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Last Updated     Sept 22 2023
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Ending With A Bang

Options And Arguments
     At the end of the day, the crew in the cutter had to choose where to sleep in the cutter.  It had been loaded up with piles of clothing or furs and they had to find comfortable positions on the tops of the piles.  During the various deliveries, the seats had been folded down into the cutter's deck, with the piles covering much of the now-flat deck.  So, while Colinne and Fesic kept working in the berth, those in the cutter slept.  Zimzod had ended his third day cleansing from medical slow drug, and would receive another injection on 34th day of the year.  Rol's clone kept gestating, and would be decanted on the 84th day of the year.

In the berth, Colinne and Fesic planned to work into the night, because hacking could happen around the clock.  Often long and boring hours of hunt and investigative forensics, the two were not surprised for over an hour.  That suddenly changed after Colinne managed to get into another mail server she thought the addressing suggested was in the town of Wezsaen.  Hitting the various directories and storage files with her filters, she got back a surprise!

That was a message reading:
            Le-galabu ninMikahgim Kirlim kigae Niibamiin limgadpiir binerii.
            Kennotgim disinake ma ninMikahgim Shelu iggi."

As a quirk of reading, the first thing Colinne noticed was the name "Kennot"!  Next she noticed "Deneb", and decided to read the entire thing as best she could from start to end.  Then, she spotted the name "Mikah Kirlim"!  Tying the names together, Colinne regretted never having learned the Vilani language.  Her family had been of Solomani heritage, and she never much cared to learn it.  When she asked, Fesic said he'd been raised in a culture that was more Sword worlds.  He knew a few phrases, but couldn't read or translate it.

With Zimzod out of contact and those in the cutter asleep, Fesic asked Colinne if they had any language translation software on the cutter just a half-second before she'd asked him the same question.  When Fesic began going over what he had in electronics, Colinne connected to the cutter's computer via comms and started working to see if there were any utilities loaded on that which would help?  What she found was a "trading" package which she hoped would also include a module for translations, to help with trading.

Sparking up a connection, Colinne checked out the utility.  After launching it, she found it was intended for translating odd languages to Galanglic.  That was the primary common tongue of merchants.  Shrugging, Colinne decided to dig into the package looking to see if it had a Vilani module installed?  Colinne eventually found a module that "might help", and tried running the message through it.  She got back:
            Le-galabu Lady Mikah Kirlim of the Domain of Deneb lim hunt iir binerii.
            Kennot is misdirected ma ninMikahgim Shelu iggi."

They checked the message again, and saw the headers had addresses for both the intended recipient and origin systems.  On top of that, the message had been sent two days before!  That was the day they'd decided to steal the bounty from Kennot.  Fesic had then called the Ministry of Justice, and Mikah had eventually called the Legate's office at Fesic's recommendation.  While Colinne worked with the software, Fesic examined everything in the message headers for any data the server held that suggested a name for the recipient?  He found nothing but computer address data.

Having gotten that far, Colinne decided it was time to take a break from investigating and warn Mikah someone knew they were there.  Not sure if anyone on the cutter was awake or not, Colinne blasted a call out to all the comms on the cutter.  Asleep over an hour, everyone on the cutter woke to varying degrees as all the comms began alerting.  Sekea was the first to moan, "I don't wanna get up."  He'd not even set his comms as an alarm for the next morning.  Used to the level of stupidity life treated her with, Mikah only moaned, "Oh, what the hell?"

When Sekea was the first to answer Colinne's call, she got a connection and said "Somebody knows you're there." without waiting to hear a voice.  Since what he'd heard was open to many interpretations, Sekea asked, "Could you please say a little bit more than that?  Like, who?"  Not having a full translation, Colinne sent over the full original message along with the partial translation she had.  Seeing the message, Sekea understood it immediately, thanks to his Vilani upbringing and classic education as the child of a Noble household.

Sekea told her the message meant:
      This is to warn you, that Lady Mikah of the Court of the Domain of Deneb and her crew are joining the hunt for you.
      We believe Kennot is misdirected but Lady Mikah may not be."

Nodding, Sekea then sarcastically said, "Oh joy.  I am going to have to give this to her worshipfulness and I'm sure she's going to enjoy it."  Nearby, Mikah had been listening to Sekea's side of the conversation and presumably referring to her as "her worshipfulness".  Mikah first wanted to give Sekea a slap upside his head for the comment before answering the comms herself.  Since she was too far away from him, with other bodies between them, she decided she'd do it later, and sparked her comms up to join the conversation.

After the update, Mikah asked, "Who sent this?  And can you pin-point where it was sent to?"  Answering Mikah, Colinne said, "The good news is that it appears you're in the right spot, or reasonably close.  The bad news is, somebody knows you're there.  And, in regards to your question, I'm working on it.  I figure the "who received" this message is more important right now so that's the first search.  Mikah said, "Yes" and Sekea asked how old the message was?  Colinne told them it was two days old, but didn't say that meant "someone" thought setting the server that way would hide or delete more messages than it actually did.  Colinne looked forward to discovering what other mistakes had been made?

Mikah considered the steps they'd taken two days before, calling the port, Ministry of Justice and Legate, and said, "Somewhere in there, there is a spy."  Looking at Mikah, Sekea asked, "So, they know we're here.  How do you want to handle this Captain?"  Mikah shrugged and said, "Well, for now, we're gonna sit back and let Colinne do her thing, and once we get more information, we're gonna proceed."  After that, Mikah told them, "I'm going back to sleep."  Before she did that, Mikah said, "Sekea.  Come over here for a second."

Seeing the expression on her face, Sekea said, "I'm sorry Captain.  Given your previous behavior, I do not feel complying would be advisable under the circumstances."  Sekea then started preparing to go back to sleep while Mikah said he should come closer to her.  After cutting the comms, Colinne had Fesic work on chasing down the source host address while she worked to get more data from the destination address.  Fesic smiled and said, "I get to hunt the spy." though his assignment had a few curve in it.  The good news was that the host he was hunting was on a known priority network in an Imperial facility.  The bad news was it was well defended by architecture and software.

For the next hour to ninety minutes, every exploit Fesic tried was blocked or batted aside by in-built defenses and Fesic worried he was certainly leaving foot prints he couldn't hide.  Just a bit earlier, Colinne had managed to get into an external server 'piggy-backed' onto the mail server she'd found and realized the host entirely housed the email system.  So, she had complete control of that system and could do what she wanted.  Seeing she had full access, Colinne decided to filter the archives and see if there were emails she'd not had access to before?

It wasn't long before Colinne had burned through the emails looking for any responses from that server to the "spy" host and found none.  Checking a number of messages in plain language, Colinne came up with what she believed was a name from where it seemed to be in signatures.  "Shio Ylga".  Colinne had no idea what language the name came from, and it could have come from a local Erskin or on-world dialect or even some other stellar culture they'd had dealings with.  Shrugging, Colinne figured she'd share it out with the rest of the team and see if anyone else could help with it?

In the cutter, the crew had shut off their comms and drifted back to sleep before the comms started alarming again.  Some had barely gotten back to sleep when they had to grab their comms again.  When she answered, Mikah did so with a mock-perky tone and asked, "Yes?  Helloooo?"  Getting an answer, Colinne said she believed she had a name and wondered if any of them had encountered the person?  She sent them the name in text because she didn't trust herself to pronounce it correctly.

Sekea's first question was to ask Colinne, "You want us to do yoga?" in an attempt at humor that died the second it had been spoken.  Still, when Sekea asked if Colinne was sure she was reading it correctly, Colinne admitted she wasn't because she didn't know that language.  Neither did anyone in the cutter recognize the name or the language it came from?  The best bet was that it was an on-world language or dialect.  And they rarely had contact with spacers to start with.  Fesic asked to be reminded of the assassin's name and was told that had been "Entarzul".  When Fesic asked if that was a first or last name, he was told that was all they had on the man, along with a hologram of his head.

Checking for emails the user "believed" they'd deleted but hadn't, Colinne found a number of emails written in the same language, which had come from the host they'd tagged as belonging to the spy.  Seeing those, Colinne forwarded them to Sekea to translate and advise her on.  Sekea also started spelling each of the odd names backwards to see if that gave him something he could relate to?  But nothing came of that.  Reading each of the messages, they all seemed to be general advisories of things happening on Denotam at the time of each message.

The most anyone could make of the messages were "shotgun commentary".  Like random and general 'FYI' messages.  While reading, Sekea came to the conclusion the messages were a "one-way" stream and just random updates in case the person getting them planned to return to Denotam at the time they were sent.  While he talked about that, Aali said she couldn't be of any help because Sekea was handling all the translation.  So, she went back to sleep.

Fesic floated the idea of sending a message back from that server to the spy, suggesting Entarzul was in trouble and needed extraction to lure the spy out?  Colinne liked the idea and said she could do that since she had full control of the email system.  Having gotten onto her comms, Jocelynn broke into the conversation saying she didn't expect the spy to come out to anywhere public, so she recommended they tell him the assassin wanted to meet in a non-public place and give them time to bring some Imperial backup with them.

Colinne agreed with Jocelynn's idea and added that they didn't know who they could trust.  So, they had to be very careful who they called on to help.  When Jocelynn suggested the Imperials had no idea what they were getting into, Colinne pointed out the mole could be in one of the Imperial offices.  Fesic said he thought it was an Imperial because he felt the information he'd gotten from the Ministry of Justice was fairly basic.  Of course, Fesic missed the fact the Ministry of Justice "was" an Imperial organization.  Still, he thought the mole would have to have had contacts and known things, he felt the spy had to be better informed and have more information.

That was despite the fact the MoJ people not only "did" have information, but had more than they'd been willing to tell him.  And, as residents on the world, they would have obviously had more "contacts" locally than anyone in the crew.  In the end, Fesic went with a knee-jerk judgement.  Fesic also suggested they get the spy to come out in a location they already knew.  While they talked about that, Jocelynn added to the pot by suggesting they also try to get the assassin to out himself too.  When that was questioned, Jocelynn asked why they couldn't try to get the assassin out using the same tactic and the others agreed they could try.

Jocelynn asked if Colinne could send a message seeming to be from the spy to the assassin, saying the killer was compromised and the fugitive should meet him where the spy could get him out.  Colinne said she could possibly do it, but that it would be tricky.  Colinne told them the spy's mail server was very heavily protected, and her tone didn't suggest she wanted to try her hands at it.  Sekea reminded the others they'd only get one shot if they wanted to get both the assassin and the spy.  Mikah said they wanted the assassin because he was the payday.  Jocelynn reminded her they wanted to catch the spy, getting information to help out the assassin.  So, the network didn't really matter after they got the spy.  She still felt it was worth trying to get them both with the same tactic.

Mikah agreed, but also said they had to decide what different messages to send to the spy and assassin, and where everything would happen?  And, before that, they had to decide which Imperial service they trusted enough to bring them into the plan as backup, and to make the arrest?  Starting with the spy, Fesic pushed his theory that the spy would be in the Legate's office, based entirely on the faulty decision he'd made based on an unfortunate consideration of very little data.  Fesic largely pointed to the Legate's office because they knew where Mikah and her crew were.  Which entirely ignored the fact the message had not said anything about where they were.

Still, without re-reading the message to get what it said correct, Fesic started winning over the others in the cutter.  Colinne said she was being a bit paranoid and asked if they could call in a favor from higher up?  Hearing that, Sekea pointed out the crew was well connected to Arch Duke Norris and suggested they call him.  Having been kept awake by the bickering, Aali pointed out they were owed a favor, as a crew, by the Count.  Hearing that, there was a sudden silence in the cutter when everyone realized Aali was right.  Agreeing on that, Mikah pushed that they still had to have a plan before they called the Count.

Sekea suggested they tell the spy to meet the assassin at the starport, because he would supposedly be trying to get off world to start with.  When Mikah challenged him where in the spaceport they'd suggest, Sekea suggested someplace inconspicuous and asked what bars they knew?  Colinne said, "I know a breakfast shop!"  Colinne then talked the place up as a place that was close the port and public.  She also felt it was shady enough to be appealing, and she already knew all the exits.  Of course, she never suggested why she felt it was shady at all?  But it was open enough the spy wouldn't worry about an ambush.

Jocelynn then suggested they launch the cutter and leave the village they were in, to sweeten the pot somehow.  But Sekea pointed out the assassin would likely rabbit the minute he thought they were gone and he was clear.  Mikah pointed out they had to be in the village to get the assassin and he was the main target.  She continued, saying the spy was the icing on the cake reading 'happy birthday' but the assassin was the cake itself.  Aali agreed, "Yeah, he's our Million Credit payday."  Jocelynn defended going after the spy, saying that person would make it easier to find the assassin.

Mikah agreed that was true, but also pointed out the spy didn't have to be there for them to fake a message from him.    When Jocelynn agreed with that, Mikah pointed out there was no reason for them to leave the village to help capture the spy only to then have to rush back before the assassin went to ground.  Jocelynn realized she thought the others had wanted to be in on catching the spy and realized that wouldn't be a good plan.  She did remind them all the house they thought the assassin was hiding in would likely be fortified, heavily armed and prepared after the fiasco with her and Mikah the night before.

Sekea reminded them they had planted one camera they could watch for developments.  While they had talked, Colinne isolated the mail server and re-routed everything it received to them.  That went to a server she cloned on a sandbox virtual computer she'd spawned for just such occasions.  Summing up their plan for the spy, Sekea said, "So, we will send a message to the spy asking him to come to the breakfast place to help the assassin escape and then nab him there with support we'll get by using our favor with the Count, right?  The others agreed, and then he asked how they'd go after the assassin

Mikah started to suggest the pub they'd eaten at, and said it was a good place because it was close to the safe house and cutter.  It was also an open public pub.  Sekea nodded and asked if they'd also send the assassin an electronic message to him luring him there and Mikah said that was the plan.  Sekea then asked how they planned to secure the pub?  Mikah knew they couldn't count on help from the village and said, "We'll probably have to do that ourselves."  Mikah suggested asking the people in the safe house to help, but wasn't betting they'd cooperate.  Jocelynn doubtfully asked, "Do you really think this guy is going to come out in public?"

Mikah said she thought he might, if he got a message saying he was compromised from someone he trusted.  Still, she was guessing because they knew so little about the man.  Jocelynn suggested he'd go deeper underground if anything.  Mikah suggested there weren't many places he could hide in the village, so he'd have to flee somewhere else.  When Sekea suggested the assassin might not come out if the spy came to the village, since he'd never come before, Mikah said the spy wouldn't be coming to the village.  But, the others pointed out the message they were sending said the assassin should meet at the pub.  Mikah defended that saying they would tell the man to meet his extraction team there, not the spy.

Jocelynn said she still didn't think the assassin would go to a bar, and would see something weird about the location.  Colinne agreed and said she thought they should recommend someplace "away from the village".  Again frustrated, Aali asked, "What if he's made his own escape plans already and has his own escape route?"  Sekea nodded and said that was possible.  Jocelynn said she was certain he had tunnels underneath the area, and each new theory only pointed out they had no idea what the assassin would do if threatened?

Aali said they could tell him to meet some team at the pub, then watch the house they thought he was in.  But, if they were wrong, and he had his own escape set up, the only way they'd know he'd left was when they saw his distant rocket lifting to orbit while they waved goodbye to their million credits.  Sekea agreed that an assassin on the run would likely have their escape route planned out.  After a silence, Sekea asked, "So, do we try to draw him someplace or do we go in guns blazing?"  Fesic reacted with surprise, saying he never thought he'd hear Sekea advocate for "guns blazing", though Sekea had only asked if that was a plan they were considering?

Colinne interrupted, asking what confirmation they had the man was hiding in that house?  Aali pointed out they didn't have any, and only believed the man was hiding there.  Colinne said there'd be trouble if they went in 'guns blazing' only to find out the target wasn't there.  Jocelynn again pushed the idea of capturing the spy, and forcing him to tell them what he knew?  Or help them get the man to come out of hiding.  Sekea said the spy may only know the man was in the village, because they were communicating by electronic messages.

Fesic argued against having the spy help with the message at all, because the man could also use a secret trigger word to alert the assassin.  Something they'd have no way to detect.  Sekea agreed they should write and send any message, and not the spy.  He also agreed with Jocelynn that they should catch the spy and get anything from him they could.  He said that would help them prevent a blowback from a high body count in the village.  Jocelynn said she was more concerned with protecting their gear.

So, the plan came back around to flushing out the spy and baking him for information they could use to help find the assassin.  They again agreed to work to flush and catch the spy while also continuing to watch for information in the village.  Aali added, "and we can look for people to ask about that name we got." because it seemed they'd forgotten about learning the name "Shio Ylga" from the emails.  When Jocelynn asked if they wanted to use the favor for the spy or the assassin, Sekea said they were freelancing with the assassin and the spy was an Imperial issue.  So, the Count would more likely react to the spy.

After agreeing they had to send the spy something that would draw him out to meet the assassin, they went in some circles until Colinne suggested they send, 'Cover blown, Comms compromised, must meet in person, meet at...' and they could add in the location they wanted.  Sekea and Jocelynn liked that even while Colinne explained that was good because it didn't say "whose" cover was blown but did say they had to meet to plan.  Mikah agreed she liked the idea and would call the Count to get his help.

Getting A Legate Up On The Situation
     Because they all felt they could trust the Count, they were all in favor of that plan as long as the Count agreed not to involve the Legate at all.  So, at three in the morning, Mikah agreed they should place a call to wake the Count and get him involved, burning their crew-favor if they had to.  When they made the call, a low-level staffer working as an operator took the call first.  When Mikah introduced herself with all her titles, it certainly woke the man up completely.  Knowing whatever it was, it was way above his pay grade, the man said he was transferring her to an operational officer while also making zero promises.

Getting to that 'Operational officer'. Mikah again introduced herself and said, "We need to speak to the Count and recognize how early it is."  The man nodded and then calmly asked why it was so urgent she reach the Count so early in the morning?  Mikah only answered, "We think there's a spy in his ranks."  Before the man could react, Mikah corrected, "We know there's a spy in his ranks."  The man let a pause stretch before asking, "A spy with regard to what?  The Zhodani?"  From the tone in his voice, they could tell the man didn't see this as an emergency.

Firming up her shoulders and letting a bit of anger feed into her voice, Mikah snapped, "That's none of your business.  It's the Count's business."  Not showing much of any reaction, the man considered what she'd said and then told Mikah to hold on while the screen froze.  When it came back, it had split and a very unhappy Legate had been added to the screen, making Mikah very unhappy too.  The Legate then asked, "Lady Mikah.  I understand you want us to wake the Count for some reason.  Can you explain yourself?"

In her most officious tone, Mikah said, "I'd rather speak directly to the Count if you don't mind?"  The legate only nodded and dryly said, "I would rather be working directly for the Emperor right now, but if you don't mind, you will explain yourself to me before we are going to wake the Count."  And while the man showed little emotion at all in his speech, the command in the words was obvious.  And, that was an achievement since the last he remembered was compromising one of his field operations to help her people capture a fugitive.  Mikah tried to get away with, "I have information that his security might be compromised."

Looking 'down his nose' more, the Legate said, "You're going to have to give me more than that, Lady Mikah."  Mikah tried to ratchet up the threat, saying "Well, let his death be on your head then." as if she was giving up in the face of the block the Legate presented.  Showing the slightest hint of irritation, the Legate said, "Again, you're going to have to give me more information or we'll have to send people to arrest you and find out what is going on?"  The blaze in the man's eyes told Mikah this wasn't a game she could just walk away from.

With a sigh, during which she looked at those in the cutter for "any" support or inspiration, Sekea was the only one to speak up and he said, "Tell him."  Mikah muted the line and told Sekea, "He's the one Fesic thinks is the spy, so I don't want to tell him."  Aali spoke up and said, "Fesic said he thought the link was in the Legate's office, and there are a lot more people in the office than just him."  Sekea added to that pointing out the other man on the comms was a member of the Count's staff.  So, if the Legate wanted to lie to you, he'd also have to lie to the other man, and the Count would be told.

Accepting that, Mikah unmuted the comms and bluntly told the Legate, "We believe your office has a spy in it."  The expression on the Legate's face showed that was the last thing he thought Mikah might say.  Still, he schooled his face and asked, "And, how does that threaten the Count's life directly?"  Caught by surprise herself, Mikah could only ask, "Well, wouldn't it?"  The Legate told her, "No.  If somebody in my office is a spy, that threatens Imperial operations but does not mean someone will necessarily try to kill the Count.  Mikah could only challenge, "How do you know?"

When Aiden and Colinne started badgering Mikah with data while she was on the phone, Mikah held off until she could organize what she was hearing and spoke.  She pointed out that they had been chasing a known assassin who was on-world and learned the assassin had been communicating with the spy.  Standing more straight, the Legate asked, "So you're tracking the assassin and you believe that man's target is the Count.  Is that what you're telling me?"  Mikah pulled back from closing her case and said, "At this point, who knows?  It could be."

Nodding to himself if anyone, the Legate said, "OK.  I'm going to need a lot more facts if I am going to wake the Count himself.  You're going to have to work with me if you want to get this resolved.  Giving up, Mikah let loose the gates and let the flood of information flow out while the Legate and County Staffer listened.  When Mikah mentioned the name "Shio Ylga", she got no comment or reaction from either man on the other side of the comms.  After she was done, the legate nodded and said he didn't think they had to wake the Count, but admitted any spy existing in his staff or within the Ministry of Justice then we need to get the spy.  He did add he'd believe a spy was in the MoJ faster than his staff, but admitted he could be wrong.

He continued, "So, your plan is to lure the spy out and have him busted.  Correct?"  When Mikah nodded and said, "Yes.  Which is why we need your help.", the Legate nodded and said, "You need my help but you don't trust the people in my office.  At the same time, I trust the people in my office but don't trust the people in the Ministry of Justice.  So, I would like you to please hold."  With that, the screen froze again, for a longer moment this time.  When the screen came back, there was a new split and Mikah recognized the man in the new split as the commander of the Imperial Naval base.  He was obviously fresh from bed and in ruffled civilian clothes quickly thrown on, but Mikah knew the man's face.

As he appeared, he was in the process of saying, "Yes Sir!  It is early in the morning, but how can I help?  Not expecting this curve ball, Mikah was clearly pleased with someone of authority who was neither in the Legate's office or the Ministry.  The Legate made it clear it was suspected there was a spy in either his office staff or in the staff of the Ministry of Justice.  That announcement alone got a shocked reaction from the Naval officer.  He indicated Mikah while continuing that "Lady Mikah's crew have identified the spy's existence and I need you're security people, who are entirely separate from both organizations, to prepare for a sting in civilian clothes."

After a brief look at both the Legate and Mikah as if hoping this was a joke, the commander agreed to have his people assemble and asked how many men were needed?  Before answering the man, the Legate turned to Mikah and asked, "Does this meet with your approval?"  Mikah nodded and the Legate said, "Fine.  Who from your crew will be present to guide the operation from your crew?"  When Mikah started to say, 'Fesic and Colinne', Colinne growled, "Fesic only" so Mikah told the Legate Fesic would be present from her crew.  With that, the Legate officially authorized Fesic as a brevet Major, giving him the legal command rights to give orders to the troops he would be working with.

While that was happening, Colinne announced to those on their comms link that she'd be in the shop unofficially.  The others wondered what game Colinne was playing at but didn't have any real time to ask questions.  Colinne did say she'd be mixed in with the other customers in the place.  The naval officer pointed out the shop would be very empty now and it would be very obvious if his men filled it up that early in the morning.  So, he asked if they might consider doing it at a more proper time?  When Colinne said "yes", they asked what time, so they could give their men orders.

After some discussion, Fesic said the operation should "go off" at eight that morning, which gave them a chance to send the message before getting some sleep.  Then, they could wake, get ready and be in their positions in time to see if the spy showed up?  Mikah was happy with that because if Colinne sent the message "then", it would provide enough time for the man to supposedly make it to the village and be at the coffee shop at eight that morning.  Nodding, Mikah told Colinne to send the message.  After a few brief key strokes, Colinne was working to craft the message.

That done, the base commander said he would have his people deployed around the space and in civilian clothing, to observe and be prepared to act.  They would covertly report observations but would watch Fesic for the order to act.  Hearing that, Jocelynn cautioned, "We need him alive."  Mikah suggested the message should demand the spy bring something, to prove his identity to the assassin, in case they'd never met.

When they settled on telling the spy to bring two pens of which one was red and one was blue, Fesic quibbled over the difficulty of seeing the colors from a distance.  He worried he might accidentally arrest a teacher or other person who would use those color pens.  There was another discussion after which Feisc accepted the orders and agreed that anyone who put two pens on their breakfast table when they sat down would be the spy.  After he agreed, Colinne updated the message, marked it 'Urgent' and sent it.

With that done, the Legate told Mikah that he would make certain no one in his office was aware of the conversation and activities.  He also said he would insure the Count was notified of the situation after he'd woken up normally that morning, and not before.  Mikah nodded while realizing this would not be the crew's favor in the end.  So, Mikah hoped things worked out so the Count would look on them even more fondly when they ask for whatever favor they come to.

The call then ended and everyone in the cutter tried to get some sleep...Again!  In the berth, both Fesic and Colinne were moving towards their bedrooms, and she'd just told him she'd be in the breakfast shop, when a knock came at one of the berth's service entrances.  Not expecting visitors, or happy with surprises, Colinne watched while Fesic went to get his snub pistol and then went to the door to see who was there?  He recognized the man he'd worked with after Emkir's accident, to re-coil his rope.  Because of that, he opened the door and asked what the man needed?

The man said he had to check some spaces in the berth, to look for signs of possible pressure leaks in the structure.  So, he asked Fesic for permission to enter their berth and do that work.  Fesic said the man could do the work, but he'd have to be allowed to follow and watch.  While he talked, he mentioned it was odd this was being done so early in the morning, and the man said that was when they detected the pressure drop, as if Fesic should have caught that all on his own.  Eventually, while he escorted the man, the tech did his checked, announced there was no leak, apologized to Fesic and said they'd check their instruments.  Fesic then went to his bedroom.

Colinne also thought it was odd, but wanted to go to her bedroom before she did anything else.  While Fesic escorted the man about the berth, Colinne decided to do a 'scan for surface thoughts' on the technician.  What Colinne got back were angry and disgruntled thoughts and the only coherent thoughts were 'The next time I take money from a fucking nobleman like this, I'm going to make sure he's not a fucking idiot.'  Both surprised and concerned, Colinne decided it was time to do a deeper scan and reached for the man's mind again, looking for an answer.  What she got back surprised her more, and made her wonder what might be going on?

She did another surface thought read to see what Fesic was thinking about but he seemed concerned with the pressure leak.  Given that, and the fact the worker had left the berth, she did a probe on Fesic, and learned all about his interactions with the man from the berth technical team.   Done with that, Colinne pinched the bridge of her nose and squinted in disbelief, and asked the uncaring universe why there was no such thing as mind bleach?  Colinne then went about her preparations before sleep.

She pulled out her gauss ammunition loader and loaded ten rounds of gauss-Tranq into one of her gauss pistol magazines, filling it.  She then holstered it into her concealable holster and laid out a casual outfit for later.  Checking her preparations, Colinne worried the needles from the gauss pistol would still do damage, so she changed her mind and loaded Tranq into her hypo-gun and prepared that and its holster to bring instead of the gauss pistol.  She'd also bring her Ident and comms.  Both Fesic and Colinne set alarms to be sure they could get through their morning routines and dress in time to leave and reach the shop in time for the operation.

Hunting, With A Side Of Caff And Adrenaline
     At six thirty, Fesic's alarm woke him and shortly after that Colinne's alarm woke her.  Both quickly moved into their morning routines and got dressed and ready for the morning activity.  Fesic considered his snub pistol loaded with Tranq rounds, and remembered people would be wearing vacc suits.  Since Tranq darts were likely to bounce off a vacc suit, he grabbed two spare magazines of ball ammo while keeping the tranq dart-loaded magazine in the weapon and ready.  Fesic also brought his cane, in hopes the magnetic and x-ray port security scans would miss it, which was unlikely.

If questioned, Fesic planned to claim he needed the cane to walk, because of his wounded knee.  But that wouldn't help if standard security checks found the blade inside the stick.  And, further investigation would lead to a discovery the wound was "above" the knee, and well healed.  So, Fesic figured he'd roll the dice.  Beyond that, Fesic ate and then buttoned up his vacc suit.  Along with what she'd prepared before sleep, Colinne also grabbed her hand computer and got into her vacc suit too.  The pair then went out to leave the port and go to the shop and, in Fesic's case, link up with the Navy people.  Lucky for both of them, because of Fesic's cane and Colinne's lack of a weapons permit, the Count's people made sure they could pass in and out of the port unchallenged.

Getting close enough to the shop, Colinne wished Fesic well with his Naval commission and separated from him before anyone watching could mark them as related to each other.  Colinne told him she'd be mixing in with the other customers and relaxing as an observer, to see what happened.  While Fesic continued to walk, he realized he'd not communicated with the Navy folks, to set up a meeting point or ask how they felt things should work.  Or, to plan for the operation.  He was beginning to worry about that when he got a call on his comms.

Answering, Fesic was greeted by a young marine named Uuli Adkei, who identified himself as the senior sergeant of the unit assigned to "Major" Fesic Anfertirkåsmokt.  After identifying himself and greeting the Major, Sergeant Adkei asked Fesic where he wanted the contingent and what the drill would be?  When Fesic thoughtlessly told the sergeant to have the unit assemble outside the shop, the man was unimpressed and questioned if the Major wanted them to all assemble in such a noticeable and visible spot?

When Fesic asked the sergeant how many men were in the squad, he was told there were 18 troopers.  Hearing that Fesic reorganized his thoughts and said they should meet up a block or so away from the restaurant, and make their way to the place in two's and three's.  Accepting that, the sergeant cast Fesic a map, and indicated a point which he felt was within Fesic's parameters and also wasn't visible to anyone not around a given corner.  He asked if that fit 'the Major's expectations' and, when Fesic said it did, the sergeant sent the rally orders to the other troopers and said they'd link up when the Major arrived there.

Along the walk, Fesic had time to consider his time in the Navy, when he'd been a Chief Petty Officer and Battery Commander.  During that period, he commanded up to twelve gun leads for the crews that made up his battery.  Technically, he commanded everyone in each of the battery crews, but rarely ever saw his gun leads, much less the troops they commanded.  And, he usually met the gun leads in a briefing compartment assigned to his battery for that purpose.  So, where his orders trickled down to well more than one hundred ratings and 'weapon slobs', he almost never saw more than his direct reports.  So, being directly in lead of the entire squad was a new thing for Fesic.

Aboard the cutter, Aiden had woken early enough that he hadn't been stacked up waiting to use the fresher to clean himself up as best he could.  Most of the others woke around 7 in the morning, while Aiden was checking the craft's status, and had to take turns using the fresher for their morning needs.  That made the time they spent preparing for their day much longer, and they talked about what they would do next?  The plans had been to visit the bakery for food, then grab the blades Jocelynn had ordered before lifting off and leaving for "Part two" of their plan. 

Before getting on the line for the fresher, Mikah called Colinne to find out what was happening and what she and Fesic were doing?  Colinne said she'd be watching as events unfolded while Fesic would be working with the team the Navy sent them.  She also said the "meeting" had been set for eight, so Mikah had some time to prepare and do other things.  When Mikah said she wanted to listen in to what was happening, Colinne said she could leave her comms open, but might be doing other things herself, so there would be no play by play.

For the most part, while Mikah waited for her turn in the fresher and then joined the others while they waited, there was little in the background noise that Mikah could make sense of.  That wait would last quite a bit of time because Mikah had called Colinne at seven thirty, and the sting was scheduled for 8am.  In the meantime, near the downport, Fesic had been following the guides on the map on his comms.  Fesic eventually linked up with the squad, and noticed right off that they were all in civilian vacc suits.  That made it difficult to tell if they were all Marines from the naval security teams.

Another surprise came when Fesic noticed some of the vacc suits were of Imperial make and some were of local make, though Fesic couldn't tell what clan they were bought from?  In a display of extreme efficiency, Fesic realized the sergeant was introducing him to each trooper in the squad with a brief rundown of their specialties.  What most surprised Fesic as he met each man and woman assigned was that the exercise was done in under five minutes!  He decided the sergeant was showing off.

After that, the sergeant asked him to brief the squad on what they were looking for, and the rules of engagement if they were told to act?  Fesic told the troops they were looking for a single person who would enter the shop, and after selecting a table, places a pair of pens on the table top.  Further, one of those pens would be a "red" pen and the other "blue".  The sergeant then stepped in and told the troopers not to act if they saw the target.  They were to sing out on comms, to notify Major Anfertirkåsmokt if they had any suspect in view.  They would then wait for the Major to tell them if they should go or not?

Considering that term before answering, Fesic told them that when he was satisfied they had the correct target in view, he would stand up and point.  That would be the signal that the marines should move to subdue but not seriously injure the subject.  The captured person should be able to immediately be questioned and undergo significant questioning to provide answers in the short term.  Nodding, the sergeant called out, "That means no breaking!  Understood?" in a muted voice of command that still carried.  Even more impressive, the marines answered in a muted reply that still managed to sound like a unified shout of "Yes, Sergeant!" to those in the group.

The sergeant then made sure to help Fesic set his comms to their frequency, and advised them all the Major would give a "three - two - one" count before rising to point.  In that way, everyone would be on the same page and they would take the subject down with little fanfare.  When the sergeant asked if the Major had any further orders, Fesic pointed out that they should be able to surround and secure the entire floor space inconspicuously, and the sergeant nodded and said he had that all worked out with his people.  He assured Fesic the floorspace would be properly saturated and would insure no one escaped the snare.

He also assured Fesic their dispersion pattern insured those closest to the subject would take the target down while the rest will insure the subject didn't have a sudden cadre of support appearing from the crowd, or from any other avenue.  The sergeant then suggested the Major pair up with one of the troopers, and they make their way into the shop to take a seat to be ready.  Next, the sergeant "re-acquainted" Fesic with a Private Knohe, a female Marine trooper just a bit shorter than Fesic.  Looking her over, Fesic saw she could very easily and casually break Fesic into however many pieces she chose.  After she saluted him, Fesic returned the salute and led the way to, and into, the shop, selected a table towards the back with good visibility and waited for their waitress.

Elsewhere in the shop, Colinne had arrived at her table and asked for a large pot of caff to be delivered while she looked at the menu.  At his table, Fesic ordered caff, toast and eggs and got the local equivalents.  Events continued until one of the Marines quietly spoke up on their comms.  He said, "People.  On the table to my left, there is a gentleman with two pens on his table-top.  I have not looked him over, so he does not feel like he's being noticed, so I don't know the colors.  Can anyone confirm my sighting?"

They next heard Sergeant Adkei, who was obviously familiar with where his people had settled.  He ordered, "Private Pempy, execute a sweep."  While they looked out over the dining area of the restaurant, they saw a younger man stand up and walk past the tables the first Marine had been seated at.  Seeming to move towards the line at the register, that trooper moved past the table in question before updating, "I confirm both a red and blue tipped pen on the table.  Orders?" while continuing the move.  Fesic wasted no time as he rose and pointed, while saying, "Great!  Up and at 'em everyone."

As soon as she had a target, Colinne hit the man with a 'read surface thoughts', concentrating a bit harder than normal.  What she got was anxiety.  The man was very nervous, on edge and hoping the meeting went quick and smooth.  There was also an edge of confusion, but Colinne couldn't tell why?  With that, a full third of the people in the eatery rose and acted.  While the four most close to the suspect moved to suddenly "jump and subdue" the suspect, the rest rose while drawing concealed hand guns and started ordering everyone else to remain seated and calm.  Despite that, the civilians reaction to a sudden assault and the appearance of armed men was to panic.

While Fesic and Colinne watched, people screamed or cried out in sudden terror or surprise.  Some people even tried to bolt while others recoiled from armed people and there were some who's reactions led to them falling to the floor.  Even the trooper who'd sat with Fesic had now risen and assumed a position that was part overwatch and part point defense of "the command point".  observing from her table, Colinne had lost contact with the mind of the man and casually reached for her mug of caff.  Ignoring the detention moves, Sergeant Adkei began calling out, "Stand Down!  This is an Imperial action, you are not in danger.  Please stand down and relax at your table while we remove the prisoner."

So, Mikah's group were waiting in the cutter when Mikah let the others listen in to a sudden rise in the sounds from the restaurant, along with screaming, some crying and terror.  That, Colinne said, was when the spy was taken down.  Mikah smiled at the others in the cutter and taunted the others, saying how much she enjoyed the sound of people screaming in the morning.  She said it was exhilarating.  Soon after the screaming died down, Colinne told Mikah she wasn't going with Fesic and the Navy people, who were dragging the spy out of the restaurant now, so Mikah asked what Colinne's next steps were?

Colinne said she planned to watch the crowd afterward, to see if someone else had perhaps been in the crowd as a back-up man for the spy or not?  Mikah agreed with that and they cut the call.  That done, Colinne relaxed in her chair and extended her senses to see if she could sense any reactions to what had happened.  She sifted through the thoughts of those gathered to see if anyone was upset, concerned or bothered about the arrest itself, and the man taken away?  Or, any angry thoughts about the meeting having been a set up.  But, she got nothing of the sort and had to accept that there hadn't been a second member of the team.

The one random thought she caught, which didn't line up with the others was a person thinking how happy they were the arrest had gone smoothly.  Whoever it was hated to be rousted from their rack so early and end up with nothing to show for it.  Colinne shook that off because it was obviously one of the Marines.  The only extraordinary thing she felt about what she sensed was how bored the person felt the morning had been.  With being called up on sudden alert, the unusual nature of dressing in civilian clothes and then the danger of going to what could have ended up in a shootout, that Marine was bored!

A Strange Left Turn
     After everything ended at the restaurant, and Colinne paid the Cr 10 for her meal, she figured she'd try to see if she could get into the Naval base and observe the questioning?  If not, she'd return to their berth.  When she made her way to the base gate, they checked her Ident and saw she was a member of Lady Mikah's crew.  So, they got a cart and had her brought in to where Fesic was just meeting the pair of interrogators he'd be working with.  While she'd ridden, Colinne'd called Fesic to let him know she was coming and he'd called told the officers, in case they needed confirmation.

Given there were so many people working for the Imperial services, employed by the base or even off duty military, the angry or frightened confusion settled down surprisingly fast while the prisoner was secured and prepared to be moved out of the restaurant.  Many of the weapons that had suddenly appeared were holstered and concealed again as things settled down, and the Sergeant looked over to Fesic asking, "Are we good sir?"  Fesic nodded and said, "Yes.  Let's move out." and they began moving the prisoner to the naval base for questioning.

The bills were paid and the unit moved out of the place with their prisoner.  Just outside the place, a naval vehicle was waiting to move the prisoner onto the naval base for interrogation.  While leaving the restaurant, Fesic scooped up the pens from the table as evidence.  While all that happened, Colinne sat at her table and finished her meal.  Fesic was loaded into the back of the vehicle, where a fire team(4 troopers), guarded the secured prisoner.  The vehicle then moved onto the base and into a vehicle bay which was closed off, sealed and repressurized.

With the bay sealed, they began unbuttoning the vehicle while other units started moving in.  Fesic noticed the group that moved up to assist his team and help move the prisoner was led by the Legate.  That man's face showed he was tired, angry and ready to bite someone's head off.  So, Fesic knew that if the prisoner did turn out to be a spy, he'd take the flak.  But if it turned out he somehow wasn't, Fesic knew he'd take the blast, and he didn't want that to happen.

After they moved the prisoner into an interview room, the Legate made it clear that Fesic's team had developed the leads that had brought them to arrest the man, so he should take a role in interrogating the prisoner.  When Fesic told the Legate he had no interrogation skills, the man nodded and called for an interrogating team.  Still, he said they had none of the information their crew had developed, so he had to participate because they'd need to have access to that information too.  Fesic also had to tell them what his crew wanted to learn about the assassin too, because the idea had been to capture this man to make it easier to find the fugitive assassin.

Before Fesic met with the two interrogators assigned to him, they brought in Colinne after she arrived at the base gate.  The Legate was OK with her watching outside the interview room, while the prisoner was interviewed if she was good with that.  One thing they'd already learned right off, by cracking the man's ID, was that he worked in the Ministry of Justice.  When he was told that, Fesic admitted that was something he'd gotten wrong though he didn't bother reviewing the reason he'd made the snap judgement in the first place.  Fesic also turned in the pens he'd taken from the table top as evidence.

Fesic also told the interrogators the crew were aware of the presence of a political assassin on-world.  He said the key information they wanted were any information that would confirm, or help track down, exactly where the fugitive was hiding.  Fesic told them they suspected a structure in the village of Wezsaen, but wanted to know if that was correct or not?  That was key, in case the assassin had a target on-world and was preparing to strike.  That provided the interrogators with a level of urgency that had to be met.  Beyond that, Fesic missed the fact this man would never be set free if he incriminated himself even in the least, and told the team they should work to confirm his guilt for trial.

Of course, that ignored the fact the man had already responded to a message sent to a known spy, and correctly followed the instructions sent to that spy.  So, he'd already incriminated himself and opened himself up to additional and much deeper investigation.  After he was identified, a separate detailed forensic investigation of the man's financial history was launched as well as deeper investigations of the data on all his electronic equipment and accounts.  So, his worries the man might not be convicted were a joke those around Fesic laughed at without letting Fesic see.  When Fesic asked if the interrogation could be broadcast for the rest of his crew to see, the interrogators refused that.

Colinne joked that the cameras were all turned off by that time, but was told the cameras were on and rolling.  They'd review the footage to see if they could learn anything they might have missed in the original interrogation.  Talking to the interrogators, Fesic said he wanted the man to know they knew he'd been working with an assassin.  He wanted them to use that to get the assassin's entire correct name and location.  He also wanted to know what plans the assassin had made for an escape if he had to flee?  Fesic wanted them to drill into the previous communications he'd had with the assassin, how many and of what nature?  Fesic wanted to know if the man knew any information about the assassin's movement?

Fesic also wanted to know if the man had provided any services or done any work for the assassin?  He wanted details on where the assassin was hiding like how many men were with him and what rooms he would be in?  What weapons and equipment the assassin had to keep himself safe or defend himself with?  Nodding, the interrogators went in with Fesic and got to work.  When they asked the assassin's name, the prisoner blustered and said he didn't know.  So the interrogators went to work on breaking that with the hope that pushing through that wall might get the man to break completely.

Fesic watched as the men worked on the prisoner but couldn't get him to budge on the name, so they changed their plans.  They first confronted the man, saying they knew he'd been talking with the assassin for years.  Then, they demanded to know how it could be that he didn't know the man's name as well as other details?  The prisoner complained he'd never actually met the man, and claimed not even to know the man had been an assassin!  He claimed to have even been paid electronically only.  The prisoner seemed horrified at the idea, and almost crushed that he was in custody.

For the moment, they decided to switch to the assassin's location and he claimed not to know that either.  He protested that all the information he had was sent to him electronically.  So, he'd never met the other man and didn't know anything more than in the communications.  After some time, they shifted topics again and again, and still got no more than the man's protests he knew nothing.  The few tidbits he did get were that he expected that if the man were on Denotam, his friends were helping hide him.  He was not aware the assassin expected any help or action from him except for information.

During the questioning, Colinne decided she'd help by tip-toing through the prisoner's brainpan.  She learned the man truly didn't know the man he worked for was an assassin but had figured the man was a criminal of some sort.  He also got paid through "money demands" drawn against the Imperial Bank of Rhylanor.  He had also held onto the lie that he didn't know where the assassin was hiding because he had known the man was hiding somewhere in the town of Wezsaen.  But, Colinne could see the prisoner had no idea where in that town the man was hiding?

The one significant thing she was able to tell was that the man had been communicating with the assassin for a number of years!  Figuring it would be worth it to take a chance, Colinne told the Legate they'd come up with a name they had no information on and wondered if they could ask the prisoner about that?  When he agreed, she told him the name and he passed the name "Shio Ylga" to the negotiators.  About the same time, Fesic had already decided to use that information and leaned into the prisoner's face to demand, "Who is Shio Ylga?!" angrily.

What Fesic saw and heard was that the man's face was a mask of consternation for a moment before the man protested he'd never heard of anyone by that name.  Watching, Colinne continued to concentrate on the prisoner and saw that someone named Shio Ylga was also in the village of Wezsaen, and somehow related to the assassin, but that he'd never met that man just like he hadn't met the assassin himself.  While the Legate continued watching the questioning, Colinne stepped back and quietly pinged Mikah to tell her what she'd learned.

In the meantime, Fesic was annoyed and refused to believe the man knew nothing after more than a year's association.  Ironically, Sekea has suggested exactly that the night before, when they'd been arguing if they should try to lure the spy out in the first place.  Still, Fesic made a snap judgement again, just like he'd done when he accused the Legate's office of harboring the spy.  Fesic didn't stop to think through his impulsive accusations.  He just accused, and got angry when his accusation didn't work out.  Still, he pushed the interrogators to work on the incredulity of the prisoner's claims to know nothing and push that.

When they started pushing, the prisoner seemed to break in a way.  He angrily claimed that a message had arrived one day over twenty years before.  The message offered him money for some information which was freely available.  Since no one was hiding the data, and he saw no harm, he'd sent the information and took the money.  As time passed, he got more requests and kept answering them and got paid.  Some years into the relationship, the unknown stranger sent another message, but it wasn't an offer.  It was a short list of criminal events along with messages he'd sent which could be seen as helping plan the crimes!  It meant he was legally liable for arrest!!

The prisoner said he panicked.  He sent messages begging the stranger not to turn him in.  The answer he got back was that he was now the strangers information source.  He would do his best to research and answer any questions he was asked.  Everything had been done by electronic means without ever meeting or discussing personal information.  Except that the stranger made it clear he was keeping a dossier on the prisoner, and would give that to the authorities if he ever failed to respond.  So, the requests continued and the money came...  And he was finally glad it was over and he could just admit what he'd done and move on.  Punishment or no.

The prisoner kept up, saying the stranger threatened that law enforcement would come for him, but they'd never find the stranger.  He wanted to say more, but Fesic cut him off instead of listening.  Fesic said they had to dig into all the messages the prisoner had send over the entire history and figure out what crimes they could prosecute the prisoner for.  Ignoring what Fesic said, the prisoner laughed and said he was glad Fesic and his crew might catch the man, because that would mean he helped the man get caught in some small way.  And, he'd never have to help the man ever again.  As for Fesic, the Legate reminded the Knight that his priority was the assassin.  Not the spy.  So, it wasn't his job to do the prosecutor's job and research the other crimes.

When it became obvious the man was now willing to cooperate fully, Fesic asked him for any information he could give and the man pointed out he'd just spilled his guts and had nothing on the current situation, in a frustrated tone.  He said he could speak to past situations, like when he'd been asked to check on official networks and give the man information on the travel plans of people.  One of the examples he gave was Duke Rakaa Kiraarri of Lanth, which they and the Legate already knew.  However, the prisoner didn't know they knew that so it proved they had a good piece of the puzzle.

Switching back to the assassin, Fesic continued asking if the prisoner could tell them anything which would trick the man into outing himself and the prisoner repeated - again - he had no information outside of the information demanded of him.  Fesic asked if the man could give him information about the village of Wezsaen and the prisoner reminded Fesic he'd never been there.  Privately, the prisoner started wondering how someone who listened this little could have caught him to start with?  Or, if they really had a chance to capture the stranger?

Fesic next asked for information on the number of people at the assassin's home.  The man wanted to scream, as he had said over and over, that they had never discussed anything of a personal nature.  He wanted to shout at Fesic to demand how the man was not getting it?  The interrogators also wondered the same questions, but had to stand silent because they'd been brought in to help the Knight.  Not to prove to the prisoner how stupid the Knight was acting.  And, the likely truth was that Fesic had made a snap judgement and couldn't admit he was wrong until something blunt and obvious was smashed into his face.  Like learning the fact the spy worked for the Ministry of Justice and not the Legate.

When Fesic finally realized his questions were all being met with no information, if he realized he'd been repeating questions over and over, Fesic admitted he couldn't think of anything else to ask and said he was done with the man.  Long before Fesic started repeating himself and asking questions he should have known would get no answers, the Legate had updated his office on everything, and dumped the notes he was electronically gathering to their desktops.  He also made it clear to Colinne that he expected Lady Mikah and her crew to trust his office explicitly, since it was very well proven the spy they insisted was on his staff was working for the Ministry of Justice.

When Colinne cracked a cocky grin and asked, "Let's talk about a reward for this spy", the Legate said, "Since I'm up very early on this and have a bit of grogginess on this, let's reserve this until we see how it all pans out?"  The Legate also added that a number of his people would be busy initiating a top-down review of all staff in that office while also requesting a review of his own office by the Office of the Count.  He then winked and pointed out there was no reason for anyone to be over-confident after a long term spy was uncovered.  Colinne just answered, "Fair enough, we've got your number."  The legate nodded and said, "Yes, I'm sure you do."  When Fesic suggested they be sure to audit and follow the money trail, the Legate said they would in a tone, and with a glare that suggested Fesic not be telling the Legate how to do his own job.

After that, Fesic sparked up his comms to report to Mikah that they got very little information from the spy to help with catching the assassin.  He also reported they'd gotten enough to convict him on other crimes, which Mikah could care less about because she'd been saying all along that the assassin was the priority.  Fesic said he felt they could still craft an email to try and out the assassin, or they could just storm the place, and he didn't care which.  Fesic said the data likely confirmed the assassin was on-world, in the town of Wezsaen and likely in one of the five buildings they'd been told about days earlier.  Of course, that ignored the fact they'd already narrowed it down to one single building, so Mikah just nodded.

Lucky for Mikah, Colinne had spoken to her before Fesic's call and said they'd confirmed "this" assassin was the one who targeted Duke Rakaa, and he was in the village of Wezsaen, and the name "Shio Ylga" was somehow associated to the assassin.  So, between Fesic's report and Colinne's, Mikah had all the data they'd gotten.  Done with the spy, Fesic had made his report and then suggested to Colinne that they go back to the berth.  Colinne dangled an offer to help with the MoJ investigation, in the form of saying she was sure they wouldn't let her take part, and had that confirmed.  She would not be allowed to take part.  So, Colinne agreed and they started moving back to the downport and berth.

Meanwhile, Back In The Erskin Territory...
     Those in Wezsaen considered the mystery name, "Shio Ylga", and decided the best idea was to use local resources.  But they ignored the chance to ask the Ashshu(Mayor) or Adjam(Chief of Police), despite the fact they were on good terms with both.  There were recommendations they do computer searches, despite the fact this was a world with a fractured computer network, with little data sharing.  So, there was very little chance of a random local villager appearing in public computer records.  Another suggestion was to check the census records, which would mean finding out how to get them, and likely having to answer the many questions of an Erskin administrator to get access to the actual names of people.

Eventually, still connected on the comms, Colinne suggested they go to the safe house and ask the Captain, in case he and his people could give them any information.  And, since that was a local resource they had access to, they agreed that was something they could try.  Hearing that, Aali suggested the Ashshu or Adjam, because they were resources too.  Colinne said she'd suggested the Imperial source because they didn't know if they could trust the locals, and Aali nodded while saying that was true.

Still annoyed the safe house hadn't given them a comms link, Mikah decided to march right up to the place in broad daylight and see what they could learn?  When Jocelynn and Sekea started trying to decide which plan to take down the assassin they went with, Mikah said she wanted to see what the people in the safe house could tell them about the name before deciding.  So, Mikah then purposefully marched up to the door of the safe house with Jocelynn following, and started pounding on it violently.

When the Captain cracked the door, saw it was Mikah and opened the door, his face was far less surprised and a good bit more resigned then it had been the last time.  Letting them in, the Captain said, "It figures it would be you."  Mikah only stepped in snapping, "Well, if you had just given us your comms, we could have called and asked a simple question, but No!  We had to come over here and knock on your door and totally impose upon you.  So, this is your fault.  Do you know this "Shio Ylga" guy?"  Adding comedy to Mikah's angry monolog, Jocelynn stood behind Mikah periodically punctuating her rant with "YEAH!"

The Captain largely stood at parade rest through Mikah's tirade, and ignored the fact she didn't understand there were rules she wasn't above.  When Mikah got around to asking him about the name, the man's face went contemplative, before he said, "Yes, I know who he is."  Still angry, Mikah snapped at him, "So who is he?" despite the Captain had cooperated and answered her without delay or issue.  The Captain said, "He is the owner of the house my operative pointed out to you."  Jocelynn gave out a loud, "Ah Ha!" and Mikah demanded, "Thank you.  Now, was that so hard?"

After barely a thank you, Mikah went back to berating the man as he resumed his parade rest and ignored her bluster.  After she ended her rant with, "...So there!  Bye!" and a little wave, the Captain answered, "I'm glad I could help you would your morning exercises." and a blank face.  Mikah only grunted, "Uh-huh." and the man let Mikah and Jocelynn out of the building, locked the door behind them and went about his work.  Happy they now knew how the name slotted into the situation, and could guess what it proved, Jocelynn mis-stated history, saying, "So, I guess we go in, as Sekea said, guns blazing."

Jocelynn said they'd have to seriously surprise whoever was in that house and Mikah agreed they'd absolutely have to get the jump on them.  Getting back to the cutter, they explained everything to the others and Jocelynn then said "Aiden."  There was a moment when Aiden wasn't certain she'd called out his name before he answered, saying, "Yes?"  Grimly, and not considering the big picture, Jocelynn told Aiden he'd have to fly her up to orbit so she could get her battledress and combat gear.

Aiden responded, asking, "Are we sticking with the current plan of going to the ship and coming back covertly?"  Mikah said they weren't going with that plan.  She told them she would make an excuse that they had to return someone to their starship and the cutter would return after the rest of them had breakfast.  Next, Jocelynn stepped in to say they could get some Imperial back up, suggesting a squad from the safe house.  Of course, they'd only seen the Captain and four others, so all they "knew" was that the safe house had a fire team.  The Captain had been against blending their missions at all, and had not given any hint he had more people.

With everyone looking at her, Jocelynn said, "We're going to need fire power, and we'll need enough people to block every possible exit for this guy."  When Mikah said, "Yup:, Sekea asked, "So, are we going back to knock on the safe house door again?"  Of course, he'd not been there either time Mikah had knocked on the door and didn't know what kind of reception that would get?  Mikah said she'd call the Legate's office and ask for a comms link for the Naval base commander.  That made it clear she was following the path of least resistance, because the naval officer had already given her troops.

When Mikah called the Legate's office, the person who answered her was obviously very busy but still made time for her after she identified herself.  That call was brutally quick as the technician asked how he could help, Mikah asked for the comms code and it was sent.  Wham, Bam and she was calling the Naval officer.  When she called that office, she got the officer's aide, who also asked how he could help and Mikah said she had to talk to the commanding officer.  While that call was on pause, Mikah snarked to the others in the cutter, "I don't deal with the little people and I don't care about their little titles and all."  That got laughs even as the base commander came onto the comms.

When he asked what he could do for her, Mikah said she understood they had their spy under arrest and were doing what they needed to do in that case.  She then told him her crew were preparing to go after the assassin, saying that was the man who tried to assassinate the Duke of Lanth.  She continued that she knew where the man was, and just needed backup.  She finished up, asking, "So, we were wondering if you could help in any way?"  The officer smiled very enthusiastically and Mikah thought he was certainly on board.  Then, the man asked where this target person was?  When Mikah said the man was in a Erskin village named Wezsaen, things changed quickly.

The officer said, "In order to support that, we'd have to ask permission for that from the Legate and the Count before proceeding.  Then, we'd have to organize a military force to invade Clan Erskin borders, because this would be a military invasion."  He continued, "Based on my experiences, I'm fairly certain the Count would want this worked out with the leaders of Clan Erskin, so it likely wouldn't happen for at least a number of days."  Mikah asked, "Can't you give us a small covert team?" and the man said he couldn't if the team were going to be Imperial troops.

The officer said he would like to, then said he'd seriously like to, after the attack from Clan Arnstruther days before.  But his rules were tied by regulations, the rules of engagement and the operational needs they'd have to handle.  To the man's credit, it really did seem like he wanted to take part in the operation.  Mikah thanked him and said she'd get back to him and he did answer, "Let me know if I can help you."  She could feel that if the action would have targeted Imperial territory, he'd have jumped at the chance.

Disappointed, Mikah called the Count's office next, and wasn't surprised when she got a staffer.  When that person asked Mikah how they could help, she said who she was and that she was calling to speak to the Count.  What did surprise her was that her call was then routed directly to the Count!  When Mikah said "Good morning Your Excellency." he answered back, "Good morning at this normal and reasonable hour." with a smile on his face.  When the Count asked what she needed, Mikah began the 'long wind up' towards what she wanted.  She first said she was certain he was aware her crew were instrumental in the apprehension of a spy working in the Ministry of Justice.

After the Count nodded, agreeing with that, Mikah continued, "And now, we have a good indication of where the attempted assassin is in this village, and we just need a small clandestine fire team to help us to subdue this gentleman and all his hanger's on, so we can take him into custody."  After nodding, the Count said that he'd have to talk to the Clan Erskin leadership in order to support this action with Imperial troops.  Mikah's stomach dropped when he said he hoped they could agree to set up a cooperative operation between Imperial units and Clan Erskin units.

The Count also suggested he "hoped" it would be a mixed arms unit of Imperials and Erskin troops, but he'd bet they'd end up working with a unit which was entirely Erskin.   The unspoken subtext was, 'You would lead the way in and eat all the nasty jobs and they'd loot any of your bodies.  Due to enemy or "accidental" friendly fire.'  Mikah but the bullet, asking how trustworthy she'd find them and was told they'd almost certainly kill the assassin while trying to capture him and the Count couldn't make any promises about the survival of her people.

The Count's words and tones told them they were dealing with the political realities of the system.  What Mikah wanted was difficult for the Count and Imperial military to do because they had to live here.  And such an act would not only destabilize the Erskin but would change how all the clans viewed them.  It could set Imperial policy on Denotam back centuries.  When Mikah muted the comms and wondered if there were pirates in the system, Sekea muttered, "Yeah.  Apparently, us." and got laughs.

Aali suggested they check with the ports and see if Kishman was in system with his ship?  Mikah shot that down hard, and thanked the Count for his time.  The Count apologized for not being able to help but promised much more support after they got the man back inside Imperial borders.  When it came to working with the Erskin, Jocelynn said they didn't have the time to wait for something to be agreed on and Mikah said she didn't trust them.  A comment most in the crew agreed with.  Especially when trying to detain a natural born citizen of the Clan.

Realizing they'd be on their own, Mikah suggested they get breakfast and pick up Jocelynn's knives as if nothing had changed.  Mikah then said they'd call on the Ashshu and tell him they were making a run into orbit to check if they had anything left on their starship that the villagers might like to buy?  If not, it was nice to meet him and good trading with him.  After that, the group geared up and got moving for chow.  Sadly, they hadn't remembered the day before when Sekea had "talked about" placing an order, but not done so before they moved off to the weapon smith's shop.  So, there wouldn't be a pre-ordered package waiting for them when they got to the baker's shop.

So, when they got to the baker's shop, he was both very surprised and pleased while he grabbed many staffers and started working to scrounge what he had left after the morning customers had been and gone.  When he started to apologize, Mikah made it clear she was sorry and that it was the fault of her people, not him.  Mikah said as long as he had caff and very sweet pastries, they'd be good.  Instantly more pleased, the man sent a few of the kids working for him to run for hot steaming pots of caff.  He then started calling out orders to make the desired pastries appear on serving platters.

The crew sat to eat buffet style, while those manning the platters would both keep them full and keep mental counts of the items eaten so the bill could be correct in the end.  While they did, Mikah ordered, "Everybody have seconds!" and then asked if they could get pastries to go?  The baker was incredibly happy to do that for her and pleased at the "bumper payment" that would augment is pre-lunch sales!  In the end, he said he could fill a CrI 100 box for them and throw in what they'd eaten as part of the deal!  Mikah was pleased with that.  The kids quickly got back with the hot caff and the crew soon found out what they called caff tasted very much like cow piss!

Getting On The Hop
     Eating and laughing, Mikah commented on some of the "high energy" drinks she'd tried in her day.  While they were eating, Mikah got a call from the Legate.  After the greetings, the Legate said he just got new information which he hoped didn't affect her.  After she nodded, the Legate asked if she recalled Kennot Watalo?  Mikah's words and facial expression both said she did and the Legate continued.  "Apparently, he landed in a village about forty kilometers from you named Apkope."  When Mikah nodded, the man explained that he'd learned from his people there that Mr. Watalo had screwed the pooch and things were going to shit quickly.

Having expected something like this, Mikah only nodded and waited for the other bolder to drop.  The Legate said that the way things were proceeding, there was a good chance there would be a military intervention."  When Mikah first relaxed, hoping that meant Imperial troops, she was slapped back to reality when the Legate grimly told her it would be a Clan Erskin intervention.  The Legate said the Erskin would "secure" every known Imperial citizen in their territory and he wasn't certain if the local authorities had reported them to their national offices or not?  So, he warned Mikah she might very soon have to deal with Erskin military units trying to secure her, her people and their gear.  Including their cutter.

Mikah sighed, and those who heard her echoed various flavors of, "Time to leave."  While they continued eating, the Ashshu came to visit them and asked about their future plans?  As planned, Mikah told him about going to look for more gear to sell.  Mikah also thanked him for letting her crew land and sell gear.  After they finished eating, they brought the 'take away' box with them and went to the weapon smith shop.  There, the shop master recognized them and led Jocelynn to where her knives were still cooling from the tempering process.  Jocelynn was able to handle them as she inspected the blades and said they were exactly what she'd ordered.

When she asked, Jocelynn was told there had been three master craftsmen working on the blades, but wasn't told they'd led the teams of other workers.  Still, she gave each of the master craftsmen CrI 50 each.  After that, she leaned close to Aiden and said, "Aiden, we gotta get outta here." in a quiet voice.  They then got back to the cutter and lifted for orbit.  One thing they were certain of was that the Clan would fly in forces and land them wherever they knew Imperials were present.  That meant there'd be air cover across the region and Mikah had to wonder how that would affect their plans?

When Mikah suggested they wait for things to calm down, Jocelynn dryly said that could take weeks.  After Mikah agreed, Jocelynn suggested they hit the house hard and fast.  She said they should come in low under the radar at high speed, land and rush the house.  Or, possibly blast a hole in the house with the cutter's guns and used that hole to get into the house.  Either way, Jocelynn said it was gonna have to be quick, because she wanted to get this done before the Erskin mobilized their forces.  And her word was law with Zimzod in the hospital because she was the crew's ground commander.

When Sekea asked about taking prisoners instead of killing them all, they started talking about the assault from the start, first.  Since Aiden was flying, Aali commented that Aiden was gonna have to fly the way he had in his scout days.  Swooping in hard and fast from orbit.  Moving in fast before those on the ground had time to react.  It would have to be a crash dive down to the deck far from the village, followed by flying at almost ground level to stay under scanners all the way in.  That said, she addressed Sekea's question saying they needed the assassin alive.  If the rest of the people got in the way, they were collateral.  She regretted that but that would have to be the way it was.  She wrapped that up saying, "I'd rather them be dead then we end up dead."

When Jocelynn was asked who the primary and back up teams would be, Jocelynn said they were too few to separate into teams.  She again said Aiden would have to do some fancy flying and Mikah said they'd have to stop and pick up Fesic if they planned to use the cutter's guns.  Jocelynn agreed with that.  Jocelynn then started assembling their best gun-toters and Mikah volunteered for that, and said Aali was good too.  When Jocelynn told Sekea to join, he replied, "I know which end of a blade to hold." with a smile.

Jocelynn reinforced the fact that they wanted the assassin alive.  She told them all she was going in with two weapons and one of them would be loaded with tranq rounds only.  As they nodded, Aali suggested that she cover the team's six and play security so they don't get attacked from behind, and Jocelynn liked that.  Mikah then jumped in. having comm'd the berth and woken up Colinne and Fesic before briefing them on the situation.  Next, she said, "Colinne, we're going to need you to monitor communications and keep track of what's happening outside."

When Jocelynn said they should fly in with the stands of woods between them and the target house, she was reminded she wanted to be able to use the cutters guns, so that wouldn't work.  They had to come in with an open fire slot to attack the house.  So, they'd fly in from the south where the land leading them in was open.  Sekea asked about using the cutter's guns to breach the house because Jocelynn wanted the assassin alive.  He asked if the man might die when they popped the house and the air left it?  Jocelynn said she'd count on the people inside getting to breather masks and then having to get in their vacc suits.  In fact, she was counting on that buying them time to land and begin their attack before the defenders could get organized.

When she was asked how they'd ID the assassin if they were all in vacc suits, Jocelynn nodded and admitted that would be an issue.  She said to try and ID who they were shooting at, but not to put themselves at risk.  If they couldn't ID an opponent, shoot for the legs first.  Then, ID the person and do what was needed if they had to.  But she again stressed that they wanted the assassin alive.  Especially since Tranq rounds would likely bounce off of vacc suits.  Sekea then asked if any of the non-lethal weapons they had would work against vacc suits?

They checked the list of gear they had and Aali pointed out they had four sonic stun pistols in the ship's locker, which would be helpful.  Various people had bought tasers, but those would fire needles, like the tranq needles fired by snub weapons, so they'd likely bounce off the vacc suits too.  Jocelynn decided they'd deploy the stun pistols and decided everyone would ride up to the ship to arm up before they landed at the berth to pick up Colinne and Fesic.  Jocelynn said they'd deploy the stun pistols to herself, Mikah, Aali and Fesic.

Planning the supply run to the ship, Fesic asked for his laser rifle, green web-gear and combat armor.  Hearing that, Colinne joked, "Don't forget his brown pants." and got laughs.  Fesic also said they should grab the breaching charges too.  At first, there was resistance to that but the others came around and Mikah said she'd decide on that in orbit.  With a handle on what they wanted to do, it was time to get off the ground before Clan Erskin forces started arriving to ask questions if not provoked into opening fire.  So Aiden was told to get clear of the village and then stand the cutter on its tail and ignite a heavy burn.

After they were off the deck and rising, Aiden called the shipyard to say they were again in-bound.  When he got complaints this would interfere with the work being done, Aiden apologized, said they needed gear left aboard the ship, and would get in the way as little as possible.  Then, they only had to wait until the cutter docked and they had a secure seal.  From there, teams split up to grab personal gear, equipment from the ship's locker and gear from Fesic's stateroom.  Outside common gear like the breaching charges and stun pistols, people had to decide what they wanted to bring to the party?

Jocelynn snapped into her battledress and grabbed her two snub pistols, her gauss pistol, her laser pistol along with a portable densometer.  Because she was ambidextrous, Jocelynn knew she could fire lethal rounds with one hand while firing Tranq from her snubbie in the other hand.  Technicians scrambled out of her way when encountering her and were glad she was going "elsewhere", though rumors started spreading among the work crews aboard when they saw Mikah's people were obviously arming themselves for combat.  Mikah checked the locker for flash grenades, but didn't find any of them, so she ordered everyone to bring what they had.  When no one else had them, Mikah handed out two each from the fourteen she had.

Since Jocelynn had grabbed the first of the ship's breaching charges, Mikah grabbed the other.  Mikah also got into her combat armor and grabbed her laser pistol, a laser carbine and her gauss rifle.  Aiden armored up and loaded his snub pistol with both ball and high explosive rounds in opposing files.  He also slung the sniper rifle across his back.  When the others saw the sniper rifle and questioned it, Aiden said he wasn't going in the house and planned to use the rifle to hold off the neighbors.  When Jocelynn said he was going in the house angrily, Mikah countermanded that.  When Jocelynn asked why, Mikah said they wanted the cutter's engines kept hot and Aiden ready to get them off the ground fast.  Jocelynn agreed with that and let it go.

Aali had armored up and grabbed her gauss pistol and custom snub pistol.  She also brought her laser sword and accepted the stun pistol Mikah gave her to use.  Aali also took one of the EMP grenades Emkir had left behind, but warned everyone she had it.  Because that would kill all electronics in the house and close by, it would fry all their comms and computers and lock up Jocelynn's battledress, possibly killing her if no one got her out of the dead armor before she suffocated with the suit's life support suddenly dead.  So, that was a weapon of last resort if it would be used at all.  Aali also brought her hand computer with her, because it had the lock pick program Emkir had used.

Done gearing up, the crew got back to the cutter and started the trip down to the dirtside port.  During that time, Fesic and Colinne got dressed and ready.  Since Colinne had all her gear with her, she had said she'd wear her vacc suit for armor, and have her gauss rifle and pistol ready.  Mikah had reminded Colinne she expected the woman to stay on the cutter, to monitor communications and other things.  The way she'd said other things made Colinne certain Mikah knew about her abilities, if not all the facts.  Still, Colinne nodded and said she'd rather be watching then not if she became needed.  Mikah only agreed on that.

During the burn down, Aiden called the downport to warn them the cutter was coming in hot, and planned to pick up two crew and lift again.  Aiden added that they'd be lifting again for a quick 'there and back' in and out of Erskin airspace and might be coming back hot.  The controller he had on with him made a face which said the man wanted to ask Aiden fifteen to twenty very pointed questions, but Aiden could also see the torso of someone in a naval uniform just behind the man.  And the controller just grit his teeth and said, "You are clear to land."  That made it clear someone in authority had backed them up without telling them.

Aiden's dive wasn't the type of dive that was meant to avoid detection, but one meant to avoid targeting and anti-craft fire.  It was such a hard, steep dive that it managed to build up significant heat even entering the very thin atmosphere of the world.  Throwing in grav controls and other systems, Aiden managed to not only bring the speed down but bring the ship to a slow moving hover before ending up in a hover over the parkbay.

When he settled the ship into the open central court in the parkbay, he saw the doors to the transport tube were opening.  At the same time, the controller let him know they could bring the carrier out for him to land on, and they'd bring him into the berth, or he could fly in on his own controls.  Aiden knew that was very unusual, because a screw up in the tight confines of the tube could be disastrous for the entire parkbay.  Still, he chose to fly in himself, and gently maneuvered the ship through the turns while moving to their berth.  There, the doors were open and both Colinne and Fesic were sealed in their vacc suits waiting.

After they settled in the berth and unbuttoned, Fesic and Colinne boarded the cutter and Aali pointed to Fesic's armor bag and said, "Your change of clothing has been delivered, Sir."  While that was happening in the cutter's aft section, Mikah asked Aiden how they were doing for fuel?  That was because they'd not really used the cutter before, except the rescue of the Baron and his daughter.  Now, they'd been relying on it heavily and not checked until that moment.  When Aiden checked, they were low enough on fuel that Mikah said they should top up to not risk falling out of the sky while fleeing Erskin air units.

Aiden called to the port, advising them they wished to "Top off" the fuel in their cutter and were directed to transit to the port's fueling station.  After making that transit, the process of refueling took thirty minutes and cost them Cr 1,200.  While they fueled up, Aiden and Mikah discussed the flight, which started with a steep climb into low orbit before they changed their vector to do another steep hard dive into Erskin air space.  That would have to be far enough away from Wezsaen that the villagers wouldn't notice it.  Then, Aiden would have to level off just above the deck and drive in at high speed with a second seater scanning ahead and warning him of any obstructions or rising terrain.

Mikah said she wanted to do that, but Fesic pointed out he'd have to be in the second seat to operate the cutter's guns.  Because they'd have to use the guns if they were attacked, and they'd certainly going to be in hostile space if not on entry then on departure.  When Mikah realized the weapons controls were on the front console, she agreed to let Fesic be Aiden's co-pilot.  That was despite her misgivings about the lies Fesic had told when they first flew in to Erskin space.  Moving to the aft, Mikah took the chance to get her weapons ready.  Throughout the flight, Colinne did her best to meditate until the call for weapons hot.

The plan they'd finally decided on was to come in like a strafing fighter at high speed.  When they were very close, Fesic would fire the lasers to blow a hole in the south-west corner of the house.  That would not only blow out the house's atmosphere and heat, but would knock the inhabitants about, confuse them and hopefully keep them confused until the cutter was on the ground and the crew attacking.  Jocelynn would lead the way if only because no one else would be able to keep up with her, and they should all move in to support her as quickly as possible.  Fesic would be the last man out, because he had to leave the flight deck while all the others could exit the hatch almost as one.

In the cutter, Colinne would man the flight deck, because Aiden would leave the engines hot and ready.  Aiden would grab his rifle and do his best to pick off any targets he could see, though they would be landed very close to the house so the structure would block almost all visibility until people reacting came around the south-east corner of the structure.  So, at that range, it might have been better to bring one of his pistols, or a shotgun, instead of the rifle.  Making sure they knew their man, Jocelynn shared out the holographic file so people could view it on their HUD's or personal computers.  She also repeated, "We want this man alive!"

The bad news was, everyone in the house would know they were under attack.  Those in the house who were fast on their feet and thought quickly and clearly might well have managed to get into vacc suits, and that almost guaranteed the assassin would be one of them.  That would make it hard for them to identify him.  Especially at range, so they were reminded to shoot for the legs.  The slower defenders would likely be in breather masks and easier to identify.  And, since they'd blown a hole in the house, even tranq'ing them would be fatal, so it wasn't worth the dart and they should simply kill anyone who was obviously not the assassin.

While they flew, Aali said it was good Jocelynn was in her battledress, because she'd be the nastiest thing on the battlefield.  Jocelynn only snarked that was true if she was the only one in battledress.  When Aali said they had no suggestion anyone in the house had battledress, Jocelynn laughed and said, "That probably means the building is a Zhodani safe house and they had a squad of twenty battledressed troopers hidden under the house in a basement."  They all laughed at the dark humor.  More seriously, Jocelynn was worried about what the assassin had stored with him, and that he just might have battledress of his own.

Having made low orbit and before the dive started, Colinne used her hand comp to send a message to Fesic asking for him to announce when he was weapons hot and give a 'firing in-3-2-1' call before he opened fire.  When Fesic agreed, Colinne planned to start her "area scan" when he called "3".  She knew that would cost her, but she wanted the best chance of determining how many people were in the house if she could?  But, she also knew range would cost her more energy and effort the further out they were.

Making things harder on Colinne, she'd never been to the village or experienced what others had when they did visit the site.  That meant she'd have to work to 'sense and exclude' while narrowing her field of concentration down.  With the speed of approach, she'd also have little time to narrow the field down as they came in.  Ironically, the in-atmo range of the laser would normally be an issue, but Denotam's atmo was damn thin.  So, the range was longer than allowed by the curvature of the planet's surface.  And, thanks to the curvature of Denotam, the house would become "visible" over the horizon in 4.5 Km.  At the speed they were moving, that left Colinne a ridiculously short time.

The good news for both Colinne and Fesic was that they'd planted a working camera there, and could map that point on the cutter's computers.  Because of that, they could map the curvature of the planet, and their movement in a straight line and count down the approach time.  Colinne could also filter her scan for certain type of emotion, so she could look for fear, terror, surprise and more.  So, that would help her lock things down even if those around the target house experienced lesser values of the emotion.  Still, she was talking tens of seconds at that range, and perhaps two scans.  After the cutter landed, she could pump extra energy into reading surface thoughts for a group and see what she got back?

Added to the stress of the dive, the "glide" at tree-top level and all the timing questions, there was the large and increasing comms traffic they suddenly started getting as more and more Erskin commands realized they were penetrating their air space.  Of course, everyone aboard who heard it just ignored it, because if they were angry "now", just wait until they see what happened next!  When they flattened out into their run towards Wezsaen, they had no initial indication they were getting anything other than comms traffic.  That was largely because no one knew where they'd turn during the dive.  That would certainly change after someone figured out where they were going, but that was the point of diving into a tree-top flight.  They'd not show up on sensors.

Because they didn't show up on sensors, it would take time for satellite surveillance to acquire them, or for enough people to call in to a central command, for the Erskin to figure out where they were and what vector they were moving in?  Add to that, the fact that fighters many kilometers away had to then be scrambled or re-directed to an intercept course, and the odds they'd be intercepted "before" they got to Wezsaen was almost null.  Of course, once they were on the ground, the chance they'd be tracked, targeted and fired on was higher.  That was why the tactic was so valuable against lower tech worlds.  Of course, above tech level 11, things got more dangerous because sensors got better.  But that was a concern for another adventure.

Adding to that excitement, the speed at which things had to be done forced everyone to move very fast, Aiden was literally tied to his boards just keeping them from smashing into the ground, or buildings, or hills and trees, until he also had to start slowing down.  Because if that wasn't done right, "they" would go through the rest of the house after Fesic shot a hole in it.  And Fesic was constantly calling out data to Aiden, and had to keep doing that even while lining up his shot, timing it and taking the shot.  And Colinne's thoughts raced the microseconds burning away as they moved closer, slowed and came to a landing.

Finally, Fesic announced, "It's nice we weren't intercepted", showing he'd not been educated on the flight physics and strategies that went into the maneuver.  But, Aiden had, and that was what was important.  So, Fesic's lack of education could be ignored.  Colinne's first scan was burning energy for almost nothing because she got a confusion of many presences.  The second scan was better than the first, because she now had a mental read of what to expect and how to adjust her feelings and senses.  Finally, closing on the house and slowing, Colinne was able to push her concentration on the house she saw on a visual feed to her hand comp from the cutter's vis-light sensors.  Pushing out that overpowered scan, the others saw her working on "something" on her hand comp when she said, "Five targets in sight."

Everyone in the crew knew Colinne was a former Scout, and how good she was with computers.  Only Mikah, Aali Zimzod and Emkir had seen her resume, and knew Colinne had been "something else" as well as a Scout.  Those not in the know figured she'd learned some kind of computers - sensors trick in the Scouts and some hoped she'd someday teach them how to do it?  Aali didn't know sensors well, so the announcement didn't cause any questions there.  And Mikah was just pleased to have assigned Colinne to "monitor things".

From the comms, which had quieted down if nothing else, they finally heard a single firm and strident voice speaking in military cadence ordering them to land and be prepared to be intercepted and questioned!" in a tone that assumed total control of the situation.  While they ignored the voice, they were certain the man speaking believed his threat was very real, dire and able to be acted on.  Aiden snorted at that level of self-delusion because he'd heard the same thing while making such landings in the Scouts.  To give the man his credit, they did see traces at the extreme edges of their sensors which had now started turning to vector on their location.  So, they'd still have to act fast after they landed.

Blasted House layout As planned, Jocelynn had moved to the cutter's air-lock before the others gathered at the hatch.  The hatch dropped just as the lock opened and Jocelynn bolted from the cutter lock to the hole blasted into the south-west corner of the house.  Getting inside that, she could see it had been a sort of utility room.  The others were scrambling to follow her while Fesic also exited the flight deck and lock.  Aiden took his position in the lock and Colinne moved to the flight deck where the rest of the crew assumed she would keep up her magic with the sensors. 

Moving in fast, to take advantage of whatever surprise she could find (following the purple line), Jocelynn smashed through the last of a standing closet wall and made her entrance to the building's living room. As she did that, she yelled out, "Surprise Bitches!" but she was also surprised to see three men in the space.  There was a brief pause, because the three men seemed more surprised than she was(Marked 1, 2 and 3 on the map).  All three were wearing breather masks and desperately trying to get into their vacc suits.  And none of them were armed, or the assassin.

Jocelynn briefly considered hitting them with Tranqs, but the breather masks would run out before they'd wake and they'd die anyway, so Jocelynn brought up her laser pistol and fired at the right-most of the men.  Her beam managed to hit the man at the base of his neck and draw up his trachea, so the man was truly dead even as he fell.  The center man simply froze as if in shock while the left-most man fell to his knees begging in terror!  Jocelynn shifted her aim to the screaming man because she preferred a quiet workspace, and pulled the trigger.  That shot hit the man in his center torso while the laser did its best to turn the man into a jack-o-lantern.  The kneeling man stopped screaming and slumped over as Jocelynn switched her aim.

Almost as a matter of course, Jocelynn finished off the third man, but her attention was grabbed from his falling body as a shot from her left hit the wall to her right!  While Jocelynn turned to engage this new wanna-be corpse, Colinne had switched her tactics to surface thoughts.  So, she had to work to filter out the thoughts of her people as well as the opposition in the house.  At the same time, Mikah, Sekea and Aali were just catching up to Jocelynn, and her battle computer updated her that she had backup.  Jocelynn's problem was that she'd turned to face a man in a buttoned up vacc suit holding a rifle just as he'd finished shifting his aim to shoot her.

Making a snap shot, Jocelynn did try to shoot the man in his left leg even as he fired at her.  She did manage to hit his left leg and he went down, but she also took a light wound in her left arm!  As Mikah, Aali and Sekea had come up behind her, Jocelynn had obviously engaged someone and finished them off.  To their surprise, with a bit of standing wall between them and the man with the rifle, Jocelynn was suddenly shot, though it didn't seem to affect her.  They also saw her respond with her laser pistol.

Having arrived more to Jocelynn's left, where she was not as blocked by Jocelynn, Aali tried to rush forward and engage low with her gauss pistol.  Despite the fact she wasn't able to even see the target until just as she'd pulled the trigger, Aali still managed to hit the man as he was going down.  Jocelynn's shot had hit the man's leg and done heavy damage while Aali's fire cut into the man's abdomen.  Jocelynn's battle computer marked him as a mission kill unless he received immediate and intense medical care even as another part of the suit's computer began treating her wound and the armor self-sealed the damaged armor.

The man was on the floor as Jocelynn saw he was in an opening which led to rooms at the back of the house.  Beyond him, a hallway opened and led to the north, and presumably, other rooms.  Pointing to the man with her snub pistol, Jocelynn ordered, "One of you guys check that man's ID to see if he's the assassin." while Jocelynn started moving into the back hallway.  Mikah went to check the man and waved Sekea and his med-kit off because she was a surgeon and they were in active combat.  She swore the man needed to learn priorities.  You didn't stop shooting and start medicating until you were certain the fight was over.  At the same time, Fesic arrived in the living room and started clearing what turned out to be a closet and bathroom behind their closed doors.

Fesic then said he'd secure the living room because the front entrance opened from it and reinforcements could come at them from there.  Jocelynn said one of them should back her up, and Aali said she'd do that since that was what she'd said she'd do from the start.  Sekea also backed them up, after being waved off by Mikah, and seeing Fesic start securing the living room.  In the cutter's lock, Aiden felt more or less useless because he'd landed more or less parallel to the building's southern wall.  That created an 'east to west' corridor between the cutter and building, so he could see little and realized he should have hefted his pistol, due to reduced ranges.

Colinne's senses were clearing now, but she wasn't quite there yet as she concentrated on the area of the building.  While checking the first room in the passage, Jocelynn started to consider two things.  First, the hall made an obvious avenue for movement so it was a perfect funnel if the assassin wanted to ambush her.  So, she could move up the passage or literally clear the first room and then move into it to use the power of her armor smashing through the wall to the next room, in hopes of surprising any hidden combatant.

The other issue she worried about was a hidden space in that level of the building or a basement below.  A bolt hold below would let her enemy fire up under her as they heard her footsteps while she moved.  She considered pulling out the portable densometer, but knew she had to clear the floor so she didn't make herself a sitting duck for an attack.  Given that, she quickened her pace, hoping speed would be extra protection while she moved to the next room and cleared it.  About then, Mikah called out the fourth man was no one she'd ever seen and not the assassin.  Hearing that, Jocelynn said, "OK!  That's four out of five so the only one left is our target if he's here!"

Second Stage invasion As Jocelynn cleared the three rooms forming the backbone of the house's western structure, Aali and Sekea followed her.  Outside, Aiden could now hear the sounds of others gathering on the other side of the house.  Almost forty seconds into the assault, the locals had come out of their homes or turned to see smoke rising from the few small fires the laser hit had caused and noticing the rear of the cutter extending past the structure of the house.  So, Aiden was certain things were gonna go downhill after the shocked people rushed back into their homes to grab weapons.

Inside the cutter, things had cleared up substantially for Colinne.  While she couldn't get all the information she wanted, she did get a sense the man was building something quite complex and thinking heavily about getting vengeance!  When she broadcast that to the others, Mikah put her bet on the man building some kind of bomb.  Jocelynn heard what Colinne reported and could only think she was doing one hell of a job with the sensors and wondered why Aiden couldn't do that?!  Still, she'd cleared three of the four rooms forming the back wall of the house.  Now, there were two larger rooms, one of which she'd looked into through the window, and getting to them forced her to walk down a second passage running east from where she was.  Before acting, Jocelynn warned Sekea and Aali to fan out a bit and make sure the man couldn't escape if he was in the two remaining rooms.

Jocelynn considered those the perfect trap...if she used the hallway and doors.  So, she decided not to.  Moving into the last room she'd cleared, which shared a wall with one of the two 'likely trap' rooms, Jocelynn moved to the room's south wall before sprinting into the north wall!  Applying all the energy she could, Jocelynn smashed through the wall enough to bring her weapons to bear while fighting the rest of the way through the wall.  The move was designed to completely surprise and flank anyone laying a trap in the room, but no one was in the space.  Turning immediately, Jocelynn aimed her weapons through the door of that room so she could cover the open door of the second 'trap room'. 

Hoping for a little remaining surprise, Jocelynn charged south from the one room into the other at her fastest speed only to find that room empty.  At the same time, Aali and Sekea rushed down the hall checking the closets to the right side of the hall.  They found no one and the main floor of the house was now cleared.  Neither had any of them seen stairs or indications of an upper level or basement.  Outside, Aiden had abandoned the air-lock to check their sensors, looking for evidence of incoming air units.  Seeing that, Colinne took his position, just in case.

A Blast Of A Finale
     Announcing the surface structure was clear, Jocelynn also told everyone to look for signs of a basement, hidden or otherwise.  Mikah agreed with that and Colinne was finally able to get a clear idea of what that fifth man was doing.  He was the assassin, he was in a hidden basement and he was finishing the settings for a very large bomb assembled under the house!  The man's thoughts were, "Finish setting this and get out fast!"  While the others looked for trap doors or other hidden access points, Mikah said 'screw it' and set out the breaching charge she had on the living room floor.  Warning Fesic to get back, Mikah moved quickly and set the explosive off.

Basement ExposedSo, all of the others were looking for hidden accesses to a secret basement when Mikah set off the blast, and she wasn't surprised when it exposed part of the hidden basement!  The assassin had been surprised, and blown off his feet away from the bomb's control panel.  Jocelynn had been moving slowly because she'd been using the densometer and not finding anything.  Aali and Sekea were kicking at floorboards and Aali sounded off that she thought she found something echoing hollow just before Mikah's blast.

At the same time, Aiden sang out that their sensors were tracking the in-bound tracks of fighters moving toward Wezsaen.  So, it was a good guess their location was now known.  Given what Kennot had been doing in Apkope, they could bet there were already troops loaded on aircraft and in motion.  So, they could soon be facing fast reaction ground forces or air to ground attacks if they didn't get off the ground.  Announcing the hole and basement, which was darkened and hidden because it was only partly exposed, Mikah was already shooting down into the hole with her gauss rifle, while ignoring the stun pistol she had and throwing away Jocelynn's orders to "take him alive".

Firing on automatic, they would never learn if Mikah hit the assassin at all, because she did hit the bomb.  And, that hit set it off.  Sekea had moved into the opening to the living room as Jocelynn tried to move up, so the blast hit him as well as Mikah and Fesic.  Fesic had unfortunately come from the room he was checking the floors of to fire his sonic pistol into the basement.  The three of them were blasted back against the walls and knocked out cold.  The beam of a laser rifle had passed up from the basement, but only burned parts of the living room ceiling, which then fell thanks to the bomb blast.

While no one could see them, the slowly advancing townsfolk dove for cover at the sound of the explosion and looked around for its source.  In the cutter, Colinne and Aiden were rocked as the blast destroyed a good part of the living room part of the house.  Having been moving towards the living room, Jocelynn and Aali could now see into the mess because much of the wall they'd been moving along was gone too, and they'd both been knocked down.  Jocelynn could only rhetorically ask herself, "Great.  How many of us are dead?" as she got back up and moved in to check the disaster.  Aali was also awake.  The first thing Jocelynn noticed was that Mikah's body had fallen into the hole.

Jumping into the hole, Jocelynn planned to pull Mikah out of it but also looked around to see if she could find any sign of the assassin's body.  Seeing the remains, Jocelynn could see almost half the body less a leg and arm.  Since it wasn't worth grabbing the entire body, Jocelynn grabbed and ripped the man's head clear.  That way, they'd be able to identify the face for the reward.  In fact, Jocelynn could identify the man despite the blood and other issues.  Holding the head in her right hand because that arm was wounded, Jocelynn grabbed Mikah with her left and made a power jump out of the pit.

With her hands full, Jocelynn told Aali to grab either Fesic or Sekea's body and get it back to the cutter.  Jocelynn planned on returning for whoever Aali had to leave behind.  Being much faster than Aali, Jocelynn ran up to Colinne in the cutter's lock to hand off the head and Mikah's body and Colinne asked her to move Mikah into the back of the cutter through the hatch.  While Jocelynn settled Mikah on a pile of furs and clothing, Colinne looked for some kind of bag to stabilize the assassin's head.  Jocelynn was moving back to get Sekea's body when Aali arrived with Fesic.  All the time, Jocelynn was bitching that both their medics were out cold.

On the flight deck, Aiden was beginning to panic because the tracks of approaching aircraft were getting closer.  While Aali settled Fesic, Colinne had already started evaluating Mikah's condition while waiting for Jocelynn to get back with Sekea's body, so they could button up the cutter and launch.  That way, they could pressurize the cutter's cargo bay so Colinne could remove Mikah's vacc suit.  As soon as Jocelynn was aboard with Sekea, several of the crew shouted for Aiden to button up and get them moving.  As Aiden acted, those who were awake in the cutters aft saw Colinne had an aid kit and was caring for Mikah.  Colinne saw them realize she was a medic and called out, "Surprise!"

Hearing that, Aiden punched the grav controls to get the cutter off the ground before up-thrusting.  Yet again, they found themselves in the cutter, which was standing on its tail while Aiden burned hard for low orbit to escape the on-coming fighters.  While they rose, the flight deck was awash in calls from Erskin officers for them to stand down, land and prepare to surrender or deadly force was assured.  And, given some of them had done the same thing the last time Aiden burned for orbit, after the first night in the safe house, Aiden thought some of them really should have learned how this would end.

Climbing out of the atmosphere, Aiden had tracked a number of missiles fired at them from range, and also watched as they fell off and out of the sky.  Aiden chuckled when he thought about the people the missiles might fall on.  Despite the continued flow of urgent and strident calls from Erskin authorities, Aiden kept burning as hard as he could and finally reach space.  Still, Aiden kept a watch on the sensors in case the Erskin COACC had space fighters too.  After having surprised the others with a new revelation, Colinne knew she couldn't really treat Mikah, Sekea and Fesic.  But she could dig through their medical kits and use any automated systems she understood.

In space, Aiden next wondered where the closest medical facilities would be?  He had to amend that to "Friendly", because the closest hospitals were currently below them in Clan Erskin territory and he wasn't going back there!  So, his options were the highport or the downport.  And while the highport would be easy to get to, they would hold things up while they asked questions about why a ship lifting from Clan air space had wounded crew and the detached and bloody head of a dead man?  So, when he actually thought about it instead of being a thoughtless fool, his best bet was the downport.  Where the Count and his people were.  And where they'd get immediate support.

Having made his decision, and with Colinne treating their wounded, Aiden called the downport to say they were coming in with wounded and had a medical emergency.  Reacting to the call, the port control asked if they also had a flight emergency too, and needed support in landing?  Aiden said their cutter was fine and they'd be able to land without help, but needed medics when they touched down for three unconscious crew.  The good news was that the port popped a landing beacon right off, and said they'd have medical people waiting to assist with their wounded.

The bad news was that they were told they'd have to be prepared to be taken into custody because Clan Erskin's leadership were calling for them to be delivered back to the Clan for prosecution!  They assured Aiden the courts would manage the charges from the Clan and that the medical teams will evaluate the wounded for both treatment and an understanding of how their wounds could relate to any possible crimes committed.  Of course, the situation made Aiden really look forward to their reaction to the disembodied head.  They then warned Aiden to maintain his course and land as planned because they'd notified the orbital naval base to detach fighters and escort them in, in case they thought of docking with a ship and jumping out-system.

In a dry and annoyed voice, Aiden thanked the port and continued his burn while he cut the comms and then called the Count's office.  When he connected with the office, Aiden introduced himself with his titles, and added that he served under Lady Mikah, before asking to speak to the Count immediately.  The man who Aiden was transferred to also heard a comms arrive from the port demanding he cease all external communications except with the port since they were about to be taken into custody.  Asking Aiden to connect him to the port's channel, the man waited until Aiden finished the settings.

The man then angrily told the port technician, "Port control, this is Baron Garmu Shishkamgi.  Stand by on this channel and have no further communications until I resolve the situation."  He then ignored the port while asking Aiden where Mikah was?  Aiden told him, "Lady Mikah is currently unconscious, and being medically tended to by one of our crew." in a matter of fact tone.  He continued, "We have two others also wounded and unconscious, and are on approach to the downport."  He finished, "And, we do have evidence of Clan Erskin harboring the assassin."  The Baron answered, "Copy and understood.  Land at the base and I will call the Legate.  We will take the appropriate military steps and advise Clan Erskin this is being declared a military intervention."

Switching tones again, the Baron then demanded, "Who the fuck is on this line from the starport?"  When the port technician identified himself, the Baron commanded, "You will lend all aid and comfort to Lady Mikah's people and have medical personnel standing by, and you'd better damn well make sure she and her people recover!"  The port man could only agree to the command which came from the Count's office.  That didn't change the landing beacon the port had activated, nor did it stop a flight of rampart fighters from the naval base from approaching on their dorsal starboard!

When they closed enough, the lead fighter pilot advised them to be prepared to be taken under protective escort and continue to carry out the landing.  He also said the fighters would handle any incoming fire.  That surprised Aiden, and he sent his thanks without getting a response back.  Checking his sensors, Aiden noticed other fighters vectoring in on their cutter, which he'd assumed were also from the naval high-base.  What he hadn't noticed until then was that the movement of some of those fighters looked "odd".  Tuning their sensors on those fighters, Aiden realized those were old tech level 10 clunkers and realized they had to be Erskin fighters!

The sensors told Aiden they were likely old junkers someone had sold Clan Erskin, and they didn't seem to be operating well.  From what he could see, neither did the Erskin pilots.  Aiden watched as the Erskin fighters closed on their course and also saw another flight of ramparts move into position.  That flight was led by a naval commander who identified himself, and said they were prepared to engage if the Erskin fighters didn't return to their hangers.  Sensors said everyone's weapons were hot.  Aiden could have activated the ship's automated weapons controls, which would defend the ship, but he'd been told to continue landing and let them deal with any fights.

Doing his best to ignore the fighters, Aiden began the descent over the down port, and as they came in, he saw the beacon led them back to their parkbay and berth.  In visual range, he could see the parkbay was surrounded by a large number of emergency service vehicles with flashing lights.  After they settled into the berth and unbuttoned, they only saw medical and support personnel in addition to the berth's technical staff.  When they readied to disembark from the cutter, Colinne had been working on the wounded, so Jocelynn had the stasis bag with the head in it.

During the flight, Colinne had done her best to diagnose the three and determined they'd been hit and knocked out by the blast shock wave.  They were each certainly concussed, but how badly was unknown.  Mikah and Sekea were mildly concussed, while Fesic was more heavily concussed.  But Colinne felt certain they'd all recover with the proper medical care.  When they landed, she conducted a hand off to the responding medical teams who had a lot more gear and training.  And while Jocelynn kept control of the severed head, she was also wounded and went along with being checked out and treated.

During the initial triage before they were ready to transport the wounded, Jocelynn pushed for a member of an Imperial Law Enforcement on-world to evaluate the DNA of a "proof of death" bounty they had recovered.  With that, she held up the stasis bag but refused to surrender it.  When Jocelynn eventually did reveal the severed head, a number of the medics and other personnel got sick or recoiled because they didn't know the details of the situation.  Eventually, a man from the Legate's office who'd joined the fray made sure they got a better stasis container for the head and confirmed he'd handle the details for the crew.

After the wounded were taken to medical services, the rest of the crew were left to their own devices.  Colinne wanted to meditate, rest and recover because she could feel a head ache coming if she didn't scale back.  When Aiden floated the idea of playing some poker, Colinne said, "Next time."  Aali stripped out of her armor, cleaned up and started a GI party to clean all her gear.  Shrugging, Aiden decided to do stent work.  Ten minutes later, Aali had showered and changed and both Colinne and Aiden were in their own heads when the berth comms began to buzz.  When Aiden answered the call, he found it was Baron Garmu, calling to get a report on what happened in Wezsaen for the Count.

Aiden then gave a basic run down of the events as he knew them, despite the fact he really had no idea what had happened inside the house.  He did report that they'd killed the assassin.  When the Baron asked if they were certain, Aiden said the ID was confirmed and they'd brought back the man's head for DNA testing.  Raising an eyebrow, the Baron asked for an explanation of that comment.  Aiden told the man that by the time they were ready to apprehend the assassin, he was setting a bomb which prematurely detonated with the assassin in close proximity, and the head was then available for recovery.  When the Baron asked if they'd gotten the head intact, Aiden confirmed they had.

The Baron nodded and said they were very lucky.  He then asked why Mikah wasn't available and Aiden said she'd been in the blast radius with two other members of the crew, and they'd been knocked unconscious.  The Baron then asked if that was the extent of the crew's casualties and Aiden said one of the former Marines in their crew had been shot in an arm.  Nodding, the Baron said he'd check on the people they'd sent to medical services.  When the Baron seemed satisfied, Aiden said he had an image providing preliminary authentication of their success.  He then sent a picture of the assassin's severed head to the man.

The Baron winced at first, but didn't react more than that.  he then nodded and said, "I'm sure we'll test a DNA sample and determine the match."  Continuing, the Baron said, "I think you should know that you should probably stay within the bounds of the starport, downport or naval base for the next week or so.  Perhaps longer, since Clan Erskin have raised major objections to your actions with which the Count is currently dealing."  The Baron said, "We're fairly sure they can't do anything physical across that distance, as far as their military is concerned.  But there is no guarantee they don't have spies or other servants within the port operations."  After that, they cut the call.

On the way to medical services, the med-techs said they didn't want to deactivate the armor and get her out of it because the healing systems were working on her wound.  So, they'd remove the armor at the hospital.  That meant they connected a device to the Battledress that connected to her battle computer and recovered the data from her medical suite for the duration of the ride.  So she was being treated for the wound as well as mild shock and told she was lucky she was only lightly wounded.  So, she'd only end up with a small scar on her left arm to remind her of it.  Sadly, the wound affected the tattoo she had on that arm, so she'd have to have it changed to hide the scar's affects.

Jocelynn was also told she'd be interviewed by a pair of Imperial Naval officers, to understand what had happened in Wezsaen and create a proper report of the actions involved.  Jocelynn was more concerned with the damage to her armor, but was told that had only been composite damage and the suit could easily be fully repaired.  When Jocelynn asked how complex a fix it was, they told her it was simply shaving and sealing composite into the damaged spots to restore full armor coverage and a sealed environment.  They also told her they understood her actions in Wezsaen were on behalf of the Count, so her armor would be taken to armorers at the base to be repaired and returned to her later that day.

When Jocelynn asked about her crew, she was told they expected all of the crew to be returned to her ship later that day or that evening.  In fact, Jocelynn was eventually removed from her armor and had local anesthetics injected so they could remove the rifle round, still in her left bicep.  By the time they were done with Jocelynn, and the hole was sewn up, other doctors had woken Sekea, Mikah and Fesic.  They were now being evaluated.

When Fesic woke, his first thought had been to ask where he was?  He was told he was in the hospital on the Imperial Navy base.  He next asked about the rest of his crew, and was told several of his crew were under care for very minor issues and would all be fine.  The rest of his crew were uninjured.  Eventually, he pushed and learned Jocelynn had been shot and he, Mikah and Sekea had been caught in the blast shock wave and knocked out.

Mikah's whole world hurt, and she lay there trying to decide if she wanted to open her eyes and see why?  When she did, she saw she was in a hospital medical bay, and her first thought was, "I guess we won."  Of course, her more pragmatic side had to admit she could be in an Erskin hospital, so she was alive but that didn't mean they'd won.  As the blast came back to her, she had to admit there may not have been enough left of the assassin to get any money from, so surviving alone was not winning.  And she had no idea what had happened to her crew?  When Mikah moaned, "Where's the rest of my crew?", she heard Jocelynn answer, "I'm right here, boss."

Turning to Jocelynn, who was in hospital loaner clothes with a bandage on her left shoulder, Mikah asked, "We won, right?"  Jocelynn admitted, "We won.  We got him."  and Mikah slowly nodded as she said, "All right." and Jocelynn continued, "You got him."  Jocelynn added, "Maybe not the way we wanted to but you got him."  Mikah waved that away, saying, "It's alright."  When Jocelynn added, "Let's just say he got taken out by his own bomb." Mikah answered, "Live by the bomb, die by the bomb."  Switching rails, Jocelynn told Mikah, "Fesic and Sekea are in here with mild concussions, like you."  Mikah just said OK, without nodding for obvious reasons.

When Jocelynn told Mikah they were all alive, Mikah only jibed back, but, with those two, no harm done.  Right?" and both women laughed.  Jocelynn then said, "It might make Sekea smarter but who knows."  Mikah only chuckled a bit and said, "I doubt that."  Jocelynn continued, "And, we're under the protection of the Count now, so..."  Mikah answered with an OK, and they both agreed that was good.  An hour or so later, the set of doctors in charge of their cases came to visit each of them and check up on how they were progressing.  After they finished, they said they were comfortable releasing the four back to their crew and could provide transport to the berth.

Mikah agreed and they started doing the work to get the four signed out and discharged.  The bills were small, and covered by the Count's office as a courtesy.  Then, they loaded the four onto a transport and brought them back to the berth.  After cheering the return of the four, Aali asked, "Who's ready for booze?"  Mikah and Jocelynn both laughed and Jocelynn even suggested they break out the chocolate fountain.  With a fading smile, Aali said, "Sadly, the booze and fountain are on the ship."  Mikah said, "Then why'd you bring it up?  That was cruel." and Jocelynn added, "Yeah.  Really."  Aali only shrugged and said, "Well, I didn't shoot the bomb."

Mikah shot back, "You didn't have to go to the hospital either, so what do you have to be so cruel for?"  Waving that aside, Aali said, "Don't worry.  I'm certain we can order some booze."  Colinne added, "That was a great shot boss, one in a million.  Or, should I say one in five hundred thousand?" and laughed.  After they'd all laughed, Jocelynn suggested they order something in for dinner.  that reminded Aiden to tell the crew Baron Garmu, who worked for the Count, strongly suggested they stay in the port, if not in the berth, for at least a week.  Jocelynn nodded and agreed.

They started to relax and chatter, but not long after, there was a buzz at the berth entrance.  Aiden stepped over and looked at the panel, to see who buzzed the hatch?  He saw the Count, Baron Garmu and several other people.  Letting the others know who the visitors were, Aiden let the Count's team into the berth.  The introductions were made, and the extras turned out to be the Legate and two of his people.  After greeting each of them, the Count said, "Happily, we can have this little sit down even if we have to have it in less comfortable quarters."  Looking around the crew, the Count continued, "However, I think you all would be interested in the report from the hospital."

The crew leaned in as the Count told them, "The hospital did DNA tests on the remains you recovered, and confirms, in fact, that the remains were part of the fugitive we were seeking.  So we've confirmed you hit your target.  I would also like to tell you that I've spent the better part of the afternoon dealing with the Clan Erskin authorities.  At that, Jocelynn muttered, "Sorry about that."  The Count waved that off saying conflicts with the clans were constant, and this time, the conflict was worth the prize.

Standing up, the Count continued, "Still, there is a slight problem that your actions created, and which we will need your help on.  So, I was wondering if the name Kennot Watalo means anything to you?"  Various members of the crew made disagreeable noises when they heard that name.  The Count continued that Kennot and a passenger of his by the name of Cenawo Adsi were in a town not far from Wezsaen.  Jocelynn only grunted, "Good for him." while Mikah said "Yeah?" in a 'what's it to you' tone of challenge.  The Count said, "Well, when you went in shooting, the Erskin clan mobilized and that turned Messrs.' Watalo and Adsi's situation into a bit of a furball.

Unfortunately, the Count said that left a port rented hopper stuck in the town as well as the two men and one ton of Mr. Adsi's cargo.  Based on what they'd learned from and about Kennot, Mikah and Jocelynn were not entirely certain Cenawo Adsi was entirely to blame for the situation he and his ton of cargo were in.  They'd been fairly sure Kennot had badly made plans which would have screwed up the merchant's deal before they decided to steal Kennot's bounty.  The Count then told them Kennot had apparently disappeared into the woods leaving Cenawo Adsi along in the village and the Erskin were unwilling to let the man return to Imperial land with his cargo.

Since the Adsi seemed to be negotiating from a hostage position, and the port wanted the hopper back, the Count was hoping they might get help from the crew once they were feeling better.  Mikah asked, "You just want the hopper back?" in a tone that suggested the two men and cargo were disposable.  The Count said the Legate's people had developed some intelligence hinting the Adsi had only been negotiating a deal when Kennot started the local trouble and what Mikah and her people did was turn that up to a boil.  So, he and the other authorities would like to try and get him back with the hopper, and hopefully, his cargo.  Comedically, no one seemed to care about getting Kennot back.

When it seemed the crew were willing to help out in the situation, one of the men the Legate brought handed out copies of what they had on the situation.  It included maps of the village, the location of the hopper - which hadn't been moved by the Erskin, and other details the crew would have to read to understand what they were facing.  The Legate said they felt the crew could relax for a day and a half before things might get urgent.  The Count promised Mikah the Erskin would be "friendly" while they flew into their territory.  Mikah laughed, nodded her head slowly and said, "Yeah, sure."  When Mikah asked if the Erskin would hand over Adsi, his cargo and the hopper, the Count said they'd have to "work that out" on site.

The Count then said, "We told them we were sending you in as a negotiating team", Mikah demanded, "Do you know us?" in an "Are you an idiot?" tone.  The Count only smiled, shrugged and said, "Well, you're getting a reward.  That should make you happier about the deal."  When Mikah and Jocelynn tripped over each other asking if there was a reward for the new rescue mission, the Count made it clear he was talking about the half-million they were getting for the remains of the assassin.  Colinne chose that point to ask, "What about the spy?" and Mikah and others echoed the question.  The Count said, "We're still working on that.  But, there was a posted reward for the assassin..."  He got no further as the crew flooded him with repeated, "we know."

Nodding, the Count said they'd brought in the fugitive's remains and he assured them they'd get the half million.  He then said he'd taken the liberty of ordering dinner for them.  As Mikah and the others thanked him, the Count raised a hand as a signal and a troop of people came into the berth carrying food and comfortable furniture.  They even brought in a dining table.  They also brought in containers of a variety of local beers, and said they could ask for booze if they wanted it?

Fesic said they should get some Ardeni Awesomesauce, but the others laughed and pointed out they'd have to go back to Clan Glas and massively over pay if they had any left.  Colinne asked for caffeinated, carbonated brown soft drinks, Aali and Jocelynn ended up asking for two bottles of whiskey each.  The others would ask when they knew what they wanted and they all sat down to dinner as the Count, Legate and the others left.  While eating, they knew they had the evening to recover and Aiden talked up the idea of having a stent working session.

Sekea asked if they had any booze made from the meldo fruit.  But, since it was an acquired taste on his homeworld, the Count wasn't aware of any meldo-based drinks at all.  The Baron suggested a brandy distilled from the Ice gourd, a fruit cultivated on Denotam.  When Sekea said he'd try that, he was told they'd have a bottle delivered.  When the bottle did arrive, Sekea felt it was ok, but a bit too sweet for his preferences.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Mikah, Fesic and Sekea: Having dinner in the berth while recovering from concussions caused by a bomb blast
     Aali, Colinne, Jocelynn and Aiden: Having dinner in the berth
     Zimzod: Dealing with the fourth day of cleansing, 4 days from his second hit of Slow Drug.
     Rol: 7 weeks, 3 days until decanting

Next: The Calm Before Court