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Last Updated     March 25 2023
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Drinks In The Darkness
     In a freak accident, Emkir had fallen into a crevasse and died of his injuries.  After they'd moved him to the Denotam Dirtside Naval base hospital, an administrator told Mikah they could keep Emkir's body in stasis until Aali was ready for them to have the funeral.  Mikah then called Jocelynn to help with Aali while she began dealing with her grief.  Finally, Aali said she wanted to spend some time alone, so she asked to be shuttled to the shipyard in orbit, to work on the Upgrade while she dealt with her feelings.  Officers from the base command then called for a transport to take the engineer to the shipyard.

Before Mikah had called her to come to the hospital, Jocelynn had the rest of the crew packing and storing all the gear back to their berth.  Jocelynn was upset and angry, and was damned if she was gonna let the crew be roped into more of the practices.  Especially after Sekea's research said the possible base couldn't have survived on Laurasia or Oseaan.  Like hers, the mood among the crew was certainly dark and low.  Surprising the others, both Arch Duke Norris and Prince Lucan rushed over to take part in a small memorial for Emkir and included Terin too.

They then said they'd take part in a funeral service for Emkir when Aali was ready.  It made a bit of sense since Norris had officiated at their wedding nearly a year and a half before.  Mikah nodded at that and said she'd tell Aali when the engineer was ready to hear it.  Mikah was also concerned about Jocelynn because the young marine seemed as shell-shocked and wounded as Aali was.  Mikah had called to the berth hoping to have another woman to help manage Aali and was now uncertain if she had doubled her work load?  Thankfully, the base command set up a shuttle for Aali and had some of the base clergy help get Aali to the port and strapped in.  After the launch, Aali could be alone with her thoughts while she hugged the plastic-wrapped banner they'd given her and cry.

After Aali left, Mikah got Jocelynn into another car and had the driver bring them back to the berth.  There, they joined the others who were sitting and individually dealing with the events of the day in their own mental worlds.  Zimzod was still dealing with his medical condition on top of the events and decided to deal with it the way any hardened combat vet would.  He went back into his room and rooted through his gear until he found the bottle of rock gut he had.  Labeled "Wild Ride", he cracked open the liter of the bourbon and started pouring shots.  Seeing that, Mikah grabbed a bottle of red wine to drink from her stockpiles.  While Fesic went through Aali and Emkir's booze collection and pulled out the rum, Jocelynn went to her room to deal with her feelings on her own.  The others knew that wasn't a good sign but let her go for the moment.  Fesic popped the rum and started sharing that around to those interested.  Beyond that, the crew sat in silence and their thoughts as the afternoon started to pass.

About mid-afternoon, Mikah got a ping from what there was of the world's network and checked her comms.  The message said she'd received an X-Mail from a data-download delivered by an x-boat.  Wondering what new problem that was, Mikah checked and saw she could download it from any of the ship's terminals and logged in to do that.  When she checked, Mikah saw the mail file was from a "Mrs. Shasim Gangili" and came to Denotam from the Efate system.  Not remembering who that might be or when she'd ever met this woman, Mikah opened the file to read it.  The letter was poignant, and thanked Mikah and the crew rescuing her on Wypoc.  The x-mail also had a bank code to claim the promised Cr 5,000 reward.  Mrs. Gangili apologized for the delay in x-mailing them, but said there was a lot to deal with.  Including simply getting back to her homeworld from Wypoc after the crew rescued her.  Mikah had to think back to Wypoc, more than three months before, when they'd rescued Mrs. Shasim Gangili and Ms. Agimari Gushdugar from a dragon hunt gone bad.

Mikah saved the code and figured she'd get the cash from the bank and share it around with the crew later.  For the time being, Mikah wanted to get over the morning's events before looking into how to set up a funeral for Emkir?  When she got herself in gear for that, Mikah also remembered the base clergy had offered to help in any way they could.  Good with asking for help, Mikah called the base operator and got the codes to call the clergy.  In that office, Lieutenant Sonwe Ghapod and Lieutenant Commander Usdar Shauum had known the call would come, and were ready to help Lady Mikah when they picked up.  After the greetings, Mikah asked how to proceed and they told her it would be up to Aali and the crew how she or they wanted to proceed?  They also asked what religion Emkir professed?  Mikah admitted she didn't know and said she would eventually call Aali.  Mikah then spent some time telling the officers what she did know while they gave her ideas and descriptions.

During Mikah's call with the clergy, Fesic had been sipping at the rum when a call came to his comms too.  Answering his comms, Fesic found himself talking to a Lieutenant Commander Teresko of the Imperial Navy.  Fesic could see Teresko's uniform had a number of badges and markings including one that marked him as an aide to a higher ranking officer or official.  While Fesic read the man's uniform markings, Teresko introduced himself and told Fesic he was calling on behalf of the Arch Duke.  The officer then told Fesic that the Arch Duke had polled the entire fleet and confirmed there were no lock picking classes to be had or found.  What civil engineering personnel were with the fleet had their training in bases on planets or stations, and the only other "lock based" data they had was by blasting through them.  Fesic was disappointed but thanked the man before they signed off.

Done with Commander Teresko, Fesic heard Mikah talking about Emkir's services with the clergy.  Fesic said he could go through Emkir's gear and find his ISS belt buckle, to return to the ISS with Terin's.  While he talked about that, Mikah decided to see if she could connect to Aali and ask her some of the questions, even if she regretted intruding on the engineer's privacy.  When Aali answered and Mikah said she was trying to get some information for the clergy, Aali said Emkir had never been very religious.  She said she felt Emkir would have wanted a basic Vilani service.  She also asked Mikah to have Emkir cremated and she'd splurge for a good urn.  Aali said she thought Emkir would have liked to return to Roup.

After finishing with Aali, Mikah disconnected that call and told the clergy she wanted to proceed with the cremation as soon as possible.  Lt. Commander Shauum said he could have Lieutenant Ghapod set that up immediately, and the urn would be ready for the funeral, or to hand off, whenever the crew were ready for that.  Mikah figured the funeral would be on hold until Aali felt she was ready to return to the crew.  After Mikah was done with the call to the clergy, Aiden asked if she should have a wake or not?  Mikah wasn't sure, with Aali being in orbit, but said they likely should have one.  Falling back on her other answers, she said they should probably wait until Aali came back from the ship for that too.

Appointments And Recovery
     After it's transit, the shuttle INS Iakaa Naashki docked with the shipyard station and members of the crew helped Aali transfer to the shipyard.  Aware she was coming, and updated on events on-world, Commander Kushsa Mikiesgi and his officers met her in the bay.  Also present was another officer from the Imperial Navy who wasn't part of the station staff.  After the introductions and condolences were done, the station commander said Aali had arrived just in time for the newest update on activities.  With a possible whisp of distaste the station commander introduced the other officer, who commanded the team of inspectors.  That man came to a semblance of attention and greeted Aali.

He then stepped into an informal report on his team's work aboard the Upgrade.  While he explained, it seemed the sensor drone Arch Duke Norris had removed from their ship had triggered the more complete investigation.  So, his people had been through the ship with a fine-tooth comb looking for things the Imperial Navy would disapprove of.  The man admitted they had come across some interesting reading material in their search, and Aali could only think of the conspiracy theory books on legends and the Ancients that Zimzod had, along with the stuff left behind by former crew members like Brian and Zach.  But she kept her mouth shut while the officer talked.  Finally, he mentioned a fairly advanced piece of software for opening locks that his team noticed, and actually winked as he said his team would take no action on that item.

The officer then handed a datapad with his report on it to the station commander, and a similar datapad to Aali.  He then finished with the military niceties before leaving the station with his people.  That gave Aali a chance to check and confirm the software the officer mentioned was the lock cracker program Emkir had used to enhance his reputation.  Confirming that, Aali let a junior officer lead her to the stateroom assigned to her with a staffer carrying her gear.  She waited until she was alone before pulling out her comms to call Colinne.  When Colinne answered, "Wassup?" Aali told her Emkir had a software package for lockpicking and code cracking.  Colinne was very interested, and Aali told her there were copies of the software on the ship's computer and in the hands of Mikah, Zimzod and others.  Aali suggested she check with Mikah, and added that there was even a copy on Emkir's hand computer, and Colinne said she'd check it out.

After Aali and Colinne finished their call, Colinne asked Mikah about the software and got a thumbnail sketch explanation of the package.  Mikah said it came from a hand computer "dropped" by a high government official when they'd been hired to recover a drifting hulk a few years before.  That was back when Sir Brian was alive and she, Brian and Zimzod started looking at it while keeping quiet at first.  Later, a copy was given to Emkir and others, and Emkir used it to hyper-inflate his reputation when dealing with other ship crews, or those new to the crew who hadn't learned of the program yet.  Now, Mikah said, only Sekea and Colinne hadn't been told about the software.  But since both of them were in the berth's lounge at the moment, she only hoped Sekea was listening too.  Mikah also said it was perhaps time to give Fesic a copy of the software so he's stop whining about picking locks.  Hearing that, Fesic said he already had a copy which left others wondering why he was making so much noise about his classes?

Aboard the shipyard station, Aali got herself set up and then went out to see to the work being done on the Upgrade.  Getting directions from some passing crew and the wall-mounted plaques, Aali made her way.  She came to a set of passage-arms which ran three sides around the ship with windows allowing those moving through to see what exterior work was being done and by who?  Since they were installing cameras in the hull, and had to strip hull plates from the ship, the shipyard enveloped the ship in a giant transparent bag which they pressurized.  That let workers operate in zero-gee without space suits.  They'd also built out racking structures to hold onto materials so things like hull plating wouldn't float into the walls holding in the air.  After checking out the work environment, Aali moved in to join with the teams who had just been given the OK to go back to work.

Downwell, in the berth, Colinne had talked to Mikah and Mikah said she'd get Colinne a copy of the program soon.  Accepting that, Colinne logged into her portable computer and started poking at the electronic environment around them.  What she saw as she started to survey the digital landscape was a mix of highly secure military structures and random levels of other security from tight to non-existent where she found civilian structures.  A good number of the civilian networks were marked as secure but the varying levels of security showed they perhaps had issues getting the most up-to-date software or patches.  Spending the time to survey what was out there, Colinne was certain she could get into a number of the civilian networks be they ship or ground facility.  The banks she could see had security ranging from extreme for the bigger and more influential to "less so" for more generic banks.  Of course, none would be easy to hack.

Like the banks, the merchants also showed a wide range of public facing security profiles, with the highest being those on the Imperial Naval base.  The only low-end profiles Colinne could find for systems she guessed were on the base were personal electronics, and those she looked at didn't provide deeper penetration than the units themselves.  That suggested anything they were connected to had significantly higher security if they were connected to other networks.  Another thing Colinne found was that almost all Imperial networks had a "chase application" she was familiar with.  It was Imperial network security, and traced and tracked traffic to confirm the source of flowing data advertised the same device data that network access points actually logged it coming from.  Colinne could see that "faking it" wasn't going to work on the Imperial networks.  It also told her she "could try" to fake it to the local networks.  But she'd have to hope the logs traded by backbone devices didn't tell on any fake traffic she tried to feed pasat local networks onto the Imperial ones.  So, as always, trying to piggy back from vulnerable devices into the secure Imperial networks would be risky at best.

Done with exploration, Colinne decided to have some fun slipping into badly secured home control systems and playing with their entertainment selections, in-home lighting and other items.  Sadly, there was no real feedback, so there wasn't a punch line in it and she wasn't doing any more than raising the rate of calls to helpdesks by a few percentage points.  She'd bet she caused a few more service calls so the field techs might get some extra income, but that wasn't doing her any good and the work was entirely basic.  While she did that, Sekea had spent some time checking on network for places where he can replace gear he lost and wanted to replace, had access to or wanted to buy new.  Sadly, the market was based on what was imported to Denotam.  That was because a vender could buy a few extra of what sold with very little risk.  Imports were also affected by what the clan populations ordered, which was eclectic at best.  And that consumer pattern didn't lower any of the high pricing for imported goods.  Sekea also knew they'd be stopping in the Ghandi and Lanth systems next, so he could likely get better pricing in one of those systems.

After spending much of the afternoon and evening relaxing, Fesic had asked about Emkir's ISS belt buckle since he had Terin's to return to the ISS.  He'd then recovered Emkir's belt buckle and called the Scout base on-world to see about turning them in.  Fesic also asked about having a new buckle made to replace the one he'd lost?  Fesic was told the base could handle both tasks and he set an appointment for ten the next morning.  The tech on the line also warned Fesic that the process of creating a new belt buckle took five hours, so it would not simply be a quick trip.  Fesic thanked the operator and asked if anyone else wanted to go to the base with him?  Colinne decided she'd go, despite the hours it would take and may have largely done that because no crew member should be out without back up in her opinion.

When it came to dinner time, Mikah announced she was gonna check out who would deliver, and she ordered food for the entire crew.  Placing the order, Mikah was told it would cost Cr 120 for the whole crew and paid that from her funds.  Telling everyone food was coming Mikah relaxed until it got there.  Just as it was arriving, Mikah got a call on her comms and had to send someone else to get the delivery while she answered the call.  Connecting, she found herself talking to a seneschalate officer for the office of Count Alaranjados Peleslok of Denotam.  That officer had her hold for the Count and the faces quickly changed.  When Mikah asked how she could help His Excellency, he first said he wanted to deliver his condolences on their loss.  The Count also asked when it would be convenient for Mikah and her crew to meet with him in his Court the next day?

Mikah considered as she answered and said the rest of the crew could be there any time the next day, but Emkir's wife, Aali, had left for the shipyards in orbit to have some "alone time".  When Mikah asked if she had to be there, since she wasn't coming back for a few days, the Count said he wanted to talk to them on another matter.  He then said it wouldn't be important enough to disturb Aali.  Nodding, Mikah suggested two in the afternoon the next morning and the Count said that was perfect.  Mikah then asked for the coordinates to visit and when they were sent they saw the location was the Count's planetside office.  That was within the naval base, so it was easy to reach though they'd have to use the cutter or some other vehicle.

After dinner, Fesic decided it was time to check the gear he'd used while trying to save Emkir.  He cleaned, inspected and repacked the climbing spikes and hammer because they were fine.  He then tried to re-coil the cord he had, but found he couldn't get it as tight and compact as it had been.  That meant he had to look for someone who had a machine to re-coil the cord so it could be stored properly.  Telling the others he was leaving, Fesic went in search of some port workers from the berth engineering crew.  It didn't take him long before he found someone to work with and, after some time, Fesic returned to the others.  He'd paid the man and carried the tightly coiled cord.  Getting back, Fesic repacked the cord and joined the crew again.  That done, the evening was muted as each of the crew tended to their own needs.  When the time came, on the shipyard station and berth, each of the crew bedded down with Fesic and Colinne setting alarms for the trip to the scout base.

Appointments And Options
     The next morning, after people woke, did their morning routines and had breakfast, Fesic told Mikah he had an appointment on the scout base and Colinne was going with him.  Mikah wasn't happy with that surprise and told Fesic and Colinne about the meeting with the Count at two that afternoon.  When she asked him if he would be able to join them for the meeting, Mikah wasn't inspired when Fesic said, "Well, I'm part of the crew, so I'll be there."  Despite his words, Fesic had clearly not checked the timing and travel issues for his meeting or the location of the Count's court, so she felt just saying "I'll be there" meant nothing.  When she pushed, Fesic admitted he'd have to check to see if they could start the steps to make a new buckle and let him go, or if he'd have to do that on another day?  Mikah was more satisfied with that answer and let the topic go.

After eating, Fesic and Colinne left the berth and got one of the regular "taxi" transports the bases sent to the port.  That military service was provided because the bases were so close by.  It made travel easy and free to get to the scout base.  There, neither of them had any Silver Asteroids because Colinne wounds happened during a part of her career where she was awarded Purple Hearts instead.  So, the two went directly to the office where Fesic could turn in the belt buckles.  After he turned the buckles in and they completed that work, Fesic asked about having a new buckle made for himself?  Fesic made sure to ask if he could start the process, then leave and come back?  The Scout they were working with started telling Fesic the work would cost Cr 10,000.  After that, they would put Fesic in a medical bay and spend hours scanning him for the biometric data which would be embedded into the buckle.  Seeing he'd not be able to walk away, Fesic told them he'd get a buckle another time.

While Fesic worked with the scouts, Colinne went to check out the base exchange and see what they had?  Wandering through the space, she saw some items brought in from systems a tech level or more higher than Denotam, but nothing specifically jumped out at her.  The prices were also similar or higher than local prices in order to not compete with local vendors, where those could be found.  That was unusual, and suggested the Imperium was working to make some kind of positive impact on-world.  Still, Colinne did find a tablet-based book on the flora and fauna of Denotam.  Figuring that was a good subject to learn about "just in case", Colinne bought the book for Cr 75.  Shortly after that, Fesic called Colinne and told her he wasn't getting the new buckle and they would be leaving sooner.  Accepting that, Colinne and Fesic joined up and made their way back to the berth.

In the berth, Jocelynn asked if they "all" had to go to meet the Count, making it clear she hoped she didn't have to go.  What was also clear to Mikah and the others was that Jocelynn was still angry at the loss of Emkir under her watch.  Mikah, Rol and some others could see she was blaming herself as much as she was blaming others for a loss she felt was useless.  For the time being, Mikah let her return to her room and grab some more sleep, because she didn't feel like poking the bear until she had to.  So, Jocelynn went into her room and locked the rest of the universe away because she really didn't care what this Count wanted from them and didn't want to find out.

After that, Mikah felt they needed some good news and logged into a terminal to connect to the bank and cash in the KCr 5 code from Shasim Gangili.  Mikah hoped reminding the crew they had rescued people too would raise spirits as much as the cash from the reward would.  Mikah then transferred that to her account before farming the cash out to the ship's account and others based on the formula they had in place.  During this, Sekea asked if they should look into topping up their med-kits to replace the supplies they'd used trying to save Emkir?  This despite the fact Sekea's kit hadn't really been used.  Mikah could also tell Sekea that, in a crisis, his kit could handle two critical cases and cover burns and lesser wounds for up to a platoon.  On the other hand, Mikah's kit was a full surgeon's trauma kit and could handle quite a number of critical cases.

The only thing neither Mikah nor Sekea could carry were items like plasma, which is why she was screaming for it while she worked on Emkir.  And they hadn't used any supplies from the ship's med-bay because it was in orbit with the autodoc.  When Sekea asked if he should inventory his kit and hers, Mikah said "Sure, knock yourself out." in a tone saying she really didn't care, and kept working on sharing out the Cr 5,000.  Done, Mikah told them all the ship would get Cr 2,507 and they'd each get Cr 277.  Hearing that, Zimzod joked, "That's good for three drinks.  Who's coming with me?"  When Colinne and Fesic got back, and she was told of the cash, Colinne said the cash would all go to her debt for the gauss rifle.  That meant she now owed Mikah Cr 8,723.  The crew had lunch after that.

Leading up to lunch, Zimzod had set the drinks aside and done what stretches and exercises he could.  Aiden had laid out the suit he wanted to wear to go to the Count's court.  Jocelynn had grabbed more sack time until she was woken for lunch, and to get ready to go visit the Count.  Sitting down to eat, Zimzod asked if the Count had said what the meeting was about?  Mikah acerbically said, "I'm sure he wants to hire us to do something stupid, so we'll just go down and talk to him about it."  Mikah's comment didn't do Jocelynn's attitude any good and Zimzod treated them all to a huge smile before saying, "Business as usual then!" in a happy tone.

Wanting to prevent any faux pas, Mikah asked what people were planning to were and bring to meet the Count and Zimzod said he'd wear his suit and dress like he usually did.  With his K-bar and Darrian gauss pistol.  Colinne said she was most dangerous with a computer so she'd bring hers.  She'd also wear one of her business suits and not bring a weapon.  Aiden also went with his usual kit, but ditched the goggles and loaded one file of ball and one of Tranq in his ammo magazine.  Sekea chose his conservative suit and med-kit.  Ironically, he'd also bring the snub pistol Mikah had given him from ship's stores, which had been given to Sir Terin by Duke Luis' of Lunion.  Fesic also planned to dress from his kit, and go without a weapon because he wasn't an Imperial Knight.

When Mikah got to Jocelynn, the woman said she didn't want to go in a surly tone.  Told she had to go, Jocelynn nodded and said she'd wear one of the same outfits she wore when acting as a body guard for Mikah.  For an honor weapon, she'd bring a snub pistol.  Nodding, Mikah said she'd wear her 'Sunday-go-to-meeting" outfit and Jocelynn showed a spark of life, asking, "With your bonnet?"  Mikah smiled, nodded and said, "With my pretty floral bonnet."  That got laughs from the members of the crew for whom 'pretty floral bonnet' referred to an entirely different situation.  Mikah then continued, "And I'm gonna bring my handy dandy laser pistol with me.  My good one."  After lunch, Sekea did his survey of the med-kits and saw that he hadn't used any of his supplies.  In Mikah's kit, he saw she'd used a large amount of clotting powders and some amount of injectable clotting agents as well as adrenaline.  She'd also used some anti-infectants, spot treatments and attempted to sew up a number of wounds.  Beyond that, she'd used a lot of gauze.  Because it had been "in your face" first aid, nothing she used cost much and the total he guessed she'd need to spend was Cr 100 to replace it.

Mikah nodded and said they'd stock up after they went to a world with better options and prices.  They all knew they'd next be heading to the Ghandi system, which was a trading world.  Prices there tended to be high but they had nearly everything a spacer could think of.  After that, they'd be bound for Lanth.  Lanth was a green world that had an industrial base, meaning prices for food were very low.  They also exported manufactured goods, meaning the road beyond Denotam offered options.  Hearing the talk of buying things, Jocelynn said she was still using a set of combat armor from the ship's locker which it fit her perfectly.  When Jocelynn asked, Mikah said she could just keep it.  Past that, it was one in the afternoon when Mikah started thinking about transport to the court buildings.  Since their cutter was the only vehicle they had that would carry the whole crew, Mikah called the Court to ask about using and landing the cutter.  The operator she got told her the court buildings were on the naval base, so they'd send a snow cat large enough to transport the crew.

Mikah announced that to the others and they all spent half an hour getting ready for their audience.  At half past one, the snowcat arrived and they all piled into it for the ride to the court building.  Reaching the complex, they saw the seneschalate building itself looked to be ten stories tall.  The other buildings of the County were smaller but more ornate.  The most ornate, and some would say visibly imposing were the buildings that housed the Court auditorium and the Count's office.  Arriving in the garage, they were helped to dismount by officers of the seneschalate, and guided into a meeting room rather than open court.  While they moved through the halls, they saw that traffic was light so they guessed the Count wasn't actually holding court that day.  In the room, they were not surprised to be told to wait a bit and the Count would be with them.  The room itself was well decorated and had small displays of various gifts and artifacts given by the locals over the centuries that Denotam was an Imperial member world.

Looking over the artifacts, they could see some were very nice and artistic while some very obviously had only one reason why they existed.  Zimzod appreciated the more "barbaric" items.  Not long after they got there, the Count arrived with some of his staff and followed by two men in Imperial navy uniforms.  Almost automatically, the former military in the crew read the men's uniforms and saw they were both medical officers.  One of them, a Commander.  Asking everyone to be seated, the Count was much more direct and open instead of standing on any kind of ceremony.  He introduced himself and his people while they sat.  He then pointed to the senior of the officers and said, "This is Commander Niargii shi Ginenku, Senior Medical officer of the INS Maadashmim Zikheaa, and he'd like to have a word with Lady Mikah and Sir Zimzod.  So, I will give the floor to the Commander and let him deal with his business first."

Straightening his uniform as he stood again, the Commander thanked the Count, then turned to face Zimzod.  He said, "Sir Zimzod, we are here on behalf of the Arch Duke and you've made a specific request of him.  We are here to begin that work for him if you are willing to come with us?"  The mood of the crew immediately improved when they saw Arch Duke Norris was making good on another promise.  Zimzod smiled and said, "All Right!"  Turning to the others, he said, "I guess I'll be seeing you guys later."  Mikah interrupted, and asked the Commander if he was prepared to keep Mikah posted and up to date on Zimzod's condition?  Smiling, the Commander nodded and said that she was a doctor so he could give her the roadmap they planned to use to resolve Zimzod's medical issues.

Since they already had some of Zimzod's genetic material from medical treatment when they'd arrived from Arden, the Navy had been able to start growing vats of stem cells.  And when the Arch Duke's orders came down, they got started.  They were already in the process of growing stem cells and replacement organs or body structures to rebuild Zimzod's thorax.  "Because of that", he said, "we have to start preparing Sir Zimzod to receive those cloned tissues.  And for the operations that will involve."  The Commander continued, "We are preparing surgical teams for an expected two-day long marathon surgical event.  After that, we'll stabilize Zimzod before treating him with medical slow drug.  That will let his body heal a month's worth of time in twenty four hours.  Next, we'll spend a week cleaning his system and stabilizing him again before hitting him with a second dose of med-slow.  Finally, after another week and another Med-Slow dose, we'll keep him until he is stabilized and cleaned out enough to turn him back over to Lady Mikah."  The officer felt they could return Zimzod around the 20th day of the next month, or between the 50th and 54th day of the year.

Mikah knew the ship needed an estimated four weeks for the work to be done.  As far as Mikah knew, the Imperial Navy had been scouring it for some reason.  Still, the ship had been in the hands of the shipyard since the 19th, so they'd had a day to get the preliminaries started before the Navy got in their way.  The estimate from then was four weeks, so they could be done around the 21st of the next month too.  She realized that, if all went well, they'd have Zimzod and the ship back inside a two day window.  With that bringing them to the 51st day of the year, Mikah would be looking at getting moving to Ghandi while the on-coming decanting of Rol would be the 84th day of the year.  Nodding, Mikah told the Commander she was good with those plans and looked forward to updates.  After that, the Commander and his aide led Zimzod out to their transport.

Done with that, the Count stood and said he first wanted to deliver his condolences to them personally.  He then asked if, while they were gathered, there was anything he or his people could do to help?  Mikah didn't react when Jocelynn asked if they could roll time back in an almost acerbic tone.  In a more friendly tone, the Count said, "Unfortunately, that is not within by purview."  Letting a beat pass before she spoke up, Mikah asked if the Count had grief counselors with a look towards Jocelynn.  When the Count said he did, Mikah said she might want to have some crew members visit them.  In her mind, Mikah knew that Jocelynn was slowly moving from grief to problematic, and would have to be called out and dealt with eventually.  Not looking in Jocelynn's direction, the Count said he would be sure they were available to meet if any of Mikah's crew called.  The Count then asked if there was anything else he could help them with and Mikah said there was nothing else they needed.

Nodding, the Count said, "In that case, I have a couple of questions we're curious about.  As you may or may not be aware, the local population of Denotam are largely divided into two groups.  One group are largely those who work for the Imperial bases or work on the starport on-world.  The rest are divided into seven clans who, for lack of a more gentle way to say this, don't really cooperate with us, nor do they really cooperate with each other either.  Despite that, the reports I have say that you folks, for the very limited amount of time you've been in-system, seem to have managed to make a connection with one of the clans."  Looking down at his datapad, the Count said, "From my reports, you made a connection with Clan Glas.  Is that correct?"  Mikah nodded and said, "Yeah, but that took twenty thousand liters of alcohol so I don't know how much real leverage we have with them if that's what you're interested in?"  While she spoke, members of the crew found it hard not to smirk or laugh when she mentioned the booze.

Nodding, the Count said it was, but the point was that the crew had the good will of the clan at the moment.  The Count then asked, "During the time you spent with them, was there anything you got from them about their feelings about Imperial operations on-world?"  Mikah hadn't been part of the team that dealt with the Glas, so she asked the others if they had heard anything?  With Aali in orbit and Emkir gone, only Jocelynn and Aiden had been in real contact with "The Glas".  Everyone had taken part in delivering the cargo in shifts, but there wasn't a lot of communications in those runs.  What they had seen, after visiting the garage and barn, was that the clan had a large collection of tech goods and vehicles.  They even had farms.  So, while they got a tour of a number of 'brag' points, no one from the clan really talked about the Imperium or their feelings about the empire.

Nodding, the Count said, "If you or your crew feel at all interested in leaving the port and going to visit "your friends", maybe you could ask a few probing questions and see if you can get a line on their attitudes or inclinations?  Or, anything they might be thinking of doing given their feelings which might be good for us to know back here.  When Mikah agreed to that, the Count shrugged and said, "That's pretty much all I have for you.  Again, let me know if there's anything we can do to help you or your crew and we'll see what we can do.  Mikah nodded and thanked the Count as they all started to stand and the crew were escorted back out to the snowcat for the ride back to the berth.

In the snowcat, Mikah asked, "Anyone wanna go out and visit The Glas?"  Fesic asked if they had to have some kind of business offer to approach them and Mikah considered that.  She decided they should settle how their plans for visiting the Sonthert system had changed before deciding what to do with the Glas clan.  So, when they got back to the berth Mikah called a crew meeting.  When everyone was seated, Mikah began, saying, "In light of what has recently transpired, I, for one, believe that it is far too dangerous to put people on the surface of Laurasia or Oseaan.  How does everyone else feel?  Sekea agreed with Mikah immediately.  When no one else spoke up, Mikah continued, "It's my inclination that we will go to Sonthert and do as much scanning as we can.  But, we are not sending any of our crew to the surface of either of those planets."  Sekea also pushed that they could land on Mynbou, because that world was airless and only required vacc suits.  Mikah nodded and agreed with that.  Aiden then asked what their response would be if they did get a sensor hit or see something worth investigating?  Mikah said they would report it to the Arch Duke.

Fesic suggested they play things by ear.  That if they found something that warranted investigation, they decide to do the investigation or report it to the Arch Duke.  Mikah agreed in general, but said her medical opinion was that they couldn't safely land on the hyper-arctic worlds.  Jocelynn quickly agreed with that.  That brought things to a pause before Jocelynn almost snarled, "I lost one person on my watch and it was completely unnecessary.  I'm not doing it again."  Reacting to that, Fesic started, "We had this discussion and..."  Jocelynn interrupted him, angrily saying, "And we're gonna have it again!"  Despite her outburst, Fesic continued, "We didn't think there would be anything on the hyper-arctic worlds to find anyway..."  Jocelynn again interrupted him, saying, "And I went ahead with the fucking exercise anyway and this is what happened."

Mikah agreed, "That's why we went ahead with the exercise.  To see if we could, and we found out we can't."  Still angry, Jocelynn snapped, "And one of our crew members lost their life for it."  Stepping in, Aiden told them, "On the upside of the coin, if we had gone without this exercise, we could have lost a lot more of the crew."  Sekea agreed, saying, "Yeah, we could have lost everyone."  Jocelynn agreed, but we shouldn't have lost anyone."  Aiden pushed back, saying, "It was an accident.  Something that came out of nowhere."  Sekea again said it could have been far worse on one of the hyper-arctic worlds."  Jocelynn had to agree with that.  Sekea continued, "We learn from our mistakes." Aiden chipped in, "We learn by doing."

All Jocelynn would give them for that was, "Well, this was a pretty big mistake." in an unhappy and angry tone.  Mikah immediately stepped in, saying, "It wasn't yours Jocelynn."  Aiden also jumped in, saying, "You did not make that error.  Everyone agreed to the exercise and everyone knew the parameters of the exercise.  And, it was on a field on a military base.  There was nothing for us to suspect or to make us think there was any danger involved.  We dotted our i's and crossed our t's and it just went sideways."  Fesic reinforced, "It's the difference between making a mistake and an accident.  This was an accident."  Mikah and the others quickly agreed with that.  When Mikah then tried to push things to move on, Jocelynn interrupted her, almost demanding, "Does Aali see it that way?"

Facing that challenge, there was little they could say because Aali had left for the orbital shipyard.  While she'd said she wanted to deal with her feelings alone, Mikah could see no other way to get Jocelynn past her issue than calling the engineer.  So, Mikah called Aali and explained what they'd been talking about and had said before putting her on speaker.  Mikah then bluntly asked how Aali felt about Emkir's death?  Either missing or avoiding the point of the question, Aali first said, "I believe that if one crew member already lost their life, in this situation, that it would be prudent to not risk anyone else on the surface unless we get something really unusual on the scan, and we really really think it's a good lead.  So, I would be in agreement with what you've said to date."

Letting her finish her answer, they then pushed for the answer they'd actually asked about, saying "And how do you feel about the circumstances of Emkir's death?"  Sitting back, Aali took a breath and said, "Basically, shit happens.  And, that's the way of the universe.  It could have been any one of us, and it just happened to be my dear husband and, if that saves the rest of our crew's lives in the long run then it's a worthy sacrifice even though there's no hope for it and there's no fixing it.  If it saves lives in the long run, that's a good thing."  When Jocelynn still didn't seem sure about the situation, Aali directed her voice to her and said, "Jocelynn, I understand the burden of command, and I hope you understand that I don't hold you responsible for causing Emkir's death.  It was just an accident.  So, please don't feel bad about that."

There was another silence before Aali said, "You were a marine.  You understand that command has the risk of losing personnel and we all, once we put ourselves in the hands of a commander, we all understand that.  We're all ex-military.  We're not holding you responsible for the fact that a crevasse opened up.  And, you didn't have anything to do with that.  You handled the situation as best you could and none of us hold you to blame for it."  Jocelynn did nod, and admitted she'd protected people at the time by telling everyone not to move.  Aali agreed with that and Jocelynn thanked her and the others.

A Killing Walk
     When Mikah asked if Aali would stay on the comms for the rest of the crew meeting, Aali said she would.  Jocelynn also told Aali she wanted them to get together and have a drink alone.  Aali agreed with that and they were ready to move on.  Now that they seemed to have gotten Jocelynn over the hump, Mikah asked if they were all in agreement with the new plans for Sonthert?  They all agreed they shouldn't consider landing on Laurasia or Oseaan.  That settled, Mikah asked if they were up for the idea of helping the Count out?  She suggested they call the Glas clan and offer to return the grav-sledge because they'd no longer needed it.

That got everyone asking if they might want to keep the sledge because it might be helpful in the future.  In the end, no matter how helpful it might be "someday", it would take up cargo space every day they carried it.  Mikah also said they could bring out whatever they wanted to trade or get rid of, so they should bring it along.  Hearing that, Jocelynn asked about the grav-shoe she'd bought in the Inthe system four months before.  She felt they'd likely never have a use for it so Jocelynn wondered if she should bring it to sell?  Mikah said Jocelynn should bring the unit because they never knew and, at the least, might get more cash.  Jocelynn nodded and said she'd connect with a contact in the clan and set things up.  Nodding, Mikah said she'd go with Jocelynn on the run too.  Since Aiden had piloted for the first visit, they voluntold him he'd be coming along on the run.

Done with the meeting, the crew had lunch and then turned to their plans or interests.  Colinne decided to sit and read the book she'd bought on Denotam.  Fesic returned to studying the cargo sealer.  Sekea spent some time working on stability and trigger-draw practice with his weapons.  While Mikah and Jocelynn got the sledge and gun shoe onto the cutter, Aiden warmed the craft up and called out to one of the contacts they'd made the first time they visited the clan.  Saying they were coming to trade, Aiden then called the port to let them know he was flying out.  The flight was largely uneventful until they'd reached Glas territory and were settling down to land.  Nearing the ground, the cutter suddenly became the target of a wave of snow being thrown up from the ground!  Coming in for his landing in Glas territories, Aiden checked his view and saw a large group of people gathered below them throwing snowballs up at them!

The lower they got, the more snowballs came flying in.  With no other options and no idea how to react to the situation, Aiden just kept settling down to land as safely as he could.  Seeing the snowballs in the cutter's cargo section, Jocelynn announced, "How rude!"  Mikah guessed they might have had too much of the booze and got a laugh.  After they'd landed, while Aiden went through the shutdown, Mikah said Jocelynn could dismount first and she'd follow.  Aiden could catch up after he secured the flight deck.  When the two women stepped out of the cutter, things had gone quiet and they could see a number of the clan people standing and smiling.  And all holding snowballs.  Then, a voice called out, "We'll give you a minute to prepare." and the smiles got wider and more feral.

The three of them realized they had to make snowballs "now", and Jocelynn looked for any cover they could use.  But Aiden had landed on a flat spot, so they were all in the pre-planned "kill zone".  Having the chance to make five or six snowballs each, the locals had been doing this for some time and some had stockpiles of snowballs.  All three spacers got pelted within an inch of their lives before the game broke up.  After that, the three were told the locals had heard they were coming and planned to have some fun when they arrived.  Still, it was all good natured and in fun.  Some were even surprised how well Jocelynn did, and she didn't tell them she'd grown up on a frozen world too.  After the game, they were welcomed and asked if they'd brought more booze?

When Mikah and Jocelynn both said no, Jocelynn added that they had other things to trade.  She stopped speaking when she saw Mikah was becoming the center of the local's attention.  The attention wasn't negative but it was intense in some cases.  that tension was partly broken when one of them said to Jocelynn, "So, you brought a bodyguard with you." in a non-plussed tone.  Misunderstanding, Mikah said, "yeah, she's my bodyguard", surprised they knew that somehow.  That caused a moment of confusion before someone mentioned Mikah was the more impressively armed so they thought she was the bodyguard.  Mikah reacted to that saying, "Umm, no.  I'm a doctor." as if 'healing' and 'heavily armed' went together logically.  Mikah then added to the confusion, demanding, "Don't you expect your doctors to be heavily armed?"  That caused more looks and confusion before people decided to just go with it.

They asked Mikah who she was and Jocelynn introduced her as "Captain Mikah, the Captain of our ship."  And that was the piece the locals were missing.  The impressive weapon suddenly made sense.  Mikah nodded and said, "Sadly, I wasn't in the first party to come visit you.  I see you've all taken good advantage of the alcohol we delivered to you."  Hearing that, some of the locals said that was shared out and ran out the other day.  Still, Mikah, Jocelynn and Aiden were quietly thankful they wouldn't be subjected to having to drink with them.  When one of the locals said they'd just been taking advantage of the cutter's arrival to have fun, Jocelynn thanked them because she needed a laugh.

While walking to the hall where the Glas held "court", Mikah commented on having bought the sledge from them, but then said, "I'm assuming you heard what happened?"  No one stopped but they were far enough out they had no idea what had happened on the port, and asked what she was talking about?  After Mikah and Jocelynn told them, one of the locals said, "Maybe we should take this to The Glas."  After that, they moved on to the community's central building and into the hall to go before The Glas.  Another horror struck them when they came into the presence, because they could see some cases of the alcohol they'd delivered stacked up in the back of the hall.  With Mikah visiting for the first time, introductions were done before The Glas invited them to sit and tell them all about why they were visiting this time?

This time, Mikah told the story, as the ship's Captain, and The Glas and his people listened.  Having met and dealt with Emkir, The Glas was saddened and said so.  He also said they should drink to Emkir's memory and waved to a staffer to pour everyone a glass while Mikah, Jocelynn and Aiden did their best to hide their disgust.  Mikah did try to make excuses, but The Glas was insistent they had to mourn Emkir properly.  With drinks poured around, The Glas asked them to tell stories about Emkir, which was their apparent funereal tradition.  Along with the stories, it was also traditional to drink toasts to certain points, and "everyone" had to drink.  No matter how hard it made it for the spacers to hide their disgust for the alcohol.

After the stories and drinking, The Glas asked them how they'd like to go on a hunt?  Mikah asked what kind of hunt he meant, he just repeated, "a hunt".  Jocelynn also asked what they wanted to hunt and The Glas said, "Obviously, intruders." in a pleased tone.  Mikah asked who was intruding on their land, hoping to get some quick answers for the Count, and was told, there were always people from other clans trying to steal things.  He added, "Sometimes you pesky Imperials come around."  After that, Mikah said, "Well, it couldn't hurt."  Jocelynn added, "We're not gonna kill anyone are we?  I mean, we don't want to make enemies while we're here."  The Glas said killing anyone depended on their aim when they shot someone and both Mikah and Jocelynn said, "We're pretty good" in their own defense.

Nodding, The Glas pointed to Mikah's pistol and said, "That's a pretty fancy pistol you got there.  Is it connected to anything?"  Mikah only said, "Yes.  Wireless." and her tone was less open.  The Glas nodded and said, "I look forward to seeing it being fired."  Mikah suggested they do some target shooting sometime but The Glas was already into the hunt.  He gave some orders and they brought in people to get the three dressed for cold weather before leading them out.  They followed the group that formed around The Glas, and the man cheerfully told them they'd be heading out for a good couple of hours of fun and excitement while leaving the buildings for the tree line.  Jocelynn muttered, "Oh goody." under her breath.  At the same time, they all remembered the warning they'd gotten from the port that the "walking tours" offered by the clans were often actually patrols.  And, if a spacer was killed during a patrol, the clan folk had no issues absorbing their gear into clan or personal property.

In for a credit, while they walked, Mikah decided to start probing for the Count and asked if they had any problems with the Imperials?  She did add, "because we don't want to cause trouble." as an after-statement.  The Glas shrugged and said, "Not so much a problem, but they own the sky.  You would figure your people could leave us alone on our own territory."  Not expecting that, Mikah answered, "Oh.  Hmm.  That's fair."  The Glas then said, "I'm glad you think so.  They don't."  Mikah then added, "Well, we'll start spreading the word.  Maybe something will happen and maybe it won't.  I don't know."  Nodding, The Glas called a command the spacers didn't understand and then told Mikah, "I tell you what.  We'll show you something."  The men running point nodded and changed the direction of their march.

Continuing what would be an hour-long march, Mikah was considering what they'd been told and Jocelynn spoke up about the sledge.  She thanked them for working with the crew, and then said that given what happened to Emkir their plans had changed.  Because of that, they were looking to trade back the sledge and had other things to trade too.  When The Glas asked what other things they had, Jocelynn told him about the grav-shoe and he said that might be interesting.  She could tell by his tone that he was interested and tried to mention other items the ship had and could sell.  When Jocelynn mentioned a few of the things in the ship's locker, Mikah mentioned they still had both Terin's and Munarshu's combat armor.  But those were in orbit on the ship so they couldn't sell them "now".

The Glas was listening and his eyes lit up when he heard things like combat armor mentioned.  Mikah noticed that and said, "If you want to get any of this stuff, we have to get back to our people alive, you know?"  Jocelynn laughed and said, "Yeah, we have to survive."  The man nodded and said, "It's all OK.  I told the point men to take a trail to something I want to show you."  The Glas said they wouldn't have a problem with the sledge, since they had uses for it before they sold it and could use it for those needs again.  He wanted to look at the Grav-shoe and understand it but he was interested.  When he asked about the tent, they said it was just a canvas tent and he shrugged, asking what they'd like for it?  Mikah didn't consider it worth asking money for and told The Glas he could have it as a gift.

The Glas was pleased with the gift, and thanked Mikah.  This did a small bit to help during a walk where they could tell The Glas was being very diplomatic where the Imperium was concerned.  Others, in the outer perimeter of the group, were less diplomatic, and Mikah Aiden and Jocelynn could tell they were barely hiding grimaces or holding back growls when some of the chat touched on topics that might have been sensitive.  One of those seemed to be supposedly friendly interaction between dirt-side Imperials and their clan members.  Others were issues none of the spacers could identify.

Another issue they realized existed was that each clan, based on the chatter they heard, wanted to be the ruling clan and have control of all clan territory.  And given that was the bulk of the planet, as far as the spacers knew, that was a lot of territory and resources.  So a big issue the Glas Clan had with the Imperium was that they refused to back one clan...preferably "Their" clan...and help them take full control of the world.  And because he'd heard them talking about selling things like Imperial grade combat armor, that added to comments Jocelynn and the others had made about being on the outs with some Imperial authorities when they first came to buy the sledge.  The Glas made it clear that if the Imperium gave them a hand in combat related gear, they'd have less of an issue with Imperial use of their land.  That confused the spacers because they only knew of the starport and dirtside bases, which were nowhere near Glas territory.

Try as they might, the spacers got no answers on the land use question until they started getting close to where they were going.  When it seemed they were getting close to their goal, they noticed they could see lights through the trees ahead.  And the beam of those lights suggested the forest cleared dramatically not far ahead of their line of march.  Not much further on, the clan folk pointed through the thinning trees to where the three spacers could see a fence line running across what would have been their path.  Signs on the fence made it clear the fenced in area was under Imperial control, and said the fence was electrified, along with other hazards.  The authority controlling the fenced in land was the Imperial Navy, and they could see some kind of large industrial-looking facility had been built, and seemed to be in operation.

Even more curious, as they looked more closely at the grounds, they saw armed Imperial troopers patrolling in battledress!  That changed the picture a great deal.  Especially Jocelynn, who knew the battledress meant the sensors the troopers were using meant they certainly knew The Glas and they were there!  Mikah asked The Glass, "Do you know what this is?" and he answered, "Nope.  They won't tell us." in a less then pleased tone.  He continued, "They came here, gave us a map and told us they were appropriating this land and they took control of the area without giving us any options or paying us for the land.  And since then, they're using it for whatever they're using it for."  The spacers had many things to think about and Mikah finally said, "Hmm, that's very interesting." though she couldn't come up with suggestions behind what she'd been told.

There was another pause before Jocelynn suggested, "We can go back to the Count and tell him you're on these people's land and not telling them what you're doing.  And they're on edge."  Jocelynn suggested a gesture of good will or, at least, telling The Glas what they're doing on the land.  Aiden suggested paying compensation for the land.  Their reactions certainly caused The Glas and those with them to relax and become more friendly.  Pointing beyond the fence, The Glas said, "This is a major bone of contention." and Jocelynn suggested they could bring that complaint back to the Count on their behalf.  As if what they said caused him to make a decision, The Glas first said, "Cool!" and then continued, "We can give you twenty thousand of your credits for the sledge.

The way he said what he did convinced all three spacers that he would have offered them two thousand or less if they hadn't seen the situation 'his way' or tried to make meaningless apologies for the Imperium.  They certainly thought the Glas was holding back on trade talk until that moment.  Part of Mikah's mind wondered if that was a good deal, but she also remembered they'd gotten about that much less when they sold the alcohol because the sledge was included.  So, she was happy about the deal and none of the three felt like haggling.  So Mikah accepted and said they'd have more to trade after they got their ship back.  The Glas nodded approvingly and said, "Yeah!  We'll have a party." with a smile on his face.  Mikah said they'd do what they could to help the Imperial government understand their concerns when they got back to the port.  Jumping on the tail of that, Jocelynn asked if there was anything in specific he wanted them to say?

Looking at Jocelynn, The Glas said the one thing they really wanted was always refused, and that was for the Imperium to pick a Clan leader, preferably me, and help us become the one ruler over all the clans.  While he spoke, they could see The Glas felt very certain choosing him would be the best option.  Mikah pointed out that while they could speak on his behalf, he should be warned the outcome might not be what he anticipated.  She said the Imperials might choose another of the clan leaders.  Mikah said they were friends, adding "I hope", then said they could speak for him but admitted they'd only had experience with his clan and none of the others.

The Glas nodded and shrugged, saying that was fair because the Imperial authorities never came out and met the clan leaders.  He complained they only knew what was said in the reports they were handed from those in the field.  He also complained it was most likely they'd just keep refusing to choose a leader as they have every time the request was made.  Mikah nodded, saying, "Maybe we can remind them you are your own society", which was more an advertisement for "hands off" than stepping in.  She then suggested it would cut down on the deaths and damage from inter-clan fighting.  the Glas casually admitted, "Well, once those who surrender settle in and those that don't...  Yeah, that would settle things."  Those who were listening heard him casually dismissing those who didn't want to be ruled by him to mass death, which was certainly not an advertisement for supporting him.

Mikah stepped past that, saying, "Failing that, we can try to get you some compensation for your land.  That would be something."  Nodding, The Glas admitted, "That would be appreciated." and Mikah returned to saying, "We'll do what we can to get the ball rolling."  Nodding, The Glas said, "And now, let's walk the border a bit."  He gave orders and from there, the group moved off in a direction they could guess was slightly toward the north east.  They'd been walking for nearly twenty minutes when a small explosion erupted far enough in front of them it only served as an attention grabbing distraction.  Despite some of them being combat-experienced veterans, it pulled their attention until fire started coming in on their left flank!

The three spacers dove for cover while Jocelynn was thinking how shit the ambushers were.  She knew that if she'd planned the attack, the blast wouldn't have gone off until their lead people were on top of it, killing a few of them.  And all those preparing to attack would have been good enough to have a target in their sights, ready to take down as soon as the blast went off.  From what she could tell, as she grabbed cover, only a few in their group had been lightly wounded, and none of them had been taken out.  While they were all looking for a target to take out, Jocelynn called out to the others, "These guys are shit!"  And, despite the situation, her yell got a number of laughs.

While their group dove for cover, a wave of attackers came rushing out of the tree line to the left and charged towards the defending Glas line firing wildly.  To the spacers, the attackers seemed to be dressed very much like the Glas troopers.  The only real difference in what could be called a uniform was that the Glas had reddish-maroon stripes while the attackers had muddy brown stripes.  Beyond that, Mikah only had to see they were outnumbered by the attackers, meaning "Start Shooting NOW!"  Seeing Mikah open fire, Jocelynn decided there was no point worrying about a diplomatic incident or mistake in identity, and opened up too.  Aiden was just a step behind them as the battle swallowed them all.  Even while firing, Jocelynn called to the Glas, asking "Do you know these guys?"  The Glas happily yelled back, "They're future corpses."

The waves of fire swept back and forth while Jocelynn worried about the attackers being Imperial.  She didn't want to get into a deeper hole, so she fired shots to scare the troopers and snerked when she caused more than one flinch.  Aiden had been slower to open fire but Mikah had been ready to thin the numbers down to "negotiation levels" with deadly aim.  Her intent was to kill enough to leave a group to capture and question before killing.  Mikah's first target hit one of the attackers in the face, burning into the brain cavity.  Aiden's round caught a charging attacker in the chest and he went down too.

Still worried about shooting Imperials, Jocelynn called out, asking if those attacking them were Imperial or a rival clan?  The Glas yelled back, "If they were Imperial, they'd be in Imperial armor."  Secretly, he was both confused and impressed.  Confused why this Imperial woman was distracting herself while being attacked by an overwhelming ambush, and Impressed an event like that didn't flap her at all.  He knew some of the men with him were barely holding back their panic.  Evening things out, the other clan's troopers weren't used to facing laser technology, and that gave a number of the attackers pause.  At a stop, they stood and fired while trying to concentrate on where the laser came from?  A number of others in their line even started backing up while they kept up less organized fire.

Seeing that, Mikah decided it was time to fish for answers, and did her best to shoot someone in the ankle.  At the same time, Aiden popped another trooper in the chest, but didn't notice the first man he'd shot was working to rise and back off while firing.  Mikah saw that and called out, "What?  Are these guys zombies?" but didn't have any time to investigate how the man rise again.  Changing her aim to 'making the enemy dead', Jocelynn hit a trooper in the left hip and he went down.  That was added to fire from the Glas' troopers while Mikah also called out, "Who's their leader?"  She hoped killing the leader would end things faster.

The fire from the other clan was a mix of those slowly backing up, those standing or who'd ducked for cover while firing and the reduced number of those still moving forward.  On the Glas side, a few men were down and those who'd been wounded were more concerned with treating themselves or the buddy next to them than firing.  So, the balance of power wasn't moving significantly in any direction while Mikah's laser fire pushed up the fear Clan Glas had somehow gotten a batch of high-tech and they were being lured into a trap despite the fact they'd set the ambush.

The Glas had slowed his firing when Mikah yelled her question, and admired the sheer nerve of this Lady Mikah and her crew.  They stood their ground ignoring deadly fire and mowed down people with what seemed to be aimed shots.  That helped unnerve the enemy more while emboldening his men.  There was some more shooting, made harder because the enemy were now going to ground or ducking behind cover.  Then, quickly enough, the enemy troopers broke off and ran for it.  Seeing that, The Glas called for his people to cease fire and, even though Mikah and Jocelynn were sure they could each bring down another man, they lowered their guns to not annoy The Glas.  Mikah was satisfied because there would be at least two men to question so long as neither were hit in a major artery.

The Glas ordered his men to move forward and take prisoners while the spacers scanned the field and realized the guy who rose after Aiden had hit him in the chest wasn't getting far.  So, that upped the 'wounded and captured' count to three.  Mikah looked forward to seeing how the guy managed to survive a chest shot and try to escape afterwards?  It eventually turned out they had four more wounded men who were captured, so they had a good pool of potential information beyond the multiple bodies who wouldn't rise again.  Checking the troopers from Clan Glas, Mikah could see four of them were wounded and the others were doing what they could, so Mikah stepped up to treat them too.  Those wounds were largely superficial, though one man had taken a round in his upper right chest.  It was mostly muscle and bone damage, though, and didn't penetrate the thoracic wall, so the wound would limit his arm and shoulder a bit but not kill him.

Others were stripping the two Glas dead and preparing them for transport back to their homes before stripping gear and valuables from the enemy dead.  Of most importance, they collected weapons, ammunition and portable combat gear.  Some bits and pieces of body armor were also stripped off and the spacers saw that many of the men on both sides wore a sort of mesh armor under their cold weather "uniforms".  That explained how the man Aiden had shot was able to get up again after the hit.  Still, the round had hurt him bad enough he wasn't able to flee.  Despite the activity, a defensive cordon had been formed and would warn the others if they had another threat coming in.  Seeing that, Mikah decided to start checking the wounded more completely while Jocelynn and Aiden joined with the others watching for a possible second wave.

Toys And Teases
     With things settling down, The Glas had pulled his personal comms and called for sled and backup to come out and retrieve the group, the wounded and the Clan Glas dead.  The others, he'd leave out for the wolves.  What the spacers didn't know was that they'd been shadowed by a larger force on sleds "because" The Glas was with them.  Until they arrived, the Glas troopers formed a perimeter but showed the spacers respect and didn't try to order them to do more than they chose to do.  They were also invited to sit with The Glas in the center of the perimeter and have a drink while they waited for pickup.  In all that time, Mikah continued treating the wounded on both sides, because she wanted to make sure there were people to question.  To the laughs of those Glas troopers who heard her, Jocelynn walked close to the captives, put her hands on her hips and sneered, "Worst.  Ambush.  Ever!"

One captive trooper who still had his balls sneered up at Jocelynn and said, "We didn't know they had Imperial support."  His tone said he was certain his people would have won the fight if that hadn't been the case.  And while The Glas wasn't saying it, he noted the affect Mikah's laser fire had on the enemy and was willing to grant that the man was likely right.  If the whole enemy force had kept pressing forward in their charge without concern, the fight would have become a melee quickly, and they'd had the numbers.  So, the three spacers and especially Mikah's laser had turned the tide.  A laser he noticed did "not" need a power pack!  hearing the man, Mikah called over, "Well, Let that be a lesson to you!" and Jocelynn looked down speaking as if she were a parent talking to a slow child saying, "What did you learn?"  Also like a parent, her tone suggested they should have known better too.

Jocelynn finally asked, "Who are you guys?" and, since they believed the spacer's presence meant the Imperium had chosen sides, refused to talk.  Mikah added to the jab when she said, "Sorry, we had to support somebody."  When Aiden added that they had started shooting first, Mikah agreed with that.  Soon after that, the backup arrived with sleds to move the original team while other sleds brought in troopers more heavily armed and ready for a significant battle.  When that happened, The Glas said it was likely a good idea to mount up and move out since the other side was likely moving up reinforcements for a second attack.  He said it would be good to leave some explosives behind for them to play with before getting gone.  Saying, "OK", Mikah looked around and noticed they were booby trapping some of the bodies on the field.  Jocelynn saw that and muttered, "That's cold."  One of the troopers nodded, smiled and said, "Of course it's cold.  This is Denotam and everything is cold."

The ride back to their settlement was much faster and more comfortable than the walk out.  When they arrived, The Glas said, "Let's take a look at this grav-shoe thing you have." and Jocelynn asked if he didn't want to deal with the prisoners first?  The Glas smiled and said, "I have people for that." in a dismissive voice.  When Jocelynn asked who the attackers were, The Glas said they were from Clan Durie, then asked how much they knew of the Clans of Denotam?  Mikah and Jocelynn admitted, not much.  Jocelynn added, "Like I said, you were the first one's we encountered and that's where we are.  We know there are seven total."

The Glas nodded and said, "The clan you would have met the most of if you'd walked off the port would have been the Arnstruther, because they own the land that surrounds the Imperial bases.  The Glas continued, "The Imperials claimed they signed some sort of neutrality document saying the Arnstruther wouldn't get more support than we, or any other clans, got but we have no reason to trust that."  Jocelynn nodded because she'd seen evidence of some Imperial power tech and machinery in the few views she took off-port.  Still, she also hadn't seen much of Clan Glas' lands and The Glas seemed to have a nice sized collection of tech gear too.  The Glas continued, "Then, there are the Durie, the Bannatyne, the Erskin, the Clelland the Fleming and us.  For some reason, the Durie have some disagreement over who holds what land on the border.  So, from time to time, we attack them or they attack us.

When he told them that was what they'd just seen, Jocelynn asked, "OK.  But you're on decent terms with the other clans?"  Chuckling, The Glas said, "Oh, hell no!" with a smile.  Pushed back a bit, Jocelynn only answered, "Oh" while Mikah burst out laughing and quietly wondered what Jocelynn thought this mess of a world was?  Hoping, Jocelynn asked, "Do any of you get along?" in a tone that said she knew she was hoping against truth.  The Glas shrugged and said, "We get along when they're dead."  Not giving up quite yet, Jocelynn asked, "Do any of the clans get along?  Are there alliances?  Do you have Allies?"  The Glas admitted, "Sometimes we trade with them or even cooperate with them.  Even the Durie.  It depends on the situation."  Jocelynn nodded and said, "OK.  Just trying to figure out who not to shoot?"  The Glas smiled again and said, "Well, if they're on our land and they didn't ask, you shoot."

Jocelynn shrugged and said, "I guess, if they're shooting then you shoot them."  Still smiling, The Glas said, "I'll drink to that" and had some of his people present glasses and pour out more booze.  Seeing that, Mikah's morale started to fail her and she groaned.  Jocelynn tried to avoid her share while getting up as they landed to get her grav-shoe for The Glas to look at.  Sadly, that didn't work for her nor did Aiden have any defense.  Soon, Jocelynn had the grav-shoe and The Glas had some of his people looking it over.  When they were done, they had a quick conference with The Glas and he suggested he could find a use for the shoe and offered them Cr 500.

Jocelynn considered she'd paid Cr 3,000 for the shoe on the Inthe highport and smiled.  She tried to reach out and pat him on the shoulder but one of his men got in the way, reminding her he was technically the leader of a nation on-world.  Nodding, she smiled again and said, "My friend, I think you can do a little better."  Taking a few minutes to consider the shoe, The Glas finally said, "Hmm.  How about I give you Cr 2,000 and a grav-bike?"  That grabbed Jocelynn's attention and she thought to herself, 'Wow!  I want a grav-bike!  That's cool!'  Being impertinent given the people he was talking to, Aiden snarked, "Make sure the damn thing starts in a warning tone."  Jocelynn did turn to Mikah and Aiden and ask, "Should we look at the bike?" and Mikah said they should.  Mikah then joked, "Kick the non-existent tires." and they laughed.

When they walked into his "garage", Mikah realized the man had quite the collection of ground and grav vehicles.  Some showed their age while others had what looked like battle scars giving weight to his claims he got some of the vehicles from 'people who didn't need them anymore.'  Looking around, Jocelynn leaned close to Mikah and asked, "Can you think of anything we need?" and Mikah answered back, "Anything we get from him takes up cargo space."  Still, Jocelynn was considering the chance they may need something.  Overhearing that she was reminded The Glas was only offering one bike but Mikah said they'd come back after they got the ship back and had more to trade with.

Grav-Bike Soon, The Glas led them to three bikes and pointed to one that was obnoxiously painted and had several kinds of grab bars and hangers projecting from it.  Pointing to it, he said, "There was a guy from Clan Fleming who was buzzing us for a while.  That was a really hard shot.  I was proud."  Next to that was a more sedate bike without all the obnoxious decor and grab bars.  It showed wear and a few dents and scratches.  The Glas said, "I'll give you this one." with a nod.  The three looked at the bike and Mikah suggested they test it out.  When Aiden threw in, "With permission, of course." he got side eye from everyone in the group because no one thought they'd have to buy the bike untested.  Not even The Glas.  So, they had to decide who'd test it?

Jocelynn had training in treaded vehicles, but not grav vehicles.  So, she "could" try it, but would be uncomfortable with any maneuvers at all.  And they didn't want it just lifted from the ground, haltingly shifted a bit and then stopped in the tentative or jerking fashion new drivers often ended up with.  So it was either Mikah or Aiden, who both had grav vehicle skills and experience.  They eventually decided Aiden would test the bike and he straddled it and checked the controls before carefully testing the power feeds and controls.  After he was certain what did what, Aiden lifted the bikes off its stands and slowly threaded it through the maze of other vehicles until he got to the garage door.  Then, he took a spin or two around the yard testing the performance of the thing.  While he did that, Jocelynn went for a little walk around the garage looking at the vehicles there.

Grav APC Wandering and looking, Jocelynn was surprised to see a very seriously mistreated grav troop carrier!  The turret mount on the back of the vehicle had been blasted and any weapons mounted there were gone.  While Jocelynn didn't know which type of APC it was, she walked around it and could see the standard fittings.  The large rear compartment was fitted with inward facing benches where troopers could sit along each side of the compartment.  She could see a turret couch through the open but sealable hatch at the top rear of the compartment.  She guessed the gunner died when the turret was blasted so they hadn't had to blow the hatch.  The large rear doors had also not been blasted, meaning the troopers had likely deployed before the vehicle was taken down.

Jocelynn could see the harnesses the troopers had likely used riding into fire, and counted eight positions.  She also saw the benches could be dropped into the bay's floor, turning the APC into a sometime cargo hauler.  Specialized mounts on the walls of the trooper bay told Jocelynn that stretchers could be mounted if the benches were dropped, so the APC could also be an ambulance for ten patients.  Above the vehicle's nose were hatches on the top of the APC, that let a driver and commander drop into the forward compartment.  Those hatches had been blown, telling part of the story of the APC's capture.  The forward compartment was sealed from the trooper bay in the back.  The APC had been pressurized, and had once had electronics like a radio, sensors and other gear, but that was pretty much gone.

Externally, the armor was rent and torn by heavy fire, some electronics were exposed and the vehicle was, in general, a mess.  It might still get off the ground, but it would take a lot of work to get the APC back to fighting trim.  From what she knew, Jocelynn wasn't even sure it could activate it's grav modules and lift.  The most interesting fact about the wreck was the Imperial unit markings for the 1,967th Imperial Marine Infantry Company!  So, somewhere along the line, "someone" had taken this from an Imperial combat unit.  And, Jocelynn knew, the odds that had happened off world were very very low.  Still, Jocelynn called Mikah over to look at it.

The Glas came with her and while Mikah looked at it and asked if it worked, he said, "Well, it will move people around these days.  But it won't do much beyond that after it got all shot up."  He continued, "A lot of the specialized equipment had to be damaged before we took it from its previous owners."  That alone suggested Clan Glas had engaged the 1,967th and captured the vehicle.  Which meant they had no problem engaging and killing Imperial troopers.  That was a grim possibility they filed back in their minds for the moment.  Out loud, Mikah said, "This is something to think about the next time we're here to trade.  We'll have more stuff."  Turning to The Glas, Jocelynn asked if she could step into the APC and investigate it?  Mikah considered the APC and figured it would take up no more than five tons but it would fit in their cargo bay.

Stepping into the back bay, Jocelynn could see the wreck had been cleaned up but showed the signs that the teams in the APC had been engaged "in" the bay!  That meant troopers had been trapped and died there when the APC doors had opened.  The enemy troopers had to have been waiting to fire at those pinned there.  So, she was willing to bet they'd been cut down quick and hard.  The surfaces were torn, scarred and ripped up.  Any electronics were damaged or destroyed, with wiring hanging out of some in-wall inclusions.  She decided people could ride in the APC, but unless they were standing or armored, it wouldn't be comfortable.

Mikah checked the front compartment and saw the story there was much the same.  The basic control systems looked intact or jury-rigged, but the compartment was a mess and the blown hatches and evidence from the vehicle's rear meant the APC had been swarmed in force.  the storyline Mikah and Jocelynn could imagine was a large force of clan, or other, troopers swarming the APC while a heavy weapons team engaged the APC's turret at range.  With the turret out, the attackers had rushed the APC and climbed atop it.  The vehicle Commander had likely first ordered the driver to get them out of the trap, but that didn't work.  In desperation, she bet the Commander then ordered the marines in the rear to deploy and engage, but there were already overwhelming forces waiting for that door to open.  The eight marines had been packed into the rear with little room to react at all.  And, most of the troopers in the rear didn't even have a chance to get a shot off because of the friendlies in front of them.  It was a bad way to die, but not as bad as what they guessed the driver and Commander suffered.

Assessing the vehicle, Mikah nodded and muttered, "This is gonna need some lemony fresh air fresheners.  That got laughs from both Jocelynn and Aiden that The Glas didn't understand.  For a laugh, Jocelynn asked The Glas if they had an FGMP-15, and the man's face did some gymnastics before his emotion filled his voice as he said, "I would Kill for one of those!"  Behind his eyes, he wondered if these people were so well equipped they considered that weapon common?  Since they'd already mentioned spare suits of combat armor, his hopes for a future trading session with them kept taking leaps higher.  He then excitedly asked, "Do you have one of those to trade?" and they could hear a lust much greater than Zimzod's desire in The Glas' voice.

About that time, Aiden came back into the garage and much more skillfully maneuvered the bike to where it had been grounded.  He had to look for the others, because they'd moved.  Joining them, he told the others the bike worked well and wasn't a bulked up utility model.  Nor had it been souped up or modified for speed or extra performance.  He felt it was just a run-of-the-mill TL 11 grav-bike.  It likely came to Denotam as a consumer good, special order or had been property someone else brought before it became spoils of a raid or other conflict.  While Denotam had the tech level to maintain these devices, they didn't have the population for the level of industrialization to build them for sale or domestic use.  While he talked, Aiden also eyed the APC they seemed to be investigating.  The one thing he could see was that it had been an Imperial Marine APC at one time.  And, it had seen much better days!

Stepping out of the APC, Jocelynn looked at Mikah doubtfully and asked, "Can we use this thing?"  Mikah also had a doubtful expression while saying, "If we can get the parts."  Her tone said she figured that would be a monumental task if they tried.  Aiden looked it over and guessed it would take up at least three tons of cargo space.  The idea they could trade for it here and then sell it "as is" to someone else who had the cash and ability to rebuild the APC could also make them a Credit or ten too.  So, they didn't have to repair it to make money.  With that, Mikah and Jocelynn stepped around the vehicle taking pictures.  The fact the paint job hadn't been changed at all, except for combat damage, since the Imperial Marines painted it further suggested troops from the Glas clan had been the one's who'd killed the marines and taken the vehicle.

After that, Jocelynn asked The Glas if the grav modules still worked and he said they did and offered to let them drive the APC around.  Hearing that, Mikah turned and said, "Aiden?" in a tone that was more command than inquiry.  The joke was made, "Aiden Radetsky!  Imperial Crash Test Dummy!".  Aiden again eyed the carrier and wasn't exactly thrilled as he stretched out the word, "OK" in a less than enthusiastic voice.  His first task was to find a way to sit comfortably in what was left of the driver's seat and then explore what little was left of the vehicle's controls.  After it powered up, Aiden could see two of the grav modules were actually damaged but they still put out enough power they could get the vehicle off the ground.  Added to that, he could see the APC's power plant was damaged and putting out less power.  But that wouldn't be an issue for what he needed.

Aiden's next task was to see if he could get the APC high enough off the ground that he could float over a balance of the vehicles in his way, because there was no clear ground path to the garage doors.  Ultimately, it wasn't difficult to get the APC high enough up despite the damage to the vehicle.  While Aiden very carefully guided the APC out of the garage, The Glas turned to Mikah and Jocelynn and asked, "So, two thousand of your credits and the grav bike for your grav shoe?"  Jocelynn first said, "Let me think." and realized the man had upped his bid significantly from Cr 500.  After deciding the crew could find a use for the bike or they could just sell it, Jocelynn agreed.  The Glas then signed Cr 2,000 to Jocelynn while Mikah hopped on the bike, activated it, checked the garage for Aiden and then flew it to their cutter to load it into the cargo bay.

At the cutter, Mikah also dismounted the grav sled because they had agreed to sell that back to The Glas for KCr 20.  When Mikah got back, she found Aiden had landed the APC and reported the grav systems worked and nothing else.  Not even the cabin environmentals.  He had some basic model ID information but they didn't have any data link to a sales point or other information source to tell them about the vehicle.  Because of that, they figured they'd have to stop at an InstellArms site to see if they could learn what they'd bought?  They were also certain InstellArms might even give them an offer on it too.

Jocelynn pointed to the APC and asked The Glas. "Are you willing to part with this?"  The man considered and then said, "Make me the right offer.  It's a great trophy piece."  Hearing that, Mikah said, "If you're sentimentally attached to it, we wouldn't want to take it from you."  The Glas smiled broadly and said, "I was sentimentally attached to the people we shot up this afternoon.  They'll give me smiles for days."  Despite the battle earlier, that got laughs.  Mikah nodded and said, "We'll discuss it on our next visit, when we have more to trade with you."  The Glas nodded and said that was fair.  The Glas said he looked forward to the next trading meet and Mikah said she hoped they could get some answers from the Imperial authorities.

The Glas smiled wider and said he'd very much like that.  Hearing that, Mikah asked if The Glas would be willing to have a sit down with the Imperial authorities?  The Glas said, "Sure, if they'd be willing to listen to my terms."  Mikah nodded and said, "OK, We'll see what we can do."  With that, The Glas signed the Cr 20,000 to Mikah for the grav-sledge and the spacers boarded the cutter and returned to the starport.  During the flight back to the port, the conversation was largely about the APC.  Aiden was slow to catch up to the idea that they could sell it "as is" if they got it, and not worry about repair costs.  Still, they'd have to look it up and find out what model it was, along with the value of the APC new.  So, if The Glas' asking price was low enough it was worth buying or trading for.

The Remains Of The Day
     When they got back to the berth, they showed off the grav bike they'd traded for.  That begged the question who was qualified to fly it?  Technically, anyone on the crew could try, but those without the skills to use it would have to be very slow and careful and could easily screw up and even fall off!  Along with Mikah and Aiden, Colinne said she was trained on grav vehicles but said, "I'm a cyberpunk, not a biker babe."  Mikah then said she was dividing the Cr 20,000 she'd gotten for the sledge and would pay out cash to the crew.  After she did the math, Mikah told them they'd each be getting Cr 1,111 while the ship would get Cr 10,001.  When she heard that, Colinne used the cash to further pay down her debt for the gauss rifle.  That was now down to Cr 7,612.

Despite the fact it was after eight in the evening, Mikah called the Count's office to update them on what she and the others had learned.  Connected to a seneschalate officer, Mikah explained out everything while she, Jocelynn and Aiden were given shares of what the others in the berth had eaten for dinner.  Mikah even told them about the APC and sent them the pictures.  The officer thanked Mikah and then asked her if she and her crew would be available to meet with the Count and his people the next morning at 10am?  When Mikah asked for eleven instead, the officer checked that time and then confirmed that eleven the next morning would be fine.  After that call, Mikah told the others about the appointment the next morning.  On the orbital shipyard, Aali had been spending her time interacting with the repair crews and checking on the work being done.  The shipyard had three crews working, so there were day, alter-day and night shifts and engineers were working around the clock.

After Mikah's group had left, Fesic and the others had dinner and then he dug into his lock picking training.  Colinne continued reading her book and learning more about the flora and fauna of Denotam.  For an ice ball, the world had a surprising amount of both native plants and animals.  The alpha predators seemed to have mostly derived from mammalian life forms.  That was important because it meant they might prey on Humans caught in the wild for more than defensive or territorial reasons.  It also meant that some of the flora would also be edible, though the book warned that trace element and chemical testing should be done to protect diners from accidental poisoning.

After they got back, Aiden did stent work and relaxed before hitting his bed.  Jocelynn studied armory videos during her evening.  Mikah watched vids and checked the news before hitting her bed.  That included a new news story from the Extolay system which further showed how convoluted communications was at the speed of ship travel:

    Extolay(B45589A-A  N  G  110  Im  M2 V  M4 D)                                              Date: 017-1114
    In a brief press conference today, an administrative officer announced word received confirmed the task
    force under Commander Peser Tindesu had arrived in the Tremous Dex system.  The fleet element were said
    to be proceeding in-system after detecting significant debris.  Initial reports carried by the courier
    ISS Nagaaa Piaar said the Commander believes the debris were consistent with the reported breakup of the
    IMS King George.  While there were no initial reports suggesting survivors were detected, it would be
    expected any survivors had been picked up by ships in the system at the time, or had become casualties
    do to lack of resources.  The dispatch stated Commander Tindesu had ordered the task force in-system while
    the ISS Ranaza completed a quick systems reset and then made her jump further spinward, to the Arden system.
    Absent other data which may have been reported to Imperial stations, that courier expected to make contact
    with the IMS Upgrade and any survivors that ship carried, or learn of the Upgrade's further itinerary.

    Regina(A788899-C  2  Ri Cp  G  703  Im F7 V  M8 D  M6 V)                            Date: 009-1114
    This morning, on various media programs, a number of spokesbeings for Oberlindes LLC. addressed the possible
    effects on their Jump-3 route to Arden because of news from the region of the Federation of Arden and the
    non-aligned worlds in that space.  The corporation's line of talking points seem to indicate that the events
    being reported on were not of concern to the transport route.  Where instability in the Tremous Dex system was
    highlighted by the fate of the IMS King George, the spokesbeing pointed out that was an unfortunate event
    which was entirely independent of Oberlindes corporate activities.

    Additionally, it was pointed out that piratic activities based in that system were a known factor, and Oberlindes
    business and security teams had factored that in to the business program.  Addressing events in the Arden system
    itself, Oberlindes representatives were firm that the reported changes in government outlook were a positive
    change in the view of the Imperial Government and Oberlindes executives were happy to maintain high levels of
    observation while also accepting the Imperial point of view.  The representatives were also very quick to remind
    interviewers that very service had been instrumental in returning survivors to the Imperium after they landed
    in Arden aboard the IMS Upgrade.

    Pimane(E500343-4  Lo Ni Va  G  903  Im  K0 V)                                                 Date: 333-1113
    Updates have been released by both the University of Mora and the Imperial Navy on circumstances in the Pimane
    system after the discovery of caves maintaining a natural atmosphere.  Further released data says that early
    testing and exploration has revealed that some of the discovered caves appear to maintain gas compounds which
    naturally degrade into component compounds over a short period.  When interviewed, Doctor Nishlia Legiga, of
    the University of Mora Gross Biosciences Catalog, the existence of these compounds suggests some mechanism of
    replenishment.  Doctor Legiga cautioned against a leap to the assumption of life being that mechanism since a
    large number of chemicals could play a role.  Doctor Legiga stated that much work needs to be done before
    proper theories could be stated since it still is not known what chemicals exist in the discovered caves.
    Additionally, all those involved in the research are taking care not to damage any of the environments
    discovered, lest they upset and damage or destroy them.  When questioned about the disruptive activities of
    the local protesters, Doctor Legiga stated he preferred leaving discussion of those elements to the Imperial

    When reached for comments on activities in-system, Imperial Navy Lieutenant Rakanien stated his forces were
    involved in peace keeping and security operations regarding the investigations undertaken by the University of
    Mora.  The Lieutenant was pleased to announce that, as a fluke, the ships INS Amki Rinum and Daidgan entered
    the system enroute to Mora for assignment.  Given the open nature of their mission, Lt. Rakanien was able to
    countermand those orders and add them to the division he arrived with.  This addition of resources, represented
    by the crew of the two Gazelle-Class escorts, have allowed for a wider range of operations including using the
    gigs from the escorts to directly patrol the regions of the cave openings.  This has also led to some spare
    officers who have deputized some University students and staff along with a handful of the local population to
    Improve enforcement of Imperial Law.  While Lt. Rakanien has admitted this has led to a number of arrests,
    the Lieutenant admitted he regretted actions which must be taken given the behavior of the locals.  The
    Lieutenant regretted not being able to provide a list of those arrested as yet, but stated the operation
    was on-going.

Truth, Lies And Theory
     That morning, the crew woke, dined and were preparing for the 10am meeting when Aali called for Mikah.  When Mikah answered, Aali asked for a briefing on what was happening with the crew?  When Mikah asked how Aali was doing, the engineer told her, "Better, thank you.  And the work on the ship is going along swimmingly.  What's going on with the crew?  Mikah first told Aali about the firefight and how that worked out.  She next told Aali they sold off the grav sledge and got cash along with a second deal for a grav Bike.  Beyond that, Mikah said things were quiet.  When Aali thanked Mikah, Mikah said Aali should let them know when she was ready.  Aali then asked if they should contact the people handling Emkir's cremation and Mikah said that should have already happened.

Mikah also told Aali they could set up an appointment with the clergy when she was ready.  Aali nodded and cut her self-imposed leave short a day, saying, "We can do tomorrow.  I think I'll be able to handle that at this point."  Accepting that, Mikah said she'd call the clergy right away and set up an appointment.  Hearing that, Aali thanked Mikah and the call ended.  Mikah then called the base's clerical office and got Lieutenant Sonwe Ghapod.  When the Lieutenant asked how he could help her, Mikah explained that Dame Piirirshu-Meshrumiikiim feels she would be ready to sit down and make plans for Sir Emkir's funeral the next day.  At first, Lieutenant Ghapod misunderstood and asked how long a service they wanted?  Mikah corrected him, telling him they wanted a meeting to set up the ceremony.

Now having the clue, the Lieutenant asked when they wanted to meet and Mikah suggested two in the afternoon.  Lt. Ghapod accepted the 2pm and they cut the call.  Next, Mikah called the Arch Duke's people and told them she and Dame Piirirshu-Meshrumiikiim were meeting with the clergy the next day, to start setting up Sir Emkir's funeral.  She also told them she would update them when a date was set for the ceremony to happen.  The seneschalate operator accepted the message and queued it for the Arch Duke's attention with a high priority tag and promised Mikah the Arch Duke would get the word.  After that, Mikah and the others prepared to go meet the Count.

While Mikah was on the comms and others were getting ready to meet with the Count, Colinne performed her daily meditation and scanning for danger.  Within her reach, Colinne could find no specific intent to hurt aimed at herself or the crew.  Any lesser thoughts didn't have the energy to punch through the mass of background thoughts unless she has a specific target and blended her talents to target that person.  After she was done with that, Colinne quickly dressed in the outfit she'd laid out before hand and joined the others.  Like the other meeting, the Count had a snowcat sent to get them back and forth and they were met at the Court complex and led to a meeting room where they waited until the Count and his people joined them.  After they all sat, Mikah told them everything they'd learned in their most recent visit with the Glas.

Mikah first told them about the attitudes they ran into, and the comments and anger they heard and saw, and used that as a lead in to the fenced in and patrolled Imperial facility in the middle of their land.  When Mikah continued, it was obvious she was treating the attitudes of the Glas clan very seriously but noticed the Count and his people had slowly started smirking for some reason.  Seeing that, Mikah stopped and asked the them what their take was on what she'd said?  The Count turned to one of his officers who said, "Let us show you some documents." and reached into a case they'd brought to pull out extendable tablets.  These were tablets which could unfold to reveal a display the size of a table.  What they showed her were digitized scans of the agreements made and maintained between the clans and the Imperium.

He explained that Imperial scouts surveyed the worlds of the Spinward Marches by the 100th year of the Third Imperium.  Due to many reasons, official settlement of much of the sector didn't happen until after the 300th year of the Third Imperium.  During that time, many types of adventurers, freedom seeking groups, refugees and loners came to the Marches and settled worlds.  In the case of Denotam, the best they could determine was a guess that the clans had originally been miners, which would explain the territorial nature of the clan cultures.  So, that culture was in place when the Imperial ministries arrived.  And, at first, there was a determination this world would not be appropriate to settle colonists for a number of reasons chief of which were the clan's territorial nature.  To further that, the Count showed them a map of how the clans had carved up the surface of Denotam.

Political Map of the Borders of the Denotam Clans:
    Clan Border Maps

Because of that, the early agreements were for permission to construct planetside bases.  In the earliest days, this was both to establish a presence in the star cluster, and to observe the local cultures looking to see how they evolved.  Sadly, the clan leaders have always been steadfast in demanding weapons and combat support with which each of them hoped to become the sole planetary ruler.  Such an event gave Imperial authorities pause, because they worried what the leaders of a unified Denotam might do.  They also stayed out of it because the Imperium ruled the space between the planets, not the planets themselves.  So, they left what happened on an world's surface to that world's population.  Any real work to manage that development was left to a nobleperson assigned the world as a fief, who had a share of the interstellar GWP to use to fund projects for the public good, or to improve public health and education.  But no more, and certainly no funding of offensive warfare.

Of course, as time passed, things changed and the agreement was revised with the clans when needed or demanded by one or more clans.  And while that happened on world, the interstellar situation had changed too.  With the Zhodani and Sword Worlds assaults, Denotam became a strategic base.  The world's location was so important, it became the seat of the local County despite the significant lack of economic performance of the Denotam system.  These changes also altered the relationship between the Imperium and the clans, and forced updates on the agreements.  Focusing in on a specific set of pages, the Count's man pointed out where the agreement came to a listing of locations on the world's surface.  Those points where the clans had negotiated with the Imperial authorities and signed away permanent, long or short term use of parcels of land.  Saying that, the man specifically pointed out the agreement with the Glas Clan which covered the facility they'd seen.

Handing things back to the Count, the man admitted what the clans had told Mikah "sounded bad", but it relied on her lack of information on the system.  The fact was the clans knew about the agreements and, when necessary, participated in changing them.  And, they told new visitors who chose to listen to them the same thing every time, so the words Mikah brought to them were not new to his people.  Ultimately, the Count said that The Glas, like the six other clan leaders, really only wanted Imperial authorities to send the military in to back one clan and drive them up to leadership of the world.  In addition, the attitudes and policies of each clan changed when one leader passed control to the next generation.

Mikah nodded at what the Count was saying but asked if some of the centuries old agreements had been revisited?  Jocelynn also accepted what the Count said, but said that the current leader of the Glas Clan seemed to feel there was an infringement on their land.  Since the agreement was actually a public document, he offered to give the crew an electric copy and they could check it against the claims and even speak to the Glas leader to confirm if there was an actual infringement?  Fesic suggested it was possible some of the clans had developed an oral history and that resulted in a loss of some of the information in the document.  The Count shrugged and told them he was happy to have a sit down with the leaders and confirm if a mistake was made?

When Mikah said the standing agreements which served older generations may not serve the current clan populations, the Count said he was open to having the clan leaders sit in council to make changes or updates.  Listening to the man talk, Mikah could see he seemed fully honest and committed to what he was saying.  Mikah told the Count the Glas had said he was willing to have a sit down and the Count misunderstood, saying that it would be better if they came to the Court for obvious reasons.  Mikah agreed with that, and said she'd be in contact with the Glas again in the coming weeks and update the Count on what answers they get.

From that, Mikah shifted to the hover APC.  Raising an eyebrow when Mikah mentioned the vehicle but said she didn't know the history, the Count looked at the legate.  That man sat up straighter and said, "My bet is that it's the armored carrier from the 1,967th in a flat tone that revealed nothing.  When that man said his piece, Jocelynn sat up straighter because that unit matched the one the markings she'd seen were part of.  In the pause, Jocelynn said, "I can confirm that." in a tone as flat as the legate's.  After a glance around the table, the Count asked if it was operational and Mikah said, "It could fly."  Aiden almost grunted, "Barely" in a tone that implied his disgust at the state the carrier had been in.  There was a pause before Jocelynn said, "It's in rough shape but it works."

The legate looked to the Count with a grimace and said, "Hmm, they've managed to get it operational.  That's not good."  The man's tone was just as flat as before but his face spoke of an untold story behind the current conversation.  Nodding, the Count told the man he might as well tell them the rest of the story.  Nodding back, the Legate turned to the crew and told them that Clan Glas had carried out a number of attacks on Imperial facilities on-world nearly fifty years before.  The Count added that the attacks were in spite of the fact the clan had ceded the land to Imperial use.  The attacks were significant, and killed a lot of Imperial troopers. They had also managed to swarm and capture that specific APC.  But they captured it by immobilizing it.  So, they must have managed to get the spare parts somewhere and have now gotten it operational again over the past fifty years.

The only thing Jocelynn could say at first was, "Wow".  She followed that up saying, "Well, if it took them fifty years, they don't seem to have gotten very far."  The crew could see the Count and his people were still not happy an armored antigrav vehicle was moving.  And they could see that while the clan might not have done much with the APC over the years, they had no idea what the clan planned to do with it?  Or, how they could leverage the vehicle?  Mikah sparked up saying, "Well, if you give us a couple of weeks, we can take it off their hands for you."  Jocelynn added, "And we can give it to you."  When the Count asked what they wanted for it, Mikah honestly said, "We don't know.  But we have stuff in our ship's locker that we want to get rid of.  So...  I don't know if it's gonna be enough for them or whatever, but...  If you want to help us with the costs, we can get it out of their hands."

The Count and his people considered her words and then the Count said, "Let us think about that and we'll get back to you."  Jocelynn added, "He also wanted a face to face meeting with you." which actually wasn't the case.  It was Mikah who pushed the idea of a face to face meeting.  Still, the Count had no problem with that so long as they came to his Court.  Mikah said she'd already agreed to that condition and they'd be back in contact with the clan in a few weeks.  Aiden asked if the Count or his people knew who the primary contact was for Clan Glas?  The Count said each clan had a separate contact who they chose, and who would make contact with the Imperial outreach teams.  That team also tried to keep regular contact with the clans but the clans didn't always respond.  And when they do, it's not always in a constructive way.  Answering Aiden's question, the Count said, "When they do respond, we find out who they've sent to talk to us in that moment."

Entirely misunderstanding, Aiden said, "So, it's not a bureaucratic issue.  It's just basically a department that doesn't care."  When the Count answered, "I don't even think they have departments", Aiden said, "Not the clans, I mean the Imperium.  The Contact Bureau."  Not having any idea how Sir Aiden could have misunderstood what he'd described, the Count corrected him saying, "No, they all work for the seneschalate here on-world."  The Count again said he and his people were willing to negotiate with the clans but the clans had to remember they were citizens of an Imperial member world.  Their leaders were all party to signing the documents attesting to that.  Nodding, Jocelynn suggested they let the Count's people slug it out with the Glas since they'd only promised to get the clan a sit down with the Count.  So the Count's people could hash out what The Glas wanted.  The others agreed and the Count's people were good with that, so the meeting ended.  They went back to the snowcat and back to the berth.  But, now had new and conflicting information and lots to think about.

On the way, Mikah told the others to not contact the clan.  She didn't want it to appear like they snapped their fingers and the Count's people jumped.  She said they should wait until they were ready to sit down with the clan again and then try to make a deal...and see what happened.  Mikah planned to concentrate on Emkir's funeral for the moment, and that meant planning for the meeting the next day.  While she did that, Colinne realized she hadn't started digging into the program they'd told her about.  She'd been given a copy from Emkir's hand computer and decided it was time to take it apart and see if she could figure out what it did, how it did it, etc, and see if she could see what it does, what it can do and how it could be improved.  She was just getting ready to do that when Aiden called the port and asked if there was a range they could get access to?  Colinne decided to set aside the program and 'go with', and so did Sekea.  With the party growing, Fesic said he'd go and so did Mikah.  Jocelynn had stayed at the berth, planning to concentrate on armory videos and stent-work.

Those going to the range planned to spend half an hour there and, before they left, Colinne used the gauss rifle loader to load her magazines.  When they got to the range, Colinne planned to burn through 100 rounds while Aiden planned to burn 30 rounds of ball, Sekea planned to burn through 60 rounds of snub ammo, Fesic brought his laser rifle and a backpack while Mikah brought her laser carbine and a backpack.  The trip there and back along with the practice took nearly an hour, and was followed up by a GI party where they cleaned their weapons and planned to buy replacement ammunition.  After that, Colinne went back to her original plan and logged into one of the berth computer system to start setting up virtual computers to investigate the lock picking program.

Colinne's plan was to set up software to capture transmissions to and from the program while it connected from her main virtual computer to a second virtual computer she'd "secured" as best she could, to interrogate the different data streams sent and received by the program.  She would then work to understand what was happening.  And, since she might not have the correct decompilers, that would then mean she'd have to start guesstimating what algorithms were being used and try to duplicate them.  Colinne knew this was going to take quite some time, because she'd have to figure out what options the program had, other than what she'd been told.  That would widen her task greatly, at first, and then she'd have the fun work of essentially re-writing the program from the clues up.

Aiden planned to relax and watch some vids before doing stent work, which he planned to ask Colinne to run a group session for.  He then planned to relax for the rest of the day.  When Aiden brought up the group stent practice, Jocelynn set aside her work and joined that.  Knowing the program thing would take a good amount of time, Colinne was OK with running a group stent practice.  After the practice, when it was coming up to dinner time, Fesic asked Jocelynn if she wanted to go out hunting in the bars?  When she said she did, they had to decide who they wanted with them, and if they were going as Fesic and Jocelynn or as Kane and Zoey?  After talking, they decided they could go out with the crew for food and then go drinking on their own.

Jocelynn told the others they wanted to go out for food and asked who wanted to come with?  When everyone else said they wanted to join in, they started talking up what kind of food they wanted?  Jocelynn said it shouldn't be anything fancy, and suggested a bar where they could eat and drink.  Of course, that stepped on her plans with Fesic to go hunting rumors and shady connections alone after separating from the crew to go drinking...  Taking about their options, Jocelynn was reminded this was an ice world, so their options would be the restaurants which were mostly in the "startown" or "business quarter" of the dirtside port city.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Zimzod: Aboard the INS Maadashmim Zikheaa for medical treatment
     Aali: Aboard the shipyard station where the Upgrade is being worked on
     Rol: Gestating: 8 weeks, 2 days until decant
     Everyone Else: In the berth in the starport planning to go to dinner

Next: Pieces On The Board