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Last Updated     Oct 2 2023
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The Calm Before Court

Updates, Invitations And Surprises
     The Count and his party had just left while the crew began to enjoy the catered meal his people had delivered.  Starting to eat, the caterer also invited them to order drinks stiffer than beer.  Colinne got several bottles of caffeinated, carbonated brown soft drinks.  Aali and Jocelynn each got two bottles of fine double-malt whiskey, and Sekea got a bottle of 'Gheid Rsabba'.  That came from a fermented fruit native to Denotam called the 'Ice gourd'.  While they ate, Aiden talked up a stent class after dinner, and the others were up for that.  Leaving them to planning, Mikah considered the coming mission she'd agreed to.

The first thing Mikah considered was that the Count had said, "We told them we were sending you in as a negotiating team".  Thinking that over, Mikah realized that would cover arriving, and not include anything happening after they landed.  That only meant the Erskin would let them land before the shooting started.  Especially since they'd been very demanding about getting the crew back, to try them, after their last covert jaunt into Erskin territories.  Realizing this could be nothing more than a trap the Count was given the chance to claim he didn't know about, Mikah changed her mind about doing what she'd said she would.  Somehow, that made the Count's delivered food taste better while she reached for her comms.

Calling the Count's office, Mikah identified herself to the answering technician and asked to speak to the Count himself.  After a number of procedural steps, Mikah was finally connected to the Count, who asked, "Lady Mikah.  Didn't I just leave this party?  Is everything not to your liking with the dinner?"  Mikah nodded, saying, "Oh.  The dinner is great, but your other proposition is not so good."  Uncertain what she meant, the Count asked, "What do you mean?"  Mikah answered, "Well, we're not going back to Erskin territory.  That would be like suicide,  Nodding, the Count said, "Well, that makes things more difficult for me but I can understand your position."  Mikah had planned to have to answer more of his objections and could only say, "Well, good.  Thank you."

The Count then told Mikah he'd reach out to another party to resolve the situation.  Nodding, Mikah sarcastically said, "Ok good.  We wouldn't want to hog all the fun", which he ignored.  He only shrugged and said he understood her situation.  Mikah again thanked him for the dinner, saying it was quite extraordinary.  Off to the side, Jocelynn asked if she was going to tell the Count why they didn't want to do the job?  Mikah only covered the microphone of her comms and said, "No.  He's accepting it and doesn't have to know more.  I already said we're not committing suicide so, there we go."  Quietly, to the side, Fesic mumbled, "Good explanation." in an approving tone.

Jocelynn accepted that while Mikah and the Count finished their call and they all went back to eating dinner.  While eating and chatting, Colinne activated the vid and switched to a news feed to listen for anything about their activities.  Since they'd been in an Erskin village and the Erskin demands for their blood were not being taken seriously, it hadn't escalated to news in the Imperial enclave.  Despite that, they listened to any news that was new in the cycle.

    Chronor(A6369A5-D  Z  Hi  Cp  G  810  Zh  M8)                                       Date: 333-1113
    In word from Chronor, the Zhodani High Council in the Spinward Marches announced word the crew of the Arkesh
    Spacers trading ship IMS Mizag Gi had been tried and they were considering a decision.  That ship had tried
    to enter the Zhodani Querion system to trade with a sophont race in the system, just after Zhodani laws had
    changed, restricting access to the race.  They seem to have been arrested in the Querion system after refusing
    to submit to orders from a Zhodani defensive ship.  The crew were then transferred to the Chronor system for
    trial despite the protests of Arkesh executives.  Ministers in the Imperial Diplomatic Ministry have been
    interfacing with the Zhodani on a legal basis.  They hoped to forge what bridges they could, and encourage a
    working relationship with the Zhodani Consulate.  Imperial officials are hoping to work out a deal as part
    of the legal proceeding.  With the recent installation of a new Imperial Ambassador, some members of the
    Imperial government hope this will be worked out in the short term.  Details on this issue have been hard
    to come by given Zhodani security.  Updates will be provided as they are determined.

    Rhylanor (A434934-F 2 Green Hi Cap 910 M2 V6)                                    Date: 360-1113
    Blockades between Bevey and Kegina, have allowed the forces of His Grace, Duke Leonard to separate and begin
    removing the illegal colonists from the Kegina system.  Those who had been removed from Bevey who were not
    suitable for current resettlement have been partitioned in favor of security while reestablishing the government
    of the Kegina system.  Stabilization of the situation on that world is being under-taken by the combined forces
    of the Duke of Rhylanor, the Unified army of the Rhylanor subsector and forces on loan from the Office of the
    Grand Duchess Delphine.

    Mire (A665A95-C  M  Hi Cp  G  110  Da  M6 V)                                           Date: 333-1113
    News from Mire arrived that the Darrian Confederation Government have completed negotiations with the Nonym
    System government.  To minor fanfare, the Nonym government have become a member-state of the Confederation.
    The agreement also allows for construction of both an orbital and down-base.  Project data released indicates
    the bases will include both operational base functions and a training facility.  When operational, the training
    center will process both local personnel and recruits from other facilities in the Confederation.  Initial
    establishment of the new base will be handled by the 64th Confederation Army Division along with separate support
    and construction formations.

    Glisten (A000986-F  2  Hi Na In As Cp  G  821  Im  K9 V)                                                               Date: 324-1113
    In an unusual move, word was released today by the Imperial Naval command in-system regarding a classified project.
    The move came after system-wide sensors were tripped due to an explosion of significant magnitude.  In a statement
    made by a Commander Shuim Gaashaka Karma, the explosion was caused by work on an experimental process regarding fuel
    tonnage reduction.  TAS can tie this new information to rumors regarding experiments to use "metallic hydrogen".
    While the Imperial Navy and other research organizations have been very tight lipped about all research, rumors
    have circulated about a number of projects.

    TAS has interviewed Doctor Halarmac Sejastin, of the GLIPS Department of Complex Physics.  The Doctor theorized the
    process would demand a compressor load with "pre-crunched" tanks of Met-H2.  While the Navy may also be using
    nuclear dampers to massage the process, the over-all process would demand significant energy input.  He would expect
    that to be proportional to fuel tonnage, to maintain containment.  The real issue would be the mechanical limits
    to a 'rate of conversion' back to liquid state, for use as fuel.  The Doctor suggested containment failure alone
    might not be catastrophic, thanks to blow-out panels and such, but that would still be destructive.

    Doctor Sejastin admitted the theory would demand the highest technology the Imperial Navy was able to deploy.  He
    was also certain the process would demand refined fuel as feedstock.  He guessed it would also require the most
    advanced nuclear dampers.  Power to run the dampers might come from a power plant in "jump-drive overclocked" mode
    though he admitted he'd only be guessing at the feed rate.  While the fuel to be processed could be tanked in from
    off-board storage, fuel used for the power plant operation would have to be in hard tankage, due to the pressure
    involved.  Those tanks would demand factor 15 armor.  And, once processed, the fuel couldn't be transferred except
    by cross-loading filled tanks, stored as small or large craft bays.

    Katarulu (B252665-B  B  Ni Po  G  201  Im  M0 V  M9 D)                                                               Date: 334-1113
    The merchant liner Archibald Douglas Narrowly escaped disaster today when an apparent drive failure prevented the
    ship from making a deceleration burn prior to interfacing with Permata, the gas giant around which Katarulu orbits.
    Due to quick actions of veteran Captain Makepeace, the Archibald Douglas was able to issue a Signal GK to the system
    and draw the attention of a shuttle bound for an orbital station near Permata.

    After moving some 31 passengers and crew to Shuttle 19, and an additional 11 to the ship's boat, Shuttle 19 was
    able to give the Archibald Douglas enough of a vector to put it into a nineteen-day elliptical orbit around Permata.
    As of the time of this dispatch, starport authorities were arranging for a relief flight to repair Archibald Douglas
    and rescue the remaining crew.  Captain Makepeace and Chief Engineer(and Second Officer) Nadia Asher broadcast that
    they had ordered the remaining crew to abandon ship, due to the dire circumstances.

    The pilot of Shuttle 19, a young man named Ephram Merawik, was in good spirits when contacted by TAS.  "No, man, we
    were 'appy to help.  We just trying to get through this world together before we get back to the Big Beyond.  We
    all have unfinished business in this world and if I can help people get it done so they don't need to come back to
    the Unpleasant Now when this turn is over, well mon, then I'm doing my part."

    In a text-only interview, Captain Makepeace announced that the drive failed on the Archie - as the crew
    affectionately refer to the 92-year old Type J Liner - immediately upon dropping from jump space, and that the
    ship was already on a vector to interface with the atmosphere of Permata.  The Archie and all 43 souls aboard
    would have certainly been lost.  Other sources, reporting anonymously to TNS, suggest rumors of a foiled
    hijacking, that was thwarted by the crew as well as a number of passengers.  When asked about this, Makepeace
    noted, "These situations, while rare, are given to hyperbole.  "Every person on the manifest is accounted
    for and no cargo were lost or damaged in the incident."

    Given that the 217th Fleet was on maneuvers, with many of the service ships using this downtime for scheduled
    maintenance, assets in the Katarulu system which could rendezvous with the Archibald Douglas were limited.
    "Don't worry about us", Captain Makepeace bravely reported.  "We appreciate the support from the starport, but
    this orbit is stable for some time.  We might even get repairs completed before our next perigee."

    The local representative of Sharushid, a parent company of Gamlindur Mercantile Finance UU(Glisten), the
    registered owner of Archibald Douglas has offered legal and medical support to all passengers and crew pending
    a complete investigation of the situation and subject to approval from the subsector office at Trin.
    Sharushid denies that anyone has been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of such support.

    As of the time of this dispatch, TNS has obtained at least three executed Non-Disclosure agreements.  Further
    anonymous contacts to TNS suggest it was unusual for a ship of the Archibald's class to exit jump with any vector,
    notwithstanding the fact their vector targeted the gas giant.  Since the Archibald did, it is expected that will
    be investigated by the Board of Inquiry.

After watching the news and finishing or storing the food, Mikah said she wanted a full workup done on all those injured during the attack on the house.  That included Jocelynn, who'd been shot, and she, Sekea and Fesic had been concussed.  When acerbic comments were made about Mikah being both affected and treating them, Fesic and Sekea were reminded Colinne was a trained med-tech, and could handle things under Mikah's orders.  And, despite her injuries, Mikah was a trained and experienced neurosurgeon.  Still, there was a bit of clarification until Mikah finally described the situation, saying Fesic and Sekea had moved up to the pit created when she's set off the breaching charge.

Mikah then made the rest crystal clear, saying the three of them had been in the blast radius when she'd shot the bomb.  Mikah then smiled and said, "You're welcome."  There was a pause before Jocelynn said, "Wait.  I wanna back up a moment" with a disturbed tone in her voice.  Mikah said, "Ok, let's back up", as if she were speaking to a slow child...or Fesic, and Jocelynn demanded, "What do you mean 'you're welcome'?"  Jocelynn's tone was also a bit annoyed.  Mikah repeated, "You're welcome" as if the comment spoke for itself, and her tone suggested she wondered what Jocelynn's issue was?

Jocelynn's first reaction was to say, "no-no-no-no!  I don't think so at all.  How many times did I say we need the guy alive?"  When Mikah simply said, "It wasn't possible" Jocelynn countered, "Yeah it was.  I could have gotten there and defused the bomb, or whatever."  Sadly, while Mikah could have shot the man before he set the bomb, that fact wasn't mentioned.  And Jocelynn was over-estimating her ability to stop the assassin setting the device and escaping.  Waving that away, Mikah said, "Well, then you have to be faster than me in reacting to stuff."

Jocelynn said she had been responding after having searched the house.  Her tone suggested Mikah should have been more responsible.  Fesic tried to defuse what he thought was going to be a knock down - drag out between the women.  He suggested, "There's no going back.  I mean, you know it's...  The bomb blew up."  Still, the real issue was following orders.  Under normal circumstances, Zimzod would have been 'in command', because the attack was a ground operation and not space combat.  With Zimzod in hospital, Jocelynn was the crew's ground commander, and couldn't have people doing anything they wanted without good reason.

There was a pause before Mikah said there was another issue to deal with after the raid.  With everyone quiet and waiting for the other shoe to drop, Mikah reminded them they been paid the KCr 500 reward for bringing back the assassin's head.  So, the ship would get Cr 150,008 while each of the crew would get Cr 38,888.  While speaking, Mikah tapped into the ship's funds and distributed the money.  Hearing that, Colinne checked her funds and then made a transfer of her own before announcing, I have just paid off my debt for the Zhodani gauss rifle."

Keeping the conversation derailed by the payday, Mikah interrupted the growing chatter on how much they'd been paid by saying, "If you think this is a pay day, just thing about what we'll get when we get to Lanth."  The inference was that they'd get lots more treasure when Lanth's Duke rewarded them for killing the assassin gunning for him.  Jocelynn shrugged that off, saying, "If he even cares."  Mikah countered, "I think he cares about somebody who tried to kill him."  Jocelynn shrugged, saying, "That doesn't mean somebody else won't try", which tap danced on the fact the guy they killed had been no more than a hired gun.  Colinne agreed with Mikah, saying, "There still can be a level of payoff or reward.  I mean, it may not be some kind of cash reward, but it would still likely be of value."

While the others thought about that, Colinne didn't add that she'd seen that in action.  The others didn't mention they'd seen different forms of payment themselves.  Their thoughts were interrupted again, when the port called to say an Imperial Naval vehicle was coming to visit their berth.  Surprised at that, they waited until a berth technician buzzed the naval personnel into the berth.  When the men arrived, they announced they were returning Jocelynn's battledress after they'd had repairs carried out.  They'd said nothing significant had been damaged, and the repairs were entirely cosmetic.  Still, they suggested Jocelynn check the suit's medical supplies, since those were not checked or topped off with a wound so minor.  Jocelynn thanked them and took her armor back.

With the evening wearing on, Sekea wanted to check the crampons they'd bought, and had in boxes in the berth, against the boots of his vacc suit.  After getting his vacc suit, Sekea also spent some time opening one of the boxes of crampons and pulled out a set.  He then spent some time checking to make certain the crampons would connect to the vacc suit boots as he had planned.  Sekea eventually announced he was pleased the crampons worked out.  During that time, and before setting her battledress to recharge, Jocelynn activated the suit's computer and pushed a print-out from the medical supplies section from the menu.  Looking at that, the amounts she could top off were very small, but they were there.

With those people doing their thing and Colinne meditating, there was a buzz and Mikah was told she'd received an x-mail.  Doing what was needed to receive the message, Mikah realized it was odd because it had been sent "In-system".  So, the person could have called her or sent an email on the network.  Using the link to open it, Mikah realized why this had been done through x-mail, when she saw who sent it:

        Denotam, Vilis, Spinward Marches
        Denotam Naval Base
        His Highness, Lucan Alkhalikoi Alkhalikoi, Prince of the Third Imperium
        Unto Lady Mikah Kirlim

            I request the favor of your company, along with your crew, et al, in ceremonies to be held within the
                Denotam naval base to be held in two days time at mid-day. 

      Signed: Prince Lucan Alkhalikoi Alkhalikoi

After Mikah read the message to them all, Jocelynn gave a wave and said, "Ah, fuck that guy" with a smirk on her face.  That got a lot of laughs.  Still, with a weary "Um, Ok", they could tell Mikah was tired of being at some nobleman's beck and call.  Opening her eyes, Colinne asked, "Are you gonna reply, 'Sorry.  I'm getting my hair done that day'?"  Mikah laughed but admitted they had to attend that event.  Nodding, they all considered the clothing they'd pulled off the Upgrade.  Mikah began to respond to the message, saying they would attend while she told the others, "Get ready for the firing squad."  Colinne joked, "At least we don't have to meet them tomorrow.  It's a Monday.

Med-Kit With people finishing their work, Jocelynn went back into her bedroom for the first time that evening.  Stretching while she walked, Jocelynn opened the door and scanned the place to see something odd.  laughing, she saw a red and black belt pouch that was obviously "new and out of place".  Looking closer, she saw the pouch was emblazoned, "Ninja First Aid Kit".  Moving closer, Jocelynn saw the pouch was a belt pouch, of reasonable quality and apparently meant for wearing as casual gear.  Still, Jocelynn knew it hadn't been there that morning nor had she put it there.

Done gazing, Jocelynn called out, "Alright, whose the wise guy?"  Doing so, she opened the kit and rifled through it to see the pouch had everything she'd expect from a basic simple kit.  Done with that, Jocelynn sealed the kit up and grabbed it.  Swinging it from a strap, Jocelynn walked out into the common area, again asking who the wise guy was?  When Mikah smiled and raised her hand, Jocelynn asked, "Does this mean I actually get to use it?" in a hopeful tone.  When Mikah told her, "Under supervision only", Jocelynn said "Awesome!"

When Colinne asked Mikah if she'd really planted the kit, Mikah said she hadn't.  When Colinne asked, "Well, who did?" Jocelynn said her first suspect was Fesic.  Fesic looked up and said, "I didn't put anything in your stateroom.  What are you talking about?"  Waving it off, Jocelynn said, "Well, whatever.  I'm going to use it so everyone be ready."  Having heard stories about Jocelynn, Colinne asked, "I hope there's a lot of gauze in it."  Laughing, Jocelynn said, "Yeah.  And a gauze shooter", which was a new one on Colinne.  Still, the others heard her and laughed, so Colinne guessed it was an inside joke.

When Sekea suggested the kit might have been planted by someone outside the crew, Mikah and Jocelynn both said that wasn't the case.  They both told Sekea this was a long running joke between the crew.  Colinne just sat back watching and giggling at the puzzle.  Noticing that, Mikah suggested it was her.  Colinne put her hands up and said she wasn't, but still had a knowing smile on her face.  After a short bit of back and forth, they decided it must be someone else.  Jocelynn waved that off saying, "Well, it doesn't matter.  You've all given me a start on becoming a successful healer", ignoring the giggles from around the room, along with Mikah's outright laughter.

Colinne then said, "Remember, when the Beep-beep-peep turns to one elongated beeeeeeep, they're as healed as they're gonna get."  The others laughed when Jocelynn announced, "My first patient will be Fesic".  Defensively, Fesic said, "I have a concussion."  Mikah answered that, telling Jocelynn, "I think he wants you to work on him."  After they all shared the laugh, things settled down, people started moving to their bedrooms and the crew settled in for the night.

A Slice Of The Strange
     With no official plans for the day, the crew hadn't set any unusual alarms and some had planned to sleep in.  Still, aboard the medical ship, Zimzod was woken early by his treatment team.  Mikah also woke up early in the berth, without medical help or planning, and cursed her traitorous body.  Being up, Mikah decided to make herself some caff at the very least, and made as much noise as she could while doing that.  Moving to the cupboards, Mikah fetched out a slice of bread to make herself toast.  Only, when she moved to the toaster and slammed a slice down into the device, it made a flushing sound!  Turning back to look at the toaster, Mikah saw a cage under it she'd never seen before.  And, in the cage, Mikah saw her slice of bread had fallen through and been caught.

Looking the toaster over, Mikah realized the cage had been added at some time, without her notice.  She was also very certain the flushing sound had come from the toaster too.  Frustrated and not wanting to get into it, Mikah took the untoasted bread from the cage and ate it as it was while waiting for her caff.  And all the while, Mikah was making as much noise as she could by simply moving about.  In his bedroom, Aiden was suddenly startled awake.  He rose with a sudden "I'm awake" as if he was Zach, and had fallen asleep on watch.  Pushing out of bed, he made his way to the door of his bedroom to peer out.

In her bedroom, Jocelynn also woke up by the noise being made.  Demanding why it was she couldn't ever sleep in, Jocelynn was annoyed until she heard the noises being made.  While it didn't sound like anyone was tossing the place, it did sound like someone was doing something invasive.  Getting out of bed, Jocelynn took the time to put some clothes on before moving out to see what was happening?  Peering from his door, Aiden decided something was happening and turned back into his room to grab his snub pistol.  Turning back, he realized he'd left the door open a crack.  Looking back to decide if he should close it, he caught the movement when "someone" walked past the door!

Aiden stepped back to the door and peeked out a bit more, at the person who'd passed his room.  He saw the retreating form of Jocelynn's body.  She'd left her room and was moving towards the berth's general living spaces.  Stepping into the living room, Jocelynn saw Mikah with a mug of caff, looking very annoyed.  Looking at Mikah, Jocelynn asked, "Problem?"  Mikah answered, "Who's been messing with the toaster?"  The question caught Jocelynn by surprised since she never really considered the toaster.  Or, anything in the berth's kitchenette unless she was using it at the moment.

Jocelynn first responded, "Not the question I was expecting."  She then asked, "Why?  What's wrong with the toaster?"  Seeing Jocelynn had started a conversation with someone, Aiden closed his door and went to dress before leaving his bedroom.  Mikah pointed back towards the kitchen and asked, "What's the contraption underneath, that makes it not toast?  Moving past Mikah, who now rose to follow her, Jocelynn said, "I'll look at it."  She moved into the kitchen, if only to see what the hell Mikah was complaining about?  Especially since it seemed Mikah was convinced Jocelynn knew what she'd seen just because she was seeing it.  In the back of her mind, she considered reminding Mikah they weren't Zhodani and couldn't share things just by complaining about it.

Moving into the kitchenette area, Jocelynn spotted the toaster and walked closer.  Doing so, Jocelynn noticed the "cage" under the device that she didn't remember being there.  She didn't see anything in it, but saw it appeared well placed to catch bread falling out of the toaster's bottom, though bread shouldn't ever fall out the toaster's bottom.  Turning back to Mikah, who was babbling about 'bread that should be toast', Jocelynn asked if was rigged with explosives.  Mikah only shrugged and said, "I don't know" even though she had looked at the cage up close when she'd pulled the bread from it.

Shrugging, Jocelynn grabbed the toaster and lifted it off the counter.  When she did, she saw the cage came up with the toaster, and also saw a "slot" had been cut into the counter so the cage could sit under the device.  Looking back at Mikah in complete confusion, Jocelynn asked, "Why would somebody want to sabotage the toaster?"  It was the sort of question neither of the women could even dream they'd used or hear used in their lives.  When Jocelynn looked, she saw the cage had been screwed into the bottom of the toaster, and said she'd get a tool to remove it.  Mikah took the toaster from her and looked down into the toasting slots to see if she could tell where the "flushing sound" had come from?

Mikah could tell "someone" had not only drilled holes in the casing to screw the cage to.  They'd also modified the 'toasting irons' so they would come together from side to side.  But they'd removed the bottom of the cage which usually held and then caught bread slices.  Along with that, they'd cut a slot in the bottom of the toaster, which, with the cage modifications, explained how the bread slices fell through.  Still, she couldn't locate a speaker or other sound-emitting devices.  Hearing Mikah muttering about that, Jocelynn said, "Time to open this baby up!"

When Mikah asked if she planned to disassemble the toaster, Jocelynn said that was the plan.  Setting the device down, Mikah turned and asked, "Where's Fesic?"  The answer was that he was likely in his bedroom, happily sleeping in a tone that regretted not doing the same thing.  Mikah turned to Jocelynn and firmly said, "He is suspect the one-eth".  After that, Jocelynn turned to the toaster with a few tools and Mikah stomped over to Fesic's bedroom door making as much noise as she could, and started pounding on the door.  In his bedroom, Fesic woke up to cry out, "My head is pounding!"  And Mikah didn't care how much noise she was making, because she planned to wake everyone else up too.

While the pounding continued, Fesic took stock of himself and figured he felt better than he had the night before, even though he'd not tried to stand up yet.  Still, he called out, "Who is it" in an invitational sing-song tone.  Mikah answered, "Open the door" in a similar sing-song tone but with more than a hint of warning in her voice too.  Hearing more than enough commotion outside of his bedroom, Sekea cracked the door open and yelled "Candygram for Mongo!"  About the same time, Aiden emerged and moved over to where Mikah was pounding on Fesic's door.  Observing the situation, Aiden said, "Open the door by my chinny-chin-chin or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll breach the charge in."

While the sentence made little sense, the specific objects lent the statement meaning.  Mikah only added a snarled, "That's right" to Aiden's words with a bit of a warning in her tone.  Fesic returned to his sing-song tone while saying, "Uno momento." before he turned to start putting clothes on.  Deciding not to get into the whole process, Fesic synched a robe on and answered the door to see what the drama was this morning?  Seeing him, Mikah demanded, "Why did you fuck with the toaster?"  The question caught him so off-guard, Fesic could only ask, "What?" in confusion.

Not having any of it, Mikah asked, "Are you denying you fucked with the toaster?" and Fesic snapped, "I haven't touched the toaster since the last time I made toast."  When Mikah asked when that was, Fesic had to think back to the last time he'd made toast?  The truth was, he'd only made toast three days before but couldn't remember that as he strained the two cells he had between his ears.  Since then, he and Jocelynn had run into Kennot and learned his plans, called the Ministry of Justice to learn the assassin had tried to assassinate Duke Rakaa of Lanth, flown the cutter to the Erskin village, stayed the night in the safe house, flown the cutter back to the berth, and he'd worked with Colinne on hacking data systems while Mikah and the others went to play in the village.

To top it all off, he and Colinne had joined in on the attack run against the village, where Fesic had been one of the three to be concussed when Mikah shot the bomb.  When he saw Colinne step out of her bedroom, Fesic pointed and started claiming he had a witness he'd been working while everyone else went to the village.  He told Mikah she should confirm he'd not been alone during that time by asking Colinne.  Sadly, as soon as he said that, Fesic caught a "look" in her eyes that told him he'd made a mistake he'd not recover from.  Still rubbing sleep from her eyes, Colinne came out of her bedroom in a basic jumpsuit.

Hearing Fesic, she answered in her most monotone and robotic, saying, "Colinne is not awake at this time.  Please call back at a later date when Colinne is awake, coherent and capable of conversing."  At that, Jocelynn said "Oh no! She's getting up too!" as it seemed Colinne was about to turn back to her bedroom.  Looking at Mikah, because she'd missed so much of this vid so far, Colinne asked, "What's up boss?"  Waiting until everyone was out of their bedrooms and looking at her, Mikah asked, "Who fucked with the toaster?"  Colinne did confirm most of what Fesic said, she also mentioned some time when she'd noticed Fesic working with a technician assigned to the parkbay.

As confused as everyone else, Aali asked what was wrong with the toaster and Mikah said someone fucked with it.  Grateful for that amazingly descriptive and informative statement, Aali decided to go and look at the device in hopes of actually getting any real data.  When she got into the eating area, Aali saw Jocelynn had gotten a basic tool kit and begun disassembling the toaster.  Aali asked, "What's wrong with it?" while stepping closer to where Jocelynn sat.  Jocelynn said, "I don't know" while holding up the device for Aali to see.  She'd already removed the cage from the bottom of the toaster and was working on removing one of the device's side plates.

Jocelynn described how the bread had passed through the toaster to be caught in the cage she'd removed.  She pointed back towards the kitchenette, saying someone had cut a slot in the counter so the toaster could sit there with the cage attached.  Mikah added that when she'd tried to use the toaster, it had made a flushing noise as it passed the bread through to the cage below it.  She then continued, "I think it could be the handy work of a prankster."  Aali only looked back at her and sarcastically asked, "You think?"  Ignoring the derision, Mikah nodded and said, "I do."

When Aali asked where the sound came from, Mikah said she was certain it came from the toaster, but had no idea what part?  Nodding, Aali asked Jocelynn if she could take a look at the toaster and Jocelynn handed it to the other woman.  Looking it over, Aali did her best to check what was visible for any sign of a speaker, but couldn't yet see a likely suspect.  Shrugging, Aali said she'd get some more tools and open the thing up for a proper investigation.  With Aali handling that, Mikah turned to the others and said, "I want to know who did this and I want it stopped.  My head hurts, all I wanted was some toast and caff, and I only got raw bread with my caff."  Being a wise ass, Fesic asked if Mikah was sure it was caff, and she said she was.

Seeing Mikah had made only the one mug for herself, Fesic volunteered to make a carafe of caff for the whole crew.  As Fesic tried to slip away from the others to make caff, Colinne reminded Mikah of her comment from earlier.  She said, "I didn't see anyone messing with the toaster directly, but I did see Fesic having a questionable conversation with one of the technicians assigned to the parkbay maintenance.  With another of those knowing looks, Colinne finished by saying, "So, that might be a starting point for conversations with Fesic."  As the others looked, it seemed Colinne's eyes suggested she knew more but wanted Fesic to tell that story for some reason.

Turning towards the departing gunner, Mikah asked, "Reeeeeaaaallly?"  Mikah then asked when that was, and Aali said it had happened the night the rest of the crew had spent in the village safe house, which had been the 29th night of the year.  Nodding, Mikah said "OK" and stopped Fesic's movement when she asked, "So, Fesic?  What were you talking to the maintenance man about?"  Figuring the gig was up, Fesic answered, "Ummm.  Well, he made something for me and was delivering it and he also, apparently, has completed the modifications I requested on the toaster."  Fesic's tone and speech throughout the confession were as normal as if he were giving a basic set of instructions.

Hearing that, Mikah gave a grunt and said, "So, you did do it."  Despite his words, Fesic desperately held onto the fact he'd hired 'someone else and protested, "No!  I didn't do it.  I didn't touch the toaster."  Mikah sighed instead of smacking the man's face just as Aiden quipped, "He subcontracted it."  Ironically, Fesic readily agreed to that as if the semantics of the situation made any kind of difference.  Looking Fesic in the eyes, Mikah said, "Accessory has the same penalty."  From where she sat, Aali just gave Fesic the stink eye before going back to work trying to identify anything she could fix.

Thinking again about what she was doing, Aali asked Fesic specifically what had been done to the toaster?  Fesic said, "Well, we modified it to eject the bread and we also added the sound unit.  Annoyed, Aali asked, "Anything else?" and Fesic said the toaster should work if the plunger was pressed slowly while holding the bread.  That last part was because the bottom of the toaster's "cage" had been cut away to let the bread fall.  Mikah then asked, "And why would one do this?" to which Fesic answered, "it would be funny."

Nodding, Mikah asked, "How much is your head pounding right now?" and Fesic answered, "I don't know."  Canting her head slightly to the side, Mikah asked, "You don't know?"  She then continued in a more certain tone, saying, "Really.  OK..."  As that faded off, Aiden quipped, "She can fix that." while showing a speed of thought he often said he wasn't capable of.  Shooting a glance at Aiden, Mikah turned back to face Fesic and said, "Yes I can."  Fesic then said, "Alright, I'm beginning to feel I should step away from Mikah."  Some of the others started to laugh because, without a working starship, there was no "away from Mikah" he could reach under the circumstances.

Showing his lack of mental capability or ability to read the room, Aiden quipped, "Dude, I'd be running." because he couldn't figure out when his attempts at humor weren't needed.  Showing Fesic was, perhaps, a mental twin to Aiden, the gunner admitted, "That may be what it takes to make sure Mikah's not too close to me."  Mikah continued to drill into Fesic with her eyes and said, "You can only run so fast and so far."  Aali again got involved, asking if Fesic had sabotaged, or paid to have sabotaged, anything else in the berth?  Interrupting that, Mikah said, "Well, you know what Fesic?  My head is pounding right now, so you're gonna get a reprieve.  That doesn't mean I'm finished with you, it just means it's being delayed.  Until you least expect it."

With nothing else he could say, Fesic admitted, "That's fair."  Nodding at his comment, Mikah acerbically thanked him for his permission to take her revenge.  After that, Aali again asked what else had been sabotaged, and Fesic said nothing had been "sabotaged" but the man had delivered something for him.  Not ready for yet another outrage, Mikah asked, "And what item was delivered?" in a warning tone.  Fesic sheepishly admitted, "Oh, um, Jocelynn received it last night." and everyone realized he'd been behind the med-kit.  Leaning in to slap Fesic on his shoulder, Jocelynn said, "You're gonna be the first person I use it on."

Just as Fesic hoped he'd get out of an immediate dose of punishment, Colinne asked, "Excuse me Mikah, isn't he still under continuing care?"  When Mikah admitted he was, Colinne asked, "And doesn't he need a complete checkout?" to which Mikah cheerfully admitted he did while Fesic again prepared to flee.  Still, Fesic did try his best to convince them as he cried out, "Oh!  I'm feeling much better actually!"  At the same time, Mikah smiled and turned to say, "Jocelynn, your first patient is waiting for you."  Jocelynn tried to remember if there'd been a supply of gauze in the kit?  Mikah told Jocelynn to do anything she felt medically necessary while treating Fesic.  That got lots of laughs.  Sensing things were coming to a head, Sekea pulled his Ident out and started recording the event.

When Jocelynn asked for a "Lot of gauze", Mikah said she'd make sure Jocelynn got all the gauze she wanted.  From where she sat, Aali called out, "Sounds like a wrap to me!"  Hearing that, Fesic started to move away from the group while Jocelynn saw that and felt Fesic had to be subdued so he could be treated...for his own good.  Fesic broke out into a flat-out run, calling behind him, "This is not how first aid is applied!"  Sprinting after him, Jocelynn had good speed even though she'd been wounded the day before.  Soon, the pair reached the door with Fesic only getting there soon enough to push the doors controls.  When Jocelynn slammed into him, they both went down and Fesic found himself pinned by Jocelynn.

Concerned, Aali called to Jocelynn, "Please don't damage the door!"  By dint of training alone, Jocelynn managed to moderate her speed so she didn't bang his body hard enough to slam Fesic's head into the door.  But the collision did knock all the 'flight' out of him.  She'd gained enough control to secure his hands and arms behind his back and, by application of power and some pain, get Fesic off the floor and frog-march him back to where the rest of the crew waited.  Seeing Sekea filming the event, Jocelynn eyed him while returning with Fesic and threatened, "You wanna be next?"

Still trying to keep the counter-current going, Fesic did grunt out that Sekea did have a concussion and did need a complete medical work up.  Leading Fesic to their dining table, Jocelynn forced him into one of the chairs and started calling for gauze.  Mikah said she'd bring both her and Jocelynn's new med-kits to loot for the stuff.  When Mikah returned with the supplies, and while Sekea continued to film, Jocelynn started by completely entombing Fesic's head and face in gauze.  Jocelynn then worked down Fesic's shoulders and chest, wrapping him to the chair he was sitting in.

While she worked, Sekea said he assumed Jocelynn didn't need pain relievers and she said she didn't.  Colinne then asked if she'd heard right that Rol had been their interrogator?  When Mikah said he was, Colinne asked if the man's gear had any "pain causers".  Hearing that, Mikah made the old joke that if Zimzod wasn't in the hospital, they could rip Fesic's toe off.  Those who hadn't heard the story reacted badly to the joke and those who had didn't react much better.  Aali explained that was the height of Zimzod's lack of understanding how to interrogate prisoners.

At a point, Aali went into her bedroom and came out with a roll of something she held up before asking, "You need any duct tape?"  Jocelynn waived that away saying she wasn't that cruel.  While Jocelynn kept wrapping Fesic in an admittedly thick set of layers of gauze, he asked, "Is there something from your dreams which leads you to need to do this?"  Jocelynn only laughed, "Oh, honey, you have no idea." with an evil grin.  About then, Sekea suggested the application of a diuretic and they all refused to go there only because no one wanted to have to clean it up!  Aali did get laughs when she suggested they "attach a cage under him".

Jocelynn quickly used up her own stocks of gauze and started using Mikah's.  Now, she was running low again and Sekea had to consider if he'd offer up his stocks of gauze to continue the now-half done mummy?  Figuring they were in port and could always buy more gauze, Sekea handed over his stockpile, though it quickly became clear Jocelynn would only cover Fesic from the tip of his head to his hips.  Despite that, Jocelynn wrapped on!  By that point, Sekea had stopped filming and repeated his offer for diuretics.  So, while they didn't use any drugs on Fesic, Mikah got to tell Sekea and Colinne the story of "Munarshu and the Breakfast of Doom!"

Quietly, Sekea had to admit to himself that despite the little he'd heard of this man, Munarshu, he sounded worse by far that Terin!  While Jocelynn neared the end of her wrapping, Aali decided this might be a perfect moment to mine for more information on just what had been done to the toaster?  Sadly, Fesic could only remind them he'd paid someone else to do the work, so he couldn't really direct them.  Still, Aali did get the device open and point to a modified circuit board that handled the controls of the toaster, and also pointed to an audio diode that played the sound.

Hearing that, Jocelynn turned to yell at Fesic, "You frickin' weirdo!"  Fesic complained he wasn't one of the people that got their thrills out of vilifying people", which made no sense because he "had" hired a tech to create the pranks.  Mikah suggested Fesic got his thrills from getting himself into inexplicable situations for no apparent reason.  Jocelynn added, "you like getting beat up." and Mikah agreed with her.  Colinne had heard enough stories to suggest he only got himself into situations where he might get punished or beaten up so he could get Jocelynn to respond and care for him.

Interrupting them, Aali admitted that there was no way she could undo the wiring without the circuit patterns.  The "best way" Aali said they could solve the problem was to complain and have the parkbay workers swap it out for a different, working, toaster.  Considering things that couldn't be recovered, Jocelynn told the others she planned to re-roll the gauze when she decided to unwrap Fesic so it could be re-used.  Mikah was just one of the people who said they couldn't re-use the gauze, but she added that it had to be sterile.  Aali joked they could still use it on Fesic, but it wasn't sterile so it could infect any wounds it might be applied to.

Having given up on fixing the toaster, Aali did re-assemble it and test what Fesic had said about slowly lowering the plunger while holding the bread in place and that did work.  It was annoying, but it worked.  So, Mikah eventually got her slice of toast even if she wasn't ready to forgive Fesic.  Jocelynn did unwrap him, and Sekea suggested they keep the gauze in case they had to re-mummify someone.  But, the work it took to wrap and unwrap Fesic gave Jocelynn time to consider that if they had to "wrap" Fesic again, that only proved the first time didn't work.  So, why waste the effort on a punishment that didn't work?  She was sure they'd have to keep trying new punishments until they found a treatment that got results.

After things settled down, they all eventually had breakfast and faced the day and a half they had before they had to attend the Prince at the naval base.  Aiden checked on and laid out the suit and gear he planned to wear to the base.  He then asked around, suggesting to Aali, Jocelynn and Colinne that they have a group stent practice.  He made it clear he didn't think anyone who had a concussion should get involved.  But only Mikah, Sekea and Fesic had been concussed, and none of them had stents.  Colinne accepted when Aiden asked, and Jocelynn said she'd join after she finished unwrapping Fesic.  That got a laugh from almost everyone.

Aiden suggested the easy way to get Fesic out of the gauze was to light it aflame so it burned away.  Colinne pointed out they could burn it off quicker, by getting kerosine from the berth crew.  They could mist that onto the gauze with an atomizer.  Then, when they lit the gauze, it would mostly burn off quickly, with a large "woof" sound, like a dog made.  Then, he'd have to deal with a lot of first degree burns, a much smaller number of second degree burns and a flash-burned buzz cut.  Colinne expected he'd be able to recover from all that in a week or so.

Fesic tried to help his own case, by trying to remind them they needed to recover the gauze.  That got slapped down when he was reminded they'd discussed that and planned to just buy more from a shop, since they were in a port on a planet.  When Jocelynn was asked if she wanted to make Fesic sound like a dog, Jocelynn worried about the burns and said she'd just unwrap him.  When Fesic said, "Gee, thanks for that." in a less than thankful tone.  Jocelynn chided, "You remember that." and someone else said, "Hey, it's better than someone ripping your toe off."  Someone else said that was Zimzod's display of a complete lack of interrogation skills.

Tech, Couture and Suspicions
     Getting back to things they wanted to do after breakfast, Sekea said he would obviously have to go shopping, to replace the gauze at the very least.  Mikah agreed, and said she'd give him money to cover the cost even though it had been suggested they make Fesic pay for the used gauze.  Sekea accepted that and asked who else wanted to come shopping with him?  Aali said she'd go along with Sekea.  On a different subject, Jocelynn asked how they should dress for the gathering at the base the next day?  Mikah considered that and said the men should be in suits and the ladies in gowns.  When Colinne heard that, she made a face and asked, "We have to wear gowns?"

Looking at Colinne, Mikah said, "Yeah."  And asked, "You have one?"  When Colinne said she didn't Aali immediately said, "She's coming with us." in that senior officer tone that brooked no disagreement.  Looking back and forth between them, Colinne wasn't pleased but Mikah waved her concerns away, saying, "Don't worry.  Aali will take care of you."  While they talked about shopping and other things, Sekea copied out the video file he'd filmed to everyone in the crew.  Jocelynn also said she'd check anyone's armor or gear for issues so she could learn more about armory.  Fesic wanted to work on his lock picking course.

Until Aali and Colinne were ready to go shopping, Sekea pulled out the book on Denotam's flora and fauna and read.  Mikah considered her throbbing head and decided it would either get better soon or she'd start executing prisoners.  Still, she didn't want to take any meds if she didn't have to.  Aali first connected to a terminal and then to the ship yard, to check on the work being done on the Upgrade.  When Jocelynn finally finished unwrapping Fesic, she pointed to all the loose gauze on the floor and told him it was part of his punishment job to re-roll everything and clean up.

Jocelynn was asked if she was going to stand over Fesic while he worked before her on his knees and Mikah sort of liked that.  Mikah said his doing that would help her head stop aching.  After laughing about it, Jocelynn looked at Fesic, shrugged and said, "Well, the captain's orders."  So, Fesic got to work and eventually squared away the "soiled" gauze before he was allowed to go back about his interests.  Soon, Aali finished up with the work she was doing and saved the reports from the 'droids to review later.  So, the three of them were ready to leave and shop.

Despite not having a weapon permit, Colinne decided to bring her hypogun in a covert carry holster.  She also asked, "Since we're going shopping, we can also stop at InstellArms, I assume?"  Aali and Sekea agreed to that.  Realizing they were going to a shop for medical supplies, Jocelynn gave Aali the printout from her battledress medical system and asked if they could buy her refills for the drugs she needed to top off the system?  Aali agreed with that.  When they got moving, the first place they wanted to hit was a medical supplies store, followed by a clothiers or tailors, after which they'd go to InstellArms.

Leaving the port without incident outside some odd views at security, they went to the one medical supplies store they could locate.  Happily, it was well stocked for the medical technology available on-world.  That included a large supply of gauze and bandaging based on an "on-wall" display of bandaging types and other options.  When they asked one of the few shop workers, they saw the shop was well enough stocked they could over-order replacement gauze.  While they'd walked to the shop, Sekea had checked his kit for anything else he might need, but had not used much since his and Mikah's kits had been "restocked" after Emkir had died.

The first thing they did was spend Cr 40, which Mikah had fronted, for double the amount of gauze they'd used.  When Aali gave the worker the tab Jocelynn had printed from her battledress, the man had no idea how to read the computer's specialized print-out.  He recommended they take the tab to InstellArms, and they nodded without saying they'd planned to go there eventually.  Sekea then asked if they had any novel or interesting med-tools he might not have in his kit?  The shop man and another more senior clerk showed the three a wide variety of goods which were largely imported from off world.  The display included tools from worlds up to tech level C, because higher tech items just got too expensive to sell locally.

Looking over the options, Sekea and Colinne saw a wide variety from personalized scalpels to a wide variety of electronic devices.  Checking the collection, neither medic saw anything they had not seen an improved version of in a higher tech level market.  And, the prices in systems where they were made would always be less than the Import-inflated prices here on Denotam.  They even offered a service to customize hand tools so they fit better in a specific doctor's hands, but that was a very specialized service which could force each medic to buy their own complete set of otherwise more generic and interchangeable medical tools.

One line they did import and sell well were hand-scanners designed specifically for topical cold-related injuries and tissue conditions.  These could better help a medical technician or doctor identify, explore and treat cold-related conditions.  The scanners were able to scan issues from skin-surface based to trans-skin and deeper tissue vascular damage.  Of course, services available from a number of the scanners were usable for issues that were not cold-related, even including dermal carcinomas.  Able to be used in some cases to investigate "corona-surface" and even "retinal-damage" based issues(IE: snow blindness).

After trying a few, Sekea found one scanner that had a nice suite of services and in-built applications.  It also connected electronically to many common communications networks, but had hard-core manual settings that had to be configured on-device.  So, he could securely connect to a computer or other device if he sat down to configure those settings.  When he asked, the clerk said that specific scanner would cost Cr 3,500 and Sekea bought one.  Another device Sekea and Colinne saw was a cardio-scanner.

That was a strip, very like(though Sekea didn't know it) the strip Terin had in his medical kit.  It would be slapped on the patient's chest, and had an "on-strip" display.  It could be connected to other devices like a hand computer.  What it essentially did was do deep scans of the patient's chest and heart, carrying out diagnostic coronary tests.  If connected to a computer, the medic could load software there to model the heart and receive in-built recommendations for treatment paths.  Looking at the scanner, both Colinne and Sekea discussed connecting the sensor to their hand computers.  When that seemed easy enough, Sekea bought one for Cr 8,000, while Colinne kept the thought in her mind for other systems where costs would be lower or which had better tech.

After he'd bought his scanners Sekea then asked if the shop carried any supplies of the medical drug fentanyl, which brought the conversation to a sudden stop.  With everyone in earshot suddenly staring at Sekea, the lead clerk asked, "Why are you interested in medical poisoning?"  Understanding the man's reserve, Sekea pointed out the main medical use of the drug was as an anesthetic used in emergency surgery, where that wasn't exactly true.  Fentanyl was used, in extreme cases, for surgery when the attending anesthesiologist had the ability to examine the patient and determine a great many variables.  Still, the clerk didn't know that.  Nor did he know Sekea's "nursing" skills were secondary to what his real job had been either.

Still, when he saw the clerk still had doubts, and thanks to his eidetic memory, Sekea rattled off statistics from those few surgeries he had seen.  Patient body details, wound details, dosage amounts prescribed.  What Sekea didn't know was "why" that drug had been used?  Why the decisions to use the very risky drug had been made?  Thankfully for Sekea, the man he was dealing with also had no idea Sekea could not answer those critical questions.  Surprised at what Sekea could present, the clerk backed off.  He told Sekea they could sell it, but didn't stock the drug.  He also said they had a number of electronic forms Sekea would have to fill out, to be submitted to their supplier.  They would then provide the desired dosage for purchase the next day.

Listening in the conversation, Aali and Colinne wanted nothing to do with the purchase and Colinne privately wondered what Sekea really knew about the drug and it's use?  Whatever they felt, the ladies kept quiet about the order and figured they'd wait and see what happened.  When the forms asked, Sekea considered the need for two bodies of "average weight" and figured he'd need 1.0 to 4.0 mL.  That was 0.05 to 0.2 mg of the active drug.  After the forms were completed and the clerk did his checks, Sekea was told the cost would be Cr 500.  Everything else done, Aali did make a personal statement when she bought a bottle of over-the-counter pain relievers for Cr 5.

Done there, the three made their way to a clothier's shop to see what was on offer?  Arriving and looking around, Colinne was looking for a gown.  Aali had gowns that were grey and silver gowns, which tended to create a monochrome appearance against her albinoid skin.  So, she was thinking that having a gown with some color might add to her wardrobe.  The other challenge they faced, since they needed the gowns by the next day, was that the shop wasn't a scan and print shop.  The tailors and other workers in the shop said they could deliver two gowns overnight but would be working hard at those exclusively.  Especially if Sekea decided to order something too.

Sekea noticed the comments aimed at him were encouraging, hoping he would also order something.  The other good news was that they could apply any measurements to computer, creating the patterns they'd use.  The three were also told that if the garments were to be worn the next afternoon, there was a limit to the stylization they could ask for, such as excessive or special lace patterns, decorative hems, etc.  Nodding, Aali said she wanted a semi-formal gown in a shade of green, with a basic overlay of lace and a shawl to match.  The lead tailor suggested they could do a lace overlay of the gown's bodice, which they could dye black and dry before sewing it on in the late night.  When they started planning, the gown would be below the mid-calf with full sleeves and a high neckline while still suggesting at the glamor of an event gown.  The accents, hem-decor and cuffs will be black as well.

When Aali also talked about a pair of flat, black formal shoes to go with, the tailor got a young girl in the shop and wrote up a description.  She then held the girl up, because she knew there was at least another gown being ordered and shoes would likely be needed.  When it was Colinne's turn, it was made clear she needed a full-out formal gown.  When asked, Colinne said she'd prefer a color of blue that was more blue but also washed with green throughout.  Looking at the fabrics they had, the woman working with Colinne showed her a fabric that was more blue than she really wanted, but it was good enough because it was needed.  She then worked out a mid-calf gown with a more open neck hem and a specialty described layer skirt.

The skirt would have some "folds" in the fabric which could support what looked like pockets.  Those would have the double purpose of allowing her to reach in and grab something from an in-sewn pouch, but would also allow her to reach her thigh.  There, she planned to be wearing a sheath with her dagger.  Or even a hidden holster dropping from the gown's waist to hold her hypogun.  Or a pistol.  Of course, she described the pocket to the seamstress, but not her weapons plans.  Colinne got past the looks that got her by pushing on the shoes.  After those were described, and with the colors selected, the runner was sent off to a shoe sales shop.

Turning to Sekea, they were happy when he started exploring what was on offer off the rack.  Sadly, they really had little to nothing in his size and nothing appropriate.  Deciding to try having something made, Sekea described the suits he had and then said he wanted something "better".  So, while it would be another suit, it would be somehow classier.  Nodding, the woman working with him showed him some sample fabrics and styles and Sekea made it clear he wanted something Vilani in fashion sense.  Sekea was happy when he started hearing the words "Court quality" more and more.  In the end, they told Sekea his suit would cost approximately Cr 3,000, Colinne's gown would cost Cr 5,000.  And Aali's gown would cost Cr 3,500.

Some of the staff in the shop worked with them while they waited for the runner to get back.  When the runner did get back to the shop, she was carrying color sample panels, so Aali and Colinne would know the shoes would match properly.  They were told the appropriate shoes would costs each of them Cr 100 per pair.  Aali was pleased because the shoe color matched her gown.  Colinne was, again, less than pleased because the color proposed for her shoes was even more blue than blue-green.  Still, she saw it would work with the fabric so she was OK with it because it was necessary.  Considering the fact they were also headed to the Lanth system with good news for their Duke, Colinne figured it would also be needed more than once.

With the planning done, the three left the shop to catch a free ride to InstellArms.  Doing so, they noticed the women in the shop flipped their door sign from 'open' to 'closed', showing how hard they'd be working until the next morning.  Arriving at InstellArms, Sekea thought about the fact he really didn't need anything from them.  Still he let the concierge lead him to her cart while he suggested she try to suggest hole fillers and then started listing what he did have.  This was, perhaps, not the greatest tactic since someone who's pay was commission-based would certainly sell him anything she thought she could convince him he needed.

The one thing Sekea felt he'd need, because he planned to do target practice, was more ammunition for his snub pistol.  When he asked, he was reminded he'd spent Cr 600 for a box of 100 HE rounds the last time he'd been in their facility.  With eight 100-round boxes of ball ammo, Sekea only wanted the another box of HE, and agreed to buy it while the concierge rode around the facility trying to lure him into owning any number of very expensive items.  At the same time, Colinne knew before she met the concierge that she wanted pairs of thigh and calf scabbards for her dagger.  That gave her options where to wear the blade she had and she would also consider getting a second dagger.  The four ended up costing her Cr 100, so it wasn't expensive.

Not really needing anything, Aali rode along with Colinne and her concierge.  After Colinne bought her sheaths, Aali handed the concierge the tab Jocelynn got from her battledress and asked, "Can you help us with this?"  The concierge read the tab with a bit of surprise, and said, "Somebody's been busy recently."  Both Aali and Colinne knew civilian battledress was rare.  So, combat involving civilian-owned battledress combat was even more rare.  And, any fight should've been in the news if it wasn't a covert action.  Still, it was a sale and commission, so the man said, "We can sell you a refresh package for that for Cr 500."  Nodding, Aali called Jocelynn, who said she'd pay the cost.

Hearing Jocelynn's side of the conversation, Mikah asked if they were at InstellArms?  When Jocelynn said they were, Mikah told Jocelynn to tell whoever she was talking about to buy a straight jacket.  Hearing that, Aali joked, asking what color jacket Mikah wanted and Mikah said she didn't care about color.  When there were more jokes, Mikah made it clear she just wanted a basic straight jacket and no more.  Accepting her orders, Aali asked about the jacket and bought one for Cr 500.  They also bought the refresh for Jocelynn's battledress medical kit.

Done shopping, Sekea suggested they get lunch outside of the berth, and Aali and Colinne agreed, but Aali recommended a middle priced place.  She'd noticed Colinne wasn't pleased with how much she'd had to spend already.  In the berth, Fesic had managed to get breakfast and re-heat some caff after "recovering" the gauze.  Fesic had moved on to his lock picking studies while Jocelynn had moved from 'supervising him' to armory studies and checking the other's armor.  Mikah relaxed after the comms call, and planned to put the straight jacket into the ship's locker after it was delivered.

While eating, Sekea, Aali and Colinne talked about the 'items in plain brown wrapping' they had bought for others and considered their uses.  Aali made some jokes about Sekea's concern when he found out about the jacket for Mikah's use.  Eventually, he suggested they buy some food to bring back to the berth and Colinne suggested he call and ask, because they might have made lunch for themselves already.  When Sekea called, he tried to up-sell the idea saying they appeared to have bacon on the menu.  Mikah asked if it were "beef" bacon, because she didn't like that, and Sekea pointed out they didn't appear to have cows on Denotam, so it was likely some other local pack or food animal, so the base meat couldn't be guessed without research.  Aali added, in a dry tone, "It's not moving anymore and it's fried.  What else do you want?"

Eventually, the meals all cost Cr 30, and Sekea bought four more meals to bring back to the berth.  So, that cost was shared when they got back and the purchases were stowed or delivered.  Mikah set the straight jacket with other gear to be moved to the ship's locker when they got access to the ship again.  While Sekea handed out the meals and didn't ask the others to pay him back, they each did.  After they handed out the gauze to restock med-kits, Mikah also stowed the "extra" they'd bought since they'd bought double the needed supply.

Feeling OK, Fesic knew he was still technically recovering from his concussion, as were Mikah and Sekea.  So, Fesic planned to continue studying his lock picking class into the afternoon.  Sekea returned to the book he'd bought covering Denotam's flora and fauna.  Any time he found something he thought might be useful, Sekea took the extra effort to concentrate on the passages and commit them to memory.  Aali, Aiden, Colinne and Jocelynn had a stent practice for an hour and a half.  After that, Jocelynn went to check the vid that came with the recharge kit and load that into her battledress med-kit.  She also spent some time getting her gown ready for the next day and relaxing.

After receiving and stowing the straight jacket, Mikah ate and then called Zimzod.  She updated him on everything they'd done including blowing up the assassin, herself and a third of the crew.  He laughed at the straight jacket and even asked if she'd gotten a matching gimp mask?  Zimzod was disappointed when she said she didn't and she promised to let him wear the jacket whenever he deserved it.  After hearing about what Fesic had pulled, Zimzod suggested they could put him in the jacket and play "crew ball" with him.  At one point, Zimzod very obviously looked around him before saying, "Just so you know, some of the people working with me around here have some special talents."

Hearing the tone in his voice when he said, 'talents', Mikah gave a 'hmmm' before asking, "Do they?"  Zimzod did his best to nod and said, "Yeah.  It makes my head buzz."  Mikah answered, "Yeah.  I know the feeling." and Zimzod again tried to nod.  Not aware of their conversation, Jocelynn made a decision based on things she'd been mulling over since the attack on the house.  After she was done talking to Zimzod, Mikah decided to check on her other patient.  She grabbed her med-kit and asked Jocelynn to step into her bedroom and take off her shirt.  Checking on the wound Jocelynn took, she treated it with more topical agents and injected a bit of growth enhancer before she told Jocelynn the healing was coming along.

After the stent class, Aali relaxed and read up on some of the data she'd been collecting on various subjects.  Colinne decided she'd go to her bedroom and meditate.  Aiden decided to spend the entire rest of the afternoon writing an epic x-mail to his father, back on Craw.  His homeworld.  Before he did the work, Aiden looked up the costs because he not only planned to send text but also wanted to include video.  He found the x-mail would take approximately fourteen weeks to cover the twelve jumps distance, and cost him Cr 2,160 to attach a one-hour video to the text x-mail, which would cost Cr 12.  So, the final cost would be Cr 2,172.

Aiden then decided to shoot a video introducing his father to his crew mates, then spent his time between the video and dinner writing the letter to his father.  While he went around the berth, "introducing" each of his crewmates, Sekea had shared the video he'd taken of events with Fesic.  Highlighting what turned out to be a fairly tame punishment, Aiden decided to edit Sekea's video into his hour-long video to show his crew having some fun.  Despite that, Aiden felt he had to explain about Rol's cloning and Zimzod's wounds and treatment since they weren't there to be filmed.  That took up all Aiden's time leading up to dinner.

After Mikah checked on her wounds, Jocelynn figured it was a good point to set her armory work aside and ask a few questions.  Going to Colinne's bedroom door, Jocelynn knocked and, when the woman answered, asked if she could speak to Colinne in private.  When she was inside Colinne's bedroom with the door closed, Jocelynn first thanked Colinne for her good work during the attack on the house and the assassin.  That done, Jocelynn then said she was curious and asked Colinne how the woman had known the assassin had a bomb in the basement?

Hearing the question, Colinne decided to risk a quick 'read surface thoughts' and saw in Jocelynn's most up-front thoughts that the woman was developing suspicions about her abilities.  For Jocelynn, it just seemed Colinne had taken a breath and pulled her thoughts together.  At the same time, out in the berth's living space, Mikah felt a bit of buzzing in the back of her head.  When she answered, Colinne said, "It was just something weird that came up in the sensor component while I was scanning the building."  While she spoke, Jocelynn remembered that Colinne had been a scout, and had also moved to the cutter's controls when nearly everyone else rushed into the house.  Especially with Aiden in the cutter's lock trying to provide cover.

Next, Jocelynn asked, "You also seemed to be very agitated that we needed to get out of there.  Was that because of the bomb?"  The question seemed to suggest that Colinne had been scared when the bomb exploded and flight had been Colinne's fear-reaction.  Colinne answered, "No.  That was because of what the explosion would cause.  Like, bringing the rest of the town down on top of us."  Jocelynn had to accept that because it was true.  They wouldn't have had much time before there was some kind of local reaction.  Colinne added, "We were about to get a ton of armed locals after that, if we hadn't gotten moving."  Jocelynn had to remember that Aiden had abandoned his post at the air-lock, and was panicking about the incoming fighters by that point.  So, Colinne wasn't wrong.

Colinne could see in Jocelynn's eyes the woman was accepting her answers and chose not to risk another read.  Added to that, it would be days before she recovered from the amount of effort she'd put out the day of the raid.  From the early morning arrest and questioning of the spy to using her senses to "see" during the attack on the house.  Then, there'd been what she'd read during Fesic's interaction with the parkbay technician.  And since Jocelynn seemed suspicious, along with Mikah's comments, she was glad she didn't out Fesic to the others.  There would've been no way to explain that knowledge.

Despite the buzzing in her head, when Jocelynn came out of Colinne's room and went about her business, Mikah let it sit.  Especially since any action she took might also force her to explain the buzzing in her own head.  And that would expose other things Mikah felt were best kept hidden.  Soon enough, when dinner time came around, they started considering what to cook, or where to go or order from?  When Mikah suggested they order something to be delivered, the group had to consider what was on offer?  Denotam's environment wasn't friendly to large production of grains or anything else that demanded large growing fields.  So any bread or pasta based dishes were few and very expensive.

Checking on the local network, for what they could find, they learned local diets were based more on root plants which could survive with higher underground temperatures thanks to cultivation.  That was usually augmented by a low but decent level of vegetables and a lesser amount of meat from hunted animals.  In the local village, supplies could be gotten from the downport and military bases, so there was a larger selection of more common foods from other systems, and Vilani food management was insured.  But, it was a vastly different menu, while they were still very thankful it wasn't any kind of extruded paste.  They finally agreed on an order and made the call.

When they called the restaurant selected, they were offered a meal of marinated vegetables and meat, served in the soup that cooking then created.  The meal was constantly being cooked and then simmered over time, so that the flavors blended deeply while the meat and vegetable matter maintained a level of their original texture.  The time spent cooking each large pot allows the spices to mix deeply with all ingredients, making the flavor a deep and smooth experience.  While there wasn't much pasta on anyone's menu, the dish was served with a small helping of dumplings to dip and munch.  When Mikah said that sounded good, they said they could deliver a seven-person party bowl for Cr 100.  When Mikah told them they'd be delivering to a parkbay, they added a Cr 20 fee for that.

When the food arrived, and they broke out the utensils, Fesic was first told he could use his hands.  Added to that, Jocelynn joked he should use the toaster...while it was plugged in.  Eventually the jokes died down and people scooped bowls of the soupy meats and vegies.  They saw the soup was a very thick fluid, which suggested it would stick to their ribs.  When it came to the taste, Aali and Aiden thought it tasted pretty damn good while Colinne liked it even better.  She thought they should find a way to have it regularly.  Mikah liked the meat and vegetables, but thought it needed a lot more spice.  Fesic, Jocelynn and Sekea figured it was food.  It wasn't good or bad, but food.

An Evening Out
     After eating, Mikah went to hang up her gown sewn with the colors of the Domain, to prepare for court the next day.  After that, she spent more time relaxing and recovering.  Happily, her head had stopped throbbing during the day.  Colinne planned to do more meditating and go to bed early.  Fesic planned on relaxing and seeing what any of the others wanted to do for fun?  Like Mikah, Aali went to prepare her kit for the next day, though she'd be receiving the gown the next morning.  While he relaxed after dinner, Sekea suggested they find a bar to check out later.

Hearing that, Mikah suggested it would give Fesic a chance to get beat up again.  As the others laughed, Mikah added, "But then, Jocelynn would have to go along too."  Laughing again, Jocelynn said, "If he's a big enough boy, he could go and get beat up on his own." and got even more laughs.  Jocelynn eventually went to her bedroom to hang up her gown and get her gear ready before they were all back in the living room considering Sekea's bar suggestion.  Mikah spoke up first and said she'd be staying back at the berth.  Fesic said he'd be going out with Sekea.  Colinne wanted to stay in and meditate.  Jocelynn said she'd go and Aali was willing to do some light drinking.  Aiden said he was also staying at the berth.

So, while the others went to find a bar, Aiden read, Mikah relaxed and rested her head and Colinne meditated.  While the others had talked up a bar, Sekea checked the listings he could find.  The bars on the port campus were, of course, of a higher quality, thanks to the facility and security.  Many of those who lived and worked on the port never crossed the extrality line into the planet's jurisdiction.  Just before they left, Sekea brought up what he'd found and asked about the bars the others had visited, and Jocelynn said she wanted to go someplace new.  That decided, they went out hunting a new bar.

The small group made their way out of the port's extrality and into the village itself.  While passing through customs, Fesic was pulled aside and told they detected the sword in his cane.  Fesic knew the blade was specially treated to help it pass sensors, that put a point on the fact it could and would still be detected.  Despite many hints Denotam wasn't one of the most social towards outsiders, Sekea planned to see if he could pick out passersby and ask them for recommendations.  Sadly, even Imperials living on world preferred being "inside", and everyone wore some form of vacc suit.  So they were most often rushing along on tasks which forced them to step outside.  To decide who might be likely to ask, Sekea felt he might rely on what sudden information he could get from quick glances at the passerby's face despite the fact they would be in vacc suits.

The facts Sekea hadn't yet taken into consideration were that the local village was, like almost the entire planet, not a tourist site.  This on top of his suggestion the 'out in the middle of nowhere' village they'd been in might have had tourists visiting it.  Added to that, most of those who weren't Imperials had at least several bones to pick with off worlders.  Especially, those who seemed to be out on a spree.  Finally, many of those moving from building to building paid more attention to their destination than those along the way.  So, it was easy to miss the holsters worn by everyone in Sekea's party.  Soon enough, Sekea selected a person to ask and tried to get the man's attention.  Sadly, the man was already annoyed and demanded what Sekea's problem was when the spacer got in his way.

After the encounter ended with harsh words but didn't rise to casual violence, Sekea gave up on asking directions and figured he'd look for lighting and advertisements instead.  Passing by the two bars Jocelynn, Fesic and the others had already tried, they eventually saw another bar that was lit up brightly and had signs silently beckoning customers in.  When they walked in, they saw the place was half and half, a bar and an arcade house.  Looking about the place, they could see games of immediate physical challenge as well as puzzle games.  Many were physical while others were on-computer, virtual or even holographic.

The place was also not a dive, being brightly lit with a good number of customers in tight or open clusters.  They could even see a group of spacers sitting at a table in their own bubble.  While they were not being avoided, or avoiding the locals, it did seem there was little mixing between locals and spacers.  Fesic immediately looked around the place for a challenge game where opponents had to execute dance steps on sensor pads, but couldn't find one.  What he did see was a "Knife Fight" physical challenge game.  And, when Fesic saw it, he also saw the game had a line of pairs of would-be competitors waiting for their turn to play.

Looking the game over, it had two platforms on which there were a couple of players at the moment.  There appeared to be sensor arrays which tracked every move they made while trying to cut or stab each other.  The "blades" where a pair of styli which were shaped like hand knives or small daggers, and they appeared to be keenly tracked by the machine.  The system tracked all movements and strikes in 3D space to determine when one or the other competitor scored a cut or stab.  The styli were blunted and dull enough the competitors couldn't actually hurt their opponents unless used as a blunt-force weapon.

From both the line of waiting competitors and the crowd of on-lookers, some of whom were betting on outcomes, they could see the game was very popular.  It paid off not only as a device players paid to use, but also in entertaining onlookers who would then buy drinks, snacks and other things.  Or, be drawn into playing other games if not trying their hand against an opponent.  As soon as he saw it, Sekea thought that might be fun to play.  Aali joked, "Yeah.  It's also training for when you leave the bar", suggesting it could help train one to fend off a thief with a knife.  In a wry observation, she felt it could serve as both entertainment and training aboard a starship, during downtime.  If such a derivative could be found?  And, if one could be fit in a ship's limited space?  After looking it over, Aali was definitely interested in watching the competitions, though not so interested she'd place any bets.

That changed when Fesic and Sekea decided to compete against each other.  Aali made it known she had Cr 10 that both the men would accidentally slip off the platforms and "stab" a bystander.  That outcome sounded so bizarre that Aali found herself swamped with takers and had to start deciding just how many betters she'd cover?  Wanting to limit her possible losses, Aali said she'd cover the bet with only one of those in the bar, and looked for a system for securing the funds betted until the fight was over.  She saw some automated lockdowns which dispensed a "coin".  The coins were tied to the lock-down, and would be tied to the machine involved, so it knew which coin would release the funds.  Then, each better held their coin until turning it in or using it to claim their winnings.

After Aali selected someone in the bar to take her bet, she was faced with Fesic and Sekea, who also wanted in on the bet against her.  Figuring they had a right, Aali also covered their bets against her.  So, Aali had Cr 30 at risk where those against her had Cr 10 each.  Many of those who thought they'd seen a chance for easy money were annoyed and some accused Aali of baiting them as they walked away.  So, it was possible she'd managed to create an air of bad feelings among the others by accident.  Still, they were a novelty because they were strangers, and no one had seen them fight.  That meant a lot of people wanted to watch the challenge, if for no other reason than entertainment.

Countering the issues Aali may have created, Fesic announced he would bet Cr 10 on himself winning the fight.  That offer put onlookers back on the conservative side, because they didn't know either Fesic or Sekea.  To look at them, both men were of a height, with an inch difference between them.  So, reach and other factors were out of play.  Sekea had mass on Fesic, so he could likely hit harder.  But no one knew their skills or history, so only three people stepped up to take Fesic's bet.  Sekea also stepped up, as did Aali, so Fesic now had Cr 50 on the line for that bet.  Added to the bets, Jocelynn, Aali and Fesic ordered one light drink to sip at while Sekea simply watched the matches until it was their turn to fight.

Looking around the bar, the place varied between a party or 'almost circus' atmosphere, and was certainly not the place to have a quiet chat.  Which meant that if they could find a quiet, curtained off alcove, it might just be the perfect place to hide such activities.  A notable change they spotted was that when Fesic and Sekea joined the line for the machine, the other ship crew suddenly decided to pay them more attention.  So, as the four talked about that, they wondered why it was of interest the two would compete?  still, the other crewfolk did nothing more than pay more attention to the four as they stood in the line.  While none of the four could see any reason or emotion behind it, the other crew were now watching them casually where they hadn't before.

Drinks And Daggers:
     It finally came time for Fesic and Sekea to pay their Cr 5 each, step onto the platforms and take whatever stances they chose.  Trained in using blades, which were longer weapons, both men had some advantage from that.  Their fight gathered more attention because they were new and unknown, so there was a novel feel to the pair.  Once the fight was on, both men twisted and struck out, and Fesic got a good stab at Sekea.  Despite that, the machine evaluated the wound as 'minor'.  The second and third rounds showed more care and strategy as both men got close to striking the other.  About half a minute into the fight, Fesic made a daring and aggressive move while Sekea squared off and seemed to expect a generic thrust or slash.  Because of his own reaction, Sekea was able to lightly slash Fesic as he came in, but the machine said Fesic dealt a deep abdominal stab into Sekea's gut.

Adding the data, the machine declared Fesic had beaten Sekea and ended the fight.  If that had been a real fight, Fesic would have needed some light bandaging or stitches.  Sekea would have needed immediate medical attention and to be moved to medical support for surgery.  If that wasn't done, he would have faced good odds of bleeding out internally, or dying of internal infections which could have led to sepsis.  Aali had to pay out Cr 10 to Sekea, Fesic and the other better because neither of the two had accidentally slipped from the game to stab an observer.  While she paid off, she ignored the laughs and said the bet was still worth it.  And, for her, it was because it gave them more information on which to evaluate the pair's knife fighting skills.

At the same time, Fesic had won his bet because he'd beaten Sekea.  So, Sekea immediately lost the Cr 10 he got from Aali to Fesic while Aali had to pay Cr 10 more to the man.  Fesic also got the Cr 10 from the three others he'd bet.  That meant Aali was down Cr 40 while Sekea was even and Fesic was up Cr 60.  After the bets were dealt with and the congratulations and cheering died down, Jocelynn quietly said, "Do you guys wanna make some real money?" and the three others turned to her.  When Aali asked, "What do you have in mind?" Jocelynn suggested, "Let me challenge everyone in the bar and see how many of their asses I can kick?"  Aali pointed out the game was one of blades, not fists, so she asked how confident Jocelynn was in that?

Privately, Jocelynn had to admit to herself she'd have a slight advantage with small blades if she wasn't recovering from a wound on her arm.  And, even in a brawl, the wound would have some effect on her abilities.  So, Jocelynn had to reconsider and back off on the suggestion.  She was disappointed because she was still annoyed at Mikah for shooting the bomb, and suspicious of Colinne.  So, she'd wanted to do something violent to blow off steam.  The good news was that the crowd were now more friendly and open to chatting with the four since the duel Fesic and Sekea had fought.

Another thing Aali and Jocelynn had noticed while the two men fought was that the other ship crew had stopped everything to watch.  Neither women saw any outward reaction to the fight's end, but they had certainly been interested.  When Aali looked closer for a ship's patch, she saw what seemed to be the same patch on all of them but wasn't close enough to read the ship's name or make out the insignia clearly.  Aali worried the other crew might have been from the IMV Dilucca, a family merchant ship who's Chief Engineer Emkir had killed in a bar fight in the Equus system.  That ship had been owned and operated by the Sladek Trading Family.  Aali worried that they'd have to be aware if they were about to have another encounter with members of that crew.

Not aware of Aali's concerns, Jocelynn offered to make a bathroom run past them to see if she could work that out, but Aali pointed out their table wasn't on the way to any of the bathrooms.  Meanwhile, Sekea congratulated Fesic, saying, "Nicely played" and then said he wanted to challenge Fesic to a rematch.  Fesic misunderstood and thought Sekea meant an "immediate" rematch, but quickly realized if they wanted to try it again.  So, they'd have to get on the back of the line and have time to recover from the first fight while others took their turns.  So, Fesic agreed to a rematch and they told the others while getting back on line.  While more drinks were ordered, one of the locals, a larger burly man came up to them and pointed at Fesic before saying, "I see you're getting on line again.  How about after you fight him, you fight me?"

Fesic said "Sure" with a friendly smile while evaluating the taller man.  There was a cheer around them right after that which Fesic wondered about?  It seemed there was history here he didn't know.  The guy would certainly have reach on Fesic and the gunner had no idea of the man's skills or background.  Fesic worried that this guy could be the local ringer, stepping up to show off to his home crowd by beating their crew's winning fighter.  When the man announced he'd bet Cr 10 that he'd win, Fesic didn't step up to take the bet while others did.  Fesic did bet Sekea Cr 10 he'd win their next fight and Sekea accepted.

Aali didn't join Fesic's bet and Jocelynn was now paying more attention to the other ship crew and didn't make any bets.  They also noticed her, but didn't react to the fact she was watching them.  Still, five others in the bar joined Fesic's bet with Sekea, so Fesic had Cr 60 on the line.  After a bit of chatter and sharing with others, it came to their turn again, and the two men mounted the platforms and took stances.  When the game started, Fesic tried an aggressive and sudden move to try and strike Sekea's head and the navigator managed to block the move.  Still, Sekea took a very light slash while blocking the attack.  After they recovered, Fesic tried to surprise Sekea by repeating the attack.

Sadly for Fesic, Sekea was ready for the attack this time and managed to deliver a stab wound to Fesic!  While the crowd cheered or groaned, Fesic was happy the wound didn't put him out of the fight.  When they continued, Sekea was able to press his advantage and it seemed he'd finally gotten Fesic's number.  Getting around Fesic's attacks and defenses, Sekea was able to deliver a "to the hilt" stab to the chest.  When that happened, the game marked Fesic as out of the fight and Jocelynn quipped, "You even get fake beat up!"  Hearing that, Fesic plaintively protested, "Hey!  I won the first fight." and Jocelynn had to admit that was true.

But then, the bets came due and Fesic had to pay off Cr 60, including Cr 10 to Sekea.  So, Sekea was up Cr 10 on the night if you didn't include drinks.  And now, Sekea could relax while Fesic faced his next challenger.  After wishing each other luck and taking positions, the fight began and the other man pressed Fesic.  Countering that, Fesic had planned to go into the fight playing a defensive game.  Thanks to that, Fesic warded off almost all the attacks and only received the most minor of slashes.  Fesic's defensive strategy forced the other man to try and work around his defenses.  Eventually, that led to an opening Fesic made use of and, after 12 seconds fighting, Fesic's slash put him slightly ahead.

Past the twelfth second, the man continued to press Fesic, but did so more conservatively because he'd learned his lesson.  By the eighteenth second, they were more or less on an even keel so no man gained another strike, leaving Fesic still slightly ahead.  Around them, the people in the bar were watching and cheering or razzing the fighters.  Watching the other crew, they were riveted and she didn't even think they were registering her watching them.

Thirty seconds in, Fesic shifted tactics and pushed the man, which caught him off guard and Fesic was able to deliver another slice.  The fight continued and the confusion created by Fesic's shifting tactics let him sweep in to deliver a deep stab!  Three to four inches at least.  Still, despite the cheers from the fans Fesic was apparently gaining, the other man was still in the fight and Fesic knew he'd soon be breathing hard to keep up the pace.  Fesic also didn't know if the man was just a "burly looking" paper tiger or was an actual powerhouse who could out-last him?

Fesic decided to lean in more, and try to end the fight, and pressed him for the next six seconds.  He was rewarded by being able to deliver another minor cut.  The next six seconds saw the other man starting to figure Fesic out and standing the gunner off better.  He also managed to give Fesic a minor slash, though the game had Fesic still far in the lead.  Starting to feel the strain of action, Fesic decided to go in whole hog and assault the man.  Unfortunately, the guy either anticipated the move or got lucky because he delivered a slash up Fesic's right arm which was neither light or heavy.  Still, he was creeping up on Fesic's score.

Finally, and dramatically, Fesic managed to both fend off the other man's attacks and get past his guard to deliver yet another full-on hard and deep stab which ended the fight at last.  Regardless of who anyone supported, there were lots of cheers for everyone when that was scored.  Having made no bets on that fight, Fesic was glad he could just hand off the stylus he held, grab an offered seat and get his wind back.  At the same time, the other man's friends swarmed up and congratulated both their man and Fesic.  Added to that, the man offered to buy Fesic a drink in a friendly tone.

Despite the brief fight that seemed to last forever for Fesic, the atmosphere in the bar had changed and everyone in the place seemed much more friendly and open to the crew.  Villagers were stepping up to introduce themselves and congratulate Fesic on his win, and he seemed to have gained something just for accepting the challenge.  At the same time, drink offers started popping up for all four of them and they had to decide what to accept and how to politely make sure they drank with restraint?  One popular excuse was that they'd come out to relax before going on late watch, and their captain wanted them clear headed for work.

The four did their best to be friendly and relax while making friends as the evening wore on.  Still, Jocelynn did her best to keep an eye on the other crew.  They seemed to have lost all interest in her group after Fesic and Sekea stopped taking turns in the game.  Down the line a bit, Jocelynn did notice they seemed to be loosening up, and were even chatting with others in the bar near their table.  Figuring that was perhaps the best chance she'd seen, Jocelynn decided to step closer to where the other crew were gathered.  When she got closer, Jocelynn saw their matching patches showed a vulpine creature that was running on all fours, and was colored grey.  Getting close enough, the best Jocelynn could make the ship name out as was "Jaekeel" which could have been a misspelling of 'Jackel'.

Considering a way to get into casual conversation, Jocelynn asked, "Pretty good fight.  Huh?" and couldn't help noticing three male members of the other crew were working on keeping a leer off their faces.  Two of the men tripped over their words trying to answer her.  The rest nodded or even said, "Your man was pretty good." or other compliments.  Some of the group were still stand-offish but others chatted.  She eventually learned their ship was the Ghost Jackel, even if it hadn't been spelled that way.  They were the crew who drew the long straws and got to take shore leave while their mates managed the ship or did scut work in orbit.

Jocelynn remembered the days when she'd been assigned aboard a ship while in the Marines.  How small handfuls of people got permission to take leave and visit a planet they'd come into orbit of.  She also envied those crew, because back when she was on a shore pass, she'd always had to be squared away and perfect in appearance, in case a senior NCO saw her.  Or, powers forbid, one of the ship's officers.  She'd always had to be an ambassador for the Imperial Marines while these people could drink and get sloppy on leave.  Jocelynn also learned the Ghost Jackel was one of the larger mass-cargo hauling ships, and it was contracted by the Navy to support the bases along the 'Vilis arm'.

When Jocelynn wasn't familiar with that name, they explained the 'Vilis Arm' was the string of systems leading rimward, down from Regina to the Garda-Vilis cluster.  It was a navigational thing that she knew Sekea and Aiden could have explained too.  In the chatter, Jocelynn heard them saying how lucky they'd been to get leave.  That was because their ship was 'taking a knocking about supporting the Prince's fleet' while they were in-system.  Of course, they had a schedule they were stretching, that would pull them out-system to Frenzie and further.  When Jocelynn asked what he meant by stretching, he said scuttlebutt was that they should've jumped already, but were being held in-system to assist the Prince's fleet.  But, that was just rumor.

When Jocelynn asked what the knocking about was, because she had some cargo handling experience, they told her some of the logistics ships in the Prince's fleet were re-organizing their cargo decks.  That happened on long runs where cargo had to be re-organized from time to time.  So, the Ghost Jackel was one of those ships that was taking on cargo to hold while one or another of the Prince's ships needed it 'out of the way'.  Jocelynn then tried to go fishing, asking, "So, I know there's going to be some big to do tomorrow.  Do you guys have any idea what's going on?"

Sadly, Jocelynn swam with much larger sharks than they did and they were starting to realize it.  Like, noticing the holster on her hip again, after allowing themselves to forget about it earlier.  So, some of that crew started backing off while realizing they had no idea who she was?"  Seeing that, Jocelynn tried to casually calm them, saying, "Relax, I'm not here to interrogate anyone." with what she hoped was a friendly smile on her face.  As some of them began starting to ask who she was and what her ship was, Jocelynn stepped in the middle of those words by announcing she was buying the table a round of drinks.

While they were all up for that, some were even more standoffish because they now saw she had money to throw around as well as having the right to hang a pistol from her hip.  When they asked who she was, she said "You can call me Jocelynn." without realizing 'what they could call her' made some wonder what others 'had to call her'?  So, it was an unintended slip of casual word use that showed she wasn't giving the entire answer.  Most didn't notice it, but it put some on guard.  Changing her mind mid-sentence, she said, "Actually, you can call me Dame Jocelynn."  And that's when the eyeballs snapped!

With that, the spacers went rigid and she could almost hear mental voices in their heads bemoaning, "Well, shit!"  Trying to get out of that hole, Jocelynn tried to wave away their reactions and said, they should relax while she bought them a round.  They were all for nodding yes and letting some high-born noble lady buy them drinks but they worried they'd do something that would get them in trouble with their officers or Captain.  No matter what Jocelynn did, even trying to get a laugh, the giggles were a bit strained and she realized they'd be on their best behavior from that point on.

Jocelynn did get to learn more about their ship, which it turned out was a one hundred fifty year old mega-hauler.  When Jocelynn called a server over to take orders, they offered her a seat at the table.  Jocelynn also noticed that while they weren't drinking rock gut, they were drinking lower end booze.  And that was because they couldn't afford better, which is a situation she could well remember.  Again, she made one of those slips when she reacted to some of the orders by asking, "Are you sure?  Would you like something better?"

While a few ordered more expensive stuff, at least one suddenly started putting on airs as if he felt she demanded they be a better class of company while she visited them.  The problem was that Jocelynn, herself, wasn't high-born or so used to her social position that she'd see these little traps.  So, she most often realized she'd stepped into something, or on someone, after the fact by the way people reacted.  Realizing there wasn't anything she could do without stepping in deeper, Jocelynn just asked about their ship and activities.

What she learned was that the ship worked a route from Regina to the Garda-Vilis cluster and sometimes diverted based on orders.  They also visited the less visited worlds of the arm, and didn't care much about anything except the larger pirate raids that sometimes came from outside the Imperium to carry out hit and runs.  When one of the spacers said, "You never know when some pirates will come kiting into a system from someplace like Tremous Dex", Jocelynn leaned back in her seat and said, "Ah, Tremous Dex." as if that suggested fond memories.

Stopping, they asked if she knew much about Tremous Dex, and she said, "Oh!  I know all about Tremous Dex" as if it were old and well-covered ground.  When she was asked if she'd been there, Jocelynn said she had.  With that, Jocelynn saw the lights go on behind one of the spacers, and he sat up a little bit straighter before pointing at Jocelynn and saying, "You're on that Lady's ship.  Aren't you?  You just came from someplace like Tremous Dex, didn't you?"  When Jocelynn only winked at him, the others took note and everyone was sitting up very straight again.  Some of them were slow on the uptake but Jocelynn had to hold back her giggles as some of them "re-educated" the slow one's.

It was also comedic how they'd heard bits and pieces of what the Upgrade had done, and got some bits wrong, or out of order.  It was also comforting that the news didn't know or broadcast "everything".  Soon enough, the drinks arrived and one of the spacers raised a toast to people as crazy as Dame Jocelynn's crew.  The sentiment was that none of them wanted to be anywhere where there was shooting.  Jocelynn raised her glass and said, "Yup.  We went to Tremous Dex, Arden and now here."  With little to follow that, one of the other spacers asked, "I'll trade you a patch from my ship for a patch from yours." only Jocelynn had to admit her crew didn't wear or use patches.  She did say she would have if she'd had a patch to give.

That was just one more very unusual detail about Jocelynn's crew which got one or two stares from the Jackel crew.  Some recovered more quickly, but all interpreted it to mean there was something covert about the Upgrade and the work they did.  Ship's that didn't advertise themselves generally drew suspicion.  While Jocelynn talked with the other spacers, Sekea noticed and wandered to their table, followed by Aali.  Staying with the small group of friends and the man he'd defeated, Fesic had drinks on them so he bought them a round.

Fesic's group were locals from the village and he learned the guy who challenged him wasn't a ringer.  He was considered good enough with a knife, but he'd been beaten by a good number of locals in the game.  He'd made the challenge because Fesic was a spacer who'd likely been in a few scrapes, and thought Fesic had training or experience.  He told Fesic he felt lucky to have held out so long before losing.  Fesic didn't say it, but realized the man wasn't a ringer when he won the fight.  Fesic kept his chatter to praising his opponent and friendly chatter.  When pushed, Fesic did talk about his Navy days and boarding parties he'd been part of, or led.  That only gained Fesic more credit because he'd been a leader the Navy, rather than just serving.

While Jocelynn worked to get the starch out of the other crew's suddenly stiff reactions, Sekea and Aali wandered over to join them.  When they did, Jocelynn said, "These are my crew mates, Sekea and Eikusdi."  While introducing them without titles, and using Aali's public name, she let the two choose to share their titles or not.  Still, the spacers from the Jackel noticed both of the newcomers were armed like Jocelynn was.  So, two more nobles didn't really help things.  While the two tried to keep it casual, Aali had forgotten she was wearing a pin marking her as a Knight Defender of the Marches.  And one of those in the other crew who spotted the pin pointed it out.  So, it was obvious they were "Sir" Sekea and "Dame" Eikusdi.  And all casual relaxation went out the air-lock.

Of course, the reactions to Aali overwhelmed Sekea's "Well met" and they saw his weapon holster while looking him up and down.  Returning the greetings, the Jackel crew did their best to use "cultured words", because the last thing they needed was to lose the rest of their shore leave because they caused an incident with some famous nobility.  Or, to have to explain that to their Captain and the senior in their departments.  So, they each felt like they were trapped at the center of forests of poison-tipped tines which were closing in on them, socially.  When Aali offered a round of drinks they were all for that and thankful.  Of course, they all worked to "up" their orders and not suffer in judgement.

Jocelynn also had to accept that the issues they were seeing were largely caused by internal damage they'd suffered throughout their lives.  So, what they saw as judgmental were their own feelings and mental scars used as a filter through which anything she did was washed.  So, anything she did would likely make their reactions worse, and even more so when she actually did slip up.  Added to that, she was lucky because none of that crew were people who hated the nobility for their wealth and perks.  So, when Sekea just sat and started making small talk, Jocelynn decided to just 'play it forward' and hope things went well.

Over where Sekea was talking, one of the men said that when they saw him and his crewmate get onto the platforms, they'd noticed the holsters.  He continued that he'd assumed they were military of some sort, because most spacers were unarmed traders or military, and the officers were often armed.  But, when they'd gotten on the platforms, he and his friends wondered if this might turn out to be a shooting duel?  While Fesic admitted he had been in the Navy, he and the other man were good friends and were now crew on the same ship.  Willfully mishearing the words, the men accepted and figured he and Sekea were in some special naval unit and asked if they were stationed on Denotam or not?

Fesic let that assumption sit and told them they were only on Denotam temporarily, and would be moving on to their next job soon.  One of the villagers answered, "That's cool.  I've never even been off planet."  The tone in the man's voice suggested it was a dream of his and Fesic had to wonder why the man hadn't just bought a there and back shuttle ticket to Denotam's high port?  A question he didn't raise out loud.  To Fesic, the group he was with all looked similar.  They'd been born and raised there and looked like they'd die there.  Fesic nodded and said, "There's the good and bad of it."  He then went into visiting places where the food was horrific, or not what anyone would consider food at all.

Fesic said some of the places they'd visited had hostile environments, and the man asked if it was more hostile than a place where you had to live in sealed buildings?  Without using world names, Fesic told them about places like Wypoc, where the atmosphere was raining and blowing acids.  The man who first challenged Fesic admitted those stories sounded much worse.  When Fesic said there were plenty of places where people couldn't breath outside, or which didn't have an atmosphere to start.  Hearing that, the villagers mostly said they didn't know that.

Moving on, Fesic said he was from the Flammarion system, and made sure to say that was an Imperial world on the edge of Sword World space.  Of course, that changed the impressions the villagers had of Fesic, because news about invasions and occupations of those worlds by the Swordies had been big news during the Fifth Frontier War.  Ironically, Fesic had to admit he was outside Sword World space, visiting the Wardn naval base when his ship was called to help defend the base against the sudden strikes there when the war started.  And, his ship was damaged there and he ended up working from naval bases until reassigned to another ship.

With the sympathy, and in thanks for his service, the coin flipped and they all wanted to buy him a round.  Saying he couldn't drink that much, he said he was good for one more drink but that would be the last round of the night for him.  After that, they spent the time asking what it was like to live and work in space, and visit different and weird worlds?  Fesic gave them as good an answer as he could to each question, but soon it was time for him to gather with the rest of his crew and head back to the berth.  At the other table, Aali, Sekea and Jocelynn had slowly gotten the conversation re-started and chatted with the spacers and learned bits about their lives.  Still, those at the bar eventually returned to the berth and those relaxing there.  The evening ended with everyone knowing they had to wake up early, make sure to receive the outfits they'd ordered, dress and be at the base before noon, when the ceremonies would start.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:
     Zimzod: Being woken on the INS Maadashmim Zikheaa for the last cleansing day ahead of a second Slow Drug injection
     Rol: 7 weeks and 2 days from being decanted
     Everyone Else: Asleep in the berth in the Denotam downport

Next: Parties, Bombs And A Puzzle