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Last Updated     July 30 2023
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Changing Guides And Goals

Cleansing And Sharing
     In the downport berth they'd rented, Mikah had just finished a call the crew got to share with Zimzod, while he lay in his hospital bed.  Zimzod had just been through a marathon set of surgeries that essentially took apart his chest and rebuilt it.  After that, his condition had been so bad teams of doctors had to support him.  They also had to bring in more staff when they'd stabilized him.  Next, they administered medical slow drug.  The teams worked to make sure Zimzod's bodily functions didn't rip their surgical work apart.  With Zimzod now awake, the doctors wanted to clean out his body before injecting a second dose.  After he recovered from that, they'd clean him out again before hitting him with a third dose.  After the call to Zimzod, Mikah logged into a terminal to check out the clone they were growing for Rol, who was just over ten weeks "cooked".  So, the crew were now free until work on Zimzod and their ship were finished.

During her free time, Aali decided to wade into the gear Emkir had left behind and decide what to keep, give away or sell?  She'd already "donated" Emkir's combat armor and vacc suit to the ship, to offer for sales.  Still she said the vacc suit PLSS should be kept in the ship's locker as a spare.  The unit, an LSP 12C model with two tanks, could last forty eight hours.  Emkir had also had an old comms unit, from before Mikah had bought the crew their newer units.  Aali also decided to keep Emkir's breather mask with 24-hour recharge tube and TL D oxy-breather mask, which were in the ship's locker.  Aali offered that TL B multi-channel, scramble-capable long range unit for the ship to sell.  Jocelynn laughed because they now had two of those to sell, left over from earlier times.  They could even sell the two as a set!  Emkir'd also had a basic wristwatch that could be valuable to sell on low tech worlds where such miniaturization was rare.

One very valuable item was Emkir's "training suit", with software loaded to teach Zero-G combat skills(level-2).  That could even be valuable to the local spacers in Denotam's orbit.  Another comms unit was in Emkir's electronics, which wrapped around the user's neck.  That meant it couldn't be used in armor or a vacc suit.  Still, it was a TL D medium range unit that was voice activated and had an ear piece.  Aali offered that up for sale with a TL 9 Inertial Locator, TL 6 IR goggles and TL 7 LI goggles.  Aali also found some odd items like a TL 8 hand-held metal detector, TL 5 radiation detector and TL D "odd's bot".  The last was a streaming and social media-capable software for odds crunching.  Emkir had spent Cr 8,000 on Rhylanor when it seemed the crew would be hired to comment on sports matches.  He never got to use it because Dame Inger had raised issues and Duke Leonard ordered them to leave Rhylanor.  When Colieen said she'd be interested in the software, she was told she could make a copy.  Smiling, she started on that.

Emkir and Aali also still had the crap blender wedding "gift" Aiden had given them and Aali said they could sell it too.  It might be worth something on worlds with electric power but low-end technology for consumer goods.  Other items Emkir had which were likely valuable to the correct collectors were a set of artifacts he'd had from the Quasar Viper, and which IRIS had let him keep.  Those included gold cuff links with opals and rubies for a man's shirt, a man's personal grooming kit with instruments of silver in a "treated" leather-like case, a silver stylus for writing on datapads, that would only work on modern datapads if modified(damaging the value), a "treated" leather-like document pouch (treatment, unknown) marked with the name of a shop that research showed was on Capital/Core during the reign of Emperor Styryx and a set of five gold-plated buttons from a Male Imperial Navy officer's dress uniform from the period of Emperor Styryx.  Aali wanted to keep the gold cuff links and grooming kit, but said they should look for collectors of artifacts from the reign of Emperor Styryx to sell the rest for the highest prices.

For combat, Aali said they could put Emkir's cloth armor up for sale.  Aali wanted to keep Emkir's plastic blade, along with the flex-scabbard and plastic shin-scabbard with elastic straps.  She said Emkir's large fighting knife and scabbard could be sold along with one of Emkir's two 9mm revolvers and its holster.  Still, she stripped off the improved gunCam and HUD-integration kit.  Aali also handed off one of Emkir's semi-automatic snub pistols to be sold with a hip and shoulder holster, but kept the gunCam, ammo and magazines.  She also agreed to sell the gauss rifle with the holographic projector.  She gave the 5 clips to Mikah because they didn't match the magazines from the gauss rifle she'd "inherited" from Munarshu.  Aali also said they should move Emkir's 6 TL-6 Cold Light Lantern("3 day light" lamps) into the ship's locker.

Before deciding to keep the rest of Emkir's gear, Aali decided to give away two more items.  First, she gave the generic datapad Emkir had gotten from Terin's gear to Mikah.  That had five books on it covering drugs, alchemy and herbalism plus a number of scholarly papers on the subject.  Aali gave Colinne the mystery computer diagnostic tool found aboard Cedna, when they'd looted that ship in the Tremous Dex system.  Finding Emkir's magnetic compass, Aali gave that to Sekea hoping he'd value it as a navigator.  Aali found the "Shooting for Dummies book" Mikah had given Emkir, with the suction cup dart gun, darts and laser sights.  She called the naval base and they agreed to deliver those to Zimzod, to play with while he was under medical care.

Since the eight sets of Emkir's executive armor were more like pajamas, Aali figured Jocelynn and Fesic could wear them, so she offered four sets each to them.  Aali also offered Aiden Emkir's customized rifle, in hopes he could have it reconfigured for himself in the future.  That came with a HUD-integration kit, 10 20-round magazines, an improved gunCam, Electronic Telescopic Sights. gunCam, 2 sealed Boxes ball ammo (200 rounds), bipod, long Arm Cleaning Kit and a rifle carrying case.  After that, Aali decided she would keep the rest of Emkir's goods unless she decided to gift or sell them later.

One item some in the crew would wonder about, as she'd said earlier, was the lanthanum ring with Tellona diamond chip.  Aali had been given Zach's ring, Brian's was lost when he died and Inger took her's when she left.  So, Zimzod, Mikah, Aiden and Rol had theirs while Aali got to decide "if" someone else got a ring?  So, Aali wanted to hold onto Emkir's Lanthanum and Tellona Diamond Chip before deciding what to do with it.  Another thing Aali wasn't sure what to do with was Emkir's "wearable personal entertainment network"?  They had both each gotten a wearable networks as wedding gifts, so Aali had her's and wasn't sure what to do with Emkir's.

Aali kept Emkir's vacc suit patch kit and deodorant, (TL7)oxygen leak detector and meteoroid protective garment after letting them sell his vacc suit.  Aali planned to hang the decorated Terran cavalry-style replica cutlass and scabbard Duke Luis' had given Emkir on her stateroom wall and planned to have her and Emkir's wedding rings fused into an eternity symbol.  After she was done with Emkir's gear, Aali logged into her connection with the shipyard and monitored the work begin done on the Upgrade.  When she tired of that, Aali figured she could join in on the things the rest of the crew were doing, then have lunch.

While Aali worked at cleaning out her stateroom, Mikah wanted to see what fun things they could do on Denotam with easily twenty days to burn before they got the ship and Zimzod back?  With a 'personal favor owed by the Count, Jocelynn wanted a personal appointment at InstellArms to learn what upgrades could be done to her Battledress?  She knew there were lots of different versions, but she didn't know what could be done to improve the model she had?  After she'd done her research, she'd know what she wanted to ask the Count for while redeeming her favor?  When she saw she'd gotten the others attention with her words, Jocelynn reminded them the Count said he owed the entire crew a favor too, and they should consider what they wanted from him too.  Mikah nodded and considered figuring what medical equipment they didn't have, to ask the Count for after seeking out touristy things to do.

Before Sekea planned to go out, he logged into the local network and shopped for body armor.  He knew the market was "thin" in Denotam, and the quality wouldn't be the greatest, but he needed something better than his clothing.  Shopping, Sekea decided to order a full-body cloth suit for Cr 400, and figured he might order more later.  So he set up a delivery for Cr 150.  Sekea then said he wanted to go out shopping for the polar goods he'd been trying to buy when the Arnstruther clan had attacked and forced him back to the berth.  He really wanted something designed to be fit onto different sized space suit boots.  After telling the others his plan, Sekea realized he couldn't just send an x-mail to Ghandi or Lanth to order what he wanted.  He eventually said he'd go to InstellArms and see what they could work out for him?

Since Jocelynn had set up a personal appointment to discuss her battledress, they decided to go together and left the port on one of the provided rides to the venue.  In the berth Colieen stepped up when asked and helped Mikah look for the best ideas and prices they could find on the local network.  While they worked, Colieen joked about finding the really fun stuff "if" there was a dark-web on Denotam.  She also joked about them trying to sell off someone's body parts.  Aiden had decided to read until he'd heard what the others found to do and join in.  But, he hadn't begged in on the trip to InstellArms, so he was reading.  Fesic picked up on his lock pick training.  Aboard the medical ship, Zimzod was caged down, bored and watching vids was all he could do to pass time.

Plots And Parts
     Walking from the berth to a people mover, Jocelynn and Sekea left the port and jumped on one of the waiting InstellArms carts.  While they rode, they were assaulted by I-A vids covering a wide variety of the firm's offerings for clothing, hunting and anything else they thought they could sell to a local or visiting spacer.  Jocelynn was used to the support and concierge swarm while Sekea was still adjusting to when their cart pulled up and the sales teams moved forward.  When Jocelynn's concierge asked how he could help Dame Jocelynn, she said she was hoping to learn about how she could enhance her battledress?  Hearing that, the man's eyes lit up because he was, above all, paid on commission.

The man helped Jocelynn aboard his cart and told the driver which location in the shop to bring them to as he started asking Jocelynn questions.  While every InstellArms site modeled their stock to match what they sold, every site also hoped for a "big score".  In places like Denotam, the "big score section" was a small stock of Battledress items.  On sites closer in to the Imperial core, the big score section might actually advertise well-appointed and stocked personal warship/yachts.  Jocelynn's concierge only hoped he could stock what Dame Jocelynn was after, and make a big score for his own pay check.

Arriving in the section, Jocelynn was happy to see InstellArms had five complete sets of battledress armor on offer!  None were very advanced, or "kitted out", but Jocelynn looked at them with a critical eye.  Her armor had been made by Ling Standard Products, meaning there were many LSP modules that could easily be swapped in and out.  It had a built in IR-masking system, bleeding heat to match background radiation and making her nearly invisible to IR sensors.  In colder places, like Denotam, the suit would store heat until it had vent or risk user's safety.  The suit's computer would warn Jocelynn to find a safe place to dump waste heat.  Her suit also had a "chameleon" surface covering the outer armor, letting her change the color patterns on command.  Standard patterns were different from unit to unit, and Jocelynn's kit had "shipboard" and in-space patterns, very basically matching hull or compartment colorings and EVA-based space patterns.

Battledress integral power-packs lasted for days and the suit's life-support systems gave a sealed, self-sufficient environment for a minimum of 24 hours.  In Jocelynn's suit, the limit was 48 hours.  Zero-friction bearings and sound-suppression equipment built into the suit made it eerily quiet.  Her combat package included a continental-range directional/scrambled communicator, which Jocelynn had replaced with the team's comms systems.  It also had a tactical battle computer, managing targets, giving current situation displays and handling communications via a coordinating tactical computer.  The suit's advanced sensor package provided the HUD with targeting, IR and LI telescopic visor, micro/macro viewing, and remote televiewing from other sources.

That meant modular add-ons could include things like a grav "belt", an arm-mounted laser carbine or rifle, extended life support (up to 76 hours), an ECM module, armored chest and body plates, drop capsule fittings, and smoke and prismatic aerosol dispensers.  And, the list went on.  While no weapons were already integral to her suit, visible computer socket/links were visible on the chest plate at the right and left shoulders where a rifle would normally be braced.  This let technicians link modular weapons to the suit, to suit the needs of any mission.  Depending on the mission, any Marine could also have one or more of the following: Gauss Rifle; RAM grenade launcher; PGMP-13 or PGMP-14; FGMP-14 or FGMP-15; or a TAC nuke launcher.  In Jocelynn's case, she had used gauss rifles and, at times, a RAM grenade launcher.

While much of that could not be provided locally, Jocelynn's concierge knew their technicians could integrate any of her weapons, and provide some modules or upgrades because the raw materials were in stock.  He just hoped she chose something his venue had in stock.  The suits they had for sale were tech level D or E suits, so not as advanced as what Jocelynn had.  Their documentation, required to prove they were legally able to be sold, stated they had "fallen into" InstellArms control following battles in the Denotam system when Imperial forces chased Zhodani naval units out of the system.  Of course, any possible buyer of any of the suits had to have the legal permission from the Imperial Navy to "own" a suit they bought.  Still, that told Jocelynn the suits were old and while she'd bet InstellArms would have serviced them, they would not have updated them.  Still, if they had the cash, she thought it would be good to get a suit for Rol.  But, she wasn't gonna burn her "personal" favor to try for that.

Jocelynn showed the concierge the listing of her suit's capabilities and said she was looking to upgrade her suit.  That pleased the man, since grafting a weapon to the suit didn't need anything if the owner already had a weapon.  All that would be needed is for their technicians to get the weapon from the owner and "graft it" into the suit's armor, skeleton, electronics and operating system.  They'd also have to add management subroutines to the suit's battle computer, but once they did, Dame Jocelynn could operate the weapon from her HUD if she wanted.  And all with stock parts from the battledress suit itself or integration kits like those hunters bought, which he knew they had in stock.  The man did suggest Jocelynn could "trade in" her existing suit for one of the suits on display, but Jocelynn wasn't gonna pay more on top of her suit's trade in value for an older suit which didn't have the features her's did.  Even when it turned out one of the suits was an "intruder" model, with advanced anti-sensor systems installed.

Jocelynn also decided to file that in the "Nope!" file when she learned that the suit would cost her one million credits even with her trade in value!  At the same time, the concierge offered to sell her an inertial locator, which he told her they also sold to hunters.  So, that was in stock and could easily be added.  He also offered systems to extend her comms to "global range" provided the world had a global satellite system that she had access to.  That was also a good seller here on Denotam.  He also offered Jocelynn a Cr 150 kit that would add camouflage patterns to her suit systems, because those were also included in a package sold to hunters with high-end "hide suits" or with other limited image display abilities.  None of these were made "for" Battledress, but all could be integrated.

The concierge also floated the idea of integrating weapons into her battledress in various ways.  First, their technicians could integrate laser weapons to the battledress power and combat computer systems.  That way, Dame Jocelynn would not have to also carry her laser power packs to use those weapons.  Along with that, they could graft a weapon into one or both of her armored fore-arms.  This would not only tie in the weapon to the suit's power and combat computer systems, but would make them "hand's free".  So "hands free" that Dame Jocelynn could be holding a weapon in each hand "and" fire those as well as any weapons grafted to her armored fore-arms.  And, all that would require were weapons integration kits, spare armor composite and programs to upgrade the armor's combat computer.  The only other item needed would be the weapon, which Dame Jocelynn might already own.

The last two items he floated were backpack-based items, and again came from what he knew of their "recovered equipment" catalog.  One was a "flight-pack" backpack which could be integrated into her armor.  The other item was a back-pack mounted weapon such as a grenade launcher system.  Liking the idea of short bursts of flight, Jocelynn wasn't very thrilled with having to be tied to a backpack and asked about grav-based units?  The concierge checked his datapad and saw they could integrate grav belts or even a larger grav-harness into Dame Jocelynn's battledress if she wanted that.  So, he told her that was something they could do and hoped she'd order the upgrade.  The more Jocelynn heard, the more she wanted, but she also worried how much she could get the Count to spend for a "favor"?

Jocelynn very much wanted the grav-harness system, especially when the concierge said it could be integrated to her combat computer so she could use her vision and HUD to designate a flight path.  She was also excited to see if she could buy a laser rifle and have it integrated into the right-forearm of her armor.  Deciding that, Jocelynn also realized she could mount a weapon on her left arm and decided she wanted a grenade launcher on her left arm.  Jocelynn also admitted to herself that the Count may not be willing to cover all that and she'd have to be prepared to pay for a good amount of it herself.  She'd certainly buy the Cr 150 camouflage kit on her own.  After making a shopping list for her battledress, Jocelynn thought about the rest of her gear.  Remembering she only had one set of executive armor, she asked the concierge, who told her InstellArms had no stocks of those in-system.

Being a direct relative of the Baroness who held his homeworld in fief, Sekea was used to being treated as a celebrity "there".  Just not by InstellArms workers at, apparently, every one of their facilities!  This was new and he still hadn't considered asking the crew why this was the case?  Still, his public skills helped him manage the situation as his concierge and her team came up to ask him what interest brought him to their firm that day?  When Sekea started to introduce himself, she made it clear they already knew who he was and all about his crew.  Nodding, Sekea told her, "I'm interested in some equipment for our crew which will fit on the vacuum suit.  Specifically, this is equipment that would allow you to attach crampons to the vacuum suit footwear.  So, I need a device that either is adjustable to snap onto any vacc suit boot or is custom-made to attach to specific sizes.  Whatever is available."

Not saying she felt the request "very odd" because she'd sell it to this man if she could find a way to do it, the concierge admitted she'd never heard of a device doing that for crampons.  She did tell Sekea that magnetic soles were sold, which universally connected to the boots of vacc suits and fit as he described.  Hoping for more time to research this 'ask', the woman asked how long Sekea and his crew would be in-system?  Not pleased with an uncertain outcome, Sekea said they'd be in-system about twenty more days.  Being honest with Sekea, the concierge said she wasn't certain the people on Denotam could design for him what he wanted in that time.  The women then asked where they were headed and suggested they could design the crampons and send them to catch up to the ship there.

Sekea said they were bound for the Ghandi system next, and she asked how long the ship planned to stay in Ghandi?  When Sekea said they planned to spend a week there before jumping to Lanth.  The concierge wasn't sure her people could get the job done and delivered in 27 days either, so she asked how Sekea felt about the design being shipped to catch up to them in Lanth?  Sekea was concerned that anything they made after he left might not be what he wanted and also worried they'd spend weeks on Lanth waiting for the designed gear to arrive.  Making it clear he wasn't happy with that outcome, the woman suggested they could sit down, create a design spec and then sign a contract to send to Ghandi and Lanth "now".  After getting the contract, both groups on Ghandi and Lanth would work to create what he wanted and report back.  So, if the InstellArms on Ghandi completed it before they had word from Lanth, they would send a stop-work to Lanth and an X-mail to Sekea and his ship where to pick up the devices.  The same for Lanth, where they'd send the stop-work to Ghandi and the X-mail to Sekea and the ship.

The concierge said she would charge Sekea Cr 20 up front, to send the work spec contracts, and said she would write in a recommended cost of Cr 600 crampons created in Ghandi and Cr 1.200 for those designed in Lanth.  The price explanation was that she expected anything designed in Ghandi to be simpler to design and build while a design from Lanth would require enough more work, or more difficult to acquire materials, so any pairs of the devices would be more expensive to make.  The concierge did remind Sekea that a purely magnetic link "could" fail, and she asked if he would consider screw mounted crampons?  When Sekea quibbled over the possible pricing, she pointed out she'd already quoted him Cr 600/1.200 depending on deliver at Ghandi or Lanth.  Agreeing with that, Sekea worked with her to create a quick design spec that covered his concerns and paid the Cr 20 to send the work orders to Ghandi and Lanth.

After they completed that work, the concierge asked if there was anything else Sekea was looking for that she could help him with?  Sekea said he was looking for body armor and she admitted the Denotam InstellArms didn't have much stock in that since there was not much of a market for that sort of thing.  She said she could offer him full-body ballistic cloth armor, but nothing more advanced than that.  She then suggested they had cold weather gear which would also give protection similar to ballistic cloth, but that would limit where he could use it.  Sekea then directly insulted her by saying, "OK.  You have a very strange assortment of things.  You can buy very high-tech things to add on to complex armor but you can't buy basic garments."  He then angrily snapped, "That's fine."  The concierge chose to ignore the comment, since it only showed that Sir Sekea was one of those asses who wanted what he wanted, had no understanding of commercial supply, demand and markets, and blamed others when he could not get what he wanted "now".

New Questions To Investigate
     Back in the berth, Mikah and Colieen had started working on looking for fun places to visit on Denotam.  They found a number of places, like one advertised as the "Blue Ice Caverns", with inviting pictures.  Another, called "The Wastes", had large open spaces of wind-sculpted ice formations.  A third, "The Spire Forests" was a wide plain covered by ice hoodoos.  Pictures of that showed thin ice spires rising tens of feet where each spire had a wide table-top-like ice "cap" structure sculpted by the winds.  Descriptions suggested that some freak water event had carved the spires in ice lower to the ground while leaving the higher surface ice unmelted.  Since that event in the distant past, the surface ice had broken into separate tops for each individual spire.  The women were entranced by some of the images shown and started looking for tour data.

That's where things came crashing down.  Each of the tours were largely controlled by one or another clan.  So, they had to trust that the "tourist opportunity" they booked wasn't simply a chance they'd give one of the clans to get them killed and steal their gear?  Added to that, if they did gear up for something dangerous in a place like the Spire Forests, and cause a hoodoo to collapse, all hell could break out.  They could find themselves having to fight their way clear of bad guys, "supposedly friendly" clanners and collapsing ice structures.  And then, find themselves in court for having damaged or destroyed some of Denotam's natural wonders!

Mikah said she'd had enough of dealing with the clans for the time, and she and Colieen turned their searches on the port, base and the villages around the facilities.  While there were few museums they could find, each location had their arts and entertainment communities.  The naval base even had an administrative department encouraging and supporting hobby and activity clubs.  An entertainment site Colieen found discussed that a troop in Clan Arnstruther territory were presenting a "hastily mounted" historical play described as "The Arnstruther heroes defending against the early arriving Imperial land thieves".  Despite the rush to produce the play, the piece said the original play was six hundred years old, and based on the Clan's reactions to initial Imperial settlements on-world.

Mikah considered the situation after the recent attack on the naval base and decided it wouldn't be good to give the actors, who were clearly stoking the anger of their neighbors, a convenient group of Imperial nobility to target.  Looking for more plays, and knowing they could watch any vids in their own berth, they saw the naval base acting troop were currently staging a play.  Despite the political climate, the play was advertised as a 'farce' called "Our Downwell Cousins".  And, it seemed to have been in production for two weeks and was planned to continue for two more.  Deciding that sounded interesting at the least, Mikah asked those in the berth if they wanted to go with her that night, and then called Jocelynn and Sekea too.  Sekea asked what time the play would be at and Mikah said that evening after dinner.

Everyone except Jocelynn said they'd go, so Mikah and Jocelynn said she'd get back to Mikah if she wanted to go to the play?  With a list of who was coming, Mikah called the base's public outreach office to see how civilians would go about getting tickets?  She was told by the operator that they could handle that for her and started asking the basic questions needed for a civilian to come to the base.  Of course, Mikah hadn't considered what it would mean that she, as a Lady of the Deneb Court bringing a crew of Knights, would mean to the cast, crew and even base commander.  But the operator maintained professionalism enough that Mikah was happy to provide her Ident to check, and the Cr 15 each for the tickets.  The total came to Cr 90 and Mikah was told the tickets would be waiting for her at the base's visitor center after she passed through the front gate.

While Mikah was finishing up, Colieen wondered about the availability of booze on the base?  Deciding to "make sure" she'd have something to drink, Colieen thought about finding a place locally that sold flasks.  That, because a flask ordered from the high port might not get there until the next day and be ridiculously expensive given delivery costs from orbit.  When Mikah was off the line, Colieen said she wanted to go shopping for a flask and Mikah said she'd go too.  Aiden wasn't interested and suggested it might not be safe to wander around outside until they were sure Clan Arnstruther was done.  Mikah waved that off and laughed at him.  Fesic said he'd stay and keep up with his lock pick work.  Aali was working with the androids, and checking modification work on the ship.

After talking to Mikah, Sekea asked Jocelynn if she wanted to visit the local shop where he planned to buy the ice pick/axes?  Jocelynn first wondered to herself who she might get to throw them at and then wondered out loud if they had a range where she could throw them?  Still, her question was rhetorical, and she said she'd go with Sekea to look at what the store had?  They soon found a shop which seemed to serve the 'outdoors aficionados' of Denotam, and seemed to have all manner of outdoors and adventure gear.  When they stepped inside, Sekea tried to explain what he wanted but the owner interrupted him describing and pointing to all manner of stock from groat-wool lined hide jackets to synthetic cloth clothes to ice picks to crampons and more.

Letting the shop owner run out of steam first, Sekea then asked to see what the man stocked when it came to ice pick/axes?  Nodding, the owner led them to a wall display of picks.  Some were aggressively just short of what either Jocelynn or Sekea would have considered as battle axes!  Neither of them would think about using something like that to smash ice.  Happily, they had more commercial examples that were mostly locally made.  The small selection of picks from interstellar sources were all well made but were also very expensive.  Where a decent locally made item would cost them Cr 75, the worst of the interstellar picks cost Cr 500.

When Sekea asked for details on the differences between the weapons, the man discussed the finer points of each weapon's manufactured quality, but admitted the higher price for interstellar versions of the picks were largely the cost to import them.  Still, he brightened up and told Sekea and Jocelynn that all the tools had life-long guarantees or their money back.  Sekea snarked back, "How can you get a refund if you're dead?"  Ignoring the price increase, Sekea said he wanted to buy an ice pick for each of the crew members, including Rol because he could be decanted by then.  So, he had to order nine picks.  When he was told he could do that, Sekea also asked about the crampons, to see what he could of the local devices?

The unit the store owner showed Sekea was a "lace and strap" affair.  The straps long enough to reach over and around the largest boot, and adjustable.  So they could be shortened to suit any boot they'd be attached to.  The straps also had steel "snaps" which fed through steel loops on the crampon, opposite where the straps were mounted.  While they were the main structural connection holding the crampon to the boot, there was a secondary number of laces which tied through the straps after they were mounted.  Those kept the straps from shifting while in use, and helped prevent the crampons from becoming loose from the connected boot.  Impressed, Sekea asked how much each pair would cost?  The store owner considered before offering a price of Cr 750, which Sekea thought was ridiculous.  And, he hadn't even asked the pricing on the picks yet.

So, schooling his face to keep from showing his annoyance, Sekea decided to haggle for both the picks and the crampons.  After some time while Jocelynn watched, Sekea managed to talk the shop man down to Cr 250 per ice pick and Cr 200 per pair for the crampons.  It didn't hurt things for them when Jocelynn leaned over to whisper into Sekea's ear, "If I hear the word crampon again it will be too soon."  When Sekea laughed despite the situation, the shop owner had no idea what she'd said but felt it couldn't be good for him.  At Cr 450 per person, that came to Cr 4,050 total.  Added to that was a Cr 100 delivery fee because the gear would be too much for himself and Jocelynn to carry.  When he heard that price, Sekea considered how to pay it before calling Mikah to ask if the ship wanted to pay for what was crew safety gear?

Mikah and Colieen were already flask shopping when Mikah got Sekea's call.  Sekea then explained to her about the "contract" with InstellArms and the gear he was buying at the moment.  After he went over what he was getting from the shop, Mikah approved a payment from ship's funds, and said the gear would be stored in the berth until it could be moved into the ship's locker.  Mikah also told Sekea she'd call InstellArms about the design spec contract he'd paid them to send.  That done, Sekea asked Jocelynn if they should go back to the berth for lunch or try a local restaurant?  When Jocelynn said she was up for a local place, they went looking for a likely restaurant.

The first rule of thumb when looking for a "good" local restaurant was to look for one that is busy serving a lot of locals.  A place serving "only" or mostly off worlders might be one the locals avoided for a reason.  When they stepped into the place they'd chosen and looked around, Jocelynn realized there was someone eating there she recognized!  Jocelynn muttered an "Oh no." as she spied Kennot sitting at a table in one of the restaurant's far corners, with his back against the wall and a view of the doors and most of the windows.  She'd met the man while at a bar with Fesic and he'd told them he was a "seeker".  That was a 'less official' version of a bounty hunter.  Both she and Fesic had decided the man was mostly a joke, and they'd learned he'd apparently been leaving a trail of dissatisfaction behind him.

In front of him, Jocelynn could see Kennot had ordered a huge amount of what looked like local food and was "going to town" on like he hadn't eaten in a year!  Pointing him out to Sekea, Jocelynn offered, "I know the gentleman sitting over there.  Let's go make him extremely uncomfortable and go ask if we can join him?"  Nodding, Sekea agreed and asked what the man's name was?  Jocelynn explained to Sekea what she and Fesic knew of the man.  When Sekea asked what their goal should be, suggesting they get him drunk, Jocelynn admitted, "I don't know.  I'm not sure what I'm doing yet."  Just after Sekea agreed to follow her lead, Jocelynn stopped moving and said, "Or, we can sit across the room from him, stair at him and make him really uncomfortable."  Eventually, Jocelynn decided her evil plan would be 'sitting where they could watch him' to see if he noticed them?  She added that if he didn't, she would wait some time before moving to his table to get his attention.

Shrugging and going along with Jocelynn, Sekea suggested they order him a drink from the most powerful alcohols the place had, despite the fact Kennot could just 'not drink' it.  Jocelynn liked that idea but pulled hard on the reigns when Sekea took it too far and suggested trying to bribe Kennot's waiter to put some drug in the man's drink.  Still, she agreed they should sit, watch him and order him a very powerful alcoholic drink.  Before things could go much further, Kennot proved he had some level of situational awareness when he spotted Jocelynn taking her seat.  While Jocelynn was disappointed her plan had died, Kennot smiled and waved while calling over to her, "Hi!  Have you heard anything you can let me know about?"  Having been briefed on him by Jocelynn, Sekea was still surprised the man would call that out in public.  He hadn't been loud enough for everyone in the place to hear him, but he didn't miss that mark by much.

Leaning closer to Sekea, Jocelynn stage whispered, "This may go quicker than I planned" despite not really having a real plan yet.  Still, Jocelynn had an audience of some other diners when she walked over to stand on the opposite side of Kennot's table while Sekea followed.  When she stepped up, Kennot swept his hand over the still empty parts of the table and invited, "Join me!" with a smile on his face Jocelynn had not expected.  Looking down at the spread of dishes, Jocelynn asked if he were celebrating something?  Gesturing at the food himself, Kennot said, "Oh, I'm getting ready for a field trip into Clan Erskin territory so I figured I might as well food up."

Taking a chair, Jocelynn asked what he had lined up there and he said, "I think I got a line on our friend" with a smile.  Surprised, Jocelynn said, "Really!" and backed that up with real emotion.  She continued, "I came up with nothing, sorry.  Kennot came back with a truly annoying answer, saying "No worries.  That just means I don't have to share with you."  If anything, his smile got wider.  Jocelynn just nodded in a friendly manner while silently wishing she could slip something into his drink.  Fishing, Jocelynn asked, "So, where do you think he is?"  Between mouthfuls, Kennot said, "We traced the guy and it turns out he's from Clan Erskin, and we think he's in their territory."  When Jocelynn nodded and said, "That would explain why I haven't heard about him" Kennot asked, "What clans have you been checking into?"

Jocelynn generalized instead of giving information, figuring she wasn't getting any of his cash anyway, so there was nothing she was losing.  Thinking fast, Jocelynn wondered if the pirate was in Erskin territory close to their border with Glas lands?  She also tried to remember if the Glas, or anyone else, had any conflicts with Erskin?  Sadly, she didn't remember but hoped she could get support from the Glas if the pirate was close to them.  Of course, she had to keep the Glas from taking the mission on themselves.  Not to mention, not being able to trust the Glas either.  And she still had to get Kennot to spill more beans so she could jump his claim.

Digging for more, Jocelynn asked Kennot, "So, how are you planning to go after this guy?" and Kennot said, "We're taking a hopper."  Hearing that, Sekea nodded with a smirk and said, "Good luck with that."  Pushing, Jocelynn asked, "We?" and Kennot told her he had someone else who "had some business with the clan".  Nodding, Jocelynn asked who that was and Kennot said, "He was the passenger on my ship coming to Denotam."  Jocelynn only answered, "Oh." while sitting back a moment and considering that nugget of information.  Jocelynn's first thought was to volunteer to go with them, because she was sure Kennot would screw up.  Sekea's thoughts were an overly dramatic opinion of the hoppers.  While the hoppers were rough and hard, the real danger to using one to carry the Glas during the Arnstruther attack was a risk of being shot down.  The hoppers were generally safe and regularly used for transit on Denotam.

Following up on one of Kennot's earlier comments, Sekea asked, "What ship did you come in on?" in a tone of idle curiosity.  Kennot said, "On the far trader Youkan Debou.  From his experience, Sekea knew that was a civilian merchant ship class that was extremely common in the Spinward Marches.  The standard 200 dTon far trader was able to make a two-parsec jump and carry 61 tons of cargo.  It was small enough, it could also be run by a single-man crew, though it would be rough on that one person.  Counting on his memory, Sekea leaned back in his seat and recited it to himself in his mind, making certain he remembered it and could investigate the ship name with the port later, to see if it really existed?

While Sekea did that, Jocelynn asked Kennot what the man was wanted for again, hoping to try and trip him up, but Kennot caught that and repeated the target was wanted for piracy.  Nodding and saying "yeah, right" sheepishly, as if she'd forgotten, Jocelynn asked, "When are you heading out?"  Kennot said within a couple of days, perhaps even tonight." and didn't explain what any delays were?  Kennot said they'd be roughing it when she asked where they'd be staying?  Hearing that, Jocelynn laughed and said, "Oh, you're camping?  In this cold?"  Her tone was not respectful.  Kennot shrugged and said, "Well, we'll be hunting." in a nonchalant tone.

Jocelynn nodded and asked, "Where do you think he is, like which town?" while hoping to draw out Kennot's information.  Kennot's face screwed up as he considered how to answer the question, then said, "I'm not quite sure exactly where he's hiding, but I'm fairly certain he's hiding near some villages the Erskin have."  Jocelynn nodded because she knew he wasn't just going to spill the beans there at the table.  Hoping to get back onto her plan, Jocelynn offered, "Can I buy you a drink?"  But Kennot cut her off, saying "Sure", and caught the attention of a waitress to say, one more of these", on her.  The 'on her' meant Jocelynn would pay for the drink.  That stopped Jocelynn buying something she knew was alcoholic to get him drunk.  And Jocelynn had to nod agreement to pay or she'd burn the whole thing dead.

When the drink came, so did the tab, which was Cr 5, so Jocelynn knew he wasn't drinking alcohol unless it was "cleaning engine parts" quality.  Watching him eat, Jocelynn was reminded of people who carb up before big sports events or strenuous activities.  Still, he was heading into the woods and might spend more than a few days eating nearly nothing so his 'munch out' was reasonable.  Smiling, Jocelynn swept the dishes with her eyes and said he should ask for some very large doggy bags, which got a laugh from Kennot.  Knowing she and Sekea had come into the place to eat, Jocelynn asked, "What's good here?" and Kennot answered, "Not much, but you eat what you have because you have to."  So, he hadn't changed his willingness to insult everyone in hearing.

Looking over Kennot's assorted dishes, Jocelynn pointed to one she thought looked tasty and asked a server what it was before ordering one for herself along with a platter of assorted local vegetables to share.  She told Sekea to choose something to order.  Sekea asked for a menu, planning to check the entries on it on his computer.  Sadly, the names and meal items meant little to a computer which had the basic data on Denotam and not much more.  If a travelog had been written on the world which included the local cuisine, Sekea didn't have it on his computer.  Ironically, Colieen had bought a book on Denotam's flora and fauna which would have helped him if he'd had a chance to read it.  So, Sekea was stuck with the same method of looking for what pictures looked like they'd taste good?  Then, like Jocelynn, he'd roll the dice.

One thing his computer did have was a recommendation that the local specialties tended to be tasty and nutritious meat and vegetable bits chopped up and baked into large bread-like muffins.  So, a diner could cut and eat slices from the large bread-cake and eat it like slices of cake.  Looking for that in the menu, Sekea saw that most of the dishes were sold based on the type of animal meat the specific muffin had inside it.  Checking, Sekea did find his computer could recommend what animals were reasonable analogs of beef, pork, or fowl meats of some varied types.  When he mentioned that to Jocelynn and then ordered a beef-like thing for himself, Jocelynn changed her order to a beefy muffin but kept the vegetable platter too. 

Not seeing it on his computer, but figuring there were enough Imperials visiting, Sekea asked if they had a bacon like meat and was told they did, so he ordered a side of that.  Both ordered a slightly alcoholic drink, which bumped up the meal costs.  With all the add ons, Sekea's bill came to Cr 22 and Jocelynn's, with Kennot's drink, came out to Cr 30.  After Sekea and Jocelynn ordered their meals, Kennot started drawing in his plates to make space for their meals, but also apparently to insure there was a space between "his food" and "their food".  Jocelynn could only think, "Excuse me!" at the obvious territorialism.  Of course, it could also be that he was planning to be away from regular food for a while and felt he had to eat everything he'd ordered.

Sekea and Jocelynn's drinks were the first to arrive and not long after that, the vegetable platter was delivered.  When the dish was set down, Kennot pointed to it and asked, "Is that for everyone?"  Jocelynn answered, "No." in an nearly offended tone and pointed to his nearly empty vegetable dish saying, "That's yours right there."  Shooting him a smile, Jocelynn said, "If you're a good boy, we'll get you a dessert." and both Kennot and Sekea laughed.  While they tested the vegetables and waited for their entrees, Sekea asked Kennot, "Have you heard about this hunting competition they have locally?"  The navigator's plan was to draw Kennot off the subject and make the man think he and Jocelynn weren't interested in the fugitive.  Kennot nodded and brushed the idea aside, saying, "Yeah, I'm not planning to have any time for that." in a very business-like tone.  Kennot finished up, "I plan to do my own hunting."

Sekea suggested, "Maybe you can kill two birds with one stone.  While you're out there hunting you see an Iron Buck and kill it while you looked for your man.  And if it's big enough, you could win the competition.  Of course, that ignored the fact that Kennot would be hunting on Clan Erskin land, far outside the hunting range included in the competition.  Kennot only shot that down by saying he'd have to pay the entry fee if he wanted to hunt the beast.  Sekea shrugged and said, "Well, everything in life is a gamble."  Kennot waved that away and said, "Well, I'm choosing my particular gamble.  Are you entering the contest?"  When Sekea admitted he was thinking about it, Jocelynn doubled down, saying, "Yeah!  Let's do it!" to Sekea as if inspired.  Jocelynn continued, "I'm not much of a hunter but I can blow stuff up."  That got laughs from Sekea and Kennot.

After the laugh, Kennot raised a stalk of the vegi he was munching on and said, "To each his own", seeming to be trying to keep everything on a business setting.  Jocelynn asked Kennot if he thought he'd need any more people for his team while he turned his attention back to his food.  Looking up, Kennot asked if she meant gun toters and Jocelynn answered, "That too."  Considering that, Kennot said, "I'm sure 'the more the merrier', but how much is that gonna cost me?"  When Jocelynn suggested a share of the reward, Kennot, scoffed, "Not a full share.  You'd just be gun carriers."  Leaning into it, Jocelynn asked, "How much are we talking?" and Kennot offered Cr 1,000 per week.  That brought Jocelynn up short and she asked, "Per week?"  How long is this gonna take?  Kennot said it depended and could take some time before they found the guy or gave up.

That reminded Jocelynn they'd be going into a home village, town or city of thousands or even tens of thousands of people.  And part of that territory was built up while some of it was wilderness and "all of it" was hostile.  Getting caught by a hungry or angry animal might even be better than getting caught by the people of Clan Erskin, and being turned over to their "legal system", such as it was.  Jocelynn told Kennot they would only be in the system for three more weeks while she also admitted to herself that she'd have to get clearance from Mikah if she wanted to run off and hunt with Kennot.  Since Sekea was someone Kennot hadn't met, he felt he could get away with asking, "Why are you hunting this guy?" even though Jocelynn had told him Kennot was a seeker.  Kennot gave the same answer he'd given Fesic and Jocelynn, saying he was wanted for piracy and guessing some Imperial ship had damaged the one he was on and this guy managed to escape the battle.

In truth, Kennot didn't sound to them like he much cared why so long as he could collect the money.  Hearing that, Jocelynn reviewed that the fugitive's name was "Entarzul", and that he was from Clan Erskin.  Jocelynn also had a hologram of the man's head, so she knew what he looked like.  Jocelynn again wondered if he might be hiding near the border Clan Erskin shared with Clan Glas, where she "might" be able to get help.  She also had to be careful because the Glas wasn't really trustworthy, and had been playing them with the Count.  So he might well use them if she tried to call a perceived marker.  Jocelynn also had to remember Clan Erskin lands covered 13 percent of the world's ice and limited land surface and had a population of tens of thousands of people in many scattered towns and villages.

Sekea only nodded at Kennot's comments before saying he seemed to lead a very interesting life.  Sekea then offered to buy Kennot another drink.  While he may have also hoped to get Kennot drunk, they had no evidence what the man was drinking was even alcoholic.  Beating Jocelynn to the punch, Sekea asked Kennot, "Why don't you tell us about some of your successful hunts before?"  Hearing that, Jocelynn nodded and said she was just about to ask that question.  Kennot shrugged, gestured with his hand and said, "Well, as I told you and your other friend, I'm just getting into this.  So, I have no successes yet."  When Sekea almost repeated back to Kennot, "You've never had a successful hunt before?" Kennot repeated, "Well, I'm just getting into seeking.  I wanna broaden my horizons."

Sekea asked what Kennot had done before trying to become a seeker, and Kennot answered, "What I still do.  I'm a starship pilot."  That surprised both Jocelynn and Sekea and Sekea asked what kind of systems Kennot had traveled to in his career?  Instead of answering, Kennot only said, "Well, we're a jump two freighter and we just go place to place buying and selling.  Nodding, Sekea asked, "So, you're currently a pilot for a freighter in-system, or did you give up that job?"  Kennot agreed he was from one of the ships in-system at the moment.  Nodding, Sekea asked, "Presumably, you have a Captain and they're ok with you going on this hunt as a seeker, and possibly losing their pilot?"  Jocelynn and Sekea were even more surprised when Kennot said, "Well I own my own ship so..."

Jocelynn asked, "Do you have a crew?" and Kennot only said, "Sometimes", which didn't suggest if he had a crew on this run or not?  As a marine, Jocelynn had recalled times her team had boarded "Lone-Man" ships for customs inspections.  She always remembered those were tense because they had to look even harder, making sure no one was being smuggled past security checks or legal issues.  Sekea recalled the class of ship Kennot now claimed to own, and recalled it could be operated by a lone-man crew.  When Sekea asked who his navigator was, Kennot turned a thumb on himself and said, "Me".  Hearing that, Sekea said he was impressed Kennot was both a pilot and navigator, but also recognized Kennot's ship would only ever make one or two parsec jumps, so not as complex as those made by ships with longer jump legs.

Kennot nodded away Sekea's admiration saying, "Yeah, but it gets boring when you land and you're waiting for your passengers to complete their business.  I wanna do something while I'm on a planet too."  Agreeing, Sekea repeated Jocelynn's question from only seconds before, asking, "Do you have any crew or are you also the engineer and the rest?  Sekea obviously wondered how Kennot handled passengers given the Imperial Navy ruling that all starships which carried passengers were required to have a dedicated Steward to assist them.  It also perhaps suggested to him that Kennot did have a crew on this run, because he'd said he had a passenger.  Kennot repeated the answer he'd given Jocelynn, saying, "Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don't."

Again deciding to suggest admiration, Sekea said, "So, you own your own ship.  That's impressive."  Nodding, Kennot said, "You could say that, I'm paying it off.  Gotta keep up with the payments."  Jocelynn fake giggled, "Ha, ha, ha.  He has a mortgage.  We don't."  Sadly for Jocelynn, that wasn't saying much because if they had to replace the Upgrade's jump drive whole, it would have cost them MCr 704.  The chat kept up while they ate and both Jocelynn and Sekea had to admit, their meat did taste like beef, and the bacon 'really' tasted like bacon!  Sekea eventually asked, "So, you're leaving tomorrow for your hunt?"  Kennot said that was likely the plan but they had to check the weather and stuff.  Jocelynn got back to the subject of the fugitive, asking, "So, do you know which village he was reported being near?"  They saw Kennot wasn't ready to spill those details before he answered, "Somewhere in the northern territories."

Nodding, Sekea asked if he'd had his ship prepared already and Kennot said the Youkan Debou was already locked down.  After they finished eating, Sekea said, "Well, Sir, it was very nice to meet you and the best of luck in your enterprises." and shook hands with Kennot Solomani-style.  When they left the restaurant, both Sekea and Jocelynn had issues they wanted to investigate.  Jocelynn wanted to look into the bounty report on Entarzul and see what she could dig up on the man's possible location?  Sekea wanted to check into the ship Kennot claimed to own.  Sekea was also certain they could share what they'd learned with Colieen in hopes of learning even more from what the crew's computer expert could learn.

While walking, the two compared notes and Sekea told Jocelynn he figured Kennot would get himself killed if he tried to capture this guy on his own.  They both agreed to start digging on their own and to see what Colieen could find with the information?  Jocelynn wanted to expand that and talk to everyone, to let them in on what they'd learned.  Especially, considering that Fesic already knew a bit about Kennot and the fugitive.  Considering calling the berth, Jocelynn wondered if the other crew were all there and realized she didn't know.  For the first time, Jocelynn said what she'd been thinking out loud, telling Sekea, "I think we should talk to everyone and see if we can undermine this guy and get the bounty for ourselves."

When Sekea agreed with her on that, she also agreed with him on asking Colieen to help investigate.  Jocelynn also wondered if Kennot was really doing what he claimed, and if not, what was he doing?  The two then reviewed what they had learned from Kennot, and agreed on some of the questions they had to ask before doing anything else.  Then, Jocelynn decided to call Mikah and ask if the crew were all still in the berth?  When Mikah answered, Jocelynn asked if everyone was still at the berth?  Mikah, who was with Colieen and had been shopping, said "Nope!  We're out shopping." in a pleased tone.  Nodding into her comms, Jocelynn said, "OK.  I have a possible business proposition for us, so whenever everybody's back at the berth we should sit down and talk."  Mikah agreed to that and they cut the call.  Then both agreed not to call Colieen just yet and get back to the berth.

Shopping And Silliness
     After having bought tickets for a play that evening on the naval base, Mikah and Colieen had gone shopping.  Colieen was after a decent hip flask and Mikah considered getting one if they found a decent quality flask.  leaving the port and wandering the village, they wanted a liquor or personal consumer goods outlet, but didn't intend to check the bars.  In an area of consumer goods shops, they also saw a souvenir shop, and knew places galaxy-wide liked selling engraved flasks and other curios.  Choosing one of the consumer goods shops, they wandered the aisles and saw the place sold "really" cheap items.  Likely, a trap for spacers looking for quick buys and not paying attention to the quality of the goods.  Most, if not all, the items were stamped "Denotam" and were like the sort of tchotchke a spacer would buy to say "I was there".

Looking through the aisles, they found flasks and started looking at what was offered for sale.  Inspecting one of the flasks, Colieen twisted off the cap and checked inside, trying to reach the tip of her pinky into the opening.  When she did, the metal felt like it wanted to "give", which was bad news for the neck and screw-top of a flask!  Seeing that, she squeezed and twisted it, and some of the bends didn't come out.  That told her the flask was cheap enough it could deform and possibly break if she had it in a hip pocket.  Past that, it was also a shorter flask than used to, and could be so small they'd only hold four or five ounces.  So, she put the flask down and they went looking for another shop.

Leaving the first shop, Colieen stopped to ask about somewhere she could get a more sturdy flask, and was given directions to a place the shop staffer said was good for general goods, homewares, etc...  Thanking the staffer for the directions, Colieen even bounced him a Cr 50 tip for the information.  Leaving the very happy clerk behind her as the young man enjoyed his good luck, they walked on to what turned out to be a small free-standing store that still managed departments with lots of stock filling a wide range of needs.  While they walked, Mikah got a buzz on her comms and saw it was from Sekea.  He told her about his visit to InstellArms, and then having found the picks and crampons at the local store.  When he told her the price for the gear he was buying, Mikah agreed to pay for it with ship's funds, and dealt with the shop owner on her comms.  After that, Mikah told Sekea she would call InstellArms to talk about his crampon design order.  She also figured she'd order the EVA kits they wanted because that was all they had left to order.

Making the call, Mikah identified herself using all her titles and used the tone of her voice to firmly say she expected her titles to demand the attention of the operator who answered the call.  Getting that person to snap up straight in their seat, Mikah then asked about the contract Sir Sekea had worked on earlier in the day with a concierge.  Mikah then demanded to speak to that woman.  When the agent got on the line, Mikah was a bit more friendly, given the tentative greeting the concierge gave.  Mikah explained that "Sir" Sekea had briefed her on the deal which had been created and there were issues Sir Sekea wasn't aware of.  When the concierge nodded, Mikah reminded the woman that, on occasion, the ship worked for Arch Duke Norris, and could be pulled off their planned course in such an event.  The concierge again nodded, absorbing the casual use of the Arch Duke's name, and Mikah said that put the contract Sir Sekea had agreed to in jeopardy.

When the concierge agreed, "Lady Mikah" made it clear that she, as Captain of the ship, couldn't allow InstellArms to assume they would be where they agreed to be in the contract.  So, Lady Mikah was using her right as Captain, and as a Lady of the Court of the Deneb Domain to cancel the contract.  When the concierge said the x-mail had already been sent and registered aboard an x-boat to leave the system, Mikah asked if the contract also covered responses from Ghandi and Lanth?  The concierge said it did and Mikah said that meant InstellArms was already paid enough to send a message to Ghandi and Lanth cancelling the contract.

Seeing the concierge wasn't certain, Mikah pointed out that Sir Sekea had paid Cr 20.  She then said, since the x-mail already sent would cost Cr 1 to reach Ghandi and Cr 2 to reach Lanth, two more x-mails could be sent, for Cr 6 total cost, to cancel the contract and InstellArms could keep the remaining Cr 14 as profit.  Nodding, the concierge said she could get that done while she considered how low her hoped for commission had dropped.  Mikah first thanked the woman for her help in the matter and then said she had questions regarding kits for EVA harnesses and connective cabling solutions for group EVA's.  Uncertain, the concierge asked some questions to understand what Mikah was after and was soon ready to make suggestions based on locally stocked goods.

The woman started out by pointing out that their people had stocks of lightweight but strong climbing harnesses imported from higher tech systems.  The harnesses came in three basic "sizes" based on the average human frame, and were easily configurable for mid-range sizes.  So, they could certainly fit over actively used vacc suits.  Outfitting Her ladyship's crew with those, existing cords made from a mixed braid of carbon-fiber and natural fibers could be made into "lattice sections".  Those would give easier control recovering someone who might have fallen or slipped.  Each person on the "chain" would be able to connect or disconnect at need with manually worked but highly secure connectors.  Added to that, they could have small battery-powered electric micro-hoists on both sides of each lattice.  Activating one set of those from either side would draw one member of the team to another.

Pleased at the options, Mikah asked how soon the lattices could be made and was told that would take a week.  Since Mikah knew they'd be on world longer than that, Mikah asked how much the set of harnesses and lattices would cost for a crew of nine?  The concierge, now much happier about her commission prospects, said the harnesses would cost Cr 1,500 each and the nine lattice sections would cost Cr 500 each from local-only materials.  The lattice sections would cost Cr 800 each with the imported and higher tech carbon-fiber braids, and they'd cost Cr 950 with the added micro-hoists.  Ever waving the banner of "never cheap out on safety", Mikah ordered the lattices with the imported carbon-fiber and hoists.  Completing the order, the concierge waived the delivery fee and said the order would be completed, tested and delivered on the 36th day of the year for Cr 26,550.  Happy with the order, Mikah paid the charge from ship's funds, thanked the concierge and cut the line.

Walking into the small, cramped and chock-full structure that passed for a department store but looked like a frontier colony warehouse, they finally found flasks for sale.  Even more entertaining, they found the "store" had a number of novelty flasks that were both three feet high and twenty inches wide while eight inches deep.  Looking at the joke flask, a sign advertised it to carry nearly 25 gallons of fluid!  Colieen smirked as she looked at the three which filled a shelf and said they'd be a bit too conspicuous and difficult to drink from.  Turning to the shelf with more standard eight ounce flasks, Colieen saw they were priced Cr 10 and grabbed one to take to checkout.  Mikah grabbed two, figuring Zimzod would get jealous if she didn't get him one.

After they checked out, Colieen asked where they should eat and Mikah said she was an adventurous eater.  Sadly, they couldn't find a place that served fried vargr body parts so they thought about a local restaurant until Mikah suddenly and enthusiastically announced, "Astroburgers!!".  When Colieen joined in on the cry, they both went in search of an Astroburgers restaurant.  Walking in, they knew all the standard fare and only briefly checked out the "local specials" because none of it had ever been of natural origin.  Checking the prices next, because they were different in every system, they each found their meals would each cost Cr 12.  They had finished and started to leave the place when Mikah got a buzz on her comms and checked to see it was Jocelynn.

Answering, Mikah heard Jocelynn ask if the crew were all at the berth and enthusiastically announced "Nope!  We're out shopping."  When Jocelynn said she had an idea and wanted to have a crew meeting, Mikah OK'd that for later and they cut the line.  With their flasks, meal and InstellArms sorted, the two ladies decided to return to the berth and see what Jocelynn was interested in?  Not long after they started walking, Mikah and Colieen made it to the edge of the village.  Stepping out from the last cluster of buildings to see across the open space to the port entry gates, the two ladies saw Jocelynn and Sekea walking ahead of them.  As soon as they saw the others, Mikah and Colieen considered following, calling or even throwing rocks at Sekea and Jocelynn.  Soon Colieen suggested she could hack their comms and drive them crazy, and Mikah liked that idea.

Hoping for a good reaction, Colieen started working to hack Sekea's comms so she could find the loudest and most annoying noise she could make his comms emit?  It helped that everyone in the team had the same model comms, so Colieen had time before then to explore her own device.  Helped by Mikah, who found a sound that suited, Colieen had been working to connect to and hack Sekea's comms.  Shortly after that, while Sekea walked, his comms suddenly began making the most lout and annoying noise it could make while signaling an in-coming call.  Checking the ID, Sekea was annoyed to see it said he was calling himself!  That instantly told him someone was spoofing his ID on the call so it had to be some kind of techie.  So, the call was either a prank or criminal, but a criminal wouldn't likely set of the sounds this call triggered.

Shutting down the call and the sounds triggered by it, Sekea figured the first stop he should make was to the crew computer expert, so he called Colieen to see what she could find out?  When she answered, he told her there was something going on with his phone and he wanted to be sure the comms security hadn't been breached.  From her perspective, Colieen and Mikah had watched as Sekea slowed his pace, then checked his comms, but couldn't see his expressions.  Not long after that, Colieen saw her connection was dropped and very shortly after that, she started receiving a call from Sekea.  On the whole, it was very anti-climatic and unsatisfying.

Answering Sekea's call, Colieen offered, "Go for papa palpatine." in an amused tone.  After Sekea greeted her and explained the situation, Colieen decided to have more fun by saying, "I'm sorry.  The number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service.  Please consult the directory and try again."  She then disconnected the call while Mikah laughed next to her.  Recognizing that "someone" had answered the line with a greeting before they tried to make it sound like the line was disconnected, Sekea decided the team comms must have been compromised.  Because of that, he called Mikah to tell her he felt their comms system was compromised and recommended everyone stop using their comms and return to the berth as soon as they could to work on solving the problem.

Deciding to have even more fun, Mikah heard what Sekea had to say then told him, "Why don't you try contacting Colieen 'cause she's the expert on that."  Changing her tone to a very happy one, Mikah then simply said "Bye!" and cut the connection, not giving Sekea any chance to answer her.  The reaction he got from Mikah stopped Sekea cold since he knew she wouldn't just ignore a legitimate security issue.  Because of that, he decided the situation had to be a prank, and started looking around to see if he could spot someone watching him?  Doing that, Sekea saw Mikah and Colieen off in the distance behind himself and Jocelynn.  And they were laughing and pointing and not very steady on their feet.  When they saw him turn, both ladies started waving and calling out to Sekea.  Sekea could only mutter to himself, "Revenge is a dish best served cold."  Turning around to see what it was Sekea was looking at, and seeing the other two, Jocelynn muttered, "Maybe we won't fill them in on our bounty."

Waiting until Mikah and Colieen caught up to them, Sekea said, "You have a very interesting sense of humor."  After some laughs, Sekea suggested they all return to the berth together, since there was obviously no real security threat.  While walking, they talked about their different lunches.  Sekea said he and Jocelynn had meaty things cooked into large muffins and said it was tasty and not expensive.  Mikah said, "We had what would be considered 'no vegetables' and something we know was not beef."  When Sekea and Jocelynn looked at her to continue, Mikah said, "We had Astroburgers." with a smile.  Hearing that, Jocelynn admitted she would have liked to have eaten that.  Colieen admitted, "Yeah, it was nowhere near actual food, but it was so good." and Mikah agreed.

Sekea followed that up, saying sometimes, that was the best thing to have.  He then said they should get back to the berth so they could fill Mikah in on an interesting character he and Jocelynn had met.  Then continued, "We should not discuss it in public."  Following that, Jocelynn said, "Yes Mikah, I think I have a good proposition for you."  When Mikah said, "Oh, really?" Jocelynn continued, "Plus, it's a good way to waste some time."  Sekea interrupted that, saying, "Perhaps we should discuss this in the berth and not out in the open?"  Agreeing, the four moved on, went through customs and crossed the extrality line back into the port complex.  When they made their way back to the berth, Aiden was reading and Fesic was working on his lock picking lessons.  Aali had gotten done with checking on the ship and was playing video games.

A New Direction
     Arriving back at the berth, Sekea saw the cloth armor he'd ordered earlier from orbit had arrived.  Seeing Fesic, Jocelynn went to tell him, "Hey, remember the bounty hunter we met one of the first nights we were here?  He was looking for that guy and we said we didn't know anything?  Well, we ran into him again and he gave me a little bit more information and, I think what we're gonna try and do, if everybody agrees, is if we get there first, we can undercut this guy."  Jocelynn then laughed.  Of course, in the enclosed space of the berth lounge, the rest of the crew heard what Jocelynn had to say and were surprised at varying levels with what they heard.  Especially Mikah, who hadn't been asked nor approved of any mission like that.  Looking around her, Jocelynn realized she'd spilled the beans and asked, "You guys wanna have a little fun?"  Before they could answer, Jocelynn added, "Well, we have to do the research first, to make sure this is legit but..."

Jumping in, Sekea told Colieen they'd gotten a number of things, like the seeker's claim to own a ship in-system and suggested she use her computer skills to help instead of playing pranks.  Further bringing the others up to speed, Jocelynn told them all about the fugitive and what she'd learned from Kennot as well as about Kennot himself.  Jocelynn let them know she had doubts about why the guy was wanted, but that the bounty was supposedly Imperial, so they could turn him in if they caught him.  When it came to Kennot, they all laughed at the man's name and she told them she felt Kennot wasn't competent to do the job.  She even suggested the man would get himself killed while trying.

Jocelynn also said Kennot had said the man was hiding in Clan Erskin territory, and suggested they might be able to land on Glas land and sneak in even though she had no reason to trust Clan Glas.  Especially given how it appeared The Glas had played with and used them in the meeting with the Count.  Colieen pointed out that on many worlds, bounty information was common, and could easily be checked on a world-network.  But that wasn't always the case and many worlds didn't have networks.  Denotam had several separate networks belonging to the separate clan and Imperial governments.  Making things more difficult, none of those was entirely connected.

Hearing that, Jocelynn sparked up a terminal in the berth and started connecting to the Imperial network to check on any bounty data while Colieen said, "Now, let me do what I do" with a bit of a grin on her face.  Connecting to the public site for the Imperial Seneschalate, Jocelynn drilled down to "Law Enforcement" and then to a record for a fugitive named "Entarzul".  Opening the record, Jocelynn confirmed he was listed there as being from Clan Erskin.  The big surprises were that the man was actually wanted for Murder and Terrorism!  On top of that, the listed bounty was actually Cr 1,000,000!  After reading that out, Jocelynn said, "We're definitely stealing this!"

Other reactions came from the others and Sekea crowed that Kennot had certainly lied to them.  When asked, Jocelynn confirmed the fugitive was worth MCr 1 alive, and KCr 500 dead.  Below that were a list of terroristic activities including political assassination for which the man was wanted.  While a number of them wondered who the man might have assassinated, or tried to, and what crimes he was guilty of, Colieen was checking port data to see what she could find.  What she found, right off, was that the port did have the IMS Youkan Debou listed as an "A2" class Far trader able to make one and two parsec jumps.  The public port records also listed the ship's master as "Kennot Watalo", so now they had a last name for Kennot.  The data said he and his ship arrived on the 15th day of the year from Regina.

Checking a bit more deeply, Colieen saw the ship was still in port, and listed as under an indefinite berth rental.  That meant Kennot had to pay the port continually until he chose to lift out.  Next, Colieen ran a check to see if the ship was listed as being connected to the port's network, and found it was.  That put her in a position, because she'd checked the port network security when they'd arrived and saw it was significant.  In fact, it even had a level of security which back-checked traffic to confirm it came from the actual device that was listed in the packet data.  Software like that made spoofing and other hacking exploits especially hard to carry out.  But, the information she had told her there were ways to connect to the ship.  She just had to find one.

Colieen figured the safest way to find a way to hack the ship was to do it from some location in the town which had crap security.  Having visited, she was sure she'd find a place that worked for her needs and go from there.  Hearing that, Fesic asked if it might not be best for another member of the crew to go with her and Sekea agreed with that.  When Colieen had no issues with the idea, both men decided to go along with her, but made it clear they were buying the caff.  Mikah made sure to ask Colieen to check on information on the passenger Kennot said he had brought to Denotam.  After Colieen got her gear ready, she, Fesic and Sekea left the berth for the village while Jocelynn got ready to make her sales pitch to Mikah that they should go out and bag this fugitive.

Jocelynn started with the cash, now that they knew the fugitive was worth MCr 1, brought in alive.  Mikah was even good with the half million if they had to drag in his body.  The list of accusations for which he was wanted was impressively horrific.  Still, Mikah wanted more information on the passenger who'd come with Kennot, and anyone else with him.  While she agreed it certainly sounded like Kennot was an unqualified fool, the passenger could actually be the brains behind the operation.  So, Mikah wanted a better idea what they were dealing with?  Talking about how incompetent they felt Kennot was, Aiden joked that if they did steal the bounty, they might be saving Kennot's life in the process.  Jocelynn shrugged, but said the money was too good to let him screw it up.

restaurant layout Outside, Colieen's team had gotten into the village and were visually scanning locations looking for a place that showed signs of neglect.  Making their way, the big concern would have been a random police stop, because Colieen didn't have the right to bear arms and she'd geared up with her gauss pistol in a covert holster, along with her computer, comms and Ident.  So, if someone realized she was armed, she could be arrested.  Fesic had his snub pistol and cane while Sekea had his semi-automatic snub pistol.  The theory being a shop owner who didn't take care of the building would certainly not take care of their network security.  In the end, she found a likely place and Colieen led the way into the place.  The customer facing space in the place was essentially rectangular space with a serving counter across the back.  The serving area had rows of smaller tables in the main area, with some long and short tables to either side.  There were two doors leading back and as they faced the counter, the door to their right obviously led to the kitchen.  There was no way to tell where the door to their left led?

Colieen looked the place over and chose a corner table [See "A" on the image] so she could have her back against a wall and see the restaurant entrance.  Still, she wanted to be sure, because there would be a door behind and to her left as she sat.  Crossing through the place while some of the wait staff watched her and the other diners largely ignored her, Colieen crossed to the door near the table she liked and went through.  Checking to see where that door led, she saw the restrooms were there and the passage led to a building exit to the rear of the restaurant.  Seeing that, Colieen was good with her table and she and Sekea sat down.  While Colieen did that, Fesic had entered on his own and chose a front corner table in the place. [See "B" on the image] With his back to the wall, Sekea sat on Colieen's right, so he had a window to his back, and Fesic also sat with his back to a window so he could observe the entire dining area and entrance.

After they were settled, Colieen told Sekea she just had to get warmed up and get her process running.  She then closed her eyes, relaxed and took some breaths before reaching out to scan the people in the area in and around the restaurant.  She found no threats and encountered no psions.  Logging onto her computer, Colieen then did a search for the local networks, including that restaurant.  Like many of the other local businesses, the restaurant owner had named their wireless network for their business, so it was easy to find and even easier to hack as an administrator!  Checking the tables inside that account, she could see a good number of other networks she had unfettered access to!  It seemed the merchants who trusted each other had linked their networks allowing each other Administrative access.  So, you only had to hack into one.  It would have been funny if it wasn't so sad.

With that freedom, Colieen began spawning a basic presence in a number of networks, so she could then hop to the next while appearing to be a local user rather than operating as a remote user with a trail to follow.  Soon enough, Colieen had hopped into some more significantly secured networks, but hadn't had to stress her skills at all.  Finally, she got into a network which she could tell, from the detectable bordering networks, was right up close to the port's harbor and scattered parkbays.  Checking those networks, Colieen couldn't tell which of the unidentified networks might connect to Kennot's ship?  Colieen was surprised because, based on what she'd heard, she thought Kennot was the stupid and egotistical type who would have named his ship's wireless presence to advertise.

When Colieen commented on having to try identifying networks from the port registry, Sekea suggested checking to see if Kennot had possibly advertised his service as a seeker in the local on-line media?  Colieen nodded and said she'd try that.  Sparking a new presence in one of the other shop networks, Colieen did a search to see if there was a common news feed?  Finding the feed, Colieen hit the pages of past notices looking for any advertisement for Kennot's services.  She found nothing offering any of his services, from hunting fugitives to offering passage on his ship.  So, that was a dead end.  Added to that, the waitress for their table was back to check on orders because it had been some time since they'd ordered their Cr 2 drinks.  Knowing they didn't want issues with the staff, Sekea ordered new caff-water drinks.

At his table, Fesic also ordered a new drink for himself while splitting his time between reading a file on his hand computer and scanning the restaurant and the area he could see out the windows.  With no advertising, Colieen went back to scanning the port registry for any suggestion of which ships were related to which networks?  The port had a public-facing repeater which broadcast public information on the ships in port, including what they had for sale if they carried cargo.  Scanning that, Colieen did find the listing for Kennot's ship.  Digging at that, Colieen worked to get access to the metadata included in the broadcast, which wasn't exactly meant to be public, but in a security failure, was not thought to be a threat.  A mistake Colieen could have sent a thank you card for if she'd cared to out herself.

Finally, almost fifteen minutes in, Colieen finally had a list of wireless access points tied to Kennot's ship.  Colieen's next step was to hack the access point and see where it got her?  When she finally got inside the wireless network she'd chosen, Colieen could see she had access to one of the ship's external comms subsystems.  And that process greeted her as an authorized user and offered her control of a number of comms procedures...but nothing else.  Seeing that, Colieen knew she had to hack from there into the ship's central computer system.  Another ten minutes later and Colieen managed to access a user space inside the ship's systems and, while it didn't give her access to the core system, with engineering or any controls, it seemed to give her access to Kennot's data files!

Now, Colieen had to work her way through Kennot's highly interesting file naming habits.  Despite her mounting frustration, Colieen was finally able to find a directory named "Entarzul".  Mining the jackpot, Colieen first loaded a copy of the directory onto her drive, for later investigation, then read and learned that Kennot's passenger was a man named "Cenawo Adsi".  The notes said Adsi had business with the Erskin clan, but didn't say what his business was?  Other notes suggested Adsi had made contact with his clan connection and Kennot had gotten bored waiting.  When Kennot had checked into opportunities related to the clan, he came on the bounty for Entarzul, so the seeker idea was really very new!

So, from what she could see, Kennot wasn't "working with" his passenger.  The man was risking a screw up that could even wreck his passenger's business.  And he didn't really seem aware of how dangerous a situation he was stepping into.  Adsi had chartered Kennot's ship from Regina, which included high passage, and Kennot's notes said the man had moved one ton of "demonstration supplies" out to Erskin territory already.  That left behind five tons of transport cargo that was still in the ship's cargo bay waiting.  Wondering what else Kennot had in the bay, and if there might be any "falsification of cargo", Colieen wanted to look at the ship's manifest and check what she could find?  She also wanted to see if she could get into the ship's core systems so she could have some real fun with Kennot's ship?

While Colieen was able to find a link to the manifest in the file system she'd accessed, the changes she wanted to check were hidden in the file's metadata.  And the minute she tried to get into the file's sublayers, she was instantly ICE'd!  Not only that, but her entire connection to the ship was dropped hard!  Saying, "Oh, that's not good." out loud, Colieen realized Kennot was either much better at computer security design than she thought or he'd hired someone really good to secure his system.  Trying to access the ship from a second network, Colieen saw that fail entirely, which meant whatever the ICE did, it sparked up more significant active security.  In fact, depending on the software, it may well have raised alarms including security within the port!  Imperial level security.

Considering that, Colieen knew they were done.  She took a few deep cleansing breaths and then announced she had what she was going to get and they were leaving.  Sekea paid Cr 39 for a Cr 30 bill and Fesic paid Cr 15 for a Cr 12 bill while Colieen shut her connections down and closed up shop.  While Fesic noted the action and left before the others, Colieen's deep breaths gave her a chance to spread her awareness out and try to sense any law enforcement moving in the streets?  When she saw nothing "coming for her", she and Sekea got moving.  While Sekea worried about possibly using the back exit, Colieen casually led him out the front and they turned to walk indirectly towards the port.

A Sudden Field Trip
     While they walked, and after they were in the clear enough to be sure it was safe, Sekea learned just how evil Colieen could be.  he joked that it would have been funny if she'd changed the passwords so Kennot couldn't get back into his ship.  Colieen told him she was planning to force the ship to dump its fuel and then shut down the entire power plant!  Beyond venting the hydrogen into the atmosphere, and risking the danger of an explosive flare, killing the power plant would leave the ship with battery power only.  That would most likely force Kennot to pay the port to run power to the ship just to refuel it much less get the plant restarted.  Admittedly, even the Denotam port could get that done in under three hours, but it would be an expense and a delay.

Nodding, Sekea asked if Colieen had physically located the ship and she said she hadn't been able to do that.  When Sekea repeatedly fantasized about finding Kennot's ship in the harbor, they asked him if he really wanted to skulk around in the port with security units patrolling?  Sekea admitted it was just harmless fantasizing but he liked the idea of leaving a "gift" for Kennot.  The others were not pleased with him just fantasizing and pointed out that Kennot could have cameras outside his ship so engaging in that kind of activity could end up with him having them on film and arrested.  It was almost as if Sekea was as clueless about sneaking around port harbors as Kennot was about being a seeker.

Getting back to the berth, Colieen was happy to tell the others she'd gotten the entire contents of Kennot's directory on Entarzul.  Colieen also told them she'd gotten a good deal of information on his passenger, Cenawo Adsi, who he says was a salesman.  When Mikah questioned that, Colieen said, "That's his story and he's sticking to it." which meant there was no information to argue with it.  When Mikah asked if she'd learned what Adsi sold, Colieen had to admit she didn't.  Colieen also said she was annoyed when she was bounced while trying to get into the ship's manifest to check the cargo.  After that, Colieen decided to move on to the other data in the copied directory and see what else they'd gotten, which led to the next jackpot.

Apkope Region A file in the directory suggested that Kennot had somehow tracked Entarzul to a village named "Apkope" near the eastern border of South-Western Erskin clan lands.  That ironically bordered Clan Arnstruther lands and was nowhere near the Glas borders.  In fact, it was 1,280 km north-west of them in the port.  That meant they'd have to covertly fly into Erskin land near the village, which might have a population around two or three thousand people.  There, they'd have to spend however much time it took for them to hunt for the fugitive while also working hard not to be discovered by anyone, because they all belonged to Clan Erskin.  And if they were caught, besides having all their gear looted, they could be used to create an incident with the Imperial government.  That was an ultimate covert operation.

Sekea wondered if they could track the fugitive by his spending, but that was entirely ridiculous.
      First, they had no access to the Erskin banking system, so they had no way of tracking "any" spending of any kind
      Next, they'd have to know if the fugitive was using an assumed name, or the accounts of a friend
      Then, they'd have to have a real-time or recent-records tracking system that could mine the Erskin banking system.
          for data
      Finally, they'd have to know what data they were looking for and be ready to accept there might be "no" data if he
          wasn't spending anything.

In short, they had to realize they should stop making fun of Kennot for his lack of clues when their own people were coming up with even more ridiculous ideas.  It didn't help when Fesic joked that Colieen should hack into the world's banking system.  Especially where commercially produced counter-measures had already bounced Colieen out of a small starship's computer.  The lesson of that suggestion was that the crew had to be more realistic than Kennot if they hoped to survive on missions they wanted to steal from the man.

Certainly, when Colieen heard them talking about even trying to hack a bank, she simply laughed a short hearty bit before firmly saying "No!"  That made her thoughts on the idea clear.  It also showed she had a lot better handle on the situation than those suggesting 'clueless fantasy' ideas.  On Adsi's public records, Colieen had only found the port listing saying he'd arrived as a passenger on-world aboard the Youkan Debou on the 15th day of the year and was not registered with the local government in any way except as a visitor to the world.  Colieen's opinion on that was that more data either didn't exist or was not present for a reason.  And she did not offer what official reasons there might be for why it would be suppressed or by what organizations?

Fesic floated the idea of looking for a "town center" in the village they thought Entarzul might be hiding in.  He then suggested they could find a place there to 'people watch' until they hopefully spotted the fugitive.  Sadly, that ignored a lot of facts.  The first was that Entarzul likely knew he was a fugitive.  So, he'd likely "not" be out and about in public and very likely had others handling his needs.  Also, while they had a hologram of him, they couldn't just pull it out repeatedly to compare with passers-by who might look like him without drawing attention to themselves.  Added to that, they would be sitting, lingering, in public spaces in hostile territory themselves.  The more they sat doing nothing but 'people watching', the more the local police were watching them.  No one knew the Erskin laws on that, or how long it would take before the Erskin reacted?

On top of everything else, it was only suggested Entarzul was hiding there.  If they were wrong, they could spend weeks sitting waiting for someone who looked like the man while he was somewhere else entirely.  So, "sitting and watching" was not an answer until they had a lot more information and awareness.  That also brought up 'dressing to fit in', so they wouldn't be noticed.  Sadly, even if they did have information on that, they could only pretend for so long because they'd still be spending long periods of time loitering in public spaces where they didn't know the laws on doing that.  When Fesic still suggested a trip into Erskin lands to see how they dressed, Sekea suggested looking for tourist attractions near the village they were looking at.

Checking, they saw the village was in a region advertising "the fire plains".  Those were described as a frozen-over plain on which it was safe to walk on.  Even for large crowds.  Under that ice, there had been rivers which became wide and shallow flowing bands of water, which must have started flowing through deposits of white phosphorus.  Thanks to that, and significant pockets of air in the streams, the phosphorus regularly ignited where it encountered friction and oxygen pockets.  And whenever one small bit of phosphorus ignites, it triggers all the floating deposits nearby, often creating broad under-ice displays of contained and flowing flame.  Sekea asked about any hotels in the area, cringing at the idea of camping in the cold.

A check told him there were "high-end ice shacks" for rent in the area.  Mikah only started chuckling while Sekea voiced a very reluctant and disapproving "OK".  Looking deeper, they saw that "high end" meant a "bent metal" structure made of thin metal with multiple small furnaces for internal heating.  No one was interested in a stay in one of those even if they'd like a day-trip to the plains, if that was possible.  While some of the crew considered that, Fesic wondered if there were any items they had which they could offer for sale to lure the fugitive out?  Sadly, there was no indication what the fugitive might be interested in.  Added to that, he ignored the odds that other people might want whatever they sold.  So, "if" they managed to hit on something of interest, Entarzul was a fugitive and would likely have someone else act to buy it, and not expose himself.  Especially since they assumed he returned to Denotam because he was a native and had others protecting him there.

Sekea wondered, since the man was a wanted terrorist, what the fugitive's political leanings were?  Sadly, that wasn't discussed in any of the data they had.  Jocelynn added that he was also an assassin, but that still didn't suggest "why" he did what he did?  In hopes of building some kind of profile, Sekea pushed the idea of sponging through the past news stories which had arrived on Denotam from other systems which discussed terror attacks and assassinations.  The mistake there was that where a crime happened, those investigating the crime may hold back factors only the criminal knew, to use in confirming their guilt.  Added to that, the authorities would not reveal everything to the public for various reasons.  So, even on the world where the crime happened, comprehensive information on the suspect(s) would not be available.  that meant specific data about the suspect(s) would be minimal at best, with other more detailed reports being sent between government agencies, and not made public.

And, on more distant worlds, the report would be less and less noted to the point where the question for the crew was, "Who would care on Denotam?"  Of course, if the name "Entarzul" was referenced, it would have some significance to Clan Erskin and the local Imperial government.  But, if the crime happened subsectors away, it may be filed with disinterest, and not be noticed at all.  Still, despite that, Sekea pressed to take the time to look and Mikah agreed with him.  So, they turned to Colieen for her skills to create a search that would sift the available news stories to see if any of them had the details needed to suggest Entarzul might have been involved?  It took Colieen a few minutes to craft a search and execute it, before they waited.

When the results came back, there were twenty five events of which a number involved the attempted assassination of Duchess Seldrian of Regina and the death of Sir Rol Kaihvos.  Mikah said they could sift through the reports, ignoring the items on Rol and Seldrian, trying to see if anything in the others suggested Entarzul might have been involved?  And, they would continue looking for more reports.  At the same time, Colieen started a search to see if she could identify if Clan Erskin had a network presence?  The good news was that Colieen could see packet data identifying the different networks she could track data from.  But, there was no indication who owned each network so she'd have to hunt down answers that would tell her if any related to Clan Erskin, and that would take her some time.  Seeing that, Colieen asked Mikah how much her play ticket cost and said she'd pay Mikah back from her cut and stay at the berth to work the networks.

Colieen's plans were to work to and past dinner, to identify Erskin-specific networks and then find live camera feeds.  If she connected to feeds from the village where the fugitive was believed hiding, she'd route that feed through facial recognition software.  Along with that, she'd help Jocelynn with her work looking to identify events that could help them build a profile on Entarzul.  That meant the entire crew started researching for information on Entarzul and networks until dinner.  At the same time, Aali told Mikah she was good with the work on the ship so far and had been keeping an eye on the 'droids hoping to get an idea which one's they'd get thanks to the Arch Duke's promise.  By dinner time, the testing of news stories led them to 103 hits.  Quickly checking through the news abstracts, they found they could ignore half of them as either "in-system" or with an identified criminal that wasn't Entarzul.

While they worked on that, Colieen did forensic tracing to draw in as much traffic from different networks.  Part of that was doing her best to capture as many wireless transmissions as she could in the berth.  That involved working her way into the local parkbay networking systems to change the access controls letting her see all the traffic instead of just what was routed to that parkbay.  While doing that inside the parkbay was more risky, she'd found they'd done a sloppy job securing the local router so she could save that internal access for later and get to work.  Colieen set up a splitter that fed each message to a two-element sheet where one column showed the network prefix and the second showed the payload data.  She then checked the payload for anything that suggested where the packet should have been going?

Making things even more complex for Colieen, every ship-based network broadcasting in the port represented its own network with, at times, really "out there" network headings.  Thankfully, her experience prepared her for that, but didn't clear up the jungle of networks or help her identify them.  Along with that, most of the payload data was encoded and encrypted.  Colieen entered every network ID she found into a searching algorithm using network support commands to generate more traffic from mystery networks.  By the time they broke for dinner, the rest of the crew had discounted all but 34 of the assassination news stories.

Seeing that, Mikah figured they should organize the events in a timeline to see what that suggested?  The timeline showed that eighteen of the hits happened during the fifth Frontier War.  That meant those could be ignored leaving Jocelynn with sixteen hits to investigate.  Talking about that over dinner, Mikah realized they wouldn't get any answers from it.  When they finished eating, Mikah said they had a couple hours before having to leave for the play, and decided to use video games as a mental "pallet cleanser".  Sekea sparked up a screen to watch the news, and saw no new interstellar events while he watched the local broadcasts drone on following the attack by Clan Arnstruther.  Aali decided to challenge Mikah in the video game.

Jocelynn surprised the others by grabbing a comms to call the Count's seneschalate and see if she could set up a meeting with the Count for herself.  When an operator answered and Jocelynn said she wanted a meeting, she told the tech, "His Excellency offered me an opportunity and I want to give him my answer."  Jocelynn was put on hold while the operator dealt with that.  When the line was picked up again, there was a man who introduced himself as Lord Arnama.  Jocelynn had worked with him days before to set up the meeting with the Count and the Glas.  He asked how he could help her?  Jocelynn greeted him and said it was nice to talk to him again.  She then repeated what she'd told the operator, saying, "I would like to set up an appointment with His Excellency.  He provided me with an opportunity I would like to discuss with him."  Arnama told her he was aware of the favor owed, and the Count was currently busy.  He asked Jocelynn to explain to him what she wanted conveyed to the Count?"

Jocelynn said, "I understand His Excellency has a busy schedule.  I would like to speak with him about upgrades to my battledress.  I have had a visit to InstellArms and have picked out a few things I would like him to look over."  Lord Arnama let one of his eyebrows raise and asked Jocelynn, "InstellArms?  Can you give me a list of the items you are interested in?"  Not pleased with not dealing directly with the Count, Jocelynn gave the Lord her list of toys, including the grav-system, integrated laser pistol and grenade launcher.  Lord Arnama reviewed the list and told Jocelynn that he would bring this to the Count's attention and be in contact with her regarding the decision on her request.  Jocelynn gave the Lord a bow on the comms and said, "Perfect.  Thank you for your time MiLord."

At a loss on how to move forward, Fesic decided to call the Imperial Ministry of Justice facility on-world and ask about the fugitive while insisting he wasn't working officially on the case.  Hoping to 'grease the wheels', Fesic used all his titles.  Answering his call, the operator certainly straightened up because it wasn't every day they were contacted by a Knight who was not part of one of the on-world ministries.  With the man's full attention, Fesic said, "I am looking into a person I understand is a legal fugitive, and is named Entarzul.  I wonder what you can tell me about the information you have on him and the crimes for which he's wanted?"  That surprised the operator and he seemed to consider what he could say?

After checking his data, the operator told Fesic the specific file had been cold until the day before, when the pilot of a visiting starship had asked about it.  Trying to be helpful, the man offered to Give Fesic the pilot's name, but Fesic was certain that would be Kennot.  The operator told Fesic a bit about Kennot's "investigation", which Fesic had already learned from Jocelynn and Sekea's lunch with Kennot.  The operator also told Fesic their contacts in the Erskin Clan had no information on the fugitive, but are also considered unreliable.  Nodding, because the man was obviously being honest and up front, Fesic asked if the fugitive had any identifying body markings including tattoos, scars or other body-modifications?

The operator told Fesic the file suggested any body markings the fugitive had were temporary, which meant they were disguises.  The operator also offered to send Fesic the entire file so he'd have everything they had on the man.  Fesic said he'd appreciate any more information the operator could send him and the man transmitted an e-copy of the files they had.  From what Fesic learned before he got the file, the locals didn't seem to have any line on the fugitive at all, so there was little hope there.  Checking the data that came in, Fesic learned the man was of moderate height with short straight grey hair, black eyes, "very defined" cheek bones, angular lips and a pointed chin.  The facial structure matched the hologram Kennot had shared with them.

Per their information, the man had 'well-defined' upper body strength along with runner's legs and good agility.  The file said the man had wide feet, which was perhaps a physical identifying feature.  In reported sightings, he was most often clean shaven.  When it came to his background data, the location his family still lived in, and where he grew up, was a village quite distant from where Kennot's information had him hiding.  The distance was just over 1,000 km to the north-west of where Kennot had him located.  Seeing nothing on the actual crimes except accusations, and still having the MoJ man on the line, Fesic asked, "I reviewed what I was sent and I wonder if there is any more data on his crimes?"

Oddly, while it seemed to Fesic the man's face said "Yes!", the operator told Fesic there was no more data available.  Realizing they had data they were not turning over, for whatever reason, Fesic offered, "There's a bottle of liquor for you if you give me the rest of the information." and watched his attempt at bribery fall flat on its face.  Accepting that, Fesic leaned closer to the comms camera saying, "Well, you know I am a Knight, right?" and the MoJ man agreed.  With that, Fesic continued, "And, as a Knight, you know I have a vested interest in the needs of the Imperium, and right now, I believe that the needs of the Imperium align with me getting all the information on this as possible.  So, I'm wondering if you can't perhaps help me out?"

Bending the rules slightly, the man told Fesic the least most serious of the man's crimes had been the attempted assassination of Duke Rakaa Kiraarri of the Lanth system.  That surprised Fesic since he'd met Duke Rakaa and attended the man's court on Lanth.  Thanking the man, Fesic offered, "If there is an address you can give me, I can send over a little money for a meal or something."  The man thanked Fesic but said that if the fugitive really was in-system, his arrest would be more than enough reward.  That told Fesic the reason the man wasn't up front with the restricted data was because he really didn't believe it mattered.  So, the clearance must not really be very high on it.  Thanking the man, Fesic cut the connection and then told the others what he'd learned.

Hearing that, Aiden imagined out loud the idea of arriving in Lanth, which they were headed to, and announce they'd been the ones who captured the man who tried to kill their Duke!  When Fesic missed the value of such an announcement and said they didn't plan to meet with the Duke when they arrived there, Mikah said she was certain they'd end up dragged into court no matter what.  Aiden then played up the chance of reward when they told Duke Rakaa what they'd done, which finally got Fesic on the same subject.  Nodding, Fesic asked if they wanted to check into the fugitive's records with anyone else?  When he got no other advice, Fesic said he did want to check on their network to see what he could of Erskin fashions and hoped they could get that easily.

Fesic was quickly corrected by Colieen, who had been trying to locate and link into the Erskin networks for hours.  She told him that while the Imperial networks extended over the Naval base, Starport and local village, each of the clans operated their own networks and they were, by no means, contiguous.  So, there were network pathways which did connect the networks, she was working to find and navigate them.  And the local networks were not going to display what he wanted just because he expected them to.  Aiden suggested they try to get the information from one of the people they'd met in various meetings.  That included the meeting that Mikah, Jocelynn, Sekea and Fesic had sat in on when the Count met the Glas.  The Imperial Legate had been in that meeting too.

Turning to Mikah, Fesic asked what she thought of the idea, and also suggested he not be the person to speak to the Legate when the call was made.  Mikah was good with both the idea and making the call herself.  Calling the Legate's office, the first operator got her ID and that she was looking for information on a fugitive and put her through to one of the Legate's assistants.  The next person she spoke to was Captain Pewinan, of the Imperial Army and a junior officer on the Legate's staff.  When the Captain asked how he could help Mikah, she explained the situation and the data they had on Entarzul before saying she wondered if they had anyone with more information on the fugitive?  After some conversation, the Captain passed her to Colonel Harunda, who was a senior officer on the Legate's staff.

The Colonel first summed up what Mikah wanted as a desire to 'infiltrate Clan Erskin territory in hopes of locating and "recovering" a wanted terrorist and assassin'.  When Mikah agreed, he considered that before answering.  The Colonel then said, "I will send you a packet in a minute.  When you get it, off-load it from your comms to a crystal and blank the comms so it is clean.  Then, mount the crystal to a datapad which is not linked to any network so you can read it."  Mikah started to laugh at the idea of a datapad not linked to a network but Colieen said it was easy to set a datapad to remove it from connectivity.  Mikah let her do that with a datapad while telling the Colonel to send the file.

When the data arrived, Colieen handed Mikah a clean crystal and had a datapad that was an isolated sandbox from her own gear so Mikah could slot in the crystal and read the file.  When Mikah read the file, she saw it was a tactical report obviously from field personnel discussing surveillance of a person of interest.  They appeared to be working out of an Imperial safe facility with a given set of coordinates.  Checking those, Mikah saw they pinpointed a location in Erskin territory and "not" where Kennot's data had Entarzul!  Not far from there, but still not the same village.  Turning back to the Colonel, Mikah asked if she could act on this, and the Colonel said the file on her crystal had the contact data for the safe house.  He said she should contact them and they would help her get moving on her 'mission'.

Nodding, the Colonel was joined by the Legate, who reviewed the proposed 'mission' and approved the limited use of their assets to help Lady Mikah's crew with their insane plan.  The Colonel told them to delete all the data on the file ASAP and the Legate told Mikah to keep him apprised of their activity.  Mikah said they would while Colieen simply said "What file" in the standard 'We've received and seen nothing' assurance.  Killing the connection while Colieen saved the coordinates, Mikah turned to Jocelynn and said, "OK, what's the plan?"  Jocelynn was again in charge, because she was the 'ground commander' while Zimzod was in hospital.  She suggested they first call the safe house and make contact with them, but the file did not have contact or network data.  The assumption was that they'd be going there personally.

When they seemed to be mobilizing, Fesic asked about the play and Mikah said it looked like they weren't going after all.  Mikah made the call and was told the tickets were non-refundable, so she told the operator she'd consider it a donation.  Behind the scenes, Mikah had no idea of the response from the production crew who'd all been told they'd be playing for a Lady of the Court of the Domain of Deneb and her crew of Knights that night!  Next, Mikah and Jocelynn agreed they would take the cutter to the location and Mikah wondered if they needed "everyone" to come along?  At that, Aiden suggested someone should stay and guard the berth, for security at the least.  Mikah told him he could hide in the berth and then started selecting who would come.  Jocelynn was obvious, as the crew's current ground commander.

Mikah then chose Aali because she was good in a fight.  Since Aiden was a chicken, Mikah chose Fesic to fly them over and she added Sekea to the team to see how he'd perform?  When Aali reminded Mikah Sekea didn't have armor, Mikah pointed out none of them could wear armor because they had to infiltrate the place.  They reminded Aali that she'd given four of Emkir's suits of executive armor to Sekea, that made it clear he had as much armor as the others could wear.  Mikah made it clear she'd bring her laser pistol because it was easy to hide.  Aali figured she'd bring a semi-automatic snub pistol with a clip of Tranq and her bullpup shotgun for similar reasons.  Fesic brought his snub pistol, walking stick, 1 smoke grenade, 1 HEAP grenade and 1 HEAT grenade.  Sekea brought his snub pistol with a clip of ball ammo loaded and a clip of Tranq.  Jocelynn had her two snub pistols with ball loaded plus a spare clip of ball and Tranq each.  Jocelynn also brought her dagger.

After they geared up, Jocelynn told the team that if they had the chance, she wanted to be the one to knock Entarzul out while they covered and supported her.  If not, whoever got the shot should take it.  Mikah ordered that Colieen should monitor and manage team comms while the others were in the field, and help Aiden play security guard.  She would also be working on her network exploration with breaks taken to work on the lock picking software.  Colieen did ask them to send her an email from a Clan Erskin computer if they got the chance, so she'd have header data from their network.  Mikah also told Aiden Colieen was in charge and he was her assistant.  They all geared up and everyone got executive armor on under their clothing.

They moved to the cutter and Mikah asked Fesic how good he was at quick insertions and covert landings as she said she'd be second seating him.  With a bright smile, Fesic lied, "I'm awesome!  Everyone knows I'm awesome."  Mikah nodded, and they all boarded and strapped in.  Sadly, as she watched, Mikah had a chance to regret not bringing Aiden because Fesic's flight skills weren't much better than her own as a ship's boat pilot.  Fesic kept talking about "finding a good place to land" but they would be doing a quick insertion.  So, they wouldn't have time to fly in circles and look for a place while they advertised their presence.  Soon, Mikah was on the computer looking for places in advance, so she could guide him in as his co-pilot.

When the time came, Fesic had to rely on his memories from training decades before as Mikah ordered him into a "dive down" to low altitude and a "direct slope" dive into a landing near some scrub and bush.  Fesic was certain he scraped the paint a good bit as they tried to slot the craft into the bush for natural cover.  As his co-pilot, Mikah could tell Fesic was well out of his comfort zone and that put her out of her's too.  Because of that, they grounded just under a kilometer from the building they were headed to and had no real idea if they'd been seen by anyone?  So, they had to sprint and hope.

On the ground, Jocelynn put Fesic on point since he was their "recon expert", and they all got a lesson on how exercise on a starship is nowhere near the same as sprinting all out for cover in the field.  The only noticeable issue they ran into came when they got close to the building.  Suddenly, a door on their side of the building opened and a figure stepped out and started waving for them to reach the building.  Not sure how he knew they were there, they had to wonder if the place had been called by the Legate's people or if they'd actually seen the landing.  Especially because if they'd been seen by those in the safe house, then others in the village might have seen them too.

Finally arriving, the man hustled them all inside while saying, "Well, you didn't wave any flags or light flares while you landed, which is a good thing."  He then made it clear he, at least, had seen their landing so Fesic got a down-check on "covert landings".  After they were all in and settled, he introduced himself as Captain Inost Weyepem of the Imperial Army and was a member of the local Guard forces.  His congratulations on their landing were limited to the fact they landed on the far side of the building and that structure was far enough from the center of the village that they weren't likely seen.

After that, he asked, "What's the mission and how can I help?"  That told them he hadn't been called and warned by the legate's office.  Mikah spoke up, saying, "We're looking for a fugitive who is wanted for terrorism, assassinations and all sorts of neat stuff."  With that, Mikah showed the Captain Entarzul's image and told the man his name.  She finished, "And he's somewhere here."  Needlessly, Fesic said, "He's been spotted in this area."  The Captain just gave a quick nod and said, "Well, we can probably help you with that, but it's gonna take some planning.  So, you might want to plan to be here tonight, and make your plan tomorrow morning."  Mikah nodded and accepted that, saying, "I brought my toothbrush."

During his day caged down to his bed, Zimzod felt the buzzing in his head a few times and figured at least two of his care takers were Psi-active.  Still, he couldn't even move and didn't figure it would be smart to out them given his tolerance training.  He could only hope one or both of them had special psionic talents which would help speed his healing.  To burn the time away, Zimzod watched news, vids and played games which he could control his eyes.  Because Mikah and the crew were busy, he got no further word from them on what was happening and hoped they were working with the Arch Duke to get him his FGMP-15.  Eventually, a med-tech gave him something to help him sleep.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Mikah, Jocelynn, Aali, Sekea and Fesic: Bedding down in a safe house in a Clan Erskin village - hunting Entarzul
     Colinne and Aiden: In the crew's berth on the starport
     Zimzod: In hospital aboard INS Maadashmim Zikheaa on "Day 2" of a system clean out before receiving his second Med-Slow treatment
     Rol: Cloning: 7 Weeks, 6 days until he can be decanted

Next: Dipping A Toe-Tip Into Acid