android which seemed to be observing her.  It was after that she recognized the receding fog from the anesthetic effects and numbness from the local drugs she'd been given.  When the android detected she was awake, it told her, "I see you are awake.  Please remain calm and relax.  I have summoned the doctor."  Jocelynn accepted that though she did wonder why she was being told to 'remain calm'?

Since she was still a bit groggy, Jocelynn laid back and waited for the doctor while she relaxed.  When the doctor did arrive, he made sure she was not feeling any pain currently and recommended over the counter tablets if she felt she needed them in the coming hours or days.  Jocelynn was told to keep the site clean and have her ship's medical staff check periodically to make sure there were no signs of infection.  That done, he helped her out of the procedure chair and made sure she could stand steadily.

After he was sure she was 'good to go', the doctor handed her a crystal and told her that contained everything she needed to know about her stent and to get her started.  When Jocelynn asked about someone to help her with the first steps and understanding, he reminded her the clinic was simply involved to do the implant work.  For the rest, he said she could certainly find or hire someone to help with that.  He then told her to follow the android back out of the clinic, while also telling the android to make sure she could move safely.  The doctor's one sign of concern was to instruct the android to page him if Jocelynn had any issues walking out to the gravCar on her own power.

When they reached the gravCar, the vehicle powered up in response to what Jocelynn assumed was a signal sent by the android.  Even as she boarded, the windows and viewports went opaque and she settled in for the ride.  As before, she felt the car lift and the sensations of the vehicle maneuvering along its trip until she felt the sensation of landing.  It was much like shuttle-deployment from her old ship only there had been no windows on those craft to start with.  When she got out of the gravCar, Jocelynn saw she was back outside the seneschalate.  Not having any other direction, Jocelynn called Mikah and said she was done and ready to be picked up.  Mikah said she'd be right over to pick up Jocelynn and agreed to go out for ice cream during the ride.

After squaring away her bags, Mikah told they others she was going to pick up Jocelynn and made her way down to the landing apron.  From there, she took the gravCar over to the seneschalate where she could see Jocelynn waiting.  Getting Jocelynn into the car, Mikah then had the dash-comp scan for ice cream serving restaurants and offered to buy before asking Jocelynn how her neck was?  Mikah also planned to do a physical check of the site once they were back in the suite and she could clean and re-bandage the incision safely.  Jocelynn said she was pretty numb at the moment but said the doctors told her to have someone keep an eye on the site to prevent infection.  She also said she trusted Mikah more than the others.

The ice cream bill eventually came to Cr 10 and they then returned to the suite.  Fesic eventually also returned to the suite and relaxed until it was time to clean up and dress for dinner.  Before Fesic, Aiden and Terin had returned after Aiden paid the taxi Cr 140, most of which was time spent waiting for them.  Aiden took his saddle to his bedroom to store.  Terin planned to put the re-entry kit in the bedroom Zimzod shared with Mikah, but Zimzod told them to use one of the spare rooms in the suite.  That done, Terin set down to watch vids while Aiden planned on an hour of stent-work before relaxing and then preparing for dinner.

Aali had also decided that some stent-work sounded like a good plan before getting things set up and ready.  Emkir just kept relaxing and checking the news from time to time to see what was happening?  What was being reported was not much changed from the day before as the government worked to calm the population and reactions continued to recent events.  That, and the increase of security even including some military units in public spaces.  That was largely muted as the government response was more heavily geared to intelligence and finding the remaining terrorists.

While he could, Zimzod asked Aali about the dress code for the party and then decided he'd do stent-work before doing what calisthenics he could in the gravChair.  Eventually, he'd clean up, dress and get ready for the party.  When Mikah and Jocelynn returned, Jocelynn looked around to see a number of the folks in the living room zoned out as they attuned to their stents.  Turning to Mikah, she said, "Someone's gonna have to teach me how to do that."  Mikah told her, "They will, but you can't do it now."  Something in the way Mikah had said that got Jocelynn's attention but she didn't pursue it while Mikah sat her down and "officially" checked and re-bandaged the wound.

The implant was clean and there was no blood at all, which was a great sign.  It meant that the skin around the incision had naturally contracted to tighten around the stent and seal the wound.  It was not the greatest thing for drainage, but if the team had done the job they should have, there shouldn't be much drainage to start.  For that, Mikah got her hand-scanner and checked the site until she was satisfied.  She told Jocelynn to relax and recover while she also decided to sit and relax herself.

As Mikah checked on Jocelynn's incision, Terin reacted to Jocelynn's comment about the stents, saying, "I can help you with that."  Hearing that, Mikah instantly shut him down saying, "Oh.  N..N..No.  Aali can help her with that." in the sort of very firm voice that made this a command from the ship's captain.  Looking over at Aali, the engineer was lost to the world of her own stent and Jocelynn felt like taking a nap anyway.  Terin only shrugged and went back to relaxing.

A Very Special Dessert
     Nearing half past five in the evening, Aali got the call a gravCar had been sent to pick up her parents and bring them to the estate.  Hearing that, things in the suite shifted to a higher gear as those who had cleaned up and dressed started their final preparations.  Everyone had dressed 'civilian-stylish' for the dinner and some had told the chef what they wanted so the staff could make more of a fuss over Aali's parents.  When her parents arrived, Aali's father said his wife really didn't 'need' a gravCar after the Duchess' car arrived.  She wasn't on cloud nine because she would have to look down to see that through a telescope!

While Aali and Emkir had stepped out to the landing apron to greet her parents, the others watched as even more staff arrived so they could present all the needed staff.  There would be people handling cloaks and comfort needs, a drink mixer, people circulating with trays of drinks and pre-meal treats as well as table servants, etc...  And all of them wore the Duchy livery.  In the kitchen, a small staff had gotten busy cooking pre-meal stock so any requested food item would already be cooking before it was ordered.  With any unordered items eventually bound for charity providers.

When Mikah mentioned not having a photographer, one of the staff released a small anti-grav drone which would use lidar to map the space and receive remote commands to focus on specific individuals or groups.  The drone caught everything from the moment Aali led her parents into the suite.  There were moments of familiarity as they greeted the crew members they knew and they were formally introduced to Jocelynn.  There was a double moment of confusion when Aali's mother greeted Jocelynn as 'Dame Jocelynn' and she was corrected.  Then, the jokes began that Jocelynn wasn't a knight yet because she'd not yet been punished.  There were also condolences for Rol, and the promise of a toast for his achievements.

With the party gathered, drinks were served and everyone relaxed.  There were the generic questions as well as some more direct ones.  Aali's parents had heard both of what happened to Munarshu and how Jocelynn was rescued from a dead and drifting warship.  Some of the adventures Aali and the crew enjoyed sharing with her family were the atmospheric jumps they'd made in the Dinom system and they specifically showed the ride vid from Aali's perspective.  Throughout the time, drinks and snacks were served by circulating staff, and all with the seal of the Duchy.  Aali's mother was constantly thrilled.

When they sat for dinner, orders were taken and each person was promised their meal would be served momentarily no matter how 'intense' or complex the recipe.  During dinner, the conversation became more balanced as they stopped dancing around the current events and shared what they could with the parents.  They didn't have to tap dance much because Aali's parents really didn't want to know too many of the details of their work.  Especially, the events on Regina.  The meal was eaten and suddenly the proper incantation signaled it was nearly dessert time as Aali's parents started to ask how long they would stay on-world before leaving the system?

Throughout the night, there had been brief comments about Rol, but the parents didn't want to rub salt in the loss, so that was minimal.  Still, as the table was cleared for dessert, Mikah raised her glass in a toast of thanks for an extra stateroom to rent for high-passage when they were outward bound.  This got laughs from the crew and confused Aali's parents.  Still, Zimzod raised a toast in honor of Rol, because he liked the man despite all his faults.

While the others joined in on the toast, Mikah spared a look at the cluster of servants by the kitchen door while wondering what they'd thought of the evening's conversation.  It was then she realized there was someone else emerging through the cluster.  It took her a moment to realize that someone was the Duchess herself!  Suddenly, Mikah's mind was stuck between figuring out 'how they'd gotten the Duchess into the suite without her being seen' while she was also trying to decide how to react now that she knew?  As the others talked among themselves, they were all surprised to see Mikah suddenly jerk to her feet with a surprised look on her own face.

It didn't take the others long to turn where Mikah was looking and see Seldrian standing between her servants a light version of her ceremonial garb.  Aali's father moved quickly to make sure his wife didn't faint outright at the sight despite his own state of near-shock.  Still, some had not turned to look as quickly as the others so there was a broken wave around the table of people suddenly seeing the Duchess and rising in respect.  Emkir's own rising was delayed as he let out an "Oh My!" in complete surprise before scrambling to his feet with Aali pulling him "helpfully".

As this happened Seldrian simply advanced a step and a half, bringing herself out of the cloud of servants and nodded to them with a smile on her face.  Eventually, the only person who was not standing was Zimzod, who 'sat at attention' in the gravChair, in respect, like he'd learned in military training.  As Seldrian completed the few steps of her approach, Mikah said, "Y...Y..Your Grace!  Permit me to introduce you to Dame Aalikiir Eikusdi's parents."  In the end, Mikah was only glad she'd used the correct names "for a friend" according to Vilani tradition.

Seldrian was then formally introduced to Ruskinkhar Kamkii Ikashur Eikusdi Leshegik, who invited her to call him 'Ruski', and his wife Khulashu Geshigekha Adakar Dengali Eikusdi.  Seldrian gave each a nod of respect before she greeted them all.  Following that, the Duchess greeted both of Aali's parents by their full names and welcomed them to the Ducal estates.  She then wondered out loud if she could join the party for dessert?

As Mikah gushed an "Absolutely!" and others welcomed Her Grace, it seemed the table grew in such a way that a setting could be placed without anyone having to be moved or become distanced from their dinner companions even as her place was set between two of them.  That was a very neat trick made possible by the magic of very well trained and experienced servants. 

Even as she was being seated, the Duchess looked around the table and encouraged, "Don't let me interrupt the conversation." with a smile.  Mikah quickly joked, "Now we have to remember what we were talking about." and got laughs around the table.  As small talk picked up, Aali's parents fell back into 'stunned', until Aali and the others intentionally worked to draw them back to the present.  Deciding to go with a 'significant conversational weapon', Zimzod asked Aali's father how work was going with making furniture and her father actually managed to raise both his hands and joke, "I still have ten fingers."  Aali got the feeling that was 'comedy on auto-pilot', but she was pleased.

Zimzod then decided to give them more cover by telling them it could be worse, and launching into a monolog about his homeworld.  Of course, they'd heard much of that when they'd spent time with the crew the last time they'd returned to Regina, almost a year before.  Before Zimzod could get too deep into his past, the others in the crew started sharing mock complaints of suffering, and turning his comments to jokes until Zimzod started laughing and stopped.  At that point, Seldrian leaned forward a bit and asked Aali's father how he felt about working where he did?  And how he enjoyed his career?

Despite the sudden pause in conversation, everyone could see the honest interest the Duchess had in hearing his answer.  When Ruskinkhar was able to say that he found ways to enjoy his work because he was a craftsman, the Duchess listened and nodded.  Still, when he finished, she wondered if he might be available for other work, and no one had any clue where she might be going next!  The ring of silence that bound the table after that lasted until Mikah asked, "What is it Your Grace had in mind?".  Mikah only barely managed to get her words out before Aali spoke up along the same line.

Again, there was a moment of silence as the Duchess appeared to be organizing her thoughts before she spoke.  She then said, "This incident, if nothing else, has made it very clear that the old, and in many cases abandoned, historic estates need to be better managed.  Especially, to prevent this sort of crime being repeated, we feel it is important for each site to have a person in permanent residence."  Despite his self-control, Zimzod blurted out, "A care taker." and the Duchess politely ignored his outburst.

Seldrian continued, "In the question of this particular estate, we've had people out to examine the structure and determined that...  While a certain wing of the mansion was devastated, and the walls and rooms share some new and interesting decorative motifs..."  With that, she actually paused to nod at Mikah before continuing, "...that the repair bill to restore it to code and its former glory would not be so great as to justify losing the historic estate.  And I agree it would be better to restore the estate than to lose it and raze the structure."  In the pause Seldrian left open, Zimzod asked, "We didn't wreck it enough?" in surprise.  Mikah then joked, "We have to try harder next time", and even the Duchess laughed.

After they'd laughed and the tension was cut, the Duchess asked if Aali's parents would, not as care takers but as owners, accept the estate as an elevated Lord and Lady of Her Grace's court?  That statement stunned everyone at the table except Seldrian, who had obviously planned this action in her consideration both of rewards and the needs of Regina.  At first, there were gasps of surprise from the diners, and then there were giggles before Zimzod got out, "If you find the missing part of my femur bone, can you mail it back to me?"  And that led to more laughter.

When things calmed down again, the Duchess explained the patent of nobility would be written as an hereditary title which would initially be awarded to Kamkii and Geshigekha Eikusdi, using their 'Formal Vilani Names'.  The title and patent would then be passed to whichever issue of the couple chose to permanently take up residence on the estate when the elder couple passed on.  That left it available for Aali, as the Duchess hoped would happen, but made it viable even if Aali never settled on-world and it passed to a sibling of hers.  Emkir muttered that Aali's sister was going to get a nice retirement package, referring to her sister Engesdur, who now served in the Regina planetary navy.  Since the other siblings served outside the system, it was not a good bet they'd come home to settle down.

After getting nods from the family, the Duchess told them the patent would be published during the next public court, however they need not be present for the reading.  That would simply be a formality and it would be quickly read out with other business given the limits on how long any session of Ducal Court could last.  Seldrian admitted this was a prime reason she'd decided to surprise them the way she had that evening.  the Duchess further told Aali's parents they were invited to move into a suite on the Ducal Estates until the Ufflete hault-Hucknall mansion was restored enough for them to move in.

The comments made as Aali's parents considered their circumstances included jokes about pulling the APC out of the wall and turning it into a static display like those outside military armories.  Her business done, Seldrian stood and raised a glass, saying, "Congratulations to the newest Lord and Lady to the Court of the Duchy of Regina."  Everyone at the table raised a glass and there were cheers from Emkir and others.  Zimzod announced that deserved a bow of respect and even managed to tip the gravChair so he could show Aali's parents and the Duchess his respect.

After some more chatter, Seldrian got their attention and said, "If you will accept my apologies, there are other tasks I must tend to.  Please continue to enjoy the evening."  As they all thanked her, the Duchess and a small handful of the servants made their way out the front of the suite leaving the crew and parents to celebrate more.  Soon, their butler stepped up to announce he had all the keys and other items needed for Dame Eikusdi's parents when they decided to retire to their own apartment.  When everyone was surprised at that, it was made clear the suite they were being offered was furnished and had a ready and waiting staff.  So, they could move in that evening if desired.

After the Duchess left, Aali jumped in saying she had absolutely no idea that was going to happen, and all the others echoed her words and surprise.  Next, came the congratulations followed by Zimzod asked about their interest in the mansion before the shooting started?  Aali explained that she'd known of the mansions, and been especially interested in this estate.  As a kid, she'd imagined retiring from whatever future job she had and joining the group of care takers in retirement.  That way, she could imagine she owned a part of the mansion herself.  When Zimzod said this was her chance, Aali said she hoped not to face that decision for quite some time.

Finally, the evening began to come to an end, with drinks and the finishing of conversations.  Part of that time was spent moving the party to the suite Aali's parents were allowed to move to, and they found it nicely furnished and prepared.  They were also greeted by the butler and introduced to the staff, after which Aali's mother decided they would stay the night at the least.  They would decide about how to go about the rest of the changes their lives the next morning.  Getting back to their own suite, Zimzod had talked up visiting the Count's estate the next day to treasure hunt, and so everyone who was going set alarms for 7am.


Work And Shopping
     As alarms went off in various bedrooms, Mikah woke to her sixth day of light duty, which was Aiden's last, despite overworking himself a bit the day before, hauling the re-entry kit.  This was Zimzod's second day in the gravChair.  Aiden, Emkir and Aali had also said they'd go along and see what could be found?  At breakfast, Aiden also pitched the idea of having a post-mortem on the attacks they'd been part of to see if they could learn from where they went wrong.  Fesic started ticking off his fingers as he said, "Our first mistake was, 'We took the job'.."  He was cut off by the others laughing.

As they ate, Zimzod called the Count's people to say they'd be coming to check out what was still for sale, and were told to come around mid-day.  Zimzod accepted that but was disappointed because he'd hoped to get the visit done early.  After the call, Zimzod decided to sit and watch the news.  He wasn't surprised when the local news was filled with disgustingly respectful honorary coverage of the life and accomplishments of the late Sir Rol Kaihvos.  They had to repeatedly remind each other this was still the same war criminal they knew and forced to cook for them.

The crew could tell the media outlets were definitely white-washing to put the government in the best light since a fight would not be good - or profitable- right as the Prince and Arch-Duke arrived.  There were, however, a number of comments on the barrels of bleach and tons of lubricant gel being employed.  Terin woke at eight and joined the others after his morning routine around 8:30.  Nearing 9am, Zimzod's comms began to buzz and he answered to talk to an agent from Instel-Arms.  The agent said the sales team was willing to fulfill their bid sheet for a cost of Cr 12,370.  That was compared to the Cr 7,496 offer from the War House.

After he cut the line and told the others, Zimzod was willing to dismiss the I-A offer until he was reminded they had to vet both offers for brand names and model numbers.  He was reminded the I-A offer may have been more expensive because it included better quality gear.  After they ate, Aali and Zimzod started calling up spec sheets on gear and comparing them to see who's bid was actually better?  They spent over an hour doing that and the I-A bid was better as far as they could see.  Despite the rise in cost.  Still, they had another bid sheet out to wait for before they bought anything.  while they did that, Mikah kept watching the news and Terin went to one of the estate's fitness centers to run and work out.

Aiden sparked up a terminal and looked into fiber-optic camera units that could be slipped under doors, or force through a rubber sealing trim, to see what was on the other side of doors.  He found a number of brands and types, and eventually bought three for Cr 45 total.  He planned to keep one himself, and put two in the ship's locker for others.  While he did that, Jocelynn woke around 9:30 and finished her morning routine to join the others around 10am.  After she ate, Jocelynn sparked up a terminal and started looking into the stent information she had.

Noticing Jocelynn was looking at an image displaying the anatomy of a stent connection port, Aali stepped over and asked what Jocelynn was reading?  When Jocelynn said she was reading the manual she'd been given, Aali asked how that was going, but warned Jocelynn she shouldn't try to use the stent for a week, to let the incisions in her head heal.  Try as they might, neither woman could read much of the manual that Jocelynn had been given because it was written so badly.  And while Jocelynn struggled with that manual, Aali was thinking the material she'd been given by TAS might be better for her.  Unfortunately, that was back at the ship, so she couldn't just give it to Jocelynn.

Aali told Jocelynn she'd gotten materials from TAS when her stent had been implanted.  Since Jocelynn was also a member of TAS, she considered checking to see what the society could help her with?  At the same time, Aali was regretting not being closer to the ship when Emkir reminded her that he and Fesic had to get back to work on the gunnery training software.  Hearing that, Aali suggested the four of them go to the ship so Fesic and Emkir could work and she could give Jocelynn the class from TAS.  Agreeing, they talked about how to travel and decided Aali would drive them for an hour instead of asking someone to drop them by gravCar.

When they reached the ship, Aali went into her stateroom to get the materials TAS had given her when she'd had her stent implanted.  Emkir and Fesic went into the ship's computer core and started sparking things up so they could resume their work on the gunnery training software.  Jocelynn moved into the ship's lounge and sparked up a terminal, then waited until Aali came back to her with the TAS materials.  As Jocelynn slotted in the crystal Aali gave her, they chatted about "early experiences" Aali had when her stent was new.  When Jocelynn turned to study, Aali checked on the androids before relaxing and waiting in case anyone else called on her?

Checking the 'droids, Aali found them well up on the tasks of scheduled maintenance because the ship's systems had been powered down enough they could work on all the space systems.  She found herself regretting that they wouldn't be in port long enough for a full overhaul.  With more free time during the day then she'd planned, she also comm'd her parents.  They had been surprisingly resilient when faced with transferring their lives, and were working with 'a staff they'd been provided' to get that started.  They still also called her during the day and relied on her for advice and answers.

Diving into the written material, Jocelynn was very impressed with the caliber of the new manual she was reading from.  She noted that there were several items that were presented in bold to impress the new stent owner.  One pushed the understanding of hygiene, maintenance and cleaning regarding the stent and another very specifically said the new user should not attempt to use their stent at all for the first week, during surgical and neural healing.  Accepting that, Jocelynn decided to just read through the manual as far and as much as she could for the next week, before starting the real work.

At the suite, Terin wished the others well as they left for the Count's 'for sale' site and settled in to do stent-work, because he'd not done it the day before.  Mikah, Zimzod and Aiden jumped into the gravCar and flew off to the Count's estate.  Landing there, they met the Count's representative who brought them back into the 'man-toy'-stuffed building.  Aiden figured it might be possible, despite the distance to a shoreline, that the Count might have bought into scuba gear, and looked for that.  Mikah looked for cold weather gear figuring the Count might have gone in for some mountain or arctic thrills.  Zimzod was hoping for armor or weapons.

Like Aiden, the day before, Zimzod learned that the Count was more into bragging about his weapons than having really top-notch weapons.  That meant that the weapons and gear Zimzod was shown were not worth the prices being asked.  And, there was no armor.  Mikah was also disappointed because the Count was less of an adventurer than he was a playboy.  So, he bought into things that were easy.  You could hire an instructor and ride into orbit to "ride" the re-entry kit down the gravity well.  But once your hired grav-shuttle dropped you in the snow and ice in the frozen north, it was just a cold and nasty slog.  So, it wasn't something he bought into.

For laughs, Mikah looked around to see if anything in the place was marked "Hunting World - Regina".  Sadly, she didn't see anything with that marking though the hunt did become a game of its own.  The closest thing Aiden found to scuba gear was a wet suit and snorkeling gear.  And the wet suit was a men's suit that wouldn't have fit any of them.  Still, they wandered and hunted and checked things until Zimzod came on a box marked, "Thruster Unit".  Of course, Zimzod's mind immediately went to 'sex toy' as he wondered "what the hell?" and asked if he could open the box to look inside?

Getting permission, Zimzod opened the box and saw an EVA thruster unit, which could be connected to the back of most generic vacc suit PLSS units.  While the unit "looked" intact, it was dusty 'inside the box.  That meant it had been gathering dust before it was boxed up.  When Zimzod said it looked like it was never used, the Count's rep said the Count had used it once or twice during his 'orbital sports phase', but tired of it quickly and set it aside.  Nodding, Zimzod asked how much they wanted for the unit and was told Cr 5,000.  Hearing that, Zimzod immediately said, "Four Thousand."  The man flatly responded, "Five thousand.  We're giving you a bargain as it is."

Zimzod had not cut the man off only just 'barely' as he answered, "Two thousand."  The man came back, "Five thousand" without even blinking.  When Zimzod followed with, "One thousand", the man said "Thank you for coming" and raised his arm to escort Zimzod back to his gravCar because he'd worn out his welcome.  Hearing most of the exchange, Mikah stepped up and said, "I'll give you five thousand for it."  Ignoring Zimzod, the man turned to Mikah and said, "Done!"  With nothing else of interest, the three went back to the gravCar with Mikah making Zimzod carry the box for her on the gravChair.  After they loaded that up, Mikah said they should go back to the suite for lunch.  There, they met up with Terin.

Learning And Earning
     After eating, Aiden changed into his swim gear and went to the pool in the spa.  Mikah organized her bags and planned for the time she might have her first chance to use one of them.  Zimzod followed her into the bedroom and started trying to talk her into some fun.  At first, Mikah just gave him side-eye and said, "You're in a gravChair, dude" in a very dubious tone.  Eventually, he talked her into straddling him while he lay on the bed so they could enjoy each other.  After an hour playing, they were done and Mikah went back to her bags while hanging out with Zimzod in the bedroom.

While eating with them, Terin had been regaled with the shopping adventures of Zimzod, Mikah and Aiden.  He then relaxed while watching the news and entertainment vids.  Of some interest were the small bits of update data that had arrived in-system about the battle Admiral Uuela's fleet had fought.  Mostly, the information was still what he'd call a teaser.  Reports were being aired of naval legal resources moving into the systems surrounding the deep-space battle site.  Estimates were being given of when ships too damaged to jump back to a populated system would be repaired or hauled back to a naval base.

On top of that, more than one outlet would periodically suggest there might have been secondary actions fought with small groups of ships returning to the site expecting to dock with the base.  Two of these also came with rumors additional combat squadrons had been moved to the location from Rhylanor.  Still, the reports were all tenuous and no ship names or tail numbers were given.  No new officer names or unit designations were mentioned.  It was just a 'ball of dark' that would hopefully soon be fully reported on.

Damaged frieghter hulk The one set of solid news items came from the Icetina Naval base, where the ships which had returned damaged from the battle had reported.  The Navy had thrown a 'blackout curtain' around the volume of space where the ships were moored.  In that system, a naval spokesperson announced the naval seizure of three news ships.  And one of those was rumored to have been a fully rigged starship.  Still, one image had managed to get out into the media and it is reputed to show a cargo tender which had barely managed to return to the Icetina system with severe damage.  No news has been released on the name of the vessel, the identities or fates of her crew or any relationship to a naval logistics squadron or contracted civilian support organization.

Outside of that, the only "known" was that Admiral Uuela's combat battlegroup was bound back to the Natoko system where action was rumored to be imminent.  As those reports continued, Zimzod and Mikah returned to the living room and basked in the fact that they had no role in those actions.  Still, Mikah and Zimzod knew the government of Natoko were in bed with the Stepozhevaci, so they were happy about any pain that government would feel thanks to the fleet.  They relaxed and watched entertainment vids until dinner time.  After that, Terin broke out the hookah and Mikah and Zimzod joined in while Aiden had a beer but didn't partake of the smoke.

In the ship, Jocelynn and Aali had a lot of time to chat as Jocelynn read the data and watched embedded vids from Aali's class material.  At one point late in the afternoon, Emkir had gotten a message from Terin about the "Regina Planetary Cryptology museum", with a recommendation to check it out.  As the day finally started coming to a close, Fesic decided to deal with another issue that had been on his mind.  Since he'd withdrawn the cash to hunt contacts, the hundreds of "Actual" credits he was carrying had been weighing on his mind.  Given his experience in gambling, Fesic knew of a way to ease his worries and asked if Emkir knew of any casinos in the area of the port?  When Emkir said he did, Fesic suggested a side trip for dinner and some fun.

Calling the folks in the suite to let them know they were not coming back, the men asked the ladies if they wanted to go along?  Aali was always up to play arm-candy, and watch Emkir play.  Jocelynn wasn't up for it at first, but then decided to go along and watch like Aali.  Emkir winked at Jocelynn and said, "The drinks are free at the gambling table" with a smile.  Next to him, Aali added, "Even if you're just arm candy."  Agreeing, they left the port and got into the ground car to drive to the casino.  There, dinner cost them all Cr30 before Emkir bought Cr 1,000 in chips with the limits that he would leave if he lost or doubled that.  Fesic cashed the Cr 450 in hard currency he'd been carrying for chips, because that was the thing that had been bothering him.  So he'd bet it and see what happened.

Despite planning to bet moderately and enjoy the evening, both men came out with more "hard charging" bets, but also did well in the first hour of gaming.  All the while tipping the dealers and wait staff.  By the end of that time, they were each up twenty five percent.  Seeing that, Emkir called for drinks all around and a toast before getting back to it.  For the second hour, Emkir backed off a bit on his bets.  The rising stacks of chips in front of Fesic bothered him to the point his bets were much lower.  By the end of that hour, Emkir was up ten percent more on his chips while he could only admire Fesic's luck.  Despite betting low, Fesic's luck was hitting hard and it seemed he couldn't lose!

Daring the fates, Fesic pushed a pile of chips in on one bet and won that, so he had nearly Cr 1,000 in front of him!  Wanting to keep the gaming going, Emkir lowered his betting more but was still did well through the third hour.  Next to him, Fesic had decided it was time to "make" lady luck turn on him.  because of that, he was making huge bets and gathering a lot of attention as he won or lost large sums.  In the end, to his distress, he'd again nearly doubled his money!  At that point, Emkir was starting to notice Fesic's emotions though he didn't understand them.  Still, when Fesic asked if they wanted to pack it in and go out for a snack, Emkir and the ladies agreed.  So Emkir walked away with Cr 1,520 and Fesic Cr 1,845.  They agreed the snacks would be on Fesic as the funds were wired out to each man's bank.

While stopping for snacks, they talked about going back to either the ship or the suite, which was an hour's drive away.  They decided that the next day was their last "free day" for the men to work on the computer project before the Prince and Arch-Duke arrived.  So, they decided to stay over on the ship so Emkir and Fesic could work the next day before they returned to the suite.  Then, they'd be with the rest of the crew when they were needed for the "Welcoming ceremonies".  As the evening ended, members of the crew bunked down with or without setting alarms.


A Last Free Day
     At eight that morning, alarms went off in the suite and ship as Aiden, Emkir, Aali, Fesic, Mikah and Zimzod woke.  The day was Mikah's last Day of light duty and Zimzod's third day in the gravChair.  After completing their morning routines on the ship, Fesic, Emkir and Aali ordered Cr 10 breakfasts delivered from a portside diner.  They even ordered one for Jocelynn when she woke up.  The men then went to work on the computer project while Aali got herself into an enhanced exercise program for the day because she'd been slacking.  After she woke, did her morning routine and ate, Jocelynn got back to reading up on the stent and asking Aali questions.  When the women got bored, they set the empty cargo bay to null-gee and sparred.

After Aiden had breakfast, he did stent-work before he asked Zimzod how much the sniper rifle and extras cost him?  When Zimzod asked why Aiden was asking, Aiden said he figured it would be appropriate for him to buy one of his own.  Zimzod told him the rifle cost nearly Cr 1,000 and the scope cost him Cr 3,300, not including the spare ammo, magazines and bipod.  Nodding at that, Aiden hit the network to see if he could find better prices but, after a morning searching, he couldn't.  That done, he accepted the "on loan" status from Zimzod and watched vids until it was lunch time.

After breakfast, Mikah logged onto the network and looked for a shop that would test and check her new thruster pack.  Soon enough, Mikah found a shop in Credo City, near the port, and set up an afternoon appointment for them to test the unit.  Zimzod did stent work and then gear maintenance.  Terin wondered if anyone had plans, but since no one did, he watching entertainment vids with Aiden.  After lunch came around, Mikah grabbed the gravCar and traveled south to Credo City for her appointment to have the thruster unit tested.  After that, she planned to visit the group at the ship.

After lunch Aiden walked the grounds for a bit and then sat and read.  Terin decided to check out a museum nearby and looked to see what we close?  Zimzod did more stent-training since he was stuck in the gravChair.  When his Instel-Arms order arrived, Zimzod spent some time loading and reloading magazines and stowed the rest of the gear and ammo.  Aiden also got his cameras.  Aboard the ship, Emkir and Fesic worked on the computer.  When Aali and Jocelynn got tired of sparring, Aali sat to read while Jocelynn took a nap.

Looking for the closest museum he could find, Terin ended up going to the "Atora Trinket Center".  That museum advertised displays and exploration of the iconography, design and impact the small items had on product and even social history.  They presented a large collection of the small items first created as ephemera and "premiums" gift nick knacks, to lure in buyers.  They eventually became important advertising vectors for brand sales and more, as well as affecting the art culture on-world.  The rise of these trinkets eventually led to a rise in the collector's market for some brands and types.

Despite the serious treatment of the subject, Terin was quickly bored but he gave it an hour before he looked for another museum.  Not far away, Terin found a local utility which had a large solar collection system.  Part of that facility was "the Solar Gallery".  It was advertised as an educational museum covering all sectors of both solar and other power systems in the region and on world.  Hoping the gallery centered more on the science, Terin went there with high expectations.

Getting to the gallery and spending a short time there, Terin realized the education value was scaled to the lower end of the spectrum.  Because of that, many schools brought elementary-level students to learn.  A very small number of displays and labs supported education efforts to older students, but this was all very basic stuff to Terin and he didn't see himself getting much from the museum.  Looking for yet another place to explore, Terin widened his geographic restrictions and hit on the "Regina Planetary Museum of Cryptology"!  Going to that museum, Terin realized he was likely to spend enough time there that he'd eat dinner in the museum's cafeteria.  Considering Emkir's interest in the subject, he sent the Admiral a note with an image to check the museum out.

Arriving for her appointment, Mikah brought the thruster unit she'd bought to have it tested.  The techs talked to her about how she'd bought it and what her concerns were before taking it "into the back" to test exhaustively.  The only tests they could not run immediately were the long-term tests of 'stress over time'.  They did tell Mikah the unit was an expensive one, and confirmed she'd gotten a hell of a deal.  Still, given her description, they were surprised it was in such good shape.  After the testing, they came back with a clean bill of health for the unit and even gave her a network link from which she could download a manual.  Thanking them, she paid the Cr 400 for the testing and took the unit as she went to visit the folks on the ship.

At the ship, Mikah found Aali reading while Emkir and Fesic worked on the training program.  And Jocelynn was sleeping.  Disappointed at how boring things were, she reminded them they all had to be at the suite and ready to dress up the next day for the arrival of the Royal party.  When she asked them if they'd be back at the suite for dinner, they said they would.  While doing that, she stowed the thruster unit in her stateroom.  Mikah then left for the suite.  Not long after Mikah left, Fesic suggested to Emkir that they cut off early and start driving so they could get to the suite for dinner.  Locking things down, they got Aali and woke Jocelynn for the ride back to the suite.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Everyone except Terin: Having dinner at the suite
     Terin:   Having dinner at the Regina Planetary Cryptology Museum cafeteria

_________________________________________________________________________
Next: Optimism And Fact