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Arden
A New Field Trip
     After Mikah's team got back to the ship from the embassy, they told the others what they had planned.  Hearing that, Zimzod was asked if he was up to the plan, since he was only days out of the autodoc and a LOT of work away from what recovery he'd achieved.  When he decided to stay with the ship and keep up his physical therapy, Mikah decided to wake up Fesic and tell him he was joining the hotel team.  That didn't please Fesic, though he still got out of bed to start packing.  Jocelynn and Aali also filled the others in on what Jocelynn had learned while navigating the harbor.  Considering what she'd run into, Jocelynn said they'd need to jam the police hand-units or find a way to get by without the certificates.

Hearing that, Mikah had to ask if the police tracked and monitored each 'permit to travel' they granted?  Jocelynn had wondered the same thing after getting the last plastic tab during her trip back to the ship with lunch?  They both realized it would be a good thing to find out before it bit them in the ass.  And, they knew there would be places they'd be blocked from if they weren't allowed to go.  In the pause, Sekea asked if Jocelynn had saved any of the certificates she'd been given, or remembered any differences between them?  Jocelynn could only say she'd not expected them to be swapped out at first, and was only concerned with getting to the port terminal, and back to the ship, after that.  She did give him the last one she'd been given, because she still had it in her pocket.

After taking a picture of the pass, in case it was taken away from him later, Sekea also asked Mikah if it would be possible to call the embassy and have them rent them the same rooms the Arch Duke's team used?  Considering that, as Sekea gave a few long-shot reasons, Mikah said she'd call the embassy and see if she could get the rooms set up.  After Mikah made sure she knew all their questions, she called the embassy and was connected to one of the ambassador's assistants.  When she was asked what she needed, Mikah first said Sir Zimzod wouldn't be staying at the hotel and would be replaced by Sir Fesic Anfertirkåsmokt.  She also said she wanted her people to stay in the same rooms used by the earlier team if possible?

When the man said they would set up the hotel stays and let Mikah know if they could get the same rooms, Mikah said she had another question.  Admitting she didn't know if those at the embassy could answer, Mikah asked about the travel certificates.  She asked if they knew if the police and port security people kept records of the travel and other documents they gave out?  She then wondered if there was a way they could look up those old records to find out what happened to the Arch Duke's team?  The man she spoke to said he was certain the system was computerized.  That meant there would be records.  Still, they didn't have access to what the government had or used, so he advised Mikah to direct that question to the local authorities.  When Mikah asked him to look into which offices to ask at, she was told the embassy would look into that too.

While Mikah and her team planned to leave for the hotel, Aali planned to spend most of her time on-world working on engineering resets.  She would also spend a good amount of time observing the two engineers the ship hired to get the work done.  If all went well, she figured the ship would be ready to lift by Saturday the ninth.  While a larger part of her work was being done using her stent, this was a much more hands-on part of the job.  Aali worked while Sekea figured he had time left before the car to the hotel arrived.  He used some of that to call the port and ask how to check on ships arriving from the Denotam system, since he'd been told they planned to go there next.  The port directed him to a site on their world-net which advised all merchant and pleasure vessels in-system about other ships.  This helped crews selling goods and services connect with each other.

Sekea planned to look for any ships arriving from Denotam because they'd have closer to real-time data on astrographic conditions in that system.  Having that would improve his ability to accurately plot a jump when they were ready to leave Arden.  Checking the site the port told him about, Sekea saw there was a ship in-port from, and bound to Regina.  The ship was an Oberlindes Lines passenger cruiser, and was scheduled to leave in two days.  Knowing when Norris's team had gone silent, Sekea then asked the port tech if he could get a list of the ships which had been in and out of the port in that time?  When the tech ask why he needed that data, Sekea tried to suggest he was trying to track down a friend.

The tech suggested Sekea narrow his time-range to an hour of the day in which the friend might have left.  Sekea nodded and said he only had a rough estimate and would appreciate any help they could give.  Sekea also suggested he could purchase services as a hint that money could change hands if the help was given.  Ignoring the fact he had no idea where this person was if they wanted to accept a bribe, or if money was a driving factor here, Sekea hoped to get an in.  Unfortunately, the tech told Sekea the amount of data was just too much for him to provide.  In the end, the tech's behavior suggested he'd be open to some kind of 'transactional lubricant', but had no way of suggesting how or what that would involve on an official line.  So, Sekea simply told him if the tech found a way he could be helpful, to please call him back.

While Sekea called the port, Aiden asked the others if there was any reason to think the local government was involved with the disappearance of the Arch Duke's team?  There was a silence before Fesic pointed out they had no information at all.  Fesic continued that there was no way to rule anyone in or out.  Nodding, Aiden ignored their lack of information and continued suggesting they had to decide if they wanted to work closer with the local government or try to cut them out where possible?

Sadly, nothing Aiden said gave any evidence supporting either action.  Fesic, grumpy at having been woken up, said they had to get information where they could find it.  So, he said they should get what they could from the government and then get anything they could find from anyone else.  Done with his call, Sekea suggested they try to check with the embassy for help from any Imperial agencies on world.  They reminded him they had no way to reach those people, and the embassy staff wouldn't help them because they didn't have the proper credentials.  Ironically, while Sekea talked about contacting intelligence resources, the embassy called for Mikah, saying they'd be picked up in two hours.  The other news Mikah got was mixed, since they could book Mikah's people into the hotel but not those rooms requested.

Also, Mikah was told that they would have a chaperone accompanying them, assigned from the ambassador's staff.  So, they'd have Imperial government eyes watching them.  Hearing they'd have a tag-a-long, Fesic said, "We're gonna need a distraction." and Jocelynn snarked, "Break out your lock picks Fesic."  That got a laugh from all the people who remembered the fiasco in the hotel on Inthe.  Mikah shook her head and joked, "It seems they don't trust us or something." like that was a new situation.  Aiden joked, "They're smarter than we thought."  Sekea packed his small medical kit and anything he felt he could use as an improvised weapon while the others made sure to bring their hand computers.

With the timing given them, Sekea decided to both pack his gear and write the notes he wanted to have sent to his family and his former crew mate about the events aboard the King George.  At the same time, Fesic realized both he and Emkir would be leaving the ship so he asked who'd take responsibility for handling the cargo?  The alcohol from Maakham Zuuker brewery had to be handed over to the receivers so they could certify the shipment was delivered.  With that, the ship would receive the KCr 117 'on hold' as payment for the shipment.  Of course, they'd recently paid KCr 75 for the sealer and KCr 134 for services in Tremous Dex before paying nearly KCr 65 for services on Arden.  So, the ship was now in a nearly KCr 60 hole and no one was getting paid until the loot from the Cedna was shared out.

Still, Jocelynn was told she would be expected to supervise the cargo pick up and lot certification.  As a joke, Mikah reminded Jocelynn there would be no first aid involved.  At the same time, Emkir hit the comms code they'd been given for the buyers and said the ship had arrived and they should get in touch to plan to pick up their cargo.  When they said they'd be in contact, Emkir made sure they knew to reach out to Jocelynn.  Getting past the other issues, each of the four going to the hotel got down to packing.  Despite the local legal situation, Fesic decided to take a risk and bring his sword cane.  He was the only one who brought a weapon since Emkir had seen his plastic dagger spotted by a hand x-ray.

Until the buyers arrived, Jocelynn planned to work on her stateroom re-organization and do some stent-work.  Zimzod planned to do stent-work, physical therapy and gear maintenance unless the ship got a call for help.  Aiden planned to do stent-work and check the media to learn more about how the people of Arden went about their days.  Aiden also checked to see if TAS had a presence and found they had a facility in the port terminal.  It was small, and largely devoted to helping distressed Imperial travelers get the help and support they needed if they showed up at the Arden system.  He could expect that a lot of their work was currently involved in helping the passengers from the King George.

Checking the local news feeds, Aiden saw the average stories he would expect from an over-populated system in which the government was largely well-supported by the people.  Despite the extreme controls, there were reports on crime in the city as well as reports on the economy and entertainment segments of the society.  There were also advertisements offering patriotic citizens enlistment opportunities in the world's military services.  While he listened, Fesic came out of his stateroom with his gear, including a flashlight, pocket tool kit and, for some reason, fifty meters of cord.  When people asked him about the cord, he just suggested you couldn't guess when you might need it.

Eventually, the cars from the embassy arrived and they went over the gear Mikah's people wanted to bring before they loaded up.  Getting to Fesic, they asked about the coil of cord and Fesic first said he'd just left that in his luggage.  Persisting, the locals asked Fesic if he planned on climbing any mountains and Fesic just shrugged and said it was handy to have.  What caused Fesic to really hold his breath was his sword-cane.  Thanks to how it was made, and the tech used to create it, no one batted an eye at it when they scanned it with a portable densometer.

Past that, the luggage was loaded and each of the four was given a packet of flimsies while each boarded the car.  They were all told the packets contained all their on-world bona fides, permissions to travel and locally official documents.  So, they were warned, they must not lose the documents.  After the cars started rolling, the four watched out tinted windows as they passed through a city which didn't improve with the closer range.  Some buildings had extended landing surfaces projecting from their upper floors, showing the wealthy lived higher up above the smog of the city proper.  And, where most civic power was fusion or fission produced electric feeding most vehicles, the city's manufacturing and other activities more than made up for sources of pollution.

Information Fishing
     When they arrived at the hotel, there was a team of officers waiting to check on their paperwork and look over their luggage.  During the paperwork, the senior officer asked if there were specific tourist locations the crew planned to attend or visit while they were in the hotel?  Mikah said they didn't know yet while Fesic said he'd really like to visit some of the parks in the area.  That got Fesic a nod from the officer as his comment was noted down.  After they were certain they had everything they were likely to get, the officer directed them to a desk in the hotel.  That would be manned by an officer during extended business hours, and they could get travel documents from that location to leave the hotel and visit places.  Seeing this, Mikah had to wonder how they could have a high crime rate in the city?

Still, after the unloading, the four made their way into the hotel proper, and to the arrivals scanning station.  Like the scans getting into the car, they used a densometer so it didn't catch the different between blade and scabbard.  Fesic was pleased since he just wanted to get to his room, unpack and finish any team meetings so he could get to sleep.  The good news was that the hotel had the tech to bounce things like their key card data to the team's Idents.  Because of that, checking into the rooms was quick and easy.

Looking around as they arrived, the four could see some open spaces to sit and talk, next to a wide entrance to the on-site restaurant.  They could also see a bright sunlit entrance to a bar area which was manned with a small staff.  Noting those areas, the team made their way to their rooms to unpack before meeting together in Mikah's room.  Each room had a queen-sized bed, sitting area, small desk and chair, entertainment screen and bathroom, as standard rental rooms do.  After dumping their luggage and unpacking what was needed, they gathered in Mikah's room.  There, Sekea asked to be able to take pictures of all their travel documents while also studying them for differences.

With a first chance to study similar documents up close, Sekea could see very little difference at all.  Some were expected, where there were differences in names and other bio-data.  But he also spotted small variations in the graphic details on the document, suggesting there might be a computer-generated pattern he couldn't quantify.  That told him the documents would be extremely difficult to forge.  While Sekea looked over the documents, Mikah made it clear none of them was to go out on their own.  Fesic suggested they start with the hotel staff and see if they could get access to any security footage the hotel might have?  He hoped that would get them images and information on the team they were looking for.

Discussing their options, Fesic was all for taking the direct route.  He suggested they ask the hotel manager about security video data from the time they knew the team had visited.  Emkir suggested they take a softer approach, asking about "friends who stayed here" because a hotel was not likely to simply turn over secure items like the video.  When Sekea backed Emkir's idea up, he also suggested they go to the hotel bar and see what they could learn.  Of course, his hopes were to get a feel for the hotel staff to see what leverage he might be able to use if they needed to grease some palms.

When Sekea asked if they'd heard from their "babysitter" yet, Mikah said they hadn't.  Emkir said that was the best reason to move into the bar quickly and see if they could learn anything?  Sekea wondered if they could use tipping to make friends, since the luggage process was automated after the police scans, giving them no clue how the world culture responded to gratuities?  The disagreement over how to ask about tipping continued as they left Mikah's room.  With Fesic going back to his room to finally get some sleep, Mikah told Emkir and Sekea, "I'm going to the bar.  You two go to the front desk and mess things up."  Waving her hands at the bickering men, she washed her hands of the situation.

When Sekea tried to end the debate on tipping by suggesting his skills meant he should lead in doing the talking, Emkir gave up dealing with him and let him go on his own.  Writing off going to the front desk, Emkir turned back and went into the bar, following after Mikah.  Shrugging, Sekea moved up to the front desk and asked, "I have some friends from the Imperium who stayed here.  I was wondering if you knew when they checked out?  Did they check out?"  Of course, the man at the desk assumed that Sekea would have known if his friends were still staying at the hotel.  That meant Sekea was asking if they had checked out or fled without paying?  So, there was a minute or two of confusion where Sekea had to clarify what he thought his words meant?

Sekea also asked about tipping, saying he was from off-world and didn't know the local customs.  The man took that first, while unwilling to suggest a standard rate to tip.  He said gratuities were generally monetary, and wouldn't be refused.  Getting back to the questions about his "friends", the man asked for their names.  To see if they were currently checked in, while finding it odd when Sekea said he didn't know their names.  This after saying they were his "Friends".  Sekea walked that back, saying they were actually acquaintances, and admitted he only knew they'd come from the Imperium.  And that they'd been on-world six months before.  Still, there were obvious holes in Sekea's story and the man had to wonder how much he should help as he listened?

For his part, Sekea tried to be apologetic and hoped that would help cover things.  Nodding, the man said he would see what he could find and get back to Sekea.  When Sekea then offered, "If there's anything I could do to help you." the man stopped to look back at him.  He knew what Sekea could do was find more information on his supposed friends to help him find the information requested.  Into that pause, Sekea said, "Since I'm an off-worlder and unfamiliar with these things, since I've asked for a services from you, if there is a monetary cost associated with the service, or it is the practice on your world to tip, then please advise me.  Because I wouldn't want to offend you according to your local practices."  The man at the register nodded at the obvious and clumsy attempt to offer a bribe.

Nodding, the man ignored the clumsy approach and suggested it might be appropriate to "tip" for the service and Sekea handed him the equivalent of Cr 100 Imperial in Ardeni funds(ACr 140).  Because Mikah had taken KCr 10 from the Ardeni pirate plunder and given each of the others 1,000 of that, Sekea tipped the man in Ardeni money.  Seeing the bills Sekea pushed onto the counter, but not directly at the man as he started working, the man at the desk was pleased.  While the man began his search, his hand swept out to scoop the cash up.  While Emkir and Mikah began exploring the bar and Sekea worked with the reception staff, Fesic crawled into bed and had time to think the bed was very comfortable before falling asleep.

Arriving at the bar, Mikah looked at the bar tender and asked, "What's the popular drink around here?"  The bar tender passed her a placard with drinks listed.  She also saw it didn't have prices on it.  While Mikah read that, Emkir arrived and asked, "May I join you, my captain?"  Hoping Emkir had left the drama behind him, Mikah said, "Sure!  Hey Admiral, how you doing?"  She was unsure why she'd used Emkir's title but hoped that might lure over anyone who heard and had their interests, and who might share their own on-world experience.  When Emkir asked about the local offerings as he sat, Mikah shared the placard with him while she considered something 'fruity'.

Emkir checked the list, found the drink names were local, and tried to order by describing how to make the drink he wanted.  Used to a chilled "woody"-flavor cut by the tartness of a sweet wine, Emkir found his drink was warm and had a "tartness" which cut something more neutral in flavor.  The flavoring of the spices was also a bit off in the local equivalent of the drink, and Emkir was less than thrilled.  Throwing down Cr 7 in Ardeni Cash for the drink and tip, Emkir set the almost untouched drink aside and said, "Let's try a martini."  What Emkir got from that convinced him that the local variation on vermouth was something he'd have to acquire the taste for if he couldn't find something he liked.

Mikah could taste 'some kind of fruit' in her drink, but wasn't sure exactly what kind it was?  It was citrusy, and a bit sweeter than she preferred, but she could live with it.  While she sipped, Emkir pushed the second glass aside and got the tender's attention again.  As friendly as he could, Emkir said, "I apologize for my off-world palate, do you have any port wine, any single-malt scotch, ginger-ale, rum and coke?"  The man apologized to Emkir and said much of the alcohol was locally made with local ingredients (and aged in barrels made of local woods).  He did say they had off-world spirits, but cautioned those would be expensive.  Emkir waved the expense away and got a list of what they had?

Checking the new menu, Emkir saw prices for some alcohol by bottle with prices, and others listed with "As Available" instead.  On the high end, they offered the Cordial "Carthusian Chartreuse" from the La'Belle system, Chardonnay and Atrake wine from Zila, Brandy's, Rums and flavored Vodkas from Treece and even "Red Thunder", "Liquid Ruby" and "Death's Ruby" from the Persephone system.  Of course, the specialty items were "as available" and very possibly not available at the moment.  And he'd bet they were astronomically priced if on hand.  He knew Mikah very much liked Zila Chardonnay, but saw they didn't have prices for shots.  If you wanted to crack a bottle open they expected you to buy the bottle.

Ignoring the fancy stuff, Emkir ordered a bottle of whiskey listed from a world he could trust, along with a ginger-ale back.  The bar tender said that would cost him Cr 500, which Emkir paid in Ardeni Credits.  Emkir also paid an ACr 50 tip and asked for a pair of shot glasses for himself and Mikah.  While they waited for the bottle to be delivered from storage by another worker in the hotel, Emkir confirmed he could take the bottle with him where ever he wanted.  He was warned that there were a number of laws about both drinking and being drunk in public.  When Emkir asked about casinos, clubs, restaurants and night life, he was told there were many selections and that Emkir would have to ask at the police desk for access questions.

The man said the hotel also had a small club attached as well as the bar, and drink service could be gotten in any of the open or more private sitting spaces in the hotel.  Nodding, Emkir thanked the man for the information and asked if they often got off-world visitors?  When the man said they didn't, Emkir asked if he would remember people coming to stay at the hotel from the Imperium?  The man shrugged and said he would, on occasion, remember some people.  When Emkir asked if he remembered any off-worlders from six months before, the man said his memories were more situational or appearance based.  If something happened to make a person memorable, or their appearance made an impression.  He asked if Emkir could give him any of those details?

Emkir could only suggest that their clothing would have reflected Imperial or Rhylanori fashions.  His hopes ignored a number of issues.  Not only would there have been a huge number of people in and out of the bar over six months, but the people they were looking for had been sent to gather information.  The last thing they would have done was to "be memorable".  Their job would have been to collect the information they were after and get out.  So, they specifically "did Not" want to be remembered.  Not surprisingly, the bar tender said he didn't remember anyone matching Emkir's description.

At the hotel's registration desk, Sekea had a bit more luck.  His "investment" got him some real information they could use.  If the man checking the records had the correct group, they had rented three rooms and the cost for the rooms had been paid for by the local police compartment.  While Sekea was surprised by the involvement of the police, the man who had been helping him was suddenly unwilling to continue.  Pointing to a bell sitting on the desk, the man said, "If you have need of further service, please ring the bell." in a quick but inoffensive tone.  Before Sekea could ask what happened to their possessions, he stepped away and into a room behind the reception area, leaving Sekea alone.  Shrugging, Sekea went to the bar to join Mikah and Emkir.

After joining them, Sekea told them what he'd learned and also theorized a number of reasons why the police might have paid for their stay.  All of his theories were based on arrest or other imprisonment.  When Emkir offered to share the whiskey, Sekea accepted but made sure to keep himself sober.  When Emkir suggested that appearing more drunk than he was could be helpful, he was reminded that appearing drunk on a world with extreme laws could quickly get him arrested instead.  Switching from that while the bar tender paid attention to others, they compared notes further.

When Sekea asked, Emkir said the bar tender might remember off-worlders more if he could prompt the man with details about Norris' team.  Sekea suggested the police payment for the rooms might mean they'd been arrested and that could be an event those working at the hotel might remember.  This ignored the risk that asking about people who'd been arrested might associate them with those people and cause the staff to call the police to investigate.  Starting his questions more generically, Sekea opened with questions if anything exciting had happened in the hotel around the time six months before?

The bar tender admitted he'd been new to the hotel, but was on staff at the time.  He also pointed out to them that he was only one of the hotel's serving staff.  Something his tone said they should already know.  He then said he didn't remember anything having happened in the hotel during the time.  Because of that, the man said he could give them no information.  Sharing a second shot out, the three sat and considered what to do next when they heard the full, friendly and well-projected voice of a man saying, "Hello Lady Mikah.  Can you introduce me to these other members of your crew?"  The first thing Mikah thought was that it was lucky they weren't trying to be covert with this guy around.

Uncertain Connections
     The three turned to see a man wearing dated Imperial fashions who had an ID badge on his jacket saying he was staff at the Imperial embassy.  Plastering a smile on her face, Mikah answered, "Well, I'd love to introduce you to my people but how about you introduce yourself to me first?"  That got a laugh from Emkir before the man introduced himself as "Nour Kakha", and said he worked in the embassy's Information office.  Nodding, Mikah asked if she could call him "Nour" in a tone that assumed he wouldn't say no.  She then introduced him to Admiral Sir Emkir Meshrumiikiim and Captain Sir Sekea Sian.  She also told him Sir Fesic Anfertirkåsmokt was in his room sleeping.

Despite the badge the man was wearing, which could be faked, Sekea asked the man for his credentials to prove he was staff at the embassy.  Nodding, Nour pulled out his Ident and then showed them a screen that could only be accessed by using official codes.  That showed in more detail that he was in fact a member of the Imperial diplomatic team assigned to the world.  With that done, Mikah invited the man to sit and asked him if he could help them get the names and some pictures of the Arch Duke's team?  She explained that would help them in their work, since they hadn't been given any of that information.

When Nour said he could check on that, Mikah also asked him if the embassy could check on the team with the local police compartment?  She then told him her team had learned the local police had paid the hotel for the team's rooms.  Nour seemed to be surprised at that, and agreed it was odd.  He also said it was something the embassy didn't know.  Sekea added that he had tried to ask about the team's possessions, but the man he'd been talking to simply walked away from him.  Nour said he would ask if the embassy could investigate that with the police.  Regarding information on the team members, he offered a list since he didn't have any pictures at the moment.

While Nour said he would ask for additional information and images, he gave them a list of names including Kerd Barreg, Jase Pryante, Stine Rezal, Aasimar Flore, Thainarv Umbrafin and Finerd Talthan.  Thanking Nour for that information, Sekea again asked if he could get them pictures of the team members?  Nodding, Nour reminded them he would have to reach out to the embassy to see if he could get those?  Until they answered, he said he was there to assist them with their investigation.  So, until he could ask and get the answer from the embassy, he wondered how he could help them at the moment?

Mikah said they needed more information first, and soon.  She reminded Nour they had arrived blind.  All they knew is the Arch Duke's people had arrived as a team.  And, where they now knew the names and general descriptions of the team, they knew nothing else.  So, any new data Nour could give them could give them options or places to look.  Sekea also asked if the embassy could try to find out what the police knew, since they had paid the teams hotel bill.?  Nodding, Nour agreed that he could work on all that, but was given the understanding Mikah and her team wanted to travel to some locations to carry out investigations.  He was ready to help them with that while they waited for other answers.

Mikah pointed out that they needed the information so they could decide where to go?  Sekea also asked if the embassy could find any records of "john" or "jane doe" bodies which may have been in any morgues around the time the team disappeared?  Emkir added that the embassy should look into the possibility some of the team might have been arrested and might be in custody.  Changing direction, Mikah asked how the embassy kept track of Imperial citizens visiting the world?  Nour said the embassy didn't keep track of Imperial visitors unless they registered with the facility.

Hearing that, Sekea asked if that team had been assigned a chaperone just like Mikah's crew?  In answer he was told that the embassy was often not aware of people visiting the system unless they first checked in with the embassy.  So, the embassy wouldn't act or get involved unless they had to.  And, if the visitors did register with the embassy, they would be kept aware of any alerts or other general information the embassy had to pass on.  And, they would be notified and assisted in case of any emergencies.  When Sekea asked why Mikah's crew had been contacted and offered a chaperone first, he was told the crew of the Upgrade had a reputation.  The sad thing for Sekea was that he couldn't tell if that reputation was a good thing or not?

When Nour reminded them he had a list of some markets where the team had spent time investigating, Mikah said she wanted pictures of the team members before going there.  She pointed out few people would remember names months later.  When he asked what Mikah's team wanted to do at the moment, they said they could go somewhere to eat and relax.  Nodding, Nour suggested they go to a restaurant it seemed the team spent time at.  When Mikah agreed to that, Nour went to the police desk in the hotel to get them travel passes.  Following Nour over, Mikah learned the person at the "police desk" wasn't actually a police officer.

The people working those desks were civilians who were deputized to carry out the work for the police.  Mikah watched as Nour provided paperwork from the embassy along with his travel pass to the hotel from the embassy.  While the woman at the desk worked on the police-provided system, Mikah asked what the police did with all the data collected?  She wanted to know if they stored it or collected it?  The woman admitted she didn't know the answers to Mikah's questions, but didn't worry about it since it wasn't part of her job.

While Mikah sat with Nour and the woman creating their travel passes, Emkir went to the front desk to leave a message for Fesic that they were going out to a restaurant, but would let him sleep.  Emkir then went to his room to stow the open bottle of whiskey before they left.  He did that while Sekea got a piece of paper and wrote a note to Fesic which he slipped under the door to Fesic's room.  After they were on the road, riding to the restaurant, Sekea asked Nour if the level of control over people's movements stayed the same outside the cities, or if it faded along with technology?

Nour admitted he'd not traveled outside the city much but he understood the police maintained the same level of tracking world-wide.  The only difference was that the area a travel permit covered was wider.  For example, their permit to go to the restaurant allowed them to wander in the area of the place, but leaving that section of the city demanded a new permit.  People could leave their houses and wander or do business in their town sections without permits.  It was just more "in their face" since they were visitors and not used to it.  When they got to the restaurant, Mikah paid using hard Ardeni currency while Nour kept quiet on the question where she'd gotten the cash?  Nour did warn them the food at this restaurant would not likely be up to Imperial palates.

After they were seated, the "bottom of the menu" seemed to be based on shaped and flavored protein paste based foods.  Moving up the price ranges, they saw some more varied kinds of vat-food.  The "top of the menu" listed foods which were grown rather than processed.  Significantly more expensive, these were natural food items and were mostly vegetables with a small amount of meat.  While Emkir and Mikah went for high end meat and veg platters right off, Sekea checked around for any listing of health inspections or a cleanliness grade?  When he didn't see anything of the kind, he asked Nour to recommend what might be safe to eat there?  Nour said everything there should be safe and reminded Sekea the team they were investigating regularly ate there.

Eventually, they all had similar meals while Nour ordered a less expensive vat-based dish.  Meals for Mikah, Emkir and Sekea ended costing ACr 150 each, and they paid using Ardeni currency.  While they ate, and as they could Mikah called their waiter over and asked if they remembered any Imperial tourists who might have visited the restaurant six months before?  Sekea asked if there had been any exciting events around that time, or even police making arrests?  The staff they talked to didn't really recall anyone out of the ordinary at all, and said odd things happened every week, so they'd have to be more specific about what they were asking about?

When Emkir asked what kind of exciting things happen, Sekea tried to push that he meant police actions and arrests.  Still, their waiter said he didn't recall people getting arrested but there were always events, accidents outside the restaurant, street festivals, etc...  When Emkir asked how often the people of the world celebrated and what the celebrations were about, he was told, "When you get invaded this often, you find a lot to celebrate in the simple things."  Of course, Emkir didn't have to ask who had invaded them as they got over-run each time the Zhodani started another war.  And, the last time, the Imperials had fought through their system chasing the Zhodani back.  When Sekea asked if the waiter recalled anyone with names from the group's list, he was told they got a lot of people daily and there was no way he'd remember names from six months before.

While they ate, Emkir did his best to listen in on any conversations he could overhear.  He did hear two people complaining about the upkeep cost of their boat.  From what he could tell, from what he'd heard, the boat was some class of commercial fishing craft and they were having trouble paying to keep the engines and systems working.  The conversation wasn't specific enough to tell Emkir if what he knew of boats would help.  At the same time, these were two strangers on a foreign world who were discussing personal business.  He had no idea how they'd react if he tried to butt into their personal business?

To his surprise, Sekea was able to hear some people at a nearby table grousing about the police state!  From what he heard, they seemed upset with the laws controlling the people.  Sekea also heard some speculation on numbers which suggested the people were part of a growing network or movement.  What Sekea couldn't tell was if the movement was real or if these were just a small group of people with delusions of public support?  Turning to Nour, Sekea asked if the police control had been a new thing or something which had been going on for some time?  Nour reminded them that Arden's social culture had developed because of the various invasions and other events affecting planetary security.

Nour said that most people ignored the controls because they didn't normally travel very much.  Since they could wander and shop in their neighborhoods and town-sections without passes, they only had to deal with the police when they wanted to travel long distance.  Because of that, society on Arden had been becoming increasingly insular and less concerned with travel.  This allowed the government control more and more over travel, and was more and more accepted by the population.  In the name of planetary security.  Especially now that they were re-inflating the Federation of Arden.  With the government "stirring the pot", interstellar reaction was a risk.  And, because of that, a lot of kids were joining the military.  Not to mention, they wrote their friends and family that they ate better in the military.

Mikah asked if discontent like that would be something Imperial agencies might try to use to gain influence in the system?  Before anyone could answer, she suggested it was possible that was what the team had been investigating, because her crew were not told what they were even doing in the system?  Nour could only shrug at Mikah's suggestion because it was possible.  But, in the case of the group's mission, he had as little information as Mikah's crew did.  Still, he had a list of the markets they'd reported spending their time in.  With nothing better to do, they agreed to visit one of the market areas the team had reported working in after the meal.

Markets And Staffers
     Not much after they left the restaurant, Nour had a cab bring them to a local market area which seemed to be an open-air type of market with many stalls and some enclosed shops.  As they got out of the electric car, they could sweep some of the stalls and see that some sellers had actual vegetable produce!  Nour pointed out that some people managed to work a few feet of ground here and there, and could grow very small amounts.  Most would keep that for their family but some needed the money even more than the nutritional benefits.  Moving into the market, they could see many sellers of handicrafts, knock off local consumer goods and small electronics.  As they moved into the market, Sekea took some extra steps to look for anyone who might have followed them from the restaurant.  He didn't see signs of that.

Because they looked unusual, some people were paying more attention to them but not anything anyone felt was undue.  And, due to the close quarters and disorganization, Emkir made sure to keep an eye on any of the team's possible valuables.  He also frequently turned to look behind, to keep anyone from rushing up on them.  Emkir also did his best to listen for snippets of conversations.  While they walked, Mikah decided to get Nour talking about Norris' team while using their names in a tone of voice that could be overheard.  That way, she hoped anyone overhearing who'd dealt with the team might step forward.

Sekea tried to analyze the market and put himself into the other team's place.  He looked for anything that might be a draw, such as illicit gambling or other activities.  He wondered what it might have been that drew them to this particular market?  Sadly, after an hour in the location, they couldn't see anything that stood out about the market.  The only likelihood was that they hoped to meet a contact, or find a particular person who would be there when they were.  Sekea asked Nour if he could see, or if he'd heard rumors of illicit activities in that market?  When Nour said he didn't know of anything, Sekea asked if there was anything unusual that would make this market stand out.  Nour could only say he saw nothing notable.

While they walked and pretended to shop, Mikah did her best to mention the names of the team into every conversation.  She hoped that mentioning they were Imperial, or bringing up their names might jog someone's memory of the team.  Unfortunately, she got no reactions or responses to her prompts.  Time and again, the group wished they had pictures of the people they were looking for.  Or, more information to use to see what that time were doing or looking for.  Their lack of progress also led Nour to suggest returning to the hotel, since they were not making any discoveries at the market.  Emkir agreed, since he also wanted to spend part of the afternoon talking to Aali.

While riding, Nour told them he had a room in the hotel and how to contact him.  When they got back to the hotel, they saw Fesic still had a setting for "Do Not Disturb", so Mikah rapped on his room door as she passed to her own room.  Because she didn't pound the door, and Fesic had only been asleep a few hours, the rapping didn't wake him up.  Getting to her room, Mikah was surprised to see a cart in front of it and the door open.  When she stepped in, Mikah saw one of the women from the hotel's housekeeping staff in the room.  Mikah thought that was odd, because she'd only just checked in that afternoon, and checked her luggage.  When she saw that was undisturbed, Mikah shrugged and went with it.  Seeing Mikah arrive, the woman apologized as she gathered her tools and left.

At the same time, Emkir and Sekea also returned to their rooms and they each began unpacking what they'd brought.  Uncertain how long they'd be staying in the hotel, they'd each packed for five days or less.  While Sekea started unpacking, he heard the knock can call of "Room Service".  When he answered, the woman asked if he needed anything cared for in the room?  When he asked about her saying she was from room service, not housekeeping, she nodded.  The woman explained that "room service" was used by those caring for and cleaning the rooms.  Food service would be handled by the kitchen as a 'Meal' or 'Drink' delivery".  She also said room service would deliver any requested bedding, towels, or refills of the personal care goods placed in the room when someone checked in.

When Sekea asked about unusual items, the woman told him that would depend on what was asked for?  Following that, Sekea asked what unusual things he could ask for, and she only spread her arms and said there was no accounting for tastes.  Pushing further, Sekea asked what had been the most unusual thing she'd been asked for?  The woman first seemed like she wouldn't answer, before checking to see the hall was empty and starting, "Well, you know how some people can get."  As she said that, Sekea got the impression she felt his question was not quite a polite one.  Because of that, Sekea thanked her for her help and she said to ring if he needed anything.  When he asked how he would ring room service, she said to ring the front desk and they would send someone, because all the rooms had comms.

In her room, Mikah called each person in the team and Nour to suggest they should meet at seven that evening for dinner.  She also called Aiden and told him to start researching on the computer networks to find any police blotter data.  She gave him the names of the team they'd gotten from Nour and told him to find any information he could on them.  Emkir got a call in with Aali and Sekea checked with Nour to see when they would get updates from the embassy on which office to ask for access to the other team's travel data, more data on the team and their pictures along with reports on arrests or "john doe" bodies from when the team disappeared?  Nour told Sekea he'd submitted the questions and was waiting for answers.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ship...
     When the others left, Aali had been working in engineering.  While she worked, Aali noticed that she was passing a good deal more of what she would manually do through her stent.  That meant she could scale back on the time she devoted purely to stent studies because she was pushing her understanding during her engineering work.  Outside engineering and the call she had with Emkir, Aali read and looked into what news programs she could find on their networks.  One thing she did notice was a fairly heavy recruiting push for members of Arden's interstellar military forces.  The spots pushed heavily on the world's new alliances with the Zircon and Pequan systems.  Where news on-world mentioned improving relations with the people of the Zenopit system, Aali could remember stories in Imperial systems stating the Ardeni had invaded and taken control of that system soon after the alliance.  So, the people of Arden were not getting told "all" the truth.

For much of the time on her own, Jocelynn worked on learning her stent and watched armorer vids between continuing to re-arrange her stateroom while waiting for the crew to pick up the cargo.  When she got bored, Jocelynn got on the 'all ship' and tried to get people laughing.  She called out, "Hey Zimzod.  Let's play a game of 'Traumatize Aiden', and see if we can get him to play a game of strip poker."  Zimzod laughed and said, "I'm pretty sure I don't want to see that."  Hearing the exchange, Aiden firmly said that game wasn't gonna happen.  the others laughed at him, and at Jocelynn's joke.  When Zimzod suggested they get a keg delivered so he could drink while Jocelynn and Aali danced for him, Aali dryly said, "That ain't happening."  Zimzod only answered, "One can dream."

Other than gear maintenance and Stent-work, Zimzod was hitting the physical therapy as hard as he could.  Outside of that, he only waited for calls from off ship to see if they could help or were needed for an emergency.  Aiden had been reading and relaxing while he waited for things to go south.  When Mikah called, he was certain they would have to flee until she started telling him to look for police records involving the names she gave him.  When he asked if he should coordinate with the embassy, she told him not to and to just do his own search.  When he started doing that, Jocelynn got the idea to try and make a white-noise generator or other device that could interfere with the hand units she saw the police carrying.

Ironically, when Jocelynn started asking around, she learned Rol had been the crew's communications expert.  And he was spending the bulk of the next three months gestating in a cloning chamber.  The more they talked about what kind of device she wanted, the more Jocelynn realized anything she came up with would be a very blunt tool.  It would block devices so obviously that the area of effect would be noticeable, and whoever was carrying it would also become very obvious very quickly.  So, instead of sneaking past the police, it would likely only help her get arrested.

After giving up that idea, Jocelynn decided to check the network sites and learn about the world, since they had only been on-world less than a full day.  Perhaps, if she learned more about how the world worked, she might find a way around the barriers she was facing.  Not long after that, her frustration rose when the ship got a call from the people coming to pick up the cargo.  The frustration passed quickly when the crewman calling said they would be out to the berth later that day to get the cargo, so Jocelynn could continue her research.  While they didn't have a schedule for their arrival, they would be there in the next three hours at the most.  That did happen two hours later, and the cargo was removed from the ship's hold before dinner.

At the same time, the cargo was checked and the crew boss signed off that it had been delivered intact.  That triggered payment of the KCr 117 payment for carrying the cargo, so some of their bills were paid off.  Still, they had paid out a lot of cash in the Tremous Dex system and even more here in Arden.  So, the ship had not made a profit, which was needed to trigger paying out shares to everyone.  That fact added more weight to the work they had to get done on Arden, and helped push the crew into further hopes they could get things done and get off this rock soon.

Empty Rooms And Promised Hopes
     With the time closing on 7pm, Fesic had woken and was ready to step out of his room and join the others for dinner.  When Sekea saw Nour coming to join them, he asked if there had been any update on the questions they had from the embassy?  Nour said he'd submitted the questions and the embassy had reached out to the police.  On questions about what might have happened between the original team and the police, the locals have said they are looking into the case and hoped to have an answer in the next few days.  When Mikah overheard that, her opinion was that this was more lip service.

After they sat and brought Fesic up to date on the situation, he suggested they try to talk to the hotel manager.  Fesic said they could try to get help from the manager to let them see any security footage they had of the missing team.  Both Emkir and Sekea agreed the idea sounded good, and both also offered to go with Fesic to help if he felt he needed support?  Nodding, Fesic told them both they were welcomed to join him when they went to talk to the manager.  While they firmed that up, Mikah said she'd see if she could get on a computer and do her own research after calling the ship to check on things there and make sure Zimzod was doing his physical therapy.  Hearing that, Fesic asked Mikah what she would be researching and she said she would be looking to see what she could learn about crime on-world?

Fesic suggested they look into any information on human trafficking or forced labor in the crime statistics.  Mikah agreed that was a good idea and said she'd include that in her research.  Unfortunately, after they'd eaten and Mikah called the ship, she got a report from Aiden on the work she'd asked him to do.  He'd found no police blotters on the network at all, and then checked to find the local government didn't report any crime statistics to the public at all.  That meant not only that he wasn't able to find anything but that Mikah's research was unlikely to find any new information.  As Aiden had already found out and reported, the Arden government did not openly share legal data on request.  Because of that, Nour said the embassy had to make requests and follow the local procedures like any other organization.

After dinner, Sekea asked Nour to come with the men as they went to find the hotel manager and ask them for the security tapes from the time the other team had stayed there.  Sekea figured it would help get cooperation if the manager saw someone from the embassy there to led them a kind of authority.  Nour agreed and said he had no issues with helping in any way he could.  Fesic also said this would be a good chance to ask to tour the room the hotel said they could inspect, which had been one of the rooms the team had used before disappearing.  when the others agreed, they made their way to the hotel's front desk to ask after the manager.

When the group did ask for a manager, the woman at the desk took a moment to look over the group of men before her before asking what the problem was?  Fesic explained that they were looking for information on a group of people from the Imperium who had stayed at the hotel six months before and the woman couldn't help noticing the embassy badge Nour wore.  Nodding, she called for the evening manager, because the senior manager had gone off shift.  She did make sure there was not a current problem at the moment and relaxed a bit when they said that was true.

After the manager came out and introductions were made, Fesic explained what they were trying to learn and asked about the security videos and room tour.  Nodding, the manager said he would love to help them but admitted the hotel's security tapes only covered a month into the past.  At that point, the tapes are over-written so video from six months before wouldn't be available.  Still, he was willing to check the rooms and take them to see the one which had been used and was unoccupied at the moment.  He did say the room had been used and cleaned repeatedly over the months between then and when the other group had rented them.

When the manager asked if there was anything else he could do for them before touring the room, Sekea asked if there might not be a record of who came to visit the group while they were visiting?  The manager told him that was none of the hotel's business and such records were not kept.  Even if someone came to the front desk and asked for him, or to have his room called, the person helping the visitor would not ask that person's name and not record it if they offered their name.  While Sekea considered that dead end, Fesic mentioned to the manager that they'd learned the local police compartment had paid for the room rentals.  Because of that, he asked what had happened to their possessions, and were any of those left at the hotel?

The manager shrugged and said he wasn't aware of anything having been left behind but if it had been, it would have been collected by the house keeping staff and put in the storage unless claimed.  Hearing that, Sekea asked how any recovered goods were stored and how they were marked to identify who might have left them?  The manager said they had a closet where groups of items were kept, segregated by when and where it was found.  Pleased by that, Sekea asked if they could check that after touring the room, to see if there were any items left by the group they were looking into?  The manager agreed to do that for them.  Beyond that, he recommended they ask the floor housekeeping staff.  They would have dealt with the visitors most in their work managing the rooms.

Since other staff usually would only deal with guests if there was an issue, the floor staff would be the best hope for anyone with memories of the group.  Fesic thanked the man for the advice and asked for a list of those people who would have been working housekeeping on that floor during that time.  When Fesic happily thanked the man, he said he only needed an hour and asked how Fesic wanted the data delivered?  He could have it written out, printed or sent to his device while he pointed to Fesic's hand computer.  Fesic said he'd prefer it be delivered to his hand computer, so he could share it with the rest of the people in his group.  With that, the manager said he would get back to them in an hour with the list.  When it did come, the list was marked with asterisks where the people named were actually on shift at the moment.

Changing his mind as they started to move, the manager said they'd stop at the closet where the lost and found was stored because it was on the way.  Fesic thanked the man because he was very pleased at the cooperation he was getting.  Unfortunately, when he pulled the sealed bag with the items from those rooms, all they found in it were a small amount of male and female clothing items.  As Fesic passed them around to the others, each of the four looked the items over for any possibly significant markings or design elements.  Mikah especially looked for the sort of secret pocket which might let someone grab a hidden weapon.  They all went through and even turned out all the pockets they could find.  There were not even stains or unusual holes or markings.  Still, Fesic and the others thanked the man as they moved on to the hotel room.

When he unlocked the room, they trooped in and saw a properly cleaned room all set for the next visitor.  The two twin beds differed from the setting of their rooms, which had a single queen-sized bed.  The furniture consisted of a long-low set of drawers and an armoire, a desk and chair as well as some comfy chairs and a side table next to the bed.  A bathroom let off from the room and the electronics included lights, a vid-screen and a comms device, just like in any of their rooms.  The only paperwork they could see were information about the hotel and the area around as well as menus so guests could order deliveries.

Still, it wasn't something they hadn't expected, and they only considered that someone might have hidden something in an unusual place.  At the same time Sekea began asking if they could disturb the room, Fesic turned from where he'd started pulling the mattress off the box spring.  The look on his face showed he really hadn't been worried about asking permission.  In the silent pause, Fesic shrugged and said, "Well, you said we could search the room."  When the manager only stood there a bit stunned, Fesic turned back to what he was doing.  In for a Credit, in for a pound, the others joined in to pull the room apart and look for odd places to hide things.  Sadly, after they'd pulled the room apart they found nothing.  As they worked, the manager simply said he'd call someone to reset the room when they were done.  Nour just stood at the door observing.

Before the manager left, Fesic offered to leave a tip for housekeeping while Sekea offered to pay any extra expenses to clean the room.  The manager waved away Sekea's offer while he nodded approval at Fesic's suggestion.  He also said he'd have someone come clean up the room and it might be one of the staff who'd worked the rooms during the other guest's stay.  Seeing there were too many cooks in the kitchen, Emkir asked the manager for a computer so he could do some research.  When he got on the computer near where Mikah was doing her research, Emkir scanned for news on any events that had happened six months before.  He then started reading the events to see if anything jumped out at him?

In the room, while they searched, there came a knock at the open door jamb.  Looking up, they saw one of the women who tended the rooms in their hall of the hotel.  First, they were surprised she'd arrived so quickly, but she did point out the manager had sent her, so she'd gotten a move on.  Her expression as she looked over what they'd done to the room said she was beginning to wonder what was going on?  Seeing Sekea turned to talk to the woman, Fesic left him to it while he kept searching.  Sekea tried to gently interrogate the woman for anything she might remember even though he knew she'd not recall any names from six months before.

Tactics Sekea used were to ask about people who'd not checked out in the normal way, or had left their belongings behind when they left.  Eventually, she did remember the people Sekea wanted to know about it, but not because they'd left under unusual circumstances.  In fact, she told him that most of the housekeeping staff had no idea when people checked out or how, except the order to re-set the rooms.  But she did remember they had done some shopping and come back to the hotel with bags every so often.  When Sekea asked about any events that happened when they went missing, she said she'd not even known they were missing.  As far as she knew, they left like all guests eventually did.

Sekea then told him it was his understanding that they left all their possessions behind when they left, which was actually his assumption and not anything he'd been told.  Like the rest of the team, he just assumed they had left their possessions because he'd been told the police paid for the rooms.  All the woman could do was say she wasn't on shift when they left and that was that.  The only thing she felt she could do was to introduce Sekea to someone who had been on-shift at the time.  She said that woman might know more than she did.  Hearing that, Sekea thanked her and asked about the rooms they'd stayed in?  She said there had been six of them, which confirmed what they'd been told, and that they stayed in three rooms.  Two men in two rooms and the two women in the third.

Nodding, Sekea asked her if she worked in the other rooms too and she said she did.  Sekea asked if the others did anything different from what those who'd stayed in that room had done?  She shook her head and said they all stayed together as a group and seemed to do the same things as far as she knew.  Sekea asked if they tipped well and she said she didn't remember that.  Fesic dipped his toe in asking if there was anything curious about the group?  When she asked what he meant by curious, Fesic said he meant anything that stood out to her?  Before she could answer that question, Sekea asked if she'd noticed anyone visiting them?

When she said she didn't, Sekea tipped her ACr 50 and returned to checking the room.  The room had nothing they could find, and the other house keepers who were on shift soon came to meet them.  None who worked that night admitted remembering the others at all.  When they asked, the woman they'd first talked to said her friend was working the next day and they could talk to her then.

Eventually, when Emkir was done with his attempt to find anything, he'd come across a large number of local events that had been held in either the area of the hotel or in the market they'd visited.  One issue he had was that he hadn't asked for a list of all the locations the embassy knew they'd visited.  Still, he did find a handful of events in which police responded.  Sadly, most were events in which participants in group activities got carried away.  Or, that was what the event descriptions said, because none of them had names or details.

Because of that, Emkir ended up finding nothing of note on the network that could help their mission.  Mikah had heard from Aiden that the police did not share crime data on the network and gone looking for information from hospitals.  Only, she found they were the same, and did not release that data publicly.  If she were going to find that information at all, she might have to see if she could volunteer with a few hospitals to see how to get that information?

Questionable Connections
     After Jocelynn finished watching the cargo leave with the crew, she went back to her afternoon.  While she was watching a vid, her comms began to buzz.  Answering, she was told, "This is Yur.  I'm in the starport terminal.  At the food processor."  Jocelynn realized that was a restaurant name, and a different one than she'd visited for lunch.  Still, she joked, "You're not gonna throw me in it are you?" and was told "No."  When she asked for directions, the caller sent a link to her Ident with a map.  Checking the details, Jocelynn wasn't pleased to see the place was a 'paste-restaurant'.  When she asked how she'd know him, he told her, "You'll recognize me."

Jocelynn told the man she'd be there as soon as she could, and then went to put on a set of executive armor and grab her duster coat.  Before she went to tell Aali and the others she was going to get dinner, she also grabbed the box and hoped to deliver it.  Hearing that, the others asked her to bring back food.  After she was off the ship and out of their berth, like the last time she'd gone wandering, Jocelynn was soon stopped by a port security officer who gave her a tab when she said she was going to the terminal to get some food.  This time, she just said the terminal and didn't specify so she would be able to wander into any of the terminal buildings.  She would need that after her meeting, to get to the restaurant she actually wanted to buy food from.

Getting to the food processor, Jocelynn saw several tables were populated.  Some had port workers or spacers sitting in groups and one had a lone person, sitting with his back to the wall.  From what she could see, the man seemed to be staring ahead of himself and zoned out as if meditating.  Playing at casually walking into the area of the restaurant as if she were looking for a table, she watched the man for his reaction and he nodded to her.  As she walked to the table, the man rose and said, "I am Alif.  I'm an associate of Yur."  Disappointed this wasn't Yur, Jocelynn introduced herself and said it was nice to meet the man.

Nodding as he invited her to sit, Alif said, "It's always nice to meet someone who does business for Yur."  He then asked, what business she had with Yur?  Jocelynn very honestly told Alif that she'd agreed to deliver a box to Yur for Sir Makxel ia Kiin when she was in the Regina system.  Alif nodded and said, "I'm sure you are surprised to see you are not the only person doing business for Yur, but many people are looking for Yur so he sends people like me out.  We make sure those seeking out Yur are who they say they are, and are doing so for the correct reason."  When Jocelynn nodded, Alif continued, "I'm sure you understand that in Yur's business, bona fides are sometimes hard to present."

Jocelynn made it clear she had no idea what was in the box despite the fact she'd watched Sir Makxel put a crystal into it before he gave it to her.  She said she'd only been told to deliver it to him by Sir Makxel.  She also said Sir Makxel had made it seem he'd met and knew Yur.  She also wanted to make it clear she wasn't responsible for what was in the box at all.  Nodding, the man said, "Well, before Yur is willing to accept your package, he wants to have some assurance that he can trust your statement comes from where you say it comes from.  So, if you are willing to prove yourself by doing something for us, to prove your honesty, then Yur will be willing to meet with you and receive this item."  When Alif said he would be Yur's agent for her to contact if she were willing.  Jocelynn leaned towards him, winked and asked, "How do I know who you are?" with a laugh.

Alef only smiled and said, "You'll just have to take that on faith." and reminded her he was responding to her call.  After Jocelynn nodded and admitted that was true, Alef said, "You have access to the starship harbor."  When Jocelynn nodded and said she did, he continued, "So, if you are willing to do something for Yur, that would prove your honesty to him."  With that, he reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a small flimsy to hand to her.  He then told her, "You're going to take this flimsy to one of the port's cargo delivery gates that's listed there and you will likely need cargo moving devices.  When you get to that gate, you will accept a delivery and deliver it to the ship not listed on this flimsy.  If starport security asks, you will tell them this is consumables for your ship, so it can be gotten through port security.  If you do this for us, we can accept that you are real."

Reading the flimsy, Jocelynn saw it looked like a bill of purchase for goods to be delivered to the Upgrade.  Alef then slid another flimsy to her and said, "This is the actual ship you will deliver the item to."  Jocelynn read that and saw it directed her to the MS Tagund Edanse, and Alef made it clear she should not that to port security.  When she held up the flimsy with the Upgrade on it and asked, "So, this flimsy is a decoy?" Alef answered, "Let's say some parts are adjusted to get the package through the gate."  As they talked, Jocelynn was starting to realize she was becoming involved in a scheme to smuggle something into the port at the very least.  Alef also suggested Jocelynn memorize the ship name on the second flimsy and destroy it rather than having it found.

While Jocelynn considered the instructions, Alef slid an envelope across the table saying, "You may need this to lubricate the exchange with the port workers."  Checking that, Jocelynn saw it was filled with a large amount of Ardeni cash!  Jocelynn asked, "Are there specific guards who will be on duty who expect this to happen?"  Alef said, "We expect there may be friends we've made in the past who might be working that shift."  Jocelynn asked if there were any names she should asked for and Alef said she would not be dealing with names in this exchange.  Accepting what she was offered, Jocelynn asked, "Would you like to share a drink to make this official?" and Alef suggested a bar not far from the restaurant they were in.  She agreed, and followed him to what seemed to be a spacer bar called the 'Port Thruster'.

They started walking to the bar, and Jocelynn wondered how soon it would be before they ran into any security team members?  Not seeming concerned about that, Alef pulled something from a deep pocket and started working on it as Jocelynn realized what it was!  It was the same kind of hand-held unit the security seemed to have for printing out travel certificates!  After some key strokes, he printed out two tabs and handed one of them to Jocelynn, saying, "Here.  You'll need this if we get stopped."  Looking at the tab, she saw it was a permission voucher for movement to the bar.  Right then, Jocelynn decided she liked Alef and asked if he had a few more of those devices that were spare?  Alef only said she should get her current job done before they talk about what he could do for her.

At the bar, he even paid for the drinks before he returned her back into the terminal building so she could go hunting the restaurant she'd found and buy the food she promised to bring back.  Before they parted, Jocelynn asked if she should call him to let him know after she did her part and he assured her he would know.  Jocelynn tried to move faster now she was done with Alef, because she worried the others might wonder what's keeping her so long and do something to come find her.  Finally, Jocelynn got back to the ship with the meals at Cr 50 each.

When she did get back, Aiden asked if she'd grown the food in a vat herself and got laughs from the others.  Jocelynn only complained about the port security and their stupid travel tickets, making up a story about getting an incorrect ticket printed out.  Still, the food was fairly freshly prepared and as good as it was going to get.  And they still had to wonder why they bought from the restaurant when they had better food on the ship?  After that, those aboard the ship relaxed until it was time to sleep.

In the hotel, Sekea invited Nour to the hotel's bar to chat.  While buying drinks, and after telling Nour a bit about himself, Sekea asked how long Nour had been stationed on Arden?  Nour said he'd been in the Imperial diplomatic service for over fifteen years, and the past four were spent on Arden.  Nour also said the ambassador had been assigned and arrived two years ago.  When Sekea asked how it felt working with the ambassador, Nour answered, "No pun intended but she is dogged."  After Sekea laughed, the man added, "She is fixated on her goals and is a driven person, so she's dogged.  Sekea nodded and said, "That would explain how she got to her high position.  Do you live at the embassy or do you have another residence?"

Nour told him that few of the staff actually live at the embassy other than the security staff, who must live there.  Then he added that was except in times of emergency.  Sekea then asked if there had been any changes in the embassy personnel six months before, and Nour said there weren't.  Sekea then asked what Nour's career goals were and he said he hoped to end up in a position where he had greater responsibilities.  on the subject of 'where', Nour said he didn't have a preference so long as he was more important than being assigned to chaperon visiting Imperial citizens around a world.

Sekea suggested that Arden was a world that could be tiresome and he wondered if Nour would prefer being sent to a more pleasant world?  Nour smiled and surprised Sekea, saying Arden had its good points and bad.  When Sekea was doubtful and said as much, Nour said the world had its natural wonders and historic sites just like any world and that its wonders could be learned.  Then, Nour had a second thought and half-joked, "Unless, you're talking about Wypoc."  Not having been with the crew when the visited the world, Sekea only knew of Wypoc's reputation as a hell world where the atmosphere is storming acid and the only noted life form is the Wypoc Dragon.  After that, they finished the evening out sharing small talk of worlds visited.  By the end of the evening, Mikah and Emkir hadn't found any helpful information about hospital activities or in the news.


Morning Discoveries
     Mikah woke to the thirteenth day of light duty after her gut wound, even as she had to explore the new world and search for Norris' missing team.  Still, she set her alarm for seven and woke with hopes of getting more information from the embassy.  Sekea and Fesic also set their alarms for seven while Emkir had a wake up call scheduled for eight.  Going to knock on Nour's room and invite him to breakfast, they found the man already awake and with new information from the embassy.

During the afternoon of the day before, Nour told Ambassador Zugoukh and the embassy staff of about Mikah's information.  With that, the ambassador contacted the local police compartments to demand any further information they had on the case.  The ambassador also complained that the embassy had been told of irregularities regarding the case but not been told the situation had been so significant, or that Imperial tourists had gone missing.  Because of that, she required a more complete accounting from the police and local government officials.

When Mikah asked, Nour also told her he'd gotten a set of pictures of each of the team members.  So, now they knew Kerd Barreg was a Human man of 35 who stood 6'0 with a beefy build, short straight white hair, gray eyes and rugged black skin.  Jase Pryante was a 26-year-old Human man standing 5'1 with a lean build, bald head, green eyes and smooth, sun-wizened, brown skin with a very short chinstrap beard.  Stine Rezal was a 29-year-old Human woman standing 4'11 with a "fat" build and long straight auburn hair, blue eyes with rough pale skin.  Aasimar Flore was a 47-year-old Human woman standing 5'5, with a lean build, long straight brown hair, brown eyes and rugged red skin.  Thainarv Umbrafin was a 64-year-old Human man standing 6'0 with a beefy build, long straight gray Hair, Black eyes and rugged, sun-wizened, white skin and Finerd Talthan was 50-years-old, a Human man standing 5'7 with a lean build, long, straight brown hair, Brown eyes and rugged white skin.

Looking over the images, each of the people were individuals in their own right but not really outstanding.  The only item which stood out at all was that the face of Jase Pryante seemed odd, though none could put their finger on just why?  Mikah was disappointed to see there were no occupations, but since they were a team assembled by the Arch Duke's people and sent to Arden, she shouldn't have expected that.  Fesic said they should interview those they knew had interacted with the team now that they had pictures, but they still didn't know where the team had gone or who they met with.  So, he felt they could only work with the people in the hotel until they knew more.

Now armed with the pictures, Sekea suggested they should look for the housekeeper they'd been told about the night before.  And after they finished eating, the maids were waiting to speak with Mikah's people.  And the new maid also held a small box of goods.  When she saw them, she stepped up and said she understood they had some questions for her?  Fesic pointed to the pictures and asked if she remembered those persons having stayed at the hotel six months before?  He also wondered if they might have left belongings behind when they left?  At that, the woman seemed embarrassed and said she did remember those people and they did leave things behind.  Then, she admitted that some of the things they left were in the box she held.

That set their attention to the box, which was not very big.  the first thing they pulled out was a woman's jacket which had been folded and placed on the top.  Beneath that was an electric toothbrush and charger.  Then came a set of black leather gloves, a hand mirror and a smaller box.  Below that were some more items of folded clothing.  When they opened that smaller box, it seemed to have contained an electronic device which wasn't still in the box.  And the oddest thing about the appearance of the box was that the device it seemed to have been made to hold would have been a small sphere.  Judging by the impression in the box, it was likely small enough to fit in a person's palm.  Even more odd, Mikah sensed the interior seemed to made to be kept sterile.

Looking over the items, Sekea asked if they had been found in the same room or in different rooms?  The maid said the items had been collected from each of the three rooms the team had stayed in.  The box, toothbrush, gloves and some clothes were found in one of the man's rooms while the jacket and some other clothes were found in the room the women shared.  The only other thing the maid remembered was that the bald man had what she described as a "weird eye".  Hearing that, they pulled the pictures out and asked her which man she was talking about and she pointed to the one named 'Jase Pryante'.

Sekea was the first to say what they all leapt to thinking.  He said the box was made to hold something, and Jase Pryante had a weird eye.  So, it was possible Jase had an artificial eye, which would explain the description the maid gave.  Looking over the box, they all felt Jase wouldn't have left it behind if he'd had the chance not to.  Sekea also eyed the electric toothbrush and wondered if they had anyone who could disassemble the thing and see if there was anything more to it than it seemed.  At the same time, Fesic wanted to go through the pockets and fabric of the clothing items.  So, while Fesic and Sekea had the skills to investigate the toothbrush, with Mikah helping, that was set aside for the time.  It was while they went through the pockets they found a restaurant receipt.

After that, Sekea suggested they investigate everything to see if they were more than they seemed?  Fesic also agreed with Sekea, but they had a task at hand and were standing in front of the house keeping maids.  When they asked the maid further questions, she told them the group was very organized.  That they always seemed to move together as a group, and rarely interacted with other people as she remembered.  They generally got up fairly early and left the hotel, and she was usually off shift when they came back.  The one night she remembered working late to cover someone, and seeing them return, they all came back together too.  Other than that, as far as she knew, they stayed amongst themselves in their rooms.

Sekea then mentioned that the other maid they'd spoken to had said they sometimes returned to the hotel with bags but she never saw what was in them.  Sekea asked her if she'd ever seen what might have been in any of the bags and the woman said she hadn't because it wasn't her business to do so.  She also added that she'd almost never been on shift when they came back either.  Sekea also asked about the store logos on the bags and the woman said she'd seen the logos but ignored them.  So, she couldn't tell.  Accepting that, Sekea asked why the items in that box hadn't been turned in to the hotel at the time?  Embarrassed, the maid admitted she'd forgot to turn them in and then didn't want to get in trouble afterwards.

After listening for a bit, Mikah asked if Jase's artificial eye was a different color than his regular color?  The maid shrugged and admitted she hadn't realized he did have an artificial eye to begin with.  Neither did Nour realize that when he was asked.  Mikah then asked her why she thought it was weird and she said, "He would just get these weird expressions and sometimes his eyes would actually be looking in different directions."  Checking the pictures they now had of Jase Pryante, they looked more closely at the eyes and realized the left eye was sometimes more bright than the right.  Fesic then asked the maids if there was anything else they could remember, no matter how small, because it might be important.  Sadly, nothing more was remembered so they moved into their rooms to examine the new items more closely.

Moving into Mikah's room, Fesic started investigating the gloves while Mikah checked and pulled apart the box they believed carried the artificial eye.  Mikah realized the box was not the sales box the item came with, and may have been bought as an after-market accessory.  The markings Mikah saw didn't give any meaning she could see.  The logos on the box were secondary or tertiary companies which were tied to LSP.  Markings did show where a charging cord should have been stored and, when the insert was pulled out, space for other accessories.  Still, she couldn't see "what" accessories would be stored there and nothing was still held there.

After the gloves, Fesic turned his attention to the toothbrush and examined the device.  Nothing seemed worn and the brush worked as expected, so Fesic considered the device.  Deciding he'd brought the tool kit just in case, Fesic figured he might as well take the toothbrush apart.  And when he did, he found it was just a tooth brush after all.  At the same time, Sekea checked the linings and hems of the garments to see if he felt anything odd in the fabric?  And while running his fingers along the fabric he found a lump!  Isolating it, Sekea then did his best to rip the fabric around the lump to see if he could pull whatever it was out of the garment?

While he pulled, Sekea realized whoever had hidden the lump in the garment had sewn around it to lock it in place.  Sekea worked on the sewn barriers and eventually ripped the hem apart and pulled out a data crystal.  When Sekea showed it to the others, they checked their hand computers and other devices but found none of them had a port for that type of crystal.  Sekea then asked if they had a reader for that kind of crystal on the ship and Mikah said she was sure they did.  When Sekea suggested they send someone back to the ship with the crystal, they discussed if they should do that or just hold onto the crystal until they were all ready to return.

Sekea argued that the crystal had obviously been hidden and could contain data important to their mission, so he felt they should read the crystal sooner.  Still, he agreed that Mikah should make the decision.  Mikah put her foot down that they would not split up any more.  Still, she asked Nour if they could go to, or get a reader from, the embassy.  Nour suggested that they let him take the crystal to the embassy but Mikah and everyone else refused that loudly.  Mikah firmly stated they would go where the crystal went and they wouldn't separate their team.

A Sudden Morning Call
     Aboard the ship, Jocelynn was in her rack when her comms began to go off.  She answered it and found Alef was calling to warn her things had changed and "the shipment" would arrive at the port in an hour.  Annoyed, Jocelynn accepted that and said she would be there.  Jocelynn then pushed herself out of her bunk and into her shower for a quick wash before drying and getting dressed to go.  On her way to get the gravLifters, Jocelynn decided to stop and talk to Aali first.  When she came to Aali, she said, "I just want to let someone know what I'm doing in case something goes wrong."  Of course, that was something Aali always wanted to hear in a possibly unfriendly port with the captain and half the crew off the ship or dead.

Jocelynn then quickly told Aali what had happened on Regina with Sir Makxel and about calling Yur and what happened with Alef.  That led her to the morning call and telling Aali she was taking the gravLifters and heading to the port security gates.  When Aali wasn't pleased with the idea, Jocelynn said she hoped it would help the team.  She also told Aali about the man printing his own travel documents.  She did ask Aali not to tell anyone else until dinner time, unless she called for help.  Then, Jocelynn got the gravLifters and left the ship.  Soon after that, she met her first port security men, showed them the main cargo document and got a tab printed to go to the port's cargo gate.

Jocelynn got to the gate and saw the delivery "crew" were a handful of men waiting patiently while the security team went about their business.  The only "cargo" she could see was a solid slab that was five foot long, three wide and one foot thick.  When Jocelynn stepped up, she handed over the papers and watched the clerk check the document out before he marked it approved and told the sergeant to let the delivery team proceed.  After that, the delivery went smoothly as the paperwork was processed and they even helped Jocelynn connect up the carriers.  Thanks to her training, the work was done and Jocelynn was on the way back into the harbor while the security team closed up the gate and the delivery crew left.

With a new set of papers to return to the ship, Jocelynn started moving in among the ships and realized she had to figure out where the MS Tagund Edanse was berthed?  Sparking up her hand computer, Jocelynn connected to the port's site and looked for the public ship data.  There, she found the listing for the ship and figured out how to get there from where she was.  While she walked, Jocelynn looked back to check on the slab from time to time.  It was while she walked that she noticed a flash of light and turned back to the slap.  Looking at it, Jocelynn noticed some lights flashing on the surface of the slab.

Looking closer, Jocelynn noticed the lights were muted and realized there was some kind of document flush to the surface of the slab that covered them.  Jocelynn then realized someone must have remotely activated the slab and attached the document so the lights would be under it making sure she would notice it.  Checking it closer, Jocelynn saw there was a pull tab on the document and pulled it.  When it came loose, Jocelynn read what appeared to be a sheet of instructions.  Reading that, Jocelynn was directed to a button on the slab.  She was to move the slab to the ship and then press the button.  When she did that, the device would attach itself to ship, after which she could leave.  Jocelynn looked over what she realized was a device to see if she could figure out what it was, and wondered if it was a breaching charge or not?

She considered the situation she was in and even thought back to the involvement of Sir Makxel, then shrugged and moved on.  Getting to the ship, Jocelynn saw the vessel was locked up and in count don to lift.  So, she quickly followed the instructions and watched as the device attached itself to the hull of the ship.  While that happened, she hoped the device wasn't a bomb or other weapon to destroy the ship.  After that, she took the gravLifters back and returned to the Upgrade.

After she put up the lifters, Jocelynn reported in to Aali.  Jocelynn told what happened and came to the envelope of money she was given.  Jocelynn suddenly realized she hadn't used the money and guessed she'd been supposed to use it to bribe the security team.  Since she hadn't needed them to, she wondered what she should do with the money?  At first, she considered returning it to Alef, but then she counted it through and realized it was twenty thousand in Ardeni cash!  With that, she considered that she might not return it instead.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Aali and Jocelynn: Discussing Jocelynn's "job" in engineering
     Zimzod and Aiden: Working at their own pursuits on the ship
     Mikah, Emkir, Fesic, Sekea: In the hotel after speaking to housekeeping
     Rol: Cloning for the next 11 weeks

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Next: Illuminating The Situation