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Last Updated     May 24 2019
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Jumpspace Prequel Aboard the IMS King George
     Sir Sekea Sian had been born a cousin to "The" Noble family of the Carse system, holding that system's worlds in fief.  After rising to the rank of Captain in the Imperial Navy, he could've just gone back home and been given a job in local government.  With his mother active in the world's Agricultural Advancement Society and his Aunt, the Baroness, leading the Carse Homestead Cooperative "and" Carse Tourist Board, he would never learn to enjoy the politics and the headaches.  Especially while flying a desk.  It wasn't the life he had trained and served in.

So it was, that Sekea looked into other options.  It wasn't long before the end of his enlistment that he'd found an option.  One of the other bridge crewmembers of the INS Kalage Ashi worried about his parents.  They were older, and his mother had some medical issues.  Still, they had planned an interstellar cruise aboard the luxury liner IMS King George, departing from the Lanth system.  But the crewman couldn't set up leave for the months the liner would transit the major worlds from Lanth to Jewell.  Including the Ghandi, Dinomn, Regina, Ruie, Roup, Boughene, Efate, Lysen and Jewell systems, it would be a tour de force through the spinward-coreward part of the sector.  The crewman especially worried about them visiting the non-Imperial Ruie system, and wished he could travel with them.  After some conversation, the man convinced Sekea to accompany his parents, with all travel expenses paid.  He also thought Sekea was a good fit because he’d been certified as a nurse.

So Sekea didn't go home after his discharge from the Navy in the Lanth system.  Boarding the IMS King George with his friend's elderly parents, Shanar and Karu, they left the Lanth system on the 353rd day of 1113, planning to emerge from jump in the Ghandi system on the 360th day of the year.  The liner's crew had made special preparations and loaded special supplies, preparing for a special celebration of Holiday-1114 while they spent a week in that system, if things had gone as planned.  But things had gone off the rails early, with large numbers of passengers and crew reporting those illnesses Sekea recognized as an indicator of a misjump!

The situation worsened while conditions deteriorated, and the misjump was confirmed when the ship remained in jump space beyond the standard week transit.  By then, the ship's crew had already instituted rationing of food and supplies, since they had no idea how long the ship would remain in jump?  Illnesses and panic had led to worsening conditions aboard, while the jump continued almost twice the time it should have.  During that time, Sekea had helped as much as he could with the general needs of the passengers and crew while concentrating on his crewmember's parents.  Especially, his mother.  Sadly, Karu died ten days into the crisis.

Sekea spent the next two days working to help Shanar through his mourning while also helping as many of the passengers and crew as he could.  On the twelfth day, things went from bad to worse.  As had been reported in many documented misjumps, the systems aboard the King George had suffered some damage but largely remained working.  When the ship began to precipitate from jump space, the explosions and other catastrophic failures began!  In some parts of the ship, energy warped when the physics of jump space intruded into the vessel, causing deaths and massive systems failures.  Sekea tried to keep himself together with Shanar, but was separated by the force of surging crowds.

Like any of the other survivors, Sekea couldn't 'correctly' describe what happened next?  Similar to any disaster of the type, panic took hold of some parts of the population.  Different groups in separate sections of the liner reacted to the sudden crisis in varied ways.  This worsened as the system failures divided the groups, and prevented organized response.  During the ship's internal collapse, Sekea wasn't able to keep by Shanar's side and the two were separated.  Sekea finally made his way to one of the liner's flight bays to find it had suffered heavy damage and the liner's shuttles were devastated.  It was then Sekea was swept with other survivors onto the IMS Ashidi Ke's cutter.  There, he was found to have medical skills and asked to work with the wounded survivors.

Now off the dying liner, Sekea had patients to deal with while things around him shifted.  Soon, he was told that another ship was nearby, and the two crews had to load-balance the survivors if everyone was going to get back to the Imperium alive.  This was the first Sekea learned that they were outside Imperial space!  Still, there was little he could do except work with the other medics caring for the injured.  Transferred from the cutter to a ship called the IMS Upgrade, Sekea had crossed with a child and elderly woman who were injured.  In the events after that, Sekea found himself working with another noble, a woman who commanded the Upgrade, trying to heal and then save the elderly lady.  Sadly, she had died shortly after surgery, and Sekea found himself one more unintended passenger aboard a small yacht with a crew of nobility.

The Wounded And The Dead
     Holiday was a celebration looked forward to and enjoyed by trillions across known space.  Throughout the Imperium, people had been preparing for over a month in some cases.  On Capital, the Emperor was releasing his 'Holiday List' of elevations and augmentations.  Leaving the Lanth system, the crew of the IMS King George had been planning to rig the ship for spectacular celebrations aboard, along with light displays across the hull which would have amazed those looking at the ship hanging in space.  Instead, the liner's survivors aboard the Upgrade could only look forward to reduced size servings while their hostess, Lady Mikah, suffered her fourth day of light duty.  Not aware how he'd gotten in so bad a condition, some of them had learned Sir Zimzod would be done healing in the ship's autodoc three hours after the meal.

Mikah also hadn't told many of Sir Terin's body, now sharing the otherwise empty low berth compartment with an elderly woman who'd died thanks to a blood clot in the brain.  That had formed when her arm had been broken aboard the liner, and killed her before Mikah could act.  With so many unintended passengers, Mikah was now looking at having to treat Zimzod in his stateroom after he came out of the autodoc.  She'd then put the kid with the broken leg into the autodoc for a night of healing before moving him to a general treatment bed in the medbay.  So, her plans to use the spare stateroom as a recovery ward would change and she had no idea how she'd use the space?  She certainly wouldn't offer it to one of the survivors because she didn't want them to argue over any decision after she announced it.

Hours into the jump, it finally came time to recover Zimzod from the autodoc and move the kid with the broken leg in his place.  Thanks to that, the kid would completely heal in a few weeks rather than months.  Mikah had no idea how long it would take Zimzod to heal, or how much more work he'd have to do after he came out of the device?  The nurse who'd helped Mikah with the earlier surgery was named Sekea(Seh-Key-Ah), and he'd been asking for names from the rescued list the Ashidi Ke had.  He was trying to check on the couple he'd been travelling with aboard the liner.  Walking back to the med-bay, Mikah asked Sekea and Aiden to come with her, to help move Zimzod.  Mikah also asked Jocelynn to come, but reminded the trooper not to try to give any first aid.

In the med-bay, Mikah ran through the commands to check the autodoc status before hitting the controls to open the treatment bay.  As the cowling swung up and open, the treatment bed slid out of the device carrying Zimzod on it, and he looked a lot more intact.  Still, Mikah could see the signs where he'd suffered damage from the wounds thanks to the discoloration remaining in his skin, and mottling of areas where the doc had worked.  Asking the others to move Zimzod to a gurney, Mikah then had them carefully move the kid from his bed to the device.  For that, Sekea supervised as the most medically skilled and experienced of the team.  While they did that, she checked the full report on Zimzod's treatment and bounced it to the medbay computer.

After the kid was in the autodoc, she promised him he'd feel better after treatment and hit him with anesthesia.  Watching until the kid was out, she then programmed the machine and activated it.  She turned her back as the bed with the kid slid into the machine and the cowling closed.  Now, she started looking at Zimzod while her mind went back over the data she'd scanned.  Mikah then hit Zimzod with a drug to reverse anesthesia.  The group then stood around wondering how much of Zimzod's mind would remain after his wounds?  Mikah was the only person looking for the effects of deeper damage.

The report showed Zimzod still had significant lung damage, so he'd start coming up short of breath.  Damage to the liver would grow back in time, so she wasn't worried about that.  Time would tell if his damaged thymus gland would recover.  If not, his immune system would suffer and he'd need intense medical support until it could be re-grown and the new organ transplanted.  Still existing damage to his thoracic lymphatic system could lead to lymphatic "leaks" into the pleural spaces, and lead to infections and critical or fatal septic events.  Damage to the muscles, due to weapon fire or loss of blood, had weakened his ability to breath properly and support his shoulder muscles when using his arms.  That was also exacerbated by the lung damage.  Especially since the most affected muscle had been Zimzod's diaphragm.

Further damage, likely caused by blood loss, showed in spotty renal damage along with damage to his digestive organs.  That said, Mikah was going to have to come up with a physical therapy regimen for Zimzod, and regularly track his blood and other fluids for signs of infection.  For the moment, she was keeping that to herself, but she knew there might well need to be organ-regrowth/transplants or even cybernetic implants.  The report had bluntly said Zimzod would never recover to 100% without some tissue replacement therapies.  That was also something she would keep to herself for a bit.  And, thanks to the drugs, Zimzod was feeling no pain when he woke.  There was an instant of muted shock when he spent a split second reliving the memory of the fight, and being shot.

Despite the damage to his body, the cognizance reports said that Zimzod should be "all there" when the lights came on and he returned.  So, when he started waking up, Mikah decided the best "therapy" at the moment was to get him back moving and force him to use his body.  Asking Sekea to take Zimzod's left side, Mikah pulled Zimzod's right arm over her shoulder and the two lifted him to stand, and she told him to get his feet under him.  They then started walking him as Zimzod tried to take some uncertain and unsteady steps.  Watching that, Aiden said, "Looks like we're whipping out the gravChair."  Mikah just said "Yup" as she supported her patient and Zimzod started to speak.

With all the things he was experiencing, the one thing Zimzod fixed on was the stranger holding him up.  Looking at Sekea, Zimzod asked, "Who the hell are you?" in a slightly sluggish voice.  Adding to Zimzod's confusion a bit, Jocelynn laughed and said, "That's Terin."  The comment caught Mikah so completely by surprise she nearly lost Zimzod's right arm when she started laughing.  Sekea answered, "I'm one of the people rescued from the King George, and I'm assisting because I have some medical expertise."  This only gave Zimzod more to wonder about because he had no idea what ship the King George was and why anyone would have needed rescue from her?  Nor, why the Upgrade would be involved?  Still, Mikah, Jocelynn and Aiden were there and seemed to trust him that far, and no one was stressing.  So, he went with it.

Zimzod did turn to Mikah for answers, but she only promised she'd update him later.  And, with his feet dragging and stumbling, there were more important things to concentrate on.  Aiden added in, "Now, be a good mushroom." while Mikah said they were moving him to his stateroom so he could change.  She wanted him to be active and moving for as long as he felt he could take it, until he had to sleep.  Persisting, Zimzod said they must have recaptured the ship because he was in their med-bay.  Mikah just answered, "Ah, well, we'll talk about that later too.  OK?"  Zimzod was moving much better by the time they got to the forward hatch leading to the ship's lounge.  They had to pass through there to get to Zimzod's stateroom.

When Fesic saw them moving Zimzod, he called out, "Zimzod, you've got two quarts of Terin in you!" and the others in the compartment laughed.  The more Zimzod could move on his own, the more Mikah and Sekea let him.  Still, Sekea helped Zimzod into his stateroom and helped him change into a set of normal clothing.  While that happened, Mikah went back to the low berths to check on the popsicle formerly known as Sir Terin.  The plan had been to bring his body back to Regina, harvest some of his DNA and use that to clone him.  The first thing Mikah noticed was that something just seemed visually "off" about the body's appearance.  When she started checking, Mikah cursed and shook her head at medical stupidity.  When Terin's body had been recovered by the locals on Tremous Dex, they'd told her they'd frozen him.

Recovering from a gut wound and dealing with Zimzod and other issues, she'd assumed they meant "medical freezing", which was a method of cryostasis.  But idiots or angels, they hadn't done that.  They had assumed he was dead and unretrievable, and literally frozen the body!  As she began running tests, Mikah saw that the expanding ice crystals growing from intra-cellular water had ripped apart every single cell in Terin's corpse.  So, while there might be "some" intact strands of Terin's DNA in the body, most of it had been shredded into bits and pieces.  And, no one was going to spend the time needed to section Terin's corpse into chunks and dig through them, slide by slide, until they found a lone intact string.  That effort would take few researchers years or a lot of researchers many weeks, and create huge bills no one was interested in paying.

Finishing the line of thought, Mikah realized there would be no way to clone the clown as she shook her head.  Then, behind a number of bulkheads, Mikah raised her fists and let out a loud and feral "YES!!!"  Done with her personal celebration, Mikah thought about announcing the news over the all-ship, but then decided not to.  They'd not told the rescued passengers from the liner about Terin and didn't want them concerned about an announcement they didn't understand.  Especially given how happy her crew might appear over Terin's permanent loss.  So, she'd go to the lounge and tell the others they'd just been saved the large amount of cash they'd have spent on cloning the man.

Despite some 'wobbly' and the weakness, Zimzod was stabilizing himself a bit.  He was soon dressed and ready to go back out into the ship's lounge.  Mikah had told Sekea to help Zimzod move about and make sure he got as much "physical therapy" as he could deal with before helping him settle in to sleep.  While Sekea had been with Zimzod in the man's stateroom, he'd seen another set of Battledress!  That shocked him a bit since the Imperial Navy and Marines were very tight-fisted about who owned them.  More than armor, each battledress was a high-tech weapon system of its own and no one wanted them to fall into the wrong hands.  Sekea wondered to himself what kind of hands had this suit, and he, fallen into?  Especially since one of those active in his transfer from the rescue shuttle to the cutter had also been wearing battledress.  He had to wonder how many suits they had?  And how long it might take before he could report it to the proper authorities?

Surprisingly, the space also contained a suit of combat armor and many many weapons.  The sight made Sekea uneasy.  When Zimzod was ready, and while he walked the man out of his stateroom, Sekea did his best to delicately ask questions about the crew, to learn if they were somehow criminals or not?  Still, criminals who rescued people in need had to be more along the lines of "Robin Hood" than truly evil operators.  He also remembered being told Mikah was an Imperial "Lady", so she was nobility to some Imperial Court or other.  That didn't mean she was acting for the good of the Imperium or not, since he'd encountered many self-centered people with titles of local nobility or more in his naval career...

From Zimzod's point of view, he had been shot and knew nothing of events after that.  Now, he was being guided around his own ship by a man he'd never met who claimed to have been rescued from a ship he'd never heard of during the time he'd lost.  So, while Zimzod even let the man help him get dressed, he asked his own questions.  And Zimzod learned of the King George and how three hundred passengers had left the Lanth system to become trapped aboard the mis-jumped liner.  Sekea gave him a brief gloss over his agreement with a crewmate aboard his last ship while he was in the Navy.  His experiences aboard the King George and how the crew of the Ashidi Ke rescued him and transferred the group he was with to the Upgrade.

  During Sekea's answers, it was clear to Zimzod the man was upset by the death of his crewmate's mother, and his loss of contact with the man's Father.  Especially since the man would now be a pirate's prisoner in Tremous Dex if he survived the events.  His answers also suggested he carried a small bit of survivor's concern if not guilt.  When Zimzod asked how many passengers had survived, Sekea told him the shuttle from Ashidi Ke had gotten forty people off the liner.  And, they'd had another craft rescuing people too.  From those forty, he'd been one of six transferred to the Upgrade.  He also mentioned the older woman who'd died after being brought aboard.  In the end, the crew of the Ashidi Ke provided a list of the nearly 100 passengers rescued.  Anyone left behind either died or was in the hands of the pirates of Tremous Dex.

While Zimzod learned about Sekea, he also explained he was a Knight, like the rest of his crew and that Mikah was a Lady of the Court.  He also said Mikah was the ship's captain and he was the executive officer.  Nodding, Sekea told Zimzod he was also an Imperial Knight, and gave a brief description of his background.  This told Zimzod Sekea's Knighthood had been hereditary and he was a member of a distaff line of a planet's "Royal Family".  Sekea also told Zimzod a bit about his military training and service, and Zimzod became intrigued.  Accepting Sekea's medical and other training, Zimzod was more impressed with what the man said about his navigation skills.  Especially since Zimzod's last memories had been that Terin had been missing during what turned out to be a pirate attack on the port station.  So, Zimzod had no idea what had happened to their navigator?

Since his passion really had been astrogation, Sekea asked who the Upgrade's navigator was.  Simply out of interest in trading notes.  For Zimzod, that was a more interesting question than Sekea knew.  And while they'd talked, they'd made their way out of Zimzod's stateroom and into the lounge.  With the male rescued passengers living in the cutter and Baron Aluu Murema's daughter in Terin's stateroom, Aiden, Jocelynn, Emkir and Fesic were in the compartment.  Looking at them, Zimzod asked, "Did we ever find Terin?"  When Jocelynn turned and said, "Oh, we found him alright." her tone didn't suggest good news.  A nail was driven into that comment when Aiden added, "What was left of him."

When Jocelynn agreed with Aiden's comment, Zimzod was all for not being kept in suspense and getting an explanation.  Still, Sekea was confused and asked, "I've been told we're in jump space.  So who's the ship's navigator currently?"  Pointing to Aiden, Jocelynn said, "That would be our pilot."  Aiden waived while Jocelynn continued, "But, we lost our navigator on the planet we just left.  He's currently on ice in a low berth, and we're taking him back to the Regina system.  We're hoping to have him cloned."  Nodding at the information, Sekea turned to Aiden and offered his help with any additional nav-work they needed to do.  When Aiden asked and Sekea gave a brief rundown of his skill, Aiden was happy to accept.  Especially when he heard of Sekea's Bachelor degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics, earned at the Imperial Naval Academy on Lunion!  An actual Imperial Navy Academy!

About that time, Mikah came into the compartment after having left the low berths.  Seeing the few crew in the space, and not worrying about Sekea sitting talking to Aiden, she called them together.  With their attention, she said, "OK, listen up guys." and her tone didn't suggest good news.  She continued, "I don't want to get our passengers upset, and this is crew business anyway, but..  The idiots, or the angels, on Tremous Dex, whichever way you want to go with this, I don't care, actually screwed up seriously.  Instead of putting Terin in statis, they actually froze him.  Physically froze him."

Mikah let that sink in and Zimzod muttered, "That can't be good." in a tone of disappointment.  Picking up her comments, Mikah said, "No matter what we do, we cannot clone him, we cannot revive him, he is dead."  After a beat, Mikah then shrugged and said, "We'll dispose of him when it's convenient." without any apparent respect or sympathy for his passing.  Adding to that, Aiden asked, "Is he now extra armor or extra ammunition?"  Mikah shrugged and said, "If you want to go back and start a plague, we can inject him and throw his head onto their station."  Ignoring that chatter, Jocelynn said, "As long as I get his hookah and infuser."  Realizing there could be other uses for the infuser, Jocelynn and Mikah talked about it, and agreed Mikah might need it to make medicines.  Mikah shrugged and said she'd borrow it if she needed, but would make sure to clean it out properly.  Those in the compartment made some jokes about strange symptoms being caused by trace contaminants in meds.

They talked and it became clear Mikah intended no more for Terin than throwing his body out the airlock at some point.  After the experience with Zach's body, Mikah made it clear she didn't even consider returning Terin's body back to his family.  Hearing a comment they could toss it into jump space and it would likely never re-appear again, Mikah was entertained.  The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea and asked who wanted to do the honors?  When everyone wanted a chance to throw Terin's body away, Mikah pointed out that they couldn't all fit in the airlock.  So, if they all wanted to be there, they'd have to open the cargo bay door for everyone to watch.

Instructive Remembrances
     Sitting in on the conversation, Sekea was bothered by the apparent disrespect they seemed to be treating Terin's death with.  When he asked if that had been intentional, Jocelynn answered, "Oh yes."  Mikah added, "Absolutely.  You don't know the crew mate.  Don't judge before you know the crewmate."  Not doubting Mikah but confused, Fesic asked why Mikah was so certain there would be no DNA they could recover to clone Terin with?  Mikah answered that with a short but complete discussion of how water crystallization inside each cell would shatter any DNA strands into pieces.  While she said there would certainly be "some" intact DNA strands, she explained the extreme amount of work it would take to search through the remains to find them.  When she firmly said no one was gonna pay for all that work, her answer put an end to any hopes of cloning Terin.

When it finally came down to who'd get "the honors" of disposing of Terin's body, Jocelynn claimed that.  Nodding, Mikah said she could put her battledress on and carry him out by herself.  When Mikah even suggested Jocelynn could spit on Terin's body, it was just too much for Sekea to take.  He asked how they could treat the body of a fallen crewman with such disrespect and Mikah turned to harshly say, "Because he treated everyone on the crew with disrespect."  Sekea interrupted as Mikah went to continue, only to be cut off when Jocelynn angrily said, "He put us in harm's way many times, he risked our lives..."  Mikah then cut her off, adding, "Without reason."  Others in the compartment nodded and agreed there had not been a reason.

Zimzod argued that he could explain the reason and said the reason for Terin's actions was that he was an ass.  Mikah agreed with him on that.  Jocelynn added, "And he was very selfish, and looked out for himself only.  And he almost got me killed a few times, almost got Zimzod killed a few times..."  When almost everyone in the compartment added, "Don't forget Rol." it wasn't lost on Sekea that he'd been told Rol was currently being cloned in a gestation chamber installed in his stateroom.  All he could say to answer their charges was, "I find it admirable that you tolerated someone for so long when he was a danger to your crew."

Jocelynn answered, "Yeah.  We're good like that."  After the "funeral", they promised to sit and tell Sekea many 'Terin stories' and Aiden quipped, "We'll have an After Terin party".  When it was asked if Terin still owed money to the ship, it was explained he'd indentured himself to the ship for two years to get them to pay to have a neural stent installed.  So, while he had worked off more than a year of that and still owed time, the ship had more than made back the money.  Sekea did joke he was surprised they were not stuffing him to use for target practice and Mikah said that would be a waste of space on a starship.  The others laughed at Sekea's idea and Mikah's judgement.

While Jocelynn got up, preparing to get into her battledress and deal with Terin's body, the others realized Zimzod was starting to fade.  When Mikah and Sekea suggested it was time for him to rest, Zimzod petulantly complained, "I don't wanna!"  Despite that, he wasn't going to make them dope him and was agreeing he should sleep when Emkir suggested they wait until the body was dumped and then share a drink to the 'not so dearly departed.'  Mikah agreed that she'd drink to anything at that point, even though the passengers still needed to be handled, Baron Aluu had likely heard some of their conversations about Terin and there was other work needing to be done.  Zimzod said he would wait until Terin was dealt with and they'd shared a drink before going to bed.

While Zimzod was putting his foot down, Emkir called Aali and said she should come join the rest in the lounge before explaining what Mikah had said about Terin.  Noticing what was happening in the lounge, after leaving a visit with his daughter, Baron Aluu came over to ask what had happened?  Sekea recognized the man as someone he'd seen once or twice aboard the King George.  From what he recalled, the man had been a high-end passenger, though he was often with a woman of similar status.  He'd never been introduced to the man and only expected he was someone of obvious wealth.  Sekea also didn't remember the man having been with the group of rescuees he'd been part of.  So, when he asked, he was introduced to Baron Aluu Murema.  Sekea was told he and his daughter had gotten off the liner in a rescue ball even as their section of staterooms had shredded away from the liner.  Sekea was also told the Baroness had 'not made it off the liner'.

After that, Mikah told the Baron about Terin's fate and said they were about to put the body out the lock.  Adopting a suitably sympathetic expression, he started offering his condolences but Mikah waved that off.  She said, "Don't worry about it your Excellency.  He was not a well-loved crewmember."  When the Baron nodded, Sekea interrupted and asked about a list of survivors, since the Baron and his daughter had gotten off the liner on their own.  He hoped he might find out if his crewmate's father had survived on his own?  Mikah promised she'd go over the list from the Ashidi Ke which had the names of everyone the two ships had gotten out of the system.  The Baron also offered Sekea his sorrows and offered any help he could give, if Sekea didn't feel he needed to bring those to Lady Mikah's crew.

Sekea recognized the social tactic as one of offering to be a 'go-between' so that passengers would not stop the crew from doing their jobs.  Sekea didn't explain to the Baron the connections he seemed to be making with the ship crew, as it wouldn't be needed.  Not long after the Baron left on a task or personal decision, Aali arrived and had the situation explained to her.  Emkir had also gone to their stateroom and grabbed a bottle of whiskey.  When the Baron and his daughter appeared and said they would take part in the ceremony the crew were obviously planning, Mikah told them that wasn't needed.  She again explained Terin had not been a well-loved member of the crew and added that his actions had caused the injuries Sir Zimzod was currently suffering from.

When the Baron nodded, Mikah continued, "He'd been a problem well before this, and now we get to say goodbye to him and we're gonna be very unceremonious about it.  So, you may just want to skip this one."  Nodding to Mikah, the Baron raised a crystalline memento or valued item of some sort while saying, "Well, in the circumstance..."  He then recited an interestingly-twisted, Semi-limerick semi-curse.  After that, he said he'd learned that from his mother, who reserved it for her worst political enemies.  The Baron finished up by saying, "May he rest in somebody else's pieces."  The entire performance both impressed the crew and moved some of them to sympathetic laughter as they decided this Baron was their kind of man!  Mikah was even all for hiring him onto the crew.

This ended when Jocelynn reported she was in her battledress and moving to get Terin from the freezer.  She wanted to know who was coming to watch and where she would be tossing him from?  The entire crew could suit up and join her if they opened the cargo bay hatch.  But they could all watch on video if she went alone to the main airlock and tossed him out from there.  Mikah decided they would all watch on screens in the ship's lounge while Jocelynn tossed the body from the airlock.  Accepting that, Jocelynn said she was heading to the low berths and would move "Ice Terin" to the lock.

In the lock, Jocelynn held up the body so she could look Terin in his frozen eyes and sadly said, "You could have been so much more."  After a pause, she commemorated the moment with a salute based on the way she and he had met while trying to salvage parts from three ships to jump back to the Inthe system.  So, she kneed him in the crotch!  Not considering the results of her action, Jocelynn hadn't considered the additional strength leant by her battledress.  Because of the hyper-crystallization of the corpse, the force of her action actually entirely shattered the corpse's hips and groin in a way that made the action an oddly suggestive statement.  When the corpse's pelvic and hip regions shattered away, the legs also broke free and all the shards and parts fell out into open space to be drawn across the jump space barrier.  Shrugging, Jocelynn just threw the head, arms and torso section out after the rest before closing the airlock.

Jocelynn then returned to her stateroom and changed out of her battledress.  When she re-joined them, Emkir poured out a glass of whiskey for all present including Sekea, Baron Aluu and his daughter.  Everyone then raised their glasses and each shared their most disrespectful toast before they downed the booze.  While Sekea had been a bit soured on the event by Jocelynn's actions at the airlock, she got a chance to explain that was how she and Terin first met.  Jocelynn told about her being found aboard the Regina's Storm, which Sekea remembered hearing about in the news.  She said that shortly after she'd joined their work salvaging parts from the three ships to get one working, they were aboard the dying Hotel California when she'd "encountered" Terin in the dark.  Then, she described how he'd grabbed one of her breasts and said, "Isn't this nice".

Emkir jumped in, saying, "And, from what we learned, he was very mean to her when they were trapped on Tremous Dex too."  Others nodded while Jocelynn agreed he had behaved badly.  While they drank and talked, Aali started the process of pulling the video of "Terin's sendoff" and adding it to the ship's specialized screen savers...to the cheers of other crew.  Seeing that, Sekea recognized the odd collection of clips he'd noticed but not paid attention to since being aboard the ship.  When he asked what the hell Terin had done to deserve so nasty a sendoff, he was sat down and they began that promised discussion of Terin's past sins.

Another story Jocelynn told, after the groping story, was how Terin not only was of no help, but abusive and useless while they'd been chased by mercenaries and large lizards on Tremous Dex.  How he'd even almost gotten them both shot by not attacking a mercenary trooper or even telling her the man was there after he knew the man had seen Terin look around a corner.  Emkir then stepped in and told how Terin had come to him and his wife pleading poverty and asking for help and Emkir had actually taken Terin under his wing, as it were.  He had actually paid for a computer class for Terin, and covered the cost of several restaurant meals before it was made clear Sir Terin actually had several hundred thousand credits in his account!  That astonished Sekea.

In the end, the view Sekea was given of Terin was that he was a greedy, grasping and self-serving person who had a habit of 'Terin-splain' why the others were wrong and he was right in almost every situation.  Sekea was told Terin never actually came up with solutions to the issues he raised, claiming he wasn't the planner but he knew when a plan wouldn't work.  Only, he never accepted any plan as workable.  During the chat, Mikah talked about how she'd tried to teach him a lesson by putting him in charge.  And while he accepted, all he did after that was try to delegate leadership to others while whining about how failures were not his fault.  Sekea listened and was less and less sympathetic to the thought Terin deserved respect in death.

To cap things off, they explained about the capture of the Cedna, and how Terin had gone off on his own hoping to find plunder for himself.  So, Terin was aboard the captured ship alone, thanks to his own greed, when pirates attacked to steal the ship back.  While Mikah and some others told that story, Jocelynn started quietly arguing with Fesic to tell a story and it was obvious Fesic didn't want to.  Finally, to the laughs of others, Fesic listened while Emkir told a story that happened on the highport in the Inthe system.  There, Fesic had been driving a ground car with Terin riding along when station security investigated signs they may have been in an accident.

The story told centered around Terin trying to convince the security officers that he and Fesic were a couple who'd been looking for someplace to "play".  Fesic got to endure a number of lurid suggestions and many laughs about the things that happened.  Both then, and while people continued to promote their "relationship" afterwards.  Emkir happily said he approved of the months of good jokes they'd gotten from that situation.  Sekea could only ask why they kept Terin on the ship given his behavior and attitudes?  At the same time, Fesic was sitting next to Sekea and pretended to stretch and reach out, as if on a "first date", to put his arm around Sekea's shoulders.  Seeing that, everyone broke out in laughter.  The laughs got louder when Sekea 'politely' removed Fesic's arm.

From there, Jocelynn was curious about Sekea's military career and where he'd come from.  Mikah also asked about his medical skills and Aiden asked about his navigational skills.  Aali was also curious about any skills he might have to help with engineering?  Emkir only wanted to know why someone who was so obviously over-qualified had taken a job as a body guard for an elderly couple?  Starting to answer people, Sekea said he could have had a cushy job in government because his aunt held his homeworld in fief.  So, his family all worked in government.  Despite that, he'd wanted to explore and travel.  When he was leaving the Navy, his friend aboard his last ship, the INS Kalage Ashi, told him of the trip and the number of worlds the man's parents would visit.

While most of the worlds were well-traveled Imperial worlds, he'd never visited a number of them and some were famous.  Like the Regina system.  There would also be visits to non-Imperial systems, like Ruie, and he was interested in visiting there too.  Since he didn't mind helping out a friend and they offered the trip for free, he signed on.  Aali said she understood that and Emkir happily cheered, "Join the Navy, See the Universe!"  Mikah jumped in and said he'd not missed anything by leaving Tremous Dex with them instead of stopping for a visit.

Having heard that Sekea's family held political power in his home system, there were questions about his homeworld.  Sekea talked a bit about Carse, which was both close to many major worlds in Lunion but bypassed by the major trade routes.  Sekea explained that his mother was one of the leaders for a political faction while his father worked in tax collection.  So, while he could have gotten a job there, the world was less affluent or interesting than even the other nearby worlds.  One of which was the subsector capital of Lunion.  Hearing his stories, Mikah got that this guy didn't want to go home and be bored.  And he had a good set of skills and experiences, including navigation training they'd just lost when Terin died.

So, when she could, Mikah asked Sekea how he'd like to travel and explore with a shipload of Knights?  Hearing that, Jocelynn joined in, saying, "There's already a stateroom and navigator's chair waiting for you."  Sekea was interested and asked what positions he could help them with aboard the ship?  Mikah started her answer by pointing out the ship had just lost its lead navigator.  So, he could hire on as their new nav-officer.  Off to the side, Aiden quipped, "And Jocelynn can stop giving first aid", which only confused Sekea but got laughs from the others.  Nodding, Mikah agreed his medical skills would be useful and he could help her with that too.  Mikah also suggested they might have use for his intelligence skills.

Sekea said the offer sounded good, and he was interested, but also said he had to replace the things he'd lost on the liner.  As an example, he pointed out that he had no clothes other than what he was wearing.  Jocelynn 'announced' "This crew loves to shop" while the others agreed or said similar things in their own words.  When Aali said that Emkir and she could help him with money, Sekea waved that off and said he had his own money, and some access to what he described as "family funds".  When Sekea said he had to shop to replace lost goods, Jocelynn suggested he could raid what Terin had left.  Mikah said he could also check out what Rol had, since he wasn't using it currently either.

They checked to see what fit or not, and found Sekea was a bit too tall for Rol's clothing and what he could wear was a bit too tight.  At the same time, Terin had been some inches taller and his clothes would hang a bit loose on Sekea.  So, Sekea could raid Terin's wardrobe and "inherit" some clothes from what was left behind.  When Sekea checked, he ignored the suits and selected items from two weeks worth of casual clothing and running clothes.  He also took the two ballistic cloth shipsuits Terin had bought.  While they helped Sekea check on Terin's clothing, Mikah and the others also considered the things Terin had left behind.

Laying those out to let Sekea choose from to replace things he'd lost on the liner, Mikah gave the man the comms set she'd given Terin.  She explained that was configured just like the comms everyone else on the team had.  Mikah also went through Terin's gear and removed the comm dots he'd had.  She put them together with the set's multiplexor and planned to put that in the ship's locker.  Jocelynn claimed the hookah and all items related to it.  She also took the infuser, but made it clear she would keep it clean and available for Mikah to use, for making medicines.  Mikah also showed Sekea to the spare stateroom, which was in the after section of the deck, opposite Jocelynn's.  That pleased Mikah more, because Terin's old stateroom was in the forward section, and meant renting that out would let them better control where a High passage passenger had access too.

While she showed Sekea around that section of the ship, Mikah explained that Rol's stateroom, just forward of Sekea's, had been re-engineered to house a gestation chamber.  They briefly told Sekea about how Rol had been killed fighting an assassin intent on killing the Duchess of Regina.  This was something Sekea had heard of in the news but was only vaguely aware of before now.  As a result, the Imperial Navy had installed the systems in Rol's stateroom to clone the man, and he would be "cooking" for another twelve weeks.  Still, across from Sekea's stateroom was Jocelynn's, and that section also had Emkir and Aali's stateroom.  Directly after of that was the med-bay, where Sekea would do some of his work.  There were also two hatches, leading both down into the ship's engineering spaces or up onto the top of the ship's hull.

Talking more about Rol at the time, Sekea learned he'd been the ship's chief of security and the crew cook.  Mikah also talked of the man's interrogation skills, but didn't seem very impressed with them.  She also regularly referred to Rol as the crew's war criminal.  That sparked some memories Sekea had from news reports he'd heard of Rol being a decorated and elevated citizen of the Imperium.  Setting that part of the conversation aside, Sekea realized Mikah and her crew were setting up for him to stay aboard the ship with them.  And despite his access to some of the "family funds", Sekea wasn't independently wealthy and knew he'd need some income, so he asked about that.  Mikah offered him an equal share of any profits the ship earned, and Sekea decided to graciously accept that, and sign on as crew.

A Week Of Crew Building
     Now that Sekea was a member of the crew, he was added to the ship's security files.  Aiden also took him up to the bridge and showed him the station he'd be using while also helping him log into the station and set up his workspace.  Along with that, Sekea was added into the rotation of people helping care for their unintended passengers.  This was easier thanks to the work Baron Aluu stepped in to take care of.  Both the Baron and his daughter, Lady Likhaarka, had no other role but to care for themselves and the passengers.  Over the week in jump, the passengers were suffering from delayed shock and depression following escape from the wreck of their liner.  There were bits of good news, like when Mikah and Sekea removed the kid with the broken leg from the autodoc.  Thanks to that treatment, and a 'soft-cast' Mikah had fitted him with, the boy could move around on his own and would fully heal in less than a month.

While he worked with the passengers, Sekea was recognized as having been rescued with them.  But none of those rescued had been higher class passengers like Sekea or the Baron's family.  So, while they recognized them as nobility who’d been on the ship, there were no direct personal connections.  Another item they realized was that none of the people carried by the Upgrade had been a member of the liner's crew.  So, they'd either 'stayed to help the passengers' or just 'not made it off the ship' when rescue came.  Whenever members of the crew worked to help the passengers, the Baron and his daughter didn't get in the way but were always available to help where needed.  And, they also remained a constant presence to help when the crew were busy.

Sekea and the others could go to the Baron or his daughter to ask what was needed, which improved the efficiency of caring for the people.  On top of that, everyone rotated cooking and delivering meals to the crew and passengers.  Sekea and Mikah also had to regularly check on the people medically, looking for signs of an injury they'd hidden, to not cause further problems, or signs of shock or growing depression.  Zimzod also helped with that through the week as he could, but was still recovering and working on the physical therapy programs Mikah created for him.  While it wasn't obvious he'd been shot, the passengers could see he was recovering from some physical issue or other.

Beyond the passengers, everyone with a stent also spent parts of the week working on stent-training.  Aiden also spent some of his time engaging with Sekea regarding more training with navigation.  During those talks, Sekea started getting an understanding of what Aiden had learned and what his certifications were, and felt he could help Aiden learn more.  At the same time, Aiden offered his books on hand-weapons and Sekea said he could use some more training on the use of his firearms.  Without a shooting range on the ship, Aiden and others said they could help with "static training".  Sekea was shown how he could place a coin at the end of his weapon's barrel and practice trigger-management and weapon stability, along with other techniques he could practice.

They also spoke to him about using an in-barrel laser pointer to work on his aim but no one had any gear for that.  So, they talked about buying that where they could on some world they'd visit.  When Jocelynn overheard the conversation, she asked, "What about Terin's stuff?"  After a moment's consideration, they went to check his gear and see what they could find.  While they looked, Jocelynn asked if Terin still owed the ship money because of his indentureship?  Emkir told her that Terin had money and Sekea was told about one of Sir Terin's "most famous grifts".  Despite his personal wealth at the time, Emkir admitted Terin had conned him and Aali into buying an expensive educational program for him and a number of meals.  Terin even managed to cry poverty and get Mikah to pay for a meal or two.  This all despite his personal wealth of several hundred thousand credits!

Still, they worked their way through the gear until they noticed Terin had a laser sight mounted on his custom gauss rifle.  Figuring Sekea could use it while working to improve his aim, they got Jocelynn to help remove the sights and mount them on Sekea's snub pistol.  During the week in flight, Jocelynn also used videos to better correct the mount and help Sekea sight-zero it, to test her work and work on improving his aim.  So, that activity served multiple purposes.  When Sekea also asked Mikah if she'd mind him shadowing her to learn from her medical expertise, Mikah said that was fine.  Still, the first lesson she gave him was to "never" let Jocelynn perform first aid.  Once things settled down, the crew regaled Sekea with Jocelynn's most famous medical moments while Jocelynn did a lot of glaring...

As they talked, Aiden noticed Sekea had a very high-end hand-computer, which he'd not lost on the liner.  Discussing navigation theory over the week, Aiden learned the man had a healthy collection of programs and files that were helpful in working out plots.  When he asked, Sekea said he would share that with Aiden too.  Stressing that people have to take time for themselves and relaxing, Emkir took charge of teaching Sekea about the ship's entertainment systems and gaming consoles while also "testing the man" on his interest in gaming and gambling.  Emkir was disappointed to see Sekea didn't immediately jump at the chance to game and gamble.

Outside of her work in engineering, Aali spent more time relaxing and reading in-between her shifts working with the passengers and her stent work.  Fesic used his free time in various ways.  After events on the station in Tremous Dex, Fesic started planning to place external cameras around the ship.  While he worked at that, he realized it wouldn't just be a case of buying cameras and setting them up.  Anything outside the hull would have to be able to survive the extreme conditions the ship would be subject to.  Not only the heat and cold encountered in space, but things like the burning abrasion of events like capturing fuel from a gas giant's atmosphere to purify.  So, they had two choices to make.  One would be devices they could place while in port but would have to manually pull back inside.  The other would be to have cameras and systems implanted into the hull, either by Aali or at some port facility in the future.

Sitting with Aali over the first days, the two discussed the cameras which Fesic felt would help protect them against anyone grabbing onto the ship's hull as part of an attack or to ride back.  Both recalled the pirate Smiljan 'hitching a ride' on the Cedna.  Still, while they talked, the idea was floated that any cameras would also be able to augment identifying and tracking any other ships or items as part of the ship's sensor system.  Doing that would obviously be more expensive and demand integration with the ship's hull, but would let them upgrade their sensor package too.  Considering that, they asked Aiden to work with them to plan and decided to map the ship's hull to plan for the number of camera's they'd need.  When Fesic was asked if he planned to buy anything on Arden, he said he wasn't, but wouldn't pause if they happened to be available there thanks to some smuggler, pirate or blind luck.

Beyond that, Fesic spent time investigating the new weapon systems on the cutter and integrating them into inspections and maintenance he regularly did on the ship's weapons.  Part of this meant he had to deal with the passengers now living in the cutter, but that was easily dealt with.  Fesic also asked Zimzod to join in with him since it was more organic exercise helping with his physical therapy.  Over the week, Fesic and Zimzod were pleased to find there were no apparent needs for work to be done.  Still, there was more to handle than a regular week so Fesic and Zimzod had to cut back on gunnery practice.  Especially due to the limits Zimzod faced thanks to his recovering injuries.

Fesic also got together with Emkir and others in the crew to talk about planting 'escape aids' on or about his vacc suit, armor and PLSS systems thanks to what they'd learned while being prisoners of the pirates.  That meant mounting more of Fesic's edged-washers or plastic blades like Emkir's outside their suits or armor.  This meant attaching 'finger-grabbable' pop-off items on their suits which could be used in escape efforts.  Getting Aali involved in that, they discovered that it would be very easy to spot-glue Fesic's washers to his PLSS, and anyone else could buy washers of their own to fashion into mini-cutting tools too.  After they were glued in place, they could be painted over to make them unlikely to be noticed.

They also talked about the idea of buying more plastic knives and then spot-gluing them to a PLSS.  More stock plastic would then be needed to create strips, which could be shaped to fit with the blades.  That would let them fit the strips and blades together and paint them over, making them look like straps which held the PLSS together.  Or, straps which were part of the support of a vacc suit or armor such as a PLSS mounting brace.  That would take more machining work, but most of the crew had skills in that.  So, they'd need a source of more plastic knives.  or, even metal knives they could work in with metal straps.  So, it wasn't something they could do "this week", but they could buy what they needed in the future.

Outside of those ideas, Fesic and Aiden both continued to read up on the sensor drone, and Fesic continued working on his lockpicking classes.  Fesic also spent time during the week working to familiarize himself with the new cargo sealing system the crew had received.  He was disappointed the unit didn't have the training system the other device had, but that was gone and he had to move on.  The rest of the time he had, Fesic relaxed or looked for other things wanting work or where he could help.

While Mikah took time to work with and observe the passengers, she also had to devote time to managing Zimzod's care and supervising his physical therapy.  Beyond that, she had to manage her own recovery too.  So she gamed with the others and generally made time to relax.  She did plan to sit down with Sekea and talked to him about the crew's 'real mission' on Arden, but she wasn't planning on doing that until they'd dumped the passengers.  At the same time, Jocelynn had a list!  When the ship and all had settled into jump, Jocelynn made her way down to engineering and said, "Aali, I know you're really busy but I have a small project I wanna ask you about..."

When Aali allowed her enough time to hang herself with her own words, Jocelynn said she wanted to set up a system of hooks or racks from which she could hang her long-barrel weapons in her stateroom.  The stateroom was so crowded with gear she wanted to re-organize it and recover all the space she could.  When Aali said she could help figure that out, Jocelynn thanked her and then went about moving her stent work and armorer studies around the main plan she had for the week.  That was an entire re-organization of her stateroom!  Pulling things out where she could, moving stuff around and also leaning on Aali when it came to increasing her storage space, the work took a good part of the week in jump.

The plan for more storage meant disassembling her bed and disconnecting it from the layer of drawer-storage it already covered.  Then, building a new layer of storage atop the first and rebuilding the bed on top of that.  So, Jocelynn's bed was now high enough she might need a ladder to climb in when she was tired.  But, that gave her more enclosed drawer space to stow her hand guns and ammo while leaving other storage in the stateroom open for other uses.

Zimzod pushed as hard as he could at the physical therapy and spaced that out with less physical things like stent work.  At the same time, Zimzod did what gear maintenance he could and spent some time really enjoying the food and drink he would have missed out on.  As a trained paramedic, Zimzod also took what shifts he could, helping with the passengers.  Part of that was checking on the kid's healing broken leg, since Mikah didn't expect much work there, but was happy to hand it off.  While all that happened, Sekea added his other tasks to learning the ship and its crew along with how he fit in.

Switching Old For New
     One of the tasks handled during the jump was dealing with the goods Terin left over.  Because Mikah didn't have any power over his financial goods, those would be lost, including his investments in the Shanmuk Kavomiih Corp. Expansion.  But she did take the Cr 50 chit the portmaster had given Terin to have his armor fixed.  Next, they stripped the laser sights from Terin's gauss rifle for Sekea, and Aali had taken the gyrostabilizer.  Mikah took all the comm-dots from Terin's gear and stored them with the mux in the ship's locker along with all the gun cams and HUD-integration kits.  The gauss rifle had been customized for Terin so they would sell that off when they could.  Since she had a need, Jocelynn took the ammo for his gauss rifle.

Sekea got Terin's gauss pistol, which had been a gift from Duke Luis' of Lunion, along with all the kit that weapon came with.  Terin's snub pistol was stripped of all extras and put in the ship's locker along with all the ammo being given to Sekea.  Sekea was told they had a huge container of spare snub pistol rounds in the locker too, which he could use as needed.  After everything was shared out or settled, they spent time during the week reloading magazines, using any needed spare ammo and Zimzod's needle loader for the gauss weapons.  Zimzod also took the gauss shotgun pistol and ammo which Terin had taken when Munarshu left the ship.  Also, while they parted out Terin's gear, they talked about another former crewmate named Munarshu, and that also led to discussions about Rol's past.  In the end, they gave Sekea a copy of the book "Crossing the Line" and marked Rol's chapter.

Terin had also left behind two swords, one of which was customized for him.  Mikah put the customized sword into the ship's locker to sell whenever they came someplace where Terin's actions made him famous enough to raise the sword's sale price.  The other sword and scabbard had also been a gift from Duke Luis, and anyone could use it.  But, since everyone on the crew who knew how to use a sword had one, and most of those customized, this weapon went into the ship's locker against future need or sale.  Past the weapons, Aiden took Terin's survival knife, which came with a void in the Pommel(which had a compass mounted on it) containing basic survival gear(fishing line / hooks, fire creating "sparker", water purifying tabs, etc).

When it came to Terin's vacc suit and combat armor, both were made for someone three inches taller than Sekea.  That meant he could take the vacc suit, even though it was ill-fitting, and have it fitted or replace it when they came to a better port for that.  The same could be said of Terin's combat armor except that it would create difficulties in use, which might cause Sekea to choose to not use it.  Because Terin had been wearing one set of his executive armor when he'd been killed, Sekea was able to take the four remaining sets.  Those would fit him appropriately.

No one wanted any of Terin's uniforms, so those were stored for sale or disposal whenever they could, but Fesic took the scout belt buckle to handle its return.  He eventually planned to return it to the IISS and use the payment to replace his own lost buckle or something else.  When it came to Terin's clothing, Sekea went through the wardrobe to find things he could wear which were not too ill-fitting.  Still, he did have to hem up the legs of any pants he took.  When it came to Terin's suits, they were ill-fitting enough that it would likely cost less to buy new suits which fit than have Terin's things altered.  Using Terin's clothing would only be a stop-gap until he could shop for his own replacement wardrobe.

The casual clothing Sekea didn't want were brought to the other male passengers, to see if they could use any of it?  The suits could be sold, so they were put in the ship's locker.  Sekea did take the two ballistic-cloth shipsuits, because they fit well enough after the legs were hemmed.  Fesic took Terin's Accessory items(Cuff links, Collar stays, button covers) for suits (1 set silver, 1 set copper, 1 Set Brass).  Terin's duster experiment was put in the ship's locker for a future sale.  Next came Terin's electronics, and the first thing Mikah did was give Sekea the comms unit Terin had, which was one of the matched set given each of the crew.  She also gave Sekea the Data-HUD goggles Terin had, because everyone in the crew had one of those too.

Terin had also had his own TL B Multi-Channel Scramble-capable Long-range Comm unit and TL 13 comm unit earbud which Mikah put into the ship's locker for sales.  Fesic took Terin's TL 15 hand computer despite the fact he had a TL 13 Naasirka unit with a holo-projector and other add ins, which he'd bought on Regina.  Terin's breather and filter/respirator masks still hung in the ship's locker and Mikah claimed those for the ship.  Since everyone had bought matching electronic gaiter's, Mikah gave Terin's to Sekea.  Emkir wanted the generic datapad Terin had, with 5 books on Drugs, Alchemy, Herbalist, and a number of scholarly papers on the subject.  Emkir added reading from those to his activities over the coming week.

While Jocelynn took Terin's lapel pin and chest badge for the Order of Caranda's Sword, Mikah put the lapel pin for the Order the Knight Defenders of the Marches in storage for the time being.  Zimzod took Terin's single high-end pair of sunglasses.  Aiden took one set of the lesser valued sunglasses and the other two were put in the ship's locker for sale.  Sekea took Terin's first aid kit and Terin's survival kit, in a duffel bag in the ship's locker, was assigned to Sekea too.  After that was all settled, over the week in jump, each of the crew managed their own goods along with their other tasks.

Having decided to house the rescued male passengers in the cutter did help the crew keep them out of the way during the passage.  Still, that space was cramped just like every space on the yacht.  To deal with that, Emkir stepped in and offered gaming items and ship-connected consoles.  Mikah also said she would have crew members assigned to escort the men, so they could take walks around the ship's lounge and not feel bottled up in the cutter.  This, of course, didn't let them tour the bridge or other sensitive compartments aboard.  Mikah also staggered the meal times so the men could come out into the lounge and eat with some members of the crew.  Sadly, with Rol out of action, the food had not been as high quality as when he had been cooking.

Over the week, Sekea better learned about his crew mates and compared what he learned against the bits of news he remembered hearing.  He'd heard bits about Rol and the stories about him, along with his Knighting.  He'd heard a bit about the crew of the Hotel California now they mentioned that ship's name too.  When they mentioned a few of the more infamous bits of crew history, Sekea was also told more of the ship's video-screen saver.  That was a collection of video scenes which had been captured over time.  While a large part of the early vids had been lost when the Hotel California had misjumped and wrecked, the crew had started to add to it again.

When Sekea paid attention to the video segments on the screen saver, and was told it ran ship-wide, he mentioned that the other passengers might see it and wonder about the crew.  Zimzod only smiled and said that was part of their 'anti-hijack' system since it would show anyone seeing it how crazy they were.  Zimzod finished that with a huge smile on his face.  This also led to more stories of former crew who'd served under Mikah and Zimzod, who were mostly dead.  Of course, there was 'Ms. Vik', who left the crew and now served the Imperium in the diplomatic corps.

By the end of the week, Sekea was settled in to his stateroom.  Jocelynn had a lot of the work done to re-organize her stateroom and had raised her bed thanks to Aali's help.  There were still things to do, and she couldn't move the space into which her terrarium had been installed.  That was because that had been connected to electric and other services of the stateroom.  Thanks to the androids, Aali had finished her work a day before the end of jump and had been able to relax.  In the cutter, the passengers looked forward to arriving in Arden and the Baron suggested he hoped they could book the group passage back to Regina aboard an Oberlindes liner.  During that talk, Sekea let the Baron know he'd hired on with Mikah's crew and would not be returning with the others.

Introductions In The Arden System
     Two hours before dinner, the ship's computer warned they were preparing to emerge from jump, Mikah was on day 12 of light duty, still recovering from her gut wound.  Everyone got things aboard ship squared away and moved to their stations.  If they arrived where Aiden had plotted them to, they would be 19.75 hours out from the mainworld, thanks to the system's jump shadow.  When it came to stations, Sekea was asked to remain in the ship's lounge with Zimzod and Jocelynn, because he had no flight duties as they emerged.  When they did, Aiden and Emkir began working to fix their arrival location while Fesic manned the gunnery sensors to watch for any threats.  Mikah was in her chair observing.  When the sensors cleared, Fesic was first to announce there were no threats on the boards.

At the same time, Emkir and Aiden worked to fix their location and determined they'd only emerged a few thousand kilometers off Aiden's plot point.  For a relative beginner, that was as close as perfect.  It would not add much more time to their burn in-system as they looked to their comms to see if they were getting signals from the outer satellite beacons.  But they got nothing.  There was still the electronic chatter emanating from a distant system, but no strong signal that was broadcast locally so it would dominate the combined chatter coming from deeper in the system.  While that was odd, and wouldn't be the case in most Imperial systems, they could burn in and see what they find?

It was eventually five hours into their burn in-system when they started receiving beacon data from the system's outer satellites.  The data was obviously automated and designed to collect all their arrival and ship data to send a packet to the inner system.  At that point, Mikah took the helm and sent Aiden and Emkir to get some sleep.  The men went back to their staterooms to grab five hours of sleep.  After they left, Mikah called Sekea to the bridge so she could explain the actual reason why they had come to the Arden system, and their orders from the Arch Duke.  Having Sekea sit, Mikah explained that they had not come to Arden to trade and the cargo they'd picked up in Tremous Dex was only incidental.  She then told him they had a mission personally assigned to them by Arch Duke Norris when they were last in the Regina system.

Since then, they had been making their way to the Arden system to complete that job.  When they arrived in the system, they were to look for any data they could find on a team which the Arch Duke had sent to Arden previously.  Mikah said she'd been told they had been on-world and reporting for some time before they stopped reporting.  Since they were available when Norris needed a crew to do it, he assigned them that task and told them they had four months time to complete it.  That was forty two days before, on the 331st day of 1113, so they were six weeks in.  Unless they cut back on maintenance, it would take them another six weeks to return to Regina.  That meant three quarters of their time was already spent and they were only just arriving on Arden.

Mikah then told Sekea they had been warned the system government had extreme laws and restrictions, so that would make it difficult for them to hunt for information.  It also meant that getting caught carrying out what was essentially espionage would also lead to very bad endings.  Hearing that, Sekea considered his navigational skills and how he could affect the mission?  If they had to get out of the system fast, he could work to see if he could plot a jump point using a La Grange or trojan point.  Of course, if they tried to use a point like that, the system military might not be happy with them.  They'd have to ask the local government even if they wanted to do that during a normal departure.  And the locals might say "no", so he could work out possible plots "just in case".

Not long after they finished talking about the mission and a had some conversations about the crew's "relationship" with the Arch Duke, the port began to reach out to them.  Mikah responded and told the port they were inbound with a contracted cargo for delivery.  She said they needed a berth in the low port and then warned the planet they were carrying passengers rescued from a starliner.  The port official immediately asked for details on the starliner and rescued passengers.  Mikah said they had seven survivors, one of whom was a child recovering from a broken leg.  She explained they were rescued from the IMS King George, which had emerged from misjump in the Tremous Dex system on Holiday-1114.  Mikah also said the IMS Ashidi Ke had been involved in the rescue and may have brought as many as one hundred survivors back to the Extolay system in the Imperium.  The port thanked Mikah for the information and said they would prepare and be in contact.

Downport Open Air Ship Berth Because of the distance to be traveled, talks with the port took hours, and they offered berths both in the system's high port and low port.  Despite the menu of berths and services, Mikah said she wanted to land at the downport and she asked for one of the ten open-top ring-berths supporting ships up to five hundred dTons.  They said they could accommodate her for Cr 500 a week, and billed her the first week up front.  While Mikah was talking with the port, another comms light began blinking and Fesic took the call.

When he connected, the man he was speaking with said he was calling from the office of Baroness Dame Zugoukh, Imperial Ambassador to the Arden system, and she would like to speak to the ship's highest ranking crew member.  When Fesic told the caller their captain was on the comms with the port, the caller leaned in closer to his vid and ordered, "Her Excellency would like to speak to your highest ranking officer now!  The port can wait."  Drawing out the words, "Oh kay" before he turned away from the comms, Fesic apologized to Mikah and told her the Imperial Ambassador wanted her on another call.  Annoyed, Mikah told the port operator she would re-contact them after responding to the Imperial Ambassador and switched comms channels.

When Mikah answered, "Yes, Ambassador, what can I do for you?" the staffer ordered, "State your name and rank.  Annoyed, Mikah snapped out, "Lady.  Dame.  Doctor.  Mikah Kirlim.  Captain of the Upgrade.  Hearing that, the man nodded and said, "Standby for Her Excellency."  When the Ambassador came on the line, Mikah was looking at an apparently fashionably dressed female Vargr.  While she was well dressed, her jewelry was minimal.  Just a set of "hanging metal links" earrings and a star on her lapel indicating she was an Imperial Knight.  The Vargr said, "Hello Captain, I am Ambassador Zugoukh and I am the Imperial ambassador to this world.  Under my orders and authority, you will no longer communicate with the system authorities except through my office, or without my clearance."

Mikah nodded and said, "Yes" before telling the Ambassador she had been talking to the port to prepare for their landing and service needs.  Zugoukh nodded and admitted, "That is to be expected and I understand that.  However you must accept that my orders will be obeyed."  Nodding, and not sure where this was going, Mikah simply said "OK."  Satisfied with that, the ambassador asked, "What are your plans and reasons for visiting this system?"  Mikah said, "We're a merchant ship and we're getting ready to deliver a shipment of alcohol."  The ambassador nodded at that and seemed to wait for a beat before her head canted to the side slightly.  She then straitened her head and asked, "Is there nothing else?"

Considering the situation, Mikah said, "We are under orders from Arch Duke Norris for some actions here.  If you want further information, or he hasn't contacted you, I recommend you contact his representative in-system.  Bad at reading Vargr expressions, Mikah couldn't read the ambassador's face as she reacted to her words.  Mikah did see the ambassador's shoulders slump slightly as she told Mikah, "His Excellency has no offices in-system, and I am the only official Imperial representative here.  I have also not received any information on your orders.  I recommend we reserve any further talk on that for a time when you can meet me in my office."

When Mikah agreed on that, the Ambassador asked how far from landing they were and Mikah said she wouldn't know that until she finished her dealings with the port.  Waving that away, the Ambassador clarified, asking how long it would take them to arrive, to reach orbit?  Mikah checked and said they were about nine hours out.  Nodding, the ambassador told Mikah to finish her dealings with the port and then update her staff on their plans.  She also surprised Mikah by telling her the embassy would pay their berthing fees for them.  Mikah thanked the Ambassador and then cut the line, telling Fesic to get the port back on the comms.

Back on with the port, Mikah asked about refueling, consumables and restocking food supplies.  While the port said they would have to deal with local venders for food, they did say they could provide the ship refined or unrefined fuel and handle any consumable refresh they needed.  They also offered ship services like minor repairs and upgrades.  Mikah also considered just how fast they might want to get out of the system and asked if the port could provide them hired engineers to help Aali get them ready to lift sooner?  When they asked her how many engineers Aali would like, Mikah said she'd check with her chief and let them know.  Mikah then put them on hold and called Aali.

Aali was concerned, given what they'd been told of the world, that the engineers might not be worth hiring.  She was also concerned they may send people to the ship who might ask Aali to teach them the jobs she expected them to do.  Or, that any engineers brought aboard might be there to spy on the crew.  Those things stated, Aali asked Mikah why she was interested in hiring the engineers in the first place?  Aali had done the math and told Mikah that she and the androids could "push" and get the work done in four and a half days.  With two more qualified engineers, they could cut that by two days, and be done mid-day Saturday.  Nodding, Mikah got back on-line with the port and asked for two engineers.  That agreed on, they said they'd work out the pricing after the ship landed.

With that, most of the crew hit the rack, so they'd be awake and available when it came time to land the ship.  While they did that, it came time for Emkir and Aiden to wake and take back their posts on the bridge.  Because of Zimzod's condition, Fesic decided to stay awake the whole run in, and sleep after they'd landed.  An hour later, the ship got a call from staffers in the Ambassador's office asking about the rescued passengers.  Mikah then explained how the King George emerged from a mis-jump in the Tremous Dex system after leaving the Lanth system.  Mikah then sent the staffer the full list of rescued passengers aboard both Upgrade and Kalage Ashi, and explained the condition of those aboard her ship.  Mikah also specifically included the Baron and his daughter by name.

Thanking her for the information, the staffer said the ambassador's office was working with the port to receive and treat them.  Mikah also sent the report they had created on the incident along with their sensor data and recordings.  Mikah was told the embassy would transmit the data to the Imperial Naval element in-system so they could send a courier to authorities in the nearest naval base.  That would be the Denotam system.  Mikah did remind the staffer the IMS Kalage Ashi had been bound for the Extolay system and they would already be spreading word of the disaster there.  With that, the call ended.  Soon, Mikah went to sleep and Aiden, Emkir and Fesic were the only crew awake while burning in towards Arden-orbit.  Before she slept, Mikah checked Zimzod's recovery and hit him with drugs to keep him sleeping.

While they manned their stations, Aiden, Emkir and Fesic noted the system had a reasonable amount of traffic for what they knew of it.  They could see an outer sphere of stations and satellites surrounding the world which was more dense along the plain of the world's equatorial orbit.  Getting closer in, they started getting tight-beam comms from various stations asking the ship's affiliation.  That was because the firms which owned stations did their best to move traffic into private facilities before they got charged any fees by the local port.  Or, perhaps, before the port asked questions about their activities.  Stations were owned by local firms as well as megacorporations like SuSAG, LSP and others.

For reasons Aiden and Fesic didn't understand, Emkir started responding to all the queries by not only saying who they were but what they carried and who their customer was!  When Aiden started telling Emkir to shut up, Emkir only ignored that and continued telling everyone who asked all the information he could.  This despite the fact it was no one's business what they were carrying or for whom?  After Emkir put it out they were carrying a cargo of alcohol from Tremous Dex, they quickly got pinged by a caller who asked how much they were being paid for the cargo and suggested they could pay twice what the crew were being paid.

Emkir answered them, "Point of honor, we have a buyer." and got back, "point of honor be damned.  We're an entertainment complex and we can pay you a lot more than they can."  The man's tone suggested he wanted the booze and wasn't interested in little things like contracts and ethics.  When Emkir suggested the man contact his buyer and see if they could buy some of the cargo from them, the man asked Emkir to give him the buyer's contact data.  Hearing that, both Aiden and Fesic shouted, "NO!" and told Emkir to stop giving away so much information.  Emkir ignored the others and continued to say the cargo was under contract and they couldn't negotiate over it while the caller continued not to care about any restrictions because he had lots of money.  Disgusted, Emkir finally broke the link.

Still, while they flew, they received continued attempts to get them back on the comms from that complex and others.  Closer in to the cloud of stations, they past close enough to one to be "blasted" with the warning, "This is Ling Standard Products Contracted space.  Please steer clear unless contracted or owned by LSP or you may be fired on".  The same event happened again with a facility owned by SuSAG corporation.  Aiden and Emkir had no doubt they'd open fire, given what they'd heard in the Risek system months before, so they steered clear of that.

Closer in, they saw a small flotilla of actual Imperial warships!  Three of the vessels spec'd out as sixty thousand warships, accompanied by some smaller destroyers, couriers and a trail of logistics ships.  They guessed this was the "support element" assigned to protection of the on-world embassy.  The heart of the formation appeared to be a two hundred fifty thousand ton carrier or small battleship!  Of course, in a trailing position, Arden's navy had positioned a response force in case the Imperials became aggressive.

Seeing that, Emkir secured from advertising who they were and what they were doing to the whole universe and started reaching out to the warships.  When he got a connection, Emkir proceeded to give them the 'chapter and verse' and got back an almost uncaring, "Are you here to resupply us?"  When Emkir explained they had a customer for the alcohol cargo, he was told that didn't answer the man's question.  At the same time, Aiden told Emkir, "The answer is no." in an annoyed tone.  When Emkir said "No", the naval spacer cut the connection because their existence had nothing to do with the naval mission.

When it seemed to him that Emkir intended to go back to telling the whole universe all about their business, he snapped, "Stop telling them what our cargo is.  Just tell them we're a merchant ship."  Aiden added in, "It's none of their business."  Getting in closer, they also started getting a flood of commercial offers and broadcasts for almost every service they could consider.  Some of them were technical or ship's services while others were interpersonal, or even sexual.  And some of the service offers were certainly things which would be illegal in the Imperium.  Some were explicit, suggesting they be allowed to dock with the Upgrade with 'their girls and boys' to host a party aboard.  When Emkir started to respond to any number of them with "no thank you's", Aiden shook his head and snapped, "Just ignore them.  Don't respond."  Shrugging, Emkir set up an automated "No thank you" rather than just ignoring the constant flow of advertisements.

Introductions Arrivals And Aggravations
     When they were finally closing on the world, Aiden sent a message through the ship waking people up as they worked with the system's orbital and port comms to create their landing track.  Coming in over the atmosphere, they got a view of some of the surface in darkness and the amazing amount of light told them much the urban sprawl had covered the world's surface.  Thanks to a surface beacon, they were able to center on the port, which was in a raised section of city sprawl.  Finally, as the rest of the crew took their stations, Aiden guided them in and down to land at the port.  First, the ship was guided down to land on a large crawler.  They then had to wait while the crawler moved them into their berth.

A city on Arden While they rode, they reviewed the video caught over the city and realized how much of an urban mess they'd landed in.  After they were down and berth workers had connected all the umbilicals and hoses, the port called the ship to talk prices.  They covered the payment for the berth, which was paid by the embassy.  Beyond that, the port wanted KCr 65 for them to refuel the ship and Mikah accepted that.  It was expensive but she'd known that was coming.  Mikah was surprised when they only asked Cr 1,500 to refresh the consumables.  She'd expected them to demand more, so she agreed with that.  They also paid Cr 100 for a connection to the world-net.

While the port and Mikah started talking about the engineers they wanted, Fesic hit his rack to get some sleep.  And with the crew waking up and taking their stations, Zimzod was getting a feel for just how much recovery was ahead of him.  Still, he did feel that much better for a regular night of sleep.  The port also told them it would cost KCr 10 for two engineers for a week.  Aali was pissed because you could hire five engineers for a month for that in the Imperium.  But, they weren't in the Imperium.  After the payments were made and they were cleared by the port, Mikah called the embassy to let the ambassador know they were down and prepared to meet.  A staffer told them to stand by and keep all the crew aboard and continue caring for the passengers until they could arrive to process them.

Not long after that, the port alerted them an Imperial convoy was arriving.  The handful of smaller vehicles escorted a small mini-bus which seemed would be large enough to take the passengers.  A human female was first out of one of the vehicles and led a team dressed in "expensive conservative" who formed up with her and came further into the berth and to the ship's open cargo hatch.  That team were trailed by three Imperial Marines in standard cloth-armored combat uniforms, and armed with carbines and small arms.  That had to be a nod to the restrictions placed by the Arden government.  Arriving at the open hatch, the woman in lead requested permission to board the ship.  When Mikah invited them in, she asked to speak to the ship's captain and Mikah introduced herself.  While she knew that wasn't needed, she saw they were playing this by the diplomatic numbers.

The woman introduced herself as a Junior undersecretary to the Ambassador, and said she'd been assigned the work to get the people Mikah rescued sorted and back to the Imperium.  She also said she had a team to recover the body of the elderly passenger, who had died.  After the introductions were done, she said she was ready to meet with the passengers and start preparing to process them.  Mikah led the team inside the ship and to the cutter where the passengers were waiting.  On the way, Baron Aluu stepped up and introduced himself.  He then explained he would be acting as spokesperson for the rescued passengers, and assist the team in their work.  He did say he could not speak for Sir Sekea Sian, because that man had taken on other responsibilities, and would have to speak for himself.

Accepting that, the undersecretary looked around to see Sekea and invited him forward to explain the Baron's comment.  Sekea explained that Lady Mikah's crew had offered him a job and he'd decided to join her crew.  After that was dealt with, and before the team could move on to the other passengers, Sekea asked if someone in their team could direct them to where he should go to send a message to his family and his former shipmates about the events he'd been part of?  Turning to one of her people, the woman told Sekea the Arden system had a firm named Zugalee-Duman, which handled commercial messaging and communications.  Sekea felt that sounded good as it was a degenerated version of the Vilani "Sugala" and "Dumn", for "Official Courier" and "Message".  So, the world seemed to maintain its former Imperial roots.

Sekea was told the company had offices all over the planet, including one in the port facilities.  When he had a chance, she recommended he go to seek out their offices for costs.  She also smiled and happily said communications between the Arden system and Imperial systems had improved greatly since the Oberlindes jump-3 line had begun operating.  Still, she said that if he preferred, Sekea could write and address his messages and provide them to her office, and she would see they were delivered as a courtesy service in this time of crisis.  Sekea thanked her and she bumped her office data to him to send the messages after he'd written them.

When Sekea offered to help with transferring and caring for the passengers, she waived at her team and said she had the staff to handle that, and would also have Baron Aluu.  So, she felt Sekea could return to his work with the ship's crew.  She did then turn the coin and ask what needs Sekea had, since he had also been rescued from the misjumped liner.  While she did this, she nodded at one of her team members who left and returned with a box from the bus.  While that person was away, Sekea asked for advice where to shop for items he had to replace?  The woman promised Sekea a list of shops and centers which had been vetted by the embassy and were confirmed to meet Imperial standards.  When her staffer returned She took the box he brought and gave it to Sekea, saying it contained toiletries and items of a personal nature they were giving all the rescued passengers.

When Sekea mentioned replacing his weapons and personal armor, the woman stiffened up and became more official.  She recommended that no Imperial citizen attempt to even carry a weapon on-world or try to shop for weapons, ammunition or armor.  Looking about briefly, to see she had everyone's attention, she said that no Imperial citizen should handle or attempt to gain weapons in any non-Imperial system, but especially here in Arden where the laws are so very strict.  She advised Sekea wait until he returned to Imperial worlds where he would know the worlds and understand the circumstances and penalties involved.

Turning to Mikah, the woman handed Mikah a packet and said, "Lady Mikah, these are travel papers certified to allow you to travel from the starport to the embassy so you can meet with the ambassador.  They are required for local travel on-world, otherwise you won't be allowed to leave the starport district.  Mikah saw the "papers" were a set of electronic documents and asked when the meeting was set to happen?  She was told the Baroness would accept a meeting at Mikah's convenience within the next two to five hours.  That would let Mikah settle her ship to settle and travel to the embassy.  When Mikah checked, she saw the papers authorized her to bring "the necessary members of her crew", which meant she was not limited.

Mikah planned to bring Zimzod, so she knew she'd need to break out the hoverChair from the med-bay.  After that, Mikah and her crew were free to do as they wanted while the team from the embassy managed the rescued passengers.  Then, Aali was asked to escort the team to recover the elderly woman's body.  During that, Baron Aluu came to Mikah and said, that while he was still in the system, she could contact him through the embassy if they needed his help for anything.  Nodding, Mikah thanked him for that and also thanked him for his help managing the passengers after the rescue and during the jump.  She then wished him luck in his future travels as the man went back to the group boarding the bus.

Next, Mikah wanted to check on restocking their food supplies.  After half an hour of checking into the advertisements, Mikah saw they were all extremely over-priced.  She wasn't surprised, since the world was very over-populated and unable to easily feed their own population.  Also not surprisingly, the least expensive options were all tank-grown foods.  It was the sort of world where some made the joke they'd be going on safaris to "hunt the wild Stank".  Zimzod said they should spend extra to stock up on "reasonable" quality food and then back-stock the ship with tank-chow.  Mikah nodded while she also considered the ration bars they had, but didn't want to spend time eating those either.

When Mikah finally ordered, she wanted a full week's worth of natural grown food, despite the KCr 60 cost.  Mikah also got two weeks of tank-grown for KCr 10.  After that, Mikah called the embassy and said they were ready to meet with the Ambassador.  Mikah told the crew she was going to the embassy, and would be taking Emkir and Zimzod with her.  Hearing that, Sekea offered his help based on his intelligence training.  Zimzod considered that, because they'd talked about his training while hiring him on, and talked to Mikah about bringing him along.  Mikah agreed and they told Sekea he'd been added to the team.

Since she wasn't going with Mikah, Jocelynn pulled out the box she'd gotten from Sir Makxel ia Kiin and checked the name and address on the packet.  The person she was to deliver the box to was named "Yur Cooper", and she checked the address listed.  It read "Central District, Business Compartment 1".  The address annoyed her since the title "Central District" was different than the "Starport District".  Since she'd been told the world legal system even locked down travel for their citizens, Jocelynn realized she'd have to find out what she needed in order to get to the person and make the delivery?  Figuring she needed to understand the situation first, Jocelynn went to a terminal to see if she could find an online map.

Jocelynn was very pleased when she found the maps easily, though they were not geared to make travel easy to plan.  The maps were more of a political display than anything else.  The good news was, since it was based on mapping political and legal control, the districts were well defined and displayed.  Each of the districts were then broken down to compartments, which seemed to be police precinct maps.  The districts and compartments also seemed to be based on the activities in that area.  So, some were residential, others warehousing and transport while still others would be industrial, etc...  Jocelynn saw she would have to cross four other districts to get to the address.

The four districts between her and the other were a transport, retail, manufacturing and Residential as well as a last high-end residential district.  Checking the site, Jocelynn was pleased to see a link offering the option to find out what she needed in order to travel on-world.  That was ironic because of the world's xenophobic attitude, as was the expansion of their "stellar empire".  Unfortunately, when she clicked on the link, it opened up a flood of advertisements for tours and other 'for sale' travel opportunities.  And, none of it covered what someone would need to travel from point to point on their own or in a rented vehicle?

Checking the tours for where they might go, Jocelynn saw nothing that would take her close to the address, which was in a "high-end" residential area.  She did notice that each tour advertised they would provide all travel documents and certifications, which told her there were documents needed.  Just not what or where and how to get them?  Checking to see how she could make a call to Yur Cooper, she found the ship wasn't connected to the local voice comms network.  So, she had to first pay a Cr 150 fee for that connection before she could make the call.  She would then be charged the cost for the call after she was done.  Paying the up-front, Jocelynn called and got a recording with an electronic voice saying she'd reached Comms code 73ZC79532795ZA.  She was then told to leave a message before a beep sounded.

Shrugging, Jocelynn said, "This is a message for Yur Cooper, I am Dame Jocelynn Guerrek and I've just arrived in-system.  I have an item for you which was given to me by Sir Makxel ia Kiin."  Following that, she gave her comms code and asked to be contacted via the port using that code.  She then said she needed Yur to tell her how to reach him or if he could come to the port and collect the item?  After that, she disconnected the line and checked the local time.  Seeing it was eleven in the morning, Jocelynn decided she would go out to the port terminals for lunch.  She also announced that to everyone still on the ship, to see if they wanted to join her?

Having gone to sleep after they landed, Fesic was still asleep and would be for some time.  Aiden also went to sleep, and planned to do stent work after he woke up.  Aali had gone to start the engineering resets but did ask that Jocelynn bring her some take out.  When Jocelynn asked for specifics on what Aali wanted, the engineer asked what kind of place she was going to?  Jocelynn admitted she didn't know what they had, and said she'd go to the terminal and see what was there?  Jocelynn felt there would certainly be an Astroburgers or something like that in the port.  Before she left, Jocelynn knocked on Fesic's stateroom, woke him and asked him if he wanted to order but he didn't.  Following on that, Jocelynn decided not to wake Aiden and went out onto the port.

The Arden downport was much smaller than many ports Jocelynn had been to and she saw she could literally walk to the terminal.  The terminals were separated from the warehousing and transit section by some of the ship parkbays, like the one the Upgrade was in, and lines of security and fencing.  On the other side of the parkbays were the tarmac "tie downs" and the runway for non-VTOL craft.  Scattered around the facility were a number of support and management structures in addition to security and military structures.  Jocelynn could see troops and barracks for them, along with military fighter and extra-atmospheric craft.  So, Jocelynn set off for the terminal.

Crossing Words If Not Purposes
     Leaving the ship to go to the embassy, Mikah's group were surprised to be met by vehicles owned by the Arden system government instead of Imperial property.  They were high-end wheeled vehicles, but Ardeni none the less.  And, as they boarded the car, they were asked for, and scanned for, weapons.  Thanks to the warnings, no one had brought any, except Emkir's plastic knife.  When the portable x-ray turned that up, the weapon was secured and Emkir was told he'd get it back when they got back to the ship.  The Imperial Marines were also boarded, and were required to secure their weapons before they settled into their own seating.  This must have been a concession to the Arden government, like Imperial Marines with low-grade slug throwers.

That was a growing statement of the relationship the Imperium had with the independent world of Arden.  The ride took forty-five minutes before they arrived on actual Imperial property.  There, the Marine guards had gauss rifles and wore battledress, so the "border" was explicit.  Along the route, they had seen both diesel and electric rail transports moving cargo along with steam-powered engines!  This reminded them that the central cities of Arden might be near-interstellar but the outer regions might use much lower tech levels.

Travelling out from the port, they could see places where grav-assisted construction had raised massive towers reaching into the sky.  At the same time, there were more primitive wooden structures of one or two stories which had been in place for decades, if not centuries.  Power from the fusion plants in the inner cities gave way to fission or wind-powered plants in the outer districts.  The very few grav-vehicles mixed with many electric vehicles and also petro-driven or even beast pulled vehicles.  Much of the center city was dominated by a truly huge structure which the team learned was a massive manufacturing facility.  Within, everything was made from local consumer goods to vat and tank foods.  The structures contained housing for the workers and full community support for the towns enclosed within.

Also visible, like refuse in the cracks, they could see make-shift encampments leaning against the grander structures that were the signs of the homeless or disenfranchised.  Overpopulated and crowded in, there was no way to employ everyone and those who couldn't work couldn't find housing either.  So, like any large urban population, there were the homeless too.  The vehicle made multiple stops where an official stepped up to the driver's window to check their documents before they continued on.  But, they finally arrived and were led into the presence of the ambassador.  When they first met her, the ambassador was shorter than they would have expected.

Still, she had a commanding presence which no one could mistake and they knew they were on her turf and anyone who failed to recognize that would suffer for it.  Despite the lack of jewelry outside earrings and her chivalric star, the ambassador projected command and authority.  During the introductions, Zimzod asked what Order Ambassador Zugoukh was a member of?  She told them she was a member of the Order of the Arrow, dedicated to scientists and explorers.  Looking around her office, those who were observant could also see items suggesting she might have been a member of the Order of Gvadakoung, honoring loyal Vargr citizens, and even possibly the Order of the Emperor's Guard.  But, she didn't claim those.

Again, when the introductions were done, Ambassador Zugoukh invited them to sit so they could talk.  Before they got into more important matters, the ambassador turned to Sekea and asked, "Sir Sekea, can I ask you some questions?"  When Sekea nodded, Zugoukh said, "I've done the investigations I could, and you will have to forgive me since we're not in the Imperium and my information sources are less than complete, but how did you receive your Knighthood?

Sekea then told the ambassador about his aunt, who held the world of Carse as Fief.  He explained the structure of his family and how he was related to Baroness Cynthia da Imalfini.  Because of this, his father and mother were granted the title of Lord and Lady to the subsector court of Lunion, and he was granted a Knighthood when he was born.  Any of these titles could be enhanced if they gained additional rank in the Carse system, or if the fiefdom were transferred to them for some reason.  Accepting that, she said, "So, you are a member of the Noble family of Carse.  So, what brought you to sign on with Lady Mikah and the crew of the Upgrade?

Taking a breath, Sekea explained how he'd agreed to be a travelling companion for the parents of a crewmate on his last ship, the INS Kalage Ashi , and had ended up aboard the King George when it misjumped.  He also explained how the crewmate's mother had died and he'd lost contact with the man's father.  Then, he told the ambassador how he'd been rescued by crew from the IMS Ashidi Ke before being transferred to the Upgrade.  When she asked, he explained the IMS Ashidi Ke had rescued far more than they should have been carrying and Mikah took on as many as she could.  And, he'd been one of those.

While aboard, he helped care for the passengers and gave medical support when needed.  So, when he was offered a job aboard Mikah's ship he accepted.  Zugoukh nodded and gave him a look the others assumed was sympathy when she told him she was sorry for his losses.  She also said she was sorry for his trouble, and then asked him how much he knew of Lady Mikah and her crew?  Sekea first said he felt they were good enough people, and all Knights with a fairly good reputation.  That got him a grin which couldn't be a human smile no matter how much she tried to make her wolf's mouth take that form.  Her only other reaction was to wish Sekea well on his future travels and adventures.

Turning her head, Ambassador Zugoukh asked what interests the Arch Duke had on Arden?  Considering her answer fist, Mikah said, "He's ordered us to try and find information about a team he'd sent here previously, and which had since disappeared.  While she talked, the ambassador's face shifted and she couldn't really tell what the look meant?  When Mikah was done, Zugoukh nodded and said she might know something about that team.  When Mikah waited, she continued, "From my understanding, they were here under orders to dig deeply into the interests of the Ardeni population.  To learn what goods the population would be most interested in, so Imperial authorities could use trade to improve the inroads they were making with the government.

She reminded them that Arden had been an Imperial system until the end of the Third Frontier War.  Since then, the treaty made it a demilitarized zone.  That meant any advantage they had in the region would come from any influence or control anyone had over the local governments.  Especially Arden, as that world spread out to control other systems.  She didn't mention that the former government of Arden had been Pro-Zhodani, and only been "removed" halfway through the Fifth Frontier War, when the population had enough of the sudden Zhodani occupation that arrived in 1108.  She said the team her office had dealt with were likely the one's Mikah's crew were looking for.  She then asked if the Arch Duke had given Mikah any information on them?

When Mikah said he didn't, the Baroness said, "Well, you're lucky.  I can give you some information at the least."  Calling up files from her computer, the ambassador gave Mikah a list of sales and trade firms she knew the team had dealt with, including the districts and compartments they were located in.  Despite her being very forward, Sekea could tell her jaw muscles had clenched.  Either that was something the vargr generally did as a race, or she might be holding something back.  Not noticing that, Mikah asked if she knew where the team ended up?  The ambassador said she didn't, nor could she give them travel documents letting them travel to those parts of the city.  When Zugoukh said they'd have to apply to the local government for papers to travel to those locations, Mikah asked if they were just standard shopping venues, making sure asking for access wouldn't seem unusual.

The ambassador said it wouldn't be odd if they asked permission to go to those shopping spaces, and also said that since their mission was on behalf of the Imperium, Mikah should keep her office updated on what they were doing.  That way, she would know where her people could help them.  Mikah agreed to keep them updated in hopes of any help they didn't expect.  Before anything else could happen, Sekea asked the ambassador if she had any examples of the travel documents?  Not sure why he was asking, Zugoukh said "Absolutely" and pulled several examples out of her files for him to see.

While Sekea looked over the flimsies, Zugoukh told Mikah they would have to go to the local police compartment headquarters to ask for travel papers for any destination they planned to travel to.  They would handle any applications for travel papers and provide them after approval.  While she spoke, Sekea examined the travel papers to see if he could possibly forge copies of them?  From what he saw, he knew he could make documents that "looked" similar, but couldn't see if any of the object patterns on the documents were patterns.  Any computer-generated graphic on the document could be a pattern which would be computer-readable.  So, making a similar document without understanding that would only get them all arrested.

Sekea also knew that any document wouldn't work if they didn't have the right data for the location they wanted to travel to.  So, even if he successfully made a look-a-like document, it would have to have the correct data on it or they'd end up arrested.  So, his thoughts were that they needed to do some investigation if they could.  And, if they couldn't, then he needed examples to work from.  Preferably, examples for permission to go to the same place, so he could investigate any differences between the sheets.  Looking up from the flimsies, Sekea asked the ambassador where she believed the team's last location was and she said she couldn't guess.

She did say, "the last I know of them?  They had delivered reports to my office and were returning to their hotel."  With that, she checked a device and then held up an image of what looked like a hotel entrance.  The place was the named the "KimpTaur Hotel", and it seemed generic enough in their experience.  Of course, with travel so frowned on, they had to wonder why there were generic level hotels scattered about?  How much business could they draw?  There were certainly things about Arden they didn't understand.

Sekea next asked the ambassador if he could keep the sample travel documents she'd shown him and she said he couldn't.  While they served as examples, she told him they were documents in use by her office and she couldn't simply give them away.  She did offer that Sekea could take pictures of them but had to wonder what interest he had in the flimsies?  While Sekea did his best to take the best quality images he could of the sheet, Zimzod asked if the ambassador had passes permitting travel to the specific area of the shopping sites?  Zugoukh shook her head and said her people work in different districts and don't have any reason to request them.  She didn't comment on the oddly specific nature of the last few questions.

To be sure, Sekea asked if that included the last location she knew the team had been in and she said it did.  Hearing that, they had to wonder how she might have investigated the team's disappearance if she had not traveled there?  If the local police had brought her or if she'd not actually investigated?  Still, they didn't ask that and Sekea asked if she had any documents for locations near where the team had been operating?  When Zugoukh asked why Sekea was asking so many questions about the documents, he said he had an interest in documents of that type.  Something he hoped she'd swallow given that these documents were very specific to the cities of Arden.  Her only reaction was to nod and say "OK" before directing them to the local authorities.

Not sure if she was shutting down on them or being fully honest, Zimzod asked what districts the documents she'd shown them were for?  The ambassador said they were for administrative districts, which she didn't expand on.  But the documents had their locations on them, so she wasn't necessarily holding back.  When Sekea asked if the documents they had were for the same locations, she said they weren't.  Emkir then went fishing and asked, "Is there something you're not allowed to tell us?" and she turned that back asking, "Is there something you are not allowed to tell me?"  Emkir could only answer, "Not that I am aware of, Ambassador." while knowing full well the literal ton of things he couldn't tell her.  So, he saw that his question led nowhere.

When the ambassador then asked if there was anything else they had, Mikah said, "We weren't told what they were doing and were just told they disappeared and that's all we know."  Zimzod reinforced that, saying, "Yeah, we just wanna know anything about their whereabouts and that's our only mission."  Nodding, the ambassador said she could have the same report printed and delivered to their ship which had been sent to the Arch Duke by packet-ship when they went missing.  Sekea then asked if the ambassador could help them get reservations in the same hotel the team had rooms in?  Looking at Sekea, she asked, "For what purpose?" and he said it had been the last place they'd been known to be.  So, it would be the best place to start investigating.

Sekea also suggested there might be staff or other people who might have seen something which they could find and get information from.  Nodding, the ambassador ask how many of Mikah's crew would need to have rooms, and for how long?  Zimzod answered, "The one's sitting before you." and Mikah then guessed three days should be enough if there was any information in the hotel?  The ambassador agreed and said, "I will have my people connect with the local district police and set that up.  They will be in contact with you when they have an update."  When they all began to thank her, and it seemed the meeting was about to break up, Zimzod stopped and said, "I get the feeling there's something you're not telling me."

Everyone else stopped to see what would happen next while the ambassador cocked her head and gave him another of those feral grins before saying, "Sir Zimzod, I am an ambassador of the Imperium.  There is a great deal that I am not telling you.  I wouldn't have my job if there weren't.  Zimzod only nodded back and said, "OK, I'm talking about this particular incident." as if she didn't already know that.  The ambassador only shrugged before saying, "Then it is a good thing this meeting is over, so we no longer have to cross swords."  Zimzod only nodded and said, "Fair enough." before they were escorted back to the vehicle for the ride back to the port.

Walking Through The Port One Day
     After Mikah's team had left for the embassy, Jocelynn had taken an order from Aali and gone out to walk to the port terminal and get food.  Seeing the harbor was small enough to walk, she started off and was very quickly stopped by port security.  When they asked what she was doing, Jocelynn explained she was just going to the terminal to get a local meal.  Nodding, they entered information into a device they carried and pressed a button.  The device then printed a small plastic strip which they gave her and told her to keep it with her until she got her food and returned to her ship.  Nodding and thanking them, Jocelynn read the four inch by four inch plastic tab.

Jocelynn saw the tag allowed her to move in the ship harbor and port terminal only, with the purpose listed as: "there and back: food shopping".  Jocelynn also saw the ship's berth listed, suggesting other officers would know if she was off her path.  Another note stated: "If travel outside these areas is required, please see an officer to have this document updated."  When she got into the terminal, after another stop or two by police "checking" her ticket, the options were not encouraging.  Rather than offering items like burgers and such, they offered servings and "flavorings" with "mix-in" ingredients.  that meant vat-food.

The apparent differences were regard to processing methods and extrusion, which affected both taste and texture.  The flavorings were spice mixes which allowed a customer to customize the taste of the meal and mix in items allowed for chunk or other items to be added, which could include crunchy, chewy or other types of bits.  Not encouraged, Jocelynn looked for an officer and asked where she could get more natural foods which were not grown in a vat?  Like every other set of officers, the first thing they did was ask to see her paperwork.  After checking her ticket, they were friendly as they advised her.  They told her exactly where in the port she might find the food she wanted but warned her it would be expensive.  They also gave her an updated plastic ticket while keeping the original.

Looking down at the new ticket as she walked, Jocelynn saw this one was even more restricted than the first.  The original had provided access to all terminal buildings so she could look for what she wanted.  The new ticket specified the exact paths required to get to the venders she wanted and restricted her from other buildings!  So, it was absolutely 'there and back to the ship' only.  While Jocelynn walked, she noted the traffic around her and saw a number of different cultural values and body types presented.  And all carrying their own plastic tags.  There were some she was fairly certain matched the "body type" of the archetypical Zhodani, and she kept a distance from them.  There were also obvious Imperial and Sword Worlder spacers.  And, there were security forces everywhere.

After an "inspection stop" or two by police, as Jocelynn started considering them, she reached the set of counter-top shops she'd been directed to.  While there was nothing as comforting as an Astroburgers or Brewbakers, there were some "look-a-likes" and she could swear one of the dishes was what she'd heard called "shawarma".  There, servers would shave cuts of meat off the rotating central spit and build the ordered dish.  Jocelynn was a bit shocked to see they were charging Cr 25 for "small meals" and Cr 50 for "large meals".  When Jocelynn figured the small was a "kid's meal" at best, she paid Cr 100 for two large meals.

When Jocelynn was asked about drink selections, she looked and had no idea what liquids were in the multi-colored vats?  Even less help, her options were colors rather than flavors.  The viscous fluids were blue, yellow and brown, and Jocelynn could only associate the brown and yellow colors with specific functions of human excretion.  So, she ordered servings of the blue stuff.  When she asked about flavors, the names Jocelynn was given were local brands and didn't mean anything to her at all.

After she made her buy, Jocelynn returned directly to the ship, although more slowly and looking around a good bit more as she went.  She chose not to test the limits of her path since they were only on-planet several hours and there was no need to cause trouble that early on.  As she expected, Jocelynn was stopped several times and each time she got a new ticket that further restricted her movements to a direct line back to their berth and ship.  After that happened a number of times, Jocelynn considered there would likely be a centralized system receiving the reports from each set of officers she encountered and tracking all activity in the area.  So she was certain she was being well tracked.  Jocelynn also wondered how this type of system worked with people leaving the port, or how she would even get permission to do that?

Finally, as she walked, Jocelynn decided to get some solid information, so she looked for the nearest pair of patrolling officers.  Handing over her plastic tab and greeting them, she said, "Hi, my ship just recently landed and I'm new here.  We're merchants managing cargo.  If I needed to get to one of the residential districts, what would I need to do that and how would I go about doing that?"  The officers considered her question and one of them asked why she might need to go to a residential district to carry out the business of her ship?  Jocelynn waved that off and said it was a personal matter, claiming she was considering looking up an old friend on-world, from the war.

Jocelynn hoped the lie was vague enough not to beg more questions, like why anyone from outside Arden would come to the overpopulated world from outside?  Still, the officers nodded and the man who'd spoken asked, "If this person is another Imperial citizen, how long have they been on-world?"  Jocelynn answered, "I honestly don't know how long he's been here." without mentioning she didn't know if this Yur Cooper was Imperial or not?  Nodding, the man printed out another plastic tag, to go with her first one.  He then told her to call the office listed and explain her needs to them and apply for travel permits from them.

After she did that, they would consider her request and contact her with an update, along with travel papers if the request was approved.  When Jocelynn met another patrol, they instantly returned the second tag while updating the first to shrink where she could walk before letting her go.  From there, Jocelynn went directly back to the ship and delivered one meal to Aali.  Doing so, she announced that she'd picked the 'least objectionable' color of drink.  The two ladies took turns testing the taste which mixed a "berry" flavor with an "earthy" taste and a sort-of complimentary "tang" they couldn't identify.  The texture was sort of that of "viscous tofu in a thickened liquid".

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Mikah, Zimzod, Emkir and Sekea: Returning to the ship from the Imperial Embassy  
     Aali: Working on resets in the ship's engineering compartments.  
     Aiden: Asleep in his stateroom  
     Fesic: Asleep in his stateroom  
     Jocelynn: Eating lunch in the ship's engineering, talking to Aali  
     Rol: Cloning: 11 weeks and 1 day until decant  

Next: Answers And More Questions