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Last Updated     Oct 24 2022
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New Digs And New Questions
Denotam      They'd moved the ship to the civilian high port and hired Colinne as the ship's new computer and communications officer.  They were moving gear off the ship into staterooms in the berth.  They'd also been waiting for the Navy to call them to move the ship for technical work when she arrived and was introduced.  They'd be installing new external camera systems in the hull while also removing one low berth to install a full cloning suite, thanks to Arch Duke Norris' promises.  The Arch Duke was also considering options including providing medical or cybernetic assistance to Zimzod for his recovery, giving the ship replacement engineering 'droids to replace destroyed or damaged units, giving them a battledress suit for Rol and/or giving them a cutter which was both armed and had a chameleon hull.

While they worked, a delivery came to the berth and they found it was Sekea's uniform.  Sometime later, Mikah got a message from the Arch Duke's office saying he would give them more than the camera system.  It said they would also install a local-area ground radar, since no camera system was ever one hundred percent.  The radar system would alert them even if an intruder came at an angle the cameras couldn't cover, out to a range of fifty feet.  Cheering that while they finished moving their gear, Mikah saw they had free time on their hands and suggested they check out the port despite the late hour.  Like the Ghandi system, the Denotam port existed for two reasons only.  First was to support the military organizations in system and then to support interstellar trade and communications between Regina and the Imperial border worlds of the Vilis subsector.

A smaller section of the station supported representation from the seven dirtside clans who controlled the world below.  They offered what were referred to as 'Arctic Adventures', since much of the Imperial universe had stuck with environmental labels which evolved from the Terra system and birth world of all Humanitii.  The world below was an ice ball of largely ice covered oceans with some very few 'land masses' that were peaks of the undersea mountains that breached the ocean surface.  Outside the downwell venues and sales, the public spaces of the station were oriented to entertainment of merchant crews on liberty from their ships and those military spacers who had passes from their duties.  So, there were many bars, restaurants, hotels, cheap spacer layovers and entertainment venues.

The different parts of the system had different technologic outlooks.  While the overall tech profile was considered 'Early Interstellar', conditions downwell were more equivalent to the height of the Industrial revolution back on Terra(1900-1920).  Considering that description, Mikah suggested they sounded like a world in need of alcohol, and appointed Fesic the job of finding a buyer for their cargo.  They also had to empty the cargo bay of the ship before they moved it to the naval shipyard.  When she went to talk to Fesic, he asked if he could talk to her in private because he had an issue he wanted to bring up.

She agreed, and they stepped out of the others hearing.  Fesic said he'd not wanted to bring the issue up with all the people the Arch Duke had brought to the meeting, and not in front of all the new crew either.  He then reminded her they had an Imperial sensor drone in the cargo bay which was illegal to own.  Mikah nodded, remembering the drone full well, especially for the role it played during events with Smiljan in the Tremous Dex system.  Fesic then continued, suggesting she might approach the Arch Duke more discretely and ask if he could legitimize it like he'd been told the Arch Duke had Zimzod's battledress.  Mikah nodded and said she'd do that, but Fesic also said he had another request.

Since the Arch Duke had asked what they wanted, Fesic wondered if Mikah could ask the Arch Duke about any kind of electronic training for lock picking.  Failing that, he wondered if the Arch Duke might know of sources where he could get a neural chip for the skill, since he didn't have a stent.  Unlike stent wafers, which either provided the knowledge while the wafer was active or tried to over-write a part of the brain with the skill, the chip was implanted into the skull and wired to a brain interface.  And unlike the wafers, there were no risks of damage or loss to memories or knowledge when data from the wafer was transferred to the brain.  So, the knowledge was there and the new user only had to train until they had the reflexes and muscle memory.  Mikah nodded and joked, "Alright.  How much is this worth to you?"  Smiling, Fesic answered, "How about if I take care of that cargo?" and Mikah smiled saying, "Oh!  OK!"

Done with Fesic, Mikah decided to call the Arch Duke's people aboard the Prince's flagship.  Getting a connection, Mikah told the representative she'd reached that she would like to ask for a conference, video or live at the Arch Duke's convenience, in the next days.  Mikah was told she would be updated after they consulted with the Duke and his seneschal since they were otherwise detained.  Mikah nodded and thanked the representative for his time.  While Mikah made that call, Emkir and Aali considered relaxing and playing video games before making a night of things.  Joking, Jocelynn asked, "Fesic, it's been a long time since you've gotten beat up.  You wanna go out somewhere?"  That got a laugh because of the number of times he and Jocelynn had gone out on various stations, with or without Terin, only for Fesic to suffer from an encounter.

A Late Night Break
     Mikah was finishing her call when Fesic said he was OK to go out.  Jocelynn asked everyone, "Does anyone want to go out and get some food?  I mean, I don't plan to stay out all night."  Mikah heard that and said they should all stretch their legs because they'd been stuck on the ship for so long.  When Fesic protested, "That's all we're going out for is food?" Mikah wondered what else the gunner had in mind?  She wasn't setting herself up for anything demented.  Mikah told him, "That's all she's offering you", making it clear Mikah was, in no way, involved.  With a sudden smile on his face, Fesic complained, "But I thought we were going out to watch me get beat up?"  Mikah laughed and said, "OK.  We can beat you up if you want?"  That got laughs from everyone.

So, Mikah was very much up for joining Jocelynn and Fesic because she wanted a late dinner and a show.  Hearing Mikah's enthusiasm, Emkir suggested they could go along, and go to a casino afterward.  Despite the late hour.  Seeing there was no talking him out of it, Aali decided to join in as eye candy.  Suddenly, Emkir was struck with a thought and suggested they could eat "at" a casino and increase the odds of getting Fesic beat up.  Everyone laughed at the idea but no one objected.  Hitting the station's network looking for a casino, Mikah did her search in both news and ads looking for the lowest class casino she could find.  Emkir pushed for a middle class venue and found one they agreed on.

Because they hoped to have a 'show', and since she didn't want things to get too far out of hand, Mikah chose her laser pistol as her honor weapon.  Aiden checked the local laws and saw that they could legally carry most firearms so long as they weren't concealed.  They could also carry visible blades.  So, he holstered his custom snub pistol with one file of tranq and a second of ball ammo.  Emkir had his 9mm Revolver with a spare clip along with his large fighting knife.  He also had a hidden plastic knife up his right pant leg.  Sekea had his gauss pistol in a hip holster and custom blade along with his medikit.  He also brought the small electronics kit he'd bought on Arden.  Zimzod holstered his Darrian gauss pistol and his k-bar.  Jocelynn holstered both her snub pistols with the six-shooter visible and her semi-automatic in a less visible "surprise" position.  Colinne took comfort in the fact that, while unarmed to start, she expected that she could scramble into getting control of a weapon somewhere along the way.

Looking over Mikah's search results on back-alley dice games, Jocelynn joked those were all good places for Fesic to get beat up.  Everyone nodded and laughed along.  When it came to leaving, the entire crew decided to go along, so they secured the ship and berth behind them before grabbing a ride on the station's quik-trans.  That cost them each Cr 3.  They ended up at a casino on the spacer-side of the station, because it was easier to get to and starship crews tended to be rowdy and ready to brawl.  Finding they could all order food to be delivered to their gaming locations, Mikah sat down to 'gamble a little.'  That meant she started with Cr 50 bets.  Emkir would start with Cr 50 bets and with Aali on his arm for luck.  Colinne also sat down to play and got gasps when she aggressively opened with Cr 500 bets!  Aiden also decided to try his hand and opened with Cr 25 bets while setting himself a Cr 200 "loss limit".  Fesic sat down and started playing Cr 25 bets.

Not surprisingly, food pricing was stiff for service items, so the meals would cost between Cr 35 and 50.  Thanks to their recent payday, only Colinne had to be concerned about cash because she'd not been crew on the ship when that payout came.  So, she went low while most of the others went high, and drinks were free because...casino!  While others played, Sekea stood casual guard, watching for pick pockets or other hazards and enjoying the periodic free drink.  After some time gaming, Aiden found himself up Cr 75 while Emkir was up Cr 350.  Fesic was barely better off than he started but keeping his head above water having won Cr 50.  Mikah was down Cr 150 while Colinne was equal after choppy "win a hand/lose a hand" play.

After more time at the table, Aiden saw his winnings eroded down to Cr 25 while watching Emkir pay back everything along with Cr 50 to boot.  Reacting to that, Emkir upped his bets to Cr 100 each.  Seeing that, Aali snuggled close to him and said, "For luck, baby."  Their continued groping, snogging and other activities would raise cries of, "Get a room" to which Emkir said, "We've got one right here.  And an audience!"  Mikah's losses mounted to the point she was ready to stop since she was Cr 350 down.  Fesic's small wins were gaining strength and he was now around Cr 110 in profits while Colinne was still managing to run more or less even for the night.  That was nearly eleven in the evening and, about then, a small but rowdy group of spacers passed by.  One noticed Colinne's curves as she leaned over the table from her seat.

He called out, "Hey sweet cheeks, you wanna go up to my room and help me spend my winnings?" while leering at her body.  Without missing a beat, Fesic smiled and said "Sure!" in a loud and cheery tone that set all those around the table laughing while the spacers scowled.  Before she burst out laughing, Jocelynn had been so confused at the reaction she'd cried out, "Wait!  What?"  When she started getting control of herself, she assured Fesic, "See?  You'll get beat up."  The spacer stepped forward while pumping his muscles a bit and snarled at Fesic, "Get out of my way space junk!"  Turning back to Colinne, the man said, "What about it sweety" in a more expectant and slightly demanding tone.  That told everyone there he wasn't planning on being turned down or refused regardless what she wanted.

Colinne aimed a thumb at Fesic and said, "I thought you had a perfectly good offer here already." with a smirk on her face.  The man didn't take a clue from the fact Colinne didn't seem concerned about his aggressiveness at all.  The man leered more, and promised, "Come upstairs with me and I'll show you better than perfectly good."  He even put the two words in air credits.  When Jocelynn moved up asking if there was a problem, the other group of spacers firmed up their line and started leaning in almost for a fight.  Looking Jocelynn up and down, one of the guys shouted, "Holy shit!  Two for one!  This deal is getting better all the time!  How many of you ladies wanna go upstairs?"  Jocelynn simply twisted and let them see her hands on the grips of her two pistols and watched while the spacers froze up.

The other crew pulled together despite seeing this could lead to blood, and seemed ready for an assault.  Still, one of the guys in their rear grabbed his comms and started talking quietly but urgently.  While Aiden was disgusted at the turn of events, Sekea was reaching for his snub pistol and preparing for a fight.  Mikah suddenly moved into the center of the crowd commanding, "Alright boys...and girls.  Break it up!" with every bit of authority she had in her.  She also did not reach for her weapons though it was visible on her hip.  Turing to face the spacers, Mikah flatly said, "You're not getting any action here guys.  Move on." in the tone she'd heard from almost every Imperial Naval officer who was actually dangerous in her past.  When Mikah acted, Jocelynn stepped back a bit but remained alert while Sekea only waited for a reason to draw his weapon and fire.

The tableau seemed to freeze for almost a second before it seemed the spacers were ready to blow past Mikah and ignore her, unless they thought she needed a lesson.  Before they could take that step, the man in the back went white in the face and started calling for his crew mates to pull back.  Before anyone could act beyond that, the space was suddenly flooded with casino security forces who moved in between the two crews and started enforcing control over the merchanters.  Mikah's crew had only a split second to take in what was happening before a man from the casino's concierge stepped up to speak to Mikah.  Behind him, Mikah heard a security man tell the other spaces, "Gentleman!  I think it's time for you to return to your ship for the evening."

Some of Mikah's crew waved with satisfied looks and quipped, "Buh-Bye" in various comic tones.  Mikah enjoyed watching the faces of the spacers when the concierge man, started profusely apologizing to "Lady Kirlim" and the other Knights.  If there'd been any fight left in the other crew, it broke and died then.  And the army of security led them out of the place, telling them they were banned until possible reconsideration when their ship next returned to the system.  Just before they led away, and while Mikah and Zimzod split their attention between the apologizing concierge man and the other crew, they felt that odd buzzing in the back of their minds again.  Just after that, the man who'd first propositioned Colinne pointed to Fesic and called out, "Hey!  Is your offer still open?"  Mikah's crew broke out in laughter at the outburst while the man's crew turned on him in disgust.  Colinne only smiled and chuckled to herself while imagining what his crew would do to him on their ship?  Not knowing the subtext, Fesic laughed as he called back, "Nah!  You've had too much to drink."

Still laughing, it took some time to come to order while much of the crowd around them had turned to look and wonder what they'd just missed?  Still, In the distance, the crew had turned on their own man despite the security "escorting them" and the remote kerfuffle added a comedic exclamation point to the experience.  By that time the concierge man had been joined by someone from management and he was offering them all rooms for the night in apology.  He also told them the cost of their meals had been comp'd and any food payments refunded.  Mikah nodded and said "That would be nice." then smiled and said, "Sure!" in a much friendlier tone.  Watching this unfold, it all seemed surreal to Jocelynn, and she had to wonder how that happened?  She was told, mostly by Emkir thanks to his experience with many casinos, that the cost of comping rooms and food was a joke to casinos and this would turn into positive advertising as soon as they could get word out Lady Mikah's famous crew had come here and even stayed the night.

Jocelynn stopped shaking her head when most of the others in the crew nodded along with Emkir.  Some even reminded her they had more money to possibly lose "tonight" than that spacer crew could earn in a year.  Jocelynn finally gave in entirely when even Aiden started telling her how advertizing their visit would be an earnings coup.  Jocelynn saw Aiden, who didn't believe anything was good, was actually saying "this" was good, so it had to be.  Of course, the endorsement ideas devolved until someone suggested renting the rooms used by the crew without cleaning the blood off the walls.  Aiden made the joke, "They'll hang a sign reading 'Fesic got administered first aid here.' and everyone laughed.

When things settled down, Aiden decided to keep gambling for another hour while he asked the servers if the hotel part of the casino had a pool?  They smiled and said the facility had 'Everything!'  Not only did they have pools, which were hideously expensive and extremely luxurious to even operate, but they also had an ice pool.  That was a nod to the ice world below.  Not sure she'd heard right, Jocelynn snapped, "A what?" and was again told "An ice pool."  Hearing that, Jocelynn said, "That sounds cool" in an excited tone.  While Jocelynn was absolutely into the idea, others in the crew had written it off immediately.  Overhearing what Aiden was being told, Aali told Emkir they could go swimming or he could keep gambling, and asked what he'd prefer?

Emkir considered that he'd been ahead of the house much of the night and was in a rally at the moment.  But he also considered he'd been locked in a tin can for the past week in jump space and spent too much time being shot at and having his life threatened before that.  So, he decided that if his lady-love wanted to go swimming, that was enough for him to walk away from the table.  When Aali lamented the fact they'd hadn't brought suits and would have to buy new ones, the closest server checked the player cards the management man had given out.  Not only did those have the free night coded into the card, but it said they could get all the small stuff for free for the next week!  So, that meant free basic-quality bathing suits which would obviously have the logo, location and casino corporate brand firmly displayed.  But, it was free which Emkir joked was better than Munarshu ever saw at "Adventure World Regina".

Fesic thought about the ice pool asked if they weren't worried about hypothermia?  Emkir said he and Aali weren't going to the ice pool.  He said they'd been told that was only one of the pools on the property, and he was sure one of them was heated and comfy, "for the chicken-shit outlanders".  Jocelynn and Fesic wanted to do the ice pool and Zimzod said he didn't want to get his balls frozen off.  Not understanding the comment or knowing the relationships, one of the casino staff said he had a comp'd room for after the swim, to have his balls defrosted in whatever means he wanted to pay or "not pay" for, depending on his resources.  Not hearing the statement but hearing the suggestion Zimzod might pay for sex, Jocelynn turned to Mikah in surprise and asked, "He pays you now!" in a shocked tone.  That only made the others laugh.  Someone joked Zimzod could send hotel security to find that one spacer to warm his balls and everyone laughed that much harder.  Things settled down and Aiden said he'd planned to swim in a heated pool and joined Emkir and Aali.  Mikah and Colinne kept gambling, with Zimzod watching in his gravChair and Sekea keeping an eye on the crowd while the others left.

When Jocelynn and Fesic got to the ice pool, they found the hotel had a medical team just since tourists sometimes had odd reactions to the cold water.  Seeing Fesic had been wounded after he'd changed into his suit, they told him know that extreme cold bathing did have some benefits on wounds where the wound had properly healed and sealed the wound.  Fesic was pleased with that.  The staff at the pool also pointed to the entrance of a connected sauna, because many found it enjoyable to move back and forth between heat and cold.  Another thing they learned was that the ice pool was normally a "paid for" experience, but was also one of those things the casino had comp'd.  When they tried the ice pool out, Jocelynn adapted much better than Fesic.  He had to use the sauna more often.  Getting to the heated pool, Emkir, Aali and Aiden found the space was well staffed and had things like immediate bar service.  Both spaces had screens visible allowing visitors there to bet on the "events book" or participate in "gambling opportunities".

Those in the pools may have noticed a side screen to the betting book which was covering continued celebrations by the teams winning the second Spinward Marches point to point race.  Others may have noticed there were side bets on many activities in the news including 'timeline bets' on how soon the occupation of the world of Natoko would be completed by?  At the gambling tables, Mikah's luck had changed when the other crew started making troubles and she was now slamming the table and up several hundred credits!  Colinne's luck had also changed and she was up Cr 1,100.  Despite the late winning streaks, it was around two in the morning and time to head to their comp'd rooms to get some sleep.  They had no idea when the Navy would call and they had to be awake to move the ship, so Mikah made the call to all the others.


A Day In Motion
     Before they'd racked out the night before, Aali suggested they wake for brunch at eleven the next morning.  She knew the Navy would call and figured they should be prepared and fed when it happened.  Everyone agreed and they set their alarms for ten in the morning.  Emkir created an evil plan to wake at nine so they had an hour to play before ten.  Of course, Mikah woke to her buzzing comms instead of her wake up call.  She checked the clock while grabbing her comms, and saw it was 8:30am.  Answering the call audio-only, the caller introduced himself as a senior engineer from the naval space yard in-system.  Lieutenant Commander Germai Miisud asked when her crew would be available to move their ship to begin work?

Mikah asked, and was told they preferred the crew deliver the ship so they can hand over security codes and give any last sets of instructions.  Mikah accepted that and asked what the flight time was from the civilian port to the shipyard?  They guessed it would be a couple of hours and Mikah said they could have the ship moved by four that afternoon.  The officer accepted that and gave Mikah a comms code to give the base security people when they challenged the ship's approach.  That way, he said he'd be contacted and could confirm they were expected so the ship would be allowed into the traffic zone and guided into an appropriate dock for the work to be done.

Checking the clock after the call ended, Mikah saw it was just after 8:30 and much earlier than she'd wanted to wake up.  Shrugging off the annoyance, Mikah tried to get back to sleep but spent twenty minutes realizing that wasn't gonna happen.  Considering her options, Mikah decided to "wake gimpy up" and give him some 'in-bed' physical therapy.  And while Zimzod wasn't too happy being woken up, he was all for it when Mikah made it clear why she'd woken him?  While they played, Mikah would stop every so often and suddenly poke Zimzod somewhere she knew his wounds were still sensitive, asking "Did that hurt?" to teach him to think before making more surgical work for her.

Fesic was the next person to wake and he woke an hour before the mandated alarms for 10am.  Deciding to get things moving, Fesic went through those parts of his morning routine that he could, with limits because he was still recovering from two gunshot wounds.  Then, when he still had time, Fesic decided to watch the news.

    Jewell (A777999-C 2 Hi In Cp G 623 Im G7 V)                     c      Date: 339-1113
    Imperial authorities in the Jewell system have been advised of a regrettable incident by the Zhodani
    Ambassador.  That incident involved an Imperial trading vessel, the IMS Gunza Mizag Gi and defensive
    forces in the Querion system.  Per the recent decision on Imperial attempts to trade with the Sheol,
    the Gunza Mizag Gi entered the system attempting to establish trade.  When proper authorities tried
    to order the ship to heave to for inspection, the ship's master chose to dispute Zhodani authority
    in the system.  When official warnings were provided, the Imperial officer continued to insist he was
    in "Sheol space".  The Ambassador paused to make certain it was clear there was no such stellar
    authority as "Sheol space".

    The Ambassador provided a detailed sensor recording of the entire incident, plus crystals holding
    documentation of the entire event.  A broadcast of the vid displayed the encounter from the sensor
    point of view of a Zhodani defensive craft.  With official translation, the vid did document a
    moment at which the defensive craft engaged an Imperial Empress Morava class far trader via comms.
    The data and vid continued to document the events which followed, including a brief exchange of fire
    clearly initiated by the Imperial trade Captain.  While officers of the Imperial Navy investigate
    the data provided by the Zhodani, officers of the port are beginning to address the legal situation
    in which the surviving merchant crew find themselves.  In accordance with Zhodani law, the crew are
    being transported to the Chronor system for trial.  More details will be provided as they
    come available.
                

    Denotam (B739573-A N Ni G 324 Im M2 V)                            Date: 018-1114
    Lieutenant Commander Yellna Ferzufor released a statement being broadcast to Lanth, Regina and all
    worlds in the region updating what is known about the missing luxury liner King George.  Thanks to
    data delivered by the IMS Upgrade, Lady Mikah's crew delivered those survivors from the liner they
    carried to Oberlindes representatives on Arden on the sixth day of 1114.  What became of those
    passengers is not yet known because it is unknown what Oberlindes ship, if any, was in port?  Per
    news from the Extolay system, a ISS Courier Ranaza is due to arrive in the Arden system in two days.
    As a result, the earliest update from that ship will not return to base in Extolay until the thirty
    forth day at the earliest.  An additional fleet element was sent to the Tremous Dex system to
    investigate any possible survivors from the IMS King George.  Those ships would have arrived five
    days ago.  As a result, the earliest news back to Imperial offices in Extolay will not be for two
    more days, and that word will not arrive in this system until the twenty seventh day of the year,
    via X-Boat news relays.

    Should the passengers delivered to the Arden system have departed that system aboard an Oberlindes
    ship, it is known that route is broken into three legs.  As a result, there will be no word from
    those survivors for at least fourteen days if not twenty one, when the Oberlindes liner returns to
    Imperial space.  Since Oberlindes has been extremely closed mouthed about their route, it is not
    likely that Imperial naval forces might be sent to intercept and escort them back while also
    preparing updates for all involved and concerned.  As events continue to unfold, word is being
    spread along all the worlds of the Imperial border in hopes of expediting information once new
    data is available.

    In the meantime, those rescued by the IMS Kalage Ashi have been cared for by the personnel of
    Extolay Imperial Naval base and have even begun departing that system for their homeworlds.  Word
    has not yet been received from the Lanth system about reactions there, as well as likely legal
    suits against the firm Asiigku Kukud lines, which operated the liner and tour.  With the
    increasingly complete data from those rescued, the Kalage Ashi and Upgrade, the numbers are more
    disheartening given what it is expected Commander Peser Tindesu and his officers will find while
    investigating in the Tremous Dex system.  The losses are expected to rise well above the number
    of passengers and crew rescued.
                

    Inthe (B575776-9 A Ag G 423 Im F8 V)                            Date: 306-1113
   In an additional release from the Imperial Scout Command, two task forces are being assembled from
    ships assigned to the IISS Exploration branch.  These task forces will be ordered to undertake
    exploration of the flight paths calculated by IISS experts from the wrecks of the INS Regina's
    Storm
and IMS Coronal Flair.  None of the officers involved in the press release would risk a
    guess on the odds of finding any of the small craft, or the bodies they would contain.  All media
    outlets were reminded the volume of space is very large and even a planet is incredibly small in
    that gulf.  So, exploration and search with the best assets the base could supply would only
    provide a hope.  When asked, it was estimated the task forces might be in the black and unheard
    from for up to six months.
                

    Inthe (B575776-9 A Ag G 423 Im F8 V)                            Date: 306-1113
   In a news update, the Starport Authority has increased the bounty to be paid to any person or group
    who capture and present Bremno Khan to security forces at any of their facilities.  Those not
    familiar with the twenty plus year career of Mr. Khan will note he is an extremely intelligent
    individual.  In just over twenty years, he went from student to multi-millionaire businessman to
    wanted criminal.  Born in the Strouden system(Lunion) without any noble or corporate ties, his
    grades and achievements got him admission into the Lunion Imperial Academy of Economic Studies.
    The firmly middle class Solomani Khan studied economics and business management and graduated
    with honors.  He then returned to his home system and parleyed a junior management position with
    a local manufacturer into a job managing a rare chemicals plant on the hell world of Wypoc
    for Delgato Trading, LIC.

    After instituting new uses for automation while maintaining productivity levels and reducing
    staff, he was noticed by Corporate directors, and started working up the ladder leaving a trail
    of success after success.  Fifteen years later, he'd been promoted to Chief Financial Officer
    for Sector-wide operations, and become very wealthy.  Sadly, that wasn't enough for him and he
    would not gain promotions because he'd not come an older patrician blood line.  Forensic
    investigations show he then set to using the accounting system to embezzle sums of Credits with
    his authority as CFO preventing the contracts being questioned.  He used fake accounts to skim
    funds into shadow accounts until an audit noticed the activity in his sector.  But when Corp.
    Security went to pick up Kahn, the man hired a berth on a ship in a secondary starport under
    an assumed name.  It also became obvious that not all his money had been in his now frozen
    corporate accounts.

    It is believed he still controls quite a bit of wealth, and is currently wanted by Strouden
    Planetary Police and Delgato Corp for embezzlement.  He is also wanted by the Starport Authority,
    for using fraudulent documents to book passage and make use of port facilities. The SPA put a
    bounty of Ten Thousand Credits on his head, if he can be returned to any port, to be held
    for trial.  Delgato have not offered a bounty or helped the police in their investigation,
    and perhaps prefer to handle this internally.
                

    Junidy (B434ABD-9  W  Hi  G  310  Im  F7 V  M9 D)                            Date: 293-1113
    Following word of the collapse of the Vargr Commonality of Kedzudh, Imperial border worlds have
    been realigning their defense postures in expectation of increased and more powerful raiding in
    the region.  Word was released today from the Junidy Imperial Scout base of an engagement in the
    Jesedipere system.  On the 283rd day of the year, a minor formation of what appeared to be Kedzudh
    flagged escort vessels entered that system, which operates an Imperial Trade facility connecting
    Imperial and Vargr markets.  On arrival, the escort class vessels were contacted by the picket
    frigate INS Yiqoonwe and responded with opened fire!  Responding to the assault, Yiqoonwe called
    for support from the local system defense squadrons.  While the Yiqoonwe crew fought valiantly,
    few of them were recovered from the frigate's hulk after converging SDB forces reduced the three
    pirate vessels to drifting hulks.  While very few details are available at this time, it is said
    four crew from the frigates are recovering in-system while sixteen prisoner Vargr are being held
    for prosecution.  Upon receipt of this news, additional combat vessels were dispatched to
    Jesedipere and additional warnings sent to other border worlds.
                

    Natoko (C8879AB-9 Hi An G 204 Im F4 V)                            Date: 345-1113
    In a brief update from operations in the Natoko system, the 1,657th and 1,965th Imperial Army
    divisions have expanded control over much of the world's surface.  In the process, Imperial
    forces continue to isolate holdout positions into which the population have withdrawn.  Moving
    forward, tactics will range from "starve them out" to "disable all power and water" to "breach
    and engage" depending on the intelligence data on each site.  There has been no further direct
    comment from ground commander, General Sir Darkirger, and only a brief statement from overall
    commander Admiral Khimuru Uuela.  He stated that events in the space around the system have
    calmed down, and there are no longer attempted incursions by unauthorized vessels.  He added
    that all stations and arcologies had now established controls required by Imperial Naval
    protocol in-system.
                

    Pimane (E500343-4  Lo Ni Va  G  903  Im  K0 V)                            Date: 353-1113
    Following startling announcements from a team of investigators from the University of Mora,
    there has been some unrest in the lone city, Hope's End.  University and local authorities
    have stated the unrest stems from local explorers and small groups of those seeking recognition
    for their ignored prior claims.  Some events seem to be fueled by anger similar to being
    "academically claim jumped".  Clashes also seem to have been sparked by rumors of large
    funding grants which some seek to claim based on their earlier explorations.  Another source
    of interference appears to stem from those less-violent teams who either seek to direct the
    teams to what they claim are promising sites, or are trying to drive themselves into
    University teams, to share in the work.  And perhaps, the reward.

    University authorities with the team have called for help from the Imperial Navy, but the
    commander, in-system Lieutenant Rakanien, has stated his escorts are looking into providing
    that support while also responding to local small craft sorties and system patrols.  The
    Former, to prevent local explorers and those supporting them from interfering with or
    attacking University workers.  The latter, because it is not unknown for pirates and smugglers
    to operate in the system, so the small naval element is stretched tight.  While present
    in-system, the Lieutenant has permitted his medical officers to set up clinics in Hope's
    End, to treat the locals.

    While there is no official word on the unrest from Mora, it is known the University has begun
    to spin up a larger effort to more significantly investigate their discoveries.  It is expected
    there will be a call out to GLIPS and other research bodies, with more experience in near-
    vacuum and asteroidal environments for help in researching the phenomenon.  Her Grace, the
    Grand Duchess, is reported to be very interested in the discovery.  The Admiralty have been
    quiet regarding plans to further reinforce assets in the Pimane system during the investigation.
    And while some quiet stirrings are beginning on the idea of research and other grants regarding
    the discoveries, there is nothing official as yet on that subject either.

    One ominous comment has come from a local Zespen Egosion, who has become more prominent given
    the recent rise in station of his son, Sir Zimzod Egosion.  Mr. Egosion was recorded as saying,
    "Der's gonna be some money flowin' in here and we locals better not be swept aside from the
    flow'a treasure.  I can call in my son to make things right if'n there'll be a fight!"  While Mr.
    Egosion has been involved in some minor events, he has not been arrested as yet, and Lieutenant
    Rakanien has withheld comment on the matter, allowing the proper local and lower level officers
    to deal with it, as proper.
                

    Porozlo(A867A74-B  Hi  G  201  Im  M1 V M9 D)                            Date: 353-1113
    Word has been received from the offices of Marquis Insadshiir Manerdagur of Porozlo regarding
    events in the nation of Ko Qiquiang.  The nation is under occupation by Imperial forces after
    clandestine actions triggered an Imperial intervention during the later period of their most
    recent three way war with Sertao Forros and New Jindabyn.  Where all authorities on-world had
    expected the action, which ended the war, to settle things down, a province of the country has
    stirred the pot.  Leadership in that region called for a vote following increasing protests
    against the former national government and in support of Imperial formations in their region.

    Early returns from the plebiscite appear to demand the right to secede from Ko Qiquiang in favor
    of joining a bordering Free Trade nation or establishment as an independent nation in their own
    right.  These results have ignited significant reactions from free trade and private ownership
    nations on-world along with the office of the Marquis, other on-world authorities and Imperial
    civilian and naval officials.  Of note are growing complaints from some more aggressive private
    ownership nations that the Imperial forces occupying Ko Qiquiang are forcing the result of this
    vote.  They claim the units are holding the population under duress.  Because of the rising
    tensions, a period of hoped for calm on-world following the end of the recent war now seems to
    possibly have opened the risk of a larger and more complex conflict.
                

Colinne woke at 9:30 and decided to meditate in the time available before she had to clean up, dress and go to meet her crew.  Finally, by eleven, the entire crew were cleaned, dressed and had met up for brunch.  While they sat, Mikah told everyone they had to move the ship and she had decided who would make the transit with her to the shipyard.  She told them that would take two hours each way and they'd return on the cutter.  Mikah said that Aiden, Aali and Zimzod were coming with her.  The others could join them on the trip or stay on the station as they chose.  Also, while they ate, a concierge woman came by and checked them out, collecting any room data they gave her and cancelling their access codes.

While eating, Fesic, asked about getting the cargo sealer off the ship so he could keep working on that over the coming month.  Fesic also said they had to move the rest of the cargo, to be able to sell it.  He also wanted to move the sensor drone off the ship because he didn't want to leave it where navy techs might discover it.  He wanted to spend time in the coming month studying the manual to better understand how to use it?  He planned to mix it with the cargo pods, to keep it from being discovered in their berth.  He'd also have to make sure it didn't accidentally get taken if they sold the cargo.  When he asked Mikah about permission to do that she said he could.

After the brunch was done, Jocelynn asked to speak to Mikah, along with Aiden.  When Mikah asked what was up, Jocelynn said Aiden had come up with a good idea about finding ways to get cold weather training on Denotam.  She continued, explaining Denotam being an ice ball would be a good place to find places to get training for Sonthert.  In arctic climates before they had to face hyper-arctic conditions.  Aiden added in, "We're near a military outpost orbiting an ice ball.  I would think there was someplace to get training somewhere here."  Mikah agreed that was likely correct and said they should look it up after they'd gotten settled.

Overhearing that, Fesic suggested that those not moving the ship should go through the cargo pods the Arch Duke had given them during the move.  He knew they had a two-ton snow cat and three pods which each had three hazardous environment suits inside.  But there were four more single-ton pods that had not yet been investigated.  So, he wanted to do that fairly soon.  That would let the crew not only figure out what they still needed but also start learning how to use the gear they'd been given?  Jocelynn pointed out she could drive the snow cat, so there was no real worry about learning how to use that.  Leaving the restaurant, the crew went back to the berth to do last minute things before the ship left the station.

Before the ship lifted, they got all the cargo and any last minute items off the ship, organizing the cargo in one area with the pod containing the sensor drone mixed in to hide it.  Of course, they'd have to make sure it wasn't accidentally taken if the alcohol was sold, and would have to worry about hiding it after all the cargo pods but that one went away.  They also segregated the eight pods from the Arch Duke in another section so they could start opening them and checking out what was in them?  While they did that, Aali sparked up a terminal and wrote an x-mail to her family back on Regina about their latest adventures.  This would likely arrive after news reached Regina about the ship's role in rescuing passengers from the King George.  Aali was pleased with that because it made the crew look more like heroes in the eyes of her parents, and would help with some members of her family if her mother sent the news on.  Since that was just text, it cost her Cr 2.

After the ship was delivered, Aali planned to be as involved in the work as she could be, making sure she had connections to reach the engineers working on the ship when she wanted to during the month.  During the month, Aali would also work on learning more with her stent.  When she heard Colinne would be joining the others to run group stent training, Aali was very pleased and made sure she'd be able to take part with the others.  Over the coming month, Emkir planned on continuing his work on trying to find a way to translate the specific book from Brian's collection.  The fact it was a dead language, and from an unknown world where there wasn't any known academic work to start made the task beyond herculean.  Emkir also planned to look for more ideas on how to have fun while stuck on the station?  Emkir also wondered if there were any kinds of marine life under the ice on Denotam, and wanted to learn as much as he could about it if there was?  Emkir also considered looking for a location where he could use his teaching suit to continue his zero-g training, but that would likely be a rented space.  He also planned to spend a good amount of time "doing Aali", since the staterooms in the berth were a bit larger and more spacious than their stateroom aboard ship.

While they worked, they each got to consider the month ahead.  Colinne would spend time getting to know her new crew and would set up and lead a stent class, like Mikah had asked.  That covered a third of the crew until Rol's clone was decanted.  For fun, she wanted to see how deep she could get into the local network without getting into trouble.  Of course, that came with the unspoken truth that you might not know you're in trouble until it was much too late.  She also wanted to work on an application harnessing connector apps to help connect with and explore the Upgrade's systems.  Those would have to be generic until they had the ship back from the work being done on it, and she planned to share it out with the others when it was done.  Colinne also suggested looking for a weapons range on the station, on which to rent time?  Colinne also wanted to practice with her dagger.  Along with spending time relaxing, she'd also spend a reasonable amount of time each day meditating.

Having discussed cold weather survival training with Mikah and Jocelynn, Aiden also wanted to get in some weapons practice, and said he'd join in with Colinne when she said she'd be looking for ranges.  He also wanted to go to InstellArms and other weapons providers on-station, looking for good advice on the types of weapons to use in hyper-arctic conditions.  Aiden hoped the conditions downwell would promote some expertise and research locally.  When Colinne mentioned stent training, Aiden was excited to join that.  He also wanted to find a pool on station, and it would take him a week to learn the few swimming pools were offered by extreme luxury venues, like the casino/hotel.  So, he'd have to buy packages to get access to those.  The best cost he found was Cr 1,500 for the month, which was nothing given his most recent pay day.  Past that, he'd look for book and entertainment files he might like to buy and generally relax.

Jocelynn also wanted to join the stent team when Colinne mentioned it, but also planned to work on her studies for armory work.  She also wanted to join in on trips to ranges to practice with her weapons.  Jocelynn had offered to help Aiden with any cold weather training, having grown up on an ice-ball world herself.  The rest of the crew were interested after the talk to Mikah about setting up cold weather classes.  Like Aali, Sekea also sent an x-mail home, spending Cr 8.  He let his family know what was happening with him.  Hearing the crew talking, Sekea wanted to sit down with Mikah and ask her about the stents a number of them had?  Sekea would also be ready to help with any medical needs including helping Mikah as a nurse.  When he had time, he'd shop to replace gear he'd lost aboard the King George, plus any new items he might like.  Sekea would also keep up his weapons training and looked forward to practicing and training on a range.  He also planned to join in on any cold weather survival or zero-g training the crew set up or got access to.

Fesic wanted to sell the cargo they had and read up on the Ghandi system, their next stop.  So when he started looking at the cargoes available in Denotam, he'd have a better idea which of those would be more or less valuable in Ghandi?  He also considered advertising low berth passages, though that wouldn't be important for some time.  They planned to stay on world for a month and might stay longer if Zimzod went under the knife.  Fesic also knew he could enter their departure and vacancies data into the port registry.  Then, those bound for Ghandi would automatically see the Upgrade on any ship lists bound to, or through, that system.  Right away, Fesic wanted to look at the cargo pods from the Arch Duke and list what they had, what they needed and what they had to learn how to use?

Later, Fesic would also spend some of the month continuing to learn how to use the cargo sealing unit.  He'd continue his lock pick schooling and planned to finish work with Emkir to sticking covert carbon-plastic blades and cutting washers on their PLSS, armor and other gear.  Beyond that, he'd go shopping and see what he found, along with replacing the pants he'd destroyed during the escape from Smiljan's people.  Finally, he'd visit the Scout base to turn in Terin's belt buckle and order a replacement for his, while also taking part in any classes and crew trainings that came up.  After finishing with the cargo, Fesic planned to spark up a terminal and connect to the X-Mail system to set up a money transfer.  Fesic planned to send his family in Flammarion Cr 50,000.  He'd add a note to that telling his family some of the adventure he'd been through and explaining the funds.  Fesic would also check for botanical and agro-zones on the station, looking for parks he could relax in.

Preparing to move the ship, Mikah wanted to look up what cold weather experiences and trainings she might find downwell, based on the talk she'd had with Aiden and Jocelynn.  She also wanted to look for someplace they could use to do zero-g exercises, which pleased Emkir because he wanted to make use of his teaching suit.  Mikah also planned to lead GI parties to make sure everyone's gear was ready.  She'd read up on medical journals while waiting to see what else the Arch Duke sprang on them?  Zimzod wanted to take part in Colinne's stent trainings while also doing his physical therapy and whatever workout items he could.  He also wanted to do any cold weather classes or weapons range work the crew came up with.

Discoveries And Explanations
     After getting the cargo and last minute gear off the ship, Aiden got permission from the port to lift the ship and move to the shipyard.  With them gone, and all the cargo pods set, the crew still on station took a pause to relax a bit before opening the Arch Duke's "gifts" to check them out.  With Mikah and Zimzod off station, Colinne slipped into her room in the berth to try an experiment.  Planning to do what she could daily to detect threats, Colinne dropped her shields and pushed as far as she could without pushing "hard".  Still, with all the minds on the station, the effort burned some amount of energy while her mind flowed past the others.  She noted the general strength and direction of the few shielded minds she met, which gave her pause.  That wasn't common in Imperial systems.  Then, she tried something she'd often "tried" but had never succeeded at.  She calmed herself entirely and concentrated on both a 'sense of danger' and 'time passing' before reaching out for a premonition.  Unfortunately, she ended up with the same results as ever.

When Jocelynn got to check out the snow cat, she announced she was well able to operate the vehicle.  The others didn't doubt her after her performance with the monster rig she'd driven while they were on Wypoc four months before.  Checking the rig out, Jocelynn saw a warning that the unit was only rated for short-term durability in extreme circumstances.  Those were defined as "Worse than Arctic" conditions.  When she pointed that out to the others, they realized the cat may not last long in a hyper-arctic environment.

Despite the disappointment, Fesic said he'd have to spin it up quick so he could be sure to run over Sekea's toes.  That got laughs from everyone there including Sekea.  After they were done laughing, they looked over the cat and saw it had been bulked up, with thickened walls and buffered systems along with heated air vents and systems to help keep those inside warmer and protect the machine's systems.  While the others played with the cat and went on to open the other pods, Sekea decided to look into why the snow cat might not be able to survive long term against hyper-arctic exposure?  It took him some time but he finally came to the conclusion that there was a limit to what technology and materials could do for survival in such environments.

The others cracked the three pods holding the nine hazardous environment suits.  Like the snow cat, those were also marked as unlikely to survive long-term exposure to hyper-arctic conditions.  That suggested they would have to be sure where they moved in the suits, and that, more and more over time, they could find places to create emergency heated shelters if the suits began failing with repeated use.  When they called those on the ship to let them know what they were finding, Aali muttered that it did make sense while Mikah said they'd have to worry about damage the environment could do to the ship's hull.  Aiden asked about the survivability of battledress or vacc suits and was told those would fail much faster.

Hearing that, Sekea started speculating on ideas they might come up with to jury rig heating and increase survivability.  When he suggested it might be good to plan so they could survive until rescue came, he was told by Mikah, Zimzod and others that there would be no rescue.  He was reminded they would be in a red-zoned system where the only sparse traffic would be from a licensed mining colony much further in-system or the interdiction vessels.  And those wouldn't be nearly close enough to where they'd be in the system's outer worlds.  After that the conversation wound down and they cut the comms because the folks on the ship were getting busy.

While they checked out the HazEnv suits and started learning what they could do, the questions about Mikah's plans continued to rise.  The senior crewperson there, Emkir had to consider what to say and what not to say, because he knew there might be issues if people learned the whole truth.  Being honest with himself, Emkir wasn't all that comfortable dealing with long dead psionics himself, but hoped to find some nice toys.  But, when she saw the snow cat, Colinne had asked in a shocked tone, "We're going somewhere cold?"  And it wasn't immediately obvious she was joking.  Emkir did do his best to keep the laughs coming.  At one point, while trying to assemble a suit around himself, he asked, "Does this suit make my gun look bigger?" in a tone mocking fashionistas.

Finally, Jocelynn put it right out in the center under the lights when she asked, "Why are we being kept in the dark about all this?"  Emkir first said, "I'll let the Captain talk to you about that." but quickly saw that wasn't gonna do the trick.  He then added, "I think it would be because she'd remove my spleen if I took away her privilege as Captain to brief you all."  In a flat tone, Jocelynn only answered, "Hu huh.  Sure." which meant Emkir had moved backward instead of solving issues.  While Jocelynn was annoyed despite knowing what she already did, Colinne had only seen the new gear and heard several comments when the crew had met with the Arch Duke the first time.  And from Mikah just after that.  So, she knew almost nothing of the plans except that they would be going somewhere cold.  A check on the ship's Library Data program didn't help at all, because the Sonthert system was somewhat large and diverse.

Emkir again pushed, "Why don't we have a conversation with Mikah about this?" and Jocelynn pushed back, "She's not here."  Emkir offered that she would be soon enough and Jocelynn shrugged and said, "OK.  Let's talk with her when she gets back."  Still, Emkir could see she wasn't happy about having to wait.  Moving on, they opened the next cargo pod to find it was buffered and had in it an emergency 10 x 10 x 10 collapsible shelter and a portable heating unit.  Neither had much data about how well the gear would serve them on the worlds they were going to but the shelter could be used in emergencies and had electronics and internal systems.

Packed with the shelter was a portable fusion heating unit that only needed water as fuel.  Seeing that, they realized they only had to find water ice to chunk into it and melt down to keep it fueled.  Several jokes were made about mistakes like using chlorine or hydrogen ice, and what results they'd get.  The next cargo pod was also buffered and had inside it a pair of wheel-mounted ice cutters.  Also fusion-power based, those would run as long as they were fed water.  Each unit was mounted between wheels that were hip-high to an average Human, and the bullet-shaped units were three foot long.  Trying to lift them showed that wouldn't happen unless Jocelynn got into her battledress.  The size of each device meant each would be a two or three person operation.

The next container had three portable densometers.  Each was a hand-held device that ballooned out from the central mechanics mounted above the pistol grip.  It worked like most sensors, by sending waves out into the local matter and slowly being reflected back as the path was occluded by more and more dense matter.  Circuitry in the device reacted to the initial data fed back to it to alter the waves to push deeper.  A dismountable screen connected to either the right or left side of the device above the pistol grip, for the comfort of the user.  That screen would show the feedback as dense structures or varying levels of fading density or actual voids.  The units they had would not be good for more than fifty to one hundred feet of rock and none of them could guess how it would perform when used against ice surfaces and structures?  Hearing that, Sekea speculated, "It looks like we'll be searching for something." and Emkir only answered, "Could be."

The next pod had in it an Imperial emergency beacon.  The device was often carried by IISS and academic expeditions where recovery of the expedition or their data were a consideration.  While Sekea called over, "So, we might be rescued after all" in something of a passive aggressive gloating tone, those looking at the device saw a note attached to it.  That was from an Imperial Navy Lieutenant Commander, and read, "Per the instructions of Arch Duke Norris, this beacon is already set to the following frequency."  That was followed by the frequency's numerical data before continuing, "This is consistent with one of the emergency frequencies monitored by the interdiction fleet in the Sonthert system.  There is no guarantee that the fleet will be able to respond or respond in time to react to whatever catastrophe you encounter.  Still, this beacon is available to you."  That made it clear Norris' people hoped to find any data left behind rather than rescue survivors.

The documentation for the devices were all electronic files, and none of the devices looked all that complex.  The most complex items were the HazEnv suits, and they had time to work and practice with them.  The big issue was that there were only nine suits and Rol might be decanted and coming on line again by the time they got to Sonthert, or shortly after they arrived in the system.  So, there's be ten of them.  Seeing that, Colinne was quick to volunteer to stay with the ship since she was both a qualified pilot and navigator.  With the coming discussion likely to push the cork from the bottle, Emkir decided it was time to call Mikah again.

On the ship's bridge, Mikah saw her comms start to buzz and checked to see Emkir was calling.  Snapping, "Oh, what the hell?" and wondering why the children couldn't spend even a few hours without pretending she was their mother, Mikah answered.  When she snapped, "I can't leave you alone for five minutes", Emkir smiled and told her, "Well, you can.  And I'll get into all sorts of trouble."  Mikah growled, "I thought so.  What happened?"  Emkir told her, "Some members of our crew are curious about the cargo we just unpacked."  When he didn't continue, Mikah said "Uh huh?" to urge him on.  Emkir then asked, "Do you think I should tell them?" and Mikah assertively said, "Sure." as if that shouldn't be a question.

Asking, "Okey dokie.  How much should I tell them?" in a tone that said he was unsure that was wise, Emkir got the answer, "Everything."  Again, Mikah's tone said she didn't understand why this was a question at all?  Nodding, Emkir said, "OK, you got it." in a tone that only held a slight amount of resignation before he cut the line and turned to the now-expectant others.  Right away, Emkir saw Colinne had grabbed one of the densometers and pointed it at his head.  Seeing he'd noticed, Colinne made a show of checking the densometer's readout and saying, "Hmm.  Just what I thought.  It's empty." with a smirk on her face.  In a losing effort, Emkir tried to point out she was holding the device backwards while the others roared with laughter.  Colinne only smiled and said, "I never claimed sensors were my strong suit."

We Don't Talk About Sonthert
     Gathering everyone into one of the two offices in the berth, Emkir told them how Aali had found a gold plated fob in an army/navy shop on Mora two thirds of the way through the year 1112.  She'd largely ignored it until nearly the end of that year.  During events in the Equus system, Aali had started checking the device, which had two crests on it with a more personal one on the front and an organizational one on the back.  Checking it again, she realized it had to have more memory than she could find and called in Emkir.  He told them he'd been able to find hidden memory on the fob, and found it contained a database of some sort.  When he'd sparked that up, Emkir said they saw an Imperial warning over three hundred years old saying the data was highly classified!

Figuring that bird had flown, they moved on into the database and found it covered all the personnel, assets, bases and ships belonging to an Imperial Order of Chivalry!  Only, it was one they had never heard of, which was saying something since politics was Aali's hobby.  Emkir told them how the two of them started exploring quietly on their own, not sure if they wanted to tell anyone at that time.  Try as they might, and using only the resources on the ship, they searched for names of noble families, ships and locations and only got back static.  After Emkir prepared a number of queries and data filters, they eventually found some names that connected to dates.  And all of those "disappeared from history" between the years 800 and 820 of the Third Imperium.  "It was then", Emkir said, "that Aali mentioned this could be one of those things the Imperium shoots first, and questions survivors before executing them over."  Emkir then said the dates matched a period of Imperial history known as the Psionic Suppression Wars.

Colinne shuddered when he mentioned that, because she'd learned about that period quite well during parts of her training.  The others reacted based on their feelings towards those with psionic talents and the Zhodani in general.  Before that period, the Imperium had been slowly becoming more and more hostile towards its psionic citizens.  A series of events in the closing years of the 700's ignited what became known as the Psionic Suppression Wars, during which populations went mad with fear and paranoia.  Many psions were lynched, burned alive or otherwise murdered.  Far fewer were captured and lobotomized "for public safety".  The charters for all the Imperial Psionic Universities were all revoked, though it is a matter of history that two of those revocations had been halted by the Iridium Throne.  Though that was really only known by Colinne, Mikah and Zimzod.  So, while two might have survived, history didn't seem to have any information on those.

While the hatred and fear of some percentages of the Imperial population have moderated, discoveries the Zhodani were ruled by a class of mind-controlling psions often kept the flames burning bright in much of the Marches.  Memories of war losses insured that.  Still, the fob had data on an "Order of the White Star", and the little data they had suggested it might have been an entire Imperial Order of psionic Knights!  Emkir then told them he and Aali started being even more careful about what they were doing for some time.  They eventually came to Mikah and Zimzod to tell them what they'd found.  The couple decided to join the investigation into the data because they considered that if the Imperium had 'gone to war' against an Order of Knights, there might have been abandoned facilities left behind.  So, they also called the crew's best researcher at the time, Sir Terin.  They also called Sir Rol, because he was loyal enough to kill Terin out of hand if he went off the rails.

They 'read in' Terin and Rol on the situation and the hopes they could find any facility the Order had which was close to any of their planned lines of travel.  That search came up with a former base in the outer worlds of the Sonthert system.  So, they quietly and carefully worked to research both the data and what they could find on the Sonthert system.  The system's outermost orbit contained a red dwarf star which wouldn't interfere with approaching the two outer-most worlds.  The base seemed to be the home for enough naval forces to form up a cruiser and destroyer squadron if the forces in the region were mustered.  Emkir said that meant an understrength CruRon with ships which could be called destroyers filling in.  His best bet was the ships were likely older military or civilian ships of the day.

     Sonthert Solar System
Pulling up an image of the Sonthert system, Emkir said what they knew suggested the base had been on one of three outer planets, or a moon of one of those worlds.  Those were the worlds of Oseaan(a frozen Ice covered-world), Mynbou(a barren rock) and Laurasia.  Laurasia was just smaller than Terra, with a standard atmo and 70% covered in ice-covered oceans.  Those worlds had no moons.  But the moons of the next world in could also be considered despite it being a gas giant.  There were six moons which could also be considered based on the data from the fob.  The crew then continued working in quiet for some time, until they accepted that they couldn't just fly into an interdicted system and hope to avoid the Imperial Navy fleet there.  Especially since they'd be doing a lot of scanning which was "Very loud" on any ship's sensors.

Because of that, they'd come up with what they'd hoped was a good 'red herring', and first begged an audience with the Court of Duke Luis Adorania Jestin of Lunion and ask for help making a bid for permission to enter the Sonthert system.  With Sir Terin as their spokesman, they claimed to be hoping to do a survey of possible flora in the interdicted system which might be found to have medical benefits, and which had been overlooked because the system was a red zone and no one could travel there to explore.  Duke Luis agreed to endorse the request, but told them they'd have to ask for that permission from Duke Rakaa Kiraarri of Lanth.  That was because the world was within his fief.

On the way to Lanth, they'd stopped at D'Ganzio and got the endorsement of Baron Aagirke, also the Sector Chairman of InstellArms in the Spinward Marches.  When they got to Lanth, Duke Rakaa was a bit offended they had been asking other nobles for permissions related to a world in his fief, but he agreed to consider the request.  The crew then moved on hoping they had not too completely spilled the secret.  That was until Aiden's clone met them in the Regina system almost one quarter of the year into 1113.  Because, when he arrived, he had a crystal Duke Leonard had ordered him to carry from Rhylanor.  And the crystal he delivered was from the Arch Duke, granting the crew permission to enter a selected interdicted system and to land on the unsettled worlds in that system - without specifically naming Sonthert.

Eventually, after leaving and returning to Regina, they were present when the Arch Duke and Prince arrived.  During that period, Arch Duke Norris made it clear he was more aware than they'd thought about their interest in Sonthert.  In fact, Mikah made it plain she thought he knew all the information about their plans and reasons.  She also seemed to feel, based on Emkir's point of view, that they no longer had to even try to hide anything from the Arch Duke.  Emkir wasn't sure he agreed with that but went along with it.  As far as the worlds they planned to target, Rol and Terin had done a lot of research on them while he and Aali had worked on the data on the fob, looking for more bases in the Spinward Marches.  Terin was now dead and Rol's clone would be decanted shortly before they arrived in the Sonthert system.

Of course, the Arch Duke had now trumped his earlier efforts to show them he knew what they were planning by delivering the gear they were now checking out in their cargo bay.  That said, Emkir asked if they had any questions?  Into the silence that followed, Colinne said, "I have only one question.  How did y'all find my cover ID in the first place?"  While they laughed, Emkir joked they'd found it on a candy wrapper on one of the landing pads.  Nodding, as if in sudden comprehension, Colinne said, "That's what I did with it!" and got more laughs.  Looking at the solar system, Jocelynn announced, "I wanna go to Rhodochroa because it's pink!"  When Sekea asked if the Arch Duke had any other instructions or information about the system and base, he was told they had no more information from Norris, but they could always ask for a meeting with him and ask.

Reaching that point, Emkir again called Mikah and told her the rest of the crew wanted to have a meeting with the Arch Duke because it seemed he was repeatedly pushing them to go to Sonthert.  They wanted to know why he wanted them to go, and what he expected them to do for him or what he'd get out of it?  Sighing, Mikah reminded them they were still waiting to be told when they could meet with Norris directly or over comms about Fesic's questions.  So, she asked if the new questions could be added to that meeting and the others said that was OK.  Mikah nodded and said they'd see what happened when they met with Norris next.  When they talked about the gear they'd been given, Zimzod said he could also drive the snow cat, so they had two members of the crew for that job.  When Jocelynn said she'd flip him for it, they got into jokes about flipping each other physically and sticking the landings.

Moving on from the jokes, Jocelynn suggested they separate the stuff out to those who would use it and pre-assign 'gear kits' to those who'd use them so they could train with what they'd need.  That led to discussions of how they could use it because it was clear they wouldn't survive long-term in hyper-arctic conditions.  Aali pointed out that was because the materials would fail in such extreme conditions.  But, practicing in the berth or even down on Denotam would not put them up against so harsh an environment and the gear wouldn't degrade in those conditions.  When Mikah then told Jocelynn she was in charge of finding ways to train on the world, Jocelynn still wanted to assign gear out to people before the training.  Doing that meant deciding who'd go or not, because they had nine suits and ten crew.

Some said it wasn't an issue because Rol was still being cloned, but Mikah reminded them all Rol would be decanted on the 84th day of the year.  They'd be staying in Denotam for a month, so they'd not leave until the 49th day of the year.  And that was only if they weren't delayed by work on the ship or Zimzod's recovery from possible surgery.  Assuming they left Denotam on the 50th day of the year, just in case, they'd get to Ghandi on the 57th day and start engineering resets.  Then, they'd leave there on the 64th day and get to their destination on the 71st day.  If they went directly to Sonthert, they'd be decanting Rol thirteen days after they arrived.  If they went to Lanth first, there would be seven day jumps to Lanth and Sonthert with a reset between.  So, they'd arrive in Sonthert on the 92nd day, eight days after they decanted Rol's clone.

When she was asked how active Rol could be after he was decanted, Mikah said he'd have to do physical therapy with her, Zimzod and Sekea guiding and helping.  But they'd be spending weeks if not months searching for any White Star base.  And Zimzod would need support too.  So, Rol would come on line and be able to serve quickly enough.  That meant they'd have to plan for Rol and the medical staff being stuck on the ship for some time.  Despite Nodding, Jocelynn still wanted to kit the gear out in advance.  Jocelynn first asked Colinne if she seriously wanted to stay on the ship and Colinne said she'd just been joking.  She also said she'd do whatever was needed.  Jocelynn decided everyone but Rol would be assigned a suit to start with and she'd make decisions when Rol became available.  When that happened, she'd talk to others who'd have to accept letting Rol hot-swap their suit.  She'd also discuss it with Rol when that was possible.

After the "everyone gets one" decision on suits, Jocelynn had to decide who would be on the two or three-man ice cutting teams, which three crew would work the densometers and who would carry and train to set up the emergency shelter and portable heating unit?  Given the size of some of the gear, they also decided it might be smart to get a sled to put gear on while it wasn't being used.  That way, they weren't backpacking everything everywhere they went.  The good news is that would just be a flat stretch of support material and not likely to degrade in the conditions.  And cheap.  Considering who to assign what, she decided she'd talk to everyone and see what jobs they'd handle best?

When Jocelynn started talking about who would be on the team handling the shelter, Aali said she assumed she'd stay on the ship and handle the engineering systems.  Jocelynn first said the whole crew would be on the planet, but Mikah worried about the damage the environment might do to their newly reworked hull and external systems, sensors and such.  Zimzod worried about leaving the ship unmanned in orbit while not asking if the systems could be set for it to keep itself in place.  Of course, such settings didn't mean accidents, emergency situations or the odd bit of space debris would not affect the ship so he wasn't wrong.

When Sekea asked if they would be landing the ship or using the cutter, he also then realized he didn't know the cargo capacity of the cutter either.  He asked if the cutter could carry the snow cat and was told it could, but with no other cargo.  That meant, they'd have to make multiple trips if they used that, because the team in their suits took up space and they had nine tons of gear to move.  Still, that was based on capacity, not weight, meaning they could likely get everything down in three trips using all the standing room.  And if they wanted to leave the ship in orbit, they also felt they'd need a pilot and had to consider which of their many pilots they'd have do it?  Aiden, Emkir, Fesic, Sekea or Colinne?  Added to that was the fact that all of them were pilots but some didn't have navigational skill and none had engineering skill.  So, in an emergency, they'd need at least one of them and Aali aboard.

When Jocelynn asked them who they thought would be best to assign the job, Emkir suggested it should be someone who could navigate the ship to go for help in an emergency.  Zimzod stepped on that saying, "By the time they get anywhere, we're fucked!" and the others agreed, they wouldn't survive two days exposed on the surface much less two weeks while someone was in jump there and back.  Mikah agreed that if the fleet couldn't answer the beacon, jumping for help out of the system wouldn't help them.  Colinne pointed out that, from what she'd been told, they only had permission to enter the system once, so anyone leaving the system couldn't return.

Weighing the odds of using the ship or the cutter to transit to the surface, Sekea asked what endurance differences there were between the craft?  He was told the ship's hull was much more sturdy and it's systems were less delicate when exposed to the environment.  Passing that by, Jocelynn said she'd prefer Aiden be left aboard the ship, because he was their best pilot and could respond best to any emergency.  She also said he'd have the four engineering 'droids there as backup taking care of the engineering systems.  Accepting that, Aiden asked if it would make sense to do all the drive resets and have the ship ready to jump before they made planet-fall?  He was reminded that they wouldn't just spend months exploring, but would also have to make multiple jumps from point to point in the system.

If they explored Laurasia first, and it was nearing apogee, and wanted to cross to Mynbou while it was nearing perigee, the distance between the worlds would be more than twenty nine days at the ship's best speed to make the crossing.  They didn't have to consider if both worlds were at apogee.  So, they'd have to make an in-system jump to move from one world to the other.  And, that was just the two worlds.  If they had to search the three worlds and multiple moons, they'd be making multiple in-system jumps during their work.  So, they'd be in the Sonthert system for months.  Emkir also mentioned the fact they'd have to find resources from which to refuel the ship.  And that revisited some of the jokes about using the wrong kinds of ice in the fuel purifier.  Because they'd likely have to find water ice on the surfaces of the worlds and moons they visited, that meant landing the ship or making many ice-gathering and ferry trips with the cutter.  So, there was that to consider too.

Looking at the data they had on the system, Sekea was first concerned with the gravity on each world.  He saw Mynbou had ice caps and rings but no atmosphere, and realized the world had once had an atmosphere and lost it.  He asked what information they had about when or how that happened, natural or unnatural?  When they asked him why that mattered, Sekea said it would be valuable to know if the world lost its atmosphere before or after the Order had set up their base in the system?  Others nodded but they had no information on that.  He was told the only way to learn that while in the system would be to land and investigate for themselves.  Zimzod said they could also ask the Arch Duke during their meeting and they racked that question up as another to ask in their meeting.

Questions were asked about the mining colony on the world Vlei, but they would likely have to jump to that world to get anything from there.  So, if they started running low on food, they might have to go trade there to stock up.  Those new to the whole system asked about the actual main world, and were told that was the ultimate mystery about the Sonthert system.  The system was interdicted, preventing travel to and from the system "because of" that world.  But the only reason that could be found was to protect the Imperium and wider universe from their philosophy.  But, the world's society was only rated at tech level five!  So, they were still transitioning from steam and sail to fossil fuel power.  The question that led to was how any world of that kind could be any danger at all to the Imperium or anyone else?

Ignoring that as having no meaning to the questions at the moment, they got back to manning the ship and decided that, no matter what else, Aiden would be left aboard the ship in orbit and have the job of landing when the ship actually had to land.  For instances like refueling, etc.  When Aiden giggled and joked about flying off in his newly acquired ship, Mikah warned, "You know I will haunt you, right?"  Zimzod suggested they find a way to connect the beacon to the snowcat so the ship could find them quickly in case of an emergency and they agreed that was a good idea.  Jumping on that, Aiden again pointed out they were in orbit of a frozen ball and should use that as a chance to train, prepare and figure out what they'd need for Sonthert?  Even though he and Jocelynn had already talked about that with Mikah and Mikah had agreed.  So, Aiden was starting to talk in circles and become less valuable to the conversation.

Despite the circling, Jocelynn did agree and endorse the idea.  Emkir also reminded them this work would take weeks at the least and likely months, so they had to consider what else they'd need.  Sekea nodded and made the point saying, "Provisions."  Aali also reminded them all they had to get done in Denotam and then travel to Ghandi at least, and possibly to Lanth before they made the jump to Sonthert.  So, there could be a number of other delays which they'd have to deal with along their way.  All of them agreed with all of that and also agreed with the fact they had a month on Denotam in which they could work to figure out some of that.  Surprising them all, Mikah mentioned she'd been looking into the idea of what they'd been doing and even come up with something from ancient Terra!

Despite the thousands of years and light years separating them all from Humanitii's homeworld, there were some stories that had stood the test of time.  Mikah had found a tale from a time in Terran history which she thought was at least a century or two before the Terrans went to space.  Late in an era when the world wasn't explored, and finishing the transition from sail and steam to oil and other fossil fuels.  An expedition had been made into the world's frozen wastes and became a horrific odyssey for all aboard.  The text not only had survived, but was used in universities to try giving students an understanding of the many worlds still out there today who's inhabitants had to get things done without higher technology to lean on.  Where they would simply take a shuttle across their world or down from orbit and what those long ago explorers had to go through.  She recommended they pull a copy of the book from the ship's library and told them it was called "The Worst Journey In the World".

Taking a break from the stuff the Arch Duke "gave them" during the day, Fesic had wanted to get moving on selling their cargo.  He knew he had to register with the port to get sales credentials.  When he connected with the port, he had to fill out the request, pay Cr 50 and wait through a three-day waiting period.  Fesic worked through the data, paid the fee and then posted a note asking Mikah to pay him back from ship's funds.  He then checked the options he had, because he couldn't enter data into the port's registry until he was certified.  Still, he could check what was publicly in the port registry already and the ship was listed.  Since they were very new in port, the entry identified the Upgrade as a merchant ship with a cargo of novelty alcoholic beverages from Arden.  That had a note attached making sure others knew that was outside the Imperium.  For other data, it stated those interested should contact the ship's crew directly.

Different Toys From Different Sources
     Aboard the ship, they had to cut the comms with the folks on the port when the naval station began to challenge them.  Aiden fed them the code the crew had been given by the Lt. Commander and they then worked with the Upgrade's flight crew to bring the ship into dock.  After the period of docking and connecting the ship up to station services, the bay they were in was pressurized and Mikah and her people were invited to leave the ship and meet with the naval engineers and officers.  Working with the naval engineers, Aali was given a user ID that would let her connect to an access system.

Standard Engineering DroidThere, she could open screens to view video from cameras covering all work sites on and inside the ship at any time.  So, while the feed would not be a "constant open connection", she could keep it open as often and long as she wanted.  They would also give her contact data for the project manager, naval architect and senior engineers managing the project.  That way, she could contact any or all of them if there was any point of consideration or concern.  Of course, if there was a new idea or request, that would have to be routed through the Arch Duke's people to see if his orders covered that?  The team contained seven LSP engineering 'droids, all the ship's 'droids and ten living engineers, of which one was Darrian.  The navy 'droids were LSP models.

When Aiden asked about any hyper-cold weather adaptations the team could provide, the lead officers asked why?  When Mikah suggested they might be going to an world with an extremely cold environment, they said they'd look into what the Arch Duke's orders mandated and get back to them.  When Mikah said their destination would be colder than the local system, the lead engineer raised an eyebrow at her comment but didn't pursue it at all.  He also didn't mention that the work being done wasn't an open check book.  So, while Lady Mikah's crew couldn't simply ask for what they wanted, he wasn't going to tell them that.

Before leaving the shipyard, the four were treated to a naval lunch.  While Aiden flew the others back to the port on the cutter after that, those on the port had lunch before Colinne had gone into her room to meditate, perhaps recover from some efforts she'd put out and consider the things she'd learned and questions she now faced.  Without his wife to do, Emkir went back to his translation work.  Sekea did some research and found an InstellArms sales venue on-station.  He also saw there were other smaller or more specialized weapons venders, but InstellArms was the "Big Name".  Connecting to IA, Sekea looked into the availability for gauss rifles, since he'd had and lost one aboard the liner.  What he saw was a broad range of different manufacturers for the weapon class, and spent some time looking at what they had.  Eventually, he decided to go visit the shop and get a feel for the weapons they had and buy the one he liked.

Back on the port, Sekea also let the others in the berth know he was going weapons shopping and asked who wanted to go with him?  Hearing that, Emkir and Colinne decided to go with him and secured what they'd been doing at the moment.  The three left for InstellArms while Jocelynn wanted to just set up her quarters and relax a bit with the extra space off-ship.  Fesic relaxed in his quarters and got started by checking on the cargo sealer to make sure it hadn't gotten shaken up or suffered in the move.  When he saw it was working correctly, he started working with it and trying to duplicate seals he had samples from.  While Jocelynn and Fesic worked or relaxed, Colinne and Sekea got a bit of a shock.

For Emkir, the reaction InstellArms had when his crew showed up at any of their shops was old news.  So, he expected the barkers and many flashing video panels and lights that worked to get the passing shopper's attention.  He also expected there to be some greeters outside the entry welcoming wandering or intentional shoppers.  He also knew that InstellArms had the faces of his crew loaded into facial recognition software.  He was very mildly surprised they had concierge personnel waiting "in case" any of his crew came shopping.  Neither Colinne nor Sekea expected the reaction when the venue's management system alerted on Emkir's face, identified the three approaching shoppers and aimed a trio of concierge workers at them with support people in tow.

While Colinne and Sekea had to decide if they were about to be attacked, the lead agent welcomed Sir Emkir and his friends to their venue and asked how they could help?  Female agents stepped up next to Emkir and Sekea while a male agent stepped next to Colinne.  Behind them, support people pulled up in open top electric carts, appearing to prepare them for use by the concierge agents.  Both Sekea and Colinne had been to InstellArms a number of times over their lifetimes.  And they remembered the places as venues you can get lost in for days if the security wasn't so good they'd locate anyone very quickly.  Still, they had never seen levels of service like what they were experiencing before!  Emkir nodded while they were each introduced to their personal shopping assistant and each agent asked the person they were assigned to what they help with?

Showing each shopper visual maps of the "shop", which was large enough to fill an entire hull blister on the outside skin of the station, each asked their assigned shopper what they were interested in and how they could help?  Sekea said he was most interested in a gauss rifle, so the woman assisting him invited him to join her on one of the carts and they drove off into the facility.  Along the way, the woman worked to gauge how much Sekea knew about the class of weapons while also doing her best to learn a bit about Sekea and telling him about the different manufacturers and classes of gauss weapon they had.  Ultimately, she wanted to dial into what quality weapon he wanted along with what features?

When Colinne was asked, she spoke right up and said she was interested in hypoguns.  Nodding, her concierge got her on a cart and they rolled off into the venue.  She got the same treatment Sekea was getting as the carts rolled past foot sore "regular shoppers" passing whole mini-cities of displays for all sorts of weapon system types.  Colinne did joke, "What?  No champagne?"  Her concierge also asked her the same questions and both he and Sekea's companion made sure to commit to the system the fact these were two new crew aboard the Upgrade.  That insured the two would get the same kind of treatment until the day they left Lady Mikah's crew.  It wasn't like having the space shutdown like when the Emperor went shopping, but it was above the treatment many other VIP's got and Sekea and Colinne had to wonder what was up with that?  Something she'd have to ask the crew about later.

One thing Colinne noticed was that her cart was generally holding to the same course Sekea's cart had.  When she asked, Colinne was told both the gauss class of weapons and hypo-based weapons were needle-based systems.  When Emkir was asked what he was looking for, he told his concierge he was specifically looking for gauss rifle tranq rounds.  The woman checked her stock and apologized the venue didn't have any stocks of that kind of ammo, and asked if Emkir wanted her to send messages out-system asking if they had stocks in nearby solar systems?  Nodding, because that was always possible, Emkir asked if they had anything in EMP weapons?  Checking her datapad, the woman happily said, "Yes.  Join me in the cart." and stepped into the roller with Emkir following.

Finally splitting away from the course Sekea's cart took, the cart Colinne was in stopped in a surprisingly large and diverse set of hypogun displays.  The weapon class was something Colinne hadn't even known existed until she saw it used in government service.  Now, she could see many more types and manufacturer's samples than she thought existed for such a simple type of weapon.  Most interestingly, she saw pneumatic, gravitic and electromagnetically actuated versions of the weapon.  She knew the pneumatic units would make a small "spitting" sound when they fired.  She expected the electromagnetic units used linear induction or something similar to gauss weapons, and figured they'd give off a slight hum.  And she had no idea what the gravitics would do but was sure they ate energy from their batteries.  Also, the maximum ranges of the weapons depended on the firing system with the gravitics firing furthest of all.

The devices had varying characteristics, like long or short barrels, wide or thin housings, etc...  A posted warning told buyers that the more powerful and longer ranged guns would risk penetrating the torso of human targets hit at close or very close ranges.  Colinne was not interested in longer ranges and more interested in concealability.  Directing her interest to a specific set of weapons in the display where the man guided her through their selection of 100% composite-constructed hypoguns.  Discussing the weapons, Colinne was told they would not evade x-ray, densometer and other such scanners but would evade metal sensing systems and many other scanner types.  Nodding, Colinne looked for the most compact and thin-bodied weapon while checking the manufacturers she'd come to expect quality from.

When Colinne was obviously interested, her concierge leaned in a bit and told her their venue had lots of a special 100% composite dart ammunition made from sea shells by a firm on Equus.  The normally metallic parts of the dart were replaced by high-density materials from the shells of deep sea mollusks in that system and traded with nearby systems where markets existed.  Colinne said she preferred more silent units, and wanted to avoid the electronic ones.  The concierge showed her shorter range weapons able to fire the darts from Equus, because she was clearly interested in those too.  The model she narrowed it down to was a 100% composite, hyper-pneumatic, ceramic-chambered short range weapon using a ceramic advertised as stronger than plas-steel.  The price was Cr 1,200.  It came with a standard 'off the hip' holster, and when she asked for a concealed holster, she was told they didn't stock those.

A magazine for that weapon held 17 rounds and could fit the ammo from Equus.  When Colinne confirmed she only wanted to buy those darts and would fill them on her own she was told they cost, Cr 80 a magazine.  That was surprisingly, Cr 4 per dart and Cr 12 for the empty magazine.  Colinne ordered the weapon and five clips for Cr 1,600 total.  Colinne also bought a box of 100 empty shell-based darts for Cr 500.  The weapon came with both a carrying case and hip holster.  The concierge did tell Colinne the weapon would have to be delivered to her ship because it was classified as an assassination weapon in the Denotam system.  Quickly, he told her that would be done free for members of Lady Mikah's crew, so she wouldn't be charged.

When his cart arrived, Sekea saw a display of more gauss weapons than he'd seen in the armory of any ship he'd visited the armory of.  And that included a 75,000 dTon attack cruiser!  Looking closer, he could even see they had Zhodani models of the rifles and pistols!  Checking prices, those cost more because of the cache gained from being a captured weapon.  They also had price bumps due to their novelty and other considerations.  The concierge did say, in a smug tone, that those weapons were not up to the technical ratings of Imperial-built weapons.  Knowing he was on the shorter range, he looked for a weapon designed for men of his stature which was of high quality.  The concierge advised him as he took down from the display various weapons and handled them to "get a sense" for the grip and feel of the weapon.  She also discussed manufacturing details and quality testing.  Sekea eventually decided he liked a unit they offered for Cr 17,500.

When he asked about ammo, she offered him 40-round magazines for Cr 50 each.  When he asked for tranq needles, he was told they didn't stock them in the system, like the other concierge had told Emkir out of Sekea's hearing.  Accepting that, Sekea started asking about a backup gauss pistol.  She showed Sekea a hand weapon for Cr 1,000 which used 10-round magazines sold for Cr 25 each.  Sekea bought the pistol and four clips of ammo for it, along with the gauss rifle and four clips of ammo for that.  When Sekea almost immediately started asking about blades, the woman working with him asked if, before that, he might be interested in a gyrostabilizer for his gauss rifle?  Needless to say, Sekea was very interested.  Sekea bought one when he was told it cost Cr 1,750.

After buying fire arms, Sekea wanted to check out the selection of Blade-class edged weapons.  His concierge invited him back into the cart for the ride to that section.  There, Sekea found a wide variety of blade geometries within the 'length and width' specifications for a "blade".  There were also a wide range of manufacturing processes including high-tech ultra-high pressure forged steel and other metals and composite material blades.  There was a huge selection of guard, grip and pommel options too.  Some of the weapons had "blade shapes" which nearly violated the weapon class styles, but looked visually more interesting.  One very unusual style had a cris blade, which would be considered an extreme novelty style for the weapon.  Not into novelty when it came to blades, Sekea bought one of the regular blades for Cr 100, which came with a scabbard.

When Sekea asked about undetectable blades, he was shown the composite blades which again had a warning they would be detected by x-ray or densometer scans but not magnetic detectors.  Now having his interest peaked, Sekea asked if they had composite weapons which were disguised as other items?  The woman checked her datapad before telling him they did, and inviting him to join her in the cart again.  After a fifteen minute ride, they arrived at a section that contained a trove of weapons which were all made of composite materials reducing detectability, that also broke down so they could be "assembled" into other items.  She then showed him a small range of blades which were each displayed next to a small group of every-day items.  Picking up what looked like a foot rest one might use with their desk chair, she pushed in on a certain spot.

While doing that, she also pushed on another point while using her grip to twist the rest.  Suddenly, as she handled the item, one of the legs of the stand came open and she drew a blade grip out of the opening.  Piece by piece, she drew out and constructed a blade from the parts hidden in different sections of the stand.  She then handed the weapon to Sekea and stepped back to let him swing the blade and test it for balance and solidity.  Sekea did as she expected and was very impressed with how tightly the weapon held together for something which had just been assembled.  The only detection warnings referred to the best of expert systems or densometer operators.  Sekea was impressed enough to buy one at Cr 5,000.  When Sekea asked about blades that could dispense poison to the blade she told him they didn't have that but knew one could be ordered from the Regina system.

When Emkir arrived where his concierge drove, he saw the section was the "grenades and explosives" section.  Looking at the selection, he saw they had devices from 'man-portable' to 'vehicle carried', and even crew-weapon fired or launched systems.  The first question Emkir had was if any of the weapons were directional?  He was told no such weapon had been invented.  The concierge did lean closer to him and ask if he'd had evidence of such a weapon existing that he could share?  Emkir could tell, as she did, that mega-Credit profits were dangling in her mind.  She said she could get him a finder's fee from InstellArms.  When Emkir said he was looking for a hand weapon that could be used against robotics, he was told directed EMP weapons didn't exist.  They were detonated "area effect" weapons, and not something you could point and fire.  The closest thing the concierge could offer were harmonics-based weapons.

Those blocked all signals a target device received, usually causing the targeted device to drop like a marionette with its strings cut.  Some high-end weapons worked on harmonic resonance, and were designed to fire beams on frequencies which would match consumer-grade crystal-based electronics and computers.  Those devices caught in the cone of the broadcast would suffer cracks, fractures and possibly shatter any crystals integral to the device.  Not saying so, Emkir was asking about the EMP weapons because of the crew's experience with the two replicant androids they'd encountered.  He liked the idea of the FreqRes weapons but was very worried about the collateral damage because the broadcast could not be limited and every non-targeted device caught in the broadcast cone before the beam faded would be affected.  That meant he had no idea what things, like mass transit vehicles, he could accidentally disable and who he might kill by mistake.  He also privately wondered to himself if Rol would worry about such concerns?

Figuring he'd have more control with an EMP grenade, Emkir looked at the grenades which were three inches in radius.  So, they were not necessarily the easiest thing to handle or throw.  Still, he wanted them around in case someone who was better at throwing things could use them against a threat like the androids.  The concierge also said they had EMP satchel charges which were larger and had a wider area of effect, but also were harder to throw for a distance.  The venue had five grenades for Cr 150 each.  Emkir bought all of those and also got a satchel charge for Cr 1,000.  After that, he went looking for the others and they soon linked up and finished their shopping before returning to the berth.

An Opportune Call
     Nearing half past two, Aiden docked the cutter with the port and returned his craft to the berth.  Disembarking from the cutter, Mikah looked around and called out, "Where is everybody?"  Both Jocelynn and Fesic popped out of their rooms saying they were there and Mikah greeted them both, greeting Fesic somewhat less enthusiastically.  Fesic taunted, "I'm chopped liver, am I?" before Jocelynn said the others had gone to InstellArms.  Mikah was annoyed because she was expecting to deal with any other questions or issues the crew had come up with about Sonthert or cold environment training.  Now, half of them were off buying toys without her.

Rather than calling them to demand they return, Mikah figured they'd be back soon enough.  Mikah and her group relaxed and talked with Jocelynn and Fesic for fifteen minutes before Sekea, Colinne and Emkir got back.  They would have to wait for the delivery from InstellArms to show off their toys.  Not long after they got back and Mikah's team told everyone what happened on the shipyard, InstellArms arrived with their deliveries.  Sekea got one long arm, and one hand gun carry case with some sealed ammo storage.  He also got a blade and what looked like a brief case.  That made them wonder why InstellArms would force a briefcase to be delivered?  Colinne had a funky weapon carry case and a box marked darts.  Emkir got two boxes, one of which was larger than the other and smiled broadly while and after receiving them.

In a saccharine-sweet and high-energy tone, Mikah asked, "So, what did we buy?"  Smiling back, Emkir said, "I managed to get some EMP charges." while holding up the boxes.  He continued, "In case we come up against computer problems."  Continuing, Emkir said, "They didn't have what I wanted so I looked for something interesting."  When Mikah asked what he wanted, Emkir said he'd wanted tranq rounds for his gauss pistol.  Hearing that, Mikah simply shook her head and complained, "InstellArms is going downhill." with a smirk.  Hearing that, Colinne said she had some and would sell some to him for Cr 100,000 per round.  She said she'd also be willing to demonstrate them on him with a smile.  She then corrected herself saying she meant "for him" in a disingenuous tone.

Emkir chuckled and said he could wait while Mikah said, "No.  Rol's the one who catches tranqs."  She then added, "He's very good at catching tranqs."  When Emkir said he bought them for "computer problems" Colinne gave him sad puppy eyes.  Mikah saw that and asked if they were fighting.  when Emkir said, "No!" Colinne did point out, "You said something about computer problems."  Emkir got flustered and started babbling about warbots and androids.  Changing tone and attitude, Colinne said, "I got a hypogun!" in a perky voice.  Mikah heard that and gave out an 'ooooh!'  When Mikah asked what kind of ammo she'd gotten with it, Colinne said the darts were empty in a tone that made it clear she planned to fill them in herself.  Next, Sekea started showing off the fire arms he'd bought along with the gyrostabilizer he had to have attached to the gauss rifle.

After that, Sekea opened the briefcase and showed off his new covert toy. He showed how it assembled into a foot rest which looked like real furniture, then disassembled and reassembled into a combat usable blade!  Then, he showed them the documentation saying it was entirely made of composite materials.  Sekea did say he'd tried to buy a blade that secreted poison onto the blade but the delivery time was too long.  Mikah nodded and said that was OK because they could make poisons for Colinne but she smiled and said, "I can make my own."  Sekea then got excited and said he could make poisons too, and they should compare recipes.  But what Sekea had actually done is made toxic mixes of medications where Colinne could actually brew real poisons.

After going over the toys, Mikah called everyone together to cover more of the open ends on their plans for exploring the Sonthert system.  She then told them she'd given Emkir the order to tell them all about the Sonthert operation and how it came about.  Following that, she wanted to make sure everything was out and explained, so she was going to go over it in detail again.  Then, she wanted anyone who still didn't understand to ask their questions.  After Mikah was done, Sekea still said he had questions to asked the Arch Duke about Mynbou which they didn't have answers about?  Ironically, at that moment Mikah's comms began to buzz.  And when she answered it, she got a voice with a buzz as the Arch Duke said, "Hello.  We are on a secure comms line.  Do we have something to discuss?"

Surprised, Mikah said they did have questions and had just been talking about some of them as a crew.  So, first, the Arch Duke took the floor and reminded them he had granted them the external surveillance system.  He also said he was going one better and adding an order to install local-area ground radar.  Mikah thanked him while Norris reminded them no camera system was ever one hundred percent.  So, the radar system would alert them even if an intruder came at an angle the cameras couldn't cover, out to as far as fifty feet.  He then said he'd sent orders to all ships in-system looking for any ships that have a cloning suite, because it was generally put on some classes of capital ships to help deal with crew losses during the war.  They would locate a spare genetic growth/analysis chamber, which was the lone piece of the suite Mikah's crew still needed.  The equipment would then be installed on the Upgrade and the loaner ship can replace it at any well-supplied naval shipyard.  If needed, he was aware of some ships in the Prince's fleet that had the equipment.

Zimzod's request for medical or cybernetic help in his recovery was more complex.  One of two things had to happen for that to move forward.  If they were going to use cybernetics, the actual hardware had to be in-system.  Calling for it and waiting months to have it delivered wasn't a reasonable option.  So, the hope was there were ships with stockpiles remaining from the Fifth Frontier War when they were used to treat the wounded and get them back into action.  And while growing replacement organs and tissue was something that could easily be done in-system, that would take time too.  Then, after growing what was needed over a week or so, there would be the surgery.  Even Mikah had to be honest with herself and accept that would be a marathon set of surgeries demanding multiple teams and taking more than two days, possibly more than three.

The best way to deal with Zimzod's post-op recovery would be courses of medical slow drug.  That because lying in bed healing naturally meant weeks or months of losing muscle tone while lying in bed.  Since there would have to be more than two rounds of slow drug, they'd have to pause between the rounds to rebuild Zimzod's endurance.  That meant waiting a week between each dose to let his body recover.  Then, they'd need a proper medical team during each treatment, to maintain his input and output, to make sure his body wasn't drained of resources in each 24-hour treatment.  That meant nearly a month of surgery and recovery after growing the replacements.  And the Upgrade only had a med-bay.  The Arch Duke also told Zimzod to talk with Mikah about either option and be prepared to decide how they felt about it before they proceeded, so they would be ready to make personal and medical decisions after the resources were located.

The idea of a suit of battledress for Rol was also problematic for several reasons.  Giving one suit to an unknown wasn't an issue, and that had been the case when he'd legalized Zimzod's armor.  Granting Rol the armor, which also meant granting the crew yet another suit, could be seen as stamping Rol as "his man" and the ship and crew as members of his household.  Given the questions about both Rol himself and the crew, Norris wasn't certain he wanted to make that political statement nor did he feel they wanted that.  Because of that, that question was still under consideration.  Another concern rose from the discussions he has had with his people and some of the Prince's people.  Given they already had two suits aboard and would then have a third, the situations they got involved in presented a risk where one or more suits could be taken from them and become a hazard to Imperial civilians until the Imperial Navy was forced to hunt down the new owners and neutralize them.  So, they were not happy with the idea of increasing the risk beyond where it currently stood.  Because of that, the Arch Duke said they would not likely approve that.

Norris then said he'd already agreed to the cloning suite and external security systems, so not allowing them a 'droid or two as reward would be odd.  He said he'd sent orders to the fleets in-system asking for any spare 'droids.  that meant two or three of those would likely be left aboard when ship when it was returned to them.  A similar search of the fleet was ordered for the request for a cutter that was both armed and had a chameleon hull.  Norris reminded them the combination was rare.  Armed cutters were devoted to ship-to-ship combat roles while cutters equipped with chameleon hulls and other stealth systems were for ground assault.  The two very rarely went together, and no division in the fleets in the Denotam system supported that role.  Hearing that, Mikah thanked him for trying to get them what they'd asked for and mentioned they had some questions about their future travels too.

The first question went to Fesic who said, "So, we encountered an item that was in a marketplace that was purchased which was an Imperial sensor drone and we've found that it is currently...  That we have no authority to use the sensor drone, and we were hoping you would grant us that authority, similar to the way you'd legalized Zimzod's battledress?  Raising an eyebrow, Norris asked if they had the model number for the drone?  When Fesic sent the model number, both the Arch Duke's eyebrows rose and Norris then muted them and checked with someone off screen.  When he came back, Norris asked, "Can you give me the model information from your computer?" with a bit of a sparkle in his eyes.  And when Fesic handed that question over to Colinne, as their computer officer, she was again dealing with a person more powerful than she ever dreamed possible in her life.  Like any other proper military rating, Colinne bounced the data to the comms and said, "Data sent Sir." as if she were working on any other ship's bridge.

After muting the line and consulting with others off screen, Norris came back with a smile on his face and asked, "You haven't tried to use this yet have you?"  The question was more of a statement.  Mikah said they hadn't and his smile broadened.  He said, "That's good!  If you had, in fact, tried to use it connected to your ship's computer, the computer would have become a giant brick and someone would have found your bodies drifting in space and taken your ship as salvage.  And everything aboard your ship would have been in working order except the computer, which would have been fried due to the inability to handle the throughput from the drone.  Norris then continued, "The reason this classified device was only deployed to capital vessels is that those ships are the only ones large enough to carry a computer core large enough to handle the throughput from the drone without frying."

Mikah nodded and said, "So, I guess you want it back."  Norris smiled again and gave her an ironic "Sure" because they both knew she didn't even have to ask.  Mikah nodded and said it was in the berth with them if the Navy wanted to send someone to pick it up.  In the background, Fesic was scratching 'learning how to use the sensor drone' from his to-do list.  Again, Norris gave an Ironic "Sure." before saying "No problem.  We'll have someone from the local system take care of that."  After Mikah nodded and said OK, the Arch Duke asked, "And, where did you pick that up if I might ask?"  Mikah told him they'd gotten it in Tremous Dex without batting an eye.  Nodding, the Arch Duke said, "We have a Commander Peser Tindesu in that system right now sorting them out." and Mikah agreed they needed some sorting out.

Mikah added, "I'm glad we were able to purchase it and get it back to where it belongs."  Norris chuckled and said, "Based on your reports from the system, less to sort out then before."  Mikah just answered, "Yeah, well.  It is what it is."  Moving on from that, Fesic then asked about getting some kind of lock pick training from the Navy, or perhaps getting a chip with the knowledge implanted?  Hearing that, Norris smiled and said, "As I'm sure you're aware, lock picking is not exactly a legal skill except in a very specific and narrow career field.  And I'm sure you're also aware that lock picking by military units is generally handled using explosives or electro-magnetic force.  So, I am very doubtful but I will send out an order asking if there is any educational material we can provide you to answer this request. Going further, he admitted he was highly doubtful that would exist in the military formations in-system.

Done with the leading questions, the ball was handed to Sekea and he asked the Arch Duke if he had any information on when the planet of Mynbou in the Sonthert system had lost its atmosphere and how that aligned with the Imperial Knights setting up their base there?  When he finished his question, there was a noticeable pause before Norris reacted and they could almost say he froze!  Norris then said, "I've consulted with my people after word came to me that your crew were looking into this system."  Norris then added, "And, that may have been before you joined Lady Mikah's crew because it was my memory this was being investigated by a Sir Terin Yundis Geryen, who was a member of the crew.  And I don't see him there today.  What happened to him?"  Trying to ignore the snickers suddenly coming from her crew, Mikah said, "He died in the Tremous Dex system.  He made many mistakes and the pirates killed him.  And that led to Sir Zimzod's significant wounds while trying to rescue Sir Terin."

The Arch Duke nodded and said, "Still.  he was a Knight of the Imperium and his service should be recognized."  Mikah nodded and said, "Yes he was." though she'd have preferred to roast him for the many of his failures she'd seen.  After that, Norris said, "So, I guess we're going to have a memorial service." and Mikah was forced to agree.  When Norris heard Jocelynn mutter, "I hope they don't want the body." he said, "No.  We don't need the body, but we do need testimonials and for his former crew to stand up and speak about his value to the Imperium."  When Mikah said, "OK." Norris added, And smile while doing it, but not in glee."  Despite the turn the conversation had taken, that had them all laughing.  While Mikah was promising her crew could do that, Zimzod muttered, "You picked up on that, huh?"  Leaning into the camera, Norris said, "Remember, Sir Zimzod.  I met Sir Terin."  The smile on the arch Duke's face as he said that was not kind.

Mikah nodded and mentioned Terin's errant shot at a fleeing grav bike well out of his range and how the fired round fell into a crowd of spectators and wounded a planetary nobleman from Regina.  Moving to re-take the focus, Sekea nodded and said, "Indeed, his untimely demise led to my being hired as the ship's new navigator."  Nodding, the Arch Duke told Sekea, "May your service be at least one tenth of one millionth of a percent better than his and it will be an improvement of the service your crew are giving the Imperium none the less."  Sekea promised to strive to "achieve that lofty goal."  Appearing to look more closely at Sekea, the Arch duke then asked, "You're Sir Sekea Sian.  Are you not?"  Surprised to be recognized, Sekea could only stand a bit more straight and say "Yes."  He was so shocked he didn't even add the usual "Sir".

Giving as short nod, Norris asked, "Aren't you supposed to be dead in Tremous Dex?"  With an almost hangdog smile, Sekea said, "Reports of my death have been vastly exaggerated." which got laughs all around.  Nodding, Norris said, "According to the reports from Lady Mikah, I think I now understand how that happened."  Addressing Mikah, Norris said, "And I hope this gentleman proves a better replacement part for the role in your crew."  Mikah nodded and said, "He already has begun to do that and I'm sure he will continue to do better."  Behind her, Fesic cracked, "It's doubtful" though the smile on his face made it clear he was joking.  Mikah only scowled and said anyone was better than Terin, in answer to which Emkir asked, "Munarshu?"  Mikah had to give Emkir that because no one had been worse than Munarshu.

After the laughing, the Arch Duke got serious again and focused back on Sekea.  Repeating that he'd checked with his people, Norris told them as far as the Imperium was concerned, Mikah's crew appeared to be the current experts on the outer worlds of the Sonthert system.  And listening to his tone, they couldn't tell if that was a good thing or not?  Still, there had been two Imperial surveys of the region completed.  The First Grand Survey of Imperial territory was ordered by Empress Porfiria in the 300th year of the Imperium.  It was completed after the 500th year.  Data for the Sonthert system from that survey matches the current details for the Mynbou planetary system.  So, the loss of Mynbou's atmosphere was not recent at all, or within the period after the Imperium settled the Spinward Marches.  Norris continued, "The event you mentioned had happened after the Second Frontier War, which ended in the 620th year.  So, the conditions were the same as they currently are.

The Arch Duke then seemed to focus more on Sekea and continued, "But you asked a specific question beyond the state of the system.  Not sure where the Arch Duke was going, everyone was listening when Norris continued, "You asked 'how that aligned with the Imperial Knights setting up their base there'.  When Sekea nodded and said, "Yeah." Norris' voice got very tight and he said, "This is not something I have ever discussed with your crew.  Nor is it something I have been able to discuss with very many people in very many circles because this is a highly classified issue."  Listening to his words, the tone of the Arch Duke's voice had more than a few of the crew worried Sekea had crossed some sort of critical line.  Still, they hung on his every word and waited for him to continue.

The Arch Duke then said, "This is the first time you've indicated that you knew about this Order, which wasn't guessed despite the many speculations on why your crew was interested in this system.  I also want to congratulate you because most of the people in this room with me, who are my most trusted team, have not heard of this despite their clearances and jobs.  So, we will have to raise their clearances and read them in on this issue to an extent."  The more he spoke, the larger the pits got in the stomachs of each member of the crew because an Arch Duke could make you do things, but you "did Not" make an Arch Duke do things, or even try if you wanted to live long.

Confirming their feelings, Norris then admitted, "And this will be a matter of some annoyance to me."  Norris continued, "That said, I'm going to have to have some discussions face to face with you and your crew.  And we're going to do this tomorrow and you are going to be read in as much as I know as you move forward with this.  But you will bear the weight of this knowledge.  And if that knowledge gets out, there will be the inferno of stars to deal with.  Changing focus, the Arch Duke said, "Lady Mikah, do we have an understanding?"  Unhappily, Mikah only answered, "Yes Sir."  Norris nodded and said, "This will be continued tomorrow in a face to face meeting." and Mikah again answered, "Yes Sir."  The Arch Duke nodded to a staffer to set the meeting up and the call ended.  After dinner, they were called by Norris' personal attaché and he gave them a location on the Naval base, telling them the entire crew had to report to that location the next morning at 10 am.


Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Everyone but Rol: In the berth after having a call with the Arch Duke  
     Rol: 8 weeks and 2 days until the clone is decanted  

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Next: Drinks And Secrets On Ice