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Last Updated     June 30 2023
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Plans And Questions
     Doctors had started work to rebuild Zimzod's chest the day before, and the marathon would keep going into the next day.  Zimzod would then undergo three weeks of medical treatment using medical slow drug followed by clean-out therapies.  It would also still be eight weeks and two days before they could decant Rol.  The next day, the rest of the crew would dress up and go to Emkir's funeral.  That would be attended by Prince Lucan, Arch Duke Norris, Count Alaranjados Peleslok and his family along with most of the officers of the local Imperial Navy and Marine commands.

News vids were set to capture the event because the Prince and Arch Duke were attending.  And the day after that, Mikah, Jocelynn and Fesic planned to fly out to pick up The Glas for his meeting with Count Alaranjados.  In the time before or after that meeting, Jocelynn and Fesic hoped to seal some agreements to sell gear to The Glas.  Aali planned to spend the rest of the day using her remote connections to keep an eye repairs to their ship while also working with the funeral people and base chaplains to arrange Emkir's funeral.

Colinne was stowing the new buys she'd picked up at InstellArms earlier in the day.  She then planned to prepare and hang up her black pant suit and accessories for Sir Emkir's funeral the next day.  From there, Colinne planned to continue working on deconstructing the lock picking software she'd been given.  While she did that, Aiden wrote an e-mail to his father back on Craw.  Having been years since he'd done that, Aiden figured it would take some time to cover what he could of that time.  When sent, that x-message would take twelve weeks to reach Craw in the distant Glisten subsector.  After that, Aiden sparked up a terminal and did his best to check into the legal system on Denotam.  What he found was that each of the clans could have different systems from being pulled up before the clan leader to other, much darker, mechanisms of judgement.  Outside that, an arrest in the Imperial towns and villages would mean an arraignment, trial and judgement.  And, arrest on the Imperial bases would result in facing a military magistrate.

Fesic set up an investment account a year earlier, in the Lunion system, and wondered how his money was doing?  He also figured he was doing well enough on his earnings from the ship's travels to not need the KCr 2 he got annually from the stipends connected to his nobility patents.  Because of that, he wanted those invested into his account, to start with payments he'd get in 1115.  To do that, he had to connect with one of the commercial Imperial banks in-system.  They'd be able to tell him his account's current status, as broadcast from Lunion, and could complete the e-forms to make the changes to his stipends.  One set of those would be sent to Lunion and another sent to the various seneschalates involved in making the stipend payments.

Knowing the meeting with the Glas was two days away, Jocelynn was checking her list of tradables and considering the APC the Glas had stowed in "his" garage.  Having images of the vehicle, Jocelynn wanted to know more about it, so she moved to a terminal and sparked up a connection with InstellArms.  Getting a concierge willing to work with her specifically, Jocelynn said she'd seen a wreck in the field and wanted more information about it.  The concierge quickly identified the APC as a "Octocopiae", which had been a product of the firm Ballistica Maximas since it first went into production in 975 TI.  Wondering if Jocelynn and her crew were interested in a brand new APC, the concierge said InstellArms could sell them one for MCr 1.5.

Hearing that, Jocelynn thanked the concierge and killed the connection.  She knew "she" couldn't sell a new APC of the class for MCr 1.5, but dropping the price point from there on a new one let her guess at the value ranges for the damaged APC.  With that guess, and her data on their tradable or sellable gear, Jocelynn was ready to speak to Mikah.  Still, Jocelynn's idea had been to buy the APC then sell it somewhere they could get a price closer to the APC's original value, despite the damage.  Her idea wasn't a bad one, because any mercenary unit which used them would be have spares, and be able to repair the vehicle at a much lower cost.  And the vehicle still worked, so armor and guns be damned, it was a working grav vehicle, and those could be expensive.  And, no matter what happened to the APC, if they got the clan to give it up, the Count would be happier.

Hearing Jocelynn's comment, Colinne made a joke about taking it to sell in the Porozlo system.  Everyone who heard that laughed, because they knew the APC could cause a bidding war in that system.  Some even wondered if they'd sell the APC for more than it was worth, given the governments who might want a grav-APC without dealing with Imperial corporations.  Mikah worried at the cost of the trade, considering what the Glas would demand for an APC that would need massive amounts of repair.  And, as she thought about that, she smiled and came up with a plan to keep their costs down.  It was all based on how much the APC would cost to be made effective.  Mikah also suggested Jocelynn bring Fesic into the planning, and have him part of any trade negotiations.  And Fesic had just finished with his call to the bank.  He'd finished the financial work and learned his account was now worth KCr 24.

Not interested in ending up with the APC from the start, Fesic found himself assigned to help with trying to create a deal.  When he was called over, he could only joke, "When you buy a million and a half credit APC off the lot, it's suddenly only worth seven hundred fifty thousand."  That got laughs from everyone.  When Jocelynn said, "It's already worth much less than that." Fesic reinforced Mikah's thinking when he said, "This armored personnel carrier, I'm thinking, is not worth very much."  Mikah nodded and said, "Yeah.  I wouldn't think it would be worth fifty thousand."  Sadly, their thoughts on the value of the APC didn't reflect the reality of shipping any advanced tech to Denotam.  Fesic also agreed their plans had changed but said he thought they should hold onto the hyper-artic equipment the Arch Duke had given them.  When his part in the conversation ended, Fesic went back to work on his lock picking class.

While the others had been talking about the APC and trade deal, Sekea was worried about their future in the Sonthert system.  He already knew they'd have to worry about fuel and 'time on station' while scanning for a lost base.  Based on his math, Sekea knew they couldn't extend their fuel capacity enough using the cargo bay.  That meant they had three options at best.  First, they could make out-system jumps to refuel at locations like Lanth or D'Ganzio.  Second, they could make in-system jumps to frontier refuel at the gas giants in the Sonthert system.  And, finally, they could spend the time doing back breaking mining operations if they could find water ice on Mynbou.  And, while there was no promise water ice would be found on Mynbou, Sekea was concerned about safety while mining the ice, given what had happened with their exercise on the naval base.

Sekea's main interests were items like crampons, to attach to their boots, and systems they could use to tether themselves together while working on surface ice.  Despite the fact the Arch Duke had given them two ice cutters, Sekea also started looking into their options for ice saws or other devices available to cut ice.  Sekea also wanted, after he'd completed some basic research on safety and ice mining gear, to ask Mikah about asking Arch Duke Norris if he could possibly extend her permission so they could leave and re-enter the Sonthert system?  He felt that would be the easiest method to refuel as needed, even if it would certainly also be the most expensive.

After Sekea did some basic research on methods they could use for on-ice safety and had some idea of where he could look for items, he moved over to where Mikah, Jocelynn and Fesic had been talking.  Excusing himself to make sure Mikah had a moment, he gave them a basic description of his ice-safety research without fully explaining why he felt it was important?  When Mikah asked why it mattered, Sekea admitted he was worried about their need to refuel while in the Sonthert system.  He told Mikah he and Aiden agreed it would be better if they could leave and re-enter the Sonthert system repeatedly.  Sekea then asked Mikah if she could ask for a meeting to ask the Arch Duke for that permission?  He hoped she could do that at some time before or after Emkir's funeral, when they knew they'd be meeting with Norris?

While Mikah understood Sekea's reasoning, she also figured springing the idea on Norris while dealing with the funeral might be bad timing.  Not to mention if a hot mike from one of the media teams picked it up.  Still, she said she'd talk to the Arch Duke's people and see what could be done to talk to Norris about the request?  At the same time, Aiden had been having a GI party cleaning his weapons after writing his father, and had just finished that work.  The four-page X-mail cost him Cr 12, because it was only a digital text document.  With everyone else relaxing, it was time to have dinner before deciding what to do for the evening?

After eating, Aiden wanted to look for a gym or other place he could exercise and work out?  When he found a health club and called about their memberships, he was offered a price of Cr 2,400 for a weekly membership.  Considering that, and knowing services for outsiders on Denotam were designed to separate the small amount of visiting spacers from as much cash as possible, Aiden paid the fee and signed up.  After dinner, Jocelynn decided to combine her armory studies and her gear maintenance by targeting any videos she could find on gear she had to maintain.  After she was done talking to the others, Mikah called the Arch Duke's people to ask for a meeting with Norris.  Calling the number she had, Mikah was connected to an aide to Norris who said he'd ask the Arch Duke if they could set up a meeting?  She then got working on the eulogy Aali had asked her to deliver at the funeral.

Bombs And Blood
     Having started some research into his concerns, Sekea had an idea what he wanted but still needed to start pricing them locally.  While he could expect to price things on the local network around the clock, the shops in the nearby village would close soon.  So, Sekea asked Aiden if he wanted to go and check out what was available there and what the prices were?  Aiden agreed and Colinne also overheard and went along with them.  Part of that was because she felt she could use a chance to streatch her legs.  Another part was that she'd been feeling a growing unease that seemed to have nothing to do with the crew and she wanted to get a wider feel for what was happening in the port and village?  After telling Mikah his plans, Sekea led the others out of the berth and off the port.

Sekea's interests were for ice safety and cutting gear and, because Denotam was an iceball, there were a good number of shops to try and cover through the evening.  While Sekea and Aiden went to checking the stock of each shop, Colinne seemed to do the same thing in each shop they went into.  She'd find a corner to slip into and then stand there as if she was looking for better places to meditate.  Ignoring that, Aiden and Sekea found the shops had both simple and more advanced 'powered' gear.  They also had simple and more advanced harnesses similar to those used to link teams of climbers together.  Those were less often sold but were meant to help keep trekkers safe when crossed questionable terrain.  While there were good reasons to consider higher tech gear in most cases, the only reason for buying off-world crampons were because of the tensile strength of the metal they were made of.

Sekea and Aiden did their best to take down as many prices and basic comparisons as they could get while Colinne did her thing in each shop they went to.  In one of the shops, Aiden found stickers of reflective material they could put on jackets and other clothing to improve visibility.  Looking at the selection, he saw the shop had a packet of five foot-long - inch-wide strips as well as spools of varying lengths of the stuff.  The spools had lengths of five, fifty and one hundred yards of tape-backed reflective material.  Checking the prices, Aiden saw the ten-yard spool was priced at Cr 25 while the fifty-yard spool was Cr 65.  Having expected the fifty yard roll to cost at least Cr 250, Aiden was pleased at the deal and bought a fifty yard roll.

Dimly aware of the actions at the counter while Aiden was finishing up, Colinne had been working to "ride" the slowly growing sense of anger and hate to see if she could find a trigger or focus?  The sense had been growing ever since they'd finished lunch in the berth, and Colinne had gone with Sekea and Aiden into the village to see if she could better understand it or lock it down.  Just as Aiden turned back to Sekea, Colinne felt something akin to a "snap" in the building gestalt she'd been feeling.  Despite being nowhere near a focus for the emotion, she now knew it was coming from a river of people who were moving towards the complex including the bases, villages and downport.  And the oncoming wave of people were armed!  Realizing that, Colinne moved up to Sekea and said, "I think we need to get back to the berth now!"  Sekea turned to her to say he was OK with returning to the berth just as she stressed the word "now", and realized there was something else she was on about than shopping.

Sekea let Colinne nearly drag him over to Aiden so she could urgently whisper the same thing into the pilot's ears before leading them both the shop door.  Stepping out from the door, Sekea asked Colinne what she thought was wrong and Colinne only answered, "There's about to be a lot of shooting here."  Confusing the issue more, Colinne had a palm-sized display pad which she held up but not long enough for either man to get a glimpse at the screen or any details.  Nodding, both men agreed to get moving as quickly as they could.  Still, Sekea wanted to move as fast as they could without drawing attention to them.

While they started moving, Colinne sparked her comms and called the general frequency for the crew.  In the berth, Mikah and Fesic picked up.  When Mikah asked what was happening, Colinne said the three of them were in the town and had to get back onto the port very fast because bad things were about to happen.  She then asked if anyone could come and pick them up?  Mikah said she could come get them, and cut the line while starting to move to the air-raft.  When Fesic asked if she needed a pilot, Mikah said she was a pilot in a tone that said he wasn't needed.  When Fesic pushed that he could come for support, Mikah told Jocelynn she wanted the woman to snap into her armor, grab a gun and join her.  Jocelynn said she would even though they all knew an air-raft was rated for four people so they'd be over-loaded after picking up the three in the village.

Still, Jocelynn asked "What the hell happened" as she got moving, and Mikah answered, "I have no idea.  We're just gonna go rescue them."  Jocelynn did call back asking Mikah how heavily armed she should be and Mikah had to stop to think what they could get away with on Denotam.  She then told Jocelynn to grab her long guns while Mikah got into her combat armor and grabbed her laser carbine and backpack.  Each of the women moved to the air-raft with Jocelynn also in combat armor with her laser rifle and a shotgun strapped on her shoulder.  Starting to board the raft, Mikah told the others to hunker down and keep an eye on what was happening around the berth.

While they ran towards the end of a street in the village, Colinne suddenly reached out and grabbed both men, near tripping them as she pulled them down and yelled, "Hit the dirt!"  And just as they hit the ground, a blast rose as something dropped into the street far ahead of them.  The three ducked for all the cover they could get from the blast as the villagers on the street began reacting.  If Zimzod or Rol were there, they would have realized this was 'discouraging fire', meant to drive the villagers into their homes.  But neither Colinne, Aiden or Sekea were ground pounders so their thoughts were along the lines, of "Shit!  We're being bombed."  With debris still falling, Sekea asked if it was safe to get moving or if she had information saying they should dig in?

Colinne said she didn't have much information, but knew they were now in a combat zone and had to move as far as they could to get to a place they could be picked up from.  Nodding, the three waited for most of the debris to stop falling before beginning a pattern of 'Sprint, then duck' movements down the street.  At the same time, they could hear general alert sirens sounding on the distant port campus.  In the berth, they not only heard that alert, but also heard a general advisory played over the public address speakers.  The advisory ordered everyone on the port to shelter in place and not move unless given official permission by port control.

Annoyed, Mikah sparked up her comms while settling into the air-raft and called port control.  What she got was a port tech saying they were quite busy and showing every intention of cutting the connection on her!  Mikah shouted, "Well, we have people out there and we're gonna go get them so...shut up!"  With a silent prayer to the gods of stupid spacers across the universe, the man snapped, "What do you mean you have people out there?  Where?"  As if the man should already know something he'd not been told, Mikah snapped, "In the town.  They just called.  They're in danger and we're gonna go get them.  We have what we need to protect ourselves so..."

The tech called over a supervisor, refusing to waste time or make the call himself.  That man first told Mikah to hold her position until she was given clearance.  Now expecting that clearance to come, Mikah was willing to hold the few heartbeats it took this guy to do what he had to.  When the supervisor did get back to the screen, he firmly advised Mikah to call her people and tell them to find a basement or other hole they could shelter in.  Before Mikah could react, he then told her to secure her vehicle and not try to make a rescue unless she wanted to risk being shot out of the sky by the port's defensive systems.  His tone made it clear no one in the port had the time to even try to prevent that and made no comment at all about the incoming fire which the port had no control over.

Hearing that, Mikah admitted she hadn't thought about the anti-aircraft and anti-missile fire that might be filling the sky over the village, base and port.  Nor had she considered the inbound fire causing some blasts she could hear and feel the ground vibrations from.  Nodding as she overheard, Jocelynn agreed, "That would be bad."  Mikah snapped an agreement with the port, cut the line and called Colinne's comms back.  When she answered, Mikah said the port wasn't letting them lift, so the three had to find a position where they could hunker down into and shelter there.  Not surprised, Colinne started looking for cover while Sekea started asking her for direction instead of also looking for someplace himself.  Rolling her eyes, Colinne spotted a shop and pointed, saying, "Let's go there."

Ironically, they saw the shop keeper move to the door, lock it and turn the 'open' sign to 'closed' as they rushed the entrance.  Seeing them approach, he even waved them away as he started to leave.  Still holding the palm-sized display in her right hand, Colinne slammed it against the glass window in the door as she concentrated as hard as she could, Thinking, "Open this door right now!"  While she couldn't mentally assault the man, and knew that would likely drop him on the other side of the locked door, Colinne did know that many of the uninitiated might well be pushed into a state of shock by her broadcast.  And, if that was the case, the only thought still ringing in his head would be, "Open this door right now."

Inside the shop, the man suddenly stopped moving and slightly turned to the door.  From what they could see, his eyes appeared a bit glassy for reasons Sekea and Aiden didn't understand.  Colinne then pointed at the small hand display with her other hand as the man started to move again and sort of staggered back to the door.  Unlocking it, the man seemed to recover a bit and could only point and say, "This way" while he pointed into the shop.  Behind them, he oddly took the time to close and locked the door before leading them to a door marked 'stairs'.  Through that, they followed the man down into the shop's basement where they all took what cover they could.  The shop keeper moved over to what seemed to an organized work space to the left.  Both Sekea and Aiden were so intent on watching the shopkeeper, they hadn't noticed that Colinne had drawn her gauss pistol.

Both in the berth, and more muted in the shop basement, they all heard loud and sudden blasts while they kept their heads down and Colinne kept an eye on the shop keeper, her gauss pistol held low and out of sight.  They could tell some level of major attack seemed to be under way outside.  In the berth, Jocelynn asked Mikah if she should go out on foot to try and rescue the others and Mikah told her to stay in the berth.  For good or not, the others would have to shelter in place.  Aali heard that and called out, "It's raining."  When Jocelynn gave her a confused look, Aali clarified, "it's raining munitions."  Nodding, Jocelynn comm'd Colinne and asked her to keep an open comms and let them know what was happening.  Sekea overheard and asked Jocelynn to update them if they got any information too.

Hearing that, Jocelynn told them it was their guess the attack was coming from the Arnstruther, because they'd been told that clan was angry with the Imperial Navy over some dispute or other.  At the same time, the shop keeper seemed to relax suddenly before he looked up with wide wild eyes and pointed at Colinne.  He suddenly and spasmatically said, "You...You're..." before he turned and started wildly digging at the gear beside his desk.  As soon as Colinne saw the butt end of some kind of rifle, she raised her gauss pistol at the ready.  Then, as the man spun while raising his rifle, she fired three shots.

The three needles took the man in his chest while Aiden and Sekea heard the "spitting sound" and cried out in surprise at the sudden shots.  Biting back his reaction, Aiden asked, "What just happened?" while realizing for the first time the man had somehow gotten and dropped a rifle.  The weapon was old, from the patina he could see on the stock and barrel.  Still, the metal facing of the chamber and chamber port were shining and clean.  Ignoring the reactions of the others at first, Colinne carefully moved forward and kicked the rifle away from the man's body just in case.  Turning back to the men, Colinne said, "I was watching him and saw his eyes go wide before he grabbed the rifle.  And I didn't want to wait to see what would happen next?"

Aiden nodded and said, "Right." and Colinne holstered her pistol saying, "We're probably gonna have to call in the local authorities because he tried to kill us."  Aiden grunted an OK and asked how long they thought they'd be stuck in the basement.  Colinne pointed to the outside and said, "At least until the fighting stops."  Shrugging and moving back away from the man's body, Colinne suggested they all do what they could to relax and took a seat so she could start meditating.  Before she could get seated, Sekea asked her what she's shown the man when they came to his door earlier?  He also wondered if that might have motivated him to shoot them?  Pulling the hand pad from her pocket, Colinne said, "Let me turn on the screen."  After using the controls for a brief bit, she showed them where it read "We are Imperial Authorities."

Sekea nodded and said, "I see.  Obviously, he must have had some issue with Imperial authorities.  That ignored the fact that the claim had gotten the man to let them in and the likelihood he'd realized they'd lied to him once in the basement.  Hearing what they could in the berth with the open comms, Jocelynn could only wonder 'what the fuck they were doing?!'  Watching Colinne, Sekea wondered if she had more information on the shop keeper even though she'd already explained why she'd shot the man.  He was also content to wait until she was ready, as she settled into her meditation, despite the obvious fact she was just relaxing until it was time to move.  So, if he wanted to ask questions, "now" was the time.  So, he should, perhaps, have interrupted her.

Also in the berth, Fesic sparked up a terminal and started checking the various port data screens to see if they were putting out any information but their data was locked down.  It was clear the port wanted everyone to shelter in place and wasn't putting out any data to civilians on the sudden fighting.  Concerned there might be ground forces moving on the parkbay in which their ship had a berth, Fesic took a position where he had cover and could cover their berth's main entrance with his snub pistol.  The parkbay itself was a large circular structure with internal "hollows" in which technical work and supply storage was fit in between berths in which space and star craft could be stored.  The "main" entrance was large enough for a tractor to carry in a starship like the Upgrade or other small craft.

There were also smaller personnel entrances which could be used by anyone who had the right authorization.  Of course, Jocelynn had learned about controlling that authorization when she worked with Captain Yur's people on Arden.  Unless the port's security team were constantly checking the outstanding access badges, it was almost certain some level of money, theft or power could have illegal access.  That meant any intruder could charge the parkbay structure and try to use any of those entrances to get into the building.

The first person to react to this was Aali, who went into her bedroom while the others tried to get answers from the port and grabbed the drone she'd bought on Regina.  Despite the drone's palm-size, it had a number of features which were surprisingly powerful.  Aali activated the drone and let it spin to auto-sense its surroundings.  During that, she also tied it to her datapad and instantly got a video and control feed from the device.  From there, controlling the drone was almost point and click.  She ran a finger around a dot on the screen and the drone turned at a speed to match.

Parkbay Interior The parkbay was a tapered cylinder rising from a circular base up high enough to house internal berths that could store starships up to 500 dtons.  Those berths formed a ring which was itself surrounded by passages and technical spaces for those who worked for the port and supported the parkbay.  Inside the technical ring, and then the ring of berths, was a "transit ring".  Tractors moved around that ring to shift the positions of the ships which rented space in the parkbay.  That transit ring connected to the entrances of all the berths as well as a "main entry" to the parkbay and an exit into the open central space in the middle of the parkbay.  The open space in the building's center allowed ships to lift directly from that point after being shifted from their berth by a tractor.  Ships that did not have VTOL tech had to be shifted outside, through the main entrance/exit, to lift from an open tarmac.

Spinning the drone to face the berth's main exit, Aali only had to poke that space on her datapad screen and the drone flew off into that passage.  She similarly drove the drone around the transit ring until she got it to the exit into the launch space at the center of the parkbay.  Once the drone was outside, she only had to scale an altitude control and then drag her finger along the line while the drone rose.  Aali wasn't worried about it being shot down, because it was so very small.  And, as it rose, the cameras on the drone fed them a view of the port grounds for quite a distance.  That would let them see if anyone was moving towards their parkbay, and all seemed secure.

Despite that, Fesic's brand of paranoia meant he worried about other people inside the parkbay trying to get into their berth.  That despite the fact anyone else in the parkbay would either be a technician who worked in the building or crew of one of the other ships parked there.  Still, it was possible this was some sort of elaborate distraction so some unknown force could attack their crew and no one stopped him taking a covered position from which he could see the transit ring outside their berth.  From his position, Fesic could see a bit of the space in either direction around the transit ring.  So, if anyone came along that passage, he could react.  Adding to that, Fesic suggested the others position themselves so they could see the smaller personnel entrances which came into the berth.  Especially those doors that opened from the technical working spaces which were the outer ring of spaces inside the parkbay.

Still, Aali had eyes on all the terrain around the parkbay and she could see no one was attacking the port or approaching the parkbay.  It seemed everyone had taken the port's warning to heart and were covering in place instead of moving around.  There were port security vehicles moving and other port teams, but she could see no civilians.  It almost seemed as if the clan attackers had lobbed some bombs onto the port's outer precincts to scare everyone on the port into taking cover.  Why they needed the people on the port hiding while they did whatever they were doing wasn't something they could understand, but that seemed the most likely suggestion.  Tilting the drone and angling her cameras, Aali could tell "the real action" seemed to be happening on the edge of the Imperial Naval base.

Hearing that, Mikah started wondering if they could send a link to Sekea, Aiden and Colinne so they'd know as much as she did about the situation?  Unfortunately, Aiden didn't have his commdot mux, so the 'team network' they'd devised wasn't active.  Because of that, there was no way to re-direct the video from the drone to Aiden's tech and neither Colinne or Sekea had bought commdots and set up a network node for themselves.  Still, they had an open comms line to the three and Sekea decided it was time to update Mikah and those at the berth on what the situation was in the basement?  Sekea first gave them his guess how far they'd gotten from the shop where Aiden had bought the reflective tape.  He said they were hunkered down in the basement of a shop Colinne had selected before describing the events which led to her killing the shop keeper.

Happily, Sekea did say the man had grabbed a gun first and described Colinne's actions as "forced", but he did say they should call in the authorities after the attack ended.  After that, Sekea decided to see if he could get Colinne to open her eyes so he could ask her for more information.  When he moved over and gently shook her shoulder, Colinne opened her eyes to fix him with a look and asked, "Is the attack over?"  Sekea admitted the attack wasn't over but asked if Colinne had the shop's name and address to give Mikah.  Colinne sighed, because she knew the information was entirely useless until the attack ended, and said "Sure."  Ignoring Sekea, Colinne moved over to some of the papers in the basement office the shop keeper had and then read one of them to Mikah, telling her exactly what the shop name and address were.  She also advised that no one in the berth try to get to them until "the current rain storm stops."

Colinne then turned back to her meditation while ignoring Sekea's thanks for her actions.  The sounds of fighting continued and an hour later, the Imperial Naval base started broadcasting a cautious all clear.  They did suggest that civilians should call for escorts from the police, port security or other security agencies if they needed to move about in the open until they were certain the fighting had ended.  Hearing that, Mikah called the port and updated them on the situation with her three crew members in the shop basement.  The port technician said they would have the police respond to the address to investigate what had happened and assist as they could.  Mikah accepted that and cut the line before letting the three know police were on their way.

With the warnings from Mikah, all three in the basement holstered their weapons and waited until they heard knocking at a door on the shop's main floor.  Hearing that, all three remembered the shop keeper had locked the door after he'd let them in.  Moving up the stairs, Sekea made certain the police could see his empty hands as he moved to and opened the door.  Taking the time to check them out while he moved, Sekea saw there were four officers in the group.  The lead man announced he was a detective and then introduced a sergeant and two patrol officers.  He then formally said, "I understand there has been a shooting here." in a tone of officious disapproval.  Sekea only nodded and said, "Come downstairs and you can see where the incident occurred."

While they walked, Sekea made sure to tell the officers two other members of his crew were in the basement as well as the body.  The officers separated the three for questions while the detective began examining the dead shop keeper.  When she was questioned, as the identified shooter, Colinne said she'd shown him the data palm-pad which still read, ""We are Imperial Authorities."  She backed up that claim by pointing out that Sir Aiden and Sir Sekea were Imperial Knights and qualified as authorities of a sort.  While she spoke, Colinne did her best to see if she could manage to catch any of the officer's surface thoughts for fear of anti-spacer emotions.  While opening herself up to read was easy enough, the task was more difficult because she couldn't concentrate on it, so her results were hit or miss.  Still, she didn't feel he was unduly judging her.

She continued, saying she'd been watching that man because he was a local and might better be able to explain what was happening?  Because of that, Colinne said, she'd been watching when the man's face suddenly changed to a mask of rage for some reason!  Colinne said the man had suddenly turned to grab at something which she realized had been the butt of a rifle!  She admitted she'd had her pistol out of its holster during their run through the streets, in case they ran into invading hostiles.  Shrugging, Colinne said she hadn't thought to holster the weapon while they rushed into cover, so it was at the ready when she saw the rifle.  And with no other option to the sudden move, she'd shot the man.

When Sekea and Aiden's initial statements largely matched Colinne's, the officers said it was time to take them back to their office to sit and discuss the shooting.  Especially when both men said they'd seen the rifle before Colinne shot the shop keeper even though they hadn't seen the weapon until it flew from his jerking hands after she'd opened fire.  Still, they did ask the three to surrender their weapons and Aiden made sure to explain to them the security feature he'd had built into his pistol.  One of the officers carefully accepted the weapon from him while the look on his face showed how stupid he felt spacers got with their toys.  They then wrapped that pistol in fabric scavenged from the basement while saying the weapons would be returned after the investigation if appropriate.

There was a pause of nearly half an hour before the rest of the police assets arrived and it was time to move the three to the police station.  There, the three were separated and repeatedly questioned to see if there were any gaps in one description of events or the other?  Going through their stories three times, the officers focused on Sekea and Aiden's statements they'd actually seen the shop keeper's rifle before Colinne shot the man.  After they found no material differences between the stories, and the site investigation report also seemed to match the testimony, they had to admit they had no idea why, but the shop keeper must have tried to attack the spacers.

That decided, they had someone call the port and tell Mikah they were escorting the three spacers back to the berth.  They also returned the weapons to the spacers before escorting them to the port.  While they'd been questioned by the officers, the others waited in the berth and Mikah had gotten notification she'd received an x-mail.  Logging into the X-mail system to recover her message.  Reading that, she saw it was from Nivaor Tirkenty, Captain of the IMV Ashidi Ke.  That had been the ship that convoyed out from Tremous Dex with them and helped with rescues from the King George.  The captain was writing her to offer apologies because the cargo sealer they'd told her not to take turned out to be of much higher quality than they'd expected from "their mutual associate".

Mikah read on to see that the captain was a bit embarrassed because of the profit they'd gained in trying to protect Mikah's crew.  Because of that, he'd included a link in the X-mail which would pay Mikah back the KCr 25 they'd paid for the sealer they'd gotten.  Captain Nivaor also commented on the surprisingly honest the smuggler had been in the situation.  The captain also included a synopsis of the events aboard his ship after they jumped from Tremous Dex back to Extolay.  Mikah decided to send him a reply thanking him for the payment and also briefly going through their adventures since Tremous Dex.  Of course, she avoided the things she couldn't say.

Aiden decided to call and cancel his membership, and was told he could have a refund minus the twenty five percent penalty fee.  Not happy, Aiden accepted that and got back his Cr 1,800 refund.  While Mikah worked on her letter, then went back to working on Emkir's eulogy, Aiden checked and saw the club he'd bought membership in was in the town.  Done with that, Mikah activated the bank link and transferred the KCr 25 into their ship's funds.  The more things calmed down outside, the more Mikah found the port presenting excuse after excuse when she asked permission to go after her missing crew.  Finally, the port called saying the police had escorted the three back to port administration and they were having some of their security people escort them back to the berth.  When they arrived, Colinne looked to Mikah and said, "I need to talk to you." and told the others that had to be in private.

With the port security having finished their escort and left, the others turned into the berth before Colinne said, "I went into town because I felt a general feeling of building anger.  And while we were in town, I saw a good number of people rushing to get off the street and realized this was going to happen 'now'."  Mikah nodded as Colinne continued, "Still, we shouldn't leave the berth unless we absolutely have to for the next few days."  Mikah nodded and accepted that before pausing then saying, "You should try to be a little bit more discreet.  If you know what I mean?"  Colinne only gave Mikah a look saying they both understood before she turned toward her bedroom in the berth.

Not long after the three were returned to the berth, the port released word that the earlier events were the result of a 'protest' staged by Clan Arnstruther, against "Imperial policies".  The announcement said the port had just been caught by some of the side effects and they regretted any anxiety or other issues raised.  They also thanked everyone for their cooperation during the fighting, and hoped their customers would bear with the port during cleanup and repairs.  They estimated that work would take a day, so long as there were no further clan demonstrations.  With that, Aali landed her drone and squared it away.

The 'fun' over with, Aiden spent time handing up his black suit for Emkir's funeral the next day.  Aiden also found a discreet place to carry his commdot mux and figured he'd carry his data-HUD-Goggles with him, but not wear them.  Aali also spent time preparing her clothing and gear, then told the others she would like to spend the evening alone in her room to deal with her feelings.  Jocelynn spent the evening working on armory and gear maintenance work while Fesic worked on lock picking.  Mikah got her clothes and gear ready for the next day and reminded the others who had them, they should carry their comm dot muxes based on what happened earlier.

After Mikah finished with her clothing, she called Sekea and Colinne saying she had to explain something to them.  When the two sat, Mikah apologized because this was something the rest of the crew had done some time ago.  Mikah explained how each member of the crew had bought a set of comm dots and a mux.  They then connected one comm dot each to their comms and gear they had HUDs on.  They also connected comm dots to their weapon sights, hand computers and other devices until they ran out of dots.  All ten of the comm dots in a set were designed to network through the mux that came with the set.  And, through proper configuration, the comm dot on one team member's comms could use the comms to connect to the comm dot networks on the other team member's comms.  So, it was a poor man's combat network.

Aali had also connected a comm dot to her stent and Zimzod and Jocelynn connected comm dots to the battle computer on their battle dress suits.  That meant the battle computers could help in organizing their data network.  Mikah said Colinne could have Emkir's comm dot set and she'd talk to Aali the next day about that.  She also said Sekea could have the set left behind by Terin, and when they had free time, they'd set up networks for the two.  Mikah had also given Colinne and Sekea the data-HUD-Goggles left behind by Emkir and Terin, and said those already had comm dots on them and were configured.  Eventually, they all worked or relaxed and watched the news.

In the local news, the reports on what had happened that day were limited.  There were statements saying there had been an unfortunate disagreement between the Arnstruther clan and officers of the Imperial Navy, which had led to the attack.  Descriptions worked to assure the public this was not an attempt to dislodge or destroy Imperial facilities on-world, and just a demonstration of power.  The few attacks on the village and downport resulted in few injuries and no deaths.  Commenters said the few attacks not directed at the naval base were intended to scare people off the streets and keep defensive systems in those locations from being used.  So, they were only suppressive, while the clan more seriously looked to damage Imperial Naval structures.

Further reports said fighting on the Imperial reservations had ended and Imperial troops had moved into Clan Arnstruther territory to destroy stockpiles of weapons and end the demonstration.  The Imperial Legate announced that additional marine units had been cycled downwell and had now taken up positions to defend the bases, village and downport.  After that news story faded to analysts and commenters, they watched the newest interstellar stories for the rest of the evening.  While they watched the news, Mikah got a call telling her the Arch Duke would make time to meet with her after Sir Emkir's funeral.  When asked, Mikah said she would be the only one meeting with Norris.

    Bael (E200100-8  Lo Ni Va  G  812  Na  K2 V)                                                               Date: 314-1113
    Representatives of news observers in the system have suggested concern at a small level rise in conflict within the
    system since both the Imperium and Zhodani Consulate agreed to help stabilize the system.  With an increasing
    number of gunships having been delivered, rising levels of conflict have been seen.  It is expected this rise is
    driven by groups trying to secure positions and holdings, either legitimate or not.  Spokesbeings for the Sternmetal
    Horizons and Priantqlovr corporations state they have been working to increase production of the gunship, and also
    report interest in the vessel class by other polities.

    Reaction to the arrival of small scale gunships is mixed with some of the mining families embracing the chance to
    secure their holdings while others are openly hostile.  Reports suggest at least one small group organized briefly
    to engage and destroy one family organization after it received a gunship.  That conflict seems, ironically, to
    have weakened a number of the families involved in the action, leading to former allies turning on each other in
    attacks of opportunity.  It is believed the results led to absorption of up to five mining operations with the
    extinction of the original families who founded those claims.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F  2  Green  Hi Cap  910  M2 V6)                                                     Date: 349-1113
    Captain Sir Inkurra Ginushgim, of the Imperial Navy has met with Duke Leonard and a gathering of the Imperial
    Admiralty from the Spinward Marches.  This coincided with a gathering of vessels both from repair operations in the
    Icetina system and apparently reactivated vessels from the sector naval depot in Macene. Sir Inkurra has stated that
    engineers working to repair those vessels from the 212th, 43rd and 73rd fleets will certify a number of short squadrons
    to join the growing flotilla in the Rhylanor outsystem.  Following that, the gathered officers have announced an
    organized program of investigation.

    One part of this announcement was a statement by Lord Sir Ras Murgashnim, Admiral of the Flag that he will step out
    of retirement to command this operation as it evolves.  The Admiralty have also announced the promotion of Captain
    Sir Inkurra to the rank of Admiral.  While Admiral Lord Murgashnim will command the cloud of formations from a central
    fleet element, the squadrons under his command will fracture to sub-fleet elements to scour every system within ten
    parsecs of a central corridor from Rhylanor to Resten.  Unlike most Imperial survey operations, this will include
    the investigation of presumed planetless "brown star" systems.  Brown stars, also called brown dwarfs or failed stars,
    are substellar objects not massive enough to sustain fusion of ordinary hydrogen into helium, like a main-sequence star.
    Instead, they generally mass between the most massive gas giant planets and the least massive stars.

    In addition to this organization of survey forces in the Rhylanor system, TAS has learned a request was sent to Mora
    to re-engage the Deneb Core fleet.  That formation was believed preparing to return to the Deneb sector.  Some rumors
    suggest an all-out effort to root out havens for ships and locations operating illegally throughout the sector.  While
    those rumors grow, word has been received from the captured base orbiting the brown star located some two parsecs
    trailing of the Icetina system, and two parsecs rimward from Rhylanor.  Early reports state the fleet of what are
    referred to as "lesser military" and "armed technical" craft, were likely the source of attacks which have plagued the
    region, including the infamous attack in the Rhylanor system which took the life of Sir Brian Montgomery and all those
    in the arcology he was aboard.  Imperial authorities have been quiet about where support for this formation was coming
    from but it is no secret the primary supply, and likely primary orders, were coming from the Natoko system.

    Esalin(C565673-8  Ag Ni Ri  A  223  Im  F3 V  M5 D)                            Date: 360-1113
    After years of diplomatic interplay and some tense periods, Tinzhqlianzstibr Pizia Zhdeanzh has given grudging approval
    for the withdrawal of the last "protective" Zhodani warships from the Esalin system.  Having carried out the required
    interviews with now "Former" Zhodani citizens, the Consulate has ceded the system to Imperial control.  Given the
    results of the most recent failed Zhodani invasion of the Imperium, Zhodani officials have been forced to accept the
    word of Arch Duke Norris that all former citizens of the Consulate will be treated fairly and evenly under Imperial rule.

    Imperial Naval officers assigned administration over the system have stated that Imperial security forces have their role
    in hand.  Official reports state there has been little unrest during the reorganizations following assumption of Imperial
    rule.  Reports from the Zhodani Administrators who have been retained to govern Zhodani enclaves state they are working
    to bring their populations into line with new Imperial requirements.

    Of additional controversy, rumors from the system suggest the local Imperial military command have allowed a specialized
    school of psions to continue operating.  The unconfirmed information suggests a specialized Imperial unit operates as an
    overwatch limit on the school's students and teaching staff.  While many rumors surface from systems across space of
    Imperial psionic tolerance, few have stirred as much concern as those rising from Esalin.  Still, TAS has confirmed that
    specialized units using anti-psi tech have been assigned to the system for perfectly reasonable reasons.  Especially given
    the danger of mole or sleeper agents left in place by the Zhodani.

Farewells And Forethought
     Despite the alarms the crew had set, a number of them had their sleep interrupted by an urgent buzzing from the berth-wide comms.  Sekea was the first member of the crew to reach the comms in his room and answer it.  The person on the other end introduced himself as Dunshi Khuning Gua, of the local Interstellar Network News Agency.  Before Sekea could say anything, the reporter asked if he or his crew had any comments on the news which had broken in-system that morning?  Without considering rational actions like saying he'd just woken, wasn't aware of the news and didn't want to comment until he educated himself, Sekea said he had no comment before putting the reporter on hold and going to wake up Mikah, to ask if she wanted to make a comment?

In her bed, Mikah had heard the buzzing and wondered if she could make it go away without getting up.  To her surprise, the buzzing stopped!  Pleased, Mikah rolled back over without even checking her clock to see how soon her alarm would ring, and tried to get back to sleep.  That bliss was short lived when the sound of knocking came at her bedroom door and Mikah moaned, "What now?" in a mournful tone.  More loudly, Mikah got her priorities in order and called out, "Go make caff.  What's the problem?"  That clearly showed Mikah realized whatever the issue was would need her awake and she wouldn't be without her morning drugs.

Hearing Mikah, Sekea explained the call and situation and Mikah asked the obvious question Sekea had missed.  'What was the news?'  Since, as far as Sekea knew, no one had been awake before the call came in, and because the reporter said the news had broken "this morning", Sekea should have known no one in the crew could answer the reporter's question.  When Sekea paused, Mikah realized he had no idea what the news was, and suggested he ask for the details before trying to help anyone in the future.  Throwing on a shipsuit, Mikah stepped out of her bedroom and took the comms from Sekea.  She then spat at the reporter, "No comment." and cut the line before snapping at Sekea, "Make Caff!"  She hoped her tone was rough enough to get him moving.

She then moved to the berth's lounge to check the news and see what the reporter was talking about?  Something she also commented Sekea should have done before trying to help anyone.  While Mikah sparked up the vid, and Sekea started cooking breakfast along with the caff, Colinne and Jocelynn heard the buzzing, ignored it and went back to sleep.  The rest of the crew had been woken by the buzzing and were stepping through their daily routines.  In the meantime, Mikah scanned the vid for an active news report and changed the channel to find out why reporters were calling her crew this time?

    Extolay(B45589A-A  N  G  110  Im  M2 V  M4 D)                                              Date: 020-1114
    A statement released by the office of the Extolay Imperial Naval base Commander stated that the courier INS Kiergi
had arrived in system.  Administrative officer Udnin Imdua stated the jump-6 courier had been on another
    assignment when her crew became aware the Oberlindes liner IMS Voureiel had arrived in the Plume system and would
    soon be enroute to the Regina system.  The ship's commander didn't give further data on his mission or how they'd
    encountered the information they had, but that news made it clear the survivors of the IMS King George disaster
    would soon return to the Regina system.  The Extolay Naval command placed information about the INS Kiergi Nishke
    under blackout shortly after that.

Mikah listened as the piece continued, with a note the crew of the IMV Ashidi Ke had said Mikah and the Upgrade had been bound for Arden.  It continued that no one in the Extolay system knew if the Upgrade had returned to the Imperium yet?  Mikah could only guess this reporter was hoping for some kind of sector-wide exclusive with Mikah's crew, and was just as certain his call meant she just might go looking for the guy's nemesis to give the exclusive to...after she'd had caff.  Later, after finishing a mug of caff, starting on breakfast and another mug, Mikah decided hunting the man's nemesis down was too much work.  She simply told the others to tell any more reporters who called she would have no comment and they'd never release any statements to any news services that continued to harass them.

After the crew had eaten and dressed, a base vehicle was sent to bring them to Emkir's funeral.  The turnout was surprisingly large, unless you considered the Prince and Arch Duke were both attending and participating.  Most of the crew had experience in how politics played with event attendance.  Rather than a small and simple event where the crew could say goodbye, like Aali had hoped for, almost everyone assigned to the base was present.  At the same time, there was a smaller number of marine officers, given those who were deployed against Clan Arnstruther.  The speakers were passionate if only on the subject of service to the Imperium, except for Mikah's eulogy and the Arch Duke's personal comments about Emkir and his military service.  Finally, after an hour, the service ended and the base commander announced a reception.

If there'd been anything of special note, it would have been how different Arch Duke Norris described Emkir as he'd been during the war.  Norris said he wasn't willing to change things at the moment, but his summary of Emkir's work in the war suggested chances had been missed to award decorations.  He also didn't mention there might be a chance to award the decorations posthumously, while the suggestion still lingered.  The funeral was immediately followed by a brief press conference before the reception, and all the reporters had questions about the morning's news and asked for comments from Mikah's crew.  Despite that, Arch Duke Norris reminded them the data was coming from the Extolay system, and they'd only been given what that base command had.  That meant they could not have any more information in the Denotam system.

Arch Duke Norris reminded them any information they'd get would come from Extolay riding on the X-boat system and they should rely on that.  They should also remember it took a week for x-mail to cross from Extolay and so they should stop harassing the people on Denotam who could give them nothing new.  After stepping down from the dais, Norris stepped over to Mikah and said her crew could go join the reception before he'd have them returned to their berth, but understood she had a personal request of him.  While Prince Lucan stepped over to a group of senior naval officers to chat and learn, Norris led Mikah to his ride.  Once inside, Mikah saw that vehicle was very comfortable and guessed it was also very secure too.

After Norris joined her in the carrier and asked her what he could do for her, Mikah explained what Sekea and Aiden told her.  She explained they'd said the ship would have to refuel regularly while in the Sonthert system.  She then said they recommended she ask him to see if he couldn't modify the permission he'd given them, letting them come and go as needed.  Mikah even added that they'd turn over the grant of permission to the commander of the interdiction fleet when they felt they were done with their investigations.  Norris considered her words and very quickly said "Unfortunately, that I cannot do."  Norris then continued, "I can give you entry once, in the way I did, because it would look like I was giving you a shortcut to get where you want to go."

Pausing again, Norris finished, "To make it specific to the Sonthert system and repetitive would call attention to the permission and cause questions and problems."  Mikah recognized that even as he was speaking and agreed with him despite the issue it caused for her people.  Mikah then thanked Norris for taking the time to speak with her and told him they'd do as much as they could do without explaining they could still make micro-jumps to the local gas giants to keep up their search.  He asked her if there was anything else he could do for her and she thanked him but said no.  When they joined the reception, everyone found it stiff and formal since very few there had met Emkir in life.  Because of that, the Arch Duke soon had them brought back to their berth.

Back in the berth, and loosening up or changing out of their formal clothing, Aali announced it was time to drink!  Jocelynn, Sekea, Aiden and Mikah seconded that, and they went to dig into their alcohol collections.  While the drinks were being poured, Mikah told Aiden and Sekea Norris had said he couldn't extend the permission, so they'd have to rely on jumping back and forth between a target world and gas giant to refuel.  That meant they could spend as much as a week and a half scanning a target world between jumps to and from the local gas giants.  It also meant they could only search as long as they had food and other needed supplies, because fuel would be free from the gas giants.

Mikah also got a request from the police requesting the crew not leave the system until they completed their investigation of the shop keeper's shooting.  Ignoring that, because they still had planned to be in-system for weeks while the ship and Zimzod were being worked on, Mikah simply laughed and raised a toast to being stuck in the system.  There were also messages for Mikah updating her on Zimzod's condition while the operation continued.  When Mikah added comments on those to the others, Jocelynn broke out the chocolate fountain.  Mikah reminded them they could all sleep in the next day, because they only had to fly the Glas to his meeting with the Count and back.  Since that would happen later in the next day, her announcement got cheers from the crew for unrestricted drinking.

Sipping at her drink while she did, Mikah called the port and made them aware of the planned trip to Clan Glas territory.  The tech acknowledged the planned flight and said they would update the Imperial Navy and insure the flight were bracketed and listed as friendly, so there would be no accidental fire.  He did say he couldn't promise the same from Clan Arnstruther.  The port man did ask if there was any assistance they needed from the port and Mikah said she was not aware of anything they could do to help.  With that, she cut the line and joined in the drinking with more effort.

As time passed, Aali showed every sign of drinking herself into bed by mid-afternoon and Fesic was matching her in that effort.  Aiden had switched to non-alcoholics fairly early on and Jocelynn also transitioned to other tasks as she slowed down on her intake.  Sekea also shifted from drinking back to his research and added in an examination of the ice cutters the Arch Duke had given them.  He found those could easily be recharged by plugging into the ship's power ports and could work in all environments.  Seeing that, Sekea gave up on researching additional saws.  Colinne also tapered off the drinking and did hold a stent class for those who weren't too drunk.  She was also pleased to see some of those who were buzzed faced less resistance and managed to progress a bit.

Late in the evening, Mikah got a call from the doctor leading Zimzod's medical teams.  He told Mikah the operations were done and Zimzod had been moved into an ICU recovery station though Zimzod was in no way stable.  He admitted they expected that condition and would work to get him as stable as they could before they hit him with medical slow drug.  After they did that, Zimzod would be under the influence of the drug for twenty four hours and would not come "out of it" for more than an hour later.  Then, he'd be in pain but aware and could be moved to their ICU ward where he'd be allowed contact with her and the crew.  Mikah nodded, knowing they'd want to spent the days after cleaning his system up and assessing his healing before hitting him with another med-slow treatment.  Then, a third treatment before they began his clean-out and released him to Mikah's care.

Flight And Fire
     Knowing they had to fly the Glas to meet with the Count, Mikah, Aiden and Jocelynn set alarms in their bedrooms before they went to sleep the night before.  Sekea also set an alarm so he could be up to make breakfast for the crew.  While they ate breakfast and talked about the run to Glas territory, Mikah told Aiden he'd be their pilot for the flights.  Fesic then asked if they planned to try and make a deal for the "armored rat carrier", as he'd begun referring to the APC?  Mikah admitted they'd planned to try and cut a deal on the APC after the Glas met with the Count so she said Fesic should join them on the flights.  During the chatter, Sekea noted that Aiden hated it and so did Mikah, while Fesic thought it was the best ever.  Jocelynn found it edible but not much more, and Sekea found himself agreeing.  Colinne thought it was "better than OK" and Aali had slept through it, but rather liked it when she ate it cold later.

After eating, Aiden spent an hour working on screens to check the charts and prepare his flight data and the plans he would file and load into the cutter's computers.  Despite the fact that the rest were bringing their vacc suits and wearing dress clothes, Aiden's paranoia demanded he wear his combat armor.  Anyone who checked saw a sign on Aali's bedroom door in crooked letters, reading "Sleeping in" as if it had been drawn by a child with crayons.  Fesic did lock picking studies before they had to lift.  While the others prepared for the flight, Sekea had done enough research he was ready to put together a report on the safety gear he planned to recommend to Mikah.  It included harnesses and rope to keep the team together and catch anyone falling into a crevasse.  He also included ice pick/axes and crampons.

While they got ready, a call came from Zimzod's medical team telling Mikah they had stabilized him enough to administer the slow drug.  They expected him to be cognizant and able to communicate by the same time the next day while the medics work to clean his system out.  After that call, Colinne asked Mikah if they could speak privately?  When Mikah led her into another room and closed the door, Colinne said she'd been working to see what other computers she could connect to, to see what she could learn of the attack which happened the other day.  In that work, she got into the computer of a ship in the harbor who's crew seemed to have 'local connections'.

In the end, Colinne's data confirmed what they'd been told about Clan Arnstruther and the Imperial Navy.  She also got more comprehensive data on where fighting was still happening, and told Mikah that was three miles west of the port environs.  Mapping that area out for Mikah, Colinne suggested they route their flight around that and Mikah agreed that would be smart.  Mikah also bounced the information to Aiden to use in his flight plan.  Thanking Mikah for that, Aiden decided to call the port and ask for their recommendations and updates.  In answer to that, they told Aiden they could get Mikah's group out to Glas lands and back again in one of their craft.

Troop Hopper In the port, there were a number of older hoppers that were sold to civilian use organizations.  While the port wasn't very open to sharing, they would sign on for 'cooperative missions' support the port's customers.  Each hopper had a three-person crew between the pilot, co-pilot and a load manager.  The hoppers, known as 'D-40's' used rockets and reaction-mass fed thrusters to get around.  They were sudden, jerky and generally unforgiving if you didn't strap in during flight, but they got high enough to make sub-orbitals possible.  The military supply of them were still used by Marines to make combat hops in reaction to clan activity or supporting SARS operations.

Asking the port tech to hold, Aiden checked with Mikah but she said they'd cut the deal with the Glas and figured he expected them to fly him on their cutter.  Nodding, Aiden cut the line with Mikah and thanked the port but said they'd use their own ship.  Eventually, Mikah, Aiden, Jocelynn and Fesic boarded the cutter and Aiden carefully piloted the craft out of the berth, into the transit passage.  He then maneuvered the cutter to the exit leading out into the parkbay core.  there, he activated the flight program he'd entered into the cutter's computer and they were off to the north west, to jink around the combat zone Colinne had warned them about.  North of that, they would continue to climb until they were in near orbit.  Then, they'd begin their descent targeting the location the Glas had given them.

After the others left, Sekea finished his report on ice safety gear, then first practiced static aim exercises with his pistol before settling in to read medical journals.  Colinne spent her time in computer work on the lock picking software.  Aboard the cutter, Aiden had asked Fesic to be his co-pilot while Mikah and Jocelynn rode in the back.  During the outbound ride, Mikah could only warn the others, "Don't fuck up" and "Don't sell the ship without asking me first."  The lift phase of their forty minute trip to near-orbit was smooth and without weapons fire or other excitement.  The thirty minute descent phase added the fun of contacting controllers in Glas territory and tracking their beacon down.  Soon enough, Aiden was settling the cutter into place as instructed.

One thing Aiden noticed was that the city they were landing in was quite distant from the city in which he and Jocelynn had first met the Glas.  So, he appeared to move around a good bit.  After bringing the cutter in for a landing, Aiden and Fesic worked with the locals on the comms to step through their security requirements.  When that was done, Aiden was told he could unbutton the cutter and the Glas stepped out of a nearby building with two of his people.  Mikah stepped down from the cutter to greet him and covertly check out what she could see, because the Count wouldn't appreciate the man arriving with a bomb.  What she did see was that each of the three men had huge honking sidearms that she knew could be miniaturized on more advanced worlds.

Still, the Glas was decked out in a very sharp suit and very much looked the part of a world leader even if he was only the ruler of one of Denotam's factions.  When he boarded the cutter, Fesic made it a point to compliment the Glas on his suit and look.  Mikah did point at his sidearm and ask if he expected trouble and the Glas said he didn't before asking if she did?  Mikah said she didn't and he asked if there'd be booze on the flight?  Mikah said no and apologized while Jocelynn muttered, "None that we brought."  She quietly hoped they didn't bring any either, given their displayed taste in alcohol.

After they'd all settled in, Aiden got his clearances and lifted while Fesic watched his board and looked for waypoints to lock onto along their course.  While under way, Jocelynn asked how involved the Glas wanted Mikah and herself to be in the meeting with the Count?  When he didn't understand, Jocelynn asked if he expected them to speak for him, interpret or moderate for both him and the Count.  Nodding, the Glas said he was sure he could speak for himself, and so could the Count.  And, he joked, he didn't think that if the Count became obstinate, he could ask them to shoot the man.  Laughing, Jocelynn admitted that wouldn't happen and accepted she and Mikah were just there for support.

The Glas allowed that if they could see a point he was not aware of, he was OK with them speaking up.  He also admitted he had no idea how happy the Count or his people would be with them speaking up?  Nodding at that, Mikah and Jocelynn chatted with the Glas and his people until Aiden started reaching out to the port traffic controllers.  The good news was that they were ready for the flight to arrive and had a beacon ready to guide them into landing.  The bad news was that it seemed the Arnstruther clan had started hitting the naval base with a second wave, and they were expected to land on that base to let the Glas meet with the Count.  That bothered Aiden and Fesic, who now had to worry about incoming surface to air fire from the clan forces.

Almost as if thought demanded reality, Fesic and Aiden both saw a weapon lock on their screens and Aiden had to start maneuvering while Fesic called out sensor and position data.  It wouldn't be good to avoid the incoming fire only to plow into the world's surface and turn them all into smears.  And, sadly, the lasers mounted on the cutter only fired directly forward, so trying to shoot down one of the missiles would demand Aiden fly directly at it.  And, that would demand they ignore the other inbound rockets.  So, it was evade or die.  Thankfully, Aiden found evading the fire to be pretty easy, and he was soon slipping under the cover of the base's defensive systems.  Because they were expected, they were marked on the IFF sensors and base counter-fire blasted any rockets targeting them until they landed.

Happy to get them down to dirt, Aiden spared a thought for how bad the situation might have been if they'd taken the port up on flying in a hopper.  He was certain that would have ended with them littering the surface below.  The port directed him to a specific landing point which they said gave them cover from the direction from which the fire was coming.  It was also secured by a ground unit of marines who would get them out of the cutter and safely into reinforced structures.  The Count would meet the Glas in one of those.  The instructions also warned there could be incursive forces infiltrating some base locations so the marines would also be responsible for securing the location.

Pointing to his sidearm, Jocelynn joked to the Glas, "You might get to kill someone with that after all." in a happy and joking tone.  The Glas only smiled and said, "So long as it's not one of my people."  Out of the cutter and on the move, the group could see they were often descending sets of stairs as they dropped under the base.  After some time and a number of turns and stair cases down, they finally arrived at what seemed to be a very secure conference room where some of the Count's people were already waiting.  They moved in, with Mikah's people taking seats around the outer rim of the room, and Count Peleslok himself arrived soon enough.  The room was then sealed and secured.

Those in the berth heard the alarms and the warning to shelter in place when the second attack began.  When the port announcement said that crews in the parkbays should take care in case clan infiltrators got onto the port campus, Sekea saw that Colinne was on a terminal trying to get them more intelligence.  Nodding, Sekea moved over to Aali's bedroom and woke her to ask if she could deploy her drone or let him do so?  Aali was already coming out with the drone and again launched it to the same position she'd had it at days before.  That was made easy because a "memory feature" let her simply select the previous position and activate it.  The drone automatically navigated out of the parkbay and up above the port to allow them the camera view.  At the same time, Sekea moved to the same position Fesic had manned, to insure no one was sneaking in from other berths in the parkbay.

Conferences, Deals And Deliveries
     The Count looked around and then said, "Sorry about the neighbors but that will be dealt with shortly.  Still, I wanted to insure this meeting went off properly.  Looking around, he invited those who hadn't yet to be seated so they could get started.  He did thank the Glas for coming, using the man's actual name, 'Raekno Geil', instead of his title.  Mikah and her crew sat quietly while the Count graciously showed he was very open to any topic of discussion.  He was also very willing to defense the facts and agreements between the Imperium and the clans and dispute claims that turned out to be false.  The Count was also willing to make agreements so long as they were not so far reaching that they had to be discussed and voted on by all the clan leaders in council.

Speaking specifically about the claims brought to him that the Glas claimed the Imperium simply showed up and took Glas land without compensation or explanation, Count Peleslok pointed to the book of documented agreements and said there should be no surprise or confusion existing regarding that reservation.  Nodding, the Glas waived that away and admitted he'd told Mikah's crew that lie because he was betting that would get him a meeting with the Count.  Sitting off to the side, Mikah and Jocelynn were not happy to hear they'd been lied to and used as pawns.  The Glas even turned to Mikah and apologized, but then said, "Politics are politics." 

Leaning in, the Glas admitted he knew that any change to the status of the Imperial facility on his clan land would have to be voted on in council by all the clan leaders.  He then said he wanted to see if he could set some common ground between himself, the Count and the Legate on what changes they would support when and if he demanded a council meeting?  As he spoke, they realized he wanted to get the Count to agree to help him pave the way for a change he wanted.  In a conservative tone, the Count asked what change the Glas wanted?  The Glas said, "I know you're setting that up as a hydro-electric and mining site, digging for resources we don't yet have the tech to use.  What I'd like would be for the Imperium to cut us in for ten percent of the processed output, which we can use with our current technology."  One ambiguity the Glas left hanging was a question if they also expected the Imperium to grant them ten percent of the electricity generated by their plant?

Having heard the pitch, the Count sat back in his chair and said, "I'm not certain I can do that given what the processed output is used for."  The Count added that he felt that even if his Legate and other officers would support the idea, it would then have to be discussed in open council.  The Glas nodded and said, "Well, that's the common ground I wanted to work on with you.  I wanted you to understate how we could use the product in council."  With their positions stated, the meeting continued for an hour while the Count refused to lie to the council.  Each time he got a "no", the Glas presented yet another reason why the Count should reconsider, and some of them sounded so off the wall that Mikah and her team could understand why the Count refused.  And, that was without knowing what the mine produced and processed?

After an hour back and forth, with the Count refusing to change his position, he asked the Glas if the man had any other issues he wanted to raise?  When the Glas said that was all he had, the Count then said he had an issue he wanted to raise.  When the Glas nodded and asked, "What can I do for your Excellency?" the Count slid a datapad across the table.  The Count then said, "I would like to discuss the status of this piece of stolen Imperial equipment."  Jocelynn literally mumbled "Ut oh" when the Glas lifted the datapad and she saw the image of the damaged grav APC on it.  Seeing the image, the Glas leaned back in his chair with a smile and said, "It wasn't stolen.  It was a prize of war."

The Count then turned to his legate, who began a painfully dry recounting of certain parts of the raid in which the APC was taken.  During his reading, the man made it very clear Clan Glas had carried out an illegal raid, and the event was not a "war action".  He even compared the acts of Clan Glas to those Clan Arnstruther was engaged in outside the base at the moment.  He then made it clear the APC would be considered "Stolen" by the Imperium.  In a tone that had gone flat, the legate then suggested Clan Glas consider returning the APC to the Imperium before suffering the consequences.

Hearing that, Mikah put her head in her hands and muttered, "Oh crap" because she figured the Glas would take the warning as a challenge that could only end in a testosterone-triggered battle.  Just as Mikah expected, the Glas only sat comfortably and said, "Well.  We'll see what happens." in a tone that suggested he was perfectly comfortable with any action the local Imperial forces might choose to take.  He then added, "I admit, it's a particularly nice piece of my collection to brag about."  They could all see the legate's face darken while the Count only sat back as it he were relaxing more.  With a smile that didn't show in his eyes, the Count said, "That is certainly for you to decide, as well as considering the safety of your people as opposed to your need to brag."

Following that, a silence settled as the men considered each other.  After that brief silence, the Count stood and thanked the Glas for meeting with him at the base.  He also said he hoped the ride back home would be as safe and comfortable as the ride in.  That reminded them all of the fighting happening along the base's western edge.  During the meeting, Aiden had tried to track the battle but there was simply no information being put out by the navy or the port.  So, there was little he could do but listen and feel for blast tremors, and got almost no information.  Like their arrival in reverse, the marines escorted them up to the surface level where the cutter waited undisturbed.

Along the way to the cutter, Fesic told Mikah he wanted to get to talk to the Glas instead of co-piloting.  That annoyed Aiden a bit, because he'd possibly be flying out during a pitched battle where ground fire could be directed at them, and he'd have no co-pilot.  Still, they'd brought Fesic with them "because" they wanted him to cut a deal with the Glas during the flight.  So, Aiden really couldn't say no.  Mikah just joked, "Don't trade away the ship."  When Fesic sat with the others in the back on boarding, Mikah introduced Fesic to the Glas and suggested they had an hour to work out deals for the gear they wanted to trade.

After the introductions, Fesic opened with a friendly offer that they had a good deal of items to trade, but then turned blunt.  He told the Glas, "I think it's becoming fairly obvious that this APC had become an issue between him and the Count."  Fesic then pushed, "You and I both know that, from a technical standpoint, the APC is not very valuable.  And it is heavily degraded in any services anyone would need it to provide."  Fesic then cataloged a number of damaged spots in the armor where even a molotov cocktail or pipe bomb could be fatal to those inside the vehicle.  Finishing up, Fesic said he didn't feel the vehicle was usable in any combat and the only value it seemed to have was as a trophy.

The Glas answered, "But it makes a great trophy.  And it makes a great float in a parade because it actually floats."  The Glas then pointed out it had the value of being a functional vehicle with a working fusion engine, and could still be used as a transport able to move over rough or broken terrain.  Still, the Glas didn't lean in hard core and Fesic suggested they hoped to help work out the issue between the clan and the Count.  So, Fesic asked what it would take to "buy the trophy"?  The Glas answered, "I don't know.  What have you got?  A suit of battledress?"  Hearing that, everyone in the compartment laughed and Mikah snarked, "That isn't nearly worth a suit of battledress."

When Fesic pushed to get the Glas to value the APC in terms of credits, the Glas said, "Nothing.  I prefer weapons."  Nodding, Fesic baited the Glas, saying, "Well, if I can give you a commensurate amount of weapons, what value would you put it at?"  The Glas told Fesic to show him what they had for trade and Fesic backpedaled that he wanted a value from the Glas first.  When the Glas persisted, Fesic showed him images of Terin's duster, bought when Terin tried to cheap out and get a copy of Zimzod's duster.  Fesic also showed some images of the auto-rifles they'd taken from the pirate boarding party in Tremous Dex.  The Glas waived that away, saying he wanted a real offer.

When the Glas pushed, "You said you have combat armor" Mikah refused, saying, "Not for the APC" and Fesic agreed with her.  When the Glas challenged them to say what they thought the APC was worth, Mikah claimed it wasn't worth more than Cr 50,000.  The Glas could have pushed back that importing a working vehicle with a fusion engine and hover configuration to Denotam would easily cost him Cr 100,000 while ignoring the armor, but had personal reasons for not playing that card right off.  In the meantime, Mikah the others backed up behind their undervalued estimate and Fesic mentioned getting into the good graces of the Count as well.

Considering what he wanted, the Glas challenged, "Then trade me at least one combat armor suit for the APC" and Mikah was initially unhappy about that.  Still, Fesic quietly reminded her of the values he'd given them the day before for Munarshu's old suit, which had been bought for KCr 35.  Mikah remembered that "if they were lucky", they might get as much as KCr 75 for that suit on Denotam.  Added to that, Mikah could see they weren't getting lucky at all in their negotiations.  Nodding, Mikah OK'd trading the Glas that one suit for the APC.  When Fesic made the offer official, the Glas pointed out that the Count really wanted the APC, giving him extra bargaining power.  So, he suggested they "sweeten the pot".

Mikah and Fesic rejected that, saying they were just trying to smooth things over, and had no use for the APC.  So they were offering their goods to help him out of a problem with the Count, and he could take it or leave it.  Shrugging, the Glas accepted the deal.  Past that, Fesic knew they had a ton of other junk they wanted to get rid of.  Mikah did whisper in Fesic's ear that they wouldn't sell the other two combat armor suits to the clans.  Still, they'd shown the Glas pictures of an auto-rifle and Terin's duster, and he was interested in what else they had?  They knew they had the two auto-rifles and three blades they'd taken from the pirate boarding team.  They also had a sword custom made for Terin, but didn't have to tell the Glas it was customized.

When they offered the weapons, the Glas started at CrImp 500 and they bargained back and forth until they stuck at CrImp 625, and made the deal.  Having given him the tent when she'd first met him, Mikah showed the Glas a picture of the camping Cot Munarshu had bought, with 'Hunting World - Regina' branded across it in silver thread.  When Mikah asked for CrImp 10, he returned with 5 and they settled on CrImp 6.  Mikah looked over their list again and saw Terin's two pairs of cheap sunglasses.  Hyping them as having been the possessions of the Late Sir Terin, Mikah offered them to the Glas for CrImp 5 each.  The Glas wasn't enthusiastic, but hoped the off-world makers would mean better polarization, so he bought the glasses for CrImp 2 each after some bargaining.

Because it had been mentioned and ignored earlier, Jocelynn pushed Terin's duster again, to see if she could get rid of it?  Looking at the image, the Glas asked, "What's it do?"  Mikah explained it the best she could and the Glas said he'd have to try it on.  Of course, the three crew cringed because they knew he'd reject it when he tried it on and found out how rigid the internal mesh was.  Still, Mikah said they'd bring the duster when they also bought the rest of the stuff he'd agreed to buy.  They also offered the Glas all of Terin's leftover clothing, which the man wasn't interested in.

Closing the deals before they landed, Mikah started talking about taking the APC with them and returning with the merchandise.  The Glas stopped her and said they couldn't have the APC until they delivered the combat armor.  Mikah agreed to that and they completed the paperwork while Aiden brought them in for a landing.  Having been updated they'd be making another flight with the merchandise, Aiden asked how Mikah wanted to move the APC?  Realizing the cutter couldn't carry the vehicle, Mikah suggested they could ask the Count for help, because their ship was still undergoing repairs.  Reacting to calls the Glas had made before they landed, the locals moved up to escort the Glas and his people off the cutter.  That done, Aiden got his clearance and they lifted back for the downport.

After Aiden got them in the air, Fesic returned to the flight deck and Mikah ordered them to connect a call up for her to talk to the Count.  There were several steps Fesic had to go through to get the Count on the line and he then asked how he could help Mikah?  Mikah said, "We've cut a deal to buy your APC from the Glas but we have no way of moving this APC to hand it over to you."  Nodding, to cover some of his surprise, the Count asked, "How did you convince them to hand over the APC?  Despite his pause, Mikah could still hear a bit of his surprise in his voice.  Mikah decided to hide the lie in a simple truth and said, "We bought it." without saying what with?  The Count couldn't hide his surprise as he went with his assumption and asked, "For money?"  Going with the path of least resistance, Mikah simply said, "Yeah." and smiled.

Mikah then pushed to add, "Not much money.  We convinced them it was pretty much worthless."  She said that because she didn't know what the Glas had been thinking, and how he knew the vehicle was worth at least twice what they claimed."  The look on the Count's face became guarded as he nodded and said, "I'm glad it all worked out then."  Privately, he wondered if they'd get the APC back without a power plant, because that could be worth KCr 50 on its own on Denotam.  Unaware of hidden items both on the Count's side and that of Clan Glas, Mikah thanked the Count and basked a bit in what she saw as her victory.  Still, the Count promised he'd take care of moving the APC if they could tell him when they'd be returning to Clan Glas territory to close the deal?  When Mikah gave him an estimate, the Count said he'd work with the Navy to have a ship pick up the APC.

During the flight, Mikah next called the berth and gave Aali, Colinne and Sekea a list of the items they'd traded or sold to the Glas.  She updated them about the sales and the fact they'd have to make another round trip out to deliver the goods.  Closing in on their landing beacon, Aiden was pleased to see the energetic demonstrations Clan Arnstruther had been staging had moved away from the port again.  Because of that, their landing lacked the missile fire of the previous trip.  Still, the folks in the berth were advised there could have been infiltrators bent on acts of sabotage so they'd stayed on alert.

After they landed and were loading the gear, including a boxed up suit of combat armor, Fesic told Mikah he didn't think it was a good idea not to tell the Count about the combat armor.  Mikah demanded why it was a problem and Fesic suggested the Count might find out they traded the suit to the clan.  Not caring for Fesic's concerns, Mikah barked, "you should have said something earlier then."  Fesic defended himself, saying, "Well, I didn't know you were gonna lie to him.  And I wasn't gonna call you a liar while you were on line with the Count."  Mikah interrupted him, snapping, "Why not?" because of all the times members of the crew stepped in on her left and right to cause trouble with their claims.  Added to that, there were still emotions hanging in the air from when Fesic opened the container with the android in the D'Ganzio system against her explicit orders.  Still acting in part on Fesic's past actions, Mikah partly wondered if Fesic might slip a note to someone saying Mikah lied.

The rest of the crew stood back and watched as Mikah and Fesic argued their points.  When Mikah finally and loudly said, "Well, it's too late now" Fesic interrupted, saying it wasn't too late and Mikah could still come clean.  Mikah put her foot down and said it was too late before demanding, "Are you gonna keep your mouth shut?"  Fesic stopped suddenly, before stuttering to answer, "Yes.  I kept my mouth shut before and I will keep my mouth shut in the future.  I just thought that, maybe you'd like to reconsider hiding this information?"  Fesic also pointed out that the secret might not be kept very long by the Glas, and might not even be held until they left the system.

Tired of being a bystander, and having a feel she understood all points of the argument, Colinne interrupted Fesic.  She pointed out that there was no way to pin the source of any tech that appeared on a battlefield.  Colinne reminded Fesic that the clans had been around for centuries and before the Imperium moved in.  So, they'd had a long time to make relationships with smugglers, or to have bribed the right people to bring in banned or "officially discouraged" items.  So, there would be nothing at all pointing to their crew if one suit of combat armor appeared in a fight.  Colinne continued to suggest she'd bet there were hundreds of suits of armor in the hands of the clans.  So, she said, unless the Glas announces the trade, or Munarshu put his name inside the suit in permanent marker, there was no way to tie the suit back to them.  And, that meant there was no danger to them either.

Great Eastern Troop Transport in flight After loading up all the gear, and the end of the argument, Aiden and Fesic lifted the cutter back into a sub-orbital flight while notifying the Count's people they were on the move.  They were told the Count had set up to have a transport arrive after the cutter landed and take custody of the APC.  The craft would be a 50 dTon Great Eastern Troop Transport and they hoped Mikah would call ahead and clear the way for that combat dropship to land.  Checking their data directories, they saw the dropship carried a ten ton cargo bay which could easily carry the APC.  Mikah agreed she'd do that and had Fesic open a second call to the Glas clan so she could do what was asked.  After the Glas controllers thanked Mikah, they started providing coordinates and other data.

From that, Mikah and the others could see the Glas had moved back to the city in which he had his "garage" and the APC.  The distance suggested they had high-powered transports of their own along with public transit air systems, which wasn't a surprise.  The rest of the flight worked out as expected and the Glas and his people were already waiting when the cutter set down.  As promised, the transport followed at a delay and waited until they'd gotten clearance after the deal was made and the pickup cleared.  While that happened, the Glas tried on Terin's duster and then looked at Mikah and her people before demanding, "Are you serious?  You wanna sell this thing?!"

Unable to hold his tongue, Fesic suggested, "Look at how cool you'd look wearing that with a pair of the sunglasses you bought."  The comment was so out of place that even Mikah laughed and even agreed with him.  About then, a few of his advisors stepped up to the Glas and they had a rushed conference the crew couldn't hear.  Finally, they stepped back and the Glas said, "You know what?  I owe one of my brother clan leaders a gift.  I'll give you CrImp 5 for this."  Mikah had to wonder how that could go south as she simply called out, "Sold!"  Mikah even offered to take only Cr 4.5 for the duster and the Glas said he'd pay the five he offered.  Mikah then asked him to do them a favor and keep the combat armor under wraps until their ship left the system.  The Glas agreed to that since he hadn't started thinking who he'd assign the gear to yet.  Mikah nodded, adding, "And you didn't get it from us."  The Glas only looked up innocently and asked, "Get what?"

Mikah called out "Nice doing business with you." as the troop transport settled into an open space.  Settling in, the aft cargo bay door of the transport opened to reveal a number of very lightly armed and unarmored troopers who turned out to be mechanics.  They moved forward with their leader making contact, and accepting direction from Clan Glas troopers who were more heavily armed.  The Glas people then led the navy techs to the APC which had been pulled out of the garage to make the handover easier.  After the APC was boarded onto the transport, it buttoned up and the crew lifted that craft back to wherever they'd been instructed to go by the Count.  One item which caused relief was that the APC still operated on its own power, so Clan Glas had not ripped the fusion engine out of the vehicle to honor the letter of the deal while violating the spirit.

During the loading, an officer from the transport's flight crew had moved over to hand Mikah a crystal.  Doing that, he said, "Orders from the Count, My Lady." and threw her a salute he expected her to return.  He'd then returned to the craft while Mikah sighed to herself and thought, 'Of course'.  When she returned to the cutter with the others after the deal was done, Mikah slotted the crystal into a reader and listened to what the Count had to say.  His orders were for Mikah and the cutter to follow the flight path of the transport and land at the same location so she and her crew could be debriefed.  The transport's flight plan was also available on the crystal for the benefit of Mikah's flight team.

A Pause to Consider
     Tarawa Class Transport cruiser in flight Checking the data on the crystal, Aiden saw that it directed them to match course with the INS Urza Kashi, a 40,000 dTon Tarawa-Class infantry carrier transport ship in orbit.  There, the cutter would be brought aboard the transport on which the debriefing would take place.  While they lifted for orbit, Aali, Sekea and Colinne continued to secure the berth despite an announcement from the port that the fighting had again been beaten back.  With Sekea positioned near the berth's main opening to prevent attacks from within the parkbay, Colinne and Aali were bunched closer together so they could see the rest of the internal personnel doors that could be used to get into their berth.  While Colinne seemed to be more relaxed than the others, the others were certain she'd be the first to shoot someone down, no questions asked, if they tried to enter the berth uninvited.  That would be a bad mistake for any member of the parkbay's technical staff to make.

In orbit, Aiden brought their cutter alongside the Urza Kashi, and was directed to give control over to the cruiser's bay docking controllers.  Sitting back and wondering what might go wrong next, Aiden watched as the cutter was maneuvered close to and into a bay for which the hatch opened.  After they were down and secure, Mikah got up and told Jocelynn to come with her while the other two were to wait in the cutter.  The two women were led into an internal compartment where the Count waited with the legate and a number of officers.  Only one was an officer from the cruiser's command staff, but he wasn't the ship's Captain.  When they entered, the Count invited them to have a seat at the table they sat around.

With everyone settled, the Count invited Mikah to explain to them exactly how she convinced the Glas to part with his precious bragging trophy?  Mikah again said they had explained to the Glas that the APC was basically worthless except as a trophy and asked if he really wanted to put his people in an adversarial position with local Imperial forces.  Then, we offered to take it off his hands for KCr 50,000.  The Count nodded as she spoke while keeping his own thought masked.  He knew the vehicle had a working fusion engine and an intact frame, so that alone couldn't be bought on Denotam for KCr 100.  That told him something else was going on if he really cared to investigate it, but he saw no reason shifting his connection to Lady Mikah into a hostile one.

Letting that pass, the Count asked, "And he went for that?" while the others at the table kept their faces masks of polite acceptance.  Mikah admitted, "Well, he did try to get more from it, but we pointed out we were pretty much doing him a favor despite him having set us up."  She continued, "We also stood firm that we wouldn't trade any more with his people unless he accepted the deal because he'd shown his cards when he admitted he'd set us up.  So, he didn't really have much to stand on.  Nodding, the Count then asked, "And what other items did you trade to him?"  Mikah stopped to both remember and edit what she said as she told him, "A sword, a couple of rifles, three blades, a duster-style coat...  That's about it."

The Count looked confused and asked about the duster, and Jocelynn smirked and said "Oh..." before Mikah cut her off.  Mikah explained it was an experiment using a duster and a metal mesh that ended up being a huge waste of money.  But his people convinced him they could use it for something.  One of the other clans they owe something to, so there might be some inter-clan violence going on soon.  I wouldn't be surprised if they used it as a bomb jacket or something.  Hearing that, the Count sighed and looked to the compartment's ceiling and repeated "Some inter-clan violence" in a tone that made a joke about this not being the normal state of affairs.  Mikah only answered, "Well, you're used to it, right?" and the Count nodded and said, "Unfortunately, yes."

The Count shook his head and said, we have been trying for quite some time to create a connection with a clan and you waltzed into the system without any advanced knowledge and seemed to forge a working relationship.  And now, once again, you manage to cut through a gordian knot and find a way to recover the grav vehicle without open warfare which would set back our relationships with Clan Glas decades if not centuries.  Mikah shrugged and said it was likely due to the accidental sale of the alcohol while we were looking for help, and the fact we were genuinely looking to trade help offered for help wanted."  Mikah continued, "Then, we got the Glas that meeting with you even though it was a set up, and didn't cry foul.  So, we earned their trust."  Again, the Count seriously doubted it was that simple, and wondered if they'd just been in the right place to be used by the Glas at the right time.  But still, they had succeeded where his people and predecessors hadn't.

As an end-cap on her comments, Mikah added, "This is why the Arch Duke hires us out."  After that, the Count nodded and admitted, "I guess I find myself in debt to you for a favor."  Despite the small number of times Mikah heard that, it never failed to raise a shiver up her spine.  Still, she only nodded and casually said, "If we think of something we'll let you know", which did get a few scowls from the assembled officers but no comments.  At that point, Jocelynn interrupted saying, "Just for future reference, they respond really well to booze.  They really really like booze."  Mikah nodded solemnly and added, "That's true."  When Jocelynn added, "That was our in with them" Mikah added, "I don't think they care much about the quality as much as the quantity." and Jocelynn nodded enthusiastically.

The Count only nodded and said he'd consider that the next time he has to deal with them.  The Count also said he would have his household cater dinner to Mikah's crew that night as a portion of his thanks, and Mikah thanked him.  After that, the meeting broke up and Mikah and Jocelynn were led back to the cutter, where they boarded and were then released from the vessel bay into orbital space.  From there, the cruiser's flight crew provided Aiden with a descent flight profile and called down to the port to activate the parkbay's beacon.  With a cleared flight corridor, Aiden and Fesic brought the cutter down by the numbers while Mikah called down to let the rest of the crew know high-class chow was coming courtesy of the Count.

Aiden and Fesic manned their boards, then brought the cutter down to the port and settled into the parkbay before maneuvering from the central landing yard through the transfer tube to their berth.  After the Mikah's group returned, she had a meeting with everyone and explained what had happened, including the minimal cash they'd gotten.  There was some disappointment about the loss of a set of combat armor for no money but they also wondered what the Count's favor would be worth?  Mikah also pointed out they owed no one their time moving forward.  With Emkir's funeral and the meeting between the Glas and Count done, the coming weeks were their own until Zimzod was released and they got their ship back.  Mikah did grumble, "As long as the clans leave the port alone and we can go out and do stuff."

Not long after that meeting broke up, the Count's people started arriving and catered an excellent and very well prepared Vilani meal with all the fixings and sides.  Added to that, they brought in a cooling unit to insure the leftovers would be able to be enjoyed the next day if there were any?  They even had servants to serve the food and manage all the various tasks so the crew had only to eat and enjoy.  After eating, while the Count's people cleaned up and stowed the food, Aiden asked if Colinne could run a stent class and she agreed and Jocelynn and Aali agreed to take part.  Fesic worked on his lock picking course and Mikah watched the vid and veg'd out.  She also set her alarm for the next morning so she could be ready to call the INS Maadashmim Zikheaa and try to connect with Zimzod or his medical team.

Gruel And Connections
     Another morning broke for the crew with Sekea experimenting breakfast in hopes of pleasing everyone with a single dish.  This time, Aiden, Jocelynn and Fesic were willing to admit it was food.  No more and no less.  Aali went as far as saying it was good food while Mikah said it was just as bad as what he'd made the morning before.  Sekea said he thought it tasted good and didn't understand the other's issue before Colinne said she could help him understand by manually feeding him her share.  And the tone of her voice didn't suggest he'd enjoy the experience.  Since he was the only member of the crew to enjoy it, Sekea marked that recipe as "to be vastly improved at some future date".

As either a move to improve the food or perhaps replace it, Fesic offered to make people toast, since the berth food station had a dedicated toaster.  When Mikah finished eating, she logged into the computers on teh ship letting her check on the gestation unit and see how Rol's cloning was proceeding?  The gestation chamber had been installed in the ship's low berth bay, with a battery powering it while the work was on-going.  Since he still had seven weeks and six days before they would decant him, the tests were all biochemical and structural.  Tests would scan the developing clone and test for the existence and properties of all the clone's body structures.  Bio-sniffers would confirm if development was happening as expected, including the results of random physical, neural and other reactions from the clone as it grew.

While Mikah was pleased with the readouts and data she saw Sekea had teamed up with Fesic, using some of the toast he'd made.  Sekea planned to make grilled cheese for those who feared they'd starve thanks to his more gourmet attempts.  Sending commands from the computer terminal, Mikah pinged the device and said, "Hey!  You're getting competition.  You'd better come out of there soon." even though the clone had no mind.  Watching Mikah, Jocelynn knew Mikah would have to write Rol's "mind" into the clone and wondered just how much work it would be to bring Rol up to date on what they'd done since he'd been killed on Regina.

After her caff kicked in and Mikah was set and ready, so she checked the clock and gave the medical ship a call.  Sparking up a comms, Mikah connected with the link given her by Zimzod's medical team and got a med-assistant.  When Mikah identified herself and asked if Zimzod was awake yet, the tech said he'd check and put her on hold.  Soon after that, the tech came back and said he was connecting her to Zimzod while another member of the medical team told Zimzod he had an incoming call.  When Zimzod appeared on her screen with all sorts of bandaging, medical tape, tubes and more, Mikah happily asked, "How ya doing?" with a smile on her face.  With a smile that was perhaps bigger, and as much joy and enthusiasm as he could in his condition, Zimzod answered, "Like Shit!"

To be honest, Zimzod had to admit that he'd found new levels of pain for almost every action he could manage in his condition, and was really concerned about the list of things he couldn't even try.  Still, Mikah said, "OK.  Get up off your ass and get back here."  Zimzod pointed out, "I don't think I can walk yet" and Mikah waived that off saying, "Well, you will eventually."  Zimzod started, saying "Yeah, eventually but.." and Mikah cut him off saying, "You're doing better than Rol."  Unable to nod with his head secured to prevent stress on his chest, Zimzod agreed, "Yeah, there is that."

Mikah then told him, "We can't come to see you but we can call you." and asked, "Do you want to talk to anybody while we're on the line?"  Zimzod said he didn't really want to do more than catch up on what he'd missed?  Mikah told him they'd had the funeral for Emkir, we traded Munarshu's combat armor for a stupid APC and gave that back to the Count.  He's happy.  They're all happy.  Mikah went on, saying, "We got rid of some of Terin's stuff, and we got rid of his duster!"  I think the guy we sold it to is gonna make a bomb jacket out of it but that's his problem, not mine.  Zimzod only asked how much they had to pay the guy to take it and Mikah said the buyer paid Cr 5 for it.  Zimzod answered, "Oh!  OK. but he was very surprised.

Mikah said that was pretty much everything since his surgery and suggested he hadn't missed very much.  She also told him there was some kind of clan war going on in the area around the port, so they were hunkered down and waiting for it to end and them to say they could go out and see what else was on this iceball of a planet.  When Zimzod said it sounded like he hadn't missed much, Mikah agreed except for the drunken wake after Emkir's funeral.  When the news ran down, Zimzod asked, "Do you miss me yet?" and Mikah said, "Of course we miss you."  Deciding to pull Zimzod's chains, Mikah suggested they'd had an FGMP-15 for ten minutes before they were told they had to hand it over to the Arch Duke.  Hearing that really got a reaction from Zimzod, and he was very disappointed he missed it.  After more small talk, the conversation wound down and Mikah said they'd call him again and keep him updated.  The call ended and the crew went back to their work or hobbies.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Mikah, Aali, Colinne, Jocelynn, Aiden, Fesic and Sekea: In their berth in the Denotam Downport
     Zimzod: In hospital aboard INS Maadashmim Zikheaa on "Day 1" of a system clean out before receiving his second Med-Slow treatment
     Rol: Cloning: 7 Weeks, 6 days until he can be decanted

Next: Changing Guides And Goals